Guilt

He gaped at me.

“Terri?” he asked in disbelief, as if he no longer recognised the girl in front of him. The monster in front of him, I thought grimly.

I sat down. I doubted my legs would have held me for much longer anyway.

“Please tell me I did not just see that.” His voice was imploring. He didn’t want to believe his eyes; he didn’t want to believe that his girlfriend had just kissed his cousin.

I didn’t answer.

“Please,” he begged. He came up and knelt in front of me. “Tell me you didn’t kiss him, Terri.” He sounded desperate.

I just shook my head. I felt oddly detached from the situation as if this were happening to someone else.

“Terri...” He was starting to cry now.

I stood up. I couldn’t take this anymore. I ran off, intending to go home. I couldn’t get there. Before I could even see the cottage, I was collapsing in the field of cows. I sobbed as I knelt there, cursing my stupidity and preference for Christopher. The memory of Charlie’s bewildered gaze tore at my heart. I was a cruel monster and I had utterly destroyed the most decent guy I’d met. He was heartbroken because of me, and what’s more (and I hated myself for thinking it) I had destroyed my hopes of ever seeing Christopher again. The pain in his eyes would match the pain in my heart, which was ruthlessly tearing my heart to shreds. I curled into a ball, still sobbing, and waited for the punishment I knew I deserved.

          But nothing happened. No strike of lightning, no falling icicles; not even a menacing roll of thunder. And in a way, that was worse. It was worse to feel forgiven for an unforgivable action than to be given what you deserved. It started to rain. I got up and slowly walked home.

         

          I arrived at home soaking wet. My mother looked sick with worry and my dad shouted at me for causing them anxiety, but I didn’t really take on board what he was saying. Everything went in one ear and out the other. I was too numb to absorb anything. I felt dead inside. Here begins the nightmare, I thought as I climbed the stairs to bed.

 

          A knock on my bedroom door. It opened, even though I hadn’t responded.

“Honey, are you okay?” It was my mum.

“Yes,” I replied, but there was no emotion in my voice. I didn’t even attempt to put conviction in it.

“Charlie rang, but I guessed you wouldn’t want to talk to him right now. He sounded really worried. Would you like to call him back?”

“No, Mum. That was a conversation I doubted I’d ever be able to live through.

“Oh, well, okay. Tell me if you change your mind.” She looked as if she guessed I wasn’t going to say much tonight.

Before she left, though, she hesitantly said, “If you want to watch a film with me and your dad, you’re very welcome.”

“No, thanks.”

She left, obviously at a loss as to how to react in a situation like this.

 

I cried myself to sleep. I tossed and turned as I slept, Charlie’s desperate face starring in my nightmares. I woke up several times that night, only to return to those bleak, desolate productions of the combinations of my memories and imagination. The dark depths were like hollow, dead versions of the blue depths of Christopher’s eyes. I scared myself a lot that night.

          The next morning, I woke up late. Even so, I lay in bed for a long time, staring at the uncomforting, blank ceiling, paralysed by numbness.

          When my mum came in and saw me like this, she looked so concerned that there was almost fright in her eyes. She left without saying a word, however; perhaps hoping I’d cheer up later. That didn’t seem likely.

          Downstairs, the phone rang. I hoped it wasn’t Charlie.

It was. My dad came up with the cordless phone. I decided to tell Charlie not to ring anymore. So much for avoiding difficult situations as I’d wanted to last night.

My dad entered my room, wordlessly handed me the phone and left.

“Hello,” I said dully.

“Terri! Please talk to me,” Charlie implored.

“Charlie... I... I can’t deal with this right now. Don’t call me again, okay?” I didn’t wait for him to reply. I hung up.

          I got up slowly. After showering and dressing, I wandered down for breakfast. I still felt numb. Nothing felt real as I started to eat some cereal, before finding that I wasn’t hungry. I’d just come down here out of habit, I realised. I went back upstairs and lay on my bed feeling aimless and desensitised.

          I absent-mindedly picked up my diary and flicked through the pages until I realised I wasn’t reading it. I was just staring at the handwriting. I felt pain at remembering just reliving memories. I threw the diary down in an attempt to stop the pain, but it continued, eating away at my heart until I felt sure I should be dead.

 The whole day, I lay there. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I just lay there, alternating between feeling numb and feeling pain as a memory of Christopher or Charlie found its way through the blank depths of my mind. I wondered if time was still moving - it seemed frozen. I felt encapsulated in the lonely bedroom with its harsh, cold, unfeeling attitude to my numbness, isolated from the rest of the world, with no sense of hope for the future.

          Despair was a recurring theme each time I went to sleep that week. At least there was no contrasting contentment to worsen it.

The End

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