Ironically enough, the reception of my dad’s wedding was right in the ballroom of the hotel that we were staying in. So all Griffin and I had to do was take an elevator down, walk through a couple hallways, a few doors, and we were there. We agreed on skipping the ceremony part, since neither of us was too keen to go into a church.
Which meant that our entire Saturday morning was open. Cordelia was heading to the in-hotel spa for a facial, so Griffin and I were completely alone, with nothing to do.
Well, there were a few ideas swarming my mind, but I figured the day of my dad’s wedding was not the best timing…
We opted out of swimming, shopping, and after a heated argument, I finally agreed to let Griffin take me out to brunch.
We couldn’t really go anywhere too formal since all we’d brought was our standard attire, except of course our outfits for that night, so Griffin announced that he was taking me to Fudrucker’s for a burger.
“It’s so weird to be this close to Nevada,” Griffin muttered as we took out seats. It took me a second to remember that he’d lived in Nevada with his parents before they’d…
“OH, Griffin.” I wanted desperately to comfort him in any way I could, but the fact was I had absolutely no idea how. After all, I’d never lost anyone- well, a grandparent, but that hardly counted- so I couldn’t exactly relate to what he was going through.
When I had been in elementary school and it had been required to take a guidance class, my councilor had told me that I should always talk about my problems. That the only way anyone could help you get through any hardships was if you shared them with someone. I wondered if Griffin had ever told anyone the truth, the whole truth- not just what had happened to his parents, but why he seemed to feel personally responsible for it.
“Griffin,” I whispered hoarsely. “What happened to them?”
As I’d expected, Griffin lashed out, turning his hurt to anger. “It’s over, Arielle,” he growled. “It doesn’t matter.”
Even though I never cried, I could feel tears forming around the edges of my eyes. “Griffin, I just want to help you,” I whispered again, daring to stretch my hand across the table and rest it atop his own.
“They’re dead, Arielle!” He shouted, a little louder than he meant to, I was sure. People around us were no doubt listening in; they were staring, at least. “I can never take back what I did!”
I stared at him silently, mouth slightly open. He had never spoken to me like that, never. But I wasn’t mad, just a little stunned.
“Please,” I begged. “I want to know.”
Griffin squeezed his eyes shut tight, letting out a slow sigh through his teeth.
“It was their anniversary,” he began, speaking very slowly and articulately. “I got up extra-early to cook them breakfast. I turned away for less than a minute,” here he paused, taking a staggered breath. I waited patiently for him to continue, although I was positive I knew exactly where the story was headed. “It got out of control, and I panicked. I grabbed the phone and ran outside to call 911.”
“The firemen didn’t make it, did they?” I managed to choke out. My throat was constricting just at the thought of what Griffin had gone through.
“No, they did,” he replied, his tone almost laced with irony. “But the hospital was too far out. They… they died on the way. I- I was sitting there, in the ambulance with my mom, and she… she looked up at me, and then-”
Griffin gave a great shudder, before dropping his head into his hands. Seeing Griffin crying damn near broke my heart. I quickly slid out of the booth and came to sit beside him, taking his hand in my own in a measly attempt to give some comfort.
“I think we should go,” I whispered. Griffin nodded, and without even eating, we left the restaurant in silence.
Cordelia, to my surprise, was already back in the room, wrapped up in a fluffy white towel. I led Griffin directly to the couch, commanding him to lie down. He obeyed without protest, and then I returned to the kitchen portion of the room and sat down across from Cordelia.
My head was spinning with all the emotions streaked through me. Sorrow wrenched at my heart, threatening to tear it right out of my chest. Griffin’s entire life had been shattered, and he was forever condemned to blame himself.
“Is he alright?” She asked, her voice heavy with concern.
“He told me,” I responded in a whisper.
I didn’t need to say more; Cordelia knew exactly what I meant. “He still believes it was his fault, but there is a will that is ever stronger than him. God wanted it to be that way, you see. God wanted Griffin’s parents with him.”
I nodded numbly. I’d known that Griffin had gone through a lot, but I’d never imagined it to be quite so… gruesome. It did explain a lot about Griffin, though I felt that it had left me with even more unanswered questions.
I don’t know what point in time I had finally put the pieces together. Maybe it had been the first time I’d caught sight of the intricate traceries of scars that covered his delicate body, or maybe it had been just now. But I felt as though I had come to uncover a hidden part of Griffin. The part of him that thought he should have been the one. The part that wanted to compensate for what he had done.
I thought that maybe, for all his talk, Griffin wasn’t as atheist as he claimed. Perhaps the attempts on his own life were a twisted form of repenting. Perhaps he was begging for forgiveness in the only way he knew possible.
When I had still lived in California, a girl that had attended my school had caught me crying in the bathroom one day. She had told me that crying was a form a praying that just wasn’t verbalized, because our pain was too much to sum up in words. She said that when a human cried, it rained in heaven.
So maybe this was Griffin’s form of crying out, only his tears were rivers of blood pouring from slashed wrists and opened veins. Maybe Griffin was just looking for answers, for help, only he didn’t know where else to turn, because he was afraid of being alone, of being abandoned.
Maybe it was Griffin’s form of praying.
“He was afraid to tell you, you know,” Cordelia said quietly. “He was afraid that you would turn away.” I wasn’t sure if she was talking about his suicidal tendencies or the tragic demise of his parents
I looked at her with pure sincerity on my face. “I’ll never turn away from him. I don’t think that I can.”
I wished that when I said I was okay, I wasn’t lying, I wished that I could look in the mirror and smile.
But that was not the case. It hadn’t been in a long, long time. because when I looked into a mirror, it wasn’t me looking back. Not the real me, anyways. It was just some creation of darkness that I had allowed to inhabit me, because I was too weak by myself.
The problem with darkness is that it ensnares you. It captures you and pulls you deeper and deeper into its endless abyss, until you have lost yourself completely.
I’d been lying to everyone. I was barely hanging on. The fragile stitching that held me together was slowly being unwound by invisible demons. Now my true self was beginning to seep out and the darkness was moving in once again.
I rolled over on the couch, rubbing at my bloodshot eyes once more. How long had I been out?
My green eyes opened slowly as I my senses returned, and I looked around to take in the living room of our hotel. Absently I wondered who was in charge of decorating, because clearly they needed to consider a different field.
I sat up too fast, causing a head-splitting pain to slice through me. I scanned the room for a clock, and after my vision came back into focus, squinted to make out the numbers it read.
3:32. That gave me about an hour or so to clean up before Arielle and I needed to be off- sparing a half hour for Cordelia to take pictures, of course. Because that was just how she was.
I did all I could not to let my mind wander too much as I rose from the couch and went into the bathroom. I did not need another replay of the scene I’d already made.
However, it was pretty damn hard to ignore the visions of flames that danced behind my eyes. Sometimes I thought I could hear her. Sometimes I thought that my mother was calling to me in the night, asking me when I would rejoin her.
I did not want to die. Not now, not anymore. For the first time in months, I had something to live for.
But there were certain things one could not forget. And I had not forgotten the sensual feel of the razor as it slid down my skin, like the tantalizing touch of a lover, parting my skin. I had not forgotten how I had reveled in the ruby rivulets. Proving I was still alive. Proving that there was a part of me that could still feel.
That was all it had been, at first. A way to feel, a way to release my pain from where it was trapped within me. But the longer it went on, the more I realized that I didn’t want to feel. I wanted to be in their place. I wanted to be the one that had watched my life flicker out before my eyes.
I didn’t want to be reminded I was still alive. I wanted to die.
I should have died in that fire with my parents. I should have died in place of them.
I tried various other forms of self-mutilation as well, though nothing could match the utter bliss the razor-blade’s kiss gave to me. for a time, burning became a common thing, a sad attempt to remove the inhuman nightmare I had turned myself into. But it seemed as though my need to destroy myself was insatiable.
At that moment, I longed very much for the constant comfort the blade had provided me. that short relief.
Sighing, I closed the bathroom door and shut off my mind.