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The cigarettes.

The alcohol.

The toilet, the painkillers and, eventually, the couch.

They’d all been her best friend at some stage in her life and she specifically avoided saying Jarod because she’d slipped into a state of denial that she was only sometimes aware of.

[She’d admit these things to herself occasionally but really, she was the last person she wanted to find out.]

She’d laughed when Sydney had voiced his concerns. Reflecting back on the way she’d acted over the past few months she realized why he’d been worried, but everything was still a joke.

She wasn’t depressed.

[More aware, more disgusted, more hell-bent on revenge, yes – not depressed.]

She definitely wasn’t suicidal, because if there was one way she wasn’t dying, that was it.

[She sure has hell wasn’t dying in an elevator, either, and the only way she’d let her murderer be Raines was if she got to kill him too.]

Her cell phone was her best friend as well on the nights she decided to socialize with the smoke and scotch. It wasn’t like the others, who were raucous and daring and so damn convincing when they wanted to be.

The cell phone was responsible, and chiding, and always trying to make sure she didn’t do something stupid.

The begrudging comfort had nothing to do with the voice on the other end, of course. It was just a lifeline, a connection of sanity that reminded her there was still a world out there and she was still living in it. She tried to hate it most of the time, but it was the bottle and its partner that hurt her more because in the long run, they didn’t care. It was a one way friendship.

And didn’t she just know all about those?

In the mornings she had a cup of coffee. It wasn’t one of her best friends – more like the sturdy acquaintance that could be relied on if she ever needed it. She didn’t shower but bathed in the evenings, and dressed and put on her make up in the mirror.

Why don’t you shower anymore?

( Because it reminds me of Tommy and every time I try to step under the water I run because I’m afraid of drowning.)

Why do you always dress in black, never white?

(Because black suits me. Because white did once but now it’s just too much of an irony and I’m sick of being a mockery of the life I left behind.)

Why do you always dress as if someone’s died?

(Because it always seems like someone has died. Because it’s a tribute to all of them and because I’m forever mourning the little girl I used to be.)

Why do you paint your eyes with black?

(Because it’s the final touch to the fašade. Because it runs when I cry and otherwise I might start crying and never stop.)

She paused in front of the mirror to pull her hair up in a twist and secure the chocolate tresses with a butterfly pin that had once been her mother’s. The only time she ever used to wear her hair up was after showering, to keep the damp locks from her face as she left it to dry naturally.

It was only now, because she’d stopped showering in the mornings, that she realized the only reason she had pinned her hair back then was in spite of the joke she and her mother had shared when she had been younger; that she might get cancer should she allow it to drip dry rather than towel it.

Back then she’d half believed that she’d get seven years bad luck should she break a mirror. She’d stubbornly preached to her peers that Santa Claus didn’t exist and she definitely hadn’t believed in the Easter Bunny. Thinking about it, she decided they were all just more lies to add to the list.

Why do the lies hurt so much?

(Because I just can’t seem to escape them. Because the worse kind are the most abundant – the ones that I tell myself.)

Why do you lie to yourself?

(Because I don’t know what’s real anymore. Because they’re like the alcohol – they take the pain away, even if it’s only for a little while.)

Why do you still believe in them?

(Because lies only hurt when you find out they were never the truth.)

The mirror knew how to ask all the right questions. The glass forced her to challenge herself and for some reason, when her reflection spoke to her, she could do nothing but listen.

[Addicted to the lies because believing got people by and they were her way of believing.]

[Addicted to the fear because as long as she feared, she was capable of being controlled and she couldn’t afford to lose control.]

She listened, but she didn’t ever like what it was saying. Taking note of it meant caring and she didn’t think she had it in her to care anymore. Letting go and giving into emotion got people killed and love was just another word for pain. As long as she believed in that, she could believe she’d never get hurt again.

Why can’t you just move on?

(Because you can only move on so many times before you’re left with nowhere else to move to.)

The first time it happened, a cigarette took her mind off it.

The second time it happened, the alcohol made it all disappear.

The third time it happened, the hairbrush shattered the mirror into a thousand pieces and the tears fell on the tiles without smudging her face with black because she’d already removed the mascara.

Maybe she would get seven years bad luck – like her life could get any worse - and maybe she’d never stop crying. Maybe, on the inside, she’d never stopped crying in the first place.

She hadn’t gotten dressed yet and she was sitting on the edge of the bath wrapped in a towel.

It was white.

The third time it happened, a cigarette and the alcohol helped, but a phone call made it better.

[She tried to go as long as she could without a cigarette. She’d quit twice but the nicotine was too much of a welcome relief. It was the same with the alcohol.]

‘You really should stop,’ Jarod told her quietly, and she held onto her lifeline to the outside world and pretended that it made no difference whose voice was on the other end. ‘It’s bad for your health.’

She’d laughed when Sydney had voiced his concerns. When Jarod voiced his, she laughed again, but it was for so many different reasons. He didn’t get the irony.

Why don’t you just give them all up?

(Because there’s a downside to every addiction.)
(Because the pain they cause reminds me I’m real.)
(Because quitting would be the death of me in more ways than one.)
(Because no matter how bad they are for me, somehow, it all just feels so right.)

‘I know.’

But then again – so are you.

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