February Short Story – Ambriehl Khalil

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Solace

She doesn’t smoke, but she’s smoking. She’s not addicted, but she’s addicted to the poison. Her elongated, delicate fingers that used to hold thousands of secrets and words and touches, wrap around the cigarette as she brings it to her lips. Everyone says it’s a killer. She doesn’t agree. She’s dying anyway. She pulls her legs up onto the bed, a move that’s been in her heart since she was just learning to walk—it’s an attempt to make herself smaller when she becomes a subject of interrogation. The only thing interrogating her is her mind, but it’s enough for now. She hugs her knees to her chest, tucking her chin into the crevice between her knobbly knees that her dress is falling over. Where her dress slides up, you can see the pale skin, as if she hasn’t seen a drop of sunlight in days; she probably hasn’t. She spends most of her days asleep now, hardly even bothering to live during the night. She rarely even left her apartment, just sat cramped on the dirty old moth-eaten arm chair in the living room with the window ajar just slightly so the smoke from all her cigarettes can be released into the world. She doesn’t do anything, just stares at the walls. Maybe she’s going crazy.

She heaves in a huge sigh. The thin skin of her red lips wrinkle around the cigarette, there is the uttermost concentration in her eyes as she sucks the smoke down her lungs. She taps it against the astray sitting next to her on the hotel bed. The ash is staining the sheets—she doesn’t care. They aren’t hers anyway.  She lets out the stream of smoke that rises to the top of the room; it hovers around the dusty and cracked light fixture that’s barely even emanating any light. She sets her chin on her knees. It’s dark. The orange flame is the only bright thing in the room. The hotel bed groans beneath her. The window is ajar, there is a child crying in the room opposite her, she would mind any other day but right now, she doesn’t mind at all.

Her mascara is burning her eyes while she cries—her face crumpling together and her eyeliner that she applied with elegance not hours before, is running down her cheeks, swimming over her lips and falling onto her white dress, staining it with droplets of the pain inside of her. She’s dying anyway. She sucks in more poison. She drags the amber light up closer, burning and crawling up the cigarette, inching closer and closer, begging for her to finish so she can start it all over again with a new one. She’s sucking the life out of it while it screams for her to do so. It’s okay though—the life’s being sucked out of her too.

She chokes from too much smoke, splutters everywhere. She brings her hands up to her eyes, tries with shaking fingers to wipe away the mascara—it only results to smearing it more instead. She stares at herself in the mirror directly across from the bed above the dresser. It’s a shitty dresser—then again, it’s a shitty hotel. She doesn’t have a name, not anymore. Her hair is in chunks everywhere, it falls past her shoulders and knots together at the bottom. It screams for her to brush it, to fix it, to fix herself. She might have listened to it an hour ago.  She puts out the cigarette—she doesn’t want it anymore.  Her phone is on the dressing table, flashing with light, flashing with his name. She won’t answer it, not anymore. He’s already gone.  She lies down on the bed, staring at the cracks in the roof—it’s a shitty hotel room, smells of urine and old sex; it’s a shitty life too.

Her phone buzzes again. She’s not going to look at it, it can’t be any different from the other hundred ‘I’m sorry’ messages he’s sent her, or the ‘she meant nothing to me’ ones. None of it matters. It doesn’t even matter that she wishes she could go back, wishes that he would come back and that she’d never hung up the phone like she did. She wishes that he knew that she would never forget him for as long as she’d live.

It’s 2 a.m, she’s in the room. The flashing lights from the police cars are bouncing off the window pane. She thinks of how they were a messed up love, a speck of colour on an entire black and white piece. She hates that she wishes he would come back, that she needs him still. He’s calling again and she’s closing her eyes. She wishes that he knew that she misses him too much to be mad anymore.

The smell of her perfume is starting to leak from where she threw it against the wall and screamed until her lungs gave out—the remainder of the smoke from before is still hovering over the roof; it hasn’t found the ajar window yet. Her eyes are closed, she’s gripping the sheets—her hair is sprawled out over the black sheets. Mascara is all over her face, her red lipstick is halfway across her face, and her white dress has drops of ash and black on it. She’s a broken angel and she’s not flying. She takes in her breath, her face crumples. She remembers her name.