Note: This chapter touches upon subject matter that may be sensitive to some readers.
Mari’s stuffy head was pounding as she held the phone against her ear with a clammy hand. The sound of her boss’ cries on the other end did nothing to ease the sharp ache in her ear.
Clenching her teeth together, the girl struggled to keep her voice calm. “I know. But you’re not listening to me!” She practically snapped. “I’m actually sick this time, okay?”
Mari could almost picture her boss rolling his eyes as he replied. “Another excuse… Unbelievable. No more chances, Mariana. You can have the day off, sure. Just don’t bother coming in tomorrow either. Or the day after that.”
“No! Just listen, okay? I –”
There was a soft click, then silence.
“Fuck you!” Mari cried as she threw her phone across the bed. It smacked loudly against the headboard before coming to rest on one of the soft pink pillows.
Her boss had been threatening to fire her for months… and now he’d finally gone through with it.
What the Hell am I gonna do now?! I fucked everything up again. I’m such a fucking loser. FUCK.
Blinking back the hot sting of tears from her eyes, Mari grabbed a few of the decongestant tablets from her bedside drawer, swallowed them dry, and crawled back beneath the covers. It was not long before sleep found her.
Mari awoke a few hours later to find her sinuses feeling a bit more clear, but the same unpleasant pain continuing to pound relentlessly deep within her ear. With a small sigh, she swung her legs over the side of her bed. Mari sat there for several long moments, appreciative of the fact that her congestion had not yet spread to her nose as she took a few deep breaths to calm herself.
Her physical symptoms had gotten a bit better, but the young woman found herself feeling anxious and troubled by unpleasant dreams that she could not quite remember…
Though she had a horrible feeling she knew exactly what they were.
Diego’s stupid fucking baby… She thought bitterly as the realization struck her. It could be born any day now. Hell, maybe it already was.
Mari shook her head as she rose to her feet. She needed to go somewhere or do something… But with an empty house and a terrible head cold, that was much easier said than done.
For a while, she tried writing in her journal. As good a distraction as any, I guess. She thought. But after ripping out no less than five pages, she gave up. Mari just didn’t have the energy for it today. Every time she tried to put her thoughts on paper, things got too honest… too real. She could feel the darkness pulling her down, just like before. And writing was only making it worse.
I can’t do this…
After putting away her diary, Mari instead decided to take advantage of the still-empty house. She crept carefully down the stairs to the living room, hoping that a bit of mindless TV would help clear her head. She flicked through the channels quickly, passing boring news reports and ridiculous reality shows before finally settling on a cheesy, made-for-TV chickflick.
She only lasted for an hour before realizing what a huge mistake it had been.
Mari hastily wiped away her tears and tossed the remote rather unceremoniously onto the coffee table in front of her. Her sisters would be home from school soon anyway… and she couldn’t bear for them to see her like this. Not even bothering to turn off the TV, Mari stormed up the stairs, and retreated back into the darkness of her bedroom.
Hiding beneath the covers, Mari tossed and turned, waiting for sleep to find her yet again.
But it was the darkness that found her instead.
She closed her eyes as the over-the-top breakup scene from the movie replayed itself in her mind.
The tears on the woman’s pale cheeks. The sound of the rolling waves breaking in the background. The look of shame and sorrow in the man’s eyes…
It was all too familiar.
Mari had been able to tell right away that something was wrong… One look at Diego was all she needed for that.
“Mari…” He’d said breathlessly. “I fucked up. Bad.”
Those were the only words she could still remember him saying to her. The rest of the conversation was a total blur. But one thing was clear.
Diego had betrayed her worse than anyone else ever had in her entire life.
And it was all her fault.
Mari fought to catch her breath between the heavy sobs that now shook her entire body. She hadn’t thought of that horrible day in months.
If only she hadn’t made him wait. If only she hadn’t been foolish enough to trust him. If only she hadn’t been so fucking stupid.
It was a long time before the tears finally stopped. Mari could hear the school bus dropping her sisters off in front of the house, and, about an hour later, the slamming of the car door as her father arrived home from work. Her mother would be home too, any minute. The thought of her family only made the pain worse.
I fucked everything up with Diego. She wiped away the last of her tears and pulled herself from beneath the covers. And now I’m fucking it up with them, too…
Mari rose to her feet, her gaze falling upon the large mirror that hung above her dresser. She drew closer and closer to the reflection, staring into the stupid, vacant expression of the girl on the other side.
Mari felt so much anger and hatred for so many people – Diego, her parents, her sisters…
But there was no one in the world she hated more than the girl in the mirror.
You fuck everything up no matter what you do.
You push everyone away – Diego. Your parents. Your sisters.
None of them give a shit about you. And why should they?
You were such a stupid little goody-two-shoes and what did that get you, huh?
You brought it all on yourself, you know. You were such a fucking moron.
And look at you now….
Your own family can’t stand you.
Your dad can’t even look at you.
Because you’re a slut.
And no one will ever love a dirty whore like you.
You’ll never be good enough.
Why try to fight it?
You know it’s true, don’t you?
Mari’s entire body trembled as wave after wave of white-hot anger ripped through her. A sharp, stabbing pain shot through the side of her head – and this time it was not due to the pressure in her sinuses.
She pulled back her fist a second time and slammed it once more against her temple.
I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you
Mari readied her hand to strike herself yet again, but hesitated.
With all the self-control she could muster, Mari took a deep, trembling breath, and lowered her fists to her sides.
Fuck this. I’m getting out of here.
It was 5pm on a Wednesday evening, and her cold symptoms had barely improved all day.
But Mari didn’t care.
She couldn’t bear one more minute alone.
She needed to escape.
She needed to numb the pain.
And there was only one way she knew how.