Cherries


He really was beautiful standing there in all of his newly stolen glory, wrapped inside of the night he had created. Nothing shone but the refrigerator light illuminating his pasty white flesh and eyes like glass as he stood before it like the triumphant warrior he believed himself to be. I could still taste him on the roof of my mouth as he looked at me, smirking, red juices dripping down from the corners of his curled lips.

“…Those cherries are mine…My mother gave them to me.”

“They taste so good…they’re ripe,” was all he could manage to say, his mouth full as he continued chomping like a complete slob.

I lifted my back from the cold, thick glass table beneath me, then slid my uncovered skin across the top. The second my bare feet hit the surface of my floor I could feel the moisture trickling down my thighs and drop onto the ground. I  could hear it slither over my flesh like the serpent of Eden fleeing the scene of chaos he had concocted. Then a moment of silence before the next drop plummeted and yet again another pause.

“You okay?” He asked, almost concerned.

I remained silent as I stood there bewildered and freezing. So cold that my hair stood on end and I wanted to be held so badly. I wanted to feel so desperately but had he touched me at that very moment, I would have slit his throat.

What happened to my home? Where am I? I wondered as I felt my feet begin to walk away, my hands feeling the nearby wall for the light switch so I could expose him; so he could see himself in the light. So he could see me in the light.

“Ah! What the hell? Turn those fucking lights off!”

That was when my eyes pierced his. They seemed to be screaming as they looked back at me and I couldn’t resist staring. I could see the rage festering from his squinting eyes and I waited for it to storm through out the entire kitchen; all over my house, ripping the walls apart again. But it didn’t. He just laughed.

“You’re gorgeous…go clean up and go to bed, sweetheart,” he said amiably…softly…gently.

I didn’t notice it until then, but there it was, smeared on the wall next to him. I could feel my face shift to the commands of disbelief and ferocity permeating from within myself. His smacking and slurping penetrated me and I finally turned my attention back on him, still looking at me, still eating my cherries. My god damned cherries.

“What?” He asked, nonchalant as he turned his body to look at the stains on my wall, the blemishes he put there, “Oh…Nah, don’t worry about that.” He spat several seeds onto the floor, tiny droplets of red splattering.

“You’re a fucking pig.”

“Shut up! I’ll clean it,” He calmed himself “I’ll clean up everything. No one will notice.” He turned back to the refrigerator.

I’m sure he’d try but my home would never be as untainted as it once was. Stains like that never faded from white walls. They made their mark and lived on, a constant, inescapable figure.

“Was it good?”

“Huh?” He closed the refrigerator door and started to suck the red from his fingers, his wet lips coated in indulgences.

He then ran them through his chestnut red hair. So wavy and glossy. I paused, suspended inside of that moment, looking at his unclothed chest and defined abdomen; the kind I’ve seen plastered on high fashion ads far too often. He was toned and brawny, tall, attractive. I’m sure all of the college girls clamored for his attention. To be with him. To reap the privileges of being his. I guess that made me lucky. Lucky or damned.

“I asked you, was it good?”

“Those were the best cherries I’ve ever had.”

I knew he enjoyed it. That was all I needed to know.

“Goodnight.” I solemnly said as I flicked the lights off.

I walked out of the kitchen and left him to finish his victory meal amongst empty cupboards, dollies, half packed cardboard boxes scribbled with fragile and this side up, and masking tape. I was as destitute as my cupboards and my head was throbbing. At that point all I wanted to do was retreat to my nightmares since they always kept me sane.

***

She was there. Standing right there, her spirit so worn out you could hear it whimper from the corners of her parted lips; her vacant, docile mouth wanting to say something…Say it. I ran towards her without dignity, without pride, I ran full force. Faster, faster, faster! But the faster I ran the farther out of reach she became and even though I knew this, I kept running. No one in this world would keep me from her. The anger of God himself couldn’t compare to the wrath I’d unleash on anyone or anything that tried.

I opened my mouth to scream but all that escaped me was a horrifying choke. My lungs began to ache as I struggled to inhale air that reeked of fear and smog. I couldn’t let her get away. She needed me the same way I needed her. A need deeper than simply that. You could keep air from my gasping mouth and I’d still live to protect her. No food or drink could ever tempt my tongue for every remaining second of this world and I’d still exist to make sure she was safe. No one understood. No one ever understands what they’re afraid of.

Suddenly she was out of my line of vision. I could no longer see my mother’s face; the face that was marked with invisible scars that life had left as reminders of the past. This didn’t stop my feet from moving, my legs from stretching as wide as they could with every futile dash.

“—ie…Jolea.”

The sound. That voice.

“Jolea, honey..get up.”

I thought about opening my eyes as I lay there in bed. Was it really necessary for me to wake up? What would I do with this already wasted day?

“The movers are here, sweetie. You need to get up. You have to shower and get dressed.”

I finally decided to open my eyes. Wrong choice. I peered at her from beneath the fluffy, white comforter that intertwined with my body and she smiled at me with lips that were all over him last night and this morning. It made me want to vomit up my insides but I guess she couldn’t hear my thoughts because she kissed me on my forehead before saying, “Come on, baby. Chop, chop. We’ll probably be leaving in about an hour.” And after that, she was gone again.

I’ve often awakened with and indescribable feeling borrowing into my chest. I don’t remember when it started harassing me and I don’t recall how I felt before it came, but with each passing day it dug deeper and deeper and I’ve given up trying to stop it. So as I lie here attempting to muster up energy to roll out of bed, a million thoughts consume the space between my ears.

If I stayed in bed perhaps she’d stop this entire charade. If I refused to get up maybe she’d realize that she was making a huge mistake. If I left this house I’d be leaving myself behind; I’d be giving up the battle and finishing the war in a territory I wasn’t familiar with..and that would be unfair.

“Jolea!”

Leave me alone!

“…Yes?”

“Are you up?” She asked from downstairs.

“…Sadly.”

“What?” She yelled, my tone being too low.

“I said yes!” I rolled my eyes as I turned over onto my right side and stared out of my window.

I loved my house. I knew it inside and out, so well…better than anybody else. The enormous deck, the stone patio, the gazebo in the backyard which was so vibrant with life…everyone always commented on how beautiful the outside of my home was but only I knew how to appreciate what was inside.

I knew all of the sounds, each of the smells, the way the light glistened through windows on long, lazy summer days that I never wanted to end. I loved the way the beige carpet felt against the soles of my bare feet, especially after… I loved the way the bathroom sink’s knobs were mismatched so that the cold faucet ran warm water and warm, cold. I loved the split in the wall that my brother and I accidentally made when we were goofing around. My Mom covered it with a replica Monet portrait, the way she tries to cover up imperfections…it’s in our family room. I even loved the way the stairs creaked when you tried to tiptoe…but most of all, I loved my bedroom.

The soft yellow walls and white carpeting comforted me through very red and black periods. It was once my palace, decorated with optimistic art I had made myself, creating an atmosphere of possibilities and promise. Walls plastered with posters, pictures of laughing friends, mirrors, and closets filled with bright, colorful clothing, shoes, secrets, and costumes.

I used to stare at the posters so much that they came to life. All of the cute actors would court me during our secret rendezvous; each one of those godlike men wanted me and only me but I never could decide which one I’d spend my life with.

Ballerinas would accompany me as I danced around, working on my ballonarabesque, and spinning in circles until my vision swirled into a soupy water painting. And some nights, Pop groups joined me as I belted their songs at the top of my lungs and of course I stole the show, adding runs and melisma to their chart topping successes. I used to live in magic. My house was once magic.

Now it was hollow and recollections echoed from the corners, almost tauntingly… It’s hard to love it the way I used to. There were no more sweet aromas. A repairman recently screwed around with our sink so now it works just fine and it has been eternity since laughter even crept in. My room was empty of everything except big brown boxes, my bed and of course, me. But it was hollow far before everything was packed up and taken out…it’s been hollow for quite some time now.

“Jojo!”

“What?”

“Mother said to get up.”

“…I am up, see..I’m talking.”

“Some people talk in their sleep.”

“I don’t.”

“You know mother wants you out of bed and ready soon.”

“And what if I don’t want to leave?”

“I don’t think it matters, Jojo.”

“It never does, does it?”

“‘Scuse me, little guy.” A voice which had never tickled my ear spoke.

I rolled over onto my other side to face the doorway and to my surprise a young man was standing there. The bass in his voice built up the image of a tall, husky, middle-aged man, but instead my expectations were greeted with someone in his mid-twenties and not too harsh on the eyes.

“Oh, hey, um..your mother..?” He paused, the uncertainty in his voice far too audible.

I looked like a young female replica of my sperm donor…I mean, father. From his sharp, defined features, to his deep, slanted emerald eyes, raven hair, even his sand colored skin…and I hated it. Not because I hated myself but because I hated him. So I’m accustomed to people being unsure of my relationship to my mother. After all, we look nothing alike.

I looked at this new man from bottom to top. From his outdated, ratty construction boots to his loose fitting, dingy blue jeans, to his off-white muscle tank top, to the red baseball cap on his shaven head…then I looked at his hard, jagged face…and nodded.

“Yeah,” he laughed nervously “Your mom said to empty the rooms out first so…”

“I guess that means I should move.” I sat up, using my comforter to cover my chest, running my fingers through the waves of my hair before flipping it over my shoulder, not once looking away from the stranger.

“Well, yeah,” he laughed, the way people laugh when they know nothing is funny “Unless you want me to carry you out too.”

“Doesn’t sound like a bad idea.”

I could see him tense up. His eyes told me that he was nervous and I found that to be quite humorous. Just to make the moment a bit more awkward I allowed my comforter to slip and fall onto my lap, revealing my newly budding accessories underneath my powder pink, lace camisole.

Immediately he was trying his very best to avoid looking at them. The struggle itself made me giggle, and I could see him beginning to blush…Tsk, tsk, tsk. Boys are so predictable.

“I’m joking,” I lied. “…I’ll get up, sir. I’ll let you do your job.” I whipped the comforter off of the bed, showing off my long, slender legs, subtle curves that were becoming my hips, and the blood stain on the front of my white, cotton underwear.

Looking at it for a moment, I began to chuckle. Because if I didn’t chuckle, I would’ve screamed until my vocal chords exploded.

I scooted off of the queen sized mattress only to see small, red droplets on my sheet and that’s when I remembered the man standing in the doorway. I wanted him to die…but when I didn’t hear his body immediately hit the floor I looked up at him. He was looking at the blood on my bed then to the front of my clothing and then into my eyes; panic seeping across his face. My throat tightened as memories of the previous night started reappearing and a sense of struggle draped itself around my wrists and between my thighs. I closed my eyes tightly and shook my head before pausing. Beginning to laugh quietly, I started to walk out of my room and upon passing him, shrugged and said “Aunt Flow. Boy, I tell you, you never know when she’s coming to town.”

I remember when I was a little girl and everything made perfect sense because nothing made sense at all. The world was perfect. We were perfect. It’s funny how perfection starts to crack. You don’t really notice it at first and by the time you finally do, you figure it’ll go away. Before you know it, the crack is a fissure and the fissure leaves what you thought you knew in a mangled mess at your feet. No one helps you pick up the pieces. No one even warns you. One day I was wearing pig tails and a frilly pink dress. My Mary Jane’s were on my feet, click clacking beneath me as I ran on the pavement, chasing dreams. The next day I’m here…and where here is I can’t be sure.

I don’t know how to put into words what happened between then and now. I’d say it hit me like a whirlwind, you know, the cliché it came out of nowhere, but then I’d be lying. The truth is I watched it happen the entire time. Actually, it was almost like slow motion. I remember so many details, so many images, so much…and though my eyes were open portals, my hands were tied with either pretty ribbons, or Barbie dolls, or shiny charm bracelets, or whatever the hell else they gave me to preoccupy my time.

I guess it all led up to now. To me scrubbing my skin because I couldn’t tear my soul out of it. Trying to remove history from myself, mistakes I couldn’t erase, with nothing more than a white luffa sponge and body wash. I remained in the shower for twenty minutes, scrubbing sensation from my breasts…filth from my thighs…taste from my lips…but it wouldn’t go away. History had left its mark within my bones, hidden and tucked away. I couldn’t even manage to get past the surface.

Holding back tears, I left them to throb in the corners of my eyes, the way I always had. Crying is for the weak, the emotionally unstable. I wouldn’t give in that easily. So I stood there, streams of blistering daggers stabbing at my skin, beating it bright red. I opened my mouth, inhaling the intolerable humidity, catching beads of water on my tongue. I was curious to know if the water burned more than my throat…more than my chest…more than my mind, but it didn’t.

I finally turned the water off and watched the remaining puddles in the bathtub trickle into the drain. I could still see it. Every single moment played over and over again in the back of my mind like a silent, black and white film. I had no choice but to watch it,all by myself and I wouldn’t dare tell her…But where the fuck was she? Of course the enemy held her captivated, but I had always held her in such high regard; the highest regard. How many times did she need to be fucked over before she realized that it never changes? This new family she was trying to create did seem perfect. But perfection is a lie.

“Jolea, aren’t you going to eat your breakfast?

I looked at the two strawberry frosted donuts in front of me then over to her.

“… What happened to real breakfast?” I questioned as I hovered over the black and white marble surface of the kitchen island, looking from the donuts to my vague reflection.

“You know all of the pots and pans are packed. I can’t cook anything anyhow. I threw all of the leftover food out. There’s nothing here.” She laughed a light laugh to herself as if I wanting to eat a home cooked breakfast in my house for the last time was some sort of unbelievable joke.

I gazed at the back of her as she fiddled with whatever paperwork she had on the counter. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, catching traces of her perfume and saving them for later.

“And where’s your step-brother? He did stay over last night, didn’t he?” She quizzed.

“…Yes.” Was all I could muster as my body stiffened at the sound of his reference.

“You can’t leave teenage girls home alone these days. It’s sad what this world is coming to.” She shook her head as she licked her thumb and turned a page.

“He stole my cherries…last night, Reid devoured my cherries, mom.” I whispered, my voice giving out as I stared down at the donuts.

“No honey, the donuts have strawberry frosting on them.” She responded, flipping a few pages and picking up her pen to scribble something.

She wasn’t listening…she wasn’t listening again.

“He bought them?” I asked, already aware of the answer.

She turned away from the kitchen window where she could see the moving truck and looked at me with intensity in her eye; the same intensity that reared its head whenever I referred to him as he. It was that same intensity that insisted on challenging my tenacity.

“Yes,” She said harshly “Herald, your step-father did buy the donuts. And thanks so much for inquiring on our honey moon. It was lovely, thanks.”

“…I usually ask questions about things that matter.”

“Why you ungrateful little—”

“Mother!”

Within a blink the expression had vanished and she was smiling as she turned to my younger brother and responded “Yes, sweetheart?”

“Are we leaving yet?” He asked enthusiastically, coming to a complete stop to the right of her.

No. We’re never leaving.

“Almost. I think the movers are loading the last of our things. Did you have fun at Craig’s last night?”

“Yeah! We got to play video games all night after the birthday party!”

“Exciting,” She humored him as always “And now my little man is ready for our big move!”

“…I’m not going.” I said, quietly.

I didn’t mean for it to come out but by the time I tried to close my lips the words had somehow skinned the tips of my teeth and escaped the overcrowded dungeon known as my orifice.

She looked at me, puzzled and asked “Excuse me?”

I stared at her. She had an intimidating stature for a petite French woman that only stood at the height of 5’5”. Her silky blonde hair which turned into loose curls at the ends was draped over her delicate shoulders; she never let it grow much longer than her shoulders. Her skin was always a sun kissed olive and lied about her actual age for her. I glanced at my brother, who looked exactly like her, before looking back at her face.

She didn’t move at all as her light brown eyes attentively focused on my mouth. Her attire for this morning consisted of classic beige high heels and a matching skirt that flared at the bottom and swooped just below her knees, swaying with every gentle movement of air. She wore a white, short sleeved blouse with a garnet pendant in the shape of a butterfly on her right breast. Her choice earrings were tiny ruby studs and of course she was wearing no make-up. I was looking at the most breathtaking creation I had ever seen. Artwork a mere mortal didn’t deserve.

“I’ll ask once more, Jolea,” she said sternly, taking a step towards me “Beg your pardon?”

“…I said I’m not going.” I poked at the frosting on the donut then placed my fingertips gently onto my bottom lip.

“Well, you can’t stay here.” She said, shrugging like she didn’t even care.

“Why not?”

“Can you pay mortgage? Can you buy groceries? Can you pay for utilities?”

I looked at her, cocking my head to the side and then gave a tired smile “…Could you?”

“What did you say to me?” I listened to the fury rumbling in her gut.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Jolea Abdul-Noor. I’ll ask once more…What did you say to me?”

“I just…I don’t think it’s fair for you to expect me to be able to pay for all of those things…well, when you yourself couldn’t do it either…that’s all…” My voice was hushed and airy as I pinched the side of one of the soft donuts between my fingers, still looking at her.

She charged towards me like a rampant bull toward anything moving and if it weren’t for the island in between us, I don’t know if I would’ve lived to tell the rest of my story.

Her balled fists collided onto the black and white marble and she squinted at me with contemptuous eyes before saying, through gritted teeth “You listen to me, you ungrateful little brat! The next time you speak to me in that manner will be the last time you speak without the assistance of modern day technology, do you understand me?”

My brother was holding his breath and didn’t know whether or not to run back outside or make sure that our mother didn’t end my life right then and there. What can I say, he was always a thoughtful little fellow.

All she ever did was spew gasoline from her mouth onto the raging flames on the rise inside of me. I never heard her speak anymore, just felt ire building up every time she decided that we needed to hear her voice…or in my case, feel her ignorance. She didn’t even care about my house; my home…or that it had been invaded and robbed without my consent.

I had to control myself. I had to fight the urge to stifle her life, to watch her eyes bulge as her mouth stayed agape, making not a sound as it begged for air…for my clemency. Instantly I clenched a donut within my right hand and clutched it tighter than anything I had ever held before, feeling the sticky frosting against my clammy palms. I could hear my teeth as they started to grind back and forth and I released the mangled breakfast from my fist and made my exit, not saying one word. He was right. No one even noticed. The enemy was proving to be more of a challenge than I originally expected.


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