The Things You Leave Behind


There was crazy sunlight all around, as if it was being poured in from a faucet somewhere. And that’s how it looked, liquid light, shimmering and moving all around, beginning to encase us. I pretended then that I could feel it, touching my skin, lifting me up and the warmth of the light would spread all around my body and fill me up and it would swirl and swirl until I reached the sky, or higher. And then I realized the light in my room never spilled in this early, that the fabric under my arms wasn’t that of my sheet, but the soft fuzz of an old couch, sagging in the middle and my cheek was pressed against it.

There was a moment of disconnect, where nothing made sense for a moment and I scrambled to put my settings together, sitting up too fast and getting almost knocked back over with the wave of vertigo that rose. I was terrified, my heart pounding out an excited beat and my eyes scanned the room and landed on the other form in a bed ten feet away, feet hanging off the mattress and it all clicked together before my eyes.

Not that my heart seemed to calm in my chest, instead it stopped altogether for a moment, then slowly started back up, gaining speed like a train or an airplane about to lift off the ground. The smell of hair chemicals hit me next and I breathed it deeply through my nose, letting it connect me to the place I was waking up in, my hair sticking up on the side, my cheek red from being pressed against the rough couch all night. The remains of the pizza were still sitting out on the counter and when I saw it the first thing I thought about was making sure they got tucked away in the refrigerator somewhere. Tate didn’t move from his spot on his bed, and if I hadn’t been able to see the slight rise of his chest it would’ve seemed as if he were dead there. I pulled my top down to cover my stomach, becoming acutely aware of the absence of my bra at that moment and felt a flare of sharp embarrassment rise in my body, breaking away from the chains I tried to keep it in.

Tate shifted in his sleep on his bed, his sheets rustled around him and he was draped in the sunlight streaming through his windows and I wondered why on earth he didn’t have curtains to block out the sunlight, which was now harsh instead of welcoming and I wanted to shut my eyes against it and go back to sleep if it hadn’t been for the next thoughts that entered my mind.

Of course Natalie, because she never seems to want to stray far from my thoughts. And as soon as her name popped into my head I felt insanely, unexplainably guilty for being in that apartment with Tate in that moment as he slept on the bed he’d probably made love to her in. It wasn’t like I needed to be guilty, except for the wild moment when my head got away from me, the moments where I wished for bad things that would surely make me the worst sister who had ever lived. It wasn’t as if I was sleeping in his bed, or brushing his hair from his face, it wasn’t like there was anything wrong with this other than the fact I should have been waking up in my own home, in my own bed. But that’s the thing about death I guess, sometimes it makes you feel guilty about the ones who have died. As if you’ve done something to upset them and they’re not here to be upset anymore and it makes the guilt that much worse.

“Damnit wake up Tate,” I said then because I couldn’t be left alone with my thoughts any longer, for they were encroaching my brain with the same blackness that came before the more recent red.

He stirred but did not wake, for he quickly collapsed back onto the mattress, which squeaked in protest to this. I strode across the room to where he was, caught a glimpse of his bare shoulder blade under the covers and felt embarrassed all over again and almost tripped over my feet. I repeated myself, this time louder and leaning down next to him and still he turned over once and let an arm fall across his eyes to block out the sun coming in from the windows he should get curtains for.

I reach down my hand slowly because for a moment I’m actually scared about touching him. Or more accurately, scared of his reaction, the possible fallout and I’m being silly because I’m waking him up and not kissing him down his chest. I shake him slowly, using only my fingertips on his shoulder, pressing firmly into the soft, tanned skin and he groans again and beings to shift so I keep shaking him, being careful to use the minimal amount of contact required of me.

“Fuck it’s too early,” he moans and I know he’s still half asleep.

“Well it’s your own fault then because someone forgot to drive me home last night,” my voice is lower than it was before, almost a whisper, or a hiss.

“What?” And then his voice was clearer and he’s waking up much faster, sitting up in bed and he really isn’t wearing a shirt. When he looks at me it’s as if he too becomes aware of this and reaches for his shirt discarded at the foot of his bed.

“And on top of that you left the pizza out all night,” I said, and I feel stupid as I did, but it seems to want to fill the silence that would have replaced it. “You’re really not supposed to do that with cheese.”

“Fuck,” he groaned and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands and shifts in the bed more, swinging his legs over the sides standing slowly and stretching his long arms over his head.

“Yeah, you’re not the one who had to sleep on the couch,” I told him, my face slipping into a grimace.

“Why didn’t you tell me to drive you home then?” His voice both confused and annoyed, looking right at me for the first time that morning.

“I don’t remember!” I shot back, because it was the truth, in fact I didn’t remember much about the previous night, only crazy snippets where I’m walking alone in a supermarket, making pizza and eating too much and then the soft conversation with Tate into the night that made me want to turn red all over again.

“We need to get you home,” he stuffed his feet into his shoes and stood up, and he was still in his boxers and looked funny like that, about to walk out of the door but only really half dressed.

“I left my car at the market,” I remembered suddenly and I’m glad that I did, imaging us driving right past it on our rushed way back to my house.

“Well then let’s go,” He was saying and moving past me towards the door, already halfway out it and here I was, stalling in the strange apartment that was just starting to come to life around us and for a moment there was a crazy part of me that was actually sad to be leaving it, as if it was a childhood friend or a good movie. But the moment passed then, as they all do and I moved out freely and quickly past Tate, down the stairs and to his car, the solitary one in the lot.

“Well back to where you belong,” Tate said as he slipped into the car and I thought this over long afterwards, and even right then in the moment. I wondered mostly if I really truly belonged where he thought I did, in the house with the empty room no one dared enter, with the invalid parents who were too overcome with grief to go on even functioning.

We don’t speak in the car ride and instead the silence presses down against us on all sides like it’s going to crush us and I ignore for fear that whatever I say is going to be ten times worse than the deafening silence now. But I guess Tate doesn’t feel that way because he takes a deep breath and finally speaks to me.

“I had a nice time last night,” he says and for a moment I wonder if this is forced, polite talk that he picked up from Natalie, and I wonder if he really means the words. He gives me a sideways glance and smiles when I hesitate answering him and somehow manages to forge on, “It’s usually just me alone there. It was nice to have someone else with me for a change.”

I wonder then if Natalie ever stayed with him like that, giving my parents a quick lie about staying at a friend’s house and instead slipping into the harsh smelling apartment to keep her lonely boyfriend company in the dead of night.

“Misery loves company,” I say, or more like blurt of my mouth and I could hit myself for being so stupid and I want the car to swerve off the road and for the door to fly open and suck me out so that I could meet the same demise as my sister.

He pauses in his answer for a second and I consider just hurling myself out of the car. And while I’m debating how crazy it will make me look and how much the landing will scrape up my skin he answers, “Well two miserable people can have quite a party if they want,” he says, and it feels strange, that he’s acknowledging that I’m also miserable like him, strange to hear the words outside my head, and not even spoken by me.

“Someday you won’t be miserable,” I tell him, and maybe I’m also telling myself this too, as if for reassurance that someday life will forge on around me.

“You too,” he says, faster than I expected him to answer and a strange feeling fills me when I realize that he was thinking about me, about me being happy someday.

“Eventually this will all seem like some bad dream,” I tell him, and this time I know it’s more to myself, something that feels wonderful to say out loud, as if I’m willing my future to shape that way, mold around what I’ve told myself is going to happen even though I know life has a nasty sense of humor.

Tate mutters under his breath then and I can just faintly make out the words, “A bad dream you don’t wake up from.” And I know I wasn’t supposed to hear that and I feel embarrassed all over again, as I often do in front of Tate.

Louder, he says, “I’m really sorry for not taking you home, I should’ve remembered.”

“We were in a pizza coma,” I tell him, brushing it off as no big deal but remembering my initial fear when I woke up that morning, and the pounding in my heart it caused.

“God that reminds me that I’m never eating pizza ever again,” he groaned and leaned his head back against his seat and I smiled slightly and wanted to laugh at the sight, but for some reason when the word misery had just left our tongues it felt wrong to laugh, like at a funeral or during a wedding.

“I’m never eating again period,” I tell him and my stomach is still full from last night, bit it feels less stretched and I know by tonight I’ll be hunting the cabinets for something to eat that hasn’t molded in the days mom has abandoned the kitchen.

“That only gives you about a week to live,” his eyes quirked up into a kind of grin all their own and I realized that I was watching him. His eyes ahead on the roadway and I was staring at the side of his face as if I had never seen one before and that makes me feel embarrassed all the sudden.

“I don’t think anyone will miss me,” I let slip out and I felt like I vomited. Those were not the words meant to escape me throat, the ones that were filled with self-pity up to my knees, the ones that left the cab starkly quiet, eerie and awkward and I reached for the door handle as if to throw myself out of it.

“There’s always someone to miss you,” he says matter-of-factly instead and my hand slowly moves over back to my lap, but I still feel stupid and embarrassed and I turn my eyes forward and give a curt nod even though he’s not watching me and I let the car fill up to its brim with silence and drown us both.


I pull into my driveway and the house looks like its still asleep. The curtains drawn over the windows, the doors all shut, no whisper of life around it. I feel acutely alone standing there in front of it as I draw out of my car. As if this could be a ghost town I wandered into when I got lost along the way. The house itself feels like a shell, like when I open it I’ll find furniture with white sheets thrown over them to keep them warm in the winters, the curtains drawn but dust motes dancing in the light that sneaks in through the cracks and every surface will be coated with fuzzy dust.

I almost don’t want to go in. My feet want to turn around and get back in the car, just sit there forever. I could drive around until I run out of gas, and at the last moment throw the car over the hill and go crashing down with it to the bottom of a deep ravine. Maybe it will be too deep and they could never get the car out, or maybe no one will even notice it and I will sit there at the bottom there screaming for help that will never come and die amongst the twisted metal remains as my sister before me did, and my parents might not never notice, they could be dead even now, tucked away as if they were sleeping in bed.

This thought sent a sharp pain into my stomach, as if I was the victim in a bar-fight. The innocent third party that gets hit by a wayward punch meant for a man standing two more feet to the left. I steeled myself outside the door, I tried to tell myself that I was not going to find my parents dead bodies, but that didn’t stop me from holding my breath as I creaked the door open because I had left it unlocked. An unlocked door meant anyone in the world could have gotten into the house, they could be here now even, tucked away in a shadowed corner and waiting for me. And then there were footsteps upstairs, shifting around that same room that had always been above the entryway, before they were gone and replaced by a creaking of furniture.

I wondered if maybe I would always be this crazy and crawled up the stairs, as if the punch from earlier had finally caught up with me.
♠ ♠ ♠
I am so sorry that its been forever since I updated this story, but I still love it just as dearly. I've been really distracted lately which isn't much of an excuse, I hope you stay with me lovely readers.