Scars & Souvenirs

twelve

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Max closes her eyes as the engine cuts off, an echoing silence left behind. It rings with questions, concerns - judgement. She ruined the evening with her bullshit. No wonder she was never good enough for Gabriel.

“I’m - I’m not going to ask if you’re okay. You’re obviously not. You have a lot of shite you’re carrying with you.” Niall sighs heavily when Max reaches for th handle, pushing the door open. “I just want you to know that I’m here for you.”

Max swallows thickly but doesn’t respond. He’s better off without her. They all are. If she was worth anything, Gabriel would have loved her instead of spending so much time trying to fix her. All his efforts have so clearly gone to waste.

With that thought, Max slides out of the seat. She closes the door on whatever Niall is saying, though the action sends a spike of terror through her heart. It requires punishment. A surefire way of making sure her rudeness doesn’t happen again.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I fucked up again. I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, and I ruined it. Maybe Gabriel was right: I’m too much of a mess for anyone to love. Maybe he’s the only one who COULD love me.


Max stares down at the words. Tears blur the ink before they spill down her cheeks. Bile creeps up in her throat, and she thinks, What the Hell am I saying?

Of course Gabriel didn’t love her. He promised excitement and freedom to a sheltered seventeen-year-old, and she was naive enough to buy into it. She thought - she was so damn certain - that she’d gotten lucky enough to find her Prince Charming so early in life.

All she found was broken dreams and a road paved with the ghost of who she used to be.

“This isn’t fair,” she whispers, fingers crinkling the page. She yanks the paper from its binding, crumples it up, and throws it at the wall. “This isn’t fair!”

The scream reverberates, but she ignores the aching in her throat. Nothing matters but the anger poisoning her blood, her bones and muscle, her heart and soul and everything that she has fought so hard to regain. The coffee-table splinters when she shoves it over - cheap particleboard that stands no hope against her rage. Still, her heart sings for more.

The glasses in the cupboard rattle together when she slams open the door, reaching for one and throwing it at the wall. One after another, they fly to their untimely demise. A cascading rainfall of glittering shards land in a pile on the floor. Shattered glass gleaming on tile.

Her dinner plates are the next to go. Each resounding crash of glass and porcelain against drywall lets loose another wave of indignation at the injustice of it all. She made the mistake of marrying Gabriel, of ever falling in love with him, but he’s the one who’s broken her as surely as she’s done with her dishes.

He’s the one who destroyed every innocent bit of her. All the goodness and naivete and hopeful wonder. The damage done to her is all his fault.

As quickly as it came on, her anger abates. Max collapses to the floor, dragging her knees to her chest, and sobs into her thighs. She cries for the fractured parts of her that may never heal, the empty spaces left behind from all that Gabriel has stolen from her, and everything she has had to walk away from - all in the name of saving herself.

Her parents. Her friends. Her sanity. She’s been forced to say goodbye to so much, and she is exhausted.

Tired of fighting.

Tired of existing as a ghost in this world - barely there then gone again.

Tired of being Beth. Martina. Katy. Lee. Pamela. Maxine. Anyone other than Makenzie Alaine Bauer, the twenty-four-year-old daughter of Martin and Katherine Bauer of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“This isn’t fair.”

The silence swallows up her pitiful, choked whisper.

___________________


Voices echo on the landing, muffled by plaster and wood, but Max recognises them easily enough. She has heard them nearly every weekend since she moved in.

“Nik, no, leave her alone.”

“I just wanna make sure she’s okay, Niall. That’s all.”

“I’m sure she’s fine.”

“Whose side are you even on, Tomlinson? Look, Niall hasn’t seen her since he brought her home on Thanksgiving. She wouldn’t answer the door when he knocked after hearing glass breaking.” Nikki’s sigh is drowning in disappointment, as if she expected better of her boyfriend and friends. “I’m just sayin’. You lot might be okay taking the risk of her corpse slowly rotting in there, but I’m not.”

Max frowns. Niall had knocked the other night? She hadn’t heard a thing as she swept up the evidence of her outburst. Then again, her mind had been preoccupied with blocking out the memories. A quiet voice wonders why he didn’t just barge in like he had the last time.

“Uh, Max? It’s Nikki. You in there?”

Max stays silent.

“See? She wants to be left alone.”

“Shut up, Niall,” Nikki snaps, and Max can’t fathom that much impatience and frustration to come from such a smiley young woman. “Max, listen. You don’t have to apologise or-or explain what happened the other night. I just want to know you’re okay.”

Max carefully climbs to her feet, tiptoeing across the flat to the door. “I’m fine,” she says after a long minute of silence; her voice is so tiny in the quiet.

“I’m glad to hear that. Really, I am. I’ve been worried. Is there anything you need?”

A time machine. “No, I’m good.”

“Okay. Well, we’ll be across the hall if you change your mind.”

“Hey, Nikki?” Max blows out a shaky breath, eyes burning and chest tight. “Thanks.”

“Anytime, babe. It’s what friends are for.”

Niall’s door closes a moment later, but Max stays where she is. Someone checked up on her. Nikki is the second person - third; Max forgot about Dolly leaving Sugar - to care enough to ask about her wellbeing. Nikki called them friends.

Max will always lie. She will always say she’s fine even as she falls further apart before their eyes. But the warmth under her breastbone tells her to cherish this.

So Max will. She’ll carry this to her grave.