There are skeletons in every closet. Some stay quiet—and some rule your soul with an iron fist.
Ezra is ruled by the ghosts of his past—and needled by the guilt they create. Not only does he have to manage his own guilt—his friends are forced to bear the weight as well. He lives in limbo, never dreaming of anything that lies beyond the grave.
In his mind, he’s a murderer, pure and simple.
Hide and seek is Aysa’s game. She begs for small spaces and empty places. But, she secretly desires so much more.
When they find each other, a hope for something new is sprung.
But Ezra’s skeletons are out for blood.
“I hide shock well. I’m a pro at hiding. I have no idea that whatever he had to tell me would be so personal—so heartbreaking. But, I quickly remembered that heartbreak was all around him every time he turned around. He needs no more empathy or sympathy in his life. He craves someone to give him a different take on a tired situation.
And different is practically my middle name.”
Buy links coming soon.
I like hiding. I need to hide sometimes. I’m not talking about the childhood game where the ‘it’ person counts and finds their playmate who’s hidden in a ridiculous spot. I’m talking about shutting myself into a tight space and forgetting that the rest of the world absolutely loathes breathing the same air as me. When I was a teenager, my hiding spot used to be my room. It was private and I could lock the world away. But now as an adult, I own the apartment that I live in, but still it feels too open, too exposed. I need someplace ever smaller to appease the itch of hiding. I’m like a cow who finds comfort in one of those squeezing machines, even knowing that on the other side is a hot branding iron.
I’m not sure if it’s hiding, or the sensation of being squeezed.
Maybe it’s the feeling of being held that I like so much.
Because if something isn’t holding me together, I just may fall to pieces.
My favorite spot is the right-hand side of my entertainment center. I know, it’s not made for that purpose, but it fits my purpose perfectly. I bought it for that specific reason. I’m sure most savvy furniture shoppers look for aspects like wood color, size and try to match their other furnishings’ style. I look for cabinet space. The one I have has two enormous cabinets on each side and I made sure that the left one had enough space to hold all of my DVDs and video games, leaving the other side empty as my own personal confessional booth.
When I admit it to myself, it sounds a bit desperate.
Okay, it sounds a lot desperate.
It sounds flat out pathetic.
I tell no one about my little hiding habit. Scratch that. I tell no one that my hiding habit has somehow continued into my adult life. The people I know wouldn’t care, or would use it as an excuse to alienate me further. I’m not sure it’s even possible for them to alienate me any more than they already do—they seem to be offended by the very breath in my lungs. My mother would have me committed—again. She committed me to a mental facility when I was seventeen for severe depression and then my father got me out the next day. I wasn’t depressed. I just liked to be alone where I didn’t have to hear her incessant whining about my father and how he didn’t make enough money to support her needs. And she had no room to complain about him. My dad only worked when he had to in order to insure he always had time to help me with homework or be my confidante. My poor father, always torn between the material demands of my mother and the fraternal needs of me. I try to stay out of it, simply to make his life easier.
After Irene, they didn’t really trust me with anyone else.
I lock the doors and turn my phone off. I’ve had to feign lost signal or dead battery more time than I can count when someone calls during my cabinet time.
Not someone, only two people, my mom or my dad.
I have to hide. It’s the only way I can cope.
Today is one of those days.
I just need to forget the world.
Just like it always forgets me.
I would love to say my current spasm stems from something ultra-dramatic like someone called me a bitch or ruined my already flat career. How easy would it be to blame my fears on something so blatant? It wasn’t anything so straightforward. I kinda wish it is something so blatant, that way I’d at least feel semi-justified. Usually, like today, it was the general populations’ passive aggressive behavior aimed at me—or so I perceived it that way. I just happen to be one of these people who gets their feelings hurt all the time. I don’t plan to get hurt or to be so sensitive. It’s just who I am.
People tell me to grow a thicker skin, but I must be missing that DNA link or something because I can’t just brush off the words of others. Anyway, isn’t that the great thing about humans, we are all differnet?
I just want to feel safe again.
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt safe.
I crawl into the cabinet and shove myself all the way to the back, squeeze my feet in so that my knees are having an intimate meeting with my boobs, curl my toes in, and reach to shut the door. Because inside that cabinet, the world goes away. There’s nothing and no one who can ignore me or pretend I don’t count in the cabinet. I can’t see the disapproving glares or the wordless shared glances of people who shouldn’t mean a thing to me, but who find a way to stab me daily.
I hate that moment the most.
The moment you find out you don’t even register as a blip on someone else’s radar.
Especially if you’ve ever considered that person important in your life.
And if my brain took the time to work it out thoroughly—if it took the time to explain to my heart that it wasn’t the people around me at all, it was me—I may have a shot. But my heart rules my world, no matter how many times I allow it to shatter—no matter how many patches it has to sewn on, it finds a way to keep beating on.
I wrap my arms around my knees and blow warm breaths of confessions to them. I confess that I saw the way Leila rolled her eyes at my carb filled lunch as she crunched on her strips of bacon. I tell them how the boss constantly ignores my emails and requests for a change in job responsibilities. I piano my fingers across the bridge of my nose as I recall Adam ignoring my contribution to the idea pool for our new advertisement project. I excuse them with my own shortcomings, of course. Leila is in better shape than me, maybe she was inadvertently trying to give me a clue. The boss is a very busy man. He does read some of my emails. Adam is the leader of our team. It probably wasn’t a good idea anyway.
See what I mean?
I excuse everyone but can’t seem to cut myself a break.
It burns when I see things like the infamous eye-rolling, and I manage to seek them out. I wish I was one of those people who skirted through life not seeing the soundless sneers and jeers of others. I wish I didn’t see the way people shove themselves into the four corners of the elevator when I enter as if I have some communicable disease or social infection. I wish it would all go away.
I have always been this way. I would spend hours upon hours organizing an event for one of the umpteenth clubs I participated in during high school and then be the only name left off of the flyer. I was left off of lists and announcements every single time. I was told I couldn’t go to certain field trips or school activities because they were full—only to find out they were full because spots were being held for the really important people. I’d never be one of the important people. I’d be the one found dead, weeks later, not because anyone missed me—but because I’d offended them one last time with the smell.
I seem to offend everyone.
Or did everyone offend me?
I can’t remember.
I know where I am on the totem pole of life. I’m not the eagle on the top or even the fox in the middle who makes children happy. Hell, I’m not even the distorted demon face on the bottom who scares people and makes them wonder why they were there in the first place. No, I am the base of the totem pole, the plain, insignificant foundation that holds the weight of the rest. And life never hesitates to throw it in my face.
The other reason I love this cabinet is no glass on the doors. I can get in and really pretend I’m the queen of the tiny castle. Self-depreciating, weird, queen—I digress. Everyone in here loves me and would never slight me—which is not healthy or honest at all since I’m the only one in here and the first to knock myself down before anyone else gets the chance.
I clunk my head on the side of my abode, knowing that the next day I have to face the cruel world again. I try to make it easier on myself through sarcasm and my perfectly honed distraction techniques. But they only take me so far.
Maybe it’s not the world. Maybe it’s just me. I feel awkward in every conversation. I’m the girl who sends an email or an instant message and lets her stomach plummet to the floor if the other person doesn’t answer immediately. I wait for the noise, letting me know I’ve been recognized as alive. I truly have a sense of being some low class moron in the presence of every other person in the world.
Pathetic—that’s the word I’m looking for.
I wish I could blame it on horrible parents or some kind of adolescent abuse scenario. I mean, I could. But I won’t.
After hours of crying in my safe place, I emerge. I’m hungry. I go into the kitchen and make a quick bowl of oatmeal. I think of picking up the phone and calling a friend to complain to or to build me up, but the off and on friends I have always treat me like the special kid. Instead of feeling better about myself after I get off the phone, I always feel like I need to put a check in their box.
Annoyed them enough for the month: check.
Thoroughly convinced them that I’m mentally unstable: check.
Blocked my phone number: check.
I get out of my cabinet after it prescribes me lots of comebacks and quips that I would never use to those people who slight me. No ten Hail Marys for me, just a bunch of ‘F’ you’s.
Not that I am ever going to tell anyone F you.
They might not like me anymore.
Wait, hold up, they already hate me.
I eat, perched on the arm of my cream colored couch. Whatever possessed me to get a cream colored couch, fails to come to mind. It’s not white like a cheesy music video couch but yet not brown like the insignificant, cookie cutter person I am. I’m afraid to sit on it, always preoccupied there’s something on my butt. I spend the entirety of my menstrual cycle sitting on my old leather recliner, passed down to me from my grandfather, afraid of a girly incident.
I suppose it all boils down to trust issues. I’ve always been on the painted end of the one way only side of the friendship sign. I give and give while being as nice as I can be, bordering on kissing their ass until I realize every conversation, every phone call, every get together is initiated by me. I’m never invited to anything or mentioned in conversations. I’m invisible. I’m vapor. Sometimes, I like to pretend I’m strong. I tell myself I’m not going to write, message, call them, or anything. The next time we communicate will be when they want to talk to me. Of course, this begins a spiral. They never begin any communications with me or even notice my absence. Then I end up caving, letting the desperation of loneliness take over my psyche. So, I message them. Then they act annoyed,; lather, rinse and repeat.
I could just fade away.
After washing my bowl and spoon I turn my phone back on. I don’t even check to see if there are any missed calls or text messages—there are none, trust me. I’ve already spoken to my parents that day and my sister never calls. After changing out of my work clothes and into pajamas, I burrow into my layer upon layers of bedding. I’m one of those cold people. Even during a Louisiana summer, I freeze at night. Opening a new book on my iPad Kindle app, I read a few pages and then come upon the main character’s name—Blake.
“He likes you. I heard him talking to Abe when I passed their table.”
“Jill, you’re my best friend, and I love you. But you’re full of shit if you think a guy like Blake likes me. Anyway we’re in the seventh grade, what does he likes me mean anyway?”
“You know he wants to go out with you.”
“Out with me where?”
Jill threw her hands up in embarrassment of my lack of knowledge about such things. “It just means you’ll be his girlfriend.”
I chanced a glance over at the popular people table and saw Blake. But he was tossing pepperoni pieces at someone across the room.
“He’s throwing chunks of mystery meat. He’s not even looking at me.”
“You’ll see,” she smirked. I darted my gaze back down to my book while she attempted to give herself whiplash looking from me to Blake and back again.
I click my finger on the top left of the app and chose ‘library’ from the menu that pops up. I have no desire to read about Blake and how he found the love of his life. It turned out that middle school Blake wasn’t talking about me that faithful day in the cafeteria. He was talking about Alyssa, the only other red head in the seventh grade class whose name happened to be eerily similar to mine. Jill hadn’t heard him talking about me. She’d simply heard him saying something about a pretty red head and jumped to conclusions. Conclusions that led me to write him a note asking if he liked me and me being laughed at for the rest of the school year. Thankfully, over that summer, Blake had been accepted to an elite Catholic prep school and I never saw him again.
Giving up on my books, I slide down lower into the covers and wonder at what point I became this person—this girl who spends her evenings hiding from people. I’m twenty one years old but still contain the same apprehension for people and my inability to judge the truth of their emotions as I did at the tender age of thirteen.
“You are so screwed up, Aysa Branton.”