Everything comes in halves. Good and evil, heaven and hell; the creation of life itself is born from the joining of a woman and a man.
I told myself this before I had pulled the blinds down, leaving the room drenched in an artificial darkness. I sat on the cold, half-tiled floor of our bathroom. They were words I would repeat over and over in an attempt to make them stick. Felix tried to help. After all, he was the one who instilled the theory of halves in me. He sat, slumped, back pushed against the door I had hastily locked when I tore into the bathroom.
"Mia…” He sounded weak. I hated that my tendency toward self-destruction could drive him to feeling like that. “If you’re not going to come out, will you at least tell me what’s in your head?”
I squeezed my eyes shut. Hearing him sound like that, because of me, because I couldn’t get my shit together, was something I never wanted, but always managed to do it anyway. It was like I wasn’t just pushing my own self-destruct button, I was jabbing my finger against his too.
I pulled my legs to my chest and rested my cheek on my makeshift headrest. My voice was feeble, croaky, but I pushed on for his sake.
“We try so hard to maintain our goodness; the holiness inside… that it makes us believe that when the time comes, we will leave this earth knowing that we will be going to someplace full of grace.” The last of my words spilled out like they were tinged with arsenic. I had never really believed in anything otherworldly once I left primary education.
He sighed; a sigh that I’ve heard far too many times before. This was our routine. The words change but the script stays the same. I’m locking myself away and he is trying to save me. I want to tell him I can’t be saved, but it would ruin him. So, today, I listen.
“I know you’re sad, Mia, but you can’t forget what I told you. In order to be whole, we need to let our darkness shine through. We have to be willing to admit to that hidden thing that lives inside of us.” I could hear his fingertips tracing patterns on the wooden floorboards while he spoke. “You can only feel happiness once you are scarred by sadness.”
Those last words stung. My fingers, as if he were willing them, found themselves stroking at the ghostly lines of silver carved into the skin of my thigh. My face scrunched up in disgust, followed by a small, rasped whine caught in the tightness of my throat.
“I’m afraid. Afraid of letting this wretched thing buried deep inside spill out. So I paint this contorted smile of happiness on my face, like I’m trying to maintain a false sense of goodness that I already know isn’t going to make me a full and fulfilled person, let alone become somebody that doesn’t need to hide in the fucking bathroom when they’re sad.”
I could feel my eyes starting to sting. I didn’t want to cry, not again. So, I swallowed my tears. “The more I try to silence it, the deeper its claws sink into my insides.”
I knew what I had to do and in a way, this was it. I hated going through this but it was our way of sucking out the venom. Felix always pushed me to say what was going on in my head. It was painful and at times I resented him for it. I would push him away. Leave the house for hours, but I would always come back to him. He said he didn’t mind, but I could see it in his eyes. Whenever I walk away from him, it’s like I’ve shoved my hand into his chest and taken his heart with me.
He sighed again, less pained this time. “People believe this fallacy that monsters are meant to be unloved; that they’re meant to be starved of attention; fed on nothing but heartache.” Before he could continue, I interrupted him. My words were pointed, not aimed at him, but demanding all the same.
“Why are the things that need it the most left alone?” My fingers dug into my skin. “Why are they are left in this dreary expanse of coldness, expected to rot silently until they receive their divine retribution by the hands of a God that isn’t real.” My jaw clenched and my muscles tightened. By now my fingers were dug so hard into my thighs that once I pulled them away, crescent-shaped marks were left in the wake of the dig of my nails.
“We like to set things apart, Mia. It’s the fundamental concept of good and bad. It’s easier to put things into such basic, set categories than it is to admit to the vast complexities we face.”
I was never sure if he knew that when he started to talk about things like this, it made me smile. Having to deal with everything going on inside my own head was exhausting, but hearing how his mind worked was my favourite thing to listen to.
I pulled my head up, my spine following suit. Just like the knot in my stomach, my body was loosening to the softness of his words.
“People believe that God is all things good and holy compared to his ultimate opposite, Lucifer. The idea that they live in heaven and hell; sky and earth force you to separate things into only two boxes. Good and bad. Two direct opposites.” He paused for a second or two on hearing the sound of me twisting the cheap lock, but he continued. As if his words were some kind of lullaby that was willing me from my makeshift cage. “It’s the hero theory. There has to be this offset balance of evil that they constantly have to defeat. How else would they be given the title of hero if there wasn’t a constant need for them to overcome the villain? We in fact need the darkness, Mia. It’s the balance that allows for us all to be better people.”
Without a word, I pushed myself to my feet and opened the door. His head twisted over his shoulder to look up at me. I had this stupid grin on my face, despite the tear streaks and blotchiness, the puffy red side effects of weeping. His face softened. I could see the dark circles under his eyes, but it didn’t matter, he was beautiful and he was mine.
He knew I was embarrassed, but he didn’t say anything. He just stood up and wrapped his arms around me. Having spent the last forty minutes sitting on cold tiles with nothing but a pair of tattered cotton shorts and Felix’s t-shirt, I welcomed his warmth.
I wanted nothing more than to bury my face in his chest in an attempt to hide, but he pushed the mess of my hair from my face and tucked it behind my ears. It made my cheeks burn, but I didn’t protest. He didn’t speak; he just dropped his hand to mine and pulled me into our living room and onto our second-hand sofa.
Once I was secured in the safety of his embrace, he continued, except this time it was my skin that he traced patterns onto. His fingers left welcomed warmth against the dull pale of my thigh. “There can’t be just one half, because it’s the two halves coming together that makes things whole,” he paused a moment to tilt my chin up, “that makes us whole.” His fingertips danced over the same silvery scars, but when he did it, it felt different. I was never ashamed when he touched them. He had this way of making me feel like every single part of me mattered; like I was something to treasure, that he not only adored me in spite of my marred existence, but because of it.
His voice started once again, but it was a lot softer this time, quiet and pressed against my ear. “Balance is what keeps the world spinning, but the choices you make set you apart from what is supposedly laid out for you.” I could hear a humorous disdain in his voice. “The only path that you take is the one you decide for yourself. There is no higher glory mapping out your life. Decisions are made by you; by what you think is right and that is what makes an individual. Not this notion that a good person is without flaws, without the fissures of mistakes and bad judgement.” His index finger pushed against my chest, like he was trying to make sure that I knew that even though he was generalising, he was applying it solely to me.
Hours seemed to pass and the air around us grew cold. Colour was draining from the surrounding walls in the waning light of the day. I kept my eyes tight shut and pulled my knees to my chest once again. I could see him in our small kitchen; the last of the sun was dancing along his body, his butterscotch limbs drenched in warmth and honey. He was fixing us both a drink; bitter coffee for him and a milky tea for me. He glanced up and caught me staring at him with a lopsided grin, eyes full of the same ardent infatuation I had for him the first time we met.
There we sat, as if frozen in time; a paradise of imperfection, mired in misery. We drained the contents of our mugs slowly, trying to grasp onto this one moment for a lifetime. I knew that once I pulled myself from this moment, his embrace, I would be alone. Alone with nothing but the heartache of the only memory I could cling onto; the only one that stopped me from rocking myself to sleep every night.
He was gone and I was flawed. I picked myself apart mercilessly in the hopes that I could replay the same saturated scene. It was beginning to fade and my fingertips were starting to bruise from how often I pressed replay.
By now I was laying in bed, my body curled tight in an attempt to contain the little warmth I had on such a cold night. That’s when I heard it, the soft rasp of his voice in the dead of the night; one that sent warmth through me like no other. My body laid there motionless, but I could see him. He was so close; I could feel the heat of his breath on the nape of my neck, but I didn’t move, couldn’t move. I was afraid that if I did, this, too, would end – another memory shattered, thrown to the pile of lost moments and what ifs.
I felt his phantom arms wrap around me while I rattled off a never-ending list of them; a menagerie of wistful hopes that will never be.
MADELEINE DAWN is a twenty-four year old fashion marketing and creative writing graduate. Madeleine studied at Winchester School of Art, but now finds comfort back home in London, where she spends her nights writing poetry and short stories. She recently released her first poetry collection, Falling Heart First and is already planning her second after the void of leaving university and entering the big, wide world of fashion retail.