Brink of Lonely Heaven (work in progress)

~Chapter One: Mirrors~

SOMETHING ABOUT THE WATER! Something about its gentle and soft caress on her skin made Anita come undone. She felt it’s hot but gentle touch crawl through her body as she felt her entire being sink within her vintage porcelain bathtub. The water held her ever so gently, gradually tightening its firm but loving grip as the tears flowed from her eyes to become one with the water, holding her even tighter as her gentle sobs caused her body to quiver. She was in love with the water and the water was in love with her, that much Anita knew as she gave in completely and let herself slip into the water gradually drowning out the sound of Emeli Sandé singing My Kind of Love. For a minute, which seemed like forever, remaining within the grasp of the water — eyes closed, breath held — Anita wished that minute would never come to an end. She didn’t want to come out of that beautiful place and somehow she wished she could go into a slumber like Alice into a land where all of her troubles were over. As she let the water curl her up like a developing fetus, she allowed her mind drift. The sweet smell of lavender attacked her senses as her brain told her the minute was over. Anita reemerged feeling more alive than ever before but again just being alive was not the only thing she wanted. She wanted more. She wiped the water off her face as she rested her head on the inflatable pillow at the head of the tub as My Kind of Love came to a beautiful end and ironically Beyoncé’s Pretty Hurts began.

She needed to drown herself from her surrounding but she knew that the moment her daily bath ritual ended he would be back to torment her. She stretched over to a stool beside the bathtub and picked up Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s collection of short stories and even though she knew that concentration was a luxury she could not afford anyway, she attempted to continue reading from The Thing Around Your Neck.

Unable to concentrate, Anita returned the book to the stool and grabbed a towel. She stood up from the water, dripping like a waterfall, and wrapped herself in the towel letting it soak up as much water on her skin as she stepped out of the tub and went to stand before the mirror.

She let the towel drop. She felt beautiful but as she stared hard at her naked reflection she thought she could see the cracks of imperfections on her face; cracks as though they were on a frozen stream about to break through. Cracks like those made by little sea turtles finding their way back into the icy sea. She wondered why when everyone looked at her they saw perfection when all she could see was a woman so imperfect and still in the making.

The silence that enveloped her was like a cocoon, narrowing with every breath she took as she stared at herself wondering what she was truly looking to find. She held her chest as if to stop her racing heart from busting forth as she tried to catch her breath taking slow heavy breaths. But the fact that she could hear the sound of her breath in the silence of the room somehow came as a relief to her. She would take the sound of her own breathe over the sound of his voice any day and any time.

“I am a strong black woman.” She muttered to herself as she tried to repeat the words on one of the post-its stuck all around the edges of her dressing mirror. This was the idea of her therapist Octavia, and she found that it has worked quite well for her over the past few years.

“I am flawless.” She continued on to the next post-it as she began to examine her breasts in search for lumps — a colleague had died of breast cancer a few months ago and Anita wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

“I am a phenomenal woman.” She continued as she stood up and placed her hands on her hips turning slightly sideways to view her full-sized breasts. She nodded — her breasts were perfectly in their usual size, shape, and color. They were evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling — in agreement to what her oncologist had instructed her to look out for. She looked closely for assurance and did not notice any dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin surrounding them neither had any of her nipples changed positions. There were no redness, soreness, rashes, or swelling and as she continued further in her self-examination — which has become quite a daily routine for her — she couldn’t help but fear for the worse.

“I am a strong woman.” She raised her arms as she continued her self-examination, her heart racing even faster as if for sure she would find a lump hidden somewhere within her perfect pair. She felt the sides of both breasts and there were no lumps neither was there any unusual fluid coming out from her nipples. There have been times when Anita have wondered why she let herself be so paranoid but again she would remind herself that breast cancer was a journey she was very scared to embark on and praised the many women who have won those battles.

“I am…” Anita froze and closed her eyes as his voice came from behind her. Oh shit, he’s back!

“You are beautiful, that’s what you are.” His voice was gentle and calm — as always. And he would be the perfect man, if he was really there.

One hour. That was how long she went without hearing his voice.

One hour was all he gave her this time around to have some sort of sanity and peace with herself. Just one hour!

Still startled, Anita covered her breasts with her left hand across her chest as she reached for a towel hanging loosely on a chair by the corner of her dressing table. She had her back to him. She knew it wasn’t what he hadn’t already seen before but somehow she felt that his non-presence was a different kind of violation to her privacy that was beyond what he was already doing to her sanity.

“Really, Anita? Hiding your nakedness from me now?” He said.

She ignored him as she wrapped the towel across her chest. His voice remained calm and she could tell he wasn’t moving any closer to her.

“Leave me alone Joseph.” She muttered under her breath. Her heart began to pound even faster. She wasn’t turning to face him. She knew she wouldn’t be able to face him. “I don’t want you here.” She added.

“Here? Where is ‘here’?” He asked. She could tell that he had started to taunt her. Nothing made him more alive than the happiness he got from taunting her. That much she had come to realize.

Anita remained silent as she buried her face in her shaky hands. She was sweating now, more profusely than she was when she was within the heat of her bathroom. For some reason she was afraid. She was never afraid of him. She wondered why his presence was making too much of a difference this time.

“You need to tell them what you did Anita.” He came again.

Just then she remembered. It was time. In the past few hours that Joseph hadn’t been around she had been complacent so much so that she thought perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if she didn’t take her meds. But how wrong she was! It was time. It was always time to do the needful when she heard his voice. As hard as she tried to drown out his voice and not turn around to face him, she knew he would never leave her be. As much as she feared though, one thing was certain, he could never lay his hands on her. He never did when he was alive, and she very much doubted if somehow death had made him into a different man.

“This is not real.” She muttered as her hands still trembled. The tremor didn’t stop even as she reached out to one of the drawers on her dressing table and pulled it open. There they were! She picked up the little pill bottle from the many within the drawer with the word Lurasidone written on it and popped it open.

“Don’t do that Anita. You need me,” Joseph continued. “I have missed you.”

She ignored him as she struggled to get two pills out but instead almost poured out the entire contents onto the dressing table. Her shaky hands wouldn’t stay still.

“You need to tell them Anita.” Joseph continued to speak and each time he spoke his voice got even louder and carried a much heavier weight upon her sanity than they did just ten seconds prior.

Anita picked up two pills and threw them in her mouth as she stuck her head under the running faucet and gobbled down the water as they gushed out.

“You cannot run away from this Anita. You need to let them know what you did to me.” Joseph was screaming now. Anita shut her eyes tightly as she pressed her hands against her ears. She wanted him to stop. She wanted him gone. She wanted him to never ever return. She wanted to scream to make him stop, but she knew screaming would only mean giving in to the insanity. Having worked too hard to maintain herself all these years, she was determined to continue to handle this situation with the same poise she carried herself even in the industry where she had come to be revered and respected. Joseph was not going to take that away from her. He already had her sanity, he was not going to get her dignity. Definitely not without a fight and Lurasidone was one of her many weapons which, by the way, would kick in any minute now.

Joseph’s screams were becoming even louder as she rushed to her bed and threw herself onto the mahogany California King quickly burying her head under two pillows as she began to sob quietly.

“Leave me alone Joseph. I don’t want you here anymore.” She begged as she began to feel light headed. It was happening. The meds were kicking in.

His voice was beginning to fade away. She could hear him as if from a far distance being swept away by a mighty tide. She could hear him fade away and soon she could hear him no more. Perhaps he was gone. Perhaps he had left her alone for good this time. She didn’t want to take any chances and look only to find him still there with that smirk on his face — that smirk that always made the butterflies gallop in her stomach — so she remained safely underneath the pillows.

Time passed, what seemed like a really long time but was only a few minutes, before she brought her head from underneath the pillows and looked around the room. Joseph was gone. She felt a slight throbbing headache on her right temple.

She stood up and went to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of Seltzer water just as the kitchen phone began to ring. She reached out to it and picked it up.

“Hello,” She said.

“Miss Spencer, good evening. It’s Crystal.”

“Yes Crystal.” She replied as if to ask “what do you want?”

“The Fashion Book for the spring collections is ready ma’am.”

“Oh yes yes. Bring it in.” She said and hung up staring at the mirror on her kitchen wall. “I am fierce.” She added staring straight at her reflection and smiled.

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