March Madness Flash Fiction: BREAKING POINTE by Jamie Adams
TODAY’S BREW: Diner coffee. BECAUSE IT’S KRISTEN’S BIRTHDAY AND WE’RE GOING TO BREAKFAST. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY HETEROSEXUAL LIFE PARTNER!
Jamie Adams is very special to me. She’s a ferociously loveable friend, one whose love I can feel from across the internet. She’s been there for me when I needed her most, and to top off what a selfless, utterly wonderful person she is, she wrote this story that tore me in half. I could not love it more. You need to follow Jamie https://twitter.com/Jamie_Adams22 and find her blog at http://t.co/d47wADtG3O. She’s also a contributor https://twitter.com/yagabonds because she has nothing to do.
by Jamie Adams
The bruises are forming fast today, dark constellations like stars of blue and gray across her pale skin. A cluster of them is angled behind her knee and a bouquet sits lengthwise on the inside of her upper right arm, but it’s the spatter of darkness coagulating over the ridges of her flat torso that concerns her.
They’re so much darker. Fresher. Blossoming up even as she watches.
Normally they wait until she’s not looking to appear.
Kerryn lifts her wet hair away from her face and studies the wine-colored stain that mirrors her jugular. The towel wrapped securely around her body doesn’t begin to cover all the marks across her skin and there isn’t enough foundation left to do the job either.
It would be better to stay, anyways. The bathroom is a warm, steam-shrouded cocoon, and even though the bruises can find her here, it’s quiet and time can’t reach her.
She’s always been adverse to time, the arbitrary assignation of numbers and values to something so fleeting, an element impossible to truly pin down. It’s never been very fond of her either, slipping away every time she’s tried to capture it and dodging every one of her efforts to make it conform the way everyone else always seems to.
Three taps on the door. “Kerryn? We have to go. If you’re late to one more rehearsal, Wheeler says he’s demoting you to demi-soloist. Neither of us want that to happen.”
It’s easy for Leena to still be worried about ballet. She’s not standing naked in front of the mirror, towel puddled around her ankles, watching a faintly pulsing pool of marbled indigo and charcoal spread slowly across her right ribcage.
Kerryn used to worry about ballet too, sometimes she still does. When she’s made it past the bathroom threshold, through the living room with its rough shag carpet and the awkward seventies colors Leena’s tried to disguise with all her paintings and throw pillows and Portuguese trinkets. When she’s made it to the street and walked several blocks, when there’s a chai tea latte in her hand and she’s entering the squat brick studio, such a far cry from the old Hollywood glamor of the theatre it abuts, that’s when she worries about ballet and the fluidity of her arms and the angle of her pointe. Not now. Not here, in the oppressive sauna she’s created with the shower steam and her own fright.
More knocks. “Kerryn. For the love of all things, hurry up. If you’re not out in three minutes, I’m coming in. I’m not risking my job for you but I’m also not living with you if you lose yours. And I like this place.”
Kerryn pulls on her tights slowly, pressing hard against the skin of her thighs and hips as she does. No bruises form in response. She’s tried everything – running into the corners of tables, having her blood levels checked, changing how she eats and when she sleeps and how often she gets fresh air. Nothing has had an effect on the bruises, except that they form faster and wider and more.
The straps of her leotard are barely in place when the door creaks open. Cold air slithers over her skin as Leena tosses in the heather gray sweatshirt Kerryn always wears when time is being the most difficult.
Leena’s tried a hundred times over the past three years to be an intercessor between them, Kerryn and time. She’s tried clocks and alarms and ringing phones, post-it’s on the fridge and butcher paper the length of the hallway. Nothing helps, and she’s figured out now that to make herself happy, she needs Kerryn to be happy, and for that to happen, she’s got to personally intervene when it seems time is getting the better of her roommate.
“I will literally kill someone if we don’t leave in the next five minutes because we won’t have time for coffee and if I don’t have coffee before I let Benji fumble the lift twenty times I will rip his head off and use it for a chair.”
Kerryn waits for her to notice. The edges of a bruise the color of winter midnight are leaking out along the strap of her leotard, and though she pulls on her sweatshirt, the neck gapes and leaves the widening bruise exposed. They’re clear right through Kerryn’s tights, spattered like paint across the back of her left leg and clustered across the top of her foot.
Even as she watches in the mirror another one comes alive, growing swiftly and darkening along her jaw line, up across the clear stretch of her cheek and the sharp jutting pinnacle of her cheekbone, shades of plum and mahogany. She panics, grabbing her foundation and wiping futilely at the tender skin. It’s a disease and it’s consuming her, and how can anyone worry about time or ballet when she’s so clearly dying as she stands there?
“Well.” Leena tilts her head impatiently. “Do you want me to rip off your head instead, or are we going?”
Leena stares right at Kerryn and she doesn’t blink or sigh or reach to touch the stains that cover Kerryn’s body. Something rises in Kerryn’s throat, something choking and dark, a bruise moving inward instead of out, consuming her.
“Let’s. Go.” Leena marches out the bathroom door, mumbling in Portuguese under her breath.
Kerryn turns back to the mirror. The bruise has consumed half her face and she can hardly breathe. She presses a hand against the glass.
It’s time, it must be time. Playing tricks on her again. Breaking her down.
Her eyes flutter shut and when they open, her skin is clear and her body unmarred. The bruises sink into her bloodstream again. Poison. It’s only a matter of time.