Welcome Back, Stranger.
I can't say I've missed you, but it is nice to see you again. I've thought about you a lot lately and every part of my mind seems to cling to you. I dwell on our time together. I still hate you and I don't think I'll ever stop hating you.
You've ruined me.
He had come home late again.
His shirt twisted and stained with alcohol and lipstick, the faint smell of ginger with a hint of vanilla wafted off his body. He had gone to see the OTHER. His wife refused to call her by her name that trash did not deserve a name and would only be known as nothing but the OTHER.
Tonight, Deliah was tired. She had fussed, spit, and raged one too many times, tonight she was just tired.
Her husband crept into the house, taking off his shoes at the door, sliding his feet against the polished wood floor. Deliah sat on the kitchen counter and waited for him to pass, his silhouette bold against the darkness of the night.
"Luke," she said.
Deliah clapped her hands, and the lights turned on. Luke looked as he did most nights, his clothes twisted and skin slick with sweat.
"Don't," Deliah interrupted. "I'm tired, Luke. I'm exhausted."
Luke sighed, reaching for his wife to give her some form of comfort. Deliah pulled away, her hands trembling.
"I love you, Luke." She said, " But we can't do this anymore."
Luke looked at his wife. She was different. Her round frame had thinned, her hair knotted and damaged. Her clothes too big. She reminded him of a child playing dress-up.
"Love, I don't understand?" Luke said, "We can't do what anymore?"
Deliah gestured between the two of them, "We can't do this anymore."
"I tried, Luke. I did. I fought damn hard for us, and now I don't wanna fight no more."
It had been raining since the sun had risen, the sky was grey, and the streets flooded with murky water and bug-eyed frogs. Chyna watched sickly from the fogged glass of her living room window. Her thick curls pulled into a loose ponytail with a few strands tickling her forehead.
"Momma," She said. "How come it don't snow here?"
Her mother, a short woman with a fade and high cheekbones, looked up from her book.
"Baby, We live in the south. Ain't no snow coming here." She said, turning a page.
Chyna pouted and sat back against the couch, her little arms folded across her chest. She glanced at her mother and sighed.
"Yes, Chyna." Her mother said, not looking from her book.
The young girl said nothing and sighed again. Her mother closed the book and stared at her with a small smile gracing her lips.
"You know," Her mother said. "If I do this, it counts as a Christmas present."
Chyna frowned for a second and then shrugged. Her mother stood from the couch and raised her hands with her palms facing away from her body. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, Chyna watched with excitement as the lights in the home flickered and the TV distorted, the Christmas tree bulbs popped one by one, and soon the whole house was dark.
Chyna's mother opened her eyes and frowned, "Damn."
The young girl pointed to the small jar in the window and smiled.
"One dollar in the swear jar, Momma." She said, glancing out the window.
Her mother laughed, picking up her book from the couch and sitting back down. She reached between the cushions and pulled out a small flashlight, shaking it twice before turning it on.
"Hopefully, I can fix the lights before your Daddy gets here and pitches a fit." she said, "You know he doesn't like when I do this stuff."
"I know, Momma." Chyna said, " and thank you."
Her mother smiled and returned to reading her book. Outside the home, the once murky and grey weather had cleared and in its place thick sheets of glistening snow and ice.
"Merry Christmas Eve Eve, Chyna."
It had come as a thought.
Ideally, the only voice in your head should be your own, but for some reason, there had been an intruder. Quiet at first, but then loud and unforgiving, he swam through my mind and twisted his fingers around my nerves. My body was not my own, and I watched as he invaded every aspect of my life, I cried as he destroyed my person and munched on my pain. The hollowness had set in, and I was a husk of my former self.
No thought belonged to me. I was now the property of the Stranger's voice.
She stumbled into the doorway, blood dripping from her body and her eyes full of tears. Her face bruised and gashed with pieces of glass sticking out from her cheek and forehead, every breath she took felt like fire in her lungs and acid on her breath.
"God," she whispered.
Slowly, she made her way to the couch, every step more painful than the last. She settled on the plush cushion and grabbed the blanket draped over the side and placed it over her body.
"Just a little rest," She said. "Just a little more time."
As she closed her eyes, the sound of her heartbeat filled her ears and slowly she drifted off into slumber.
Separate names with a comma.