The sobs came out between ragged breaths and they weren’t in the least bit satisfying or relieving. She wanted to scream until her voice was gone. This thing inside her was bigger, so much bigger, than one could adequately express on a balcony in the middle of the city without summoning the attention of god knows how many people and possibly the police. Her body trembled with a sort of electricity that almost hurt, like something was straining to break through the surface. It was too much, all too much.

Her breath formed little clouds against the sky and she watched them dissipate into the night air. The rain had made the streets below glisten in the lights from the cars and the shops. The railing was slick with water and she gripped it with her hands, and on impulse, imagined hoisting her body over the side and just…

She didn’t finish that thought. Her stomach lurched and another angry sob escaped, and she turned round and kicked the wall. Back and forth from one end of the balcony to the other… she walked with an urgency, as if headed somewhere on an important mission, but with the futility of a caged animal who had nowhere to go. God, she wished she could still drink.

She’d spent the previous evening reading about the five stages of grief. Number two (anger) and number three (bargaining) seemed to resonate. Mental lists of everything she’d lost repeated themselves in her head, over and over, and every time she settled on one for a few seconds, she was engulfed by a wave of fresh bitterness and rage that would sweep her under and drag her down.

Oh my god it hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts. Please make it stop. Please.

A shadow appeared behind the living room window and she realised her mother was standing there. Fucking Christ. The last thing she wanted to do was explain. She didn’t understand why people wanted to talk all the time. Talking accomplished nothing, particularly talking with people who reacted with frustration and were too stupid to understand anyway.

You can’t fix it, mother. You never could. That was always your problem; you tried too hard and you were afraid of anything that couldn’t have a happy ending. A socially-acceptable one. And you passed your fear on to me, albeit in a different form, when I’m the sort of person who so desperately needs to find a way to withstand the type of pain that you can’t even fathom. Did you think you were saving me?

She turned away from the window and walked to the end of the balcony, out of sight, and drew another shaky breath. The tears on her cheek were warm, and they mingled with the soft, cool raindrops that had been falling all evening.

Something that had long been dormant had slowly been surfacing lately. It felt different and she didn’t know why, but she knew it did.

Fight or flight. Flight hadn’t worked thus far… flight ruined everything. That left one option.


She stood waiting for the kettle to boil, anger welling up inside and breaking the surface of her composure. Like the bubbles in the water, she thought. Building steadily.

Other teatimes flitted through her memory. Other teatimes in other kitchens in other homes. When teatime still had meaning, when life still had a bit of colour, when home was a real place and love had energy and the day had light and just maybe there were reasons to still be here.

But surely it could be worse. Stop being such a whiny fool.

“Look around you! Can it get any worse than this? We’re already in the bowels of hell!” The voice broke through her thoughts like it came from someone else. It reminded her of an overly-dramatic line from a cheesy film, but she wasn’t sure which one.

The kettle whistled and she poured the water over the bags and started the timer on her watch. 4:21 as always. At least she could control something, no matter how insignificant.

So scream you, out from behind the bitter ache
You’re hanging on the memory, you need most…

How dare anyone. How. Dare. They. They didn’t know, they couldn’t possibly know. Fuck their opinions. Fuck them! Fuck you!

The adrenaline felt good. It was satisfying. Primal. A reminder that she was still alive. She reached for the handle on the drawer in front of her. The dishes needed washing, but surely there was one clean knife in there.

Fuck you!

Blood welled up in the line she’d drawn across her leg.

Fuck you!

It began to trickle down her shin, and she gritted her teeth and drew the blade across again.

Fuck you!

One more time. She had to take the teabags out soon.

Fuck you!

Beep beep beep!

Bags out, sweetener in, a splash of milk. She could feel the warmth of the blood pooling in her sandal as she stood there. A few hot tears splashed onto the kitchen counter and she smiled an odd, victorious little smile.