by Hannah Scheuter
Light hair pulled back; pale face with a constellation of freckles; ink stained fingers clutching a worn book; an oversized sweater pulled over to cover a petite frame; moss green eyes with dark shadows circling underneath them stared out the frosted windowpane. She watched the steady stream of people below her apartment building with mild interest as she tilted her forehead onto the icy window and let her hot breath create a tiny splotch of fog near her nose and chapped lips. She curled her legs up to her chest, placed the book beside her on the window seat and wrapped her arms around her knees. She lifted her head from the window, feeling the warm air from her room rush to her chilled skin, and gently fell onto her knees as her eyes remained watching the city below. Her movements, though graceful as they had always been, were slugging, as if she were exhausted and depraved of rest.
He leaned against her door frame with intense worry muddling his usually bright obsidian eyes as he observed her pitiful form. He knew she had scars from her too-recent past, scars that penetrated deeply. They were not the visible kind one could see with their eyes and validate. They were not thin, white lines marking her pale skin, nor were they irritated, pink ones noticeably raised amidst an otherwise smooth form. They were hidden, invisible, imperceptible; seen only by those who were observant enough to notice. She was not damaged physically, but mentally. Her mind was an invisible canvas of torn material with failed attempts of reconnecting the tattered remains woven throughout. Her body was safe from all visible harm, but she, herself, was not.
He exhaled heavily through his nose and ran a hand through his curly mop of hair, gazing down into the bowl of thick, steaming soup he brought for her. He recalled a conversation they had a few days prior. The last conversation they would have for an unforeseeable amount of time. He remembered her mentioning how her younger brother had always been an ill child, ever since he was born, in fact. The doctors informed the family that the youngest child would have a short time to live, a few years at best. They had hoped and prayed that the doctors were incorrect, that their diagnosis was false. For years the group of doctors were wrong. The boy grew up, defeating all odds, and graduated high school while making many fond memories along the way. He was the last child of the family to receive his high school diploma. Though sadly, he was the first, and hopefully the only, of their children to pass on before his parents did.
Her younger brother’s passing wrecked her mental state horribly. She became reclusive and silent, falling deeply into mourning just like the rest of her damaged family. Her two younger siblings retreated to the comfort of their parents and had started to heal, but she remained ever-distant. Her eating habits took a turn for the worse. She ate little, and her meals were spaced far and few between. Her body gradually became thinner and thinner as time dragged on in her hazy, freezing world. Few noticed her health decline. Even fewer spoke out or did anything about it. She was numb to all around her, hardly sleeping, yet never truly awake. What rest she did get was fitful, and she would wake up crying, breaking out in a cold sweat.
He pushed himself off of the rough wooden door frame and moved to her side, settling himself in the tiny space that was left on the window seat in front of her. He didn’t say anything; he knew no words would be of any good to her now. He just sat in the thick silence, grieving with her. He placed a comforting hand on her knee and saw her eyes fly to meet his own, darker ones. He handed her the warm bowl and she gingerly took it, gratitude flickered in her mossy irises.
She took the slowest bites of the thick, steaming substance and felt the warmth dribble down her throat, pass through her chest, and settle into her rumbling stomach. Perhaps, she wondered as she consumed the comforting food, perhaps the scars will fade and she will be able to move on her own again. Her eyes turned themselves back to him and found that he was watching the city below lazily. Those same deep green eyes turned to the heavy hand resting on her knee.
Perhaps I will, She thought.