I am not a pleasant morning person, but I love the amber color that burns its way through the sky and clouds. The coffee warms my hand as I sit outside; I had to stop smoking inside because of her. I can’t blow smoke rings, but I try. Grey puffs of smoke vanish into the morning air. I bump my chin with the end of my cast.  I curse under my breath as the front door opens with a squeak. I swear this house is starting to show its age. She wraps her arms around me; her warmth makes the hairs stand up on my neck as if they were trying to get closer. “I’m sorry- I can’t do this anymore, the pretending that everything is alright.”  She whispers into my ear. My stomach turns and I force my eyes to stay open, though all they wanted to do were close and shut it off. I try my best to keep a tone that’s cool and collected. “What?” I whisper back. The air still cold it lets the word hang in front of my face for a moment. She squeezes me tight then gets up and walks back inside with a squeak.

For the life of me when I have nothing to do but to read, I hate it.  Stephens Elliot’s words twist and fuck in my head as I convey all of this with a confused face and tightly folded paper back.  Frustrated I toss the book onto the coffee table and walk to the spare room. Her bare foot presses the pedal with precision as she runs the cloth back and forth under the machine. I touch her shoulder and she removes one earbud. A tiny Bjork cries from the dangling headphone. “Do you have a second?” I ask as my hand gently rubs her shoulder. “In about a minute, I am on a good stride.” She places the earbud back into her ear and the machine roars back to life. She is better at being mad at me than I am of her. I let my will carry me back to the couch. I stare at the bent paperback and it stares right back at me. With some force, I turn myself away and slip into a midday nap.

The water is chest high and the mountains are snow capped. I scan the opposite bank from me, I try to figure how long it would take me to swim, when there’s a breaking of twigs behind me. My broken face stares at me with malice intent. I push my arms forward and I am swimming, I taste the dirty lake water that finds its way into my mouth. I struggle more with the water than myself, or, well, broken self. He pushes my head under the water; I push back and break his hold.  But not seconds later he is on my back, legs and arms tangled around me, I sink, we sink. I cry out but it’s nothing but bubbles, I watch them ascend to the surface and break free. His grip ever tighter I give one last kick and the world begins to shake, but his grip holds.

She’s sitting over me as I lay on the couch, her hands on my shoulders shaking me. I gasp and gasp, taking as much air as my lungs could hold. My head gets light and she sits me up and holds a glass of ice water in front of me. I drink it all than gasp once more. “Are you okay?” she asks as she brushes the bangs from my sweaty brow. I’ve been meaning to get a haircut, just haven’t really wanted to. “Yes, now I am.” I finish with a slight sigh. “You want to talk about it?” I tuck my legs close to me so she could sit down. “Well?” she tilts her head slightly. “Just a bad dream, I was drowning.” She looks at my dirty socks than speaks. “I think that means you’re being overwhelmed, I can tell something is bothering you, and has been for a while, I can’t say I wouldn’t be a little hurt if you don’t want to talk about it, but if you give me a try I can be a pretty good listener.” I bite my bottom lip, at this moment I wanted to be someone else, someone without problems, without someone who wants me to spill them out and leave them scattered in front of us for their viewing pleasure. I bite my lip harder than before and tell her the dream, the meeting, and the worries.

His hands gently over her face as I wake, his broken face with tears, her lungs burn for air. In a hurry I go for the pistol under my pillow, I knock it off the bed and into the tight spot between the bed and wall. A lost cause, I swing for him, my right hand is caught and the pain encircles every part of me. I tumble off the bed and force myself to my feet. He yells something but I cannot understand him. I swing again with my left but he quickly ducks his head without looking. I grab at his neck when his elbow connects with my face, I hold on, tangling him with my grasp, pulling him further away from her, again and again, his elbow catches me. I feel the blood run from my nose when he breaks my hold and tosses me to the ground. I muster what every I have left to pick myself up, but before I’m an even off the ground his boot comes crashing into my head. There are lights, then darkness, and I’m swimming again.

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