Home > Stay with Me

Stay with Me
Author: Nicole Fiorina


   “You stood before me, a memory,

   but I was a stranger in your eyes.

   Did you forget to remember

   or remember to forget?”

   —Oliver Masters


   I WOULD NEVER FORGET the day you slipped away. A small lift of your chin and our eyes met. I only saw emptiness in a place where a wistful vulnerability used to collide with wonder. Now, a hollowness of a bottomless pit. In your eyes, I’d never seen your shade of green so dim. It caused my stomach to fall into the same somber eclipse, spiraling faster and faster with no end, no walls, only darkness.

   And then you averted your gaze.

   The flesh from my bones, the blood in my veins, the oxygen in my lungs, all of it crumbled, breaking into small pieces yet still holding on by a thread—the thread was my heart. It pumped on auto-pilot as if it couldn’t associate with the rest of my body. It’s thumping sounded in my ears, and I wished it would stop, but my heart was not ready to let go. It continued with the same steady beat, refusing to give up what was right in front of me. Maybe your eyes will return to mine, I thought—well, prayed.

   And I waited.

   Two seconds passed.

   Then three—waiting as my body weakened from your disconnection, and my heart continued to pump.


   And then your back was to me.

   Whatever we’d had no longer existed, but I remembered everything clearly, and it wasn’t fair. Could I have accepted the hollow look in your eyes over the wonder? Surely, anything you had to offer would be better than nothing. If only you had turned back around. Had you even noticed me?

   And then you took a step in the opposite direction.

   You were gone, left in obscurity and I couldn’t bring you back, but my heart still maintained a steady beat, pumping along to a rhythm of crimson hope. “Stay with me,” you had said over and over. Who would have thought you would be the one to take a step into oblivion? I’m screaming now, can you hear me? Why didn’t you stay with me?

   I didn’t get to kiss you goodbye. You were gone, and even though you were only twenty feet away, I missed you. It was entirely possible you’d wake up and turn back around, or I’d wake up.

   Either way, it was a nightmare.

   I forced my eyes closed. I couldn’t watch you walk away, each step drawing more distance and less of a chance of you coming back. The darkness was better, anyway, and if I held my lids closed tight, I could see stars. I focused on the yellow and orange horizon behind my eyelids, pretending it was a sunset through the bitterness. The only warmth was the water gathering in the corners of my eyes. The tears struggled for a moment, fighting the same lie as my beating heart.

   I wished I could switch places with you, because I didn’t deserve a world once blessed by your light, and you didn’t deserve this at all.

   But this is what I deserved.

   In the beginning, I’d thought you’d be fun, and I’d thought I could leave you effortlessly. It was me who ripped hearts out, but now mine was the one bleeding. The walls surrounding me had been durable, indestructible, before you.

   And with no more walls, and no more you, I was slowly suffocating.

   When it came down to you and me, I’d never thought you’d be the one to slip away.



   Chapter One

   “Falling down, through the darkness.

   She doesn’t scream, or cry for help,

   lost her mind a long time ago.

   She prefers falling down.”

   —Oliver Masters

   I NEVER TOOK my stepmother seriously when she said I would one day be sent away for my reckless behavior after she found a boy in my closet, and I never really cared. It only fueled my actions.

   So, one day, I stole the keys to her precious BMW 3 Series and drove it straight through the garage door.

   Diane had grown tired of my acting out and blamed it on my father’s increasing abandonment of the belief I could be cured. My father, the simple and passive-aggressive man he was, took each harsh word that poured from her perfectly made-up lips as he sat at the dining room table, staring blankly.

   I didn’t even like the boy, either. All I’d wanted was to feel something. Anything.

   On the edge of nineteen, and at my stepmother’s final straw and my father’s last nerve, they both agreed to call the law after my BMW incident. Since it was my last warning, I would have been thrown into a mental institution, but my father pleaded with the judge to send me away to Dolor—the farthest reformatory college for people like me.

   Don’t get me wrong, I knew I wasn’t normal, but I never thought there would be anyone else like me, especially not a school dedicated to my … kind—if there was such a thing.

   At what point had I taken a turn for the worst? I assumed I had always been this way. Allowing boys to use me had never been for their benefit.

   It had been for mine.

   I wanted to feel their hands on me, their mouths on mine, and the eagerness and lust as if it would rub off on me. It never did, but maybe, just maybe, it would light a fire inside me long enough to burn. Pain, lust, anger, passion, I would take anything at this point. My heart was stiff. Rigor mortis had already set in my soul, if I even had a soul. I could no longer be sure.

   My suitcase lay half empty at the edge of my bed as I stood over it. Even with a brief list of acceptable items, I had nothing I desired to bring. No pictures, no attachment to a pillow or blanket. No interest in anything aside from my headphones that I was sure they would confiscate upon my arrival. I opened my nightstand to retrieve a box of condoms, because it wasn’t on the list of “unacceptable items,” and stuffed it into a secret pocket at the bottom of the suitcase.

   Satisfied, I reached for the top of the suitcase, slammed it shut, and closed the zipper without an afterthought. I wasn’t mad at Diane. If I had been, that would have meant I had feelings. Honestly, I didn’t blame her. If I had a stepdaughter like myself, I’d call the police as well.

   “Mia, you ready?” my father called out from the bottom of the stairs.

   I didn’t answer.

   “Mia Rose Jett!”

   “Two minutes!” I set the lightly packed suitcase beside my bedroom door and took one last look around at the bare walls of an old prison before I entered a new one. My walls were always empty, just like my bed, my dresser, and my desk. No personality. Once I walked out the door, it would be like I had never lived here. This space could quickly become a guest bedroom, and I bet Diane already had a Pinterest board dedicated to it.

   “Oh, no. You can’t wear that.” Diane scrunched her face from the bottom of the stairs. Her short bleach-blonde bob didn’t move as she shook her head slightly from side to side. She always wore too much hairspray. Come to think of it, I don’t believe I’d ever seen her without her hair blown out, straightened, and sprayed in place. Even when she did her fifteen-minute workout videos after dinner in her room with the door cracked, I’d never seen her hair move.

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