Warnings: potential trigger warning for emotional abuse, or at the least, a massively unhealthy relationship. Lack of editing warning.
He has a gift for creating ghosts from the people he meets.
It starts small, a stumbled thought, something easy to overlook in deference to the tragic backstory playing out before your eyes, but sooner or later, there it is. The moment of brutal epiphany. The point where you can no longer ignore the burn of someone else’s history forced onto your skin like a sin brand.
Her history, black and burring against me.
I try to wash it away, scrub until my wrist is raw from the effort, until my hands ache for days from the strain of removing a mark only I can see. It doesn’t ever fade, just burns, a fresh wound open into eternity for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend. He doesn’t see the mark, even though he’s burned it there. He just sees her. Always and forever her.
He bathes me in the blood of her, the one we never name, the one that broke his heart and left him perpetually in wanting. She’s there, wailing and keening through every shared moment, rutting against him even as he’s whispering endearments to me. She’s there in every kiss, every ghosting touch of skin between us, her mouth against his ear, whispering everything she ever said and ever thought until he can’t quite tell who it is his hands are caressing.
Until I’m the latest villain in his life story. Just another femme fatale out to destroy the reluctant hero, her wiles and her body a weapon against him and nothing more. Just another whore with an agenda cruel and nefarious. It doesn’t matter how I feel, how I think. It’s lost in the wake of her.
How do you exorcise a ghost when the bitch hasn’t even got the common decency to be dead? How do you guard your heart from the pretty words so at odds with the way he can never quite tell us apart?
She’s different to me. Prettier. Crueller. Present in his life in a way I clearly never will be. He should be able to tell us apart. And yet… and yet here we are, vastly different faces and personalities utterly interchangeable in the gaze of the man we aren’t actually sharing.
There are moments when I think, foolish as a child, that he actually sees me for me, that he’s stepped out from behind the wreckage of the past to see that there’s a future bright without that chaos. Those moments are fleeting, stained and beaten into submission by yet another glib comparison, an aside to an audience I can’t see showing how twisted my words become in the tempest of his memories of her.
The voice of doubt grows. Does he like this dress because it looks great on me, or because it reminds him of some random day with her? Does he know what I look like at all, or does he simply see her in my every move, my every thought? How can he see her cruelty in me, how can he read such malice into every attempt at compassion? Do our hands feel the same against his skin, or can he at least tell the differences there? Has he ever kissed me, really, or in his mind is he simply kissing her?
Is he ever going to stop tying a mask to my face, and realise she’s gone, and I’m miraculously still here?