White tile walls surround my front and sides, a never-ending prison. Their coolness brushes against my naked breasts. My stomach presses itself on the smooth feel of them. The rush of water splashes against my skin and trickles down. Nothing except darkness—my eyes closed off to the atmosphere around me. Senses are working overtime to be my eyes, to see what I don’t want to see.
What would I see? What would you see?
The water hits little black and blue marks. It doesn’t create them just finds them on my skin as if the drops are following a map. The water can’t wash the colors away no matter how hard it tries. Neither can I.
I let the water cover my skin the warmth cascading down my body. The water droplets hitting the tile sounds like fanfare. Toes have a mind of their own, lifting up and down, splashing in the water. They are dressed up in Georgia Peach—it’s a gold pink with hints of sparkle. At certain angles it seems to darken in shade and when the light hits color changes yet again, like it can’t make up its mind on what it’s supposed to be. Eyes closed a picture of my toenails glistening appears, the white floor tiles a blank background for them to shine against. Ten perfect little toenails on a very broken body. Hands have found the wall underneath them; they push as if to escape. But, we can’t.
We are stuck. Stuck here.
I can’t hide forever. I want to. I want these white tiles to engulf me and the water to cleanse me. My eyes open, they blink, adjusting to a harsh light shining in through the glass door. I turn my chin, as it rests on my left shoulder, my eyes notice the steam rising up the glass door creating a shield between my body and the world outside. Thin steam only coats the glass. Shadows of the objects occupying the bathroom can be faintly seen from within my vanishing box—the shell that is my body hidden within it.
My breasts rise off the tiles, stomach follows. Vanilla coconut tickles my nostrils. A scent that is thick, but cozy. Stepping back, from the comfort of the wall, the water pushes the substance out of my brunette locks and sends it down the drain, like a waterfall. Slickness and silkiness connect with my fingertips as I work the conditioner out of my hair. My eyes close as little splashes of water leap up and land on my face. Inhaling I lose myself. I stay lost in the moment for minutes, minutes that feel like hours.
Staring blankly ahead. Time passes by.
My fingers now represent that time spent avoiding life, avoiding him. Hair lays on my shoulders and back drenched with water. The overpowering delicious smell of vanilla and coconut long gone. A body officially cleaned off but still tagged with ugly marks. Marks I can’t wash off no matter how long I stand here under the continuous flow.
Avoiding what happened. Avoiding the facts. Avoiding my abuser.
The way it’s stained with black and blue that will eventually heal turning a yellow tinge. They paint my face, arms, my wrists, and around my neck. Fingers place themselves on an outline of a bruise, gently switching to the other. If the bruise were a mirror it would be staring at its own reflection. They paint a picture of struggle, dominance, and ultimately submission.
I’m different. I can see it on my skin.
No, it’s more than that, I sense the change within me.
I can’t breathe. His hands tightening are cutting off my air supply. The heart in my chest is beating faster, my breathing is becoming ragged, my limbs are going limp, and my mind is racing with the possibility of this being the end. Then he lets go.
WHAM. Back in the shower.
It wasn’t real. But, in fact, it was very real. It had happened.
His hands had been there just days before. They had gripped my neck so hard that they had left a permanent mark. What’s worse is that he did it because I had upset him. He got off on the feeling of being in control of me, owning me. His eyes had watched mine bulge in terror as his sparkled in pleasure. I remember the roughness of his palms as they clenched tighter. How overgrown finger nails dug into my skin leaving little tiny nicks. My wrists had been held down. Phantom pain travels through the body parts as if the pressure is still constricting them. My hand rubs the bruise on my left wrist, but it’s not an eraser and nothing special happens.
A tear drop falls, sliding down an already wet cheek, and instead of wiping away the pain I just let it continue on the original path.
Soon an army of tears are falling. I can’t stop them. I don’t want to.
Two large fleshy halves slide down and settle against the water-soaked floor. Sitting there I let the water continue down the drain carrying my tears away. My legs pull themselves close to my body my forearms wrapping around them. It’s like my limbs are trying to comfort me. Close me off, protect me. Eyes remain open allowing small water droplets to rest upon eyelashes.
This small water box has become my prison and safe haven. Some days the walls are my protection from people, from the outside. Other days it’s complete solitude where my feelings and thoughts overwhelm my senses.
My tongue plays with the notch on my bottom lip. It stings when the appendage licks it. Days have passed, and the cut is still swollen and tender. The blood has since coagulated. My finger tip grazes the bump and immediately I’m sent back.
Pain. Unimaginable Pain.
The roughness of his hands gripping my wrists is burning. His hot breath invades my face. “You deserve this. Such a waste of a woman sometimes. Can’t do anything right.” It’s fast and hard. His palm has met my face perfectly. I’m sent flying towards the ground catching my face on the corner of the bed frame. Stinging rings through my eye on impact. I know I’m crying. I want to fight, but I just can’t. I’ve submitted, given up. “Get up I’m not done having fun with you, in fact, I’m just beginning.” Ripped up by the roots of my hair the pain unbearably excoriating. My eye half closed, stinging, pulsating, catches the spark in his bright blue eyes. He’s turned on by my pain. He forces me to the bed stomach first, “thank god I don’t have to look at your messed-up face while I get want I want.”
WHAM. I’m pushed back. The shower water still running.
Any single thing can trigger vivid flashbacks and traumatic memories. The texture of our sheets that don’t seem to comfort me anymore but trap me. The single touch of a piece of my body by his hands. A certain smell, Giorgio Armani cologne and mint toothpaste. The world around me is moving furiously and I’m frozen. I live every day with a man who says he loves me and then hurts me and I can’t manage to escape—how horrific. I can’t see myself anymore. A shell of the woman I once was now occupies my life.
Reaching, I stretch managing to turn the facet off; water coming to a stop suddenly. Bumps appear across my marked-up skin. A cold shiver runs down my spine and throughout my body. I can feel. I feel everything, but yet I feel so empty on the inside.
My body won’t move as if I’m trapped by some unknown force. For a second the thought of staying here, in this exact spot, naked and dripping wet doesn’t affect me. However, a small warm spark runs through me and it ignites my movements.
I stare at my reflection in the mirror and a beat-up woman stares back.
Who am I? What has he done to me? Will I ever get out of this?
I contemplate these questions as the brush runs through my locks. I slip on the diamond ring that binds me to my beatings. Darkness follows as I find myself slipping into bed. A pillow welcomes me, so does the embrace of arms. I find my face cringing with his gesture.
“Finally. Took your time in there,” he breathed into the back of my hair “you know you’ll be paying the water bill this month.”
Katie Scarafiotti is a current graduate student in the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver, CO. She earned her BA in Creative Writing and English at University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of two short stories Finding a Voice Through Tragedy and Inner Thoughts, Displayed Actions. Katie enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories. In her free time she spends quality time with her fur babies a German Shepherd-Shiloh and her three cats Dottie, Izzie, and Sissy.
*This story is the 3rd runner up for the Winter 2021 Short Story Contest