Paths

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Photo: Flickr/Gary J Wood

Photo: Flickr/Gary J Wood

I’ve always considered myself the shadow, the mask, the reflection. I never thought that others would see me—take notice. Now that I’ve been dragged into the light, I’m not sure how to react. What do I do when I am finally revealed? And how can they not cringe away when they see what I really am?

__

“Do you ever think about it?”

The sounds of voices crowded her in the warm room, pressing in as she leaned forward against the table. The drink made her head swim, blurring colors and faces as she took another sip; a cool burn trickled down her throat, settling in her stomach as it spread through the rest of her body. You shouldn’t let yourself get this drunk.

Alexa’s lips curled in a faint smile as she set the glass down on the wooden table in front of her with a faint clink. Her green eyes traced the grain before flickering toward her companion. She studied him for a moment, trying to get a read on his face. Curiosity there. Maybe sadness? I’m too drunk for this. Alexa shook her head slightly and glanced back down at the table.

“No. That is, not really. I don’t think I could ever have children. I don’t want them.” She wasn’t thinking clearly. Her mind wandered as her stomach flipped nervously. Do you actually think about it? She turned the thought over, carefully. Had she ever thought about it? Or was she telling him a lie? No. Not really. You never think that far in advance, do you? Not unless you have to.

Alexa glanced back up at him, noting how he watched her—how his brown eyes bored into her green ones, unjudging. He knows you better than most. She placed her hands on the table in front of her, gloved fingers spreading out against the wood as she spoke, “There are two paths that you can take—or at least two main ones.” She traced one finger against the table to show a line, “There’s the one that’s most obvious—the one that most people take. The goal at the end is security, in a sense. It’s a partner you can love. It’s a home where you can be safe. It’s children and a family. It’s the goal that a lot of people have—including Rosemary. And that’s fine…I even respect them for it.”

Alexa paused for a moment, staring at the table. It seemed to be tipping slightly, and she quickly braced her hands against it. Way too drunk. She exhaled slowly, closing her eyes for a moment before continuing, “But there’s another path.” Alexa pressed one finger against the table, indicating another trail across its surface, “The main one changes you. Having children changes you. You can’t just rely on yourself—you have to rely on others. And you become more selfish and less selfish all at once. I don’t…it just doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t think I could ever do it. But the second path—that’s the one where you remain as you are. You exist to help those that choose the first path, and yet you are also free.”

Are you really free? You seem trapped.

Alexa felt his eyes on her as she fell silent.  The chatter continued around them—meaningless noise that whirled, ebbed and flowed. Bodies moved, entering and exiting the House with blasts of chilly air that made her shiver. Finally, he replied, voice lowering slightly, “We’re different. We do what’s necessary.”

Mirrors and parallels. Alexa glanced toward him once more, eyes tracing his bearded jawline, his eyes, his lips. He watched her, eyes softening slightly as he studied her in turn. He’s a lot like you, you know. She nodded and then replied, “I know.”

__

The candlelight flickered along the walls, casting their faces in a dim glow. She turned toward him as she tried to find the words, as she tried to explain. She felt cold wash through her body as her heart beat, as her insides churned, “I’m…really messed up in some ways. I’m not even sure I can have a relationship like…this. I need to take some time to sort myself out.”

He looked back at her, understanding flickering across his features as he nodded, “I just wanted you to know what you mean to me. You deserve so much more.”

She glanced downward, not meeting his eyes, not telling him what she knew.

I don’t deserve anything. You’re the one who deserves more—so much more.

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