Curled in the foetal position, Bridget Ross fought the agonised pleasure wracking her body. Every muscle clenched as she denied her body the release it sought. She would not allow this. She would not succumb.
Intentionally, she bit the inside of her cheek, drawing blood. Anything to distract her from the sensations her dreams had fed her. Slowly, the pleasure faded only to be replaced with the throbbing sting in her cheek. That pain she could deal with. The other –
Stop! Don’t think about it.
Horror flooded her body at the realisation of how close she’d come to falling off that ledge. One she’d vowed she’d never stand near again. It had been too close. Tears ran down her cheeks and her limbs became leaden with shame.
At her back, her pit bull terrier, Daisy, whimpered and whined and nuzzled her, but Bridget couldn’t find the will to comfort her. Not when she herself was beyond comfort.
Could a person will themself into non-existence? Simply lie there and wilfully deconstruct their cells so they merged with the universe and ceased to exist?
On the side table, Bridget’s alarm clock began to chime, informing her it was now 5.30 a.m. and time for her run. She ignored it. Eventually it cut off.
She stared into the darkness, blanking her mind deliberately. If she didn’t think, she didn’t feel and then she could tolerate this. If she allowed herself to feel in this moment, she’d be lost.
Bridget willed herself to be empty. She lay there; a lump of flesh. The only indication of life was the rise and fall of her chest and even that she would have traded if she could.
It was futile. She knew it, but still she wished for it. Memories were funny. They had a way of sticking with you no matter how deep you thought you’d buried them. She could no more escape her memories that she could will herself to stop breathing.
As if to test the notion, Bridget blew out all her breath and held herself still. She refused to inhale until her lungs screamed for air, and then she waited longer. Finally, conceding defeat, she sucked in a breath forcefully.
Despite herself, her body lightened. The clenching of her muscles relaxed. Her tears dried. Today was not the day that she gave up. Today she was not able to die.
Too bad that wasn’t the same as living.
Dragging herself from the bed, she made her way to the bathroom. She began her usual routine, going through the motions just as she did every morning. Turning the knobs on the shower, she undressed and waited for the water to reach the correct temperature.
Whorls of steam billowed out from behind the glass walls of her shower before she finally stepped in. The water scalded her creamy skin, turning it tomato red, but went unnoticed.
Drenching her loofah in Dial, Bridget wielded it the way a carpenter wields sandpaper. She scrubbed relentlessly, taking off layers of skin. Tears ran down her cheeks – whether from pain or lingering shame she didn’t know. Didn’t truly care. She ignored them. Ignored the burn and scratch as the scalding water failed to rinse away the slime she felt along her skin.
It wasn’t enough.
She became frenzied in her need to cleanse herself. She knew the stain would never be washed away. It marred her spirit as permanently as if it were tattooed on her skin. But it didn’t stop her from trying.
She reached for the soap again, only to have it slip through her cramped fingers and clatter against the tiles spilling the bright, orange liquid.
Staring in dismay at the soap running down the drain, defeat settled into her body and the loofah slipped from her fingers. Collapsing in on herself, Bridget huddled in the corner of the shower sobbing and wishing she could rinse her crimes down the drain as easily as she could the soap.