On the good nights, I can see his eyes as warm dark brown instead of these cold blue, and I smell a heavier musk, aftershave and sex, instead of blood and alcohol sweat. On the good nights, I really believe that, for a couple minutes, he's holding my hands tight in his much bigger ones, small gasp as our Claddagh rings whisper past each other, "I love you," right before he closes his eyes, arches his back, and isn't mine again. On the better nights, the best nights, I forget that Angel even existed.
Sometimes, when he's far enough in me, when he breaks me in half with a grunt and a stupid confidence, I can forget that I'm angry that I'm alive. I can forget that I ever lost anything, and that everything I might have lost meant something. When there's pain enough to blind me, I don't have to deal with anything, and that's almost love, in those small spaces.
When I was with Riley, the occasional red stain in my panties meant that I was still me, that my body was still just mine. That I was alone in myself. Not with Angel. I didn't have to worry about babies, with him, and I was never alone in my own body. There was always the constant burning reminder, the shadow of him hovering over me, passing cold pale fingers across places that made me shiver. Now, I don't worry about children, but the blood doesn't mean menstruation, just the same. I don't have it anymore, at least, I don't think. The doctor says no, I'm not pregnant; I'm just too stressed and too thin, losing too much weight, to get to have the chance to make life. That privilege has been taken away from me, another punishment that's reasoning I don't understand. I bleed without menses, from the punishment I take every night. Angel, he went down on me, a couple of times. He was gentle, tender, took care of me. He did it during my period, because he just couldn't handle himself anymore, but he was sweet and gentle and always made me come just the same, sweet and gentle, moaning his name, God's name. Now, there's the hammering and then the knives, sharp scrape of fangs, breaking tender flesh, sucking, pulling out of hunger and need and want, but not mine. Not really. He makes me come, but it's always screaming, hands twisted around the sheets until I can't feel my palms because I never knew this kind of pain before. He comes up grinning, eyes yellow and face smeared with dark, and I have to wear pads all the time, because tampons make me cry with the pain and I can't explain all the blood.
On the good nights, I can close my eyes and remember Angel. I can just shut out the world, and really really believe that the bed is shaking with his force, that my body is not screaming at me with hunger and pain, but that I am being soothed and petted and kissed and loved. That the reason I am lying there, the reason I touch my lover is because of a mutual respect, because I want to make him feel the way that he makes me feel, not because I need to be blinded into forgetting myself, and because he won't blindfold me unless I really beg and cater to his every painful whim. On the good nights, I shut out the noises, the primal grunts, the howling of the bed, my own inadvertent cries of pain and twisted pleasure. All I hear is that gentle voice: "I love you. I love you, I love youIloveyou." On the best nights, I forget that there's anything, and I can't feel my body. It's like watching something on television, except the noise is turned off.
On the good nights, I remember Heaven, and I just leave to there. I remember feeling warm and loved and filled to spilling with love and beauty and sugar and spice and everything nice. Nice smells, wispy feathery streaks of light and dark around me, sugar and spice . . . ginger girl. Cinnamon girl.
On the best nights, I'm not anybody anymore, and I drown in the darkness that's been inside me all this time, since coming back from somewhere so shining.
On the bad nights, I know everything. I feel him in me, ramming into me too hard and at the wrong tempo, but still making me swell and heat and hurt, and I can't do anything but lie there and pray for darkness. On the bad nights, I flinch as he unthreads his belt from its casings, and pray to God that I'll have the strength not to make a noise when he purples my flesh, pray to God that that's all he'll do, use the belt instead of invading my body, my mind like he does. On the bad nights, he calls me by my name instead of "Slayer," and I'm too weak to fight him when he gives orders, too tired and hurting and too scared of punishment to protest even a little. On the bad nights, I cry when he beats me, right in front of him, and then I'm really in his pocket, and he forces me into a mold that fits even less, and he'll make me say "Master" and make me call "Spike" when he rides me till blood spills over my hips and I cry at the voices in my head, whispering incessantly about dawnbillsheavenhellangelwhysubjectyourselftothiskindofhumiliationareyouhumananymorewhatswrongwithme?
But on the best nights, I'm nothing, not the Slayer, not a mother or a sister or a friend, not a lover, not even a cinnamon girl. On the best nights, I don't feel anything at all.
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