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Written by Abigail Rose Richards

The light of dawn awoke me in a bed that was not mine. An essence of booze and cigarettes wafted into my nose as the silence of early morning revealed a ringing in my ears. A man’s collection of scratchy kisses lingered on my body and made my stomach turn. I looked over at the cheap alarm clock next to the bed; the blinking red number 5:55 nagged at me, seeming to say, “Time to go, Angel.” Soundlessly, I slipped my naked body from under the comforter, carefully trying not to awake the slumbering giant that lay next to me. I creep my bare feet to the floor and grab a t-shirt that was sloppily discarded last night. Phone, purse, shoes, door; these were the four simple steps I used to escape the men I shared the end of my drunken nights with. Tip toeing out of the room, my body snaps with adrenaline as I reach for the door handle. What was that man's name again? I look over at the disheveled bed, my things in hand. A large stature was sprawled on top of the bed, which revealed curly auburn hair and a muscular back decorated with moles and freckles.

Pete. The memory of a name echoed in my mind along with the image of a cocky, wide-toothed grin and a cheesy pick up line. One of which I could barely hear over the music at the bar, which made it easier to unacknowledge. So why did I come home with this man? Was it boredom or loneliness? Desperation? Hormones? Maybe it was the rush that was destined to come with the experience, or maybe it was that a man would make the night end a little later. Truth be told- I buried the reason why in the corner of my mind. I open the door and leave, the purpose of the night dissolves. The purpose of forgetting him; the one who made me this kind of woman- even if it was just for a night.

I sneak out of the apartment and carry my heavy frame down the cold stairwell. The chaotic city noises creep it’s way through the frost-rimmed window sills of the building, making my head pound. As I reach the bottom of the well, I brace myself for the greeting of Winter and soon become numb from my exposed limbs as I jog across the parking lot to my car. Shallow breaths leave my quivering lips in small wisps, which I can see in front of me. Swiftly hopping in my car, I try to calm my shivering body. A hangover and being half naked in the Winter aren't a good mix, I think to myself. The windows were already starting to fog, I put the keys in the ignition and turned. The engine spits and coughs, but I don't hear the satisfaction of the hum of a starting car. “No, no, no…” I say out loud through shaking teeth. Trying to turn the key again, it makes a hacking noise with no such luck. I throw my head back against the driver's seat and slam my hands on the steering wheel.

Taking a deep, shaky breath, I pull out my phone. My fingers stiff from the frozen air, I scroll through my contact list. That's when my thumb stops on his name. Involuntarily, I remember the time his car broke down as we were coming back from his mother’s house on Thanksgiving last year. On the backroads of Western New York, we were literally an hour into the middle of nowhere. No houses, road signs, or any clues of other cars. He had attempted to fix it, but he was indeed never the “handy” type of man. This was the fact of the matter which made me laugh at his failure. We screamed back and forth at each other, calling each other names and throwing our hands in the air. Soon, we became burnt out and we sat in the silent car; defeated.

I knew he was my first love when I could feel the steaming tension in the air between us after an argument. It was hot and fierce and boiled my skin like sitting in a sauna. I knew he could feel it too when he turned his eyes to look at me in the passenger's seat. His gaze told me that he and I were so madly infatuated with each other, yet we couldn't stand the other all at the same time. Our yelling, fighting, scratching turns to kissing, touching, grabbing. His hands cooled my boiling skin, and it felt as if I was dipping into a pool for the first time in the beginning of Summer. It was all the same passion between us; the fighting and the loving. We couldn't stay away from each other. Passion, I think. That was what I am trying to find from all these other men- that same, mutual madness.

I look at my phone; I look at his name. An unbearable thirst settles in me to just hear his voice; a fix of his sweet, toxic elixir. The impulse feeds my fingers and I call him. Each ring teases me, hatching a butterfly in my stomach after every tone. I know this will only add to the regret from last night. The savory of the suspense is ended by a deep, sleepy mumble. “Hello?” The memory of a voice whose words swirled around me in the breaths of early morning plays; white satin sheets and bare skin which is highlighted by the golden glow of sunrise. But with this short projection of a dream, the nightmares are triggered. I felt the hot sting of his palm against my cheek; the scratchiness in my throat after hours of yelling. The two memories tug and pull at each other, fighting for a spotlight in my train of thought. I quickly hang up the phone, and rest my forehead on the steering wheel. Hot tears begin to stream down my raw and frozen cheeks. In that moment, my heart and my brain begin the battle of another day, just like the ones before.

The ones where I was without him.

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