1: Glass Empty
I teeter on the roof’s edge. Tears stain my cheeks and blur my vision as I think about seeing Mom and Dad. An inch separates me and the twenty-foot plunge onto the concrete sidewalk below.
A cold breeze cuts through me, but I don’t open my eyes. I know what’s around me: a bleak gray sky that threatens rain and smaller abandoned buildings – waiting to be demolished.
It’s better this way, I assure myself. Life is torture. If I fall, I end my suffering.
I mutter a prayer of forgiveness and lean forward.
“Are you stupid?!” A voice shatters my thoughts. Hard hands yank me away from my fate. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”
That’s the idea.
I wrench myself free from my ex’s hold. I wipe my tears and distance myself from him. He’s the last person I want to see – ever since I broke up with him almost two years ago.
“Why do you care?” I manage to say, my voice cracking. I don’t meet his eyes.
“I’m the only one who does,” he whispers.
Lie. A **** lie. I’m not gonna fall for any of his sweet words this time. I know who he really is. And it’s why I left him.
I swallow hard. “How d’you find me? I thought I told you it was over. It’s not you, it’s –”
“Don’t give me that bull, Gabby,” he snaps. I cringe. Only Mom and Dad can call me that. He has no right to call me that anymore because he’s nothing to me.
“I know about your dad’s death and your new stepmom,” he says as tears well in my eyes. “Don’t worry, she doesn’t know about me.”
He moves closer, but I step back.
“Get away from me, you creep!” I shriek.
He stretches out his arms. “Is that what you think of me, Gabby? I’m the only one who cares –”
“Shut up!” I holler. “Don’t ever call me that. You have no right to. That’s not my name! I told you I never wanted to see you again! You don’t care about me, you’re just a –”
He comes up too fast and grabs me. I scream, struggling to break free. I forgot how strong he is. He tries to press his hand over my mouth, but I bite it before he can cover my mouth. He swears, shoving me to the ground. I get to my feet, but he catches my arm and slaps me. My left cheek is on fire and I cry. His fingers dig into my shoulders and he shakes me hard.
“Everything I do, I do for you,” he hisses into my face. Lies. “I gave up everything for you.” More lies. Everything he does is for himself – he wants to have control over every **** thing. He never listens to anyone. I know him well enough to know he hasn’t changed since then and he never will. I was stupid to even think for a second that he actually loved me. And even more stupid to have ever loved him.
“Liar –” I croak before another slap lands. Tears fall, blinding me.
“Everything…” he breathes on my face. “Everything I did – everything I do is for your own good, Gabby.” I cringe when he says that name again. I close my eyes, still fighting his hold.
“Leave your Step’s and stay at my place. The old man won’t be out for another twenty years. We’ll be together forever and you don’t have to worry about anyone hurting you.”
“Liar!” I scream. “I hate you! I wish you were dead!”
A slap so hard strikes my right cheek and I crumple to my knees, shaking and sobbing.
Lightning flashes overhead as he towers above me, his eyes narrowing. “You’ll do whatever I say.” He reaches to grab me, but I get to my feet and run to the roof’s edge.
“Never…” I gasp. “I will never be with a stupid dog like you!”
He lunges at me then, but I move away, standing a few feet away from him. Thunder cracks above us and I shriek. It takes him by surprise, too, and he falls to his knees, swearing at the dark sky.
I look at the roof’s door, and I make a move to run there, but he catches my glance and runs to the door before I can.
“Take everything you said back,” he yells as another lightning strikes above. “Apologize for disobedience and I’ll forgive you. Then you can come back to me.” He holds his arms out.
“Never!” I cry over the roar of thunder. “I will never be with you! I’d rather die!”
I hear him swear, glowering at me. “Fine. If I can’t have you, no one will.”
Through my tears, I see a flash of silver in his hand. He rushes towards me. I scream, falling to my knees. But he stops halfway with his eyes wide open as if he’s frozen in place. Then, he shrieks so loud I cover my ears.
I scramble away from his path when he starts running. He continues to run without stopping or turning towards where I am, screaming his lungs out. He runs over the building’s edge and falls onto the concrete below, still screaming. Everything happens so fast I’m not sure if it even happens at all.
Lightning flashes over me and I flinch, glancing up at the sky. Wet needles of rain pierce me. A crack of thunder follows. I shriek, running towards the door. As I fumble with the rusted doorknob, out of the corner of my eyes I see someone stand in the center of the roof – a silhouette of the faintest white, almost transparent – before it vanishes with the rain and wind. I run down the steps, jumping over some and tumbling down others, screaming and sobbing. I don’t stop running until I see life again.
I lean against a bus stop, crying. A few other people stand under dark umbrellas, but they don’t seem to notice me. Rain continues to beat me, soaking my pale blue dress to gray, when a black Mercedes stops in front of me. A middle-aged man I recognize as my Stepmother’s chauffeur gets out and pulls me into the car next to him.
“I am truly sorry about your father, Miss,” he says in a low voice.
I turn to look at him, biting my lips to keep from wailing, but silent sobs shake my whole body. He shifts in his seat before he speaks again, his old gray eyes gleaming with tears. “Madam told me you turned seventeen today. Happy birthday, Miss.”