INTERNAL BATTLES by Nada Siam

The café smelt like fresh crushed coffee beans and failed relationships. My finger lined the rim of my fourth mug of hot chocolate, drawing endless circles taking the occasional sip. There were shouts of orders from behind the counter, people rushing in to order before work and revising students, business men with fancy ear phones making calls and gaming theme songs, an atmosphere of business which breathed life into the café I was sat in. The employees looked over their shoulders concerned, possibly wondering why a young girl was in the same spot for the past 4 hours, possibly wondering why my head was flickering back and forth and my knees were shaking so obviously. Everyone else however payed no attention to me and went about their day, not even giving a second glance, after all why would they? Being in the same room does not automatically promise their acknowledgment of my existence, in fact invisible is how I liked it. The roads were empty with overpowering fog engulfing all views within a mile from the building which made the café feel like a floating island far from civilisation. I made myself at home as I slouched down the wooden chair and crossed my arms tipping my foot to the beat of an old Lauryn Hill song. I catch a glimpse of her as I scan the space, she’s staring in disapproval from corner of the room, my brain scrambles for a response to such direct confrontation, I stare out through the window at passing cars and scatters of rushing strangers and try to ignore her dissatisfaction in my volume, In my excessive spending on hot chocolate, in my top riding up, in my tight jeans well fitted to my curves and my obnoxious lack of personal space towards the gentlemen behind me who’s practically leaning on me. Even after all this time she still had her ways of making me feel ashamed. I’m counting down waiting for her to make a move but she sits patiently as if she’s not planning on going anywhere, like she has all the time in the world and she’s just here out of boredom, but I know better, she was waiting for her next opportunity to use her supremacy to remind me that I am improper and undeserving. They promised that if I killed her I’d be happy, it was a well-known solution, eradicate that which makes you unhappy. Anticipation drowns out the murmurs of everyone else, the sound of contemplating customers, plastic sandwich bags and the hot top 50 music in the background which I’m nodding my head too. She’s writing vigorously in her notebook, she hasn’t even touched her orange juice, her black dress flows all the way to her ankles with a small rope as a belt highlighting her small waist and feminine figure, simple, modest, effortless. She stops and stares at me with large brown eyes hidden beneath square glasses that extenuate her oval bare face of flawless olive skin, her expression calm yet unsympathetic, symmetrical to me except healthier, brighter and better built. I hate her. Though she’s sat on the other side of the room her tutting cuts the air and wounds me. I straighten up, adjust my shirt to cover my thighs, shift my chair away from the man behind me and attempt not to show my discomfort. Nothing needs to be said between us, I know exactly what she means. I know I should get going if I’m to get rid of her, act while she’s confident, but I want to stay here and hold on to who I am right now for a little longer before it all changes. I dare not look her way again but I can feel her writing strenuously as though her hands couldn’t keep up with the speed she was thinking at. I watch her in curiosity and suspicion, when was she going to make a move? I couldn’t wait to kill her, the girl who had it all figured out, the girl who was critical towards my every decision, the girl who made everyone else ignores me and my potential and above all else the girl who dominated me is all aspects of life, from her simple yet stunning beauty to her undebatable intelligence portrayed through her humble personality. She was once my idol but became the roots to all my problems, there was only room for one of us and she knew this all too well. She comes to an altogether halt, even from the other corner I feel her stare transfixed on me, I stare back holding the same intensity but a not such a knowing look like hers. We sit there and let the silence between us do the provoking until finally, I charge.

I charge. I sprint towards her and she turns her body sideways making me miss my hook. I make a grab for the steak knife but I feel a kick to the back of my knee and only for a moment I lose balance but I twirl and only just miss her stomach as she takes a quick step back. A crowd has begun to gather around, forming some sort of ring shouting aggressively like a stadium of a football match. Her moves are passive and precise, the same as always, as though she’s bored of punching and kicking so rather just moves aside to carry on her day. I kick and slash and punch but it feels like I’m beating the air, I grab the beer cup on her table and smash it across her face whipping her neck to one side leaving a scar across her cheeky and an almost dislocated jaw, she winces in pain and I smirk. Her dodges are faster now, descending towards me like a shark trapping its prey until eventually tripping and sliding me across the floor. Her feminine figure disguised her surprising strength, and still she kept her cool fixing her dress and pulls out her hand to help me up. The shouting only manifests with pointing fingers, cursing, and faces of disgust throwing crumpled pieces of her notebook pages. My face ignited red with anger, why weren’t they on my side? I pull her down and we roll round the floor like tumble weed until finally I’m on top of her and I wrap my hands around her neck like a snake around a branch and I watch life crawl out of her and a dark purple creeping in instead. She raises her hand only to lay it on top of might around her neck and staring at me as though pleading me to see sense but I only squeeze tighter. The abuse from the spectators grew hypnotic; an enraged room of faces I knew distorted by disappointment all surround us as we tore each other to the ground. “You’re not doing enough” they shriek “what are you doing, you’ve made a mistake!” She’s kicking furiously fighting for air, jolting side to side to make me lose my balance but I hold my ground, I want to squeeze the look of dissatisfaction from her face, the knowing look of superiority, I keep squeezing until I feel myself suffocating as well, until I feel the same hands on my neck too, the hopelessness, the distress, until our pain is completely shared. I felt like I was drowning, like my lungs were going to burst and my heart implode on me, what a familiar feeling. As much as I hated it I knew what I’d have to do next, what I always ended up doing. I let go. 

Immediately most of the crowd dismantle as she lies staring at me in disbelief while catching her breath. We lay both on the floor breathless. The crowds have dispersed and there’s only us left catching our breaths and slithering on the ground like octopus tentacles. Her face has turned an olive brown to dark battered purple. There’s a strong pulse from the back of my head where I fell, it feels like my insides are slowly spilling out, I was completely sore and lost feeling from waist down and my elbow twisted outwards towards my body in an awkward position forcing me to let out little sobs as I lay in a puddle of my blood. The notebook pages are all over the floor, prescriptions after prescriptions. We are both broken dolls on the cold white tiles of an empty café. She turns her head to look at me, it’s the same expression but from up close her eyes are softer without her glasses, they don’t seem so cold as much as they do pitying. I wanted her immunity from the plague of guilt and over analysis which so deeply ran through my veins. Envy was the source of all evil. Rays of sunshine burst through the fog and lit up the room, overpowering the lightbulbs, it made all of her black eye, cut open lip and finger marks around her neck completely visible and the blood on the ground sparkle red. The corners of her lips lifted as though universe perfectly aligned for her. She smiles knowingly and closes her eyes like laying on the grass at spring among a field of daisies, and though I knew it wouldn’t be long until I wanted to kill her all over again, I was exhausted , and with that I too closed my eyes and joined her.