"Her name's Ellen Rosenbaum," the man with the bald head and sweatstained polo shirt said, "she's ... sick.
" He held the garden hose in his hand as a mere prop; the water spritzed in a misty shield for his gaze
to wander over her.
"Oh, really? I'd heard that her parents were having trouble with her," his crony with the clenched, tight-throated voice of a long time smoker muttered derisively. "Frankly, my daughters would rather die than suffer the sort of talk that circulates about her."
The girl rose her blackened gaze to the neighbors who watched her walking up to her house. Ellen Ellen Ellen. The name echoed in her ears. Name Name. She looked up at the brick facade of her parents' house. She walked into the huge foyer and dumped her frayed backpack on the floor.
Her world tilted sharply. She had to struggle against the threatening blackness. She ground her teeth against a scream.
"What is it, Mom?"
"Is everything ... okay, honey?"
"Fine. School was fine." She touched the tender, freshly bruised flesh of her thigh through her fishnet stocking. She couldn't remember where it came from. The stairs felt hard beneath her feet and she grew weary after climbing the first one. She unleashed her thoughts vocally to no one but the walls in her room as soon as her bedroom door settled in the jamb.
"Is this all they have to do? Talk about events and people? Sit around, looking at others leading their lives? Staring at me, the fucking curiosity? Good. Good. Re-live, re-hash, re-do."
Her name called her back. It was there, on the edges, her connection, her tie to everything around her. This ... thing her parents had encumbered her with so many years ago. Not any usual burden, this. This one lurked, prowled, stalked her from the shadows of her mind, always chasing her, yet always ten steps ahead while doing so. The name. Ellen. Ellen ...
"... ELLEN! Come down, we need to"
Her arm shot out of its own volition. The lamp fell back upon being struck, teetering on the edge of her dresser and finally hit the floor with a solid clunk. A gurgling roar shot from her mouth with the frigidity of ice splintering. She drove at the name which now was taunting her head-on. She balled her fist and swung hard, clipping its edges and nailing the solid wood of her door. Knuckles bleeding, she watched it retreat back into the shadows. The girl steadied herself, feeling the surroundings of her room come back into focus. It is gone. For now. She was okay. She felt a moisture on her fingertips. She looked. Blood?
The edges of her mother's hands were worn looking. The girl looked at her mother's fingers, at the small slivers of fingernails left on her red hands. Cuticles were broken and scabbed over. Small bits of pulpy flesh protruded from underneath some nails where her teeth had ripped them back too far. The skin of the tips themselves was red, with small divots where she had chewed chunks out.
"Honey, I ... just want to know if you're feeling any better." The mother stared at the girl expectantly. "Really, sweetie, I want to know ...?"
"Mom ... you know I'm not feeling better. But I'm not going to. So stop asking. I'll handle it somehow."
"That's not what I meant, I just"
The girl rose, staring directly into the careworn face of her mother.
"Fuck off." She went back to the stairs. The stairs which were meant to carry her burden but somehow displaced it back up the girl's fragile limbs.
The bedroom had lost the familiarity it once had. Every day, she noticed new spots, corners, and the occasional crevasse. It could hide in those. That thing that they had all tried to find, all tried to coax from her but would never be able to separate. Even now, it spun around her, calling to her in the whispered tones it favored before its full assault. It always came quietly first, an echo, a whisper of an abstraction of an abstraction ... there. Her widened eyes saw its shadowed form, cloaked in her mother's voice, rushing at her from the stairs
"Ellen, honey, please, please, come back to us"
The rage erupted. You've always had it. And it will always be yours. But I never will. Her teeth stretched into a snarl, her lips spliting from the ferocity of it. The back of her hand shattered the mirror in one swipe, as she tried to brush the nameless name from her face; it buzzed around her in a swarm. She flung herself at a reflection of it in the glass panes of her window. It gave easily beneath her weight, and as the ground swept up to meet the broken girl of everyone's afternoon observations; the name swept up with it. She saw it in the spiked point of the fencepost as it split her broken girl's body in half, severing her from it forever.