She thought, Am I real?
The hard wood of the chair dug into her ass – it felt as if her bones could reach right through her muscle and skin. The bowl of curry – once steaming hot – had begun to cool, untouched, before her. So she supposed she had to be real, at least for this moment.
He was still talking, the words a dull drone of sound, familiar and repugnant. Was this really her friend? She had asked him to stop so many times. But he didn’t. Instead, each request had only seemed to spur him on. She wanted to not be sitting across from him. Wanted to be home, wanted to be safe. Feeling trapped. Unsafe, not seen, not heard.
She pulled herself back into the present, willing her gaze to fall anywhere but on the men at her table.
“…..oops, she heard me,” he was saying to the man next to him.
She could feel her face redden, the muscles tightening into a grimace she knew no one would see. Could see. Her lungs felt caught in a vise, the pressure a hard weight on her sternum. She couldn’t breathe.
Can this just please be over? Should I stay? Should I leave? If I leave, they’ll mock me. If I don’t, this will not. Stop.
She had always felt safe here, before. It was not her preferred choice of hang-out, but even home could be too much of a good thing. One needed to get out, to experience life, to interact with new people. To be in an environment that was not familiar.
She was beginning to regret that decision. Being solitary only hurt when you wanted love.
Were these people her friends? Couldn’t they see that something was wrong? Or was she to blame for his words?
How could she be surrounded by people she knew and still feel so alone? Would they take his word that he was joking? Because of course he wasn’t. She knew. This knot in her stomach, the rock on her chest, her constant checking for escape routes told her otherwise. She was his target, he had chosen her, and she didn’t understand why.
But this other feeling. That one she did understand.
Next installment: Isolate