the dress

"what are you doing?"

her mother's voice descends on her like a knife, slicing right through her soft tissue. quickly, molly drops the dress she's been holding up against her body, and turns as if burned, from the mirror. she's all of forty-three and her mother still spooks her.

then again, she hadn't wanted to come back here since she fled at seventeen. and here she was, forced to look at her mother's drawn face, at her hair so ashen blonde it's now white, and her tense look. "i was just… looking is all, mo—"

"at that?" her voice snaps like a whip in the room, crossing the threshold. "you're too big for that dress. have been since you pushed out that bastard." she straightens out the dress hanging on on the closest despite the fact that molly didn't even wrinkle it, despite the fact that it wasn't even ironed. "that's for your brother's wife, not you."

bitterly, molly knows that. it's for her brother's wife, the perfect catholic girl that never did anything wrong, who her mother doted on more than her. the perfect woman that her mother could dress up and arrange no matter how she thought, who her mother could have as the daughter she wanted but couldn't have. not molly. despite the fact that she had given up her son to earn her mother's good graces again, despite the fact that she had shuttered away anything for herself, despite the fact that she felt as if she'd been hollowed out for years now, decades, her mother was always going to choose someone else.

it makes her gut spoil as her mother looks back at her, at molly in her head to toe black, her hair down to the middle of her back, uncurled, at the way her body turns away from her instantly. she knows that her mother is nitpicking at her: at the fact that she made a lot of money but still wore thrifted clothes, at the scratches on her neck from molly clawing at herself in her sleep, at the fact that she clearly hasn't been sleeping since she came home.

(and why would she sleep? how could she sleep in her childhood home where all she can remember is hating it, night after night?)

her mother huffs, and molly turns on her heel, leaves before her mother can say more. she can't stand to hear it, not now. this is supposed to be a good weekend, a good wedding for her brothers. it's supposed to be a family gathering, it's supposed to be happy.

but as she enters the bathroom and shuts the door on the far end of the house, away from her nieces and nephews, away from her brothers and her wives, she doesn't feel happy. she doesn't feel anything except anger, except the feeling that she's been gutted and been told to just walk around with her entrails for all to see.

when she looks in the mirror, she can see her face collapsing beneath it all. she can see how small she is in her clothes, and she feels small and stupid and any minute her mother will come hunt her down to badger her into walking around her new sister in law and molly can't help but bury her face into her hand and start screaming into it. screaming as if it will make the empty years without teddy matter, screaming as if her mother could actually hear and feel her pain, screaming as if it will fix any damn thing.

it will not. it succeeds in making her throat sore, in making her tired. and she's pretty sure as she washes her hand and catches something white hovering on the edge of her vision, she's sure it's just made her dizzy.

she closes her eyes, sinks to the floor of the bathroom. her hand yanks the edge of her shirt out of her jeans, and her cool fingers slot against the cool of her belly, right where the stretch marks have been since she was sixteen years old.

teddy would be twenty-seven now. she wishes she could see his face.

the bed

her bed still feels too big. she's five feet, two inches and she hasn't grown that much since she was sixteen and yet the bed feels like it'll swallow her up.

maybe it's cause she hasn't slept since she got here, maybe it's because every time she closes her eyes, she thinks that her mother will appear around the corner, maybe it's because she has hated this place for decades, but molly is starting to think she is going crazy. she keeps seeing something white hovering at the edge of her vision every so often — and every time her eye is drawn to it, it disappears in a flash of red.

she bites her lip with worry, teeth sinking into the pink flesh of her lip hard. for a moment she wonders if she'll draw blood, if maybe the pain will make it go away.

it wouldn't be the first time in this horrible little room that pain has taken her away from thoughts of her mother. she remembers sitting on the bed, hearing her mother and father argue and popping her knuckles until they felt sore. how she'd use to scratch at herself when their voices hit a certain point, how she'd use to tear at her chapped lips until things were over or her lips were little raw beneath her tongue.

back then it was the only way to deal with it.

she thinks about it now as she breathes into the horrible lacy pillow case her mother had jammed back onto the damn thing, and she thinks about just going out to the cabinet, finding some alcohol and drinking it until she felt tired, could go to sleep.

but what then? so her mother could accuse her of being a drunk? so she would have to endure more looks, more comments?

molly rolls over, shoves her face into the lacy, horrible pillow and tries to will herself asleep out of necessity. that maybe dreams will take over and she will stop seeing that thing in the corner of her eye and she will be okay.