I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.
Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.
Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.
And that’s when I see it. The faded bruising high on the little girl’s cheek and the red welts that line it. A slap mark.
I force a deep breath through my nose and crack my neck, my natural response when stricken with memories from my own past. The rage I feed upon, the anger that fuels me to perform on a regular basis, skims dangerously close to the surface as my fingers tighten around the crayon in my hand.
Her blue eyes remain locked with mine. She watches closely for a moment, studying me intently, then rises and leans her tiny body across the table to place her palm on my cheek.
Normally I would strongly object to anyone I don’t know putting their hands on me, but I remain frozen as the warmth from her hand seeps into my skin. Huge tears sprout, coating her eyes before she finally speaks.
“You’re one of us. I can tell.”
She removes her hand and places it on my chest, the burning beneath my ribcage strangely anesthetized by the contact. “I know. “ She nods as she focuses on her touch. “It hurts here. Where they break your heart.”
When I’m barely able to nod my response, she offers me a defeated smile. My throat clogs with emotion I haven’t felt in years, and I’m forced to swallow it deeply. Her eyes fall to my throat and then rise once again to meet mine.
“Yeah, I feel it too.”