A damask rose dawn, hellish in its shocking pink, starched all the color from the stars as it spread across the sky. With the sun came bedtime. Down the throat went a Valium, chased by a cup of ice-cold Gatorade. The drowsiness came after, the muscles finally relaxed, tension dissipating, replaced by a soft sort of haze—if only for a moment. Turning off all the lights, even the pink neons, and the buttery yellow fairy lights, dousing the room with the cold thrumming air from the AC. Blackout shade lowered and curtains closed tightly. Finally, in the pitch black, it was time time to get into bed.
Here, the fire consumed me.
Even with the icy air and the gulps of cold Gatorade, that fire burned through me, eating away at my bones until they felt brittle, as if I could snap with a touch. After an entire night of broadcasting on Gaminar, the streaming website that hosted my gaming channel, I felt weak and exhausted and overwhelmed from wearing the skin of a confident, bubbly girl who riffed off of negative feedback as if it was nothing.
But it wasn’t nothing.
It was everything.
Put some clothes on, slut.
Why is your smile so weird?
Did you get those scars on your wrists from cutting yourself for attention?
“Stop,” I whispered, covering my ears as if it would drown them out, but it did nothing. They were in my fucking head.
I wanted to sleep. I needed to sleep. I had work in six hours, and if I was going to make it through another day working for Duncan, the creepiest perv in all of West Hollywood, then I needed to keep it together and not be a zombie when I walked into his restaurant. He’d make a big show of pointing out everything wrong with me, too. Was my makeup too light? Too heavy? Why wasn’t my hair down? He liked it down; didn’t I remember him telling me so? Was my skirt fitting my tight body exactly as the employee handbook instructed? And was I still as athletic and toned as the day I’d been hired?
I just wanted to cry, but I didn’t have the time. Breakdown hour wasn’t until after work. Coming home, snapping open a can of beer, chugging it down to dull the sting of the tears. But it stung anyway. It always did.
And even though I tried not to cry, even though I did my best to just shut my eyes and go to sleep, the tears still trickled down my cheeks, wetting the pillow. I was stronger than this—and yet, I wasn’t.
Because even the hearts of lions are vulnerable when exposed.
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