Unravelling

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Ophelia closed her eyes and let the hot water of her shower wash over her face and skull. It had been the strangest sensation to get used to after shaving her head. It surprised her how much hair had dampened the pounding of water against her head before, and it's lack of barrier now let the water pummle the skin on her scalp until it tingled. Her hands wiped the water droplets from her eyelashes and chased them down her face until she hit her breasts. Her hands stopped there, not at all sexual but instead trembling. She wasn't an overly well endowed woman, but she knew that her figure had caused some jealousy growing up. The pale, cold and aloof little girl had hit puberty and followed the genetic pattern of the James family; she'd gone goregous. But Ophelia had never really cared about her appearance. Not in the dress like a slob way, but  she simply took care of herself and refused to give her appearance a more important role in her life than things like intelligence, care for loved ones and her ambition to succeed.

And now those physical assets she had never really cared about were killing her. Suddenly she wished that the mastectomy was the solution. Losing her breasts would be far more appealing than knowing that it was too late. The pain and fatigue, the headaches... her constant nausea and the chemotherapy. It was all for nothing. Her spine was turning into swiss cheese, her liver was lumpy and her brain might be turning into pudding. No. I won't go through that. I won't slip away and die as a shadow of my former self. I can't live with dignity but I will die with a little dignity. And my family will not suffer through my deterioration. Ophelia promised herself fiercely.

She forced the shaking in her hands to stop and swallowed against the emotions that were trying to choke her again. Ophelia was not going to wallow in self pity and let her emotions rule her now after a lifetime of being in control of them. Her shoulders squared back, her chin lifted and Ophelia left her hands drop down. She knew how to handle the next step and really there was no reason to hesitate. It would be a shock to everyone but it was better to let them grieve now and get it over with than drag out the inevitable.

It felt so easy for her to turn off the water and shake free the little droplets clinging to her like failed dreams. The air was cold against her skin but that was nothing new anymore; she was always feeling the cold and now it matched the chill she carried inside. There was no fear as she stepped out of the shower, walking over to the mirror of her bathroom. The reflection that stared back at her was a stranger’s gaunt face. She had the palest blonde hair; a short, downy soft matte, only just attempting to grow back and doomed to fall out again soon. The woman’s face was all sharp angles, not a sexy and defined cheekbone but a skeletal mask of skin and bones. Her eyes were sunken and lifeless, her lips nearly bloodless and the faint pulse of her heart beat was obvious in the trembling skin on her neck. The skin stretched over the bones of her collar bone was pasty and sallow, the blue of her veins startlingly obvious and macabre. “Who are you?” Ophelia asked her reflection softly.

A deep sense of disgust welled up in her and she opened the medicine cabinet, not wanting to see herself any longer. As her chemotherapy had progressed her doctors had given her all kinds of sleeping medication to help her rest and ‘recover’. She’d never really taken them because she slept enough as it was it seemed. Now that meant she had more than enough sleeping pills to do the job she required. Except that as Ophelia searched her medicine cabinet, not a single bottle of the sleeping pills was still there. She’d checked the other day, an almost OCD compulsion to keep her medicine bottles lined up and organized as her world continued to spiral out of her control. It also helped ensure that she had the right medicine in hand for the necessary moments. And yet they weren’t here now. And she could see the blank spaces in the row of bottles where they used to be. “Nathaniel.” Ophelia snarled his name softly.

Somehow he’d figured it out before she even had. After carrying her into the apartment bridal style and setting her on her bed (which had given her all kinds of strange misgivings and mixed signals), he had gone to the bathroom. And that’s probably when he swiped the bottles to keep her from doing exactly what she had been planning on doing. But how had he known? And how dare he make that kind of decision for her! Ophelia closed the medicine cabinet with a little extra force, and then processed to aggressively dry herself off with a towel. If she had looked in the mirror then, the reflection wouldn’t have seem so strange. The anger flashing in her eyes at his audacity gave them life and her skin flushed rosy with the chafing from her towel.

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