I begin counting the times it happens. One. Just a mistake. Two. He doesn’t mean it. Three. He just doesn’t understand. Four. It’s okay. Five. This is okay. This IS okay. Six. If I loved him I wouldn’t be crying. Seven. This is okay. This is love. EightNine. Ten.
I begin to justify his actions with my numbers. One. Two. Three. We have been together four months. This is normal. I want to be normal. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. He spends ten weeks fighting to have me. Surely he cares. Eleven. He is the first person I tell about the men when I was twelve. Thirteen. He gives me my first kiss when I am fourteen. Steals my virtues at fifteen. Sixteen. He is a year older. I should be prepared for what dating an older boy means. I should be ready. I shouldn’t be crying.
No one warns me. No one tells me how much it hurts. No one tells me he won’t stop. No. No one warns me. But I teach myself. I learn to count. Count anything. Count the posters on his wall. Count the cracks in the ceiling. Count to ten. Then back again. Then up again. Until it’s over. Count up to the amount of times it has happened. See if it ends before you reach that number. 89. 96. 103. This isn’t soothing anymore. 112. 120. This is all I am now. There is no love in his eyes. There is nothing. I stare into the husks of hazel that used to home the boy that I adored. Nothing.
One hundred and thirty-six.
One. Hundred. And. Thirty. Six.
Inhale. Three months in I stop counting. Exhale. Everything is fine. FourThree. Two more years of blood stained sheets and tear soaked pillows. Two. One. I am not here. Not one part of me wants to endure the pain he inflicts on my brain and my bones anymore.
Leave at sixteen. It happens once more. Twice more. Two boys. Three months apart. Four words. You can trust me. I won’t hurt you. Go. Back. To. Sleep.
Released from the clinic at seventeen with an acronym diagnosis. Fall back in love at Eighteen. Nineteen. ‘I do’ at twenty to a boy who thinks faking love and throwing things makes him a man. Three week expiry on a lifetime warranty. Twenty-one.
Still here. Four. Three. Two. One.