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How It Ends by Christina Strauch

I adjust my breasts in Kent’s bathroom mirror. They may barely be C-cups, but they still form a nice mound of milky white cleavage, which just barely spills out the top of my cropped tank. The bathroom, like rest of the house, reeks of Coors Light and weed with subtle undertones of cheap cologne. To my dismay, the alcohol floating through my system amplifies the scent. It’s repugnant. On the other side of the door, there is some bitch banging and screaming about how she’s gonna pee her pants any second. I steal one last glance. Eyes tracing my outline in the fractured mirror. Dirty blonde hair rests atop my head in a ratted bun and bits of mascara have flaked from my lashes and now cling to the apples of my cheeks. I attempt to wipe them away but only manage to create thin, black streaks in their place. It doesn’t really matter. I would still be considered attractive by most.

Flinging the door open, I nearly nail the whiny bimbo in the face. She staggers backward in her stilettos. Only an idiot would wear heels out drinking. She looks like a shrew, small with a long nose and dark eyes barely visible under her overgrown bangs. She whooshes past me, an overpowering aroma trailing behind her. Freesia and red plum assault my nostrils. From behind the bathroom door, I can hear her breathe a sigh of relief. She is now in a sort of sanctuary; free from the thick haze of smoke and body heat, flashing multicolored lights, and booming music. Still, her moment of pureness will be short lived. Some other drunken slut will come banging on the door soon enough and she too will be forced to leave.

I turn on my heel and scan the area, hoping to spot my boyfriend, but strangers surround me. In an instant, adrenaline shocks my senses to life. He’s gone. Rick’s gone and probably fucked up beyond repair. If we’re separated for too long, there is no telling what kind of psycho shit he’ll get into. I mean, he’s already kind of an asshole on a day-to-day basis, but when he drinks, he becomes a real dick. Suddenly, violent visions of fistfights and drug-fueled tirades flash through my mind.


Rick just has no self-control. Still, I find it hard to accept that he intentionally tries to be an asshole. Rather, it’s in his nature. Rick is blunt, aggressive, uncensored, and just a tad selfish, but he’s mine, and his shining moments make up for all he lacks.

A year ago, when my father died, he spent countless, sleepless nights rocking me in the security of his arms, as I cried myself to sleep. His kindness and corny jokes are what brought my smile back. He would always tell me the one about the longest word in the English dictionary: smile, because it has a mile in it. It was such a stupid joke, but it did make me smile.

Rick really isn’t that bad. I know him better than anyone else, and he could say the same for me. I’ve peered into his soul, and its broken and beautiful, like a shattered picture frame.

Chances are he’s outside sharing a joint with his buddy Kent, or as Rick refers to him, the party god. This semester alone Kent has hosted five ragers, and it’s only the first week of October. Frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if one day Kent’s liver just slid right out of him while he’s taking a shit. Anyway, I decide to go with my gut and head in the direction of the backyard.

Now that I’m moving steadily, I’m beginning to notice just how messed up I am. My head is spinning in circles, and my world is embanked in a fog of vivid color and light. Stumbling through the hallway, I balance myself by pushing from one wall to the other, elbowing my way past countless hulking fuck-boys. For whatever reason, one feels the burning desire to call out to me.

“Damn baby! You look good in that outfit. I bet you’d look better out of it.” His slurred words fly at me from behind.

I freeze, knees wobbly but feet firm. “You know, if you really want to get in a woman’s pants, maybe you should try approaching her, instead of catcalling her from behind like a spineless prick.”

He’s taken aback, and I hear him mumble under his breath, “Frigid bitch.” Ah yes, “frigid,” the word a man uses when he realizes he’s been checked.

Gingerly stepping one foot in front of the other, I cautiously proceed to the yard. Around eighty people have congregated there. They grind against one another in a pitiful attempt to find someone to take home tonight. To my right, a girl teeters behind a rose bush and falls to her knees. Her friends pull her up by her arms and drape them around their shoulders. They drag her out the back gate, leaving her shoes behind. Another girl is pushed against the side of the house, entrapped between the arms of a man cloaked in a black hoodie. She turns her head away from him as if repelled by his breath, which I can only imagine reeks of bile and IPAs. I bump into him, distracting him long enough for her to get away.

I continue to squirm past partiers. As the flesh of the crowd rubs against mine, its warmth stirs a sickness in the pit of my stomach. Tight spaces have never been my friend. Claustrophobia overtakes me sending me into a panic. The alcohol only works as a catalyst. I desperately want to throw up. I bite my lower lip and push towards the nearest opening. Diving from the swarm, I thrust my body against a tree. Using it as support, I lurch up a stream of pure fireball and rum. The heaving causes tears to shoot from my eyes, and I know my face is now smudged with black mascara. My bun topples to the side with the violence of the sickening motion.

Seemingly out of nowhere, a hand reaches out and clasps onto my shoulder. This hand is soft and warm. I’ve always thought it strange for such a cold, sturdy man to have such gentle hands.

“Where have you been?” Rick drops down to my level. His eyes are as red as chili peppers, but they are focused and have an undeniable sense of concern.

Before I can speak, a thin, redheaded girl kneels down next to him. “Whoa! You look super fucked up,” she laughs, taking a swig of beer.

That fucking bitch. Why is she here?

“Hey Taylor,” Rick looks at the girl, “could you fucking back off?” The girl sneers at me.

“Fine.” She gets up and walks away, disappearing into the crowd.

“Now,” Rick says, turning back to me, “where have you been, babe?”

I lose control. “Looking for you!” I spit, the tears pouring out now. I’m exhausted, beaten down, and frustrated. I clench my teeth and bury my face into his chest, staining his plain white T-shirt with saline-soaked cosmetics. “You left me!” I cry out.

“I know, I know, I’m sorry, but you’ve had way too much. Its time to take you home.” Rick gently pulls me up off the ground. Hugging me he rubs my back, trying to calm me down, and presses a gentle kiss to the top of my head. “Let’s go home.”

Home. He is referring to his apartment, where towers of dishes balance in the sink and the musky aroma of body odor mixed with rotting food hangs heavy in the air. It is a man’s home, but as of recently, I have adopted it as my own. Home is wherever he is.

“Okay.” My voice is a soft whimper.

We leave. Clinging to his arm I do my best to walk in a stable, steady motion.

“You were the most beautiful girl at the party,” he says.

I let out a small laugh of disbelief. My façade has become an abstract painting of pinks and blacks.

“You were.”


Once again, Rick draws me in and plants a kiss on top of my head.

Wind whips my bare skin sending shivers through every nerve. The walk is long and silent; the only noise the sound of our feet padding against concrete. I just have to make it a few more blocks.

The apartment is veiled in night. A single spotlight above the door beams down, attracting insects. Rick struggles to unlock the door. It takes him several attempts to slide the key into the lock, but he eventually gets it. The clicking of the tumblers is such sweet relief. We step into the kitchen entryway.

Crumpling to my knees, I topple over and land on my stomach. The coolness of the once white, now yellow linoleum rises into my flushed cheeks. I lie there, strewn out like a corpse. Tiny remnants of pizza crusts and ramen stick to my face and arms. My eyelids are weak with fatigue and fall softly.

“Are you gonna get up?”

I roll my eyes upward to meet Rick’s gaze. Hovering above me, he’s shrouded in darkness save for the right half of his face, which is illuminated by moonlight seeping through the window. His stone grey eyes narrow, taking in the mess. “Babe, do you need help?”

A halfhearted moan escapes my lips. He wraps his arms around my ribcage in a tight hug and pulls me upwards, helping me catch my balance. With my arm wrapped around his broad shoulders, Rick guides me up the staircase.

My toes feel as though they are crunching into the shag. The texture makes my skin crawl and stomach churn. Why is the carpet so crusty? It’s like someone spilled milk and never bothered to clean it up. I vomit a little in my mouth but manage to swallow it back down.

“Are you ok?” Rick stumbles over his words.

“No.” I spit the word out with such venomous spite, yet it is somehow slurred with intoxication.

He lays me on the landing, resting my back against the eggshell wall. These walls have always been so blank. It’s like a clinic.

Rick glares, hands on his hips. “Are you giving me attitude?”

I sneer with gritted teeth. “Why the hell did you leave me?”

Rick releases a deep sigh and rubs his thumbs against his temples. “I already apologized for that.” Agitation plagues his voice.

“Where did you go?”

“Why does it matter?” he snaps.

I feel my heart sink deep inside my chest, as if it were disappearing under quicksand. I recoil into a small ball on the floor, fear and adrenaline surging in my bones. A part of me already knows why I was abandoned in Kent’s bathroom, but the truth is too gut-wrenching to accept. Instead, I choose to let it go, not wanting to escalate this lover’s quarrel. “Forget it.”

“No. You need to forget it. It meant nothing.” Rick points a meaty finger directly between my brows. “She means nothing,” he says, his words final and succinct.

Rick slips into his bedroom, silent and exhausted. With all the strength I can muster, I attempt to stand, only to have my knees wobble and give out. I crawl to the shower my flesh retracting in disgust each time it makes contact with the carpet. Using the counter as support, I hoist myself up. And with the flick of a switch, the bathroom is bathed in a brilliant light, causing my body to convulse in pain. The overpowering aroma of piss diffuses throughout the room. The scent resembles a urine-soaked hamster cage — sulfur and bacteria. Rick really needs to invest in some Lysol.

I direct my gaze to the mirror. My reflection reveals the horrors of the night. Powder, foundation, lipstick, and mascara swirled into a mosaic of color. In the corner of my mouth, dried vomitus flakes from the skin like the scales of a fish. My clothes are disheveled. The crop top has fallen to reveal my bra, and my jeans are stained at the knees. I’m a disaster zone, and yet I am hardly fazed. My tolerance of shame and embarrassment have only elevated since meeting Rick.

I feel ashamed to love such a man.

Exhausted, I drop to the floor. While sitting, I disrobe and throw the trashed garments out into the hallway. Clumsily, my body slumps over the edge of the tub. Unable to stand, I sink deep into the vessel as the showerhead rains steaming water upon my bare skin. A scalding downpour to wash away the filth. Fresh, black, salty tears turn my vision splotchy and unfocused. Balling my hands into tight fists, I rub my eyes, but that only leads to a stinging pain, which runs deep into the sockets. The water slides through my hair, entangling it in knots as it draws down each strand. Instinctually, I reach out for the conditioner, but there is none. This is a man’s shower, containing only Old Spice shampoo and a bar of questionable looking soap sprinkled with dark black body hair and one long strand of bright red. I frown. I will have to live with the tangles. Gently turning the handle, I halt the falling stream. I choose to lie in the tub for a few moments more, soaking up the last of the warmth and comfort it offers. When I am satisfied, I flop out of the bath and wrap my body in Rick’s towel. His scent still lingers within the cotton: a sweet, subtle cologne containing hints of rose.

Crawling out, I creep into the shadows of Rick’s bedroom. Plates of half eaten food and dirty laundry litter the floor. The curtains are drawn, as they always are. Rick isn’t one to let in the light. The air is stale and musky because the door and window remain sealed at all times, preventing any circulation. It’s just like a cave.

Rick lies in bed, his back turned to me as if it were a wall separating me from his affection. I snuggle in next to him. A tattoo of an angel with its wings spread across his shoulder blades stares into my eyes. The sheets are sleek and cool against my bare skin. There is only one pillow, so we are forced to share. Our heads cram together like melons in a crate, no room for awkward hostility.

“You’re upset,” Rick whispers in an exasperated tone. “I don’t understand why you’re upset, but I know you are.”

I say nothing. My stomach feels sick again.

“It’s late, and we’re drunk. For now, please forgive me.” He pleads. “We can talk about it tomorrow.”

There will be no talking about it tomorrow.

Rick turns his body to face mine. Our limbs entangle like roots digging into the earth, and we drift off to sleep. Never have I felt so close and yet so distant from someone.

Eyes sealed, I spend the night restless, thoughts racing around my mind. Chaotic, like swarming bees, they rush around, pinging off one another.

I choose this man. I choose him every morning when I wake up. I’ve chosen him for the last three years. I could choose to leave him. Leave his cheating ass, his lying ass, his demeaning, rude ass, but what good would that do? I wouldn’t have to endure the turmoil, the mind games, but I would lose the one person who has seen every reflection of myself and stayed. I am fully aware that I have a temper and will lash out when I feel threatened. Even though Rick doesn’t always treat me the best it isn’t right for me to act so hostile towards him. After all, he is the one who has shown me how joyful my life can be.

He is the man I have poured years, tears, patience, and compassion into, trying everyday to heal the hurt he feels from women, who have torn his heart and soul apart. Yet I am only ever returned with anger, disrespect, and resentment. But goddammit, I have earned this man. So how can I leave him, when I have put so much time, trust, and love into this relationship? And as for him, he would lose me, the one person who has ever truly loved him. How could I rip my love from him, when he has come to depend upon it? A man, who has only ever known disdain and disapproval, who doesn’t understand his own feelings because he was never shown how to, a man whose scars and bruises were inflicted by a mother, a man who hates himself — how could I possibly tear love from a man like that? How could I live with that guilt and sorrow?

Sunlight peeks in from under the curtains like a newt crawling out from under a rock. I slide out from under Rick’s arm and perch myself upon the edge of the bed. Cupping my face in my hands I begin to rub furiously. What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you? I repeat over and over in my mind. Never did I think I would be a victim. I’d always thought I would leave a man who disrespected me in any way, but the follow-through isn’t so easy now that I’m living it. I’m torn. I treasure him, and I want to relieve his pain, but if I stay, I know there is a chance I will end up the outlet for his suffering.

“What are you doing?” Rick is lying on his back, gawking at me.


“Sure as hell doesn’t look like nothing.” He sits up, leaning his back against the headboard. “You’ve been really fucking weird lately. What’s going on with you?”

I keep quiet, trying to figure out how to address the situation.

“Well?” Rick urges impatiently.

I gulp, trying to hold back the words coming forth.

“Come on,” he demands.

I finally break my silence. Turning my head to face Rick, we lock eyes. “Why is Taylor’s hair in your shower?”

“God, not this again.” Rick rolls his eyes and covers his face with the palms of his hands. “I told you to just drop it.”

I jolt up, enraged. “She’s your ex-girlfriend, Rick! She left you for some other douche. She got knocked up and dropped out. Now, she’s back, and when I was too tired for sex the other night, you had the balls to tell me just how badly you wanted to fuck her again.” I am nearly breathless as I release the rage built up inside of me. “I’m still astounded that you tried to make me feel guilty about not being a good enough lover by comparing me to that whore.” I am screaming now. The pain I feel is just too strong to remain locked away. “How sexy she is, how she’s so trim and fit with giant, perky tits, how she rocked your world years ago, when she took your virginity. How am I ever supposed to let that go? How can I be like her? How can I be good enough? Or can I?”

“Shut up!” Rick’s face is so red its almost glowing.

“Have you fucked her yet, Rick?”

“I said shut up!”

“She sure looked good last night. Did you take her up to Kent’s room and let her suck you off?”

“I swear to God, if you don’t shut your fucking mouth…”

“What? You’re gonna do what, Rick? Hit me? Take it a little step further than just fucking around with my feelings?” I draw in a deep breath. “You don’t even have the balls to hit me, do you, Rick? You’re just a coward, who calls me names and puts me down.”

Rick sneers at me. His eyes are two stones frozen in fixation. His fingernails dig deep into the sheets as if they would hold him back if his temper got out of hand.

I continue, “Why do you even want her? She sure as hell doesn’t want you.”

“I told you, I don’t want her.” He speaks between gritted teeth. “She means nothing. I said what I said to make you mad, to get under your skin, and yeah, she was here a couple days ago. I let her stay the night. She needed someone. She’s been having a hard time since what’s-his-face won custody of that kid.” I can hear the pain in his voice.

“The kid’s not his, is it?”

“She says it’s his.”

“But you wish it was yours.”

Rick angrily shouts, “He doesn’t deserve her! He doesn’t deserve to have her son! He’s an unemployed high school dropout who can barely take care of himself. I would be a great father. I could take care of a family.”

“A judge would never give that poor child back to her. She’s a fucking crack whore, just like your mommy. She’d ruin his life just like your mother ruined yours. She’d neglect him, leave him for days on end without any contact. She’d be a shitty mother and you’d be a shitty father.”

Rick leaps up from the bed and shakes me by my shoulders. “You don’t know anything about her!” I break free of his grip, but he remains in my face. “You’re just some stupid bitch, and I don’t care what the fuck you think. You’re nothing.”

My face tenses with anger. “You’re an unlovable bastard.”

Silence engulfs the room. Rick backs off and lies back down, rolling his body away from me. He can’t even stand to look me in the eyes. I cross my arms over my bare chest. Still naked from the shower the night before, I go into the hallway to retrieve my clothes.

“Are you coming back to bed or not?” Rick asks. His back is still turned to me.

I peek my head back into the room. “I’m leaving.” I turn quickly and head for the front door.

“Like hell you are.” He is up now and racing out after me. He pushes me aside on my way down the stairs and blocks the exit.

“I’m going home, Rick.” I try to brush past him, but he grabs me violently by the shoulders and forces me to face him.

“You think I’m just gonna let you leave?” His voice is severely agitated now. He narrows his eyes, and he speaks calmly. “You owe me an apology.”

“I owe you nothing.”

Rick spins my body around and slams me into the front door. The forceful impact radiates through my lungs, stealing the breath from me. “You fucking bitch.”

I’m gasping. My eyes swell with tears and my vision turns black, splotchy. There is so much pain.

“Still think I don’t have the balls to hurt you? If you want to challenge me, if you want to make me do this, I’ll do this.”

He releases me. My body slides down to the floor, folding over like a flour sack.


I roll my head up to look at him. “What is wrong with you?”

“Don’t make me keep repeating myself. Apologize to me, and you can go.”


“Fine.” He lets out a halfhearted laugh. “I’ll make you.”

He jerks me up by my wrists, pulling me up the stairs. I quickly collect myself. Widening my stance, I pull backwards. Yanking as hard as I can, I try in vain to break his grip. Rick pulls me forward off my feet. Without missing a beat, he wraps his arms around me in a tight bear hug. He lifts me off the ground, and I kick and struggle in an attempt to break his hold. Bringing my knees to my chest and then launching myself forward and out, I execute one of the few self-defense techniques I know. This movement knocks Rick’s body backwards into the stairs, and I go toppling down each step. Scrambling to my feet, I clumsily reach for the door. I swing it open and get one foot out into the fresh, morning light, but Rick has caught hold of my other foot and he pulls me back. With a firm grip on my torso and thigh, Rick scoops me up. I scream, kick, and claw, as he makes his way up the staircase once again. He enters his room and throws me on the bed.

“It’s time to apologize.”

Rick reaches for the button on my pants. Terrified, I scream, “What are you doing?!”

“You’re gonna talk about my mom? You’re gonna talk about Taylor? You’re going to hurt me like that? I thought you loved me! I thought you would protect me! This is your fault. You’re making me do this!” This is the first time I’ve seen Rick cry. Tears are gushing from his eyes, yet I cannot tell if they are tears of pain or tears of anger. I lift my leg and with a sharp thrust to his face, I kick him off of me. He inches away to the far corner of the bed like a frightened animal. Hanging his feet off the edge, he cries into his hands. Softly, I can hear him say, “You made me do this.”

I back myself into the opposite corner of the bed. Positioning my body in the crease where the two walls meet, I pull my knees to my chest and begin to shake and hyperventilate.

I hear the front door click open. “Rick?” a small, feminine voice yells up the staircase.

I could just let her take my place.

The bedroom door is wide open. I can leave now. I could run out and keep running, never looking back. But how could this possibly end where we are both left standing?

About the Author

Christina Strauch is a second-year student at WSU studying Creative Writing and Psychology. She was born in San Jose, California in 1996. Her love for writing and psychology are what prompted me to write this particular short story. She really loves blending the two subjects.