The slow music twirled like thread around them.
I need you.
Sheila rested her head against Mason's chest, swaying with him like the gentle waves of the sea.
I thank God everyday for you.
The violins came in, then the piano, and then the slow and sure beating of a drum, reflecting the beating of the lovers' hearts.
My life has changed for the better because of you.
In this moment, Sheila felt so calm, so warm, and so comfortable. She could just fall asleep in his arms, but at the same time, she never wanted to sleep and experience this sweet moment forever.
I can't imagine my life without you.
So, they continued to dance and spin. The lights were twinkling with every step as Sheila spun in delicate circles, her white dress billowing out.
You are my world, my everything.
She loved things like this, the pressure of Mason's warm hand on her back, and the feeling of her small, agile feet gliding along the floor.
There's nothing I would change about you.
She felt like a small bird learning how to fly, flailing around, and finally, she was taking off with outstretched wings and wing-swept feathers.
Without you, I'd be so lost.
The room had turned dark and there was a spotlight on them.
You're the light in my darkness.
The music faded away, as though the melody was lost under water. Sheila looked up at Mason, lost in his eyes. She believed this was the man she would marry someday.
I'd give my life for you.
And then he spat out a knife and stabbed her heart.
The music was distorted.
He stabbed her again and again.
Circus music was playing.
Blood dripped down from his knife, staining her dress, staining his hands, staining the floor beneath them.
I love you.
"I've been wanting to break up with him for a while now, but..."
Sheila's voice trailed off in uncertainty. She gazed at her lap, unable to make eye contact with the concerned tutor sitting opposite her.
"But?" Kate urged on.
"I was..." Sheila fidgeted with her fingers. "Scared... It was my first time breaking up with someone... and I didn't know what to expect or how to go about doing it..."
"That's understandable," Kate said reassuringly. "Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes you've just got to do it."
Sheila nodded in agreement, her eyes glued to the carpet.
"Yeah... that's what my friends told me... so, the first few times, I tried to do it... It just- I..." She sighed in frustration. "I was right to be scared."
Kate frowned with a puzzled expression. "What do you mean?"
"I... I had told him so much about me... but now I regret it," Sheila hunched up her shoulders, closing her thighs together. "He's using my secrets as ammo against me... threatening to tell everyone, if I broke up with him... So... I felt forced to stay with him, just to keep him quiet."
She pulled up her sleeves, covering her hands.
"But soon... it all became too much... we couldn't hang out for more than five minutes without fighting over some stupid sh-"
She bit her lip, censoring her profanity.
"Stupid things... I can't even remember half the things we fought about, that's how irrelevant and minuscule it was. But at the time, both of us would really go at each other, blowing the little things out of proportion. That's when I knew, I had to walk away from him for good. I didn't care if he told the rest of the world my secrets... I just couldn't be with him anymore... it was unbearable, you know?"
"Yes, I understand," Kate said, softly. "Sometimes it's best to walk away."
Finally, Sheila met the tutor's eyes.
"I couldn't break up with him to his face," she said warily. "I was... a coward, I know... I was just scared of... him... how he'll react..."
Guilt flashed through her eyes.
"So, I broke up with him over text. I know that's a crappy way to end a relationship, but he wouldn't answer my calls... What else could I do?" Her tone was defensive, "While I still had the courage, I wanted to break up with him, right then and there, so I sent the text."
Kate leaned forward, arms resting on the wooden table, with her hands under her chin as she listened intently.
"He's left me around 250 texts after our break up. Yes, I counted. I replied to him like... 5 times in total... I didn't know what to say... his texts were too much for me..."
"What did he text you, if you don't mind me asking?" Kate asked.
Sheila shrugged her shoulders, shaking her head. How was she supposed to condense his 250 texts in a simple, adequate explanation?
"He just... said a lot... Repeated himself often... It was like a roller coaster... One minute, he's sending me angry texts... The next, he's begging me to stay... and so on... I can't explain it. Along with those texts, he would call me... like five times a day... I just couldn't take it anymore."
Kate spun the pen in between her fingers, contemplating. Then an idea struck her mind.
"There is a function in your phone, I believe," the older woman said, "where you can block someone who is harassing you. This way you'll stop receiving messages and calls from them."
"I know..." Sheila sighed, feeling resigned. "I have this problem where I block him, and then I unblock him, and block him, and unblock him - you get the picture."
The girl looked away, embarrassed, rubbing her arm awkwardly.
"I don't know why I do this to myself... I just want to know what he's saying... I can't help it. Sometimes I want him to be gone, but other times, I just... I don't know... I guess I'm not fully ready to let him go...? I don't know."
She hid her face in her hands, frustrated. "I'm an idiot, I know."
Kate slapped the pen down on the desk. The action was harsher and louder than she expected.
"No, you're not," the tutor said firmly. "This is a difficult time for you... It seems to me you're confused - you don't know how to deal with this and that's fine. That's why I'm here for you."
Sheila blinked, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I... I just... wish we could both move on, you know?" She wiped away her tears with her sleeve. "It hurts me to know he's hurting... because I still do love him... so much... despite everything that's happened."
She choked out more tears. "I know, I'm such a mess - we both are."
"You're both hurting," Kate said, as she opened her black purse. "And that's fine. It's what makes you human."
She pulled out a tissue packet from her purse and handed it to her teary student.
"Thank you," Sheila sniffed, taking one tissue out of the packet. She dabbed her wet eyes. "The thing is... what I'm worried about the most... is that he's already got mental health issues... but I think this breakup is making things worse for him - which in turn makes me feel worse."
She blew her nose with the tissue.
Kate scribbled this information down. "Is that why you haven't been coming to university much? Because this breakup has taken a toll on you?"
"Well... pretty much," Sheila said, sniffling. "I found it hard to concentrate... I've been flopping my lessons... just dozing out... and staring at my phone whenever I can, waiting for his texts... waiting for his calls... It's so stupid."
She had scrunched the tissue into a ball and chucked it aside, resting her fidgeting hands on the desk.
"Then I stopped coming to university altogether... because I was scared to face him."
Kate looked at her with a concerned expression. "What did he do?"
This question seemed to make Sheila nervous. Was she saying too much? Should she stop now? Would Mason get into trouble? Would he get penalized? He would surely blame her and it would only make their breakup that much uglier. Sensing her hesitation, Kate reached over and gently placed her palm on top of Sheila's hand.
"You can tell me. I'm not here to judge, I'm here to help."
Sheila's heart was thudding against her chest. "He... he would... wait for me when my lessons were over... just standing outside the classroom... and waiting to see me. He'd tell me things... like..."
She retracted her hand from Kate to bite her nail.
"Like... how I ruined his life and some other disturbing things that I don't want to repeat..."
Kate nodded slowly. "That's fine. You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to."
Sheila's mind was spinning with so many scenarios. So much that she wanted to get out of her chest. So much that was on the tip of her tongue.
"There is this one time..." She began, but quickly shook her head to dismiss it.
"Yes?" Kate leaned forward attentively. "You can tell me."
Sheila licked her lips nervously. "One time... when I was in the library, he found me and..."
She gulped. "He... showed me his arm-"
She bit her nail, so hardly, that a piece of it had chipped off.
"He had cut himself... there was... so much blood... And he told me it was my fault. That I did this to him."
Recalling this moment made Sheila physically wince.
"I don't know why, why he showed me, why he did this, why he thought- just why?" She looked at Kate, her bottom lip quivering, "I'm such an evil person for putting him through so much pain... He said the only way to save him was to take him back..."
Running her fingers through her hair, Sheila heaved a distressed sigh.
"I want to help him, I do, but that's how we ended up in this mess in the first place! I tried to help him, but I made things worse. And I need him to realize that... that... if I couldn't save him the first time, what makes him think I can save him now? The same thing will happen again..."
Kate took a deep breath. "Listen to me, young lady. You're not responsible for his life, okay?"
She looked into the young girl's eyes with a somber countenance. "I know you feel responsible - but what he does to himself is none of your concern. You don't have the skills nor qualifications to help him. That sounds harsh, but it's the truth."
The older woman gestured to herself. "I don't have what it takes to help him either... I'm just a tutor!" She smiled, a reassuring smile. "But we do have organizations - we have professionals, who do have the skills, qualifications and experience to help him."
She reached out to pat Sheila's hand gently.
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. You don't have to worry about Mason anymore. Just focus on your studies, focusing on attending your sessions and lectures. However, if this is too much for you, we can file some sort of extenuating circumstances claim, so that you can extend your deadlines for your assignments. We can also have an intervention, so you can pause your studies at any time and return when you're in a better mindset. Whatever works best for you."
Sheila looked at her tutor, her eyes wide with panic. "But... what's going to happen now with Mason? Will he get into trouble?"
Kate shook her head. "No, of course not. I'll have a word with him and we'll figure out the best course of action to take for his mental health and well-being."
Mason held Sheila bridal style in his arms, carrying her outside. Rain conjured a sweet pattern upon their skins, the thousands of liquid globes reflecting the gray sky. Sheila loved the feel of rain, which was cooling on this warm day, and she enjoyed the sounds of it, which was a comforting lullaby. She felt tempted to remove the blindfold off her, just to admire nature's shower, but she knew Mason wouldn't appreciate that.
"Where are we going, babe?" Sheila asked.
"I got you a little gift," he said in that smooth, silky voice of his.
Sheila nestled her face against his chest. "You're my gift from God."
He chuckled deeply, causing ripples of soft vibrations against Sheila's cheeks. It was their first anniversary together. She wondered what surprise he had up his sleeve.
Gently, he set her down on the pavement, holding her upright and then he untied her blindfold. Sheila had seen this street so many times, yet this was the most beautiful it ever looked. With rain trickling down, creating a shield around the couple, making the world seem more glossy and magical than words could describe, as though the droplets were adding sparkles to everything they touched.
There was one thing, in particular, that sparkled like a gem in the daylight. Sheila's eyes almost popped out of their sockets and she felt weak to the knees. It was a good thing Mason was hugging her from behind, supporting her weight, or else she would have collapsed to the wet pavement.
"No... way..." She was breathless, staring at the brand-new, bright-red vehicle parked outside her driveway. There was a big, white bow wrapped around the trunk.
Tears mingled on her face, salty tracks blending into the fresh sky-fallen trickles. Sheila turned around to face Mason, an expression of disbelief across her face.
"You... got me... a car?" She asked, her voice so quiet, lost in the pitter-patter of the rain.
"Well, I know how badly you've been wanting one," Mason said with a smile. "So, I figured... why not? It's nothing fancy," He scratched the back of his head. "But I hope you like it, anyway."
Sheila squealed. "Like it? I love it!"
She jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face against his chest.
"This is the most thoughtful gift I've ever gotten," her voice was muffled, as more tears poured out of her. "Thank you so, so much!"
He lifted up her chin, locking eyes with her. His eyes were as gray as the sky above.
"No problem, kitten. Anything to put a smile on your face."
Anonymous: Here it is.