The conversation looped. Each time it thrummed inside Tobi’s skull, her grief slipped a little further back to make way for her fury. Her breathing became labored and erratic, her eyes scanning the floor for anything sharp. She would prefer a carpenter’s staple jutting from the baseboards, but she could make do if she had to. In fact, a dirtier item might scar better if infection were allowed to set in. She had found out that places on her ankles, feet, or arms were easiest to explain away as accidents or could be covered with clothes since it was still cool outside.
When summer came, she would be more discerning when choosing this outlet for what was inside her. Yes, then she would tender each drop of blood until the cold once again returned along with her relative freedom to bring it forth more frequently without suspicions being raised. She couldn’t risk perusal, wouldn’t draw attention to herself if she could help it. If pressed, she would claim that fireflies and fairies flitted about in her head. She would never admit that she believed that she suffered from madness.
The fact was, the conversation with her father had never taken place.
She had read something similar in a book she had found in an abandoned library and had adapted it. Before her father had died of starvation, he had been emaciated and weak, but he had not spoken to her. He had not assured her of where he would go, where anyone goes, after his death. He had not called her loving names or fought to stay alive for her. He had only lowered himself to the barren floor of their shantytown shack and refused to eat or drink until finally, death took him.
Five days, that’s how long his slow suicide had taken. Tobi had only returned home in time to see him take his last breath. She had been out hunting supplies and food. Had some of the others who lived in the shantytown not found her to inform her of her father’s condition, she would have returned to a corpse.
What she came home to may as well have been a corpse. Her father was not inside the man she saw on the floor that day.