Marked. Part I: The missing Link

By: J.M.Sevilla
Chapter 1

Wednesday, December 25


The awkward silence filling the room has everyone shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Their eyes dart around the room, pausing on family photos to examine them as if they hold great importance. Nobody wants to bring up the white elephant in the room, but it's obvious that's all anyone can think about.

The white elephant, unfortunately, is me, and the faded bruise on my cheek. Thank God they can't see my stomach and the ugly yellowish-purple one that takes up most of it.

So I wait, twirling my straight, shoulder length, golden-brown hair around my finger, chewing on my bottom lip. Waiting for the moment when a family member's curiosity gets the best of them and the questions begin.

The sound of heels clipping the hardwood floor becomes everyone's new area of focus.

My mom enters and smiles, holding up a tray full of appetizers, “Who wants some mini quiche?”

The murmur of pleases and thank-yous hums around the room as my mom goes person to person, offering them a napkin and a pre-feast snack.

The last person is served and she leaves the tray on the coffee table, retreating back to the kitchen. I want to scream at her to come back and not leave me alone with these people and their prying eyes, but instead I remain silent, watching her as she deserts me. I'm hoping maternal instinct will kick in and she'll sense my unease and come back to rescue me.

No such luck.

I let out a sigh and go back to twisting my hair and staring at an invisible spot on the floor. The silence is irritating me now. Somebody say something, anything!

“So,” Uncle Ned speaks up, clearing his throat. “Would it bother anyone if I turned on the game?”

Nobody minds and I want to kiss my uncle for giving everyone a distraction and noise to drown out the silence. We all become overly absorbed in the game. Occasionally, one of them will glance my way. I don't acknowledge them because I will be faced with expressions of concern (a look I'm beginning to loathe), and curious eyes not wanting to ask but dying to know what happened.

We all know the minute my aunt Lisa arrives; it's impossible not to. My aunt comes in two volumes: loud, and obnoxiously loud.

“Margret!” She cries from a distant spot in the house, but she might as well have been standing in the living room with how clearly we can hear her. “Where should I put the casserole? You look lovely! It's not fair that we are only two years apart yet you look ten years younger!”

My mom replies, but it's hard to make out what she says. I can tell when they reach the kitchen because my aunt starts yammering on about the food and wanting to make sure she isn't overcooking the ham (she wasn't being rude, my mom overcooks it every year).

A few moments later (after my mom and her older sister finish pleasantries) my aunt comes to the living room. The minute she sees me a deep, saddened frown is placed on her lips.

Here we go.

“Oh, Lily.” She hurries over and pulls me into her arms for a hug, “Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. How are you holding up?”

“Fine,” I mumble into her over-teased permed hair, trying not to choke on the overpowering stench of too much hairspray.

She holds me out at arms length, her fake nails digging into my shoulders, and searches my face for the signs of misery only a broken, damaged heart can bring.

She can look as deep as she wants, but she won't find anything.

“Really, I'm okay,” I reassure her, patting her on the arm.

“Of course you are, dear,” Aunt Lisa returns a sympathetic pat on my shoulder. She doesn't believe me; it's written all over her face.

I sit back down and notice all ten heads of my family are watching us, examining me, waiting for the breakdown they all know is coming. I hold back the urge to roll my eyes at them.

“Did he really hit you?” My ten-year-old cousin, Molly, finally gets up the courage to ask.

“Yup.” I reply, picking at my nails.

Clucking of tongues and disapproving head shakes pass around the room.

“Wow, so the bruising on your cheek is from him?” Uncle Ned shoots Molly a warning glance to not be so nosy, while everyone else leans in with great interest. “What? We all want to know exactly what happened, I'm just the only one brave enough to ask.” Nobody disagrees.

“Yeah, it is,” I say, responding to her question. More tsks and frowns come from my family. “I'm going to see if my mom needs any help.”

They all nod in understanding, and I can tell they think I'm leaving to shed tears.

As soon as I leave their prying eyes I hear the soft whispers of their gossip.

“Poor thing.”

“She's barely holding on.”

“She's heartbroken.”

“Wouldn't you be? They were together for almost two years.”

“I never thought Will would be the type of guy to do something like that.”

I pick up my pace so I don't have to hear any more.

I let out a loud sigh and slump against the main wall of the kitchen. This evening has been the longest of my life and it's only thirty minutes in.

Ugh. Family is exhausting.

My mom's pulling out the ham when she starts to speak to me over her shoulder, “Everything alright?”

“Yeah, I just needed to get away from that room and everyone’s sympathetic faces.”

She closes the oven door and walks over to me, cupping her hand over my non-bruised cheek. Her honey-colored eyes (which are identical to my own) are wearing the same pity as the claustrophobic room I'd just left. “They love you and are concerned. It's barely been three weeks since it happened. How are you holding up?”