“There’s a Cheater in All of Us”

There’s a cheater in all of us, I say, tears streaming down my face.

His stare is empty and hollow.

There’s a cheater in all of us, and… My words get lost in my throat.

His head turns to look at his steering wheel.

I was weak! I scream at him. I was weak! A-and, I couldn’t help myself…

He slides his hand through one of the holes, still not saying a word.

My sweater sleeves bunched up past my elbows, I scratch along the cuts and needle marks on my forearm, then slide chewed nails through my greasy hair, sweating.

Please, please just say something… anything… I beg him.

His fingers unwrap and wrap around his keys again. There’s a cheater in all of us, he uses my words.

My heart begins to beat wildly. W-what, I ask, confused. Scared.

Like you said, there’s a cheater in all of us, he says again.

What does he mean by that?

Her name is Sally, he says. And she lives upstate. She’s a single mom, with three beautiful kids, an abusive ex-husband, and a fence that needs fixing.

I stare at him, afraid. Wait… he… he…

No, I shake my head. Please, no, we can work through this.

No, we can’t. His words are hollow. Like his eyes. I love her, and I’m going to move in with her. She can use the help.

The tears start up again. No, please, I beg. We can do this, I-I… I’ll change.

People don’t change. And I don’t want to change. I’m tired of taking care of you. You need to grow up. Go find someone else, who has the same interests as you do, he tells me.

But, I don’t want anyone, I want you! My nose is running now.

I’m not as young as I used to be, it’s time for me to settle down. You’re still young, you can go to college, and get a good job.

But, I don’t want that! I don’t want any of that! I want you! I fling my arms down in a tantrum. He cannot just leave me, not after everything we have been through.

He slides his fingers along the steering wheel again, then looks up through his windshield, not looking my way.

I don’t want you. I don’t want anything to do with you, not anymore, he says. Then, he starts up his truck and puts it in gear, pulling onto the dirt road as he leaves me behind.


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