Nina should not have stayed. She should’ve gone in the Uber with Ali at midnight like she’d planned. This is what her mom says in a shaky voice as Nina shifts her bruised thighs, the white paper crinkling beneath them.
But why stop there? Nina thinks. She should never have accepted another rum and ginger from the guy in the green flannel shirt. Not locked eyes with him from across the bar as The Cure played on the jukebox. Not worn that shade of lipstick—Violet Temptress. And that perfume that smells of tangerines. Definitely not held her cigarette out for a light like it was some sort of invitation.
On top of all of this, she shouldn’t have allowed herself to be so delicate. Should’ve heeded Mo’s advice to alternate between weights and cardio every other day. She should’ve joined karate or kickboxing classes and learned how to defend herself. Better yet, she should’ve carried a weapon. Pepper spray. A pocket knife. A gun even. There are plenty of shooting ranges around town. There really is no excuse. Or if she had real survival skills, she should’ve recognized that her keys, or any object for that matter, can be a weapon if used correctly.
If she reaches farther back, she should’ve never lost all that weight a few years ago. If she hadn’t, she would still be suffocated by insecurity. Wouldn’t have been out socializing on a Friday night at The Black Sheep at all, but creating fictional connections through her flat-screen TV.
Farther back still, she should never have grazed lips with Matt in ninth grade during seven minutes in heaven. Shouldn’t have let the pointed tips of their tongues touch. She should’ve just talked to him in that basement closet amongst the cleaning supplies and rusty paint cans and then she wouldn’t be sitting in this hospital room now. And she wouldn’t have to feel the glacial touch of the doctor’s surprisingly calloused hand, and listen to the words, Now let’s see what we have here—like she’s a specimen preserved inside a jar that he’ll hold to the light to get a closer look.
L. Soviero was born in Queens, New York but now lays her hat in Sydney. She has a MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. When she is not writing flash, she works as a Learning Designer. Check out more of her work at lsoviero.com.