***1 Peter 5:8 NIV
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
“Turn around. I need to see the back of you.”
Rachel gingerly spins her body, but also moves quickly as if she is trying to avoid the two eyes burning at her back.
He stops rummaging through the clothes rack, and he squints at Rachel. “Wait what—what are you wearing?”
“A dress?” Her words always end with a question mark when she is around Jake. Ending her sentences with a period will be unthinkable.
“I know it’s a dress.” Jake strides over and pulls the skirt down. Or rather yanks it. Rachel’s heart scitters down her throat.
“I don’t like it. It’s not you. Try on something else.”
Rachel scurries away to the women’s section, but not before hearing Jake bellow, in front of the shoppers and everybody,
“And make it QUICK!”
6 months later
It is Monday.
Rachel wakes up, looks out her dorm room window, and starts crying. Gently, at first, softly. But it then quickly escalates to hiccups and gulps and little moans.
She dashes to the bathroom to scoop up some tissue, then pauses.
She catches herself in the mirror, and her heart sears as she analyzes what she sees. Big, puffy red eyes. Big, puffy hair, scattered like leaves in the autumn.
Her face is streaked with last night’s makeup that she didn’t even bother to wipe off. Rachel utters a groan and tiptoes to her closet.
It is school today. College. She has to look good, because right now she looks like a Barbie doll gone wrong.
She has the ideal figure in all the right places, but she has the wrong clothes, hair, and makeup to go with it.
She opens her closet, and it squeaks, grinding, and she winces. The clothes intimidate her.
As she runs her hand across the fabrics, Rachel burns, and she keeps blinking, trying to recalculate her thoughts. She needs her glasses.
It’s a dizzying array, and she can’t possibly choose what to wear. Not without Jake. Jake always knew what she had to wear.
Rachel finally pulls out a dark blue blouse, throws on some dark jeans, and slips on some flats. She is about to leave when she is yanked backward.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Rachel gasps and spins around, but she doesn’t see anyone there. “I’m by myself,” she thinks, “in my dorm room. About to go to school.”
“Not with that outfit you’re not,” the voice growls.
Rachel blinks again, and Jakes now stood in front of her. “We’re about to go to the club, Rachel. You can’t be looking like that!”
Rachel glances around, and she discovers that she’s outside, at night, surrounded by glowing buildings. Her closet isn’t there anymore.
“But how will I get clothes?”
Jake sucks his teeth. “You know I got cash, Babe. Why you flexin?”
He flashes out his wallet. Rachel tries to hide a smile. She forgot: Jake always feels like he has to expose his bulging wallet with every chance that he has.
“Now buy yourself a baby doll top, some black skinny leggings, and some stilettos. It doesn’t matter what color.” He raises an eyebrow at her. “You do know what stilettos are, right?”
Rachel reaches for the wallet, but once she touches it, she is back in her dorm. It's like the colors quickly bled out around her and melted her back to where she started.
“Alright, baby doll top it is.” She rummages through her closet and stretches on the flimsy fabric. Her breasts look much bigger, and her stomach clenches. She feels so uncomfortable.
But Rachel squeezes on a smile. “It doesn’t matter,” she thinks. “As long as Jake can possibly notice me again.”
“Notice you?” Rachel turns around, and she is now sitting at a booth. French fries fill the air. Jake is slurping a milkshake. Cookies and Cream. That is his favorite.
He puts his arm around her. Rachel leans into him, but he tightens his grip on her. He hisses in her ear, “How can I ever notice you if I can barely see your eyes behind your big glasses?”
“Glasses?” Rachel didn’t even know she had them on. They were previously in her case, closed, in the bathroom this morning.
“I will just take them off,” she reaches to her face, but Jake slaps her hand away. “No. You need them to see, Baby Girl. I’m not stupid. I’m not gonna let you trip and fall into something.
Cuz we know you have really bad eyesight.”
Cheeks burning, Rachel takes a small sip of her Coke that Jake pushes in front of her, and she lowers her eyes.
She knows that she must say something; she can feel the words swimming upwards in her throat, close to the surface of emerging out.
But they plummeted when Jake says, slowly, deliberately, “Put... some...makeup on...now!”
Rachel pushes the hamburger away that a waiter just placed in front of her, and just as she jolts up from her seat, she is back in her dorm.
Hands shaking, she darts to her makeup table and runs a makeup brush along her face. She takes a deep breath to calm herself, and soon she is underwater.
She sees Jake swimming alongside her, and her heart warms, but she needs air. She swims back up, taking more and more breaths.
Jake bursts out shortly after, gets a towel. Rachel holds her hand out for one, but he never gives a towel to her.
“Alright, we had our fun in the pool.”
Jake takes a long swig of a can of beer, then throws it in the sparkling water. “Now you need to go dry your hair and make it look presentable. It’s all tangled and matted.
” He shakes his golden brown hair as if to affirm his point, then he lays on his lounge chair.
Rachel is shivering, but not just because of the icy coldness of the pool.
“But—but I just got out from swimming, and—“ She gestures to several girls walking alongside the white curb of the pool.
“They—they just just got out from swimming—I saw them! And they don’t have to dry their hair or any—“
Jake clamps his hands on Rachel’s shoulders. She turns rigid. He slowly turns her around to face the rest of the young adults there. “Look at those girls. Just look at them!”
Rachel looks. She does see, sees how the girls shimmer and glimmer in the summer sun.
“They are just naturally pretty.”
Jake’s voice tickles her ear, but not in a good way.
“They don’t have to do the extra work that you have to do--to look banging, Girl! You get what I’m saying? So go, and I would straighten my hair if I were you.”
Rachel swallows. It seems like the world is swirling underneath her, but she can’t keep the words buried inside any longer.
They are bursting, jostling each other to come out, and it finally does, in a wet, jumbling rush.
“I am not going to dry my hair I am not going to straighten my hair I am tired from swimming and--”
It seems like the weather is on Jake’s side, for when his face darkens, thunderclouds mysteriously rolls in the sky. His eyes narrow, slicing like thunderbolts, electrifying her.
He takes a menacing step towards Rachel. “See, this is not my fault after all. You deserve all the blame. You wanted this.”
“No I didn’t,” Rachel’s voice is tight, “and you know it.”
Worlds suddenly shift and she is back in her dorm, looking at herself in the mirror. She starts swiping off her makeup, and she is zoomed back to facing Jake again.
“Yes you did.” His trembling hands ball up into fists. “If you had kept yourself up instead of letting yourself waste away…”
“Why are you acting like I’m some old woman?” Miraculously Rachel takes step towards him. “God thinks I look good.
” She vividly recalls what she learned from church last week, and how tears formed in her eyes when the pastor stated that God loved her.
Jake groans. “Why did you have to bring God in this?” He steps closer still until they are nose to nose. One more brief move and their lips could touch.
Rachel’s chest heaves, but she does not feel love. Not this time. "Yes. I said it. God made me the way I am, and I just don't think that it's right...that it's right..."
Rachel shifted to her dorm, and she glances at the picture frame on her dresser. She finally spills out what she has been hiding for months.
"It's not right that you will cheat behind my back...with my sister."
Rachel's legs suddenly flies up under her, and she hears a big splash. Down down down she goes, fast fast fast. Bubbles swirl all around her. She knows that Jake has pushed her.
But he is not off the hook. Not anymore. As far as she knows, Rachel is going to keep holding on, if it means that she has to drag Jake down with her.