It was always something with her. The way I talked or how dinner was made. And then there was that fucking plant. The one she "allowed" me to have in the house. "You know you're going to knock this over, right? And then I'll have to deal with the cleanup and listen to how much you liked that plant and how sad you are that it's gone," she'd said. I don't know why a houseplant was the hill I chose to die on, but I was already making my ascent when the wind began to pick up, so there was no going back. I calmly explained that it gave some life to the room and that I liked the idea of helping something grow. I don't know why she let me win that one. Maybe she saw how she could use that against me in the future. Makes sense. She wasn't just mean; she was manipulative and smart about it.
I don't remember what started the fight this time. I'm sure it was something about food, but I can't remember the details now for the life of me. I just remember the heat in my face, the all too familiar knots in my stomach, and the feeling of finally hitting rock bottom. I, for the first time ever, yelled back. I'd always wanted to calm the situation, avoid adding fuel to her raging fire. But I was finally okay with burning the whole thing down. I knew that yelling back could have been a death knell, and I welcomed it.
In the middle of a particularly rough back and forth, she grew tired of the game and wanted to end it. I saw her eyes move toward that plant, the one thing that was really mine in the house. "Don't," I warned her. She didn't bet that we were both set on destroying something tonight.
As I now sit on the floor, left again to clean up the mess of one of our infamous fights, I'm doing my best to save my plant that has lost its home. I clear away the broken ceramic pieces and gather blood-soaked, loose dirt into a bucket. "I know it's not ideal," I say out loud, "but at least you'll survive another day. The roots are intact, and there is enough dirt to make it into tomorrow when I will find a more suitable home. You'll be in shock, but you'll live to see another day."
"You and I aren't so different," I tell the plant. "We both require patience and care. And tonight, I realize that we both need to bury things deep within the dirt to survive." I then move from caring for my plant to dealing with the mess her body left on the floor.
Melissa Winskill (she/her) is an avid reader and writer of short stories and flash fiction. When she's not writing, she enjoys mountain biking, putting together Star Wars Lego sets, and spending time with her family. Since writing doesn't pay the bills, she teaches science to teenagers during the day.