Riley McCarthy

Riley McCarthy is a first year theatre studies major and creative writing minor at PLU. She’s always used writing therapeutically but is now learning the liberation of sharing her words with others. She’d like to thank her editor and creative writing professor for moving her to write selflessly.

Moving Boxes

Margot had never imagined this would be how her first real relationship would end. “Real relationship,” of course referring to one where she finally found love within another woman, rather than the bearded men she used to bring home to appease her parents. Margot had never known a love like this, so honest and lively. Haven became her entire sun, moon and stars. But when she decided to move out, Margot had no idea how to cope. It had all happened so suddenly, she felt like she didn’t have time to process it, she felt it was easier to convince herself that they were on a break, or that Haven had gone on a trip without access to her phone, any possible excuse she could reason so she wouldn’t have to muster reality. Margot could hardly recognize herself in the mirror anymore. Her time alone in their apartment without another person to share it with had her in a loss of identity. She didn’t know what she wanted, she just wanted to see Haven. So when she did finally reach out to retrieve her things, Margot didn’t bother boxing them up beforehand. She thought if Haven spent enough time here, she could convince her they were still in love, and she wouldn’t have to be alone anymore.

When she knocked on the door, Margots’ body resisted letting her pull it open. Her hand kept flinching away, like it was a hot stove. Just open the damn door, she thought to herself right as she heard five more hurried, pounding knocks coming from the other side, she finally swung it open, and there she was- Haven, her soft, golden curls resting atop her collarbones, her deep brown eyes resembling pools of honey, her usual denim jacket graffitied with patches, her combat boots splattered with paint.

“Are you just gonna stare at me or can you let me in so I can get my stuff?” She said in-between smacks of her signature Extra spearmint flavored chewing gum, letting out a sly grin.

Margot froze for a moment and stuttered, “uh- of course, yes, sorry, come on in, I’m sorry.” When Haven stomped in, the air grew thick and hot, Margots’ face was flushed and felt her cheeks turn red. When she closed the door, the room fell silent as she watched Havens’ eyes begin to wander the room. Her once confident and dismissive attitude faded as the dust settled between them.

“I grabbed a couple boxes from storage when we first moved in, I-I don’t know if you’ll need more or not,” Margot said, trying to break the deadly silence.

“I guess we’ll see how many we’ll need once we start packing,” Haven said as she turned to let out a small smile at Margot. She might as well have melted at her feet, those red lips stretching out into that magnificent smile, god, you look so stupid for still being so in love with her, she thought to herself. But, how could she not? She had grown beside this woman for three years, celebrating milestones together, spending weekends home sick in bed, pushing each other to study and graduate, grieving together, how could that all just be over?

Haven first collected a stack of DVDs, including Call Me By Your Name, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Edward Scissorhands. Margot remembers when they first watched Eternal Sunshine, it was when they had first started dating, around three months or so when Haven brought up her raving obsession with Jim Carrey movies.

. . .

“The guy who plays the grinch?” Margot jokingly said, trying to wrap her head around him possibly being a serious actor. “Okay, laugh all you want,” Haven said as she playfully bumped her arm with the DVD case, “I, for a matter of fact, think he’s a brilliant actor, and as my girlfriend, I think you should watch it with me, no matter how stupid you think it may be.”

“Okay, laugh all you want,” Haven said as she playfully bumped her arm with the DVD case, “I, for a matter of fact, think he’s a brilliant actor, and as my girlfriend, I think you should watch it with me, no matter how stupid you think it may be.”

Margots’ heart skipped a beat, “Girlfriend?”

“Well, yeah” Haven said, “I’m sorry if that was going too far, it’s just that we’ve been seeing each other for a couple months, and I figured-” She was interrupted as Margot leaned in, lightly grasped the back of Havens’ head, and kissed her.

Margot gently pulled away and smiled, “I would love to be your girlfriend.” Haven leaned in for another kiss as they fell together softly wrapped up in a fluffy duvet on the scratched up leather surface of her thrifted couch.

. . .

“It’s okay if I take these, right?” Haven said, already prompting to drop them in the box.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Margot said, holding her throat as it began to scratch up, “you brought them over here, anyway.” She fought back tears swelling in her eyes, but she wouldn’t let Haven see her this upset now.

Haven continued on her hunt rather quickly and didn’t seem to have as much of an emotional attachment to the objects as Margot did. All she could focus on were the countless Sundays of waking up before Haven so she could try and make chocolate chip pancakes to bring to her while she was still in bed. She never could get it just right, though. Her rustling through the kitchen always seemed to wake up Haven to come mozing into the kitchen in her underwear and glasses, trying to help with the technical skill of flipping the dough just right.

Before Margot could catch herself, Haven picked up her second box and was already making her way down the hallway to the bedroom. She stood in the door frame as Haven rummaged through dresser drawers, picking up t-shirts and blouses, throwing jeans and socks she had left behind into the box. She suddenly paused when she saw the jewelry. Margot watched as she carefully picked each item up to separate it from the rest. Haven let out a small gasp and picked up a golden chain with a tiny round pendant with an engraved mountain landscape dangling at the bottom to present, “Do you remember giving this to me?” she said as she smiled and tried to hold back a few tears.

Margot felt a sigh of relief, “Yes, of course I do. We were together for one year, and I took you on a ferry up to Valentino Pier. We ate expensive seafood that we definitely couldn’t afford, and when the sun started to set, I handed you the box with the necklace inside, which I had asked them to engrave-”

“-Haven is a place on Earth with you,” Haven finished the sentence, looking over her shoulder at Margot, reminiscent.

Margot laughed, “So stupid.”

“Not to me, it wasn’t,” Haven smiled, “I swear, I wore it every day for a month,” She held it for a moment longer, and then there it went, dropped into the box. For a moment, everything felt like it would be okay. “Think this is everything?” she said, presenting the box to Margot. What was inside felt like a museum of their history together- rainbow flags from the pride parade, three inch heels she had insisted on wearing to a night out dancing, only to drunkenly twirl and walk barefoot after only wearing them for a couple hours, the Polaroid camera she loved to capture tiny moments on film with, her collection of poetry books, her vinyl records they had searched for in countless downtown shops, her embroidery kit, the sock monkeys Margot had learned to sew from scratch and kept surprising her with, leaving them in various hiding places around their small apartment. Looking at it all together in one space made it seem so much less significant than she had imagined. Is this really all there was? Margot thought as her eyes began to frantically search the room, looking for anything else she could declutter and add to this grave of their relationship. “What about this lamp?” Margot asked, unplugging it from behind the bedside table, “It was the first thing you bought when you moved in. You were always saying the lighting here was too bright, anyway.”

“Oh, I think I’ll be okay,” Haven said, “Sawyer has plenty of lamps at his place.”

“Sawyer?” said Margot, feeling her heart begin to pound.

Haven fell silent, tightly grasped the cardboard box in her arms, and started to walk toward the hallway to leave.

Suddenly everything aligned in Margots’ head, the truth she had been dreading and what tied her stomach in knots. While Haven was bisexual, Margot was never the jealous or worried type- She trusted Haven and wasn’t threatened by the people she acquainted herself with at work or when she was on shoots. So when Sawyer was hired at her photography firm, a young, sleazy metalhead straight out of college whose primary skill was photographing half naked girls in black and white film, Margot had thought nothing of it. They had laughed about him together, Haven ranting about his lack of work ethic and his cocky mannerisms he carried around the office.

Her eyes started to sting and water as she followed Haven down the hall, “Haven!” She said, in a plea to get her to stop for a moment.

Haven quickly turned around, her curls bouncing off of her shoulders and her eyes bloodshot like a deer in headlights. Margot let the moment sit, desparate and angry, not knowing what to say, but knowing she was angry, “Please do not tell me you moved in with your fucking intern.”

Havens voice croaked as she blotted her eyes with her denim sleeve, “I didn’t want you to find out this way.”

“And which way was I supposed to find out?” Margot’s voice raised, she stared at Haven, needing answers, but her eyes just fell to the floor, she felt her muscles tense up as she watched the love of her life leave in front of her, “How long have you been seeing him?”

Haven inhaled, “A couple of months now,” she said, bringing her eyes back up to meet with Margot.

Margot felt the air grow thick between them, she was taken back into overthinking every aspect of the last two months of their relationship, everything made sense now- her “late nights” at the office, the Led Zeppelin t-shirt, her picking up smoking again, growing physically distant from her. She would wake up on Sunday mornings to the smell of pancakes, but instead of sleepily helping flip them, she would just get dressed and brush her teeth. Everything between them seemed to grow apart when he was hired. She stopped holding Margot at night, when she kissed her goodbye, she seemed to flinch and cringe.

The sleepless streets of Brooklyn fell silent for what seemed like just for them, she finally stopped holding back her tears and let one drip down her chin, “You cheated on me?” She said, in an almost inaudible whisper.

Haven sniffled, and traced her eyes back to the floor as she allowed herself to spill out a few tears.

Reality came to a halt with Margo, as she stood there clutching her bedroom lamp, she grew enraged and couldn’t stop imagining them together- her beautiful, tattooed skin wrapped around his scrawny doodle graffitied body. The names he must be calling her, “babe,” such a lazy term of affection that she deserved more than. Her palms grew sweaty as she gripped the lamp tighter, creating a slippery surface among the giant, glass oval teal base, she couldn’t get it out of her head. Will he take stripped pictures of her in his bed? Has she already posed for them? What if it was in our bed, when I was gone? Does he degrade her? Why is she with him? Are they using protection? Has she talked about me? Does he even know about me? Why are you still holding onto this stupid lamp? Margot mustered all of her strength and threw the lamp against the hardwood floor. It almost seemed to explode in slow motion, the glass cascaded into a million tiny pieces that flew up into the air like glitter, only to fall back down to be broken again.
Haven wiped her tears, “This is exactly why I felt like I couldn’t tell you,” she said, stacking her boxes atop each other.

“Wait, Haven, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that!” Margot said, running over to her, but the glass shards were too sharp and cut through her socks. Fuck! “Are you okay? Did any glass cut you?” She said, reaching a hand out to Havens’ shoulder.

“Margot, I’m fine” said Haven as she opened the door with her free hand.

“Stop!” shouted Margot, “This isn’t fair, you shouldn’t get to just walk away from what we have!”

“I already have!” Haven said as she let go of the doorknob, “I’m sorry this is hard for you to process, but I’ve already moved on, I think you should too, Margot.”

“Please,” said Margot as she felt the rush from her head calm down, her voice was softer now, she didn’t want to be angry, “Please don’t leave me, Haven. I don’t think I know who I am without you.”

Haven gulped and reached for the doorknob, “Then I think that’s something you need to figure out.” And with that, she was gone.

Margot was left with the shattered remains of their relationship cutting the bottom of her feet, slivers in her hair, and cuts on her fingers. She sank down onto the cold, hard floor in awe of the ghosts that remained as the cuts dug deeper. With all of Havens’ things gone, the apartment felt cold and lifeless. Even the plants in the window were beginning to wilt away. She had never been a plant person, and had trouble keeping them alive. She only had them now because Haven wanted to liven up the living space. It seemed like nearly everything in her apartment coaxed Haven’s hobbies and interests. Have I really let myself be that much of a sponge? Margot slowly let herself stand, careful not to put any more pressure on her cut foot. She stumbled over to the bathroom and picked out the glass shards. She found the hydrogen peroxide and poured it down as she winced and screamed in pain. She wrapped a bandage around her sole and applied pressure. She made her way into the entryway, finding a broom and dustpan, and scavenging every possible sprinkle that could have flown its way into the surrounding spaces. She scooped them up, and poured them into the trash. She walked up to a mirror and paused. For the first time in three years, she felt like she was finally seeing herself. Her evergreen forestry eyes piercing through the reflection, her dark hair sitting above her shoulders, the way her red cheeks burned even in the coolest of days. Margot smiled, “we’re going to be alright.”