[Those triple threats over at the Trifecta Writing Challenge pose challenge number 100 this week, using the third definition of the word "phantom". This is yet another potential fragment of a novel I may or may not write during November, which is almost certainly going to be held after October.]
Em looked at me, her body rigid with anger. She was arguing with a phantom, a version of me that I couldn't recognize. She thought she knew what I felt. I wasn't sure if she did. I wasn't sure if I did.
"You're just jealous," she spat. Her hands were moving in sharp, controlled movements, like she was working a heavy bag.
"I told you, that's not it," I said.
"I told you the rules," she said. "I told you the rules when we met. This is the way I am. I'm wired this way. I can't be any other way. I can't be the way you want me to be."
"I love you, Em," I said.
"You don't," she said. Her lip curled, and her brow furrowed with effort as she tried to fasten her bra behind her back. "You like me. You like my body. You like being with me. But you don't love me. This is part of me. This is who I am. If you loved me, you would know that."
"I do know that, Em."
"You don't. You don't, or you wouldn't have even said that. You wouldn't ask me the question, because you'd know what the answer would be." She took her dress off its hanger, arranging the green and tan fabric on her arms.
"Em, I just want...,"
"You want what? A picket fence? Two dogs? A daughter and a son? PTA meetings? A fucking minivan?"
I didn't say anything. I half knew this was coming, but that didn't make it any easier to hear. Em lowered the dress over herself, pulling and tugging until the fabric fell the way she wanted. She slipped her bare feet into tan heels, stamping once on each foot, making the dress shimmer.
"I have to go," Em said, turning to leave the bedroom.
"I love you," I said.
All I got in reply was the door slamming shut.