The door opened so hard it slammed into the wall. Sira jumped at the sound, but didn't stir herself from the blanket cocoon she'd worked herself into on her bed. She was pretending that the world beyond didn't exist or had been until the world decided she couldn't hide away any longer.
"Sira Elizabeth Ardal," said a stern female voice. "You get your skinny ass out of that bed right now. We are going to the bar."
Sira grunted. "You can't make me."
"Carly!" Sira jumped again at the yelling. "She thinks we can't make her!" The other girl was clearly shouting to someone outside of the room. Sira picked out at least three distinct laughs, but she already knew how many of them had shown up. Her emotions were raw, and it took a great deal of effort to keep theirs from bleeding in. She hadn't yet learned how to create the wall and push them out.
"Sira," said a second voice. "You can't hide away forever! Do you even know how many classes you've missed?"
The lump that was Sira grumbled. Another set of footsteps indicated a third person had joined the first two inside the room.
"We're going to have to just pull her out," the third girl said. The other two agreed in a murmur. Sira strained to hear what they were saying, but it was all hushed whispers that didn't carry far. She didn't have long to fret about what they were up to, because suddenly three sets of hands had grabbed on to her blanket and hauled her straight out of the bed. There was a brief struggle where she tried to regain control of the covers that the girls pried from around her. Then there was a chorus of gasps.
"Why are you wearing that!?"
"Oh, my, god, you still have that thing?"
Only two of her friends vocalized their disappointment in her attire, the third just shook her head. The three of them were as varied as people could get, the first in the room had been Ashley, the tall blond whose pony tail was swaying with her disapproving gesture. Carly, the petite red head was also tapping her foot. And Michelle the mixed-race tom boy with short shorn, aqua blue hair.
Sira looked down at herself, then wrapped her arms protectively around the red flannel shirt. "It smells like him," she said in a wavering voice. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying, and more tears threatened to break. Before the first drop could roll down her blotchy cheek the three girls were on the floor with her and had piled into a big group hug. All the while she cried they consoled and urged her to let it all out. She'd been all cried out long before they had shown up, so it wasn't long before she was just sniffling with her face buried into one of their shoulders. It was hard to tell which.
"We should burn it." That was Michelle in a matter-of-fact voice. The other girls added their chorus of approval, but Sira was shaking her head adamantly.
"I can't do that!" She said on the edge of panic.
"Sure you can," Carly had told her. "If he can just dump you like that, you can burn his shirt." The other girls agreed. Girl power, and all that.
"He didn't dump me, we broke up with each other," Sira tried to reason with them. They'd had this conversation before, it was no use. It was a lie and they all knew it. "He'll always be my first love..." She burst into tears again and the girls tried to lure her out of her sadness.
It had just been a memory, not one of her vivid dreams. It didn't matter to Sira as it felt no different. Those dreams were like she was back in the past. In the present silent tears made wet trails down her cheeks to drip off her chin and onto the shirt in her lap.
That had been years ago, back in the beginning of her second year of undergrad. She and Liam had been dating since almost the first day of high school and she always thought they'd be together forever. He had spent the summer before the semester started off with his friends doing charity work in South America. He admitted that while he was there he had 'hooked up' with a girl in the group, but that they hadn't had sex. Sira forgave the indiscretion, then a few weeks later he wanted to take a break.
Over the next year Liam had gone off and dated more girls that she cared to keep track of. Though she relented to being dragged out to parties and bars (with fake IDs) by her friends, she never dated anyone else. Liam was the only boy she had ever kissed. They promised their junior year to save themselves for marriage, and Sira kept to that.
Winter break the next year he had come crawling back, begging for Sira to forgive him. And she had. He was her first and only love and she was blind to her senses. She always was when it had come to Liam.
He had proposed their senior year, and they got married before she started med school. Originally she had been planning on going to Harvard as her first choice, but Liam hadn't wanted to leave NYC, so she went to Columbia instead. Still, the strain on their relationship during that time was real. Between her course work, the long hours spent at clinicals, then internships, and him working at his father's company as well, they barely saw each other. They barely had time to be intimate after their honeymoon. She knew it'd get better once she was done with her last residency and had transitioned into a real staff position.
That chance never came along, that life was not hers to claim. She doubted it was ever more than an illusion.
She frowned down at the shirt, rubbed the well-worn fabric between her fingers. It was one of very few items she had from her old life. Back when she was a very different person. She had been open, warm, well-liked. Trusting. That shirt had reminded her of the person she had been and it had brought her peace.
"How long did you know?" She asked the shirt, like it knew the answers only its original owner could tell. "You seemed so surprised when I told you."
The shirt couldn't talk back. It couldn't tell her what she wanted to know, and it couldn't protest when she tossed it into the flames crackling merrily away in her fireplace. It may have been years, but she was finally taking Michelle's suggestion.
He'd still always be her first and maybe only love.
She wouldn't hesitate to kill him if she got the chance.