Bedlam IV: Womanhood In Bloom and A Dying Adolescence


A continuation of Bedlam III: Manhood Like A Weapon. The completion of Bedlam.

The flavor of her still coated the sharp edges of his tongue, the hard roof of his mouth. Sucking last night from his fingers, memory sparked with sensations; her nipples in between rows of reckless teeth. Lips glistening and pressed against an eager mouth. Smirking. Excitement of this newborn recollection concentrated in his loins. Now he was really awakened, sprouting from muddled morning into magnificent mid-day.

Standing over the kitchen sink he doused his face with cold water, slid soaked fingers through unnaturally blonde waves, he was rising. Out of the kitchen window he could see Christ intently grazing on crabgrass. Fingers rattled the glass but his efforts for the goat’s attention went ignored.

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

“Fuck you, Christ.”

“Leave him. All you ever does is hurt him, anyway.”

Somewhere between womanhood in bloom and a dying adolescence, she wore a stained lilac, baby doll dress and poorly applied eyeshadow.

“Fuck him,” He said, turning to face her “What in the…”

Laughter. Hesitant at first. Intrusive eventually. Her nose wrinkled up and she crossed her arms.

“What?”

“You look like a God damn clown,” He straightened his posture and walked towards her “This your idea of pretty?”

He licked his thumb, rubbed it against the falsely red apples of her cheeks.         Twisting her head, she pulled away.

“Don’t!”

“Where’d you get make-up?”

She tilted her chin down, irises lifting up beneath the arches of brown brows.

“Go wash your fucking face off. Nobody’s gonna want you looking like a fucking drag queen.”

“You’d know, wouldn’t you…”She muttered, beginning to turn away.

“What’d you say?”

Reticent, her spirit withdrew and in her chest there grew a quiver. He crept onto her and hovered, a shadow cast, hand falling onto her shoulder.

“I said, what the fuck did you say?”

Empty air.

“I’m gonna ask you one more time…”

“I…I was just sayin’,” Her voice nothing more than a whisper “That’s what…that’s what Roy said last time he was here.”

“Roy said what?”

“Nothin’.”

Hand remained resting on her arm.

“H, he said he saw you…in the barn. Joey Jr. was crying…an–”

“And?”

“I saw his busted lip…and Roy said he heard–”

“And you gonna believe that toothless fucker?”

“You’re hurting me.”

He looked at his hand, fingers that he had not added any force to. He released, though a steely expression held on tightly.

“…Go wash that mess off of your face before–”

A knock at the door.

 Go.

Dashing towards the dilapidated stairway leading to the upstairs, she was out of sight before the knocking came to a pause.

“Hey, Alex.”

Alex leaned into the doorway, folding his arms, a quick head nod in response.

“How ya’ been?”

“Where’s the money, Conway?”

He stared at the lanky fellow dressed in his Sunday’s best which fell short, somewhere between Thursday and Friday. Alex smirked at the sight of his comb over and flicked the checkered clip-on tie he wore.

Anxious were Conway’s leathery hands while digging into his pocket, re-emerging with a wad of crinkled bills.

“Now, Conway…you know I like my money like I like my apples.”

“Yes, yes, I was gettin’ to it.”

Fat, wet fingers gripped both ends of a single bill before pressing the mid-section against the edge of the chipping doorway, sliding it back and forth until it was somewhat smoothed out, semi-curled on both ends. This act was repeated with each bill before they were handed to Alex who counted out loud in front of him.

“Alright,” He slipped the cash into his pocket “You know the routine.”

The living room was dim even with the aged curtains drawn, as the windows were layered in history; a film of dust, dirt, and smudged handprints made it a battle for the full effect of noon to slip through. The carpet was matted and you couldn’t tell if it was originally gray or if it had matured into the shade with age.

Conway eased himself onto the sinking loveseat, straightened his back, placed his hands on his lap and avoided any eye contact. Analyzing the particulars of the non-working television that sat on unkempt carpet; he knew this because he asked if he could watch television while he waited, the first time he was over.

“You get lost this time, Conway?”

“Oh no, not this time,” an uncomfortable laugh “You guys just, you live so far out, the drive is tricky.”

“Yeahhh, yeah it is but you always seem to find your way back, huh?”

“Yes, yes, I do.”

“You aren’t tired of it yet?”

“Say what?”

“I said, you aren’t tired of it yet? I mean,you don’t ever want something new? Something you gotta work at taking?”

He didn’t respond. His expression was curious as he glanced at Alex and as their eyes met his excitement dropped down to his ankles. That memorable smirk was smeared across Alex’s face again.

“I’ll be right back. Make yourself comfortable.”

Upstairs he heard running water in the bathroom sink. As he passed by she was hunched down, splashing handfuls of water onto her face and rubbing vigorously. In his bedroom he could feel the heat rising as he entered, browsed around as if this were his first time there; all of the objects ancient artifacts.

Clothing like litter; wrinkled, stained, not all of it his. Something glimmered, caught his eye and he approached it slowly.

Leaning over he realized it was a polaroid photograph. His fingers were gentle, drawing it nearer to his eyes. A picture of a girl. The diamond shape of her face, slopes of her cheekbones, allure of her stare. He knew her from somewhere. The hair. A kind of reddish color.

His erection became uncomfortable and he shifted his weight onto his right leg, trying to adjust. This was when he realized who he was looking at. His jeans grew tighter.

“Can I have some before you go?”

The shoulders seemed a little broad for a girl, the frame of the body a bit too slim near the hips.

“…Yeah, sure, but don’t get fucking greedy again.”

Thoughts about how his skin felt, how his moans sounded. Throaty and hard? No, no, he was too delicate. Something softer, quieter. Probably just tiny whimpers.

“Did you move it?”

He flipped the photo over. An address– smudged, but he could more or less make it out.

“Move it? No…it should be under the bed.”

He turned to see her on her hands and knees next to his mattress on the floor, the bottom drawer to a senescent bed stand opened and as empty as her stare.

“It’s not in here either.”

“Move,” He pushed her aside, yanking the drawer out completely and throwing it onto the fabric covered floor “Fuck!”

The picture drifted onto the mattress as he shoved the bed across the floor, the sheets tearing away and falling through the air before settling among chaos. Alex kicked the bed stand over, slammed his palms into his forehead, too disgruntled to feel it sting.

“Fucking bitch!”

In a haste, he grabbed a t-shirt from a pile of clothing and a denim jacket hanging from the closet doorknob before silently exiting. She came out from cowering in a nearby corner, her eyes on the doorway as her hand elevated over his mattress, over the picture he had dropped. Fear bubbled, rose up from her gut the same way vomit does. She couldn’t resist and she looked at the moment, the person captured within this glossy, square material. Slowly her mouth opened.

“Marnie!” Conway’s voice yanked her from thoughts.

“Y,yeah?”

“Your brother just stormed outta the driveway like a bat outta hell! He has my money!… Can I come upstairs now?”

Tearing the photo into big chunks she walked quickly to the bathroom, the bits sticking to her moist palms. Tearing them from her flesh as fast as she could she flushed them down the toilet, watched them submerge in the rapid swirling, imagined they were going directly to a fiery world nobody could see. Standing there she thought about Joey Jr.

“I’m ready for ya’, Marnie!”

“..C,come on up, Conway.”

Speeding, one hand on the steering wheel, occasionally taking his eyes off of the road to glimpse at the trees, the sun. His trust should’ve been handled more cautiously, he thought. This was the only time he’d ever brought a girl home and her actions secured his intuition as to why he should never.

Completely confident he was going to get it back, he edged her coy grin away and tried to place undivided attention on the road. It was stupid on her part to think she’d successfully steal anything from him and be able to keep it.

“They’re all fucking stupid,” he muttered, peering through his shattered windshield.

The festering emotion rumbled deep in him as he stared at the bladed edges of the broken glass; the surprise he came across that afternoon as he stormed out of the front door. He reached for the radio.

“All I needed was a friend to lend a guiding hand

But you turned into a lover and

Mother what a lover, you wore me out

All you did was wreck my bed

and in the morning kick me in the—“

Off, off! His muttering morphing into a low growl and then nothing more than pursed lips.

They looked like artifacts, these worn tapestries he hid his body beneath but they were more. His armor, his shield, his fortress, and he lay, contorted into a ball of hot flesh, his anxiety creeping nearby. He hushed his breathing as best he could but with bony kneecaps digging into his little chest and arms twisted around his legs, this was nothing less than an impossibility.

Eyelids shut so tight it felt like the skin on his forehead had stretched so that if he opened his eyes it would hang loosely over his brows, blocking his view. His breathing was still too heavy. Out. In. Out. In. Out…In…Out. In. Out….In. Out…In. Out…

He could hear his little sister from down the hall. Poorly formulated words slipping from her loose tongue and limited word choice. Something about daddy? About candy?

“No, girl—can’t have no candy for breakfast! Go back to sleep.”

She slept in the room with their mother, in a tarnished cradle she had outgrown last year. Mother didn’t want her in her bed, though. She didn’t want her to begin with.

Now in the hallway, his mother, her voice still distant.

Images of a show he had watched at one of his friends house some time ago, conjured into his thinking; he couldn’t recall the names but he saw the face. He recollected the mother and father, Mr. And Mrs. Keaton, and how nice they were to their three children, even though the children seemed to him, undeserving. They were ungrateful. Why couldn’t he be one of those kids so he could have a mom and a dad? He’d love it, coming home every day to a real bed and cabinets filled with food. A mom who asks you questions about what you did today and where you wanted to go. He never saw Mrs. Keaton climb into bed with her kids on Saturday mornings.

He could hear the floorboards moan. The ritual had begun and she was making her way down the hall. Wishing was immediate. He wished they lived in a home with corridors, no, with wings, so this walk would take longer, so it may never end, but her hand on the doorknob left that dream in shambles.

Alex clenched his body tightly, felt his muscles tense, pressed himself as flat as he could onto the worn out mattress on the floor. The body heat beneath this self-made fortress was suffocating and as he desperately yearned to whip the blankets from over his face he allowed himself to be absorbed by the warmth, his body seemingly feeling less heavy, less aware.

What about that orphan girl in that film he saw in that theater he snuck into. A face that only a mother could love, he thought, but she didn’t even have a mother. She kept singing that obnoxious song he grew to hate as the movie progressed, but he couldn’t bring himself to creep into a different screening. Her life somehow shifted with the same ease of his emotion; into something he found himself craving, so intensely that he despised her; her curly red hair, her voice, her freckles, the new clothes she wore, everything. Why was her life better than his? What did she do to earn that?

His fortress was torn apart as the blankets were torn away to expose his stomach, his pelvis, his long, skinny legs.

“Not even twelve yet and already, you’re just like your bastard daddy.”

The air was cool against his skin, almost like a breeze had swept through this cramped, dark room. I wonder if she’s on an island somewhere, now, after making all of that money from the movie.

That wet, warm awkward sensation. Those muffled sounds. He didn’t think he could close his eyelids any tighter as the itchy fabric clung to his face.

Alex took the jacket off and gave it a once over. It was too big to belong to him but as quickly as he realized this, he wrapped the sleeves around his waist, slipped his hunting knife into his right jean pocket, and slowly approached the front of the house he had parked outside of.

The door was opened but the screen was closed.

“Hello,” he called out “‘Scuse me, is anybody home?”

Volume on the television was blaring and from where he stood he could make out the patterns on the faded linoleum in the kitchen, a dining room table covered in newspapers, and empty baby formula containers spread across the counter tops.

“Yes, yes! Who is it?”

Approaching the door at a glacial pace, a corpulent woman with a round, rosy face, a baby squished between her right arm and cleavage.

“Hello miss, how’re you doin’ this afternoon?” He said in his most affable tone.

The tiniest flicker in her eyes. He smiled.

“I’m well, and how are you today, young man?” That scowl she originally sported twisted itself into a grin.

“Oh, I’m well, I’m well. I actually stopped by to see if Mia was here.”

“Mia,” her budding tone withered, went flat “What for?”

“She told me to meet her here. She took somethin’a mine without asking. I may be a little early,” He looked over his shoulder, pretending to search for her “But if you wouldn’t mind, maybe I could…wait inside, Mrs–?” He raised a brow.

“…Miss. Just call me Miss Daphne.”

“Ah, a miss. How didn’t I guess.”

Opening the screen door she shifted her body out of the way so he could enter her space while she held it open. Once inside, he glanced around. Pots, pans, grease stains on the wall behind the stove, a lot cleaner than he was used to.

“Do you know where Mia is?”

“No. That girl’s barely ever here.”

“Yeah?”

“Mhm, bet she’s probably out and about with some guy.”

Envy. He could hear it through her allusion, her passive lie. Mia hadn’t slept around. The droplets of blood on his sheets that morning told him so.

“Say, you know where she is now?”

“No, I don’t know where she is now.” The frustration in her tone was as blatant as her contempt.

“You know when she’ll be back?”

Focused, he drowned out the sound of her babbling, listened through the television that seemed to be shouting now, through her heavy breathing, through the insects chirping out back, he listened intensely to the hum of the house, for creaks, for footsteps. None.

“No, God damnit, I ain’t her God damn keeper or–”

The wall made a solid thud as her head slammed into it, his forearm pressed into her neck, six silver inches glistening in strips of sunlight slipping through the screen door.

The baby began to cry as it squirmed on the floor and as Daphne’s arms flailed in terror, her eyes bulged, big white circles amid reddening flesh.

The tip of the knife dug into the side of her neck, a pool of blood seeping to the surface, slowly.

“Listen, you fat fuck– where the fuck… is Mia? I’m not playing games, I will open you like a deer and leave you here. STOP…moving.”

Shock was instant, welled wet in the corners of her eyes. He didn’t know if they sprouted from fear, from lack of air, or a combination of the two, but he lessened the pressure of his forearm so she could speak.

Gasping, her initial reaction was to put her hands on his arms, dig her nails into his skin, but she was stunned and all too aware of his power. All she had was feeble trust he’d allow her to catch her breath, to speak.

The crying hadn’t stopped. The infant wriggled and occasionally shrieked but couldn’t crawl very far, couldn’t do much other than make noise.

“Please, please don’t hurt me,” She coughed up “D,don’t hurt me.”

“Answer the question,” he held the blade in place.

“I told you, I, I,”  They came flooding from her eyes, the tears “I don’t know…I don’t know where she is. She don’t listen to me, she don’t listen t,to anybody.”

“So,” He leaned into her “That your final answer?”

“Oh God, God, I swear to–” that pressure into her neck again, but briefly this time.

Stepping back some, he looked at her, back against the wall, hair disheveled, the right strap of her flowery sundress hanging off her slouching shoulder.

On her breasts she could feel his hands. Her eyes shut and her crying slowly became uncontrollable, her and her baby’s sobs bursting from their lungs in a horrible harmony.

Hot breath in her ear, she turned her head away but it did no good.

“Mama,” a child’s voice carried down the stairs.

“S,stay upstairs, Jude! Stay upstairs! Go to your room!”

“Mamaaa,” His voice was lowered, sad as it trailed off, the sound of a door closing cutting the extended ahh sound off.

Teeth gripped her lobe hard, tugging, she yelped.

“Say you love me,” He whispered, rushing to tug the hemline of her dress upward.

“Wha, wha–”

“I said say it!”

“I–I,” choking on her own breath, unable to swallow everything that was becoming reality “I love you…”

“I know you do. I know you do.”

The night preceding that morning was a blissful haze with moments of pain dispersed through out. Fangs plunging, he ate her. He ate her self-control, her better judgment, her worry, her questions, her body; all of Mia had been devoured and her feelings, like the dust that follows a wild stampede, had not settled.

At certain moments she believed she was relieved that it had happened; she finally got it over with. Shortly thereafter the overwhelm of disgust, of contempt and anger colliding with one another in her chest, in her core.

There were horror stories other girls had told her. Blood soaked sheets, awkward rhythms, and cutting pain—but for the most part, she hadn’t experienced much of that. The real red hadn’t been spilt until he told her to leave that morning. Not that she had expected to stay, but it was his clumsy choice of words, his nonchalant approach, as if she were no longer of use to him. Intrigue she once had mysteriously diminished.

Question after question materialized from cluttered thought as she trekked beneath umbrage, heels in one hand, brown bag in the other. What about him was so enticing, sucked her in even when she knew better? This uncanny magnetism she supposed. The same way Pink Bikini Top was seduced by him, the same way all of the guys at the trailer park, younger and older, clamored for his attention and acknowledgement, like children who just learned a new trick they needed to impress their parents with.

Mia wasn’t like the others. He came after her. She allowed him to do so. She let herself become caught up in his rapture. This was not ego, she assured herself, but simply how the series of events unfolded. To suddenly be regarded as some prosaic creature did not sit well with her.

No strong hands slipping over her shoulder, cradling her out of slumber. It was an abrasive yank of the arm, back and forth, that pulled her into the new day. Clothes tossed atop her blanketed lap and no exchange of words. Perplexed, quietly she slid off of the bed and slipped into the same attire from last night, every so often stealing peeks of his shirtless torso and stoney face. She wasn’t there to him, or he wasn’t there with her, either way the absence was palpable.

Gone. His footsteps down aging stairs. The sound of each step penetrating her, solidifying the distance growing between the two who were intertwined just hours ago.

Scouring the disheveled room for her heels as her search extended her agitation increased. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. On her hands and knees she crawled, pushing soiled socks and loose leaf pieces of crumpled paper aside, and eventually she spotted it. Underneath his bed, immersed in unwashed jeans and empty liquor bottles, a brown paper bag.

It was loud, conspicuous even, because unlike everything else in that home, it was unharmed, untainted. The folds were crisp and even, there was no wrinkle to be found on the smooth, light brown surface. Leaning inward, arm extending to the point of discomfort, her fingertips rubbed it, pinched the top. When pulling it forward she discovered it to be far heavier than expected.

Looking to the doorway, she paused and listened for anything stirring nearby before opening the bag. She released the smallest gasp.

 There has to be at least two ounces of coke in here.

Folding the top of the bag back delicately, she continued to search for her shoes. Oddly, she now found them with ease after this new uncovering. Her heels were on and she was down the stairs and out of the front door without being noticed.

Face to face with that car, sitting beneath the shade of a black oak tree like the bad omen it was. Instincts told her not to get inside, not to be anywhere near it, but the gleam of that metal, like the gleam in his eye, proved too persuasive. Not a cotton cloud in the sky and still it looked like a vehicle that could drive you to your grave.

Standing there, the anger became more than she could contain. The brown, paper bag hit the ground once she eyed the biggest rock she could find.    Storming towards the vehicle she thought about the fantasies she had been fed last night, about souvenirs her mother would leave behind, about the litany of disappointments she had been forced to nurse into resentment, and Mia’s aging rage was released once that jagged rock was hurled. Like a bullet it cut through his windshield and as it shattered, she remembered just moments ago, him standing there in his bedroom, shirtless and stoney. Broken just like the tinted glass sparkling on the cushions of his front seats.

Nearing her sister’s house the usual sight she was greeted by seemed peculiar.  The blinds were drawn which was odd given the time of day and the door was closed. Even more unusual was the clothing scattered about the front porch and as she climbed the creaking steps she processed that these skirts, shoes, this make-up, it all belonged to her.

She pulled at the screen door’s handle. Locked.

 Knock

 Knock

 Knock knock knock knock–

The door opened but only enough to see a sliver of Daphne’s face.

“You get. Get away from my home–NOW.”

“Daphne, what the hell?”

“GO…Mia.”

“What do you mean go? Why is my shit all over the porch, what the hell is your problem? I didn’t do anything!”

Mia’s confusion was sincere and as she looked hard into Daphne’s only visible eye something in her shifted, became uncomfortable. She’d not seen a look like this before, even during the middle of a battle of words or a physical tug-of-war.

“Trouble follows you everywhere you go, little girl. No good ever comes from you. You’re smart, you’re beautiful, but that isn’t enough for you. You gotta destroy every single thing you get in your mitts.This the last straw, and I–”

“What is the last straw? I haven’t done anything!”

“You,” Daphne screeched, a glossy look coming over her eye “You…get the hell away from here and don’t you dare come back!”

With that, the door slammed, the front porch shook. The hard metallic cling of the lock. Standing in the remnants of the moment that had passed, What in the hell?

A chorus of chanting birds were close by, making him a little less worried about the decision. Sitting on a tree stump behind his home, Saint clutched the train ticket, re-reading the words on its front as if they could dissipate at any given time, reverting this pass to a new world into useless paper.

NAME OF GUEST

GORETTI, SAINT M.

FROM

BELLOWS FALLS, VT

TO

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY

DEPARTURE

11 OCT 92

The train was scheduled to depart the next night, Sunday, October 11, just five days prior to the day that would mark his sixteenth year. His father would make a big deal of his arrival and they’d throw a jubilant bash celebrating his birthday, the way they had done years ago before his mother drove him off.

He’d have to venture out of the state to get to the nearest station in Bellows Falls. It was how he obtained the tickets, the night before. Hitchhiking wasn’t something he enjoyed but doing so was nothing strange to him. He had done it every so often since he had turned twelve because some places were just too far to get to with your feet on the ground.

Bible on his lap, he had been reading and praying simultaneously, for forgiveness. Yesterday he lied to the ticket seller when photo ID had been requested.

I was visiting my mother, she’s been ill. I lost it…but I have to get back to Poughkeepsie soon, I’ve already missed too much school. There was a softness to her as she stood behind the counter listening attentively. Saint felt all the more terrible for using deceit, but he promised himself, promised God he’d change once he arrived in Poughkeepsie to be his father’s son again.

 I wonder if he’s still at the address on the birthday card from when No temptation has overtaken you that is I turned fourteen I could maybe not common to man God is faithful, and he go to a police station and tell them I need help and he will not let you be tempted beyond why did she do this? It isn’t fair I feel guilty for going to him leaving her your ability, but with the temptation I can’t stay here selling myself afraid of her this fucking failed court system he will also provide the way of escape, that what if he moved I can’t come back here be able to I won’t endure it.

Wings passing through air, the birds let out high pitched twee-twee-twee-twee-twee as they fled from wavering tree branches. Startled, squinting at the sun in his eye he tried to catch them cascading against azure that made sky but they had gone.

“Hey, Saint. How ya’ doin’?”

His body reacted to the sound before processing the words and he leapt from the makeshift seat, his bible spiraling before thumping onto dirt and matted grass. Hand tight around his key to a new life he quickly shoved the ticket into his back pocket.

There stood the boy from the marketplace, but not as a boy. With posture so stiff, the way the shadows cast by tree branches and turning autumn leaves, dripped into the curl of his upper lip, the slight bags under his eyes, perhaps he was closer to being a man.

Repeating himself, he walked nearer and Saint’s words were not offered but thought over thoroughly and selected with great detail in case they were necessary at any point soon to come.

“You’ve always been shy, huh? Say, you know, uh, you know Mia, don’t you?”

Nodding, as this body drew nearer it repelled Saint, like similar magnetic poles, and he began to back up.

“Well, I’ve been looking for her all day and I, I can’t track her down,” That simper flashed “Do you know where she is?” He came to a stop.

Saint was unsure how he knew the two knew one another and the more he pondered, it became clear that he had no idea how this man found out where he lived.

“Why are you here?”

“I told you…I’m looking for Mia.”

“Did she tell you to come here?”

“No.”

“Then…why are you here?”

He tightened the denim jacket sleeves around his waist, sent his fingers briskly through those tousled, bleached tendrils.

“Are you scared of me?”

“…No.”

He darted towards Saint, watched his eyes bulge, color leap from his face, as he gasped and backed away as quickly as he could with horror-stricken limbs. Alex stopped, laughed a little, rubbed his thumb against his bottom lip.

“Ya’ sure seem scared of me.”

An uneasiness spread along his collarbone then to his neck, his belly, his shoulders, his legs and hands. Like he had swallowed fire, a heat permeated from his bowels, sent discomfort into his stomach, a burning along the back of his throat. Beads of sweat decorated the corners of his forehead, the palms of his hands. His feign of confidence was crumbling with every slam of his heart against his chest and though he tried his best, he couldn’t keep concealed the terror that followed Alex, that was scorching through him.

“So, you don’t know where she is…Guess I’ll just wait here till she comes.”

“…Go away,” was frail, shaky.

“What’s that?” Alex chuckled “Say, while I wait. I saw a picture of you. I didn’t know it was you at first but then I remembered…I saw you walking the day before in that same white dress. So I look at this picture, I look at it and says, isn’t that pretty girl the fag I see all the time.”

Widening, nostrils, he could feel them sucking in as much air as his lungs could hold, trying to calm his body, to create some sense of ease. He could scream, but Mama might not hear. Run! But he seemed much faster, looked much stronger. Mia wasn’t there. Mia isn’t here!

“Mia isn’t here.”

Lurking closer he said “I know, little girl.”

“…I’m not a girl.” He managed to spit out, glaring at the odious creature before him

“No, but you like to wear dresses. Put on make-up. Bet you like to do other things girls do too, huh?”

His head felt as though it might detach itself from his frame and float to the skies. A rumble in his forehead, thudding, like all of his ideas and worries and dreams were being rolled over by his thinking of what he should do, what he should do right now.

“Where’s that dress, huh? Why aren’t you wearing that dress?” His footsteps were faster.

“Stop…”

“Come on, I’m just kidding,” more speed to every step “Come get in my ride.”

“No!” Saint backed up, slowly at first, then quicker as those sunken eyes got closer, seized him.

In a blur that big body became too close and as trembles ate at him, he turned away, turned to face where the sounds of singing birds were moments ago, and he pushed his body forward, away from the wickedness too close behind.

On his back, eyes staring upward, the face of his father gazed back. A face with features woven together far more delicately than he had remembered, with a mouth that did such a poor job at hiding a smile. Saint could feel him, his comfort wrapped tightly around his little body and it reminded him of when he was seven years old and his mother warned him to bring a jacket, it would be chilly on the Halloween hayride.

Disregard was all he had for what she heeded but eventually he found the breezes rubbing against his tiny arms and neck and the little quakes that trailed his extremities caused his hands to ball into fists, his shoulders to raise towards his ears.

It was an identical sensation, that safety, when those strong, sturdy arms scooped him up and held him closely, that Saint felt at this moment lying there with him. He hadn’t said more than a few words but no more were needed and as the two basked in the presence of one another, Saint could not keep the wet in his eyes from spilling down the hills of his cheeks to valleys of his jaw. Father. Father, I found you.

Mia left the bag of cocaine and her dust covered clothing in the shed out back. Nobody ever used it but her and she knew even if Johnny stumbled upon her he’d keep his lips tight. He knew better.

She had been walking down this dirt road for what seemed to be some of the longest hours she had ever endured, unsure if she’d ever been to this removed part of town. She passed a house about a mile away, she guessed, so the house in the near distance had to be it.

Not accustomed to the world of selling drugs she thought How hard could it be? The quaint house became more vivid. Something silver, reflecting the sun, was in the windows. Once closer, she assumed it was foil which she found to be odd.

Maybe I can bring Saint. Maybe we could go away together. Now that she had all of that white powder she felt like her options had no end. Yes, she’d have to be careful, but she had a lot on her side. More than most around those parts.

Wailing. Sobbing. Throaty screeching. All in the distance. Standing by the house she noted there was certainly foil in the windows. The cries were louder as she moved farther, past the front door, to the side windows, to behind the home, she heard mumbling, moaning.

“They did it, they did it, they did it, they did ittttt!”

A disfigured lump lifted and twisted itself, tangled black hair being the first thing Mia spotted. With more movement she could make out bouncing shoulders covered in reflective, aluminum foil, a slim back covered in a mahogany fabric and gray sweatpants covering a backside that now stuck out.

It was a woman. A black woman hovering over something. To the right of her, a pair of mangled jeans and an off-white tennis shoe, dirt caked to the bottom.

Nearer now, Mia moved to the right to get a better idea of what she was looking at. Immediate was the woman’s stillness, her ability to become mute.

“…Excuse me. Excuse me, are you alright?”

No response.

Mia was closer. Close enough to see the mole growing on the side of her neck, loose strands of her hair clinging to moist, puffy cheeks. Close enough to see that beneath this woman posing as a shapeshifting mass, lay a motionless boy, a much too large denim jacket stained with wet crimson was inside out and draped over his torso.

“They did it!”

Startled, Mia flinched but did not look away. GIBLIN could be read even with this bold red seeping through. His bottom half protruded from beneath, bare, limp, like a separate entity undeserving of modesty.

 Giblin…did this?

She had grown used to the wild red hair which was now calm as it spilled out onto the grass.Tranquility of his face more present than it had been the day before. Yet he wasn’t moving and there were no cat ears sprouting from either side of his head. No questions being answered timidly or with the shrugging of shoulders. Slowly sinking into reality, the sight before her was heavy with mood and as it weighed down she couldn’t bear the sight, the tinnitus sibilance, or unfamiliar pang that slit through her.

Face to face with the house, its shiny, metallic windows reflecting the day, almost in mockery. She mumbled something to the grieving stranger but it was lost in the chill of a breeze.

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