Easy Come, Easy Go

May 5, 2011
*And in the beginning, all we have are the words*



The words. The words, the memories, and the lights. Right now, those are all she has.



The lights are Jo’s favorite. And what lights they are. Incredible, scintillating lights.



She’s sure she’s never seen anything quite so breathtaking. They shine from every direction"the cars speeding below, the stoplights"changing from a fiery red to a green that reminds her of Spring" and especially the moon gleaming over everything. She tries to find a word for it all.



Nice isn’t enough. Blinding is better, but not by much. Beautiful is closer, but not quite there.



Brushing her wispy bangs out of her eyes, she decides on magnificent. She unzips her jacket, letting the cold Chicago night air attack her flat chest. Her body presses against the railing of the bridge, and it hurts. Hurts just a little bit more than she’d like. She lights her cigarette, a little crushed from being in her pocket, and inhales it deeply.



Magnifique. That’s it, really.



**


*One, two, skip a few. Ninety-nine, one hundred*



And in the beginning, all she had was fear. Fear, and worry.



Maybe it was inherited from her father. Her mother was nothing like her. Ella, the woman was called. A basket-case, really. Always fussing about this or that, like Jo wearing a frilly dress to school instead of the t-shirt and jeans Ella had set out for her, or telling Jo, no d*mn it, she couldn’t play with the f***ing Barbie doll or screaming at Jo to wipe the f***ing smile off her stupid face! Always with a flushed, exhausted look about her. Always running here and there, and never moving forward anyway or anywhere. Jo remembered how Ella had a tendency to stutter her words, and how she shook a bit too much, always so unstable, like she was teetering on the edge of breaking apart.



She’d give herself shots and pills that she said would help calm her, help settle her mind. They helped sometimes, making that crazed-look in her eyes disappear for a while. When she was like this, she was sometimes so calm and relaxed that it was unrecognizable. And sometimes, she would laugh when nothing was funny, so loud and resembling a screech that it was scary. Sometimes, the crazed-look became worse, and Ella would become angry, so angry that her eyes became dilated. She’d hit Jo, screaming at her to grow some balls, f***ing grow some balls, and smashing her against the wall, just to start shaking uncontrollably again.



Sometimes, Ella would bring home a man, always a new man, and they’d go off tumbling and whispering and laughing into Ella’s room, walking around in a fit of fury when morning came. And sometimes"quite often, actually"Ella would cry. Cry so hard and so much that it seemed to never end"like the woman was just made of tears. Her red eyes would puff up, and her breathing would become all uneven, and her pale, yellow complexion too pink.



It was a sight, really. Always a sight. And it was quite a shame when Jo came home one day and found Ella curled up on the floor, her yellow skin looking almost white, and a bottle of spilled pills next to her. A shame, really, because that was when Jo realized Ella wasn’t shaking anymore, and she couldn’t smile about it. A shame, really, because she sat in shock until she felt an ache in her chest. She couldn’t cry though. Not even when the police came, because that was when the fear settled in, and the fear wouldn’t let her cry, not even a drop.



So she sucked it up like she always did, and smiled.



**



*And when faced with emotion, only the brave will look it head on*



A shame, that’s what it was. Her mom really wasn’t a bad person, when it came down to it. F***ed up at the least, but Jo can hardly call herself the better person.



She exhales, watching the smoke thin out until it fades into the night air. She wonders where it goes. How something like smoke can exist, intangible"yet so real"and then all of a sudden die out.



She’s realized people are the same, and it scares her. A lot. Like her mom, for instance. That morning, she had existed, staring blankly at the TV with a far-away look in her eyes. And then, hours later, she was gone. No more shaking, no more screaming, no more random men showing up in the house. It was like she never existed, except all her clothes were still there, and her perfume. And her memories.



Jo can’t forget the memories.


They are her malheur, her absolute connection to anything she might’ve ever wanted to forget. They link her and Ella together, so that once in a while Jo is overwhelmed with something that feels strangely like sadness. They link her to the quickly dissipating smoke. To the father she’s never met, and never will meet.



And they link her to Frank.



**



*Beyond the mask we make, is the mask we are*



Frank was an air of le mystère.



Always with a book and crossword puzzle in his hands, he spoke to no one. During recess, he sat by himself, either reading his lengthy novels, or figuring out his puzzles, or writing in his journal. In class, he only participated when the teacher called on him. Sometimes, it seemed like he stared at people a beat too long. Even Jo thought she felt his gaze on her sometimes.



Everyone thought him to be weird; possibly weirder than Jo, who wore cheap, fake, diamond studded tiaras, faded and torn sparkly dresses and handmade bracelets, told stories about how her mother used to take medicine that made her crazy, and smiled just a bit too much.



It was ironic, in a way, and it often tickled Jo pink. Still, Jo kept her distance, instead watching Frank with an eye of interest. A mystery, he was. She thought it’d be nice if she knew him, and he knew her"if they could somehow be friends. She often wondered if he lived with both parents, or in a foster home like Jo did. She wondered if Frank ever watched his mother cry herself to sleep, or almost set the house on fire, or if he ever saw his mother curled up and dead on the floor. The thoughts sometimes kept Jo up at night, as she dreamt up a life as miserable for Frank as it had been for Jo. These were thoughts that, in a twisted way, made her happy. But she still wondered if knowing him would make her happier.



However, it wasn’t until the third grade that they really acknowledged each other.



Jo realized Frank was watching her.



She felt it one day while playing with her Barbie by the swing set. An unmoving gaze, settled on her. It unnerved her, though she was used to the pointing and staring. This time, though, it felt nothing like the kind of staring she was accustomed to"the kind laced with disgust and shock. No, the staring felt….sweet. Almost like a gaze of admiration. And when Jo turned to look at him, his eyes were soft with wonder, and his pink mouth was slightly open, twitching up just the least bit. When he realized he was caught, a blush warmed his face, and he buried his nose back into the notebook.



Jo was tickled red. She wanted to dance, almost. And she did, right up to where Frank was sitting on the steps of the school.



“I seen you staring,” she said, twisting back and forth so her sparkling dress flowed with her movement. She could see Frank’s face growing redder as he scribbled more and more furiously, and she giggled out of delight. “I seen you turning colors there.”



He stopped writing, and lifted his head. His face really was bright, and his green eyes were shiny. He gulped, and then opened his mouth to speak, before closing it again.



“I seen you staring,” Jo repeated, smiling just a bit.



Like a fish, Frank continued to open and close his mouth. “You...you…” he stuttered. Jo raised her eyebrows in surprise; every time Frank spoke, he was quiet, for sure, but he was composed and eloquent, too.



“You…” he said, gulping again. He looked around nervously, as if making sure no one was listening, and then met Jo’s gaze. “You have the prettiest smile I ever seen.”



And d*mn it if Jo didn’t just light up at that.



**



*Honesty is the best policy when lying is just painful*



It’s a quiet night, aside from the traveling cars below the bridge.



The serenity fills Jo’s heart with a calmness she hasn’t known for a while. She blows air out, puts her elbow on the railing, and lets her head fill with thoughts of Frank. It’s hard to remember his face, now. Hard to paint a picture of him in her mind.



He had pale skin and dimples, Jo thinks. Deep dimples that emerged when he smiled. His eyes were a light green, so beautiful that it used to take Jo’s breath away just thinking about it. His hair. What color was his hair?



Jo puffs out more smoke.



Black, she decides. Definitely black. And his hands were thin and always so soft and warm. Always so willing to just touch.



Touch. He liked to do that, didn’t he?



Jo grins at the memory and grins wider when she feels something break more inside of her.



True, she’s forgotten her fair share of events, faces, emotions. But there are some things she simply can’t forget.





**



*And in the eyes of the beholder, is the question of a pure heart*



By the eighth grade, Frank and Jo were attached at the hip.



At school, they met up after every class, even when their classes were on opposite sides of the building. During lunch, they met up at the library, secretly eating their peanut butter sandwiches at a table, and trying to solve Frank’s puzzles.



After school, they were always at Frank’s house. He lived with his mom, and at first, Jo had been scared to go because of that. But Frank’s mom didn’t shoot anything into her arm. She didn’t take pills, aside from an Advil now and then to cure a headache. She always smelled like soap, as if she’d just taken a shower, and there was always edible food to eat.



The differences didn’t stop at that, though. Her hair was always up in a neat bun and her clothes sensible. She let Frank take food to his room; let him stay up late if it was a weekend. She never raised her voice, and always welcomed Jo in with a smile. It was a stiff smile, never reaching her eyes, but a smile nonetheless.



Though she almost never made direct eye contact with Jo, Jo could tell that even her way of looking at Frank was different. She sometimes looked at him with a small smile, a calm aura, and her eyes twinkling.



It mystified Jo because it was the exact same way Frank looked at her sometimes. Oh, yes. Frank still stared. Quite a bit, actually.



Sometimes he made it subtle. He would stare at Jo while he waited for her to finish a math problem, or he’d stare while Jo carefully tore the crust off her sandwich.



Other times, he was obvious. He’d stare at Jo while they watched a movie, looking down with a blush when Jo turned to him. He’d stare at Jo while she changed out of the jeans and button-up shirt she was now forced to wear to school, and into a dress she’d decorated herself. Frank would turn away, embarrassed, but his green eyes would always flick back.



He stared at Jo when they went for walks around the neighborhood, when Jo forced him to help decorate purses and hats, when they were sitting on Frank’s porch, letting the sunset soak over them. He stared a lot, and Jo felt it.



Even when Frank wasn’t around, she felt it.



And she could feel herself staring back. Could feel the anxiety building, her heart beating faster at just the thought of him.



Watching, waiting. For what, though? A move, possibly.



Unfortunately, Frank was quiet. Reserved, too. And shy. Especially shy. He blushed too easily, got embarrassed too much, and when he felt a touch on Jo’s thigh or shoulder lasted too long, he’d snap his hand back and sit in deep contempt, while Jo sat feeling disappointed.



That was the other thing. Frank would touch her, often. Whether it was brushing Jo’s hair out of her eyes, or rubbing her tears away when the stress of the foster home and school got too much, Frank’s touch was a haven of sorts"a gentle sanctuary that smoothly and efficiently made Jo want to melt into him and just stay there forever. But Frank was cautious. He was afraid to offend Jo, so his touches were always too short, too spastically retracted.



Jo both loved and hated that about him.



Loved…and hated.



Hated…and loved.



Which one was it?



The kiss was the answer to that. It happened accidentally. Or maybe not. All Jo remembered was that they’d been sitting in his room, doing a crossword puzzle, and they’d looked up. Maybe it was because Frank had something he wanted to say. Maybe it was because he was hoping Jo would say something.



Neither of them spoke for a beat though, until Frank cleared his throat.



“You were sad today. Why?”



The question caught her off guard. “Why? No reason, I think"”



“"Did someone say somethin’ to you?”



She stiffened, making her mouth a straight line. “People always say things.” Her voice sounded small, even to her own ears.



Frank’s eyes burned with something, something that looked much too intense and angry for his usually calm eyes. “What’d they say?”



“Somethin’ stupid. Don’t worry about it.”



“Joanne.” The way he said her name, without an ounce of humor, sent chills up her spine. “Joanne…” he said again, softer this time. He shifted, so their foreheads touched, and asked again. “What’d they say?”



She gulped at the closeness of his lips, how she could see every small freckle on his face. “They said…they said they were happy I didn’t dress like a girl at school no more…cause I was the ugliest girl they’d ever seen.” It hurt, repeating it. At school, she’d just sneered at them and played it cool. Now, the words burned in her throat, and even out in the open, they seemed to tease her.



Frank pulled away, the anger back in his eyes. He stared at Joanne until the intensity was too much, and she had to look away. When she looked again, the gaze was softer and tinged with melancholy.



“They don’t matter, kay Jo? None of them do. Always remember that. You matter, and I matter, and…and that’s it, kay? You hear me?”



Her nose was burning, and it hurt to swallow. For whatever reason, she wanted to cry. Speaking was impossible, so she just nodded.



He nodded too, giving a sigh of relief, and then scooted closer again.



“And it really doesn’t matter, you know,” he said, blinking slowly. His breath seemed so close, so close indeed.



“What doesn’t?” Her voice lacked the strength and masculinity his possessed.



“A dress or pants, or a wig, or whatever. You’re still…” he looked almost sad.



“Still?”



“Still Jo. You’re still Jo. And you’re still the most beautiful man and woman I’ve ever seen.”



**



*When everything falls apart, the hardest thing to do is fall back together*



Ah, she can feel the kiss on her lips now.



Jo remembers it. Frank had taken her face and kissed her so soft that Jo could barely feel it. And then, he’d kissed her again. And again. And again. Until somehow, they’d ended up with Jo naked against the bed, and Frank awkwardly taking off his belt.



He awkwardly kissed her again. And again. And again. And Jo was afraid, but loved every second of it, asking for more, more, more. And when Frank gave her more, she cried and held on for dear life on Frank’s wide shoulders until she was overcome by a passion so deep it made her scream. It hurt; this passion. When Frank asked if she was alright, she just cried for more, more, more.



More, huh? There was no more after that. Frank’s mother found them together, and it was a short two weeks before Frank was sent off to live with his dad. Frank’s mom wouldn’t give Jo the new address or phone number, and she especially wouldn’t let Jo say goodbye.



So just like that, he was gone from Jo’s life. And Jo found a new feeling she loved.



Hatred.



Remembering it now, the cigarette can hardly calm the thoughts swirling around.



**



*When blood spills, who’s to say a cut caused it?*



Jo couldn’t handle it anymore.



School was h*ll without Frank there. Without Frank, she could feel the stares. Hear the whispers. Feel the disgust that seemed to be everywhere. And the loneliness, most of all.



The loneliness was overwhelming.



They all knew about her. Knew about who she used to be, and who she was when the bell rang and the jeans were slipped off. She had no one she felt she could turn to. Being herself was far out of the question. She avoided large crowds, never wore anything that sparkled or could possibly attract attention. Even at home, she buried the dresses and skirts and jewelry and tiaras under mounds of normal clothes.



Just like that, she was dead. And all she could do"all she did"in response was paint a placid smile on her face, carrying it with her at all times.



A chip on her shoulder? Hardly!



She walked like she was still wearing a tiara. In gym, she changed in the corner, but made sure to have a secret little smile on her face, as if she were thinking of something much more important than gym.



But she was vulnerable now, without a buddy as wide and tall as Frank. And she knew it. And so did everyone else.



The teasing began religiously. Every day, she was harassed in one shape or form, whether it was being shoved into lockers, having books or her lunch knocked out of her hands, or being punched in the stomach--there was always something. Some guys were more creative than others. They spray-painted F*GGOT on her locker, and tossed notes about her during class. During the second worst incident, she was jumped while walking home, and four guys wearing ski masks punched her until she could barely see, barely breathe, and everything was black and blue with a splash of red.



She was out of school for a month after that. The fear made her keep quiet, and she told her foster mom she’d been in a fight, which got her grounded for a week. Still, it wasn’t the worst.



The worst happened one day during March, when she accidentally came a bit late to gym. She knew she’d f***ed up. She’d f***ed up big time, because three boys were sitting on a bench. They stopped whispering and their eyes widened, and before Jo knew it, they were running toward her, screaming, "Don't let him get away!"


They seemed to be clawing at her skin as she struggled to get away, and she wanted to scream, yell, tell them, "I'm not a him, I'm a girl!"


Something. Anything. But it was too messy and loud, and they were strong. Very strong. Gagged and squirming underneath the weight of three freshman sleazebags, Jo shut her eyes. She could fight, but that would make it worse, when it was already bad enough. She tried to scream, but the gag was too tight. Coarse, sweaty hands were pulling at her at every direction. Everything hurt. Just hurt so badly. She had to hold onto something, a thought of some kind.



She chose Frank.



When her legs were shoved apart, she thought of the way Frank’s eyes were always smiling at her. When something big and too wide was pushed inside her, she thought of the way Frank bit his lip when he was deep in thought. And when she felt the blood, felt the sliding come easier, she stopped thinking at all, and just let the tears fall.



The tears fell harder when she realized she’d never told Frank she loved him.



**



*When everything falls apart, the hardest thing to do is fall back together*



F***ed up.



Looking back, that was the point Jo became f***ed up.



That incident was the start of it.



There was a dullness inside her. An irreversible death.



Had she given herself a funeral? She should’ve, in retrospect.



At that time, she stopped smiling, and she stopped trying in school. Her grades dropped, but she didn’t care--couldn’t care. There was a part of her, a part that wasn’t dead, that was furious. Furious at herself for never being strong enough, or good enough, or pretty enough. And furious at everyone else for making her feel so insignificant and inhuman.



She wanted to speak about what had happened, really. But she felt no one would give a s***. They all hated her at the school, anyway. She still received looks of disgust on a regular basis. To a certain degree, she thought she probably deserved it for flashing around like a diva too much. The boys would be thought of as heroes for teaching her a lesson. Even her foster mom would thank them, since to her, Jo was nothing short of a burden.



She hated them with a f***ing passion. All of them.



The deep, unsettling fear returned, yet she stayed quiet. But the longer she stayed quiet, the more the hatred brewing inside grew.





She wanted something. Needed something. So she turned to drinking.



It wasn’t hard, getting the drinks. The only issue was the money, really. Her foster mom only gave her ten dollars a month for allowance. That was hardly enough to buy the good kind, the real hard-hitting drinks that made her feel a dizzying happiness. And she needed it, really needed to make the anger go away, make the feelings go away.



So she just widened her eyes, pursed her lips, and sold the only thing she knew how to work.



**



*A truly honest person can twist the best lie*



The cigarette is halfway gone now. She either has to hurry up, or slow down.



She twists her lips, thinking hard.



It hadn’t been hard to become addicted. Within the next couple years, she was pretty much a pro-user. But life wasn’t as simple as becoming addicted. Her foster mom could smell the alcohol, and see it in Jo’s eyes. When the tiara and dresses came back out, her foster mom decided she’d had enough. For a while, she hopped around from foster home to foster home. It usually took them only a month to decide Jo wasn't worth the trouble. Her hips were wider, her lips were fuller and always painted with lipstick, and she wore her glittered tiara with a cool confidence. She learned how to smoke a cigarette skillfully, just like the actresses she’d seen on TV before.



She was a hot mess, basically, and no one wanted to deal with her. She got angry too easily, yelled too loud, was never quiet enough, and always had a sassy comeback ready, and a bottle of somethin-special, as she liked to call it, in her bag.



She was basically like a mini version of Ella, minus the stuttering and nervousness. At age eighteen, she found a man who looked her up and down like she was a gourmet meal. A month later, she was living with him.



And even now, five years later, she hates herself for everything that happened after.



**


*A god is nothing short of something to believe in*




The boyfriends.



She had many boyfriends.



Or rather, sex friends.



They came and went as she pleased. And after each one left, she had a couple bottles to either celebrate or drink or sorrow"she still wasn’t sure. The man whose house she lived in"Rodney, his name was"tried his best not to care. He did, really. He’d leave the house for a few hours if she brought home a man, or left her alone when she went out past twelve at night.



That was her life. Drinking, sex, and more sex.



Rodney worked as a manager of a restaurant, and insisted that Jo just concentrate on herself. So she did. She liked not having to worry about college. Not having to worry about anything.



And the sex?



The sex was average at best. Really, all it was good for was filling the emptiness. The part of her that was dead. By the time she was eighteen, she’d slept with at least thirty men of various sizes and ages. Some she allowed to stay with her overnight. Some, she let come inside her, and made them leave the instant she finished cleaning herself out.



The drinking was still her best sex, though. It hurt her chest sometimes, but that was fine, because it elevated her, brought her down, sang to her, quieted her, and made her dance to a rhythm she thought was lost.



Rodney hated it.



He insisted it was the only thing about her he hated.



It didn’t take long for the nagging to begin, and for Jo to get frustrated. Soon, the complaints spread beyond the drinking. Jo slept too long during the day, and was out too late. Her eyes were too bloodshot, acted like a barbarian in front of guests. She was much too rude, and always smelled like puke. She had no sympathy, and a frown was always burrowed on her face when she was around Rodney.



Jo felt suffocated. She couldn’t breathe, and she hated every second of it.



So she left.



Stuffed her clothes, jewelry, and a bottle of expensive champagne in a bag she stole from Rodney’s closet, and left.



**


*And in the end, will it even matter?*




Rodney had always smelled nice.



Like cheap cologne. But it was nice, sweet-smelling cologne.



And he never hesitated to tell Jo she was beautiful. Even when she was wiping puke off her clothes and face. Though near the end, he said it less and less.



Right now, Jo just can’t decide whether or not she misses him. Overall, he had cared about her. He just cared too much for Jo’s liking.



She blows out smoke, and realizes the cigarette is already three-quarters gone; she decides quickly that she can’t miss what she never truly cared about or knew.



But Max.



He was the last one.



The last one who mattered.



She misses him, just a bit. Less than Frank, for sure, but the feeling is still there, deep inside her.



Many of the men she slept with are gone from her memory"what they smelled like, how tall they were, what their face looked like.



But Max is still alive, breathing lucidly in her ear.



**


*And could you call yourself beloved, in this life?*





Max was beautiful.



It was as simple as that.



She’d first seen him in a bar, and immediately, he caught her eye. Long, silky blond hair he kept in a tight ponytail, broad shoulders, and a smile that seemed to shine in the light. When he saw Jo, his eyebrows raised, and his chocolate brown eyes twinkled, and that was that.



They didn’t sleep together right away.



Talking. That’s what they did. Max was interesting one. He enjoyed talking about the Renaissance and the Roaring Twenty’s, had a bit of a soft spot for Sophie’s Choice and To Kill a Mockingbird, and was always chewing watermelon-flavored gum.



He winked often, smiled like it was a job, and sometimes his presence alone was enough to fill the emptiness.



Anxiety.



Jo felt that around him. That and a slight uneasiness at not being able to keep up with Max’s fancy matter of speaking or his wide knowledge for anything involving history. Often, Jo found herself zoning in and out of their conversations. She barely understood anything Max talked about.



She felt stupid. That’s what it was. Not enough. Surely, there were more impressive people Max could be speaking to. Any time Jo brought it up, Max would grin cheekily and shake his head.



“That has to be the funniest joke I’ve ever heard,” he’d say with his rich-sounding voice.



Jo felt herself falling, just a bit.



She drank less and less. With Max, she didn’t feel the need to have at least a bottle a day just to keep from drowning in her thoughts. She was more awake with; livelier than she had been in a while. Drinking felt almost like a waste.



They started spending every day together, and every evening. They spoke of Jo maybe moving in with him, since she was living off of various friends.



Happiness seemed possible.



It seemed unavoidable, even.



Ah, to be young and stupid again.



She trusted too much. Too much, too hard, and too fast.



And Max was hardly the beauty Jo thought he was.



Sadistic, maybe. Pathetic mentally, aside from his knowledge.



Their first time, or what should have been, was ruined by a group of Max’s friends. A group of shady dudes who laughed as they took shots of vodka, Jo’s own personal poison.



“That the freak?” one of them guffawed, licking his lips.



Max’s eyes had been dark. Unrecognizable. And crazed.



“Ha! You better believe it,” he said with a slow grin that did nothing but make Jo fall apart. Over and over and over again.



And that rainy night, thanks to a digital camera and five bottles of vodka, she herself was broken over and over again, until there was nothing left to break.



She left without her clothes.



She left without her money.



She left without the last stash of cocaine hidden under her bed.



She left without her glitter, her tiara, her jewelry, her hairspray, her wigs, and her shoes.



She left without her dignity. Her hope. Any dreams she possibly had.



And she left without her trust.



**



*And in the end, all we have are the memories *



The time is up.



The cigarette is gone, a mere bud. Jo tosses it aside. She can’t remember if she had a drink today. She had one or two or three yesterday. She remembers that, and how it made her throw up blood. Her head still hurts from it.



She inhales again, and exhales slowly. Breathing is nice, she thinks. It feels nice.



She feels her chest, runs her hands over the flatness of it, the narrowness of her hips. Joanne or Joe? Which one will they call her?



She decides it doesn’t matter.



Most beautiful man and woman…that’s what Frank had said.



Briefly, she wonders where Frank is. If he’s gotten himself a nice, sweet girlfriend now. A real one, and not an imitation, like Jo. She wonders if he’s forgotten her. If he’ll ever hear anything about her. And she can’t help but think about his mom. For a moment, she can’t decide if she still hates her or not.



A cool breeze makes her shut her eyes. It’s enough, just like that. She decides she’s forgiven his mom.



And Ella. Who could forget Ella. She wonders if Ella is happier now. If the crazed look is gone from her eyes yet. The last time Jo visited the grave was a month ago. She left nothing, though. No flowers, no letter.



How sad.



She lets herself, for just a while, think of Max. He still hurts her chest. Her head. Her heart. Her throat. She wishes she hated him, but all she feels for him is a deep, never-ending sorrow. She could blame the vodka and the heroin and the stupid, stupid grins of his friends, but the hatred isn’t for them either. The hatred she feels is for herself, and only herself. But it’s mixed with the part that’s dead, and she knows she feels deader inside than anything else.



And whose fault is it, anyway?



She thinks hard.



Always, for anything and everything, whose fault was it?



This is the one thing she can’t decide. So she figures it’s all of their faults.



She smiles at this, loving the strain it gives her tired face, and rips a thread from the furry hood of her jacket. Lets it go and watches as it drifts away with the wind.



It’d be nice, she decides, if the string didn’t disappear.



**



The little girl is tired.


Exhausted, even. Her eyes are burning, and her head keeps drooping like it’s too heavy, but she wants to"has to"stay awake.



It’s her first time traveling, after all. She has to see everything, take it all in. Fighting to stay awake, she looks at the front of the car, where her father is driving, and her mother is asleep, snoring slightly. Bored with how unexciting they are, she looks out the car window.



They’re on a bridge now, she notes. There are almost no other cars driving, it’s so late at night.



She closes her eyes for a second, and opens them to see a flash of something on the bridge, and as they zoom past it, she cranes her neck back to see what it was. She looks, but sees nothing there. Just darkness.



It looked like feathers, she decides. Must have been a bird. A bird flying far, far away.





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