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Ring around the rosy.
Pocket full of posies.
We all fall down.
That used to be my favorite rhyme when I was a little kid. When I sang it, twirling in a circle by myself, I would always picture a long train carting severed toes across the country. Even then I knew what the other kids didn’t understand. That when you fall down–it means you’re dead. You don’t get back up once you’re dead. It’s just–Bam!–then you’re gone.
Maybe Jace didn’t see it that way, the way I did. Could it have been I was the only one? Or did I just over analyze everything, think too hard, have to break the world to pieces? Even when I was a baby I wanted to know. Wanted to understand. I thought I was alone in that. Guess I was wrong.
The middle of the summer was in full blast. The humidity wasn’t horrendous, but the heat was stickily clichéd. I’d taken to walking through the park, hiding in the shadows when I could, the concentration of peoples’ eyes my odd clothes and parasol. The thought of everyone staring seems intimidating and creepy, but you’ve lived with it you manage to become oblivious.
Successfully finding a deserted patch of trees, I stepped into them, allowing the darkness the swallow me up. Here anything could happen. No one would ever know. Shadows can take you, keep you captive as you are smothered into nothingness. It was here I was safe. Here I am safe. Content in the clasped hands of another dimension.
Safe, safe, safe…
Ring around the rosy
Safe, safe, safe…
Pocket full of posies
The rhyme wasn’t inside my head, unlike what I’d originally believed. The voice was in the cluster of trees, surrounding, engulfing me, confusing as to where the source exactly was.
Another hesitant step around a thick trunk revealed nothing. The small clearing I had stumbled onto was deserted.
“We all fall down.”
You know when you find yourself suddenly flat on you back, momentarily stunned, dazedly wondering exactly how you come to be on another level? Then it all rushes back to you when you realize you’re staring an embarrassingly lengthy amount of time into a pair of eyes that are, in turn, staring down at you? I assume that’s how it is for most.
To me, the events came in short bursts of Technicolor, like a camera snapping rapid fire shots, capturing the action sequence. Click! Black hair sprawled into the air by a fantasy wind. Click! A face meeting the lens directly. Click! Trees rising up to the suddenly directly overhead blue sky, branches tangling into one another, radiant light from the sun twinkling between the chlorophyll leaves. Click! Last, a face staring down at the lens, brown eyes inspecting it quietly, serenely. A rushed pallor that only comes with a spurt of excitement laced his cheeks with a faint pink.
For a minute we remained, each inspecting the other for tiny details; I was soaking in every feature, every detail of him. The boy just watched me curiously before silently letting himself to his feet, taking my hand, helping me up the way a gentleman would. Spotting my parasol, he went to it, and grasped the handle with a hand turned black and white in the array of shadows and filtered light.
“You were singing my rhyme,” I finally stated, striking the silence clearly. More quiet ensued as I watched him brush off and click the assortment of shrubbery my parasol had ventured into when I was knocked off my feet. I didn’t mind; silence gives way to thinking, feeds the world peace. If momentarily.
He handed my parasol back to me carefully. “Your rhyme?” The voice that had sung the tune, that had weaved and reverberated through the soft shadows was back. Not sarcastic or demanding; merely inquiring.
A blush framed my cheeks and I smiled. A small smile that led people to believe I knew something they didn’t. “Ring Around the Rosy. It’s been my favorite since I was little.”
He returned my smile with his own. One that was sure to make girls swoon, that showed his amusement, thoughtfulness. “Mine too.”
My heart leapt at his words. Questions burst inside my mind, wild and unrestrained as usual. Even so, my mouth remained closed. I wanted to know things about him, know him. Understand the why’s and how’s of him. Who he was. Instead of admitting any of that, I said, “I don’t know you.”
“And I don’t know you. Who are you?”
A most confusing question. Who was I? What was I? There is never an accurate answer to it, is there? Who are you? Who knows what you are? Who knows you? I went with the simplest answer I could muster with any correctness. “Izabella. Who are you?”
The boy took as much time as I had to think. “I don’t know,” he might have whispered to himself. Then, with a flashing smile, he said, “I’m Jace.”
Surprises arrive hand in hand with mystery. There was no doubt Jace was a mystery to me, to everyone. He could be exactly what you wanted at times–smart, quiet, knowledgeable, sexy, spiteful, vampiric at times. Though it was perplexing some times, seeing him so calm, so composed and perfect. A lot of times I would stare at him when I assumed he wasn’t looking and wonder, “Do I even know him at all?”
But he was the match to me, my other half. No matter how secretive he was, no matter how closed off he was about his past, I couldn’t deny the usurping feeling of being drawn to him. Could not control the overwhelming emotion of love I felt when he took my hands or leaned in to press a light kiss to my cheek. This, I was sure, was how every girl felt around Jace–Jace the angel, for he was nothing below intricately but skillfully made. The cliché of the modern fantasy world.
We were walking hand in hand throughout the streets one night, the harsh glare of fluorescents and other artificial lights blocked by my ever present parasol. My eyes spotted a purple sign embossed with shining white stars circling an outstretched hand. The floating cursive in a spidery white scrawl was only so easy to decipher. “Fortune Teller.”
With only a moment’s hesitation to my request, Jace opened the door, ushered me inside graciously before stepping in behind me.
The main floor was draped in deeply rich purples accented by silver, the hanging curtains making the story seem much smaller, as if the building had sunk in on itself, collapsed until half the former shape remained. It was all a fortune teller’s residence would be believed to look like; dim candles dripping melted wax down their stalks, casting faint gloom to the confines. Assortments of valueless junk and treasures lined the wall on shelves, and spilled onto the floor that was masked by piles of overlapping rugs. Dust caked our boots, sinking into us with poisonous claws.
A lady found us. She was dressed in obvious ‘fortune teller’ apparel: teal blue robes stitched with glitter, metals clanking at the hems, the sounds muffled almost immediately by the drapes overhead and carpets. Encouraging us to sit before her at a table nearby, she took the flips of crisp green bills Jace held out for her payment beforehand, only turning to spy us from around her short, delicate nose afterwards.
Jace had only paid for myself and so I went. Made to stare in a clear crystal ball dusty from disuse, resting contently on silver claws. Admittedly, I was skeptical at first, though I had been the one to bring on this venture. Even so, soon I was staring, transfixed, into the ball, enraptured as one clear image sprung into view.
Click! An eye. Large and ominous, small and decadent at the same time. A white eye, glazed to unseeing perhaps, despite that it was obviously directed to me. Then, in an instant it was gone. Later I learned it was an omen for death–sudden death.
The lady immediately set off to reading her deck of cards, analyzing it slowly, carefully. Again saying nothing, she swept the worn wooden table to immaculate, took my hand, grasping it and tracing my lines with calloused fingers. Her nails were coated with chipped orange paint.
The fortune teller then gave my results, the answers to the tests I had undergone. I was to lead a normal, healthy life. Good would come out of anything if I tried hard enough. I would be well off in the financial state of law. Last, a great trouble would shadow my life in the near future. One that was to be detrimental to me. It was clinging out of reach to her, but the woman assured it was inevitable.
Later that night, Jace walked me home. He kissed my lips tentatively before drawing back to hand me a rose. A splattering of blood seemed to have plopped on its delicate petals, blossomed to full extent. The thorns had not been removed, and one drew a small drop of blood from my finger, a drop that welled to size before Jace grasped my hand to his mouth, licked my finger clean. “You have my heart, Izabella.” Those words said, he left soon afterwards.
The next morning the beautiful blood rose I had fed into a vase on my nightstand was dead, crumpled to a depressing brown that cracked, fluttered to dust at the slightest touch. Dead. As was Jace. Shot in the night after leaving my house. The police said the killer must have known Jace. That Jace had done something to anger him. I guess I didn’t know Jace as well as I thought I did.
Didn’t realize he was so into drugs that he would die for them. Wouldn’t die for me, however selfish that thought was as it pervaded my mind.
When I was told, I was a recluse for days. I avoided people more than usual, either remaining locked in my room to cry, or hovering within the comforting arms of the shadowy trees in the park when we’d first met. Jace. I was a personal wreck inside and out, my eyes left raw and pink more often that not, my mind jumbled to the point where I didn’t care at all.
Jace’s funeral was the following Wednesday. Today. I wake up early this morning, before dawn, but only just. Crawl out of bed as if I’m almost too weak to peer out of my black lace curtains. The sky hasn’t quite begun lightening, though the bright stars are gone. The funeral is in four hours. And though I know that with my speed lately it will take me at least that amount of time to get ready, I just stand there, staring out into the world for what seems like forever.
The sun has already risen when I step away from the window, begin getting ready for Jace’s farewell.
White fabric cuddles my flesh, whipped by slight winds as I stand in the middle of the cemetery with few others I don’t know–have never seen before–but feel connected to in some way. We are all here to watch as Jace’s black lacquered coffin is lowered into the earth. But even through the connection I’m sure the others don’t feel, I’m fully clothed in white besides my black boots and accents, and the rest are in black. It’s odd for me to be in white, but I feel the consuming need to; it’s my way to mourn.
Tears sweep into my eyes as I watch the coffin lower into the ground, Jace inside. Behind closed eyes I picture how he had appeared the night before at the showing. Calm, peaceful Jace, so much paler than usual, black hair partially tamed, all black suit pressed to perfection. Studs and skulls lined his ears, and his hands were folded to his breast.
Now, as everyone pays their respects, I toss a rose into the rectangular hole. It lands softly on the coffin lid, stark and blood red petals in full blossom. The thorns have not been removed. “You have my heart, Jace,” I whisper. Then I turn away.
Ring around the rosy
The rhyme was Jace’s favorite as much as it was mine.
Pocket full of posies
But I don’t think he realized one thing.
That when you fall down–
We all fall down
It means you’re dead.