Groups of Two This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 15, 2012
He watches the door carefully. They always come in groups of two. A widowed mother as a bee, and her pretty daughter as a flower. An older couple as owls. A young, lovesick couple as peacocks.

It is the peacocks who catch his eye.

The woman is as lovely as he remembered her. Her ebony hair is pinned back, adorned with dozens of large feathers. A mask, elegantly designed with feathers of all shades of blue and green, frames her aqua eyes and follows the gentle curve of her face. Her painted red lips are smiling, and her long, slender fingers are intertwined with those of another man.

This is something he will not stand for.

The band is playing; couples are dancing and introducing themselves. Talk is being made – of the weather, of the costumes, of the wealthy hosts.

He engages in none of this. He keeps his eye on the peacocks as they dance. As her hand interlocks with his and their bodies move together. It is not a perfect harmony. He would be a ­better partner than the man she is accompanying.

He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come to the ball in a group of two.

He makes his way toward the dancing couple, declining an invitation to dance from the flower, the bee's daughter. He has eyes for only one woman.

The drinking and dancing continues, music and the sound of chatter filling the air. The room is thick with the scents of sweat and alcohol. Heat from the hundreds of bodies rises to the ceiling like smoke. Feathers litter the ground, trampled and forgotten in the festivities. He silently continues through the madness. He will have the girl. She will be his before the night is over; he will make sure of it.

His own mask obscures his face, black and red beads glittering in the candlelight. The woman does not recognize him as they brush past each other in the crowd of moving bodies. The couple heads for a pair of doors leading to a courtyard and precious escape from the crowd.

He follows them.

They always go in groups of two.

He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two, although he intends to leave that way.

The moon is high in the sky. It is waning, just a thin sliver. Tomorrow night there may be no moon at all. There are no stars, although the sky is clear. The well-tended garden is lit only by flickering candlelight, and the wind threatens to snuff even that.

It is not difficult for the peacocks to find a corner to themselves. Hedges and rose bushes tower, casting shadows that dance in time with the music.

He follows them. Even in the dim light, he can see every detail of her face: her pale skin, thin lips, and wide eyes. Her hair is coming out of its exquisite style, her feathers are drooping, but her mouth is pulled back tight in a smile.

I shall have you, he thinks. You shall be mine at last, as it was always intended to be.

The wind picks up. One of her feathers frees itself from her hair and soars across the courtyard, landing in the drink of one of the owls. She giggles at the sight, a sound that makes him delirious with desire. He remembers that, and it angers him that these sounds are not his to enjoy; they are intended for someone else, someone less worthy.

That problem will be fixed shortly.

A bush provides his cover, but it is not needed. He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two.

Another couple walks outside, a pair of identical sisters wearing identical masks. They always come in groups of two. The wind whips their hair.

The candles flicker out, one by one. Except for the icy light of the moon sliver, the courtyard is completely dark.

There is a knife concealed in his coat. It is an old knife, passed down from family to family, with worn engravings and lost sentiment.

He leaves his shelter, heading for the man.

The peacock does not struggle much. His death is quick and merciful and a certain kind of wonderful.

The woman is screaming now, but he covers her mouth with his hand.

“Be quiet,” he whispers to her. “It is over now.”

“W-what do you want?” she whimpers. “If he owes you money, I will pay it, I swear. Don't hurt him, don't hurt me, please, don't hurt us.”

He interrupts her pathetic, hysterical murmuring. “It's all right now,” he says. “We are together now.”

“W-who are you?”

He removes his mask. Still seeing fear on her face, he reaches to remove her mask, so she may see him better. He moves slowly, so she knows he doesn't intend to hurt her, and gently takes the peacock mask off.

Her aqua eyes are wide with fear, and he knows one thing and one thing only.

They are not her eyes. This is not the woman he was searching for.

In a mix of anger, despair, hatred, and fear, his knife moves swiftly and embeds itself in her breast. He does not meet her eyes.

Her death is quick and merciful.

He looks down at the corpses.

They always leave in groups of two.

Some other groups look over at them, but the darkness prevents them from seeing the peacocks.

All they see is a man on his knees, weeping.

He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 20 comments. Post your own now!

Obi-Wan said...
Aug. 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm
That was awesome!!!!!
Lady_Teribithea said...
May 27, 2014 at 7:09 pm
This is so so amazing. I love the repetition about the groups of two. It's just... amazing. So well done.
Lily_Field said...
Jan. 20, 2013 at 12:17 am
Oh. My. God. Did not see that coming. Brilliant writing! Hope to see more in the future!
zadiekatie23 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm
This story was a certain kind of wonderful. I was hooked by its dark intent and loved the plot twist at the end. Thanks!
hobo12321 said...
Oct. 25, 2012 at 11:57 am
this was amazingly written, so suspensful and brilliant! love it!
PortageBug said...
Oct. 25, 2012 at 9:48 am
I loved this!!
HorseFeathers151 said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm
That was perfect! I'm the person who normally guesses at what the writer will write next and I totally did not expect that one. 
KylieK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2012 at 8:36 am
This was awesome... And terryifying. Usually I can predict the conclusion, but I didn't predict this. Nice!
Brightlightsthatshine said...
Oct. 21, 2012 at 2:22 am
Really well written! I love the suspense at the end. What does the man want? I love the imagery you create too!!! Keep writing please~
Lin5dsy said...
Oct. 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm
This was really good! Keep up the good writing!
CatsEye said...
Oct. 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm
This was really, really good. It was well-paced, there weren't too many adverbs, and you could really get a sense of the main character's determination. Just one little thing: when you say, "He is alone, and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two" it sounds like the reason nobody pays attention to him is because his is alone, but I would think it would be the other way around; he's alone, which is unusal at a dance such as this, so I wold think that peo... (more »)
Tinyclaw said...
Oct. 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm
It is amazing when you can make the reader feel a strong emotion, that is how you know you are a good writer. This is awesome, it sent chills down my spine.
. said...
Oct. 7, 2012 at 10:09 pm
This is amazing. I'm shocked. Can I just say this was the wrong choice to read right before bed? Well, anyway, this was disturbing, and incredibly  great. "THey always come in groups of two." This made me shiver.
TickTockBANG said...
Oct. 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm
Okay, that was kind of really awesome. It was immediately interesting, and then just got better and better. I love the twist, and the repitition making it all ironic and just AHHHH. I really like this. And you got this all out of "Two people walk out of a building." Dude.
CacklingCactus said...
Oct. 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm
A little disturbing, wonderfully poetic, and an unexpected ending. I really enjoyed this. The repetition of how he's alone and no one pays attention to him helps build the story. You can see how he progresses because that bit divides it up, almost like paragraphs but more interesting. At each stage you repeat 'He is alone and no one pays him any mind. He did not come in a group of two' so that it's easy to see where each part is separated. Nice!
brooke M. said...
Oct. 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm
OH MY GOSH I NEVER SAW THAT COMING!!! I would love to write like this, i just don't know where to start. And the whole "he did not come in a group of two" thing is GENIUS!!
HeyThereItsMe This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm
Thank you so much! I adore twist endings to stories so I'm glad this one worked!
aDreamer said...
Oct. 4, 2012 at 9:15 am
LOVELOVELOVE. your writing is enthralling and i love the sense of poetry it has to it. and the ending..ohmy. so so so good. great job!:)
Heather173 said...
Oct. 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm
This was very well written.  I loved the poetic style that the story had and the twist at the end was cool. 
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 1, 2012 at 6:57 am
Whoa. 0.0 totally didn't expect that ending!! Well written though, I couldn't stop reading. I had to find out what happened.
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