I pulled open the heavy wooden door of Adrien’s house, and was instantly yanked inside by countless, nameless hands and shoved into the spacious living room. The walls were splotched with colored light and shaking with heavy bass. There was no floor; in the place of the customary maple hardwoods was a mess of bodies, moving in time to the newest rock song. I tried desperately to regain my lost equilibrium, but the many people pressing against me, flashing their metallic jewelry and piercings and blinding me with their hair dyed all manner of unnatural colors, seemed oblivious to my disorientation. Soon I felt Malikai and Lilith come up behind me, both swaying rather drunkenly and leaning on me for support, but looking happy nonetheless.
“Tarek!” Malikai crowed joyously over the deafening noise, messing with my ear-length black hair and subsequently doubling over with laughter. I scowled and tried vainly to fix it. “Prat,” I muttered under my breath.
Lilith looked exasperated, but amused by her boyfriend’s antics. “Hey, glad you could make it,” she half-slurred with a toss of her curly brown hair. It reached all the way down to her lower back, even longer than her boyfriend’s – a fact that irritated him to no end; he was always known for his long waves of reddish-gold. Her eyes were a warm chocolaty-brown, very becoming with her tan complexion.
“But, Tarek,” Malikai continued, having picked himself up off the floor, “couldn’t you try to be a bit more cheerful? I mean, look at you!” He gestured wildly at my somber black clothing, my single silver ankh earring, my complete lack of a particular hairstyle for my shining ink-black hair, “You look like you just came from a funeral! Who died, your sense of humor?”
“I didn’t come from a funeral,” I stated flatly, gazing around simultaneously at the flashy clothing of the other partygoers. Some wore sparkling black, some bright red, others an unnamable mixture of colors that seemed to change with the lights. Finally I looked back at Malikai, who sported a fishnet top over a black tank top. Count on him to make a big impression. My eyes were drawn to the bottle in his hand, which I recognized with distaste to be a very strong alcoholic beverage. “But I’ll be going to one if you don’t put down that chartreuse. I hope you didn’t drink that whole bottle.”
Malikai blinked his big, icy blue eyes, rimmed with black eyeliner tonight, and then broke out into another wide grin. “Y’mean this?” He asked, tapping a black-painted fingernail against his glass. “C’mon, chartreuse is some of the best stuff ever invented!”
I glared steadily at the glass of vile liquid, and with the narrowing of my green eyes it shattered and fell to the white shag carpeting. A widening stain began to spread across the floor, peppered with bits of bottle.
Malikai seemed to sober immediately. He gazed at the floor, then up at me, and whistled. “Oh, Tarek, Adrien’s gonna kill you, you know. That’s his brand-new carpet.”
I was prevented from retorting by the further dimming of the lights, and the reappearance of Lilith, who ran her fingers through Malikai’s hair and led him out to the dance floor for a slow dance to what sounded suspiciously to me like Savage Garden. Soon I was one of the only people not dancing, and so, feeling intensely unwanted, I picked up a bottle of chartreuse – nobody seemed to care that I was barely sixteen – and waded back through the sea of dancers toward the front door. I took a last hopeful glance over my shoulder, but the couples were so absorbed in one another, they didn’t notice me at all. Feeling suddenly and inexplicably angry, I shattered a nearby vase of white roses and stalked out the door.
In my sudden flash of hurt and fury, I didn’t feel Adrien’s curious hazel eyes on me, or catch from his thoughts that he meant to follow me. I was totally focused on my own depression and little else, even the bitterly cold wind that bit at my bare arms and stung my face.
After the long walk to my apartment, I felt much calmer – on the surface, at least – but no less angry. It had simply diminished to a slow simmer, the deadly sort of deceptive calm that could go on for days, or erupt at the slightest provocation.
I opened the door impatiently with my keys and started toward my room, just remembering and slamming the door shut halfway across the room. What a state I was in, not even remembering to shut the door when I could have easily done it with my hands. Using my “unique gift”, as Lilith so eloquently put it, was making me lazy, I thought moodily. It was bad for me, anyways; it sometimes messed with my mind. I continued into my bedroom… and stopped dead in my tracks.
On my desk, there sat a picture of my mother, Shawna Sinclair, the only picture I had ever had of her. Before now, I had had it packed away in storage; I had actually forgotten all about it, but now here it was, her image staring at me as surely as I stared at it, green eyes melting into green – my father always said I had her eyes, damn him – her curly dark-chocolate hair bouncing with cruel laughter. Her perfectly pink lips seemed to say to me, Why aren’t you dead yet? Never wanted you, nobody did. What are you good for anyways, with your freaky little parlor tricks? Just like your father, you are. Why do you think I left you when you were born? I knew you’d turn out just like him. Go on, Tarek, drink that chartreuse, drink it, drink yourself to death just like your dear father-
“Shut up!” I screamed, dropping the previously forgotten bottle of chartreuse and desperately shattering the picture. With a tinkling sound, the bits of glass fell to the floor like freezing rain. I backed against the wall and slid down to sit, shaking slightly, my breathing erratic. My open window shone a single beam of moonlight on the upturned picture frame, sparkling on the broken glass. I stared at it as if transfixed, hypnotized. Slowly I leaned forward, the tips of my fingers brushing against the warped and twisted silver frame, sending a shudder through my body. I deftly extracted a largish piece of glass out from under the picture, and brought it up to examine in the moonlight.
The frail light refracted off the broken shard, sending ghostly shadows dancing madly across the walls and ceiling. I smiled and ran my thumb along the edge. It was beautifully sharp. I didn’t flinch when it pierced the skin, a small droplet of blood streaking down the side, glittering as it dripped off the other edge onto the cream-colored carpet. My eyes fixed on the red spot for a moment, and I almost smiled again. It reminded me of the fairytale, Snow White and Rose Red, how they got their names when their mother pricked her finger on a rose thorn and a drop of blood fell to the snow. Such cruel innocence; such distressing foreshadowing. I turned my attention back to the glass, lightly caressing the smooth surface with my fingertips, smearing the blood to a translucent red coating. I carefully lowered it to my left forearm, resting it there momentarily, testing the strength of my flesh before lifting it and drawing it back down sharply across my pale skin. A bit of blood, red-black in the partial darkness, ran down my arm, staining it a dark pinkish color. The pain dulled my senses better than any alcohol, even chartreuse. My mother’s words echoed in my head:
Why aren’t you dead yet? Never wanted you, why aren’t you dead yet? Why not?
I made another deep incision in my arm, the hot blood streaking down and sinking into the floor. I gave a small, insane giggle, taking some on my finger and licking it off, then making another cut, the crimson stream thickening. “Happy now, mother?” I muttered sarcastically. A cloud passed in front of the moon, plunging me into sudden darkness. “Are you happy now, Mother?” I screamed to the empty room. A forgotten glass on my bedside table shattered.
Why aren’t you dead yet?
I frantically flipped over my arm, studying the web of veins on the inside of my wrist. I raised the shard of glass.
“Tarek!” Somebody shouted from the apartment stairwell. I laughed slightly. Adrien had followed me; I should have known he would. I locked the deadbolt on the front door. A mirror on the opposite wall showed my eyes glowing a crazed and malevolent green, the pupils enormous, before it developed a spiderweb crack in the middle, distorting the image.
I had been too late locking the door; Adrien had already opened it. I heard him running toward me and shut the door to the bedroom, accidentally splintering the frame. My mind was spinning out of control. I made to raise the crystalline piece of glass again, but it suddenly splintered in my hand. I froze, my eyes darkening and the pupils returning to a normal size. A low moaning sound escaped my lips as the door swung open to a wide-eyed Adrien.
“Tarek!” He gasped, and ran to kneel at my side. He surveyed the disordered room, my glass-speckled palm, my slashed and bleeding arm. “Oh, Tarek, are you okay? What… what happened?” He asked softly, searching my dark, dark green eyes with his own brownish-hazel.
The cloud masking the moon had passed, and it shone brightly on the sparkling red wreckage once more. I drew my knees up to my chin, shaking violently. Rivulets of blood dripped down my arm and leg, and I closed my eyes, leaning back against the wall. I felt a single tear streak down the side of my face, and a faint smile touched my lips. My mother was wrong, I thought dizzily. She was wrong; people wanted me. I wasn’t dead because I had friends who cared. “Adrien,” I murmured dreamily, “think you could get me some bandages? I’m bleeding pretty severely.”
Adrien laughed and shook his head. “How do you manage to always speak of things so… detachedly? You are…” He gave a small laugh again, clearly not knowing what, exactly, I was. “Sure,” he finally answered, “sure, I’ll get you some. No problem.” He glanced around at the broken objects and the splintered doorway. “Ah… where are they? No offense, but I really don’t want to go poking around and get a piece of glass stuck in my hand.”
I laughed in turn. “Under the sink. And don’t worry. Nothing’s broken in there.” As he left the room, I picked up the broken picture of my mother. I twisted it more in my hand, despite painful protest from the one with glass still embedded in it, and without looking at it, willed the window open and threw it out into the street. I heard it skitter across the pavement, and I exhaled a long sigh of relief. She might not care about me, but I knew Adrien did, and maybe that was enough.