Fault

Devon Smoking by hatemypoisonedkiss his DeviantArt.com

I watched her face glow behind the red embers of her cigarette as she pulled the smoke deep into her lungs. Exhaling a smooth stream into the darkness, her skin returned to a shade of porcelain reflecting the moonlight.

She licked her lips as she stared at the smoke floating away from us. Her mouth twisted as she caught me staring.

“No lectures today about my health?”

Kelly’s eyes were soft, a shade of maple syrup with flecks that sparkled like the stars. But the night made them gray.

I let my gaze fall to the beer in my hands, picking and peeling the golden paper, revealing a slippery, green glass bottle beneath. I held it up between us.

“Who am I to lecture anyone about their vice?”

I tipped it back to my lips and let the bitter, crisp tang wash over my tongue before swallowing several times until my head swam and the bottle was empty.

I cracked another open before looking at her again. Her hair was parted with a zigzag and twisted into two haphazard knots. She’d tucked the wispy strands of pale blue that had escaped behind her ears. It made her look younger. Vulnerable. Sexy.

She lit another cigarette.

“We don’t have to do this right now.”

Her voice was tight and crinkly, like a Mylar balloon being filled too full. I winced and tried to turn away, but her fingers slipped around my jaw as she scooted closer to me.

The concrete felt like an ice cold promise beneath me.

“You don’t have to decide anything, Will.” She swallowed, tracing her thumb over my lip, then lowered herself to her knees on the sidewalk beneath my feet. Shifting between my legs and tossing her cigarette in the grass, she took my face in her hands. Her voice went up like it always did before she cried. “I don’t need anything from you. Just let me love you.”

A tear slipped down her cheek.

I closed my eyes from the weight of everything. I could pull her against me and lose myself in the dog-eared comfort of us, our story written on pages too fragile to be erased and rewritten. I could…

I opened my eyes as she dropped her fingers to my chest. “I can’t, baby. It would be like-”

She pushed me, rising to her feet. Glaring down at me, her nostrils flared. “It would be like it should be. It would give us more time. It would-” her voice broke and with it, something in my chest burst.

I sagged forward, staring down at hands that had crushed her heart without even holding it. Fingers that had skimmed over another woman’s body, held another woman’s face, made another woman shudder with ecstasy.

“I’ll forgive you!” The volume of her voice made my head snap up and my eyes dart around the empty street. “I will change. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

Her sobs cut her pleas into confetti. She fell again to her knees, wincing this time, but grabbing my shirt and pulling herself against me. “Please, William, please. You can’t do this! You just can’t do this to me!”

I’m not a cruel man. I never was. I could have stayed that night, chosen to do the “right” thing. And maybe we could’ve made it work.

But as I pulled her up and held her tightly, I saw my life, my future pass before me. Months or maybe years of mistrust. And the quicksand my infidelity had trapped me in would eventually suffocate me.

She sobbed into my chest as i tried to find purchase on solid ground. It was the first night of many that I would hold her and will her to be ok. Without me.

But the one thing I didn’t think about that night was loving her.

And that was all I should’ve thought about.

Her hair is dark violet now. Straight and sleek, framing her beautiful face like a piece of art. She stopped smoking and started running.

With him.

For him.

I watch her now, every evening, pass by the park where I proposed.

Sometimes, I can’t breath, her happiness hurts so bad. But that’s my fault.

It’s still my fault today.

It will be. Forever.

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Irony

I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I’m one of those girls. The kind who wakes up in random places with random strangers and how in the hell do I never end up cut up in pieces in some guy’s freezer or chained to the hot water heater in his basement.

I could only be so lucky.

It was late August the last time I thought that about myself. I opened my eyes to a vicious sound, whining and rumbling in disharmonic unison that made images of my grandfather’s chainsaw pass through my whiskey clogged brain.

When I opened my eyes, the ever adorable Raina was standing at the kitchen counter dropping rocks into the bowl of her giant Kitchenaid mixer and glaring at me with eyes that could have set water ablaze.

My hands went to my ears as I shouted, begging her to stop.

She pointed to her ear, shaking her head as her mouth twisted upward at the corners. Raina’s smiles cost me a drop of my soul, every single one. But there was never any complaining on my part. She paid her own penance for being with me.

When I stuffed my thumbs in my ears and wrapped my fingers over my eyes, dropping my head against the back of her fuzzy futon, she threw one of the stones at my stomach and turned off the grievous machine.

“I don’t know why I put up with you, Krista.”

The wilted thorns in her voice told me I’d better get up. As I did, the room spun with waves of heat and black baubles of non-light making me wish I’d just keel over and die on the spot.

“Raina. Baby.” Another stone, smaller than the last, dashed across the coffee table and hit me in the thigh. “You’re gonna break something.”

“If it’s your face, I might be ok with it.” Her lips trembled with the ache of whatever I’d put her through. Don’t ask me what it was, I couldn’t have told you my name just then if she hadn’t said it.

I sighed, putting my hands up to simultaneously steady myself and signal the universal sign of surrender. “Then you really wouldn’t put up with me. My face is the only thing you like about me.”

Another twitch at the edge of her lips made my heart flutter.

There is lots of beauty in the world, but then there is a rare form of it that is so close to magic, you might not be able to distinguish the difference. Raina had the means to make you believe she flitted between the two like a fairy or angel or siren.

Most like a siren. There was just something dark and dangerous in those fiery eyes of hers.

But this time, the darkness bloomed. It took over the crisp sweet pleasure of her smile. With tiny explosions of thought visibly firing inside her mind, her features muddied into demonic fury. She held the large rock in her right hand and I swallowed hard, gazing at the mud that still clung to its surface and wedged deeply beneath the long white tips of her fingernails.

A surge of something cold and penetrating went through my spinal column, sobering me from root to stem as I stopped my quiet advance toward her and let my eyes waft back up to hers.

I knew I’d taken her for granted. I never told her how I loved her or made sure she felt it. I partied hard and plenty, letting myself become seduced by pretty boys and gruff girls in the toilets of bars or hotel hot tubs. I was 26 and I still thought I was invincible.

Raina was just a girl I was fucking. FWB. My last call.

The realization of my mortality that sticky, late summer morning made my life seem so wasted. So worthless. And as her fist rose in the air, I did not see the past flash before my eyes.

I saw every speck of dust sparkling in the late morning sunlight. I saw the drops of sweat on Raina’s forehead and collarbone. I saw kids across the street running through the spray of a lawn sprinkler. I saw Raina’s kitten with eyes wiser than they should have been watching the scene unfold before her as she perched on the top of the sleek silver curtain rod I’d helped to hang a hundred years ago.

I saw every single thing in the world around me, in slow motion, about to go on without me after the sharp, cold ridge of that rock slammed into my face. But I didn’t see the small stone she had thrown a moment ago sitting neatly behind my right foot as I stepped back away from her.

Holding my breath, milliseconds fell between us like those helicopter seeds that sift below the branches of maple trees in the spring. Her eyes widened and my foot fell awkwardly on something round and rough and out of place. I watched as the massive rock glided past my eyes, mere millimeters away and my frame lurched backward nearly parallel to the floor.

But only a breath before the back of my head skimmed over the solid oak edge of her coffee table.

When I opened my eyes to find her kneeling over me, crying and laughing in some superfluous symphony of irony, she was holding the tiny rock I slipped on.

“Only you, Krista. Only you.”

I’m baffled as to why, as it hurt my head when I began to laugh with her, but I did. I sat up, clinging to her as she dissolved in a fit of giggles before me.

“Where is your shoe?”

Through the tears in my eyes and the pain from the depth of my soul, I laughed even harder.

Because she was right.

Only I would lose a shoe and have it save my life.

 

Secretary

There are billions of people on earth, and at least a third of them live their whole lives without being known. People know their names and faces, but their heart and their soul? They keep those hidden.

The idea is privacy and protection. At some point, most people un-brick the walls and pull back the curtains for some special person who, typically, does the same. Intimacy begets a connection that can be joyous and nurturing.

It also allows someone close enough to truly know you. And therefore know exactly how to hurt you.

Some people have been marked by the devastation of those moments where it all goes wrong. Sometimes, at their own revealing. Sometimes, by proxy. In youth, we learn directly through the experiences of our parents and siblings, as much as our own.

Those who have seen that damage refuse to let anyone in. They hole themselves up forever inside their own mind. And every so often, that buffer between them and people around them becomes a tool and their ability to repel the pressing need for intimate bonds becomes a skill.

In a few rare cases, that skill becomes something else entirely.

She was one of those few. And probably one of the strongest to possess it.

I was none of the above. Or, at least I believed I was.

Brian’s business had started as a joke between friends in college. The kind of joke that leaves you reeling when, five years later, he is one of the top 100 Most Successful Men in America under forty.

I was the kind of friend no one ever expected to amount to much. Not that I couldn’t or wouldn’t be successful, but my heart was too soft, my mind too open. My one and only skill was knowing if an idea was good or bad. That joke had been Kristy’s idea. And when I said it would work, the laughter was all but unanimous.

Seeing the business value in having someone like me around, Brian made me a partner. I got the deciding vote on new endeavours, and, in exchange, he got the deciding vote on everything else.

In the wake of the recession that shook the globe, we didn’t fold, but sought to give the world a reason to buy our product over others. Years before, I’d told him that I’d like to start a non-profit, at some point, because I never felt comfortable making a fortune knowing how many humans were starving. He recalled this, in the summer of 2008, and devised a means of donating a portion of every sale to a charity of our creation, therefore marketing the company to the masses as a business with a noble purpose.

The process was complicated and Brian had to keep me in check often, reminding me of financial reality and dismissing me whenever I got carried away talking about the people we helped.

“Fuck, Marc. Do you really think I care about this shit? It’s not about them, dude. It never was. It was a marketing ploy. An amazing one.”

“But, we are really making a diff–”

“Save it for a speech. Let me enjoy my beer.”

I lost myself to it, ignoring the stories and lives of those around me, focusing solely on the next mission or gift or cause or fire that Brian would allow me to throw myself into.

And then came Katrina.

Our friend Paul, who’d been a writer for the Times when everything went sideways, had been handling phones, press relations and travel. But got ball-and-chained and moved across the country. I had to hire someone, and fast. The phone is not my friend.

She came highly recommended by several political campaigns and was a personal assistant for a year for someone whose identity she wasn’t allowed to divulge. I later discovered it was a CEO in one of the major banks, but that was as much as she would admit. Nor would she say what had happened.

I was sure she’d be perfect before she’d even opened her mouth. Introducing Katrina to Brian was the kicker. He got to decide on everything else, remember.

Yes, he’s my best friend. But he can be a monster when it comes to women. He’d cast a nice wormy hook, and if she took the bait, that would be the end of it. She’d get fucked, and so would I. Warning her put me in the precarious position of admitting all of that.

“Brian is very… I’m not sure just how to say this.”

Crossing the street, I noticed her shoes. She’d worn heels to interview with me, but now she was in flats.

“Please Marcus. I’ve been doing this since I was fifteen. I’ve brushed off men at every job, without making them feel brushed off. I do my research. I know how to dress to dissuade attention without making it obvious.”

As we reached the restaurant, she stopped me with her hand on the inside of my elbow. Her smile was coy and sweet as she looked up from beneath her lashes. I hadn’t noticed her eyes before, but now I couldn’t break from her gaze.

My entire body responded. Every hair seemed to reach for her. My pores wanted to drink her. My mouth watered to taste her and my blood pounded inside my ears. My cock swelled ferociously while my hands tingled with a wicked desire to touch her skin, feel her inside and out, bring her to orgasm until she couldn’t breathe. My stomach roiled from the intensity of it.

As she stepped back and laughed, my cheeks burned.

“I also know how to achieve it.”

Katrina rolled her shoulders and stepped up again with her fingers wrapped around the door handle. I swear, I felt the grip as if her hand was inside my shorts.

Then I sagged with relief as all of these sensations suddenly flitted away. Like I’d imagined each one.

“You hired me because I wanted you to. And Brian will love me but not desire me, because I don’t want him to.”

For a moment, I stood inexplicably still, caught with the heaviness of trying to recall something that did not want to be discovered. But as she grinned at me and motioned inside with a flick of her head, I thought I’d simply found Brian’s female equivalent.

We sat at lunch for over two hours. Katrina ran the meeting, making prolific notes and discussing her role between the company and the charity with a confidence that was impressive. Brian, unimpressible as he generally was, smirked at her as she closed her pad folio. I gritted my teeth at this sign of him preparing his fishing line.

But the smile she’d given in return burned up the moment like a laser. Then lunch ended without incident, and Brian actually congratulated me on such a great find.

So, I shrugged off my concerns and walked back to the office with Katrina, feeling pride and success. Accomplishment at finally having judged another human well.

Oh, the irony.

It was weeks before I thought about that moment in front of the restaurant again. But I started having surreal dreams that woke me with a raging hard-on and a splitting headache.

Who puts stock in dreams? They are just your subconscious way of processing your experiences. I tried to believe it.

And as we worked closely together, Katrina loosened a bit with me. But she was diamond hard with Brian. She never budged an inch when he was around. Which only strengthened my attraction.

I spent more and more nights, alone in bed, picturing those long, strawberry blonde waves, falling decadently over her pale skin which somehow looked impossibly delicate beneath the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose and soft curve of her chest. Her ocean green eyes peered up at me through thick lashes and her raspberry pink pout would break into a smile before she bit down on her lower lip.

The fantasies became so intense. Things I’d never considered before. I found myself in the restroom at least once a day with my cock in hand and visions of her swimming through my head, naked and writhing, struggling and screaming, moaning and crying. I thought I was losing it.

In important moments though, my thoughts and visions of her would dissolve and I’d be able to work. So I threw myself into it. Only, that just brought me near her more often. I found myself losing chunks of time occasionally. Opening my eyes to find 28 minutes gone, and my fingernails firmly dug into the armrests of my chair.

I was getting very close to making an appointment with a shrink.

Bun one afternoon, sat at my desk watching her, trying to figure out what was happening to me, she suddenly looked up and caught me staring through my open door. I watched her blow me a kiss before slouching down in her chair, hitching up her pencil skirt and spreading her thighs wide.

She sat at a table-style desk, open beneath, so I could see the lace of her panties between her legs. Sitting up uncomfortably, but unable to shift his eyes away, I watched her fingers wrap around her water bottle. Feeling the inexplicable pressure around my cock, I gasped loudly as she slipped her fingers into her panties below the desktop.

She lifted the bottle to her lips and swirled her tongue around the capped tip. I experienced it as if she were kneeling in front of me. She rubbed herself furiously, whispering for me to come take her, slipping her panties off and inserting the tip of that bottle into herself and working it in and out until my cock was about to explode.

It ended as quickly as it began when she was startled by the ring of the phone. She silenced it, before glaring at my fingers gripping the edge of my chair so tightly that my knuckles had gone white. The she slipped into the bathroom.

While she was gone, but I was cemented into my seat, I wrote down exactly what I’d experienced and slipped the page into my jacket pocket before she returned.

It was 11pm that night when I read the page that I found, quite by surprise.

I didn’t remember any of it. Not even writing it.

But my fantasies of her that night were even more vivid than ever before. And when I woke, sweaty and thrashing around on my mattress, still feeling her clenched around my rigid cock, I decided to start writing everything down. Everything I could.

Almost a year passed. Very little was written.

She stood in my doorway with her hair piled into a bun and wearing that blouse that was meant to drape, but clung instead, begging to be ripped from her then used to violently restrain her so that she could be used and pleasured. It mocked me, that fucking blouse.

I glared at her. But she smiled.

“You are a tough shell to crack, Marc.”

Trying to look away, I didn’t trust my ears. Months of visions and dreams had blurred together with moments that couldn’t possibly be real. I had come five times that day already, but hadn’t released a drop of semen. I didn’t want to look at her, but she never gave me a choice.

She sashayed through the door and dropped a sheet of paper on my desk.

“I’m giving my notice.”

I continued to stare, carefully grinding my teeth to prevent myself from speaking. I still couldn’t be sure this was real. Or a trick. I have no idea what would’ve happened if I’d ever let go. And I’m still not clear on the why.

“I hope you’ll provide me with a glowing reference.”

It wasn’t really a request, I felt her attempting to implant the words inside my brain. It was the worst part. Knowing, but not knowing.

I had resorted to communicating with her solely by text or email, working from home as often as possible, and with my office door closed when I was there. It had become my life goal to evade her. To prove to myself that I wasn’t insane.

Or that I was.

“You don’t need to stay two weeks. If this is real, today should be your last day.”

I managed to drag my eyes away from hers to look at the page on my desk. It was a typical letter of resignation. I gripped the edge of the warm wood and waited for her to leave.

But she sniffed, making me look up.

“Why do you hate me? What did I do to make you hate me so much?”

My eyes grew wide as a tear slipped down the crevice between her nose and cheek.

My entire body flooded with the primal need to comfort and soothe her, make the tears stop. Tell her whatever she needed to hear…

But my mind caught the crest of that wave. Just the peak. Where there was still oxygen above it. Before she began inundating me with the visions of my arms wrapped around her, my nose in her soft, vanilla scented hair, my lips capturing hers.

I shook my head, hanging to the thread of belief that I would not and could not fuck her or something devastating would happen. I knew with every fiber of my being that touching her would be the end of me. And who knows what else.

“How can you be so cruel? You were so kind in the beginning, so sweet and funny and–”

I glared at her again, my fingernails digging into the desk.

“I may be cruel, Kat. But if I am, something made me that way.”

It was the first time my voice felt like my own in weeks. And at those words, something broke.

In her.

Between us.

And electrified me.

My thoughts were as clear and bright as they’d ever been. All of my memories returned to me, some of them so shocking, I wish they hadn’t. Her desire to make me take her had devolved her into something almost pitiable. Almost.

My desire for her had not waned, but the talons of it had shifted. I felt my fingers at the edge of the desk and flattened my hands over the top. I began moving my fingertips in small circles as her eyes grew and those beautiful lips parted.

She watched my hands as I felt her nipples beneath them.

Her breath came in shallow bursts as her her own fingers danced across the hem of her skirt.

Realization popped between us and I smiled at her. The fear I’d stomached for months glittered behind her eyes now, like fireworks. Her lips began to move, but no sound escaped.

“Is there something you’d like to say, Katrina?”

I felt the wave of anxiety roll off of her like a cool breeze.

The power of manipulation can be a disgusting thing. But in the right hands, perhaps it could be used for good. My mind filled with Robin of Loxley ideas. Would it work on men or only women, if I used it?

As Katrina kneeled in front of me and began to unbuckle my belt, I looked down into the oceanic eyes that had mesmerized me for so long. I could let her have what she’d wanted so desperately all this time. I could use her as she’d wanted to use me.

“No, no,” I whispered.

And as the last little strands of that incredulous gift made their way from her to me, I took her hand and helped her to her feet.

“There are better ways to use people, Kat.”

With my hand at the small of her back, and my lips against her ear, I told her to go home and do nothing.

“It’s your last day. Enjoy the freedom.”

I chuckled at the light in her eyes and the wrinkle between her brows that I’d never once seen in 12 months.

“I’ll call you, Kat.”

She licked her lips and I simply couldn’t help myself. Power is the best kind of revenge. I pictured her, perched on the arm of the couch, waiting for her cell phone to ring.

That freedom, perhaps, was not liberating at all.

Destiny

My feet swung idly beneath the kitchen table as he made my favorite sandwich. His fingers separating the slices of seven grain bread she loved but never eats. He unscrewed the lid and pried off the inner cap of a giant jar of her homemade peanut butter, which she also never eats. The air filled with that unmistakable aroma, which made me sit up and sniff the air. My lecture about how peanuts aren’t really nuts made him chuckle before aiming his gentle, comforting gaze at me.

“Do you know what they are then, miss-know-it-all?”

He always pointed out that I didn’t know it all. But for a six year old, I knew an awful lot. I just couldn’t always remember everything I knew. He told me they are called ‘lay-gooms’ as he drizzled honey from Mr. Montgomery’s farm over both pieces of the bread. Then chuckled again when I asked if they were beans, then.

He continued the preparation, making one for me and one for her, which she wouldn’t eat and I’d have to go bury in the compost later. It didn’t matter how often she refused to eat, he always made a sandwich for her, too. Every few days, she’d surprise us by eating a lot. He said her body knew when it needed something, even if her mind didn’t.

She scrubbed at a spot on the counter that had been there forever. She was up, which was better than not. And she was calm, which was a lot better than not.

She never talked when I was around, but I knew she could, because I’d heard her through the register vent in my room. I slept on top of it some nights, when it was really cold. Or when I was full of wishes.

I heard her the night before. Crying. I heard Papa too. Begging her to let him hold her.

I once asked her why she didn’t act like a real mama, but she hit me. And he told me I was never to speak to her again unless she asked me a question. I didn’t tell him that I’d tried to hold her hand. That was the real reason she smacked me.

Watching her try to get rid of that silly orange spot on the Formica, I started to giggle because her skirt was tucked into her panties. Papa slid my plate in front of me with a glass of milk and three apple slices in the little red apple bowl he said Mama had made for me before I was born. Back when she was normal.

He pressed his finger to my lips and shook his head.

“It’s not nice to laugh at others, little pickle.”

I frowned, looking up into his giant brown eyes. He was gentle to a fault, only raising his voice as a last resort. He was only a bear when he needed to be.

My lips smirked without my intention, but I looked away, realizing he’d have to fix her. Which meant touching her.

I braced myself to hear the worst.

But it didn’t come. He whispered, but all I could here was pickle. As I looked back, his expression made my nose wrinkle. My little heart beat against my lungs.

He sat the plastic plate and cup beside her, same as me, with three apple slices in the little Winnie the Pooh bowl that used to be mine. I remember him feeding me corn out of it once, and her throwing her china plate at the ceiling above our heads, raining tiny, white shards all over me. And into my little bowl.

His face suddenly had a big red line from his forehead, down his cheek where a big piece had fallen and sliced right into his skin. I’d never seen blood before.

You can still see part of the scar, if you look really close.

It was an awful memory, I shook my head to dislodge it and focused on the shiny, red porcelain bowl that held my apples. On the bottom, there was a hand-painted message to me. Her Destiny. She’d had my name picked out for years, crocheted a blanket with flowers on it the week she’d found out she was pregnant.

She’d known. For years, she’d said she’d known.

I looked back up at Papa who sat down across from me and bit into his own sandwich. Biting into mine, I giggled when papa smiled at me with peanut butter in his teeth.

Mama glanced over, abandoned the stain, and carried her plate and cup to the end of the table. Dr Henry calls it ‘ingrained behavior’. I like Dr Henry because he teaches me big words and always sneaks me MaryJane’s from his suit pocket.

“It’s nice to all sit down and eat as a family.”

His eyes didn’t match his tone as he stared at Mama. I imagine he spent most of his life willing her to come back. Pleading with God to let her suddenly wake up normal. Negotiating his soul. If only something, anything could give him back the woman he loved.

They’d bought this giant farmhouse with plans for a brood of ten. From all recollections, she’d been the most amazing woman on earth. And no one had to tell me, I figured out on my own that I was the reason she was now simply a shell of her former self.

I had killed her without taking her life.

Dr Henry came that afternoon. We talked for half an hour about what Mama had been doing during the last week. No outbursts, no hitting, no breaking things. Then he squeezed a candy into my palm, and told me to go look up the word ‘gravity’ in the big purple dictionary.

It was the same, every week. He would come, bribe me from the room with sweets and a task, then he and Papa would tie Mama down so he could examine her and give her medicine.

Papa closed the door behind me.

I tried to occupy myself. Summer was easier because I could run around outside. But it was cold and raining, and I left my doll upstairs in my room. I pulled the huge book from the shelf and opened it on the floor, thumbing through the G’s and underlining the word with my Strawberry Shortcake pencil.

Gravity: a very serious quality or condition : the condition of being grave or serious

I didn’t get to read the rest.

Her screaming and cursing was muffled, but startled me just the same. There was a thud, and grunting. She screamed again and I heard a soft crack, like a thin tree branch breaking under the weight of a man. Papa bellowed words I’ve never heard him use before, choking and coughing.

Dying.

I wasn’t supposed to know how to unlock that door, but I did.

I shouldn’t have been able to reach the knife drawer in the kitchen, but I could.

I couldn’t possibly have been strong enough to defend him, everyone said so for months to follow.

Papa didn’t wake up for hours. I laid there beside him, staring into her eyes, something I’d never been able to do before. My arm and collarbone were broken, but the pain started to feel just hot after a while. I thought maybe it had gone away, but he squeezed me hard enough to bring it back when he woke.

Dr Henry and Mama never did.

Six years, three months and twenty three days after I killed her, I finally finished the job.

That’s the really shitty thing about Destiny.

 

A dream of hope

It was an ordinary evening, a typical walk. But, for reasons I cannot explain, I wasn’t surprised when I was captured violently and pulled behind a fence on the dark, vacant path I love. I watched calmly and quietly as my attacker pressed me against the cold, damp wood and held a knife to my chest.

I had always had very little fear of death, as I have always believed that what lies on the other side could only be welcome relief from the pain that is living in this world. I’d clung to hope that someday life would provide me purpose. And in those seconds, I was completely at peace.

I knew that this was the moment for my magic to make a difference. This was my chance to infect someone else with kindness and hope. To pass on the light that made it impossible for me to let life’s hurt overwhelm me, even when it seemed to bury me.

I looked into the face of a young man whose desperation, hatred, lust and fear coated him like armor. But as his eyes bore into mine, I knew his weakness. For in them, I saw an unloved boy, a kid whose life had been infinitely harder than mine, a young man whose heart had been frozen and shattered repeatedly by the disappointments that drown so many.

I lifted my hand to his cheek and saw panic flash before me, but soothed his anxiety with the magic of my voice. “Shhhh, you have nothing to fear from me. I cannot hurt you. But if you allow me, I might help you… comfort you… heal you.”

His eyes grew wide as I spoke. Perhaps he’d never experienced kindness in his life. The idea made me sad and I lifted my other hand to his face to capture a single tear. That drop of saline need told me my magic was working.

As I stroked his unshaven face, his arms fell slack at his sides and I seized the opportunity to pull him into my embrace and plant the seeds that might grow into goodness and mercy. Hope.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and felt sadness roll off of him in waves that brought tears to my own eyes. My empathic heart absorbed it like a sponge, and I wished with everything in me that it truly worked that way. That I could relieve his woeful spirit by soaking up all the negative emotion that addled him.

Perhaps he could feel my thoughts, because the knife dropped from his grip and his arms circled me and held me as though he hadn’t ever felt the pleasure of a simple hug.

He took deep, choppy breaths against my hair, in an effort to evade the sobs that fought to bubble from within. He managed to keep himself from setting free the frightened boy who was never allowed the release of crying into the arms of someone who cared.

He whispered, “Why?” Barely audible, I tried to pull back to look at him, but he clung to me, almost as if I were a life preserver. But before I could answer, his thoughts grew dark and I felt the change course through his body. “You shoulda just said you wasn’t afraid of me…”

He lifted a hand to my throat as he pulled my arms from his neck and took a step back. His eyes were filled with hopelessness and rage. “I might’ve walked, but now, I wanna make you feel the pain you think I’m in.”

I should have felt fear with his words, but instead, I was excited by them. Curious about the level of rage he might muster after such an emotional response to my gift. I stood, fixed by his grip and stare, before my lips turned upward, unable to relinquish control to this lost boy.

“Do you think taking a piece of my body will fill the void? That release within me will give you something you are missing? Is that truly what you believe?”

His fingers tightened, his eyes were wide, and I could see the confusion my questions caused. I could feel his conscience fighting with his desire.

“Taking power will not make you feel more powerful.”

The crack my magic had made in his armor grew, but so did his rage. He leaned into me, as the fingers of his free hand reached between my thighs to grip me, intimately. “You’re wrong,” he growled. “Takin’ this will give me power.”

My smile faded, and I stared into the eyes of a possible rapist, but I didn’t feel the conviction of his words. I wished I could see inside his mind, inside his memories, and inside his lust.

In those wishes, my magic gripped me. Harder than he, and with enough force to choke me. An inch from my lips, I breathed him in and recognized his victimization.

A lifetime of attacks, a decade of cowering, and the inability to stand up against his abuser had left him broken and searching for that which might make him feel strong.

A tear rolled down my cheek as I gasped and struggled to keep from breaking. The weight of his shame crushed my heart and the hatred I felt for the person who created this hurt within him, a person he’d loved, emptied my mind of any self preservation. My desire to heal him forced my hands back to his scruffy jaw.

“Do your worst, sweet boy, if it will make you whole. Take refuge and release in me, but do so with the knowledge that what happened to you, to your heart and mind, will then happen to me. In taking my body, you will take away my hope.”

He stared into my eyes, realization clawing at him. He squeezed his eyelids shut trying desperately to understand what I was doing to him. As firmly as my power had gripped me, it was invading him. Penetrating the very center of what had brought him so many years of strife, and exploding with that one thing he’d been missing forever.

“Hope…” His lips were touching mine, his fingers still holding me, and my own twisting into the soft curls at the base of his neck.

“Yes. Let IT define you, instead of allowing your history to do that.” My whispered words filled his mouth, and I finally broke all the way through.

He released me, but remained planted to the spot, not wanting to disrupt the magic of my touch. Gazing into my eyes, his mind fell open, and I saw his goodness. He exhaled, and I felt his desire, not for power, but for love.

I allowed my lips to touch his briefly before pulling back and pouring all of the love I could muster into one look. He collapsed into my embrace and I breathed against his ear, “If you allow it to take hold, hope will crush fear. It will not take away the pain or struggle, but it will keep it from overwhelming you.

“Hope makes life bearable.”

With his hands on my waist and his face in my hair, he cried. The sobs he’d held in earlier broke free, and I felt the strength of that release. So much more powerful than a sexual one.

“Why? Why are you here?” He whispered, again.
“Fate.” I breathed.
“Are you an angel? …A witch?”
I giggled, “No. Just a silly girl who isn’t afraid. Just a broken girl who wishes she could heal the world. Just a backwards clairvoyant with far too much empathy.”
“A healer,” he sighed. “A magical, mystical healer, set on my path to save me… from myself.”
“Perhaps we were set on each other’s path. For you have saved me, as well. Given purpose to my gift.”

As I stood, comforting him, he held me and I too began to cry. Hearing me, he pulled back, concern changing his face and making him so beautiful.

“Why are you crying?” He touched my cheek, and I smiled at the transformation.

“They are your tears. I’m simply helping you release them faster.”

He held me again, tightly, and the healing truly began.

When I felt him grow stronger, I held him out from me and stared into the birth of my creation. He was suddenly a vividly attractive young man, and confidence seemed to blossom within him. I also recognized the emptiness that he might feel in my absence, like being torn from your mother or your protector.

I stroked his face and whispered, “When my touch is gone, my magic will remain. Use it carefully and wisely, and you will find great love. It won’t always be easy, but hope will see you through it.”

As he stepped back, he didn’t need to speak. We shared something stronger than apologies and more honest. Our spirits had touched. I believe he will always be a part of me.

And I hope that I will always be a part of him. And that he uses the magic I gave him to infect others.

With kindness. And mercy.

And hope.