“That won’t do at all. Did no one offer you a bath?”
Someone had, but Dahlia had made sure to avoid it. There were plenty of other children around. It was easy enough to be overlooked as long as no one saw her.
The woman made a tutting sound with her tongue, looking her over. “I refuse to see hair like this. We will fix it. Come.”
Unfortunately, unlike the adults who watched over the children normally, the woman who would come down to see them, who would come down with that boy with the longest of hair, was harder to be overlooked by. Dahlia followed the woman to the baths despite her hesitance.
The woman with the abundance of hair had her scrub herself down first before she began to work on Dahlia’s hair. Dahlia waited for the tugs, used to them. However, even as her scalp became sore, she felt as though the tugs became less and less painful. The woman was able to put her fingers through it without catching against anything. Dahlia wondered how long they had been in here.
“Much better. Where I come from, hair is a symbol of your life. Make sure to take care of it and it will show the world who you are.”
That didn’t make any sense to Dahlia. All she knew was that she hadn’t been dragged here by her hair and that it didn’t feel like a handle on her head anymore.
She felt new.
When Leondra went to visit her sister, she had to stop in a town halfway there. The hotel room was small and bare, but warm. Most importantly, it had a phone. Leondra had begun to understand the desire for one of those mobile phones, where she didn’t have to wait for moments like this to get in contact with anyone.
“You going to be here tomorrow?”
Leondra considered the old fashioned curling cord that attached the phone to the cradle. “Probably by noon. The train stops by at eight and takes about that long.”
“Then I guess we’ll start with lunch! It’s been so long, Leo~”
It had been so long. Leondra couldn’t help but smile. “It won’t be much longer.”
With the little they still shared in common, Leondra couldn’t wait to spend the week with her big sister.
Arte met Monse in the easiest way there was for Arte to meet people – online. Immediately Monse was everything Arte could ever want. Especially because she was far away where Monse would never have the misfortune to actually see Arte in real life, because that would be tragic as far as Arte was concerned.
the fastraunt? wait, you live here too?
Okay, maybe not so far away.
we should totally meet up!
Very not far away. Arte tugged at her hands, preferable to tugging at the hair she hadn’t had since the surgery.
It would have been so easy to come up with an excuse. It would have been easy. Online friends don’t always make good in person friends. Monse might not be the same in person. Even if Arte weren’t a failure, what if she’d built Monse up in her mind too much?
Arte had to turn her down. Which meant, of course, it was completely by accident and not planned at all when Arte and Monse finally met in person.
The bar was empty.
The bartender finished wiping off the last table, leaving the bar in the very condition he had opened it in. The cleanup, no matter what all had happened during the evening, had the same monotonous fix to it. He enjoyed the repetition, as much as he enjoyed the unexpected events that sprung forth from the patrons during the rest of the evening.
The bar was empty.
The small assortment of items that were left behind, as there always was. He put them in the same cabinet as he always did, recognizing some of them as belonging to regular clientele. No matter how careful anyone was, how drunk they weren’t, this always happened. Though he was certain one of these was done on purpose, though it appeared the person it was always left for would never notice who was trying to pick him up.
The bar was empty.
He sat down, alone, and poured himself a drink.
A good night’s work.
He was so close.
There was the clock, ever-present, ever-taunting. Trying to distract him while he was trying to ignore it. Oh, the clock was important. The timer told him when the inputs would stop.
His muscles were tense now, so tense. Trying not to twitch, because every single motion needed to be important, needed to be exactly what it was. He had to be on top of it, needed to complete it all before the time destroyed all possibilities. He needed to watch, he needed to listen and he had to be one frame before-
Time ran out.
“Hah! Who’s the winner now?”
He shut his eyes and dropped the controller on his lap. Well, there went his title. He used to be so much better in brawls.
Reaching for a determined height.
As the change comes upon you and
near your eyes breaks the metal,
dare to reach.
Never can you reach the height.
Ending the world with the power
spun inside you, the weakness
singing when you reach, you reach.
“Why haven’t you ever tried to kiss me?”
Perhaps she should have been embarrassed to ask such a thing. She could imagine her father’s reaction to such a thing. So forward! Not that Toiréasa had ever given much thought to propriety, not in a long time. Yet Saoirse had been so forward in everything else. She had been the one to approach Toiréasa first. The woman had tried nothing. Not a kiss, not any other sweet romantic gesture.
Toiréasa didn’t want the other sweet, romantic gestures. That wasn’t important to her. Not that she’d turn them away. However, considering what her other suitors had wanted, it was important to her to know Saoirse’s thoughts on the matter.
There were those teeth, showing in that smile. “Is that a request?”
Toiréasa looked her companion over, before absently reaching for the Gévaudan hound at her feet. Her boot rubbed against the fur of the beast’s side. The bitch continued to sleep. “It’s a question.”
Saoirse shrugged. “I’m in no rush. I’m going to be the only one and I’m going to have all of them. When that starts is of no consequence.”
“Still very certain, aren’t you.”
“Tell me I’m wrong.”
She couldn’t, because she couldn’t imagine it being anyone else but Saoirse now. “Your patience might not be rewarded.”
Saoirse grabbed her by the shoulders, holding her where she stood. Those lips were on hers, that tongue meeting hers, those teeth somehow not ripping her to shreds.
When they parted, Saoirse looked as smug as she ever did. “I think it was.”
It was. Toiréasa couldn’t complain about that. She returned that smile with one of her own. “Who won what now?”
Dahlia hugged her legs to her chest and buried her face into her knees. She stayed like that, hoping no one would find her today. There was nowhere else to go, not that she wanted to go anywhere. She didn’t know what to do anymore.
Her fingers pressed into her arms, almost to the point where it hurt. Then she peered up in the darkness. The boy that stood before her looked like that woman who was always coming to the orphanage. The woman seemed nice, but adults were like that. Adults always seemed nice. Then you got to know them.
She swallowed. “‘lo.”
“What are you doing?”
The way he spoke made her feel like he came from an entirely different world. Like he was an adult. She didn’t like it. “Sitting.”
The boy nodded. “Oh. Okay.”
Just like that, he sat down next to her. She wanted to tell him to go, but she wouldn’t. She never did anything like that. Because that was always the opportunity others took in order to tell her what she was or wasn’t allowed to do.
For a while, all was quiet but for the sounds of the children outside of the closet. The thin light that came into their crevasse lit upon the string wrapped around his fingers. It was made of rainbows. He held out his fingers and the string attached to them.
“Pinch the x’s.”
She couldn’t stop herself. She reached out to play with the string.
Leondra paused, because she didn’t know what this had to do with her sister, other than in keeping her involved with Leondra’s life despite the distance between them. “That… I don’t understand.”
“It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’m doing. It’s just… I didn’t realize you’d be happy doing that. Because of… well, the lack of beast. Is this what you want, sis? I have to know. Is this what you want, or are you doing this because everyone would call the rest of us a hunter without us having to do anything?”
Leondra did not respond.
“You never seemed to mind much. I didn’t think it bothered you, at least, not since you were really little. Please, sis. I need to know that this isn’t because of that.”
Leondra had no idea when the rest of the world had gotten so obsessed with the division between those who were and those who were not. “Not everything is about having the blood of a beast,” she told her sister, meaning every word of it.
It might have inspired her, but she was not reaching for unattainable heights. She was reaching for what she was.
Andi decided to make her collage dedicated to women.
She didn’t go for the natural. She didn’t choose those people she saw every day. She chose both sides of the spectrum. Those considered drop dead gorgeous. Those considered freaks, ugly. It took her a little to determine which ones that applied to. Which of both of these categories still fell into the centre. Still fell into normal.
When Andi had those pictures, she found the most negative words possible and pasted them over both. She didn’t separate the pictures. Both ends of beauty found themselves sharing the same place, mixed together much like anyone would be.
Cock tease. Ugly. Stupid. Damaged. Slut. Desperate. Crazy.
Andi decided she must have made her point. She waited for the collage to dry. She took a picture of it, just in case.
She turned it in, only to get in trouble for the words used. Andi sat in the office that she had been sent to after she refused to take it down.
Andi considered herself average looking.