L.E. Royal © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Blood. There was so much blood. It tasted metallic and sticky as it flooded my mouth. My back was uncomfortably warm, wet, and screaming in agony. A high-pitched sound filled the air, piercing, shaking me to the center of myself. My frantic blue eyes searched through spinning space, looking for him. My father was three steps up our staircase and wasted, drunk on his beloved infusion of cheap apple cider and vodka that smelled like drain cleaner on his breath.
The siren kept on wailing. I searched his eyes, so similar to my own, for any of the fear I felt, anything to signify that he too knew, this time, he really had gone too far. I saw none, and the panic settling over me was ice cold and heavy, crushing down on my chest.
Warm wetness was all around me. Only when the siren stopped, and I sucked in a deep and frantic breath that sent white-hot pain shooting through my torso, did I realize I had been screaming.
Lying there, my body strewn across the entryway of the house where I grew up, I considered that I’d never thought much about death. Bleeding at the bottom of the stairs, my ragingly drunk father staggering toward me to either save me or hurt me more, I wished I had.
At least I might see Mom. That’s what I told myself as the edges of my vision began to bleed, the colors mixing together and fading out. My father’s expressionless face swam into focus as he stared down at me. He almost looked sorry, then he ran the back of his hand across the midnight shadow on his chin and I was drifting away again as he started to shout.
“Stop looking at me that way, Marion! You left…”
The words drifted to my ears like I was hearing them from miles away, through a thick-fogged glass of space, time, and pain.
“You left me! You left us… You left us behind… So don’t you dare…”
I was dragged back to myself, back to the agonizing sting where the cool air hit the gashes in my skin as, with a wet thwack, a glob of my father’s spit landed on my cheek.
He’s going to kill me. The thought spun in my head, a carousel doomed to run endlessly. I tried to find the words to tell him I wasn’t my mother; she’d left us both when her long fight with cancer was finally lost.
This was how I would die, after six years of watching the man who had raised me sink further and further into an abyss of alcohol, emptiness, and violence. The occasional “accidents” had escalated to flat-out beatings, and tonight, I realized it would all come to an end. The minute he had thrown me down the stairs, sending me crashing through the glass door below, it was over.
“Rayne… Marion…” I heard low mumblings in the familiar voice that had come to foster a sick and unnatural fear in me. I told myself the lie I had lived by since my mother’s funeral—my father had died with her. I would remember him for who he was, not the grief-crazed murderer wearing his pajamas.
Tears flooded my eyes. I felt everything, but I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to sleep and to not hurt anymore, not like this.
Shouting woke me again. I listened to my father’s voice, the click of the front door closing, blowing cold air on the bare skin of my side. My shirt was still wrinkled around my middle from the fall. The words made no sense. The questions floating to me came from a voice I didn’t recognize. His replies were suddenly uncertain. The aggressor was gone, and I opened my eyes just in time to watch him become the victim.
I don’t know where she came from, how she found me, or how she knew the exact right time to walk into my life.
A woman stood in our entryway. Slender and petite, softly waved brunette hair hanging loose around her shoulders, and a form-fitting and deep crimson dress riding dangerously high up her thighs. A smooth leather jacket molded to her small form like a second skin.
I had no time to wonder who she was, but I knew from the minute she appeared like an omen in my darkest moment she was someone.
Dark eyes looked down at me, and I looked back, though I could not prevent my own closing. I shivered against an invisible cold and the action was exhausting. The warm pool I had been lying in was cooling and everything told me to close my eyes. It was curiosity that kept me alive, it was her, and those haunting dark eyes, searching mine, looking down at me so intensely, yet she was unreadable.
I was a captive audience, powerless to look away from her, and I saw it all.
Full lips parted, and I watched in awe and almost complete detachment. The way she moved was animalistic, fingers twisting roughly into my father’s hair—his head yanked right, while hers dipped left. When she turned back to me, letting his body fall to the floor with a heavy thud and pushing it away as if he was a wooden puppet, not a two-hundred-pound man, her lips were marred with blood.
She was beautiful and she was terrible, this killer, my angel of death. I wondered with the last of my strength if she had come to save me or just to take me away. By now, they were the same thing.
Her eyes as she crouched beside me were unforgettable, one brown, one green, though the irises seemed to be alive. The colors swirled, rich and bright, moving like flames, spinning into their own constellations. Suddenly, I was glad this beautiful killer would be the last thing I’d see.
Those strange eyes peered down at me, perfectly shaped eyebrows arched, and I stared back up at her. The only sound breaking the silence was my own rasping, rattling breaths.
This was it. It had all been for nothing, my father, my mother, me… This was the end of the Kennedy family, but somehow, I couldn’t feel sadness. Looking into those swirling eyes, light-headed, I couldn’t feel anything.
I sucked a gurgling breath through my bloodstained lips as I watched my father’s blood drip down her chin. Somehow, I forced out my last words.
I woke up alone, disoriented and confused, lying on the old threadbare sofa. The only other piece of furniture in the living room was the large flat-screen TV I knew my father had sold the last of my mom’s jewelry to buy.
The nightmare felt so real, I still felt the large shard of glass sticking out of my thigh at an odd angle. I remembered the smell of my father’s breath on my face when he grabbed me at the top of the staircase, every bump on the way down, and the killer with the galaxy eyes.
The thought of her stayed with me, haunting me, following me around the empty house as I walked from room to room, lost. My father, or at least his body, was gone. I found the glass shards that had littered the floor in the trashcan beside our back door, the only proof all this was real. Everything was the same, but everything had changed.
My feet took me back to the sofa where I had woken up, my fingers played with the comforter that had been taken from my bed and draped around my body. It seemed as if I was looking down at myself, watching from a distance, unable to feel or to process the situation as I should.
My father was dead. I reached out for the remote. He’d been murdered by a strange and merciful killer with eyes that moved like something from one of the science fiction books lining my bookcase. I flicked through the channels until I found a news station, noting the time and date in the corner of the screen with disinterest. Two days were gone, yet the panic I knew should follow this realization remained absent.
Something clouded my emotions—relief, fear, maybe even shock? I didn’t have the answer, and I didn’t look for it. Deciding instead to fall into my usual routine, I went up the stairs to dress, then leave on the hour-long walk to school. I might still make it for my afternoon classes, during which I’d forge another note to explain my absence. At least this time I wouldn’t have to try to explain the bruises.
The realization hit me hard and fast, knocking all the air out of my chest, leaving me empty, my blood running cold. I looked down at my arms, my legs that ran long below my blood-stained pajama shorts. Nothing hurt. There were no bruises, no scars, just my skin, as pale as ever, unblemished.
The impact of every stair came back to me, and I flinched. The agony of the glass tearing into my skin, lodging into my thigh, my back, my arms crashed over me, a tsunami that stole my breath and finally instilled some of the panic I knew I should be feeling into me.
I was alive. Inexplicably unharmed after what seemed like certain death. My father was dead, gone, and though it meant the beatings would stop, staring at my rain-streaked windowpane, I realized I had a new problem. Without his disability allowance, without him, how would I pay the already grossly overdue bills? How would I keep the house and finish school and escape to college?
I had no answers to my own questions, so I pulled on my worn blue jeans and old sweater and wrapped my long hair into a braid with shaking fingers. I set off, unable to escape the thick fog of shock still shrouding me. Leaving the house behind, I tried to ready myself to do what I always did—to carry on. For years, I had learned to leave home problems at home and disappear into the crowd. Nobody noticed me or cared much for me at school, or anywhere, really—facts I wore like a cape of invisibility.