And only it:
And you'll see
And only it:
And you'll see
I was sprawled out in his arms sobbing. I didn't know why. I mean, we'd broken up over three months ago. I didn't even think he cared about me, yet here we were, at prom holding each other. My arms clung loosely to his tuxedo shirt. His were tight, tightly pulled, tight around my waist. I could feel my hips bruising, but I didn't ask him to stop. I couldn't. He had been with me since we met on that fateful day at the hospital. It was only right that he was there with me to ride it out. Especially after all he'd done.
We met in a hospital. He was there for his grandmother, and I for my sister. We locked eyes, looked away blushing, twiddled fingers, tapped feet, made odd facial expressions trying to avoid the other's glance. He, the braver of us from the start, came to me and asked if I had gum. Of course I did, and I handed it to him with a sexy hair flip and an eye bat that was supposed to make him crazy. All it actually did was initiate the mom stare from behind me. He noticed, smiled an iridescent, dimpled, perfect smile, and pointed behind me. I turned to see the disappointed look of my mother, with wet-rimmed eyes, and an unmistakable scowl. I waved to him, and followed her down the corridor of the heart wing.
"Really, Tomasina? You're making go-goo eyes at some boy while your sister is in the hospital suffering?"
I rolled my eyes. It was just a boy. There was no harm done. My younger sister, Biela, was laying in her hospital bed. I could see her from the window they had. I started to go in, but a short white woman was standing in the doorway. She looked like an old lady, like an overworked ox, like a rubber band a pull away from snapping. She held a red, callused hand up, stopping me from entering.
"Her transplant was successful," she announced,"But we're keeping an eye on her. The doctor said the immunosuppressants wore off too early. It looks like she's stable, but we won't know until later."
It was later. I had gotten the call an hour into my final prom. It was my mother, sobbing that they were at the hospital with Biela. Something was wrong. She'd felt tired and decided to take a nap, and when my mother went to check on her, she was burning up and her hands looked as though they'd been pumped with air. The doctor had given her the Organ Rejection Symptoms paper after she'd gone home, just in case. Now, nearly two months after she was released, my sister was being rushed back to the hospital. The teachers standing guard at the door wouldn't let me leave. Rules were rules. I just had to wait while my sister's body rejected what was keeping her alive and cling to someone I thought I didn't need.
I cannot even explain what I have just heard. Just witnessed. Vardanyans battered, beaten, and bludgeoned. People disillusioned. Loved ones pasting posters of people they loved. I walked past one wall with so many faces that I felt ill. I have seen the youngest of children with their entrails hanging from holes in their corpses. I was appalled and sickened by the gruesome work of the Imperiales, but even more so by our president. President Eloni Katzing knows of these atrocities, and not only has he made no attempt to intervene in the Imperiales' deeds, but he continues to trade and ally with them and encourages us to do the same. Such blatant disregard for human life is both inhumane and disgusting.
How can a self-respecting man who claims to be for democracy and people's rights see people abused and left for dead and turn the other cheek? How can a man who encourages public intelligence bar the press from telling the truth? How can someone who claims to fight for what is right fund a war built on the broken backs of the damned? He has watched that country crumble and told us nothing was going on. He has secluded us from them, so we would not ask questions. Well, I am no longer sitting and watching the world dissolve around us. I am asking questions, even if they will get me killed in the end. I will not back down until I get answers or I die. You may think I have gone off my rocker, but I assure you, when you see the things I have experienced, you will stand next to me in the plight for truth.
For months, I have lived in Duavil, one of Vardanyn's largest cities. Neither state knew I had penetrated the mirage. My family didn't even know. Only the family I lived with knew, and I felt burdened for even being there. Seven people were goaded into a three bedroom house with busted windows and no heating. The toilets didn't work, so we had to use chamber pots. The refrigerator was almost always empty because the taxes were so high. When it snowed, the family would wrap the children's legs with rags and send them out to scrape the snow and help gather food for the night. When the Imperiales paraded through the streets, I was forced to kiss the ground they walked on despite the blood that followed. The people are desensitized. I have seen pregnant women who have received national prenatal care for months come home with empty arms. I have seen citizens running from guards who are supposed to protect them. I have seen believers dragged from their homes and thrown onto the backs of trucks after being beaten and pillaged. The Vardanyans don't even bat an eye.
As a person, I can do nothing. I could only watch with wide eyes as our neighboring country fell apart. I could only vainly attempt to save the dead, to shelter the damned, and to feed the emaciated. Upon my arrival home, I immediately went to the state and reported what I seen. My findings were nothing to them. I was put on probation for two years. On its terms, I was ordered to never speak of what I had seen. I was informed that what was happening was a civil uprising, and Suffet has no business in the affairs so long as the Suffetian people are kept safe. What of our neighbors? What are they to do when their sons are sent into war young and their daughters are worked to the bone? What are they to say to their children when they are goaded into a truck leading them to certain doom? What are they to think when their last breaths are in the hands of their tyrants?
I remember a young girl had been cornered by the guards near the Hillenboren border. She was picking flowers for her mother's grave. I remember seeing her and following just in case. Two guards, scarcely into puberty, were now hassling her and swearing she was a traitor. They made her confess to running to our borders with her mother just two months prior. The pair was met with a seventeen foot high wall. Distraught, they returned to their home with broken dreams. A month later, the mother would be killed in a raid and the daughter would join her a month after that. Imagine what would have happened if the wall had not existed. Imagine that young girl's life with her mother in Suffet. She would be in school. She would have friends. She would be alive.
Now as a person, I could do nothing for her except pray while they bashed her head in. But as a people, we could do something for the millions like her who are looking for an escape route. The thousands of Vardanyans who have lost their lives just as she had could be saved. They could seek refuge while the government is deposed. They could rebuild themselves in a peaceful democratic environment to ensure they will not have a repeat of these atrocities. They could then begin to rebuild after this violent regime came to an end. However, all of these possibilities depend on you. I am barred from saying you should vote on this issue. In fact, in a week, I will be serving a three years sentence for violating my probation. Nevertheless, I stand before you, not to sway you one way or the other, but to let you hear the voices of those beyond the wall. Those who have gone through this need your vote because not voting is putting another Vardanyan in a grave. Not voting is letting another voice die out. Not voting is putting another hole in the sinking ship. Even if the bill does not pass, at least Vardanyans like the young girl who was bludgeoned will know they have someone trying to fight for them.
Why wasn't it me? I struggle to keep you awake as I try to fix the damage. There's no easy fix and I know it, but I'd give my blood for you. I would do anything to help. Only three years old and your life is being cut short. I hold you in my arms, careful not to jostle you too much. You're hot on my lap, but I'd rather get burned than put you down. I'd never leave you. I shake you awake and try again. I have to locate the virus. I have to fix you. I have to make everything okay again.
This isn't like last time. Last time was a common cold compared to this. This is cancer. I search again, consulting various websites. I use the language, try the medicines, fume when it doesn't work. Websites don't understand. Manjeet doesn't understand. You are my lifeline. You were my first responsibility. My first love. I hold you, wiping tears from my eyes. I have to fix you. Even if it kills me, I'm going to fix you. I look at the clock. Four hours of sleep and counting and I still haven't bathed. Yet, you are more important. People just don't understand. Even other people in my situation can't understand. You are my sanity. You are my love. You are my world.
I have never taken good care of you, but I've tried my best. I was so young when you came. I didn't know what I was doing. Of course people could help but I wanted to learn on my own. I wanted to figure out how I could be the best owner I could. You are like my child. I open the command box and hold my breath. I've never done this. I'm no programmer. I'm no technician, but they couldn't help. No one could. Blindly led by a website, I push some buttons. ERROR comes up in typecast. I curse, wiping away more tears and try again. ERROR! PATCH NOT FOUND! I curse again. Three and a half. I have to leave you. I have to take care of myself too.
Everything disappears and I close you. My heart is thudding in my chest. I knew you were getting old but I never imagined I'd lose you like this. I never thought I'd have to say goodbye to you. I never thought it would turn out this badly. I bite my lip. It isn't over yet. I can't give up. I just don't want to fuck up. I regret every decision I've ever made as I gently slide you into your case. I zip it up tight, as if I tucked you in. I've done it so many times, but never for this reason. I've regretted many things, but nothing like this. I might lose my laptop and the warranty expired two years ago. Great. I google more solutions, bookmark them, and swear to try again. I'll be damned if I lose my computer to the Zeus Virus.
High school was the best time.
Boys learned to be men,
Girls blossomed into women.
What's so hard about it?
There are no worries.
There are no struggles.
What is wrong with kids?
I don't do enough.
That's what I've been told.
Seventeen with no job, no car,
No friends for miles, no man.
What do I spend my life on?
What have I been doing?
Why am I so behind?
My wrists no longer bleed
But my hands don't carry
The calluses of a working lady.
The breath I wasted
Gasping at a good grade
Should've been labored on work.
Why am I so useless?
My head no longer beats
The dull drum of pain;
Instead it insists on
Reminding me of past failures
Thoughtless and careless actions
I thought I'd planned so well.
Why am I so irresponsible?
My GPA reads that I am good,
But my bank account nulls.
My cards don't exist
Though no one yells about debt.
Zeros are worse than debt.
Without money, I'm useless.
Why can't I do anything right?
My ribs aren't visible
But my face isn't slathered in make-up,
My hair never done,
My nails untamed.
Not like something deters efforts
Since I just "play around".
Why can't I be normal?
I have never broken a bone,
The words of hard defeat.
My back merely bends,
Not snaps from the world's weight.
My heart merely thuds,
Not races from the rat race.
Why can't I be good enough for you?
I am merely a clam,
Smothered under your pressure.
Something inside of me grows,
But I am not to touch it,
Not to nurture it as I need to,
Not to learn to take care of it.
Why can't you see?
I am crumbling.
My once iridescent light
Sullies under your weight,
Dents under your mass,
Succumbs to your pressure.
My pearl is no longer a sphere,
Rather a mushy, oozing ball.
Why can't you just let me be?
I want to revert to the bad,
Cut arms and missing assignments,
Sleeping and eating all day,
Not even trying to suffice.
My efforts are invalid anyway.
But I wouldn't feel this way
If you had just stopped pressuring me.
I've been told the sun in Mexico
Shines brighter than any other place.
I have never gotten to travel though.
I see that brightness in your face.
When the Greeks spoke of Aphrodite,
Did they foresee such a beautiful creature?
A sculpture carved by God Almighty,
His masterpiece with flawless features?
All of nature must bow at your feet,
For Persephone has risen from the ashes.
It was fate that we were able to meet
Through the masquerade ball dances.
Every I blink, I see your elegance,
I pray you won't treat my advance with negligence.
My home is a cardboard box
Loaded onto another moving truck
Destine for another location.
Time number six? eight? eleven?
I lose count easily.
Too tiring trying to keep up.
Eyes moving back and forth,
My brain inflames,
Engulfing the memories
That come with the moving truck.
Perhaps I liked this room.
The window seat and soft carpet.
Perhaps I grew attached to the kitchen,
Its smells and sights a phantom now.
Calluses burn from another tape roll.
Cardboard slices worn skin,
Christening the carpet with my blood.
The only personal thing left now,
A dark stain on trampled carpet.
"Are you prepared?"
I nod like a liar.
"Don't worry, you'll make new friends."
I shrug away their lies.
Nothing is ever the same.
The door shuts and locks
Like our old front door.
Pressing my face against the window,
I watch my old home fade
As we pull off to another.
You never forget,
And I never will.
But puppies bite,
Puppies whine all night.
That was us.
On and off,
Light switch of love.
We'd kiss and hug,
But a wayward glance,
A misinterpreted smile,
A friendly hug
Seen from afar,
Drove us mad.
"You looked at him!"
"You touched her!"
"I can't lose you!"
Two misplaced hearts,
Strangling each other
With adolescent ribs.
We were a sitcom.
We were broken records.
We were shards of glass
Stuck under healed over skin.
Tolerable at times,
But unbearable at others.
The end came soon,
Too soon at times,
Too late at others.
We died in a week,
Then were revived,
Only to be killed again.
It went that way for months.
We were a Taylor Swift song.
We were a Shakespearean sonnet.
We were a phoenix.
And came back to die.
Now, it is years later,
And we don't talk,
Yet you still remain in my heart.
The jail door buzzed for her to step out for the last time. She looked out at the blinding sunlight. She hadn't seen it in almost seven months. She stepped out, shielding her eyes as she walked into her freedom. It was bittersweet. The sun gleamed on her skin, and the smell of daffodils wafted into her nostrils. She clutched the plastic bag that held her things, the last things she'd worn before being taken in. She examined them as she walked. The thighs of her jeans and the chest of her jacket still had Finnlay's dried blood on them. She scoffed, biting her tongue to stop the tears from falling from her eyes, and tossed the plastic bag in the trash.
She had never stopped thinking of Finnlay. She'd been her best friend since they were kids, even when she had started hanging out with the wrong crowd. They had always done everything together, from sleepovers to tattoos to tests. Finnlay had always been there with her. She peered at her forearm, where she had gotten Finnlay's name tattooed in red ink with flowers around it. She stroked the scars she'd sliced into Finnlay's name. It was her first order of business after the authorities had told her Finn was dead. She would have killed the old lady, but Paige had already done it. She shook the memory from her mind and scratched at the tattoo. She never should've gotten it.
She walked down First, passing the homeless people begging for spare change. She came to an intersection, where a man was sitting rocking his young daughter. Although they clearly had nothing, the little girl's head was wrapped with a bloody blue scarf. The man had no hat out. The man wore no sign. He just sat singing to his daughter in a language the young woman had never heard of before. She reached in her pocket, feeling the $70 she had had in her jeans. After everything that happened, all she'd been left with was a few crumpled Hamiltons, and two Lincolns with blood on them. She'd never be able to use them. Not after the things they'd witnessed. She pulled the money out and handed it to the man. He looked at her with confusion.
"For the girl," she said, gesturing towards the child. "It'll help you."
He stared into her eyes as he cautiously took the money. He counted it, and a smile came across his face. "Shukran laki. Shukran."
She smiled and crossed the street. Halfway down Third, she looked back. The man was carrying his daughter like a football in one of his arms, smiling. He had produced a ratty suitcase that he had probably been sitting on and she could hear it rolling out of her her eyesight. A small part of her thought he'd go abandon the girl and buy alcohol or drugs, but she also knew one of the only hotels allowing refugees to stay (for a small price) was that way. She smiled knowing she'd helped someone who needed it, even though she did too. She walked towards Fifth and Conch and caught sight of the pole.
A shudder ran from her head to her toes. That was where it had happened. Six years ago, the girls had parked the car at that very pole and waited for a victim. She'd remembered because there was a Have You Seen Me? poster of a little boy taped on it. Though it was weathered, she could see the boy's face. He was chubby-cheeked with jam or something smeared on him. He held a sippy cup and looked innocently into the camera. She gazed at it and thought back to his mother. She was there that night too. She had implicated them as the people who did it. She'd even testified.
"Do you see any of the people you had seen the night of the murder of Mary Ellen Buminger?" the lawyer had asked.
The woman replied to him with a nod.
"May you please point to the person you saw aiding in the murder of Mary
The woman pointed to the young woman sitting in stripes. Since the fateful day, her hair had been cropped and she had lost weight. The lawyer nodded his head. "Let the record show that Mrs. Yarbinger pointed to the defendant, Madison Michelle Voigt."
Madison had boiled over. At once she was out of her seat, yelling at the distraught woman. "You saw me kill that old bitch? How about you seeing her kill Paige! Paige was only fifteen, you blind dolt! That old bitch was gonna die in a week. Paige had her whole life to live and you're blaming this on her? I hope your son is dead! I hope you have to live with that!"
The judge banged his gavel. The people in the courtroom gasped. The woman on the stand sobbed, rolled up her sleeves, and began to scratch her wrists. Madison hadn't noticed them before. Dark angry red marks lined the woman's arms. She'd suddenly felt bad, but it was too late to apologize. She was escorted away, the last thing she saw being the woman's wrists leaking fresh blood from her tearing open a healing wound. Two months later, both she and her son would be pronounced dead, one day apart from each other. Madison spent that whole day crying in her cell.
She shook the thought from her mind, and continued down the street. Holten Street lay at the next intersection. Nostalgia began to race through her mind. She stroked the pole of the bus stop where she and Finnlay had met on the first day of school. She could still remember Finnlay pulling her pigtails, pulling so hard that her rubber bands were sliding off. She remembered screaming for her mother to help her, before Finnlay slapped her and told her to quit being such a baby. It was too late anyway. Her pigtails had been released, and the brown tendrils of hair were flowing freely on her back. Finnlay promised to put them back after school. Despite the attention she got, she anxiously awaited The time on the bus when Finnlay would put her hair back the way it was supposed to be. She only realized later that all the other girls had had their hair in ponytails, even Finnlay. She was the only one, and she had gotten the most compliments. That was the day she decided she wanted to know more about Finnlay Zelinsky.
Madison crossed the streetand started towards her house, past the corner store where she had met Alannah Homas, the Venezuelan girl who'd moved in three weeks before the girls were supposed to start third grade. Just as Finnlay had with Madison, she gave Alannah her very unique welcome.
The girls had walked towards the store where they'd seen the older guy. Finnlay stopped Madison from going in too quickly. "Wait!"
"How does my hair look?"
The two giggled as they rounded the corner. They were stopped by a gruff voice yelling outside. "Barra esas hojas! Noella, me oyes?"
"Si papi. Voy a hacerlo!"
The girls watched a young pale girl some out with a broom that was almost double her size. She grunted as she struggled to sweep the dried leaves. She groaned in Spanish. Madison slapped Finnlay's forearm. "Let's go ask her."
"Why? She clearly doesn't speak English," Finnlay replied loudly.
"I can hear you," the girl groaned. "And I speak English fine, thank you."
"You don't even look Mexican," Finnlay replied
"Well duh! I'm not Mexican. I'm from Venezuela."
"What is that?"
"It's a country. Look it up."
"Anyway, we were wondering if you've seen a guy around here. He's tall and beautiful."
"The only guys around here are my dad and my brother."
"We don't want your dad, but can we see that brother?" Finnlay asked.
"No, you can't. Go away."
"No need to be rue, Maria. We're leaving."
A rock sailed and hit the back of Finnlay's head as they turned to leave. "My name is Noella. Not Maria. Dumb bitch."
"I'll call you whatever the hell I want," Finnlay yelled back.
The girls locked in a vicious stare. All of a sudden, Finnlay laughed. "You're a funny chick, you know that that? I'll call you... uh... No-eh-yah if you'd like."
"My middle name is easier. It's Alannah."
"That's pronouncable. Nice to meet you Alannah. Now seriously, where is this brother of yours?"
Madison smiled and continued towards her old house. As she walked, she passed the big oak tree where the three friends had met Paige, a junkie's daughter who had the hook up on Girl Scout Cookies. It stood surrounded by Chinese shops and Wal-Marts. She could remember when the tree was surrounded by others just like it, standing tall and mighty to protect the neighborhood. Now, six years later, they had been all but uprooted and turned into furniture. She walked up towards the hill. She knew her parent's wouldn't be happy to see her. They had told her when they'd first found out about the things she and Finnlay really did then they did they were hanging out that once she went to jail, she'd never hear form them again. And so far, they'd lived up to their promise.
She walked down the street, past the Zelinsky's house. On the front lawn, a redhead was chasing a blond girl. Two Yorkies chased the girls. Madison watched for a bit, remembering those days. Suddenly, the door opened. Her heart stopped. Mrs. Tana Zelinsky was standing on the porch. The woman's red hair had faded significantly since Madison had seen her. Mrs. Zelinsky's sullen blue eyes met Madison's. Madison thought she could see a tear forming. The gaze broken was broken in milliseconds. "Shania, come inside!"
"Okay!" Shania called. She ran towards the house, but paused and looked back at the blonde. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
"Of course!" The blonde squealed. She was grabbing the dogs' leashes. "Mia and Max couldn't stay away from you if I wanted to."
Shania smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow then, Gloria!"
The young blonde walked past Madison without a wayward glance. Madison continued down the street, wiping tears from her eyes. She could still remember Finnlay telling her about her new baby sister. That was only a year before everything happened. She and Madison had "practiced" by watching Madison's younger sister, Memphis, after they got out of school. Madison's heart suddenly ached for her younger siblings she used to torment years ago. Memphis, ten years younger than her, would be turning eleven now. The stuff they'd done together raced through Madison's head. The fighting, the arguing, the hugs, the kisses, the break ups, the babysitting, the friends - Memphis had been there through all of it. Her heart sank. She'd been a terrible influence.
"What did you do now, Madison?" Maya asked her.
The fourteen year old shrugged. Maya raised her eyebrow. "So you don't know why Mom and Daddy are yelling and fussing and coddling Memphis?"
"They act like she was in danger! I was holding her the entire time! We were being careful!"
Madison rolled her eyes. "Me and Finn. We were joyriding because she's fifteen now, and she can do that. They changed the law, you know. Paige is in Dallas and Alannah was at piano, so no one else could watch Memphis which is why we had to take her with us."
Maya sighed. "Even though she's fifteen, she can't drive. She needs her license. And holding Memphis wouldn't have helped her. If she'd hit something, Memphis would've flew forward, hit the dash, and her head would've been busted up. And we like our baby sister with her head not caved in, right?"
"Plus, you could go to jail. You don't want to end up like Marshall, right?"
Madison thought of her older brother who'd been caught after going AWOL three years ago. She hadn't seen him since his trial. No one had. He was sitting in a jail cell rotting. She shook her head no.
"Alright then," Maya said. "I don't think you should hang out with Finn anymore. I mean, you guys have been doing stuff like this a lot lately. You should find other people to hand out with. Maybe you could be friends with that girl up the street. What's her name? Penelope?"
"Penelope is super weird! Plus, everyone says she's loose."
"What does that even mean?"
"I don't know, but it's bad because all the boys say they don't like loose things."
"Just shut up. She's a nice girl. I've known her forever."
Madison bumped into a young woman. The girl was knocked back but didn't fall. "I'm sorry," Madison mumbled.
"Oh, it's ok- Madison? Is that really you?"
Madison nodded. The girl pulled her into her arms. "It's me, Penelope. I didn't even know you were out. We should catch up sometime."
"No, I'm okay," Madison replied, breaking herself from Penelope's grip.
If she'd just listened to her sister, Finnlay would still be alive. They both could've graduated, gotten married, had kids, bought houses... But she didn't. She didn't need another reminder that she was a failure trying to be her friend. She sauntered towards the only blue house on the street. She had made it. She was ready to go home. She noticed a new car in the driveway. After pausing to admire it, she continued to the door. Suddenly, it opened, and a dark woman came out with her kids. She stopped, and backed up, shooing her young children back inside the house.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Madison. Madison Voigt. Do Lauren and Brian Voigt still live here?"
"The Voigts... No, they sold us the house about seven months ago."
"Do you know where they went?"
"No, I'm sorry, hun. You look bad. Do you want to come in? I could-"
"No thanks. I'll just go to my grandmother's house."
"Good," the woman said.
She watched Madison go down the street before turning back to her children. Madison continued to walk, for a bit before collapsing into a fit of sobs. She was completely alone. Her family had abandoned her. Her friends were either dead or in jail. She had no one all because of one stupid mistake.
I glared at him from across the room, watching them giggle. I could feel my ears reddening with anger. He knew I liked her, yet he only played with her at recess and sat with her at lunch and bragged about sitting with her in English. That was only yesterday, and now he was cozying up to her. My fists balled so hard there were little white moons on my palm. Sister Laura slapped my desk with her ruler so hard I jumped and squeaked. Everyone looked at me and laughed. Sister Laura was unfazed.
"Mr. Edwards, spell imbroglio and use it in a sentence."
"I-M-B-Roglio. I don't know what an imbroligo is."
Sister Laura went to her desk and pulled out Old Woody. She slapped the paddle against her hand, making my entire class jump. Knowing what would happen next, I walked to the front and prepared myself.