Strange Eyes

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Adam’s car always smelled like trees.

The strong scent of pine intermingled with just the right amount of dirt. Adam and his father were in the hunting business, along with most of the other men in his family. Most of the men in the town, come to think of it. It was pretty common for that part of rural Oregon. Every weekend, more increasingly in the winter, they would set out in their heavy boots and their camouflage, rifles in hand. I had never liked it much. But I wouldn’t say that I was against it either. The whole hunting thing. It was just another thing that people did.

My dad was a part of it. But mom was the artsy type- always holed up in her study working on some new book. It took her years. Always in that room, most times bringing dinner up there. Dad left me good enough alone- that was his policy. I guess he didn’t really know to handle a ‘blossoming’ teenage daughter as well as he had my older brother. But Jack was gone at college, and he had made it pretty clear that he had no desire to come back home. Maybe Dad hadn’t done such a good job after all. Jack wanted to be a doctor all of his life, and so that’s exactly what he did. Had some apartment in New York while he finished medical school. Sometimes he sent us a Christmas card with some impersonal note on it. Always a picture of him and his fiancé with their dog. Her name was Sandy. The girl, I mean. Not the dog.

Anyway, Adam’s car smelled nice. I liked it. I liked him.

Rain fell hard as we pulled up in front of the movie theatre. I looked across the seat at him, with his dark hair and his boyish face. He pulled his keys out of the ignition and turned to me. “You ready?” He smiled. I nodded, returning the favor.

That was when the pain started.

I’d noticed a subtle headache the entire day. But not enough to cause alarm. Not even enough to take pain medication for. It was just a headache. But as we were sitting in the darkened theatre, some romantic comedy blaring in front of us, it started…throbbing.

“Ow.” I muttered. I pressed my palm to my forehead and shut my eyes. “You ok, Jane?” Adam touched my shoulder. I was never one for the dramatic, but all I could think to do was shake my head. Because that didn’t feel ok.

It felt like my head had decided to spontaneously close in on itself.

“Let me just go to the bathroom really quick.” I said, starting to get up. Adam’s hand slid down my jacket, and I barely had time to register that he had said “okay” before I was out of there. I shut my eyes tight and opened them up again outside in the popcorn-smelling hallway with the fluorescent-spotted carpet. Pushing the door to the women’s bathroom open, the bright lights made my eyes ache. “What the hell,” I said, pushing open a stall door and sitting down on the toilet with my head between my hands.

After a few seconds, I felt a little droplet of something fall onto my jeans. Opening my eyes in curiosity, I was startled to see a little red spot on the blue fabric, staining it mauve. Another one dropped, joining its twin in a crimson Venn diagram.

“What the…” Swiping my hand underneath my nose, I drew it away to find my skin tainted with a stripe of deep red. I hadn’t gotten a bloody nose since elementary school. And even then they had been fleeting. This was all so strange. I hardly got headaches either, not that bad at least.

Pulling some toilet paper from the dispenser, I wiped the thin stuff underneath my nose in bunches, wiping in exasperation. The headache wasn’t getting any better. And now a damn bloody nose?

I felt horrible. But after cleaning up a little and washing my hands free of the crusted blood, I told Adam that I wanted to go home. “Are you sure you’re okay Jane?” He asked me on the way to my house. Nodding, even that hurt. I ran my hands up and down my jeans, feeling the hard spot where the droplets had dried. “Yeah, I’m fine. I think I just need rest.” I was getting really tired. Like a truck had suddenly hit me and wiped my body out. All I wanted to do was curl up in my warm bed and fall away for the rest of the night. That was all I wanted to do- not eat, not drink. Just sleep.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He said, leaning in to kiss me. Kissing him quickly, I got up out of the car and made my way to my front doorway, barely even closing the door behind me. Of course later I felt horrible for the way that I had acted towards him, but right then I didn’t care about anything else but getting in bed.

I opened the door to the yellow-lit house, my Dad sitting in his chair in the living room with the TV blaring. Even that sound made my brain throb. “Jane.” Dad said in greeting, his hands folded along his lap. I muttered a weak hello before heading up the stairs and closing the door of my bedroom behind me. I didn’t even kick off my shoes before I collapsed onto the comforter, pulling them up around my chin. I drifted off into a sleep as black as pitch.

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