Porcelain Skin

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A Little Heart-To-Heart

I had left Mercy to sleep away her life, and have spent nearly two hours at the library catching up on homework. It was the best time to do it because most everyone was still in class, so I had no distractions. That is until my phone chimed.

Mercy needs you ASAP. She’s in your dorm room. - Lindsey

Oh no! I bolt from my seat, throwing all my books into my bag, and dart out of the library. I’m run/walking like a nerd as I make my way back to Samantha Hall as fast as possible.

I’ve already attempted to write Lindsey back, but in my rush, I’m not even sure if my text made any sense. I don’t care too much at the moment. I just wouldn’t have been able to handle it if something bad happened to Mercy just because of a stupid prank. What if she was suffocating under all that plastic? I don’t think I’d be able to live with any more guilt.

I’m huffing and puffing by the time I get back to my room, and I swing open my room door in a panic.

“Mercy?” I gasp, as I drop my bag and rush to her side. She’s still wrapped under sheets of Saran wrap.

“Oh, Emma. Hey.” She smiles at me, and I’m completely confused.

“Are you okay?” I ask, as my eyes scan over her for anything unusual.

She shoots me a look that makes me feel about two inches tall and then starts laughing. “I’m good,” she sings. “I’m just starving. So I was wondering if you could maybe, possibly...”

I already know she’s going to ask me to cut her lose, and I’m about ready to when her question stops me.

“... get me a burger and fries?”

I stare at her for about five seconds too long before I snap out of it. “You... what?”

“Fine, maybe just a pizza. I guess it’d be easier for you to feed me pizza than a burger.”

And now I’m completely lost. “Huh?”

“Or just a large... no, extra-large fries.” She’s nearly begging, and once again I imagine that she’s wrapped in the cocoon of a spider’s web, and a smile springs to my lips before I start laughing hysterically.

“Mercy.” I’m gasping to breathe. “First of all, it’s nine-thirty, you can’t be that hungry. Second of all, how the heck are you still comfortable in there?”

“It’s actually not bad,” she says as she looks down at her trapped body. “Kinda cozy.” She finds my gaze and then sighs. “Fine, why don’t you just call Seth and he’ll bring me some food.”

No matter how badly I would love to watch this take place, I just can’t bring myself to let her struggle any longer.

“I’ll just free you and then you can call Seth, whoever he is, to take you out for breakfast.” I grab a pair of scissors from my desk and am just about to start cutting away the plastic when I freeze. “Actually, no. Wait. I can’t do this.” I rub a hand through my hair. “I’m just too curious to see how long you’ll last in here.”

I know it’s evil, but I can’t help it. This prank was too good to just let go to waste. I have to let it play out. Plus, I really wanna feed her a burger. I expect to see Mercy glaring at me when I meet her gaze, but instead, there’s a twinkle in her eyes.

“Yeah, I get it.” She attempts to shrug. “I’d do the same thing. But be warned—payback stings.”

I squint my eyes at her, giving her my best ‘Bring it on’ smirk to let her know I’m not afraid, but she only laughs. I make my way to the door only to be stopped by her voice.

“Be quick with my food or I might just chew my way out of here.”

“That might be worth watching,” I shoot back.

An hour later, Mercy is fed and my homework is complete. Let’s just say that feeding Mercy a juicy burger was the highlight of my whole week. Watching the sauces drip down her chin to pool in the hollow of her throat was so satisfying. Babies don’t even come close to making the type of mess Mercy did. It had soaked into her hair and her sheets. I nearly felt bad, but since she wasn’t complaining, I decided it wasn’t something to be concerned about. She only seemed to care about one thing: putting food in mouth.

I referred to her as a bear when sleeping, but right now she was like a bear awakening from hibernation, as she scarfed down her fries. I laughed tears as I shoved more food at her. She didn’t even notice my amusement.

Now I’m curled up on my bed watching reruns of ‘Friends’ on my laptop when my phone buzzes. I open the message from Lindsey after pausing my show.

Get dressed. Mike and I are going on a date but we need another couple to join us. Trevor already agreed.

I put Friends on pause. I’ve got more important things to do now.

I’m dressed casually in a plain black jumper matched with a chunky black necklace and simple peep-toe heels. My make-up is light and delicate as usual, especially since I’m still trying to solidify it in Trevor’s mind that I am an innocent good girl. The bully in me has officially died.

I hum a sickeningly off-tune version of Florence and the Machine’s ‘Cosmic love’ as I plug in my diffuser. Gotta treat my curls with care or they turn into a heaping wild mess of frizz or a limp mop of wannabe waves. Once satisfied with my appearance I emerge from the bathroom only to find a strange boy sitting at the foot of Mercy’s bed.

She is the strangest human I’ve ever encountered. She’s chit chatting casually with the boy as if they’re sitting in a cozy little coffee shop, when in reality she’s still wrapped in her bed. I don’t know how she hasn’t sweat herself into a puddle of freedom yet.

Knowing the amount of sweat I produce on a normal day, I probably would have died in my sleep from dehydration. I mean, it’s not like she’s only wrapped in plastic; she also has a pile of blankets underneath the Saran wrap, which just seals all that heat perfectly in with her.

“Uh, hi.” I wave awkwardly when the boy glances up at me.

“Hey?” he replies as if questioning why I’m in my own dorm room.

I grab my purse from the top of my dresser and turn to face Mercy. “You planning to make that your new home?” I question.

She takes a look at herself and then sends me a smile. I’m relieved to see that she has, at least, found a way to free her arms from bondage. “It’s really not so bad in here,” she tells me. “It’s an excuse to watch movies all day, eat, chill, chat, eat, sleep... uh, eat.”

The boy on the floor doesn’t even seem bothered by the fact that she’s trapped. As if this is a normal occurrence for him.

“You do realize you haven’t moved in like...” I look at the time on my phone, “close to 8 hours, right? And that’s not including last night.”

She just shrugs in response.

I happen to know that she does have one class on Fridays but she seems totally unconcerned.

“Okay,” I say under my breath. “Well, I’m heading out. Not sure when I’ll be back. You two have fun.”

I was given directions to a certain pub that I don’t remember the name of, and readjust my outfit as I step out from my car. I’m feeling uncharacteristically nervous. I mean, I just spoke to Trevor today and everything was fine, so why the sudden sweaty palms?

I push my hair back from my face and saunter into the dimly lit bar. It’s surprisingly easy to breathe in here since apparently, by the signs posted all over, there’s no smoking allowed inside the building. I usually hate bars and pubs just for that very reason, so I’m already feeling better about tonight. I hate second-hand smoke.

I scan my surroundings and spot Lindsey and Mike in a corner booth. As I make my way in their direction Lindsey spots me and jumps up to meet me half way. I’m pretty sure she pops a blood vessel in my eye with her bone-crushing hug. I guess this is what I get when we haven’t seen each other in nearly a week. She’s basically bouncing off the walls as she pulls me towards her table.

“Hey, Mike,” I greet, as I slide in across of him.

Mike returns the greeting with a wild grin.

Lindsey instantly wraps her arms around his left bicep and smiles like a buffoon. It’s cute... kinda. I mean they’ve been seeing each other a total of, well, not at all. Tonight is their first date, though I don’t believe they’ve labeled themselves ‘official’, and yet here I am sitting uncomfortably across from them, watching as they flirt like school girls. Yep, even Mike. I’ve heard him giggle twice in the last twenty seconds. Trevor better hurry his butt up or my intestines aren’t going to make it through the evening.

“So...” I start to ask while drumming my fingers on the table. “What’s the plan for tonight? You dragged Trevor and I along because you needed another couple, right?” I’m looking around the interior of the room as I say this, but my attention zeros in on them when they don’t respond. I find them both looking at me in shock, and then I realize the error of my words. “Not that we’re a couple. We’re just... friends. Why are you guys looking at me like that?”

Lindsey smiles evilly before reaching across the table to trap my fidgety fingers with her own.“Stop tapping or I’ll snap your fingers off.” It’s strange that she’s able to say this while wearing the world’s sweetest smile. Guess she has a few pet peeves of her own.

I instantly drop my hands into my lap and gawk at her.

Her smile widens even more if that’s possible. It’s turning into that creepy smile that has me wanting to cover my eyes. “We’re going to play pool!” she announces.

I keep staring. “Pool?” I whine. “And you didn’t think to give me a heads up?”

“Uh oh.” She looks worried. “You hate pool?”

“Uh...” Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t actually know if I did or not. “I’ve never played.”

“Oh.” Relief floods her face and she relaxes against Mike. “It’s easy. Mike here can show ya,” she volunteers for him.

“Sure.” He squeezes Lindsey closer to his side, and I can’t help but wonder if this really is their first date. Do people usually act this gross the first time? Mushy and gushy and googly-eyed. “Want me to teach ya?” he offers, while pointing behind him with his thumb to where I assume the pool tables are.

“Sure.” I shrug. Anything to avoid watching the two lovebirds in front of me. I scoot out from the booth and instantly plow into a solid mass. My eyes shoot upwards and latch onto a pair of green eyes. He’s holding me in place to prevent me from tumbling backward, but once he realizes that he knows who the clumsy girl in his arms is, a grin perks up his face.

It’s a whole mix of bubbling excitement and complete horror standing so close to Trevor, his arms holding me up. I smile up at him.

“Hey,” I say, maybe slightly too loudly considering he’s mere inches away.

“Oh good!” Mike shouts from behind me, making me jump just a bit.

I swing around to face him, causing Trevor’s arms to drop away from me.

“Hey, Trev,” Mike says. “Emma here is new to the whole pool thing. Maybe you can teach her a couple tricks.”

I turn to see Trevor’s reaction, but he only shrugs like it’s no big deal as he wiggles out of his coat.

“Sure,” he responds, putting his coat in the booth and gesturing for me to lead the way. I don’t know where I’m going, but I assume the pool tables are through the door I’ve glimpsed in the back.

“How’s your roommate?” he asks, startling me with his close proximity.

I tilt my head up to look at him with a smile. “Still in bed,” I tell him, and his eyes widen.

“Seriously? Why?”

We’ve stepped into the pool room. Trevor and I automatically make our way to the empty pool table towards the far back; the other two tables are already taken.

“She claims she’s comfortable,” I explain as I watch him pull two sticks and a small block of chalk from the wall.

He just lifts a brow in my direction and shakes his head slowly like he’s disappointed in her level of intellect. “She is very...” He looks at the ceiling as he trails off, apparently looking for the perfect word to describe her.

“Peculiar?” I supply.

“Yeah.” He turns his focus to the sticks in his hands and begins rubbing the chalk on the tips. “But it’s more than that. Like, she may actually have some mental issues.”

I laugh at his serious tone, and he just looks at me with a grin.


“I don’t know,” I respond. “She has moments of somewhat normalcy, but you’re right; she really is like that one piece of caramel popcorn that accidentally got mixed in with the original flavor.” I take the offered pole from Trevor.

He lifts both brows at me in question, so I continue. “Like, she’s absolutely not like any other person I’ve ever met, but once you get a little taste of her she’s kind of addicting, and sweet.”

Trevor guffaws as he leans his pole against the wall and prepares to arrange the balls inside the triangle frame. Silence stretches between us as he collects all the balls from the pockets and organizes them like a pro.

“Do you actually know what you’re doing?” I ask curiously.

He pauses to look up at me before continuing his task. “Yeah. I play pool at least once a week,” he tells me. “This is called racking. The ‘1’ ball is always positioned at the front.”

I watch in fascination as his fingers move with practiced ease.

“The 8-ball is always placed right in the center,” he explains. “The bottom corners have to be one stripe and one solid. It doesn’t matter which colors you use, though. The rest of them don’t matter. You can put them wherever you want, but I tend to try and pattern them solid, stripe, solid, stripe as best as I can.”

“Easy enough,” I comment as I watch him position the racked balls so that the yellow ball is perfectly centered over the white dot on the table and then he carefully removes the frame.

“Ready?” he asks, as he steps away from the table to grab his pole.

I nod cautiously.

“Okay, I’ll break first so you can get a hang of what’s going on,” he tells me.

I watched him take aim as he leans over and eyes up his target. In one fluid motion, the triangle of organized balls explodes into chaos. It looked easy until he started aiming and shooting ball after ball into random pockets.

“You’re good,” I say as I watch in awe. “I’m claiming you as my partner when we play teams with Lindsey and Mike.”

“Sure. It only makes sense that we extend our partnership to places outside of school,” he says as he knocks another ball into the left middle pocket.

I can’t help but wonder when the word partnership will change into the word friendship. The idea of a relationship is just a dream at this point. Friendship will have to do.

“So, are you actually going to teach me how to play or just keep showing off?” I ask once he’s managed to get four balls pocketed.

He looks up at me as if just now realizing that he forgot his entire mission for bringing me back here.

“Sorry.” He offers an impish grin before setting his pole against the wall. “Okay, show me what you got.” He crosses his arms over his chest.

I glare at him before following his lead and crossing my arms over my chest.

“What?” he asks, throwing his hands in the air with an innocent shrug.

“You’re supposed to teach me. I’ve never played in my life.” I pick up my stick and wave it around. “How am I even supposed to hold this thing?”

Trevor is quickly by my side, pulling the weapon from my grasp.

“First of all, avoid poking any eyes out by not waving the cue stick around like a caveman,” he reprimands. “Secondly, did you not pay attention to anything I just did?”

“Please, just show me again?” I beg, since I couldn’t exactly admit that the only things I was watching were his triceps flexing and his back muscles rippling each time he bent over to take aim.

“Here.” He says handing me back the pole. “Hold here with your right hand.” He moves my grip to the back of the pole. “And then rest the narrow end on your thumb. You can loop your index finger over the pole too for more stability.” He’s positioning my fingers as he speaks. “Now test it out a few times before you actually hit the ball. Line up the tip of your stick with whichever part of the cue ball will send it rolling towards your target. The goal is to get all the solid balls, except the black one, into any pocket you can.”

I nod as if I completely understand the language he’s speaking, but I’m pretty hopeless. My first attempt results in me skimming the edge of the white ball sending it basically nowhere. It just rolls about an inch and then sits there sticking its tongue out at me. I try a few more times with the same result until I get a bit ticked and hit it too hard sending it sailing over the table to bounce across the room. Trevor retrieves the ball and places it in the same spot.

“Softer this time,” he warns before releasing his hand from the white globe and stepping back.

I nod in irritation and determination. Biting the edge of my bottom lip, I lean over and eye up my opponent. This stupid little white ball needs to learn to cooperate. I give a little shove putting the white ball into motion and it rolls across the green felt surface of the table. I hold my breath as I watch it approach the orange ‘5’ ball. It rolls and rolls and rolls and... tap.

I erupt into a fit of cheers as I jump into the air prancing around like a chicken. Once my pent up energy has been released, I sigh and lean against the table to offer Trevor my best cocky grin.

“You literally just tapped the five,” he says with boredom. He’s not impressed.

I turn and point at my success. “I hit the ball!” I gush incredulously.

“Uh huh.” He’s looking at me like there’s no hope. “And it didn’t move at all. You realize the goal is to get the ball into the pocket, not just touch it, right?”

“I’m just glad I didn’t knock anyone out by sending the ball flying across the room again.” I huff while folding my arms over my chest again.

Trevor just swings his head back and forth with pity in his eyes.

We take turns for awhile, and I eventually get the hang of things. I’m not at all good, but I can at least hit my mark now. I’m now watching Trevor’s backside as he leans in for the aim. We’re on our 3rd game now since he’s won each round within five minutes. I realize that even though I’ve been checking him out shamelessly for the past three minutes my mind hasn’t really been in it. Instead, I’m thinking about Trinity and the abuse she suffered from me.

Trevor makes a hit and turns to face me victoriously with hands pumped in the air. I smile at him, but don’t realize that he’s just won the fourth round.

He seems to notice my sudden sullen mood, as he quickly drops his arms and takes a step towards me. “What’s wrong?”

I guess I’d kind of been staring off into space, and I’m brought back to the present by his question. I shake my head to clear my thoughts, but there’s just something I have to ask because it’s been driving me crazy. “Why didn’t you ever do anything?”

He seems taken back by the question for a moment. He clears his throat, one eyebrow quirked, as if trying to find what wave length my brain is on.

“Uh... what? When?” He looks genuinely confused as he scratches the side of his jaw.

“In high school. When I was ruining your sister’s life. Why did you just let me do that? Why didn’t you corner me, whip some sense into me, feed me the same abuse I threw at your sister? Where was the overprotective brother?” I’m staring at the balls on the table as words flow from my mouth.

“First of all,” he begins as he lays his cue stick across the pool table and then turns back to face me. “I would never hurt a girl, and secondly...” He stops as he rests his butt against the pool table. He takes a deep breath before continuing. “I didn’t know.”

I blink twice. “What?” I gasp as I search his face for answers, “How could you not—”

“Trinity was a pretty private person. She always kept to herself, so there really wasn’t any way for me to know what she was going through.” He rubs a hand through his hair messily, and my eyes are momentarily drawn to the pieces sticking up. “She would hide behind a smile and this enthusiastic attitude, and she was really good at it. Really good at faking it.”

“How’d you find out?” The question leaves my lips with a hesitant whisper, but Trevor hears me perfectly, because his gaze flickers from the floor and directly into my own curious stare.

“I uh...” His voice grows raspy and he rubs his left shoulder aimlessly. “I found her.”

I’m already getting the feeling that this is not going to be good. I am not going to want to hear this, but I have to. I deserve to. “Found her?” I encourage, taking a reluctant step forward and leaning against the table next to him. I stare at a stain on the carpet as I wait for him to continue. He doesn’t, but I can feel him watching me, so I tilt my head to get a better view of his expression.

“Emma...” He almost sounds regretful with the way my name wearily falls from his lips.

My eyes flicker to his flexed jaw before landing on the soft lips that are pressed firmly together as if trying to keep any more words from being uttered. There’s something about the way he whispered my name that has me wishing for something more. Something deeper. I needed something more than the casual banter between friends.

“Please,” I mutter, hoping he’ll continue. My eyes find his again, and I watch him search my face for several rapid heartbeats before his shoulders fall with a tired exhale.

“I’d kind of started to notice some things that were off about her. Her smile would slip, or I’d catch her with this look on her face while she stared at absolutely nothing. There were moments when I knew she’d been crying. I don’t think my parents could tell at first, but as time went by it became a bit more obvious.”

I’m watching him relive the memory, and it’s causing my own emotions to bubble inside of me as I expect the worst.

“We would question her but she would deny everything, saying she was just a bit stressed with homework and improving her grades, which had also gradually declined. You see, contrary to what everyone believed about Trinity, she was extremely insecure. Any pressure and she would collapse. I remember once, this was a couple years before we moved to Illinois, one of her good friends told her that she was too easily swayed and needed to learn to be more confident in herself; grow some backbone. This broke her for a whole week. She wouldn’t eat meals, she wouldn’t laugh. We found out later that she was just more emotional than most people, which would occasionally result in periods of pretty severe depression.

“After a couple weeks of observing her, my parents and I decided that whatever was going on was big. We had never seen her act this way before and so we cornered her one evening. Asked her what was going on, why she was hiding things, and she broke down crying, but again, she just blamed schoolwork. Our interrogating wasn’t getting us anywhere so we gave up.” Taking a deep breath Trevor turns to face me.

“She, uh...I found her a couple days later.” His eyes are flittering everywhere but at me, so I finally step forward and place my hands on his shoulder. He jerks his focus to my face where I’m smiling gently, hoping to encourage him to continue, though inside my stomach is a twisted mess of regret and fear.

“Look, Emma, contrary to what you may think, I really don’t hate you, and I’m not here to get back at you for what you did. I don’t want revenge. I’m not out for blood.” He rubs his eyes with his fingers before continuing. “What you did to Trinity was stupid and immature, but if my whole goal was to torment you for what you did and guilt trip you into misery, wouldn’t that make me just as bad? Wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite?” I just stare at him in shock.

“I know I’ve already done some regretful things concerning you. Some of the things I’ve said have been extremely hurtful, whether I meant for you to hear or not, and that was wrong. The way I treated you for the first few days that we were partnered... that’s not who I am. I forgave you for what you did awhile ago. When I sensed the change in you, I realized I needed to grow up and let go of my own bitterness, so I’m sorry for ever causing you pain.”

I know my mouth is hanging open, but I don’t have the energy to close it. Never in my life have I met someone with such integrity and maturity. I’m stunned into silence.

“So, if you didn’t know it was me ruining her life,” I say after clearing the shock from my face. “Why did you ignore me all that time in high school?” Trevor is looking down but he tips his head to cast me an apologetic glance.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way.” He actually turns and places his hands on both of my shoulders to gain all of my attention.

I nod to persuade him to keep going.

“I didn’t actually notice you in high school.”

I take in a bitter hiccup of air, but he hurries to continue.

“I mean, I may have if our school had been smaller, but our class alone had nearly five-hundred students, and you were really good at blending in.” I can see the instant regret on his face as he removes his hands from my shoulders to rub them down his face. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

I’m just nodding mindlessly as his words sink in.

“Listen to me, Emma.” He drags my chin up with his finger, forcing me to look at him. Forcing me to see the truth in his next words. “You’re beautiful.” He pauses when I gasp, and I catch his gaze flash to my lips quickly before he finds my eyes again.

My heart begins to swarm as it pounds against my chest and attempts to swoop into my stomach.

“You are,” he confirms. “I just had a lot of distractions. We were in completely different groups of friends. We never associated with each other. It’s nothing against your personality or your appearance because any guy would be lucky to have you.”

Suddenly I find myself staring at the floor, feeling completely dejected. It’s stupid really because he just called me beautiful, but somehow all this time I thought he’d ignored me because he hated me, not because he didn’t even know I existed.

That’s what my whole mission had been when I’d discovered we’d be going to the same college - to make him like me. And yet, he didn’t even know who I was until those last few weeks that Trinity was there. Looking back, it does make sense. He’d never really gone out of his way to be rude to me or show me that he even disliked me until those last few weeks. Then suddenly he was glaring at me every time I entered the room. To find out that he didn’t even hate me was a huge twist in my plan.

“Change of subject?” Trevor asks, snapping my attention back to him, and I can see he’s really hoping I’ll agree.

I offer him a timid smile. “Sure.”

“That day in my room, when I didn’t know you were there and I said all that crap... you left a bunch of stuff behind.”

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. I’m going to hyperventilate.

He must see the desperation on my face because a playful smile tugs at his lips. “Were you going to teach me how to knit?”

I face-palm and turn to lean over the pool table where I throw my face into the crook of my arm to hide it from view. “Please forget that ever happened?” I plead as I mumble into the green felt cloth.

“No way Jose! Spill.” I can hear the grin in his voice, and it just adds to the humiliation.

“Wow! You guys are just practicing away. I assume Emma’s a pro now right?” I peek out from behind my arm to see Mike and Lindsey standing nearby. I groan even louder as Trevor enlightens them of my moment of brain malfunction weeks prior when I did, indeed, find it a good idea to teach Trevor how to knit while we listened to Katy Perry.

“It was her idea!” I whine as I point an accusing finger at Lindsey.

She throws her hands up as if she’s completely innocent.

The depth of our previous conversation is lost as the four of us prepare to battle it out in a game of pool. I’m not letting this go, though. I will find out just how badly I hurt Trinity Nixon, and I will find out what it is about Trevor that makes him so gosh darn forgiving, even when I don’t deserve it.

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