Shoot me with your Smile
“How did I escape? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?”
“Well you did escape, didn’t you? I mean, you’re here now.”
“I suppose. I am here. But I’m not sure I can answer why.
It was one night, the same as any other. In fact the only difference between the days was the weakness in my bones, the will to breathe another breath.
So I guess that night was different.
The last spark of fight I had left had slipped away sometime between that meal and my last.
But the food, that was the same. I finished my tasteless, vomit textured slop. One slow, painful bite at a time. My mind was dead. I couldn’t even be thankful for food anymore, I couldn’t wish to be freed. I had nothing left.
The room fuzzed into one two dimension image that I couldn’t make out and I barely noticed that my nerves were numb. I had felt numb for days. My body went limp and I lied on the filth, unable to move and unable to keep myself from drifting away, drifting away from everything. Not like I tried. I thought I was dying. And I was happy. That was the first emotion I had felt in days and it was almost an out of body experience.”
“But I did wake up. And that was more agony than I’d felt my entire time in that place. Excruciating pain. My chest, my head, hell even my kidneys. Everywhere that you can feel pain, I felt it. It was probably a few hours until I got myself to sit up. And when I did, I saw the door and I froze. The bolt was broken on the floor and it was wide open.
It felt like a trap, or a dream, or anything but what it was. But when I eventually got up the courage to walk through it, I found myself in an empty field. A few miles down was a town. Our town. And I was free.”
“But… But the media-“
“Made it sound like it was some kind of heroic escape? That’s what they do Evan. There’s no story in the truth.”
We both lay down, our backs on the cold stone, our heads to the sky, our arms pressed against each others, and we sigh.
“I am glad that I know,” Evan says through the silence. I can tell there are a million other things that he wants to say, but the stars absorb each one of them.
“You want to ask about her, don’t you?”
“She was like a mother to me Elena.”
“I begged to go to the funeral, he wouldn’t let me. You’ll never know how sorry I am that I couldn’t be there.”
I turn my head on the hard ground to face him and he looks back at me. “Not as sorry as I am.” I give him a sad smile and his eyes droop. “It’s my fault, Evan. They didn’t let them put what happened to her in the papers. She died because of me. She shot herself because of me, two days before I got back.”
“I know you’re going to tell me not to blame myself. She killed herself because I was gone, Evan. Gone one day too many. There’s no debating that.”
“I wasn’t going to say that. I know you’ll blame yourself no matter what I say. I was going to tell you that it wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t bring so much to her life, that it meant that she had nothing without you.” He lets his fingertips gently touch my arm and his soft eyes bore into me, glossed over with the reflection of the moon.
“You meant more to her than anything, Elena. You gave her more happiness in the years you spent with her that anyone can hope to give in a lifetime. S
o if you can blame yourself for her death, at least credit yourself with the wonderful life she wouldn’t have had if she didn’t have you.”
I put my hand on his, rest my forehead on his shoulder and smile at the memories of my mother flashing in my head. I see her laugh and dance, enjoy life. And it makes me proud, because I was there for all of it.
“You’re not going to go away again… Are you?”
“I don’t want to.”
“So you are?” I lift my head and rest my chin on his shoulder.
“I don’t have a choice.” His voice goes colder. I don’t want to lose this again. I don’t want it to go back to the way it was; I don’t think I can handle it. Not after tonight.
“You always have a choice Evan.”
There’s no reply, we stay unmoving, underneath the stars until my back aches and my head throbs.
“Can you drop me somewhere? I can’t lay on this rock anymore, it’s a real bitch to the spine,” I moan, pulling myself up.
“I didn’t wanna seem like a wuss, but yeesh.” He cracks his neck and twists his shoulders dramatically. I can’t help but smile.
“I don’t want to push the favour thing but… I kinda left my phone on the floor in Brian’s car, could you message him for me?”
“I would do if I had a phone.”
“Oh. Right. Damn.”
“He’s probably pretty hammered by now anyway. And you know what those rich boys are like when they’re drunk, can’t tell their ass from their eyebrows.”
I force a small chuckle. Small talk is a bit lost on me right now, considering the conversation I just had with someone who hasn’t spoken to me in years. The awkwardness hasn’t exactly settled yet.
I follow behind Evan, silent and tensed up until we get to his car.
“Oh, thanks,” I spurt when I see he’s holding the door open for me. I rush into my seat and despite the lack of cold I pull my loose jacket tight around my waist. A phantom spider crawls over my shoulder and I go to slap it away. Though there’s nothing on my neck but a damp patch, from what I can only assume is sweat. I grab onto my hand and pluck at the skin on my palm. As we drive further into the darkness, I feel the sweat spreading over my entire body in a thick layer.
I run my fingers over my cheek and forehead, not even a bead.
It takes about twenty minutes before we’re back in town and neither of us says a thing. This isn’t easy. For me, or for him. Eventually, I mumble through the dead air to tell him where to take me. He doesn’t question why I’m not going home. Not that he doesn’t want to, but I think he knows I don’t want to talk about that right now. We’ve shared enough for one night.
We pull up outside an abandoned looking apartment building and Evan shoots me a wary look.
The lumpy concrete path is in pieces. We have to step over several raised cracks to get to the caged entrance. The bars are bent and the red rust peers through the chips in the black paint. All of the windows are either broken or fractured. One has the bottom half of a beer bottle leant over the shards of green and fog coloured glass, still leaking cheap booze onto the unkempt bush below.
Graffiti stains every brick on the bottom floor. And it’s not the artistic kind you can find in alley ways, the kind that grabs your attention. Even if you can’t appreciate the aesthetic, you can at least take a moment to acknowledge the time and talent that went into it. No. What covers these, already flaking walls, looks like it’s come from the same broken-armed ten year old on a thirty second time limit. And an uneducated one at that.
I type in the entrance code from memory and Evan insists on escorting me up. We’ve never been the richest, him and I, but we’ve had little to no association with this part of town. I imagine we’d get on with these people far better than the Brian crowd; though unfortunately we have a separate school for “those people”.
Because there’s no way that’s going to contribute to the massive classist delusions that are already branded into society. No way. If anything, it will make us more “tolerant” because we don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis.
Evan isn’t super pleased when I refuse to use the clanky, rattling elevator. We have to travel up five flights of stairs, but in my opinion a little leg workout is far more appealing than taking a trip in the flying death machine.
Room 104. Thank God. Evan is whiney and my legs are about to drop off. I go to knock on the door and Evan takes a hold of my arm.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright here?” he asks. I give him a sweet smile and proceed to knock.
A minute goes by. Crashing and clanging sounds come from inside and what sounds like a now broken lamp gets knocked to the floor before an “oh shit” is grumbled from the other side of the door.
Esther opens the door. One eye stuck shut, the other squinted, every strand of hair flung in a different direction and pyjamas that were clearly thrown on at the last minute, bottoms the wrong way round and the top... “Is that upside down?” I point out, giggling.
“It’s nearly twelve am, Lannie, don’t expect a prom princess,” she groans. “Speaking of, what are you doing here so late? Foster parasites finally get the balls for a double suicide?” She rubs her forehead, still a bit dazed. But she perks up when she sees the look on my face.
“Can- can I stay here for a while?”
“Of course babe. Why don’t you come in.” She takes a step back and gestures towards the living room. “And you too.” “Wait,” she says, shutting the door, “Who is this?”
“Um…” I cringe at the question.
“No way. I should have seen it. Emerald-eyed Evan. Couldn’t have described them better myself,” Esther mocks and Evan’s eyes pop awkwardly.
“I- I said Pine,” I half shrug as I shrink to the size of a pea, looking between the two of them.
“So this is the hell-bred hunk, huh? FYI I gave you that nickname before I saw you. Now you’re in front of me, I see you’re more of a shortie-mc-dickbag, or Dr.Dull-o dipweed kinda guy. I don’t know how Elena thinks you can even smell as far as her league. I mean, what are you, like five four?
I’ve seen the guys at your school Lannie, you need to get a damn eye test if you’re bringing me this.”
“I’m like a quarter on an inch away from five six,” Evan grunts, shuffling on his feet.
He is so not short! I happen to adore his height. And he’s got such cuteness in his baby-face. It’s not my fault I don’t go for model type horndogs with the IQ of a rat dropping.
I put my head in my hands to hide my burning cheeks and shake my head. This… Is not going well.
“You have been checked, haven’t you? For some kind of mental disorder? I mean, from what I’ve heard, you aren’t exactly all there. There are a bunch of tests online see,” she says, scrolling through her phone. “Let’s start with psychopathy, shall we? Hmm, let’s see. “I only care about myself, there’s no point in feeling sorry for other people” oh well that’s an easy one. “Definitely me.”
Hmm, “most would describe me as charming” ha! Not from what I can see.”
“Esther! Can. You. Please. Put that down.”
“But we’re fifty/fifty so far Lannie, it could go either way here.”
I drag myself to the couch and slump down, the glare in my eyes sharper than a razor.
“Alright, alright. Lucky boy.” Esther crosses her arms and sticks her head out like a condescending weirdo. “At the moment you’re only halfway down the road of psychopathy.”
“Ugh,” I grunt, falling back into the cushion.
“So… Uh, I should go.” Evan starts to head out, interrupting Esther’s ready-to-go barrage of accusations, and I stop him.
“Wait!” I blurt. He turns around, looking uneasy. I give him a small, apologetic smile and he nods. “See you tomorrow?” I question.
He pauses for a moment and I keep my eyebrows raised as I lean on the edge of my seat.
“Good luck with everything, Elena.”
He hesitates at the handle, looking back at me.
And then he walks out, shutting the door behind him.
Quietly, and respectfully.