The little blonde girl eyed the old, rusted book laying in the bottom of the crate suspiciously. It was unlike any of the other books she had seen, and that was saying a lot considering her profession. Other books were tattered and dusty, stains on the edges of old paper or crayon marks of the children that somehow managed to find the copy of Pride and Prejudice you got from the library to got to finish that school assignment you waited at the last minute to finish, only to decide with your necessary consent that it would make for a better coloring book or an art project, thus forcing you to nervously return it a few weeks later and hoping none of the clerks noticed your pale face, shaky hands, or aversion for proper eye contact.
This book was a different kind of book.
Picking it up, the little blonde girl noticed the difference in the texture. Regular books felt rough and coarse, after years piling on years of improper treatment and general uncaring use by shallow, useless humans. This book felt soft and fresh, like it was almost completely brand new, but it was still leather bound and the yellow bent corners of pages could tip any smart person off miles away.
Regular books had a title, an author, a few eye-catching reviews plastered somewhere on there at the last minute to draw in the naive onlooker, or beautiful pictures that have nothing to do with the actual story it shall tell. This book had nothing, only a thick slab of rusty old brown leather and thin wispy strings holding the ol' menace together.
Regular books had strong smells that were so blissfully intoxicating, some had considered it a lesser to beautiful cocaine. This book's smell was faint and barely existent, but when it was there, it was of thick, blotchy ink and sweat.
I chuckle as the blonde's beautiful and calm face wrinkle and morph in utter disgust at this atrocity, being so quick to slam the monster closed that it rang throughout the tall full shelves. She turns it over, glaring at the spine while biting down on her rosy lip.
No sticker. No title. Absolutely nothing.
With a loud huff, she spun on her heel and marched through the mazes of shelves, books, tables, and unsuspecting sheep. I watch, silent as a wall could be. I admit I am impressed, but I won't dare to say so aloud.
She marches over to an elderly woman sitting behind a shiny oak desk, gray-haired with glasses and everything else in between, with an annoyed and slightly tired look on her face. How long had she been here again?
"Ms. Ackerman? I need some help here. This book-" she hands it to one of those wrinkly bone-like hands, "-I..I can't find any info on it. I searched for a title, an author, a sticker, but I can't find anything! I swear, if any damned kids-"
"Language, Ms. Lillian. And besides, this looks way too authentic to be an actual published book. Feel the pages. Don't you feel the indents of each letter, every word?"
The blonde, Ms. Lillian I suppose, looks extremely confused, with her nose wrinkled up so adorably while she tucks her long tresses behind her cold ear.
"B-but...what? What does that mean?"
Ms. Ackerman, the old goat, smiles and pushes the bound book over to her. Ms. Lillian stares at her, one slender blonde eyebrow raised high and mighty.
"It means that this isn't a registered book. It's most likely somebody accidentally turned this in or it just somehow ended up in our stack. Just a misunderstanding."
Ms. Lillian presses her palm against the edge of the book being pushed her way, blue eyes twinkling in the dim light. "Well then, what do you want me to do with this?"
The old goat shrugs. What a useless croak.
"Place it in the Lost and Found. Someone's going to have to realize it's missing and come back looking for it."
Ms. Lillian's petite shoulders sags as she sighs softly. Gripping the leather monster, the look of utter reluctance on her face was enough to clue a smart person in that this just wasn't her night.
She turns around, once again spinning on her heel, muttering under her breath as she stared at the book in her hands, as if she was wishing it to the fiery pits of hell. Oh, I'm sure it would burn quite nicely down there, my dear.
"Oh and Ms. Lillian?"
I watch her eyes, the beautiful mixture of light blue and even lighter gray so thin they resemble ice, as they turn dark and narrow. Still, she forces a tight smile on her pretty face as she looks over her shoulder at what I can only assume as he boss, useless old goat as she was.
She's forcing a masquerade and I smile at the sight, my hands tingling with excitement.
"Take the rest of the week off. You look like you're about to pass out and I don't want you overworking yourself."
Ms. Lillian looks extremely offended at this, those beautiful blue-grey eyes narrowing sharply as she makes no attempt to hide her annoyance.
"But I've worked overnight three times this week! I need the money!"
"I know you do," the old goat so rudely interrupts, "but you need some more rest. It's getting to the point where you look physically ill. I don't want you getting sick or passing out-"
"You know what? I don't...I don't need this...I'll see you tomorrow, Ms. Ackerman." She turns around, her long slender fingers twitching and jerking in her anger.
"Get some rest, dear."
Ms. Lillian sighs, hugging the old leather book to her chest. I look closer in her eyes...are those tears I see? Why was this English darling weeping so?
"I will. I'm just gonna...I'm just gonna put this b-back..."
She never returns the book, I observe close by. She looks pale, tired, with the slightest hints of worry. How incredibly interesting, I muse to myself as I keep in step with her.
I look down her back, shoulders broad and stiff. Tense I see, Ms. Lillian. I figure you should be much more sluggish considering how much overtime you've worked the past few week.
You're thinking of your mother, Ms. Lillian. Thinking about how disappointed she will be of you when you show up once again empty handed. Oh, I know she'll just remind you about how you're wasting your talents and how you should get a real job by joining the military instead of sticking around in a stuffy, old library.
You don't love your mother, do you Ms. Lillian?
I watch as she runs over to her black and violet motorcycle, stuffing the old book in her leather purse. As she pulls her helmet on, I see her peaking over her shoulder and casting me a suspicious glare.
So you know I'm watching? Clever girl.
She says nothing and is quick to focus on her leave.
I watch her as she speeds away, her loose ponytail coming undone with the intensity of her ride as she struggles to keep herself under control, but she fails as always.
She's it, the soul I've sought for so long. An acquired taste; sour yet supple. I follow her, the wind flowing at my whim as I glide ever gracefully. I'm tailing her by the time we reached a bright red light and she casts another irritated glare at my path, and the she swerves in a new direction. A different path then her usual route, I see; it's undeniably clear she's just trying to shake me off now.
Oh ho, like that's going to work on me; I know where you live, my dear.
She was taking a short cut, straight through the woods. Watching her duck and dance through the twisty, curled branches. Her long hair trails behind her back like a thin, wispy curtain, her shoulders unnaturally stiff. She truly is a nervous wreck.
I can feel her growing dread, she's knows well enough that she's still being followed despite her attempts, and yet when she steals a glare from behind, she still sees nothing. She's already broken out into a cold sweat and she swallows hard, yet she tries to mask her fear with the shine of her dark helmet.
Thoughts pump through her mind like the heart pumps blood, one steady beat after another.
Can't believe she would do this!
I know you're out there!
GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU BUGGER!
Her fists clench on full throttle as the lights shining in the dark spin past us, hearts shooting blood into our system like dirty needles full of adrenaline—a rush so tantalizingly powerful, I would never give it up. Over and over again, sweet release is so close yet so far. But then again, I was always one for a good show. I savor the taste of her blood, sweat, tears, fear—it fuels me, makes me feel alive after so many years of dreary dragging death. I know this is going to be a fun one, a really fun one, and I can guarantee that I will be along each step of the way. I'm within arms reach, but I don't wish to touch her, not yet. The time will come and I shall patiently wait for it to arrive, but this is only character study thus far.
What shall make this one different from all the others, I wonder. Every time I ask that question, it shall end in disappointment, but not tonight; this time, I have a strong feeling and whatever the outcome may be, it will end with me pleasantly surprised. This one is special, unique, and I will taste her throughly when the time is just right, but for now I will watch, silently.
She's going the right way this time, on a dusty dirt road that seems so familiar to her and now to me. I read her mental map and follow it as darkness swallows her frail looking form whole, save for the bright red lights glowing around her delicate silhouette.
She's shaking now, her breathing unsteady. I smirk; she's finally playing along now. I feel her eyes constantly checking over her shoulder, skimming the surrounding area, looking for her pursuer to no avail. Her heart's pounding in her chest, my adrenaline is pumping along with it and my hands twitch in anticipation. My own thirst for the excitement, for the chase, is too overbearing—it's consuming me! I need something to quench it...
And so, I touch her.
Don't think anything brash, I don't assault her or anything like that, it was just a soft, smooth little touch across her back. My fingertips ever so lightly trace the ridges of her spine, I feel just how tense and frightened she is! I can feel her pulse vibrating against my thumb and it is one of the most tender beat I have ever felt in centuries.
But that little action was enough to make her scream, to jerk her head around and stare me dead in the eye—her terrified expression masked mostly by her helmet but I could still see her eyes—and not looking where she was going, therefore not seeing the large rock dead in her path, which in turn sent the motorcycle flipping completely over and her flying through the air, screaming, before landing harshly on the ground with a dull thud.
I smirk proudly at my handiwork as I hear her groan, hissing as she pushes herself up on her elbows. She isn't wearing any other gear besides her helmet, good thing she had that on, so her arms are pretty badly cut up with her clothes and hands caked with powder-like dirt and baby pebbles. She grasps at her torn flesh and gasps in horror before that quickly turns into a series of pained, tear-laced hisses.
Mum's going to kill me! Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!
I can only assume that's English curse for the time being, but I really don't care enough to find out. I wonder if she'll get back on the bike, despite her bloody injuries, or just walk it, wasting more of her valuable and so precious time.
She glares at me from over her shoulder as she casually dusts off her helmet as if nothing ever happened to begin with. After a minute of staring at virtually nothing, she shakes her head and straddles her death machine once she manages to get it upright—with a remarkable amount of strength considering her small size.
"You're just tried, Lex. You're just tired..." She mutters to herself, unaware that I catch every word that flies off her pretty little tongue. So her name's Lex? Wonder what that's short for, although I'm guessing it's somewhere in the 'Alex' category.
She revs up her bike and takes off, grinding her teeth at the irritating sting that raked up her arms and the warmth of the copper red liquid that started to push out of the wounds. Well, this is a determined one—all the more better, I suppose. I was always a fan of this kind of raw passion and spirit but I can only see so much from a distance. What a joke.
Time passes—or if you want to be completely accurate fifteen minutes, thirty five seconds, and three milliseconds pass—and she's soon parking her bike in her dusty and cluttered garage. Grumbling under her breath, she dug into her coat pockets and fumbled with the tiny set of ember keys while trying to be as discrete as possible. We wouldn't want mother to find out, would we?
As the clock ticks eleven fifty-seven and on, she does her usual late night routine: kicking off her boots away in a corner, snacking on some leftovers in the fridge (I believe it was pork this night), and trudging up the hard wood steps while still somehow maintaining the silence and gracefulness of a cat.
Slipping into her room similar to that of a soft breeze, she leaned her back against the door and sighed to herself. Her room was a rather average one—I've honestly seen much more interesting examples—with a bed in the corner, a desk with a chair, and dark curtains drawn. One particular measly detail catches my eye though, some paper on a desk and an open pack of cigarettes-nearly empty. How intriguing.
She slides her coat off, the cool leather a stark contrast to the warm flush of her delicate form, and tosses it on the bed with a huff. Examining her carved up arms was difficult to manage without a subtle look of disgust and it was clear, much to her highest hopes, that they needed to be wrapped up so the fresh wounds wouldn't be laced with the burden of infection. Although I must say, red is defiantly her color.
She steps into the dark hallway, sneaking past her mother's closed door with a disconcerting glance, and slithered into the bathroom. Being sure to lock the door, she flipped the dull lights on and rummaged through the cabinets for the desired ingredients:
Some cotton balls.
She hisses again in pain, this time as she rubbed one of the cotton balls drenched in the liquid, smearing the blood around in her tired stupor. In the light, I see just how badly the cuts really are; pretty bloody and possibly throbbing, although I thankfully didn't see any bone. I wouldn't want to put anyone in the hospital yet.
It's when she finally starting to bind her arm does she actually start to relax a bit. Her pulse is firm and steady, her breathing is calm, and I am disappointed. I honestly expected more—there had to be something that made this one even a little different from all the others I've had! There's a certain spice in this mixture and I know I'm going to find it in...
"What do you think you're doing?"
Lex jumps and starts to shake upon hearing that muffled voice that must be so familiar to her. That steady pulse is beginning to elevate, speeding up and becoming more and more unsteady with each passing millisecond. My interest is instantly peaked. Finally, something's going to happen.
A minute of silence passes by, with Lex frozen and wide eyed like a deer in headlights and the loud rattling of the door knob. Her hands are shaking and it's pretty clear she's not going to finish wrapping her arm up.
I hear the mysterious woman sigh tiredly. "Open the door, Alexis."
Do I detect hints of an English accent? They must be related. Hmm, I wonder...
Alexis stares at the door in shock before finally heaving a sigh of defeat and undos the lock, her face pretty much drained of any color by this point. The door flies open just as she clips the bandage into place and she jumps, staring down at the bathroom sink and pretending to not be intimidated by this woman's presence.
Speaking of which, the woman is standing in the doorway with a very angered look on her face. Her stance is that a typical parent would use when they were upset with their child, which I have absolutely no doubt is the exact kind of relationship these two have. They were very similar in appearance, only the older woman had more noticeable lines on her face and a few patches of greying hair. Stress or age?
Alexis doesn't look at her, hiding behind her long hair in ether fear or shame. I personally can't tell the difference.
I watch with interest as the mother's icy blue eyes narrow sharply. Well, something's about to go down in here alright.
"Why are you home so late? You know you have school tomorrow."
"I'm aware," Alexis growls, clutching her arm and trying to hide it from her mother's lingering gaze, "I was just working...again."
Another sigh. "Why do you do this to yourself? It's very clear that this job clearly isn't made for you! How much are you making anyway? Five dollars an hour?"
"Twenty actually. I just haven't, you know, gotten my check yet. I get paid next week though, so don't worry."
"I have every right to worry! You go to that library at three and you don't come home until almost twelve o clock at night. And you've been doing that for the past two weeks! Have you been even getting any sleep? You look like a skeleton nowadays! Do you even care about your health?"
Alexis grinds her teeth together and her breathing is raspy. "I stopped caring about my health a long time ago. It doesn't matter any road; Ms. Ackerman wants me to take the rest of the week off..."
"Oh? So she got my message then. Good."
She snaps her pretty little head up at this and fixes a nasty glare at her mother, her face immediately turning red with rage. "Wait, you planned this?"
Mother Lillian places her hands on her curvy hips, fighting fire with fire in the form of her own death stare. "Okay, first of all, I did not "plan" anything here; I simply called her and I told her of my concerns about you. Second, I'm doing this for your own bloody good! You need the time to relax!"
"Seeing as though I'm the only person in this house who's actually working to make my money, I think it's pretty hypocritical of you to tell me when I can or can't work!"
"Don't you dare try and bring my life into this! My bridge has been built a long time ago while your's barely even has a leg to stand on!"
"Mum, your analogies are terrible. I'm seventeen and I'm graduating in five months; I think my bridge has gotten a pretty good head start in the building department."
"The last time you said that, you were-"
"Mum, please, do not bring that up."
Intriguing. So little miss Alexis Lillian has a dark secret? I can't wait to hear what it is. I always find out all the secrets and lies of special people like her, just a mere background check before they're put to work.
Mother Lillian's face pales instantly as does Alexis'.
There was nothing else to be said, just pure silence. Well, no, not exactly; I do detect some traces of wheezing coming from Alexis, but they were just barely noticeable.
Mother Lillian looks as if she is about to cry, but she surprisingly managed to hold her composure together impressively.
"What are you doing in here?"
Alexis' cheeks flame up in what appears to be in shame, wonder why, and she stares down at the tiled floor as she was clearly trying to hide something.
"I...I had a bit of an...accident on the way home..."
Those light blue eyes lightened up instantly.
"What kind of accident?"
Alexis' head shoots up, eyes wide and her non-injured hand shakes. The pulse is picking up, faster and faster and faster. Fantastic—this is what I want, it's just happening on an inappropriate moment. No, no, no, not yet. Her pulse can't be like this now. Later: later is good. Later is perfect. Later is mandatory...
"It's nothing, mum! Really! I just kind—of—sort—of—maybe fell off my bike while riding it...well, okay "fell" isn't the most accurate word. I, uh..."
Mother's stormy eyes widen and I see the usual maternal freak out in the next few seconds, as Alexis seems to see as well. Good to know I'm not the only one in the room.
Yes, yes; I think we've been over this already.
Alexis groans, massaging her brow with her pointer and middle fingers and her cheekbone with her thumb, "I just scraped my arm up a little bit. I was even wearing my helmet this time!"
Thanks a lot, blondie, that made everything much worse.
Alexis sighs and starts to place the impromptu medical kit back on there desired shelves as she speaks, her accent getting just a little bit deeper. Must be a little tick of her.
"Sometimes I'm in a hurry, alright? Any road, I'm heading off to bed. Goodnight mother."
She pushes past her mother, who is very quick to make a grab for her only to fail upon getting an eyeful of gauze-wraps.
"We-we're not done talking about this!"
"I know," Alexis sighs as she pauses, standing right in her doorway.
"I'm sorry, mum, but I'm tired. Please..."
Mother Lillian still has that fiery look in her eye, but it starts to dim down a little bit upon hearing her daughter's tired plea. Her mouth opens and closes for a few seconds before it snaps shut and I hear a soft sigh force its way out past her glossy red lips.
Alexis doesn't look at her, instead seemingly deciding her thick curtains waving around in the breeze are far more interesting. There is the slightest twitch in her lips.
"We're still talking about this in the morning though."
An odd noise escapes her throat. Is it a chuckle or a groan? Or both?
"Of course we are, mum...of course we are..."
That last part is simply a sigh, a huff, and she says nothing else as she takes a few more steps into her dark room. The shadows dance across her face in a way that brings out her eyes, a beautiful stormy blue-grey glowing so brightly even in the dark. Her pulse is steady...how boring.
With her hair already beginning to fall in her face, she's already starting to shut the creaky door covered in posters and other little notes when the old mother finally decides to open her trap again.
"I love you."
Alexis says nothing still, but watch her lower her head and close her eyes as she closes her door softly. A frustrated sigh escapes her lips as she combs her hands through her kneaded hair.
She plops down on her bed, lying on her back and stares up at the plain white ceiling in ever still silence. Her eyes are glowing so radiantly now, a new glossy shine to them. Then, she turns her head and eyes a lumpy pillow while biting down gently on her bottom lip. My eyebrow rises slightly when I see her reach into the old thing, but it soon lowers when I see her arm retreat with a dark violet cell phone in tow.
Now this isn't a very fancy phone, mind you; this one didn't have any fancy buttons or apps and it wasn't very big, just small enough to fit in the palm of a child's hand, but at least it worked...somewhat.
Flipping it open, her eyes squint at the bright light emitting from the small screen and my curiosity peaks as she begins to fiddle with a few small buttons with an annoyed look in her eye. I circle around her, peering over her shoulder and squinting myself just to see the small blurred text.
Here's what I can, mostly, make out:
u cummin with me 2 go berthday shopin 4 Anthonys party 2marow?
I will never understand this bizarre new language teenagers use now. Alexis seems just as confused as I am, as it takes her a while before actually relying to the message; I can only assume by the "babe" comment that this is her lover, but I'm only guessing. I've heard heterosexual girls refer to each over with affectionate terms before so I can only be so sure.
Rolling my eyes, I search the room for something that actually interests me. Some posters of bands on the wall—typical, some stuffed animals—cute, stack of old worn down books—how original. In my boredom, I find myself staring down at the papers that clutter her desk so messily.
I lean in closer, trying to get a better look in the darkness.
Side effects of lung cancer?
Coughing up blood?
I eye the cigarettes and lighter on her nightstand and then, suddenly, everything clicks together.
I smile and laugh to myself.
How could I be so blind?