With a twist she slips from the officer’s grasp and runs for the dock, legs pumping, perching a second on the railing to gather energy before launching into the water with a dive that cuts the icy waves. Above the surface chaos erupts, shouting and arguing, but she is too deep and too far already to catch words. She swims. Limbs slicing through the water like blades, sharper than the Exacto knife she’d wielded in triumphant frenzy, she swims. Away from the useless counselors. Away from the father who buys love with diamonds and Gucci. Away from the memory of a mother, somewhere and yet nowhere. Away from the gnawing emptiness inside that makes her control, manipulate, destroy everything and everyone who reaches out. They will catch her, but until they do she swims toward the horizon and thinks only of the water buoying her forward.
[ Had a dream I was several different characters from The Girls of No Return, a book about a wilderness camp for delinquent girls. I very much recommend it! ]
The name you are given at birth is not your name. It is society’s name for you, a label, an expectation. This name has power over you; shed it, and your past, like a cloak in your wake. Your true name is the one you give yourself, which binds to you and brings you power. A soul name, a mind name, a bone and flesh name. You will know it when it comes to you; it feels like wings fused to your back, like a sword in your hand, like a burning coal in your chest.
I still have nightmares about that night. Sometimes he collapses and hits the pavement before I can catch him, dying even as I drag him into my arms. Sometimes he’s already dead when I find him, lips blue and eyes glazed. Sometimes he’s still alive but when I set my hand on his shoulder he flinches, lashes out, and the thin little blade finds my chest or my throat or my eyes. Sometimes I bleed out on the wet pavement while he stares down at me, lips curled in a scowl. Sometimes I never find him at all, and all I do is wander through the dark city, desperate and alone.
It’s ironic, now that I think about it; in a way, you are my fairy godmother.You revealed yourself to me when I was young and awkward and in need of a guiding hand. You gave me a cloak with which I transformed into the better version of myself: confident, brave, powerful. A little mysterious, too; the character in the shadows whose alliances are suspect, whose past is as unreadable as their gaze. I needed that. I needed to become strong by feigning strength, even if my bravery turned back to rags at midnight. I still do sometimes, actually. I still settle your cloak over my shoulders when the world is too harsh, too bleak, too much to face as myself. I wear your electricity and fearless madness like armor, your confidence my shield and your unrelenting ego my sword. You’re a nontraditional fairy godmother, but then again, I’m a nontraditional heroine.
Daren is like a venomous snake lost in the city. He doesn’t belong here, too wild and dangerous to exist among civilization, yet he has adapted as all predators must. He stays in the shadows, watching and waiting, patient in the way of coldblooded things. Give him a wide berth and he’ll leave you alone; come too close and he’ll strike without warning. No snake has ever shown mercy.
If my mind is a house full of hallways full of doors, then what is yours? I see an ocean, steel gray water stretching in all directions to touch a steel gray sky. There’s nothing to swim toward but if you don’t keep treading water you’ll slip beneath the waves, choking on icy liquid as you thrash and sink. Horrors lurk beneath those waves, just waiting to pull you down, down, down. No wonder you drink; it must be the only way to keep the chill at bay. To forget about the monsters.
If my mind is a house full of hallways full of doors, then what is yours? I see a forest in black and white, like a Polaroid taken at night; white snow, black skeleton trees, darkness pressing in all around. A bleak forest through which you move with a predator’s stealth, silent and alone. An empty forest in which the threat comes not from what may lay in wait within the darkness, but the darkness itself; it would be so easy to get lost within its depths, to walk so long you forgot the path back to yourself. Who knows what you’ve already left behind?