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    Just Some Color Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala's Avatar
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    Default Red Queen Effect

    WARNING: While short, this is not a pretty story...not a happy story. Mine generally aren't, and this one more than most. If you like your characters happy and your endings "happily ever after" turn back now.

    Otherwise, please give me some feedback. I can't decide what I think of this just yet. It was in my head for a long time, I attmpted writing it over and over, only to have it come out all at once, just like that.




    “That’s the trouble with survival of the fittest, isn’t it? The corpse at your feet. That little inconvenience.” – Wally Lamb, I Know This Much is True


    Red Queen Effect


    Her nakedness was the first thing I noticed. That her skin really was bare, glistening palely in a sinister glow on awkwardly placed, dangling limbs did not occur to me until later.

    “The coat! Where’s the coat?” My voice was steadily rising on each word.

    My mother turned to me. Mechanically, as if she were the ballerina placed precariously on one toe, swirling forever atop a child’s music box. My shoulder ached under the nails of her vice-like grip. Her hollowed eyes looked sunken, a jack-o-lantern half complete. Her mouth gaped, forming words she couldn’t speak aloud.

    “It’s my coat. She borrowed it from me! I want to know where it is.”

    She released my shoulder.

    ***

    Alit under the light of the moon she danced barefoot in icy blades of grass. Laughed. He found the red suggestive. Enticing. She did not stray from his bared teeth, but stroked his whiskered cheek. He lapped at her heel.

    I watched from our window, fearful of eyes glowing the same yellow as her hair. I heard her scream. In pleasure.

    ***

    “May and April are my favorite months. I decided those would be the names of my daughters. I would have no more and no less than two, you see.”

    “…And then your great grandmother died…”

    “Yes. And her name was Gertrude, passed down from her mother. Everyone called her Gertie as well.”

    “May and Gertrude. You don’t see the difference there? It’s not fair!”

    “What?”

    “Never mind.”

    ***

    “Oh, you know, they’re sisters,” my mother said, tittering with laughter. “Girls will be girls.” She said this everywhere, every time my sister and I fought or looked at each other cross-eyed. I think she even believed it.

    May, my older sister, had mastered the art of fighting gracefully. A sly remark dropped at precisely the right moment would leave me hot and sputtering for words, and in the blame. She’d smirk at me from over our mother’s shoulder, while I endured my scolding. Not even a face like that could mar the perfection of her looks.
    God, I hate her.

    Two years older than me, I grew up in May’s perfect shadow. Teachers called me by her name, or sighed in exasperation when things did not come so easily to me as they had for her. Of course, May’s grades are also perfection. I’d grit my teeth every time I heard her humble herself, claiming hours of study. I shared a room with her. She never cracked open a book. She just knew the answers. Classmates used to sidle up to me to attempt befriending her. Later, boys dropped me numerous awkwardly versed notes to send her way. I tossed all but the ones I knew she’d reject anyway.

    Even when May left me behind in junior high for high school, I knew no peace. Teachers had all but given up on my report card resembling May’s. I studied every night, but had my only ‘A’ in Physical Education. I imagined every ball to be May’s head.

    ***


    “I’ll give it back to you in one piece, I promise. It goes with my outfit, see?”

    “What?” She held my red coat in her hands. Almost cloak-like it hugged the shoulders and billowed out in ripples to about mid-thigh on me and mid-buttocks on May. It also looked better on her. “May, no! Come on!”

    She pursed red koolaid lips, seemingly kissed by a bee’s stinger. “It looks better on me anyway.”

    “No it doesn’t, you cow.”

    I looked to her short, short skirt, long lean legs stuffed in calf-hugging boots, and her soft, cream-colored blouse, topped with waves of butter-colored hair. My eyes narrowed, “You’re going out with him, aren’t you?”

    She flushed, looking away to the doorway before turning on a heel to glide that way, coat trailing.

    ***

    She was late to breakfast again. When at last she stumbled in, her eyes were heavy-lidded and ringed with lack of sleep and smeared mascara.

    I eyed her closely. “You forgot to take off your makeup last night.”

    She slumped in her chair, stared dully into a bowl of cheerios grown soggy in milk. She reached for her spoon, but her hand remained, limp, on the table next to it.

    “May! What happened to you?” Our mother had breezed in soundlessly, nurse’s garb pristine. I watched her place a hand tenderly on my sister’s forehead, stroking her hair with the other.

    “I don’t feel so well Mom…”

    “You don’t look so well, either.”

    I looked from one to the other. “Mom…”

    “Not now Gertie.” She patted May’s soft buttery waves. “I don’t think you should be going to school today.”

    “I don’t know Mom…”

    Our mother smiled affectionately. At her. “I think you can afford to miss one day. Why don’t you head back to your room and get some sleep.”

    “Well…all right.”

    I scowled, kicking the leg of my chair.

    ***

    Alit under the light of the moon she danced barefoot in icy blades of grass. Laughed. He found the red suggestive. Enticing. She did not stray from his bared teeth, but stroked his whiskered cheek. He lapped at her heel.

    I watched from our window, fearful of eyes glowing the same yellow as her hair. I heard her scream. In pleasure.

    ***

    “What the hell, May?”

    “What?”

    “You’re going out again? We have midterms next week!”

    “Mind your own business.”

    “Don’t you think Mom’s going to notice when you don’t get straight-A’s for the first time in your life?”

    “Shut up.”

    “Fine. It’s your life. Just try not to ruin my coat, okay?”

    ***

    “Gertie…”

    I looked up from my books scattered on the bed to see my mother hovering in the doorway. Worry furrowed her brow. “Yeah Mom?”

    “I want to talk to you. ”

    I shoved books out of her way. She perched next to me on the bed, dry hands clawing at each other.

    “It’s May…”

    I waited. In the ensuing silence I returned my attention to the history notes. My mother’s fingers played over an image of Marie Antoinette absently.

    “I know she’s been…sick…a lot lately.” Fingers drumming over the Queen’s coitured hair. “This morning I got your report cards. All her grades are down, and her teachers are concerned with the number of absences lately.”

    I reached to touch her hands. They relaxed their knots.

    She looked at me with pleading eyes. “She hasn’t made up her midterms yet. I don’t think they’re going to allow much more leeway.”

    “Oh they probably will, Mom. Come on. It’s May. Say no more.”

    She smiled in lips only. “I’m worried about her, Gertie. She tells me nothing’s wrong, but looks too sick to move every morning. I’m at my wit’s end!”

    I wrapped my arms around her neck, rested my head on her shoulder. She shifted to place a warm hand on the back of my head. Its weight made my heart flutter.

    “Gertie. I want to know.” I stilled my breathing. “You two girls have been sharing a room since the day you were born. Is there something going on I should know about? Something you girls aren’t telling me?”

    I breathed in the sweet vanilla perfume she always wore, masking the chemical cleanliness smell of the hospital. She still used the bottle I bought for her last Christmas. I nestled my face against her neck. “No, Mom. Nothing.”

    She released a breath I didn’t realize she’d been holding. “All right. Well…thank you.” She patted my head, disentangled herself from me to leave.

    “Mom?” I clutched her moving hand.

    “Hm?”

    I stared into eyes gone deep with anxiety. “Don’t worry. I’m sure May will be okay.” She squeezed my hand, eyes returning to Antoinette’s youthful face before meeting mine.

    “Thanks Gertie. I’m glad one of us thinks so.” She paused at the doorway, mouth smiling. “Oh, and I’m glad to see your grades improving. Keep up the good work.”

    ***

    One night, as she slipped out the window to meet him, she tripped over the cord to her alarm clock, sending it clattering to the floor. I jumped out of sleep in shock. Black against black her silhouette loomed in front of me, made more indiscernible by my sleep-filled eyes.

    She moved to the window, where the moonlight caught strands of golden hair turned silver. She stood, hands clutching the window frame notably trembling.

    I sat up, awake. “May!” My voice was low but sharpened to a point.

    She jumped, twisted to fix glowing eyes on me. Our gazes locked for a long, quiet moment. “Go back to sleep,” she said at last.

    “But…” I trailed off, watching her lift the lock and slide open the window. It creaked. She flinched, looking to the bedroom door and listening for our mother. Nothing.

    I shivered in the breeze blowing in, tightening the blankets around my shoulders. I watched her tremble as well. “May, it’s cold.” I looked to hear near-bare legs. “Take my coat. You’ll freeze without it.”

    She looked at me for a long, quiet moment. I could see the blue bruise-like rings under her eyes bathed in moonlight.

    She pulled the coat tight around her. Its color made her hair appear white. I watched her swing a long, slender leg out over the sill and made a grunt of disgust deep in my throat. I rolled over to face a wall, listening to her completing the trip, and rolling the window to a close behind her.

    ***

    Alit under the light of the moon she danced barefoot in icy blades of grass. Laughed. He found the red suggestive. Enticing. She did not stray from his bared teeth, but stroked his whiskered cheek. He lapped at her heel.

    I watched from our window, fearful of eyes glowing the same yellow as her hair. I heard her scream. Scream.

    ***

    I was too deeply asleep to hear the ringing of the phone. What I remember is my mother shaking me to consciousness, throwing mismatched clothes at me in the dark, making animal-like noises deep in her throat.

    “May…” was all she would say when I asked. I looked to my sister’s empty bed. The sheets were pulled rigidly over the sides and to the pillow. Empty at 3 o’clock in the morning. I asked nothing further, let her hustle me out the front door in slippered feet, biting blood to our lips against the cold. I thought we’d get into an accident, her bare white hands on the wheel trembled so.

    ***

    I was my mother’s cane. They let me pass, fearful of her hollowed eyes, her talon-like fingers. Her hand felt clammy on my shoulder. I knew and didn’t know what to expect.

    I think our hearts stopped beating simultaneously when we entered the room. The two men standing in the room blended into the background. The table beside them under a spotlight hidden from sight. A crisp, pristine white sheet. Form of a body underneath.

    I stopped. The weight of my mother’s hand pressed me on. We stared at the table, the sheet, and the hidden folds of a body, afraid to breath.

    A man’s hand snaked out, gripping the edge of the sheet, asking what we all knew the answer to already. “Is this your daughter?”

    “My baby…” My mother had shut her eyes to the corpse, the butter blonde hair. Answered without seeing. Her eyes poured tears. Mine were dry.

    “Raped.”

    “Struggle.”

    “Stabbed.”

    “Left to die.”

    “Naked.”

    “Boy on the street.”

    “Identified as your daughter.”

    I listened to my mother sob in broken, choking gasps.

    ***

    When I returned home that early dark morning, I sat on the edge of my unmaid bed, unable to sleep, until the sun rose. When light touched the floor and crept towards my socked feet, I looked for the second time at May’s empty bed.

    It was then that my eyes filled with tears, my throat with inhuman moans. I threw myself, shaking, onto her bed, clutching hard the red coat hung carefully on a corner of her bed. The coat she didn’t wear that night, for the first time.

    I wept.

    I screamed, echoing my sister.
    Last edited by Fabala; 03-24-2006 at 09:59 PM.

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