By: Hunter M.
The snow drifts down quietly outside my opaque den window. Like the frozen, desolate world just past the fogged glass, my house is completely devoid of any sound what so ever. Occasionally I'll hear the soft clicking of nails against the hardwood floor when Leroy, my yellow lab, decides to get up from our blanket cocoon for a drink of water or to eat a few morsels.
But like myself, Leroy's body convulses with tremors and shivers. The unrelenting contracting of muscles in my back, chest, stomach, arms, legs, and the tightening of my jaw wears me down until readjusting myself on this tattered couch becomes almost impossible. And the thought of eating anything right now makes me nauseous. But Leroy is stronger than me. He always has been.
I'm not the only one sitting in a tiny ice box. All those that live in The Market suffer from my situation as well. They say I'm one of the lucky ones, though I'd beg to differ. I have wool coats to wrap around my slim, boney shoulders. I have thick cotton pants and jeans to protect my fragile legs from the biting cold. I have a thick-coated dog that would give its right hide leg to keep me safe and healthy. What they don't know is that all my material things have been either stolen or found.
But in many ways I'm impossibly alone. No family; no mother, father, brother, no sisters I can confide in. All are dead now. Not that I every truly knew them. Calley, the baker's decrepit great-grandmother, says I knew them well. That I was daddy's little girl, that my sister's both adored me, my mother treated me as if I were the precious, most finest jewel, and my twin brother grasped my hand everywhere we went; I was his protector. I want to believe her, but I can't. The way she speaks of these fairytales, voice quiet and raspy, weak; her body shivers uncontrollably even in the warmer months and she pauses every few seconds as if she has forgotten what she was talking about makes them seem fake, made up.
I was only one when the fire took them away from me. My mind can't pull any memories of them so, fifteen years later, I don't try anymore.
Leroy joins me back on the couch and he gently nudges his long snout under the many compiled blankets cascaded over my tiny body. He inches up slowly until his warm body is draped over my legs. The added warmth helps some but not enough. I slip my hand down into the comforters, searching for his head, and I tangle my hand in the thick tuff my slender fingers come into contact with.
And the silence makes an unwelcomed return. My chest lurches and burns under my prominent ribs and after the silence bears on, the pain becomes a dull ache that never truly vanishes. The silence only reminds me of the loneliness that monarchs my life.
I watch the wispy, white clouds in the stagnant chilled air in front of me, trying to forget. But I can never forget.
The door flies open and a wave of frozen air whips my long hair into my face and it stings. I frantically push away the dark brown veil with stiff, quivering hands. "Sorry, sorry. The wind's blowing like crazy out there," says Adrian, struggling to close the door that looks about ready the fly off its hinges. I sink back down in the couch; the wind stops blowing and the door clicks. "Calley gave us some soup she had made with the bread."
"She didn't have to do that." I murmur.
"I told her that but she didn't listen. You know how she is. Stubborn. Probably why God hasn't plucked that old hag off this Earth yet." I glance over to see him shake out the snow flurries that had collected in his blonde curly hair and giggle quietly, a rare thing. At the sound, Adrian's shining dark eyes immediately meet mine and a grin tugs at the corners of his lips.
I drop my gaze and burrow deeper into my blankets, praying he won't notice the scarlet inking across my cheek bones. "She's not a hag," I tell him quietly, "And I'll be sure to tell her thank you when I see her again." Calley; always looking out for me when more effort should be put into looking out for herself. My heart warms at the thought.
He pulls some bowls from the cupboard and brings them over to the couch where he extricates himself into my cocoon. The old, dented coffee table screeches against the floor as he pulls it, and the steaming bowl of soup, into reaching distance. "Oh, I told her about a thousand times how thankful we are." He ladles a few spoon fulls into each of our bowls and we eat away. The combination of Leroy, who's massive body is curled up on my lap completely, the blankets, Adrian's strong shoulder pressed against my tiny one, and the soup warms me enough that the hunger, once deadened by the cold, starts to revive.
We both help ourselves to seconds and after, we just sit there, letting our tummies debloat. "That was delicious," I whisper in awe, "The best thing I've eaten in a long time."
I catch Adrian's head slightly nod but he says nothing. The silence, like before, awakens my dull aching heart, but it's a different ache. My body twists to face him and Leroy grumbles groggily. He eventually jumps off the couch and pads over the the opposite side. "What?" I ask Adrian who's adjusting the blankets back over my shoulder.
"What what?" He says.
I stare at him wordlessly until he meets my gaze. "You know what. What's wrong?"
He's silent for a long time when he suddenly becomes fascinated with the quilt's stitching. "I'm sorry." He finally blurts out when I think he's not going to answer. "Okay? I'm sorry."
"Wha-? For what? Why?" I sputter.
He runs his big, capable hands through his hair but it falls back into its perfect curls each time. My fingers twitch, wanting to grab both if his hands and envelopment them in mine because I know how soft they are, and I know that my touch balms any of his frustrations or worries or fears or pains better than any medication or therapy. He lets out a frustrated growl and, at last, lets his sad eyes meet mine. "I'm sorry that that's the best thing you've eaten in a long time. I'm sorry that you sit here most of the day shivering. I'm sorry that you have to go a day without eating sometimes. I'm sorry that you cry before you fall asleep. I'm sorry for everything because you don't deserve any of it." Tears well up in my eyes and his glisten.
My hand reaches up to touch his impossibly smooth face. It amazes me every time how a boy who has worked since he could walk has hands and a face smoother than a child's; but the premature wrinkles and purple shadows under his eyes only reinforce reality. "It's okay." I say, to which he only shakes his head. A tear spills over and slips down his face. I kiss it away. "It's okay," I repeat softly.
He kisses my salty cheek. "You're too beautiful," he hums against my cheek in his most soothing voice; the voice he uses when he wakes me from nightmares, "for any of this. For this world."
I shiver, from anything but cold, when his lips move along my skin to the corner of my lips. He places a few chaste kisses there. I realize, not for the first time, that he is all I have besides Calley. Him, a hardworking 18 year-old, and me, a 16 year-old that doesn't know what to do with herself; it's the only thing either of us has. We curl up together on the pull out couch every night and snuggle so close to the other it's almost suffocating because neither of us can stand to be alone when the moon sets in the sky; that even though we have each other, we're both so lonely it hurts. Since we were just mere children, we depended on each other. From both being homeless, to him saving enough money when he turned fifteen to buy this one room home of ours. We helped the other to the best of our ability with our touches, the simple hand to the shoulder or rub of the back, to each other's hugs, then kisses.
And that's why I pull his lips down to crush mine– out of desperation. Not out of love because neither of us understands it. We only understand need and want. Calley tells me what Adrian and I have is love; that sometimes it may be lust, but it is also love. I tell her she's absurd each time but she rolls her eyes and says, "You're blind, darlin'. I've seen the way that boy looks at you." And I ask her, "How can he love someone who can't love." I've tested it out a couple times while at home alone. "Adrian, I love you", "I love you, Adrian", "I love you, Adrian". But it came out wrong and tasted strange each time like it didn't belong. That's when I concluded that love doesn't exist. Not in this world, at least.
Our kisses deepen, my fingers knot themselves in his hair and his hands find their way under my shirt so that they're pressed flat against the skin of my back. And I lose myself in him. My head rolls back and he kisses my exposed neck. He holds me tighter against him as he leans forward and pushes the coffee table out of the way. It wails loudly and the soup sloshes making tiny puddles here and there but neither of us care.
He lays me on the floor, the clothes are shed, and we cling to each other, nails biting into skin, because we're both trying to forget. Because we want to stop hurting. Because we both need each other.
Because we're all each other has.
Author's Note: If you're confused, The Market is basically the slums of the country they live in. This takes place in the very, very distant future after an apocoliptic event occurs, known to them as Zerstörer. Their country is the only country on Earth because everything else is under water.
I like to offer visual aids for my writing. The girl in the pictures is suppose to be the main character who's name is Seally. I've written other short stories with her that are based in The Market world. I do not own the pictures.
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