Adoration. Obsession. Beautiful self-destruction


Trapdoor: a novel by Vixen Phillips


Blood Makes Noise…

I wish they would just stop.

I wish it would all just stop.

I lie on the sofa, staring at my reflection in the mirror of the blank TV. No light, no sound, no point.

They wouldn’t allow me to see Raven, after he was sick. But I heard them talking, in the kitchen, once they thought I wasn’t around to hear.

“Are you taking the case?” Noriko asked.

“I don’t know, Nori,” Monty replied, standing over the sink with his head down, arms folded beneath him. “It’s hardly my area of speciality. Besides, even if I am free on Tuesday—”

“What? He needs you. You’re family.”

“Yeah? And what if I lose, huh? Could you imagine? He’d never forgive me. I couldn’t deal with that. Fuck, I never asked for this kind of responsibility!” He seemed close to breaking, but I couldn’t feel any pity for him. He was the one who’d told me not to see Raven. That it wasn’t a good idea. He was the one who invited that son of a bitch in at the door, to tell Raven, to tell him—

“Yeah, it’s not like you lawyers have a thing for dealing with responsibility, huh?” she said then, crossing her arms over her chest.

Monty rubbed at his hair, then straightened up. “There’s a colleague of mine—you met Judy. She’s had more experience with these sort of things. I’ll put her onto it.”

“You don’t think he’s going to win, do you?”

They exchanged a glance, Monty open-mouthed but silent. Go on, say it, you bastard. Tell the truth.

“No,” he said. And then they both turned to see me standing there, like two parents caught out playing Santa at Christmas. I ran off. Neither of them followed.

So here I sit, in the silence of my doom, broken only by her screams and his grunts and their moans coming from down the hall. They’re fucking, like nothing happened. You don’t care. Neither of you care. And you call yourself his family? You make me sick. I’m the only one who cares.

I’m the only one who cares, and yet here I am, just sitting here, staring off into space. To hell with this. I’m more than these fears.

I fight my way out of the doona and my numbness and follow the carpet down the hallway. With every step, the screaming and moaning and grunting and panting grows louder. I have no idea which room is Raven’s. But at least I know which one to avoid.

The first door on the left, past the toilet where he was sick, is the first door I try. I knock gently to announce my entrance. Then I cautiously turn the handle. The door swings open, and I step inside.

My eyes don’t even need to adjust to the light; white candles crowd the small space, burning constantly into the night, burning like they’ve always been here, as though, if their flames were ever to die, another more precious thing might die with them. Definitely not Raven’s room.

I glance about the walls, feeling like an assassin who crept into a house only to find the occupants already died in their sleep. A cot sits in one corner, its edges draped with tiny crocheted clothes. A mobile hangs over it, plush figures singing a music-box lullaby, a sad and lonely sound. As I sneak towards the dressing table, I spy a framed photo of Monty and Noriko, her belly round and big. And a letter, written in Japanese. I don’t need to understand any of the words to figure out what’s gone on here. Noriko’s baby. So, she could get pregnant once. They lost a child, too.

They should know better, then. I leave the room, closing the door quietly behind me.

Past the laundry, beyond the bathroom, one last room, unaccounted for. Once again, I start to knock, when from inside I hear something. A soft hum.

“Raven, are you awake?” I ask the stupid question. “Can I come in?”

There’s a long pause. Just when I’m about to either turn away and return to my gloom, or open the door and walk right on in anyway, there comes a “Sure…”, so faint I wonder if I imagined it.

I step into the room. This time the harsh light stings my eyes. I squint at the bedside table, noticing the razor blade, covered with blood—and, too, the sheets—

And Raven.

“I—I couldn’t sleep,” I tell him. He’s lying on the bed, semi-naked, hands folded behind his head, staring blankly at the ceiling. Every now and then he breaks in and out of that random humming again, each time finding a different tune. I want to hold him, I want to touch him, I want to—

But my feet seem to have grown roots down through the carpet. So instead I watch the red teardrops trail down his chest.

“Yeah, I knew there was a reason I left this place first chance I got.” He chuckles without warmth as Monty and Noriko both give out a long final grunt-and-scream-and-sigh-and-moan, and everything returns to silence.

I take a seat beside him on the edge of the mattress, unable and unwilling to take my eyes off the blood. “Are they always this bad?”

“Usually. For about three weeks of the month.” He grimaces. “And then, they’re worse.”

The implications of this timing make me cringe.

He laughs. “I take it you’re not into blood?”

“Not like that,” I start to say, then look into his face. He’s staring straight at me. I swallow; my mouth’s begun to water. Ashamed of my shame, I feign a sudden interest in the Munch reprint hanging off the closet, and start to babble as fast as my mouth can save me. “Are you okay? They told me to let you—I wanted to see you—I didn’t know what to do, I still don’t, but I just wanted to make you—make everything—” At last my brain catches up with my tongue. I put a hand to my face. I must sound like an idiot. A stupid child. What am I trying to say?

“You cut yourself,” I whisper at last, and my gaze wanders back to the slashes under his nipples. Around these new wounds, older scars poke through, and scabs the same as the one I touched, that night we first touched—

“Yeah, well.” He tries to shrug it off. “I’ll clean up the mess in the morning. I couldn’t sleep either, okay.” He glares at the ceiling again, then mutters, “I don’t want to dream.”

Anything I say tonight will come out wrong. I didn’t come here to fight with you, Raven. I just want you to understand—

“Tell me why you do it,” I say, my fringe trailing in the blood as I lean closer to his body. “Tell me what it makes you feel. I’m…curious.”

Tell me you want me to do this to you.


The part of me that’s always afraid cowers in a corner of my mind, as I lower my head completely and place my lips over his nipple. Gently, slowly, I begin to lick and suck at the broken skin. Soon, the sweetness of his blood washes over my tongue, down my throat.

This time, the response is immediate. With a shudder, he grabs at my hair and tries to pry me off, but this is before he realises he’s enjoying it too much. His fingers grow limp, and he starts to breathe in short, ragged gasps—nothing as melodramatic as the fuss Noriko and Monty kicked up earlier.

I move down to his tummy, following my tongue, to discover another fresh cut, this one much deeper. He lets out a moan, and my mind trembles as lust flares beneath my skin. Why now? Why am I okay with this now? Because he has nothing left? Or because I’m so in control here, or at least feel that I am?

As if to confirm my thoughts, he whispers, “I’m not in control…of myself. Or anything. Don’t want to be— Please—” He gasps again as I nibble at his belly, leaving ghosts of my teeth in the blood to mark out where I’ve been. “I need this to remember—oh, God—”

I strip off my own t-shirt and lie against him, press against him, naked against all the blood, feeling our hearts beat in sync. “I want to do it,” I beg hoarsely.

After a moment, he nods and hands me the blade from the bedside table.

I trace my way down the centre of his torso with a fingertip, as though mapping out the imaginary cut, and pausing at the waistband of his track pants. I wonder… “Do you ever—?” I ask, trailing off as we look to where my hand rests, upon his crotch.

“I’m not that brave,” he says, and we laugh, but it’s a laugh without innocence, without happiness, without sanity or judgement. I draw the razor’s edge carefully along the side of his throat. His eyes roll back, turning inwards to look upon pure ecstasy.

“Does this turn you on, Raven?” I ask, as I begin to suckle from his neck.

“You’ve got your hand on my dick, you tell me.” But when our breathing grows too fast and too heavy, always keeping the perfect rhythm, he rolls over on top of me and straddles my torso, staring down into my face.

His eyes. His eyes tell me I’m fooling myself, that there’s nothing more I can do. I’m playing with a wolf like a child plays with a puppy. Sooner or later, I’ll get bitten. But no tears, not anymore. Because we’re both too far gone to care. So is this what makes it okay?

“Does this turn you on, Pegasus?” he asks, spitting my question back in my face. Then, letting me go, he slides backwards onto the carpet. “We’ve both lost the plot, you know that?” Bending over, he scoops some clothes out of a suitcase, which lies open and partially disembowelled upon the floor, and tosses them into my lap. “Get dressed. We’re going out.”

I glance at the clock on the wall. Nearly two a.m. “Where?” I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved at how he was the one to break it off this time.

“Just get dressed.” He’s already put on a long-sleeved black t-shirt, concealing the scars once and for all. Except for my own. I’ve left my mark on you, Raven. To show the world you’re mine.

That I’m the reason you lost your son.

I look at the last item in my repertoire. The black velvet jacket. He’s wearing the same long coat he wrapped around my body, the night I almost made it free.

Seeing me hesitate, he snarls and grabs my arm. “Come on. Not even you can stand between me and that bottle of scotch with my name on it.”

At least you have something to turn to, then. Bitterness settles in the pit of my tummy as he pushes me out the door.

For more than half an hour, we drift through a suburban maze of lanes and alleys. By the time we stumble across the red painted warehouse, my heels are throbbing. A shabby sign lurches drunkenly over the doorway, announcing the word JoJo’s to the sleepy alley. As we linger outside the entrance, the ghosts of soulful guitar riffs echo behind the curtain.

“Here we be.” Raven lets go my hand to light up a cigarette before leading me in. “Our very first date.”

Somehow, indoors, it’s even darker—the only lighting comes from the fridges by the bar, and the stage, where a feather-and-jewelled woman with dark skin perches under a spotlight, crooning and wailing alternately about her latest love gone wrong, while the cool cats in her shadow look suitably laid back as they jam effortlessly around her melodies. There could be more people here than the handful scattered around the stage and the bar, but it’s too dimly lit to tell.

Raven guides me to sit at a table by the wall, and squeezes my hand. “I’ll get us a drink.” His warm breath against my earlobe sends a shiver down my spine. I lean back, try to relax, and keep an eye on his shadow as he lopes off towards the neon glow of the bar. He takes a seat next to a man wearing a big straw hat and a spotted fur coat, with a younger boy playing ruined-glamourous on his arm. I don’t allow my thoughts to linger on this boy too long. Not so short a time ago, that could have been me. I can spot my own kind, even in the dark of a smoky club that probably isn’t even open, legally speaking.

Now what are you up to? Money’s changing hands between Raven and the faceless older man, before he takes our order from the skimpy barmaid. A moment later he slides back to our table, and finishes his drink in a couple of mouthfuls, all the while pretending to ignore me. But when I look away, from the corner of my eye I can see him glance at my glass. “Better start drinking, if you want to keep up with me.”

My heart sinks. So this is how it’s going to be. No protection, no remorse. You want me to be as sick as you were before. You don’t want to be in control.

To hell with it, it’s not like I care anyway. I scull the Midori and lemonade as fast as I can without gagging. It’s a lie, of course. Feigning triumph, I thrust the empty glass under his nose. He merely smiles at me, in mockery of a proud parent, and goes to fetch us a refill.

It continues in this vein for the next few hours, before I give up. He’s nowhere near as drunk as me, and probably never will be. I rest my arms on the table, lay my head upon them, and gaze up into his face. Is it pointless to wish? But I do. I wish things were different. I wish I could just hold you. I wish this would ever be enough.

He’s stroking my hair, rubbing my neck, his sadness seeping into my skin down through his fingertips. On stage, the band finishes their last set and heads off to a round of scattered applause and whistles from the small but enthusiastic crowd. Please. I can’t pass out here.

“What’s the matter?” He drapes his arm around my shoulders, using his free hand to light up another cigarette. I’ve lost count of how many smokes he’s had tonight. The scent of cloves irritates my nostrils, and I want to sneeze. Or vomit. “Not feeling sick, are you?”

Do you want me to say yes?

I peel myself off the table. Not my best idea. For a moment the world shudders violently around me. Violently, and violetly. Shades of purple. Like my hair.

“Sure doesn’t look like you’re having fun.” His cruel undertone is easy to pick up on, even through my alcohol-induced haze. “You’re s’posed to be happy. Out on the town for a night with your dreamboat.”

“Stop it!” I slap him away, but can’t focus on his face. “Stop punishing me,” I say, in a quieter voice. No tears, not anymore. Remember? “I didn’t ask for any of this, I didn’t—”

Oh, but you did.

He frowns, his hand frozen in mid-air from where I pushed him off. “I’m not punishing you, Peggy,” he says at last, then pulls me up towards him, towards his mouth, into a deep kiss filled with so much need I can barely fight the nausea. He pushes me into the wall, pressing up against me so there’s no second-guessing how turned on he’s become.

“Tell me to stop,” he begs, even as he claws a path under my pullover and over my ribcage and tummy. His tongue traces little spirals over my lips, across my tongue, and presses deeper towards my throat, as though he wants to swallow me whole. Then he wrenches my thighs apart and runs his hand up my legs, to scratch at my balls and feel me up from beneath the velvet jeans that are just a bit too big for me.

“Raven,” I whimper, throwing my head back involuntarily, exposing my neck to his teeth. He grabs me by one wrist and forces my hand down between his own legs, so I can feel him, even harder than before. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The only fear is truth.

This is it, right here. What you can do to make him happy. What you can do to make everything all right, even if it all comes back to nothing. You don’t have a choice. It’s not like—with them—

Then why should I still not have a choice? I try to remember how it felt when I lapped at the blood from his tummy and felt so— No, not in control at all. Only afraid. Now and always.

He’s moving against my hand, trying for the reaction that only flesh and skin can bring, unhindered by clothing.

We both seem to come to this realisation at the same moment, for he ogles me hungrily and says, “We should go…someplace else.”

Home, perhaps?

I can’t look into his eyes, so I nod dumbly, buying myself some extra time through the need to go to the men’s. I don’t think he wants me out of his sight, but I stagger off anyway and sway towards the dark green tiles of the hall, swallowing down the bile. Go on then, be sick, I dare you. Anything, so long as I don’t have to go through with—

Anything to make him happy. I look into the mirror and burst into tears, letting my forehead fall against the glass.

Poor baby Pegasus.

I’m dousing my hands and face in the rusty sink when I first notice the orange smoke in the mirror. It wafts all around me to flood the room, but smells of nothing. Behind me, reflected in the glass, a figure separates from the fog and creeps into focus. It’s the boy from the bar, all black lipstick and a hot pink t-shirt that barely covers his ribs. He closes in, his proximity burning my skin with how cold he is. “No salvation,” he hisses in my ear. “You can’t save me. You can’t even save yourself. I am what you are. You are what I am. We are the same, always the same. Always.”

I choke out a cry, and he dissolves.

“Pegasus, what are you doing?”

I spin around, a little too quickly. Raven leans against the doorway, glaring at me. My chest aches and my insides are churning on empty. There is no fog. So, which one of you is real?

I allow him to lead me away; the only realistic choice given the fact he’s holding my wrist so tight my bones are ready to crumble. We make it all the way outside before he throws me against a fence, between a dumpster and someone’s vintage 70s sandman van. Falling upon me, he savages my neck with nibbles and kisses; all the while keeping one hand busy with the belt that stops these pants from defying the laws of gravity.

“Raven, please—” A chance to beg, as he breaks off long enough to undo his own belt, followed by the button, and then the zip.

“Almost there,” he tells me. As though I was encouraging him.

“—not here.” I squeeze my eyes shut against the waves of confusion and pleasure and guilt that wash me away when he pulls down both the jeans and my underwear. Perhaps I’m the one who isn’t real.

But he knows the cruellest taunts to bring me back again. “Poor baby. Are you ashamed?”

“Cold!” A small sob escapes my mouth as his hand grips my dick. It’s already hard, betraying me, like it always does.

With a smirk, he slides a hand down to my balls, then forces my legs apart once more. “Can’t be too cold.” As one of his fingers finds its way into the crack of my arse, we both let out a moan—one for pleasure, one for fear, but which is which? He drools into my mouth, eyes clouding over with desire.

You said you needed to cut yourself to remember—

With his other hand, he forces my arms up against the wall to pin me by the wrists. I must have been putting up a struggle.

Do you need this to forget?

Another finger finds its way inside. I dig my teeth into his shoulder blade, afraid to want this, afraid to tell him to stop.

Then a screech of laughter echoes down the alley, followed by a loud echoing boom. A primal sound, made to evoke the purest fear. My blood freezes to a halt.

Next come the cat-calls, and then the hate.

“Fucking poofters!”

“Bloody queers!”

“Should kill the fuckin’ lotta ya!”

A bolt of terror gives me strength enough to push Raven off. He stumbles backwards, glaring at me in resentment and disbelief. Even as he tucks himself away again, I dare to imagine the yells and threats were just a fragment from another waking nightmare.

Until he turns his back on me and charges out into the centre of the alley. “How about you come here and say that to my face, you mother-fucking piece of shit!”

My pulse stops. I follow his gaze, all the way to where two lumps of shadow moulded roughly in the shape of men stand under the streetlight where it intersects a lane. They look at least twice his size from here.

“Raven!” My pulse races as my fingers fumble with my own pants, desperate to get fully clothed again. “Don’t be an idiot.”

One of the lumps separates from the other and lurches towards us. Raven stands his ground, bristling and sneering, pissed off enough to take on the world, to hell with whether or not he wins.

“You say somethin’, mate?” The thug stops about three feet shy of us, and folds its bare arms across a beer gut that pokes out beneath a striped football guernsey.

“You heard me,” Raven growls. But even as he speaks, the thug catches sight of me and grins. Why do I fear Raven at all, when this face of humanity is the everyday alternative? A sickly grimace, missing a few teeth. With a piercing whistle, it calls up its reserve from out of the shadows. This other one scampers straight for me, lean like a mulletted ferret. Raven laughs coldly and saunters around to block their path, as though I’m become a pawn in some grotesque game of chess.

“Your boyfriend’s about ter cry,” ferret-man says in a high-pitched nasal whine. “‘Sokay baby. I got something here that’ll make it all better.” It rubs at its crotch, giggling like a madman and writhing like a would-be rock star, waggling its tongue and pawing at itself clumsily. Once the dry retches pass, my hands clench into fists. No. Not that. Kill me, beat me, anything but that. That belongs to Raven. It always did, you bastards.

I look to him again, the only guardian that stands between me and the old, familiar nightmares. I once managed to fool myself into thinking they were gone, but now I know I’ll never be free of them. You can’t even save yourself.

He takes another step backwards, as the two of them stalk closer. Part of me wants to run, but here I am trapped in another dream, where every muscle shifts in slow motion. They’re closing in on us: beer and sweat stings my nostrils, even as the blood drains from my head.

Raven, help me. Mother—

You know you’re in trouble once you start calling on divine powers and ghosts. No salvation. Then if nothing matters no matter what I do—

I lunge at the one that’s had its eye on me. This catches us both off-guard, and we tumble to the ground. It’s a short-lived daydream: I haven’t even caught my breath when it clambers on top of me, and grinds the side of my face into the asphalt. Now it’s even yee-hawing while it humps my arse. How quaint.

I struggle to open my eyes. Through a little viewport beyond grit and pain, I watch the larger thug bounce off the opposite wall. On its way down, one of Raven’s boots stomps the side of its face. Then a hand reels me back in, pumping my dick, rough, cold, and oily. “You like that, you little faggot?”

Does it really want an answer? I might even laugh, but a high-pitched scream cuts right over the top of me. Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, I spin around, just in time to see my tormentor slam into the van, and not get up. Now Raven’s the one on top. He hoists it up by the hood, landing one…two…three punches into its cheek, then drops it back to the pavement. Next, five well-aimed kicks at the crotch. Finally, he crouches down and regurgitates those horrible words. “You like that, faggot?”

No response. I struggle to my feet and take a few curious cat steps closer. “Think we’re done here, do you?” he continues on, not looking away from the figure on the ground. “Well, here’s the story, morning glory. I’m not done with you. Not till your cock doesn’t even raise a brow at the thought of Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff alone and naked in a hot tub.” No response, no movement, except perhaps to breathe. Guess there’s nothing like being confronted by a bigger psychopath than yourself to bring you back to earth.

Is it breathing? I can’t tell. What if—? “Raven,” I whisper, just as he’s about to launch another kick at the lump of shadow.

Straight away, he freezes, and then, with a twitch of his neck, it’s as though something resets inside his brain. He lowers his foot and sniffs with contempt. “You’re not fucking worth it.”

He raises his head, and turns to face me. I start to smile. At the very least, maybe we’re free to leave.

But that desire, tinged with hate, still smoulders inside-out. “What do you think you’re doing?” he demands, stalking over and making a grab for my belt. Intending to pick up where he left off, as though nothing happened—

“Dammit!” I couldn’t fight off the ferret, which leaves me with no chance against him. He’s not only stronger, he’s all in my mind. “I don’t want this! Please, just stop!”

He abandons work on my zip to snarl at me. “What, would you prefer him?”

Once again, I’m hurtling towards the shadow thing by the van, only this time propelled by Raven’s grip. It’s all I can do to stop myself falling right on top of the body. Instead I snatch at a side-view mirror, and collapse against the front tyre. Some part of me is always trying to escape. But there’s nowhere to run. Inside my mind, only nightmares. Out there, insanity.

Why did you save me, if this was all you wanted?

I wish it would all just stop.

I’m shaking when he lifts me to my feet. Stop it. Stop it. “Stop it, stop it!”

Slowly, he raises a finger to my lips, putting an end to the words without and within. Then he says, “You’re more afraid of me than you were of them.”

No. No? I wanted—just, not here.

“I don’t blame you.” He glances from one body to another. Both lie groaning and squirming and bleeding on the ground nearby. Then, “I just want you…to want me.”

I press my face against his, ashes to ashes, ice to ice. “I do.” Even talking in a whisper is a struggle. “Just not here. Let’s go home, okay?”

“Really?” He wants to believe, so badly. “You really want me? That would make you happy?”

“Of course.” But I’ve already turned my back on him—on him and the curtain and the men and the lie and the fact that his hands are bleeding—as I lead him away from the club.

We both struggle to fit the key in the lock of Monty’s door before finally tumbling inside. “Reckon I’ll take this off now,” he says, tugging the top he lent me over my head before I’ve had a chance to find my feet. Once I do, he starts on the jeans, but again I delay him.

“Let’s go to the bedroom.” Just give me more time. I need more time.

To my surprise, he consents, and we stagger down the hall, desperate to be quiet but failing as comically as possible. When we make it to his room, I fall upon the bed in a fit of giggles. He shrugs off his coat, takes a small lump of foil out of his pocket, and tosses it onto the bedside table, near the lamp and the razor blade, and I remember how I’m lying on sheets stained with his blood. Depending on how he decides to go about this, we could soon be even, I guess. That’s a thought to sober me.

“Ahh, what would you like me to do?” So I’m giving him control, the one thing he said he didn’t want. But then, he thinks that this is what I want, too.

“Get undressed,” he says. “I want to watch you.”

Okay, no problem. Ignoring the way my hands are shaking, which makes his request more difficult again, I pull off my shoes, followed by the jeans, the socks, and last of all my underwear. Now I stand naked and shivering in front of him.

He looks me over, gives me a smile of approval, then beckons to me. “Come here.”

Nervously I approach, until we stand so close we’re touching. He pulls me forward, and I fall against him, burying my head in his shoulder. In a flash, he jerks me up by my plait. I squeal in protest, but do my pleading in silence. I can feel how hard he is. Funny how fear proves such a powerful aphrodisiac.

He scoops me up in his arms, and carries me over to the bed, where he lays me down upon the mattress. With one hand, he unties my hair, and combs it out with his fingers. Then he reaches out, cautiously stroking my cheek, barely making contact with my skin. He’s shivering too, as he gazes down at my body. But always he returns to the eyes, his expression so intense it burns into my soul.

He sits near me on the mattress, turning aside to remove his own clothes, all except a pair of black silk boxers. This is the first time I’ve ever seen him naked—almost naked. From the outermost edges of my mind, I dare to admire him. You did say those words to me. No one’s ever said them before. Will you still say them, afterwards?

No, oh no.

I try to fool us both with an attempted grin. “So, what now?”

“Now I’ve gotta ask you something.” He sounds serious enough that I can guess where he’s going. AIDS? Hepatitis? Any other nasty little germs floating around down there?

“I’m…clean,” I struggle to say, closing my eyes. “I never—they always—I’ve been tested, okay?” I spit it out eventually. “No AIDS, no nothing. But if you don’t believe me, that’s your choice. Go invest in a condom.”

When I open my eyes, his bruised hands cover his face. Then he lets go, and sighs. “That’s…not what I was going to ask you.”

I frown, unable to make sense of his expression. He leans over me, and rests his cheek against mine. I can’t bear even this brief silence anymore. “What? What did you want to ask me?”

He smiles sadly. I look at his soft lips, so close to mine. Why won’t you just kiss me already? Call me a fool, but what’s so wrong with a little romance?

“Why are you doing this?” he says.

I almost swallow my own tongue. “What do you mean?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

He’s seen through your disguise. I must really be losing my touch. I sit up; my mind, driven by instinct, plots a path to the door. But it seems so far away, and I’m so tired of running, anyhow. “I only wanted you to be happy.” No. That’s not it. “I wanted to make you happy.”

“And you think letting me rape you would make me happy?” He seems so angry when he uses that word, that word that I hate. What would you know about it?

“It wouldn’t be like that. You said we’d be—” I can’t bring myself to say it. Making love. It seems I have a problem when it comes to even expressing the concept.

“Yeah, and it wouldn’t be making love if you didn’t want to do it,” he counters. “That’s the definition of rape, remember?” With another sigh, he rises off the mattress and starts pacing beside the bed. “What did I say I wanted, just before?”

I frown, trying to recall the context of the conversation. “That you wanted me,” I come up with, my voice very small, like a child who knows they’re in trouble but not why.

“That I wanted you to want me!” He storms back to the bed. “Do you see the difference? Do you?”

“I don’t see any difference.” I gaze blankly at the wall. There’s no need to see his reaction to that.

“Guess I really freaked you out tonight, huh?” he says, reaching for my hand. When I don’t take his in mine, he grabs it anyway, squeezing it, holding on tight. “I know…I never did anything—” Now he’s the one having difficulty with his words, but unlike me he trusts their importance and pushes on. “But I’d never hurt you. Please believe me. I’m not—” He breaks off with a laugh. “I think I may be going insane.”

I don’t understand. What do you want, then? Have I failed? “Do you want me to leave?” I venture cautiously.

“You’re all I’ve got left,” he whispers. Somehow he’s in my lap, and I’m rocking him slowly to and fro, moving so my hair drapes across his skin, his scars, like a curtain. Feeling him break beneath me for the second time today, as I sit here in the shadows, thinking of ways to kill my sister.

“Not for much longer.” I’ll try to reassure him, even as my mind overflows with murder. It’s all too easy to daydream about doing to Wendy what Raven did to those arseholes tonight. Only in my fantasy, there’s no one to tell me to stop. Always Father’s favourite, sweet little Wendy. That’s why Father’s lawyer comes knocking on our door. Bastard.

Too easy…

Breaking out of my violent trance, I notice he’s staring at me again. “I’m going to roll a number,” he announces, indicating the foil on the bedside table. “Do you want some?”

I shrug, not really thinking about the question. “Sure.” Why not. He kisses me lightly on the lips, then unwraps the foil. While he works, the silence rings in my ears, and I train myself to relax, tracing imaginary patterns over his scars. Memories lurch past the boy at the club, to the conversation between Monty and Noriko in the kitchen. Now it’s their doubts and fears that traipse the corridors of my brain.


“Mmm?” he says, his tongue in the process of sealing the paper.

“We’re not going to lose him, are we?”

Another question I regret, but it’s already too late to take it back. A match flares, and he lights the joint and sucks the smoke into his lungs. He exhales a thick cloud before answering, “You just keep an eye on me. I’ll worry about the rest of it.”

I almost believe him. I’m nearly fooled. Just like he was nearly fooled, when he thought I wanted—

We know each other too well. It might be the one thing that saves us.

The next lot of smoke is reserved for me. Cautiously, I accept the shotgun toke. This time, I don’t even cough.

Twenty minutes later, we’re melting in the warm haze of embrace. Outside our door, over the birdsong, Monty and Noriko dash here and there, swearing and stressing for being late.

Next Chapter: 09.RAVEN: The Sixth Degree of Separation

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