Seraphina: The Musical

Seraphina: The Musical

(feat. borrowed songs from various sources)

INT. SERAPHINA’S HOUSE – WEDNESDAY MORNING

Seraphina can be seen from the view of the window, with sunlight softly draping her and the bed.

An alarm from her phone rings out from the desk, accompanied by a groan as she further squints her eyes and rolls on her side, dragging the blanket over her head. A few moments pass before she abruptly pushes the blanket off herself before sitting up and rubbing her eyes. One can now see her luscious strawberry blond hair, which flows down to her waist in waves. As she raises her hand up to brush her hair aside, scars can be seen surrounding her wrist, with some having faded and others fresh.

 

[“When Will My Life Begin” begins to play]

 

SERAPHINA

6 a.m. It’s always been the usual.

Tears still dewy on my face; what’s new?

Time to present myself to the world again

Maybe a halter top and some jeans will do

And so I’ll head on in

To this marble bathroom

Brush my hair a bit, wince when it’s all tangled up

Apply some concealer

And lips and basically

Just wonder when will my life begin?

 

ARIA

Honey, it’s time to head out now.

 

Seraphine sighs before grabbing her backpack. She pauses in front of the mirror for the last time before raising her wrist up, making sure the scars are concealed. Satisfied, she walks out her bedroom door.

INT. CAR RIDE TO SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY MORNING

ARIA

So, how was the math test yesterday Sera? You told me you had one last week right?

 

SERAPHINA

It was the same as usual; I got a perfect score. The same goes for my English test. My teacher felt obligated to give us one after her recent breakup.

 

ARIA

Really now? I’ll have to talk to your principal about that. I can’t have my daughter’s perfect academic record be marred by some woman’s personal problems.

 

SERAPHINA

Mom, you really don’t have to do that. Stanford won’t accept me if they think I can’t do anything without my mother looming over my shoulder.

ARIA

You’re right honey. Besides, it’s not as if you’ve ever let me down before. You won’t let me down right?

 

The car halts to a stop at a red light as Seraphina’s mother turns around with a smile, though not for long as her face twists into a grotesque expression. Her eyes have widened, her teeth exposed and lifted up in a dark smile. Seraphina grimaces, not yet used to this foreigner that she calls her mother.

 

SERAPHINA

As your future, I will not disappoint you.

 

Her mother reverts back to her usual form as she straightens herself out, pressing two fingers against her cheeks to evaluate for wrinkles. She then places her hand atop Seraphina’s head.

ARIA

I knew I could count on you, darling.

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY MORNING

Seraphina exits the car and crosses the street before ascending the sidewalk. She hears her mother’s goodbye echo across the street, but she doesn’t bother turning around.

[“When Will My Life Begin” resumes playing]

 

SERAPHINA (CONT’D)

And so I’m back to this dreadful place called FV

Filled with fakes, but I guess I’m one too

Hiding it all with a couple of smiles

And I hope that one day some guy will skate by and oof

If only lightning could strike me here right now

I only wish for this pain to dissipate

And I’ll just scream and cry and scream and cry some more

Stuck in the same place I’ve always been

And I’ll keep wondering and wondering and wondering and wondering

When will my life begin?

 

A cold breeze sweeps through, slightly lifting up Seraphina’s skirt as she shivers.

 

SERAPHINA

I regret wearing thin stockings instead of jeans.

 

She laughs.

 

SERAPHINA (CONT’D)

At least this is one bad decision I can afford to make.

 

Her smile quickly disappears as she remembers her destination. The ASB room, where her role as vice president didn’t measure up to that of treasurer or parliamentarian. And it was only because of her. Celia Knightley. The president of ASB. She checks her phone, noticing the still early time, but even so, she starts to quicken her pace. Early as it is, she’s expected to be there even earlier.

INT. ASB ROOM IN FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY MORNING

Seraphina opens the door to the ASB room.

 

CELIA

My, my, my. Look who just arrived.

 

Celia rises up from her seat and approaches Seraphina. She gazes at her affectionately before bending down and poking her in the chest.

 

CELIA

You’re late.

 

SERAPHINA

I’m sorry. Traffic was bad this morning and…

 

Bryce Wagner, Celia’s boyfriend and ASB’s treasurer, walks up to her.

 

BRYCE

Making excuses again, Seraphina? You’ve been trying to squirm your way out of a lot of problems recently.

 

SERAPHINA

Shut up, Bryce. I’m telling the truth…

 

CELIA

Uh uh uh

Do you remember our deal, sweet Seraphina?

 

[“Poor Unfortunate Souls” begins to play]

 

Celia circles Seraphina, placing her hands on her shoulders after.

 

CELIA

It was only three years ago when I met you

You came up and cried to me “Please help.

I’m new here and all alone

Please won’t you be my friend?”

And I couldn’t help but feel ashamed for you

Now fortunately I felt a bit generous

It’s a trait that you may say saved your life

So I decided to take you in

You grew famous overnight

Only in exchange for being my little pet

Otherwise you’d just be

A poor unfortunate soul

So I wouldn’t complain if I were you, sweet Sera.

 

KAREN

Agreed.

 

Karen Knightley, ASB’s parliamentarian and Celia’s twin sister. She comes up to Seraphina, wrapping one arm around her, while petting her head with the other.

 

KAREN

Don’t worry sweetie. You do yours and … let’s see… our jobs, and we’ll make sure your reputation remains as it is. Just a few paperwork and phone calls and you’ll continue to have every girl and guy constantly begging for your attention.

 

CELIA

Now off with you, Seraphina. The three of us have important things to discuss, but make sure to come back at lunch for our meeting. It’d be a shame if you weren’t here to help us.

 

Seraphina walks towards the door before stopping and looking back.

 

SERAPHINA

I assume you want me to go with the same ex – reason again?

 

KAREN

Say whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to us.

 

As Seraphina leaves:

 

CELIA

So, what should I wear to the winter formal?

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY MORNING

The brisk air meets Seraphina once again. She brushes back a strand of her hair behind her ear before turning towards the school gate.

 

KISA

You poor unfortunate soul

 

Seraphina gasps, dropping her books, expecting to see Celia and her entourage mocking her once more as she turns around. Instead, she comes face to face with Kisa Knightley.

 

KISA

Kisa Knightley. I didn’t mean to startle you.

 

SERAPHINA

You’re fine. I’m Seraphina… Vo.

 

She bends down to pick up her books, completely forgiving Kisa once she offers her assistance.

KISA

So, I didn’t really mean to eavesdrop, but my cousins were really ripping into you earlier, huh?

 

SERAPHINA

You’re their cousin? Oh god, you’ve no need to help me then. I’m sorry for losing my composure earlier.

 

KISA

Calm down. Please, calm down. I’m not like them, don’t worry. And believe me, I’m thankful for that.

 

She laughs, causing Seraphina to chuckle alongside her. Immediately, it feels strange. It’s been a while since she’s felt such an emotion. For once, her lips have curled up on their own. Meanwhile, Kisa’s aura seems to release warmth and comfort, while her jet black hair perfectly frames her face.

 

SERAPHINA

So being a cousin to the Knightleys… What’s that like?

 

KISA

I’ve been indifferent to it, but if I had to spend as much time with them as you do, I’d probs go crazy.

 

SERAPHINA

Probs go crazy?

 

KISA

Oh, I just returned to school here. Sorry, did I leave that out earlier?

 

SERAPHINA

Returned?

 

A group of students suddenly rush up to Seraphina, chattering excitedly.

 

GROUP OF STUDENTS

Sera! Come get boba drinks with us! You promised that you would last time, remember?

 

Standing up, she brushes off the rest of the dust on her skirt, giving them a forced smile, an action she’s repeated throughout her years of high school – through the pain.

 

SERAPHINA

It seems I did if you guys remember it. Give me a minute to say goodbye first.

 

She turns around to face Kisa, with a face she can only guess is regret seeing as she was smiling only moments ago. Before she can open her mouth, Kisa interjects.

KISA

Don’t apologize, I completely understand dude. If anything, could I just get your number in case I have any questions?

 

SERAPHINA

Of course! Feel free to give me yours too! And if you didn’t mention what happened earlier…

 

KISA

Look, you shouldn’t let my cousins push you around like that. You’re in a pretty high position right? Stand up for yourself. But don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.

 

After giving her a smile of gratitude, she turns around to join the others, offering complimentary laughs here and there. Though her wish had been granted three years ago, she has yet to feel fulfilled. Though they flock around her, they share no interests with her. No commonalities. Just another reason why the pain continues to seep through.

 

[“Almost There” begins to play]

 

The group of students freeze in place. Seraphina is the only one that’s able to move.

 

SERAPHINA

I’m almost there, I’m almost there

Just two more years of this forsaken place and no more pretending

I thought it’d help if I had friends

But the happiness ceases to come

At least I’m almost there

 

INT. CHEMISTRY CLASS – WEDNESDAY MORNING

MS. CRIM

And that’s how you find the molarity and molality from the balanced chemical equation. Any questions?

 

A student from the corner of Seraphina’s eye begins to raise their hand, only to stop when two other students walk in, one of them being Kisa. The other, presumably an office aid, leaves immediately after handing Ms. Crim, the beloved chemistry teacher, a slip of paper.

 

MS. CRIM

It seems we have a new student everyone. Kisa, you can sit next to Seraphina in the front row. Please take out a piece of paper for notes.

KISA

Hey dude, long time no see. Seems we have the same chem class now.

 

SERAPHINA

Seems like it. Can I see your schedule? I’ll see if we have any other classes while you finish up that slide of notes.

 

She glances at the schedule, only to see the next slide transition in. Still, she had seen enough to determine that Kisa had her exact same schedule.

 

KISA

So? What’s it look like?

 

SERAPHINA

Seems like we have the same classes.

 

Kisa smirks before bringing her attention back to her notebook.

INT. ENGLISH CLASS – WEDNESDAY MORNING

MS. WALES

Today, I expect total silence. Read your books, play your games, study for the test you have tomorrow. And please for the love of the deities above. Don’t piss me off.

 

KISA

What’s got her hair frizzed?

 

SERAPHINA

Constant love problems. She just can’t seem to score a man after she was stood up on the altar.

 

KISA

Tough.

 

[“I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” begins to play]

 

A spotlight shines onto Ms. Wales.

 

MS. WALES

If there’s a prize for rotten judgement,

I guess I’ve already won that

I’m already in my 30s and yet

No man has yet to share a bed with me since then

I feel so cheated, so betrayed

Honey, we were one and all the same

Why’d you have to leave me

 

Ms. Wales twirls to the front, the students behind her.

 

ENGLISH CLASS

Ooooh nooo!

MS. WALES

Don’t you know what I’m going through right now

Swiping left and right

Still they keep on leaving

Should I go for forty five year olds?

ENGLISH CLASS

Oooh!

 

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON

SERAPHINA

I’ll meet up with you later, Kisa. I have a meeting to get to.

 

KISA

No worries. Hope you have fun.

 

Seraphina couldn’t bring herself to say “thanks.” ASB was only a stepping ladder for her to achieve her goals by now. There was no fun to be found. There never will be with the Knightleys around – yet she can’t bring herself to escape.

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON

SERAPHINA

… And finally, Lacy and Eric, don’t forget about turning in your parent consent forms for the next volunteer event. If anyone has any questions, feel free to come up and talk to me. Unfortunately, our president and a few other board members had some work to do today, and as you know, our secretary is currently in the hospital recovering from her surgery. Be sure to fill out the “get well” card before the end of this meeting. Thanks for coming everyone.

 

RICHARD

Dang, you really are busy aren’t you, Seraphina?

 

SERAPHINA

Yea, but it’ll all pay off. Eventually.

 

RICHARD

Take it easy, alright?

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON

KISA

And that’s it for the first day of school for me. Phew. I have to say that I’m exhausted. How did I do this 2 years ago?

 

SERAPHINA

What? Don’t you mean last year?

 

KISA

Nahh. But it’s kinda a long story.

 

CELIA

Is it really, dear cousin?

 

Celia strides up to them, hands on hip, hair pinned back flawlessly. Karen stands behind her, checking her nails, while Bryce simply glares as he crosses his arms.

 

CELIA

I never would’ve thought that today would be our reunion day cous’. It’s been a while, you know. And yet, no phone call.

 

KISA

Shove it, Celia. You know damn well that my expulsion was your fault.

SERAPHINA

Expulsion?

 

CELIA

That’s right, Sera dear. Kisa Knightley here, our dear cousin, got herself expelled from this school two years ago, and she thinks that it’s my fault. Now isn’t that silly?

 

Karen snakes up to Seraphina, taking her into her arms. Once again, she has one hand on top of Seraphina’s head, petting her gently.

 

KAREN

Why it’s hilarious, of course. How could my sister play any part in you stealing the principal’s car? And crashing it on the freeway later nonetheless?

 

KISA

Oh, shut up. You know damn well you handed me those keys, claiming that your mom, my aunt, was suffering from a stroke, and that I should rush to your house while you called for help.

KAREN

Sorry to say this, but you’re delusional, cousin.

SERAPHINA

Hey, girls, maybe we should chill. Her expulsion is over with already.

 

CELIA

My, my, my. One day with her and you’re already on the defensive. Tell me, Seraphina, whose side are you on?

KISA

Sera…

 

[“Candy Store” begins to play]

 

CELIA

Are we gonna have a problem?

You got a bone to pick?

I’ve raised you from nothing

Why now are you baring your teeth?

I’d normally cast you aside now

And you can say goodbye to the fame

But I’m feeling nice

Here’s some advice

Listen up, my pet!

 

KISA

Sera, we’re going. Now.

 

CELIA (CONT’D)

If you lack the guts

Like a little mutt

Let me throw you one last bone

KAREN AND BRYCE

Whoa!

 

Karen throws Seraphina towards the ground, joining Celia along with Bryce. They shake their hips back and forth, extending their arms towards the group of students now watching.

 

CELIA (CONT’D)

Or you can ditch her

Come on back to me

Keep your place in ASB

KAREN AND BRYCE

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

CELIA

Honey, whatchu waitin’ for?

Welcome to my candy store

Time for you to prove

You’re not a dumb dog anymore

Then step into my candy store

 

Celia extends her hand towards Seraphina with a smirk, confident that Seraphina will undoubtedly come back to her. Seraphina glances back at Kisa who smiles and extends her own hand.

 

SERAPHINA

I’m sorry.

 

Celia laughs wickedly as Seraphina grabs her hand. She pulls her up as Karen clutches onto her once more.

 

KAREN

Let’s move Seraphina.

 

Karen drags Seraphina towards the gate, the others trailing behind with smug smiles on their faces. She attains one last look at Kisa, only to see disappointment frown back before she starts walking away.

 

UNKNOWN STUDENT

Omg. Like, what a loser.

 

The students that gathered around earlier laugh.

INT. SERAPHINA’S HOUSE – WEDNESDAY NIGHT

Seraphina sighs, resting her head on the open textbook on her desk. She runs a hand through her hair exasperatedly.

SERAPHINA

Did I make the right choice? I shouldn’t have left Kisa like that.

ARIA

Oh, what will you do?

 

Seraphina turns around to see her mother standing in front of her mirror.

 

SERAPHINA

Mother… What are you doing here?

 

ARIA

Well, I couldn’t help but hear your predicament. Leaving your new-found friend, hmm? I never knew you to be so… rude.

SERAPHINA

But, I couldn’t risk it. If I had stayed with her, my position in ASB would have been taken away.

ARIA

Now, we can’t have that, can we?

 

Aria’s face grows dark, the smile that graced her lips moments ago, fades away.

 

ARIA

Without ASB, your credibility will simply vanish. All you’ll have left are your grades. But, even so, what good are those alone? What will those administrators at Stanford think? Those at Harvard?

SERAPHINA

I… I don’t know.

 

ARIA

You better make the right choice, Seraphina. Anything that will get you closer to success.

Sage, Seraphina’s older sister, enters the room.

SAGE

Sera, who are you talking to?

SERAPHINA

Mom. She’s right here.

 

Seraphina points to where her mother stood, only to find out that nobody was there. She gasps, desperately looking around the room for her mother. She hears Sage sigh.

 

SAGE

Have you been taking your medication, Sera?

SERAPHINA

I don’t need to take anything. I’m not broken.

 

SAGE

But you are. Mom’s gone. Just get over it. Dad and I don’t need you to remind us every day. Keep taking your medicine and everything will be fine.

 

Sage walks over to Seraphina’s desk and uncaps a medication bottle. She takes one pill out and hands it to Seraphina, along with a water bottle. Seraphina accepts the two items, gulping down the medicine. Even so, she doesn’t feel any different.

 

SERAPHINA

But, Sage, it’s not just this. I – I don’t feel alright. Not even after this medicine. Please, just hear me out.

SAGE

I’ve heard you enough, Seraphina. Always blabbering about your grades, your future, even in the car. That’s why I always wear earbuds around you. I get that you made mom a promise, but really.

 

[“Yo Girl” begins to play]

 

SAGE

Your problems seem like life and death

I promise you they’re not

I’ve been through high school before

Just deal with it on your own.

Some of us have to study too, you know.

 

Sage leaves, slamming the door on her way out. Seraphina, curls up into a ball on her floor with tears streaming down her cheeks.

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – THURSDAY MORNING

MS. WALES

Alright, everyone. Take out something to write with and put everything else away. You may start as soon as you get the test.

 

It’s been a whole day and some since Seraphina has talked to Kisa. She tries her best to avoid her ever since the incident on Wednesday, and she can tell Kisa has been too. Seraphina can only imagine the glares Kisa must cast her way. Shaking off these thoughts, she brings her attention back to the test.

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – THURSDAY MORNING

Seraphina sighs, running a hand through her hair, while Karen has her arm around her.

 

SERAPHINA

So, where are we going?

KAREN

The ASB room, of course. Celia and Bryce will meet us there. We just decided that we’d help you for today’s meeting. Think of it as a thank you for sticking with us yesterday.

INT. ASB ROOM IN FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – THURSDAY MORNING

Karen opens and holds the door for Seraphina, and when she enters, she sees Celia sitting near the wall, as if a queen. The other ASB students are standing on either side of her, looking confused or anxious.

 

CELIA

Seraphina! So nice of you to join us. Wouldn’t want to keep your surprise waiting, do we now?

 

Celia winks, just as a notification pops up on Seraphina’s phone.

 

CELIA

Looks like that’s for you. Why don’t you check it?

 

Seraphina glances at her phone, realizing that it’s a notification from Canvas for her recent English test grade. Opening it, she sees a 0/30 besides 4/8/18 English Test. She can feel tears spring up in her eyes as she finds it difficult to breathe.

 

ARIA

I’m disappointed, Seraphina.

 

Seraphina looks up to see her mother, a scowl across her face.

 

ARIA (CONT’D)

You promised me you’d do well before I died. You promised!

 

CELIA

Like what you see?

 

Seraphina looks up, the tears now streaming freely down her cheeks. The rest of the ASB students rush forward, only to stop when Bryce and Karen extend their arms in front of them. Celia stands up and approaches Seraphina, lifting her chin up.

CELIA (CONT’D)

You know, funny story. We all know Ms. Wales is constantly on the lookout for love, so I made her an offer she couldn’t resist. A date with an executive at my father’s company. But like always, my generosity doesn’t come for free. I told her about the problems that I’ve been having with a certain student and asked if she could tweak her test score, if just a little bit.

ARIA

Stanford will never accept you now!

 

Celia laughs, but to Seraphina, it sounds far away. She feels her phone slipping out of her hand, hearing the thump a second later as it lands on the floor. She grasps her head, screaming in anguish as she drops to the floor.

 

CELIA (CONT’D)

I hope there’s no hard feelings, dear. I just needed to show you what would happen were you to go against me. Trust me, this isn’t even that bad.

 

Suddenly, Kisa bursts through the door, shoving Celia aside.

 

KISA

You’ve reached a new low, Celia. She already went with you yesterday. None of this is necessary!

 

CELIA

Eavesdropping again, cousin? Back off. She doesn’t need anymore influence from a loser like you.

 

Celia grabs Seraphina’s hands, pulling her towards the other side of the classroom. With hesitance, Seraphina yanks her arm away, grasping it as she steps back.

 

CELIA

What do you think you’re doing?

 

Without a word, Seraphina walks over to Kisa and takes her hand.

 

SERAPHINA

Get me out of here.

 

With a nod, Kisa tightens her grip on Seraphina’s hand, leading her out of the room.

 

As they leave:

 

CELIA

You’ll regret this, Seraphina!

EXT. OASIS PARK – THURSDAY MORNING

Seraphina steps out from the Uber as Kisa pays, making a mental note to pay her back later. She walks over to a patch of clean grass, sitting down with a sigh. Kisa walks over soon after. She sits down and wraps an arm around Seraphina.

 

SERAPHINA

You shouldn’t be near me. I’m broken.

 

KISA

That’s not true.

 

Seraphina turns to face Kisa in anger.

 

SERAPHINA

Then, explain to me! Explain to me how seeing my dead mother appear in front of me, mocking me about my failures is not due to my broken mind. Explain to me why taking medication every day doesn’t seem to cure the pain I constantly feel. Explain to me why I can’t seem to fight back, no matter what. Explain! Explain to me how I’m not broken! Because I am!

 

Kisa envelops Seraphina in a hug.

 

[“Rise” begins to play]

 

KISA

Please don’t cry anymore

It hurts me more than you

I don’t have the answers to it all

But I can say one thing for sure

When, when the darkness engulfs you once again

And your fears all start multiplying

I’ll stay with you

I love you, Sera

There’s no doubt at all

This is no mistake, no accident

My heart calls this love at first sight

Let me stay with you

Because I swear

I love you, Sera

 

Sera raises her head up to look into Kisa’s eyes, who in turn, stands up and extends her hand. Seraphina hesitates before smiling and grabbing it with full confidence. Kisa holds Seraphina tightly in her arms.

 

KISA

So, what do you say?

 

[“Seventeen” begins to play]

 

KISA

Can’t we be seventeen?

That’s all I want to do

Cast away all your worries

I could be good with you

SERAPHINA (CONT’D)

You can’t fix me.

KISA (CONT’D)

I don’t need to

In my eyes

You’re perfect as is

So please will you?

 

Seraphina smiles, knowing what Kisa will say.

 

SERAPHINA (CONT’D)

Take a deep breath

KISA

We can ditch school more often now

We’ll get smoothies

SERAPHINA

Study calculus

 

Kisa rolls her eyes, though her smile remains.

 

KISA (CONT’D)

And we’ll go shopping in the mall

Maybe ‘gram “us”

SERAPHINA

Maybe snap “us”

KISA

Don’t stop looking in my eyes

SERAPHINA

Your eyes

KISA AND SERAPHINA

Let’s just be seventeen!

We can be happy together

Let all the drama fade behind

We only need each other

Let us be seventeen

While we’ve still got the chance

 

Kisa and Seraphina gaze into the other’s eyes, before melting into each other’s embrace.

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – FRIDAY MORNING

Seraphina crosses the street and ascends the sidewalk, only to stop in her tracks when she hears Kisa call out for her.

 

KISA

Seraphina! Wait up!

 

Seraphina waits for Kisa to catch up, smiling bashedly when she clutches her hand. Together, they walk hand-in-hand to the ASB room. Though Seraphina is nervous in facing Celia after yesterday, she feels powerful with Kisa by her side. When they reach the ASB room, Seraphina gasps at the note taped to the door, tears threatening to stream down once again.

 

Seraphina Vo no longer holds the position of vice-president of ASB. She has been kicked out due to neglecting her duties.

Ms. Vo, when you see this, please report to the principal’s office to discuss the actions that now need to be taken.

 

Celia, Karen, and Bryce walk up to Kisa and Seraphina, laughing.

 

CELIA

Don’t say that I never warned you.

 

Karen and Bryce stick out their hands, making the shape of an “L”

 

KAREN AND BRYCE

Loser!

 

The three walk into the ASB room, laughing. Seraphina immediately lets go of Kisa’s hands and runs off towards her home.

 

KISA

Seraphina! Wait!

 

The cars and traffic lights whisk past Seraphina as she rushes home. Cars honk at each other, but she doesn’t bother looking. She doesn’t feel tired, not even when she reaches her house. Opening the door, she goes to the bathroom, opening the medicine cabinet. She grabs the first three pill bottles in front of her, dropping to the ground as she opens each of them. Spilling them out onto the floor, she grabs a handful and prepares to pop them into her mouth. Suddenly, her hand is knocked away by Kisa.

 

KISA

What do you think you’re doing?

 

Kisa firmly grips both of Seraphina’s arms as she glares at Seraphina.

 

SERAPHINA

How’d you even get here?

KISA

You didn’t even bother to lock the front door earlier. What are you thinking?

 

Seraphina struggles in vain as Kisa’s grip only strengthens.

 

SERAPHINA

I’m thinking that it’d be better for me to leave this world. I’ve tried this before. I’m not afraid to try it again.

 

KISA

Better for who? You? Don’t be so selfish.

 

Seraphina drops her arms to the ground.

 

SERAPHINA

What’s the point anymore? Everything that I’ve worked for. Gone. Just like that.

KISA

Don’t be so sure of that. Your friends are helping you as you speak right now.

 

SERAPHINA

Friends? The only friend I have is you.

KISA

And the other ASB students.

 

SERAPHINA

Them? But they’re all under Celia’s control. There’s no way they’d help me.

 

Kisa releases her grip on Seraphina’s arms, grasping her hands instead.

 

KISA

Have a little faith, Sera. You’re not alone.

 

[“Disappear” begins to play]

 

KISA

No one deserves to be forgotten

No one deserves to fade away

No one should vanish so soon

And have everyone mourn them out of guilt

No one deserves to disappear

To disappear

Disappear

 

INT. PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE IN FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – FRIDAY MORNING

[“Disappear” continues playing]

 

PRINCIPAL MORGAN

Can I trust that you are all telling the truth?

 

RICHARD

Of course, sir. Celia and Karen Knightley and Bryce Wagner are the ones neglecting their duties, not Seraphina Vo.

PRINCIPAL MORGAN

Well then, I guess I have to go over this later with all of them. I ask that you join me that day.

 

ASB STUDENTS

Of course, sir!

EXT. FOUNTAIN VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL – MONDAY AFTERNOON

It’s been a couple of days since Seraphina’s suicide attempt, but with Kisa’s help, she’s recovering, especially after her ASB friends visited her over the weekend. They ensured her that her position would be fine. In fact, when they talked to the principal in the morning, he offered her the position of president after Celia and the others confessed, no longer able to hide the truth with that many glares trained on them.

 

RICHARD

Are you ready, Seraphina?

SERAPHINA

Yup, as ready as I’ll ever be.

 

Seraphina grabs the microphone from Richard and walks to the front of the bowl. She turns around to face the others, who all offer a thumbs-up. She taps the microphone, catching other students’ attention.

 

SERAPHINA

Hey everyone. You may or may not know me, but I’m Seraphina Vo. I’m here today to deliver an important message to those that may be dealing with depression, just like I have. I want to remind you that you’re not alone.

 

She pauses, looking down to see Kisa sitting in the front, who gives her a thumbs-up. Taking a deep breath, she looks up again and smiles.

 

SERAPHINA

You’re never alone.

[“Disappear” resumes playing]

 

SERAPHINA

No one deserves to be forgotten

No one deserves to fade away

No one should vanish so soon

And have everyone mourn them out of guilt

No one deserves to disappear

To disappear

Disappear

When you’re falling in a forest

And there’s nobody around

Look to the stars and know somebody’s coming

When you’re falling in a forest

And the clouds start to pour

Know there’s someone that’s bound to come running

 

Seraphina smiles as a crowd of students gather, clapping their hands along the beat or hugging one another. She looks down to see Kisa in the front row, cheering her on. And for the 30th time today, she’s glad she didn’t choose to disappear.

 

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Manic Monday

This short story was inspired by a prompt about love featured on Reddit.


Sunday. Fun day. Tomorrow. Manic Monday.

It was the day for me to rest, to enjoy the 16 or so hours I had left before a laptop would engulf my sanity once again.

“Please don’t need me today. Please don’t need me today.”

Reaching up towards my cabinet, I pulled out a mug and from the cabinet below, a coffee pod. Nothing was better than a warm cup of coffee in the morning. Nothing except…

A black and white painting of Eros and Aphrodite embracing each other appeared in front of me.

“I told you not to call for me today!”

I immediately kicked to the right, knowing her apartment’s layout like the back of my hand. She would undoubtedly be there, wrapped in a blanket with her new boy toy. I didn’t see how any of her new “loves” were any better than me, yet I got the worst end of the deal. While they got to flit around on the streets and perhaps, chuck a coffee cup into her face when she broke up with them, I would hear her whines moments later to clean it up.

“Watch it Sera! That’s my face you’re aiming at!”

“Yea. I know,” I responded dryly. “And it’ll continue to be if you don’t stop calling for me.”

“But honey,” she whined. “Brandy and I really need some beer, but we’re kinda too lazy to walk all the way to the kitchen. Like can you get it for us, please?”

“No.”

I stepped off her bed, making my way to the front door, the refrigerator purring, as if coaxing for me to come back.

“SERAAA…”

She, once again, was below me. This was never going to end with her. Once, an adorable brat, now just a brat. What did I ever see in her?

“Pleaseeee…”

Groaning, I stepped down once again, and as if it was pleased that I had come back, the refrigerator purred even louder. As always, I didn’t forget to spit in the bottle before handing it off. To be fair, she called me into situations where I broke my arm twice. I only broke hers once.


Sunday. Fun day. Tomorrow. Manic Monday.

My girlfriend knows. The right girlfriend. So she wasn’t surprised when I walked in with an unopened, empty bottle of wine and a lottery ticket in my hand. “She called me again, did you know? That -”

“It’s off to bed with you my dear. You’ve had too much to drink.”

And I slept until Monday, albeit for a couple more glasses bottles of wine.

 

One Advil down. The bottle left to go.

My boss had just left after shoving down a handful of new assignments down my throat. But for some reason, I didn’t hear anything. And for some reason, my desk was now crowded.

“Phew, that was close man.”

“Yea dude. Welp, back to work now.”

“That was close Sera. Just how much did you drink last night?”

Another advil. “Not enough to see flames.”

“She called you again?” I didn’t bother replying to that statement. She knew. Mostly everyone knew. But not intentionally, I swear.

“Do you think he’ll accept an article titled ‘25 year old trapped in a curse instilled by a goddess named Aphrodite that has her serving her ex who doesn’t consider her free time’?”

“This is a media company. Not your local hotline. Nice try honey.”

Groaning, I slammed my head down onto the desk. And it was as if this infliction of self-harm drew upon Athena’s wisdom, which saved humanity and defined the –

Another Advil.


“Hey honey.”

I received a brief kiss on the cheek before she went to hang up her coat. Aphrondise. I always admired her name. So unique.

“How was work today?”

“It was alright. The people were tough to work with.”

“I can imagine. A shooting range must bring in such conflicted people at times.”

I threw my head back, watching the last drops of the red liquid run down the bottle before it was snatched away. The remaining wine that would have stained my lips splashed onto the floor.

“What was that for dude?”

“Your health. What else?”

I got her right where I wanted her.

“You know, if I were to… let’s say.” I paused, waving my hand dramatically. “pass away, what would you do?”

“Donate your money to saving the pandas like you wanted?”

“Well, let’s say I were to cause an accident, then be consumed by the grief that would seep into my heart and I decided that my life wasn’t worth it anymore so I further harm myself but fail and end up sitting in a jail cell after receiving some sympathetic claims from the paramedics but immediately be handcuffed by the annoying officers that would no doubt give me a lecture on the whole thing and -”

Another Advil.


Help. I am in dire need. Oh no. I need help.

“What the heck Sera? I was just going to head to the mall with Brandy.”

I didn’t bother to glance at her, and instead, glanced at my watch. I had timed it perfectly.

“Why are we even at a railway station? You don’t even look like you need help!

Just a little more. The bright lights neared us, the alarming roar echoing into the night.

3 – 2 – 1

“Hello? Ser -”

“Push!” The word came out joyously, even as she landed onto the tracks.

“Now, I’ll never have to be bothered by her again,” I claimed, brushing my hands.

“Oh wow, so that’s how you get rid of the curse.”

I turned around to see Aphrondise standing right behind me. She placed her finger over my parted lips.

“You’d make a great replacement for Hades, my love.”

A Letter

Recently, I was given an opportunity to write a letter to people in power and tell them any complaints, wants, or comments I had. With some thought, I chose to address my letter to the school principal, in which I advocated for the establishment of a creative writing competition for Fountain Valley High School. Having witnessed STEM focused competitions in my school, such as Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad, which are also celebrated nationally, I felt conflicted that there weren’t any competitions that focused more on the liberal arts. I believe STEM is not for everyone, and having something a bit more out of the box will allow those that are artistically skilled (in writing) to showcase their talent.

With that said, here’s the letter I sent –


Dear Dr. Smith,

As a student at Fountain Valley High School, I’ve gotten to see the various extracurricular activities the school has to offer. As an ambitious incoming freshman last year, I knew of the competition that would await me, most certainly at a higher and more advanced level than any exhibited at my middle school. Before Club Rush came along last year, I had heard pieces of information, some true, and some not true from my friends, whose sources were those that had connections with the older students or teachers. Through them, Academic Decathlon and the Science Olympiad were two clubs that stood out to me, both being academic rather than non-curricular clubs. However, I had to choose only one due to my schedule that consisted of all honors classes and my parents’ schedules, in which my choice in the end was to join Academic Decathlon.

I stepped into Academic Decathlon with enthusiasm, thinking of how I could utilize my skills at writing to possibly win awards and how it would be a good addition to my college resume. However, I quickly lost interest in the club, deciding to quit after a couple of months. It was a tough decision to make for my ego, but I knew I couldn’t present my best efforts without any interest in the topic at all. At that time, the club was focusing on World War II, with categories including music, an essay portion, interviewing, and a book that had to be read before the competition date. With only an interest in writing, I felt overwhelmed. The thought of having to memorize dozens of pages of information took a toll on me mentally. Not to mention, the subject was something that I never would have considered fun to go through, especially since it was based on yet another subject, social studies. In a mock essay round, I got a score of 500/1000 with no prior knowledge of World War II when going through it. It was at that point that I knew I was in the wrong club.

With social studies, science, and math presented in the form of competitions for the students here at Fountain Valley High School, I can’t help but wonder where the English portion is, more specifically, creative writing. While STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is often being pushed as curriculum choices in schools, liberal art subjects still remain and are typically undervalued compared to STEM. Still, there are important jobs relating to the liberal arts, including journalism and advertising or marketing.

Creative writing has always been a passion of mine, the idea of coming up with one’s own worlds and sharing them to friends or the public for their enjoyment exciting. My goal remains to spread smiles on people’s faces as they read my stories or have them willingly become immersed into the world, similar to Harry Potter. With this, I am advocating for the establishment of a writing competition in Fountain Valley High School, giving students with similar interests a chance to express their strength(s). Unlike topics discussed in competitions the school is currently entering in, addressed above, students may be more comfortable with genres such as horror, thriller, or fantasy due to having seen or experienced them. Their abstractness allows one to adjust them to their liking instead of having to stick to structured concepts. Should the basis for a writing competition be established at this school, I also hope for it to spread to the other schools in the Huntington Beach City School District. Similar to almost every other competition, prizes should be offered in terms of medals and the ability to include the wins into college applications.

 

I look forward to hearing your opinion on this matter.

Kind regards,

Tracey Huynh (410607) – Sophomore

 

Native to Play

She in her own garments and he in those assembled by her prominently wrinkled hands. Yet, they do not define her youth, for her bright smile is the first thing I remember, paired with tentative lines by her eyes, fresh from her battle with illness. But should a question or comment come along remarking on her features, she’d simply say –

 

“There’s still some snap in these old vines!” (Mother Willow, 1995)

 

My eyes saw no weakness, not among her, who I dubbed Mother Willow, and not among him, who I called Chief Powhatan. With them though, I’ll say bà ngoai and ông ngoai. My beloved grandparents. 16 years, beginning at 0, with my head having lacked hair and my grandmother’s laments as she feared for her only granddaughter’s future.

“Oh what will the neighborhood say if they see that my grandchild has no hair?”

Enlight13

photo binggu 2010© (CC0 1.0)

Thankfully, black locks grew in a matter of time, and I could now gurgle and squeal in regards to her loving compliments. Not that she ever didn’t love me… I think. Alone in my crib, and soon on the bed, it would be her that I saw often. Chief Powhatan, not having laid his roots yet and Pocahontas and her brother off to gather the elusive green bills and I –

I was free.

 

“I don’t know when

I don’t know how

But I know something’s starting right now

Watch and you’ll see

Someday I’ll be

Part of your world” (Ashman and Menken, 1989)

 

There is no doubt. I am of Vietnamese descent, with a last name of Huynh and a common “Asian” name of Tracey. The words came naturally to me, but I did not compare to my Mother Willow. With her thick roots buried under the soft covers, she would usher me towards her right, draping a branch over my frail body. And with that, some of her petals floated away.

 

“To you, I’ll give my hat to you

And I will lie to Mom and Dad (ooooo)

That when I was on the bridge

The wind it blew…” (Tuan, unknown date)

 

And it was only to this that I could fall asleep. Still, there were times that my body hummed with energy, the sunlight flickering through the blinds and into my eyes, another encouragement for me to stay awake. “Grandma, tell me stories of what Vietnam was like.” “Grandma, tell me more fairytale stories like Tam Cam.”

“You’re such a troublemaker. You should be sleeping.” And after those two sentences, she would talk

And talk

And talk

And left no room for me say anything. But silence was key because then,

I could live her life, even for just a moment.

Enlight10

photo manhhai 2013© (CC BY 2.0)


Summer of 183 2000 something –

I was left with a book that “probably weighed more than I did.” Naivete gone from her face, Pocahontas’ youth was replaced with maturity, a greater understanding. No longer my Pocahontas. She was now my Mother Gothel, but without the intent on kidnapping young children. It was safe to say her remarks always touched my heart in the right places. She kept her feet on the ground, and told me to do the same. “Always follow after me,” she said.

Not surprisingly, I was told to do work in that book of mine.

“Do these problems and write these sentences. Do them. By the time I get home.”

It was 8 in the morning as she left with those words, my Mother Gothel’s daily gathering having turned me into an early riser along with her. But there was one thing I knew – I had plenty of time to get them done. So I brought out my utensils, some lavender, some dusty pink, and some gray. One of the more enjoyable presents from my Mother Gothel, her kisses on the lower end of the spectrum. Poor Rapunzel, with paints as a gift once a year and a frightening song every night.

 

“Knew that soon you’d want to leave the nest

Soon, but not yet

Shh! Trust me pet

Mother knows best

It’s a scary world out there

Mother knows best” (Menken and Slater, 2010)

 

Even with an array of tools at my disposal, I still lacked the most important materials. A lavender pan without anything to contain. Dusty pink spoons without anything to scoop. A plastic gray knife without anything to cut into. I was conflicted when told I wasn’t allowed to use real food, so I had to innovate. I had to plan. I had to invent.

Enlight12

image 3881102 2017© (CC0 1.0)

Out came the Halloween candy, the recent stored among the year olds and those a year older than the latter. Initially saved to savor later on, they ended up serving a greater purpose. The jelly beans as the base, with starbursts set atop, and gold chocolate coins to top off the masterpiece. Skittles and chocolate pieces in a different-colored pan, with kisses placed tentatively on top. A spoon ready, and a tap to interrupt my Mother Willow, I pretended to feed her my concoction – oh my beautiful and dangerous concoction.

Hide and seek. I don’t remember when such a concept entered my home. My one-story home. The home with 5 rooms with 5 people. A home where 4 out of 5 rooms have beds. But I always found a way, a trick up my sleeve to elude my Chief Powhatan, who seemed to embrace the 7 Dwarves all at once with his hard-working attitude.

 

Heigh-ho, heigh ho

It’s home from work we go.” (Morey, 1937)

 

He, who actually managed to hide behind the bedroom door, withstood my childish giggles and comments on how I would always win against him. I braved the dark to crouch behind the laundry basket and I sucked in my breath to fit into the closet. Among the forest of white surrounding us, we smiled and snickered as my Mother Willow looked on, her branches shivering with happiness.


The years flew by, slow enough that I could recall almost all defining moments that

Enlight11

image StockSnap 2017© (CC0 1.0)

occurred, but fast enough that I haven’t yet established a name for myself. The conflicting agony remains. 2 years among children that only understood play. 6 years with those that continued to enjoy life even as new information was presented. 3 years among competition as we believed that we were being defined by three letters: GPA. Finally, 2 years amid a total of 4 with over half extending their hands to grasp the bar that spells out “Ivy League.”

I’ve lost sight, but I’ve gotten more complicated. I continue to lie across my Mother Willow’s roots, but rarely have I stepped outside to greet the sun that continues to fuel her.

“Up where they walk, up where they run

Up where they stay all day in the sun

Wandering free – wish I could be

Part of that world” (Part of Your World)

 

The brother of Mother Gothel, the younger son of my Mother Willow can be seen as Prince Adam, more commonly known as the Beast. He too did not prefer the outdoors, often opting to stay inside with his valuables and tinker with them. With no interest in seeking romantic love, he tends to spend more time with me, often trying hard to evoke a laugh. With jokes exchanged and movies almost every night, it made spending 6 hours a day from my Mother Willow acceptable. However, it only lasted until the later 5 years came along. I wish I could keep it under control –  the frustration I feel when I cast him back to his castle, supported by my Mother Willow’s roots.

“I’m trying to do homework. Stop bothering me.”

Even my Mother Gothel sees my transformation. A girl slowly consumed by trouble.

 

“Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?

Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?” (Wilder and Zippel, 1998)

 

I cannot blame her all the way through for these paper chains tying me down. True, she’s presented the pressure, she’s provided the dropping self-confidence, and she’s produced a child that now places success above all else. Still, it was my choice to continue this said success without any acknowledgment to the rest of the world. It wasn’t until later that my Mother Gothel began to show remorse as I rejected every invitation to step outside and feel the sun that fueled my Mother Willow.

“Please…” she began.

 

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest

Come taste the sun-sweet berries of the Earth

Come roll in all the riches all around you

And for once, never wonder what they’re worth” (Schwartz and Menken, 1995)


The unexpected is always suspicious. Pop-quizzes, 3 sections of Euro homework assigned on the day, how unpleasant. Then, the announcement of an event called Global School Play Day and the first thought that ran through my mind? How can we afford to play in high school? But the ringleader, the Mufasa of the class, refused to let us leave without understanding.

Play. It’s significance? Developing children mentally and physically. It’s goal? To have us enjoy life a bit more.

Enjoyment. Now that’s something I haven’t felt in a while. When was the last time I actually played with my friends?  A selection of activities to choose from: Jenga, Uno, playing cards, and the “realistic” Mille Bornes. Although having already settled on a plan with those I expected to spend my hour with, I did not hesitate to welcome the ones that sat more than an arm’s length away. With +2 cards waved around in excitement, a +8 placed down smugly, and the table attacked when doubles or sandwiches appeared, the blindfold drifted down. “We didn’t talk about school. We didn’t play with our phones.” (Michelle Duong, 2018)

Friends and family, the two often paired together, but on that day, I saw them as one. We were truly a large family, albeit for an hour.

 

“And at last I see the light

And it’s like the fog has lifted

And at last I see the light

And it’s like the sky is new

And it’s warm and real and bright

And the world has somehow shifted” (Menken and Slater, 2010)

 

The Lunar New Year came soon after with a total of 4 red envelopes in my hands, and my Prince Adam, Mother Gothel, Chief Powhatan, and Mother Willow by my side. It was only on that day that I emerged to make 5 from 4 and have the words of Xuân Đã Về resonate in my ears. Two joyous days in two weeks.


Even with smiles often being shared between my family of 4 and 37,

I can’t help but wonder and wish if we could hold another play session.

 

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere

I want it more than I can tell

And for once it might be grand to have someone understand

I want so much more than they’ve got planned” (Ashman and Rice, 2017)


Featured Image – So often, play is out of reach (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXKlJuO07eM)

Caged In White

(1) Oasis – Paradise (Lava by James Ford Murphy)

Oasis Ave.

image by Tracey Huynh

Oasis Avenue, named from bright green leaves. The folded stack of dollar bills in return for my laptop and stiff gold bands in another’s hands. I only wish for some of the fresh green back to replace my bent screen door. The other leaves have been cleared out, though their fan-like tips stunted after the sparks flew and the red and blue lights came flashing by.

There is a school nearby, the name matching that of their mascot, of which I can still remember: Warner Wildcats. My house lies on the front lines, available to anyone’s eyes. That one-story building with a massive garden, 5 small bedrooms holding 5 individuals, 4 of whom picked the atrocious yellow-painted exterior.

A grand staircase in mind, two stories better than one. The double floors beside our low roof overshadowing in all perspectives, but the evening sun still pierces through our bedroom window. Wealth. The upper middle class to the middle-middle class to the lower middle class. With no idea of where we were, I only knew I wanted to be up high. To give my family what they wanted – to give myself the pride of calling things mine.

Oasis Street. Formed through ugly wanting. I was a piece of the black tar road, mowed over by equally black tires. How could I ever leave my kind?


(2) And the world Was still Gray (I See the Light by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi)

cute baby

image Picography 2016© (CC0 1.0)

Does anyone ever wonder where they came from?

Well I do, along with my red brothers and sisters

Strange how I can identify them so easily

But when they came, I was called 

 

What a cutie, you are a very nice boy

You are a very nice girl

And the original always has to clarify, but still they say

What a cutie
My mother was gone soon after

My red brothers and sisters too

Where did they go when the darkness came?

Was I the one that was gone?

Even so, the world was gray

I met someone new the next day 

Not someone, but some people

Were they to replace those that I lost?

No matter, for their hands on my body gave warmth
The pretty one, she is called mama

I have come to like her

She is always in my view, but sometimes

Wrinkles suddenly appear on her face
Every morning, noon, and night

The early bird gets a sigh 

The sleepy owl gets the milk and she says

Con oi, let us have a nap, or at least I can imagine that

From where I was, the world was gray

Now the large one, his name was hardly spoken

I do not know if I am loved by him

So I try to find out, my actions irresistible to some

I kissed, and I cowered. I hugged, and I squealed.
But with all my attempts, a single pat on the head 

Is my reward

If only I had those wide green papers

That tasted so bitter in my mouth
I have noticed their usefulness everywhere I went

Exchanging different numbered ones

For a lamp, some soup, some potatoes

The potatoes only needed a 1, could I buy love with that 1?

Could I make the world less gray?

The other little one, he is my friend, my best friend I should say

No giggle gone unnoticed,  no boredom left alone

I get more hugs from him than any other

Though they become less as he grows older
This family, they age every day

With white-toothed grins and sparkling eyes

To trembling hands and everlasting smiles

And me? I age too you see. But I grow faster in mind.
And comes the day when I want to rest

To hear the birds chirp one last time

As I lay upon the checkered sheets

Watching my family and their bright smiles

As I close my eyes, the world is white.


(3) Promised friends (Hot N’ Cold by Katy Perry)

I was always sheltered, my connections decided for me. On weekends, I would be brought into Lambda, a place where I used to believe there were lambs secretly hidden somewhere. My mom had two best friends, their names gone from my poor memory, the before them given to other family acquaintances by now. These people also had their own children, another girl and a boy. His name was Eric, and hers… I’m not sure. Let’s just place her out of the picture. Eric was my best friend. He would often be there when I was there, and we spent our time exploring or playing games on our outdated electronic devices. A year older than me, I was cautious in my approach. I didn’t want to be left alone.

My mom told me that Eric and I had actually met when we were still babies, a time I thought I was too old for – it brought my hands closer to his. We went to Disneyland together when still in strollers. Our hats matched, but mine was pink and his was blue.

eric

image by Tracey Huynh

We held matching glow wands, his was purple and mine was red. And we watched the night fireworks together. I heard the boom and he saw the flash.

 

 

I can almost feel the raised eyebrows, widened eyes, and opened mouth that would ask “why” when I was told I couldn’t go near him anymore. Knowing her, my mother’s reply would be curt and go along the lines of “just because.”

When I saw him sitting by himself on the table doing homework, I couldn’t help but ask. A simple hello would make me happy. Or a hug. A hug would make me happier. To my surprise, she agreed, but only after I told her that this would be the only time. So, I came up beside him, and asked what he was doing, expecting a more exciting answer than the one he would give me, even if I didn’t see anything remotely exhilarating in writing answers on a piece of paper. One word down, silence to come. I sat there, observing the strokes of his pencil. I looked at the tiny black grains embedded in the table. I stared at my shoes and the floor below it. Then came the moment. I needed to know. “Why doesn’t your mom want us to hang out?”

“I don’t know, but I’m not allowed to talk to you anymore.”

 

 

I kept true to the promise.


(4) first the colors, then the storm (Yuri on Ice by Taru Omebayashi and Taku Matsushiba)

Naivete. Rapunzel had it when she escaped from her tower, desperate to seek adventure, the thrill that she believed existed in the world. And she was right.

Bright green grass. A taupe little bunny. The yellow, scuffed duckling hanging above the tavern door. It was beauty at its finest. The world was at its finest. Everything was new; everything had yet to be discovered because she was ready. In fact, the world was ready for her.

 

And that’s how it is as one with limited knowledge. Many expect to open a dictionary, flip through it, and say, “I don’t even use this all the time, you know.” And they might not.

 

Meanwhile, Rapunzel had a fun time as one would expect. She met some thugs that she could call new friends, battled some royal guards, and revealed her magical hair to Flynn Rider.

 

A young teenage girl. The outsider. It could be changed. She could be the kind to seek more excitement in her life. From now, the internet is her voice, her safe-haven. Chat rooms, emails, instant message. The sources to meet another playful girl as her. I’ve made a new friend. Indeed.

 

And now Rapunzel and Flynn have decided to take a break in the woods. They talked, had fun, revealed tales about their personal life. We must be growing closer. Rapunzel’s thoughts then broken by her mother.

This Flynn Rider was not to be trusted. He was only a thief who wanted to take the crown from her possession. To teach her a lesson, Gothel hands her the bag, implementing a “you won’t learn if you don’t find out yourself.”

 

“Hi, how are you today?”

“Good, how are you? Did you have a fun time at your school today?”

“Eh. My teachers keep assigning more homework. Honestly, it’s so annoying.”

“I know right? Like can they just stop lol”

“I wish. School is a freaking clown show anyway…”

“Agreed”

 

Surprisingly, at least to Rapunzel, Flynn didn’t bring up the topic of the crown at all. Instead, he had danced through the town with her, revealing new things: an atlas and  cupcakes that didn’t come from the thug who was a chef. After it all, the music stopped, the dance having ended with their eyes connected. Onto to the lanterns, and now they’ve reached the end. A touching duet, the night sky filled with vivid, flickering flames.

 

“Hey dude what’s up?”

“the sky”

“LOL OMG I HATE IT WHEN YOU SAY THAT !!”

“HAHAHA What’d you expect when you asked that honestly step up your game”

“… freak you. Anyway are you still coming over tomorrow???”

“mhm and your parents aren’t home right?”

“nah dude they have work remember?”

 

They ascend the shore, with fear leading Flynn’s feet deeper into the forest. “I’ll be waiting here.” But those words would turn out to be a lie as she stumbled along, attempting to avoid the scarred twins who were now heading her way. Hair caught, all hope about to be lost on her end, until the cunning Mother Gothel stepped in once more. Betrayal in hand, she led Rapunzel home, reassuring her that this was not her fault. She simply didn’t know that people would turn out this way. She was too naive.

 

“Hey… turns out my parents came home early. But thats cool right”

 

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Hi there. A strange man came to my house looking for my daughter. He knew her name and personal details about her, but she says she doesn’t know him.”

“Oh wait, he said a username of some sort and she said that it belonged to the profile picture of a girl. He refuses to leave.”

“Okay, we’ll be right there.”

 

The golden sun set once again.

cotton

image by Tracey Huynh


(5) Clipped feathers (Satellite by Gabbie Hanna)

Rapunzel, a 17 year old girl trapped in a tower, just happened to have someone agree to release her bonds, to be her savior. What would have happened had she stayed? Alone, there is one who represented that sorry being.

She, who danced around her cage, was beautiful. A dove without a completely white coat of feathers. A peacock without some of its trademark green and blue, and dozens upon dozens of eyes.

Lonesome, she seeked solace in something she can trust. It was located conveniently in the common room, a space large enough for one to prance about. No vases, no bright and alive flowers. Only a carpet, a fireplace, a coffee table, several couches, and the sky. Framed with green palm leaves and delicate pink petals below, the blue was beautifully complimented, with a bit of white to give it some texture. As she stared, she would find her arms raised, a duster in one hand to clean up any tracks that would be left behind. Then, she lifted a black, laced foot, and set it down gently. One minute. She raised the other, extended it forward, then set it back down.

Three minutes. The urge was too strong to resist. She had stretched enough, her legs growing impatient. They brought her along the wall, arms outstretched as she hopped and glided along. She twirled, the white fabric spinning along with her body. She tried to keep it contained, stopping after 2, maybe 3? There was no yearning for the dust that would fly out. Only she was allowed to fly at that moment. 10 minutes.

My brother calls me outside and he says

Let my arms wrap around and keep you warm

But I say no, for I am not cold

This breeze keeps me awake, this breeze keeps me free

She’s never known whether her voice was a soprano or contralto. A robin or its hungry child. Nobody has ever told her so and she wished to know. Oh how she wished. The breeze lifted up her skirt, goosebumps riding up her legs as she stood atop the table, daring herself to go to the edge. And she did. If only someone could have grasped her waist like Jack and Rose. Her name too was a flower. Would she meet someone as chivalrous as Jack. Perhaps his name will be Vack or Nack or Zack instead.

Squaw. The seagulls replied in their own language. Squaw. She called back. They weren’t visible, but she knew they were around. Nestled on the sand. Perched on the tree tops. Rested on the ground. Somewhere among the petals. She extended her own hands towards them, caressing each one that she could see. Mostly pink, but some white. Soft, rough, colorful, flower-like.

My aunt used to hum and she used to sing

Of the flowers that grew on her back windowsill

Their centers bright yellow, the rest green

With black specks while I am covered in it all

20 minutes. The sky did not grow any dimmer. It did not grow any brighter. It just stayed the same, blissful and free. By now, she has danced all around, going near the edges of

beach girl

image adamkontor 2016© (CC0 1.0)

the cliff, then back, the ocean below. If she could just reach a bit further, perhaps she’d be able to touch it from her position. But where she stood was ideal, the center of it all.

 

Now, it was 30 minutes, and the sky existed no more. It was time to retreat, last touches to be made. The birds all burrowed themselves back into their nests, and those less fortunate, into the thinly spread bushes. The bark around the sky gleamed, quickly wiped by her. Sparkle sparkle. That’s how she imagined the stars to be at night, though the spotted clouds served well enough.

 

Welcome home madam. Please allow me to escort you to your room to relax.

It is nice to see you’ve been doing your tasks. I expect lunch to be served soon.

Of course.

 

What they did not know was that lunch had already been prepared, and she had time to rest. After all, she had a busy day. Crossing the common room, she placed her hand on the sky for another moment and breathed in the fresh scent of cigar smoke. The sky. So free, but trapped in the same cage.


(6) From cumulus to cumulonimbus (Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)

Childhood. That word continues to bring some sense of comfort to my heart, reminding me that I once had a world to discover. Now, I only have ⅘ left to look forward to, ⅕ gone, though that ⅕ was probably the most exciting than what is to come.

I was always enamored by something, the fine detail of anything and everything sure to distract me. In fact, I remember being scared of driving because I had thought to myself: What about all those houses that blur by? The people? The call for attention – the pull – anything but the straight charcoal-black road in front, which stretched for miles and miles and miles.

If only I had a car for that road. That road that led to nowhere, but somewhere at the same time. The road that was meant for walking slowly on, speeding up was an issue. A road that would take a sharp turn and lead into a series of unknown events, making you regret what you wished for before.

A double-rainbow is rare to come across, formed by two reflections in a single raindrop. That’s what they say. How quick I ran for my camera when it came around, the rain having let up, the ground still wet. Sandals would be impractical and putting on sneakers would take too much time. Time is money. So I stared and snapped from the inside of my kitchen. My hands reached for the rainbow behind the glass. I would soar one day is what I told myself.

I am the most expensive person out there, for I have wasted no time. I climbed the ranks in a place with blue seats  that tugged at my hair. School. The most important thing is to get good grades. I listened to those words that spilled out of my parent’s mouths, messily assembled in both Vietnamese and English. I had to conquer, everything and everybody. None would be left unscathed. They would witness my name and my deeds.

All in all, it was still fun. I liked feeling the sun bake my back and burn my hair, where there was always a trusty pine tree to sit under if the weather got too hot.

Then I moved onto a more difficult level in the game. Excuse me, the system. No games were to be played anymore. It was a survival test, with numbers to dictate your time spent in the enclosed area. I found any letter below A hurt my chest. I found numbers less than 90 drew tears from my eyes. I found heartbreak without having experienced love.

video game life

image by Tracey Huynh

Suddenly, the TV was rarely on in my room. I found children smiling- annoying, always presenting them with advice: make sure you value your time now. No more grass and sand. The familiar tile that met wood. That was what I felt.

Through all that, the sun felt colder than usual, the clouds rarely there as I looked out my bedroom window.

Not the boss level yet, but it feels like it. Socializing is easier. I used to be able to approach somebody, ask them for their name, then have a conversation about the different places we’d like to travel to. Japan for the food. Paris for the sights. Canada to experience Canada. Nerve-wracking then, not so much now. Names no longer important, easily found out through flash cards or sticks. Bonding is a piece of cake. Not cheesecake though. There is no tension of whether or not they’ll find my interests to be relatable. All I have to do is approach and ask…

 

What did you think of that test?

 

My skin lighter. My hair does not burn as often. My eyes don’t squint as much.

But my eyes have dulled, hazelnut replacing the colored curiosity. So I find myself thinking: If only I could feel the warmth again. If only the sky wasn’t so dark when I finally look up towards it.


(7) I Used to Blame (Glassy Sky by Yutaka Yamada)

I used to blame all the boys in my school, and all the men on the street, whose teeth turned yellow the longer they stood outside. My uncle and grandfather were the exceptions; they were allowed to stay — in the heart that struggled to love. Providing life and love. That was too much work for only 2 arteries and atriums and ventricles and…

Tales used to be told about him and I can only pinpoint them to a blurry-faced man whose clothes smelled of the tar that stained his lungs. A purple plastic spoon was given to him, filled with airy food.

 

Mmm. It’s delicious.

And I replied with a laugh, saying try some more. And he laughed along.

 

I felt myself being lifted away, not bridle-style, but the one where warm broad arms were wrapped around my back and legs, and I had two arms free to embrace them back. I could breathe in that moment, letting my exhales grow shorter       inhales longer      

I was placed on the bed and told not to go outside, the door closed just in case. I feel hurt that trust was not yet a factor shared between us. Perhaps that is why I do not throw around my own. It must be earned. “… but you should give everyone the benefit of the doubt at first.”

I had no reason to feel sad or lonely in my shared room. I had all my pillows that smelled like overused comfort and I had my friends that always listened and never countered. Who do you think that man is? Where did he come from? No answer.

When I finally came out, the man was no longer there, and I received no sorry for not getting to say goodbye.

 

Goodbye mister, I can no longer see you again. Ever, ever again.

 

I don’t recall the day I was told the story. Of a wicked man they say. Is it my dad? Yes. He is a bad man who left you and forgiveness should never come.

And they continued with the events they’ve seen with their own eyes and the accounts that made the word “ba” without the “câu” in front, feel foreign and bitter. He didn’t want you, they said. He wanted a boy instead, but your mother wanted a girl. She got her wish and he grew bitter.

 

But why? I am still his daughter.

 

He refused to take care of me after that, even if half my name existed through him. Huynh. Paired with Tracey, it sounds awkward. Tracey Huynh. I don’t like it, but Tracey was chosen by my grandfather, so I cannot say that I hate it.

When we were celebrating your first birthday, he took all the leftover beer home to his brother and family, leaving none for your grandfather or uncle. When your grandmother had to do laundry, he locked you in a room and went somewhere else. She was in hysteria until she found the spare keys, while I was in hysteria because I wanted milk. What would they call that now? First world problems?

He looked through documents that were private to the others. He went out drinking mostly every day, paying no mind to his work and the family to support. He smoked, even with a baby around. And he left because he didn’t want you.

So then, I started to blame. I blamed all the guys that dangled next to me on the swings. They couldn’t be trusted, an evil within them; they would all leave someone or somebody one day. I did not care about the hurtful words or actions I portrayed. I just wanted them far, far away.

I thought women were superior, so I befriended many. Skeptical no doubt, of the wall that loomed 

with the boys driven away.

Those that ended up falling in love received no support from me. Instead, I questioned whether they were being treated equally and lovingly. A dime a dozen? More like a diamond for one.

 

I am don’t worry – they would say.

I did not believe them.

 

When people ask about my father – after my uncle is mentioned to be living with us – I respond with I don’t know where he is.

 

Why don’t you know?

He left when I was a baby.

 

And I tell them the elaborate tale. There was no need to make it dramatic; it was already fit for pity. I didn’t need pity.

But then 7th grade came along, and I was put into groups that consisted of some dudes. Safe to say, I yelled at them to do their work, only to regret my harshness when I realized they actually did a good job. A poke at my stubborn soul, I tried making friends with some. Surprised when they didn’t exactly hate me, but they were distrustful.

 

Why are you being so nice now?

To be honest, I don’t know.

 

And now I’m here. I’ve had a “fresh start.” At least, that’s what I call it. I’ve made more my friends, acquaintances, and enemies (not surprising). I actually had one “fall in love” with me, but that’s a different story.

I have a temper, a lie I cannot conceal to those closest to me. I’d say I’m patient when things roll over the first time. There are times my voice will rise; there are times I wish not to speak at all. I may lash out unexpectedly, show some selfishness, withdraw myself into a stage of dissociation.

 

You’ve inherited this brashness from your mother. Your voice is strong, just like your grandmother.

 

You’re just like your father – their eyes say.

 

The colors have blurred. Red has been confused with black. Patterns were prints, but prints were not patterns. Pink seemed to resemble blue. So who do I blame now?

Only the one that deserves it.

mi familia

“gia dình” – image by Tracey Huynh


(8) White (Here by Junna, sung by Amanda Lee)

white rose

image Jack Hawley 2008© (CC0 1.0)

Angelica was the name introduced. Not Angelica Hale, though she had an equally beautiful voice. White was her last name. Angelica White. There was no irony when she, who came dressed in a snow-colored dress, said her favorite color was white. Angelica White. The girl who loved white.

When approached, she gave a happy grin, but when asked if she would eat lunch with them, she grimaced. She politely declined, proceeding to say that it she had to attend a funeral later. Many pestered her on the deceased’s identity, too young to understand the impact of death, though some had patted her on the back before retreating to the other side of the room. It was only until they heard the word “my parents,” did their smiles curve, the edges of their mouths sloped downwards.

The class was silent until a phone call came asking for Angelica to make her way to the front office. Then, it was at its loudest that day, a series of “I’m sorry” and “good luck” announced in unison. She turned back and gave them a smile and wave before departing. It was unknown whether she heard the “poor her” from the teacher that followed.

She came back the following day; her insistence in coming to school shocked all. Even those that didn’t usually give a thought towards anyone else but themselves widened their eyes at the sight of her arrival. Once seated, she immediately smoothed out her cornsilk skirt, and adjusted the white rose pinned on her lapel. She corrected the depressing comments that came her way, as if the showing of her sparkling teeth wasn’t enough.

Throughout the day and the rest of the week, she received plastic-wrapped candied apples, bags of chocolates, and several more white roses given to them by their parents that felt extremely sympathetic. In turn, she granted them all the thank yous they deserved. No tear glistened in her eyes and no dark circles were underneath the pair. She seemed just like the others before they were informed with such nonchalance.

By the end of the week, she had mostly everyone in the school by her side, especially after a child’s supposedly psychic parent came to showcase her ability. It wasn’t difficult to figure out such a display was for advertising her business. Still, to the kids, they were amazed by the shawl wrapped around her head and the crystal ball that could tell their future other than a reflection. Angelica’s turn was none the fruitless. The woman declared to the girl in the ivory skirt and baby powder top, that she had a white aura, a new color from the repeated purples or pinks. Those that were the closest would hear that she, Angelica White, had the ability to ward off any evil spirits around her, have an urge to heal and help those in need, and have a close connection to the angels. “Did you hear that Angelica’s like an angel?”

Whispers and murmurs abound, Angelica was held in high regards. She had informed the others that she was currently staying with her grandparents, a relief to many, if not all. In their heads, they had imagined a couple whose bodies exceeded their youth. They had lost their children, but they gained a granddaughter, a prize worth living many more years for, just until she was able to set foot into the world herself. The students were not that uneducated, of course. So, one could imagine the shock on their faces when Angelica White came back with another white rose pinned on her collar after a weekend. Still, her lips did not quiver and her face displayed no signs of puffiness.

Now, she was in the care of her uncle, a person many deemed fit to take care of the angel. He was jolly, kind, and most importantly (to the female teachers), very good-looking, especially with the stubble that covered his chin. “As Leonardo da Vinci once said, ‘ I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.’” He who presented such wisdom was met with swoons.

However, her mood shifted after that, a pout lining her lips that didn’t seem to lift up no matter what happened. Her clothing later bled colors, discomfort visible as she shuffled in her seat repeatedly, attempting to smooth out the invisible wrinkles.

It wasn’t until the class hamster succumbed to nature that Angelica White’s cheeks flushed pink. She smiled as she stroked its cold fur, an act seen fit for a maiden of the clouds. Insisting on sending it to its next journey, she placed it in the hole, covering it in dirt moments later.

As a method to lighten everyone’s spirits, the teacher brought in chocolate bars, personally placing each into every student’s hands. Angelica’s, enveloped in the color of her dress that day, speckled with cookie crumbs. Upon unraveling the wrapper, she uttered a laugh of joy, prompting the seat beside her to ask a regretful question.

 

“Why is white my favorite color?

Because I like seeing people die.”

 

Click. The key in the lock turns. White shirt and pants, two black straps to complement – buckled tightly to the chair. A safe room, three cold bars obstructing the white view. Left with her kind.

The Beauty of Nature

Hello there friends, come one, come all
To read about one masked, though not for a grand ball
The topic given was to compare
Makeup and sins, my thoughts from nowhere
So challenge yourself and your ever wandering mind
Lipstick to lust and so forth, the clues I hope you can find

So kick back, sip on some tea when reading this poem
Feel free to comment or press a like either with your forefinger or thumb

*Note: This poem is in the preformatted form, where you may have to scroll horizontally in some of the stanzas to read the full lines.


(1) I’ve lived in this world long enough to realize

That it didn’t matter whether you were kind or wise

Money ruled in this society of mine

For the amount of clothes and beauty grants you the right to shine.
(2) A house, handmaidens, corvettes, all left for me

With one missing - a 1960 Classic in the depths of the sea

License plate to grieve the gap in the railing

And the media mogul and his wife who were wailing and flailing.
(3) A polishing of my nails in process during that time

A smudge left as the result of a shocking text chime

Perhaps the red signified the bright red bouquets

Whose petals scattered the somber pathway.
red nails

Sleeping Beauty’s rose were she not to wake up – photo Olichel 2015© (CC0 1.0)

(4) Alas, I did not share the others’ tears and cries

For now I inherited unwanted bonds and ties

The Sunset Times - wealth and hard work guaranteed

Just the thought made me want to flee the responsibility.
(5) The managing, directing, clearing any mix-up, how tiresome

All those tasks will surely chip my manicure - how bothersome

I almost felt bad for the hard-working middle-class man

Who desires money to survive, poor throughout his lifespan.
(6) Another month for breathing paper, alive and well

To lay among the sand with no worries for the bell

“Perhaps a look at your new empire today shall serve you well my lady.

A grand and relieved welcoming will be likely.”
(7) “And the questioning? The call for ideas? The thought makes my skin want to break out.

But I’m afraid it’s true, this visit long overdue. Time to see what the fuss is all about.

Though Garrett, do not get me wrong, this courtesy only for my wealth

Everlasting should my beauty stay, first among all, even above health.”
(8) A symbol of power, dominance, and control

The center of the media, all things social

A bronze plated sun placed in the center

Though it cannot burn, it held an equal amount of power.
(9) With marble that made one’s step echo with pleasure

And a carved tree whose life ended to fulfill importance and leisure

My residence boasted more, both of the decór and company

For silence is more pleasing than those asking to approve an obituary.
(10) Instead I had my eyes on a much bigger prize

Still a youth I found myself drawn in by his appearance, his eyes

How they screamed luscious, dreamy, perfect… mine

So I started dreaming: lives so divine, our stars surely aligned.
(11) But the question stood on how to reel in a baited fish

For I am known to all, the sweet dessert on the dish

Bright green, framed with long black borders

To give him a taste of what I saw: summer and white arbors.
rose cake

Come…take a bite. Maybe I’m sweet; maybe I’m bitter. — photo vinefang 2017© (CC0 1.0)

(12) I should be the only one, step aside and beware

Emily Rivers - that cheap girl rumored to have messed with this affair

How desperate he clings onto her, voice sweet and sugary

Only to receive a laugh designed to be complementary.
(13) What talents did she possess superior to mine

My eyes powdered to perfection, a line so fine

I am the champion, I am the victor

Those fools bow as I pass, careful not to spark the lighter.
(14) Drawing a wing is quite simple, for it only requires

Steadiness and resolve, a flick before your hand falls to retire

And I remain trained on her, similar to the practice described

Attract attention, welcome the shadows, last resort is to bribe.
(15) When does a tiger strike? Has one been close enough to see?

I’ll put her on edge. I’ll allow her to remain carefree.

A mask and a cape - true stylish options indeed

But I’ll remain a star. With my way I’ll make her concede.
(16) Now comes a change of scenery

Come sun kissed leaves, gone is the fresh greenery

The required, pleated fabric against the edge of a boundary

A swift breeze would reveal all, its pattern tempting and flowery.
(17) “Welcome back miss, I am terribly sorry for your loss.”

“You are one out of two for I have gained a burden regardless.”

Words wasted on such a worthless subject

Their minds weighed with trivial people - I should be the object.
(18) “August, to see again such a joyous name.

Even my words cannot bring enough what you deserve: great acclaim

A new year, it’s time I say, I can offer more than just words

A kiss, new phone, designer clothing, anything you wish or prefer.”
(19) Eyes glazed, the brilliant blue glassed over

The ocean, the sky, one could throw themselves in, drunk or sober

With bright rubies tucked underneath his chin

I brought him in, his lips so near, mine right on his skin.
(20) With a grip on my shoulder, I accepted the invite

But then his response took the flight instead of fight

A faltering step I took, placed several inches away

Glancing up to see a silent promise he needed to obey.
(21) “Though gorgeous and full of life, I cannot betray

The twine that binds the love I have, of which I would never want frayed.

For Emily Rivers, a beauty in plain sight, has stolen my love

My world made bright, Eros’ rays always above.”
(22) Worthless. Trash. Not good enough. Not good enough.

To be thrown aside for a simple peasant, what was placed on me, a tariff?

Love. Yeu thuong. Ai. Amour. A language I was trained of, so when

When did I, the queen, fail in recruiting one man?
(23) The taste of their soul, their desperate disguise

With starving hands, they’ll drag it on till moonrise

Then comes the slumber, the thought of what more to do

Their eyes fluttering with excitement, granted a new identity, a grand debut.
(24) A glance around proved the corruption

Ladies with their lips lined, what the men had, that became ambition

With no hesitation did they leave, once business was done, finished, complete

When another’s possessions capture their eyes, hark, they’ve found a new treat.
(25) That lifestyle, uncommon, unabashed, disposable with effort

The game has ended, but starvation still present, how much more should I exert

To taste those lips with the rainbow or classic red, to taste more

Intoxicating was his scent, a new drug, one with yet a cure.
(26) A day, two, three, four, then five

Their legacy still reigns, they’re dead, but I am alive

And finally they notice, the daughter, the child

The citizens have gathered around, having become beguiled.
(27) Their hopes aimed at the dollar bills growing from my palm

The orphanage, school, and city hall, the storm has begun with no calm

“Miss, may we ask how these grants make you feel?”

“I only wish that they should complete my plan, to seal the deal.”
(28) It was soon time to return, to him I shall elaborate

No, that wasn’t enough. Some parts I shall exaggerate

Any cracks, dents, or chips throughout

Shall all be gone, cleansed without a doubt.
(29) “Dear August, haven’t you seen? Join me and offer a chance at hope.

Nothing need be paid. I shall provide, for one whose eyes like a kaleidoscope

Have I not shown my worth, among Emily and all others?

Come to me, I am the most fit by your side, no one is abler.”
(30) “No. I have refused once and I shall continue to do so.”

Grey clouds shrouded over sapphire eyes, calm moments ago

“I am not a prize nor a possession. Find another to gain and toy.

Approach me again and I will not cease. Your reputation here shall be destroyed.”
(31) I, who had caked myself in cream

Could not scowl or frown or scream

With blemishes covered and good deeds to show

Still he found flaws, this time it was an all too heavy blow.
(32) The scars peeled through, the peeling flesh

Though held together still, how it means to be blessed

With bones that connected the bloodied gap

A concoction of skin-colored ointments to mend this handicap.
(33) A queen still has her servants and handmaidens, faithful to any order

Or fooled with admiration, awe, turned into an instant supporter

What would I be if not to utilize what is right in front of me?

A drop of the pill from another’s hand, no wait required, it would happen instantly.
updated milk

If the crown shatters, then the queen’s true face shall be revealed (milk droplets) — photo Myriams-Fotos 2017© (CC0 1.0)

(34) How he slumped, words slurred, eyes pressed, then opened

“Thank you miss for offering a ride, please inform us of what happened.”

How they would regret those words as I laid across his skin, cupid’s bow traced

Discontent he could not show until morn after, by then we had done more than embrace.
(35) Without a word, though he had tried to say

5 minutes after the call, and soon he was whisked away

“Garrett, another mess has arised. Make sure to leave no trace.”

“Miss you are asking of murder. Only you yourself brought about this disgrace.”
(36) “I recall not being the only one here Mr. Silvers.

Though a butler, father’s prized valuable you have pilfered.

By the name of his wife and my mother

I can reveal the acts you did to her, one way or the other.”
(37) A lioness on a zebra's tail, its futile escape all the more amusing

Past claims renounced, the game still continuing

Seated in the mirror, I powdered. I gazed.

With blood smeared on lips and hands, wondering if it was yet ablaze.
(38) From there he should’ve made the turn

Among the crashing waves, unconcerned

I can only imagine a still, beating heart

Lungs convulsed by the one he thought he could outsmart.
(39) Such insignificant people indeed, I am the one left in their stead

Of fame and hearts, a gold crown set atop an ever cracking head

Possessing me, they are called evil, they define me

Pride, lust, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, gluttony.
(40) With masks for my lips, my eyes, my cheeks, each one so dutiful

I can always say, “I am hideous. I am beautiful.”
adjusted mask

base image OpenClipart-Vectors 2017© (CC0 1.0)


*An important message to the narrator of this poem and all of you beautiful people out there: https://youtu.be/w38IG6HsI5s?t=3m15s


Explanation (Spoilers):

This poem is meant to compare makeup products to the seven deadly sins, which are all present in many people, but in this case, shown through the narrator. They are spread throughout the poem, in which the stanzas that correspond to them will be listed below.

The first product used was nail polish, which corresponded to sloth starting in stanza 3, meaning excessive laziness or the failure to recognize one’s possessions or talents. The narrator is extremely careful in maintaining her manicure, her blood red nails, as well as her beauty in general. Due to that, she refuses to put in any manual work that may chip her nails or cause stress that may lead to breakouts.

The next product was mascara, where it represented greed, a pursuit of material possessions. This analogy was first seen in stanza 10. When the narrator first notices August’s eyes, she immediately labeled him as hers, then describing her own eyes as green and framed with long black borders (eyelashes). August’s eyes come back into play in stanza 30, where she still notices them while attempting to capture his attention through her good deeds.

Eyeshadow and eyeliner is next, along with the sin wrath. This sin is defined as uncontrollable feelings of hatred towards another person. Beginning from stanza 12, the narrator describes the hatred she holds towards Emily Rivers. In my opinion, eyeshadow and eyeliner are the most difficult makeup products to use perfectly, in which the more work one puts in, they are more deserving of praise and notice. The narrator feels cheated due to this, for she puts a lot of effort in looking beautiful, yet August only has eyes for Emily. Meanwhile, the eyeliner represents the hatred being trained on one specific person, similar to the precision needed to apply eyeliner.

Gluttony is the next sin as it took the form of lip liner, where the sin means the excessive consumption of something, in this case, love. Starting in stanza 23, the narrator describes how many girls in the school, with lined lips and all, target as many wealthy guys or men they can in order to receive money or gifts. Unsurprisingly, she also participated in this lifestyle before leaving it aside as she believes August is her one true love, who shall set her straight. In the end, it is implied that she will most likely go back to gaining the love from other men after her decision to indirectly murder August. If he doesn’t belong to her, then he doesn’t belong to anyone else.

Concealer, designed to hide almost any blemishes, represents envy, the desire to have an item or experience someone else has. Seen in stanza 27 and beyond, the narrator committed generous deeds in order to attract August, hoping it would mask any flaws that may have been presented before. With her wealth and power, she believed she could best Emily Rivers at anything, in which August would have to chase after the narrator then.

Lipstick and lust are commonly associated with one another, where it is seen in stanza 34, with the narrator having gotten what she was satisfied with from August.

In the end, all of the narrator’s makeup depicts her pride, the excessive view of one’s self. In this case, she believes all the attention should be on her, annoyed each time her parents were continuously mentioned, even though they were already deceased. With her personality and attitude, she would normally be seen as a beast, but all the concealer, lipstick, and so on, allow her to hide behind a mask that can fool those around to see her as a queen, the subject of everyone’s conversations.


Featured Image – She who has no name or face (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AasZAYyJfW8)

To What Salvation Owes

Welcome to this puzzle, this everlasting mystery
One that took place not during our time, but past history
This certain poetic story revolves around questioning
It’s ambience hopefully quite interesting
To discover the culprit, or culprits should I say
A certain double-nature might lead you astray

So please like and comment, it would very much please me
That you appreciate the time I took to write this tragedy


(1) Smoke from ships swirl up

A gentleman in his automobile

Little ladies walking their pups

Complaints and trips once walk comes to kneel

 

london

image Jan Arkesteijn 2010© (Public Domain Mark 1.0)

(2) Inhaled on one end, bright orange on the other

Umbrella clacked on the cobblestone

Grey clouds and frigid heat out to smother

The Queen pampered upon her throne

 

(3) 1347 Street of Wellflower

Office, place of rest, the location

Come all to take the role of the confider

Attracted to the thought of relieviation, a solution

 

(4) A trained detective and gentleman, he listens

But this time, no voice was hoarse, clear, or heard

Sharp knife in hand decreeing “letter open”

Addressed to Graham Granadere, inked with black lettering, only a few words

 

(5) Reina Wilder, calculating blue eyes, all too capable

Her puffed white clouds ceased to breathe

One with such common occurrence, how casual

“Captain Meyer requests assistance again with a rather gruesome deed.”

 

blue eyes

photo BarbaraALane 2016© (CC0 1.0)

(6) “Send for the carriage my fair lady.”

The matted coat, the drooped tail, luxury at its finest

A wasteful night to be interrupted by this calamity

“Meyer seemed troubled. Best to keep your wits at the ready.”

 

(7) Brown mud road mapped out,

Unluckiness spread across the vast field

But smooth, with a doubt

To lead through pine trees, a house revealed

 

(8) “Sir and madam, allow me to take your hats.”

With unusually strong legs the maid hobbled towards Wilder

Worn to the bone most likely by the distraught aristocrats

Shriveled hands Graham doubted would last a year longer

 

(9) “Mr. Graham, Ms. Wilder, nice of you to make it out so soon.”

“Of course Captain, such urgency could not have been kept waiting.”

In the garden, the sight basked in the rays of the afternoon

Flashes and snaps, faces pale and green, gathering evidence and praying

 

(10) “Poor thing, may the Lord be with her.”

“Certainly.” Hands covered in blue, only to be met with a wine red

“Poppy Swanson is her name. Time of death we concur,

Midnight of yesterday, withs lights off, and all to bed.”

 

(11) Guts spilled, as clean as hastiness could achieve

Left bare with the exception of a red flower and sewn black twine

One to reaffirm an identity, the other for silence, perhaps to aggrieve

Preserved was her holiness, crossed arms over chest, yet hollowed like a swine
poppies

photo Mauro_B 2017© (CC0 1.0)

(12) “Any other clues yet Wilder?”

“None, other than this cross is what can be seen Graham.”

“A tough puzzle it seems, to solve the question of who was the murderer?”

The overwhelming herbs among the red lined path to meet the gent and madame.

 

(13) “Oh, our only daughter, whittled to a pile of bones and humiliation.”

Kayleigh Swanson’s lament took to the form of wails

A woman beside her with features so similar, opened her mouth with hesitation

“Calm, dear sister. Though she is lost, God will lead them to the culprit without fail.”

 

(14) “First the owl, then my child, what’s more to be lost?”

The mother’s tears dripped upon Mila Kingston’s bright red attire

“Tell me detectives, to what extent do your best services cost?”

“Mr. Swanson, that shall have to wait; until the case is solved shall we begin to require.”

 

(15) Arrives the knight in the moment, Bailey Kingston

To lead the poor couple to closed quarters with Mrs. Kingston remaining

“My job as a doctor calls detectives. 9 p.m. is my hour off, so I shall see you then.”

“Before you go Mrs. Kingston, tell me the meaning of this cross the deceased was wearing.”

 

(16) A flash of silver fitted around the finger caught his attention

More so than her words of, “No, but I’m afraid it is to be held the other way.”

Graham pocketed the accessory once more, viewing her descension

With that, he determined only the gathering of evidence shall be held that day.

 

(17) “Shall we explore the rest of this mansion for clues?”

“No questions need be asked. Might I suggest the following of the lady?”

“Do as you shall, but remember, pursue in another’s mask and shoes.”

Now he swore he had seen this before, the event screaming familiarity.

 

(18) With fresh air in mind, he traversed the yard

Only a fox to be the witness, though its muzzle spoke no words

The remains shipped to that blackened house, yet to be observed, then charred

With nothing left, the puzzle strengthened, but a patient soul is undeterred.

 

(19) Back into the carpeted common area, sparks flying in the corner

To which attracted the cold, trench-coated body

Whose mind raced along the tracks as he reached the flames’ border

There it surfaced, or rather burned, for the eyes of one or everybody.

 

(20) Only the criminal can tell, but isn’t one a criminal at their choosing?

An old oak bucket to serve a purpose, the water cool among the coals

With no fear with leather-bounded hands, he began the process of recovering.

A key, be it for a door, a desk, a book. It was indeed an object with many roles.

 

(21) Assistance in the form of elegant etching offered something to correspond,

Led Graham up to another floor, met with a brown piece of plank.

Informed that the deceased had held property over any possessions beyond

He gave a try, but alas, the handle already turned with a clank.

 

(22) Emotionless, her companions lay on the bed

A bookcase placed upon the desk, no locks seen that offered protection

A stride and another, his fingers ran over books whose titles read

The Little Princess, Goodnight Mr. Bunny, and To take action.

 

(23) The irregular wording, or the realization of the depth of a little girl’s mind

The gold slipped through, the false cover limp against its true identity

A cheerful sunflower she was, then a dark hydrangea, now redesigned

Weighed down with despair, a beating heart among her own, a shift in her body.

 

(24) He is watching, he who knows me. Closeness does not guarantee my safety.

But he who flaunts his wealth and his threats, often misses the fine lining.

Lining, lining, a word whose meaning can be applied to a few only.

What lies in those words lies in the book, whose lining consists of strong bindings.

 

(25) Exposing his skin to the unheated room, breath as vapor between his teeth

A slight bump emerged from within, inside the front of the start of woes

A film of reel, quite different, unusual, wealthy, a word of note written underneath:

“The truth of my enemy, my loving foe.”

 

(26) Off he rushed to the clinic of knives, a hasty goodbye to the Kingston man

As he seized a steed, its black pelt flowing like the rippling water

From a biting wind to the heat of the heart, with free-standing shops and a caravan

‘Twas not a far travel to reach his stop, ironically placed beside the holy altar.

 

(27) “Doctor, my good sir, allow for a peek inside Ms. Swanson.

She who may be burned too swiftly, but given a chance at hope.”

“Then you´ve arrived at the right time, moments before we have yet to begun.”

With tools so delicate and murderous, red ashes brought under the scope.

 

(28) “By jove, so it´s true that a single life ended was not so,

With shared bonds ripped apart before left with time to grow.”

Though where the unborn was, none could consider, besides her beau

But inside the pocket, spoke the film denying it instead as a tale of woe.

 

(29) Another stop to be made to watch the film, patience worn and pained

“Seat yourself Mr. Granadere. Let the pictures reveal the satisfaction to your desire.”

“Help,” mouthed the ghost girl, determined to not have died without vain

“Why are you pointing at me dear? Behind you stands the happy songs and the choir.”
poppy trapped

Poppy Swanson – image RondellMelling 2015© (CC0 1.0)

(30) Would he who fathered cease his desire, his fulfillment, his fun?

Now it returned, the memory of an article authored many moons past

Which one thought in this time could not be undone

“A mother with lust on the streets, a lone daughter to be given up at last.”

 

(31) The notions of a new beginning, new riches, new jewels

All for someone with a shared name, refusal would be unwise for the needy

But like all stories go, the abandoner found herself to be the fool

With flaunted parts chopped, and a reverse cross, all found the scene ghastly.

 

(32) “Nothing solid gathered, but noted that Mrs. Mila Kingston is strangely observant.

Her eyes focused on a brash man threatening a lady to be his concubine.”

“Good find Wilder, for I have one too. Mr. Swanson is a debaucher, which I find quite relevant.

The moon is high, this game drawn on too long. Now’s the time to draw the line.”

 

(33) “Seek out Mrs. Kayleigh Swanson and present with her the facts.

No matter the shock, she must know and flee with you.”

“And you Graham, from where you stand will certainly attract

One who sinned to come out of the blue.”

 

(34) “Fear not my comrade, my closest companion.

When push comes to shove, with which I have no doubt for,

I ask that you be no more than a full step upon a stallion.”

Ebony hair gone at God-speed, intent on ceasing Mr. Swanson’s encore.

 

(35) Now he lay, shadows scrawled across the dim walls

Awakened eyes closed as the door cried for oil,

Only to settle into its niche, a pitter-patter down the halls

The comfort was not to last as he sought for a plan to foil.

 

(36) Along the streets of London stood time,

Only to shift once the moon lost its glory

Behind a wisp of gray, whilst both traveled with prime

One with a destination, another stumbling blindly.
dark street

photo Nicolas Vigier 2010© (CC0 1.0)

(37) A pause, a shadowed door looming in their view

With a quick “click,” the house gained a forbidden red guest

Not yet a moment, the emptiness was pierced, away the souls flew

A grand entrance he made, witness to her attempting to digest.

 

(38) “Ah, ah, ah seems as though we have been followed.”

The brash man of Reina’s tale laid bare, mouth full with his own being

And so did his mistress, chest open and hollowed

A cross over her neck for doom or well-being.

 

(39) With stomach churned and bile having tickled the throat

Graham remained, Mila’s bloodied mouth prepared for a tale

“Questions you must have, but heed them not. Without me they weren’t worth a goat.

Now if you think I am Mrs. Kingston, then you have failed.”

 

(40) “For the ring I wear shows faith, not an affair.

It’s quite safe to say only for her job has she surfaced.

Blind to the world, but I strive to bring one faithful care.

I bring salvation, a journey to the heavens, a grand service.”

 

(41) “But your own niece? What cruel measures to be taken.”

“A weak heart she would have succumbed by, her child following suit.

But now she has peace, free from the hands of Satan.

And her child, stored inside me, when made as a soup.”

 

(42) “For she deserves a vessel full of wholeness and joy,

Of which she could not have been given when left to chance.

And the story repeats with this woman he had sought to toy.

But now she is released. Among the clouds she may dance.”

 

(43) Red upon red, her appearance morphed

Eyes once starred now oozed with horror

Fangs coated in flesh without an ounce of remorse

Tongue dragged across lips with body lurching forward.

 

(44) His grasp on a most trusted handle, the sound of hope striking the floor

“I wouldn’t think about it Graham, dear, unless you yearn to burn.”

The barrel of steel pressed further, his defeat forced.

“So tell me, what means of death will leave your soul unconcerned?”

 

(45) And among the night, not just he was held captive

As the wife of the fox slipped through Wilder, aimed at her hated beloved

“Was I not enough to then view our daughter as an objective?

To sell into purgatory, to become corrupted?”

 

(46) The black-winged son of Swan

Could only stand with hands raised up

With eyes glazed in shock and no words to respond

His counterpart quick to fire were he to interrupt.

 

(47) Two sides, two heroes, two villains unmasked

Only two can prevail, with two to lose

So how does the story end you ask?

Well, why don’t you go ahead and choose?

Explanations (Spoilers):

Fear not my friends, for the rhyming will cease here. This section will be an explanation on what occurs in each stanza, as well as any symbols or clues that were presented. Once you have read these, try going back to the actual poem and see if the stanza becomes clearer.

Stanzas 1 and 2:

  • These two stanzas simply set the setting of London in the 19th century, when steamships were still in use, hence the smoke. In the poem, I wanted it to be a gloomy London day, the sun shrouded by thick, grey clouds early in the morning. Our detective, Graham Granadere makes a cameo in this scene, with an umbrella in hand and a cigarette in his mouth.

Stanza 3:

  • This depicts the place of work for Graham, where the office is located on 1347 Street of Wellflower. With this, people are able to visit in search for solutions in any questions or mysteries they have.

Stanza 4:

  • A letter is sent to the office instead of an actual person inquiring for Graham’s services this time, in which the envelope is opened by a knife.

Stanza 5:

  • Graham’s assistant Reina Wilder is introduced in this stanza, and although she is a lady, she indulges in a good smoke from time to time. Both see the letter as a common occurrence, especially since it came from Captain Meyer from the Yard, in which it can be inferred that he needs their help quite often.

Stanza 6:

  • In this stanza, the two call for a carriage to take them to the scene of the crime, and although the horse isn’t in pristine condition, it is considered a luxurious form of travel seeing he did not own an automobile. Now, the quiet night he had hoped for is gone, having been replaced by a mystery.

Stanza 7:

  • The second line of the stanza may confuse some, where the horse’s hoof prints resemble unluckiness since the horseshoe often has a superstition based on luck surrounding it. When faced upwards, it is lucky, but when faced downwards, it is unlucky.

Stanza 8:

  • This is somewhat self-explanatory, with an elderly maid offering to take the hats of both Graham and Reina.

Stanza 9:

  • Captain Meyer greets Graham and Reina in this scene, leading them to the back garden with other officers from the Yard attempting to take pictures of the sight, where some are sick to their stomachs and others praying.

Stanza 10:

  • Graham, upon seeing the sight of deceased Poppy Swanson, prays for the Lord to be with her. However, Wilder, the less emotional between the two, immediately starts gathering evidence with a blue-gloved hand, swiping at the blood splattered on the grass.

Stanza 11:

  • Poppy’s body is laid out bare on the grass of the backyard, with pieces of flesh surrounding her. In her hands is a red flower, a symbol to her name, Poppy, a red colorful flower. This symbolizes that Mila Kingston took the time to pay tribute to the victim.
  • Meanwhile, her mouth and genitalia are sewn closed with black twine, the sewn mouth representing confidentiality, while the sewn genitalia is due to her “aunt” ensuring that her assaultation will no longer be able to take place.
  • Lastly, her stomach was hollow, the contents inside having been dissected by her “aunt”, which included her unborn child, only to be consumed later on.

Stanza 12:

  • There were no other clues among Poppy’s body except that of an upside-down cross, where the meaning revolved around Saint Peter. Although “Mila” wanted to grant Poppy salvation, she knew that she did not deserve to die in the same manner as Christ seeing as she was impure.
  • Meanwhile, the last line describes of the herbs in the garden overtaking the red (flowers), in which it symbolizes Sage Swanson (symbol for the herbs) dominating over Poppy Swanson (symbol for the red flowers).

Stanza 13:

  • Here, Kayleigh Swanson is crying for the lost of her daughter, while her sister, Mila Kingston is attempting to reassure her by believing that God will find the culprit and bring them to justice.

Stanza 14:

  • Kayleigh Swanson describes how she had lost her pet owl before her daughter, which in this case, the owl stands for the death of her wisdom. Kayleigh was unaware of Sage’s assaults on Poppy, where the fox she adopted as her new pet stood as the “raising of the enemy” since the fox is the owl’s predator.

Stanza 15:

  • Bailey Kingston escorts the Swanson couple up into their room for consolation, while Mrs. Kingston prepares to head to her work as a doctor, but Graham decides to question her about the upside-down cross first.

Stanza 16:

  • “Mila’s” ring catches Graham’s eyes more so than her words, where one can deduce he found it unusual compared to a traditional wedding ring. In this case, it was a purity ring, where Poppy’s purity is no more. In this case, it was taken by her father, a cruel and insensitive individual, where “Mila” is a cruel murderer as well.

Stanza 17:

  • Wilder suggests the following of Mila to her workplace, where Graham reminds her to disguise herself first before realizing that this case seemed familiar to a past event.

Stanza 18:

  • The detective attempts to gather any clues that may still be left in the garden, but to no avail, where he only saw Kayleigh’s fox in its pen. Unfortunately, even if it was the witness to the murder, it wouldn’t be able to tell anyone who the culprit was.

Stanza 19:

  • Back in the living room, Graham is attracted to the fireplace due to the cold weather, but behind the flames, he notices something of interest.

Stanza 20:

  • Although the object is unknown at first, Graham quickly put out the fire and reaches into the fireplace to produce a key. However, the purpose of it is a mystery, even for him.

Stanza 21:

  • Along the side of the key is Poppy’s name (the elegant etching), which leads Graham up to her room, quite sure that it was her who had hidden the key and how it could correspond with any of her belongings. He first tries it as a key to her door, but it didn’t fit, with the door having been unlocked in the first place.

Stanza 22:

  • He comes across the stuffed animals that laid on Poppy’s bed, then noticing the bookcase above her desk. However, there aren’t any cabinets with locks that the key could fit into, which leads him to the bookcase next. There, he notices the books with the titles of: The Little Princess, Goodnight Mr. Bunny, and To take action.

Stanza 23:

  • Realizing how To take action did not match the titles of the other books in regards to their innocence and childish tales, Graham takes it out from its place. With that, it’s revealed to be her diary, to which the key fit perfectly into.
  • There, he reads Poppy’s happy entries morph into those of despair, especially when she discovered that she was pregnant.

Stanza 24:

  • Her entries warn that her position was caused by someone close to her, who was also in possession of wealth. Within her words, she hints at something hidden among the fine lining, where Graham figures out that the pages and words are held together by the binding of the diary.

Stanza 25:

  • Pulling of his glove, he drags his fingers across the leather covers of the diary, uncovering a film reel beneath the front cover with the saying “The truth of my enemy, my loving foe” written underneath it.
  • The italicized “wealthy” is due to the probability that film may have been expensive during the 19th century during photography having been created during that time.

Stanza 26:

  • With new clues and evidence, he rushes to the morgue that’s placed next to an altar on the back of a horse.

Stanzas 27 and 28:

  • Given permission and help by the doctor there, Poppy’s pregnancy is confirmed, but the father and the location of the unborn child are uncertain. There’s only one other thing he could turn to at that point, which is the piece of film in his pocket.

Stanza 29:

  • After leaving the morgue, Graham makes his way to a store specialized in photography, where he is able to watch the family video Poppy had hidden in her diary. In it, he can see her mouthing “help” and pointing to her father behind the camera, revealed by his voice.

Stanza 30:

  • With that, Graham questions what would have caused a father to abandon his faith, his morals, and his wife only to go after his own daughter instead.
  • Now, the previous case comes back into mind, one of which was gruesome enough to cause people to question whether it would happen again.
    • It began with a mother in prostitution who had given birth to an unwanted child through a frivolous act.

Stanza 31:

  • Lured by murderer by the notion of money, she was all too willing to give up her child, for refusal would mean death for her child, as well as herself.
  • However, she found herself to be the fool, as she was captured, with the body parts that prostitutes would show off, chopped off. Around her body, there was also an upside-down cross hung around her neck.

Stanza 32:

  • The scene shifts back into the Swanson’s mansion, with Reina reporting that Mila was strangely intrigued by a man harassing a prostitute in the street.
  • Graham reveals that Mr. Sage Swanson is a debaucher, in which he believes this whole tested game should end, already having an idea of who the culprit was.

Stanza 33:

  • Graham urges Reina to reveal the truth to Kayleigh Swanson who must be ushered to safety until Sage was arrested.
  • Reina objects to fleeing without Graham, in which the murderer is sure to come after him next if his guess was correct.

Stanza 34:

  • However, he assures Reina that everyone will eventually turn out fine, for he trusts that she will be right behind were something to happen to him. After that, Reina leaves to warn Kayleigh.

Stanza 35:

  • Left alone in the room, he pretends to be asleep, the only source of light coming from the moon outside, shadows casted on the walls. Soon after, the door to his room creaks open, only to close after, the perpetrator making their way down the hallway. Of course, Graham is close behind.

Stanza 36:

  • The streets of London were dark and quiet during the night, streets dim, only for the moon to guide the two along. While Mila has a destination, Graham is following blindly, unaware of where she is heading.

Stanza 37:

  • “Mila” finally stops in front of a small house, in which she made herself the new guest by picking the lock. Not a moment has passed before agonizing screams echoed through the night as she stabbed the man and woman that Mila had observed before.
  • Graham then rushes into the house, the screams spurring him into action.

Stanza 38:

  • “Mila” sees that Graham had been following her this whole time, while Graham notices the body of the man, castrated, partly eaten genitals in his mouth.
  • Meanwhile, the prostitute he had bothered earlier is deceased as well, with her heart extracted, and a reverse cross over her neck.

Stanza 39:

  • “Mila”, seeing Graham’s interest in her recent creations, proceeds to describe her own story, starting with how she wasn’t actually Mila Kingston.

Stanza 40:

  • As said earlier in the explanation for stanza 16, she explains that the ring she wears is not that of her marriage, but a purity ring instead. Again this is meant to symbolize Poppy’s purity having been taken away.
  • She also comments on how her counterpart, the real Mila Kingston, was blind to her surroundings, merely surfacing for her job and simply stands by as an observer. However, “Mila,” her second nature wants to bring salvation to everyone instead, where she will perform the service, no matter the extent.

Stanza 41:

  • Although she believes that she’s doing the right thing, Graham questions whether she may have taken it too far with her niece, to which she responds that it was the right thing to do to save her niece from both Sage and hell.

Stanza 42:

  • For Poppy’s unborn child, they were eaten by “Mila” as well, where she believes that it should have gone into someone full of joy compared to Poppy who had been corrupted.
  • She also relates this to the dead prostitute in the room, whose heart was eaten to release her from her sorrows and sent into “Mila’s” body for a chance at happiness.

Stanza 43:

  • Now Graham can clearly see the shift from Mila to “Mila,” where her body seemed to take on a grotesque, otherworldly form.

Stanza 44:

  • Graham is not able to reach for his gun in time, before “Mila” had shoved her own weapon into his stomach, threatening to pull the trigger if he did not surrender. Her last question to him is regarding his choice of death.

Stanzas 45 and 46:

  • The scene shifts to Kayleigh aiming a gun at Sage, where she had managed to escape from Reina. She questions where their love went wrong that caused Sage to assault Poppy.
  • Sage could only stand still as his wife is screaming at him, sure that any movement would result in immediate death.

Featured Image – image Comfreak 2015© (CC0 1.0)

Signed Love

The apartment was dark and dingy, the only light provided by the rays of light that shone through beige curtains littered with rips and tears.. Kennedy shut the door behind him, hearing the lock slide into place by its click. The boxes he had moved in with were stacked upon each other in a single pile. He had not come with much, nor required more than he needed, his parents both glad yet worried about that case. He walked forward, then noticing the musty smell that plagued the room, though its presence was more comforting than that of his parent’s nagging. The floor creaked dangerously beneath him as he proceeded forwards, turning left to view the kitchen, its counters clean with a few small dents. He laid his satchel that he had brought in with him on the floor, allowing it to lean against one of the boxes. Approaching the bedroom located on the right side, he came face to face with a full length mirror.

Must have been left by the previous owners.

His reflection gave way to an average-size man with a clean face and baggy clothing. He almost looked pathetic. Almost. He looked towards the window on the side, left bare while giving off a bright glow, dust particles seen swarming around it.

He averted his eyes, making his way back to the mirror. If anyone were to ask what he thought in that moment, it would be… nothing. He didn’t blink. Breathe. Gasp. Move. Run. Not even as she, sundress transparent like the rest of her body, extended an arm towards him. Blank-minded, he simply stood there, accepting God had finally decided on his departure from the world and a more able baby would be hakuna matata’d.

He didn’t know what to expect. One would normally expect the hand to pass through. But that logic was almost immediately debunked when he felt coldness seep through his shoulder as her fingers curled around it. It was then reality flooded back him, his nerves activated, feelings rebooted. His back crashed into the wall, his actions controlled by his brain, his brain controlled by his deceived eyes. He squeezed them shut, willing for the madness to clear away. 15 seconds. 30 seconds. 1 minute.

Should he have kept his eyes shut for 2 minutes? Would it have helped to have a stronger will? His lips parted, beads of sweat rerouted from rolling down as it caught onto the edge of his lips.

The woman remained there, her right hand that had touched him held far away as if it were no longer part of her body, her then blank face having morphed into a shocked expression.

Without a word, she glared at him, teeth bared, right hand clutched into a fist. Kennedy curled into a ball, his body as close to the wall as it can get, though it didn’t stop her advancements. She stopped right before him, her eyes cast down upon him, as if already branding him as an inferior creature.

“How can you see me? Why can I touch you?”

Silence met her questions, her frown turning into a scowl. “Don’t you understand me?” she growled, prompting him to tilt his head upwards before bringing it back down, the steps repeated for a few times.

“Then answer me damn it!”

Kennedy raised both his arms up gingerly, left with no other choice but to reveal the unexpected. He pointed to himself first, striking a finger atop another after, and ended it with a hand placed directly in front of his mouth. In case she did not understand, he tried to mouth I cannot speak.

However, he could tell she didn’t understand his actions by her confused expression, where she proceeded to back up. His eyes widened when she landed, and in a surprisingly soft though still guarded voice, she asked, “You can’t speak?”

Out of habit, he pressed his thumb to his index and middle fingers, though he mouthed his answer as well.

“Oh… But you understand what I say?”

This time, he simply reverted to nodding yes, any other effort sure to be futile. All that was heard after that was simply the closing of doors of next door neighbors. During that time, Kennedy’s eyes remained glued on the young lady, her listless floating intriguing. She held a hand to her chin, stroking her hair every now and then, deep in thought. He watched her spin around, flip over; her movements swift and fluid-like. He closed his eyes, a plan of standing up and politely asking if she could leave him alone having already formed in his hand.

He just needed to politely ask if she could leave to find another home with no other people. There’s a journal with a pen in the satchel outside. He can get to it, calm breaths.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes, only to stare right into pure white cesspools

white eyes alone

photo Engin_Akyurt 2012© (CC0 1.0)

with the cream wall in slightly visible in the background.

“So tell me, how can a human like you see a ghost like me?”

Kennedy struggled out of her grasp as best he could, her grip surprisingly strong for someone he presumed deceased. He made a mad dash for his journal, hearing angry cries behind him as the room suddenly grew colder. He dived for it, immediately scribbling the words Please don’t hurt me. I don’t know why I can see you. Please believe me! He whipped the journal around just in time, nearly choking on his own breath when he felt the sharp tip of her nails around his neck before they slowly slipped away.

“You know, you could’ve just gestured to the journal instead of doing… what you just did.”

Casting his eyes down to the ground, he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly, embarrassed that even he, who has been subjected to countless acts of bullying couldn’t keep a somewhat level-headed mind.

“Anyway, it’s fine. I’m not mad that you can see me or anything, more like confused. But it has been lonely without anyone to talk to for 16 years.

He whipped his head up at the sound of that, and with an eyebrow raised, he pressed pen to paper. He hesitantly raised it back up, her reassurement not having had the utmost effect on him.

“What happened to you?” she read, the corners of her mouth dipping downwards moments after. “Why should I tell you anything?”

Please, will you at least tell me your name? Mine is Kennedy…

“Daphne…” she revealed after a moment’s thought. “It’s only best I tell you that since I’ll be stuck with you for a while. Not like I can leave anyway. Wouldn’t want you to refer me as ghost girl every time.”

In her eyes was a defiant look as she landed back down once more, her delicate feet hitting the floor without a sound. Kennedy had no choice but to nod along. Even if he wanted to run out and immediately contact a housing agency, which even God would have known by now, he wouldn’t have the funds to do so.

He excused himself a moment later, quickly shutting the bedroom door behind him. He wreathed his fingers through his hair, breathing heavily. What was happening to him? He slumped down by the door as he wrapped his arms around his knees, head enclosed between them and his chest. There was no telling how long he remained in that position, but when he finally looked up, the gold light that had illuminated the room earlier was now white. He walked over to the window, glancing up at the full moon, taking comfort in the soft light.

He walked over and opened the door, his back crying for the mattress that leaned against the wall opposite the kitchen. But just as he had exited the room, he came across a mystical sight. There she lay, as bright as the stars above, an arm casted over her face, stretched out on the couch.

He carefully made his way across the room, careful as to not disturb her, although he couldn’t help but cast another glance her way. She was absolutely radiant, the thought embedded in his mind even after he collapsed onto the mattress after pushing it into the room. Even after he closed his eyes and a dark void opened up.

The morning gave way to a buzzing in his front pocket, where he involuntarily reached towards it to shut off the aggravating chime. He remained on the mattress, hair disheveled with his shirt raised halfway up, abdomen revealed. His blanket had been kicked towards the bottom of the bed, the result of a plaguing nightmare. It ran through his head throughout the night, a white-eyed otherworldly woman. It had felt so real.

His face twisted into an expression, in which he could only picture being disturbed, hands in hair as they worked out the still-gelled strands. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed away any other thoughts besides that of getting ready for his first day at work.

The suit and tie he had carefully folded was in pristine condition, left in its exact position in the box of which he’d labeled clothes. He’d put the other clothes into the closet later. Button-down shirt, then slacks. Suit over, loop the rabbit into the hole to secure the tie. Satchel on hand. Left shoe. Right shoe.

His fingers curled around the door handle, ready to twist downwards and expose his room to a brief amount of sunlight before a sinister feeling washed over him. It surged throughout his body, brain attempting to register the events of the night before, though it only led to a sharp pang, followed by nothingness. 1 2 3. 1 2 3. 1 2 3.

If counting up wouldn’t work, would counting down do the trick? 3 2 1. 3 2 1. And look. He didn’t know what to expect with his heartbeat echoing in his ears as he took in the view of his empty, gloomy living room filled with what he only realized was horrible olive green furniture. A closer observation revealed a case of mold wedged between the cushion and the leg. Perhaps it was his perfecting sense that drew his attention, making a mental note to purchase new furniture later.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he advanced into the open, the lock in place once the door fully closed with the key tucked away in his pocket.

Were a university not seen up close, the scale would tend to depict a much smaller structure. But to see it in person, it was a different story. Even the parking space seemed as if it stretched out for miles on end, but even so, a majority of the slots were filled up. Once he pushed the gear shift into park, he leaned back into his seat, his car ceiling all that was in his sights. His confidence was lacking, but wouldn’t theirs be if they were in his shoes. What would the students think? How will they treat him? A quick glance at his phone ended his silent pity party, effectively sending him across the campus in a flurry, papers and all.

Hello. The white words on the board were met with a chorus of cries, though all mouths were shut when he raised his hand a palm up, a silent indication of “stop.” Instead, he waved his hand once, a swift motion from right to left, a gesture repeated by the rest, though he made it easier for those right-handed by allowing them to wave from left to right. One step down, another year’s worth of content left, as well as an exhausted left arm as he erased the word and wrote down his next instructions.


Kennedy remained in the empty classroom, jotting down the last of his plans in his agenda. The translator he requested would not be available until the next 2 weeks, and until then, his left arm would take a drastic blow. Just as he set his pen down, a chime of his phone drew his attention towards it, with an involuntary smile curled upon on his lips when he read the message.

Hey honey. The two of us feel like going out to eat tonight. Pick a restaurant?

Let’s go to Bourbon Village, your favorite. I’ll pick you guys up.

Sounds great (:

Placing his papers and books back into his bag, he slung it over his shoulders and turned off the lights as he left the room, a satisfying click behind him as the doors shut.


The Bourbon Village’s dim lights simply added to the romantic vibe, while casting a luminous glow upon his fiance’s, Lavender, stomach. The bump was extremely noticeable, other guests moving cautiously aside as they passed through to their table. The restaurant wasn’t at its most popular at the hour, a good thing in his opinion, a table facing the marvelous stained window still open.

You look beautiful today Lavender, he wrote in his journal.

“Thank you darling. I actually have a bit of a surprise for you today.” Her red lips formed a delighted smile as she stroked his hand. “I understand that you’ll definitely need it.”

He removed his hand from underneath her’s and replaced it on the top, wrapping his fingers around hers before she slowly pulled it out of his grasp. Kennedy didn’t find it was abnormal , until she wrapped her fingers around a shadowed figure behind her.

Anyone could see that his face didn’t betray his emotions, and if they needed a push in figuring out what he was feeling, his actions would have helped as he slammed his hands down onto the table and stood up.

“Honey, I’d like to introduce you to the father of the baby.”

He gripped the tablecloth, the silverware clashing against each other. “Oh don’t be mad. I’ll have you know that I fairly enjoyed the one night with you, but he’s better overall.”

Why would you pretend all along?

“Darling, I’m surprised you haven’t figured it out yet.” Her smile returned, but this time, she resembled the Evil Queen whose desire had been satisfied by Snow White’s delivered heart. “Your money of course.”

Kennedy took a step back, and immediately the world blurred before his eyes. “Don’t worry man. We’ll put the ring you gave Lavender to good use, the pawn shop being our next stop of course.”

The bottles on his seat rolled and clanged against each other, the sound echoing in his ears. He was surprised with the silence of the night, sirens not heard yet. He made a right turn into the parking space of what he made out to be his apartment complex, the restaurant scene swirling in his mind as he did so. He had stumbled out of the restaurant soon after, with Lavender and her lover having left before him. The staff attempted to reassure him, having offered him a free meal, of which he denied. Instead, he made his way to the nearest liquor store instead.

His head threatened to split under the pressure, the dark room of the apartment welcoming after he had stood outside, the keys refusing to enter the slot for what felt like hours.

“Kennedy?”

He looked up to see an angelic view in front, white hair and all. So she’s real. It wasn’t all a dream that night.

“What happened to you?

Before he knew it, he burst into tears, the ground cruel to his knees when he collapsed. His stained cheeks were once again replaced with fresh, new streams. He felt chills running through his face as two gentle thumbs wiped away his tears.

“Don’t cry. Calm down. Don’t go around reminding me of me.

The words seemed foreign to him in that moment. All he could register were the soft hands that so delicately held him together. Leaning into one, the touch was so foreign, but safe at the same time and he clutched to it hungrily. He cracked open his eyes and the world swirled before him.


Everything aches. Even the chirping of the birds caused him to wince, a headache manifesting. He peeked his eyes open, immediately determining it as a terrible idea, though it didn’t scar him compared to the event last night. He moved his right hand slightly to the side, expecting the soft bedding. Instead, he found a solid, cold, white arm, to which he responded by frantically moving back until he ended up hitting the wooden floor.

“Keep the noise down won’t you? You weren’t the easiest to deal with last night you know?”

Kennedy pushed himself up with the help of the wall behind, Daphne having got up herself. She floated over the bed and landed in front of him, but made sure to keep her distance. “Are you okay?”

He faltered at those words, giving her a confused look in reply.

“Do you remember what happened last night?” A nod.

She placed a hand on his shoulder, garnering a wary expression from him, but faded at once when he looked into her eyes. “Whatever happened, I’m sorry.” Her wispy eyes held stormy, thundering clouds behind them.

Whether it be by instinct or a gut feeling, he suspected that she had gone through a similar ordeal. Suddenly, he was even more curious now, the fear of death the last thing on his mind. To be honest, he wouldn’t mind it at that point. But he had to know. Why was she here? What happened to her. Perhaps the heartbreak established this recklessness within him, but he found himself stroking her jaw with his finger, trailing it down until he reached her chin. He brought her eyes, glued to his finger in shock, up again to his, willing her to reveal her own story.

A blink, and he caught himself. He let his hand fall limp against his side. What was he getting himself into? A heart can only be shattered into so many pieces.

He pushed her aside, his back turned on her while he made his way into the living room. Whatever she felt of his rude manner, he didn’t care. Nobody was ever there for him, the excessive belittling, the snickers behind the money, the false perception of barriers broken through the once love of his life. A mute person like him had no one else to lean on beside himself. Now, he was determined to keep it that way, even if it meant maintaining a cold expression to the world.

All she did was stand by his bedroom, her eyes strictly focused on him, even as he slipped on his shoes by the door. It made him uncomfortable, the thought that she was challenging him to relinquish his silent vow.

“Kennedy. You better tell me what happened when you get home. And I expect you not to drink while driving home this time.

Not wanting to make eye contact, he merely stared at the ground in front of her, first noticing the scratch on the wood, then her petite feet. Was it worth telling her? Perhaps he should, only as an exchange for the assistance the night before, nothing else. After that he was done.

A nod sealed his promise and the day repeated itself as it did.


This was silly. The apartment door stared back at him, amused and confused as he could imagine, with his keys dangling in his hands. It had been 45 minutes since he had made his way home. 20 since he turned into the driveway. 15 since he approached his door. Room 105. This was it. So why couldn’t he go in? Because he was all too sure a ghost by the name of Daphne would be standing by, awaiting his story. No longer was he extremely frightened of her, but the thought of recalling the incident would lead to the toilet becoming his throne for at least an hour. To throw up of course.

Maybe it was the 15 deep breaths he took, the children and their parents gawking at him strangely when they entered their own rooms, or the fact that it was 67°F outside, but the keys eventually entered the slot. As expected, there she was. Sitting cross-legged on the couch, she declared, “You’re late.”

He set his satchel down and pulled out the journal, writing only Traffic jam. Sorry.

“Hmm, yes, those can slow you down alright,” she drawled. “Now why don’t you start telling me about what happened, so I can attempt to help? I would hate to have to stick around a body found dead from alcohol poisoning. It’s just not my thing”

He grimaced, not knowing whether to take it as a willingness to help or an insult. Nonetheless, he began writing, and 10 pages later, it was over. Since having begun, he glanced up, surprised to see a tear drip down from her own cheek. From that moment on, two tales of broken hearts plagued room 105, and a pure relationship sprung from the chaos.

Daphne Nguyen, a once cheerful 30 year old, deeply in love with her boyfriend of 4 years. Moments with him were lustful, tantalizing, and romantic. Having abandoned her vow of purity until marriage, she had offered herself after much begging from him. One fateful day, the calls she had placed were not going through, and worried, she rushed over to his place. Unbeknownst to him, she knew where his spare key was: hidden behind the thorny rose bush in the front yard. But how she wished she hadn’t entered, but if she hadn’t, then she would have only continued to play the fool. There they were, in open view to whoever opened the door. A woman near her bursting point and… him. That sight will remain with her forever, but 2nd on the list to what he did next. Refusing to accept her departure, he dragged her back to the apartment, and demanded almost all the money she had be wired to him, all with a lethal weapon of course. A few days later, the police found a bloodied knife and bathtub after a call from worried neighbors.

The coldness that seeped into his bones did not compare to what he had to do. They remained intertwined in each other’s arms for the rest of the night, and after that, they found only smiles and relief with each other.


It was a beautiful fall night, the orange leaves lit up by the overhanging lamps of the shops that lined the street, as the weather was satisfyingly cool. Nearly a whole year had passed, and they had grown closer, offering solace to the other. But he was happy now, an emotion he thought would have been long-gone a while back.

“Hey! Stop! That’s ours!”

The near empty street served in the cries reaching his ears, and after a moment’s hesitation after determining the source to be the alleyway, he eventually made his way after hearing more pained and aggravated shouts.

A dim, white street lamp above the scene, the face he thought he would never see again was revealed in its disgusting triumph as she viewed the elderly couple cower beneath her and a group of other men. One of which was the bastard. Just as he prepared to stomp down on the old man, Kennedy intercepted by ramming his body into him. To say that whole gang was surprised would earn anyone an A+, but to guess what they did afterwards would lead to extra credit. It didn’t take long for two of the men to corner him, as they entrapped him between their arms, but only after he had ushered the elderly couple out of the way.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t my old darling. Nice to see that you costed us about $1000.”

“Now honey, he couldn’t have known that we’ve stalked that old couple enough to know they usually carry big bucks around.”

Her lover circled her like a snake, loyal to its master, while planting kisses on her face and rounded stomach.

“We’ll just have to teach him a lesson, so he knows his place. Boys… break ‘em.”


By the time the police arrived, his throat hurt from the attempts at screaming, fingers broken down to the metacarpal bones themselves as the doctors would say later.

The hospital room held an aseptic smell, familiar and nostalgic. Reminded him of when his parents did everything they could to replace his vocal chords before they eventually gave up. He didn’t know how long she would be able to stay, but it would be ideal were she to make it soon since the nurse had forgotten the key piece he would need in his room.

“Kennedy? What happened?”

She floated beside him, her eyes brimmed with tears and it didn’t take long for them to begin leaking out. “Oh, your hands.”

Her lithe fingers stroked them cautiously, as though she feared she would only worsen the pain were she press a bit harder.

He grasped her attention by wheezing, the only option left in communicating, a primitive technique indeed. She faced him, attempting a weak smile to give him her attention. It soon faded however, her eyes having followed his eyes to the scalpel left on the tray on the bedside table, while he gestured to neck using his bandaged hands.

“No! I won’t do that! You have so much more to live for!”

How,” he mouthed.

“Well… You can communicate through body language, your eyes, your… your…” The little stream on her cheeks developed into a raging river. “No, no, I can’t. You can’t,” she repeatedly said, her head fixed on moving left to right. “I can’t be left alone again.”

He raised up a hand, brushing away her tears with his bandages as best he could. He gave her a reassuring smile, shaking his head “no” himself, albeit for a different reason that he knew she understood. Without his hands, he couldn’t do anything. There would be no jobs available while his hands were in that condition, and it would surely take many years for them to remotely begin healing, in which he’d have to stay with his parents, the last thing he wanted.

After much coaxing, Daphne finally brought herself to grasp the scalpel, the shaking evident. Her hand trembled as she brought it to his neck, the cold metal soothing his burning neck in the overheated room. Taking another look at her eyes, he pulled her in and planted a kiss, making sure that their final moment together would be worth remembering forever.

Leaning back, he closed his eyes, and trusted that she would make it as painless and swift as possible.


He felt different. Lighter. Free. Kennedy opened his eyes to see Daphne lying atop him in tears.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! I wish I could just join you. But instead I’m here… Why… why couldn’t I just join you?!”

“But then you wouldn’t be with me after all.”

If she was surprised, he was even more so. He thought that those words were merely spoken in his head as they usually were, but for once, they were heard.

“Kennedy?”

He floated up, eager to stand as he embraced Daphne in his arms, drawing her closer once in an upright position.

“Why don’t we go back to the apartment?”

Together, they rose up through the roof into the night sky, leaving his body and past

hands

photo AlexVan 2011© (CC0 1.0)

behind as they planned to mend their wounds as one, hand in hand.


Featured Image – photo hummerliz0 2013© (CC0 1.0)

 

 

Emotions

Emotions. Their voices are heard every day, several at a time, affecting those around you equally. They require special attention, affecting decisions and requiring consultation. Nevertheless, they caused the times when you seemed to lose all hope or contributed to some of your most cherished memories. Let’s explore some together shall we?


It’s been a long day, frustrating to say the least. The screaming, moaning just wouldn’t cease. The mindless mumbling went on, creating an agony within, a throbbing having taken place now.

“Save it… Stop it.” The words were calm at first, but grew louder as the hours went by, the clock’s ticking hands moving ever so slowly, distracted by the darting eyes constantly landing on it.

Suddenly, a throbbing pain disrupted the concentration focused on keeping a list of growing items at bay.

“ELA homework is to edit the video and begin the essay due Wednesday. Maybe that can be started after the 30 problems for math are done. Still, the lesson wasn’t clear. And there’s the fact that the assignment for World History is due tomorrow too…” Again it repeated, and again, and again. Never ceasing.

“When… when will this be done? It can’t go on. Please. Stop.”

“The shower today should only take 10 minutes. Plenty of time to shampoo hair for 5 minutes and dry for 5 too. Okay, yes. Good plan.”

Second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour it grew. The pain manifested into a creature of its own. There was no need for any other emotions besides trying to suppress the madness that came with the worrying.

It went on. The listing, yet the completion of a task left a satisfaction that tasted like a red apple on a hot summer day. It hurt, but it was necessary. An act of survival, the constant fretting. Though at the end of the day, perhaps some of the pressure will have melted away as the tasks get checked off.


The day hadn’t ended, yet it still blew by faster than usual. If cyborg parts were to replace the brain, dopamine level warnings would surely have been triggered. Adrenaline seems to continuously course through the blue tinted veins, a smile worth a thousand moments remaining on chapped lips. If any type of food were to describe this sensation, leave it up to a nice slice of cake. Its sugary sweet frosting coating the roof of the mouth while the spongy cake releases new flavors, all will make one squirm in their seat.

Walk turns into a run, a run turns into a skip, perhaps a twirl will help someone passing by understand this feeling, if not the beaming smile that remains stuck there, through both lipsticked and bare lips. Even surrounding friends realize this energy, and if one wasn’t able to keep up, attention would be focused on them to bring them back up. However, the chance remains for assholes to comment on how they’re being quiet or boring. Remember… choose the former or get out of here… go bother coworkers or something.

So night falls, frantic texts ensue, maybe some emails need to be typed up. However, an urge to do these overpowers anything else, there’s just an abundance of excitement within the body. Even so, there needs to be funny or even punny videos by the side when working, to which the next hour… or 3 will be spent snorting and guffawing. The night’s dinner may not be settling in the stomach, but that doesn’t stop the constant rewind of America’s Funniest Videos or Kermit memes.


“He likes me, he doesn’t like me, he likes me, he doesn’t like me…” On and on, those words are repeated, a lovely rose petal wasted to the floor instead of remaining on the stem, all for the sake of the heart.

Unknown identities to both sides at first, introductions having taken place later when acquainted. Then, conversation takes place, a similar topic having pulled one and the other together, making a grand total of two. Realizing the other’s shared interests, acquaintanceship bloomed into friendship, though acknowledgement hasn’t been too fruitful.

Give it some time, perhaps a year, maybe two, maybe three, but soon, they’ll notice. “Hey there! How are you? It’s been a while since we talked.” Something along those lines will pop up as a message of some sorts. Out of politeness or maybe due to a spontaneous personality, a response will follow. “Hi! I’ve been doing pretty well. How about you?”

So it goes on… and out of curiosity, one will ask the other if they have a crush on someone. A simple answer is the result, the cat slightly out of the bag, with the guessing game then occurring. “So… who is it? Come on tell me.”

Despite all that, hints of flirting seemed to pop up here and there, a few heart stickers included of course. All the guesses of names that could possibly be the crush failed, clues leading up to perhaps the other person. But it couldn’t be, right?

However, it became obvious, the constant compliments, the now slight awkwardness they display when making conversation, the gift-giving. With that, the guessing game comes to an end, the admired having figured out who the admirer truly likes, and the confession begins. A long paragraph later, and they’re dating, but not before excitedly going over past events that had led up to this moment to their friends.

A skip of the heart won’t come close to fully depicting the enchantment washed over them, hands now coming together when strolling side by side, and arms crossing the other’s neck, the attraction present.

“xoxoxo- yours truly.”


Love is always the talk of the town, a topic people tend to be infatuated with, though not everyone who’s had a taste of sweet temptation for the heart has come out with a happily ever after. It may have been a mutual agreement, or the classic “it’s not you, it’s me.” Nevertheless, it’s never easy to cast aside the overwhelmingly giant part of the heart dedicated to that person over any span of time.

Buckets of ice cream, netflix, and uncomfortable yet empathetic friends flock to your side, soaking up the discarded pieces of a lost beloved, one by one. All in all, it could have taken place with wails and tears or a sadistic “good riddance.” But let’s take the classic route of a sobbing individual for now.

The one having been dumped will seek revenge sometime in the future, disappointed they couldn’t fulfill one they loved, yet angry that they gave up that “hot bod” for another. Even if an agreement to be friends is reached, another message will emerge, blaming the other for an occurrence that had plagued their life.

Any sadness or happiness is then replaced with irritation. The obvious answer to a problem like this is to… block the person on every form of communication known on the current phone. After that, just ignore them like the piece of trash they are, or continue to rant about them like the petty person this world needs.

“How do you like that mother fu….”


Escape, the only thing desired in this circumstance. The continual whimpering behind the metal door of the confining room, a rag cladded person with outgrown hair. The walls etched with the desperate scratches by bloodied nails, worn down to stubs. In spite of the effort, the only key can only be inserted from the outside, but never has it been attempted, the usual solution to quell the despair inside.

Two streaming paths of tears down from each eye, staining the face with an unnatural glisten. Clumps of hair grasped by balled fists, with the choking of bitter tasting spit and salty tears. When forced to eat, the pungent flavor of blandness overwhelms all of the above, but why eat when the option of curling up into a ball remains?

Even the idea of speaking to friends as they attempt to discover the cause of their comrade’s broken down state (or they could be idiots with multiple blind eyes) is uncomfortable. Silence compliments the mood, if not, melodic and calm songs will be heard.

“Can I go anywhere else besides here?” The extreme can be the decision to end what fate had in store early, whether the journey to the afterlife is true remains unknown. “If only you could have helped.”


Featured Image – image OpenClipart – Vectors 2017© (CC0)

A Ticking Heart

Ring!

The flashing, colorful lights distorted the message shown on the screen, but it wasn’t too hard to make out the words: Just picked up hot dude. Taking me home. Now it’s your turn… plenty of hotties out there, Don’t worry about me btw!

drinks

photo Yvonne Yiwen Lee 2011© (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Downing her tequila shot, Ashley straightened her outfit, the black dress pants having been slightly wrinkled. Alex had persuaded her to “let go” after winning a martial arts tournament against what was once an undefeated champion, the youngest to win a major league competition as well. Despite the dancing and laughing at first, she found herself sitting on a stool at the bar for the last half hour, and soon, each cocktail that passed by all started to taste the same. Even with Alex’s encouragement, she never found the guys presented before her interesting or worthwhile.

“Bartender! Another shot this way!”

The chilling breeze swept through the city as she staggered out of the bar. Her ability to withstand alcohol had been tested today, and it had obviously been pushed to the limits. The law should just lower the legal drinking age to 20. Glancing back, she had to admit, the bar was certainly attractive, having been placed behind an extravagant garden. As she approached the parking lot, a moan caught her attention, as well as a barrage of several female voices that followed after. While it certainly wasn’t her business to intervene in these types of situations, a pained grunt soon after, prompted her to investigate. The high-pitched whispers and giggles led her to a secluded area behind a few trees, and looking through, she saw an embarrassing sight. 5 teenage females were surrounding a male that looked like her age, struggling to stand up. He never fully made it beyond his knees, remaining in an almost pathetic-looking fetal position.

“Well well girls, who has the honor of starting?”

“I dropped the pill, so I’m going first,” a girl firmly said, her slinky green dress barely gracing the bottom of her backside. Straddling him, she began to peel off his shirt, where all he could do was groan. Sickening…

“Hey! You girls shouldn’t team up on such a defenseless guy. You ruin the meaning of ‘fair game.’”

“Why don’t you go back to where you came from leech? He’s ours. Mess with us, and we’ll hurt you to where you won’t be able to even crawl back for help.”

“P.S. we’re all black belts!”

Ashley didn’t pay much attention to the ones who spoke, keeping an eye on the male student instead. However hard he tried, he flopped back down, his glazed eyes meeting hers, begging for help. Was he worth it? Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn’t.

She stepped forward, slipping her heels off, as the sounds of her cracking knuckles echoed through the clearing. “Bring it on.”

But she loved a fight.

The first who rushed forward most definitely wasn’t involved in any physical activities. Even if she was, she certainly didn’t show it, as she collapsed instantly. And that was one of my softest hits…

The others went down fairly quickly, except for the one still straddled atop of him. Her eyes were dark, yet fearful after realizing the rest of her sad companions had fell.

Shoving him into the ground, she stood up, now exuding confidence. “I’m warning you. I’m a black belt.”

“Try me then.”

She must admit, the girl had a nice form at first, where dodging her blows actually required effort. However, it was fun toying with her. The effort would be remarkable, were she a decent person. Now, only a weakened, pathetic being stood in front of her, makeup smudged from the sweat that dripped down from her brow.

“Now it’s my turn,” Ashley said, spinning around and delivering a flawless back-kick.

Still conscious enough to groan and attempt standing up, Ashley lifted her up by the collar of her dress. “If you tell anyone about this, I’ll be sure to make good of my wealth and destroy you.”

The girl slumped down exhaustedly after being let go, while Ashley made her way to the still groggy male. Hoisting him up, she led him across the clearing to where her car was parked. After leaning him against the passenger seat, she made her way behind the wheel, and sped back to her house at godspeed.

She laid him on the couch, a blanket now draped over him. She had also set a glass of water on the table nearby, in case he were to wake up after the effects of what she deduced as the date-rape drug. Tired herself, she didn’t bother to slip in the nightgown she regularly wore to bed, and slipped under the covers as soon as she reached her bed.

A loud thud woke Ashley up, and soon, her bedroom door burst open as well. She sprang up immediately, grabbing the nearest lamp and smashing it atop the nearest intruder’s head. Within the chaos and sounds of her own punches and groans, she could make out: “Get him to safety!” Suddenly, a strike on the small of her shoulder sent darkness overcoming her vision.

Ashley awoke to a dim light, though harsh after her recent awakening. She tried to raise her hands up to rub her eyes, but a cold metal pressed against her skin, halting her action. Struggling, she attempted to get them off, but in the back of her mind, she knew it was a pathetic move.

“I know you can hear me you dogs! Let me out right now!” she shouted, staring at the one-way mirror. She kept her eyes on a specific spot, scowling where she could safely assume someone’s eyes were. I’ve been in these situations more than enough to know what’s going on.

Accepting her trapped condition, she put it to good use, laying her head down onto the cold, metal table. “I needed the rest anyway.”

She had just begun to drift off, when the door opened. In walked the once defenseless male she had saved just earlier. Now, he was surrounded by bodyguards in dark sunglasses, one with a nasty-looking cut right where she had struck with the lamp.

“I deeply apologize for the treatment Ms…”

“Vera.”

“Well Ms. Vera, I apologize for the actions of my bodyguards earlier. They were just trying to get me to safety, and they thought you were a kidnapper. My contractor father is quick to react.”

“How flattering.” She raised her cuffed hands as high as they could, raising an eyebrow. “Would you mind letting me go now?”

“Of course, I’m sorry. I hadn’t thought of my rudeness to explain in front of a cuffed person. Guard.”

Ashley rubbed her wrists after she was released, where she promptly made her way out of the door.

“Wait, would you like a ride home?”

She brushed off his hand from hers, continuing on. “I’ll manage.”

Beep beep beep!

“4 hours of sleep. Wonderful.”

She combed back the lion’s mane on her head, brushed her teeth, put on her uniform, and hopped in her car. The drive to the university was brief, where her apartment had served the purpose of doing saving her the trouble of a long drive. Came at a price though. $500,000 my ass. Lucky my charms kicked in when they did. 

Making her way towards her locker, she felt a few stares thrown in her direction. And my day was going so well already. Next time I see that bastard, I’m going to beat him up for the sake of my sleep schedule. She reached her locker, and promptly unlocked

Bouquet_of_pink_roses

photo Kain Kalju 2011© (CC BY 2.0)

it. What she saw after almost made her drop her books. On the door, stickers read: From Apollo Rin ♥.
Stacked inside for a dozen chocolate boxes and a bouquet
of roses delicately set against the side.

She grabbed her books and slammed the locker closed, shocking the gawking surrounding students, who immediately began to whisper. “If I see that bastard, I’m going to do more than beat him senseless. Creep.”

The bell hadn’t rung yet, but she would rather sit in a surely empty classroom than wander in the hallways filled with conspiracies. She buried her face into a book, not wanting to hear any of the claims the students were coming up at the moment. Word spread fast in this school… too fast. As soon as the thought ran through her mind, she had the glamorous run-in with another student.

“Sorry…” she started, glancing up. However, she was met with an all-too-familiar face.

“You!”

His face held surprise, but soon, he held a cocky smile. “Did you enjoy my gift Ashley? I didn’t thank you yesterday for saving my dignity.”

“Look, I’m fine with you looking through the bar’s security cameras to review your pathetic mistake, but I’ll be damned if you’re going to stalk me like this.”

“Hey, I’m the student council’s president. Of course I’m meant to have this type of information.”

He didn’t get another word out before his saliva ended up on the wall beside him. “And as a violated person, as well as the captain of the girls’ martial arts team, I’m allowed to do that. Need a bandaid? Go to the nurse’s office.”

The day continued on, and so did classes. Finally, her last period came, and thankfully, it was martial arts. The punching bag allowed her to blow off steam, her anger fueled by the rumors that drifted through each class she was in. “Slut, whore, leech, playgirl…” The list continues. Even a few slaps came her way, though none of them were close to making contact.

“Hey Ashley!”

She paused in delivering rage-fueled blows, a break in the leather indicating how mad she was. Otherwise, her expression had remained stoic throughout the day.

“You okay?” Her coach had approached her, along with other members of the team, Alex included.

“Fine, just preparing for next week’s tournament in Japan.”

“We heard the rumors. If it helps, we all don’t believe it,” Ainsley whispered, an often optimistic person on the team, though she now looked at Ashley with pity.

“I’m fine guys. No need to worry. Words don’t hurt me… Anyway, girls, get to practicing. The event’s not far from now.”

She sauntered towards the locker room after that, the only objective in mind was spending a night with her own booze. After changing, she rushed to her car, where it seemed as if the day couldn’t end fast enough. However, she halted at the sight of Apollo standing casually beside her car. “Hey.”

“What do you want?” She crossed her arms, bringing up what she hoped looked like a convincing glare.

“You’ve been crying haven’t you?” He had made his way to her, and this time, her glare had fallen to the ground.

“Words cut, you know? I taught myself to stand strong, but even I can’t get through accusations.”

She felt his forefinger lift her chin up, so that her eyes could reach his. From there, it was her first time meeting such blue eyes, filled with such protectiveness and kindness. “Let me treat you to dinner?” he asked, as if he was scared she’d punch him again.

“Why not?” She almost laughed when his eyes lit up, but part of her despised him for creating this mess.

“I have a request though. The dinner takes place at my flat.” She prompted him to challenge her, but like someone trying to make things up, he had no choice, but to agree.

“Deal.”

“Ashley Vera, did you seriously just have dinner with THE Apollo Rin? Girl, even with all this happening, that’s been my dream since forever.”

“Relax Alex, it was a friendly dinner.”

“But you cooked for him!”

“Because I didn’t want to go to a fancy restaurant and risk running into more who hate my guts.”

“Hey Ashley…”

“Yea?”

“Did you tell him?” Alex’s voice had lowered, now ladened with sadness.

“No.”


The trip to Japan came shortly after. To be honest, she was glad to be getting away from the school. Being in a new environment with her closest friends would surely offer relaxation, away from the verbal abuse. Besides, it’ll be a chance for her to kick some more ass. Also, it’d get the pursuing Alex off her tail. Every day, it was always something new, be it a new necklace or a serenade. That guy is out of his mind. But, he deserves to know the truth soon.

“The match is close ladies! Ashley Vera delivered flawless hits, but Ming West has also struck back with equal intensity!” The ringleader stood on the side, clutching the mic in excitement.

Ashley’s head spun, with bruises already appearing all over her body. Ming was certainly one of her toughest opponents, her lean, yet sturdy structure, providing an advantage in delivering both fast and powerful strikes. However, she was faster.

“And we have a winner! Ashley Vera has claimed the platinum rank medal!”

Ashley had changed into a white, flowing dress, though her bruises were on full display. Never said I was going out tonight anyway. Alex had almost persuaded her once again, but she had the strength to refuse her begging this time. Must have been her throbbing head and nausea talking though.

“Ashley, wait up!”

She turned around, her eyes unfocused, but the voice could only have belonged to one person. “Apollo, what in the world are you doing here?”

“Supporting you, of course. Hey, you alright?”

“No. But I’ll survive.”

“You’re not going home alone in this state. Luckily, I rented a car here.”

It was his turn to tuck her into bed this time, where he carefully laid her into his bed. His lips brushed her forehead, as he murmured, “Sleep well princess.”

“Wait.” She held his hand in a vice grip, her eyes still shut because if she opened them, it would only make her urge to vomit stronger.

“I can’t be with you.”

“And why not?” She could tell he was hurting, his fake confidence clear.

“Because my story isn’t all that great. My parents were infamous drug-dealers back in the day. Nathan Vera, jailed a grand total of 30 times. Despite their occupation, they were loyal and loving parents, never once abandoned me. If one was in jail, the other would resist doing anything noticeable that would land them in prison. However, when I was just 6, my parents were murdered, but luckily, I wasn’t present, or else, they would have gotten me too. I inherited their fortune, however illegal the actions were that got them. An elderly couple later took me in, and raised me up until they were murdered, on the day I turned 10. I was at school that day, and the police took care of the murderers and protected me. From then on, I just hopped around from foster family to foster family until I was 18. Nobody wanted to care for a girl who had caused the deaths of 2 people…”

Silence filled the room for what seemed like hours after that. Sleep invading her thoughts, all Ashley could say was, “Get away while you still can. Use my room tonight instead.”

Ashley woke up in a cold sweat, her nightmares of haunted funerals still vivid in her memory. Suddenly, she realized that something heavy was draped across her stomach, and looking down, she realized it was an arm. There he laid, his messy hair draped across his closed eyes.

“Fool, you were meant to run away.” She murmured, stroking back tufts of hair.

“Well, you’ll be glad to know that a guy will do crazy things for a girl he wants to be with.” To her surprise, he rose up alongside with her, his eyes meeting hers.

“Now, you’re in danger because I’m not willing to let you go either.”


Day after day, he showered her with love, where their week of Japan was spent in bliss. After that, it was back to classes. I wonder if everyone got tired of of coming up with insults yet. It was a wishful thinking on her end, but she knew by now that it was better to remain pessimistic. Thankfully, Apollo was quick to stop them, all while showing them the PDA they wished wasn’t true. He was officially off the market, and he was hers. Perhaps all my suffering has been leading me up to this happiness.

It wasn’t long before winter break came along, and mostly all the students had taken off to visit their families or to travel. Ashley had expected to spend the time binge-watching Netflix, but she was proved wrong when Apollo presented her with two tickets to Japan. The surprise was meant to be romantic, but it turned quite amusing when he almost spilled wine on them at the restaurant. Fortunately, he directed the wine glass back towards him with such force, it ended up on his suit instead.

“So, how’d you like it?” he asked, kissing her gently on the top of her head.

“You know I loved it. That was literally the first I said when we got there, and the last when I left.
It was their first night in the city of Tokyo, and they were now strolling through the streets amidst the colorful lights and people. It was a time for exploration, having both crossed the famous intersection twice already, the second time having been for the thrill of it. Hand in hand, they were making their way across a row

Japan_(16042925878)

photo The Photographer 2015© (CC BY 2.0)

of shops and restaurants, with hundreds of others that had decided to do the same thing as them.

 

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

About to reply, she suddenly saw a sight that had haunted her dreams for 14 years. His now gray hair was swept to the side, a cross tattoo etched on the side of his cheek, and his eyes… When they met hers, recognition hit both of them. Richard White, one of the world’s most notorious drug dealers. More importantly, he was surrounded with a group of bodyguards.

“Run.” She started to back up, her hand grip tightening on Apollo’s hand. In the corner of her eye, he saw her glance in the direction she was staring at, eyes widening after seeing the man she described with such hate in front of them.

“NOW!” Her shout broke their staring and now, they found themselves running towards the opposite direction, dodging people that continuously made their way forward. Behind her, she could make out the scream, “ Get them!”

Soon, the lights previously admired started to morph together as Ashley led Apollo down a number of streets, where they finally ended up at a closed off alleyway.

“Do you think we lost them?” she asked, breathing sporadically.

“Yea, no way they managed to single us out through all those people.” Apollo had slumped to his knees, sweat dripping off of his chin onto the cement.

“Oh little girl, that’s what you would like to think…”

Apollo shot up, instinctively wrapping his arm around Ashley. White emerged from the shadows, at least 10 guards behind him. It wasn’t fear that got to Ashley anymore, it was rage. Every inch of her wanted to pummel him into the ground, but with his minions behind him, it would be unlikely. Even with her skills, it would be hard to take them all at once.

“Ashley, you take five and I’ll take five.” She gazed up to see Apollo’s darkening eyes, his arm tightening around her waist another time, before letting go.

“Are you crazy? You can’t fight!”

“About that… father wanted me to be versed in self-defense… So I may or may not be a black-belt.”

“Gee, and you didn’t think of mentioning that before?”

“SHUT UP, both of you!” White’s voice rose above their conversation. “Now, I don’t know who the boy is, but I’m here for you little girl. Ashley Vera wasn’t it?”

Chills ran through her spine as he drawled her name, as if he was testing how the name of someone he had been hunting for years tasted on his tongue because now, he finally had her within his grasp.

Not wanting to risk anything over his victory, he snapped his fingers and announced to his men, “Get them.”

They sprang into action, with Ashley and Apollo mimicking them. The fight was intense, the guards proving to be more difficult to take down than Ashley thought. Though she got a few down, more charged after her, already giving her a bloody lip and a cut just above her eye. The blood was distracting, but it only drove her to finally get back at the man that had caused her only misery. Just as soon as she took down the third one, a kick toward her ribs sent her flying back. The ground in front of her either had spots of blood or ketchup then, but Ashley couldn’t be sure herself. Her ribs ached from the blow, and she was sure some of them must have been cracked by now. Noticing a blurred shadow approaching her, she immediately slid forward and swept the 4th off his feet, rendering him unconscious with another kick. She heard a scream behind her, looking back to see the three guards remaining surrounding Apollo. With her best battle cry, she leapt forward and immediately took another down with a series of roundhouse kicks.

“Ashley watch out!”

She felt a hard shove, only to land next to the other alley wall and witness Apollo being rammed into the wall opposite of her.

“Apollo!”

She rushed towards him, giving the guard a taste of his own medicine as she pounded his head into the wall multiple times, until he crumpled like a wet paper towel. She approached Apollo, a dark purple bruise indicating where he struck the wall. She cradled him for a brief moment, before laying him down, where he deserved the rest he surely needed. Redirecting her focus, she caught White looking almost cowardly without his bodyguards.

“Not so tough without your toys are you?” She steadily approached him, caution still in mind, though it was the last thing she was considering at this point.

“I still have one last trick.”

Pulling out a knife, he lunged forward, aiming for her heart. However, while dodging towards the left, the blade buried into her right shoulder instead, though the pain was instantly agonizing. White spots dotted her darkening vision. In the distance, she heard a scream, but she didn’t know if it was hers, or from another person who had walked in on the scene.

“Now, my dear, how about we make your pain go away? Permanently.”

He started to extract the knife, but Ashley kicked up, striking the spot she needed to, as the old man groaned and fell off her. Clutching that area, he couldn’t defend himself quick enough, before her foot landed on his face. Ashley stumbled, her head pounding, blood coating her hand, as she let the blade stay embedded deep beneath her skin. Pulling it out would only do more damage. However, the sound of sirens intruded her ears, faint at first, but grew louder as the seconds ticked by. Soon, she could make out a group of people approaching her.

“Police! Freeze!”

A series of grunts followed. Perhaps they’re from the guards. Ashley wasn’t all too sure until a rough pair of hands grabbed her.

“Miss, are you okay? Can you please tell me what happened?”

The rest of his words were jumbled from there, and Ashley could see a bright white light enveloping the starry night sky above her.


“Ugh, my head.” Ashley opened her eyes, and almost instantly regretted it. For once, I just want to open my damn eyes without feeling like I’m going to go blind. Another try ensued, her vision adjusting to reveal a vast meadow stretching out from all directions. Slowly, she rose up, the grass soft beneath her feet.

“Where am I?”

“Honestly, I’m as confused as you are.” She turned around to face Apollo, dressed in all white. His face looked strangely healed, and he was grinning from ear to ear. “But I’m glad it’s with you,” he continued.

dawn-nature-sunset-trees

photo Unsplash (unknown date)© (CC0)

Smiling herself, Ashley walked up to him, receiving and giving loving kisses. Questions were still to be asked, but all she really wanted at that time, was to walk across this field, hand in hand with the person she loved.


“This is Lilia Grant, reporting for the Bourdain Times. I’m here with Doctor Walker who operated on the couple who single-handedly took down drug king Richard White and 10 of his bodyguards at Kyoto, Tokyo. Tell me doctor, how are the conditions of these two heroes of the streets?”

“Well, they are both still in critical condition, both having a multitude of internal injuries. For now, we’ve identified them as Ashley Vera and Apollo Pin, both exceptional university students. We have also discovered Apollo to have been carrying a diamond ring, but other than that, there was nothing else. We just have to hope that they wake up soon, their survival chances… uncertain.”


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