As she lay, she imagined angels, and children, with their hungry eyes, their outstretched hands and wings. Crumbled, coppery pillars. Blood from the fingertips. And the empty irises, and empty irises.
I know who I want to be.
She lay there and breathed, and heard the sound, like fireflies falling through the air and dying. Bursting, slowly, like rockets. Shivering sounds.
And somehow she was still at peace.
Somehow it still couldn’t touch her.
The air shivered then, and her bed--shivered, then shuddered, then shook, until the entire floor vibrated underneath her, and there was something huge rapidly closing in to her awareness.
She felt, she realized, defiant.
I don’t care what they think of me.
Thomas, or Tyler, or any of them. Alexis. I don’t care.
I am going to drink red wine, she would have said, if there had been anyone to talk to, if she had been wearing a white tight-at-the-hips dress and there had been candlelight, and a dinner coming. If there were red meat oozing on a plate. I am going to drink red wine, and it would have seemed the most innocuous thing in the world, but during the dinner, as she leaned across the table, rubbing a man’s leg with her toes, smiling flirtatiously, she would drink too deep, and drops of red wine would stain the fabric.
Steak juice, dripping across the thighs. Teeth ripping flesh, and beads of red wine.
Beads, and breaths, and birds -- she thought of eagles rising high into the sun.
The pillow was musty. It choked her breathing.
Stop, she could hear Alexis’ warning words already. Stop. You are in a dangerous place.
And Tyler. You are on a dangerous road.
I know, she told them, I know, and she rolled over onto her back, turned her head up to the ceiling, and laughed laughed until her stomach muscles were tight and aching. She laughed until the endorphins soaked through every gentle tissue of her brain, her skin, the muscles wrapped tight around bones.
Endorphins in her blood.
Her body felt so heavy, but pleasant heavy, like all her limbs had melted into one solid, warm mass.
She felt like a choir, singing Latin.
Politics had ceased to matter. Crumbling statues and bleeding children didn’t matter.
The blood working its way down from the corner of her mouth didn’t matter. It slid, innocent as an autumn leaf, down her cheek.
It didn’t matter what had been done to her.
She knew she was only blood and bone and muscle and frantic thought, but as she lay there in the silence, with the darkness pressing on her eyes and face and hands, she felt as though all her body were song.
Who was she singing to, if she didn’t believe in God?
When exactly had she started grimacing at the very idea of God?
I am my own, she whispered.
She lay there in the darkness, and her heart beat the way butterflies do when smacked out of the air.
She was heavy, and heavy, and warm, and heavier. She thought of tinsel. She thought of nights, years and years ago, when she had cupped a cup of hot chocolate in her hands and huddled over it at the kitchen table. That warmth on her face had been the only warmth.
And here now she was, a solid, liquid puddle of heat.
The cold outside her body was all-consuming, but here, now, in the dark, she could not see her upraised hairs, the gooseflesh forming on her skin.
How did I get here?
I am here, she answered herself quickly, because I grew tired of circles. I prefer life in lines.
Life in lines, she thought again, delighted by the phrase. She thought of the lines that made up her brain; twisted-around-themselves lines, gentle curves, the pockets where secrets hid, where databases formed themselves.
She imagined herself moving steadily through space.
A grin stretched her face, quite involuntarily; aware of her palms, outstretched, upturned, relaxed. Her lifeline long and ponderous. Her heart line, head line, swelled to bursting, and still she did not believe in palm-reading.