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A Light For Seymour and Other Stories
It was a cold, dark day. I watched from my window as the fog rolled above the houses, dotting the window with mist. It was my favorite kind of day; bleak, gray. I pushed myself back from the window and crossed the room to the white desk awkwardly placed in between the dresser and the bed. I sat down on the matching white chair and spread my arms over the smooth, clean surface. My black, long sleeve t-shirt contrasted against it and I rolled my sleeves up, feeling my skin on the cool desk. The red scars of my past went up and down my forearm reminding me of those times, sitting with him, in the dark with the knife. A sharp knock startled me from my thoughts. The door opened and a nurse came bustling in with a tray.
“Here is your medicine. Drink all the water.” She said, setting the tray down on the table at the end of the bed. She left without another word. Before, they’d wait for me to take the pills, making sure I didn’t flush them down the toilet or drop them down the sink. I would ask for more water to make them leave. It worked. I waited to take the pills, resting my head against the desk, closing my eyes.
I wake up with a start. I must have been moved because I was in my bed.
I sit up, feeling a sharp pain in my shoulder. I look over to see a bandage wrapped around my shoulder. They must have given me the shot version of the pills I was supposed to take. I swing my legs over and stretch, getting up. I walk to the bathroom and stare at my reflection. I can barely recognize myself. My skin is pale with red blotches on my skin and my hair looks stringy and greasy. My lips are chapped beyond repair and my eyes look beady and swollen. I then realize that I can’t remember the last time I’ve taken a shower. I strip down and turn the shower on as hot as the water can go. I hop in, having to grind my teeth together to keep from screaming from the heat of the shower. After my skin adjusts, I scrub my body down. When I get out, I am a pink, raw color. I wrap one of the white towels around my bony body and walk out into my room, looking through my dresser. I find a ill fitting sports bra and some plain black boxers along with a gray t-shirt and some sweats. I pull the pitiful clothing on and dry my hair off with the towel. I lay down on the bed afterwards, and curl up in a ball, rocking back in forth. I try hard not to think about him, but the thoughts kept creeping in.
“What’s your name?” I looked up to see a boy, hovering over me.
“Why?” I said, getting defensive.
He sat down next to me.
“It’s a nice day, today.” He said, smiling at me. His smile was beautiful yet with an indistinguishable sadness.
“Yeah. It is.” I looked around the park, the trees swaying in the wind.
“I’m Darren.” He said, looking at me, his eyes meeting mine. We stared at each other for what seemed like forever until I looked away, embarrassed.
“I’m Janie.” I said, rubbing my arm.
“I like that name. Janie.” He said, leaning back against the picnic table, spreading his arms behind him.
Two nurses come in, looking tired and annoyed, disturbing my thoughts.
“Janie. You didn’t take your medicine yesterday like you were supposed to.” One of them said. She was one of the nicer nurses. The other nurse stared me down like a hawk hunting down its prey.
“I fell asleep.” I shrugged, getting up and going to the window. I look up to see several dark clouds forming together, threatening to rain.
“Janie, you know the rules. If you don’t take your medicine, we have to give it to you in a shot. Luckily you were asleep when we gave it to you.” The nicer nurse said. I turned around and crossed my arms.
“Fine.” I say, crossing back over to my bed. I turn the television on and turn my back to them. They linger for a moment longer before leaving, softly closing the door behind them. I lay down on the bed and stare out the window, a few drops of water hitting the pane.
“I do that too.” He had said one night, when we were alone in my room. He brushed his fingers against my wrist, tracing the scars from past and more recent cuts. I pulled my arm away.
“Do what?” I said, my face burning up.
I swallowed, hard.
“Hey, it’s okay.” He said, wrapping me in his arms. “Sometimes, we need to be reminded that we can still bleed.”
We sat there together the rest of the night, in each others arms, not saying anything, just listening to our messy heartbeats.
I wake up exhausted. I blink a few times to adjust to the still dark room, seeing the same plain, boring furniture in the same boring spots. I start to roll over when something catches my eye. A small out of place trinket was shining from the desk. I slowly get up and stumble over to the desk, struggling to see in the dark. I reach out and pick up the object, testing it in my hand. I nearly fall over when I find out what it is. I hold it to my chest, carefully shielding it from view even though I’m the only one in the room. I roll the blade over to test its sharpness. It was incredibly sharp. I looked towards my door, making sure no one was watching. I slowly turned and held the blade above my arm. Shakily, I pressed the blade down on my arm and sliced from my wrist to my elbow in a more or less steady line. When I’m done I realize I’m crying, not with pain, but with relief. I wipe my eyes and go to the bathroom, suppressing the bleeding with a wad of toilet paper. I rinse my arm off and use toilet paper as a makeshift bandage. I tip toe out into my room and crawl back in my bed. I stare at the ceiling and smile softly, drifting off into dreamland.
“Janie Masterson, please report to the front office.” A loud voice over the intercom said. I looked up to my teacher, who nodded for me to leave. The snickers and “ooh’s” of my fellow classmates made me burn inside, making me want to yell or scream at them, but I didn’t. I walked numbly to the office, seeing my parents and another couple talking quietly with our principal, Mr. Herald.
“Mom? Dad? What’s going on?” I said, an uncomfortable eeriness rushing over me.
“Janie!” My mother rushed to my side, holding me to her. My father walked over and hugged me as well.
“What’s going on?” I repeated, feeling scared. Had a family member died? Who are these other people?
“Janie, a very concerning issue has come to our attention,” Mr. Herald said grimly, “are you seeing anyone?”
I looked at my parents.
“Is this a joke?” I laughed angrily.
“Janie, answer the question.” My father said firmly.
I sighed, flustered.
“Yes. I am. Why?” I yelled, on the verge of tears.
“Was it Darren?” The woman asked stepping forward.
“W-what, how did you know?” I asked, flabbergasted.
The woman leaned into her husband, visibly crying.
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?!” I screamed, causing everyone to stare at me with concern.
“Janie, has Darren hurt you in any way?” Mr. Herald asked, peering at me over his bifocals.
My mind races to all the times we spent together in his basement, the kissing, the cuddling, the sex, the cutting...
“No.” I say, a little too quickly.
“Janie....Darren is in a lot of trouble. You need to tell us what happened.” My father said, gruffly. I gulped, contemplating whether or not to tell them. They stared at me with concern and anger.
I slowly turned to them and rolled my sleeve up, showing the deep cut scars up and down my arm. My mom gasped at the sight.
“He did this to you?” My father whispered in shock.
“No!” I yelled, tears rolling down my cheeks, “I did. We both did...together.” I looked down at my feet as a terrible silence ensued, the occasional uneven sob of Darren’s mother breaking the silence every few seconds.
“Janie,” Mr. Herald started to say after what seemed like hours, “Darren has committed murder.”
I looked up in shock.
“Murder?” His mother started to cry harder.
“Yes.” Mr. Herald said uneasily. Every single emotion I could ever feel started to well up inside me. Old tears continued streaming down my face and I started laughing. Darren’s parents looked up in complete horror while my parents glared at me. But I couldn’t help it, these people were insane! Darren would never kill anyone. He was happy. We were happy. I was now on the floor, I had stopped laughing and was now full on sobbing. I quickly tried to wipe the tears away, embarrassed that Darren’s parents had to see my broken down in such a way. Darren’s father approached me as my sobbing decreased, “Janie. When we found that Darren had left, we found this on his desk.” He placed a folded piece of paper that had clearly been opened and creased many times in front of me. I quickly snatched it up and opened it, almost tearing it down the middle.
Remember me as I bleed for you was all it said. “Does that mean anything to you?” I looked up to see Darren’s father staring hopefully at me. I shook my head solemnly, knowing I could never make them understand what Darren and I had.
I wake up in a puddle of blood. My makeshift bandage had fallen off in the night, the blood starting to seep from my arm. I felt weak. Weaker than I ever had before. I stumble to my feet and barely reach the bathroom before crashing to my knees. I groan in pain and grasp desperately for a towel before I collapse completely on the white tile floor, my blood slowly forming a small puddle by my elbow. My breaths become shallow, my chest heaving up and down for more air, my heart beating wildly. My eyes flutter as I feel my heart getting slower and slower. I stare up at the ceiling light and wait for me to bleed out when a dark shadow appears before me. The shadow turns darker and I see a face, Darren’s face. I struggle to keep my eyes open, try and reach for him, call to him for help, but he does nothing, watches me squirm. The last thing I see before blacking out is his crooked smile.
The young boy sat on his mattress along with all the other boys, some on mattresses, some standing, leaning against the peeling walls. The dim lights flickered slightly as the women in black cloaks marched into the room, descending upon the isles of boys, clipboards in hand.
They walked around the room, holding their clipboards justly in the air, as they called each child’s name.
“Xavier?” The young boy looked up, timidly. He raised his hand, slowly and whispered, “Here.”
He looked back down again quickly and continued to pick at his nails as orientation time came closer and closer. Orientation was when eager couples came to look for a child suitable enough for their needs. It was a lengthy, humiliating process that often left Xavier feeling alone and empty. Many of the older boys were more adept to the situation and found ways to cope. The roll calling was coming to a close when they were interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. Several heads whirled around to see who it was, but Xavier continued his nail picking.
He was used to people coming in early in order to get first pickings.But this wasn’t a couple looking for a child. It was a strange man dressed in an ill fitting suit with a bowler hat and a cane at his side. In his other hand he held a small brown package. The head nun walked briskly towards him and they spoke shortly before she gave a terse nod, allowing him to slowly circle the room, examining each boy’s face and stature before stopping to lean against the main pillar in the room. The nuns quickly went back to calling out names and grouped the boys together according to age. Orientation was soon, and everything had to be in perfect order,
according to the nuns. The man stayed where he was, observing this process with amusement. As soon as the grouping process was over, he started walking again.
He circled around many of the older boys, who joked silently to each other of this strange man’s appearance, before he drifted over towards the younger boys. He stopped in front of Xavier, who was sitting along with the other seven year old boys. He still hadn’t looked up,
and wouldn’t have noticed the man if he hadn’t cleared his throat. Xavier looked up, taken aback from the towering man.
“Xavier.” The man spoke softly, crouching down to Xavier’s level.
“Y-yes?” Xavier lifted his weight onto his hands and slowly moved backwards on his mattress in an upside down crawl. The man smiled, amused by Xavier’s uneasiness.
“I have something for you.” He held out the brown package to Xavier, who, still propped up on his hands, his back lifted off the ground, relaxed slightly.
“What is it?” He asked curiously, fingering the crinkly brown paper with a single red string wrapped around it. Xavier had no memory of receiving anything so nicely wrapped. In fact, he had no memory of receiving anything, wrapped or unwrapped.
“It’s a present. It belonged to me as a young boy and I’d like you to have it.”
The man stood and smiled again,
“You will learn once you are older. But for now, I must go. Take care.”
He tipped his hat and turned abruptly, leaving Xavier with the strange brown package in his lap.
“Open it!” Billy, one of the other seven year olds said, eagerly as soon as the man had disappeared from sight.
“Don’t make him do what he doesn’t want to. Go ahead, Avie, it’s all you.” Thomas, Xavier’s best friend said.
The other boys then piped in.
“Aw, come on Xavier, open it already.”
“Yeah just do it.”
Xavier fingered the package some more before pulling one end of the red string. It fell limply to the side and he pulled the rest of it off, carefully. He slowly turned the bulky package over in his hands, finding the opening. He pinched the corner of the brown paper and opened it to reveal a small porcelain elephant. By now, a bunch of the older boys had gathered around, and even a few of the nuns had come to see what Xavier, who received nothing from anyone ever, had gotten from the strange man. A small gasp traveled around the semicircle
that had formed around Xavier before the room catapulted into complete silence.
“Well, go on. Pick him up.” Thomas said after several minutes had passed.
Xavier swallowed and gingerly cupped the white elephant in his hands, fingering the intricate red swirls painted on the curved trunk.
“What is the meaning of this?” The head nun had come over and was pushing through the crowd.
There was a strict rule against any personal toys or trinkets and Xavier, who had nothing, didn’t want to give up the one gift he had only just received.
“Quick! Hide it.” Thomas hissed,
quickly rewrapping the elephant and shoving it up Xavier’s shirt. Xavier crouched over to the side, as the older boys filled the circle, hiding Xavier.
“Idiots stupides! Get back to your groups!” The head nun huffed away as the mass of boys started moving back to their side of the room. The seven year old boys sat down, surrounding Xavier, making sure no one could see him or the elephant. Xavier took him out of his shirt and held him in his hands again.
“Well, now what?” Billy asked, “Where’ll you put it?”
“Aw, shut up, Billy. He’ll figure it out. And don’t go tattlin’ on him either!” Thomas spat, “We all know about your stupid blanky!” Billy frowned as the other boys nodded in agreement.
Thomas turned to Xavier and leaned towards him, peering at the little white elephant that he had cupped in his hands.
“So...where are you going to put it?” He whispered. Xavier shook his head.
“I dunno. I haven’t gotten anywhere to put him.”
“Yeah. I think I’ll name him Seymour.”
“Hm.” Thomas looked at the elephant and then back at Xavier.
“That’s a good name.” He grinned, showing his recently lost front tooth.
Xavier didn’t reply, mesmerized by Seymour’s beautiful red swirls.
“Well, whatever you do, you had better put him away. There’s people comin’ in.” Thomas pointed to the door, where the head nun was positioned, leading couples in two by two until half the room was filled with ancy couples, waiting to pick out their child. Xavier shoved Seymour back up his shirt and buttoned his sweater, hoping it wasn’t too obvious and that Seymour would stay in place.
To Be Continued
Violaine stood at the bus stop. She could see the five o’clock bus in the distance, slowly crawling towards her. She could already tell the bus was packed and she sighed silently, thinking she should have walked but it was a long day and her legs were tired. It was overcast and Violaine was scared it might rain. She hated it when it rained because her mother would reprimand her whenever she got her hair wet. Behind her, a man was walking his dog. The dog came up to her and sniffed her hand.
“Oh! Why, hello there little fella.” Violaine said, petting the animal. The man looked at her, seemingly embarrassed.
“Oh, do excuse me! Felix just loves children.” He said with a small smile.
“It’s no problem. I just love dogs.” Violaine said, scratching Felix behind his ears. The puppy wagged its tail and licked her palms.
“Yes, aren’t they wonderful?” The man said, inching closer to Violaine.
“You, know...I have more dogs. At my house of course. You could come see them if you like...” He said, stepping closer still.
Violaine thought for a moment.
“Well, how far is your house?”
“Oh, not far at all, deary! Not far at all!” He said, cheerily.
She bit the inside of her cheek, wondering how much trouble she would be in for being late.
“Well. Okay. I suppose I can catch the five thirty bus home.” She said, smiling. The man smiled a sly smile back,
“Perfect. Just perfect.”