trigger warning: suicide mentions.
Lots of crying too, so please bear with me xD.
“Dara, manage her! She’s painting our faces black if she continues bringing misfortunes upon us.”
“Misfortunes, Papa? My c-condition paints your face black? That’s how you put it? All the years I’ve been living with this body, n-none of you ever considered helping me. And t-that’s inhumane of you.”
“Inhumane, ha! You’ve no say in this, child. You’re no less than a dead pariah to us.”
And with that, Tallulah stormed into her room and slammed the door on the words that kept bickering on the other side. She slid against the door and collapsed on the ground, allowing a dam of tears to out-pour down her lined cheeks. The best insult she could ever endure was from her own flesh and to twist the knife. She didn’t know how to help herself. With nothing else to do, she plopped onto the bed, counted ten dragons and cried herself to sleep.
If only she could sleep on a bed of thorns. Forever. And drown her thoughts about the bastards she called parents. Her world would saunter around in the backwoods and her parents could sleep in peace and forget about having their faces tainted yet again.
Everything would be so ornate, wouldn’t it?
Tallulah’s eyes fluttered at the pile of letters on the table. They were her world now; she’d be committing sins if she ever lost them. They were her newfound love, her memories and emotions trapped in them, and the recipient of those letters was as important as the letters themselves.
She sat down at her table and, plucking the feather pen out from the wooden box, glided it across the cream-coloured paper, pouring her heart and mind into it. The words written so dandy, last letters curled out to resemble cat whiskers, Tallulah folded it into a cylinder and tied a copper fine thread around it, securing it so it didn’t fan open.
A peck on the window glass brought her attention toward it. Outside, in the ominous night of Winter, stood an owl ruffling its feathers and turning its back, looking down and observing life that went on before its eyes.
No sooner had Tallulah slid open the window, than it scooted in and hopped on her.
“Oh, Nox, you got me a l-letter, boy?” Tallulah smiled and chuckled as Nox rubbed his head on her neck and moved closer, depleting the distance between them. “I see, your owner is punctual.”
She untied the rolled piece of paper from his foot and unfolded it. A gratified smile found its home on her face when her eyes sailed across the letter thrice. The letters kept her alive and compelled her to wake up every morning and persist with life.
Nox hooted once, twice, and thrice until he had gained Tallulah’s attention. He was an owl that belonged in the paintings of children’s books. His tuft-like ears were reminiscent of a teddy bear, yet he stared with yellow eyes befitting a witch’s cat. His plumage was a mottled grey-brown, so prominent that he almost blended into the gathering gloom of nightfall.
He loved being the messenger under spotlight where everybody applauded him and garnered him with prolonged hugs, treats and kisses. Tallulah could tell his owner pampered him to death. She felt covetous and selfish at the same time; she’d keep him to herself if he wasn’t taken care of properly. She’d told her parents they had gifted her two hearts; one that beat throughout existence and loved people and the other that bloomed into a heart-shaped flower and opened its arms only to animals. She was crazy in love with them, but petted none.
Today, before Tallulah could dip her pen into black ink and end the letter with her name on it, Dara barged in on her and snatched it away from her.
“This is what you do all day?” that was a loud voice, painful enough to rattle her eardrums and startle her heart. “You’re only going to spread your sickness through that, and I don’t want you socializing with anybody. Do you get that?” Dara yelled and took off. When Tallulah tried protesting, she struck her hard on the cheek with her rough hand.
Dara twisted her ear and pulled it to her mouth. “You are one heck of a mule. Wait till your father comes.” Tallulah winced under the pain and clasped her hands together. She had gathered all the past letters and set them alight and left her in the darkness of her room. Tallulah’s heart burnt and turned to ashes too.
Thankfully, her father hadn’t visited her even once, sneaked in only a couple times to call her out for dinner and their regular night chores.
Tallulah’s throat was sore and itchy, as if infested with termites. She had a few twitches today, nothing harmful but increased shoulder shrugs and lips smacks. It was exasperating, but since she couldn’t stop them, she didn’t fiddle anymore.
Tears welled up deep inside and her body trembled as she fought the dam from disrupting. Tallulah wondered how people bottled up their emotions so well. She, on one hand, couldn’t do it. Crying had to happen. She bellowed now and then and disgusted herself for doing so. She clouted her nape violently and blenched at the torment that trailed on her skin. Her body was a vessel, and a psychopath was driving it, snickering at her affliction.
Her eyes flickered to the tiny drawer beside her bed, and something whooshed past her mind. The incinerated letters weren’t the end; she’d forgotten she had a stack of papers stored into the drawer and she could start it all again, not that Nox wasn’t bringing letters to her anymore.
She settled into her chair and began writing.
Good whenever-this-letter-arrives-you! That depends on Nox, anyway. I’m not doing good. Mama burned down all my letters, she burned down a piece of me. You know how much you mean to me, don’t you? I can’t bear to see my memories being taken away from me. She triggered my sickness too. It feels like I’m possessed, that a demon is controlling me and I can’t do anything about it.
I’ve been thinking about so many things lately that I can’t put myself to sleep. Even the ten dragons that you suggested aren’t helping me anymore. See, I’m a waste of life, I should just kill myself. I could use something sharp to bleed my wrists, but nothing would help. My parents have broken my heart and I’m just waiting for it to happen in reality. I will scream my mind out, but it’ll all be worth the agony.
I deeply apologize for ranting to you, I’m a coward and I can’t stand up for myself, so why not just end it?
I would’ve actually just stopped replying to the letters if it weren’t for you. Tal, do you remember how I first wrote you a letter? I saw you in the market and by how haughty and elegant you seemed; I followed you home so I could memorize the lanes to send you letters afterward. You’re gorgeous. You’re a daisy, my friend. Everybody gapes at you, while you, the elegant princess, walk down the rose strewn path. You have adventures to go to and new food to taste. Love to experience and affection to gain. Please do not undermine yourself. I do not know what’ll become of me if you leave my sight. I can’t imagine the torment you’re suffering, but that’s what happens in life. Fight it. You’re a warrior, lady. You defeat an army of Dara’s and Ben’s single-handedly.
Oh! I see your smile already. Tal, I love you for stepping into my life. See what the world has for you. It’s not suffering and violence destiny has laid out in front of you.
The letter crumpled in her hand. Tallulah held it close to her chest as tears broke free. They scurried down her cheeks as if gaining freedom from captivity. She bent forward and screamed like a baby, muffled, intermittent, but distressing and intense. The man who was a stranger until a few weeks ago was the only one who understood her and empathized with her. Tallulah had always declared herself a coward, someone who couldn’t stand up for herself for the smallest of things. His words opened a hole for belief and hope in her heart. And what else could she ask for?
Blast off, daisy. Do you know what my name means? Sorin means Sun, and that means I am your Sun. When there’s a nightmare chasing you and threatening to suck up your soul, remember me and I am there with you, by your side. Tal, we’re both each other’s sunshine and even when darkness bathes us, we have each other’s back. You have my back! The devil shall not gain control over us, for the almighty Sorin is with Tal.
…. Sorin, I want to see you so badly. I can’t keep conversing with someone I haven’t had the chance to see the face of. I’m curious about your appearance. You know how I think of you? Remember that temple monk? He’s handsome, both men and women gawk at him and his aura stops you in your tracks and I think he’s beautiful inside too. He reminds me of you, but I’ll be a better judge when I get to meet you, though I don’t know if that’ll happen. Mama will never let me out.
Oh no, I’m jealous now, Tal. I am joking. But yes, I bet that monk is handsome, however, not more than me. HAHA.
Do not worry, my lady, for we shall see each other in future if not now. You’re always here in my heart and I already see you, so don’t pressure yourself.
Tallulah had received no letters today. It was harrowing. She’d wake up every morning only to write and read letters, and she realised how much she depended on Sorin. She spent her mornings and nights thinking about her secret friend and how much she trusted in him. To her, he didn’t seem like a man to take advantage of her and turn his back on her when things went awry and toppled upside down like a lopsided ice-cream mishandled by a child.
Her condition worsened, she refused or deliberately forgot to have dinner. Dara scanned her room, suspecting she had socialized again, but Tallulah was careful enough to hide her letters and papers away. They frowned in annoyance at her and left her again. She wondered if they loathed her so much, why hadn’t they done with her already. She shook her head at her thought, and Sorin’s words flooded her mind. It was calming.
It was at night when she decided something she could have never imagined.
Looking down at the carriages and passers-by, Tallulah’s head spun as she tried to stop the automatic shoulder shrugs. She failed. She thanked Sorin for what she was about to do in a few minutes. He had injected courage into her; something she lacked ever since her parents began mistreating her.
Tying a couple bedsheets to each other so they resembled a long rope, she tied one end to the leg of her bed and chucked the other end out the window. She knew climbing down the window would aggravate her triggers, but she had to do it. Hardly had she hung tight onto the rope when the door creaked open.
It was way past midnight and Ben wasn’t supposed to be here. Tallulah’s eyes trailed down to his hand clutching onto a bloody pocket knife. Why did he have it with him? With bewilderment, Tallulah slid down the rope as Ben thudded toward the window.
“Tallulah is escaping, Dara. Hurry downstairs. I’ll make sure she follows the same fate as that damn owl did.”
Tallulah halted and gasped. Had he killed Nox?
No, no, it can’t be. Nox’s smart, he must’ve escaped.
Breaking into a sprint, Tallulah turned a corner when she noticed Nox perched to a wall. His feathers had been vitiated. Blood spurted out his wounds. His hoots were low, lifeless. He didn’t look like the Great Horned Owl who’d hunt for hours on an end. He was just a baby, whimpering for rescue. Before she could get hold of him, he spread his wings and flapped through air. Tallulah followed him, and it was until some painful minutes when they lost sight of Ben.
“Nox, no,” Tallulah yelled when he took flight away from her sight. Where was she supposed to go now? She feared the outside world. She didn’t remember the number of days she’d spent at home and now, the streets alienated her.
She ambled down the lanes and didn’t care if danger skulked in the corners.
“Ah, careful. It burns.”
Tallulah followed the voice, entered a tiny lane. She peeked from behind the wall as a man crouched on the ground came into view. A stunt man behind him as they muttered inaudible words.
“That imbecile sliced through my wings as if butchering a chicken. But thank God Tallulah had to witness none of it.”
Tallulah choked and gripped onto her mouth. Their eyes met, and she knew it all.