Megan was running through the familiar streets, though something gloomy reflected in the once bright roads. Her eyes stung as much as the red across her cheeks while she looked for refuge in the last safe place she had in the crowded city. An oasis as the world collapsed around her without anything she could do about it.
I can’t go back there! That old man was a thief. Four thousand for a single room? That was the last thing she heard before shutting the world out. Finally, there was only a single door between her and the nook of her favorite local deli.
The smell of fresh coffee welcomed her first. The whimpers subsided. Like every Tuesday morning, the waitress placed the usual buttermilk pancakes topped with strawberry jam sauce and freshly cut strawberries in front of her.
But the mere sight of red sent all her senses into overdrive. Her body was starting to tremble. Leaks from her face started diluting the red on the plate, but it was too late for her to stop the waterfall. All she saw was red. Too much red.
Didn’t anyone tell you, mate? New York City’s lifestyle is not for everyone. Is a never-ending climbing ladder out here. Even a six figures salary will not make it easy. The conversationalists caught up inside, polluting the atmosphere with their mundane issues.
Well, I will not be earning that anytime soon, but I sure do need a place for tonight. The sacrifice of following your dreams, I guess. The taller slender guy with only eighty dollars in his pocket concluded, having shifted his curiosity to the broken-looking girl in the nook.
Bruised cheeks, unkempt hair, red faded stains, and scratches on her clothes. She looked in need of going to a police station to file an assault report, yet no one was paying any mind. Something about her reminded him about other existential crises out there. The bigger picture, some may say. After staring longer than what was considered polite, above all, he noticed the sadness in her gentle doe-eyes.
I’m Kye. What’s your name? The guy introduced himself after many unanswered questions and awkward silence since he approached the nook. Eventually, Megan starred in his direction, lowering her walls, examining the warmth of the face in front of her.
To his surprise, she merely said I know of an empty room for rent if you’re interested, without disguising the sadness or the crack in her voice. Somehow, despite all his wariness, hesitation, and dubiety, Kye found himself asking for more details. Granted, he also was distracting the girl from her sorrows and hearing more words from her than he ever thought he’d get.
For the first time in weeks, Kye saw Megan again in the same spot. If it were not for the affordable room in a decent fourth-floor apartment in the Bronx, he wouldn’t have believed she was real. He started walking towards her and was taken aback by the contrast from the girl he first met.
Aside from the slight marks paling on her cheeks, she looked well. More than healthy. She wore her hair in soft waves, painted red lips and nails, and a designer bag sitting at the end of the table. She was concentrating, typing away in her MacBook, periodically taking sips of coffee.
For sure, he had noticed her intriguing aura and untypical beauty before. She may not have been the modelesque type, but alluring nonetheless. Something he hadn’t dared to admit or would’ve said out loud out of respect for the state she had been in. But it was different this time.
Kye couldn’t contain himself from resuming walking to her. H-Hi, Megan? He asked, remembering the name she provided last time, in the crowded sidewalk outside the deli, before parting ways. Her eyes lit up and a smile formed on her lips at the sight of him. He sat a tad perplexed, still returning the smile with pleasant enthusiasm.
I apologize for not checking in about the apartment. How are you settling in the place? She asked securely without the smile leaving her face as his hinted confusion. I’m sorry, I barely got a chance to introduce myself the other day. Megan Beischel. Real estate agent. They both softly chuckled, with the air cleared up.
She felt a sense of familiarity talking to him. Maybe it was the tenderness in his brown eyes or his patience on her frequent long talks. For him, he longed to hear her voice whenever she’d stop her chat from dominating the conversation. So he always encouraged her to be herself.
Megan never revealed the reasons behind her wounds on that first day. Neither Kye pushed for an answer. But the scars faded just as curiosity did, and a round of weeks passed, rolling into months. Time, bringing them closer between breakfast and lunch dates in the nook or night strolls and on the pier dinners.
Kye often found Megan stealing glances at him. Or staring profoundly into his eyes while hanging on to every word he said. It was the most endearing thing Kye had seen, as well as a rarity in relationships nowadays. He treasured every little moment with her.
A gust of fall wind caught up on her brunette waves while walking alongside Kye in the Harlem Meer. Hand in hand, they were engaging in trivial conversations about their respective day at work. I can’t believe I almost missed this had my brother not pushed me to come to the city. I hope we would’ve met one way or the other, though.
And I would like to think that I would’ve found you, even without knowing, lover. Megan twirled through a swarm of fireflies as she reached the shore of the lake, then sat down and patted the ground for Kye to follow. He smirked, complying with her commands.
Lover. Kye muttered, considering the word. ‘Lover’ doesn’t sound like a big enough commitment as I wished we had. He grabbed a wisp of her hair swirling it around his finger, trying to avoid her puzzling stare.
Hmm. Maybe, if you’re good to me, lover. She emphasized the last word before standing and running off, clearly seeking to be chased. He started laughing, amused, and prepared to catch her.
Like every other Friday for the last two months, they commuted to 28th St, where they’d meet up and walk to a nearby bar. It’s unfair for you to wear that dress when you know we’ll be in public all night, firefly. Kye fake pouted before leaning in for a quick kiss.
I’m not opposed to social displays, especially in a clean bathroom. Kye laughed at her antics, still eyeing her in admiration. I love you. He mumbled as she was starting to walk away.
Snowflakes were slowly making their way to the hot pavement of the busy street as Megan reached his place. It only took a knock before the door flew wide open. Surprise! ¡Feliz cumpleaños, amor! He cheerfully said before sweeping her off her feet. She froze in her tracks as they were walking into the room. Is there something wrong, firefly?
I’m so sorry, lover. I-I was feeling nostalgic. This room-- reminded me of the past. Megan exhaled as if she had been holding her breath for a while. Worry invaded his eyes, as he walked the short distance to embrace her. I haven’t told you this, but the day we first met-
Shh! I hope you don’t think like you have to open up now out of all days. I will be here for you when you’re ready.
Thank you. I do want to say this. Before we met, I felt-- nothing. I had nothing. I found in you an illusion I thought I lost forever. Megan held Kye tighter for a while longer. Trying to resume the celebration, they shared Italian food in the bed embellished with red rose petals, popped a bottle of champagne, and ate out of the expensive decorated cake. Their mood was picking up as the hours passed by.
Kye started trailing feathery kisses at the length of her neck while tracing I love you’s over the thin fabric of her skirt. I love you too. She responded softly. Their clothes made their way to the floor as they surrendered in the bliss of each other's affection.
Tight ropes held down his arms and legs to the posts of the bed. Megan sat on top of him while she waited to be fully awake. Morning, lover. She said nervously. But Kye was hesitating, not aware.
I guess I should start. Megan continued between laughs. I-I hope you can forgive me for this. His heart started racing, and confusion grew on his face. Life has given me another chance, lover.
What are you saying, firefly? W-What’s going on? But she ignored him and started making her way to the single armchair across the room to fetch her bag. After some shuffling, she walked back to the bed with an arm to her back. She sat in her previous position and revealed a knife.
M-Megan! What’s this? W-What are you doing? Let go of these ropes now! Panic was evident in his voice. But once again, she ignored him and started tracing doodles with the knife on his bare chest as if it was the most natural thing to do.
Once, there was this guy, same dark hair and brown eyes-
Jesus, Megan! What-
Do not interrupt me again! She yelled as she punctured his skin with the tip of the knife. Kye winced in pain, his heart accelerating and breath hoarse. Anyway, I loved that boy. He was my world. Kye was listening in shock and despair, a single tear rolling down to his temple. But that didn’t matter to him. He was leaving me and going back to his country, even when I offered him to stay in this room.
What are you doing? I loved you so much. Why, firefly? Why tell me this now? Kye asked, his voice breaking at the end. He could barely comprehend what was going on, what he was hearing.
Because I’m ready. Megan said, but she was looking absently past his eyes. Only his sniffles remained in the present. One day, we were- we were like this, in this same room, and next thing there was so much red. Too much red.
Let me go, firefly, please. I beg.
Shhh. I’m ready. Megan said as the knife pierced his skin, now reaching his heart. The shiny blood slowly made its way to the sheets and floor as the tumbling sound of the knife hitting the wood echoed throughout the entire room.
Too much red.
Megan started hitting herself as she continued chanting those exact words. She brusquely got up from his lifeless body tumbling on the floor and in front of her feet. Too much red. She mumbled one last time before the door slammed open.
I told you not to come here. Your only job was to make sure to lease the room. I needed the money, dammit. Like a deer in headlights, Megan stared at the tall figure. I didn’t need to clean another body today. Gathering her stuff, she quickly ran out of the room with her red-stained clothes in her hands.
The statuesque figure approached the bed, hovering over the body. I’m sorry, mate, New York City’s lifestyle is not for everyone.
Megan sprinted out of the building to the familiar path, blinded by the hot tears, desperate to reach her safe haven. Too much red.