I could see her eyes flashing and I remembered the time I broke my nose because I called her a vampire. I didn’t want that to happen in front of Saberdeen, or worse, to her because of me.
“Yes. I would.”
We left at lunchtime.
I hadn’t been to a lot of weddings but I was almost certain they didn’t end with the bride and groom covered in cake and crying on the ground. And I knew that the guests were definitely not supposed to be the ones throwing the cake at them. But ever since the apparently very controversial wedding vows, that’s all the guests had been doing. Personally, I liked the vows better the way they were before I had to change them.
“Ugh. I can’t believe that just happened. Solly, I’m sorry you had to sit through that.” Saberdeen was driving us back home from the chaotic wedding and she was mad. That made me feel hollow.
“It’s not your fault.” It was my fault. “You didn’t know that was going to happen.” I did. “So you really don’t have to apologise.” I wanted to tell her I was the one who was sorry and all that but I couldn’t. “Um. I’m sure the cake would have been good. If we had gotten to eat it.”
“Yeah.” Saberdeen looked darkly at the road, her hands so tight on the steering wheel I thought that her fingers would snap right off. They didn’t. She slid her eyes to meet mine and I watched her for a minute before my head yanked back to the ground. My eyes were flashing now, I just knew it. They burned with something I wasn’t quite sure how to name. Saberdeen pulled the car up to my house and looked at me expectantly. She leaned across the seat and pressed against my chest, her hands raking gently through my hair. I closed my eyes and then she had climbed over the seats entirely and was settling herself in my lap, her arms wrapped around my neck and her head tucked underneath my chin.
“Cozy.” Saberdeen closed her eyes too and we were quiet and just thereby happy for a moment. She pulled closer to me and then... Fireworks. Wildfire racing up and down and all around and turning me to ashes. Because Saberdeen kissed and kissed me until I was so out of breath all I could do was watch her head go in rhythm to the beat of my drumming heart. Her hair smelled like soap and car washes. And lips? Why was it that the people you loved most have such soft, soft lips? Saberdeen pulled away and smiled up at me and it was like we were sharing the secret of the century. A minute where I wasn’t Solly, friend of Chaos and bringer of destruction, I was Solly, boy who loved a girl and would do anything for her. It was a glass minute though, and the instant Chaos came to the car, it was shattered. She knocked on the window and Saberdeen and I both shot to our respective seats.
But it was too late. Chaos had been there for a long time, I could tell, and every minute she waited she grew angrier and angrier. She pretended not to have arrived a moment too soon. “Hello! How did the wedding go?” Saberdeen and I looked at each other and laughed nervously. “Oh, did you skip the wedding and do something else? You’re both acting rather…” Chaos lifted one perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Sneaky.”
“No-no. We went to the wedding! It just didn’t go very well. We’re fine. I mean, it’s all good! We didn’t do anything bad.”
“Ah, but what constitutes bad is so different according to different people… I just hope you had fun.”
I looked at Chaos and nodded. “Yes. Fun. We did that. I mean, yeah. Fun.” Did kissing turn your brain to liquid mush, as well as your legs and your arms and everything but your heart, because your heart has never rushed so much?? I had lost whole pages of my mental dictionary. Words were failing me, and for the first time in so long, I didn’t care. Saberdeen was looking intently at her hands. I looked at her hands too. So pretty.
“I think that’s enough fun for today, Solly boy. We’ve got other plans. Say goodbye to your friend.”
Saberdeen smiled at Chaos and my heart leapt inside my chest. That smile shouldn’t be used on creatures like Chaos. It radiated a whole new degree of light. “Bye, Solly.”
I rolled up the window on Chaos and held my hand up to her. My way of saying wait. “Bye, Saberdeen. I’ll see you at school.” But I knew I’d be seeing her even before that, because every time I closed my eyes she was all my mind could understand. I took one of her hands in my own and pressed it softly to my lips. “I don’t know what I’ll do until then.”
“Don’t be silly… you have plenty to do. Your aunt even said so. Go on. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” Ha ha. Fat chance of that happening now.
I climbed out of the car and stood in the driveway until Saberdeen’s car faded from view. Chaos steered me into the kitchen, her hands on my neck. “That was not part of the plan, Solly.” She sat down in the chair across from me. “Hope you enjoyed it, because it’s the last memory you’ll have of her.” My head shot up. What?
“What do you mean, the last memory? I’m going to see her again at school, aren’t I?”
Chaos crossed her arms. “No. You’ve had no progress there. I’m getting very jealous of your new friends, Solly, and I think it’s time we move on.”
“Maybe I don’t want to.”
“Maybe you don’t have a choice! I am everything to you, boy. I am shelter and food and water and love.” She lowered her voice to sound weak, almost innocent in a way. “I’m your friend.” Her head bobbed close to her chest in shame. “I’m your only friend.”
“Well, I don’t think that’s true. I think you’ve been treating me very badly. I’m leaving. I want you to go back to whatever place you came from and stay there forever. You have no control over me, Chaos. Not today, Satan. Goodbye.” I stood up from the table and strode to the door, confidence and utter terror making my head spin. Chaos just shook her head. “I said good-bye.”
“You wait, little boy. Everyone and everything you have ever loved will go up in flames.”
Then, she was gone.
Trembling, I fell to my knees and couldn’t help the tears that began to fall, slip sloshing down my face. What was I going to do now? I didn’t think she would actually leave me alone. But now I was. And I had nowhere to go. It turned out that after being friends with Chaos, being without her was scarier than her being mad at me. Even then, she was always there… even if it was for the wrong reasons. I stayed on the floor until the sun went down and my head stopped spinning so much and I could stand up again. I walked up the stairs and into my room. There was nothing there. Everything was absolutely gone. It seemed as though the room itself had been vacuumed of all life. Of course it did. Chaos had been in my room recently. She could feel that I had been wanting to end our friendship for a while now, blind to it as I thought she was. I didn’t even have the phone anymore. The carpet beneath my feet felt hollow, as did my entire body. Where just minutes before I had been in a place of wildfires and soft lips and all that, now I felt like my heart had been carved from my chest and thrown halfway across the state.
I guess that meant I had to go pick it up.
Saberdeen wasn’t even six miles away from Chaos’s house by the time I reached her. She had stopped for gas, and it was lucky she had or else I really would’ve been lost. The moment she saw me walking towards her, she knew something had happened with my, well, with whoever she thought Chaos was. I couldn’t even really look at her properly, because even though it was difficult, I was going to have to tell her who I was eventually. Maybe on our wedding day? Far far far from now? The guilt would never let me go that long. With the gas pump still in her car, Saberdeen took my hands in hers and looked me straight in the eyes. “What happened? Tell me the truth.”
And I said I couldn’t yet, and she put the pump back and got in her car. Before she could leave, I got in the passenger side seat and tried very hard not to let Saberdeen know I was terrified something was watching and waiting to hurt us. Everyone and everything you have ever loved will go up in flames. Pictures of Saberdeen, twisted and broken, her beautiful lips a charred black and the smile I had grown to see as such a brilliant thing folded into a scream, danced in my head and I flinched. My hands were sticky with sweat and beads of it dropped off my hair and into my eyes. I had been running so urgently it didn’t even occur to me that I needed to breath. Now I took in deep, almost sobbing, gasps of air that rasped against my rib cage. “She isn’t who you think she is. I’m not who you think I am. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done. I’m sorry and I’ll be sorry forever and eternity. That’s the truth I can tell you.” Tears filled my eyes and the tattoos decorating- scarring- my chest and back and arms stung because why did I let her do that to me? Why did she make me lie? “I can’t tell you anything.”
“Then get out of my car. If this,” She waved between us. “Whatever it is that this is, is going to work, then I want the whole truth. None of this truth that I can tell you stuff will work with me. What are you so afraid of?” I looked in her eyes and all that was there was a pleading want for me to tell her she could trust me. I started to take deep breaths, in and out and in and out and in and out. And in and out. Saberdeen was still waiting.
“I’ve done a lot of bad things because I thought I was supposed to if I was a good… friend. I was raised by, first, people who didn’t know why I was, and then by a monster who told me who I was. She’s not a human, Saberdeen. Her name is Chaos, and she told me she was the only one who understood me. She told me to trust her and to do what she told me. And I always did, because I was so scared of losing the one thing I thought she was giving me. But she never, never loved me. She only loves destruction and death. She used me for both.” I pulled up my sleeves to show Saberdeen my arms. “She controlled and told me she loved me and I thought she was the only one so I did what I had to to stay in her graces. I didn’t know how to leave until I had a better reason to want to leave.” I traced the inside of my wrist. “But she threatened to come back and hurt you, and I don’t want that. You didn’t do anything do deserve that from me, and I won’t let you get hurt because of something I did.”
Saberdeen was the essence of silence then. She was very, very still. I waited a beat before getting worried.
Why wasn’t she moving?
“Saberdeen. Saberdeen. Are you there? Hello.” She didn’t even blink. A tremendous weight of horrible pressed my heart flat and it was beginning to be very hard to breathe. I grabbed her arms and shook her as gently and urgently as I possibly could. But it was too late. Her face began to rip down the middle, tearing her in half. It was like a pair of giant, invisible scissors had gone and were snipping her in two, like she was a paper doll instead of a living person.
“Chaos, stop! Stop it!” I desperately tried to put Saberdeen back together again, but it was no use. This wasn’t Saberdeen. This was Chaos. She had tricked me once again. And now she sat in the drivers seat of Saberdeen’s car, looking like she had swallowed the fires of hell for breakfast. “Where is she? Where did you take her?” I was scrambling to get out of the car, but it seemed like lead had replaced my blood and I couldn’t move.
“You think I did all this for you to up and leave me because you think you like some human freak? You are an ungrateful, wretched, pathetic thing and I will make you rue the day you were ever born. I gave you everything you never had a chance of getting, and now you want to leave me for someone you think may like you back? I more than like you, Solly. I control you. I own you. But now? You’ll pay. You are going to know pain like no one ever did.”
“Why wouldn’t I already? You’ve kept me trapped in your web of lies for so long now that I don’t even know what to do without it to catch me! I don’t care what you do to me, just as long as you leave Saberdeen alone. Let her go from whatever spell she’s in, or whatever prison you’ve trapped her inside of. You can plow through my organs with a meat grinder for all I care.’’
“Let’s take a trip, then, shall we?”
Before I knew what was happening, we were back in that fateful tree. It was the one I had first met Chaos, and the tree that I fell from when I offended her. If I was smarter, I would have known that she was lying when she said she wanted to be my friend. Friends forgave each other, they didn’t fling them from trees. I should have never gone with her.
“Why are we here?” I could see my younger self now, softly breathing in the gnarled branches of the tree. “Why did you bring us here?”
“I brought you here to show you how I helped you, found you, rescued you, when you were alone, and scared, and lost. And when you said that wretched thing about me, what did I do?”
“Tried to kill me?”
“That was a test! I never meant to hurt you. I’m so sorry. I only ever wanted the best for you, Solly. I still do. We can go back home, pack our things and stuff the memories you made there up where they won’t hurt you. Or me. Saberdeen pales in comparison to what we share, Solly. Please. I have no one else. We are unstoppable. Don’t listen to what I said. Forget it, come home, and I’ll make sure no one hurts you again. I won’t hit you. No more tattoos. Please, I need you with me.” The pleading in her voice would have been sincere, if it wasn’t for the grating glint of her eyes. I shook my head and my arms lashed out, knocking Chaos off balance but not enough to hurt her. And then I ran towards the tree.
“Hey, jump!” I called up to my past self, who was about to make the worst decision of his life. “Get down here! Don’t listen to that lady!”
Solly from the past looked down at me and back up at Chaos. He was so confused. But that was okay. All that mattered was that he got down from that tree before Chaos threw him out of it. “Who are you?” He was already on the verge of crying.
“Just jump!” I yelled, again, hoping with all my might that past Solly could just trust me. Just as I yelled for him to jump, past Chaos hissed and leapt down from the trees, almost landing on top of me in the process of doing so. I ducked around her and scrambled to the base of the tree, trying to buy time for myself, present and past tense. “Hurry up. She can’t make you do anything you don’t want to. She’s not who you think she is, no matter what lies she fills your head with. Just say no!” I slammed into the tree as hard as I could, and everything went blurry, slurry, and dark.