Shards of glass glistened against his temple.
He shoved her off him, turning around to snarl and spit at her feet.
How dare she.
A deep, dark scarlet concealed his vision like the theatre curtains after the final act. His show was over. Worthless days of performing and mutilating his own personality were over. A copper tang hung in the air, a warm discomfort.
He wore makeup, blue eyeliner that had run down his cheeks, meandering like a river. Tracks were carved out in the snow of foundation and concealer, smoothing over the bumps and blemishes of his adolescence. “Charles, it’ll be okay.”
“Go away.” His voice was broken, hoarse and cracked. Pathetic. He sounded so weak, barely above a whisper. He held his arms to his chest.
Somewhere in the distance, a wailing chord struck up. A blue and red duet. Metal contorted out of shape, indent from crushing the fragile flesh suit of a human.
He strangled the neck of a bottle in one hand, draining it of its soul. Liquid content sloshed its way down his throat and he slammed the bottle down. “Another!” The mass of partygoers handed him a drink. He drifted, holding his next source of poison against his chest like it could keep him afloat, like it would hydrate him in this drought when all it could ever do was leave him worse off. He rocked and bobbed and swayed, losing himself to the beat of the music. When he finished one mouthful of alcohol, the next would quickly follow.
Ivory poked through warm mustard-coloured cotton, jagged bone like the unkempt ridges of a mountain searing right through his flesh in its search for the atmosphere.
He let the liquor flow, getting more and more lost within the moment, amazed at the texture of the ceiling. “Are you proud of me?”
Subconsciously he knew Sofia was looking at him with those worried eyes, feeling helpless. Again. She had come back even after he had yelled at her. All he had ever wanted was for their parents to be impressed. For them to love him. For them to say with pride that he was their son. “Pride is to be earned.”
He was 17, 100% attendance, 100% good grades. 100% suffocating. He felt the claws of Mephistopheles as it perched upon his shoulder, digging into his suffering.
He took another swig. Let it burn.
They opened his eyes, a beam of light connecting with his pupils. He was pulled to safety, limbs dangling limply like a ragdoll.
He stood, nearly falling but feeling Sofia hold him up, letting him drape his thin arm over her shoulder, button-up shirt rustling and crinkled out of place. His hair was an unilluminated mop swept up over his forehead. “Everything I’ve ever done has been to please them.”
Sofia kissed the top of his head, her arms wrapped around him. “I know, I know.” If only he could have seen the way with which his sister gazed at him with doleful eyes, seeing a brave, strong brother who was always there for her. But one who was in pain. One who was hurting. “I think we should get you to bed, okay?” He nodded. He would probably be sleeping in his uncle’s garage tonight.
A peaceful archway of ivy and a letterbox had been torn to shreds, falling upon the ground with a sad reluctance. Rain began to splatter upon the concrete, mocking the morale of every determined set of eyes staring out at the road.
“I just need the bathroom, okay? Are you gonna be okay? Just stay here, I’m gonna be back so quick you won’t even notice I was gone.” He gurgled out a response, sitting on the cold front porch steps. His thumb brushed over the uneven surface, barely aware of each movement he made. His head was a mess, thoughts weren’t forming properly. Half a sentence would whisper its presence into his brain before wisping away out of existence. Like a half-written poem that left out the happy ending.
He could just make out the sound of music, still throbbing like a sick heart. “Hey! It’s Charlie boy, guys!” He mustered all his strength to point his face starward. He scoffed and rolled his eyes. “I bet he came here so that a boy would get drunk enough to kiss him! F*g!” A group of boys from his school giggled in their horde in front of him, ensuring their indiscretion. He didn’t respond, other than to shoot a glare. That word hurt him more than they could comprehend. They kept walking closer, blocking the tube on his metaphorical air supply. He rubbed a hand down his own face, wiping at the makeup until he was scrubbing and scratching at his own flesh. At that moment, he hated himself. He wanted to crawl back into the closet and just pretend to be what people wanted, pretend to fit into the accepted side of society. He knew there was nothing wrong with who he was, but you can never explain that feeling until you’re experiencing it yourself. He wouldn’t be here if he had just kept his mouth shut, kept the theatre curtains from closing. He would be home; safe.
They plucked up rocks from the ground, throwing whatever gravel they could dislodge from the driveway. They pelted against his front, little and inconsequential. He stood and tried to walk through their attack—
Bruises covered his body, nasty combinations of yellow and blue. Blood was smeared along their tender habitats.
Every time a rock landed it was propelled with more force, hitting him in the back, in the head. A stick hit him and he dropped to the ground, crawling along in the dirt and muddying up his clothes. He got out into the street, stumbling and crying. The alcohol’s effects dissipating in the face of adrenaline, sending him into a run. He heard footsteps behind him but he couldn’t stop, he ran and ran in the darkness.
Sofia slammed open the front door. She had spotted those horrible excuses for human beings and hurried down, Charles was gone, running away. She barged past the idiots and ran after him.
There was mud on his face, framing a split lip that still bled.
He ran and ran and ran, why did he have to be so stupid as to wear what he felt comfortable in, to tell his parents how he truly felt about their plans for him? All he had ever wanted was their affection and to love who he wanted to love now he would never—
A thunderous squeal was let out in the night sky. Tires creating friction with the tarmac as the headlights dipped around the corner. A sickeningly loud thud and cracking of bones sent the small 17-year-old boy to collide full force with the concrete.
A car door slammed and a man stood over Charles’s unmoving body, panic etched along his face. Sofia fell down beside her brother, kneeling on the freshly wet ground as the rain raged on. She was crying and whimpering his name. Over and over again.
Charles blinked slowly. He awoke to Sofia clutching his hand. The bright white lighting blinded him before his pupils could adjust. Behind Sofia, his mum and dad. An uncharacteristic expression tired out their faces; worry, sadness. When they saw his eyelids flutter open, his father let out a sigh of relief, tears consuming his face and he turned to weep upon his wife’s shoulder. “We put all your stuff back in your room, Charlie. Come home. We were… wrong.”
“Do you love me?”