Family by choice braves the blood of the veins.
It's what I’d told her upon witnessing the markings on her wrist under the watch – the results of her mother’s ligature – and the scars that her artistic father painted on her back.
“A choice goes much farther,” I elaborated. It’s all right for her to choose us.
Because we chose her.
“Morning.” Grabbing my breakfast from the counter, I sat across her at the dining table.
I wasted no time in devouring it like a starved whale, but her toast and eggs displayed no signs of consumption. She preferred to wait for her food to cool.
Me too. I didn’t want her burning her tongue.
She yawned, her slender fingers clasping over the small opening. New polish.
“Slept well last night?” I asked.
My parents and I spent significant effort in constructing an environment where she could embrace the feeling of familial love. Perhaps it was superfluous for a first-year university student whose transfer to this part of town would last for a mere semester, but we wanted to instill an unwillingness to leave in her.
“Not really,” she answered with yet another yawn, this one much more powerful. “Think you could remove that weird statue head in my room for me?”
I forced a chuckle to bulldoze the disappointment that was seeping in. That head was my favorite item.
“Feels like I’m being watched. It’s honestly disturbing,” she shuddered and blew on the first slice of French toast. “I’d remove it myself,” she bit off a piece gracefully as if not wanting to hurt the bread, “but I can’t reach that part of the bookshelf.”
I’d placed it on the highest level because it gave me the best view of her sleeping. And tossing around. Especially when she’d accidentally tug on the hem of her nightdress to reveal her milky skin lying underneath. Occasionally, she’d sleep unclothed, and those were the best nights since –
“Hey.” Her voice cut through sharply.
I blinked. “Yeah? Sorry, yeah, I’ll take it down for you when we return.”
I’d lose one set of eyes in her room, but I had several more.
“Your parents at the workshop again?”
I stuffed an egg into my mouth to avoid replying. She’s at it again. Her curiosity for my parents’ work was infinite, and their lack of presence at home and abundance of it in the metal workshop next door only added to this unpleasant-but-thrilling feeling. The neighbors labeled Mom and Dad as workaholics, but I knew better; most of the time, they entertained each other with their hobby.
In the basement. Where I’d join them intermittently when I wasn’t with her.
“You really ought to show me their creations one day,” she chimed.
We could let her in, of course. No harm in that. However, a few looks around, and she’d quickly deduce that it was “too much time, too few results.”
She was quick-witted like that. A week after moving, and she asked us why we always skipped dinner. It was to maintain healthy diets. Three weeks and she questioned the delectability of our Friday beef recipes. Mom had to disclose my secret instructions. A month in, and she probed into my sexuality. Two, and –
You get the point.
I successfully rerouted her attention to last week’s homework assignment until it was time to head to lectures. The ride there wasn’t peaceful. At least, not for her. The potholes sent a migraine crashing in, and I was constantly apologizing for the poor maintenance of our roads. Useless government.
Although what I should’ve apologized for is deliberately driving over them. I fancied the way she closed her eyes and winced at the sharp pangs of pain at the back of her head. The way her skirt diverted from its original position. The way she impulsively reached out and gripped my arm when I suddenly smashed down on the break: a stupid mongoose picked the wrong time to scurry across the road.
Between you and me, that mongoose didn’t exist.
It was fun. Life was fun. The last time I felt this thrill was when Heather, a material sciences student, joined us, but now that Heather’s gone, I’m glad she’s here. When she’s nearby, her warmth spreads to me, and when her skin makes contact with mine, my stomach rumbles with hunger. She gets my heart pounding harder. Much, much harder.
I mean, Heather liked to change in the washroom, but she always stripped down in front of her mirror. And in front of me. Heather wasn’t as “fleshy” in certain areas as her. Heather didn’t like shorts or tank tops, but she was almost always revealing the most beautiful parts of her body with us. Scars and all.
We didn’t like the scars, but she was gorgeous enough for us to ignore them.
But, the reason I wanted to take my time with her was that unlike naïve Heather, her daring perceptiveness kept me on the edge. Mom and Dad skillfully dodged her suspicions better than me. This was why she misunderstood the way I bent.
When the semester ended and her departure neared, I wanted to prepare a meaningful farewell gift. For that, I needed to start cleaning out some stuff from the basement, so I frequented my parents’ workshop.
“Sweetheart, she might come here in search of you,” Mom said from behind her workbench.
“She’s getting ready for bed. Migraine’s stuck around.”
I didn’t bother to inspect what Mom was working on. Instead, I headed to the farthest corner on the left and squatted at the basement door. Unlocked. Dad’s probably in there.
On cue, he emerged, wiping his mouth clean.
“Again?” He cleared his throat and swallowed. “You’ll lead her right in.”
I muttered a hurried apology before descending. The dirt of the cement stairs screamed under my feet, and the smell of iron kissed the insides of my nose. I inhaled deeply like a child entering a nicely-scented mall.
I didn't have the luxury to feel ecstatic. This was her last night here, and I needed the room emptied in time.
I rushed across the corridor, skipping the first few doors and halting at the seventh one – on the left. I knocked out of fake courtesy and entered.
She was waiting for me in the armchair that she accidentally spilled a Grande Frappuccino while bingeing her shows. No hard feelings; we just thought she’d be more comfortable in her favorite seat.
“Let’s finish up with you today. From tomorrow onward, this room’ll belong to her,” I said as I took a bite from next to the remnants of my father’s dinner: the fleshiest part of Heather’s thighs.