Savage Delight

Page 14


James is the first to notice I’ve come in. He sits up and whispers groggily.
“Isis? Is that you?”
“Yeah,” I hiss. “Hey.”
He points at my chest, his bald head shining in the faint lights of the monitor. “Why are you jiggling?”
“I’ve always been this stacked.”
James rolls his eyes. I laugh and I shove a jello cup at him. He rips the top off, slurping it down in one gulp. I inch over to Mira’s bed and carefully place her jello cup on her forehead. She sleepily opens her eyes and groans.
“Isisssss. It’s cold.”
“Hurry up and eat it, then.”
They eagerly stuff sugar down their throats, and I clear mine trying to find the words to say goodbye.
“Listen,” I say. “I’m getting out of here tomorrow.”
“You’re leaving?” Mira sniffs.
“Yeah. I got better.” I smile. “Just like you will.”
“I won’t.”
“You will. You will and don’t you dare let me catch you saying you won’t.”
“Will you come back to see us?”
“Is the sky mildly blue? Duh I will!” I give him a noogie. “Also, toys. I’m gonna bring some cool new ones for your birthday, and James’ birthday, and Martin Luther King’s birthday, and my own birthday, because frankly these dinky little hand me downs do not suit your highness.”
Mira grins. A light flashes out in the hall and I duck behind her bed.
“The guard!” I exclaim. “Shit. Take mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms.”
“Shiitake,” James echoes. I bop his head.
“Hey! That’s a bad word.”
“But it’s a mushroom! Nothing’s wrong with mushrooms!”
“Haven’t you played Mario? Everything is wrong with mushrooms.”
“He’s coming this way to check,” Mira hisses at me. The guard’s so close I can hear the jangling of his keys.
“Okay, everyone calm down. Don’t panic. OhmygodwhatamIdoingwithmylife. Don’t panic!”
“We’re not!” They insist together.
“Right! Okay!” I breathe out my nose and charge towards the window. I always have a harder time climbing down than up, but it’s the only place in the room to hide; every piece of furniture in here is kid-sized and too small. I open the window and leap over, clinging by my fingertips on the sill. My converse scrabble on the cement of the wall, the cold winter air nipping at my butt, which hangs fourteen feet above certain death, or at the very least a broken kneecap. The door to the ward creaks open into utter silence. The grubs are good at pretending to be asleep.
“Who left the window open?” I hear the guard murmur. My heart rockets into my throat. He strides over and I pray to whatever god is listening that he won’t see my fingers. I must be praying right for once! He doesn’t see my fingers at all! He just kindly closes the window and shoves them off the sill instead. My hands jump to the ledge on the outside, but it’s so tiny and slippery, and I fight, my hands aching -
All I can think about is how to fall elegantly so my dead body doesn’t look stupid, because I’ve seen a million crime shows and honestly existentialist panic is no reason to not try, in your last moments, to contort your body as you fall so you strike a dramatic pose. It’s your last pose ever! You have a moral obligation to make it fabulous! Or at the very least not-disgusting.
I could pose like Beyonce, but one thing is still for certain.
I’m going to die.
Which is a whole lot of very not good.
My last fingers slip off the ledge. And then there’s weight all at once on my wrist as someone grabs it. Whiplash rocks my body and hard cement collides with my belly, scrapes my elbows. I look up into icy blue eyes shaded by wild tawny hair.
“Y-You!” I sputter.
Jack pulls me back up through the window, Mira and James on either side of him, wide-eyed and ecstatic.
“You almost died,” Mira whispers shakily.
“You were all like ‘WHOA’ and the guard was all like ‘BYE’ and Jack came in and was like ‘GRAB’!” James shrieks.
Jack straightens. I stand up on shaky legs and contemplate life and the refreshing fact I still have a life to contemplate at all. Jack freezes when our eyes meet, and turns on his heel abruptly. I run and put myself between him and the door. He stares at me and I stare at him, some unsaid pressure bearing down on my lungs. Adrenaline sears my veins, and a twisted pain tears through my chest. I can’t look away. He’s not even that good-looking. He just looks so…sad? And that sadness is condensed in an arrow that he’s shot right into me with his dumbo Antarctic eyes.
“How –”
“I was walking behind you in the hall. I followed you. I have a knack for knowing when you’re about to do something stupid.” Jack answers in clipped tones.
“Why –”
“Sophia. I came to the hospital for her. Now move.”
Jack tries to maneuver around me but I stop him at each turn.
“I’ve had years of practice being fat. We are good at blocking things. Also, floating in saltwater.”
“Let me through.”
The smell of mint and honey floats towards me – that same disconcerting smell of him I found in my memories earlier today.
“See, I think I should not let you through, since you are a really bad boyfriend, and logic dictates a bad thing should not be near a good thing, so essentially, Sophia doesn’t need you around.”
He scoffs. “You have no idea what you’re talking abo –”
“You kissed me,” I say. “Sophia told me you kissed me. And I remembered it. A bit. And even if you saved me, and Mom, and pulled me up from the ledge or whatever, I can’t forgive you for hurting Sophia like that. I can’t forgive you for kissing someone you didn’t like. That probably hurt me, too. You’ve hurt a lot of people, haven’t you?”
Mira and James watch us, our words like pingpong balls their heads inevitably follow. Jack is expressionless, wordless, like a recently-wiped chalkboard. I can’t read him. But tiny wisps of incredulousness give way to shock, and then his face sets in an icy mask of irritation.
“Get out of my way,” He repeats, a deadly quality in his voice.
“No. See, I’m a good dragon. Does your small-yet-somehow-still-functioning brain know what a dragon is?”
“Scaly!” James chirps.
“Breathes fire!” Mira adds.
“I’m the dragon,” I say. “And Sophia is the princess. And it’s my job to guard her from the likes of you.”
Jack raises a brow. “Likes of me?”
“A bad prince. The kind that ruins princesses forever.”
The ice-blue splinters of his eyes darken, shading over. His eyes are easier to read than his face, but not by much. Is it anger? Guilt? Frustration? No. It’s none of those. It’s helplessness.
“You’re too late. I’ve already ruined her forever,” he says, and pushes past me with such force I don’t have time to brace. He’s long gone by the time Mira decides to speak up.
“They call him sometimes. Naomi does. When Sophia gets really mad.”