Savage Delight

Page 3


I nod. Sophia’s gaze isn’t piercing, but something about it has weight, gravity, like she’s decades older than she seems. I haven’t told her about Nameless, mostly because she doesn’t need to know when she already looks so sad all the time. She hasn’t told me anything about her past, either, and it’s better that way. I can tell she’s had it worse than me.
“Was it a boy?” She asks, finally.
She folds her hands over each other, like a dainty lady. The nurses gossip about her; the way she’s been in the hospital for five years, the way she has no family – her mother and father died in a car accident, and her grandmother raised her, but she passed a few years ago, leaving Sophia all alone in the world. Mostly they gossip about the boy who comes to visit her – Jack, the same guy who happened to see our house door open and saved me and Mom from Leo. Infuriatingly good-looking, and an infuriatingly good Samaritan, he apparently visited her a lot. But since I came, he hasn’t come at all. He’s sent letters to Sophia (letters! In this day and age!), but he hasn’t come personally. The nurses love to gossip about that, too. I scream politely from across the room correct them whenever I can; I don’t know him! He barely knows me! I’m indebted to him, sure, but there’s nothing going on and there never will be because duh – all boys who aren’t Hollywood actors with prestigious pirate acting careers are gross!
“I’m sorry,” I blurt.
“For what?”
“For your boyfriend. He’s…he’s stopped coming around since I came, and if it’s because of me, I’m sorry, and I know that’s arrogant to think, but the nurses blab and I can’t help but think –”
She pats my hand and smiles. “Shhh. It’s okay. They don’t know anything. He’s just busy is all. He works a lot, and he has school.”
“I have school,” I grumble.
She plops the book she brought down on my lap. “And you have seven chapters of The Crucible to read if you wanna catch up before you go back next week!”
I contemplate seppuku, but after remembering how big the medical bill for a cracked head is, I refrain. Mom’s having a hard enough time paying without me adding spilled organs and general death to the list. Besides, I can’t die yet. I still gotta thank Jack properly. Dying before you pay someone back is just plain rude.
“I don’t wanna go back to school,” I say.
“Yes you do.”
“I totally do. It’s a snoozefest in this place.”
“Then we better get reading.” Sophia smiles. I groan and roll over, and she starts reading aloud. She enjoys torturing me. Or she’s just happy to have someone here with her. I can’t decide which. We might get a long great, but she’s still a huge mystery to me. Me! The queen empress of deducing what people are all about! I study her face, her hands, her dress as she reads. Everyone in the hospital knows Sophia, but no one knows what she has, exactly. The nurses don’t like to talk about it. I asked Naomi and she glared and told me it was under doctor-patient confidentiality. Sometimes Sophia stays in her room for ‘treatments’, and those last for days. She doesn’t limp or cough or vomit, and no bandages or stitches are on her. Except for the fact she’s so pale and thin and sometimes complains she has migraines, she’s perfectly healthy as far as I can see.
“Soph,” I interrupt. She looks up.
“I know this might be super invasive, and historically invading has been pretty bad overall, but I don’t think I can physically contain my curiosity any longer. Or, I could. But I’d like, implode the star system from the stress. Why are you in the hospital?”
Sophia slowly closes the book. “You really don’t remember, do you?”
“Remember what?”
Her eyes dampen with sorrow. She stares out the window for a long time before sighing.
“What?” I insist. “What is it?”
Sophia looks back at me. “Oh, nothing. It’s just sad, is all. I’m sad for him. He was so happy, for a while.”
I wrinkle my nose, and before I can explode with the demand for answers, Sophia starts talking again.
“I have the same thing you have.” She taps her head with one finger. My mouth makes a little ‘o’.
“You…split your head open like a melon, too?”
She laughs, the sound like bells made of crystal. “Something like that.”
I look over at the bag she brought. A bunch of romance books crowd it, various clones of Fabio flashing their brooding frowns on every cover as a scantily dressed female is in the inevitable process of fainting on a rock somewhere nearby, preferably directly beneath his crotch.
“Why do you even like those? Aren’t there just like, princesses and kissing and misogyny?” I wrinkle my nose. Sophia shrugs.
“I don’t know. I like the princesses.”
“They’ve got great dresses and fabulous hair and loads of money. Kind of hard not to.”
“I suppose I like the way the stories always end happily. Since…since I know my story won’t end as happily.”
My heart twists around in my chest. She sounds so sure of herself.
“H-Hey! Don’t talk like that. You…you’re the closest thing I’ve ever met to a princess. Like, a real life one. Minus the tuberculosis and intermarrying. And like, beheadings.”
Sophia laughs. “You’re a princess too, you know. Very brave. And noble.”
“Me? Pft.” I buzz my lips and a delightful spray of saliva mists the air. “I’m more like…more like…I guess if I was in one of those books I’d be like, a dragon.”
“It just makes more sense!” I smooth my hair. “Fabulous glowing scales. Beautiful jewel-like eyes.”
“Wings for arms?” Sophia smirks.
“That’s a wyvern! Dragons have wings independent of their limb system! But I forgive your transgressions. I’ve encountered a bit of heartburn today and am not in the mood to eat a maiden like you in the slightest.”
“What would you do as a dragon?”
I shrug. “You know. Fly around. Collect gold. Fart on some townspeople.”
Sophia is quiet for a moment.
“But I still don’t get it. Why does a dragon make sense for you?”
“Think about it. I’d just make a badass dragon. I mean…nobody really likes the dragon. You get to be alone, in a cool quiet place. As a princess everybody likes you and you gotta be in the middle of hot sweaty balls all the time.”
Sophia raises an eyebrow.
“Ballroom…balls. Dances. Uh.”
She laughs that chime-laugh, and I can’t help the laugh that bubbles up, too. I sound like a donkey.
“And I mean,” I add. “You know. Dragons never have to worry about. Um. What I mean is, princes don’t fall in love with dragons –”
“ – they fall in love with princesses –”
Did you think that’s what this was? Love? I don’t date fat girls.
“ - so it makes more sense, you know?”
“Isis?” Naomi pokes into the room. “Let’s go. It’s time for your session with Dr. Mernich. Hi Sophia.”