snapped awake. Her dream splintered and spread away from her
mind. She felt cold sheets sticking to the thin sheen of sweat
on her legs. She opened her eyes, swirled her tongue around
the insides of her cheeks, and tasted the warm filth of morning
on her teeth.
over to the nightstand, grasping for the old cup of water she always
kept beside her. Some went into her mouth, the water being
almost as warm as her breath. Thin blades of sunlight struggled
to get through the blinds and help wake her. She glanced at
the clock, saw that it was after three, and realized that she had
slept all day again.
It was hot
and the air was stale. Her window was shut as usual, but she
never opened it. She felt more comfortable when the room felt
stagnant, controlled and safe from the outside.
looked across the room to her mirror. It lay propped against
a dresser that which was stripped of its drawers. A river
of cracks spread from the bare and brown center of the mirror.
Splinters of glass lay below, imbedded in the carpet.
swung her legs to the side of her bed, feeling the humid air greet
her skin as it left the smothering touch of her blankets.
The carpet felt greasy beneath her feet as she sighed and stood
before the mirror. She winced when she felt the sharp call
of glass entering her foot. She lifted her foot, examining
the small trickle of blood. She pulled the sliver of glass
out and tossed aside, then returned her attention to the mirror.
I going to be today?” Dara whispered to her mirror.
swarm of distorted reflections warped and twisted upon each other,
staring back at her. She turned to the cluttered nightstand,
leaving a small smear of blood on her stuffed teddy bear lying on
the floor. She pushed aside the dirty cups and used
tissues until she found a ragged notebook and a chewed up pencil.
through the book, seeing her notes on math and social studies.
The last entry was dated two months ago. She flipped to the
back of the book and sat down on her bed.
scribbling out the first thing that came to mind, a vague image
that seemed familiar. As the lead scratched across the paper,
she recalled the image from the dream she had just had.
heard a knock at the front door, audible even in her bedroom. She
heard two muffled voices, one older and kind, but edged with authority,
the other young, virile, deceptive. There was a slight pause,
then a soft tapping on the door. She quickly stuffed the notebook
under her pillow. The rotted wooden door slowly peeled open,
letting a small shaft of light fall upon the bed. The owner
of the deceptive voice entered with a pile of books under her arm.
Janice,” Dara said. She stretched, then curled her body up
as she shivered with pleasure.
Dara, home sick still, huh?” Janice said. She winked.
Janice placed the books on the nightstand, balancing precariously
on the old cups, dirty dishes, magazines, and half-empty pill cases.
“You have to do sequential homework pages forty five to fifty, social
studies read chapter three and answer the four questions and…”
was cut off as Dara stretched her hand out and looped one slender
finger into the top of Janice’s pants. Dara looked up at the
plump young girl at the side of the bed. The sunlight arched
across her emerald eyes, danced off her auburn hair, and snaked
down her neck to her breasts. Dara gently guided Janice down
to the bed, where Janice spread her limbs out to cover Dara.
you miss me today?” Dara whispered.
yeah, of course,” Janice said. She ran her hands down Dara’s
prickly legs as she spoke. “I mean math class was really boring.
There was no one to pass notes too and I didn’t really have anything
to do at break.”
voice was cut off as Dara pressed her chapped lips against her.
A slightly parched tongue parted Janice’s mouth, teased her, and
darted in and out with total delight. Janice arched her hips
against the side of Dara, inhaled through the small opening where
the corners of their mouths met, then slid on top of her friend.
started laughing. Dara arched her head away, letting a thin
tendril of saliva stretch between their open mouths.
so funny?” Dara asked as she smiled and stroked the back of Janice’s
and Charlie asked me when you were gonna be back in school,” Janice
I don’t get it,” Dara said.
told them you were gonna recover for a while. Then they asked
if I was gonna go see you again. I said ‘yeah’ and then they
started getting all weird and shit,” Janice said. “They were
laughing and acting real sketchy, like they were sharing a secret
guess that’s weird,” Dara said. “You think they know about us?”
Janice said. She leaned in for another kiss as she snaked
her hand down the length of Dara’s body. “Does it matter?”
stroked Janice’s back, feeling the curves with the tips of her fingers,
while using her other hand to unbutton her jeans. She slowly
slid them down, then ran her hands across Janice. Janice responded
by grinding her hips down against Dara, and at that moment the girls
began to lose themselves right as Janice’s face brushed across Dara’s.
wait!” Dara gasped as she broke the embrace and wrenched her face
my god, Dara, I’m so sorry,” Janice pleaded as she gasped.
ok… it’s just … my skin is still really sensitive,” Dara said.
She began curling her body in on itself and brought her hands up
to cover her face.
reached out, then paused, her hand trembling as it hovered over
the raw scar tissue. Dara looked Janice in her emerald eyes,
and didn’t move away. Janice’s finger tips descended, delicately
caressing the half of Dara’s face that had been seared away.
She traced the bubbled and scarred skin with the care of a mother,
before leaning in gently to kiss Dara again.
can you touch me?” Dara asked. Her one undamaged eye threatened
to spill over with emotion. Her other, unable to move or produce
tears, just stared up at the ceiling as Janice’s lips moved across
is blind isn’t it?” Janice whispered. “I loved you before
you were changed. I still do.”
can you love me?” Dara gasped. “How?”
sat up, still straddling Dara.
ruined, Janice. My body’s broken,” Dara said as she bit her
mine is bent, Dara. It doesn’t matter,” Janice said.
“You look different but on the inside you’re the same person.”
leaned back and passed her hand between Dara’s thighs. She
enjoyed the increasing heat, and let her fingers dance across Dara.
IT,” Dara screamed. “Stop it! What the fuck do you mean
your body’s bent? How can you want something that looks like
me? What are you using me for?”
so concerned about how I could love you?” Janice snapped as she
sat upright. “What about me? I’m fucking fat, Dara!
How could you love someone who’s fat?”
not that fat,” Dara said. “Maybe you’re a little heavy, but
at least you’re not a fucking disgusting freak like me!”
not a disgusting freak…” Janice started.
shut the fuck up,” Dara said. “You whine about being a little chubby,
but what about me? I was fucking pretty before and now I’m
a fucking monster! You’re just using me, because you know
you can’t do any better than this! You didn’t love me before
and you still don’t, you’re just taking what you can get!”
up, her face twisted with disgust.
the fuck has happened to you?” Janice yelled. “I thought only
your face had changed.”
began pulling her pants back on, straightened her hair, and gathered
didn’t mean…” Dara said while leaning out to her.
forget to do your homework,” Janice said as she slammed the door.
heard the same pair of muffled voices as before, her mother’s, questioning,
Janice’s hurried, frantic to leave. She heard the front door
open and then close. She leaned back on her bed. The
sheets were damp, stained with sweat and tears. The sounds
of traffic creeping along, people walking the streets, and machinery
pounding with intensity crept, through the window as she tried to
fall back to sleep.
there for a while, when a soft clanging echoed off the fire escape.
She watched excitedly as the window seal cracked, and a pair of
rough, tan, hands pried it open. Dara felt a gust of cool
air sweep in and whip around the room. The sounds of city
life followed as two boys clambered in. Their hair was dirty,
their clothes too large and disheveled. The smell of tobacco
and pot clung to them as they entered the small, cluttered, bedroom.
Juan,” Dara cooed. “Close that window behind you. And
watch the blinds. Hi, Charlie.”
dropped in behind Juan and slammed the window shut.
you feeling, girl?” Juan asked as he sat down on her bed.
His sly grin was infectious, and already spreading to her.
stretched her arms and spine. “I think I could use a check
funny,” Charlie said as he approached the other side of the bed.
“Because we were just talking about taking your temperature.
Hot, hot, hot!”
up, Charlie,” Dara said laughing. “You’re so fucking corny.
Lock my door and turn the music on, I don’t want my parents to hear
the cover of pop music, Juan lurched down and thrust his tongue
into Dara’s mouth. She accepted him enthusiastically while
Charlie began rubbing her breasts and sliding his tongue down her
neck. Juan broke off the kiss, cupped Dara’s face with his
rough hands, and looked into her eyes.
“You have such a beautiful face,” Juan said. “So perfect
gasped as Charlie’s mouth began to explore her body.
beautiful blue eyes,” Juan said. He traced the outline of
her face as he spoke. “Soft, curving nose, sweet brown skin…”
tits,” Charlie chimed in.
three of them laughed, then collapsed began into caressing and kissing
Janice at?” Charlie asked as he let his jaw take a quick break.
was here before,” Dara sighed as Juan played with her. “She
had to go though…”
bad,” Charlie said. “Was there a donut sale or something?”
up,” Dara said meekly. “She’s a really sweet girl…sometimes.
And my best friend.”
more than that,” Juan whispered seductively before he nibbled on
her neck. “Too bad she left, she’d probably want to join in.”
don’t know how she’d feel about a threesome,” Dara said. “Especially
with little Charlie here.”
well, it would be more of a three and a half-some, wouldn’t it?”
Charlie joked with a raised eyebrow.
choked the bedroom.
what the fuck did you just say?” Juan said, completely paused in
his erotic embrace.
lips quivered as the rays of sunlight slowly left the room.
Outside the window, the sun disappeared behind the taller buildings,
leaving Dara’s hurt face bathed in shadow.
I mean, fucking look,” Charlie explained with faltering bravado.
He motioned to the two stumps that wiggled below Dara’s waste.
“I mean I guess you’re more than half a person but…”
what the fuck is your problem?” Juan said, letting his voice reflect
his anger. He sat up and shoved Charlie. “What are you
being some kind of asshole for?”
I mean, whatever, it was a bad joke, but it’s not like any of us
don’t know she doesn’t have any fucking legs, man,” Charlie said
trying to defend himself. He was now off the bed, holding
his hands out in front of him. “I mean, how many times have
we done this shit? You can’t ignore something like that forever!”
there’s a thing called respect, man,” Juan said narrowing his eyes.
“You think she doesn’t have feelings?”
OUT!” Dara screamed. Her sudden outburst sent both boys reeling
back. “GET OUT OF MY FUCKING HOUSE YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”
was now holding her self up on her arms, while her lower body shook
from trying to support her weight.
dare you come into my house and lay in my bed and…” she said
was cut off by the sharp crack of Juan’s fist destroying Charlie’s
nose. There was a muffled shout from the other side of the
door. The voice was distinctive. “That was my
father! Get the fuck out of here!” Dara gasped as her perfect
blue eyes widened in horror.
grabbed the neck of Charlie’s shirt and hauled him towards the window.
He shoved his dazed and bleeding friend out onto the fire escape,
and then paused, crouched on the windowsill.
Juan said. He looked down at the floor. “You know you
ain’t half a person to me, Dara.” He grinned at her.
“I’ll come over tomorrow?”
door knob rattled as weight was pressed on it from the other side.
out of here,” Dara whispered, looking down at the empty half of
leapt out onto the fire escape and disappeared. Dara clenched
her teeth and went over to the window. She heard her father’s
key turning in the door just as she slammed it shut.
was that I heard? Were you shouting?” her father asked.
His tall, overweight form was framed in the doorway. “Why
are you locking your door?”
was singing along with the music,” Dara said. “I get really
excited sometimes. It’s kinda embarrassing, I didn’t want
you to walk in the middle of it.”
you know you should rest,” her father said as he approached her.
He walked over to the old stereo and turned the music down.
drew the covers up to her chin.
says its going to be a while before you’re feeling better again,”
her father said. “So just try and relax.”
patted her head. Dara rolled over onto her side, facing the
window. Her father stood beside the bed. He stroked
her arm, grateful that she had turned away. He found it increasingly
difficult to look her in the face.
mother’s worried about you,” her father said. “About how you’re
stop,” Dara said.
really want you to go back to class,” he said. “We know it’s
very hard for you, but it’s so important that you graduate high
please, just leave me alone,” Dara said.
large man looked down at the ruined body of his daughter.
sorry about your arm sweetie,” he said. He reached down to
touch her shoulder.
up, inching away from his touch. He left his hand motionless
in the air, still suspended over her wound.
a freak,” Dara said.
not a freak,” her father said.
are you talking about?” Dara snapped as she spun around and sat
up. She leaned forward on her arm, and then stood up on the
bed so that she was just able to look down on her father.
“Look at me! Of course I’m a freak!”
father clasped his hands on each side of her, one hand wrapped around
an arm, the other cupping a ribcage and bandaged stump.
down, sweetie,” he said. “Just because you’ve lost your ….lost
your…just because you have one arm doesn’t make you a freak.
It’s how you deal with…”
just repeating what the doctor told you to say!” Dara shouted.
“You don’t believe it! Nobody believes it! It doesn’t
matter what I am on the inside, I’m still disgusting and pathetic!
Even you and mom think so!”
concerned feminine voice called through the door. Dara’s father
turned toward it, then looked back to his daughter.
you’re not just a body. You’re more than your legs or your
face… or your arms…,” he said. “You are whatever you choose
to be, and you are my daughter. I love you. You have
a long life ahead of you, and one … terrible accident… well that’s
just not the end of things, Dara. You don’t have to suffer
for the rest of your life.”
the door behind him, feeling an immense force tugging at his throat.
He looked up at the ceiling, rolling his eyes into the back of his
head. He knew there was nothing he could do for her, and it
was getting so much harder to pretend that there was.
looked at her broken mirror. She saw it all there. She
couldn’t hide anything from herself. Compassionate words couldn’t
make her whole again. She reached under her pillow and pulled
out her notebook.
began drawing again, above the picture of her dream. She drew
a body, twisted, with three heads. The two heads on the side
were chewing on the head in the middle, while the whole thing kept
its hands between its legs, kneeling on the floor. Dara started
feeling sick again, her skin got hot and her hold on her pencil
became shaky. She reached over to the pile of pill cases and
grabbed one randomly. She popped two in her mouth and swallowed
without water. She then lay back against her pillow.
door creaked open once more, Dara’s mother shuffled in. Her
hair was coarse and ragged; her skin was dark and aged. She
looked at the empty room and sighed. It smelled old and stale.
She walked over to the broken mirror and reached around it.
the picture of her daughter off the dresser and held it in her hands.
The city’s lights fought their way through the blinds, leaving patterns
of red, yellow, and green flecked across the picture. The
face looking back smiled with her mouth but not with her eyes.
Despite the humid air within, Dara’s mother felt her spine chill.
tightened and her eyes began to tear. She placed the picture
back behind the broken mirror, then sat down on the empty bed.
It had remained in the same disheveled state since Dara last touched
it, and her mother was careful not to disturb the tangled sheets.
She leaned back on the bed and carefully ran her hand across it.
She stopped abruptly. There was a notebook lying just underneath
heart pounded in her chest. It seemed to take a lifetime for
her hands to reach the notebook and pick it up. Her mouth
became dry as she opened it. Hoping to find some insight to
her lost child’s mind, she found only equations for finding parallelogram
angles and facts about the industrial age.
you see this book in here before?” she called to her husband through
the open door.
book?” he shouted back.
was about to answer when she reached the end of the notebook.
On the last page were two drawings and some words. The first
picture was of a three-headed creature, fighting with itself.
The picture below it was of a rabbit, but it had hideously bulging
eyes and features that seemed uncomfortably human. It was
drowning in a pool of black water. Her husband’s shadow cast
over the page as he appeared in the doorway.
book?” he asked cautiously as he approached her.
mother began to read the words aloud.
suitors came, and many did, they saw her many flaws though each
was carefully hid. Broken bones and twisted skin reflected
how she felt within. They touched her scars and kissed and
cried, but she was never able to deny, she looked the same on her
clenched her fists and bit her lip. Her husband started to place
his arms around her, but then gently let go as she rose. She
carried the notebook to the window. She pulled up the blinds,
and opened it to the night sky. The smell of life rose up
from the streets below.
are you doing?” her husband said.
toward her as she tossed the notebook out. She looked up at
him, her eyes dry and strained, the soft wrinkles on her face more
defined than before.
leave the window open,” she said. “This room has to air out.”