A quick note: I am in the (very, very slow) process of updating all of the FF posts to include a bit of information at the beginning, such as word count, content warnings, and other related stories. Slowly but surely.
Word Count: 6,300
CW: Violence/sexual assault
Related works: N/A
“Fuck him.” Edie says, spitting on the ground to illustrate her point.
“No, literally,” Peep adds, bouncing up an down and tapping her fingers together. “Go for two in one day. Set a personal record!”
“Is that safe?” The Girl-Woman asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Who the fuck cares?” Peep exclaims, waving her hands in the Girl-Woman’s face.
Bo nods in agreement. “Definitely fuck him. Did I mention that you’re down for it? You are, you are, and maybe you won’t think about what an unlovable piece of shit you are.”
“Stop being such a buzzkill!” Peep screams, slapping Bo on the shoulder.
GW catches sight of a shadow in the corner. “What the hell is that?” She asks, moving slightly away from it.
Edie follows her gaze and shrugs. “I dunno. But who cares? Can you lose five pounds by tonight?”
“Uh…Probably not?” GW responds, staring at herself in the mirror.
“Oh my god, she’s right. You’re huge. He’s not gonna do it, and then you’re gonna be alone and then-” Bo rants in panic.
“Oh CAN IT YOU NIT!” Peep shoves Bo aside. “The question isn’t whether or not you can lose five pounds, GW. It’s whether or not you want to lose five pounds, or spend, say, five-oh dollars.”
“On what?” GW is shocked enough to turn away from the mirror for a moment.
“On ANYTHING!” Bo and Peep yell together, arms flailing.
“Yay! I love that plan. I’m totally on board with that.” Bo says happily as she sits crossed-legged on the bathroom floor.
Peep smirks. “Does her highness agree?”
Edie sneers. “Buy pizza?”
“Ok,” GW concedes, looking between the three of them, “What kind of pizza? From where?”
Bo, Peep and Edie cheer and high five each other.
“See? It is possible to please all of us at once. You just have to listen.”
GW sits on her bed with Bo, who points at her arm and hands her a blade, sharper than the sting of dozens of memories, as the shadowy figure lurks in the background.
“You have to show them. Show them that it hurts.”
GW closes her hand around the blade. It does hurt. Bo always finds an opening, a soft spot, and it burns. GW winces as she makes random lines on her lame arm. She feels better, calmer. Someone will see them, someone will help. No- but someone will know. Someone. She was convinced that she wouldn’t always hurt, even though she had always hurt.
She caught her breath as she wiped her arm. She nodded towards the shadow. “Is anyone going to tell me who or what that is?”
Bo raised her shoulders to her ears. “I don’t, I…He doesn’t talk to us. We don’t know.”
GW barely has time to respond before Peep and Edie burst into the bedroom brandishing a bottle of 98-proof dark rum.
“Oooooooohhhh GW!” Peep yells as she tosses the bottle. “We have work to do-ooo!”
“It’s 11:30. I have work in the morning.” GW insists.
Peep and Edie exchange glances. “How about writing instead?” Peep asks as she kneels onto the mattress to unscrew the lid on the rum. “We could write aaaaaaaalll night.” She says, putting the bottle to GW’s lips and tilting it up.
“Oh! I love writing!” Bo exclaims bouncing up and down on the bed. “I have ideas!”
“Listen to Bo, she has ideas.” Edie mimics, rolling her eyes.
“No, really! I’m mega creative.” Bo says with pride.
“Weren’t you just sobbing?”
“I’m over it.”
“She’s literally still bleeding!”
“So? She’s always bleeding on the inside.”
“OK, so, WRITE.”
“Yeah, here’s my idea…”
To GW, it blurs together. She always loses track when they get like this, all throwing their all into the task at hand.
GW is just that- a girl-woman. She is neither and both. She wears girl-woman clothes, thinks girl-woman thoughts, and has girl-woman dreams. She is you, maybe.
Edie is a slimmer, sexier, haughtier version of GW. She only asks you rhetorical questions because she doesn’t care about your answers, not really. She likes numbers, she likes results, she likes being listened to, consulted, revered. She does not like to be ignored. She reminds you all the time that she will fucking kill you if you try to ignore her. You believe her. She’s tried, a few times. She makes your legs weak, your chest flutter, and your head light until you promise to pay attention.
Bo is sometimes a small child, and sometimes a very grown woman. She likes to seduce people, sometimes, but she runs and hides in a closet if anyone tries to seduce her. She has no idea what control is but she thinks things are better when she’s in control. She has no idea who she is. She keeps expecting to find herself in what people say, but this only confuses her more, makes her more unstable, angrier. She cries herself to sleep every night but has no idea why. Emotionally bleeding out is just her baseline. She likes for you to live in alternate realities, vividly, to escape her own. She likes intense, short-term ventures. If she isn’t thinking, she isn’t feeling. She sometimes gets along with Edie, sometimes with Peep, but rarely with you.
Peep is taller with a wide, brash mouth. One eye is larger than the other, or one is smaller, depending on the week. She wears straight jeans and an oversized sweater. She is cool with a capital K. She never backs down, never says no, and she doesn’t let you say it, either. She’s tricky, and insistent. She often pisses Edie off, often yells over Bo. Sometimes, she drags you into bed with her, where you lay for days. Weeks. Her hopelessness and Bo’s sobbing is so dark, so loud that it feels as though you’re in a coffin at your own funeral.
The shadow in the corner is a shadow. Usually, the shadows belong to Bo or Peep. Rarely, they belong to Edie. This one, you’re beginning to worry, is yours.
“Morning, cunt!” Peep says cheerfully as she throws open the blinds. “Look at all that sun! Want to go to the park? We have gin, gin is perfect for parks! We can go get donuts and breakfast sandwiches and gin-”
“Weight first.” Edie interrupts, delicately perched on the edge of GW’s desk in her short silk nightgown. She files nails that are already perfect.
Bo, Peep and GW all groan. “Edie, I drank nearly-”
“Do I look like I give a shit? I didn’t tell you drink it!” Edie snaps, gripping the nail file as she begins to shake in anger. The three scatter as the shadow sits in the corner. GW notes on her way to the bathroom that she can’t even tell if it’s facing them, watching them. She shudders from that thought and the cold air as she hastily undresses in the bathroom. Bo chews on fingers as GW steps on the scale. Edie walks in quietly and stands by the door, leaning on the frame. All four hold their breath.
“Down a pound!” GW yells. She hugs Edie, jumps back, and then hugs her anyway. “Thank you thank you THANK YOU!” She kisses Edie’s cheek and looks back at the number, cheeks flushed with excitement. “So, do you guys still wanna do the whole binge in the park thing?” She asks as she puts her clothes back on.
Peep looks at her and cocks her head, her larger eye going larger. “What binge in the park thing?”
“You just said? With the gin?”
“I didn’t say that! When did I say that? I would never say that!” Peep says, glaring at GW in annoyance. “Quit pissing me off, we’re walking into town anyway. Put a fucking bra on.”
“A push-up!” Bo calls after GW as she slumps into her bedroom to pick out an outfit for the day.
“And wear black, for god’s sake. And jeans. Your legs are not ready for a skirt.” Edie chimes in.
GW wants a moment alone. She likes the girls, sort of. But she hates it when they turn on her. Bo slinks in next to her and holds out her sleeve when she feels GW is going to cry. She doesn’t. She can’t, anyway. The shadow in the corner has moved to the other side of the closet. GW won’t go around it, so she finds recently discarded clothes on the floor instead and wears those. No one will notice.
“You fucking slob.” Edie says when she notes her clothing choices. “You’re such a baby, it’s not like he’s the fucking boogeyman.”
“Candyman,” GW says. “Way scarier.”
“Well he’s not that either you dumb bitch! Go put something decent on!”
“NO!” GW yells back. Peep widens her eyes bounces on her feet again. She loves a good fight.
“No? Did you just say no to me?”
“I’m not going into that closet and you can’t make me! I’m not going!”
“You can’t go out dressed like that! You look fat in that! You’ll make me look like a failure. Is that what you want? You want me to look like a failure? You want everyone to see that you’re still a fat little nobody, after all this time I’ve been with you?”
“No one can even see you, you self-centered asshole!”
“AHHH!” Edie shrieks and slaps GW across the face. She looks to Bo and Peep in panic. “I can’t talk to her when she’s like this!”
Peep bites her lip for a moment and looks at Bo next to her, who looks down, and away from GW on the ground. Peep smiles the smile that exposes all of her top and bottom teeth. Edie sinks to the ground on her knees, still in her slip.
“Hey, Geeg. Don’t be mad, ok? You lost a pound, remember? Yay?”
GW doesn’t answer.
“You have to wear something else. And you have to shower.”
“No. I’m not going back in that fucking room. If you want me to change so badly you should go there.”
“I don’t know why you hate him so much, but anyway, he’s right behind you.”
GW turns instantly and crab walks away when she sees that Edie was telling the truth. GW sees Bo’s reaction- her ragged, shallow breathing and copious tears- and knows that she knows. She can’t even accuse Bo of lying. She covers her ears and curls up into a ball, resting her head on her knees and closing her eyes shut. Her own screams block out the sounds of Peep and Edie trying to get her attention. Her lip tastes like blood.
“He’s gone.” Edie says, tapping GW’s shoulder.
GW can’t stand, or move. She looks up and into the face of Bo, sitting across from her in an exact mirror of her own position.
“Hey, I have to tell you something.”
GW mumbles something unintelligible. Edie takes this as encouragement.
“If you’d have been ten pounds lighter, he’d have thought that you were out of his league. It never would have happened.”
GW looks at her sharply, eyes filling with tears as Edie’s words sink in. The sound that flows from her mouth is a shocked cry of betrayal, of pain. She can’t move.
Peep slouches, pulls off her jeans. One of her eyes is smaller than the other. “Come on,” she says, tugging GW with her. “We’re going to bed.”
“I don’t even like him.”
“We need to get laid.”
“I don’t want to.”
“Yes you do.”
“I can’t!” GW whimpers.
“Edie, help us!”
“I don’t give a shit what that chubby asshole does with her time. She’s too fat to fuck anyway.”
“You just said she looked good earlier!”
“From zeppelin to hot air balloon, still fat, still fugly.”
“We can’t keep going like this! We have to get out!”
“I’m not going, I’m not going!”
“Do you understand that if no one will sleep with you, you’re worthless?”
“She’s worthless anyway.”
“I will set this fucking house on fire! Fuck it, I’m ordering pancakes.”
“No, she can’t have pancakes! Have you seen her waist measurement lately?”
“I hate you, I hate me. I hate me, I hate me, I hate me!”
“Stop crying, GW. It’s not that serious.”
“I can’t do this. I can’t do this.”
“Not real, not real, not real, not real. Not real. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen.”
“GET OVER YOURSELF ALREADY!”
“I think it would be better for everyone if I just…let Edie finish me off. You know?”
“You haven’t seen the worst of it.”
“Thanks for letting me come over.” He says, setting his jacket on the table.
GW frowns. That’s not where it goes.
The second his hand reaches low, lower than it should, than she planned, she goes stiff. She gently pushes him away, and hands him his jacket. He looks confused, but leaves anyway.
The shadow in the corner has straight, even teeth. Or crooked, yellow teeth. He is young and handsome, or middle aged and disgusting. He is a groping, clumsy teenager with sweaty palms in a golf cart, in the black night, nowhere. She is the sad sight of a discarded, once loved white bra on a pristine green lawn. The residents of that house never knew why it was there, and she took comfort in that. She doesn’t know why.
The shadow doesn’t care why. It grabs her wrists and takes her breath, gives her tickets to a matinee of this show, these moments. It plays in a constant loop. Peep shrugs and leaves the room, then Edie. Bo stays, watching the show. When the shadow is done, he slinks back into the corner. Bo places her hands on GW’s shoulders and looks into her eyes.
“It’s you. I don’t know why you’re like this, but you are.”
GW doesn’t have the energy to fight.
“I wish you weren’t so worthless. I don’t understand what’s wrong with you, why you do these things.”
GW shrugs. She still isn’t breathing properly.
“If you were normal, if you weren’t such a monster, they wouldn’t want you. Don’t you see that? Like attracts like.”
“Is this the worst of it?”
“Every second is the worst of it. That’s what I keep trying to tell you.”
GW usually hates the trail. It’s a nearly endless walk where she is always too hot or too cold. The three girls keep each other company behind her, chatting aimlessly while she trudges ahead.
“Hey fatso! How’s that salmon salad taste now?” Edie calls, and the other two howl with laughter. “What about the vodka tonics? What about the grapes?”
GW waves a finger in the air so that Edie knows that she’s heard. This makes them laugh louder, loud enough that GW doesn’t hear her first.
She sees her.
Only from behind, at first. She’s scared, for a moment. The last one to join was the Shadow Man, the Shadow Men, who is walking twenty paces behind the other girls.
But something about her is different.
She is wearing powder blue jeans, a white sweater. Her hair is done in milkmaid braids with pink ribbon twisted throughout the brown mass.
GW tastes sun in her mouth. She starts walking faster.
“Oh thank god, she’s finally picking up the pace! That’s good, Geeg! Keep it up!”
GW turned to face them, walking backwards to maintain forward momentum. “Who is she?”
“Who is who?” Edie asks, irritation painting her features. GW gestures over her shoulder, glancing back to make sure the girl was still there. She was. “Ugh, who cares? You need to listen to us.”
GW shook her head and turned around, running to catch up with the stranger.
“Hey. HEY!” She yells, startling the figure to turn around.
GW is used to horrors. She isn’t used to what she sees when the stranger turns around.
She’s beautiful. As in, the definition of beauty. The smallest smile dances around her lips.
“Whoa.” GW says aloud, forgetting to breathe in a completely different way than she was used to. Her toes feel warm, and when she looks down, she sees that the woman is wearing a dainty pair of ballet flats.”Um, hi.” She says with a wave, forcing herself to be polite.
The woman smiles, and half waves back. “Hello.”
“Um, you look familiar.” GW giggles at how silly she sounds.
The woman giggles back. “I’ve seen you before.”
“Do you come here a lot?” Cringe.
“Sometimes.” The woman says with a little shrug.
“Um, would you-” GW glances back and finds the three muses standing in a line, hands on their hips, the shadow lurking behind them. “Which way are you going?”
“The way I was going when you stopped me.”
GW smiles in spite of the saucy retort. The woman smiles back, shyly at first, but she grows more bold.
“I guess I should have known that, huh?”
The woman changes tactics. “What’s your name?”
GW starts to answer, then laughs, truly laughs. “I honestly don’t know offhand.”
The woman bubbles over with joy, and GW notices the way that the sounds dance as they fall from her mouth. “I’m Sunny.”
“What’s that short for?”
“I don’t know.”
“May I call you Gigi?” Sunny asks in her accent that is familiar and not.
“Please?” GW, now Gigi asks, looking down. She notices Sunny’s slim fingers.
“Come with me.” Sunny holds out her hand, which surprises Gigi, but she takes it anyway.
These are the things that Gigi knows about Sunny:
She is beautiful. She would be with any other face or no face, with any other voice or no voice. Yet, she has a face, and a voice, and things besides, and those are all beautiful, too. Her insides, the things that her mind churns out and her mouth spills free. Gigi spends hours with her head in Sunny’s lap, on that trail, listening to stories of her life, of the life she wants.
She is a brilliant conversationalist. It used to be an art, something you’d send your daughter to school to learn. Sunny’s words dance the way her voice does. She is clever, and curious, and intelligent. She has an intuitive sort of knowledge about people, and the world, and things.
She is loving, in a soft, doting way. Compassionate. Generous.
She’s brave. She meets Gigi on the trail, not every single day but most days. They talk, and dream. She is open, not like Bo, who opens just to bleed. Sunny’s wounds have healed over, some more graceful than others. But she still wants Gigi to see them, to know them, to know her.
Gigi does, and then she’s trying, and then she doesn’t. She can’t.
“Who the fuck is that?” GW asks one day on the trail. Not a shadow, but a pale, faceless blob. GW is not scared, just repulsed. It reeks.
“Who cares?” Edie says, clicking her tongue and rolling her eyes.
“Gigi!” Sunny calls from down the trail. She moves towards her with purposeful strides.
GW waves off Edie and walks to meet Sunny, but stops in her tracks when she sees how angry she is. “Sunny? Is everything ok?”
“No, everything is not ok. What the hell is wrong with you?”
GW’s mind goes blank, and she turns around to look at the girls, who just shrug. She turns back to face Sunny. “What do you mean, what the hell is wrong with me?”
“You know what you did! How could you do such a thing?” Sunny asks, color rising in her cheeks.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Is something wrong? Is everything ok?”
“Nothing is wrong! I’m fine, ok? I’m sorry if I upset you.”
“Gigi, this is not fine. This is not normal. This is not you. You have to tell me what’s wrong.”
“Tell her how worthless you are. Tell her what a monster you are.”
“She’s only with you because she feels sorry for you. She’s perfect. Look at her. Not a lazy piece of shit like you.”
“Don’t let her go!”
“I seriously have no idea what she’s talking about. What did you do, GW?”
“Who cares? The better question is what is she going to do now?”
“This love shit is getting really old.”
“No no no don’t you get it? She’s the only thing keeping us alive! We are dead without that girl.”
“So we’ll die then.”
What does she mean, not me? Is it not me? What is me? I have no idea who I am. I have no idea what I am. Why am I such a failure? Why do I always disappoint people? Why do I have to be disappointing her. How did this even happen? Is something wrong? Nothing feels different. Nothing happened, so I must be ok. I must be. I’m ok.
“Sunny, I’m sorry that I hurt you, I am. I can fix this. But I’m fine, I promise.”
Sunny stares for a moment and closes her eyes before holding out her hand. “It’s ok. I know you didn’t mean to. But you know if you were hurting about something, you could tell me?”
“Of course. Thank you.” GW says as she slips her hand into the one waiting for her. As they start to walk down the trail again, with Sunny chatting about her day, she can hear five sets of footsteps:
The sound of stilettos on the dirt and gravel below.
The sound of someone who drags their feet.
The sound of someone punctuating each landing with another takeoff.
The sound of someone that does not want to be heard, but is anyway.
The dragging, oozing sound of something that is a body without having one.
At home, in bed, with Bo, again. They’ve locked Peep in the hallway for a moment.
“I don’t want her to go,” GW whispers. “I don’t know how to tell her, but I don’t want her to go.”
“She’s better off without you.” Bo murmurs back, twisting a blade in her hand.
“But I’m not better off!” GW whispers back, insistently. “She makes me feel…” Her words trail off as she tries to finish her statement.
“You’re never going to be good enough for her. Or anyone. Maybe everyone will be better off if you just.” Bo presses the tip of the blade into GW’s wrist. GW snatches it, makes quick incisions high up, and hands it back to her.
“Not today, they’re not.”
“Gigi, I cannot keep doing this with you. There has to be something wrong, or why else would you be acting out like this?”
“I’m fine, I swear! It’s just that my normal is.. different from yours.”
“Different how? I have bad days too. I have rough spots too. But I don’t act like this.”
“Bo!” GW screams. “Bo, what do I tell her? Why do I act like this? What’s wrong? We have to answer her, please!”
“This is just how you are. This is why you deserve to be alone.”
“But you don’t even want me to be alone! You’re the only one who cares about that!”
“Well, no, but you can’t change. So now that she sees you, maybe you should go.”
“BO! I never ask you for anything, ok? Just explain. Explain.”
“I cry myself to sleep, most nights. I cut a lot. I don’t know why. I’m happy with you, so happy. I am. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
Sunny breathes a sigh of relief. “Thank god you’re talking to me. It’s going to be ok, ok? Do you believe me?”
Gigi looks down in shame. “I want to. I just don’t understand what’s wrong with me. I can’t remember ever being different.”
“I promise that there is more to life than how you’ve been living. I promise.”
“So now that you’ve humiliated yourself and embarrassed us we should go out! Night flight! Do something real, show the world how fun you are. I’m so bored and there’s a million things we could do like if you want to stay in we could be productive and do laundry and organize your closet and go through the shit in storage and assemble that bookcase and-”
“Work out, go for a walk or something, Christ.”
“I don’t really think it matters what you do.”
“-drink and frolic outside and call someone, you could talk to-”
“You could just lay down for a while. A few days.”
“ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?”
“I hate how often we have to remind you, GW. We make you what you are.”
“I’ve made you pretty. If you listen to me, I’ll make you beautiful. Perfect. Worthy of her.” Edie says.
“I gave you talent, creativity. You’d be nothing without your imagination. If I go, I’ll take it all with me, and you’ll be nothing.” Bo threatens.
“Nothing.” They echo.
“I make you fun. People want to be around you. The party never ends. When it’s all too much, I protect you. I let you rest. If I go, you’ll be stuck. You’ll never feel good again, and the rest won’t be rest. It’ll be your fucking life.” Peep growls.
The shadow says nothing.
“I’m there for you,” The blob says, “And I will be there until the end. You’re beautiful.”
GW sits in the tub, the warm water allowing her to stew in her own annoyance. She is intensely annoyed, but she has no idea why. The bathroom is crowded, with the shadow and the blob there now. The shadow is agitated, they can all tell. It is usually agitated when GW is looking at herself naked. She feels the soft tingle of the vodka in her stomach and considers painting her nails. This is as calm as it gets. Her company is too busy interacting with each other to bother her much.
The shadow starts to slither over to GW. Edie sticks a leg out to stop him. “Can you not?” She says with a snap of her gum. The shadow ignores her, slithers through her, and disappears. Edie watches in horror as GW’s eyes cloud over, themselves shadowy. “Hey. Geeg. Geeg. Over here.” She snaps her fingers and jumps down from the counter. She kneels at the edge of the tub.
GW doesn’t see her. She can’t. Her body isn’t under her control at all. As her mind plays out better-forgotten memories, her hands reach for the bottle repeatedly, and she drinks without realizing.
Edie starts to panic. “Hey, that shit has calories you know. Stop that.”
GW doesn’t. She’s stuck.
“Hey! Stop it! You’re going to kill her! Geeg!” Edie frantically shakes GW, vodka sloshing in the bottle as her head snaps back and forth.
Bo and Peep just watch, leaning. The blob moves behind Edie, speaks a monotone babble. The shadow pours from GW, who screams in pain as the intoxicant hits her, hard.
“Geeg, we have to get this shit out of you, now. Do you hear me? Are you listening to me?”
“It hurts! Why would he do this to me? Why does he hate me so much?” GW sobs, hanging over the edge of the tub, bottle still in hand.
“Geeg, I’m going to be very frank and say I don’t give a shit. But you will die if you don’t get this shit out-” Edie gives up and switches tactics. “Peep, get her up.”
“You’re big and strong, pick her up! Or just pep talk or something!”
Peep rolls her eyes, pushes the blob out of the way, and grabs GW’s arms, pulling her out of the tub. Edie rolls up the sleeves of her sweater. She lifts GW’s head by her hair and shoves a hand down her throat, pulling out the shadow’s poison.
“Hey you.” Edie says, cornering the shadow. “I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, but you can’t do this. I get dibs on killing her, do you understand?”
The shadow says nothing.
“I just want to make it very, very fucking clear that if she dies fat, I will make your mind games look like a lame card trick.”
The shadow laughs. Edie stares at it in confusion and disgust before joining the others in the bedroom.
“GW, you gotta figure that shit out. He needs to go.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Edie. Do either of you two?” GW asks, pointing at Bo and Peep. They both shake their heads. They’re happy to pretend it didn’t happen, that it isn’t happening.
“Fine. See if I give a shit.”
It’s winter on the trail now, but Sunny is never dressed for it. She shivers and shivers in the cold, even when Gigi gives up her coat. Today, she doesn’t bother taking it.
“I don’t think I can do this anymore. I love you, but I’ve never been in such a terrible place before.”
GW nods. “I saw someone on the trail.”
This is true. It has had the unintended effect of keeping one of Peep’s eyes larger than the other one. No more rest.
“It’s not enough.”
“What do you want from me, anyway? I’m doing the best I can. I just don’t get what more I can do. I just need some time.”
“I don’t think I can give you that. I’m beyond broken about this. Do you get that? You keep doing these things and I-”
“You’ll never change. Just tell her. Tell her that you’re in love with the cliff. Tell her.”
“She’s perfect, and you’re nothing.”
“It’s pointless. She’s going to leave you anyway.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re fine. Great! You don’t have to listen to her.”
“Does she even care that you’re hurting too?”
“-don’t know what more I can do for you, I really don’t, and you’re hurting me all the while. I just can’t.”
“I don’t want an apology.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to be better!”
“What?” GW says, but she’s not responding to Sunny, she’s responding to the sudden movement of the shadow.
“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”
A switch flips behind GW’s eyes. “What. The. Fuck. Did you just say to me?”
“I said I can. Not. Talk. To. You. When-”
“How dare you? HOW DARE YOU! I’m the one going through all of this shit! You have no idea what it’s like to be me. I’m trying, ok? I really am but this is fucking hard and I DON’T NEED THIS SHIT RIGHT NOW!”
Sunny steps back as though she was slapped, and tears run down her flushed cheeks. “I’m not coming back to this place. I’m sorry. I love you.”
GW doesn’t move until she’s gone. Then, she runs.
“I cannot believe you fucked that up.”
“They’re better off without you.”
“You’re better off dead.”
“They’ll all know what you did. They’ll hate you.”
“They should. You’re vile. Repulsive. A monster.”
The blob speaks in the same monotone, and somehow only GW understands. Even takes comfort in her words. The others ignore it.
It hits GW a week after that day on the trail, the last time she spoke to Sunny. On the trail again, at the cliff. The place she went to often to prove to herself that she didn’t want to go over the ledge. Today, she doesn’t have that feeling. Her hands shake with rage as she confronts the four of them, excluding the blob.
“You did this. All of you. You did this and you took her away from me! I trusted you! I tolerated you! I did what you asked. I never said no. And now look at me. I was happy. I was free.”
Edie’s face goes stony. “Who cares?”
“I CARE! I hurt her. I never, ever wanted to hurt her.”
“Then maybe you should have listened to her.” Edie says.
GW throws herself at her, tackling Edie to the ground. She’s not a fighter, hasn’t fought anyone since she was a child. She straddles Edie and holds her wrists so she can’t be slapped. “You stupid bitch! I couldn’t listen to her because you wouldn’t shut up! You all wouldn’t shut up!”
The others glare at her, then Peep lunges forward and knocks GW off of Edie. Edie stands up and brushes the snow off of herself. GW turns away from them and sobs. Bo cries too, looking over the cliff.
“You have to go. You all have to go. I have to kill you.” GW says, slowly. “I’m going to fucking kill you all. You’re not hurting anybody again.”
Edie opens her mouth to say something, but Peep cuts her off. “Ok, ok, fine. You want to be a sad sack piece of shit?” She nods to Bo, who comes back from the edge and pulls out a knife, bigger than anything she’s ever given GW before. She drops it on the ground next to GW.
Peep laughs. “You want to kill us? You know how.”
GW reaches for the knife, unable to move any more. The blob starts its chanting, and Bo kneels down facing her, as she has so many times on their bed. She wraps her hands around GW’s, points the knife tip at her, and slowly pushes. GW can feel the pressure of the the knife poking through her coat, her sweater. She stops crying and breathes slowly and deeply. Bo pushes the knife a little harder. The pain makes her have to catch her breath, but she’s still ok. She’s ready.
GW shoves Bo away and scrambles to her feet, wincing as the wound in her chest twists and stretches with her movement.
“Hey, Sunny, now is not a good-”
“You bitch! Do you have any idea the hell it was for me to meet you on this stupid trail everyday? I love you! Do you not even care?” Sunny vents, then sees the dark, spreading stain on GW’s coat. “Oh my god.”
“I’m sorry you have to see me like this.” She says, looking at the ground again.
Sunny doesn’t look at GW, but rather zones in on the blob. “You monster.”
GW doesn’t see where she’s looking, but nods. “I know I am. I’m sorry for making you think I was good.”
“Not you, G. Look!” She gestures wildly at the blob, who is still just a blob to GW. Sunny reads her face. “Gigi, turn around, step to the side. Look again.”
GW does this, then recoils in horror. Where a human would have a face, the blob had a giant sucker.
“Is that- It’s a fucking leech!” She screams, falling over herself in her eagerness to get away.
Sunny looks at the knife left on the ground. With a slow grace that only Sunny could manage, she picks up the knife, approaches the leech, and stabs it, ripping the knife through. She turns back as the leech dies much more quietly than it had lived.
“This battle, I fought for you. But you have to do something about them.” She says, gesturing towards the four, who watched the death of the leech as though it was a Sunday mass.
GW looks at her in shock. “You can see them?”
“I’ve always seen them. I’ve always seen you.”
“This is as far as I go.” Sunny says, kicking at the ground.
“Thank you.” GW responds, looking at the small building that they were in front of. She never even knew the trail went here.
“I can’t promise I’ll be on this trail when they’re gone.”
“That’s ok. Well, it isn’t. But if that’s the case, I’ll find a way to be ok with it.”
Sunny smiles. “Good luck, G.”
GW watches her walk away until she’s a spot in the distance, and then goes into the building.
“Oh boy. Yeah, you’ve got quite the cast of characters with you.” The woman says, clucking her tongue at the muses and the shadow. “But nothing we can’t handle.”
GW nods slowly and watches the woman and two men bustle around the small room, taking things from bookshelves, from bins, from locked chests. On the table in front of her, they place a small vial of poison, a chainsaw, a few books.
“This,” The woman says, pointing to the poison, “is for your tall one. The chainsaw is for your mirror. The books will help you banish the shadow.”
“Help me?” GW asks. “The shadow is the worst part.”
The woman tilts her head and paints her face with sympathy. “That’s just how it works. Jason, lock the doors.”
One of the men presses a button on his phone, and looks apologetically at the muses.
“Hey! GW, you have to remember what we’ve done for you. Who we’ve made you. You’ll be nothing without us.”
“I’m ok with nothing.”
Edie laughs nervously, the splattered blood of her companions on her flawless face. “Hey Geeg, no hard feelings, right?”
GW lets out a shaky breath, weak from exertion. “You do know you’re next, right?”
They meet eyes, and the two of them roar with laughter. “I’ll believe that when I see it, bitch.”
GW allows Edie to help her out of the building, into the sunshine on the trail. The three inhabitants of the small building wave goodbye before locking up for cleaning.
“It’s bright as hell out here. How long was I in that building? It was winter…” GW’s voice trails off.
“A while.” Edie responds, looking down either end of the trail. “Hey, are you going to call her?”
GW thinks for a moment. “No. I think if she can, she will.”
“But…I hope she does.”
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