The girl’s hair fell about her shoulders, blurring the edges of her face in a way that brought to her disposition a hidden vulnerability, a veiled fear: perhaps, the truth. At the thought of what she had just seen, at what she had just done, she curled her shoulders into herself, her shallow and invisible breaths carrying with them a sense of urgency she could not bring herself to do anything about – in the last seven minutes since the encounter, neither her wide and panicked eyes, nor her pulsing heart had subsided.
She placed her face in the quivering cradle of her cupped hands, tightening the tips of her fingers around her forehead, her self-induced headache seeming to blur the images of horror and terror from her mind for just a split second. Just enough for reality to flood her mind and filter its way to her fingers, her toes. Just enough for her to realise that if she wanted to survive, she needed to take that picture of death off repeat, stuff it in an airtight bottle somewhere in a dark abyss in her brain and run. She needed to run for her life. And although her rationality screamed and yelled and flailed itself at her, begging and urging her to act on the brief glimmer of consciousness that had just flickered by, she was still. Static. Catatonic. It was like she’d read in books hundreds of times – she couldn’t bring herself to move.
The white noise that was bubbling around her head and seeping into the open space around her dissipated only when the boy raced into the empty steel-walled room, pure panic and terror melded into his expression. And as he slid to her side, prying her face away from her hands, she awoke… As her eyes focused themselves on his face, her muscles came alive, dissolving the discord between her legs and her brain in a moment of hope and relief.
He’d come back for her. He had come back to save her. Even after everything between them. Even after what she had just done. But at that moment, it all that seemed so trivial. It’s not like she’d wanted to kill his brother. Surely he understood that. Surely he understood that they were meant to be together… that she did it for him. A flutter of elation rose from her heart and soothed her terror, bringing her to her feet, letting the girl push herself towards the boy. Her boy. Clutching at him, sobbing into his waist from her knees, she felt the possibility of safety, of a new life.
It was only when she felt tremble against her temple the cold opening of the hard barrel of metal she’d employed a similar use of just a moment before that such a sprig of hope melted away, replaced with a wave of confusion that warmed itself through her, flushed with terror and realisation.
You see, the boy wasn’t there to save the girl. Not after he found his brother’s limp body slumped against the wall. He was there to say one thing and one thing only: You did this. The words absorbed into the air around him, disappearing the moment they were said. And so he pulled the trigger, fighting the resistance of both the gun and of his conscience, and she was dead.
Photo by pawel szvmanski