A Choice (lisamcmann)

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I twisted my hair into a ponytail, tucking it under my cap and lowering the brim. Then I took a final look around the room full of strangers, wondering which of them would help me escape, and which would try to kill me. I had been doing for a long time; I understood the game like the back of my hand. Choose incorrectly and you end up six feet under, choose correctly and you lessen that possibility.

The game that I played was a tricky one, a single choice could end my days. Nervously, I glanced from under the tips of my bangs at the boy twiddling his thumbs in the corner, seemingly innocent. But was it just a cover? Was this just a clever ploy to drag me to the bowels of hell? I gnawed on my bottom lip and pushed the blond fringe out of my eyes. Who knew that this was what my life would come too.

I peered to the other side of the room where the girl stood, her delicate shoulders were thrown back proudly and she was surveying me as if she knew something I didn’t. The corners of her mouth were quirked and I desperately fought the urge to swear. But if I did, I wouldn’t be able to make my choice, I would just die.

See, where I was you couldn’t say anything until you made the decision. The monster before me was very much like the minor God in Greek mythology called the Janus. Probing me to choose, presenting me with a choice that was my life. Sure, there were other people in the room, but these two where the ones that mattered, the rest just started to fade into the background until there was nothing left but mist.

I opened my mouth to speak, to tell them my answer, but the words fell short on my tongue, as they often did. Almost immediately their dark, empty eyes were on me. The boy watching me sadly, his brows furrowed almost begging me to choose him, to save myself. The girl was smiling devilishly, almost laughing at me. My heart throbbed in my chest and my hands tightened, I had to do this. I had to choose the right one. But then the thought hit me, did I really have to?

My lips curved into a smile of their own and the two people glanced uncertainly at each other before back at me.

“Have you made your choice, Elizabeth Nadine Karr?” When they spoke they spoke as one, their lips moving together in perfect synchronization.

“I choose neither of you,” I tried to say it as strongly as possible, but my voice still wobbled. I was a chicken in a wolf's costume.

The girl curled her lip in annoyance and the boy pouted but they answered me none the less: “You have made the correct choice, Elizabeth Nadine Karr. You will live another day.”

Then, I woke up. I was back in my bedroom, my breathing was shallow and my heart was hitting my chest just dying to get out. I had survived another dream, I would live another day. I wiped the dewy of sweat from my forehead and swung my legs out of bed. My teddy bear flannel covered legs were shaking as I stood up, my hands were trembling.  Downstairs I could hear my father watching his late night shows and across the hall I could hear my brother Nico snoring loudly.

I didn’t cry - I was done crying. Every night since the day I could remember I was given a choice, a choice to live and a choice to die in my sleep. Every night for fourteen years I had made the right choice. And I thanked the lord every day that I could live to watch another sunrise. Most teenagers say that their life is just a boring stack of events following each other in a tedious, boring routine. Me?  I savoured the moments I had, the moments I could spend in the world of the living.

Honestly, I didn’t know why I had to die – why someone or something desperately wanted me to. I guess I had my suspicions that it was some kind of curse, some kind of hex put on me since birth. Maybe that’s why I had no friends, because I was a strong believer in the make believe – that and the fact that I was a freak.

I squeezed my eyes shut and turned on the faucet in my bathroom. I leaned over so that I could hear the running water as if I was standing outside a waterfall, pretending everything was peaceful. This was my routine. Almost die than pretend it had never happened. I clamped my eyelids tighter together, pulling the skin on my forehead tightly against my skull – it had yet to work. Down stairs I heard my dad chuckling at something that Jay Leno had said, his deep carefree laugh flowing up the stairs to my ears. He knew peace, something I only wished for.

I shut off the tap and opened my eyes – staring at my reflection in the mirror. My limp curls of short blond hair clung to my neck with sweat; my brown eyes looked like they had seen the battles of man and my eyebrows were forever pushing into a worried expression. I was a fourteen year old who had seen death and stared it in the face but I still wasn’t anymore brave than a mouse. I still wanted to cry at the thought of sleeping without the comfort of toys. It was a habit I had picked up as a child, for some reason I believed that perhaps they could protect me at night – keep me safe. Who knows, maybe they had worked all those years of me surviving.

I allowed myself to stare back at the reflection of my eyes a moment more before turning around and leaving the bathroom, padding back to my own room. My fingers trailed lightly along the sea green walls of the hallway until I came to my door, which I opened with a flourish of my hand. And like a soldier marching back to war, I dutifully walked to my bed and lay in the sea of teddy bears. They would protect me, because tomorrow, I could die.

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