14. Blackbird, Part One

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14. Blackbird
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“—I shouted ‘David, there's more to discuss.’ But I was wrong. David’s problem was obvious from the first time he opened his mouth—” Mr. Aschen is interrupted by the sound of a woman screaming savagely. We turn to stare out the small square window of the interview room.

The howling is severe; the sound emanates from a small wretch of a woman, biting and scratching at the three guards trying to control her. Spiny hands cling to any surface on which they can find purchase; limbs extend insect-like, roach clinging to the walls of a drain. At last the men lift her from the ground by the arms and legs. They carry her as fast as possible under the constant harassment of bites and scratches.

Mr. Aschen and I are standing, peering through the tiny window. As the gang passes us, the woman is only inches from the glass. I avert my eyes as she comes close to us; the sight is too sad. My counselor has done the same.

“You were saying?” I ask.

He looks shaken, deep wrinkles exaggerating every detail of his grimace. “Nothing. Please, continue.”

*

Sophomore Year, Spring

“Slut,” one of the blondes said to her friend.

“Whore,” her friend responded.

“Skank,” came the rebuttal.

They weren’t talking to each other, though it might appear so from a distance. They were talking about Emily, who waited for the bus beside me.

This was a common tactic employed by the vipers, to avoid the appearance they were the villains. This way, if Emily retaliated, she’d look like the instigator. The blonde rattlesnakes would then sound their alarms, making themselves appear to be the victims, even with their venom in Emily’s veins.

But, Emily bent back fangs. She was all dyed black hair and army boots, thick mascara and blood-colored lipstick. Lithe, pale frame adorned in leather bangles and bracelets, studs and spikes. Most people left the house looking comfortable. Emily seemed ready for war. “You know what I look forward to most about my life?” she asked me, tone dripping sarcasm.

“What’s that?”

“Complete lack of responsibility for my future,” Emily answered. The two blondes ceased their taunting and listened. “I can’t wait to abandon this token education and latch myself to some successful man. I can’t wait to roll over and start pumping out his children. I guess you could say I’m most excited about the fact that all I really need to succeed in life is looking pretty and being good in bed.”

“You don’t actually have to be good in bed,” I advised. “I bet no one will complain, if you look pretty enough.”

Emily nodded. “That’s an excellent point. So, if I can only accept that the most I will ever amount to is being an accessory for my entire life, I will finally fit in.”

“At least I can get a man,” one of the blondes responded, finally addressing Emily.

Emily only smiled, painted lips curved tightly like an archer preparing to fire. She took her time responding, first glancing down at herself. Creamy skin, tight body. Breasts small, but round and ripe like forbidden fruit. The definition in her abs was apparent through small cigarette burns she probably put into her shirt herself. She looked like someone fashion designers would summon through demonic rituals.

“You really don't get it, do you?” Emily asked the snakes. “You would never stop for a second and ask why you look and think like you do. If you think cheerleaders belong on the battlefield, you’ve already lost the war.”

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