Atonement

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Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, Uknown

""All gods dispense suffering without reason. Otherwise they would not be worshiped. Through indiscriminate suffering men know fear is the most divine emotion. It is the stones for altars and the beginning of wisdom. Half gods are worshipped in wine and flowers. Real gods require blood."

It had been a while since she'd seen blood. Not like when she got her period or a paper cut, but blood oozing out of punctured fair skin.

It must have been that dream she had. The hands touched her and opened up a soft, pulsing part of her mind. Pressed a finger into it, creating an opening for more dreams and memories to follow.

She had been twelve years old. She was sitting outside. Charlotte was at a friends, maybe, and Bella was playing on her own. Drawing some kind of decorative cross on the sidewalk; vines intertwining around it with thorns and roses. She had always liked to draw, and when the sun was beating down on the driveway, sometimes she drew with chalk.

She dropped the pink to the side carelessly and it rolled down the driveway. After finishing the outline of a leaf Bella decided to go get it; how else would she finish the roses?

She crawled after the chalk, hands leaving starchy colored marks on the ground. It was only some 6 feet away. Almost there. Her left hand slapping the pavement, just before she reached the pink, she felt a sharp pain burst through her skin. A flash of heat shocked through her body and she pulled her hand away.

A piece of glass a few centimeters long stuck out of her palm. She winced and sat on her backside, holding her forearm.

She looked to the house. Mother would lose it if she saw. So Bella gritted her teeth and pulled the glass out.

It hurt. She sucked in a sharp breath. She wanted to cry but she didn't.

She let the glass fall to the ground and rushed inside. She pulled the front door open with her clean hand and ran upstairs before her mother or father could stop to speak to her.

Bella ran into the bathroom to wash up her cut, make it look cleaner before her parents saw. She held it under the sink. But she halted before turning on the faucet. A few drops ran toward the side of her hand.

And this gave her pause. The red crimson looked beautiful against her skin; ever more so dripping into the white sink. The contrast was startling. She turned her hand over slowly, watched a few drops run to the right side, then the left. It was warm.

The cut didn't hurt so much now. The pain dulled to a buzzing sting.

She looked up at herself in the mirror. Her hair was pulled back. Her neck was exposed; bare of freckles or blemishes. One of her most delicate features.

And how brilliant the red would look there.

Her heart pumped in her chest. With her left hand, slowly, she pressed a forefinger to the small pool of blood in her palm. She lifted her finger and examined the color under the light. So pretty.

She looked in the mirror again and brought her hand up to her neck, cocking her head to the side. She dragged the blood down the skin, felt it smooth and wet. Her eyes lit up at the image of herself.

It was magnificent.

This is oddly what came to Bella as she walked through downtown with her sister on Tuesday. She examined the whitish scar on her hand in the light of the sun. She remembered having to get stitches.

"Ooo, let's go in the bookstore," Charlotte said.

Bella nodded. They turned right and the doorbell chimed when they walked in. It smelled like an old library. Charlotte loved to read and write. Bella was more of an art person herself, but couldn't help joining in on her sister's excitement.

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