"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?" So help me, God? Since when did He ever do anything for me? If He were so helpful, then He wouldn't have let this happen to us. If anything, God had damned me, turned His back on me. He had done everything but help.
As the bailiff swore me in, the hundreds of hateful eyes fell upon me, ensuring that God would, in fact, keep his back turned while humanity alone decided my fate. Humanity, the least humane bunch of beasts on this rock. But these people were entitled to look at me so; I had done a terrible thing, after all. I wasn't sure what the court had in store for me; it was hard to tell with so little to work with – a body, a battered girl, and myself. They had also called upon a woman to my left, wrinkles hidden behind a damp handkerchief – not a witness per se, but the mother of the deceased. As if the eyes weren't trying hard enough to make me feel guilty.
Psychological problems, she had said earlier during her testimony. Something about split personalities; a sociopath, maybe; it wasn't clear. The kid was so fucked up, not even the professionals could put a finger on the problem. His mother recalled the time he strangled their nine-month-old puppy just three days after they got it. Used a plastic Safeway bag. Grabbed that pup while no one was watching and tied it tight over his head. What a crazy bastard. He was the menace to society, not me – but there I was, charged for murder, the public enemy. I couldn't plead self defense, and even though I was defending the girl, the jury would turn a deaf ear. I was sure of it. His blood stained my hands; in the end, murder was the worst, the ultimate crime, number one on God's silly list. Again, how was He helping me?
What no one saw, not even God, was the real victim, hunched in the back of the courtroom; her eyes connected with mine in an instant I wished could last forever. The fleeting glance made me warm inside, but something was different. Those eyes, so pale and lifeless now, deader than the eyes of the kid I'd killed – the poor thing. The girl, mind you, not that bastard of a corpse. She didn't deserve this. How could they all be so blind to the truth? She was the victim here, no one else.
As the district attorney approached, I let my eyes wander, skipping from face to face – a stern scowl from one man; a frightened gasp escaping the too-red lips of a woman hiding hers; the malicious smirk of Kevin Price in the window to my left…
Ha!—so, there you are, you sick piece of shit. Even in death, you're here to annoy the hell out of me, huh? With that smug grin of yours. I tried ignoring him, but out of the corner of my eye I could still see his face, watching me with hollow sockets. He was here to listen, to make sure I didn't lie. He'd make sure I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, Kevin.
"I'm sure you know why you're sitting here now," the district attorney began, twisting the button on his sleeve compulsively. He was nervous. Real nervous. "Tell us, in your own words, what happened that night. Please." Please? I kept my amusement to myself; now wasn't the time for a laugh. "Please" – tacking it on quickly as if I had a knife to his neck. "Please don't kill me and everyone else in this courtroom." We were off to a great start.
I glanced toward the window; great, he was still there, dangerous smile and all. With a wink and a grin, I told them my side of the story. Picking my words carefully – one wrong word, and they'd flay me on the spot – I told them in detail the events of that night. They go the summary, but I had to watch the whole damn thing…
The night was young; the November air, crisp; the woman before me, beautiful as always. Her eyes were bright, eclipsing the stars. It was her eyes that I found breathtaking, so awe-inspiring; they were like green silver, and they were just for me. Her body was no exception, either, bundled up all warm and cozy in her layers of winter coats. The cherry scarf about her neck matched her tinted locks, tossed into disarray by the chill breeze. Her apple cheeks and pursed lips made everything from the neck up stand out like a ruby, her eyes deeply set with ivory and emerald rings. A treasure, that's what she was. Something you'd find deep in an Aztec temple. Even her name sounded like something precious – Abigail Young. But what I could see was only a tease compared to the treasures beneath, still waiting to be excavated, grounds waiting to be explored.
I wanted to; I wanted to more than anything, and from the glances she stole, I could tell she wanted it, too. But there was a distance between us, a gap I couldn't fill. It had only been three months, after all; our first kiss was still a mystery. When she'd brush against my hand, the butterflies would take rapid flight. I obviously wasn't ready to increase my discoveries; the sheer thought of it almost made me explode. So I kept my distance, only watching, never touching. Look, but don't touch. Hell, don't get caught looking, either.
That night would have still been unforgettable, even if things hadn't gone to pieces halfway through. She went to her car, fumbling for her keys – they always fumble when they want something more. I watched her, the butterflies now urging me on rather than holding me back. Approaching from behind, my arms snaked their way around her torso in an embrace. I buried my face against the scarf, wishing for just one less coat between us. The closest we'd ever been up until now. I twirled her around, ready to kiss those rosy lips, but she gave a startled cry, as if she saw a rabid dog charging toward us. There was no dog, but pain exploded through my left temple, and sudden darkness gobbled me up. Not before I saw Kevin Price's dangerous smirk faintly reflected in the car window...
Things went a little hazy then, but I didn't bother telling the jury. Images of Kevin and me as children rolled around in my brain, a distant memory. The first time I took him to play soccer…that was it. His mother suggested he get some exercise; the poor kid needed it, after all. His mother smiled past this; in her eyes, he was perfect despite being overweight. If only the other kids could see him the way she did. If there was a world record for the number of fat jokes quoted in the span of five minutes, these kids would have taken the cake. No wonder he was so messed up. I couldn't blame him.
When I awoke from my disturbing and utterly random dream, I was still in darkness. Whether or not my eyes were open, I couldn't tell. My shoulder felt exceptionally cold, and I fingered the rip in my sleeve. I couldn't tell if I'd put up a fight before Kevin knocked me out. The pain became evident now, making up for lost time, growing with each rhythmic throb. I touched the spot just above my left ear, swollen and surely purple by now.
The ground was hard rock beneath my knees, cool to the touch – probably colder to my own touch, the blood pumping in my fingertips like liquid fire. I felt around blindly, coughing up dust from the ground. Eventually I found a wall, thin and chalky. Drywall. Drywall, hard cold floor, grainy dust…I knew where I was now; the rattle of a large plastic sheet acting as a barrier against the wind made that evident.
The housing complex across the street from home had been under construction for about five months now. The sound of drills and hammers had become more common than the chirp of birds for those living nearby. Now, silent and bare of any life but myself, I shuffled across the concrete floor, wondering if Abigail was all right. That asshole was going to wish he'd killed me when I caught up with him.
A faint glow at my feet almost tripped me; a hard wind could have done the same after what he'd done to my head. I picked it up and found myself in possession of Kevin's cell phone. Crazy bastard must have dropped it. Flipping it open, the digital light almost burnt my eyes from their sockets; at least that's what it felt like. Something rattled nearby, a scraping of snow boots and a quiet whimper. Abigail.
As Murphy's Law would have it, a bright beam shot out of the darkness, through a large glass pane on my right. It fell on Abigail, a rainbow of wires snaked about her wrists and ankles. I was not bothered by this; she was safe for now, that's all that mattered. What froze my heart was the spotlight on her left breast – bare, small, delicate…a treasure. My treasure and mine alone. My eyes darted toward the source of the light, and there, in the glass, was Kevin's haunting smirk—that smirk! the horrible smirk on his face. The sort of smirk that said its wearer would be right at home torturing some cat in a back alley.
Suddenly, I saw red. I attacked the face in the glass, shattering the smirk before feeling a fleshy thud against me. We wrestled on the concrete of that half-built townhouse, rock dust clouding our lungs with each pant. He'd seen what was precious to me. I didn't want him to see; he didn't deserve to see. The thought was unbearable.
My hands shot out into the dark, clawing at the glass scattered around us, his breath labored beneath my weight. My fingers tingled with a familiar sense as it stained the edge of a shard – perfect. In my blind rage, I palmed the piece and made him pay. He'd seen, he'd seen, he'd seen. But no more – no! I made sure of it.
A scream echoed through the empty building, cutting the night air like the shards buried deep in the lunatic's face. I made him pay for seeing. He'd never lay eyes on my precious treasure ever again. It was then, I believe, that the rage subsided, and the blood on my hands became clear. I'd taken more than just his sight.
She whimpered a name; which name, I couldn't tell. The fast-paced thrum of my heart beat against my eardrums, drowning out all other sound. I looked to her, and it was at that moment that her shining stars burnt out, perhaps put out by the floods, drowning them. There wasn't enough room for it all; even the floor had its share of tears. Poor little Abby. She'd been through so much. I wanted to brush those tears away, but my stained hands told me not to. One person crying blood was enough…
The district attorney eyed me like I was mad – all of them did – as if I were the sociopath. It didn't look like they were asking for an encore, so I took my seat back at the defendant's table. I had done well to ignore Kevin, and he had finally disappeared. Must have gotten restless; he hated being ignored. He always wanted to be in the limelight. He must have been having a blast with this whole case, wherever he was now.
"Lastly, before we reach a verdict, we'd like to call Ms. Abigail Young to the stand."
My heart skipped a beat; my dear Abigail, precious little Abby. The face I had longed to see for months finally rose to reveal a body I was not expecting at all. She approached the bench with a sort of cautious limp, probably from all the weight she'd put on. The girl was round as a cabbage now, I tell you. I guess women tend to let themselves go during this sort of thing; the trauma was too much. Poor Abby; her clothes hung like curtains now – ten sizes bigger than the last time I saw her – heavy as the lids behind her red-framed glasses. Those frames turned to me as she passed; her eyes were still two dead stars. The rate at which she withdrew her gaze startled me, as if it were accidental. She guided herself into the seat slowly, as if the fat were delicate, something she'd built up for this very moment, six months after the assault.
As they swore her in, I knew what was coming, what that sick bastard had done to her. She shouldn't have to testify; her own private story should remain just that – private. Kevin had slipped into the Aztec temple, excavating and exploring not as an archaeologist would. He was a temple thief, merely there for his own self indulgence, groping and plunging in the dark like a glutton. Yet she gave her testimony anyway – the way Kevin grabbed her from behind, how she tried to defend herself with a blow to his left temple, but that only seemed to make him lose it entirely, succumbing to the animal in him…wait—
But she continued before I could begin to analyze the thoughts careening toward me. She gave her account on how Kevin ravaged her – "ravage" was such a cleaner word that "rape"; she was still so innocent, even after her innocence had been taken from her. She went on to explain how Kevin redressed her, tied her up, and called her boyfriend Aidan. Aidan arrived with a flashlight and fought with Kevin. And then…at this point, those dead stars were flooded. No need to go on, anyway.
The judge called a break so the jury could come to a verdict. Abigail rushed off as best as she could with all that weight, passing by me without a single look. What I did find, however, was Kevin's nasty smirk reflected in her glasses. Damn him! He never quit.
The jury didn't need more than five minutes to come to a verdict. As two officers led me to stand before the judge, I saw Kevin reappear in the window. There was no way he was going to miss this. He might as well have had popcorn on hand.
"We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of the murder of Aidan Green and the assault of Abigail Young." What was this?
"So be it. Kevin Price, I hereby sentence you to life in prison."
The judge knocked his gavel twice as arms the size of tree trunks grabbed mine; I was led off toward the door on my left. What the hell was this now? Kevin's dead; he's right there in the window! But the decorative mirrors on either side of the courtroom revealed the truth. Mirrors never lie. I saw the evil smirk clearly reflected back at me – clear as crystal, it was!
Laughter erupted from deep within; I saw everything in a new light, like the spotlight on Abigail's breast. My lesson was manifest: I was infatuated with her presence, her body, everything feminine about her…but what I lacked was the love and respect Aidan showed Abigail every waking second of his short life. In my attempt to be him, to have what he had, all I ever wanted…I had only fooled myself. All this time, I was the one blinded by my own self indulgence. The irony was delicious; it tasted of Abigail's sweet flesh, salted to perfection between me and the frozen concrete, the dust clinging to our wet bodies. Another demented cackle escaped my lips. It was so rich, this ironic twist!
I kicked at the mirror, an action that only put me in handcuffs. Now I knew how Abigail felt when I knotted those wires around her limbs before ringing up her boyfriend on the phone, her dear, sweet, tall, charming, thin, romantic, muscular, sensitive, blue-eyed, handsome, blonde, perfect Aidan Green.
I glanced over my shoulder, meeting her gaze one last time, finally recognizing the true feeling behind those dead stars. It was not love; those secret glances we swapped in the courtroom meant nothing of the sort. No, it was only pity; after all she'd been through, all I'd done to her, she pitied me. What a bitch! Again, like that night six months ago, I saw red. I wanted to kick her in her fat stomach, make her puke up whatever she was hiding under that giant curtain of a dress. My eyes pounded in my skull, ready to burst. My face became warm, wet with tears stained red from my rage. Red tears, ha! Again, laughter emerged from my lungs at the sheer irony of it all.
I smirked. I couldn't help it.