Stacey could count the number of times Noah had willingly let her into his house on one bloody hand. The sad fact being, if she did she would still have cut up fingers free of meaning. She realized this only as she poked and prodded at the shards that remained buried within her palm. Countless tiny glittering fragments slipping slowly into sight as the [greying] blood and [greying] paint slithered down her pale white arms and into the darkness of the drain. She had never before given it much though, but for as long as she could remember the two of them had always spent their time at her house. Mornings, afternoons, weekends and weekdays. and when her parents were out of town, even nights.

She wondered for the first time just how many showers he had taken in the tub she now sat fully clothed and sopping wet. Wondered how many cut knees and scratched palms of his she had bandaged on the counter where her phone now lay waiting to receive word from him. Wondered how many black and blue eyes and busted lips she had not-so-tentatively pressed an ice pack to as her grandmother watched on in concern . . .

It hadn't just been paint. She had lied to him, but only because he had looked so afraid. When he had pushed her, when he had tossed her out of his way, she had stumbled back into the table where her paint had sat, all still damp within their glass jars. She had jostled them enough to send them tumbling to the floor, and as fate would have it, the glass jars did what glass jars do best upon striking solid surfaces.

They had shattered. But she had been so deafened by the overpowering buzz of his panic that she had not heard the crash, had been too numb to feel them fall, and too absorbed to put a name to the damp feeling that had slithered under her palm.

Until of course, it was too late. He blamed himself, and that was never a good thing.

To this thought she would have moaned, would have, should have felt some sense of exasperation or concern but she didn't. There were no more feelings left in her body, and she kicked the stopper over the drain and leaned back as the gray gray water began to flood the marble basin.

But she was lying . . . she was not numb, she had moaned, grunted, sighed. She had seen the red of her blood and the refracted colors in the glass as they had dropped onto the floor. She was feeling more and more lately, and she couldn't understand it.

Lives don't change over night, so why had hers? He had been the one to start it, hadn't he? Yes, he had been the first . . . no, Stephen. Stephen and his pain . . . but it had happened around Noah . . . and whenever she though of him, of them. Him and he, and the beating of her heart . . .

The water was getting higher, and her mind was still spinning . . . He and him. Him and he. The kiss . . . the piano . . . the painting. The ribbons came twirling back, the look on Noah's face, his mother's broken heart, her broken hands . . . her bandaged wrists . . .

She turned the water off before it reached the tubs edge as an image of a young Noah's tear stained face made its way before her eyes followed by the crushing weight of the emotional tide growing violently within her head, took a deep breath . . . and plunged herself beneath the surface.

Silence. The color around her quickly diminished, all but for those flickering above her along the water's mirror like surface. She couldn't remember when she had first learnt that the foreign emotions could not reach her below water, but she would never forget it. As she lay there, allowing herself to slowly sink, she relished the distant hum and the steadily slowing beat of her heart, and watched the feelings, the nightmarish tide of dreams and thoughts and wishes and desires play above and before her eyes, objectively.

Tired, and starting to feel the burning within her lungs she closed her eyes and tried to concentrate.

. . . begin at the beginning . . . and go on till you come to the end . . .*

Light, one tiny pin prick of light . . . she saw it in the distance, in the darkness . . .racing towards her faster and faster growing larger and larger with every second and every heart beat slamming like a drum within her head until the light exploded around her . . .

and swept her up in its sweet . . . brilliant . . .oblivion.