"I haven't had sex with anyone."
Her posture was rigid in a comfortable chair, her knuckles white on her yellow sundress and even paler against her cinnamon frame; a laborer's daughter with beautiful brown eyes, but a purple bruise broke her complexion. She'd curled her soft hair to hide it, nonethless a pitiful thing, too thin and weak-boned. The counselor regarded her with disinterest.
"I'm sure you didn't, sweetheart," she cooed, but she didn't believe it. No one believed Mariella, the lying Hispanic girl with her flat tummy. It would bulge soon, fat and grotesque, stretching her petite frame. She'd never be the same, with wide hips and scars. Tragic damsel, little idiot. How sad, how pointless.
She seemed to know this. Thirteen, a cross resting on her chest, and everyone thought she was a harlot. She couldn't meet anyone's gaze, wringing her hands, "I'm a virgin."
A doll. A pretty doll, dull, but she sticks to her story. "We know, darling."
Nine months passed and then three weeks. The baby was late, but he came into the world quiet. He looked thoughtful, lying in his mother's arms, watching her closely. It would be his only hour with her.
He didn't understand. She knew he didn't understand, but she kissed his forehead and whispered, "Te amo." His eyes closed. They were bright blue, not at all muddy. They'd stay light, she knew, and his hair was such a pale shade of brown. He was light, too light to be hers.
She wished they listened when she said he was special.
The first home was the longest. No one wanted Mexican babies but paid thousands of dollars for little blue-eyed things. Leander, named by his obese foster mother for her obese father, had blue eyes, but they were dark, rimmed with gray. People asked him if they were black, but they were the ocean, the bottomless caverns within it, and all the glowing creatures, self-sustained in worlds of bioluminescent light.
He was soft-spoken. Leander wandered the house, a ghost of a toddler, never in any trouble. He could speak, they knew, but he chose to babble and crawl for far longer than he needed. He'd tug at pant legs, shirts, look up, but he never accepted affection. He drifted, always lost, always grasping at glowing fishes and smiling strangely.
When he turned five, he announced, "I can see demons and angels." The next day, he was packed for a new home.
Years passed. He never learned to be much more than silent, but he rooted like grass wherever he could, in concrete jungles and dirt farms, diamond hard grippings piercing any substance. Always temporary, when couples and single parents alike decided his presence wasn't worth the trouble. He was eerie. He frightened the other boys and girls. He spoke about strange things when he did talk, but he at least learned to pretend they were imaginary. The glowing was more faint, as he grew older, and the shapes less definite- he brooded, less impressed, less in wonder. He sunk and sunk and sunk, sand in his ever paling hair.
When he was thirteen, he agreed his eyes were black when someone asked.
He cut his curly hair short, and when it grew back, it was a deep chestnut brown and very straight. He marveled at it, pulling it and twisting it around his fingers, staring in mirrors. He was a pretty boy, he'd been told, by the first man he had sex with. He was a foster father, a thin man with too much facial hair. He was balding, "I can't believe you have freckles. You're so dark."
"That doesn't mean anything," Leander said, but his mouth wasn't desired for words. He kept homes longer, that way.
Skin met skin with a sickening crunch. His breaths stung like needles, his heart racing in his chest. His knuckles ached and blood covered them. Warm crimson, dripping down his arm when he lifted it toward the sky. He looked up, and he saw a dim face, smiling down at him. The boy at his feet groaned in pain, "You're still a fucking faggot."
He'd been sent to a new home, one with three other boys, all his age. Fifteen. Leander didn't get along with them, but he'd never fought. It felt so natural, driving a sharp kick to the downed adolescent's ribs. Words sickened his victory, so he said none.
He considered sewing his mouth shut, beating until his muscles were sore.
He was sixteen, when he found his next forever home. An old woman lorded over the cottage, a decrepit shadow that haunted the hallways. She only requested he clean, sometimes, and otherwise she was non-existent, cellophane curtains in a sunny room. She glimmered in his vision, occasionally.
It left him time to think, to smoke, to read. He was good in school, but he got into too many fights and fucked too many men. He desired adrenaline sometimes, and he'd thought about licking the blood off his hands, his or someone's else's. He did once, and he'd moaned, aroused.
The thought disturbed him deeply.
The park was his heaven, a stretch of grass down the street. There was no playground, not walking path to corrupt the sanctity of a green field. He walked for hours, sometimes, pacing the impossibly wide length and blinding himself in the sun. He only saw macabre faces most days, but in the fields, he witnessed the glowing fish. The angel fins, scales bright in the shallow Bahama water.
Beneath him the Earth was soft, rotating subtly. He lay down and stretched, taking a drag. He exhaled gray, and the fish broke formation, scattered in his vision. They'd return, and he wished he could touch them. He knew they died, if he did.
Mariella was right; he was special, but he never knew her.