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There is something intimate about being inside the car. Close. Confined. Kaida found it suited her well, to be in this space. It was her space, and hers alone. She knew the car, she had complete control, here. Inside the car. This was her space and nothing could change that. Alone at night her breath frosting, this was her space. In the baking heat that drove away the loneliness, this space was hers alone. Nothing could touch her here, throw her precarious balance awry. Here she sat, resplendent in her inner power, wrapped in metal, hurtling along a highway. Alone.
Moonlit skin contrasted brightly against the dark bedsheets. A length of thigh visible, surfacing from the depths of the blanketed nest. It caught Kaida's attention and heat rose up inside her, drawing her closer. Fine hairs stood up in the cool air and she ran her hand lightly over them, increasing the tightness of the skin. Goosebumps rose and she leant down to taste the skin, tongue and teeth and lips roaming over that delectable moonstruck thigh. She breathed in that delicate scent, savouring the taste and feel and scent. She moved inwards, to the softer delicate skin. Tasting. Savouring.
Kaida walked into the bar, a grin baring teeth at the clientele. She loved to work, loved tending bar, making drinks and talking to the customers. No game face here, just pure enjoyment. A laugh broke forth, earning her strange looks and returned grins. Nights like these, when the moon was waxing high in the sky, her energy soared, burning from her skin in a magnetic heat. It drew people to her like a bonfire, basking in her burning warmth. The night passed in a blur of movement and words, still Kaida did not tire. Not on nights like these.
She grimaced in the mirror. A crescent moon glowered through the bathroom window adding odd highlights to Kaida's face. She felt oversized in the tiny apartment, even more so in the bathroom. She almost had to lean down to look into the mirror. Days like these, in the light of a waning moon, she barely recognised the face in the mirror. Her mother always despaired at her hair, her height, her face. Her nose was a little too big, mouth a lot too big, eyes strangely pale against her dark hair and tawny skin. She could hear her mother now.
Kaida woke slowly, eyes and mind adjusting to the mid-afternoon light. She stretched, tensing and releasing muscles, moving and twisting as her vertebra popped and cracked. She twisted in place then swung up and out the door of her car, glorying in the yellow tinged air that smelt of smoke and clean grass. She revelled in the feel of her muscles bunching and relaxing as she stretched away the stiffness that is inevitable when one sleeps in a car. Feeling even more full of energy than usual she launched into a run, loping through the park in the afternoon air.
Her bones creaked and ached. Joints swollen and distended. Her stomach roiled and twisted and her eyes felt dry. She rolled over onto her stomach and fought down a wave of nausea. It was always like this, afterward. Always pained and aching like she'd been beaten. She pulled herself slowly to her knees and steadied herself against the car door. The pain in her muscles would fade in time but the joint ache was there for a week. She pulled herself into the driver's seat and sat silent for a moment or two. Getting home was always the hardest thing.
Kaida ran an impatient hand through her hair. Public computers were always so slow. She tapped her foot and twitched as the connection slowly revealed the site. She held her breath as she checked the email. He had to have sent her something. He had to. She almost didn't click the link saying ‘three new messages'. Almost. She missed them so badly it hurt. He must have sent her something, told her something. Anything. Not for the first time she contemplated going back, she missed him, and the others so badly. She couldn't, not yet, but she still missed them.
The sky was a harsh clear blue. Mocking her, mocking her pain. She looked down and the black of her clothes just made it worse. She'd given up all pretence of stoicism and let the tears run. She'd screwed up so badly, so badly that nothing could be salvaged. She looked into the harsh sky and closed her eyes against the pain, as if blindness would somehow help. As if the relative darkness would ease the pain. She could hear the murmurs of conversation but couldn't face anything right now. This was all her fault, her burden and her sin.
The silence stretched between them, taught and huge. The proverbial blundering elephant. The garbled voices of the radio flickered through the static but still did not penetrate the silence that smothered them. Kaida's eyes focussed on the road before them, but she was driving on autopilot, the silence digging into her like a wound. Words formed in her mind but died on her tongue, the bitter aftertaste cloying and hateful. She didn't bother to look beside her, knowing nothing would be learnt. Then the silence between them, stretched too far, snapped to the tune of snide innuendo and spite-filled words.
Sometimes men tried to save Kaida. Tried to make her life into something resembling what they thought happiness should look like. Tried to fit her into a box two sizes too small. It always made her think of her mother. She liked tending bar. She liked working nights. She wasn't fond of having no home but it was better than no freedom. She knew she was lucky and counted herself blessed each time she got a steady job to see her over winter, every time she woke up safe. Every time she rebuffed her supposed saviours she thanked the world.
The work was technically good, but any praise was overshadowed by concern. Everyone knew the boy had issues, everyone knew his sister had disappeared one night. Everyone knew something was wrong with Hikaru. The work just made it clear. He'd called it ‘Black Roses'. A collage of charcoal, pen and ink. All reds and blacks. They could all see Kaida's face in the ink-slashed portraits. The strong lines echoing her strong features. The black lines emphasised the connection and the red ink repudiated it. Technically the work was good, the meaning plain.
The pain was clear. The path was not.
Kaida's hands clenched. Blood trickled down one leg and soaked through the thin cloth.
Akira looked at his sister in horror. Her hands were bloody. There was blood everywhere he realised. Her hands, the tops of her thighs. Even the shorts she wore to bed were spotted with blood. It was nothing compared to what marked the walls though. There were cracks on one of the walls, its plaster covering cracking out like a spiderweb. But the other wall had a splattering of blood on the brickwork, a pattern echoed on the third wall, this time wood was stained red.
Her stomach clenched and fell through the floor. She'd never thought it would come to this. This should never have happened. Luka's eyes were wild as he thrashed and snarled, lashing out. This had to be some sort of joke. This couldn't be real. They could not claim Luka, he was Kaida's, and Kaida's alone. He writhed and she watched as Marian stalked over to the thrashing figure.
She would not let this happen.
Luka was hers, and she would make that clear. Write it in blood and sweat on the bodies of those who dared to interfere.
Kaida was losing ground. Losing faith. Losing face. She'd thought she'd done the best she could, done the only thing she could.
"Why even bother coming back?"
The questions still rang clear in her mind, like shining silver light on choppy water, reflecting and deflecting and magnifying.
"What did you think would happen?"
She shook her head but it did nothing. The tears still pricked behind her eyes, her heart still constricted in her chest, her breathing still came harsh and uneven.
"Get away from me."
Kaida drove into the night, voices in her ear and cracks in her façade.
"You use made up rituals in a dead language from a culture on the other side of the fucking world. How can it be true when you have to import the wood for your precious fires? Buy the herbs from your local supermarket? Come off it Hall, your rituals serve as nothing but trappings for his greed." She gestured at Marian. She knew this was dangerous but couldn't stand the posturing any more. It was all too surreal watching these dead rituals stolen from badly coded websites used as if they meant something. "You don't even get the basics right."
She could taste the tang of blood in her mouth, salty sweet and sickening. Her stomach roiled and writhed, flooding with cold fear. Every muscle trembled and shook as the taste of blood spread further, drowning her. It dug deep into her and swam through her mind, mingling in her veins, throbbing violently. She could feel it thick in her throat, sharp and terrifying, pulling her under. Her body convulsed, driven by the salty sweet tang and drowning fear. The smell and taste of blood was in the air, in her mouth and nose and surrounded her, swallowing her whole.
Kaida lay flat on her back in the grass. It was deliciously cool against her arms and legs. The air smelt green and fresh, overlain with the musk of her sweat. Her breath heaved and laboured in the cool air. The burn and ache of her muscles was a delightful counterpoint to the lucidity of her mind. There was nothing so good as the park run for clearing one's mind she thought. The muscle burn, the ache and pull. The heaving breath and sticky sweat. All of it brought her a kind of peace absent from her usual daily routine.
Anger rose off Kaida like steam. No-one knew what set her off this time, no-one knew what had been done. All they knew was that she'd lost it and turned. Even now she still felt dangerous. Still felt angry and violent in the clear, cold night air. Even from here Thais could see the muscles bunched and tense beneath the shirt sleeves. Even from here Thais could smell the anger, calling her, deadening her nerves. She kept her distance as Kaida paced and twitched. She was powerless here, there was nothing she could do but watch and savour the rage.
"Take me with you."
"No, I can't. You need to finish school, then you can come with us."
"Fuck school. I don't need it, I can go to TAFE and do a cooking course. Year twelve won't help shit."
"Yes it will just finish school, then you can move with us. You need to finish school dude, its easier first time round than trying to do it later."
Kaida kept packing as Hikaru sulked away. She knew this was the right thing, knew he couldn't move with them yet but desperately wished otherwise. Desperately wished things were somehow different.
"I don't want this." Kaida's chest heaved. "I do not want this, not now, not ever."
"Too bad Kaida. You did what you did, you know the consequences."
"I am NOT suited for this, I am not what is needed. I cannot lead, not here."
"Too bad. Until someone takes you down you're it. You're leader. Take the mantle and do it."
Kaida shuddered. It shouldn't have come to this. All she'd ever wanted was to protect her own. It should not have come down to this. She picked up the blood soaked beads and slipped them around her wrist.
"Do you really think you should eat all that dear?"
A pause. "Well yeah," Kaida replied, "I played two games today and I'm starving."
Kaida's mother pushed away her own plate, only half-finished. "You'll never lose weight if you keep eating like that."
Kaida sighed. "Look mum, I don't want to lose weight. I'm sick of this shit ok…"
"Watch your language young lady!" Kaida's mother sounded horrified.
"No. I won't watch my weight, my language, my behaviour. I'm not a fucking lady alright? I'm not what you want me to be and I never will, no matter what."
Kaida's voice rang out loud and strong, turning the insipid pop song into something more, something powerful. She had a strong voice, dark and rich. It rolled over and through the words, bringing meaning to clichés, darkness to the protestations of love. Emotion belled out, heavy in the humid air, swallowed by the night. Kaida's voice was like some sinful caramel dessert, or port so old it coated the tongue. It was a voice of control and passion, power and love, it was velvet-coated and deeply dark. She sang and sang and sang, wringing what life she could from meaningless noise.
Kaida could feel the moment in which she lost Luka. Thinking back she can almost catalogue the very moment the bond snapped, ricocheting wildly inside her, flailing about. She remembers the first surge of pain, the first wrenching agony akin to having her heart ripped out. She'd sunk to her knees and looked dumbly at her chest, expecting a gaping hole. But there wasn't. Her chest was whole while Luka's life leaked scarlet on the sand. After the first surge everything dulled. It hurt. She could feel a gaping hole inside, could feel the emptiness. Could feel what was gone.
Kaida could feel any semblance of control slip through her fingers. A wisp of smoke, of sound, of nebulous control winging away in the morning air. It slipped and she found she no longer cared. She'd get through, she always had. She could always get up and go. She always had. This was all insignificant, all meaningless superficiality. She clamped down on a sparking desire to wrest the control back, but ultimately did it matter? They couldn't stop her. She always had. In the end it was her and only her. In the end, she always had. She always had.
Thais liked Kaida. Not like that. Lord no. The girl was far too wholesome for Thais' more…eclectic…tastes. But she liked her nonetheless. The superficial similarities, the height, the broadness of shoulder and vitality of demeanour, were covers for the more emotional bonds. The need for space, for independence and autonomy. By herself Thais never considered Marian a threat but his reaction to the girl belied an attitude she didn't much like. And painted his other actions in less than savoury lights. That's how Thais came to find herself stalking Marian and Hall, and with flesh and blood beneath her nails.
Kaida woke. For a moment hopeful in the midday light, it's searing burn promising salvation. Only to have it all dashed, drowned and burnt in the air. It had happened. He was gone. No coming back now. She closed her eyes for a moment more, hoping that the harsh burn would somehow salve the pain. Make it go away. It didn't and she opened them to a different kind of pain. She had to go on, engage in the meaningless mundane tasks while everything about her broke apart. Even more pain to add to a seemingly endless litany of it.
She threw herself into the anger. The rage. Let it swallow her whole, bitter and foul. She burrowed in until nothing could touch her through the red haze. Anger ruled her and fear was vanquished. Nothing could touch her here, it was warm and soft and cushioned her against everything, insulating her. It tired her, exhausted every part of her, mind, body and soul. She slept at night secure in rage and relentless anger. Slowly she became numb, over-stimulated and senseless in belligerence and hostility. Nothing touched her and now nothing mattered. Numbness became her life, her religion and salvation.
She was an autumn day, death eternally reborn and hopeful. She was summer in all it's glory and wet heat. She was winter, cold and implacable. She was spring, sere and fecund in equal amounts. She was all and nothing, an endless cycle of opposing quirks and balanced equations. She knew it all, she was dumb and broken. She could feel the wind and sky and the pulse of the earth itself. She could taste the blood in Luka's veins and hear the beating of his heart. For a moment nothing existed but the heady rush of everything and nothing.
Kaida felt her stomach bottom out, drop beneath her feet and flip around like a dying fish. She could see him, see Isaac standing next to her mother, mouthing something she couldn't hear over the roaring in her ears. She was too far away anyhow. He didn't look up even though the hate should have burnt him to a crisp. His hand was resting on her mother's should and she wanted to tear it off, rip his fingers from their sockets. Her gaze was locked on him and her blood was ice, her sweat was clammy, her mind was blank.
It all stopped. Still. Behind her eyes it all flowed on, in the blink of an eye she lived & loved & died & lived & loved & died & lived & loved & died & lived & loved & died. All the moments of ecstasy, of pain and love and hurt unimaginable flowered behind her eyes. The smell of apples over whelmed her in love, the touch of a hand threw her into throes of passion. It all flew around and behind her eyes drawing her deep and thoughtless into meaningless memories. Then it stopped. Still. Behind her eyes.
Kaida is: thoughtless & loyal & thick as a post & tough & strong & loving & kind & brutal & violent & pained & bored & relentless & sorrowful & broken & alone & a leader & a survivor & tall & happy & blunt & spontaneous & scared & does what needs to be done & knows the score & a singer & loves the blues & can't cook & craves acceptance & misses her brothers & makes mistakes & makes it worse & fixes things & flexible & motivated & scarred & understanding & herself. Kaida is.
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