Saturday, March 18, 2017


"tell me more."

my mother used to say that all the time. on the days where I was the only voice jabbering away in our tiny yellow home, she would smile at my stories and listen closely as I told her about my adventures. her attention told me they meant the world to her, even though they were just stupid little things blown up in the world of my imagination. maybe they did mean that much to her. I liked to think so. that feeling...having someone listen to you without obvious reluctance or distractions...nothing felt quite as good as that.

I hadn't felt that burst of warmth in a long time. I hadn't felt anything, actually. not since my mother kicked me out of the only home I'd ever known. even though it itself had been cold and empty, I found the outside world much colder and far too empty of people like me. ever since then, everything had been as numb as cold steel. but right then, as I stared into that guardian's gold rimmed eyes, as my mind slipped dangerously with the swirl of the alcohol's influence, I felt something.

and it didn't sit right.

she shouldn't be listening to me. a good guardian would have walked away the moment they saw me. a better guardian wouldn't even been here? what was she doing in a deserted 7-11 hidden deep within the rotten innards of Halloway? getting an innocent slushie? spying on us? playing the hero?

either way, here she was, crouching in front of me with her round cheeks cupped in her tiny, brown fingers. a golden ring with a small purple gem flashed in the dim overhead light. she had to be around my age--maybe twenty three or a little younger--but everything about her was a contradiction. her mannerisms were childish, her eyes were ancient, and her expression...wasn't there. no anger. no confusion. no disgust. just...blank anticipation of what would happen next.

"what the hell," I murmured, eyes glued to this anomaly before me. "how...are you here?"

how could something as bright and unclouded as her even exist in this dirty corner of the world?

those awful eyes flashed, almost defiant--the first sign of any emotion. "um, I walked here? Just like you." she frowned. "although yours was probably more of a drunken stagger."

"...I would probably take offense at that if I weren't so drunk." even I winced at my pronounced slurring. just how drunk was I? the events after leaving Angela with her judgmental mother and the bus ride home were a little...blurry.

I hadn't been this drunk in a while.

"Do you have a phone?" I finally eeked out. the steady weight of her eyes made speaking--and breathing--extremely difficult. this stillness was so different when compared to the fiery woman  stared down this afternoon. that woman had been fricking alive.

this one...just stared.

and frowned. she pulled out an iphone--its case also purple--from her hoodie pocket. "don't you?"

"yeah, but..." pain jolted through the back of my skull, penetrating my brain like an icy shiv. "I don't remember what I did with it. traded it for a vegetable, maybe. or more vodka. probably more vodka." considering the state of my wallet and how drunk I was, definitely more vodka.

that time, the stare came with a tinge of condescension and the tiniest bit of concern. "do you want me to call someone?" the words had a practiced ease to them, like she was used to helping random drunk strangers find their way safely home. although I wasn't exactly random. unless this awkward encounter was just yet another freak coincidence in my freak coincidence of a life.

something deep down told me it wasn't.

"my AA sponsor." the words left a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. damn it. I should've pictured Fox's disappointed scowl when I took that first burning gulp. that would have sobered me instantly. instead, the harsh chant of "you're a monster" echoed in my mind like a cadence of chains.

and now here she was, waiting to help me.

the innate nature of a guardian must be one hell of a habit.

with a sigh too heavy to be anything but reluctant, she pressed the phone into my waiting hands. "thank you," I whispered. she had no idea what it meant. she never would. thankfully, despite blurry vision and shaking fingers, I managed to punch Foxglove's number into the device.  I winced at the shrill ring, not once, but twice before the phone clicked, and Fox's heavy accent filled the crackling silence. "hullo?"

"you always sound like such a dirtbag when you answer the phone. 'hullo.'" I mocked, lips curling in playful derision. across from me, Cora's golden eyes widened. shocked, probably. she'd probably never even imagined a reaper could have a normal, guy to guy conversation before. she was the dirtbag, not Fox.

was it possible for me to be getting drunker, even though I hadn't touched the bottle since she started staring so firmly in my direction?

Foxglove went silent. "Neil? is that you?"

"the one and only."

a pause. "I hate to ask this, because you're normally this bitter, but--you're not drunk, are you?" an unspoken 'again' trailed off at the end of his question. so he still picked up on my alcoholism better than either of my own parents ever had. wonderful.

"very, I answered, swallowing a very petite hiccup. "can you come save me from this grimy convience store before I start gross sobbing? I think I might get herpes from this nasty place."

"you won't get herpes, you idiot," he reassured me. I could see him so clearly in my mind--pacing around his tiny kitchen with his phone cord wrapped tight around his forearm, glancing anxiously out the window towards the pitch black windows of the Moran's apartment, chewing absently at his non-existent lower lip. "whose phone are you on? is there someone there with you?"

"yeah." my eyes flashed up to Cora. "my guardian angel."

her lips tightened but said nothing.

"can you ask them to stay with you until I can get there?"

I cocked a lazy eyebrow at her, opening a reluctant invitation. "care to babysit me a little longer?"

she rolled her eyes, as if there were obviously something better for her to do. there probably was. even so, she nodded. "it's not like there's that much for a guardian to get up to on a Friday night in Halloway."

"hence the reason you're here at a 7-11 getting a slushie." I gestured lazily to the cup resting on its side by her feet, praying to every god I knew of that Fox hadn't heard the word 'guardian' over the phone. he was probably already losing his mind. I didn't need to start a full-fledged panic.

"she'll wait," I told him as gravity's pull dragged me a little closer to the floor. the buzz was starting to become annoying, and all I wanted to was to forget all this had happened. but still...I needed to stay awake. unconsciousness was a danger I couldn't risk at this point. that had been the whole point of sobriety.

so I whispered "come save me" to Fox as softly as I could. whether I needed saving from the guardian, myself, or the darkness gathering outside, I didn't know. I never would.

after telling him which greasy hole I was hiding in, I handed the phone back to her. Cora. the guardian. the woman who was willing to wait for me, despite all my mistakes and all our differences--as drastic and as barbed as they were.

and then I uttered something I never thought I'd say to a guardian in my life time.


a sliver of a smile creased her soft, round face--and it was so fricking genuine. the realest thing I'd seen all day. I kind of wanted to keep looking at it, until the sun finally set and all light had vanished from our tiny little world. it was a smile that looked like it could last milennia.

of course, it disappeared the instant I puked all over her shoes, but the moment had been there, all the same.

and with that, the_tethered_files comes to a close. hope you all enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!

*none of these images are mine unless specified*

Thursday, March 16, 2017

february reads: broadening horizons

I've always been a person who likes to educate myself. I want to know things. I want to learn, even though the things that I learn may not be applicable to my life. another important thing for me over the past few months is that there is so much to the world that I don't know--about life, about people, about everything. I want to understand those things, or at least be able to look at life and not be held back by my own ignorance.

this all came to a finite point of realization for me when my psych class had a guess speaker from a sister college. this psych class is dealing with how to research and write papers about research, and this grad student who came and spoke to us was a sociology major who was researching trans youth and the issues that they find in the school environment. and after listening to them speak, I realized just how LITTLE I know about this subject. and that's why I made a point to read books that helped me understand this very different world a little more. I didn't have the time/brainspace to get read books with all the various sexuality and genders (let's be honest--there aren't enough books written with characters with that kind of variety) but I feel like this is a pretty decent sampling. and I'm excited to read more--not for review, but for my own enjoyment and education.

so without further ado, here are the books I read in february!

blurry photo, don't even care. *shrugs*

dante and aristotle discover the secrets of the universe

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. (taken from goodreads)

dude. this book. I loved it.

can I just leave my review at that? no? okay.

well, first of all, the prose is GORGEOUS. I've never read writing that was so in your head and personal. I didn't quite "become" Ari, but that was the closest I'd ever been in a character's head. the weird thing was that I didn't feel like I belonged there. you're in Ari's head, but you're an outsider, and that juxtaposition is very, very weird to read. anger is one of my least favourite emotions, but Ari's anger was something that I felt in a very real way.

character-wise, as you might be able to tell already, I love Ari. he was down to earth in all the right ways, he had so many questions about the world that he was too afraid to ask, and his thoughts were very heavy. so heavy it hurt sometimes. I don't know if it's because he was the narrator and we saw so much of his mind on the page, but I didn't feel that connection with Dante. honestly, sometimes I found Dante very annoying. maybe it's because he's supposed to be the one that kind of wakes up Ari from his apathetic life, but he came across as kind of over the top and TOO bright, especially when you held him next to Ari? I know that's kind of the point of his character, and there's nothing wrong with that, but let's just put it this way: if I were to bump into Dante or someone with as much enthusiasm as he has, it would take me a LOOOONG time to get along with him.

the relationship between Dante and Ari was probably my favourite thing from this book, because it actually was a relationship. there was no insta-love here, no awkward "you're the only one for me," no "I love yous" in the first ten chapters. part of this is because Ari didn't really know how he felt about Dante for a while, but part of it is also because they acted like humans. they lived normal lives, their conflicts were extremely realistic, and their friendship that developed into a relationship was really beautiful to watch. I loved it. that's all I can say. I loved it.

if more books were written with romances like this, this would be my permanent expression

apart from my semi-dislike of Dante (which I don't really think is dislike? I don't know how to describe it? he just doesn't vibe well with me. *shrugs*) the only thing that really made me frustrated with this book was the dialogue. the conversations are the driving force of this book, along with Ari's thoughts, but half the time with the dialogue between Ari and Dante, I felt like an invisible person butting into their conversation. you know how it is when you're with two people who are super close and who know each other inside and out, and when they talk, it's like you cease to exist? that's what it felt like when Dante and Ari talked. and there's nothing wrong with that; it was just kind of disconcerting. once I got halfway through the book, that stopped being such an issue, though.

overall, I really loved ready this book, and when a rainy day rolls around, I'm definitely rereading it again. because it is the perfect rainy day book.

when the moon was ours

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.  (taken from goodreads)

to talk about this book is going to be practically impossible. mostly because it is so heady and beautiful and prose is so artistic that I feel like I need to read it five more times to understand all that it is saying, but also because I really loved it, even though it left me confused af. even though it may be confusing, this story is so intricate and well-written, and the words practically jump off the page. it is so vibrant in a gentle, soft way, and its message is very important.

this was the first book I ever read with a trans main character. I feel like I really learned a lot about this subject, because I literally knew nothing before this, and it made me very interested in reading more books with trans characters. this was the only book I didn't purposefully pick up because it was LGBTQ+. I had read The Weight of Feathers and ADORED IT, so I figured I should read this one too. I was not disappointed. it was also really interesting because, as I was reading this book, it was right when my psych class had the guest speaker whose research was focused on transgender children. it was just a really interesting coincidence, and I feel a little more educated.

the imagery and themes are so interesting. I lowkey want to write a paper on this, just because there are so many different avenues--like the Bonner sisters. what do they mean? Miel's roses--what do they signify in the broader scope of things. a lot of this book made me so sad and melancholy, even though I wouldn't classify it as a "sad" book? I don't really understand it, but it touched a soft and sad place in my heart, and I still feel that ache.

but parts of this book are so happy and beautiful I DON'T UNDERSTAND THESE FEELINGS

I just loved this book so much because there was a lot of love and embracing of those who are different--even if you didn't understand the difference, you still accepted it as something that should be respected and not erased. and have I mentioned how much I love the softness of the colors and yet the way that they are completely vivid at the same time? you really have to read this book to understand what I mean by this...I don't have the words to explain it. although if you're not a huge fan of writing that's not explicit and to the point, you might have a harder time with this one. my literal peeps will definitely have a harder time reading this book, but that's not a bad thing--because what's the point in reading if it doesn't challenge you just a lil bit?

history is all you left me

 When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life. (taken from goodreads)

*sighs heavily* I wanted to like this book. I really did. I've heard such good things about this author, but never really got around to reading his other books, so when this came out, I immediately got my hands on a copy. unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it. I didn't even finish it. I know, I know. DNF always leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but as I'm sort of reading according to a schedule for these reviews, the time that it would have taken me to get into it would have taken way too long. so that's frustrating.

I'm not really sure what it was that made it so hard for me to immerse myself in this book. maybe it was the back and forth future/past timelines. maybe it was because I felt a really strong age gap/disconnect with the characters? I'm noticing this more and more as I read YA as a slightly older person;  the maturity (or lack thereof) that certain characters exhibit becomes more cringey, whether its because I don't remember acting like that as a young teenager, or because I'm just turning into a crotchety old lady before my time. I think the perfect way to describe this lack of interest toward Griffin and Theo's story is this: it felt as though I were reading an extremely long fan-fiction of a ship that I didn't really care about or knew nothing about. and that's frustrating, because I wanted to care. this is a book about mental illness and grief, among other things, and I love books about those topics. I'm writing one. but I just couldn't get into it.

basically nothing could make me care about these characters and that really sucked.

lesson to be learned here, people? no matter how much you want to like a book, sometimes it just won't work.

things I did like about this book? number one, Griffin is totally an awesome name, and Theo is pretty great as well. those names were almost too good for me to put this book down. I also really loved how vivid the descriptions were. even though I didn't finish this book, one of the scenes that stands out in my memory is the very first scene of Theo and Griffin in the subway. that moment is so important, and the way it was described was so perfect--it took me back to all the times where I rode on a subway or an underground train. the slightly yellowed light, the press (or absence) of people, the sound of the train going through the tunnels...that scene alone resonated with me. and if that's the only thing out of this book that does, I'm okay with that, because it was really wonderful to read.

even though I didn't get to Griffin's 'downward spiral' as the blurb puts it, I did enjoy the descriptions of his OCD. now, I've never been diagnosed with OCD and that's one mental illness I'm not willing to judge about myself, but I get how Griffin describes his tendencies. I've always had preferences for certain sides, and although they're not focused on one side entirely like his are, I completely got how he felt. mine is probably because I am a creature of habit, but his is something a lot more, something completely serious. reading about a teenager with OCD that's not the traditional per se was really refreshing. 

did I enjoy this book this time? no. were there good things about it? yes. will I be trying it again at a later time? hopefully. I think I'm going to try reading some of Silvera's other books first, just to see if maybe it's not the story but the author's way of telling the story that's getting me, but I do want to try this book again. give me a few months. we'll see.

*dances awkwardly away having said my peace*

what are some books you read this month? I'm still taking genre suggestions, btw--I have a plan for next month, but other than that, I'm open to whatever ideas/recommendations y'all have! have you read any of these books? or what was the last book you read where you just didn't click? please tell me i'm not the only one.... *suffers in shame*

ooh! one last thing--if any of y'all have read a book with an ace protagonist, let me know? as you all know, Neil is asexual, but it is SAD how few books I've been able to find with an ace character at all. so give me all your recommendations. I NEED THEM.

please--share the love

Hope y'all have a fantastic week! mine is going to be spent crying over history papers and this doggone cold. 

*gifs are not mine* 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

what color?

imagine a world where the judicial system as we know has been destroyed. in its place stands a collection of data and information that is constantly scanning the emotions and tendencies of the populace in order to calculate the possibility of someone committing a crime. when someone's crime coefficient and emotional hue rises above the ordained level, they are tracked down and taken out. sometimes they are merely stunned; other times, it ends with death and blood, and occasionally...they just disappear. everyone lives on a peaceful sort of edge, coexisting in a blissful world of no crime or pain...enforced by the fear of falling short of society's rigid expectations.

until Akane Tsunemori comes along and changes everything.

if you follow me on Twitter, you know I love me some Psycho Pass. I started watching this anime in 2015, but unfortunately it got taken off of Netflix before I ever got around to finishing it. when I discovered it again, I devoured it. both seasons. its cyberpunky goodness filled a hunger within me that I didn't know existed, and it really made me want to include that genre in my writing in the near future. it also makes me cry--the story is that darn good. but it wasn't just the world or the unique premise or the rich atmosphere that made me love this show to death.

it was the characters.

Akane Tsunemori could have been anything. she had all the skills, all the potential, all the dreams. and yet, she chose potentially the hardest job she could--enforcing justice. but is it really justice that she deals out at the will of the Sibyl System, or is there something more to it? when she begins to question what her job means for both herself and everyone around her, her senior Inspector Ginoza (!!! who is my fave !!!) says to put thoughts like those out of her head and to protect her Psycho Pass at all cost, or she'll end up an Enforcer, a mere dog in the scheme of things. but one such dog makes her continue to question what it truly means to be an Inspector.

Shinya Kogami threw his blossoming career as an Inspector away by allowing his Psycho Pass to cloud, all because he had to solve the murder of one of his subordinates, no matter the cost. he resents the Sibyl System for allowing the death of his friend to go unchecked, and every day he works to find the man who is to blame for that death, the mastermind he believes is called Shogo Makashima. when he is placed under the instruction and care of a rookie Inspector, he finds her naive and clueless at first. by the time they've finished their first case, however, she's surprised him in the most unlikeliest of ways.

at the beginning of the first season, Tsunemori is a weak, confused character. she leans on Kogami and Masaoka as she figures out how to truly become an Inspector, but within the first few episodes, we see steel within her. she's determined to do the right thing and follow her sense of justice, and she wrestles with this when it doesn't align with what the Sibyl System has to say. she walks a strange path between rebellion and blind trust, and when she stumbles, no one knows where she might fall. she's a wild card--but no matter what she witnesses, no matter what horrible things she must endure, her Psycho Pass never clouds.

even when the horrible truth about the Sibyl System is revealed to her, she stays strong as an Inspector, determined to keep doing what she believes is right, even though justice is shattering around her. her development in the first season alone is beautifully done, and you can see the maturity and confidence she's gained from making her own decisions and putting her trust in truth in just her eyes. when it comes time for her to influence her own junior Inspector, she handles things much differently than Ginoza ever did--even though Shimotsuki makes similar mistakes to what she did at the beginning, although they are on opposite spectrum, she still believes that her subordinate will someday understand what the Sibyl System truly does and why it is reprehensible in the eyes of society.

in contrast to Tsunemori, Kogami is the jaded hero that most cyberpunk stories are about. he has become passive towards life after his time spent as an Enforcer, his emotions and his mind numbed, and he's changed from an Inspector intent on true justice into a dog who blindly follows the orders of Sibyl System. still, as he watches Tsunemori try her hardest to save people that everyone else has already given up on, something within him wakes up--he realizes that he doesn't have to kill innocent people just because the Sibyl System has declared them criminals. in a way, she saves him just as much as he teaches her.

when Makashima shows up and they must decide between pursuing him and obeying the government's edicts, this dangerous game of push and pull between his personal cause for justice and society's wishes sends Kogami tumbling off the edge. at the end of the series, Kogami is a fugitive--he's wanted by the Sibyl System for going rogue and trying to kill Makashima against his orders. he once was a hero, but now he's something more--he thinks that Tsunemori helped him find his way, but in reality, he's even more lost than he ever was before.

fast forward a little bit (aka a season without Kogami and a totally new--and cool--but irrelevant villain to this post. maybe I'll cry about all the reasons Kamui makes me hurt in a later blogpost. probably not. but maybe). Akane still struggles against the restrictions of the Sibyl System, especially now that it has gotten Shimotsuki to follow its orders blindly. still, things are relatively peaceful, compared to the past two seasons, until Kogami's face appears in a terrorists' memories--it seems as though he's joined the guerrilla group that is behind the influx of terrorists into Japan and the rebellion toward the Sibyl's System's colonization in the SEAUn. Tsunemori is sure that her old friend hasn't gone dark, but she hunts him down all the same, hoping to arrest him and take him home. when she finds him, however, she realizes that Kogami has changed--and not necessarily for the better.

he's become a hero again, but not because he's putting away criminals, not because he's trying to enforce justice. the guerrilla warriors and the refuges that Kogami is trying to guide and protect worship him; he's shown them the light, one of his close companions tells Tsunemori. he stands at the brink of becoming something akin to Makashima, the man that drew them together. the man who gave people the tools to destroy lives. that experience made Tsunemori who she is and tore Kogami's world apart, and yet, he's walking a narrow line between who he is and the man he could become--a man without a moral compass, or whose moral compass has disappeared throughout time.

 if he gives in and takes control of the power so many people are offering him, he'll be another kind of Makashima, using the lost and confused for his "good" wishes. it's clear that not even Kogami knows what he'll choose in the end. this inner conflict continues throughout the rest of the movie, raising the question of what Kogami will become, and how will that transformation change everything?

ironically, a quote from Makashima captures Kogami's arc perfectly. power, freedom...the exact things that Makashima used to wreck havoc...they are what cause Kogami's shift from someone who believes in something to a man who is dangerously gray in his beliefs. and in the moments where he falters, we see what kind of a person he is, deep down.

actually Makashima has a lot of really great quotes that I love, and i'm not really sure what that says about me as a person...

I guess the most beautiful part of Psycho Pass is that the story doesn't ride completely on solving murders or even on finding out about the Sibyl System. the plot ressts entirely on Akane and Kogami's shoulders, their stories winding together to form a tale about justice and morals and pain in a painless world. even if I didn't love all the elements of cyberpunk, even if I didn't love crime related shows, even if you removed all the elements about Psycho Pass that I love so dearly, I know I would still adore this show--because for me to not love it would mean you would have to change the characters entirely. the characters tell the story, and that, in my opinion, is what drives a story home.

so make your characters flawed. make them hurt. make them ask questions about the universe that have no clear or peaceful answer. make me root for them, cry for them, hate them and love them at the same time. when you do that, you are making a story. a beautiful story told from and about people as real as life.

that, my dear friends, is good story telling.

( psst. you should watch Psycho Pass and cry about it with me. just saying. I know about -5 people who have watched this show, and it is an INJUSTICE. you can watch the Japanese dub with English subtitles HERE, or if you want to shell out six bucks for an okay English dub, you can find that HERE. just go watch the thing. you won't regret it.

I'm too far gone, guys. come join me in the madness.

also--do it for Ginoza and Masaoka. they make me cry. especially Ginoza's development as a character. but that's a blogpost for another day. )

have a great week y'all! let me know if you plan on checking this wonderful, wonderful show out! <3

(none of these gifs belong to me)

Saturday, March 4, 2017


I'm half asleep when something--a finger, a branch, a talon--scritches at the window above my bed. the lights are off, and my eyes are squeezed tightly shut, but I still roll over with a groan. "It's open, you idiot."

because I know it's not a tree or a claw prying its way into my room. it must be a perfectly ordinary finger, its nail painted a shiny coal black.

the scratching stops, replaced with a heavy thump, pattering footsteps, and the warm presence of someone climbing onto my bed.

"gross," I grumble, shoving the person away half-heartedly. "It's summer. don't touch me."

"you know, if you wore less black, you might actually enjoy these lovely months of freedom and sunshine."

I crack one eye open to glower at my best friend. "in your dreams, Cora."

Cora Hart, my next door neighbour and partner in crime, just grins mischievously. her two front teeth cross just a little, giving her smile an impish quirk, and as I lay there, drowning in my own sweat, I couldn't help but break into a soft smile. "won't your mom notice that you're gone?" I ask, rolling over. Mrs. Hart has always hated me, just like my mom has always hated Cora, and neither of us have ever understood why. We're just kids. why do I have to hate her for her moonlight hair, and why should she have to fear me because of my glowing eyes? we have to be more than reapers and guardians deep down, right? We are human too.

Cora taps the side of her nose with a sly finger, her wink barely visible in the dusky shadows. "what she doesn't know won't hurt her." she shimmies a little closer to me, her right leg spread lazily across my left. her skin is cool and smooth--a breath of fresh air in this stifling box of a room. "so how was your first day of summer school?"

"ugh." I roll my eyes and stare blankly at the ceiling. "Wilson was there. it  sucked. end of story."

"why?" she turns so she's staring at the profile of my face like its a puzzle she needs to solve. a thin braid of bright silver hair rests on the curve of her dusky throat, rising and falling with every slow and steady breath. "Wilson likes you."

yeah, but he hates you. nothing can make me say that aloud, though. especially when she's this close--close enough to smack me for being an idiot. still...even though Wilson and I are two of the same kind, I can't forgive him for all that he does to her. that's the one thing I can never turn a blind eye to.

"hey." I say softly, shifting to face her. our noses are inches apart, and for once, her eyes are the ones that glow, the shimmering effervescence of the moon illuminating her deep brown irises. "do you think there's something wrong with me?"

she pulls back, startled, and her relaxation hardens like granite. "what? who told you that?"

"no one." my brain. every day. without stop.  "I mean, with this." I gestured to the thin space between us, the way her legs rest on mine, and how our hands loosely clasp between the warmth of our bodies. "I feel nothing. no attraction. no desire. that's not normal for a guy, right?" not if the remarks made in private and male dominant groups meant anything.

the hardness slips away as realization softens her features. "oh, Neil." her free hand taps my cheek affectionately, then slides through my thick and tangled bed hair. "we're friends. I doubt that you ever would feel anything about me. that's just not how we work."

"but it's the same for everyone else. not just you." desperation tightens my vocal cords, making my voice unsteady and broken--I am fifteen all over again. "I don't like girls. I don't like guys. I don't feel anything like that. does...does that make me broken?"

once again, she recoils. "no." her grip on my wrist tightens. "you are in no way broken."

"then what am I?"

this isn't part of being a guardian. I can't ask my parents about this; they don't have the answers I long for. this...this is part of being human.

her eyes shimmer with starlight and something deeper, something less tangible. her lips twist into a rueful smile, and she looks at me like I'm the world to her. "you're just different, Neil. so very different. but that doesn't make you broken. you're exactly who you need to be, and I wouldn't trade this Neil for one who isn't different. I would probably hate that Neil."

"you would not," I chuckle. my eyes prickle as I watch her, despite the warm smile on my lips. "you don't hate anyone."

"true." her nose crinkles in that way I love so much. "but I would totally hate it if you were any different from the you next to me right now."

I pull her a little closer and rest my head against her shoulder, breathing in her familiar scent of fabric softener and cigarettes. her wild curls tickle my skin reassuringly. "thank you," I whisper into the calm, and she squeezes my hand in response. "love you."

"love you too."

and then we just lay there, close but not together, in the most intimate, untouchable way we knew possible. together. not alone. safe.




"Neil! Wake up!"

I pry my eyes open only to see Cora leaning over me, her own golden eyes on fire. "Seriously, Neil. Give me the keys--I'm late for work."

A few blinks later and...nope, the world still doesn't make sense.

a worry wrinkle settles between her brows. "Neil? are you okay? you look startled."

"I...I'm fine." my ears are ringings, but when I shake my head, everything falls back into place. "just a weird dream, I think."

but I can't shake the feeling that something, deep down, is different, and I don't like the unsettled discomfort that it leaves firmly lodged in my already broken chest.