The Eclectic Pen - When There Is No Going Back


By: Terry J.   + 8 more  
Date Submitted: 11/2/2007
Genre: Teen & Young Adult » Literature & Fiction
Words: 30,894
Rating:


 

Note! This is a part of a novel i have been writing - it is not yet finished, but this is the majority of what i have done so far. tell me what you think. Thanks! Terry J.
















Introduction:



University of California, Berkeley

College Application Essay Number One : Who I Am

Who am I? It is the only question I have never been able to answer on my own. I am my sister’s twin. I am my mother and father’s daughter. I am a somebody’s worst enemy. I am another’s greatest mistake. I am my boyfriend’s girlfriend. But who am I, all by myself? I do not know. Maybe it is not so much that I do not the answer to the question, but more so that I do not know who to tell. Or how to tell them. Because to tell you who I am, I would have to explain a bit of who I was. And that is the part you will not accept. I was the person you warned your little children about. Sometimes it seems as if I will always be that person, except that now, the whole world knows about me. Or else, who I used to be. Now, though, I do think I have a different perspective of who I was, a more concrete and critical one, seeing as how I have grown up a lot since then.
Really, though, to tell you who I am now, I do have to tell you at least this one part of my life. It took place during a time that was not good. It was wasted years and not so wasted years. It was the beginning of hard times, of finding myself, of losing some of the people I had loved most. But, most importantly, it was the beginning of change. And it was, in my eyes alone, the end of all innocence.
To say it simply, it was a time during my teenage years, and that alone should mean something.
It is also the single reason I ever made it this far, and, considering I am writing this on your behalf, I am sure that counts.




























Part One



I am made of scars.
- Stone Sour





Mischa {before the crash}

“Karma, come on We have to ” I exclaimed. Karmen laughed and threw a pillow at me, “We have to go to Minnesota? That’s insane. It’s crazy talk.” I rolled my eyes, “Pillar and Kita Hampton’s huge rave in Minneapolis. Oh, come on Kar, please? I don’t want to go to this party without you. Please, please, please? I even heard Bryan say he was going, and you know you L-O-V-E him. Please come?” I tickled her, which I knew would make her give in eventually. Tickling is both Karmen’s and my worst enemy. But she held her ground, stating, “No. Misch, no. No.” “But, lookie, I even stole this. We can get totally wasted - fun, fun, fun ” Karmen rolled her shadowy eyes at the bottles of tequila sticking out of my Nike bag, “You are already wasted How the hell did you get that?” “You’re changing the subject, Kar . . . And I got it from the liquor cabinet, duh. These guys are loaded - I’m talking beer, red and white wine, pink champagne, tequila, Jack Daniels, Chardonnay, Jose Quarrel, for God’s sakes - everything. Tequila was the best pick though, they had the most of it.” “Misch, come on. They’ll catch you. They’ll find out about your,” “I don’t have a drinking problem.” “But with the ba,” “Karmen, shut up. It’s not gonna get hurt. Let’s go to Minnesota, get out of Wisconsin for a while.” Karmen shook her head, “Mischa . . . I don’t know . . .” “Karma, get a grip. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Let’s just go to the party . . . have some bonding time . . .and drink with some really hot guys. Okay? Okie dokie, artichokie? Please, please, please, please, please Karma Charisma? Please?” Karma was quiet for a long time before she lifted her hands and exclaimed, “Fine Okay. Mischa, okay.” I squealed, “Thank you Yes, come on. Let’s go ” I grabbed my bag, tossed the bottle of Tequila into it, and opened up our bedroom window. I seriously thought about jumping from the top of the window railing, it looked so fun, but decided to climb down the ladder instead. Mr. Marshall Flex, Karmen’s and my foster dad, never remembered to move the ladder. “Shh ” Karmen warned. I quieted down, and we finally made it to the red Mustang. “Marshall and Janet will kill us.” I sighed, “Karmen, they can’t kill us. They can send us off to new foster families, but they can’t kill us.” Karma slugged my shoulder, “Come on, crazy. I’m driving. And don’t you even argue about it.” “I promise you can drive all the way to the bus station. Scout’s honor. Or . . . Girl Scout’s honor.” “You were never one of those.” “Whatever. I still promise.” I handed her the silver keys to Mr. Flex’s cherry red Mustang Convertible. The adventure began.

We actually made record time getting from our two story house in the country to the bus station in the city. With crazed Karmen going a reckless ninety miles per hour in a fifty mile zone, after she watched me as I downed two bottles of Tequila, {it got her drunk enough just seeing}, I’d say we didn’t just make record time, we broke it. We were laughing and singing to horrible, screaming-type metal and hardcore rock music of Mr. Flex’s that we couldn’t understand for the world. But it was so, so great, just the thrill of the whole risky venture. “Hey, how much money do you have?” Karmen asked, moving her eyes from me to the steering wheel to the road every five seconds. “Five dollars.” “I’ve got twenty.” “Wow ” I sarcastically exclaimed. Karmen rolled her huge eyes, “Give me the cash, and I’ll get the bus tickets.” I smiled, “Minnesota, here we come.”

“Run faster, Karma ” I yelled. For a while, I felt as if I were flying, and had a strange sensation I had flown away like this once before. Then I remembered the day about three or so months ago, when I had done pot for the first time with one of my friends, Leo. It had made me like this, the marijuana had, it made me like I was flying so fast I could never stop without falling too hard. The pot hadn’t made me forget about what happened though. I would never forget that. His name was Leo. And he loved me like I had never been loved before. God, he made me feel so damn good. But I hadn’t been on the pill. I was drunk, maybe even high . . . The birth control pill? I hadn’t thought I would need it. No - I hadn’t thought of anything. I ran harder, to keep the thoughts from coming too soon together. Karmen caught up with me, and we almost knocked some granny lady down. Karmen yelled she was sorry to the lady, but kept running with me. “Ahh Wait ” I yelled to the bus driver. “Loading up ” He yelled. “I know ” I huffed. I was running, running, panting, running. We had had to run from the first bus to the last, almost ten or eleven miles apart. The driver gave us a dirty look. “I’m sorry, huh.” Karmen said, out of breath as we stepped onto the long bus. We handed the driver our tickets, which he took gratefully, unable to tell they were cheap fakes, and then we sat really silent and still for a minute, just breathing in and out, and smiling. Waiting. Unbelieving. We had made it. “I can’t believe it.” I said. “What if we aren’t back by morning?” “Karma,” I laughed, “It’s been morning for almost an hour. And don’t sweat it, I checked and there’s a bus in Minneanapolis with rides coming and going back to Wisconsin around seven. We’ll hitch a ride from there. Nobody’s out of bed till nine, I bet. It’s fine. We’ll be back before anybody knows we were even gone. And if we aren’t, we’ll just go by our note.” “What note?” “The note I left saying we went to school early to go to the library and study for our history exam.” Karmen closed her eyes, “I love you, Mischa.” “I love you, too, Karmen.” She opened her eyes, and looked out the window. That’s when she went a ghostly pale white and screamed. And then I screamed, because what she felt I felt likewise, no matter what. The bridge was fucking falling apart Cars were crashing down. And then we crashed downward through a broken section of the bridge we were on and kept going down over cars, over rubbish, over broken pieces of bridge. Then something exploded. Fire was every where, covering bodies and belongings. People were screaming, and people were falling out of the train and out of their seats. The bus kept rolling over, but it didn’t fall into the water. And the bus kept falling and it tipped over a lot, never stopping, but instead going faster and faster. It was rolling and turning on the bottoms of crashed cars, but we weren’t drowned all the way in the Mississippi River yet, thank God. Everything was so dark. People screaming and babies crying and nuns praying and loud booming noises were all anybody could hear. Finally the bus stopped, upside down and on fire, lodged between cars and bridge pieces and still flowing water.
Bad things happened on that bus . . . And then, at the very end, Karmen and I fell asleep. At the very, very end.

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Part Two


Losing My Sight;
Losing My Mind;
Wish Somebody Would Tell Me I’m Fine.
- Papa Roach








Mischa {after the crash}

I opened my eyes. Hazy whiteness. Hazy. Whiteness. Whiteness. Hazy. Hazy, white . . . Huh? I shut my burning eyes again. I opened them. Dad. Dad. Dad. “Oh Oh thank God . . . Hi, beuatiful . Oh, thank the Lord. Hey, baby. Hey, Mischy, sweety.” No. You aren’t him. You aren’t my dad. Who are you? You? You? Oh, yeah. Marshall. Flex. Mr. Flex. Hi, Mr. Flex. “Mischa. Sweet Mischa. It’s okay now. It’s all okay, Misch.” Mrs. Janet Flex is talking. Who the hell is Mischa? Mischa? Me. Mischa. Me. Me. The door opens. A man. In a white coat. A doctor. Doctor. Coat. White. Coat. Doctor. I’m at a hospital. Where? Minnesota. No. River Falls, Wisconsin. No. We never got back there. We. We. Who? We who? Karmen. Oh no. Not Karma. Karmen. Karmen. Karma . . . Where? I wanted to scream. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t think. I fell back into a struggling deep sleep.

When I woke up next, I was more focused. Not everything was hazy and white. It was bright and colored. Bright. Red. Blood is red. Karmen’s favorite color is red. “Uh.” It was all I could say, but I’d meant to call my sister. “Ka . . . Meh . . .,” I couldn’t talk. Talk. Talk. Doctor walked in. “Hey, honey. I’m Dr. Max.” Max. Doctor. Max. “Ma,” “Shh, honey. I know it feels weird. You just woke up from a coma, honey. I’ll need to ask some more questions in the morning. But for now, I just wanted to introduce myself. Can you sit up at all, honey?” Yeah. I nodded, and tried to sit up. Ow My back caught on fire, and my shoulders and arms were so limp they went numb. But I sat up anyhow, and tried to keep myself straight forward. “All right, honey. Great.” Doctor Max smiled at me. White. Coat. “Kam,” I tried. He put a finger to his lips. He felt my back, and wrote something down, then handed me some medicine to take. Then he smiled, “Can you follow this light for me, hon?” I nodded and followed it. Light. Sun. Wheels. Bridge. Fall. Crash. Bus. Blood. People. Screaming. Light. Doctor Max took the light away, and smiled, “Good job. Looks like you’ll be fine. Why don’t you get some more rest? You’ll be able to talk more in the morning. But can you tell me your name?” I nodded, “Mi . . . Misch . . . Mischa. Mischa . . . Sco . . . Scott. Mischa . . . Scott.” But sometimes I wonder. “That’s right. Good, Mischa. Now get some sleep, hon.” I laid down. I slept. Crash. Intense. Karmen. Karmen. Karmen. Help

“Karmen ” “Wake up, sis. Wake up, come on.” “Ahh Karmen Karmen, get out Please Get Out Karmen Don’t touch her No Move Karma Ahh ” Somebody shook me awake hard. My throat hurt so bad. “Karmen?” I whispered. “No, Mischa. It’s me. Claire.” Claire. I hadn’t seen my brothers or sisters aside from Karmen in a long time. But now they were all here. My favorite, fourteen year old brother Jack, only a year younger than me, who is strong and has a feminine nose, and lives in Toledo, Ohio, with his legal guardian, his adoptive dad, Samuel G. Victor, who I have always called Uncle Sam. Claire, with her bouncy blonde curls and stoney gray eyes, who had just been accepted into West Detroit University a few months ago, as a very in vogue nineteen year old wanna-be drama and fashion major. Vinnie, tall and big boned, my army brother just home from Iraq, who grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Crazy Angie, with her punk look and cropped hair, but soft bohemian attitude, who is graduating highschool next year in Watertown, Wisconsin. And my brother from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Tommy, who can complete any dare, no matter how stupid or harmful. They were all here. Except Karmen - she wasn’t there. Karmen? “Karma?” Angie came over to me, “She’s asleep still, Baby Doll.” No. Never. Not. Not Mickey. Not her. “Hey, Vinnie.” I whispered, since it was all I could do my throat hurt so bad. Vinnie hugged me in a bear hug, “Hey, Little Bear. You okay?” I nodded. But I wasn’t. I could not be. “I want Karmen back, Vinnie.” Jack looked like he had been crying, and I look at him, confused by his tears, and said, “How is Uncle Sam?” “He’s good. He’s in the waiting room.” “Oh. What’s wrong, Jacky?” He smiled at me, trying to make his words less painful, but his smile soon faded, and he told me, “Listen, Karmy isn’t awake right now, Tiger.” “Why not?” Tommy moved my hair from my eyes, “She isn’t up yet, because she . . . she got a little more hurt than you did, Slugger. Um . . .” Tommy stepped closer to hug me, but didn’t know what else to say, so he turned to Claire. Claire shook her head to get the others to leave. They did. Did. Brake. Crash. Fall. Bloody. Road. Opening. Light. Water. Get out. Mickey. Out. Out. Out Claire looked at me. Claire was oldest. Claire could do no wrong. Claire, the infallible one. Everybody listened to Claire. “Hey, baby. You’re okay. All right?” “But,” “I know. Karmen isn’t going to wake up for a while.” “No?” “No. She . . . she’s in a . . . a coma, still, Mischa. Just like you were. Only . . . she’s just a little more . . . Her head was hurt more than yours, so . . . She might stay asleep for a long time, baby. Do you understand? Mischa?” “How . . .did . . .she . . .hurt?” Claire held my hand tighter, “She fell out of the bus, baby. She fell from the bus into the water.” “How?” Claire shook her head, “She fell out of the bus, and kept going down through the river. She was found buried under debris from the bridge and the vehicles. Baby, she . . . She might not . . .” “Don’t ” I yelled. “Don’t say anything else.” “She’s still in the coma, anyway.” Claire whispered, unable to look me in the eye, so instead staring at her slippers she was wearing. Then she said, “I just don’t know if she’ ll . . . if she’s strong enough to . . .” I cried so hard after that. Karmen “I’m sorry.” I didn’t know it would . . . that the bridge would collapse. That the bus would crash. Die. Coma. Red. Lights. Fire. “No. No, no, no, Mischa, baby girl. It wasn’t your fault. Baby girl, it wasn’t your fault.” I nod. It is, too. It is. It is all my fault. I’m so sorry. Karmen? Karmen, I’m sorry. Why didn’t you just get out? What were you thinking? What was I?

The next morning, Dr. Max was back in my room. “Hey.” I whispered. “Hi, Mischa. How do you feel?” “You’re the doctor.” I answered. He nodded, “Yes, I am. Listen, Mischa, I,” “You don’t have to say it.” “We did everything we could, but,” “I know. I know.” “When you came into the hospital you were,” “It was only some tequila, I thought it didn’t,” “You drank when you knew you were preg,” “Yeah. I didn’t think a few would . . . Wait, is that why,” “No. No the crash did that.” “Yeah. Do you know what it was? Boy or girl?” “We weren’t able to tell so early on . . .” “Right. It was only, like, four months . . . so of corse you couldn’t know . . . Um, I had this feeling it was a girl. I dreamt of her a lot. She was so beautiful . . .” Dr. Max looks pained, “Is there a father I can call . . .?” I shake my head, “I never told anybody. I mean . . . I told Karmen, but . . . I just . . . I thought I had . . . more time.” Dr. Max nodded, “Well . . . I’m very sorry for your loss. If there’s anyone I can call let me know.” I wipe my tears, try to forget about what I’ve lost, what I didn’t even want until I knew it was gone. “Okay. Thanks.” “You bet. And as far as the drinking, the police already met with your legal guardians, and well, it’s been settled.” I nodded, “Hey, can I ask you one more thing?” I ask. The doctor is almost out the door, into the hallway. But he hears me. He stops, turns, “Of corse.” “Did it hurt? I mean, when it died? Did it feel it really bad?” Dr. Max looks sad, but he tries to hide it, “No,” he lies, “your baby didn’t feel a thing.”

Tommy visits the next day. All I do is sleep, but every now and then I wake up and find him sitting next to me. And every now and then, I wake up and see him crying. Then I cry. Then I apologize, for what he has no idea. Then he tells me not to think this was all my fault. But I can’t help it. It was all my fault. It was.

I cry alone everyday. I cry with the nurses. With my siblings. I cry and cry and cry, and, as hard as it is to imagine, I’m still full of tears.

That’s how it was for the next few months. Then, one day, they finally let me go home with the Flex’s, and even to see Karmen in her hospital room. I was afraid to see her at first, but when I walked into her room, she was sleeping. Just that. Not peaceful. Not hurt. Just sleeping. As if nothing had happened and she was just in bed back home in our house, tired out from a long night at Mark Humphrey’s rave. But she didn’t look like herself anymore. She looked too tired to be Karma Charisma. All she did was sleep, and no matter how frigging hard I tried, I couldn’t wake her up from her seemingly eternal rest. No matter how loud I screamed. No matter how many times I apologized. No matter how long I prayed. No matter what . . .
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“Don’t do this to yourself, Mischa.” Claire says to me. I cold-shoulder her. What does she know, besides everything? Does she know what it’s like to be dead? To be hurt? To be regretful? Afraid? Tortured inside? I don’t move off of the couch. I just keep laying there, expressionless. Claire disregards me after a while, and goes into the kitchen. I mope. It has been eight months now. I am living with Claire in River Falls, Wisconsin. She dropped out of college for me, for the trailer park, for the new life we barely afford. But mostly for me. Only she doesn’t know that there is not a me anymore. My twin is still sleeping, and I am still wearing all black. I look Emo. I look Gothic. I look like someone else. Maybe this new girl is my alter-ego self. I will call her Helena. For five months, I have been Helena. Mischa is still asleep, with my sister Karmen, where I should be. But I am Helena now, and I am depressed. The doctors said I would get over this stage of depression, but I proved them wrong. For eight months, disregarding the two months I spent asleep in the hospital, I have lived in agony, feared public transportation, been a stoned-acting bitch to all my former friends, cried myself to sleep, and failed all my school classes. Now that it is summer, I just go out as often as possible. I drink. I do drugs. I do my best to forget. Helena does not concentrate as much as Mischa did. I miss her. I miss Karmen. I miss not being afraid of going to sleep. I miss life. Life is something Mischa always took for granted. Helena doesn’t do that. Helena doesn’t know or remember what life is.






“I didn’t ask how she looks. I asked how she is.” I say. Doctor Gladys is red and drained. “She is getting worse.” She tells me this and leaves. Maybe she is scared of my new self too. I walk into Karmen’s room. “Hey, Kar. I hear you aren’t doing so great. Well, listen, you have to be okay. You can’t give up. You’re too bull headed and strong for that shit. So no quitting. Not yet, okay? Okay? Look, I’m sorry. I said that. Now wake up. Please, don’t give up yet. I need you. Karma? Karma Charisma, please Please I’m so sorry. I am sorry Okay? Karmen I’m sorry I’m sorry Please, Karmen ” I scream and scream, until Claire has to physically remove me from the room. I cry and cry until Claire has to buy two whole packs of tissues from the gift shop. I hate myself and hate myself until I no longer care. I just want Karmen. That’s all I want. My tears run out, but I know if I take one more look at my sleeping sister I will cry again, so as soon as I can stand, Claire takes me home.






Nights are the best times. I sneek out of the dumpy trailer around nine. Claire is already sleeping, and she is such a deep sleeper that I doubt even a nuclear explosion could wake her up. She snores, too, really, really loud. I used to joke to her about it, and tell her that her snoring was what called in the ships from sea every night. That was back when we were friends, when we joked with eachother and knew we were only joking. We aren’t like that anymore. We are sisters now, family - not friends. There’s a bigger difference than you might imagine. When I make it out of my window and onto the wet grass, soaked in mud from the neighbors water fight only a few hours ago, along with the rain that is still falling heavily, I walk across the stoney gravel road to the abandoned building which, after leaving the trailer park, is only about fourteen and a half miles away. This place used to be called Slim’s, it was a bar. But now, ever since the fire that burnt half of it down, it has been a Nothing. It reminds me of me, in that way. But the abandoned bar is where Leo is waiting, and he is my ride for the night. Last night, one of my other friends, Kate Quinton, picked me up from the used-to-be Slim’s, and a few nights before that it was a guy named Johnnie Phillips, who I had never met before until that night. But usually it is Leo, and that is how I like it. The walk to Slim’s takes me almost three and a half hours, but I am in a mini skirt, a halter top, and combat boots, and doing my best not to ruin them both in the rain and mud, and I have to hold my jacket over my head so I don’t get all wet. When I do get to the bar, however, I see Leo waiting for me. His old heap of a dark black Chevy Camaro is drenched in mud, and it looks good despite that. I’ve always loved the Camaro. “Hey, baby Amor.” “Hey.” I say. And that is all it takes for me to forget.
After about seven beer bottles and three cigarettes, I get pretty wasted. The party is at Mack Sawyer’s, he is a friend of Leo’s. Mack is a good guy. He gets tons of beer, and is the main supply for drugs, too, especially pot, which is the only drug I ever accept, even though I’d rather shoot up heroin any day, instead of smoking the damned pot. But Mack is best with pot, and he gives me a good deal for it. Mack is my go to guy when Leo isn’t around. But whenever I’m wasted, Mack seems to come to me. I’m not sure what happens when he’s around me, but I woke up once without a shirt on. I found my shirt in a car the next night, at another party. Let’s just say my shirt wasn’t in a Camaro. It never has been, except when I was the one under the shirt.
But anyway, I love being wasted. Being so drunk I can’t feel a thing. Being so crazy that everything feels good. I like forgetting everything, and waking up in the morning not feeling guilty, because I don’t even know what the hell happened the night before. I will admit that the beer doesn’t taste good. It burns my throat, though it goes down much easier now than it did about two years ago. And the in between, when I’m drunk, but still not wasted completely, scares the hell out me. It’s like I’m there but I’m not really. My body is there, and I can see everything happening around me, and I can even take part in what’s going on, but my mind is long gone, out of the party, away from the bliss. I had a teacher once, in second grade, named Mrs. Song. Song used to say that I would forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on. I think it’s safe to say that, whenever I get a beer in my hands, and especially if Leo is nearby, my head isn’t quite screwed on, and most of time, I just forget to bring it along with the rest of me.


Two mornings after, I go home to Claire. I’m not hung over, which is good, but not really. I wish I was still drunk, so I could just leave, for only a minute, only a few hours more. Claire looks at me, “You weren’t home.” “I know.” “Where were you?” I look at her, angry and annoyed, “Out. It’s my life, my business.” Claire wants to argue, I can tell, but she doesn’t, instead she says, “What do you say we go on a shopping spree today? We can have a girls day out. Just me, you, and Angie. I mean, I think Angie can come - the class she’s been teaching at the dance center where she lives gets off for a week starting today. And her parents will let her come, no doubt. Besides, I got my first paycheck from the Old Navy today, so you know . . . we should have some fun with it.” Claire smiles. She is very good at being an optimist. She dreams and wishes, and believes all dreams and wishes come true in some lifetime or another. Claire is like those characters in fantasy books - she always thinks some magical land is right around the corner. I am nothing like her. I am a cynic, and a realist. And in all cynical reality, I cannot have fun without Karmen. And how could I ever shop without her? She has a total opposite style from me. What she doesn’t buy, I do, and what I don’t buy, she does. We complete eachother. Despite our different styles, we know eachother. When she can’t find the right shirt to go with her newest mini skirt, I find one for her that makes her every curve worth getting jealous over. When not one pair of jeans looks good on my huge butt, Karmen finds jeans that actually make it look like my butt is normal sized and perfect. I could never shop for clothes without Karmen. Not ever. But that is the glory in having an alter ego. What I could never do, Helena is perfect at. She knows where all the Gothic clothing stores are at, and she buys me a few outfits to mope in every now and then. Black is such a good color to her, and because I am her, and she is me, it works for me too, whoever you think me to be. But Mischa despises wearing all black. “Whatever.” I say to Claire. She is holding some West Detroit University catalogs. I know she misses being there. I never told her to quit. I told her to leave me alone. But the Flex’s didn’t want the hospital bills for Karmen past the third week of them, and I told them if they dumped her, they dumped me too. So they did. Claire just happened to be there when they did. “So, Angie should be able to come, you think?” “I don’t care.” I say. Claire rolls her eyes, “Come on, Misch. Don’t tell me you like this. Don’t tell me this horrible person who cares about nothing is you. I mean . . . You love color, and crazy, and hot. Not, not . . . Not this constant blackness. You can’t live like this, baby.” “Huh.” Claire shakes her head, “Please be yourself. Just for today? Karmen would want you to be,” “How do you know what she wants? Does she want to be a dead, brainless, vegetable, too? Is that what you’re going to say next? Huh, Claire?” Claire is about to say something, but I interrupt her, “And you think you know what I want, too, don’t you? Do you think I want to be the reason my sister is dead? Do you honestly think that?” I am crying. It hurts so bad to cry. It is like every ounce of dignity you’ve ever had is draining right out of you, and you can’t be happy or sad or mad or pissed off or anything, because it hurts to bad too tell which one you are. “I think you stay away from home too many nights. I think I want you to stop acting like you are so much older - you’re fifteen ” “I’m not a baby. I have my own life. A life that, apparently, includes putting my twin to sleep and letting her die.” “Baby, it was not your fault You are not the reason And Karmen isn’t dead yet.” “Yet? Fuck that. She can’t even open her eyes, Claire. And I hate it. I hate that I did that to her. You act like nothing has happened I lost my best friend, Claire. And it’s my fault.” “No it isn’t, Mischa ” “You weren’t there, were you, Claire? You don’t know anything about what happened that night. You weren’t fucking there ” And because there is nothing left to say, I leave. And, like it has been since Karmen fell asleep, I have no idea where I am going, nor what to do if I ever decide to get there.

Of all places to end up, I end up here. At my mom’s gravestone. Mom was my best friend at one point, aside from Karmen. My mom’s name was Jenna McKenzie Scott. She was beautiful and strong and knew everything. Her skin radiated of olive oils and perfection. Her favorite band was The Clash. She loved to read books by Jodi Picoult. She loved to be crazy and funky. She loved being a mom, I think. She loved me, too, though I never deserved that much. My mom was perfect. I miss her so much, especially now. Mom would have never let Karmen get hurt. Mom would have known what we were up to, stopped us before we ever left our home. But she is gone. And if Karmen dies . . . I will have no best friends left after that. “Hey, Mommy. It’s me, Mischa. I guess you already know that, though.” I whisper. I know it might sound stupid, me talking to this gray stone covered with fake roses, but to me it makes perfect since. I talk to this stone a lot. “How is it up there, huh?” I do not want to cry, but I always do when I come here. “Look, Mommy, I’m so sorry about Karma. I know it’s my fault . . . but please help her. Make God help her if He’s real. I need her, Mommy.” People hear me talking to this stone sometimes, and think it is funny that I still call my mom Mommy. But they do not understand. They all got to say the word “mommy” until they grew out of it. I never got that chance to grow. My mom was gone before that time of growing out of loving her so much ever even came. But most people don’t seem to understand that much of the inside - they just see the outside: a half-grown girl calling whoever lies within this stone Mommy. But how could I not call her this? Is that not who she is? “You know I didn’t mean to hurt her. I love Karma. I love you. Tell my baby I loved it too, okay? Tell God to give it another chance with a better woman, with a big family it can be a part of. Okay?” I stand up. I don’t like to talk while I sit. It feels too relaxing. I do not deserve to be relaxed. I do not deserve to have Karmen back. I did not deserve to have my mom. I mean, I am sure Mischa maybe deserved these things. Maybe. But not too much. But Helena, she does not at all. She never will. “I guess I should go. I love you. I miss you so much. I wish you never left. I just . . . I need you so much, you know? I need Karma. I need Dad. Oh, Mommy why did you have to go? Everything blew up when you left. I don’t know what to do. I just . . .” I shake my head. “I love you. And you know I love her too. I’d do anything for Karma. Anything. Test me if you got to, okay? Just make her alive again. Do that for me, okay?” I give the stone a kiss, “Take care, okay?” I smile. I am telling a dead woman to take care. But I am sincere in this. Who knows if Heaven is really care-free or not? I just don’t want my mom to think I don’t love her anymore - I always will love her. But sometimes the pain in missing her is bigger than the joy in loving her. Sometimes, loving what you can never get back is just too hard.
The next place I find myself at is The Rigby. It is a movie theater owned by Ronnie Rigby and his daughter, Sage Rigby, who is only nineteen, but acts about forty, and is basically treated like the greatest heiress by her dad. Sage was at my mom’s funeral when she was just a kid. She held me and Karmen on her lap, and told us everything would be fine. She gave us candy and a color book with crayons at the reception at our house, so we would concentrate on that instead of our mom’s empty space. In the years after that, when I was still little, there were times when I would call out for my mom, forgetting her space would always remain unfilled from then on, and whenever this happened, my dad would find Sage and have her come over. Sage would hug me and tell me stories. Sage was like my fill in mom, before I realized that I didn’t want to fill my real mom’s space in. After I realized that, I made sure Sage stayed away. My mom’s space has since remained empty, and I like it that way. It makes me think that she is coming back, anytime now, and sometimes, just like when I was a little kid, I forget that she isn’t. Life is so weird sometimes - it happens even when you lose something you are sure life cannot go on without.
I walk into the theater, past Sage and Ronnie and their fanatic movie guru posse, who are all taking about Howard Hughes, and The Hoax , a movie about his fake autobiography. I grab a free bag of popcorn, but I never eat it. I sit inside a theater room to watch a new movie. Only I don’t actually see any of it. I am crying too hard.








Claire is furious when I get home. “Where the hell have you been?” She yells at me, but I don’t really hear her. “I’m talking to you, dammit Answer me ” Claire grabs my arm. She looks at me, as if she may perhaps know me, and I wonder what she is looking for. Or rather, who she is looking for. “It’s two in the morning, Mischa Keane Scott. Do you even care about how worried I’ve been? Do you know I called the cops? Do you know I have every freaking neighbor out looking for you? Do you how high our phone bill will be thanks to all the calls I’ve made, trying to find you? Do you even care anymore at all, Mischa Keane? I mean, last time you stayed away, I gave you the benefit of the doubt - I did But that was . . . I just can’t do that anymore. Mischa Keane Scott? Mischa Scott ? Dammit, can you even hear me?” Claire, who never uses my full name unless she is definitely, for real mad, forcefully grabs my other arm, so that I am constrained to look at her, too. I know what I am looking for - my sister who cried for my mom for years; who went anorexic so her theater friends wouldn’t dump her for being too fat, when she’s only ever been a size three; who wore nothing but red for two years, back in elementary school, when her hair was still blonde instead of black; who tried to kill herself after Dad got the life sentence; who lost her first and, so far, only, love to suicide, and was was hurt too bad to cry. I wonder where that Claire is at right now. That who the hell I am looking for. “Mischa? Please, just . . . You aren’t in trouble baby, just . . . Just tell me if you’re okay or not?” I did not realize I had been crying until she wiped away my tears. I look away, at the gray wall to my
left. It is so gross looking that you can almost see a pattern of bugs lining its edges. Claire cleans this wall all the time - it never gets clean, though. Ironic, just like a lot of
things are. “Damn ass wall. It looks like shit.” I say. Claire shakes her head. “You know what? You used to be this total Thespian. You used to love drama, same as I do, even more, maybe. Now, Mischa, you’re too dramatic. This act . . . it’s all you care about, isn’t it? You don’t even care about anything else . . . And why not? Don’t you see that you aren’t the only one who is hurting? Do you just not give a damn about anyone but you anymore, Mischa? Is that it? Because if it is, fine . . . just why won’t you tell me? God, you don’t even give a rat’s ass about any of this, do you?” She shakes her head some more. But she is wrong. She is so wrong. And that is why I take one look at her, and punch her square in the jaw, so hard that the metal ring on my middle finger breaks right in half, leaving an imprint of what never should have been on Claire’s burning red cheek, leaving an empty space on my hand, as a reminder that I am not who I used to be.









Claire

I have always hated the police station. It is where I first found out that my much beloved, yet cancer ridden, Mom died. It is where they took my Dad, Freddie Scott, after he killed his girlfriend’s abusive, psycho exhusband. It is where I first I learned that justice has no meaning, and that it never does quite come true. It where I learned of my boyfriend Tony’s suicide. It is the setting of my many nightmares. But it is also where I am now, rubbing my bruised and incredibly sore jaw, and waiting to sign over my sister to someone else - The Madison Youth Care/Detention Center. I am not sure which part of the center to sign my sister over to. I have tried to give Mischa so much care my both heart bursted and my jaw cracked, and I am not sure that care is what she needs anyway at this point, at least not the kind I can give her. But does she need a lock down in some delinquent detention facility? Would that truly help her recover, of she is so troubled as I think she is? Should she recover? Am I being so selfish because I want her to live, even though there is a good chance that Karmen will not? I never asked to be Mischa’s guardian, you know. I never asked to be her
single parent. I am only asking not to be. I am only asking for my life back, because I was never ready to give it up, though I did so long before Karmen or Mischa was ever hurt in the crash. I am, after all, only asking for what I am due-- a life of my own. How do you know you would not do the same as me, were you not able to handle the responsibility of having another’s life as well? The truth is, in more matters than filling out these custody forms, I have no idea what to do. But would you? Would you have every answer? Or would you be like a mother, saying you know it all, when in all reality, you have more questions than your child does, even? I am lost now. I have nothing to fall back on if I fail my sister’s life; nobody and nothing to blame for any failure at all, especially where Mischa comes in. That fact scares me more than anything- that I may hurt her even more by making the decision I am making. What if I am wrong? What if I am right? What if I destroy what joy of living she has left by giving her up? But doesn’t every parent figure get told that at some point they have got to let go? But do I let go before or after I choose to hold on too tightly? Is there a choice in that matter of order? Do I deserve to be hated for the choice I am making, or does gratitude play any role, or is that simply of no importance? I am thinking these thoughts deeply, and that is why I do not notice my surroundings at the moment. A cop who used to be a public defender, Payne Patterson, who was once my own foster dad, and a man who I highly respect, plus would trust with my life, walks up behind me, galvanizing me. “Oh, hi, Mr. Patterson. What are you doing here?” I recognize this to be an amazingly stupid question as soon as I ask it. He works here, has for nearly eight years now, or maybe even ten. “Same as you.” I look at him, confused. Mr. Patterson smiles and explains, “I’m filling out paperwork. It’s for a case I’m working on. A bank holdup involving a ten year old.” “The one in Michigan? No shit.” I say, unbelieving at how young wickedness and evil and iniquity can actually start, but then I hold that thought. I have done evil and darkness, as well. I am the one giving up my sister, aren’t I? “I despise paperwork.” I say, though more to myself than to Mr. Patterson. I am the only person with the privilege of not having to call him Officer Patterson, with the exception of his family, but it had always felt too weird to just call him by his first name. I like the sound of the name Mr. Patterson. It has the ring of an old movie name. “You aren’t working on a case, I assume?” I frown, but don’t really know the answer, so I say, “Not officially, anyhow. It’s um . . It’s tossing my sister, basically.” “I don’t follow.” “I don’t know how to help her, anymore. I’m scared for her. I just . . . I just want someone to help her. And me.” I pass on to Mr. Patterson the papers on which I am scribbling my sloppy handwriting on, because letting him in is the safest thing. He understands how to handle kids. Apparently, I do not. Yet, I am a kid. A grown kid. No, I never got to be a kid. That is why I don’t understand them. But is Mischa a kid? Was she ever? I look at Mr. Patterson and admit, “She goes around like this lifeless . . . thing. I don’t even know what she wants or how she is feeling, other than that she thinks that her sister being in a coma is somehow her fault. I keep telling her she couldn’t have prevented it, that it’s fate and all, but she just doesn’t hear me. I can’t help her, anymore. But I love her, I swear it. She needs help, I just don’t know what with. I don’t know if I’m at fault, or if fault has nothing to do with it. Mr. Patterson, I just don’t know. At all.” Maybe I never did. Mr. Patterson hands me back the papers, “You know I work with the Youth Center an awful lot - most of my old clients ended up there, so I visit them a lot. Sign her up. I promise you, I will help her if you agree to keep her at the Youth Center.” And, once again, I start to cry. I am losing my sister again. And I am losing her on purpose. Again.

The first time I purposely lost my sister, Mischa, I was only seven. Mischa was three, a dark-skinned beauty, and incredibly flamboyant. She loved to dance. To sing. To put on little plays with me, her role model at the time. But she always stole the show away from me, and my seven year old self hated her for it so deeply that I was willing to lose her. That was a few months before mom died, before I started to fear loss. I had a plan all made out. I only wanted my mom and dad and siblings to notice me, and not my baby sister, who had an ungodly and strange amount of talent up her sleeve. So one day, in early October, I pushed my sister into Lake Michigan, with the hopes that she would drown to the bottom, and not come back until supper time. How grotesque I was But at the time, I wanted her gone. For a moment, maybe only a second or two, I believed she was finally lost, and praised myself for losing her, even as I fearfully watched her choke in water. But I did not know that Vinnie had been following me, watching out for Mischa the whole time. He jumped into the lake and saved her. But no one smiled at her return, as I expected. Instead, they scolded her for being wet, even when I was the one who pushed her. But nobody said anything to Vinnie, who was equally as wet. And that is when I noticed the one absolute, and grudging, thing that has continued to haunt me throughout my whole life: no matter what she does, how or why she does it, Mischa is always in the spotlight, and the spotlight is so extremely unforgiving.






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Karmen
















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Vinnie

My baby sister, Claire Bear, called me today. I was at the airport, not to be deployed to Iraq, but to meet a friend and fellow soldier named Buddy Taylor, on his way home from war. Buddy didn’t have any family to come home to, so I had offered him a place to crash at for the time being at my house - up until he was sent off to fight again. Anyway, I was waiting in a blue, both dirty and clean, and also both metal and plastic, airport seat when Claire called me on my cell phone. “Hey, Claire Bear, how,” “Vinnie, where are you?” She was crying, almost screaming, into the phone. “Claire? I’m at the airport. What is it? Are you hurt? Is Karmen okay?” As the oldest, I am the one who takes responsibility for everything that goes wrong in my younger siblings lives. I don’t care if it’s something small, like a skinned knee, or something huge, like a death - I have to fix it, because I am oldest. Though sometimes Claire likes to take over for the family while I am in Iraq fighting only more problems for other people, I know she needs me to keep in touch, to write down advice whenever I can, to tell her she’s doing just fine, that I will be fine, and so I do just that. And also, at times like these, I abandon everything and anything for family emergencies, big or tiny. Claire answers with her voice so rigid and fearful, much unlike the strong and confident, calm and sophisticated, Claire I have known for so long. She says to me, “It’s not Karmen, it’s Mischa I don’t know what to do Help me, Vinnie . . .” “Is she okay? What the hell happened to her?” “No, she isn’t hurt.” “Claire, you aren’t making any sense. Stop screaming, get calm. Sit down if you aren’t. Start over. Okay?” She is probably nodding, then says, “We got into a fight about something - God, I don’t even remember what- but it ended up about Karmy and the crash, and . . . well, Misch got mad, and started the whole works, screaming, crying, yelling, all of it. She ran off, eventually, but she didn’t come back. And I couldn’t find her. Vinnie, I even called the cops, and,” “Is she back?” “Yeah, she was, but then I . . .it just, it wasn’t the first time she stayed away for a long time and so I was pissed and I . . . I snapped, I mean I was so scared, like what is she was hurt . . . she had stayed missing for hours, Vinnie. Once, even for days. And I don’t know . . . this time I was so terrified. And so she got back, and I just snapped at her. God, I sounded just like Mom that one time she yelled at Angie and me . . . Look, we got into another fight and Mischa fucking sucker punched me right in the jaw - hard too, you’d be proud. My tooth even started bleeding, and I swear my eye is all swollen, but, listen . . . she left again, but I know where she is. I . . . God, you’ll hate me, Vinnie.” “Claire, I won’t hate you. What happened?” “I sent her away, Vinnie. I’m so horrible. I suck, I know, but . . . I don’t know what to do with her, Vinnie.” “What do you mean? Sent her where?” “I mean I can’t be her mom anymore. Vinnie, I can’t do it.” “Sent her where, Claire Bear?” “To a place.” “Where?” “This place.” “Claire . . .” “Vinnie, I didn’t know what to do . . . I mean, we all hurt for Mickey. All of us, and Mischa doesn’t,” “Claire? Where is she? Where are you?” I was scared out of my mind now. Claire tried to commit suicide once, a few years back. I had lost her then, and I felt like I was losing her again now, as I talked to her on my phone, trying to think of where she could be. “I’m at the police station.” “Why? Claire, what the hell is going on?” She takes a deeper breath than I imagined humans could take, and says, “I’m not going to be her guardian anymore Vinnie. There’s places she can live at. Places that will help her. It’s a center for these troubled kids.” “Help her what? Claire,” “Help her live, Vinnie ” “Don’t yell, Claire, I don’t even know . . .” “She needs something that I can’t give her, Vinnie. She needs help. She’ll end up like I was when Mom died. And when Pops got put away. And when Tony . . .got hurt.” I stay quiet, “Where is she?” “I lost her, Vinnie. I gave her away.” “Claire, baby . . .” “I can’t undo this now. I can’t. Vinnie, I’m sor,” I shake my head, “Where the hell is Mischa?” I yell it loud, loud enough for the airport security to glance my way, and for the parents waiting with their small children to move farther away from me. I take a deep breath, “Where the hell is Mischa, Claire?” Then the phone drops my call.




Mischa

The beds are so hard I feel like I am a soldier in the Civil War or something, or Vinnie in Iraq. The walls are so old that I can smell their rotting insides. The floor is so dirty that it turned my feet black through my socks and shoes. How could Claire do this to me? Make me live here, in Madison, of all places? This building is called the Youth Help Center. I have already passed by a few newcomers like myself, and even seen a few visitors break down crying. But I am still in the waiting room, waiting to be taken somewhere. I don’t know where. The only reason I know what the beds feel like is because I got to lie down on one is this little outside shack building, where I was asked questions about things like my family history and my medical history. For none of these questions did I mention Karmen in my answers. I wonder what they will do to me here. As I wonder this I see a tall man start to walk toward me. He is a cop, uniformed with a gun and all. I’m not a big fan of the police. They took my life. “Hello, honey. Is your name Mischa Keane Scott?” I nod, “Mischa.” The big cop offers his hand, so I shake it. I always wondered what the person who invented handshaking was thinking. Why did he bother? Why didn’t he just nod or something? What was handshaking’s original purpose? “So, Mischa, you know I used to be your sister Claire’s foster dad? Back when she was . . . oh, maybe nine, untill she was twelve.” “Then you dumped her?” I ask this, but not to be mean. I ask it because it is the truth, and it is normal. You get dumped off and switched out a lot in the foster care system. It is a normalcy, as normal as passing time. But Big Cop denies this, “No, my wife got sick. We just couldn’t afford it.” “It?” “Having a child. Claire was our only.” “You wouldn’t have dumped her if she was yours for real.” Instead of deny this as well, he instead nods, “I suppose you’re right. But I loved Claire then, and I still do now. I told her I’d take care of you here. My name’s Payne Patterson. You can just call me Payne.” “Payne? I would hate that name.” Payne Patterson smiles, and what he says comes close to making me laugh. “But at least my name isn’t Mischa Keane Scott or anything. Now that’s brutal.” I nod, “Brutal . . . Your name’s just the opposite, like most things in life.” “Everything has its opposite.” I nod. Because it does. After all, life, even, is only an opposite to death. And that makes perfect since.

“Here it is. Your new room.” Payne moves out of way so I can take a step inside. I have a strange sensation that I am entering rehab. The room is big, seeing as how it is meant for three people to live in. On the left side of the room is a bunch of wadded papers and trash, on the other side is a lot of pink and flowers. My side is blank. Empty and waiting. For me. For someone else. For everything; nothing. The whole room is a perfect shade of turquoise blue and teal. But it is not perfect at all. But Karmen would have loved it had it been just another foster home - she would have loved being able to redecorate everything. “Cool.” I say, but I am thinking of another time, in another house. My room was blue there, too. Mom painted it for me, even though it hurt her sometimes to breathe in fresh paint. A girl with long hair in tight black braids comes into the room, moving from behind me, “Hey.” She says. I say, “Hi.” “Hey, Paps, how’s it going?” Payne smiles, “Good here, considering.” The girl frowns, “New case not so good?” “No. They never are.” I think they are talking about me at first, but realize I am wrong when Payne mentions something about him having to skip a play of the braided-hair girl’s because of a court date he is going to for the new case. “That’s cool. It’s a boring play anyhow. I fall asleep and I’m in it, even.” She suddenly looks at me, “Sorry, chic. My name’s Audrey Bryant. You?” “Mischa. Scott.” “Nice meeting you. Yolanda Carrington, and Brooks should be back soon. They live here too. Brooks sleeps in the closet - she’s a little strange. She’s at a visitation meeting right now. Yolie is just at Games.” “Oh. What’s Games?” “This big event we have here sometimes. A mother daughter game day. You should have your mom come with you tomorrow to Games. All us girls compete in it.” I shake my head, dreading what I always have to say when I am caught in these situations, “My mom is dead. I don’t think she can come tomorrow.” Audrey mumbles she is sorry, as an awkward silence passes by.

My mom, a natural bohemian style person like myself, was born and raised in the deep of the Carribean, and brought up in a voodoo/hoodoo performing cult. Her mom, my Grandma Scott, was leader of the cult, and used to tell me stories about its sorcery whenever I was taken by my mom to visit her in the Carribean. I am not talking about the sunny Carribean, with its beaches and authentic foods, nor of its tourism or advertised sections. I am speaking of the deep, dark Carribean, in a small, abandoned and ghostly town called Pena Magia, which, ironically, means Sorrow Magic. Though this had no relation to its name that I know of, Pena Magia was the home of my Grandma Scott’s cult. She and my mother always taught Karmen and me how to perform voodoo, and how it all worked. To this day, I still know over a hundred voodoo/hoodoo spells. But I know none for healing the dead, nor the sleeping, that actually works. Karmen hates voodoo, but I always got taken into it. I liked that you could have any power, that all you had to do was brew it up and truly believe in it, that you had it just like that. But my Grandma Scott had a hard life before her entrance in the cult. From what I read about her on Google, she was at first Rena McKenzie Deion. Rena McKenzie Deion was an orphan, abandoned during her parents’ mission trip to Africa when she was one year old. She left her poverty-stricken, adoptive Catholic family in South Africa when she was only fourteen, escaping to a city in the Carribean that was known as Reggae City, but I never learned its formal name. In Reggae City, Rena began working in a tourist bar. It is there that she had drunk her first pena colada - a drink that means sorrow washing in Spanish. But for Rena, the drink did not wash her sorrows, but made her see all of them more clearly. So she left her job as bartender after a year, when she was fifteen, and penniless still. From there, she began working as a maid in a hotel called Lana’s. But this job did not last either, for it was in the fifth room at Lana’s where Rena Deion was raped by a guest, whose identity was never known. But he ruined her. When she was only eighteen, Rena began working as a prostitute in a new town, called Pena Magia. She met a man named Jericho Scott when she was twenty, and eventually promised to become, in simple terms, his sex slave. She married him a year after she met him. He beat her and raped her, and at the end came to leave her alone with three babies - my mom, my auntie named Liv, and my uncle named Rockevio. Rena McKenzie Scott was a single mom at the age of twenty-four. She was emotionally hurt, and sexually destroyed inside. And that is why she started learning about voodoo, to cast an evil spell onto my grandpa, who I never met but was taught to hate. When she was thirty, Rena became leader of her own voodoo/hoodoo cult, drawing in anyone she could, including my mom. My auntie died when she was only a few months old, as a result of a voodoo spell is what my grandma says. My uncle was killed as a sacrifice. My mom survived. But she was not unhappy in the cult. She, like my Grandma Scott, was captivated by all that magic and sorcery could do. For all you had to do to make it come true was believe in it. But I know that my mom and grandmother knew many of the healing spells. Perhaps, neither truly believed in them. Because my mom is still dead, even though Grandma Scott’s voodoo should have healed her.
I do not believe in their spells any more.
All any of that proves is that ever since its true birth, the Scott name has always been followed by trouble.



Jack

It must suck to be one of those people who is destined by fate to become just exactly like their parents. If I happen to become one of those people, I will end up either a felon in prison or a dead corpse who was involved in sometimes evil voodoo, and later, unrelated to any beliefs I hope, stricken with relentless cancer. I loved my mom and dad, but that doesn’t mean I have to become them. I am me. I want to a be a cop. And that is why I am taking extremely slow steps into the police station, my adoptive dad, Sam Victor, way ahead of me. My sisters and brothers are already here, but not for good reason. Claire was crying when she called. I am forced, though, with or without her tears, to always expect the worse. Someday, I will be on the opposite side of the law, the good side, the side that makes the laws. But right now, I am willing to go to any means to protech my sisters, and I have broken the law once or twice or ten times to do so. I was never caught. But you don’t have to get caught to be guilty. And guilt is all I have to show for my life as far as the law goes.
Of corse, out of all of my brothers and sisters, I am, indeed, the lucky one. I got out of the system, out of Wisconsin, away from the bliss. I got a family.

Claire is not crying anymore by the time I get to her. She is with the confidence of a lioness, the ease of a panther - or at least she is playing her few cards that way. But she stopped fooling me a long time ago, because when I lived with her for a while a few years back, I at no time ceased to hear her cry herself to sleep. There was a time when Claire was much too alone without the link of my mom, and there was a time when I wondered if I was going to see my sister put into a coffin as well - but Claire recovered. She met Tony Fertado, and he changed her for some time. He made her happy. He made her love something again. He gave her dreams of becoming Claire Fertado - hell, that he gave her dreams at all was what made me admire him. He let her cry when she needed to, but never dwelled on it. He healed her, in a way. But then he killed himself, blew his brains out. I learned on my own then that true love does not actually exist, because though I myself had sleepless nights after Tony’s death, Claire never shed a tear, never again uttered his name, never acted as if she cared, and that is how my oldest sister changed me. She taught me that love is not only tragic, but also an item - you can discard it at any time.





I am told that visiting hours are only between nine and eleven, and five and eight. I feel like I am asking to visit my dad in jail - but I am only asking to talk to my sister Mischa in a Youth Help Center. I ask if they will strap her to a bed at night, like they do in the movies, like how they strapped down Hank, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, in Martin’s Room. The lady in the red Armani suit says no, that my sister will be free to explore. Her nametag says she owns the joint and is known as Lucilla Deventonio. I ask her why the floor is dirty. She says I am rude to ask. I ask her if Mischa will be okay. She says yes. But I know she interpreted my question wrong. “Why can’t I see her? I just want to tell her it’s okay. She already lost enough family. I just want her to know she won’t lose me. Ever. Look, I’m her brother, okay? That counts as something. Please just, just let me tell her it’s all going to be okay.” Deventonio looks at me, maybe changing her impression of me, “You’ll have to go through the metal detectors.” I agree. Sooner than later, I am hugging Mischa.
“I hate this.” Mischa says, sitting on her new bed. She looks just as empty as her section of the room does, and that is saying something - a great deal of something. I hug her. I say, “It’s okay, Tiger.” I tell her I know about what she is feeling, down to its core, even though I don’t. I lie to her, because that makes her happier than if I told her the truth - that she is being selfish and uncaring and stupid, that the rest of the world alone will think that. But the truth is also that I know better. And because I know better, I know what Mischa is thinking before she has to think it. I know her. I know she is much more than what others see, including Claire. So, therefore, I am sure of three facts about Mischa:

1. She is hopelessly selfless
2. She very much caring and extremely benevolent
3. She is incredibly smart

And because I know her inside and out, I am also sure of one more thing, the hardest and worst fact of all:
Mischa is deeply and irrevocably hurting, for a million more reasons than even she will ever know.

And that, though she will never admit, is why she is here, leaving every wandering soul to hopelessly interpret all of her words. For she, herself, is like every other teenager here at this Youth Help Center: utterly frustrated and wandering, yet nowhere near being lost and alone. And that is good.






`

Mischa

Games is first beginning at nine in the morning - I am the only girl without a mom. I find this funny. Over the years, being in two group homes and six foster families, I have come to meet at least a hundred or so girls without moms, but here, I am the only one. I had a mom once, but nobody here cares what you had, unless you still have it. I don’t. “Hey, Mischa Scott, you want to come to Games with me? Mom won’t care. She’ll like you - you’re quiet.” I shake my head to Yolanda’s {with the pink room} question. I am not quiet. I never was. I just don’t talk out loud too much anymore is all. Yolanda has only talked directly to me a few times, mostly last night, and I already have her labeled as annoying. She talks about everything for hours. She talks about nothing for hours. In simple terms, she drives me bananas, even when she is speaking to someone else. Heaven forbid her mother do the same. “You sure? You are just going to stay up here all by yourself all day?” I nod, “I’ve been by myself before. But thanks.” Yolanda shrugs and Audrey comes bursting into the room with a woman who is a complete duplicate of her, only a foot or two taller. The woman’s hair is in small curls all over the place, and her makeup is done to perfection. In a different world I would admire her for this. “Hi guys, “ Audrey says in a single jolt of breath. “What you looking for?” Yolanda asks. Audrey shakes her head, then finds what she has wanted. “Look,” she says, coming to sit beside me. We both can barely fit on the small bed. “What is it?” Audrey hands me what is in her palm, “A picture. That’s my mom, in back. And look in front - that’s my auntie. Your den mom.” “My what?” I ask, not liking this option. “Your den mom. Your fake mom. The person you get to go to Games with.” Yolanda shakes her head, “She don’t want to go.” Audrey rolls her eyes, “With somebody else’s mama, she don’t. But this is Auntie. She ain’t nobody’s mama, and she don’t have her mama no more either. You two,” Audrey says, directing the conversation back to me, “are a match.” “Audrey,” I say too slowly, “I just can’t.” “Why not?” “My sister is coming.” I lie. Audrey smiles, “Awesome So you’ll come?” I shrug, “If she wants.” Audrey nods, as if she can answer for my sister who is not coming, “She wants.” And then she leaves with her mom and Yolanda. And that’s when I noticed that I must not be the only girl without a mom, because Brooks is still in the closet, nobody offering her a one-day-only mom. But I am the only one with ears, apparently- for I am the only one who acknowledges that I can hear Brooks sobbing and know that she is bunched up in a cobwebbed closet, all alone.

I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t just keep listening to her cry. I open the closet, going into a place that isn’t mine, marking an unknown territory with my voice. “Hi,” I say to the girl I am now sitting beside, “It’s Brooks, right?” She nods. “Look, do you know where I can bump a cigarette?” Brooks shakes her head. “What about a beer? Any of that? Look, I swear I won’t tell, I just really need a drink, or at least a smoke . . . of anything.” Brooks nods, “Me too. But this place is sealed.” I shrug, “Whatever. So is Brooks your real name? I’m Mischa Scott, by the way. A psycho, maybe, but not a narc.” She stars at me, inviting me in, “I’m Sofie. Sofie Brooks. They say I’m just troubled.” I shake her hand, and she slips me a marijuana joint. I exhale, “God, thank you.” “I just got about ten of these. Here in Mad Youth, it’s easy for visitors to smuggle them in. Like at jail.” “Mad Youth?” “It’s what I call this center.” “Mad Youth . . . it so fits. Jail. Ugh. My dad lives there. I wonder if he does this.” “Not in a shitty closet, I bet.” Sofie Brooks jokes. I smile, and she smiles back. And in the tiny closet, alone with the spiders and the webs as our only witnesses, Sofie Brooks and I get high. It makes me think of when I get high with Leo. Only whenever we do that together, we use one joint, and we power-hit. We get high together, as one, me and Leo do. It’s so totally romantic. I look at Brooks, “Do you, like, always smoke alone?” “Yeah. Yolie and Audrey aren’t so into it. I never really asked them.” “Right.” “You really aren’t a narc?” I laugh at that, “God, no.” When the joint is gone as fare as I can smoke it without burning my fingers, Brooks hand me a pair of tweezers to hold it with, so I can smoke it further down. When this one is done, she hands me another joint. She takes another one, too. And we keep getting high, alone and crazy, sitting in the shitty closet.






Vinnie

I went to visit Mischa at the center Claire signed her up at only a few hours ago, at nine-o-clock in the morning, in Madison. It was nothing fancy, and that is all I can truly say about it. It was a pigsty. No human belonged there, especially not Mischa. I wondered what Claire was thinking the minute I grabbed Mischa in my arms and hugged her. She looked as if she didn’t even know who the hell I was. I wondered how Claire ever could have made her own sister live here, in this center, in these conditions. “I missed you, mister.” Mischa had said to me, hugging me with a death grip. She was acting a little strange, shaky and stuff, but I suspected she was only afraid of her new residence. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights. “I missed you too. I know I haven’t seen you since the hospital . . . I was just . . .” She smiled, eyes crazy and dancing, “I know. Me too.” “So. How are you, Mischa?” She shook her head, “Lonely.” “I never meant to abandon you or anything.” Mischa laughed at that, “No. Claire is good enough at that on her own.” I didn’t respond, and we both knew why. Claire is good enough at leaving. But only because she is too afraid to be left first. When Mom got cancer, Claire pushed her away. When Dad got arrested, Claire stopped talking to him at all, even before he was charged with a crime, even before Claire had known what he had done. When Tony Fertado first started acting depressed, Claire stopped loving him on the outside, stopped letting him see the inside, stopped calling him every night. When the war started, Claire had even told me to get out of her life, because that way if I died in war, it wouldn’t matter, I would already be dead to her, but I hadn’t let that happen. Yet. And even Karmen - Claire has not visited her yet.
The thing with Claire is, she leaves you first, before you ever have a chance to think about leaving her, nor the chance to think about sticking around.











Angie

The bond of sisters is a stronger bond than anything else in the universe. It is also the most confusing. There are no lines when it comes to being a sister, and so there is no place to stop, to go, to rest, to cross over, to back up. When I kissed Karmen’s boyfriend, I told her about it, but I waited for almost a year, up until the week after she broke up with him. When I stole Claire’s lunch money, I confessed, a week before she got her check from her babysitting job. When Mischa ate the sandwich that was really my science project, I brought in a bologna sandwich instead, the same one she had made for herself to eat the next morning. All this is supposed to show you that, even though we love eachother unconditionally, sisters screw up. We do. We hurt eachother, we lie to eachother, we steal from eachother. We mess up. We cause havoc. But we always come back around full circle. It goes without saying that, because we are sisters, no matter where our lives take us separately, we always manage to find eachother.











Mischa

I lied about Claire coming today. But here she is, walking up the long stairway that leads to my room. Brooks has left the closet, still high like me, but she only left to go into the bathroom, where her crying, which I am not supposed to hear, will not be so much heard. I wonder how she lost her mom, how bittersweet it must have been to force her to turn out this way. I go to meet Claire at the top of the steps, before she can turn the last corner and reach me. I reach her first, instead. I’m high, true, so I almost fall down the stairs. But I get control of myself. I’m good at hiding things, especially from myself. And when Vinnie came over earlier, I even fooled him. Suddenly I blank out a bit. I try to remember where I am, but it’s hard. I imagine me in the back seat of Leo’s car. I imagine me in his Camaro, driving it so fast down the highway that my head spins a full three hundred and sixty degrees. I wave to Claire, I imagine I see her out of the Camaro window. Claire looks at me strangely. I try to focus again on reality. I look at Claire more closely. I hate the feeling I get when I see her - I missed her. It’s only been a day, and I can’t stand being without my sister - who else will protect me? Understand me when I scream for Karmen in the darkest hours of the night? “Claire.” I don’t do anything. Just say her name. Focus, focus, focus . . . She smiles, “Hi, Mischa. Do you like it here?” I shrug. Where? She looks at me, at the constant black I still wear. “So . . . Um, do you have any roommates?” “Sure.” “Oh. Cool, where are they?” I shake my head, “Mother-daughter Games.” Claire is shocked. She must be. “I’m so sorry, Baby Girl. I didn’t know they did that here, or,” I decide I don’t like her so much when I say, “Or you wouldn’t have given up on me? You don’t know me, really. Not at all. But . . . Don’t you even remember, Claire? Didn’t you cry all night, too? Didn’t you hate life, too? Weren’t you always too busy to care, Claire? Didn’t you, Miss Perfect, try to die? Or did I just now imagine all of that?” Claire takes a step toward me, but I only jump back, almost falling again. Claire whispers, “I’m still too busy.” I am not suppose to here her say it, I can tell, but I do. All of a sudden, I hear the loudest bang I have ever heard before. I run to my room, for that is where the sound came from. I hear another bang, not as loud. Blood is seeping from out of the bathroom door cracks. Claire is screaming for help, though not even she is sure of what has just happened. Claire, who knows it all, has no words to explain this all with, only a voice to scream with. I open the bathroom door cautiously, knowing what I may find. The door stops just under halfway. “Sofie?” I whisper it at first, then say it more loudly, “Brooks Brooks ” I am crying, but not because I am sad. I am terrified. I don’t know this girl. But I know she has done what I long to do. I know, too, that she is my only link to drugs in this place, though that isn’t all that important at this moment. And I know she has no mom that could have held her as she cried, instead of leaving her to cry alone. I don’t know Sofie Brooks, but I know that she is like me in more ways than I want to admit. I shove the door as hard as I can until it swings wide open, revealing Brooks. Only it isn’t her anymore. It’s only her pieces. Pieces of what used to be her life. Unless, that is, her life, as only she could have known it, was already over.

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Tommy

Mischa is my sister. I should at least say that much. I should say I love her. But I wouldn’t do anything for her, only some things. Family is like that. You do what you have to do. The minute things turn for the worse, you arrive, quick as a bullet. The minute things get great, you stay, because that is what you want to do. The in between is the hard part. It’s the stuff you don’t know that tears a family apart. Family is a hypocritical thing. Tragedy is a familiar acquaintance of hypocrites. That’s what happened to my family, tragedy : Mom died, Dad died, or might as well have, Vinnie left for war, Claire left for college, Karmen went into a coma, and Mischa gave up. Jack, he tries to be better. Angie dances to her own beat, like she always has. Me, I do nothing. I take no sides. I take every side. I play as if I agree with all of my siblings, I go behind there backs. I try to make each of us be okay with eachother for a while, then let them hate. I watch us fall apart. That way, by the time it really happens, and we really stop being a family, I will already know. And that much will make it easier to let them go.




Claire

The second time I tried to lose Mischa I was ten, Mischa six. She was much more skilled than I was at acting, even though she was four years younger. She could cry on cue, throw a massive fit whenever she was dared to, laugh more convincingly than a clown, and take on any character I threw at her, from Donald Duck to Clifford the Big Red Dog. She had the singing voice of an angel, and I envied her so, my voice sounding more like a wolf howling than an actual human. I will admit that I was more informed of death at this point, and also very much afraid of it, though my mom did not die until two years later. But anyway, I was ten and Misch was six. She loved me. She looked up to me. I was her role model. And I blew it. I pushed Mischa into pit of fire. Literally. It was at a campsite somewhere off in Sheboygan. It was green and dry and I hated it. But the fire was burning - marsh mellow time. The sky was dark. Nobody knows I pushed my sister that day. Nobody knows that if it weren’t for me, Mischa would not have a scar on her neck that looks as if it came straight from the teeth of a blood thirsty vampire.
Nobody knows I regret pulling my sister out of the pit, if only because, even with her skin peeling away, burned and ashy, nobody asked what had happened. They scolded her. She had ruined the fire, and now we could not have marshmallows.
I cried that night.




Mischa

By the next night Claire has already taken me back home to our trailer together. I am surprised at how foreign everything seems. The coffee table from a garage sale looks as if it were from an antique shop. The bedrooms, so much bigger. The walls, so much cleaner. I wonder for a moment if, had I never left this trailer, I would have ever loved living in it. Claire has not said anything since we have been back, and I have not pretended to notice that she has a half way filled application to her old college lying on the kitchen counter. I do not mention that I can see that she has cleaned out my closet and taken the pictures of me off of her own drawers in her own room. I do not tell her that I see her old life coming back all around our home. I do not let on that I can tell that she was looking forward to life without me. Instead, I act as if nothing but my like for the trailer has changed, and that makes all the difference. But I am still me. Claire is still Claire. And I am still mad at her, for hating me. I am still mad at myself, for not admitting to her that, because of a secret too big to ever tell, I hate me too.

I have always found it funny that while one part of the world is in pain and shock and delirium, the rest of the world is living unaware of it all. While I am crying for three people at once, Claire is humming her favorite song in the kitchen, making waffles. While I am in black clothing that only my alter ego Helena would ever dream of wearing, Claire is in bright colors, showing off every curve of her body, as well as her bellybutton. While I am in my room, undisturbing, Claire gets to make-believe that I am still gone. I know this because, though I yelled this morning that I wanted waffles too, she has only made one. And she does not even realize this. “I was thinking I’d go see Dad today.” I say absently, walking up to Claire and her one waffle. “Cool. Tell him hi for me.” “Aren’t you coming?” I know she won’t even before she says so. “ I can’t see him like that. In there.” “Why not? He’s still our dad, you know. And what do you care where he’s at? You just shipped me off to some shit ass center, anyhow, to a room with a suicidal kid.” “Do you care about anything but yourself? I grew up with Dad. Not that fake man in prison.” I shake my head, “You don’t know that.” “What?” “Maybe the fake him was only the one you grew up with.” Claire dismisses this. But she is wrong to do so. Nothing is what it seems. No one is who you think. And sometimes, when you least expect it, the truth is really a lie, and vice versa.

My dad has been living at the Wisconsin State Prison in Madison since I was six. That means he has lived here for ten years, almost. From the outside, the prison looks peaceful - grey and white, clean and undisturbed. But I have memorized every fault of this prison, also, so I no longer see its good traits. Instead, as I walk up the stairs outside leading to the inside lobby, I see the cracks in the building, the black in the grey and white. I see the missing “W”, “I”, and “S” in the word Wisconsin, so that all you read from the sign in Consin State Prison. Con sin. I see the wrongful justice sign hanging from a window - it is so lop-sided I want to cringe whenever I see it. Once I enter, I only notice the faults, as well. The brown walls that are fading. The stupid visitation forms that are never glanced at. The red pen that never works. The cops that never seem to see the truth of any matter, but only the right and wrong of any law. The faces that are so blank even I look happy and alive compared to them. There are things I hate here - that my father is a prisoner, not a visitor, that I can only see him during certain hours, that I have been searched so many times it feels numb to take off my shirt in front of a stranger with a gun attached to his belt. That my innocent-meaning father will spend his whole life in prison for killing a guilty, shamefaced man.
“Hey, Dad.” I say into the phone. I am on one side of the Plexi glass- my dad on the other. He holds his phone closer to his ear, and closes his eyes, “Hi, my baby. Hi, my Mischa.” I am my father’s only contact with the outside world. How great I must be to him. Hi is such a simple word, but when you only get to hear your father say it to you from behind a glass wall, it somehow becomes incredibly sweet. “Hey. Hi, Daddy.” We only have one rule : Do not mention Karmen. I told him this when I visited him the day I woke up. Dad smiles at me, his daughter. For a while we only sit and stare at eachother, breathing in an out and dreaming of a life that used to be and is no more, when no wall separated us from hugging each other and bonding together as father and daughter should. When we open our eyes, we will again be on opposite sides. “I missed you, Dad.” He says he missed me, too. “Claire?” I shake my head, “She’s just such a . . . A monster these days. I don’t even know her anymore.” Dad says, “She’ll come around.” I shake my head, “Dad, she ate a waffle this morning.” Dad laughs, seeing as how the last time Claire ate a waffle she threw up all over Vinnie. I cannot hear Dad laughing, only see the way his mouth twitches to the left and right at every one of his breaths - this means he is laughing. It’s amazing how seeing someone laugh can give off the same loving feeling as hearing them laugh, when seeing is all you have gotten in so long. It’s almost as if hearing disappears in prison - at least it is like that for the visitors. The only things I really hear in here are the grunts of police men and the crying of women visiting their loved ones. It Is so easy to break down in here if you are the visitor - every time feels like the first, and you never expect the orange jumpsuits or the glass walls dividing everything you want to do or say from whoever it is you see on the other side. In prison it is just so hard to pretend that nothing bad ever happened, that the little things you would die for aren’t gone forever. When you visit a prison, you have to visit it - you can’t pretend it isn’t there - not when that certain prison is the only link to seeing the one you love- or at least who he or she has become.

After Dad is lead back to his cell by a guard, I go into the prison waiting room lobby. I come here so often it almost feels like home. “What’s crackin’, Amor?” He has called me Amor since he met me. His name is Leonardo Ventiliano, and I am irrevocable in love with him. Leo’s pops is in prison for murder, too, and Leo’s mom left when he was really little. We’ve got a lot in common when it comes to family, except he has grandparent’s to raise him, where I’ve just got the system and Claire, neither of which I’m fond of. But Leo makes things better. I met him when I was nine, and I swear I’ve loved him ever since. He’s seventeen. “Hi, Leo. Nothing much happening. With you?” He shakes his head, “Nope. Just waiting for the okay to go see Pops.” “Yeah. I just got back from Dad. How is your old man, anyway? Still happy as a mug?” Leo smiles, “Great, still. He loves this place. He likes how the lights never go off. And how my mom is nowhere near him. Anything is better off for him, though, as long as I’m not there. The only place he’d rather be is at Cofferson Cemetery so he could spit on my moms some more.” Leo says something about the prison that rings utterly clear in my ears, “You know what Pops told me, Scott? When the lights never go out, the prison ghosts go home. Their home is at the prisoners soul, where they eat the insides. So whenever somebody passes gas in prison, its only because they are getting back what they gave off.” I laugh, not because I get the joke, if it was one, even, but because it is true. Everyone has a ghost that eats their insides. In prison, you just have more people around you that know about it. “Where have you been, anyhow, baby Amor? I haven’t seen you in a week, almost. You missed some good parties.” “Yeah, some stuff came up. Karmen . . . she’s,” “Worse. I figured that’s why you weren’t around.” I shake my head, “Yeah. Anyhow, I took a detour in some youth center shit, but my roomy killed herself, so . . . I’m back at the trailer now, though. Karma, um, she’s still asleep, and bad . . . More bad. But screw the damned doctors - She’ll wake up. She will. Won’t she?” Leo nods, “You bet she will, hottie. Any day now, mi Amor.” This is why I love Leo : he always believes in me, even though I am most probably wrong. “Yeah,” I say, “Any day, huh?” I only wish that I could believe in me as much as he does.







Leo

You are nothing like a sister to me, that’s for fucking sure. But I am not exactly in love with you either. You’re more like a really good friend, with no limits and no attachments. No expectations. You are who I want when I have nobody else, but not who I choose first. Only, you say you need me, so I am always around. It feels so damned good to be needed, regardless of how I feel about you.
You love me, and that has always been good enough.

I remember when I first saw you. You were nine, and shaking from the cold wind and rain. I was eleven, so at first you were only a little kid to me. You were crying because you wanted your dad, and the guards wouldn’t let you see him because he was in lock down - isolation - for hurting an inmate. But you kept screaming and shaking, even though your sister had stopped and sat down, waiting for you - but you weren’t going to leave without giving your dad a hug, that was for damn sure. You were carrying a picture you had drawn for your dad to see. It was an elephant, bright pink and orange, because those were your favorite colors and your dad’s favorite animal. You were sure that your picture would cheer your dad up, and then he would come home with you again. You never told me that, you did not have to - I had thought I could get my dad to come home once, too. But those guards, they kept telling you that Freddie Scott could have no visitors right now, because he was in bigger trouble, that you needed to go home to your mom. I remember, still, what you told them back. You said, “Justice, set me free ” And I remember wondering who had ever given you the idea that justice was real and that you were its slave.

I didn’t actually meet you until a month later, when you were again visiting your dad. You were alone this time, without the girl who had to have been your sister, the same girl who I would later meet and get to know as Karma Charisma. You were in black sweat pants and a small, white tee shirt, and your hair was long and curly, just like it is now, except you had less of it back then. You had sat down next to me in the waiting lobby, with a drawing in you hands. It was another elephant - blue and silver this time, your dad’s favorite colors. “Hey. I’m Mischa. You?” You had said to me, looking at me straight on, right in the eye.“Leo. Hi.” I said back. By this time I had stopped thinking of you as a little kid, and starting thinking of you as somebody who might understand. I was afraid at first that you wouldn’t answer, knowing I was not good enough for you, but rather just a little wise ass, but you did say something back. You said, “Dad is in here. Who are you seeing?” “Pops. Murder.” “Mine, too.” I nodded, and said, “Those won’t make him come back, you know. He can’t leave here. Neither can my pops.” You shrugged, “Mine is coming home soon, I think.” I frowned, “Whatever.” You said you were alone. I asked where your mom was, because what else was I suppose to ask? You said in the ground, but I knew what you met. “Mine isn’t dead yet,” I answered, “just gone. But if you want, I can introduce you to some things that make the pain go away.” “You’re mom’s gone?” “Yeah. With her new son.” You looked sad when I said that, and that’s when I knew I could make you care. I could be needed and wanted by you, because I was needed and wanted by no one else. So I became your friend out of spite, listening to all of your stories about yourself and your brothers and sisters, your parents who were both gone, the families you didn’t want to be yours. As the years went by, I starting telling you my stories as well, letting you listen, knowing you cared fully about all the details I relived for you. I eventually learned to fully care for you, too, as we got older, by letting you get drunk at the punk ragers and dirty nightclubs and hardcore rock parties I took you to, only to give you a reason to have too much fun; by having sex with you in the park, only to be in you, who loved me; by saying you were my only, because that’s how you wanted it to be; by lying to you, because that made you happy. By taking your pain away, because I never wanted you to hurt. But you weren’t suppose to fall in love with me or anything. You were suppose to know better than that, Amor. How was I supposed to know that you didn’t? How was I supposed to know that, despite all you’d been through, you were still playing innocent?



Mischa
After leaving the prison, Leo drives me to the River Falls hospital. He has an aunt who works there, I have a sister who sleeps there. Ironic, isn’t it? Karmen, because she has been in a coma due to brain damage for almost eight months now, only has a fifteen percent chance of recovering, and that’s not even a full recovery, but a partial one, if that much. That means, maybe, withing a year or so, she’ll wake up and be able to say “hello” and that will be it. Maybe I can teach her what her name is, but she’ll never be able to say it. But that cannot happen. Not to my Karma Charisma. I try so hard to believe that. You see, I want her to beat the odds, but I don’t know where to find that much faith or hope anymore. But I do so want my sister to be okay. Even if she can’t remember who I am, even if she doesn’t know who she even is, I just want her awake. She can relearn those things. She can. That I can hope for. That she relearns what she leaves behind in her sleep. But she can’t relearn how to come back to life is she dies.
I visit Karmen as often as I can, but that hasn’t really been too much lately. I open the door to her room, and suddenly feel a rush of cold air. Visiting my sister is now like visiting a ghost. The air around her is suddenly cold and dry. Her skin is pale enough to pass her off as already dead. She has sunken in eyes, like a sulking vampire. Whenever I see Karmen, I get the strange feeling she is not the same Karmen anymore. That her sleeping self is so much different. Maybe she is in heaven right now, talking to our mom. Meeting my baby. Maybe mom will send Karmen back home, if she wants to be here, still. I couldn’t blame her if she chose to stay away from me. From all of this world. “Hey, Karma. It’s your sister, Mischa. I miss you.” I don’t let myself yell or cry this time. I just want to be with her today, without all the rest. I just want to let myself think she’ll be okay, wake up remembering everything but the really bad stuff, loving me still, despite what I’ve done, despite the secrets. There are way too many secrets . . .
After the bridge collapsed, a lot of things changed. I got mean and hateful. Claire became a witch, or else more of one. Karmen fell asleep, became a vegetable. Her green cat eyes and her gorgeous straight hair and her glowing tanned skin all changed their tones. Her eyes are now blank; her hair is almost none; her skin doesn’t deserve to be called skin any longer. Her body even has got so much smaller. Only one thing has remained the same: Karmen is still my sister - that much will never change. Not to me. The world is only what you make it out to be, but no matter what that is, Karmen is my twin, my other half. That can’t change, not for anything in the universe. “So, how are the doctors treating you? Good I hope. So, hey . . . Christmas is in, like, six months. You have to be up by then. I’m getting you an awesome present, I swear. You just hang in there, okay?” I talk to Karmen as if she can very well talk back. Sometimes, I fool myself into thinking she can. I lie to myself a lot. I have never truly believed me. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll be your eyes right now, okay? So you don’t have to bother seeing this all yourself. If I do that , you have to make sure to be my eyes while you’re up in heaven, if you’re there, finishing things up with Mom and stuff. You have to remember my baby, okay, tell me about it. Will you? Look, right now there’s pink flowers on your desk, and juice and crackers that I left out, just in case. The doctors are all old and grumpy. The nurses all love you, Karma. They pray for you all the time. One even cries over you, because you remind her of her own daughter, who died of cancer eighteen years ago. Claire is Claire, like always, but she is . . . more strong, I think. Hell, she’s a bitch. Look, Karm, I can only be your eyes for so long. I’ve already run out of things to look at. I guess I could tell you about how you look now. You look . . . you look . . .” I look at Karmen more closely. She looks dead. But I can’t say that. I can’t even stand to think that. Her eyes are just so full of nothingness. Her skin is just so . . . transparent. Her body is almost nothing but bones. I shake my head, closing my eyes, imagining what my sister used to be. “You look beautiful, Karma. I just want you to see it too, you know? I want you to see what you’re missing. I want you to show me what I can’t see anymore, Karmen.” I cry a little, but I try so hard to stop, to be strong for Karmen. I lie down next to her. I hold hand, hoping she’ll squeeze mine back. I move her bangs away from her eyes. I kiss her cheek and tell her I love her, as if those few words could possibly change anything at all.



Claire

What was I supposed to do? Leave Mischa in a room where she had become like a partial witness to a suicide? How could I have made her go through yet another disappointment - another death, even? Oh my God, I’m such a horrible sister. So I did what I had to do - I brought her home. It was a spur of the instant affair, so I didn’t really have anything hidden, or, to the least part, cleaned. Mischa’s clothes were still in a suitcase in the truck of my old car, my baby, a white, too cheap and amazingly well-running, used Saturn. The pictures were still packed away in the silver and black box under my bed. My old life was still tucked tightly but obviously on the kitchen table and living room desk. But Mischa didn’t let on that she knew all this, saw it all, so I didn’t mention it either. In fact, I think Mischa is happier now. Her style hasn’t changed, but I don’t care. She is acting OKAY lately. Maybe she is. Maybe she is okay. And to me, that is about as close to everything as I can get. But it isn’t really. It’s so far from it that even the moon looks as if it would be closer. But I don’t tell Mischa anything about my life. And she returns the favor, if you can call it that at all.
Mischa tells me about her visit with Dad. I nod and smile, and tell her all the right things. I ask all the right questions. I sound like the perfect, busy-body, voodoo doll sister. Being fake is not so foreign. You can make yourself believe in every fantasy, once you live it long enough. So, at this point, a month since Mischa’s been back, I really have convinced myself that my sister who I happen to yet again be raising does not know how much I wish I could lose her, if only for a moment more. But how can I be so horrible? Really. She has basically already lost all she has ever known - her twin, her dad, her mom, her friend, her life. Me. What more do I need to take from her? But I know this answer. I want to take what she has always had. What I have never been given. I want to take every smile our father and mother has ever given to her, and keep them all for me. I want her to be the hated one, for once in her life.

I have never been asked about how much I love my sister. When you take the fact that I am not only Mischa’s sister, but also her guardian, her friend, and her future, it is automatically assumed that I am a selfless person who loves Mischa more than anyone else has ever loved a sister. And I do love her, seriously, I do. But I am also, aside from being part of Mischa’s future, a huge part of her past. And that, like many small things, changes the ways, and the truths, of everything. And that is why you shouldn’t ever believe the gossip you hear about me, nor the gossip I tell about myself.




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Karmen

It was him. He did it. It was her. She did it, too. Accident. Accident. Help. Help. Help. Help. Ahh I’m sorry Please stop
I suddenly wake up, shivering. Where the hell . . .? “Oh my Doctor ” “Hello? Can you hear me?” I look at him, a doctor. I nod. “Can you say anything? Can you say who you are?” I nod again, “Ka. . . Kar . . . Karmen . . . Sca . . .Scott.” I take a breath, the first I remember taking in a while, “Karmen. Scott.” But sometimes I wonder. Doctor smiles so big, “You survived a lot. It’s a miracle Patricia, call her family . . .” I shake my head, “Mischa did it.” But I don’t think he understands. He calls cops from the hallway into my room. I tell them, “Mischa did it to me.” But they don’t understand. But I’m just so tired. I can’t talk anymore. I can’t explain. I don’t even know. Know. Don’t Know. No “She . . . Mischa . . . She . . . pushed . . . me . . . out . . . the . . . bus . . ..” Savage. Savage. Savage. But they don’t understand. They don’t. I have not said enough. I can not stay awake. I can not.







Mischa


The knocking is so soft I almost do not hear it. But, as it is, I do. I open the door, which squeaks too loud to be normal. It is also hanging by one hinge, so I almost rip the damn door off on accident. I look up at the man now standing in front of me. He is in a very fancy suit which looks as if it would cost more than this trailer I live in. What a showoff. He has a parked squad car in the road, with another man, dressed in a uniform, riding shotgun. “What?” I ask, not recognizing him at first. “Good afternoon to you too. I’m Payne. Remember me?” I nod. From the center where Brooks died. How could I not remember? “Can I come in? Is Claire home?” “No. I can’t let anyone in till she’s back.” I lie to him. I can do whatever the hell I want. Claire doesn’t notice me anyway. “Well, then, I’ll wait on the steps.” “Huh.” Payne smiles, staring me down, as if he knows very well that I can let him in whenever I choose. I open the door wide enough for him to just barely squeeze through, because I don’t like being stared at or mocked, and I don’t like being mean to people I don’t hate yet. And, also, partly because I don’t hate Payne, not all the way. After all, if I were him, I would have dumped Claire too.
As soon as I get Payne settled in the kitchen with a can of pop, I go into my room, into my closet. “Leo? You can come out. It’s just Payne.” “Who? Or . . . what? I mean, are you all right? Like, in pain, or . . .?” Leo asks me, shaking his head in confusion. I laugh, and then tell him about when I first met Payne Patterson, about where I met him at, and that is all Leo seems to need. Leo and I weren’t doing anything wrong, really, I swear it, we weren’t. We were only talking, actually. It’s just that Claire hasn’t really been talking to me a lot lately, and I don’t know if her seeing a boy in my room would set her off or not. I play it safe when I’m around Claire these days. I even wore a red jacket today, instead of a black one. Besides, Claire doesn’t know Leo. She wouldn’t understand what he is to me. He is the father of my never born baby. I think so, anyway. He is who I want to be the father of my never born baby. But every time I see Leo, I remember the many times I woke up naked, with him nowhere to be found, but many other guys very close by. But Leonardo Ventiliano is who I love. Surely, certainly, that should count for something. “Should I go?” I shake my head, “Naw, stay. We can still go out tonight, he won’t be here too long. But, for now, you can meet Payne, if you want?” Leo has these huge, round, puppy-dog eyes that fit his sad puppy-dog expression on his face. Though his face has sharp, rough features and very dark eyes, he always looks a little scared, a little sad, a little wasted, and a little lonely. But I hear the rumors - he’s a tough guy in his neighborhood. But I think he is sweet. I think Leo is just doing his best to make it out alive, just like everybody else. I think the hard life has taken its toll on him earlier than he thought it would. Leo nods his head at me, agreeing, silently, to meet Payne. Because he knows I want him to. I walk Leo into the kitchen. I would have brought Payne to the living room, but it’s more or less a dying room. It has the remains of Claire’s old life, my old life, our parents’ old lives, pictures of who Brooks may have been, pictures of the siblings Claire and I never see, stacked on the coffee table, our new and real life just fading in, leaking though like a messy, wet painting. It has nothing but that stacked upon coffee table, right in it’s center, it’s hard core, its black hole, inside of it. The “living” room is the shell of a lot of lives that no longer are, and that is why I avoid it. They say, that once you go through something over and over again, about three times, it becomes normal, routine. But that is a lie. Because I am, as unlikely as it may seem, as many times as I have gone through it, afraid of death, including my own which, sometimes, I could swear has already passed.
Payne stands up as Leo and I enter the kitchen, paint fading and light bulb blinking, and I can’t help but find this Payne extremely pansy-like. Payne though, despite the pansy-ness, looks like a cop, through and through. Not because of the uniform he has not worn today, nor because of the FBI or Bomb Squad looking suit he has on, but because of his face and movements and way of standing. His face is left blank at all times, but with a trace of power, to let all who question his ability to fight and to win know the score. His movements are quick, sure, incapable of being or going wrong. He stands with his back to the wall, so he can see what is in front of him and never risk being caught from behind. I find it funny that how he stands can portray what everybody wants : a sense of knowing, of control. Of never being caught from behind. Of seeing what is right in front of them. Of being in control for once, for always. Everybody wants that. Few people get it.
“Leo, this is Payne. He used to be Claire’s foster parent. Payne, this is my boyfriend, Leo.” They shake hands. Payne ruffles his graying hair, and Leo sits down, asks why Payne is here. “I need to see Claire.” It’s the only explanation he’ll give. I have heard of serial killers starting out this way. They come into a home. They ask to see somebody who isn’t around. They wait until that person is just through the door, and Bam Dead as a doorknob. I make a mental note to be the first one to see Claire when she gets back, and take a long glance at the butcher knife on the counter. I wonder if Payne thinks the butcher knife being laid out in the open is weird. I walk up to the radio and turn up a Sex Pistols song that I love, called I Did It My Way. “So, how are you?” I realize Payne is talking to me. “Great.” I lie. “Me too.” He is lying as well. I can just tell. Leo reaches for my hand, and whispers something to me that I am so thankful Payne does not hear. But then I get afraid that cops may have that sixth sense of really, really good guesses about what people whisper about. I look at Leo, his puppy dog eyes, his strong , muscled arms, his gorgeous, boyish, rough face, and question, “Will you grab me my green jacket? I’m cold in here.” I took my red one off earlier. Leo nods, “You bet. The one with the stars on the sleeves?” “Yeah. Thanks.” Once Leo leaves, Payne looks back to me, “Claire know him?” “Duh,” I say. I wonder why adults can’t seem to tell apart truth from lies. They say they know everything, but I could lie to them for hours and they’d never know the difference. Teenagers and children always know. Even the little ones. “Do you want anything to drink?” I ask, though I know all we have is water from the sink and an almost empty picture of lemonade gone bad in the refrigerator. Payne shakes his head, “I actually want to talk to you too. About Karmen.” Just then Leo comes into the room. I’m not cold anymore, but I put on the jacket anyhow, because Leo hawked it for me once, at a thrift shop, and I always wear it when I am scared. I like to feel Leo on me, even when it isn’t really him. The jacket smells like him -like coffee and dirt and smoke and. . . guy. It smells perfect. “What about Karmen? Is she okay? I just saw her a few hours ago.” Then I am stupid, and I start hoping, even though I know I shouldn’t. “Is she . . . Is she awake? Is she awake? Oh my God ” Payne looks sad, “She did wake up,” I start to cry, I am so happy, and Leo hugs me really tight. “But,” Payne says, “She fell back into the coma. Thing is, she said some things when she woke up. She said some things I really am not so sure about. She was tired, yes, and only up for five minutes but . . . maybe she wasn’t even really awake all the way, from what the doctors are saying. Regardless, though, there are larger questions to be asked . . . Is there anything I should know, Mischa?” I am shaking uncontrollable, “She woke up. Even for a while. That’s so good ” “Mischa? You need to tell me if something else happened on that bus.” Leo jumps up, my soldier, my martyr, my savior, my knight. “What the hell is wrong with you? You can’t blame her for anything about what happened. The damn bridge collapsed - let the stupid engineers deal with the shit.” I stare at Leo, shocked. I never told him the secret. But I can tell he is lying. He knows something. I know he knows something. “Why would you blame me for the crash? Leo? Payne?” Payne stars at me, and when Claire gets home and walks into the kitchen with us, I am shocked all over again. “I’m sorry. I need you to come with me. Ms. Scott, the Wisconsin Children Services is questioning your guardianship, and the Wisconsin Federal Police Department has a warrant out for the arrest of Mischa Keane Scott for the attempted murder of Karmen Louisa Scott. You’ll receive a call in a few hours, further explaining these conditions, from the Wisconsin Juvenile Facilites.” He is talking to Claire, handing her papers. He is handcuffing me, beginning to read me my rights, as he is still a cop despite the lack of his uniform. And that is when I start to hate Payne















Part Three


Hoping for the best,
but expecting the worst.
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?
- The Youth Group









Claire

The ride to the station takes forever. I keep thinking I should say something. But I can’t. I can’t say anything to this boy. I don’t even know who the hell he is, just that he, as opposed to me, is in the better position to drive. I am shaking too hard, thinking too much. Why did Mr. Patterson take my sister away? What the hell did he mean, attempted murder? Why was my guardianship being questioned? Mischa was in a bus crash, a bridge crash I suppose it would be described as, with her sister. Mischa was injured as well, and she had nothing to do with what had happened to that fuck ass bridge or stupid freaking bus, or to her twin sister, her best damned friend in the world. She had never hurt her twin. Never. Never. Never. “She said it was her fault . . .” I don’t realize I’ve spoken out loud until the boy that is driving says to me, “Yeah? But you don’t think she really tried to kill Karmen do you?” I shake my head, “No.” But I say it too edgy, too quickly. “I’m Leo, by the way. I’m Mischa’s . . . I’m her friend. I don’t think she did it neither. She don’t belong in juvie. She might be hard as a rock and raged on the outside, but she’s . . . she’s sweet on the inside. Innocent, almost. You know?” Oh my God, juvie? They’ll lock her up? No They can’t do that . . . “Friend?” I ask, stalling for time so I won’t have a panic attack until I’m on safer, non-moving, ground. He nods, but his eyes are so full of some emotion - it’s so much there I can’t even tell which emotion it is- that I have trouble seeing him clearly, without my eyes tearing up and burning. He looks scared as shit and sad as a widower, and lonely. He looks so damn lonely. I’ve never seen that kind of extreme loneliness before, I think. But he looks like he has been through a lot, too. He looks strong. I am so amazed that I can see all of this in his eyes, while the rest of his face is so blank and unchanging. I realize something else too : Leo looks like a little boy, not a young man. He looks like a little boy who was kicked around too much, a lost little child with no place to go. “What happened to you?” I ask him in a semi-loud whisper, again not meaning to speak out loud. He looks sideways at me, then looks back at the road, He gives me an answer, one that wasn’t what I was expecting, “I met Mischa.” He says this, and I laugh. Because I figure that may be just exactly what happened to me.





Mischa

Sitting in the back of a squad car is something I never imagined myself doing. But here I am. The handcuffs are rubbing my sore wrists raw, and my head feels as spinning as the red lights on top of the car. My ears are buzzing with the sirens. My whole body is shaking, and I am scrunched up, wanting to contribute to as little space as possible in this small ride. I am scared, and it takes a hell of a lot to scare me. I don’t mean just shaky scared, either, I mean screaming and terror scared. What will happened to me? What do the cops know? Attempted murder? But can they prove it, or are they leaving that for me to do? I look at the man riding shotgun. I’ve never seen him before, but I bet anything he’s seen my dad. The way he’s looking at me . . . It’s like he knows that my last name carries trouble. Or that trouble carries it. Just then he turns a bit, doing what most cops never do, “Hey, kid, how old are you, anyway?” He is talking to me, the one who was arrested by his asshole partner. I look at him, then out the window, “Fifteen.” He turns away. “You could have told me.” “What?” The man asks. I shrug, not talking to him, “Claire didn’t need to see me dragged out of the trailer. You didn’t have to do that to her. Right in front of her like that, with no warning.” Payne looks at me through the review mirror, “I couldn’t arrest you without giving the warrant to your guardian. And even if I could have, I wanted someone of age there.” “Of age for what? Drinking? Smoking? Having a baby?” “Be quiet.” The other man warns. I laugh, “Have fun holding all this against me. Oh my god, she said drinking ” I mock. Payne shakes his head, “Now don’t do this. Don’t make this worse. Just sit back there and behave yourself.” I snort, “Whatever.” The rest of the ride is quiet, and so I still got the last word. That makes me less scared.






Claire

Suddenly, I jolt for the steering wheel. “What the hell ” Leo shouts, as I nearly maneuver his Chevy Camaro, which he had parked pleasantly two trailers over from my own, right into a shiny black Cadillac. “Go back ” I shout. I am a crazy woman, no doubt, but I am a crazy woman on a mission. Leo is mad and annoyed, and not understanding me for the world, as he says, “Back to driving? Yeah, you bet.” I look at him and almost laugh, “What? No. No, I mean go back home. Take me home.” “What about . . .?” I shake my head, “Juvie. Juvie isn’t at the station.” “Really? I had no idea. Thanks for clearing things up.” I would slap him, but he’s right. I need to calm down. I need to better explain my plan of action. I close my eyes, getting my rambling thoughts together, “Get me home. They don’t know anything useful at the station. They’ll book her at the Wisconsin Juvenile Jail, then . . . God, I do not even know what after that . . . But, but, I should be at home. Then they can call. They can give me the address where she is at, and I can go to her. It’ll work better than me acting like a chicken with my head caught off.” “Too late.” Leo murmurs. I smack his arm this time, but it comes across all friendly and flirty-like. My cheeks go cherry red and are burning. “I’m . . .” “It’s fine.” Leo says, clearly embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to do that in that way,” “Yeah. You should work on your slapping skills.” “Right. Um, anyway, I don’t even know where the juvie jail is. Or we could go there and find Misch. Do you know where it’s at?” Leo shakes his head, already driving back to my place, “No. I never been there, if that’s what you mean.” I am shocked. I just assumed he would have been into his fair share of trouble. Leo laughs, “Surprising, huh? No, but, uh, my dad is in the same prison as Mischa’s and your’s. Same crime, different person. The prison . . . it’s where me and Mischa met. “Why didn’t she ever tell me?” Again, I meant to only think the question. But, unless Leo can mind read, I must have spoken out loud, because he answers, “I could name a few reasons. Besides, we’re just friends.” “Yeah.” “What?” “I saw her look at you when they dragged her off. That girl loves you, for whatever reason.” I don’t think he’ll answer, but he does. And what he says surprises me, as has everything else he has told me, “Yeah. That’s what I’m afraid of.”




Leo


I guess I should tell you that when I met Claire, I wasn’t thinking about her. I was thinking about you. I was worried about you. I was worried about my brother, Rex “Savage” Ventiliano. You don’t know him. You’ve met him, but you don’t know that. You didn’t ever learn his name. But in case you don’t have it figured out yet, he’s the reason you’re in this mess, and in juvie. Savage is also the reason you and I will never be together, once you find out the truth. He’s the reason for more things too. But to tell you the truth, I’m too damn scared to tell you about them.

Claire was a weird girl. She was all shaky and a bit bitchy and a lot insane. She is nothing like you. I bet you think that’s a good thing. I think Claire loves you, though. I think she wants you to be happy. I also think she’ll hate you, once this is all over, if it ever is.

There are a lot of things I want to tell you, Amor. But secrets aren’t really lies, right? So consider these things I am not telling you to be secrets - consider them to merely be questions you haven’t yet asked.

Listen, Amor, I never wanted you to love me like you do. But I don’t want you to hate me either. Hate Savage, if you’re hurt. I know you are hurt. More hurt than I suppose I could understand. But do blame Savage. He’s the one who did this. You’ll find out sooner or later. I just hope you don’t have to be sitting in a prison cell, rotting away, hating me, when that happens. Because, for whatever reason, I am beginning to love you, too.



Mischa

Payne drives into a garage-looking space in the juvenile jail building in the city are of River Falls. Payne gets out of the car, but it is his partner, Officer Reed, a really tall and big, big, big guy who looks like he should have been a football player or bodyguard instead of a cop, who helps me out of the car and leads me inside of another, bigger room. This room is like a lobby. It’s all white, and there are two big desks in back. Payne walks to the lady behind the biggest desk. “We got a new bookie.” The lady assumes. Payne nods, and I can’t hear what they say after that. The lady looks at me, “Hey, hon.” I nod. She looks like a pre-k teacher. Officer Reeds walks me to the wall, taking off my handcuffs. “Hands on you head,” He orders, pushing me as gently as possible against the white wall. These walls remind me of the walls at the center I was at, where Brooks killed herself. I feel dizzy, wondering if I will end how she did, if I would ever have the guts , or else the gumption, however you see it. “Spread your legs,” Officer Reeds says. He pats me down, from my neck to my waist, and up and down my legs, around my ankles. He pats my shoulder, turning me around, and looks at the desk lady who looks like a teacher, “Clean.” She nods, “Good job, hon. The judge, she looks highly upon that.” She tells me all this in a memorized rush, like a waitress listing the specials of the day. I nod again. Officer Reed moves my hands back behind my back, “Just keep your hands like this. They make you walk down the hallways here like that.” I nod, “Okie dokie.” “You’ve gotten quiet.” He murmurs. I only tend to talk a lot when I’m scared. Otherwise, I like being quiet. But I don’t tell Officer Reed that. I don’t tell him anything. He walks me to the other desk, “Sit here. Mrs. Sanely will be here in a minute. She’ll ask you some questions and let you make a call. Okay?” He cuffs my one wrist. “It’s going to be easy stuff.” I nod, sitting, feeling like a dog taking orders from it’s owner. Officer Reed hesitates, and then says to me, “You’ll be fine. You don’t have to be afraid of anything here. This isn’t like where you dad is. This is more like a . . . like a home.” “Right.” I say, unbelieving. I wish, too, that people didn’t know my dad. I bet the judge looks down on him. She’ll look down on me, too, because of him. But I love my dad. Let the stupid people here think whatever they want. “My dad saved somebody because of what he did.” I say. Me and my dad, we’re not so different, really. Officer Reed shrugs, “I never was on his case. I would not know.” I look down at my wrist. It is cuffed to the desk. My other wrist is free. I wonder if this is how I’ll always be, half free, half chained. Officer Reed finally leaves. And for the millionth time, I am left alone.





Claire

It’s not until an hour later that I get the phone call. “Huh?” Leo answers the phone for me. I am stuck in time, too shocked still to answer the phone or be in control of myself, let alone others. Leo glances sideways at me, his expression softer than I thought he could muster. “Yeah? This is Claire.” I laugh. Leo is using a feminine voice, trying to get whoever is on the phone to give him the information on Mischa so I don’t have to have a mental breakdown over the phone. Smart kid, except my voice is not as slutty sounding as his fake feminine one. “Yep. Directions? Sure.” I wait a while longer. Leo suddenly throws the phone at me. “What? Who is it?” “Her. It’s her.” Leo says, shoving the phone that I threw back at him into my hand. I take it, “Mischa? Baby, are you okay? Are they treating you good?” “I’m fine, Claire. Put the other Claire back on.” “Mischa, don’t. Please. Just . . . Are you okay?” “Oh yeah. Perfect.” “Mischa,” “Claire, I have to go.” “Mischa, you didn’t do it.” She doesn’t say anything at first, and I hold my breath until she does. She says, “How would you even know?”

Leo drives me to the Wisconsin Juvenile Jail, River Falls. The building is too much like the Wisconsin State Prison. Too much. I run into the front room, looking, frantically searing for somebody who can tell me this was all a joke, that Mischa is not here, that she is not a delinquent, that she did not do anything wrong. She couldn’t have. How would you even know? I look behind me to see Leo standing outside. “Come on,” I yell, “get in here.” He looks around, then walks inside. He follows me into another room, past the two security people telling me I’m not allowed inside the other rooms. “Mischa? Mischa, if you hear me yell something.” Nobody yells. Leo grabs my arm, “Claire? We have to wait for her to go to court, I think,” “I don’t care. I don’t . . . I have to find her, I,” “You can’t find her if you’re in the wrong place. She’s downstairs. That’s where the girls are at. The guys are up top.” “Clever,” I mumble, “They modeled it to resemble sex.” Leo laughs at that, but he doesn’t loosen his strangling grip on my arm. Two more security people run over to me, hands on their precious guns, and tell me harshly, “Miss? You need to come back,” “Ugh Where is my sister?” “I’m sorry, I,” “What? You don’t know? Look, I’m not waiting for a friggin’ court date. I want to see my sister You may not want me for her guardian, but not over my dead body will you refuse me the right to be her sister ” Just then I see Mr. Patterson. He is running toward me. “Hey Where is she?” I scream at him. Leo grabs my arm tighter, “Calm down. You want to keep her, huh, not scare them out of letting you.” He whispers. I stare at him, “Would you let go of me?” “Just don’t get your self landed in jail, too.” He says quietly, puppy dog eyes flaming in a raging silence I have never seen before in anyone. I nod, and he lets me go. I take a deep breath, “Where is Mischa?” Mr. Patterson leads me into a conference type room. Leo is behind us, shifty eyed. When I sit down, Leo sits too, and Mr. Patterson shuts the door, walking behind his desk full of papers and forms. “Mischa will have a court hearing in,” “Five days. Next Friday. We know.” Leo says. I didn’t know that, but he was the one to answer the phone. “Totally.” I say. Mr. Patterson nods, “Right. Until then, she’ll be here, in the female juvenile jail. It’s,” “Downstairs,” Leo says, annoyed, “We know that too.” “Ooh, yeah.” I say, actually knowing that one. After all this time wishing she was gone, I am trying to save Mischa. I almost laugh. Mr. Patterson nods again, “As might be expected. Her court hearing is for the judge to decide if Mischa can go back home to you, or stay here, unless another guardian, one that is also a blood relative, is permitted to take her in. The police working on her case, including the detectives and such, will have more to tell you. Basically all I know now is that Karmen woke up, told the doctors and present police that Mischa hurt her, and fell back to sleep. I also know that there have been suspicions of that much since the start.” I shake my head, “Can I see her?” “Yes. Visitation is everyday at one till four-thirty. Anyone is welcome.” “Okay.” “She’ll get a public defender. . . ?” “Yes, sir. A public defender. A good one, okay?” Patterson nods, “One will be acquired, then, and another for if she is charged as an adult and formally.” “She hasn’t been,” “She’s here now for questioning only. She has not been formally charged with anything as of now. If she is, later on, she’ll most likely be charged as an adult, yes. But she’ll do most of her jail time, if she gets any, here, until she’s of age.” “No charge? Then why is she staying?” Leo asks. Mr. Patterson looks at me, as if Leo is not even in the room, and says, “Authorities are not sure if your care is best for her.” “I wasn’t there the day of the crash. I don’t know what happened. But my sister did nothing wrong.” “One of them says she did.” I can’t say anything to that. I don’t know how to say anything to that. “Got proof?” Leo asks, breaking my soundlessness. I am liking his company. Mr. Patterson smiles, “Yes. The confession was recorded by the hospital security cameras that were put in ten years back after the Morrigan murder.” He hands me the copy of the tape. Leo laughs, “I don’t give a shit what Karma said. She’s drugged on painkillers and God knows what else. She can’t have been thinking good, long as she’s been . . . asleep. I want proof that Mischa did it. Any of your cops on that bus that day?” “Were you?” Leo shakes his head, “No. But you weren’t, either.” “So what?” “So you can’t say what happened.” “You, neither.” Mr. Patterson points out “Yeah. That’s my point, cop. No matter what you want, she’s innocent till proven guilty. And it looks like you assholes can’t prove anything. We’ll be back tomorrow. Visitation. And, dude?” “Yes?” Patterson asks, clearly resisting the urge to kill the young man beside me. Leo smiles, “You cops won’t win. You never really do.” Leo stands up, pulling me along. And we leave, the tape in the trash can, destroyed.




Mischa

The questions that the lady named Janet Sanely asked me were really easy ones, like my name, address, what I was being accused of, that sort of thing. I answered all the questions politely and accurately - anything to get out of juvie sooner. Plus, I figured the judge would know all this about me anyway, so why bother lying about it? The only hard part was when I had to say I was being accused of trying to kill my twin sister. I pretty much broke down crying when I said that. “I didn’t do it, I swear.” I had repeated over and over, until Janet had to get Payne to come over and talk to me, calm me down. He only made things worse, so then he left, and Janet handed me the phone, “I’m going to call Claire now. Will you dial her number?” I wiped my eyes, nodded. Janet took the phone back when it rang. She talked a while, told Claire where I was, and then handed the phone to me. I heard Leo in the background, though, so I knew Janet had been talking to him. But when I got the phone, it was actually Claire. That made things worse, too. Claire wasn’t really my best friend, you know, but she said she believed me, that I didn’t do it. That made things a little bit better. Of corse, I didn’t dare tell her that.

After the questions I am taken downstairs to a room full of girls. They are all dressed in orange jumpsuits or orange sweatshirts and grey sweatpants. They all have on white tennis shoes. When I walk into the room, one of the girls boos, and a few call out that they liked my jeans. Some just stare at me, as if I am an alien. The rest ignore me. I am with a different woman now, her name is Ms. Shea. She is a really big woman, and she looks a lot like Mo’Nique to me. She takes me past the room of girls and over to another room full of showers. “All right, baby girl. Take of your clothes and fold them inside out, then just hand them to me.” I don’t like the idea of taking a shower in front of somebody, but I don’t say anything. I just do what she tells me to. I don’t feel like talking. When I am naked, she tells me to open my hand, and she puts some gel into my palm. I wash my hair and my body - I don’t even get a washrag, just my palm full of gel. When I am done, I get a towel to cover with, and I am led back to the room of girls, and then past them, into a little closet full of jumpsuits and sweatpants and sweatshirts and tanktops. “Here you are, baby girl.” Ms. Shea hands me a jumpsuit and gives my back my bra and underpants. I put them on quickly, glad to be covered again. “Now, all you need to do is behave in here, okay? The rules are on the wall out front, you need to read those, make sure to follow them.” I nod. “You’ll be sleeping in the cell over here,” she says, taking me inside a cell. It has a bed like the one in the center did. It’s white. All white. Like the looney bin, minus the rubber padded walls. These walls are concrete. Ms. Shea puts some other clothes from the closet under my bed, “Each morning at six you get a wake-up call. Get up, get dressed in the hallway outside your cell, and go out front with the other girls. You’ll be spending your time between the game room, the gym, and that room we passed, where the others were. Lunch is in the cafeteria at twelve, and you can choose to either go outside for an hour afterwards, or go back to the gym room. At night, you get dressed in the hallway right outside your cell - tanktop and panties only. Makeup is not allowed, nor razors or any other sharp objects. Showers are every day at ten in the morning, after the game room. And, when walking in any hallway here, you keep your hands behind your back, and you stay in line. Any questions, baby girl?” I shake my head. “All right, then. For now, you can go out front. Most of the girls like to play cards, braid hair. Some just like to talk. You be good.” Ms. Shea pants me on the back and then leaves, and so I go out to where the girls are at, wondering just how hard it will be this time to actually fit in where I don’t belong.

I sit down on a couch in the front room. Most of the girls, the inmates of this jail, are playing poker, betting with hair ties and rubber bands, combs and brushes. A few are gossiping, but they are talking too low for me to hear much more than the name Joey and the name Clarence, and something about both of them being upstairs. The rest are all braiding eachother’s hair, in every style from the classic french braids to the very cool cornrows. I look around me, wondering what these girls’ stories are, how they got here. Then, one girl comes up to me with a deck of cards. “Hey,” she says, “Guess you’re new here. I’m Carla Swinton.” I look at her, “Mischa Scott.” “What are you in for?” I shrug, “I could ask you that.” Carla nods, “You could. But you didn’t.” I look down, “I didn’t,” “Save it, kid. Nobody in here did it. We all innocent.” I laugh. “What?” I shake my head, “Nothing. What are you in for?” “Exactly. What am I in for, not what did I do.” “Makes sense, I guess,” I say, deciding I might as well answer her original question, “They think I tried to kill my twin sister.” “Tried to?” “She’s in a coma. But I didn’t hurt her. I love her. She’s my best friend.” “That’s tough shit. I’m just in for shoplifting shoes once. I got three more weeks, and I’m out. You though . . . you know you ain’t staying here, right?” “What do you mean?” “Oh, you haven’t met your P.O. yet. Or your attorney. One of them will explain it. Look, for sentences involving a murder,” “Attempted.” “Whatever. Either way, you’ll get sent to the adult jail.” “I didn’t do it.” Carla shrugs, “Neither did the rest of us. But we’re still here. Aren’t we?”
When Carla Swinton leaves me and goes to play cards with a group of girls who look more like babysitters than delinquents, two more girls come up to me. They look like garage rockers, I think. “Don’t pay attention to Car,” the tallest one says. Her red hair is in a ponytail, but it hangs low. It is a very dark red, most likely died a lot of times all in the same day, but I like it. The other girl is very, very small. She is about six inches over four feet, if that. Her head is half shaved, half grown out to her earlobe. She looks like she belongs in the eighties. “I don’t plan to.” I answer. Red Head smirks, “Car’s a bitch anyway. I’m Roz MacKinnon. This is my friend, Winston Hues.” I shake her hand, “I’m Mischa Scott.” Roz nods, “Welcome.” I laugh, “It already feels like home.” And, in a pathetic way, it does.

I spend game room period, which lasts four whole hours, with Roz and Winston. Roz is in juvie for stealing a cherry red Mustang Convertible right off the streets. “I wouldn’t have gotten caught,” she tells me during a game of checkers between me and Winston, “Except my sister called my cell to help the po po track me down. Ass. I haven’t talked to her since.” Winston, on the other hand, is actually not even supposed to be locked up. Her parent’s died, and juvie was the only place left, since there were no available foster families or group homes that would take her in. Winston could end up leaving this place at any second, for a lowlife foster family of scums or a rich foster family loaded enough to send her a private school in the city. She doesn’t know which will come first, or when either will be happening, if one does at all. All Winston knows is that she is here, in a baby jail, and people assume bad ass things because of that. “Why are you here?” Winston asks me after finishing her own juvie story. “I’ve done a lot of bad things, you know? Things I could’ve gotten caught and put in here for . . . But they aren’t why I’m here.” “Well, that wasn’t unclear at all.” Roz says sarcastically. I laugh, “The bastards think I pushed my sister out of the goddamn bus and off the goddamn collapsing bridge. Or maybe they think I collapsed the damned bridge - I don’t even know anymore.” “You didn’t? Push your sister, I mean.” “No. God, no. I love my Karmen. More than anything.” “Is she okay?” “Coma. Almost a year now.” “I’m so sorry.” Winston says. I pick up some poker cards and take a rubber band off of the floor, “Up for a game?”
The rest of the day goes by slowly. I meet with my lawyer after I get out of the game room. He is a short, robust, Mexican man, with long sideburns and dark black hair. He has a mustache fit for an old cowboy from the Westerns Jack used to watch. I do not see any trace of a beard on his chin, but with a mustache like his, I would bet he just shaved it off. “Hello. You much be Miss Scott.” That is how he greeted me. I shook my head, “Miss Scott is what they call Claire now. They just call me Mischa.” “They?” He had asked. “Yep.” I had nodded. He looked at me closely, summing me up. “Well, I assume you’re wondering who I am.” “No, you’re my attorney.” “My name is Julio Garcia. You can just call me Jay.” I shrugged, “Julio. Julio Garcia. Cool name. Better than Juan or something. Julio. I like it. Can I just call you Julio?” He laughs, “Sure. How are you doing in here? Has anything been explained to you?” “No. Or, yeah, but . . . not really. I don’t know.” He laughs, much unlike the lawyers in the old movies. “You know why you were arrested, correct?” “Yep.” “And that you weren’t formally charged?” “What does that mean?” Julio thinks for a minute, “Basically, it means you are free to go home if the judge permits, and then you will most likely be charged with the same crime a few months from now, when the evidence is greater, or when your sister wakes up.” “When?” “Hmm?” “You said when. Most people say if.” “Oh. I just . . .” “No. Thanks. When is what I say, too.” He nods, “Good, then. I have to ask you something.” “What?” “What’s a girl like you doing being accused of attempted murder? Your grades aren’t great, but they are decent, and I can understand that, given what a hard year you have had. Before the accident, your grades were quite good, even. And you are polite, unlike many of my other clients. You seem different.” “I didn’t do it.” “I’m on your side.” “Yeah? Your going to let me go with Claire?” Julio nods, “That’s our case for now. I’ll recommend Claire, first, another family member second.” “Then what?” “I suppose I’ll ask you. Group home or juvie?” I shook my head, “I don’t care.” “Well, then,” Julio replies, “I suppose you ought to start.”






Claire

Leo is with me again the next day. We are waiting in a downstairs room that looks like a hotel lobby, the visitation room of the juvie facility, anxious to see Mischa. Leo has not said a word yet, and I am wondering why. But I don’t ask him. He is Mischa’s friend, not mine. Why should I give a shit? Just as I am thinking all of this, he looks at me, “You know she’ll be in a jumpsuit, right?” I nod, “My dad’s in prison, remember?” “Yeah, but you never saw him there.” “How would you know that?” I ask, half offended at his tone and half surprised at his knowledge. “Mischa told me. We’re friends, me and her are, remember?” I shake my head, “I definitely see your charm.” “Everybody does.” I adjust my baseball cap that is covering up my out of control hair today and close my eyes. I am tired. More tired than I have ever been. I look to my left, and I suddenly feel as if I have been slapped in the face, and hard. Mischa is walking over to our table, in an orange jumpsuit. Her face is unreadable, her eyes smoky. “Baby, hi.” She says to Leo, giving me the impression that they are much more than friends. Leo stands, “Hey, Amor.” The rest of what he says is in whispering I cannot hear. I hug Mischa next, but we don’t talk. A guard does tell Leo and me to let her go, though, and that she has to sit down across from us. No touching. No kissing. No public displays of affection at all. She has to keep her hands on the table top at all times. For some reason, I am not surprised by any of this. It is as if this is normal. “Hi.” Mischa says to me. I nod in return. Leo breaks the silence that follows, “How are you?” Mischa smiles at him. It is as if nobody but him is worthy of her smile. Her eyes light up like firecrackers whenever she looks at him. Leo’s eyes don’t do anything. They look rather sad, today, more so than yesterday. “I’m all right. I miss you, though. Things are pretty boring in here.” “But they aren’t bad? Nobody has done anything bad to you?” I am amazed at the amount of protection in his voice. He might as well be her defender, her guardian. Her older brother. Mischa shakes her head, “No. I even met some friends. Two girls. Winston and Roz.” “What did they do?” I interrupt. Mischa glares at me, eyes full of hate, “Nothing near as bad as what I’m being accused of.” “Misch, come on.” “One stole something. One is in here because she’s in foster care and running low on foster parents. Happy?” “No. I’m not happy. You’re better than this.” Mischa tilts her head, “Why did you show up, anyhow? You never visit dad.” “No, I don’t. This is different.” “Why?” Leo asks me this, not Mischa. “It just is.” I whisper. My dad wasn’t innocent. “So, how about the food?” Leo asks. Mischa shakes her head, “I didn’t have it yet. I was with my attorney.” “Who is it?” “Leo, he looks just like Tito Chills. Mack’s friends from Baltimore?” Leo nods, and Mischa goes on, “Anyhow, he looks just like him. His name is Julio something. Garcia, maybe.” “Is he a good guy?” “I think so. He wants to get me put back with Claire. Or somebody different, like still family, though. Otherwise I’ll go to a group home I guess until some foster family wants me. He said I could pick that or juvie. The judge decides most stuff though. Julio just argues with her.” Leo laughs. Mischa’s eyes are practically exploding with passion only a teenager experiencing first love can acquire. “Will you visit Karma for me?” Mischa asks. “You bet.” Leo says, grabbing Mischa’s hand. Mischa looks at me, asking me the same question. I stand up suddenly, struggling to form words. “See you later.” I say, instead of answering the question. I leave without an explanation.






Tommy

I finally decided how I’m going to end it. Not a knife - too much pain, too many opportunities to be saves. Not pills - I don’t want somebody to find me and drag me off to get my stomach pumped. Pills would last to long anyway, and I would never get enough, it would take too long, and I want to end it very soon. I don’t want to jump off a cliff or a railing or anything too drastic, I don’t want to have any witnesses. Just me. It’s always been just me. So I am using a gun. I already stole one. I already have the bullet. I’m ready. Except I don’t have a time or place yet. I have to find someplace secret, but also someplace where someone would think to look for me at. I do want to be found, just not alive, and not by the wrong people. That’s where time comes in. I need to be able to get away, at least half an hour. I want to have time to write a note. I want them all to know why I ended things. And they will know. I will be gone. Soon. Very, very soon.
I’m so excited . . . It will finally be over







Claire

“What the fuck was that shit, huh?” Leo asks me as he gets into his Camaro. He is in the driver’s side again. “What are you talking about? And watch you damned mouth.” I tell him, playing stupid. He shakes his head, “Look, chick, I don’t know what your problem is, but I swear to God . . .” “You shouldn’t swear.” “Shut the hell up Damn. All she wants you to do is go see your sister. Your sister who you don’t even know will be alive tomorrow morning. Is that really too much to ask?” “You aren’t in any place to,” “To what? Tell you that it doesn’t really matter that you’re scared? Because it doesn’t. You’re Mischa’s family. You need to face your fears and get it through your thick head that you are going to lose her if you don’t stop being so damned afraid of yourself.” “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” I say, my tears betraying me. “Yeah I do. You’re afraid that you’ll break down, and that you’ll let yourself care for once. You are afraid to get hurt. And that’s too damned bad. Mischa needs you right now. She needs all of us. I thought you were stronger than this. Mischa always said how brave and shit you were . . . bull. You don’t love her that much, apparently.” I lose it. I slap him in the face, harder than hell. “Don’t tell me I don’t love her I’d do anything for her If the only way to get her out of this damned hell hole of a jail is to say I killed Karma myself, then you can bet your ass I would say it. Hell, I would do or say anything for Mischa. And don’t you tell me I don’t love her when you’re the one breaking her heart every second you’re around her.” He moves back, no longer facing me, “You don’t know anything about me or Mischa.” “I know she loves you, you little punk ass. And I know you’ll never have the balls to love that girl back.” He shakes his head, “That’s not true.” “I don’t give a shit.” I tell him. I open the door to his Camaro. I step out. I walk home.


The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Terry J.

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Danielle W. - 9/26/2008 10:53 PM ET
That's a lot of words. I have a goal of 20000 for a story I'm working on by the end of the school year. You can check out what I've already written by typing in at the titles section 'The Secret in the Woods'. It's the first thing that comes up.
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