This month's photo sparked another idea connected to my serial story, Your Lies.
I've done other peices from Delia's past - events that happen before the story in Your Lies.
This wee story falls between "Lying in Wait" and "The Lies We Tell".
My nose twitched, and I sniffled as my eyes filled with tears. From the musty inside of the old barn. Not because I was upset. I mean, I was upset, but I could handle it. Especially now that I was here—alone, away from it all. I wasn’t going to break down, because what was the freaking point? Crying wasn’t going to bring Dad back. It wasn’t going to change my mom’s mind about anything or make anything better.
I just needed break. From the carefully worded lectures, from the looks she sent my way when she thought I couldn’t see, from her forced cheeriness every morning despite the fact I’d listened to her sobbing the night before and could see the evidence of it in her pale face and red-rimmed eyes.
When I’d gotten home from school today and faced the same questions she threw at me every day—Had anyone asked about Dad? Had anyone seemed suspicious? Had I been careful and kept my magic hidden?—I’d lost it.
My chest tightened, and my breath hitched painfully as I remembered the look on her face when I’d screamed at her to leave me alone. If I’d thought her pale before… Well, all color had drained from her face, her eyes had widened, and the hurt that filled her expression almost made me apologize then and there.
Her hurt had been no match for my anger, my frustration, my pain. All of the things I hadn’t been able to show, what I was supposed to tuck away alongside my magic as we pretended our world hadn’t gone straight to hell when my dad disappeared.
I snorted humorlessly. It’d gone to hell long before that. That was just another thing we refused to acknowledge. Finding out I had magic, that I wasn’t normal… That had been when everything changed. When it had all started falling apart.
I jolted as the sound of my friend’s voice. I sat up straighter, pressing my back against the rough wooden post behind me. Using the sleeves of my sweatshirt, that were pulled over my cold, shaky hands, I wiped away the tears that had spilled over then swiped across my nose. Disgusting? Yeah, but I hadn’t thought of grabbing tissues before yelling horrible things at my mom and running away like a little kid.
I saw Kyle through the cracks in the large barn doors before one of them swung open with a creaking groan.
“Dee,” he said, again, on a sigh, as he pulled the door shut behind him. Crossing to me, he lowered himself onto the filthy floor in front of me. Crossing his legs, he scooted closer until his knees bumped mine. “What’s wrong?”
Concern shone in his bright blue eyes, and even though I knew he had the best intentions, that he cared abut me, I couldn’t hold back the harsh bark of laughter.
And once that escaped, I couldn’t stop the hysterical laugher. It swelled grossly inside of me, shoved its way up my throat and spilled from my lips. I wrapped my arms around my middle and bent forward as I shook uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong?” I gasped. “What’s wrong?”
“Hey…” Kyle touched my shoulder gently.
I jerked upright and slapped Kyle’s hand away. He pressed his lips together and refused to look away from me as I struggled to catch my breath.
“It would be easier to ask what’s right, Kyle,” I snarled. “That’s an easy answer. Nothing.”
When he remained silent, his gaze steady on me, I slumped back and shook my head.
“What are you even doing here, anyway?”
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “Looking for you. Your mom called, said you ran off. She’s…she’s worried.”
“Sure she is.”
“Dee,” he admonished. “Don’t do that. She was practically crying on the phone. My mom was still talking to her, trying to calm her down, when I left.”
“Hmmm. Thought she’d be relieved to not have me around. Even if it’s only temporary,” I muttered, well aware I was in full-on self-pity mode. I just didn’t care.
“I know it’s been…tough, for both of you, but she loves you,” he said softly, reaching out for my hands. Shoving the sleeves out of his way, he wrapped his warm fingers around mine.
I didn’t say anything for a few long moments. I should have gone somewhere else. The old abandoned barn was on Kyle’s family’s property—where we’d always met up, especially to talk about magic, to let it out and play without fear. I should have realized this would be the first place he’d look if my mom asked. And, as mired in self-pity as I was, I didn’t want to add to what Kyle was going through. His dad had been taken the same night. We’d both lost our fathers, and he didn’t need to deal with my issues.
“Delia,” he said firmly. “Why’d you run?”
“It’s…” I gulped, swallowing the lump of tears that lodged in my throat, refusing to give in, again. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”
“Bullshit,” he bit out. “Talk to me.”
I shook my head, and his grip tightened almost painfully.
“Talk to me. Please.”
My eyes stung, and my lips trembled. God, he was stubborn. A damned dog with a bone, this one.
“I’m just tired,” I insisted. “Tired of hiding and pretending. Even though I know it’s necessary. And I’m tired of her...” A cry strangled my voice momentarily and I had to clear my throat a couple times before I could continue. “You should see the way she looks at me. Like she’s afraid. Of me. Of what I can do.”
He pulled suddenly, drawing me forward to tumble into his lap. His arms surrounded me, and he rested his chin on the top of my head. I gave in—just for a moment, I thought—and burrowed closer, resting my cheek against where his heart thumped steadily.
“She’s afraid for you,” he murmured. “Not of you. You’re not something to be feared, Dee. She knows that; she loves you.”
I squeezed my eyes closed. I didn’t doubt she loved me, but you could still fear something you loved. And I wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t misinterpreting the way she looked at me. I wished I was the normal child she wanted. Things would be so different, so much easier. Better. But I wasn’t. Pretending I was, shoving my magic down deep and effectively muzzling it, didn’t make it so. It only made it hurt. The ache consumed me from the inside out, devouring everything I was.
It was as though my magic wasn’t willing to let any part of me survive if I kept denying it.
I stayed curled up in Kyle’s arms for a while, his hands stroking over my hair and my back, his soft murmurs teasing my ears. I breathed deeply, evenly, focusing on calming myself. When I drew back and tilted my head to meet Kyle’s gaze, he smiled down at me.
“Better?” he whispered.
I nodded and forced my lips to curve. I must have been convincing because his eyes crinkled as his own smile widened.
“Ready to go home?” he asked in the same quiet tone.
Not even a little.
“Yup.” I leaned forward and kissed his cheek quickly before scrambling from his lap and to my feet.
We walked though the woods together, shoulders bumping periodically, from his family’s land into the small town we called home. When we approached my house, the front door opened, and my mom stepped out onto the porch. She wrung her hands in front of her as she watched us come up the pathway.
“Delia.” Her voice broke slightly. From worry, I told myself, not from fear.
“I’m sorry,” I said immediately. “I shouldn’t have said those things,” no matter how true, “and I shouldn’t have run off. I’m sorry, Mom.”
Her gaze flicked over to Kyle then back to me. “Are you all right?”
I nodded. “I’m fine. Just needed some time, but I’m good.”
A ghost of a smile touched her lips. “Good. Kyle, you’re welcome to stay for dinner, if you like.”
With that, she spun on her heel and went back inside.
“Do you want me to stay?” Kyle asked, his palm skimming the small of my back.
“You don’t have—”
“Do you want me to?” He nudged my side with his hip.
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” I admitted, not exactly anxious for him to leave.
“All right then. I’ll stay.” He tipped his head, eyes searching mine. “You’re sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. I’m much better. Apparently, I just needed some time alone and a good cry. And a quick cuddle with you.”
He chuckled as we climbed the steps and went into the house. Mom was setting the table, and as soon as we walked in, she started chatting. All very normal and happy. Except for the fact not a single word was directed at me. She didn’t even look at me. Oh, she glanced my way, but her gaze skimmed right past me. It was if I were invisible.
That was all right, though. I could deal with. I could pretend and play along. I could lie. I was getting rather good at that, after all. It was my life, now.