Some people don’t believe in love at first sight.
Those people have never met me.
I’m Olivia. I have a faery godfather, who waited for my sixteenth birthday to introduce himself. It was my first teenaged dance; there was alcohol and music. The faery had opinions on my drinking, but he waited till the end of the night to tell me. The party was, after all, a handy way to meet.
He explained that my life would ever be strange, because of my christening gifts. One of the gifts was goodness. The other, beauty. That magic sealed in the baby glow of my skin, the bigness and openness of my eyes. The colors of my flesh and lips and hair, the curves of my body, and my bones, all grew in a way inviting of gazes. Like moth to flame, I draw people in. Love at first sight, head over heels.
Nothing was ever asked of me at home but to be good and beautiful. I suppose being beautiful makes it easy to be good. I never had anyone be mean to me, so being mean to others doesn’t cross my mind. And wherever I go, people stare. You remember to be good when people are intensely focused on you.
I don’t quite understand how I got mixed up with all this supervillain business. I was at a bookstore that sold coffee. I stood in line, before the scrutiny of a plump man wearing a blue suit. I smiled at him, as pleasant people ought to do. He, rather than smiling, responded by wrenching his eyes from my face and fastening them onto my breasts. I stopped smiling, aware and embarrassed that my face had gotten in his way.
“Can I help you?” Said the man behind the counter, beaming. I smiled again, looking for the number of my coffee order on the board.
You are fat tits.
I sucked in my bottom lip and held it in place with my teeth. The thought had come out of nowhere and replaced every word I’d planned. It was a man’s voice – not beautiful, and not good. Still it took up all the space in my head and held on tightly, as if it belonged. I looked helplessly into the cashier’s eyes, feeling as though we were creatures from two different worlds. He looked back just as helpless – maybe knowing, and maybe not, that I was alien.
“Please…can I help you?”
Big fat moving jiggly wiggly…put them in my mouth right now!
“I’ll take…I’ll take the number…” I cleared my throat, alarmed. I did not want to say the words in my head by mistake.
Fuck you shitless piece of ass.
More people than usual were staring. Everyone in line, and everyone behind the counter. Everyone sitting at the tables, and everyone standing by the spoons. The man in blue sat by the window, his face among the rest of the faces that watched me.
“Can I…pleeaasse…help you, Miss?” Said the man behind the counter. “Please? Please??”
“I’ll pay!” Shouted several people in line and several more across the room.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t make up my mind, today.”
Juicy dripping bimbo.
The manager came around the corner, looked at me and whistled. “The lady will have a spiced pumpkin latte, on the house, Paul!” He winked a few minutes later as he handed me the drink. “This here’s extra Irish for you. Don’t tell nobody.”
I gave the man his due warm smile and took a beverage that I knew to be laced with liquor.
Tig ol bitties, ta-ta.
A man grabbed the door and was punched in the head by another man, who grabbed the door, and held it wide open for me.
* * *
I heard the voice again later, at the supermarket. I had a loaf of bread in each hand and was comparing the ingredients. A man at the end of the aisle saw my plight and came rushing over.
“Too heavy,” he said, yanking both loaves out of my hands and throwing them into my cart.
That face should launch a thousand ships.
I froze. It was the same man’s voice from before, except it sounded close to beautiful.
“You’re welcome,” said the man who’d helped me with my bread.
That face could be my purring honeypot.
“I said, you’re wel-come!”
Be a good girl. Come with me.
“’Bye,” I remembered to say, before spinning my cart around and making a dash down the aisle.
“Tshh…” Said the bread guy. “Conceited!”
I left my cart of groceries in the store. The parking lot was empty. It wasn’t dark yet, but maybe soon. I started walking; not toward home. There was a little park by the police station, and I needed that kind of air. I needed to breath it more than I needed to worry about what light was left in the day.
There was a skate park right where the trees began; some teenagers teetered up and down a ramp. They saw me walking, stopped, and shouted. I can’t remember what. I kept going, eyes fixed to a stony old willow. There were other people hundreds of feet ahead on the common, walking dogs and watching their children play.
“Lady!” Hollered one of the skaters behind me. “Where you going so fast?”
I ignored the yell, but soon there were wheels screeching along the pavement and I knew that some of the teens were following. Wheels gave them speed – one boy passed me and spun around, his eyes lit up. More boards were grinding at me from the skate park then, and suddenly I was surrounded. Six boys made animal sounds, pressing forward, boards in arms.
Here’s your rape, doll.
I can’t remember why I screamed – if a hand moved to grab, if I saw it, or felt it. I do remember that one set of eyes coming close, that starving coldness, and the smile, just a crookedness of mouth. All on a face so young. My scream carried far, and there were shouts in answer. I was down, squeezing my neck with my knees to my chest on the ground. The teens were running, except one. The good people at the park had heard my cry and come to save me. Now they surrounded that one boy who couldn’t run fast enough, yelling and pressing in. Then fists went into his ribs and chin and the back of his neck, and he fell.
“Stop,” I said, when I could. No one listened. His almost-child bones were cracking under ten or fifteen livid men. There were a few women in there, too. I couldn’t see the boy anymore, but there were bloodied dreadlocks flying up and landing at my feet.
Love at first sight. Head over heels for you.
The people in front of me seemed not like people, but like a single creature, wild and reptile. It was only alive to crunch and devour. The kid got ripped to pieces, then stomped to nothing in its maw. I cried as I watched. Sometimes hard. My tears were spent and gone before the mob had lost its passion.
It was amazing to watch the thing that everyone had become die down, letting ordinary people walk away. Some still had fury on their faces, but most looked simply ill. Some were guilty, and some were afraid. They didn’t look at each other or at me. They spread out and passed by in silence, leaving behind a gore-strewn stretch of concrete.
* * *
Nothing made sense, so I kept staring.
“Stop,” I said. Just to myself, to see how it sounded. There must have been whole minutes between what happened and this odd, quiet time. Night was nipping at the dusk above me. Little park birds hopped around, getting close to the murdered body, without pecking. I thought there should be sirens. There was the cop station, right there. Someone should come out of it and tell me what to do.
“Come away from there.”
The voice was ugly but familiar. It spoke again, behind me.
“You don’t want to get mixed up in this. Come away, while you have the chance.”
I turned. It was the man in blue suit, from earlier. He was on the road side of a gate marking the end of the park. Not far from me – maybe yards.
“I’m already mixed up in this.” I tried to sound calm but I couldn’t keep the pitch of my words from tilting. “I was here. When I screamed, everyone ran to me. And did that.”
Blue Suit whistled. “That’s quite a power.”
“Power?” I choked. Disbelieving. “You call this…power?”
“Didn’t I tell you that your face could launch a thousand ships?” Blue Suit leaned over the fence, looking me straight in the eyes. “You heard me say it, didn’t you?”
“Your voice…” I gasped. “You were in my head! And you knew…that I would…hear you?”
“Oh, yes. See, that’s my power.” Blue Suit put a hand on the rail, gripping firmly, then hopped. He landed clumsily on my side of the fence, got to his feet, and looked me in the eyes again. “Listen, now. You don’t feel sorry about all this. You shouldn’t. Do you?”
Tears came out of me to answer him.
“Don’t feel sorry. That thug was gonna rape you.”
“You don’t…know that.”
“I do,” said the man in blue, tapping his head. “I know all about what boys his age are thinking.”
I could have walked away then. The thought flapped through my consciousness, lofty and unreal. I could have gone and brought the sirens here, that no one else would bring. It might be hours before the boys’ parents came here looking. And there was a cop station. Right there. I could have brought the sirens. And the doctors, and the parents, and the crying, and the questions only I could answer, but I couldn’t, figuring out and writing down who’s fault.
So he man in blue was wrong. But of course, he was also right. And he had been right along – all wrong, and still not wrong. He was magic like the man who’d met me at sixteen and given me the reason I was always to feel strange. Magical men were always watching, always wrong. And always right.
“Olivia.” Blue Suit stood looking into me. It wasn’t magic to him. “Olivia,” he said. “…it wasn’t your fault.”
“Oh…” I gasped, feeling his words so hard.
He let me stand there feeling it, then stepped, by one foot, closer. “Don’t be afraid. And don’t be ashamed.”
“Stop,” I whispered, eyes closed tightly. Salty tears kept falling.
“So pretty,” he said. “And so good. I can see what all the fuss was about. Come away from there. We’ll go. You don’t want to be around this town when it comes out what happened to that boy.”
“A safe place, just for people like us. Our kind. People with powers.”
“You have a power.” I pointed at myself. “I don’t have anything.”
“Whatever you say, kiddo.” Blue Suit chuckled. “Stop crying, Olivia. Open your eyes.”
I shook my head.
“Come on. Let’s see that smile.”
“You go to hell.”
He came and raised my chin with his fingers. I opened my eyes, and unsheathed tears made messes down each temple.
“Come on, Princess. That smile is our ticket in.”
“Where? Where is this some safe place you want me to believe in?”
We both looked at the splattered body on the pavement, or at the birds that covered it.
“No one could have saved that kid.” Blue Suit looked through me. It was wrong, but he was right.
I didn’t want to be here.
I took clearing breaths, and then did what he wanted. Found a smile in me. I had to rise above a stickiness like tartar in my heart, but I found it. It was bright as any I’d use to say thank-you for the coffee in the morning.
In the next instant, we were standing in what appeared to be a breathtakingly large aquarium. The tank arched overhead and formed the walls on either side, forming a long corridor. The floor looked just like gold. A man wearing a blue bathrobe and a towel on his head clutched a toothbrush in one hand.
“Do you have to be so fucking creepy about the way you say everything, bro?”
Blue Suit smirked. “You were thinking it.”
“You made me think it!”
“But you’re still thinking it.”
The two of them laughed and patted each other on the back.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can I trouble either of you gentlemen to find out where I am?”
“He just told me you had a nice smile, is all,” The man in the bathrobe answered. “I’m Jason. I teleport for a living. You are beautiful. Let’s go get you checked in, you can meet our boss.”
“Oh, no,” said Blue Suit. “You’re not claiming credit on this one. Olivia, come with me, we’ll get you checked in, and you can meet our boss.”
“Split the credit, then. We’ll take her together.”
The two gents helped me down the hall, and through some rooms, to an office marked “Professor W.” I don’t know why, but when a woman opened the door, I felt more lost than before.