When I helped Angelica up the last rung of the ladder I remembered when I was a kid, playing with my brother. I was always sad and climbing that last step felt like I was readying for the hangman’s noose. Today’s the first time I scaled the tree and didn’t feel frightened. It’s all because of Angelica, I guess. She doesn’t know that and I won’t tell her, but somehow we still both know when we look into each other’s eyes. And that’s what Love is, isn’t it? When we reach the top and look out to the fields, I look into her eyes and it’s all I can see, all I can think about. Her eyes fill my heart up so much; I don’t even notice the first plumes of smoke trailing up into the sky behind her face.
No-one builds tree houses anymore, do they? That’s why it’s the perfect place for the two of us to lay low for a few days. I never imagined running away, much less being an outlaw! Angelica has a way of making me do things that I would never normally imagine doing-see above, about Love!-and then after I’ve done them, I wonder why I didn’t do it before. Does that make sense? I’ve never been the brightest, but then I’ve always been pretty and done things for people, so it’s never been a problem.
Before I met Angelica, I never stopped doing things for people; chores, favours, smiles. It seemed like I helped out everywhere, too; my family, the church, the school. I don’t know when it started, but then I did things for people in the night, too. I knew what I did was bad even when everyone whispered it felt good; the same way I knew it was wrong and they had no right. But when you’re pretty it seems like everyone feels like they own you and want a piece of you. And by the time you’re suffering and hurting and don’t want them to do what they do anymore, it’s already too far along and too many secrets have been built around you.
That’s how it felt like for a long time, you know? Like I was wrapped up in everyone else’s dirty secrets and I was…cocooned in them, or something. One set of guilty eyes looked at another set of hungry eyes, while I was somewhere in the middle. You know what it felt like? I felt like a net, when the shuttlecock sails over the top and out of touching distance: not that I was ever out of anybody’s reach. That was the strange thing about how they all acted; no-one looked in my eyes when they did what they did. Everywhere else, sure, but never in my eyes. I think someone said that the eyes were the window to the soul. Maybe it came from the church or the bible, or something, like that… but I don’t much believe in that sort of thing anymore.
Then Angelica found me.
Hmmm. Maybe that stuff I just mentioned about not believing in religion isn’t strictly true. Maybe, it’s more that I believe in something…like fate; because as soon as I saw her, I knew she was an angel! Not with wings or anything crazy like that, but just in the way she looked at me; always straight in the eye, dead centre. That was how I knew I could trust her. It’s funny the way the world works, though isn’t it? After all the times people hurt me and used me, damaged me and broke me up so bad and then, POP! Angelica lands in my little world and saves me!
Sometimes, I think about how lucky I am to have her in my life but sometimes it makes me sad, too. It makes me think about all the other people who get hurt and who wait for someone to come and save them and…no-one does. They go into the grave still looking, I think, still searching for someone to take them by the hand and lead them away from all that misery. That’s why I think so many people die wide-eyed and crazy looking; because they’re still searching. I don’t know for sure; I never was a big one for science or anything, but that’s what I think.
So, Angelica! I won’t describe her or anything like that, how she talks or how she walks. I mean, everyone likes different things, right; that’s why those guys created so many ice-cream flavours! I won’t go all sentimental or gooey, either. I’ve been through too much to hear the orchestra swell in the background when it comes to the heart, but I know what I know, all the same. All I can say, is that she never once tried to strike up a conversation and it got so bad that that all I wanted was to keep her talking. She never once tried to touch me and that made me crazy for her like nothing I’ve ever known. It was like whatever she did was real, you know? She didn’t have any…motive. That’s what all the rest of them had, with their greedy, hungry fingers and their down at the body-down at the floor-but never in the eyes looks the other folks all had; an agenda. Angelica never wanted anything from me and that made me want her more than the world itself.
And what about me? Well, I guess you’d have to ask her that, but I get the idea that Angelica needs to be with someone she can save. I don’t know if that’s because she needs to feel good, or remind herself there are some things worth saving, I mean, hell, I can’t read her mind, but I can read her eyes well enough and that’s what they tell me. Sometimes when she’s sleeping she’ll talk about things; the crazy part of it is, is that from time to time I’ll speak and she’ll answer me, too! Sometimes it’ll be things from the past and other times it’ll be taken straight from that very day. I never tell her in the morning what happened-as far as I know, she doesn’t even know she does it-but it frightens me a little, to think that we talk most true in her sleep. But I think it’s okay to have a little Fear in with your Love, to make it seem stronger. If you don’t feel anything else, then how do you know what’s best, right?
So how did we end up here, in this old tree house, with all this smoke billowing behind us in the sky? Well, it was Angelica’s idea, sure, but I won’t say I wasn’t part of it, to be sure. I guess one day we were talking and well, I kind of confessed about some of the things that went on between me and the folks back in our town. I think I’d been wanting to tell her for a long time, ever since we first came together really, but I never knew how…I mean, how can you? Is you’re ice-cream nice? Oh, by the way, one time, this dirty old man with a Zippo lighter…You see what I’m saying?
But then, on this one day, we were sitting under our favourite tree and the sun was low and warm and spreading across us like a blanket and I just told her. I told her everything, down to every last skirmish in the dark, every last bit of skin under the nail. I don’t know how long I was talking for, but I remember the sun had turned to shadow by the time I took my head away from her lap. I felt weird, sure; light, like I was still filled up with the sun. I told Angelica that and she told me that I felt lighter because I’d left behind my burden. I smiled and I didn’t know if it was true but it made me feel happy all the same. I told her I felt so light she’d have to hold my hand to stop me floating away, like some guy made of balloons. She held my hand for the rest of that day, that night and all the way into the dawn of the next day. -See Love above!-
I thought things might be a little different between us after that day, but if anything, it made us stronger. I thought Angelica might recoil when I tried to touch her, or flinch when I kissed her lips, but instead it made us need each other more. We went on and then, the same way I told her my secret, one day she spoke of her plan. It was the only time I’d ever seen her look nervous and I couldn’t believe how young it made her look; like a kid! So, she told me this plan of hers and I listened and when it was over, we stood staring at each other like a couple of dumb kids trying to figure out a maths question and then I grabbed her and held her tight and we never looked back.
So, much like Love, I won’t tell you the ins and outs of Revenge, apart from to say our plan worked. The cabin where all those people hurt me is what burns outside now. I’m sitting perched on the edge of the tree house and dangling my legs over into the air-something else I was always scared of doing before I met her. I feel fearless now and that same sensation of lightness is washing over me. I look out to the burning cabin and then I take turns closing one eye and then the other, as if I’m winking to the smoke. With my left eye open, I see the memories and the evidence of what they did to me burning; the clothes they made me wear the photos they took, the rope that seared my skin. With my right eye open, I see their bodies burning, one in each room, drugged before, but now wide awake. I think I read somewhere that one side of our brain is for storing facts and the other side is for our imagination, but I could never remember which was which. But then, like I said, I never was for science.
The fires nearly out now and there’s nothing but smouldering ashes left. In a few minutes, we’ll be on our way and off to another town for our next adventure. The sirens haven’t drifted our way yet, but it’s only a matter of time, now. Angelica’s just finished carving into the wall of the tree house, next to my own, wonky message. Mine says: ‘Everything that is good is in you.’ Angelica’s says: ‘We will draw a veil across out sins.’ Apparently, hers is from the Koran, while mine’s from the heart. We look at them, standing side by side, and our hands link together. The smoke’s cleared now, so we can both see the letters in the summer evening. Satisfied, we turn and face the now empty field and start to descend the ladder, being careful and looking out for one another.