Vincent Martinelli stared at the large pink cut running jaggedly down into the girl’s blond eyebrow. Maybe, he thought, she could tell what he was going to say, that's why her eyes never met his face. But he continued to stare, amazed that he couldn't even recognize her anymore. She used to be a fun, bubbly, teenage girl who he could talk to all day, more natural than peanut butter and jelly. Now, he didn't know who or what he was looking at.
“Don't look at me that way, Vincent.” Angela Landers, keeping her pale green eyes on the floor, folded her arms across her chest defensively.
“What way?” He asked, anger lining his words.
“Don't look at me with those damn judgmental eyes!” Never in all the years he had known her could he imagine her lovely lilting voice freezing into venom. But her words only strengthened his stare. You used to be beautiful, always laughing and smiling. He wanted her to feel his dark eyes drilling into her face, he wanted her to see the pain in them. She crossed the room in her torn bleached out jeans and dingy white Hollister sweatshirt and dropped on the sunken sofa which emitted a painful scratchy squeak under her weight. He hadn't seen her in anything else in almost a week.
“What are you doing here?” She asked picking up the remote. Vincent knew from her tone of disgust, she wasn’t looking for an answer, probably because she already knew it. He stood in the doorway of the tiny living room watching her flick through the channels, reading the guilty expression she was trying to mask.
“So, are you going to start to lecture or not?” Her eyes narrowed with contempt, but kept to the screen.
“Angela……” he was shocked how quickly his voice had failed at just saying her name. He had said the same sentence in his head, a hundred times a day, and every time he dared to speak it, his voice fled. He swallowed to rewet his throat. “Don't go back.” She scoffed with theatric exaggeration and tossed back her unwashed bleached blonde hair.
“Are you serious? Are you serious?” Accusing eyes narrowed further into snake-like slits. “You must think this is a game, Vincent.”
“It is a game to them! They're laughing at you!” He wanted to speak calmly but he couldn’t control his voice. It was cracking as if he was thirteen years old again. “You’re just their toy!” He took a deep breath hoping it would ease the tightening of his throat. “You have to stop.” He managed to say firmly while catching her eye. For a millisecond, Vincent thought he felt a connection. There was a tiny glint of understanding, a peek of regret so deep it seemed she might shatter into pieces, then, quickly, she looked away. “You have to-” She cut him off before he could repeat it.
“It's not like I don't want to get out-”
“THEN GET OUT!” The yell came out uncontrollably. Vincent never yelled at anyone, let alone his best friend. It felt strange and the urge to apologize rose in throat, but he held it down. He had tried so hard to be calm about it, but a piece of him died every time he saw her with a new bruise or cut, or sitting amongst her new friends at lunch. She rose from the sofa eyes tearing up.
“I can't, Vincent. You know I can't. No one can.”
“Just because no one's done it, doesn't make it imp-”
“Ugggh,” her exaggerated groan cut him off as she started to pace, “you wouldn't understand!”
“Then tell me!” He tried to catch her eye again, to reconnect with her, let her know he was still there.
“It's a whole 'nother world, Vincent. You can't just explain it.”
“It's just down the street!” She rolled her eyes again, something she did often nowadays. She could brush off Armageddon with ease. It felt as if everything was warped and no matter what he said the words wouldn't sink in. Instead, they'd bounce off her and fill the room and his head, causing sleepless nights. “Fine,” he pulled back after getting no response, “I'll go myself.”
“No,” she stopped pacing and turned to him, her eyes serious.
“Why not? You go.” He answered, hoping that she could see his point. She stood in front of him for a moment staring at the dingy cream carpet floor littered with cigarette butts and hardened gum. Finally, with a defeated sigh she spoke.
“I know you don't like them. I understand that, but they treat me-”
“Like a dog?” He interrupted before he could think about it.
“Like family!” She snapped angrily. She pushed him away and headed down the dark hall towards her room. Her pounding footsteps matched his angry heartbeats. Even the usual suffocating tightness of the hall did not slow his feet as he continued after her. As soon as she was inside she swung the door.
“And what have I treated you like?” Vincent caught it and with a forceful push sent it slamming into her back wall. Usually, he would've left her to her privacy but he had no patience left and anger rising quicker by the second. She was crying now, tears rolling down her pale flat cheeks.
“Oh, it’s okay for you! Everything's been great for you!” Vincent was taken aback by the sudden subject change.
“What are you talking about?” She laughed again, rolling her eyes to the ceiling.
“As if you didn't know.”
“Angela! What are you talking about?” He couldn't keep up with her thoughts; they were always jumping subjects, quicker than she could change channels. She spun around like a ferocious beast.
“You're Vincent Martinelli! Don't tell me you don't know!” She pushed him roughly. “You're the stupid captain of the swim team! You make perfect grades, you have the perfect looks, everybody loves you!” She pushed him as hard as she could, knocking him off balance but not off his feet. He could only stare, stunned.
Of course he had heard it all before. She had joked how jealous she was of him every once and a while but he never took it to heart. It wasn't much difference from sitting with the swim team and sitting with the band members, they were all just students to him. But that was back then, before the school had changed.
“You watch too much T.V.” said Vincent shaking his head. She always made it seem as though he was someone else, some character in a movie or one of those tween T.V. shows that dates the popular girls and average girls were supposed to only dream about. He was aware that people found him handsome, but it was sometimes hard to see it. He had an average face; short dark hair, small dark eyes, and a goofy, slightly gummy, grin. Nothing to go crazy over. Nothing to be jealous of. Angela continued her rant.
“And I, I was just Vincent's ugly little friend.” His thick brow fell. He had never considered her ugly, since the first day they met in 5th grade. Her weird wheezing laughter had caught his attention from all the way across the room, then her smile and the wrinkles that formed around her nose when she was really amused. He took a step back, staring at her.
“You were never ugly to me.” He felt the heat growing in his cheeks as he admitted in a low voice.
“It doesn't matter.” She retorted. Vincent's shoulder's fell. She didn't catch it, the brief moment was gone, now was not the time to tell her anything, it would be useless. “With them, with Rage, I'm beautiful. I feel, I feel like, like I'm on top of the world.” And as quickly as they had come, her tears were gone. Had she realized that they lost their power over him months ago? “With Rage, I don’t need my picture on magazines, newspapers. I don’t need all those fancy trophies and medals in my room,” her words dripped with spite as she quickly passed over the single blue ribbon pinned to a piece of artwork from elementary. The one he had given her from his own stash.
“And for how long? A few hours then what? You can't sleep-”
“I don't need to sleep.” She sat on her bed turning her face from him. Vincent stared dumbfounded. This was coming from a girl who preferred cat naps to going out to the movies.
“And what about your parents? What about your sister?” If he could remind her of what was important then she could see the harm she was doing.
“They don't know-”
“They do know!” said Vincent more angrily than he intended. “You think they don't see that their daughter is gone all the time, acting differently, hanging out with different students, coming home in the middle of the night?” Angela didn't answer. She kept her eyes focused on her bedpost, following the groves of the wood. She was shutting him out mentally, he had seen her do it before.
“What about me? Do you care about me?” She blinked. “Huh?” She bit her colorless lip.
“Yeah,” said Angela as if ashamed.
“Then don't go back.” She sighed as if their conversation pained her.
“Vincent, it's not that easy.”
“Do you still want to get out? Yes or no?” She shrugged her shoulders irritably.
“Yes or no?” He raised his voice.
“I don't know! Sometimes.”
“Most of the times?” She rolled her eyes. Say yes, say yes. Vincent pleaded in his mind. Because if she did, he'd do everything that he could to help get her out.
“I don't know, I don't want to talk about this,” she said standing to her feet.
“Where are you going?” He asked feeling his body tense.
“Out.” Vincent felt a wave of fear rise in his heart. She was going back to them. After every fight, that's where she went and that was where she would be for days.
“No, you're not.” He stood in front of her. He had never stopped her before, he didn't know why he was doing it now.
“Move, Vincent.” She said exhaustedly, moving to the side.
“You're not going.” He blocked her again. He was more confident in his voice now. He was finally putting his foot down. If that would be the end of their friendship then so be it, but he was going to do what he could to help her.
“I can go wherever I please! Move!” She shoved him, but he didn’t budge. He wouldn't let her go, not today. He could feel and see the anger building in her eyes like a volcano ready to erupt.
“I said ‘move’.” Her voice deepened into a growl as she stared him down. Her pupils dilated leaving barely enough room to tell that her eyes were pale green, and the smudge of coal black eyeliner beneath her eyes made them look only paler. Her wide face was halfway hidden behind strings of damp bleached hair and her pale cracked lips pulled back in a wolfish snarl. In all the years he had known her, she had never looked at him like that before, like she wanted to dig her nails into his flesh and tear him apart.
“Move, Vincent! What the-!” In an instant she was over his shoulder. “Put me down Vincent! Let me go!” Her small fists attacked his back with punches and scratches. He had to move fast, she was unnaturally strong. He headed down the dark tobacco scented hallways of her house, through the kitchen to the white wooden door that led down to the basement. “Let me go! Vincent!” Her nails clawed his back like a savage cat as he swung the door open and made down into the scarcely lit room. The stench of cigarettes, alcohol, and molding pizza was almost unbearable. Crushed beer cans and multicolored junk food wrappers scattered across the damp carpet floor. He tossed her on the dusty coffee colored sofa and leaped up the steps before her little body finished bouncing. He slammed the door shut and locked it, back stinging as he pressed his body against it, exhausted. Angela's small voice screamed from below.“VINCENT!” She would be okay, the room was set with a television and refrigerator, plus her parents would be home in a few hours. “VINCENT!” He remained on the door, thinking things over. A headache was brewing in the corner of his brain, not for what he had just done, but what he was going to do. She called again. This time was much softer, like a whimpering dog sorry for attacking his owner’s ankles. “Vincent…” He straightened his back, ignoring the stinging itch and went for the door without looking back. The smear of red blood in the center of the white door went completely unnoticed.