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40. Helps Me to Live

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            Things were stable. Or as stable as could be expected. My life was divided yet united at the same time. I worked at the bar with Lucid. I would drop by Pandora’s and help with the babies. If they were overly exhausted, I’d spend the night on the couch. And when they were really desperate for time off, I’d make Lucid come over with me. They warmed up to him. He was their street boss, and him and me were kind of…well…close. He got a strict talking-to from Layne and Serkis about business and another one about me.

I got very stupid one day and tried to kill myself. I didn’t try hard, being I’m still here. But I sat and raked a blade over the vein enough to draw a tiny bit of blood. Enough to make a scar. I didn’t understand it until later, why I did it, why it mattered. I wanted to know my limits. It’s explained simply: you do it twice. Once when nobody would expect it, when you have plans the next day, where they’d know immediately. And once when nobody’s around to stop you and you’re convinced that nobody cares. The principle is seeing how close you come either way. You’ll get closer alone. Because the other way you’d be breaking plans with people. They’d hate you instead of mourn you. And what’s the point if they won’t miss you, right? We all secretly want to be missed.

I did it so I’d always know how close or far I’d been. I’d have the line on my wrist to remind me. I spent hours running my fingers over it. To know, to remember.

This is who I am. This is how much I’ve hurt.

Am I asking to be saved? No. Nobody can save me – but me. No, this isn’t about being saved. It’s about being lost.

Why did I try to kill myself? Depression, school, work, some guy, the voice in my head told me to? Note: that “voice” is your conscience. Deal with it. So why did I try?

I was curious. And I danced with Death and kept the line we danced on. I wanted to know my limits in life. Why?

Does a lawyer defend someone without background information?

This was my background to living. After enough time passed and I couldn’t remember why I really did it, when only the line remained, I could move on. It’s funny – things that seem important enough to die over…fade to black just like everything else.

Trying to explain this to people who can’t see it as I do could get me committed. I did my best to put it into words, and even then I might be crazy.

When you do something stupid like that and live, it ticks people off. They’ve been trying like all hell to help; an attempt is a slap in the face to them. It’s easier to sit and take the lecture – after all, I brought this upon myself.

That was off-topic, but it is a relevant event of my life. It provided a foundation for later growth. Because of it, I knew when to fight and when to run. That doesn’t mean that I always did, but I knew when I should. Useful pieces of information don’t do much for you when not put to use.

Here is to proof of my madness – skin deep.

Understand – there’s a big difference between wanting to die and knowing one’s limits. This I explained to the family. Repeatedly. They believed me but felt better hearing it. And I’d do whatever it took to set them at ease.

We all go a little crazy – that was my defense for my sudden eccentricity. I went out, got piercings and tattoos, and got older. It was part of the cycle.

I became Lucidius’ other. He ran the gang and I was at his side. I can’t understand how it happened, if it was love or not; we just were. I think we were mostly beneficial to each other; I ran the bar under Pandora and when he wasn’t working, he was at the tattoo shop. He really loved that place. I liked it as well, it was a surviving piece of history – pictures of the past owners were still all over the place. Legends committed to film. Forever. Further proof of the stories being real.

Through the family, we had a hand in everything that mattered. The circus, the bar, the tattoo parlor, and the gang that ran the streets…we all achieved multiple tasks at once. And since the madness had settled down, we went back to art. Pandora did half of everything when she was home, most of her work being hectic or disorganized. She was the bar’s secondary owner now, but she only worked a few times a week. She was an artist of several mediums, painting primarily because the kids liked to contribute. And above all, she was a mother.

Layne and Serkis wrote music. She’d kept up with her random sculptures, but she’d decided to settle into drawing, for want of space. Layne was all music.

And I took up photography – the idea stemming from Pandora. I took pictures of everything, so we’d all have part of each other. Lucid drew like a dream – he taught Serkis a lot. I think he adopted himself into our family. And nobody stopped him. As insane and ruthless as he was, as long as he was a kitten around us, everything was fine. As long as street life stayed on the streets.

So what else can I say? What am I supposed to leave you with? The story’s come to a close, this chapter at least. There’s always something new starting somewhere. For every end there’s a fresh beginning. The family got the one thing we all thought we could never have – stability. We had love and devotion. Trust and loyalty. We had everything that was deemed impossible. Unattainable. And it was ours. And we had each other. We had songs and drawings, paintings and photographs…to show for it. There was no escaping the truth. It was there.

And we lost some dear friends along the way. They will be missed, living on in our memories, as well as in the children’s. To old friends lost –

To Uncle Edward. To Max. To Art. To Cassidy. To Requiem. To Vagrant. To Grey.

And to Mr. Draven Riddle.

All the lost, young and old – they’ve contributed equally.

And to those still standing –

Layne. Serkis. Lucidius. Sylum. Maven. Revere.

And Saint, Klyde, and Angyl…wherever you are.

And of course, me. I’m still here. In one piece and everything. Who knew?

All the other stories have endings that are long and drawn out. And they’re absolutely gorgeous. Whether they’re just a rant or a stream of consciousness or an explanation…they are all flawless. I wish I could do something of that caliber, but I’m just a kid.

Kid…I wish I was. I’m 19 years old. I lost my childhood, my innocence, long ago.

My real, true, given name is Hadley Morrow. My uncle started calling me Harley when I was young because it was cute. I’ve been Harley ever since.

This is my life. This is my family. We are born and bred on the streets. We created a circus. We gave birth to a revolution. And we hold all the keys in case it gets out of hand.

Whoever said that the youth were hopeless, reckless, or irresponsible?

I had been gathering my thoughts, writing randomly, sitting at home alone. I looked around, bunched up my papers and walked out the door, grabbing my coat as I went. I made my way to the tattoo shop – it was dark and raining. I bundled my paperwork in the coat until I got there. The place was mostly empty. The owners were gone for the night – there were a few artists. They’d taken Lucid on every so often. I made my way to the back of the place. There was a guy kind of stretched out in the back, smoking as he slept, I tapped him softly.

“Busy?”

He raised an eye to me, took a few pulls of his smoke, and settled back down. “I only do real work. Go bother one of the others.” He waved me away. I stood there and waited.

“No. I want you. And this is real work.”

He got up, yawned and stretched out. He looked me up and down. “Climb into the chair and you can tell me all about it.”

I don’t know if it was the sound of my voice, or the look in my eyes, but he was going to do this for me. I sat in the chair and explained what I wanted done. He kind of laughed and smiled, but consented to do it for me. I was having matching tattoos put on my wrists.

One said – “Someone ought to break you.” And the other said – “Someone ought to try.”

When it was done he looked me over again, still kind of smiling. I was satisfied. Lucid had come in without being noticed. He stood over my shoulder, reading the words. He was satisfied as he bent down to kiss me. The tattoo artist was smiling as he lit another smoke. I gave him a look.

“What’s the big deal?”

He exhaled smoke and shrugged simply. “You remind me of a girl I once knew.” 

39. Resident Psycho

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Lucidius wouldn’t call it quits, no matter how hard I pushed him away. I tried like hell but nothing seemed to be good enough. He had given up harassing other people, reserving his time and patience special for me. I explained this to Serkis and Layne. They told me I was being childish. I explained this to them multiple times. They told me they’d talk to him. And they did. And he only persisted more. I swear – that guy was impossible. Then again, most guys are.

I turned 19 as the time slipped by. I didn’t really celebrate. I didn’t tell people or make a big deal. Serkis knew. And she knew that I knew. I snuck out of my apartment and got to work before anyone could come over. I locked the door meticulously behind me. And I went to work. I went to the bar, my second home. The family had told the regulars, who insisted on buying me drinks all night. Lucidius just smiled and grinned all night. As much as I hated to be the center of everything, the attention was pleasing. It put my mind at ease and my heart to rest, knowing that people gave a damn about me. Even if it was just something simple. It mattered the world to me.

I was left to lock up late again tonight. Lucidius stayed with me. I couldn’t get that boy to do anything I wanted him to.

“Why don’t you go on home, I’ll finish up here.” He was across the room wiping down tables. I laughed out loud, stifling myself when I realized he was serious.

“I’m sorry,” I muttered. “You want me to give you the keys, leave you here alone, give you control and power over my job? This is my life, I’m not quite sure if you understand that.”

He shrugged and cleaned faster. We got out of there in slightly less time then if I’d had to do everything alone. He waited with me again.

“Lucid, come on, please go on home?”

“Aw, come on, it’s your birthday.”

“Who told you?”

He smiled. “Come on. You should go home.”

I gave him a look and he returned it, raising a brow at me. I gave up and let him walk me upstairs to the apartment. He wouldn’t quit and I was too tired to try and make him. I might have been slightly intoxicated to boot.

We got to my door and he swung it open for me. I remembered specifically locking it, but I could have been mistaken. He helped me stumble in.

“Surprise!” I heard Serkis’ voice as I looked around. Layne, Serkis and Pandora were standing around, still working on setting things up I think. It was kind of funny. They all froze where they were standing and just yelled when we came in. Lucidius couldn’t stop laughing. Sylum was standing around something, probably working on getting drunk early. They had the babies…somewhere. I couldn’t help it – I started laughing too. It was really funny to walk in to them on chairs and things trying to hang up decorations and be cute and fluffy. And they’re working to industrial rock music. And the kids are sleeping to this. Only us.

We all sat around for hours and just laughed. We talked about everything under the sun and then some. Pandora ran back and forth to check in on the children. At one point I think Serkis and Layne held her down so she’d stay still. Sylum consented to the job when Pandora was stuck. I didn’t mind it either, but the longer we all stayed together, the more things got blurry. They insisted that Lucidius stay. At that point, I really didn’t mind. We sat around, played music, sang, laughed, you name it. We had a good time, and that was the point. We enjoyed each other’s company. That was the purpose of family. After the longer hours had passed, Serkis and Layne decided they should get the kids home. Pandora agreed. We all hugged and kissed at the door as they left. Sylum excused himself on his way out, explaining that he had work tomorrow and he needed an early start if he was going to attempt to sleep off the hangover he’d have. I laughed as they all left. I turned around and collapsed on the couch. Lucidius was still lurking around. I waved a hand for him to sit down.

“It was nice. Thanks,” I said. He smiled and patted me on the head.

“When you’re sober, I’ll give you my present.”

I raised a brow and looked him over. “I am sober.”

He laughed. “Oh really? Let’s go then.” And he pulled me off the couch, grabbing my coat as he pushed me out the door. I looked around.

“What are you up to?”

“Shush, it’s a surprise.”

And I was pushed, dragged, and pulled to the tattoo parlor in the middle of the night, though it might have been the morning. He unlocked the place and pulled me in, locking the door again behind him. After some more shoving and shushing, I was put in a chair in front of him. He was thoroughly excited. I might have been a little drunker then I liked to admit.

“So, where do you want it?”

“Excuse me?”

He smiled wickedly. I reached out and hit him. It might have been a tap but he got kind of offended. He laughed it off anyway. “I meant a tattoo. What kind of things did you have in mind there, kid?”

“I am not a kid.”

“Sure you are.”

“Nope.”

“Right…you are so a kid. You’re a little girl.”

“Am not!”

“A tad pre-school are we?”

I reached out to hit him again. He laughed and smiled. I looked around the place. It was just Lucid and I. And this lunatic wanted to give me a tattoo. Oh man. I remember nodding absentmindedly, and I must have given him consent because he got started on…something. I couldn’t really remember too much. Whether because I passed out or fell asleep or something…I wasn’t sure. But I couldn’t remember. One way or another, I woke up at home, in my own bed, with Lucidius sitting close by.

“Whoa…”

“Yeah…fun birthday. You’ll have to do that more often.”

“What happened?” I started to get up and felt like everything hurt. I felt wrecked and my head was killing me. I tried to lie back down and found my back was killing me. I sat up halfway, resting on my elbows.

“Well, you got horrendously drunk and…” he smiled this evil little grin. I closed my eyes in an attempt to make him go away. As hard as I tried, blinking as much as I could, he was still there when I reopened my eyes. I growled at him.

“The truth.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, that…well…you did get a bit drunk. And we had a whole big party deal here with the rest of the family. And then you and me went over to the Dragon.”

“Why did we go there?”

“For your present. From me.”

“You gave me…a tattoo?”

He nodded, still smiling. I tried to jump out the bed but came up short and kind of stumbled. He was there to catch me and help me to my feet. I tried to beat him up but it was too difficult to swing the hits.

“Hey, hey, you’ll like it, trust me, come on, I’ll show you.”

“Where is it?”

He grabbed my swinging arms to calm me down. And he brought me close to him, against him. As his arms wrapped around, he brought them to my shoulder blades, creeping to in between, centered, below my neck. He poked and prodded carefully. I squirmed into him.

“Right…there.”

“Ow.”

He loosened up a little bit, still holding my arms as he pushed me away a little. “Aw, I’m sorry. But it came out really well.”

“What’s it of?”

“Ah, that’s the cool part.” He let me go and darted off. I tried to stand but found it to be kind of tricky. I sat on the edge of the bed to make things slow down. He came running back with a book of his own. He went flipping through the pages until he got to the one he wanted. He showed me the design.

“What…is….huh?”

“It’s the gang’s logo and the business’ logo and…it’s…well I made you a family kind of symbol. Like an icon or something. It’s everything in one, all together. It’s a business and a show and a family, you know? And it’s yours. You get the first one. If the rest of them like it, I’ll do it for them too.”

I held the book in my hand loosely, looking over it carefully. There was a lot in the one symbol to take into consideration, I couldn’t even properly describe it if I tried. I knew I liked it though. It took me awhile of thinking, staring past the page, weighing my options. It was very good. And drawn flawlessly. I was sure that the actual tattoo was just as well. It was in shades of white, black, grey, and red. I closed the book and handed it back to him.

“Well?”

“It’s…gorgeous.”

“Really?” He was genuinely pleased with himself. There was this flash of excitement in his eyes that made him seem like a child. He had dropped to a knee so that he was below me. He started to get up, book in hand, when I grabbed hold of him. He stood straight up, holding me up with him. And I kissed him. He was a bit taken aback, but not enough to let go.

“Thanks,” I whispered in his ear. He just stayed close with me, helping me sit back down on the bed. I held onto him so he’d sit with me. “I’m sorry that I’ve been so…”

“Cold?”

“Yeah…”

“It’s from lack of feeling.”

He was right. And I knew it. I looked at him. The smile was gone – it was all bare sincerity. I had a headache – I put my head on his shoulder. And he held me. And when I couldn’t sit up anymore, he lay down and I curled up against him. And he stayed the rest of the day while I slipped in and out of consciousness. Nothing more was said. Nothing more was truly considered. I remember we talked a little before I slipped off to sleep for the night.

“Aren’t you supposed to be crazy?” I whispered. He laughed and kissed my forehead, his hands over my eyes to try and get me back to sleep.

“Aren’t we all?”

And that was that.