Viola, known as V to her friends, is a young woman who has distanced herself from her friends and family, severing all ties, for reasons unknown. The story follows her close friends as they begin to investigate what has happened to V.
Writer's block slapped me in the face this morning.
Maybe my music was too loud.
Maybe the room was too bright.
Maybe I'd had too much to drink last night.
But I doubt that was causing my headache. I knew this headache well. I was anxious. My way of coping has always been to stop caring. I stopped caring about my own well-being. I discarded my moral sensibilities. And I lived the path of least resistance.
So, this wasn't about me.
I slid my chair away from the keyboard, and saved the story-opener I was trying to write as a draft. It took too long. Maybe it was Protagonize, or maybe it was my internet connection. But it took too long.
Socks with holes at the toes and fraying at the heel padded across the cat-hair covered carpet of the hall. I slipped through the bathroom door without even knocking to check if it was in use, as I was certain that my brother would still be asleep.
I splashed water in my face, rubbed my eyes and looked up.
He stared back at me with cold eyes and a warm sneer. His hair needed washing, and fell about his ears and the back of his head in wavy long curls of a deep brown. His face was laced with cynicism and apathy. I could tell that he hated me.
Those piercing eyes remained locked with mine as I brushed my teeth, mostly just to get the taste of Cheerios and milk out of my mouth.
When I was done, he bared his own teeth at me for the sake of intimidation. And I felt threatened. But I didn't care.
The computer's speakers could be heard. It was Cannonball by Damien Rice:
"Stones taught me to fly,
Love taught me to cry,
So c'mon courage,
Teach me to be shy!"
"Piss off," I told the young man in my mirror.
He just scoffed at me.
I turned away from him, and lifted the toilet seat. First the button, then the zipper. And I sat down. I never stood except at urinals. And I thought back to that story I'd been writing. I was rethinking one of the characters, wondering why I had chosen to make him a man instead of a woman.
It felt nice.
Yes, that's right: It felt nice to pee.
Which proved I hadn't bothered touching myself since who knows when. I don't care. I never care. At least, not about myself. And again, that headache. The contrast annoyed me.
I stood up, put my pants back on, and lowered the seat. With no cover on the seat, its shiny white surface faintly displayed that face that hates me. I ignored him, in preference of my deodorant stick. I now smelled like a pine tree. Oh well. Warm water above the upper lip and five strokes of the razor evicted my thin little mustache that I hate so much.
Returning to the computer, I shut off the music player and put the system on standby mode. Then I went to my room, and put on a better t-shirt than the one I was wearing, which I had been wearing for the last four days.
The new one was white and tight-fitting. I suppose one might call it flattering. However, it was blank and, alongside my baggy denim painter's pants, the shirt made me look rather ordinary. And looking ordinary made me ordinary. It was a complete and utter misconception, and thus it amused me terribly. I knew better.
Now, it was time to address the source of my anxiety. I ran downstairs, sat down on the second to last step, pulled off my socks and slipped on my brother's sandals. Fine, so maybe I wasn't the only one I had stopped caring about.
I locked the door behind me and then ran through the summer wind as if I was finally free of an undesirable captivity.
My sandals slapped loudly against the sidewalk as I ran. I didn't stop to catch my breath until I had reached the far edge of the corner of suburbia in which my family lives.
I was breathing heavily, my body hunched over, hands resting on my knees.
A young man I had recently graduated high school with was watching me from the base of an oak tree. I knew him well. The term 'friend' would be appropriate, if it was not for the fact that I never use the word.
"I see someone's been working out since grad," he remarked as I turned to acknowledge his presence.
"Meh," I apathized.
"Oh, you're so cute when you're modest!"
"And you, Spencer, are so obnoxious when you hit on straight guys."
He chuckled, "You just keep telling yourself that."
I glared, which elicited more laughter. That was my intention. "You are so obnoxious when you hit on straight guys. You are so obnoxious when you hit on straight guys. You are so -"
"Geez, can you take a compliment, Kyle? Ever?"
"No," I answered with a stoic face. He knew me well enough to pick up on the dry sarcasm.
"I suppose that might be true," he mused critically, "given how you treated her at prom. And after crushing on her all year, too. 'Tis a shame. And it gives me every right to hit on you."
"I care not for the love that they call shame," I told him. "Besides, don't you have a boyfriend?"
Spencer heaved a sigh and closed the book he'd been reading, "I'm not sure, man. I'm just not sure anymore."
There was an awkward silence broken only by an argument between two squirrels in the branches above us.
"V-" he began, but I interrupted him.
"She hasn't been online in days, her cell is turned off and whenever I call her at home she's always 'out on a date'. And yesterday, I was told by her sad and disgruntled mother that her daughter was moving out. V has made quite a sudden leap out of her pit of despair."
"I'm as worried as you are, Ky'." He looked me in the eyes, "Fine, maybe not so much."
He was staring at my face so intently that I felt uncomfortable, for no reason at all to do with his sexual orientation. His soft brown eyes were absorbent, like thirsty soil. Finally, he ran his fingers through his neatly spiked hair in a rather thoughtful manner, while scratching his chin with his other hand. The bristling spikes remained erect and unfazed.
Then he spoke, as if to sum up all he'd read from my face, "You confuse me, Kyle."
"I confuse myself," I said with a shrug. However, my tone of voice betrayed my sadness and anxiety. I felt protective of her, in a way that made me begin to regret and rethink my past actions.
"Let's call Lucinda," Spencer suggested as he rose to his feet, almost a head taller than me, brown spikes of shiny gel excluded.
I nodded. And as he pulled out his cellphone, I noticed there were shiny gold sparkles in his hair.
"Glitter is the herpes of craft supplies," he muttered, catching me frowning at his hair as he dialed.
I stifled my laughter.
"Hey Luce, it's Spence."
. . .
"No, I don't know where she is. That's why I'm calling."
. . .
"That's interesting. Is that our only lead? I mean, it could be a cult or something. She's cut off communication with all of us."
. . .
"No, don't give me that tone of voice. He's more worried than the two of us put together!"
"Be reasonable, Lucinda."
. . .
"Oh? And what's that?"
. . .
"I can't exactly ask him that right now. Not while he's narr-"
. . .
"Fine, I'll do it. Just this once. Then I'm staying in-character! You got that?"
. . .
"Chill pill to you too, Luce! I'll ask him now, gimme a second."
Spencer stopped looking at the squirrel and turned to face me, "Kyle, Lucinda will help us on one condition." His tone was awkward.
"What's that?" I asked.
"She wants you to let other writers and other characters narrate."
"What are you talking about?" I asked, feigning ignorance.
"You know exactly what this is about. She wants a leading role."
"Guhh..." I winced. I don't like acknowledging that I'm just a fictitious character. "You tell her she owes me, big-time, for this. Got it?"
He nodded, and then put the phone back to the side of his face. "The deal is on," he told his cellphone. "But he said something about you owing him a sexual favour-"
I had never slapped anyone across the face in public before. I felt terrible. Even the squirrels looked down at me as if I had broken some sort of intrinsic social etiquette.
Spencer hung up, "Oww..."
It would be even more out of character for me to apologize. So I didn't. I just kept that look of disgust on my face, as if the prospect of physically intimate relations with Lucinda was incest or taboo.
"C'mon, we've got a bus to catch," he said as he dragged absent-minded old me toward the street side by one arm.
It wasn't working very well, until I stopped stumbling and assumed his pace so that he'd let go. Weakling.