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we are the ghosts of our cold home / i have never felt like my own person

She tells me that as a baby, I stood in my crib and peeped over the top of the bars, silent and patient, waiting for sight of an open eye before belting my first wail of the morning. I was thoughtful, I was considerate, I was the infant who wanted my first word, no matter how incoherent, to mean something, none of this screaming into the open air with violent intentions and no grasp of control; I was all about control, and I stood there, as a baby, for who knows how long. I stood there:

 

“mother may I”

 

and grew up to be the disappointing daughter, the prodigal firstborn who failed to fulfill the prophecy, I was no chosen one, I was nothing but a pile of potential under a cocoon of brown skin and myopic eyes

 

“mother may I”

 

I didn’t know you could cross the street diagonally in boston until I was standing at the edge of the sidewalk,  my life not quite at a crossroads, and the pedestrians going horizontal had the okay and the pedestrians going vertical had the okay and was there ever a wrong way to walk? no one walks in ninety degrees because the fastest way anywhere is a straight line but I am all about these detours, these delays, these sorry-not-sorry inconveniences, these procrastinations, these never-have-I-evers

 

“mother may I”

 

just like I didn’t know that if you skipped enough meals your body would give up on you, on the thought, like two disappointed parents finding out you’re not going to graduate on time, and then even the smell of food is nauseating, and you realize you have the power to eat or not to eat, you are all about control, I am holding the remote control and changing channels

 

“mother may I”

 

to a show that everyone says my family should have, where are you going with all those teeth in your mouth, all that sorrow in your palms, how many hearts are you going to break with eyes like that, please stop looking at me, looking at me, look how much of me is waiting to be branded like a slave in the old days, all this brown skin, all this war, all this depression

 

“helium helium helium helium helium helium helium”

 

I still don’t know what happens to balloons that little kids lose hold of, as I so often did. I mean, I do—they pop at a certain point in the atmosphere, don’t they? the broken rubber floats down to reality, thanks to gravity, I guesss, and here we are

 

but I want to go up and up and up and no one wants to hear me talk about dying but I want to talk about it and I want to be detailed because when I am alone I plan the moment, like how there will be this beautiful song in the background on repeat and I will lay on the ground until my breath gets shallow, and no longer will I have to ask for permission

 

“mother may I”

 

she will never say yes. (will she ever, will she ever) she will never
say yes. 

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The Sad House

We live in a house rued with chaos and full of damaged miscellany belonging to broken people. Everything we touch and own is both mortal and doomed: game systems nonfunctioning and doors broken and unexplainable dents in the wall. Sometimes the light bulbs shatter or an iPod shuts offs permanently or the children stomp on laptops. Movies get scratched and will skip if you press play and wires are scissored and buttons jammed. Beds no longer hold up, knobs are wobbly and someone always drops the whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet. My mother locks the fridge with a chain so we’ll have food to eat. And for god sakes, if you love something, don’t leave it unattended.  

            Yet somehow we have learned to coexist with the abjection that rives at our sanity. As the days pass, we continue to outlast our possessions, to dodge the same fate of ruin that other items here have succumbed to, will continue to succumb to. It is not just inanimate objects at risk but all things as a whole.

            It’s not a fact you realize immediately. The house looks like any other on the outside. Paint chipping and a bare flower tree on the front lawn and lots of bottles stacked and bagged in the backyard, because my grandmother sells them. Sometimes my grandmother brings in discarded items, old and broken things, many of them useless, and it all seems to pile up, with us unable to start fresh in the midst of all these old woes, and at night you hear clicking and scratching inside the walls, not rodents but old selves begging to be let out.

            Our backyard is bigger than most, an attribute rare of many houses considering it’s New York, but our grass doesn’t grow and mostly the dirt looks dehydrated and barren and the concrete used to be cracked until we fixed that. A lot of weeds mob along the gates and my mother tries to grow tomatoes or carrots but those never get very big, so she brings in plants to try and lighten the atmosphere. “I don’t want to harbor other people’s agonies,” she says, when she goes on a cleaning binge to try and make things feel good. Everything is swept and scrubbed and the plants are showered with attention in hopes they’ll perk up and lend us some life. She talks to them and tends to them and waters them diligently, but the plants always die. I don’t think it’s any fault of hers; this just isn’t the kind of place to try and foster life. And so, instead of greenery to make the house seem more inviting, we kind of just have these oversized wilting leaves hanging around.

            Eventually she gives up and buys vases of fake flowers instead, that look blooming and fresh all year long but somewhat stale. Sometimes looking at them reminds me of my mother wiping the table one morning, muttering, “Happy anniversary, my foot.”

            “But Daddy brought you flowers.” I nodded at the bouquet on conceited center display.

            “So what?” she said, frowning. “He’s not here, is he? He buys some flowers and they look nice, but what use is that? What meaning do they have if he leaves as soon as he brings them and in two days they’re already drooping? Flowers aren’t gifts. It’s just money to waste.” She sighs.

            I sigh, too.

 

            Inside, the chairs askew or a portrait uneven and things on the floor and nothing to eat and televisions blaring. In the hallway, mountains of shoes scattered on the floor with no foot to match and big buckets of unread junk mail and bags of things we don’t need (“but eventually they’ll be useful,” Madre insists). There are piles of: dishes in the sink, clean and unclean clothes in large heaps downstairs; some smell like fabric softener and others murk in grim, stinking corners. Only bill collectors call to say hello and I’ve been reading last week’s newspaper without even realizing it and my mother sits in the den trying to decipher the puzzle of the lottery so that maybe today will be the day she wins.

            Downstairs always smells like smoke because my father has a room for his cigarettes even though he said he would stop and we’ve begged him to quit but we are only daughters, and the floor is cold in the winter so you have to wear two pairs of socks and two pants and five shirts and a sweater and some gloves. The cold is unbearable. Everyone hovers by the radiator or the electronic fire place and drinks hot chocolate until we’re out of clean cups and we’re still head to toe in goose bumps even so.

            “Are you okay?”

            The house feels oppressive at times. On certain days you are so caged in by the noise—where all the cohabitants seem to be bulging, ubiquitous manifestations of pollution, clogging the space with anger and tension. The washing machine in the basement rattles and violently shuffles all day long spitting clothes out, taking them in, rinse and repeat. We keep: changing outfits, faces, trying to look good or right and it’s so difficult for us. Everyone screams at each other, whether it’s to not change the channel or to use the computer or don’t eat the last snack, who was it—not me! You’re lying! I hate you!—and then crying, crying, always somebody fighting or hurt and it’s so bad and you misbehaved in school or you’re late going because what is even the point and everything is useless and everything hurts so we keep crying in the sad house, we keep crying until we don’t know why we feel anymore.

            “I’m just tired.”

            “You’re always tired. All you do is sleep.”

            Our gloom lives among us as an unseen presence, silent and passive, a concentration of melancholia that strokes our cheeks goodnight. Melancholia sits down to dinner but doesn’t touch the plate. Melancholia makes the food taste wrong and turns the hot shower water lukewarm to cold, and is responsible for restless nights and tells us we are worthless. We agree with Melancholia when he advises we argue amongst ourselves or cry long hours in bed or throw tantrums. We thank Melancholia for taking away our control and making victims out of us. He has given us our fractured dispositions—my tears and I are grateful, and my sister’s panic attacks are a blessing, and my restive brothers are so fortunate to have Melancholia know our mother well enough to strike her with bouts of irritability and dissatisfaction until she’s too fed up to bother managing them or us. Melancholia sleeps besides me and hogs the covers. He watches us, always and carelessly. I cannot recall how long he has resided here, but I cannot recall how life went without him.

            This is why everyone takes as long as they can to come home. Sometimes coming I take the long way or miss my stop on purpose and do whatever I can to distill my arrival. If there is ever an open invitation to go anywhere else, to do anything else, I am available. I am ready. I wish the train ride was longer, though. I get home too soon.

            “I know. I’m going to lie down.”

            “You don’t want any dinner? It’s almost done.”

            “Not really. I’m not hungry.”

            Always last to walk in is Father in the evenings with his suitcase, always on the phone, talking to a client or company or family or anyone but us. Just a few minutes before he comes in, Madre leaves for work, and if you are like me you’re always the first to kiss her goodbye just in case. After she’s closed the door and locked it behind her, you can stand there for a minute and smell the ephemeral whiffs of her perfume.

            “Are you sure?”

            I don’t see much of my father because I’m usually upstairs playing this game where I pretend I’m an only child. It involves closing the door and blasting music and fooling around on my cell phone instead of doing homework. Sometimes I wonder why have phones when no one calls or no cares and I’m always so tired. Too tired to talk or to write and I come here to cry because I know this is the best place for it. It’s hard to feel good on the inside; the house is so heavy with sad, all my tears are here, and I am so overwhelmed.

            “I’m fine. Goodnight.”

            In my room, which has two windows, not enough light shines in. The bedroom is too small and cluttered with unread books and incomplete journals. I scatter my clothes wherever they land once taken off.  I try to keep comfortable. Often relaxing involves stripping down until you’re nothing but your skin. After that, everything kind of stops and you just have to breathe slow even if the air feeds you dust instead of oxygen. You walk in and the world outside—its breeze and freedom dead here. There are crumbs everywhere. The bed is unmade. The carpet has not been swept in days. Melancholia doesn’t care, and gladly seeps into the mattress and pillow where I lay to rest my mind and body as I try to still the spinning inside of me, and for a brief moment there is solace, short-lived but welcome. And in the twilight, the curtains flutter not with bright wind but little gusts desperate and forced, like dry heaves from the mouth of a cloud.

1
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Who Wrote You?

                Sometimes people remind me of poems. Ones I’ve written, ones I’ve read. I like the ones who make me feel like they were inanimate in a past life: a stanza reincarnated, a song in a new body. There’s a rhythm to such creatures, latent in an action as minute as a blink, but I think it’s noticeable enough if you are watching. We can’t all be poems or songs, but the ones who are, I could listen to all day. They sing, these ones: their blood, their laughter, the music of even a sigh. Little movements, each a poem succinctly.

                “Who wrote you?” I want to ask.

                I spot them on city streets at sunset, during the flux of seasons, summer on the cusp of autumn as the weather gradually mellows, wavering between rain and a steady heat that bears down on me as I take a seat on a worn park bench on a Tuesday evening. There I sit, silent and observing. I like the way they clutch their bags tightly to their chests, carrying an arsenal of mementos: expired Metrocards, assorted identification passes with outdated photographs, a last stick of gum. Summer’s sunglasses now replaced with September’s scarf, soon to be joined by December’s gloves when the air is too nippy to fight with bare hands anymore.

                One such creature leans against a brick wall, a cigarette hanging lopsided out of his bottom lip, the smoke making circles and then dispersing as the wind blows by to carry it on its back. The way he flicks off the little embers is a haiku: a nicotine stick, little droplets of gray ash chased by a coffee. I like the sound of him slurping a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. I bet he asked for whip cream. I bet it’s lukewarm by now.

                 Another poem hustles past, one of Bukowski’s Meek looking for an earth to inherit, her footsteps matching the rustles of the leaves that crunch underneath, crisp jigsaws of orange-yellow-greens. She looks like she’s never tasted joy but only day old cheesecake, glasses askew and loose strands of hair coming untucked from behind her ears. Her hand holds a book, maybe non-fiction, maybe a Self Help title on how to break out of a shell others have created for her. I study the way her eyebrows furrow, the image ingrained in my mind’s eye even after she’s already down the block and around the corner. She looks cold, put off by the abruptness of autumn, out of place in a tank top and boots, an ensemble that obviously couldn’t make up its mind in regards to the weather.

                A city bus pulls up across the street and coughs out a swarm of passengers that quickly disband as soon as their feet hit the pavement. One of them has a phone clung to his ear, near enough that I can hear the words falling out of his mouth, desperate tokens. “What do you mean you can’t make it?” he says, heartbroken. “I had it all planned out, you know? We’d go out, and there was this great exhibit at the gallery—no, I know, you hated the last one but this one has completely different features, I just thought we’d…okay. Right, I get it. It’s fine. I’ll just…” He sighs, his voice trailing off. “I’ll go with someone else then.”

                But he won’t go with anyone else. He wanted to go with the him or her on the other line, and in the instant he pouts his lips and proceeds to press the end button on the phone screen, he is now the quintessence of Alone as Poe had written, singular in his love for the gallery, his passions from a spring no one else ventures to drink from. The phone is chucked into his pocket and his eyes water ever so slightly as he leans against the pole of the street light. I watch his eyes as they follow a young couple, the woman of the pair indeed looking like the meaning of a moon, her lipstick evenly applied and shimmering in the twilight, her arms loosely wrapped around a smooth gentleman with slicked hair who can’t seem to take his eyes off her face or his hands off her heart, which he so diligently carries to and fro just as Cummings scribed.

                They pass by gaily, laughter like jingling wind chimes erupting out of their mouths wide-opened and mocking. I drink in the envious tone of his eyes as he glowers at them. I lament the fact that strangers can take another’s love so personally. But then again, I understand it. Around this time, what with Halloween—an occasion that gives way to new identity, if only temporarily—so near, followed by the succession of other holidays that emphasize companionship and family, it is only natural to find oneself blindly clawing the air for a self or a purpose or a significant other. We each seem to turn up empty-handed, finagled out of love by a fraud of a God we only believe in come December.

                But in the Spring, I will remember you, I think. Now I gather my things and shuffle around in hopes of drawing his attention but he notices not. I am, too, a poem. I am the stanza of Audre Lorde, bidding you sit beside me, silent as a breath. I beg that you come softly, that you look into my eyes and understand me on a level unaccomplished by anyone else. “Take me to the gallery,” I want to say. But I am silent. “Sit beside me,” I want to plead. But you will not. I sit here, wishing to show you what sorrow sees, for I have been watching it all. I want to ask if you remember your first life as a Sunday’s stanza, forgetting that, indeed, only those who stay dead shall remember Death.

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Chroma

Somewhere in the world the sun is shining magnificently amid blue, cloudless skies as birds chirp morning lullabies and downstairs a loving mother is preparing her daughter’s breakfast.

But not here.

Here the the sun is bleak, the sky is gray, and the birds are dead. For motherless Saff, who is still desperately clinging to her last shards of sleep, it would be a typical morning if she wasn’t being prematurely roused from her slumber by the glorious racket of frantic yelling and slamming doors.

“Where the hell is she?”

“Who?”

“Rose, dammit!”

“What’s going on?”

“Rose is missing!”

“Missing? What do you mean she’s missing? Shit!”

“Where’s Saff? Somebody find Saff…”

I’m dead, she mutters to herself, pulling the bed sheets over her face in hopes that they’ll pass as an invisibility cloak. She flips over to her other shoulder to face the wall and groans. The bed isn’t comfortable at all. She hasn’t had a full night’s rest all week and this, this isn’t help—

The door opens and the room is suddenly flooded with light. Great.

“If you touch me,” Saff warns icily, “I will punch you in the face and then step over you to take my morning piss. Don’t test me. I am not getting out of this bed until my alarm goes off and I’ve hit the snooze button at least three times. So do me a favor, and get out.”

“Saff, we’ve got a problem.” It’s Luvine. “Rose is missing.”

“Yeah. I heard. Are you sure she’s actually missing, though? Not just playing hide and seek? Or taking a Dungeon break downstairs?” After all, the Dungeon, the unofficial name for the ‘quiet room’ of the building, is the best place to be if you’re not trying to be found.

“We checked everything already. She’s not in the building. Besides, her room is completely clear. All her stuff is gone.”

“Wow, seriously?” Saff can’t help but be impressed. “Huh. I didn’t think she’d ever have the guts. I can’t believe you guys are actually surprised, though. I thought it was obvious that she wasn’t cut out for this.”

“Well, we still have to find her!” Luvine snaps, annoyed. She’s not very fond of being disrespected.

Saff rolls her eyes and sighs dramatically. “It can wait, Luv. I promise, it’ll be fine. But please, just let me—”

The alarm clock sirens.

“NO! I am not ready to start my day!” she screams, throwing the pillow over her head.

“Saff?”It’s a new voice now, from the doorway, masculine but gentle, and almost fearful. She recognizes it immediately, and the rage melts. “Scarlet just called together an emergency meeting. We’re all waiting for you in the Commons.”

Of course they are. In a situation like this, nothing is going to get settled without every member present. “Fine!” she says, exasperated. She’s out of time to stall the commencement of her day. “I’m up, Terrence. I’m up. I’ll be down in eight minutes, okay? Are you people happy now?”

“Thanks,” Terrence says. She can hear his footsteps retreating down the hall. She almost feels bad for being short with him, but she’s sure he won’t take it personally. By now, nearly everyone has adapted to the fact that she’s a bitch in the morning.

And the afternoon. And the evening.

“For the record, Luvine, I can feel you glaring at me. Seriously, your eyes are like lasers and I’m breaking a sweat right now.”

“If I leave you’ll just go back to sleep,” she says.

“Maybe. But if you stay, that means when I roll over, your face will be the first thing I see for the day. Now, I’m not superstitious, but waking up to an angry black woman? I’m pretty sure that’s bad luck and a telltale sign of a shitty day in the making. I’d like to avoid that. Also, I’m kind of…well, naked.”

“You sleep nude?” There it is; she can hear the smirk in Luvine’s voice. No one can ever keep up the Big Bad Wolf front around her for long.

“Very,” she says, laughing. “Now please, a little privacy? If I’m not out in six minutes you have permission to grab me by the hair and drag me to Commons. Fair enough?”

“Fine.” Luvine gets up and walks to the door. “Five minutes or six?”

“Six. I don’t like odd numbers.”

 

*

“Alright. I’m up way before my prime, and Rosalina supposedly is ‘missing’. Would anyone care to explain to me why I should care about this at all?”

The Commons, in which they are presently gathered, is a wide room with walls the color of green tea (with no milk or sugar added). On the left wall is a trio of windows that offer the onlooker a crystal view of city traffic and buildings yet to be struck by the riots that began after the initial outbreaks. Saff remembers the mania that consumed the public when wind of The Fever first hit major news outlets. It was all anyone could talk about. The medication was meant to ease the hysteria so that people would no longer feel compelled to wear masks on the train or withhold their kids from school. Unfortunately, it seemed to have the opposite effect. Suddenly people were withdrawing from society even more, slinking into dark corners of their unhygienic apartments and refusing meals as their bodies wasted away. Others, judging from the rampant vandalism and belligerent gunshots that ring out on the hour like a grandfather clock, have gone absolutely ballistic.

Yet from where Saff sits perched, cozy in the Squad headquarters with the rest of her suite-mates, the world that was once so urgently hers seems desolate and distant. Architects have been known to brag that the expensive glass of the window she is pressing her face against is so fancy that everything beyond it looks HD, so that even the city trash clogging the gutters and gathering at the curbs seems elegant, like a boutonniere on the lapel of public pandemonium. In a room like this, a conglomerate of pretentious little snobs, each with their own gripes and melodramatic histories, can sit around a furbished mahogany table and talk strategy. So eager, so naively deluded that their actions will “save” a world frankly too far gone for help, they’ve gathered to make plans and cast shame. One of the team had the gall to call it quits? Oh, she snuck off without anyone catching her? What a crime! Saff rolls her eyes as she takes a seat.

We weren’t assembled to fight crime and make the world a better place, Saff thinks bitterly. In fact, if the riots are any indication, the city of Cherrin, now closed off from the rest of the world, is on the brink of a radical Revolution. Looking around the room at the nine gritty faces of her fellow Squad members from her place at the head of the table, Saff feels itchy thinking about the power they’ve been entrusted with. Deep down, part of her envies Rosalina, not for leaving, but for having the luxury to even fathom abandoning the security of their HeadQuarters and returning to a world so hostile even the streets seem insatiable with bloodlust.

Saff hasn’t stepped out to the city in weeks. She knows many people would take a look at her—her warm, sun-kissed skin, her obsidian curls flying from her face like Medusa’s snakes, the olive colored eyes and rebellious body-art—and find a lot of pleasure in yanking out her piercings and cutting each tattoo right off her skin. It’s that sort of world now, and if anyone is desperate or dumb enough to risk it, why condemn that prerogative?

“Rosalina didn’t contribute anything to the group,” declares Ren, who is equally unimpressed with this whole fiasco. Shoving her silky raven hair into a sloppy bun, she adds, “Her leave hasn’t really changed anything.” Saff notices that though the sun isn’t out yet, Ren’s somehow found time to cake on the eyeliner in time for the meeting. She wonders if Ren is really just a raccoon with a human’s body.

“But we needed her powers,” Terrence counters. His velvety voice is as smooth and reasonable as ever. “She was the only one who would’ve been able to figure out exactly when The Clinic would strike!” This is true. For the last two weeks or so, Biv—the man to whom they all more or less owed their souls—had been taking Rosalina a`side to learn how to control her visions and hone in on specific cues in order to gain information vital to the “mission”.

Of course, if you asked Saff, the “mission” is a load of crap.

“Oh please,” Wyatt, who clearly agrees, sneers, his stony face eclipsed by his oversized black hoodie. “That bitch was too busy wiping snot from her nose to figure out anything.” It’s old news that Wyatt’s tolerance for Rosalina is low, what with him constantly using his power to invade her mind and use her own thoughts against her. But for some, this is a sensitive subject, and such talk is blasphemy.

“Guys, please,” Scarlet says warily, flashing Wyatt a chagrined pout. “Don’t talk about her like that. Rosalina was going through a lot.”

“No, she wasn’t,” Saff says, sitting up now. “She wasn’t going through anything different than what the rest of us are going through. She was kinda unstable and pretty damn emotional, but that doesn’t mean she gets a free pass to bail on us.” As much as Saff respects Scarlet, the girl has a tendency to understate the truth. There should be no euphemisms for inadequacy.

Rosalina had undoubtedly been their weakest link. With glass eyes and black hair that hung from her scalp as limply as dead fish, her presence was ghostly. At first they’d tried to sympathize with her; unsolicited visions of a bleak and dismal future were bound to exhaust anybody. But Rosalina’s issues seemed beyond adjusting to her powers, a rite they’d all suffered as well. In those first few weeks, some of them had bonded over hating the after-effects of Biv’s back alley “operation,” a procedure he’d insisted was necessary for reasons he never disclosed. A little discomfort was common, but it was different with Rosalina. She’d been twitchy, standoffish…and unprecedentedly miserable.

Pushing his thick, rectangular glasses further up the bridge of his nose, Ariel, who is seated to Saff’s left, nods in agreement. The plaid button-up he’s wearing seems more like a picnic blanket than a shirt the way it engulfs his scrawny frame. “I couldn’t be in a room alone with her too long,” he confesses, a little sheepishly. “Rose was a little…too sad. Like, she never responded well to my mood alterations and I always felt suicidal after looking into her eyes.” He shudders.

Saff takes Ariel’s testimony as proof of her point. “See?” she says, holding out her palm in the direction of the scrawny little hipster. “Even our little empath couldn’t cheer her up.”

Lloyd, nonchalant as ever, runs a hand through his floppy black hair and shrugs. “Rose is gone. Okay. Now what? We go looking for her?”

“No. We don’t have time to waste looking for a traitor.” The words are even, sharp. Saff can’t help herself grinning at the small but fierce Japenese girl. She loves it when Azul takes the floor.

Scarlet frowns. “How is she a traitor?”

Azul stares at Scarlet like she’s stupid. It never fails; Scarlet really does have a knack for undeservingly giving people the benefit of the doubt. “She made a commitment,” Azul says, blowing her blonde bangs out of her eyes. Each word is deliberate, cold. “Then, she turned her back on that commitment. That girl is a spineless traitor with no sense of honor whatsoever. Was that not obvious? Is the situation unclear?”

“I thought we were all free to leave if we wanted,” Lloyd says calmly. His arms are folded and his squinty black eyes are already glazed with boredom.

“No.” Azul gives him a stern look. “No,” she says. “You are not.”

“We need to find her,” Garman suddenly declares. Saff smiles at him sweetly. This is classic Garman—always overstepping the mark, under the impression that he holds more authority than he actually does. She’s surprised that he’s managed to remain quiet for so long. “We’ll send a lookout team to figure out where she is. We’ll make her tell us what she knows, and then we’ll leave her alone. She’s made her choice to leave, and we should respect that. But we can’t let her selfishness sabotage everything we’ve worked for.”

“Everything we’ve worked for,” Wyatt mocks nastily. “How do you not all realize how full of shit you are?” Eyeing him wearily, Saff can’t help but question how Wyatt ever passed kindergarten.

“Get out.” Azul doesn’t even turn her head to look at him as she gives the order. She isn’t one to tolerate blatant disrespect, and Azul certainly isn’t about to give Wyatt the satisfaction of having his presence acknowledged or his behavior condoned.

“Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?” Wyatt slams his fist on the table indignantly. Saff imagines if, growing up, he ever brought report cards home to Mommy plastered with comments like, Doesn’t get along with others and Doesn’t work well in teams.

“Guys, please, watch the language—”

Maybe he was a glue sniffer.

Ren rolls her eyes at Scarlet’s attempts to restore the peace. “Shut up, Scar. Little Miss Blue can handle herself, can’t she?”

Azul flashes a smile at Ren and then turns to Wyatt, her face now expressionless. “I know how to kill a man with my bare hands,” she says simply, each word carrying equal weight. “I learned a thing or two on the street; I can gladly demonstrate. You don’t take us seriously, fine. Leave. Get out. You won’t be missed.”

Everyone watches silently as Wyatt rises, and stalks towards the door. Ariel in particular looks downright scared shitless. Saff is sure the tension is like a knife in his chest, the emotions of everyone in the room bouncing off of him violently. Poor little hipster. And then suddenly, a wave of tranquility sweeps through like a breeze. She shoots Ariel a quick look of approval, and then turns her attention back to Wyatt. His baggy jeans appear ready to slide off his hips, the hoodie barely covering his boxers. He seems to be staring at her as he makes his exit, his face no longer shadowed so that Saff is able to make out the angular lining of his jaw and his sunken blue irises, abysmal and menacing in a way that’s almost…sexy? No. Saff mentally chides herself for even having the thought.

Wyatt’s glare is different from Luvine’s, she notes. His eyes generate lasers as cold as ice. He doesn’t close the door behind him, either. Of course not; he isn’t dramatic enough to bother with something as childish as slamming a door to make a point. Wyatt’s obnoxious, but in little ways he’s not as juvenile as he makes himself out to be.

There is silence for a while.

Finally, Luvine clears her throat and narrows her eyes at everybody now, immediately back to business. “So what’s the verdict? Look for Rose, yes or no?”

“We should look for her,” Garman reiterates, trying to make his opinion sound more official the second time around.

“Where would we start?” says Luvine, deciding to humor his suggestion.

Garman blinks in surprise. He was expecting more opposition, so he isn’t ready with an answer. He looks unsure.

“We should tell Biv,” Terrence blurts out suddenly. Saff rolls her eyes. Terrence is a sweetheart, but he doesn’t have a rebellious bone in his body. He justs wants Biv to take direction of the situation, smack a couple people around and disappear again. She studies his mocha skin, his chiseled arms. At six feet, he towers over nearly everyone in the room, even sitting down, and yet he’s so…submissive. It’s a little sickening.

Ren leans forward, her chin resting in her hands. “Why would we involve him?” she says. It’s more of a challenge than a question.

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” says Terrence, ever-so-ethical.

“Wow. Wyatt would have a ball with that one,” Ren scoffs. End of discussion. She is equally sickened by this response.

“Look. We’re not telling Biv anything,” Scarlet finally pipes up, taking charge. “We’re just going to go about things as usual. Okay? And we’ll go looking for Rose if we come up with any leads on where to find her. It doesn’t make any sense to go wandering aimlessly. The streets are getting more and more dangerous every day.” She turns towards the windows with an expression of malaise.

“Sounds good,” Luvine says, scribbling away on her yellow notepad. She deserves a merit badge for being the Anti-Squad Unofficial Secretary.

There are no objections, although Terrence’s ego looks crushed. Garman’s ego...well, his ego is on life support and he doesn’t know how to let a lost cause go.

“Meeting adjourned then.” Saff stands up. “Anybody else hungry? I’m in the mood for breakfast but I sure as hell won’t be the one making it.”

Terrence sighs. “Pancakes?”

Saff nods. Honestly, she wouldn’t trust anyone else on the Squad but him to prepare her meals.