When I was ten I killed a man.
I dont think anyone knows. I didnt tell anyoneI couldnt tell anyone. Not even Bach. But it still exists, this thing that I have done. And I still remember it so clearly; when I close my eyes and think, I can see it play across my eyelids, again and again, bringing the world to a screeching halt and tearing down everything that I have tried to make myself in the eight years since.
I remember the look in his dark eyes. Frenzied, frightened; yellow, brown teeth were bared and his hands were moving forward quickly. The hollows in his cheeks seemed to turn his face gray, the gaunt look making him more dangerous, more everything I could not stand to see.
"Little girl," he called me and he grasped at my hair, tugging blonde strands loose from my bun, so that wisps touched my shoulder and I jumped and I shrieked as his hands fell down upon me, just by my neck, cold hands and with fingers that dug into skin like dull knives unable to break to the blood.
And I screamed, but I was alone in the forest. Id disobeyed Bishop Aile and Id come to the forest at night, and I hadnt been thinking. I was ten, and I knew everything. I was ten, and I couldnt be hurt. I pushed him to the forest floor, turned to run, but he grasped at my ankle and pulled me down, and he ripped my shirt with his dirty fingernails. And I screamed.
I remember loose grass beneath me, dirt in clumps that crept its way into my shocked open mouth, clinging to the crevices between my fingers, beneath my fingernails as I tried to climb my way to freedom. Autumn leaves upon the ground, damp from that afternoons rain, and I could see Troys laughing face, how he would smirk at me if he knew, as the man placed his hand on my back, pushing me into the ground, with so much force that I gasped for breath and breathed soil. Hard enough so that I couldnt move.
And then he rolled me onto my back, and my eyes were closed, my eyelashes dirtied with the wet ground and I could smell and taste leaves. He had my arms pinned to the ground, his fingers wrapped around my wrists, and I could smell something awful on his breath as he leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. I swerved my head and I brought my knees up and kicked out, but he wouldnt release me. Panic was sharp and it was painful, stinging into me the knowledge that I was going to die that he was going to kill me, and that worse things were to come first. I dont know how long Id been crying, but I felt wetness on my face, and I felt my eyes blur with tears that wouldnt fall. So I screamed again, and he placed his hand over my mouth, whispering for me to be quiet, be so quiet, or he would rip my arms off and he would pull my teeth out and he would hurt me so much that Id beg him to finish me.
My father would be so disappointed in me.
But one of my arms was free, so I twisted my fingers in the wet soil and I found clumps of leaves, rocks, whipped my arm up and hit him in the side of his head. I kicked him again, and I found the bishops dagger.
The bishops dagger, which I had stolen and stuff in my stocking, another little sin of the heros daughter. But my fingers clasped around it, my dirty, grubby, little fingers. He put on hand under my chin, pushing my head backwards, into grass and rocks, and I gasped, but my arm reached up and my dagger reached his face.
I remember my dagger, quick as lightning it seemed, bite into the side of his face, into his cheek, my hand with jerky motions cutting downward. His skin peeled like an orange and rained blood upon me, and his hand reached up and clasped his face, but he couldnt push my arm away. So I twisted away beneath him, and my dagger caught him once more, in that hollow beneath his throat.
And it was over.
He bucked and spasmed and clutched his throat, trying to pull out the dagger, drowning in, choking on his own blood, and I screamed once more, my legs kicking forward, catching him in the stomach. His body rolled away from me, and I found an uneasy balance upon my feet, my shaking knees. I stumbled away from him, leaving him to stain the forest leaves his own dark crimson, and found my way to the river.
"Lacryma, where have you been? My Lord, child, what happened to you?"
I could have been killed there, in the current, as I found myself running in to the water, bare feet sliding across cold moss-covered rocks. I slipped, splashing into the depths, fingers digging into sand clay as the water washed the past few moments away.
"Im sorry, Bishop. I disobeyed you. I went into the forest, and I fell in the river."
And when I was clean, when I was too cold to think myself dirty, I climbed out of the water again and onto the shore. Clutching the remnants of my shirt, I ran through the forest with everything that was left in me, crying and frightened and wanting to reach home.
I think thats all we ever want, a home to reach.
I couldnt tell the bishop the truth. I told him Id fallen into the river, but that was all. A lie means nothing to a girl who has just killed a man. And, though he did not know what really happened, he knew enough not to ask me.
And I never disobeyed him again.
Perhaps if he had been more forceful, if it had been more of an order than a request, I would have listened. My instinctive reaction would have been to do what I was told, what had been demanded of me. But I dont know who I am anymore, and I need to follow my own law for a while, until I do again.
"Lacryma," Kun says and he places his fingers gently upon my bare shoulder, his fingertips like the breath of the wind, cool upon my skin. I woke up once in the night and found him in the hallway, sitting against the wall in that familiar way of his, awake and brooding. His hair was in his eyes and his right hand rested on the floor, fingers curled upward loosely, light eyelashes veiling his dark eyes. I went and sat a moment with him, in silence, my own fingers barely touching his. I woke the next morning in my own room, though I dont know how, and I never asked if hed carried me there.
I cannot be who he wants me to be, who any of them want me to be. So Im leaving, no matter what the bishop asks.
"No, Kun, Im leaving."
No, I am not who you think you know.
No, I am not who you think you love.
Saint Lacryma, theyve called me, the people of Kainas who know me as the daughter of a hero, saved by a miracle of God. But I am not a saint. A saint would not leave the people who care about her. A saint would care more about them. A saint would not do what I have done, nor feel as I do, or be so selfish. Or purposely hurt the one she cares about most, because she wants to because she needs to because there is no other way.
"Please," he whispers, and I feel his fingers tighten slightlynot because he wants them to, but because some part of him is holding on tighter. Hes wrapping his little thread of hope around me, tightening the web and I can hear him breathing; I can see his face without turning toward him.
So I rip free of his grasp, take two steps forward, keep my back to him. "Leave me alone, Kun."
"You cant leave without telling him you"
My voice is bitter, low tired angry, and I hear the sharp intake of his breath. He doesnt know me. He doesnt understand. Im cold and Im cruel, and I am not an angel and I am not a saint.
"What do you know, Alana? Just, leave me alone."
"Is it because of him? Are you leaving to go find him, to find if theres a way?"
His voice has changed, as though hes holding something back, a little bit of anger a little bit of fear, something he cant show me. I turn, and he has his hands balled into fists; hes taken a step away from me. He doesnt know what Im truly like; Im only showing him a little, and in a moment he will turn and run, and I will walk out the door and we will never see each other again. When the dark sky of night meets morning, Ill be far away, and I wont look back, ever.
"This isnt like you, Lacryma."
"You dont know what Im like."
"What are you talking about, Kun?"
His face seems distorted, his eyes dark, his mouth twisted, as though hes in pain. "You know what Im talking about! Is it because of Bach?"
I take a step back.
"You want someone to go after you; you want to be brought backis it that you dont care how much this is hurting him? Hurting the bishop, hurting all of us?"
"You cant say you know me, Kun, if you think that."
He lowers his head, defeated I think, his fingers loosening, clenching once more. The tight little fairy-tale hes woven is beginning to disappear, its threads frayed and loose and coming undone. But I feel as though theres glass around me, unbreakable and colored with my fathers actions, with my own.
Kun says, "It is because of Bach."
I open my mouth to speak, but he cuts me off.
"And your father. Because youre afraid to feel anything. So youre running away. Is that it, Lacryma?"
For a moment, hesitation crawls over me, but I know that hesitation is weakness, so I laugh. "And what do you think it is Im running away from feeling, Kun? Youre only lying to yourself, to make it easier for you."
"Alana told me you were cold."
"She was right."
"She also told me not to give up."
"I dont care what you think, Kun. Or what she, does. Leave me alone."
Because its easier to be alone. Because then I dont have to think, or pretend to feel something, or pretend to be human, when instead Im something dark and cold, formed out of clay and fishwire and the broken pieces of the stained-glass window in the shrine.
"No!" I turn, run, fingers clasping the door handle, propelling myself into the street, where moonlight has rained in pools upon the ground and theres a bird sitting on a cobble, quietly alone. But I dont find the strength to do anything but sit.
This isnt me.
This isnt me, but I dont know if there is a God, anymore. I dont think I can find myself. I dont think I ever existed, but some shell in a mass of blonde hair, and when the winged saint inside flew away, and this was all that remained, that is when I knew I had to leave.
Because I am not who I was I am not who they want.
"Are you ready to come back inside yet?"
I didnt even hear him open the door, but here he is beside me, sitting as I am, face in shadow, eyes lit by the moon like small oceans deep enough to drown in. I have to leave, I know, but I cant seem to move; I no longer seem to have conviction in anything. So I tilt my head and rest it on his shoulder and I tell him, "I dont think I can die."
His fingers are loosely upon my shoulder once more, twisting my hair in gentle circles along my skin. He whispers closely, "Then dont."