You know me in another world as Cascade Andronica. Both our fathers locked us up every night for our protection, but when she was six years old, she got out.
I went back to sleep.
Eyelids, drowsy with dreams, separate their tangled lashes. Her sleep-heavy gaze takes in the shadowy hulks of furniture hunkered like ogreish jailors along her wall. She thinks of rich hot chocolate, of a secret foray into the spacious kitchen, that forbidden sweetness on her tongue… if she could get out of the room her father confines her in every night.
But the covers are so warm, her dreams so beguiling.
They lure her back into their arms. Sleep, precious thing. Time enough for chocolate when dawn breaches the horizon.
Her somnolent head dips. Perhaps…
The imprisoned little girl nestles back into covers cozy with heat.
Sleep reclaims its errant child.
And like that, a fate splits.
I was raised innocent but unloved. I lived in a spacious mansion with a father who never looked me in the face, and in secret I drew Lunar Davith Adurian, the unsmiling guy who was always watching me.
He has a scar. Right… there, by his left eye.
I shade it in on the paper, that shadow of pain like an extension someone carved into his face to continue his irate sweep of lashes. Almost hidden by his black hair.
What cut that scar into his skin? Hatred? An accident?
Or a loved one in a moment they regretted now, every second they lived?
That would mean someone loves him.
My insides constrict, just a little, and I swoop my pen down his mouth, darkening the furious lines of those thin lips. They’re shut tight in a flagrant challenge to the world to even attempt to pry something nice from him.
He would spit on anyone trying. Say “Fuck you” like he does when we’re in class, when every time he says it, it makes my stomach jump because he’s pushing another person away.
But not me. I never give him a reason to say it to me.
Sunlight spills through the open window onto my paper-littered desk, the gauzy, softly billowing curtains so close their lace brushes my copper hair and grazes my black-smeared knuckles. The city breeze carries in the scents of summer: blooming flowers and mowed lawns, chlorine from pools and sculpted waterfalls in the backyards of other mansions around us, where the affluent residents flavor their lips with strawberry ice and liquor from salt-rimmed glasses. Where manicured nails spread slick suntan lotion on moisturized skin and fortune’s favorites tilt their carefree smiles up to a provident sun shining on their benevolent fate.
In my own hushed mansion, my ink-stained fingers pause above the paper.
Stained from drawing a guy I hope no one loves.
Then the mutation hits. Lunar emerges with wings of knives and I emerge a murderess, my scarlet wings flaring into red flame that consumes our professor.
Banished by my father, I enter the heart of rebellion with Lunar… but no dark underworld awaits to tear me apart.
It’s Lunar who wants to hurt me. He hates what I am.
He reeks of heartache,
but he gives me sweet, sweet hope…
…in a world gone mad
He leads a rebellion that yet seethes unknown and unseen, while behind closed doors, he awakens my sleepy soul. He takes what was unloved and drizzles it with honeyed hope… because he wants me to love him even as he wants me to hurt.
It’s a constant push and pull, on a balance we’re both afraid to tip.
He’s sitting by the balcony’s double glass doors with his knees drawn up to his chest and his head bowed, black hair splayed over his knees, silver wings folded over his leather-jacketed shoulders.
I land in a whisper of feather and a patter of bare feet. My scarlet wings swoop out on the backdrop of early sunset: pastel pinks and oranges with my splash of scarlet feather on their canvas.
Lunar drags his head up, his expression like something torn apart and painfully assembled back into place.
“Rhapsody said you’d gone.” The words drag out, his expression heavy on a face tinted rose and gold by the fading glory of sundown.
“I told you I’d come back.”
“Only if my demons didn’t win—but they’re winning. I’m…” He swallows, looks away and back. “I’m getting sick and tired of walking the dark places where I scream alone…”
“You’re not alone.” I kneel beside him, like a fragile canary alighting near a tomcat, my tiny heart rapid in my delicate throat. “I’m tired, too.” And I’m thinking of lying down with my enemy.
“You’re wearing your mask again.” In the lightest of touches, his fingers trail over my lips, the air like gilded ruby around us.
I press a kiss to his padded fingertips and he stills them in place, his gaze holding mine. His other hand slips around my hip. “Angel-face.” Barely breathed.
I lean in closer, smelling shower and shampoo on his damp hair, iron and steel from his metallic wings. Clean but hard.
“Why me? Why pick me instead of someone else to pretend with in place of Dulcet?”
His hand fits around my side. “Because I wanted you to let me inside – only me – even when you were unreachable, unattainable for everyone else, and then only I would ever have you.”
“You’re lying,” I breathe against his neck.
“I know.” His yearning skims over my brow, his hand on my hip. “But I wish I weren’t.”
My rock-hard heart in my chest starts to seep—to bleed. “Can I hide my mask in your arms?”
He extends the invitation and I slip up against his side. His wings enfold us in a cocoon of heat, his feathers brushing my hair. He curls around me as the daylight-heated tiles warm me through my jeans.
In the end, though, there’s always a little self-destruction in love.
Don’t believe a word that bitch says.
No one knows me.
I’m the one everyone hates except my master, the man who became my abuser and calls me nothing but ‘Sweet Toy’.
Between us, we now hold the fate of a city in a constant tug-of-war.
And that bitch in love with Lunar? She won’t survive without me.
She thinks she knows him, but she doesn’t. She knows a fantasy, and fantasies?
They hide the most terrible truths of all.
Alone in a dark chamber on the two hundredth floor of the Tower, Master played the piano like a troubled maestro, a passionate phantom of the opera displaced in a dystopian reality.
While I lay chained on the bed, the strains would drift through the wall.
I was a foolish girl. I would shut my eyes and pretend we weren’t even in this time, but in one past, one I’d seen on film.
I was a noblewoman captive of a dark husband with a scarred face always hidden behind a mask. But he had a perfect body. He would play for hours, his tormented music brushing my raw psyche, and the pain would seep from him into me, a plea for help and exoneration. The urge to join him in his agony rose and dipped with the swells of melody.
In that other world, that noblewoman strained restless on her sheets, wanting him to come to her, and when he did, she welcomed him with depraved desires of her own.
In my world, when Master came, I shut my eyes and let the echoes of his beautiful melodies wrap around my limbs as mine wrapped around him.
Here’s the thing about fantasies, though:
They trap you worse than fear.
That bitch Cascade wants to leap into the abyss of destiny and have Lunar catch her.
I will never be caught again.