As time went on we laughed, and I asked about the twins in the photos. She spoke with reluctance, but I learned that they were with her grandmother for the moment. I looked around her room. One wall of her room had thousands of pictures. In each one she was dressed in a different costume. I recognized one as a character from an anime cartoon I used to watch when I was younger. “That one was when I dressed up as Alphonse Elric. I went to a cosplay convention with my dad. It was the best time, even though he had to leave the next day.” As she said this, her eyes twinkled.
I still had so many questions, but she changed the subject back to the task at hand. She was such a mystery to me. I wanted to know what made her tick. Her mouth curled to a nervous smile.
Siobhán got up and walked to the kitchen, bringing back ham croissants. I took one, and it was decided that we would take a break. I took a chance and asked. “Where’s your dad?” I took another bite of the sandwich.
“He works for a gas company, so he always has to go on business trips.” I noticed Siobhán’s eyes become moist. I could tell this pained her for some reason. She sniffled and brought her hand up to her nose to wipe away something I could not see. Her hand left her face, and she softly cleared her throat.
There was an awkward pause, and I looked around her room. I saw a white anime poster with a red motorcycle. The word “Akira” was on the bottom center and, right above it, was a cyberpunk dressed in a red jumpsuit. I had to admit to myself that it was a pretty cool poster. Another poster contained a father and daughter. They were ragged and had solemn looks on their faces. “Grave of the Fireflies”, it read. The music paused as one song ended and the other began. I ran my hand on her cover.
“Hey, was that really your mom?” I asked tentatively.
“Yeah. I told you, she’s crazy. She has dissociative identity disorder. You know, like The Three Faces of Eve?” The way she said it was so matter-of-fact. I was taken aback. The whole thing seemed too weird. I’d seen that movie with my family. In fact, it was my mother’s favorite. She would tell me, there are days where she would feel just like Joanne Woodward.
“All these masks we put on day in and day out,” she’d tell me, “it’s a wonder we all don’t have three faces too.”
“You know that movie?” I asked Siobhán.
“Yeah, I watch it all the time. When her doctor diagnosed her I looked it up and found that movie. It helped me understand it a little more. Growing up, I’d go to school and come home to her crying in the corner. Sometimes she’d be gone for weeks, and we’d get a call from California or New Mexico to tell us she’d been found. Her name is not even Lucy. That’s just the name of one of her identities.”
“Didn’t the movie scare you? Eve Black tried to kill her daughter.” It was as if everything she answered only led to more questions. I was on the verge of discovery, I was going to figure out what made her tick, and I just wanted to keep going. I could barely control myself. It was as if I was a detective about to solve a murder.
“Oh, well that explains a lot,” I blurted it out without thinking. My cheeks blushed. I nervously chuckled, because I had to put my foot in my mouth even deeper. The way I’d seen Siobhán was unjust and unfair, but the damage was done. I stabbed her in the worst possible way. In a flash I saw her face contort in pain. Her cheeks blushed too, but then she fixed herself.
“What do you mean?” she asked, squinting her eyes on me.
“Nothing, never mind. I’m sorry. I—I— Um— Just forget it.” I stuttered to get the words out. My hands held each other. They dripped in sweat and I kept wiping them on each other.
“No tell me. Tell me now.” She put her hands on her hips slowly and bent her back slightly towards me.
“Really, it was nothing.” My eyes darted around the room. I was desperately trying to avoid her right now. I wished I were back home on my bed, reading a book or watching a movie. I wished I’d never come to her house.
She walked forward closer to my face. Tears were welling up in her eyes now. “I said tell me now!”
“Ok. Ok. It’s just that, you know, you’re sort of weird and stuff.”
“Yeah, with how you dress and your. Um, appearance and all.”
“The clothes you wear. But now I understand, you see. That you’re strong.” I knew there was nothing else I could say or do. All this time it was me that hated her for no reason, and now Siobhán had a very good reason to hate me. I don’t know why it happened really. Maybe it was because I felt so guilty that I wanted us to move on, or maybe it was because I never really hated her. Maybe I’d always admired her fearlessness and her courage to be herself. She gave no apologies at school, she was who she was, and maybe that is why what happened next happened. There we were in her room. She was in my face tears overflowing, and there I was staring into her—knowing that I was the one that caused her this pain. I heard some force or voice telling me to do this next. I grabbed her cheeks and kissed her. She fought me away. She tried to move away my head with her hands, but I pressed on. Then she stopped fighting, and we kissed. She quickly pulled away and gasped.
“Siobhán! I’m gonna tell,” Lucy yelled from the door. She’d been at the door for God knows how long, with eyes squinted. She taunted like a younger sister taunts her older one. “You’re in trouble!” Lucy said. She stomped and jumped while singing a song to get under Siobhán’s skin. “You were K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Ha ha ha!”
Her voice surprised us both. In a matter of seconds I ran to get my things packed up my things and left. I walked the four blocks to my house. My shirt was so drenched in sweat when I got home that my mother asked me if it had rained. I didn’t know what to answer.
“NO! It’s not raining!”
“Hey!” She was taken aback. “Don’t you speak like that to me, mister! I’m your mother!”
I was completely confused. I took a shower and changed into my pajamas but everything felt different. I played with my fingers and my stomach growled, but I wasn’t hungry. My eyes were closed, but it felt like I could still see through my eyelids. I stayed awake that night. I heard Siobhán’s meows all night.
I pictured Siobhán in her room, listening to her CD. She must’ve just come from tucking Lucy in bed. It must have taken her forever to get her to calm down, and this was a moment to herself. She had a smile on her face, and she was holding in laughter. It was just too funny for her. She didn’t even know who I was. This was a surprise for her, and she wasn’t in love with me, or anything like that, but she had found something in me. That special quality she looked for, and this gave her great pleasure.
The next day I saw her with her two friends in the hallway. She was going into our class ahead of me. My buddy Tyler came up to me, and we started to talk.
“How’d it go?” Tyler said. He was desperate to know.
“Ty–it went, ok.” I answered. He just looked at me confused.
I hated him in that moment. “Something happened and you don’t want to tell me, right? Just tell me. Come on? Did she have freak parents?”
“No! Everything went fine. Nothing out of the ordinary.” I found that I couldn’t stand him right then and there.
“Oh, well ok.” He walked in, but I could tell that the answer didn’t please him.
Siobhán and I saw each other, but we didn’t say hello. Our eyes met and I paused where I stood. When she was finally inside, I walked closer to the class door and thought about all that had happened. I thought about her mother, the kiss, and how I left. The way that we’d gotten along and how I was a sham. Siobhán never worried about others. She never cared that people might think she was nerdy, or weak. She knew the truth. Everyone was so afraid. We were all stacked boxes, and only Siobhán dared to be round.
I thought about how I had hated her, but now it all had changed. Now, she probably hated me. Then, as if on cue, Siobhán stuck her head out the door and meowed with a wink. In a matter of seconds she was back in her seat.
Alex Caballero lives in Houston, Texas where he is a creative writing major at the University of Houston. He also writes for The Daily Cougar. His work has been published in the Elohi Gadugi Journal.
Artwork: Alice, by Abigail Larson