By: Penelope Douglas

And they were all an illusion. They only exist when I let them.

She’s absolutely right.

What is my father going to do to me, and do I care?

I want that.

You can’t have it.

Well, what happens if I take it anyway?

I want to do that.

You can’t.

Who’s going to stop me?

Jesus, she’s right. What the fuck am I waiting for? What can he do?

I want a little havoc, a little trouble, a little fun, a chance to go where my heart takes me…who the hell’s going to stop me?

Every tense muscle in my body begins to slowly relax, and the knots in my stomach start to uncoil. My skin buzzes, and I feel my insides flip, forcing me to hold back a smile.

And I inhale a deep, cool breath, filling my lungs with air that tastes like water in a desert.


Keeping her in my arms, I stand up, holding her tight as I carry her back to the car.

I don’t bother taking her home. I don’t want her to be alone.

I carry her inside my house, the foyer dark since it’s almost ten. My father is no doubt in the city for the night, and my mother is probably on her way to bed. But as I climb the stairs, I pass her in the hallway, Rika passed out in my arms.

“Is she okay?” My mom rushes up to us, already dressed in a nightgown with book in her hand.

“She’s fine,” I reply, stepping into my room.

Walking over to my bed, I lay her down on top of the comforter and pull the blanket kept down at the bottom over her.

“Why don’t you put her in a guest room?” my mother suggests.

But I shake my head. “I’ll sleep in one tonight. Let her have my room. She needs to feel safe.”

And then I look at my mother. “She should have her own room here, though.”

She sleeps over a lot since her father’s death, and given her mother’s behavior, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Let her have a space here that feels like a home.

My mom nods. “That’s a good idea.”

I walk past my mother, grabbing a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt out of my closet. “Poor thing.” My mother strokes her hair. “So fragile.”

“No, she isn’t,” I correct. “Don’t coddle her.”

I snatch my black hoodie off the chair by the door and head into the bathroom to change, since the dog’s blood is all over my jeans.

After I’m in fresh clothes, I dial Kai, hearing loud music and lots of voices in the background.

“Do you still have those masks we used for paintball last weekend?” I ask, stuffing my wallet in my new jeans and running my fingers through my hair.

“Yeah, they’re in the trunk of my car,” he answers.

“Good. Get the guys, and meet me at Sticks.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Whatever we want,” I reply.

And then I hang up, walk back into my bedroom, and take one last look at Rika as she sleeps on my bed.

The corners of my mouth lift, and I can’t wait for tonight.

She corrupted me.