“You drugged me!” I growled, stumbling towards him with my hands outstretched. That, apparently, was too hard, and I soon wound up staring at the ceiling. “Ow…” I moaned, cautiously standing, unable to hold on to my anger.

He leisurely rolled his shoulders back, yawning. “Listen, Strawberry.”

“I woke up in a pond.”

“I didn’t know you couldn’t hold your drink.”

“In. A. Pond.”

“You asked for eight of those things.”

“…Pond.”

“Your argument is invalid.”

I peeked up at his eyes. “Why?”

“Because potato.”

“Damn you…” I groaned. “What was in that?”

“Oh.” He looked reluctant to answer. “…Legal drugs.”

“WHAT.”

“That activate pheremones or some thingamajig.”

“…what?”

“You know what I mean, Red.”

I tried to change the subject, muttering, “I’m not Red.”, under my breath. He looked at me, not tricked.

“So…you gave me drugs that would make me…” I stuttered off, blushing. “Don’t you think that could be a little illegal?”

He scoffed. “You asked for them.”

“You barely know me.”

“How is that relevant?”

“You drugged someone you- wait. You have a girlfriend, and you tried to-” My face (still flushed) turned stony. “ASS!”

“DC wouldn’t mind,” He smiled. “You’re just another phase to her.” I growled, trying to disguise how much that actually hurt. Damson, who had appeared to recover faster, glared at me. “She’s coming over at six, don’t get in our way.”

Sometimes, I want to punch him.

~!~

Idly running my brush across the canvas, I tried as hard as I could not to glance at the clock. It was probably already six, anyway, and what did it matter to her? Still, she wanted to know when-

“DAMSON!”

“DAMSON!” She screeched again, slamming the door. “Where are ya, baby?” DC giggled obnoxiously loud, and I shuddered.

 

She must have seen him outside or something, because she giggled one more time and I listened to her high-heels click out the door. Growling, I stabbed the canvas, angry for her shattering the silence I had worked hard to mantain.

And the next struggle was trying not to stare out the window at the obviously “happy” couple. As if the noises didn’t keep me informed.

I began pacing, wondering if I should just leave them be.

I looked out the window and gagged, turning around. “Oh, Berry.” I muttered, cheeks flaming. They were really, um, doing that on a balcony in front of millions of crowded buildings.

So tasteful.

I flicked on the stereo, turning it up. The last thing I needed was mental trauma from what I was seeing out of the hideously large windows, let alone hearing.

 

I walked downstairs, a smile frozen on my face, and stepped into the elevator. “I’m leaving!” I yelled, doubting either of them cared.

 

“Whatever!” I heard Damson yell, followed by a couple of splashes and more of that chicken screech noise from DC.

“Strongest of whatever the hell you got.” I ordered, still angry.

“Well,  how polite.” A voice came from my lieft, a hint of a smile in the girl’s slow stoner voice.

“Whatever.” I muttered, knocking the drink back..

“What’s his name?” The voice buzzed insistently, steady.

“What?” I asked, putting the drink down and finally looking at the girl.

“Call me Peaches.” She smiled slow and easy. “And no one ever drinks that without someone to inspire them, girl.”

I laughed. “His name is Damson.”

She shook her head. “Shatter, eh? Better come with me.” She got up and headed straight for a table, her draping skirts swishing and gold beads clanking against each other.

“What’s the deal, hon?” She glanced down at a watch. “And no need to rush, but I have a plane to catch.”

“Oh?” I inquired, hoping to give the subject a little space. “Where to?”

“Chickenstock, man. It’s the place to go.” She nodded a little sleepily, purple lips stretched into a smile. “They’re doing stuff down there- still discriminating against burnt berries, and there’s even a town where music and dancing were both outlawed.” She shook her head. “Chickenstock, bro. Chickenstock.”

I laughed, and she gave me another serious look, indicating I should go on. “There’s nothing more to say!” I grumbled. “He’s an ass.”

“The assiest! Went to high school with ‘im.” I laughed at this, staring at her incredulously. She nodded, making a face.

We spent the rest of the night talking, and I couldn’t really remember the last time I was this happy. Except for when Damson gave me a place, which really turned out to be a ray of sunshine.

“OH SHIT!” She yelled at one point, standing up and knocking her chair aside. “I’ve got a flight to catch!”

She threw me a quick smile, pulling me in for a hug. “Anytime you need an ear, man.”

“Bye, bro!” She screamed, charging away and immediately hailing a cab. I sighed, staring out the doorway for a second, and shook myself, paying and thanking the bartender.

Maybe I should have gone with her.

I walked to Damson’s; it really wasn’t that far. He would have probably thought I was insane- even he knew that Briocheport’s streets at night were filled with very bitter berries. Tiredly, I made my way into the apartment, finding DC gone and sighing in relief.

Damson was already asleep…

I changed into pajamas, the same question running through my mind- What if I had asked to go with her? The attitude says she would have gone for it, and the dress said she totally would have gone for it. I sighed again, heavier.

I crawled into bed, and soon, there was nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped in the door, eyes wide and expression frozen.

Who was Damson?

I blinked hard, stumbling forward.

I had gone from having nothing to having…this.

A smile bloomed across my face. That, of course, didn’t make my face happy. Cuts split, bruises ached, and my spent legs decided to join in complaining. But what did I care?

I was invincible- I could do anything.

I took three bounding steps and slammed open the glass door, laughing and screeching.

My heart turned inside out.

Freedom.

“I’M THE QUEEN OF THE FUCKING WORLD!” I screamed, throwing my arms up.

I could kiss Damson.

(But I wouldn’t)

“Sure, sweetie. Whatever makes you sleep at night.”

I spun around, heart pounding, and stifled a scream with my hand. “Da- Damson?” I growled at him then, glaring. “Yew were creepin’ on me!”

“Of course I was. If I hadn’t been, I would have missed you prancing about like a little unicorn.”

“Interesting choice of words.”

“Yeah, well, I’m still drunk.” He shook his head at me. “Okay, then, my buzz is fading and that bench was dirty and uncomfortable. Sleep, please?” I nodded, laughing, and trailed him up the stairs.

“Damson.” My lips felt like concrete, and my heart thudded as I saw my two closest friends in his room.

A beautiful blue grand piano and an equally as blue easel propped against the wall.

“What?”

“You…have a piano.”

He laughed under his breath, shooting it a quizzical looks. “Music makes me look deep.”

“You can play?”

“Not worth a damn.”

I nodded, not really listening anymore.

Memories of my childhood flicked through my mind- pain, pain, music, and the scent of fresh hay.

Yelling.

A grave-

I shuddered, lunging forward and wrapping my arms around him. “Thank you.” I whispered to Damson as him arms came up automatically.

Too bad I didn’t see the look on his face. If I had, I would have walked away. I would have seen my future in his eyes…

But, then again, none of this could have happened if I had.

His face rearranged into an angry look, and he backed away. “Whatever.”

“Look, Red, I said it earlier. My buzz is crashing and I’m tired…”

Blushing, I turned away as he undressed. “So, do whatever.” He finished with a yawn.

“Night.” I muttered halfheartedly as he climbed into the unmade bed.

“Day.” He muttered, and was silent.

I stared down at the blank square of canvas, and I wanted to cry again. Basically, Briocheport was turning me into a mess.

“I LIKE messes.” I stated to myself, slashing an angry line of paint across the rough white surface.

The next few hours passed normally- me, killing the canvas with my paintbrush and sneaking scared glances at the piano.

I wanted the music so bad- but it hurt for me to play. At least, it did back in Razzleview. My life was…had been empty, and the music was so beautiful and full of emotion, it hurt.

Then again, maybe I was crazy.

I ran across the room to the piano, stifling the groans that fell from my throat.

My fingers fluttered across the keys, and I closed my eyes, singing words softly.

I could see the notes float around me, and I lost myself in the music.

I didn’t notice the pair of eyes burning into my back.

Didn’t notice the smirk.

“Beautiful, Red.” I said, the corner of my mouth quirking.

This girl intrigued me.

Her face shows where she came from well enough, but her attitude told me whole other story.

And her body…

Don’t blame me, I’m only male.

“Damson!” She said, a panicked look on her face. “Uh. I’ll make you dinner.” She said, embarrassed.

“Nope.” I said, pulling on a shirt. “We’re going to a bar.”

I started dancing, and she snorted. “The Grind!” I sang. “People gettin’ freaky on and off the floor!”

She waggled a finger at me, and I grinned.

She had no idea…

Nights spent drowned in drink, women with no faces, emptiness.

Poor ambitious Red didn’t know that she was about to be caught up in that. I inwardly shook my head, almost sorry for her. But then I laughed again.

Who cares if I…helped her into it?

“I don’t think-”

I ran towards her, sweeping her off her feet and smiling. “Babe, you’re coming with me no matter what.” She squealed, kicking. “Lemme go!” She twanged.

“Gladly.”

He got me down the elevator, across the lobby, and into the limo.

“…Did someone steal your shoes?” He asked, a confused look on his face.

“Yes.”

“Really?”

“No. I hate shoes.” I didn’t explain anything past that- not how I loved the feeling of wet grass, not how I thought shoes anchored me to the ground and kept me from flying, not how Momma really didn’t care enough to buy me any.

The limo rolled on in silence.

When we got to the bar, he strutted up to the bartender. “Round of drinks on me, Marsh.”

The tender rolled his eyes. “You still haven’t paid off the tab from last week.” Damson rolled his eyes and he slapped cash over the counter. “Do I ever disappoint, m’friend?”

“Drink this, Red.” I nodded at him, knocking it back. Almost immediately did I feel the effects, and I smiled at him. “More!” I giggled, throwing my hands up.

“More.”

 .

By the seventh or eighth, Damson didn’t seem so stupid anymore, and pixies were flashing around my head.

“What the hell?” I slurred, staring at Damson.

“The…drink.” He started laughing loudly. “It’s called Loooove Potion Number Nine!” He thought that was hilarious, apparently. “Feeling needy, baby?” He waggled his eyebrows. “A proper welcome to Briocheport?”

I laughed, slumping against him. “I might have to take you up on that!” It seemed like a good idea.

He pushed me away. “DC! Baby!” He yelled, walking up to a girl. “Strawberry, this is my girlfriend!” He yelled, nodding enthusiastically. She gave Strawberry a distasteful look before freezing up. “OMIGOD YOUR FACE.” She nearly screamed, running forward and pointing. “Emergency. Makeover. Now.”

By this point, I was scared. It was all moving too fast- not only did I have a home, I had a celebrity roommate.

A celebrity roommate with a celebrity girlfriend.

Girfriend.

The drink didn’t really like that word.

“Nonsense!” She yelled, linking her arm around Strawberry’s. “Hun, come with me.”

Before I could say anything, she yanked me across the floor and into a cramped, dirty, bathroom.

My face.

Oh, Berry, my face.

I felt like a cake, I was so frosted up. But my face…

I was beautiful- the memories and scars and bruises were gone, a story erased from everything except my eyes. “Red…” Sang DC, pointing at me, adopting Damson’s nickname. “You’re one hawt girl.”

For once in my life, I didn’t disagree with that.

Everything after that was a blur- albeit a welcomed one.

I don’t really remember much of that night, only the beginning.

Only Damson and DC locking lips.

Only me wondering why it hurt so much.

Only running.

When I got to where Iwanted, I stumbled paths, fell once or twice, demolished flowers, and finally waded past my hips into the water.

I was, obviously, wasted.

But even that couldn’t explain why it hurt so much.

I wondered what would happen if I drowned…

Bridgeport. The place dreams are born, dreams die, and incomprehensible magic is made in the strangest of ways. My eyes closed, burned by the bright lights, and I knew then. This was the first moment of the rest of my life.

Briocheport.

The place dreams are born, dreams die, and incomprehensible magic is made in the strangest of ways.

My eyes closed, burned by the bright lights, and I knew then. This was the catastrophic changing of ways, of lives (my life in particular), that made me feel like I deserved a second chance.

Free, I’m free.

My feet slapped the night-cooled pavement, bouncing excitedly with every other step.

I’m the lucky one.

I’m the caged bird that taught herself how to fly.

I’ve never been happier.

I’ve never been happier.

So happy it hurt.

Then why did I feel like crying?

I had left behind everything that had hurt- my family, my home, my life.

I had left behind everything I loved- Gramma, my piano, the canvas.

My bruises were cooled by the night air, a sigh drifting around the fairly busy road, bringing the sharp scent of rain, and the promise of a new beginning.

I broke down.

Oh, Berry, it hurt.

I was so alone.

Even in the darkest moments, I had had someone. Now, when I needed someone the most, I didn’t have a thing. The lights of the city seemed colder.

I lurched forward, tired, walking nowhere.

I stopped at a moss-covered bench, legs jiggling and eyes already closed.

Maybe I would know what to do in the morning.

“Comfortable, sweetheart?”

“Mmm- what the-”

I cracked open an eye, heart pounding. “Uh…yes.” I twanged, hoping he would go away.

“Come with me.”

“What?” My Razzleview accent blazed, and I cringed.

“I said come on. You obviously need a place to stay, baby, unless you like getting mugged.”

“Uh…I don’t need no place. I…fell asleep on the way to my apartment.”

He just laughed. “Babe, I’m drunk, but not that drunk. The name’s Damson Shatter, and this is the first charitable act in my life.”

He smirked and raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure another will come along soon, so…”

He trailed off, and I sighed. “…Okay.”

“But, are yuh’…a rapist or somethin’?”

He laughed again. “Sure.”

He walked off, only pausing to yell over his shoulder. “Hurry the fuck up!”

It was my turn to roll my eyes.

He crossed his arms as I scrambled off the bench.

He huffed. “Well, Red, I don’t have all night.”

I mimicked him. “The name’s Strawberry.”

“Did I fucking ask-”

I cut him off with a laugh, clapping my hands slowly.

“Damson, my boy,” I drawled, laughing again. “This is the start of a bee-yu-ti-ful friendship.”

I’m the caged bird who taught herself how to sing.