RECOMMENDED FOR MATURE READERS
The day was done, and so was I. The Hellbound Dolls returned to their corners, and I my own.
Fingers slipped under my fringe and curled around the band. Pulling back was like tearing away my skin, but the face underneath belonged to a stranger; less than that, it was a shadow projected on a screen.
A smear across my cheek melted humanity away. If paint had brought Chiyoko to life then stripping away the blush, gloss, and eyeliner would be her death. Who was I without her face?
The man staring back grimaced; he had the same hate as I, but we were not the same.
His brow, my brow, rested on the mirror as he inhaled. In the darkness voices echoed ‘who are you?’
‘Who are you?’
‘WHO ARE YOU?’
“Chiyoko,” I whispered. “My name is… Chiyoko.”
My eyes fixed shut. If I opened them she would be gone. Without me filling her shoes did she continue to exist? Would she stop existing until I found her again?
When the cold had set I looked to the boy and forced him upright. Chiyoko was still there; she glistened in the corner of his eye. It took everything I had to remember that she wasn’t gone, only resting, like a wolf curled in a cave.
‘Who are you?’
“My name is Genkai,” I said. That was what my father had named me.
The transformation complete, Genkai boarded the train and watched as the stations passed while returning to the place he slept; for it was he that had a shelter, he that had food set for him, and he that had a family that kept him as one of their own. For the moment I could only watch and help play the part.
Mother had set bowls around the table, and in the centre was a bubbling mass of meat, noodles and vegetables; a Korean hot pot, shabu shabu, which had been a regular meal for as long as I could remember.
“Genkai, why don’t you have some more beef?” she urged.
I said nothing and reached for the mushrooms, more noodles, and another ladle of the spicy soup they brewed in.
The younger sibling jumped in his seat. “I’ll have more beef,” he beamed.
“You have enough meat,” Mother told him. “Genkai needs more because he’s graduating soon. He needs all the energy he can get.”
“I don’t like meat,” I hummed. “I prefer mushrooms.”
“Mushrooms don’t contain whole proteins,” she argued. “Beef is easy to digest, and it’s a premium source of iron. If you don’t adjust your diet you’re going to be tired all the time, and you won’t grow into a real man.”
I froze between bites. Suddenly, my appetite had vanished.
“Genkai doesn’t care about being a man,” the brother laughed. “Don’t you know he’s a pervert who wishes he was a pretty, pretty girl?” The kisses accompanying his swoons were ripe for smacking.
Mother snapped. “Kiba!”
“It’s true,” the boy retorted. “I’ve been in his room! He has bras and panties and lots of girls clothes! It’s totally sick!”
The wolf poked her head from the mouth of the cave. “Watch what you say, runt.”
“Can’t we sit together for one night without talking about perverted things, like a normal family?” Mother huffed.
My fists clenched and I stood.
If I was going to live the farce then there were better places to do it; namely with my head buried between the pages of a textbook. Books were easy; if it was obscene it would not react to my disgust.
With the door closed I was safe. With the mirrors covered my skin was intangible. In a world without an observer, neither male nor female, I could do as I pleased; float, and ignore the shackles that bound me to this world…
…but even that was not enough.
I pulled away from the desk and walked to the satchel on the bed. Inside were the forbidden items that Kiba had spoken of; the way he made the truth so shameful was something I would never forgive him for.
The zip opened and I reached inside for the black, lace bra. How could such an object hold such momentous meaning? I opened my shirt and pressed it to my body; a shock ran through my system, as though I’d forgotten how naked I was without it.
For the first time in hours I exhaled. The wolf soothed and rested.
There was a knock at the door. Before I’d been able to respond it opened, and I stood to face my father. He saw me with the garment in my hand and shook his head.
“Your girlfriend asked you to do her laundry,” he reasoned.
He swayed, turned his head and sighed. “I wanted to congratulate you on your test score,” he continued. “Ninety-eight percent is an admirable performance. You’ll be awarded a high distinction. It’s what every parent hopes for.”
The bra dropped from my palm and I turned away from it. “Thank you,” I told him.
“Genkai, there’s one last thing.”
Father caught my gaze and took off his glasses. His grimace was made heavier by the mustache resting on his lips.
“I’m proud of you for all that you’ve achieved,” he explained, “but know that distinctions and honours do not place you above shame. Nobody cares what you do in this world; they only care what they see you doing. Remember that.
“You carry your grandfather’s name. It’s important that you bring honour to it, and nothing else.”
The door creaked to a close, and I was alone; worse than alone. As a Doll I claimed to be bound for Hell, but ask at the right time and you would know that I was already there.
To be continued…