I looked up at the sky, hoping it would rain. I didn’t want to drip blood on my porch when I got home. The rain makes cleanup easier. I normally leave a trail of blood up my porch. I hate watching people walk past me as I wipe the wooden boards in front of my house. It’s just a nosebleed, I tell them. They normally chuckle and wish me well after, but I hate the interaction anyway. I never tell them the truth, obviously. I don’t think the fifty-year-old woman, power walking past my house, would understand why I had soiled my front porch with some young man’s blood. I’ve tried to pretend it truly is a nose bleed, but I’ve never had one, and I’m not an actress.
I slip my key out of my pocket, and twist it while it rests inside my doorknob. I walk in and look down, most of the blood on my shirt is dry. I creep down the hallway to the last door on the left and walk in. The room is full of silver machinery. Shelves hold different types of incubators and beakers with liquids dripping into them, and a centrifuge hums in harmony alongside them. I pull my shirt up and over my shoulders, taking it off. I grab each end of it and wring the blood out of the cotton fibers. I flick the funnel and watch as a few drops of my sample drip through. I didn’t get the blood straight from his artery, so I need to purify it. I watch as it filters itself. It’s almost calming. I count the drops, one, two, three, four, five. That's enough. I twist the metal knob attached to the anchor holding the vial of blood and release it. I head back into the hall and out the back door. The garden is in full bloom, it always is, each flower opening up to the night sky. There are a lot of them, their vines wrapped around the lattice work, each one a vibrant red. I walk over to the only two white flowers, grazing the petals with my pointer finger and thumb. Holding the base of one of the moonflowers, I flip the cap containing the contents of the vial, and slowly drip the blood onto the flower. The white petals soak in the color, transitioning from white, to a blush, and then to a deep crimson. The flower seems to perk up as it drinks. I give one last glance at the white one. It makes me conscious of the number I have left. Only one.
I walk back inside to the bathroom and take off the remainder of my clothes. I glance at the mirror. Cringe. I touch my face, pulling up the skin next to my cheekbones. How disturbing. Dull. I scan further down, tracing my collarbone. I pinch the skin around it, wishing it wasn’t there. My skin is almost translucent; I look like I’m dying. I guess I am, slowly, withering away everyday. I look like a coloring book, before you scribble in between the lines. Two-dimensional. I shake my head and get into the shower. I close my eyes; the water is warm. I imagine it doing more than rinsing my skin. I imagine all my sins attach themselves to the droplets and swirl around the drain. I sit silently on the slick floor, and open my eyes to the water running down my legs pink, diluting the red that seeped through my shirt and cemented itself to my chest. I wait a bit, then finally turn the water off.
After drying off, I lay on my couch. I gaze out the window waiting for the sun to set. I know my transformation is coming. It comes every night and again right before sunrise. As soon as the last light from the sun fades, I will feel the first crack of my bones. I get up to prepare the living room. The roll of clear plastic is waiting for me in my coat closet. I unroll the large, tarp like, sheeting over my couch and across the floor. I tape the plastic to the walls, standing on a bar stool to get to the top. I don’t need to cover the ceiling. It doesn’t normally reach that high. I used to use a hammer and nails to hang the plastic, but my walls began to look like they were infested with termites. Full of holes. It made cleanup easier, though, if it took the time to tape the plastic up. My living room was a vulnerable space. My white couch and white walls seemed to attract the bright red color.
I wait patiently, watching the sun disappear, holding my breath in anticipation of the pain. Tears begin to form in my eyes. Then I feel it, my wrist snaps. It hangs limply off my arm. Then my shoulder blades spread out, extending as far as they can, ripping the muscle surrounding them. My teeth push out of my mouth, ripping my gums with them. My tongue traces the spot where my teeth should be, and it is only strings of skin. My ribs break, each one floating around inside, they begin stabbing my organs. First my heart, then my liver, then my uterus, and then my kidney. Fluids begin to swell inside of me, and I am drowning. I am drowning from the inside. There is no end, it keeps happening, a cycle, over and over again. The fractures only get louder as time passes, as I wait out my lacerations. And then, it’s done.
Now I’m her. The it girl. She is tall and lean; long hair cascades down her back. The world looks different when I am her, or rather, the world looks at me differently. I walk to my room, stopping in the hall to stare at my reflection in the mirror. I am beautiful like this. I have high cheekbones and a commercial white smile. My cheeks blush a pretty pink. I look alive. It’s all a trap. I might as well have snakes for hair instead. I shake my head at the mirror and continue down the hall. I turn right and walk into my room. I rummage through my closet and pick out an outfit. I slip on my black tights and then my black dress. It hugs every curve. I think about what the new boy might like me to wear. I don’t even know him yet, but I don’t have to. They all look at me the same like this. I bet he likes doe eyes. It will make him think about the only thing he really likes to see, what I look like on my knees. That’s all they want, to feel strong, masculine. A girl that matches what he fantasizes. She, I mean I, always fit the part. I grab my white eyeliner and line my waterline. Once I’m done, I grab my purse off my bed and hurry to the front door; I have to find a new victim tonight.
I sit at the bar, eavesdropping on the conversations around me. I can feel their eyes on me. I count them as I scan the room, one, two, three, four, five. Number one is a dad, no doubt, out with his buddies. His eyes dart between his buddies and my chest. Two, three and four are out together. A boys night. They each slide their eyes from my legs to the hem of my dress, and then turn back to each other. I think one of them chuckled, then said he wished my heels were resting atop his shoulders. Number five is sitting with two blonde girls, they are, no doubt, underaged. The group consists of a few friends. The girls are loud, not in an obnoxious way though, in a way that makes them seem fun. I pretend to adjust my hair so I can turn and peek at them. I regret it instantly. They catch my gaze and gesture at me to join them. I hesitate. When I don’t immediately respond they sloppily shuffle my way.
“Please come join us,” the blonde on the left begs. “Tyler’s been eyeing you all night,” she finishes with a wink. I don’t want to, but I know I need to. I submit with a head nod and the flash of a brilliant smile. It’s fake, but they don’t know any better. The blonde on the right squeals with excitement, and they both grab onto me in an attempt to take me to their table. They are charming. They have a warmth that I don’t. When we reach the table, the guys greet me, but the first person to introduce themselves is Tyler. He is too eager and a tad desperate. Perfect. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, time to play the game.
He talks too fast at times and too slow at others, but I pretend to be engaged. I swat at his arm playfully when he flirts with me, and I make sure to giggle sweetly at all his jokes. I’m bored. I lean forward in an attempt to look interested.
“Can I get you another drink?” he asks while pointing to my empty glass. He’s kind. The soft waves in his hair and his round eyes tell me so. I respond politely with my drink order, and he gets up and heads to the bar. I study him as he walks away, but I’m not sure what to think. He is handsome, handsome but not overwhelmingly attractive. The innocent puppy dog type. Tyler walks back with my drink, and I can’t help but feel drained. We sit and talk. I let him think I am listening. He mostly talks about himself, and how beautiful I am, which doesn’t spark my interest. He mentions his bike. He tells me all about it actually. He talks about the work he does on it in his garage, about how fast it runs, and how loud it purrs. I find his infatuation funny. He says I should come by to see it sometime. I agree.
Morning is approaching, and I need to leave. I make an excuse to head home, something about an early morning appointment, but truly it doesn’t matter. The hustle of people from earlier has died down, and the bar feels more like a bleak dungeon than it did packed with people. I collect my things and thank Tyler for the drink. The blondes demand to put my number in their phones, and I let them. They both hug me before I leave. Tyler gives me a soft kiss on the cheek. He will get my number from the girls, and then, eventually, contact me. I have no doubts.
I walk home slowly, taking in the air with my, now, slender nose. It will be gone by morning. The air is heavy. Maybe the air has a mind of its own, and it is suffocating me. I deserve it. After all, the only reason I entertained Tyler was to keep myself alive. Each hour that goes by, the last white flower in my garden has more time to wilt. I have more time to wilt. Tyler’s blood will be good for the garden. He is strong and lean. Decent nutrients. As silly as it sounds, It’s easier if they trust me, if they have a more intimate relationship with me. Who do you trust more than the person you fuck, date, or even love?
I unlock the front door and begin setting up the living room. Once it is set, I lie on the floor, facing the ceiling, and wait. The transition is slow. It feels like minor stomach cramps now, but I know it will become waves of mind numbing pain soon. It is happening later than usual. I look up at my kitchen clock, it’s already four hours past sunrise. I lay still, cradled in plastic, and then I feel the first rib snap within my chest. The pain consumes me for a while, and then the transformation stops. I can’t seem to get off the floor. My ribcage aches. I get up, and walk towards my mirror. I check my reflection again. I’m bland. My phone chimes. It’s Tyler.
I had fun last night, it was nice to meet you. When are you free this week for dinner?
I ignore it. I don’t feel like playing pretend this morning. The doorbell rings. I look up from my phone and walk to peek out my front window. It’s a man. He has dark hair and circular wire glasses. He is wearing an apron, and he has flour all over his shirt. There is even a bit on his cheek. I open the door and chuckle to myself. Closing it behind me, the tarp is still out.
“Hi, I am so sorry to bother you, but in an attempt to bake a pie for my mother I have run out of flour.” He’s quite flustered. I stand stunned for a moment; I realize I’ve never met him.
“You don’t live next door do you?” I ask. I am trying to push back a memory of me wiping up that one guy's blood, maybe Austin, off of my front porch a few weeks ago. I hope he didn’t see that. I look outside at the houses, as if I am looking for his.
“Oh, no my backyard backs up to yours, but my neighbors didn’t answer, so I walked around the corner to your door,” he pauses for a moment, “you have a pretty garden? What are they?”
“Moonflowers, they react negatively to the sun” I say, snapping back into reality. I forget other people can see them.
He paused for a moment before answering, “So when the moon is out they open?” I nod my head in response. “It seems like a bit of a silly thing, for tropical flowers to be afraid of the sun,” he says.
“Well, I tend to think things look prettier in the dark,” I reply. I lean back against the door and begin to slip inside, “Let me get you that flour, just keep it in the pie this time, rather than on your clothes.” As I close the door I can hear him curse and brush his clothes off. I let out a breath as the door clicks shut. I look over to my living room. There is my blood everywhere. Maybe another time I will invite him in. Not this time, but maybe next time. I pass him the flour through the crack in the door and wave goodbye.
“Thank you, I’ll bring it back, most of it, I hope.”
I text Tyler back as soon as he rounded the corner of our street.
I am free tonight. When and Where?
I am late, and I rush to the hostess stand as I walk in. She guides me to our table. Tyler embraces me and pulls out my chair. Afterwards, he sits down and brushes his hands against his pants. He’s nervous. I wait for him to speak first. I have no desire to start the small talk. He talks, as he scans the menu, and the candle on the table flickers as he drones on. I feign interest. I get the impression he likes to order for his dates, so I ask him to. He orders for me, and I smile in his direction when he looks at me for reassurance. I don’t like red wine, or scallions, but he does. We talk throughout dinner, but I don’t try to remember anything he says. I play a game instead. I imagine what the couples around us think. I have a feeling they see a budding romance. Good. Dinner drags on. Several tables clear and new couples join the tables around us. I keep up the act, pretending I want nothing more than to be there. The check finally arrives, and I let out a sigh of relief.
We leave the restaurant holding hands. They are clammy, and I have to resist the urge to let go. I stare ahead, not caring to look in his direction. I know what is coming. I don't want to expedite anything by facing him. He asks me about my hobbies as we walk around downtown. I realize I don’t have any. I make something up for his sake. We eventually reach my house, and he thanks me for joining him for dinner. I return the favor, expressing how much fun it was. He believes me, surprisingly. I can’t even convince myself I sound interested. Instinctively he reaches up to touch my face, tilting my chin up. He draws me closer by wrapping his arm around my waist, and from the look in his eyes you’d think I was the only other person in the world. His eyes close as he leans in. I keep mine open. His lips are against mine for what seems like an eternity. He finally pulls back, and I feel him resting his forehead against mine. I close my eyes quickly, hoping to avoid eye contact. I don’t want to play any more games tonight. His wet kiss has soured my mood.
I walk straight to the backyard. I have a bit of time before the sun rises, and I decide to sit in the garden. I count the flowers. There are fifty. They each represent a month of my life. That is the plight of my existence. I have to endure this transformation until I quench all of their thirst. I almost died the first month. I tried water, soil, and plant food. The only thing that works is pure blood. Somehow, once they get the taste of blood, they live and then I live. We are connected. Once they get a taste of blood, they don’t close anymore. They stay open during the daytime. I hope I am more like the flowers than I think. I can name them all, the boys. The first one was Corbin, the twentieth one was Oscar, and the forty-fifth one was Harry. I don’t really remember them apart from their names. My last white flower will soon be Tyler. Maybe after that one, I will stay pretty too.
The sun is almost up, so I decide to return to my position on the tarp. This time my blood feels hot, and I feel like I’m burning from the inside out. It’s as if the sun is baking me back into my other self. I continue to wait it out, and then the blood boiling cools to a simmer.
I clean up the tarp. I fold it neatly and set it by the door. I will take it outside later. I grab a wet towel and wipe the fluids off my body, throwing the towel on the floor next to the tarp. This time, a knock. Three taps of knuckles. I open the door, almost excited. It’s him.
“Hi, I brought back your flour.” The bag is nearly as full as it was when I gave it to him. He had more success the second time. In his other hand, not holding the flour, there is a piece of pie. I look between him and the pie.
“I’m sorry, what is your name?” I ask.
“Oh, sorry, I’m Maverick.” He pauses, “Can I come in?” I wait a moment and then slowly open the door. I watch him walk in. The tarp. I eye it and kick it behind my island, hoping he didn’t notice. He sits at my island, and places the pie in the middle of the counter.
“What’s your name?” he asks me.
“Well, Luciana, do you have silverware?” I shuffle around him, awkwardly rubbing my arm against his as I walk by. I’ve never had anyone in my house before. I’m not used to sharing my space. I grab two forks, handing one to him.
“Thank you, for the pie” I say. He unwraps the saran wrap from top of the pie, and looks back at me with a smile.
“Thank you for the flour. I thought I could repay you with what I used it for.” I fork off a piece of the pie and taste it. It’s not bad. He does the same, gesturing with the fork while he talks. “So, tell me about yourself.” I look at him confused. No one has asked me that before. I’m not sure what to say, but I feel like I don’t have much to lose.
“I like gardening…” I offer. He chuckles.
“I could tell by that monstrous vine in your backyard, I can barely see over that thing.” I chuckle with him. It is large. I keep conversing with him as we share that tiny slice of pie. With each bite I feel like we get a bit closer, dizzy off of sugar. I sit next to him on another bar stool.
“I really like chemistry.”
“You like chemistry?” he questions.
“Yes, I do.” I say. He asks me more about why I like it, and I offer an explanation without question. “It makes sense, it is the only thing in my life that really balances out. Everything else is to one extreme or the other. I guess maybe I just like balance.” He nods along with me, and places an arm around my chair. I feel my cheeks heat up as he does it. He keeps listening while I stutter over my words.
“Can I see it?” he asks. I look back at him confused. “The garden I mean… you like to garden, I’d love to see your work.” I pull back. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, but I want to share something with him. I’ve never shared anything with anyone else. I nod and walk him to the back door and let him outside. He stands in the middle of my garden, leans to the left and points.
“There.” he says, “That is where I can see my yard.” I lean with him, and sure enough, there is his yard. A small clearing in the lattice work reveals it. I never noticed it before. It is neatly trimmed and there is a fire pit in the middle. His house has a pretty deck with varying hanging plants.
“Do you like to garden?” I ask.
He nods in response, “I have a few small plants, but nothing to the magnitude you have.” I smile. I guess my collection of fifty flowers is impressive, if you don’t know what they mean. He walks back into the house and thanks me for sharing a piece of pie with him. I like him. He didn’t once look past me, or treat me like I wasn’t pretty enough to talk to. I don’t feel so invisible with him. My dull self felt a bit, polished. I lead him to the door, and he gives me a ‘thank you’ hand squeeze before he leaves.
“I’m sure your mom loved it!” I yell to him as he rounds the corner.
I close the door and head back inside. I stare at the counter for a bit. He left his plate. A single dollop of whip cream sits on the edge. I pick it up with my finger and lick it off. Then, I hear another knock. I walk to the door, expecting it to be Maverick.
“Did you forget-”
It’s Tyler. He looks confused. Understandable. He looks around behind me, hoping to see a vague resemblance of the girl he goes out with every few nights. She’s not here. He asks me where she is, hoping to return her jacket that ‘she’ forgot when he dropped her off. He looks concerned. I explain that I am her roommate, and that I will get it back to her as soon as she’s back from… work. He seems satisfied with that answer. Yet, I can catch a glimpse of disappointment. I decide to tell him before he leaves that ‘she’ talks about him often, and I think ‘she’ really likes him. He seems less disappointed. He texts me almost immediately after he leaves.
I returned your jacket, I didn’t know you had a roommate.
I let it sit for a bit before responding, Yeah! Thank you, see you soon?
I sit in the living room, having wasted my day away on the couch, waiting to become her again. Then it happens. My body snaps and splinters into a million bone chips. Each one piercing the inside of my skin before springing back, like a yo-yo, and snapping back into a new arrangement. My lungs expand and then explode, leaving me without air. Wheezing. Turning blue. A new pair regenerates itself, and I claw at my neck, begging for oxygen to enter my nose and mouth. I watch as each one of my fingers breaks, bending under the will of some unknown being, and then cracking back in on themselves. I vaguely see my reflection in the mirror, I look haunting in this phase. I watch my cheek bones roll from one place under my skin to another. Like a wave. My eyes roll back in their sockets, melt, and then solidify again, but in a different color. I shake on the cold tarp, still writhing from pain. Soon it will be over, so soon.
I get up, slippery, like a newborn child. Covered in sweat and fluid. I clean myself off. I don’t have time for a shower. I am meeting Tyler at his place. I dress ‘comfy’ like he told me over text. Comfy doesn’t really mean comfy though. I slip on a red thong, and make sure to coat my lashes in mascara. Comfortable, but ready at any moment.
I get there, and he offers to show me his bike. I accept, and follow him to his garage. He turns it on and revs the engine for me. I make my eyes wide, like I’m impressed. I’m not. He doesn’t need to know. I ask if I can sit on it and he holds me steady while I straddle the seat. He places his hands over mine and leans in. I feel his hot breath on my neck. It smells. I want to push him away. He whispers in my ear. I try to lean in and receive his words. I could care less. He tells me how sexy I am, and how he wishes I would straddle him like I am his bike. I squeeze his hand. I can’t bring myself to do anything else.
He helps me off the bike, turns it off, and walks me to his bedroom. We cuddle on the bed while watching a movie. I keep making contact with his hand while I reach for the popcorn bowl. I think he is doing it on purpose. He explains the movie as I watch it, as if I can’t really grasp the plot. I can, but I play into it. I’ll be dense if that's what he prefers. I watch out of the corner of my eye, and see him glance at my chest. He mentions he's bored of the movie. I’m bored of him. He sets the popcorn bowl aside and places a hand on my thigh. I place my hand on top of his. For him, it is a sign of affection. For me, it is a way to keep his hand at bay. The movie ends, and he kisses my neck. I distract myself with a picture on his wall. He stops when I don’t respond to his touch, and I let out a pity moan so he thinks I am enjoying myself. He moves from my neck to my lips, and he kisses me. I accept the kiss, but I don’t return it. He is too busy groping my breasts to realize. He keeps making out with me, but I glance at my phone every once in a while to check the time. I remind him in between kisses that I have to go. He groans in response. After a bit, he finally slows down. I give him a fake smile. He smiles back. He tells me again, how hot I am, and how excited he is to see me next. I pretend I am sad to leave. I want nothing more than to go home.
When I walk up to my front door, Maverick is sitting on my front porch. He is holding a bouquet of flowers. I rush up to him, almost forgetting I look different than what he is used to. He sees me, looks up and down my body, gaping.
“Um… hi, I’m sorry I didn’t know Lucianna wasn’t home.” While he speaks he shifts his weight from one leg to the other. I pause for a moment, wishing he hadn’t looked at me like that.
“Oh yeah, I’m roommates with Lucianna.” He nods, and then abruptly offers the flowers in my direction.
“These are for her. I just wanted to drop them off.” He offers me a weak smile. He’s nervous. I take the flowers from him.
“Aw, how sweet. Why don’t you come inside.” I walk past him and open the door, gesturing for him to follow me. He does. I place the flowers next to his plate on the counter.
“Would you like to go sit down outside? There is lots of moonlight left.” He nods. We walk outside and sit on the first of three steps right outside my doorway. Maverick takes a deep breath and then looks at me.
“Luciana didn't tell me she had such a pretty roomate.” I look down at my hands and then back up at him. Maybe I am invisible.
“Oh, thank you.” I catch him staring at the exposed skin my shorts don’t cover at the top of my thigh. I look back at him, confused.
“Aren’t those flowers for Luciana?” I point behind me towards the kitchen. His face sinks a moment before he recovers.
“I borrowed some flour from her, so this was me returning ‘the flower’.” He raises his eyebrows at the last line. A pun. I nod my head. I don’t want him to like her.
“Oh, I see, I thought maybe you were bringing those because you had feelings for her.” I give him one more chance.
He leans towards me and says, “No. I am completely available.” I shudder at his words. He leans in closer, moving his hand on top of my thigh. I feel my body tense, but he doesn’t. He keeps moving his hand up farther. He brings his whole body closer and whispers, “Luciana didn’t tell me she had such a hot roommate, you could be a model.” I move away from him, trying to slide his hand back down my leg. He stops.
“What?” He asks. I don’t feel polished anymore. I feel dull, bland, ugly, useless. Why am I only desirable when I am her? I get up, and walk to the middle of the garden.
“Sorry,” I say, “I just had a question.”
He sits back up, “What’s your question?” I walk over and touch the petals of different flowers in the garden.
“Did you know they have names?” I ask, feeling Corbin between my fingers. He stands up confused. I walk up to number twelve. “This is William.”
“Cute.” He responds. I can feel his eyes on my figure as I walk to the next flower.
“This one is Austin.” Number forty-nine. He walks over to the white one, touching it with his fingers. He looks up at me confused.
“Lucianna likes to mess with the fertilizer to make them red. It’s her chemistry thing.” I said in response. I continue looking at Austin, comparing its red petals to what was supposed to be Tyler’s flower. Maverick walks up behind me. Too close. I can feel him rub the front of his body against me. I turn around, and he wraps his arms around my waist. I lean in, “Do you know why they are all named after boys?”
He shakes his head, too busy running his hands along my waist. I break away, and walk over to the side of the house. Propped against the siding is a pair of brush cutters. I watch Maverick as he continues to gaze at the white flower. I pick them up and walk behind him.
“They are named after all my victims!” I reach over and align his neck in between the sharp blades and begin to squeeze. Blood begins to gush from the incision in his neck, and I can hear the sound of crunching arteries and bone. I keep pushing until I feel a release, and his head pops off. It rolls down his shoulder and lands to the right of his body in the grass. His body, detached from its head, stiffens and falls backwards. I step over his body and grab his head. Holding it up by his hair. His glasses lay in the grass. They must have slipped from his nose. I place them on his head again. I’m not invisible anymore.
“You want to see this.” I say. His neck hangs over the last flower. His blood drips onto the moonflowers petals. The flower drinks. I turn his head to face towards me. “This one’s name is Maverick.” I toss his head on the ground and wait for the sunrise.