When Lilies Bleed

Chapter 01: flesh wound

Mariah Fidalgo hadn't cried for two years.

Of course, she had plenty of reason to, but always choked back the tears, insisting that she must be strong, unwavering, a rock.

However, when Freddie O'Leary greeted her in the hallway, she lost it. Right in front of everyone, she broke down, tears dripping down her face, eyes red and swollen, shoulders quaking.

"Are you OK?"

She thought that it was Freddie that asked her, but she wasn't sure, she was too busy running into the bathroom and shutting herself in a stall, crying like crazy. This wasn't a very good start to her first day back.

She could hear the bell ringing. Great, she was going to be late for homeroom. But she couldn't walk into class looking like she did.

Mariah heard the door open. Someone else was going to be late for class.


Mariah shut her eyes and breathed in softly. She hugged her knees to her chest. Tears started to run again.

"Mariah?" The voice called again. "I know you're in here."

Odd… It sounded masculine. This was all too familiar for Mariah and she let out a soft whimper. She heard footsteps and then plaid chucks appeared under the stall door.

"Mariah?" There was a knock at the door. "Are you OK? All I did was say hello, right? I didn't mean to piss you off…"

Oh, it's just Freddie O'Leary, Mariah thought. She remembered him as a perfectly harmless boy, a bit strange maybe, but perfectly harmless. She couldn't recall a time when he didn't have a smile on his face. And the smiles were genuine too. Not like other men…

She slowly got up and opened the door. And there he stood, Freddie O'Leary, in the girl's bathroom.

"H-Hi, Freddie," Mariah whispered, refusing to look him in the eye.

Freddie's face was serious; there was no smile now. His big blue eyes were filled with concern. "Why are you crying?" He reached out to wipe a tear of her face, but she shied away.

"Don't touch me, please," She whispered, backing farther into the stall. She knew that she shouldn't feel vulnerable. This was Freddie O'Leary; the kid that used to give everyone in the class intricately decorated Valentine's Day cards, the kid that agreed to eat paste if the bully would leave a little nerdy kid alone. But she couldn't trust him. She couldn't trust anyone.

Freddie backed away as if he'd been stung. "I-I'm sorry. I was only trying to help. Are you sure-"

Mariah broke him off. "I have to get to homeroom. Please, leave me alone." She shoved past him and out into the hall. Now, where could her homeroom be?

Freddie scratched his head. Such a strange girl. She'd always been weird, he remembered. She was a quiet kid but kept getting more and more skittish over the years. And then she disappeared. She was gone for three months. Rumors were that she was a runaway. Now that he thought about that, it was probably true.

For one, her dad was a real asshole. Or at least, that's how he always came off. Second, she was so thin. It was pretty obvious she hadn't eaten much in the past few months. Freddie was a little concerned.

It wasn't anything new that he was concerned about someone he barely knew. Freddie was the angel of the town. He stood up for the meek, helped the poor and played the part of dad to his little sister. Of course, most of the "popular" kids in school ridiculed him because he wore strange clothes and didn't have much money.

Frankly, Freddie didn't care.

Every day, after school, he walked home to his little home and got out celery and peanut butter for his little sister, Sondra, to eat when she got home from school a half an hour later. He fed their five birds, three cats, four rats, lizard, gerbil and dog. He did his homework, watched some TV, cooked dinner for his sister and then went to work.

It may have seemed like a monotonous routine, but Freddie liked the regularity of his day. And he'd found his new project: Mariah Fidalgo. She was obviously in distress.

Now, if only she'd let him anywhere near her.

That night, Freddie's night off, the family actually sat down to have dinner together. Mrs. O'Leary, a plump, pretty woman of medium height, rested her elbows on the table, her eyes dropping shut. She was always tired. Dark circles permanently ringed her eyes.

"Mom?" Freddie asked her, pushing his lasagna around on his plate. "Do you know anything about Mariah Fidalgo?"

Mrs. O'Leary's eyebrows shot up. "Mariah Fidalgo? Well, I've heard rumors… And I knew her father."

"Anything else?"

His mother averted his gaze. "Oh, just things I've heard… Probably made up, you know."

Freddie frowned. "Like what? What did you hear?"

Mrs. O'Leary shrugged. "Well, that she'd run away to get away from her father. That he used to knock her around. Why do you ask, anyway?"

Freddie shrugged. "I saw her in school today. I said hello and she started crying and hid in the girl's room."

"Oh dear. Sounds like she needs a friend." She shot a wry smile at Freddie and he blushed, looking down at his plate.

"May I be excused?" Freddie pushed his chair back and stood up. "I'd like to go for a walk."

Mrs. O'Leary nodded absently. "Of course, honey. Don't be out too late."

"Thanks, Mom."

Freddie enjoyed taking walks. There was a small playground down the street from his house. It was a bit rundown, but still had a swing set that he liked to sit on.

As he was walking down the street towards the playground, he heard a clarinet playing. At least he thought it was a clarinet. It could have very well been an oboe. Freddie didn't know one instrument from another very well.

It was a pretty tune, a little jazzy, but fairly slow. Then it stopped and started again, a little louder. He reached the edge of the park and was astonished to see Mariah Fidalgo sitting in one of the swings; her eyes squeezed shut, a shiny black clarinet in her hands, the mouthpiece pressed between her lips. It was her playing!

Freddie couldn't help but stare. The pale moonlight cast shadows across her face. He remembered seeing her in the hallway at school and couldn't help thinking about how pretty she was. With pale skin and a few freckles, her looks denied her age, her tight ringlets framing her face. He always remembered her eyes. They were huge and bright blue. He'd never seen such pale eyes with dark hair.

He slowly walked towards her, trying not to make any noise so she'd continue playing. But he stepped on a twig and the music immediately stopped.

"Who's there?" Mariah's huge eyes were even bigger. She froze, much like a deer caught in headlights.

"Mariah? It's Freddie," Freddie said quietly, stepping out of the shadows.

Mariah's shoulder's sagged. It was only Freddie. Not someone who would hurt her.

"Hi Freddie," Mariah said softly. She felt a little self-conscious. He'd been listening to her play. No one ever listened.

"You're really good," He told her, plopping down in the swing next to her. "But then again, I'm not an expert. But you sure sounded good to me."

Mariah sighed, and pressed her fingers down on the keys absently. "I used to be good. I haven't exactly had the chance to practice in the past few months," She explained.

Freddie nodded. "Why?"

Mariah shrugged. "I was away from home. I didn't bring my clarinet. Thus, I couldn't practice."

Freddie didn't press the subject. "Are you glad to be back?"



Mariah studied him. The streetlight above them flickered a few times, then stayed on. Mariah could see him a little easier. He looked the same as she remembered him. She'd never known him, just knew of him. He was the boy who would always smile at her and wave in the hallway. She couldn't remember a time that she actually smiled back. But then again, Mariah didn't smile much.

He was a strange looking boy, one of the only boys in school with a ponytail. A dirty blond one, not very long. His hair probably reached to about his shoulders, but was always pulled straight down from his part. He was stocky, not thin at all, but certainly not fat. He was just probably big-boned. He was much taller than she was, but probably wouldn't be considered tall by other people. Maybe about five foot nine or ten. His skin was pale, like hers, and was just short of pasty, if not for his rosy cheeks.

She wanted to trust him. Just one glance at his bright blue eyes made her want to trust him. But he was a man and Mariah couldn't trust men. Not once in all her fifteen years could she trust a man.

But it was very hard for her not to trust a seventeen-year-old boy wearing a striped button-down shirt tucked into black jeans with plaid chucks on his feet. Very hard.

She attempted to smile. It didn't work. "What are you doing here?"

"Oh, I always walk around at night. It's my hobby. I come here and swing." Freddie pushed his feet into the ground so that he began to swing back and forth. "And, may I ask, what are you doing here?"

"Practicing." Mariah began to take apart her clarinet, placing the parts gingerly in the case on the ground.

"Practicing what?"

"My clarinet, silly."

"Well, I know that. But what were you playing."

"Oh," Mariah blushed. "Rhapsody in Blue. I haven't been able to get it down right. I have most of it memorized, now I just have to work out the kinks."

"Rhapsody in Blue? Wasn't that dog named Rhapsody in White or something? You know, in that movie that came out a few years ago?"

Mariah shook her head. "I don't get to the movies much."

Freddie's eyes lit up. "Oh, it's a great movie! You have to see it sometimes. It's this mockumentary about a dog show. Most of it's improv. Real funny."

"I bet." Mariah stared down at her feet.

"You wanna watch it with me sometime?" Freddie asked tentatively.

Mariah looked up at him in surprise. "Really?"

Freddie nodded vigorously. "Yeah! How about tomorrow night? You can come to my house and I'll make you dinner and we can pop popcorn and watch it!" Mariah had never heard anyone talk so fast before.

"I guess," Mariah said shyly.

"It's getting pretty dark out. Do you want me to walk you home?"

"It's not that far," Mariah said.

Freddie's feet skidded in the sand as he brought his swing to a stop. "But you shouldn't be out all alone. There could be hoodlums around." He meant it as a joke, but was a little startled that Mariah shivered. It wasn't a cold night.

"You're out alone."

"Ah, but I'm a big boy. Look at this muscle!" He flexed his arm. Mariah caught herself laughing. She couldn't help it. He had no muscle tone at all and he knew it too. "I made you laugh! Score! This is the first time I've heard you laugh."

Mariah smiled wanly at him. "It's the first time I've laughed in a while," She admitted.

"C'mon, I'll walk you home." Freddie stood up and held out his hand. Mariah tentatively held it and let him pull her up. She hadn't had actually human contact in awhile, but it felt nice. Freddie's hand was large and slightly doughy, warm against her cold fingers. Holding Freddie's hand with one of her hands, and grasping the handle of her clarinet case with the other, Mariah Fidalgo began to walk home.

Freddie had one more question for her before he left her. "What will it take to become your friend?"

Mariah half-smiled, not wanting to let go of his hand. She felt safe for the first time in her life. "A lot less for you than other people."

With that, Freddie kissed her on the forehead, grinned widely, and walked away, leaving Mariah alone on her doorstep.

I'll give a cookie to anyone who guesses what movie Freddie was talking about. ::grin:: Also, I'll thank anyone who reviews and comment on their comment. So, constructive criticism welcome. Please review!