Second installment in the Locke Saga. Should I call it that? Ah, whatever. Here I go...

December 19, 2009

"I'm Here"

Locke was tired. First days. They all blew. I fucking hate this. He took a deep breath, waiting in the lunch line for food. He hated lunch lines, ever since he was a little boy. He always felt so self-conscious. He always wondered Are they staring? Did they notice my scars? Do they notice me? He hates to be noticed, my Locke. He hates when people pass judgment on him. His black cargo pants made the tiniest noise as he shifted balance from one foot to the other. He lowered his head and hid his eyes from view with his hair. His posture took on a cowed quality.

Oh, Locke. Don't do this. Don't hide from them. Don't give them a reason to hurt you. You know that they will. Don't give them fuel. Be strong.

Locke stands there, looking lonely, wounded. He can't hear me. I can scream and cry, but he won't hear a thing. He rubs his arms, shivering. He can feel something pressing in on him, all around him, cold...

He remembered when he used to be physically cold...because of his father. He remembered that he would often go back to the place where he used to be, whenever it was winter, he would always hear sounds coming from the house. Screaming. Moaning. Grunting. Panting. His father was forgetting his dead mother again. Or, at the very least, trying to. He had strict orders not to interrupt his father. So, even if it snowed, even it the blizzards and storms were terrible, he stayed outside, playing with the kids in the neighborhood, drinking hot chocolate with them, watching movies late into the night until it was deemed safe to return. And even then, he didn't always get it right.

"Young man, aren't you going to tell me what you want?"

Locke was startled into the present. His eyes were glassy and vacant before they cleared. He nodded. "Sorry." He looked at the selection. "I'll just get an apple and sandwich."

The lunch-lady looked at him with concern. She was nice, had watery brown eyes and a soft voice. Her earrings sparkled under the dull lights. "You sure, sweetie? You're nothin' but skin and bones."

Locke gave her a dark smile. He never really ate much. He was never allowed to eat until he finished chores, or until his father was asleep. Nowadays, he was encouraged to eat by his foster-mother and foster-father, but he had to keep remembering that. Old habits died hard. He said, "I know. I'm working on it. Just a sandwich and apple."

The lady paused before nodding once. "Make sure you eat more."

Locke sighed. "Yeah..." He took his tray from her and handed the money to the cashier. He felt more self-conscious than ever. He frowned, looking around. Nowhere to sit. Everywhere was occupied. Except for the outside. He headed straight for the benches outside where the seniors were allowed to sit and dropped his tray down. He was hunched over, slumping in a defeated way. He didn't know how to make new friends and he had given up since his last. The one who left him alone.

The day was windy still, blew white and pink petals all about, landing in his hair, on his nose, his sandwich. He smiled, just a bit, and it was like seeing the rainbow of a waterfall's spray: rare and so quick that it seems an illusion, colors abounding while emotions shimmer and blend.

I've always loved his smile. The warmth it gave me when he turned it on me. The peace. But he hasn't felt peace in a long time. Nor have I. His nightmares...they're the worst. Just the night before he had a dream that he was being beaten by a hundred arms, everywhere, and he called for me, but I was nowhere to be found. And then he was in a cage, iron rusted bars slamming down, closing in, bowing outward and his mother's bloody corpse hung from the top of the cage, her blood soaking him. I came too late to him in his dream. When I found him, he was a mess, a mere child again, crying as he was never able to. He was clutching my arms as I held him close. Held him like I am never able to in the material world.

I sat down next to him, on the table. Gazed into his eyes. He stared through me. Please, Locke. Ask someone to join you. Please. Don't isolate yourself.

"Um, excuse me." A feminine voice addressed him. We looked up at her in shock at once. Someone was speaking to him? I bit my lip, not knowing whether to be suspicious or not. What if she hurt him? She certainly could. Kids are cruel. "Are you waiting for someone?"

Locke's gaze frosted. "Why?" The word ended with a bite, but the girl ignored it.

"I was wondering," she explained, "because I wanted to sit here. I didn't want to intrude, so I asked if anyone were to join you." She was so, so beautiful. Just his type, too. A pixie-like body, but still curvy, dark-haired (a brunette so dark almost as to be black but with natural highlights sun-streaked red), fair-skinned and her complexion was so clear as to be transparent. She had long, sweeping lashes that framed warm eyes – captivating, the color of chlorophyll with orange shoots blooming like exotic flowers in the jungle.

Locke sat back and let her feel the full force of the distrust and disdain gleaming in his stare. Many walked away after this.

Oh, honey. Don't do this. Don't push her away, too.

The girl continued, unfazed. "So, can I sit here?" she bit her lip, bringing his attention to her mouth. He noticed her lips were full, unpainted, but glossed. For a single moment, he wanted to taste those lips, that mouth. But, he didn't know anything about that. He didn't know what it was to have a girlfriend. To have truly loved someone. He backed away from his thoughts. Locke nodded reluctantly. He went back to his sandwich, only to find it buried under a pile of petals. He growled and blew them away. The girl giggled.

He glared. "What?" He hated to be laughed at. When the children he used to play with were old enough to realize what was going on with him, they bullied him for
Alden being the town drunk.

She shrugged. "Just thought it was cute, that's all." She gave him a smile. He stared at her. "It was cute!"

Locke shook his head. Weird girl. "Fine." He bit into his sandwich. There was silence for a few minutes. He saw her staring at him. "What?" She was exasperating, most definitely bordering on an entirely new level of strange. He had never met another girl like her, he understood that within the few moments he had known her.

The girl smiled shyly. "I like watching people. It's a hobby." He gave her a droll glance and sighed. The girl leaned towards him and reached out.

He swatted her hand away. "What the hell are you doing?" He had always hated being touched. Sometimes, if people touched him, they would accidentally hurt him, make the pain in a bruise or a welt flare up. He wasn't being hurt that way anymore, but he still wasn't used to it.

The girl bit her lip again, a cute frown settling on her face. "I wanted to see your face."

He huffed, lifted back his hair. "Fine. There. My face. Happy?"

The girl rolled her eyes. "That took all the fun out of it." She crossed her long legs under her black pleated mini-skirt. A chain on her belt clanked. Now, one may wonder how she could have been short yet long-legged, but this girl could do it. "Very handsome." She smiled at him, "You have the most beautiful eyes."

He just stared at her, disbelieving. Maybe if I ignore her... He bit into his apple. The juice flowed into his mouth.

She was suddenly closer. "They're like the deep arctic, with white ice-crystals weaving through them." They were face to face. Inches apart. Locke panicked. What am I supposed to do now?

Don't run away from her, Locke. She only likes you. She only likes you.

" get back?" His voice shook. His freckled knuckles were turning white. He was about to erupt, something he did when he was feeling cornered.

The girl, seeing t6he sudden change in his demeanor, nodded and smiled ruefully. She apologized. "I keep forgetting that not everyone disregards personal boundaries. My friends and family are like that. Contact and communication is big with us." She took his apple and bit into it as well, then placed it back in his hand. "That was refreshing," she remarked. "So, what about you?" She gazed at him intently.

He lifted an eyebrow, saying, "I thought that my apple was refreshing, too." I've always loved his humor. It was what got him through day.

She shook her head. "No, I meant...your family."

Locke froze, began to shut down. The ice was building. He can't think about it. He can't...

Can you hear me, strange girl? Can you hear me? Help him for me. I am powerless. I can do nothing. But you can. Help him, before he completely freezes over. Please, anything. Touch him. Kiss him. Hug him. Anything to melt the ice in his heart. Before it freezes and shatters.

I saw her face crumble. She didn't mean to hurt him. She just...cared. She hung her head and wrapped her arms around him. "I'm sorry. I didn't think. I'm so stupid..." He had stiffened in her embrace but she only held him more tightly. She kept him close until the cold receded. She held on until he thawed the tiniest bit. Little by little, until the winter cleared and the sun was able to peek into his soul. Locke began to breathe normally again.

The bell had just rung for class. The girl favored him with a gentle look and apologized again. She skipped over to the door then paused. "I never caught your name."

He looked up at her. "Locke Donovan."

"Locke," she grinned. "My Tatiana or 'Tati' for short. Tatiana Wilder. If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you."

Are you an angel, Tatiana? Sent to make my Locke happy again? Sent to heal him? To help him believe? If so, then I can rest. And he can too. Don't let him down.

"I'm here."

She left him to sit among the clouds of dogwood petals swirling, left him like a dream. Would she come back?

I'm here.