*This is a one chapter fanfic spin-off of David Levithan's Every Day.
*Warning: May contain some sensitive content
That's me. That's everything about me. It's only that name, only that word that keeps me me. Sometimes I pull my hair, break things, curl into a corner and cry because I can't keep up with the madness, but it's never my hair, my things, the corner of my house, or my tears. Nothing's ever mine except for this name, and after seventeen years of existence - well, almost existence - you learn to get by without trying to kill others, your body's host, or yourself.
I sigh. I give myself this every morning - ten minutes, ten minutes of self-recognition. When I open my eyes, I'm a different person.
Today I am Tasha Powell. I'm skinny, lanky, but good at heart. I'm surprisingly well-liked and popular. (I say surprisingly because my past experiences show me that being just nice was like bait to bullies.) I am average, but a hard worker and a sincere friend. My teachers like me and to those fortunate enough to really know me, I'm hilarious - or at least my friends think so.
I - Leena, not Tasha - am always relieved to find myself as a female. I don't know if maybe during my childhood I was usually a female or maybe it's because I always found myself liking feminine things. I liked boys more than I liked girls. Sure there were times that I liked girls too, but I'm pretty sure it was just because of the raging male-puberty hormones that my host body was experiencing. I always felt pressured to stay away from things that attracted me when I was male - especially when I was inside a jock. No pink things for big bad sports guy, I scoffed.
I look to my right. I see medication that I take every twelve hours for my post-recovery. I underwent heart surgery as a child. It was rare but treatable. I'm able to function like a normal human being for the rest of my life, with the small consequence of taking daily medication. Post-recovery basically meant forever.
Beside the medication was a picture of three girls in swimsuits, smiling. I closed my eyes. This was the best part of being who I am - seeing the beautiful memories of so many diverse people. I tried to search for the memory. I was twelve. I was together with my best friends, Rachel and Shauna. We were at the beach. Shauna's mom accompanied the three of us to the beach for Shauna's birthday. It was our last whole day bonding. Rachel moved to another state but we constantly exchange letters. I go to the same school as Shauna and we're still best friends. The only time the three of us are complete anymore is during Thanksgiving. Rachel comes home just for us.
The alarm goes off. I turn it off. I look at the time. Two in the morning? That's odd.
After a minute I realize why the alarm went off. I have a daily habit of jogging lightly early in the morning in order to keep myself fit. I do it so early so that my parents don't take notice of the fact that I am gone or the fact that I exercise. After jogging, I take a shower and go to bed, then I wake up again at seven a.m. I let them assume that I am naturally fit so that they don't worry. Several clips of memories automatically play in my head. Every time Tasha gets sick, her - my - parents worry themselves to death. The sleepless nights, the hushed tones, the crying when they think she's asleep - it's all too depressing. I roll my eyes - Tasha's habit, not mine. I understand why I need to do this. She loves them. She's seen the worst she can do to them, and she doesn't want to let anything repeat those worst moments. Also, one wrong sneeze and all hell breaks loose. I - Tasha - need to do this in order to live a normal life.
I put on my jogging clothes and my running shoes, and exit the house as quietly as I can. There's a park nearby just a block away. I go there and start brisk walking.
It's still dark and the lights in the lamp posts are still on. The lights are bright and the neighborhood is safe. I am not scared. There are also Christmas lights hung on trees. Three months after and they still aren't put away. The people in charge of the park are either too festive or very lazy. I don't dwell on the thought. Instead, I appreciate the beauty of what I'm seeing right now.
It's a starry night - or rather, morning. The moon is full and smiling upon me with serenity in its eyes. The pavements are empty - four feet wide roads with bushes by the side. It's fragrant. The flowers are blooming. What's most startling are the lights. Electrical and man made - they're supposed to be as un-beautiful as it gets. But no, the halos around each bright spark and the awkward but pleasing combinations of orange, green and yellow against the black of the nightsky, all of it's enchanting. What's more is if I squint just a little, the lights end up overwhelming me, the background fading into colorful mist- only serving to highlight the contrast of the dangling bits of brightness glowing in the the dark.
I jog. I smile, and I marvel in the beauty that this brave little body is exposed to everyday. She knows hope, and she is surrounded by hope. I do not think in the first person as Tasha right now, because this, this is what she has. This is what I never can have - permanent beauty, and beauty in permanence.
Someone's jogging with me. I look to my right. I recognize him. Ethan Stephens - tall, blond and athletic. He's in my biology class. He looks at me and flashes a sheepish smile. His ears redden just a little bit.
Oh, I realize, he likes her.
I wave and give the adorable guy a generous smile. He deserves it for waking up at two a.m. just to see her. He doesn't usually go here - once or twice in a month. I know because her memory shows chance encounters but not constant. He blushes. I want to chuckle but find that this wouldn't be something Tasha would do.
"H-hi. What a coincidence seeing you 'round here. Haven't been seeing you much lately." Coincidence. Yeah right.
"Just doing my daily jogging. What's up? No football practice today?"
He shakes his head. "No, coach cancelled the meeting. His wife's at the hospital, gave birth just yesterday."
"To him I mean," I laugh a little.
"Oh. Yeah. Right. Of course." He stutters a little bit trying to get the words out.
Poor guy, I think to myself. Tasha likes him well enough, but nothing romantic, add to the fact that she's completely oblivious to his feelings and efforts. I try to be friendly, asking him about class and homework. He actually has a chance though, if she ever figures out how he feels, so I try a little bit to push them together - a smile just a second longer, a glance when he thinks she wouldn't look, and giggling at his jokes. Tasha's a friendly girl, probably more reserved to strangers than she is with friends, but open to people. Her being familiar towards him wouldn't particularly imply anything romantic, but it's a step. At least now if he wants to talk to her more, he wouldn't be so shy to do so.
While we were talking about his game next weekend, his phone starts ringing. He looks at the screen and answers. He creases his brow and sounds alarmed. After the call, he turns to me and apologizes. His mom is in the hospital and he needs to go to her. I nod and tell him I understand. He apologizes again numerous times before he takes off.
I am left to my thoughts - my own this time. I've spent a lot of time being engaged in Tasha's memories. Surely a little me-time before anyone else in her world wakes up wouldn't be so bad, so my mind drifts off to him.
A - that's his name. I pertain to him as a "he" even though he's like me - a wanderer - because I'm only ever attracted to males. We shift from body to body everyday. Until two years ago, I didn't know anyone else like me existed. Then I saw an article online that a certain Nathan Daldry was demonically possessed. It was no demon that possessed him - only him, only A.
One day, I was put into a body of someone technologically gifted. He knew how to hack someone's account, so out of pure curiosity, I found Nathan's account and hacked into it. I saw them - the exchanged emails with each other. I remembered Nathan's account and password, then I made one of my own. It's amazing how keeping a record of yourself - though not concrete - can help so much in reaffirming your existence. That's probably how he got caught, so even though I valued my email, I didn't put as much importance in it as he probably did. Days passed and I made up my mind to search for him - I remembered the hacker's tricks and made it into his email account. I kept track of the locations of his bodies. I saw him that day when he was in Alexander's body. He was with his loved one - the one whose name started with an R. They exchanged emails. He loved her, probably still does. She loved him. That day that I saw him for the first time, it was their last time together. He left her, I don't know why.
I still keep track of him sometimes. It's not so much as I'm attracted to him romantically. I just find that he's possibly the one person - existence - that I can mentally connect with. Sometimes I think that I'm becoming too much of a stalker, then I remember that I'm one of the most untraceable beings on earth, so I shrug it off and call it a day. Everyone wants somebody to connect with. I just have a harder time fulfilling that need. Sue me for trying hard.
I find myself in one of the darker parts of the park. Suddenly someone's hand is around my waist - tight. The other hand holds a handkerchief to my mouth. I do not breathe. I struggle. I kick and I elbow him. He's too strong. I can't not breathe. I inhale, and then I feel the sting of the stench around the hollow of my nasal cavity. My body tenses, and then ultimately relaxes. I try to struggle - still. My body's weak. I fall. He catches me. As my vision clouds and I fall into unconsciousness, I hear him whisper, "Good night, my sweet."
I wake up. My eyes are hazy. Where am I?
It's the first time in a few years that I haven't given myself my ten minutes of self-recognition, because for the first time in years I am not in a place of clarity. I am in a place of fear and anxiety.
I look around. The place is made of wood. A cabin? I am not sure. I am lying down. When I try to sit up, I realize that my arms are stretched behind my ears, my hands are cuffed to the bed's head. I try to break free, but it hurts. The cuffs are cutting into my skin.
"Help! Help!" I cry for around thirty minutes before I realize that I'm probably in some remote place where people can't hear me. There's a clock at the wall to my left. It's nine a.m. My parents are probably worried. I have to get out of here somehow.
I hear a sound. It's the door. He comes in. I expect to see a creepy middle-aged man with a fetish for high school girls. Instead I see a tall, built brunet with green eyes. I recognize him immediately. He's someone from my high school. He's a senior. He's popular but I never caught his name.
"Hi," he smirks at me. "You look beautiful like that."
I realize that my top's been removed. My jogging pants and underwear are still intact, but the way my arms are behind my ears, my breasts are pushed forward. It's humiliating and demeaning.
I tried to find my voice. "Wh-who are you? Why are you doing this? Please let me go." My voice was barely a whisper when I added, "Please."
He chuckled. "Sam. My name's Sam. That's all you need to know." He cocked his head to the side. "We go to the same school you know. I've always watched you, Tasha. You're the sweet, innocent girl who doesn't know she's pretty. Well, I know, and I intend to let you know just how pretty you are, and how much of an effect you have on me." He motions his head downward, as if to point towards something. I look at where he did. There's a bulge in his pants. Seeing that, hair all over my body stood up. It's scary, and I pray for the first time ever - a prayer in a being that I was never truly devoted to. I hope with all my being that what's about to happen isn't what I'm afraid of.
"You don't have to do this. Please. We can get along at school." My eyes sting and tears threaten to fall. "I'll talk to you more. Please. I promise. Please. Please. Please." And on the last please only air came out.
His eyes darken. "The same way you talk to Stephens, huh? You know, Tasha, I've been very good to you this whole time. I've been patient. I've been watching you for a year now. I see you jogging every two a.m. and what do I do? Nothing. I've kept waiting for your head to turn around and see me." He walks towards me. "Then today, what do I see? You talk to Stephens, with your stolen glances and shit? I saw you talking to him a few while back too. I thought nothing of it though, because I know my pretty sweet Tasha," he touches my face and I fight the urge to cringe away, "isn't a slut like all those other cheer-leading bitches.
"But today, today was different. I saw the way you looked at him. I realized then that you didn't see my efforts." He moved away and stood in front of me. "Well, here I am - with all of my efforts. You'll see me - whether you like it or not, but trust me," he chuckled, "You'll like it."
I tried to twist away as his hands found my waist and crept under my pants. I wriggled and kicked but he was too strong for me. His fingers entered me and pain was all I felt. I was hurt and violated. He did so while whispering disgusting lines to me about how much he's liked me all these years. I pleaded for him to stop - my voice breaking while I tried to keep myself together, as together as someone in this situation can. He won't stop. He strokes himself too while he does it. Sick bastard, I want to say, but I bite my lip until it bleeds so that he doesn't get aggravated more than he already is.
After what seemed like hours of pleading and humiliation, he stops. I think to myself, It's over. I can't be more wrong. He slides my pants down then shreds my underwear. He enters me - his disgusting length tearing through my untouched flesh.
I scream - as Tasha or Leena, I don't care anymore. Each slam he makes into my body is a cut through both of our souls. This wasn't how I imagined it, my first time - both mine and Tasha's. This is horrible. This is shame, degradation, and violation all at once.
When he finished he did it again, and again, and again. When he finally pulls out of me, I pass out, but before I totally slip into my subconscious, he whispers, "Sweet dreams, baby." And I muster up the last bit of strength in me and I spit at his face.
When he came in I expected a middle-aged monster, today I met the green-eyed devil.
I wake up at noon. There's a bowl of porridge by my bedside. My body's sore, my wrists are cut from the cuffs, and I find that my torso and thighs have bruises. He must have hit me at some point. I didn't even notice. The pain inside greatly outweighed the physical.
He fed me. Spoon by spoon as I forced myself to swallow. I have to do this - for her, not for me. I have to survive even though I want to die, because it's not my call how Tasha dies. After that I try to tell him the truth, that I am not me. I am not her. I am another person altogether. He laughs at my supposedly desperate attempt to escape from this situation. Then he had his way with me again.
The second time was worse, because I couldn't believe it was happening again. The third time, just after dinner, I managed to block out my own screams. I still fought. I kept fighting. It didn't work. It never did. After the fourth time, he left me to sleep.
I looked at the clock. It's eleven p.m.
I wasted a day of her life - and I ruined it. This is me. This is all my fault. By the time tomorrow comes, I will have escaped all this madness, but Tasha will still be stuck here.
I ruined her. I ruined a girl with loving parents, beautiful friends, and with a sincere guy waiting for her just outside these walls. I took her from them.
I wanted to make a change. I shouldn't have talked to Ethan differently. I shouldn't have tried to adjust her life to my liking. I shouldn't have been selfish. In those few moments that I thought of A, I forgot about her - about Tasha. I went to the dark area of the park - a spot where she was always careful not to go to. Now this happened.
It's all me. Maybe I am some kind of demon.
I'm sorry. I whisper apologies to her until almost midnight.
I'm sorry I stole a day. I'm sorry I stole your life. I'm sorry I destroyed it. I'm sorry I'm killing you. I'm sorry, that I am what I am. But most of all, I'm sorry that today, I wasn't Tasha Powell. Today I was more than the devil that raped us.
I look at the ceiling.
A tear falls.
I close my eyes.
Tomorrow is another day.