Although he hadn’t felt tired, Michael slept until nightfall. When he opened his eyes again, the sky was indigo, and pink fingers of evening sunlight stretched across the room. He hadn’t meant to wake up, but something stirred him from sleep. Michael groaned, his head heavy as he turned away from the window, and saw a shadow on the floor in front of the closet. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and flicked on the lamp beside the bed. It was a duffel bag lying on the floor—his duffel bag.
“What the…?” he whispered as he crawled out of the bed.
Michael knelt down and shuffled across the floor on his knees. He pulled the bag to him. It was stuffed to the point of bursting. Groggily, Michael unzipped the bag, and the familiar scent of fabric softener and cologne wafted from within. He dug through the contents: clothing, underwear, toiletries, and even an extra pair of sneakers—all his.
When did she go to my house? He wondered as he found his iPod and a few books and DVD’s from his shelf.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he thought with a bittersweet smile as he grabbed the heavy box of DVD’s. He ran his fingertips over the glossy, gothic letters and remembered his delight on his last birthday when Adriana surprised him with it. And then there were the pictures from his nightstand: A Christmas portrait of him and Elena, Adriana’s yearbook picture, and a picture of David in military uniform. He reached for the picture of Adriana but stopped himself.
I can’t…he thought as he shoved Buffy back into his bag and stood. Nudging the bag to the side, Michael went to the dresser to take a sip from the bottle of water he’d been refilling since he arrived. He looked back at his bag of memories and noticed something glinting in the lamplight. Leaning in, he saw a tiny silver “U” glittering against the clothes like a fleck of stardust in the dirt: the horseshoe charm he’d bought Adriana. To remind him he loved her.
A familiar burning sensation tingled in his forearm as he touched the place where Cassie burned him in Andrew’s room. He traced the U-shaped welt with his fingertip. This was the charm she burned him with.
You sadistic bitch… Michael stared at it, and the delicate curve seemed to speak Adriana’s name, telling him, “Don’t forget me.”
Am I forgetting you?
Her memory was as alive as ever, but Michael could not remember how it felt to belong to her. He remembered what it was to mourn her, but could he remember what it was to love her? Even his thoughts about his mother were murky. Without thinking, Michael reached for the charm, gritting his teeth in anticipation. His fingertips barely grazed it before the flesh sizzled. He recoiled with a frightened yelp and rubbed his fingertips together, brushing the blistered skin.
“I’m not going to forget.”
He grabbed the charm, pressing it tightly into his palm.
When he was a toddler, Michael waddled up to a stove and pressed his hand into the bright orange coil as if he were flattening a pancake. That was pleasant compared to this. The charm was less than an inch long, but he felt it in his entire body: both a burn and an electric shock, something that yanked him by the pit of his stomach. He bit his tongue to keep from screaming. His stomach churned as the smell of his own scorched flesh filled his nostrils.
Michael retched, his empty stomach contracting with nothing to vomit.
He fell onto his mattress. With one arm, he pulled himself up to the head of the bed and buried his face into the pillow to scream, squeezing the charm until he lost consciousness.
The above is an excerpt from my novel, “Prince of this World.” All work published on this blog is the property of Stephan Maldonado, who owns the official copyright for “Prince of this World” from the Library of Congress. “Prince of this World”, © 2012 Stephan Maldonado. All rights reserved.