“There are fairies in my room. They come out at night.”
My steps faultered as I reached the table. “Can’t say that’s what I suspected when you asked me to go out for coffee.”Kate only shrugged.
Kate only shrugged.
I sat down, traced my finger around the rim of my cup. There were dark circles under her eyes, her make-up wasn’t done. A scuff of dirt had settled on the left shoulder of her leather jacket.
“Fairies? Like…wings and sharp noses and pointed ears. Tinker Bell fairies?”
“Yeah, and she’s got a little green dress. No, I don’t mean fucking Tinker Bell! Jesus, Sam. I thought you’d believe me.” She rubbed her face, shoulders hunched and loose. It didn’t suit her. She was supposed to be all brass balls and curled fists instead of acrylic nails. She wasn’t supposed to be unsettled and sleep deprived.
I hummed into my coffee as I raised the cup to my lips. “Was the dress blue?”
“I hate you.”
“What do you want me to say? You’re probably having nightmares or something like that. Fairies aren’t real.” They weren’t. They were illusions, make believe. Tales for little boys and girls who still believed in Neverland.
“Either way, it’s probably just a dream. I wouldn’t worry about it.” The tips of my fingers were shaking. I gripped the cup harder.
She snorted, blew strangles of knotted hair from her face with a heavy breath. “Yeah, dreams.” Her cup jumped as her elbows slammed against the table and she rolled her sleeves up. “These are just me dreaming too, right?” Kate spat.
Tiny burns twisted the length of her skin. Each one a hand or foot print twining up her arms. I blinked, tried to ignore how thick and clumsy my tongue felt in my mouth. Her burns matched the scars that circled my ankle.
But it wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. I squeezed my eyes closed, swallowed back the cotton feeling in my throat. “That isn’t –“
“Real? Right Sam, because I just want to dig up your painful memories. I just want to hurt my best friend. I want to make your life hell by reminding you of Claire. Right? Big old Sammy boy needs to be reminded how he’s broken and crazy.
“I’m not trying to hurt you, Sam. They’re been trying to kill me for weeks. You’re the only one who can help. You won’t think I’m crazy.”
I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. The coffee twisted and swirled in my mug, a whirlpool. My thoughts spun on high gear, I tried to ignore the memories wiggling at the back of my eyes.
Kate smoked. Maybe the marks were cigarette burns. She could have done it as an elaborate prank. I didn’t think she had it in her to be this cruel, but who could really say? There wasn’t a way in hell this was real.
“Sam. Look at me.”
I didn’t want to. Focused on the skin of my knuckles, pasty white around the cup. Focus on anything but her burns.
Fairies. She was messing with me. Kate had slipped into the deep end. She was using my secrets as an excuse to mess with my head. She wanted to bring back the night my sister was taken.
“Sam!” The coffee mug slipped from my fingers, rolled off the table and shattered. Kate gripped my shoulders, shook me back and forth to get my attention. The clatter of the café stilled for a moment.
I was a rag doll, my breath racing out of my chest. I couldn’t focus. Couldn’t breathe right.
A waitress asked if we were alright as she picked up the shards. Kate assured her we were. But we weren’t. I wasn’t. My heart hammered against my ribs and threatened to break them.
“I’m not lying. Please, you’ve got to believe me. You’re the only one who can help. You’re the only one who won’t think I’m crazy.” She had dropped her voice, leaned across the table like we were spies. Kids playing spies in a grocery store. Kids still thinking Neverland was a good, happy place.
But she’s right, I won’t think she’s crazy because she isn’t. Because I’ve been there and I’ve seen them too. Something took my sister in the middle of the night six years ago and it wasn’t her abusive and estranged father.
I stood, tried to ignore the boiling liquid that soaked my pants. Neverland wasn’t supposed to be real. All the ‘progress’ I made after Claire’s disappearance…it was worthless if she was right. And I knew that she was and I couldn’t admit it.
“I can give you the number of my therapist. He can tell you why you’re seeing fairies. It…it helped me. We can do it together.” I already knew she would say no. That I practically slapped her in the face.
Her hands slid from my shoulders. Trickled off me like spilt milk. I believed her, even though I couldn’t say it aloud. I knew my little sister wasn’t out there with some kidnapper. She was in some sort of fairy land, entranced by magic and tortured by mythical creatures. Years of therapy helped keep my mouth shut.
“It’s okay Kate.” The tile on the ground was white besides the black coffee. A river of it twisted around the legs of the table. “You’re not crazy. It’s a delusion that your brain created to protect you from a memory that hurts you. It just seems real.” Rehashed words from a thousand sessions with a therapist.
She deflated into her chair, pressed her face in her hands. Her shoulders heaved. I could just hear her muffled cries over the din of the café.
I wanted to go to her, to wrap my arms around her and tell her that I believed her. That she wasn’t seeing things and the marks weren’t from her. I wanted to do all the things that no one ever did for me when Claire was stolen and I saw them in my room.
I almost did. I took a half step, the coffee staining the sole of my shoe. Another step and I would have been beside her. I would have been able to wrap my arms around her and tell her that we would dig through a thousand books to find out which fairies she had in her room and how we could get rid of them.
But I didn’t. I grabbed my leather jacket from the back of my chair, slid my arms inside. “Do you want me to drive you to your parents and talk with them?”
She shook her head and rubbed her nose on her sleeve. Her arms were covered again, she was just a sad girl in a busy café now.
“You sure? It’s easier when you have someone else with you. Least, that’s what I’ve been told. I did it by myself.”
“I believed you.” I could barely hear her above the ring of the bell as another person entered. “When you told me something…something took your sister, I believed you. When you told me you saw them in your room that night. You were supposed to believe me too.”
I swallowed the lump in the back of my throat. “Kate…I –“
“Don’t. Just get out. I don’t want your help. Just get the fuck out and leave me the hell alone.”
“Okay.” I started to leave, hands stuffed deep into my pockets.
“You were supposed to believe me. I’m not crazy!” But the entire café thought she was, everyone frozen as she screamed at my back.
“I do.” I mumbled it with half a breath as I exited the café. I knew where her story was going. She would end up like I did, obsessed. She would spend every free moment researching what wasn’t supposed to exist.
I swung myself onto my motorcycle and strapped my helmet on. She wouldn’t stop looking. I knew Kate, she was stronger than I was.
While I kept pretending I didn’t see Claire in the mirror, screaming for me to find her, Kate would find answers. That was how Kate worked.
I peeled out of the parking lot, regretting every inch I drove away from her.