Chapter One: Sunglasses The glittering shine from the hundreds of rings caught me off guard. For a moment I forgot why I came. Why had I come? What was I looking for? “Do you see it?” An unfamiliar deep voice met my ears. “Do you think it will work?” the man asked me, an urgency and hesitancy in his clear voice. I couldn’t respond. The whole closet was filled with rings organized by their stones, metals, and sizes. They all sparkled at me and tempted me. A wall with ruby-encrusted rings reflecting red on my skin to the left; the blue glow of sapphire on my right; green emeralds cooling me from behind; bone, shell, and wooden carved rings reminiscent of Polynesian history or early Mesoamerica in front; pearl and dark onyx; diamond and cubic zirconium. Here was every ring I never could have imagined. A few were so large that if someone were to wear it they would surely limp from uneven weight distribution. Others were so old they had to have once belonged to Cleopatra herself. The beauty of each ring was overwhelmed by the next. Gold and silver wove among each other like dancing snakes, creeping vines or an adept calligrapher’s stroke. “Good luck,” the man laughed. His eagerness for me was in mockery. Who was he? I turned and tried to see his face. The room was bright though—too bright. The jewelry reflected all the light and his face was unidentifiable in the darkness of the hallway. *** I stepped onto my porch, watching the sun go down while I waited for Molly. Her longboard had a distinct sound as the wheels whirred and she came into view. The sun kissed the horizon behind her, leaving only a faintly colored silhouette for me to watch. She wore a loose pink button-up that flew behind her as she rode. The yellow tank top had a black palm tree on it and she was one of the few people who looked great in short shorts. It was no surprise that she had won the unwilling beauty contest that Tony had hosted at the beginning of the semester. She was gorgeous. All I had going for me was my eyes. She had everything else. The whir of her wheels stopped at she reached the edge of my driveway. Molly complained about the gravel almost every time she came over. She carried her board since she didn’t want the wheels to get ruined. “What were they thinking when they made this?” she asked, setting her board beside the weathered wooden door. “It’s ten feet Molly. If you really wanted to, you could ride it the last ten feet,” I laughed. She feigned offense at the suggestion. “This is my baby!” She stroked the top of the board. It was dark wood in the center with light wood on the outside. The wheels were red. Almost the same hue as her recently-dyed shoulder-length hair. “My apologies,” I chuckled as we entered. “What was the thing you wanted to talk about?” I was sure it was Quincy. He’d been gone for three hours and it was strange for someone under my curse to voluntarily spend that much time away from me. It was unnerving to say the least. But when I'd checked, the text had come from Molly. “Anyone else here?” she asked. I knew she was referring specifically to Jen. “No, she’s with David. David doesn’t come here much anymore. I think he’s embarrassed about what happened.” “As he should be!” she scoffed and flopped into the couch. “So, what’s up?” I asked, taking a seat beside her. She set her feet up on the coffee table and I couldn’t help but wonder how she kept her white slip-ons clean. “You been…studying for finals?” she asked and I could tell it was small talk. “Molly, just cut to the chase. You pride yourself on being blunt so out with it.” “Ha, and I'm the blunt one!" "You're rubbing off on me." I smirked. "Fine, fine,” she put up her hands defensively and took a deep breath. “It’s about Quincy.” My breath caught in my lungs. Was he hurt? Was he mad? Was he…cheating? The last had to be impossible. I’d removed any chance of that when I looked at his eyes. “What about him?” I tried to sound casual but I’m sure she heard the fear in my voice. “He…well…he thinks you should keep your glasses on.” She scrunched her nose as if the news she was delivering was malodorous. It didn’t hurt my nose; it hurt my feelings. “Okay…why?” My heart felt heavy. He must have felt tricked. Betrayed. Maybe although he had loved me, he was not in love with me anymore. Maybe his true love had been fleeting. Maybe he-- “I know that you’re thinking a hundred things right now so just stop. Just listen.” She set her hands on mine. “And your makeup looks really nice.” She said as though the complimentary interjection would make up for her middle-man message. “He just thinks that it complicates your relationship to have the curse interfering with his feelings and your confidence. He loves you. He just doesn’t use that word lightly so he won’t say it. Your eyes don’t make him feel any differently about you but he said that it makes you unsure of his motivation. Do you get what I’m saying?” she asked. I wasn’t sure if I did. He loved me…but he didn’t want to see my eyes. “It’s a compliment. Really, it is. He just wants things to start over when you come back from vacation. That way both of you can be sure that his love is real. You won’t have any concerns.” Molly’s eyes were wide and sincere. All I could do was shrug. “Yeah…I guess…” I said while my mind slogged through the thoughts I was trying to process. He loved me. True, real love. The love I’d been searching for since forever. But. There was a but. But he didn’t want to see my eyes. He wanted to be sure of his love. Okay, he wanted both of us to be sure of his love. It was meant to be reassuring. But it was a sentence to a black and white world behind lenses. It meant the weight of the glasses would remain with me and I didn’t mean the physical weight. “And until break? Did he say anything about that?” I asked but Molly had been quite clear. “He just wants to focus on finals and then pick things up again after break,” she said. “But with glasses…” I sighed. It was too sweet to last. Two days of bliss with Quincy. A lifetime of subjection to darkness. “It’s not like things are going to change between you two. It was love at first sight!” she insisted. I glared at her. “I don’t mean that. I didn’t mean it like that…with your eyes…I just meant that you guys are adorable together. He’s great. You’re great. You’re great together. He just wants you to be sure of the relationship.” Her phone buzzed and she checked the text immediately. “I’ve gotta go Em,” she said with regret. I hoped it wasn’t Quincy. He should have just talked to me himself but I didn’t blame him for going to Molly. She was approachable. Friendly. Beautiful. Very beautiful. Possibly even more so now that her hair was so brightly dyed red and straightened. I sincerely hoped that wasn’t a reason for approaching her with his dilemma. Molly noticed my vacant stare at the floor. “Don’t be so sad about it. You like him. He likes you. Everything is good. In less than three weeks your lips will be back together,” she reassured. It didn’t really lift my spirits. I was terrified of losing him. Of losing the one boy who loved me. In only three days I had found real love and now I was quite sure that I was losing it and I didn’t even know why. "I know it's because of all the stuff that happened with Tony. Because of me." Molly tried to convince me that I wasn’t to blame, but I knew I was. I’d been dumb enough to pursue a relationship with Tony. I’d been the one who continued to curse him with my eyes day after day and week after week until three months had been wasted that way. I’d been the one who threw my glasses to the side and called for help from some passing boys. “You didn’t use a knife to hurt people!” Molly insisted. “No,” I said. “I used my arrows. My arrow eyes. I shot them all with love.” “In love or not, their actions were their own. You aren’t accountable for what other people do. Only for what you do.” “Right…well…” I tried to explain but there was no point. She didn’t understand. “I mean you should definitely try to keep your eyes to a minimum of men. Suppose it’s your fault that they love you. That doesn’t make it your fault that they attack you or kiss you or try to impress you or get into fist fights or knife fights.” She probably meant what she said, but I had a hard time internalizing it. Guilt might as well have been my middle name. Or one of them. If my name wasn’t already so long I might have legally added it in. Emalie Randi Guilt O’Braeden Sadie. Yeah, that made it worse, if not slightly more appropriate given my circumstances. “Good luck with finals,” I managed to say as she left. I think she said thanks but I wasn’t sure. An overly dramatic wave was enveloping me and my nylon strings of my guitar had only seconds of solitude before I’d need their therapy. I felt alone. I felt sad. I felt annoyed that I'd needed to come to California to find a new life. I felt annoyed with Quincy. But I also felt beautiful with my eye make-up and no one to appreciate it. So, I sang and I strummed. The dangerous loneliness Whispers cynical thoughts to me dragging me into a vicious cycle Of dismal thoughts and distress This solitude penetrates Into the very depths of me pulling at feelings I thought were gone I had been so sure I erased Beckoning light Where are you now when I need you most? Beckoning Light Where is the coast, my lighthouse friend? Guiding Light Help me decide, that I need you tonight
Jagged and rough these cliffs Tear me as waves suck me in again I can’t fight for air amid salt spray I’m starting now to drift I was so sure I could swim I must get out ‘cause I got myself in Though I can’t be alone in this world Am I truly alone in this world?
It wasn't the sort of song I imagine myself performing, but it had served it purpose. I was fed up with doing what other people wanted me to do. Putting glasses on. Taking them off. Ducking my head and ducking out of every relationship that could have been real out of some female version of chivalry. It was about time that I get what I wanted. I didn't want to be alone. I needed someone to be my rock and my guide. I wanted Quincy.