Raina's mother was folding towels on the living room table when Raina opened the front door and came in from the windy Thursday evening. She glanced up, smiled slightly, then went back to her folding. It was a sight Raina was used to. Ever since her brother, William, had put a pretty bullet hole in his head, her mom had been cleaning and straightening. She'd gone from wedding planning with William's fiancee, Janet, to funeral planning, to perpetual house maintenance mode. The house was always impeccable when Raina's father came home, every thing in its proper place before dinner, and then, silently, Raina would sit across the tale from her parents and never look up from her plate. Silence was everywhere in the air in the house. Everywhere except Raina's room where she spent most of her time listening to records.
"Could you go out and check the mail?" Her mother asked, piling perfectly creased towels into a red laundry basket. Her charcoal hair was pulled back into a tight bun. A few silver strands frizzed at the temples. Raina wondered how her mother had gotten those gray hairs. They had been there for as long as she could remember.
Raina stepped back out the front door and onto the porch to collect the mail. The mailbox was stuffed full of mostly junk mail, a few of the gothic and new wave music magazines Raina subscribed to, and a blue envelope with strange familiar handwriting. Raina's name was scrawled on the front of the envelope. The edges were dog-eared as though the letter had sat around for a long time before getting dropped in the post. There was no return address, but Raina knew that handwriting.
She headed straight inside for her room, tossing the rest of the mail onto the end table by her father's recliner chair, and lightly touching the outside of the door that used to be William's room as she passed. She threw the letter onto her bed and slammed the door shut.
Her room was her cave, decorated in the things that she loved. Two bookshelves housed hundred of books she'd collected over the years. Mostly classic gothic novels like Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein, but a good selection of modern ghost and vampire stories. Along the tops of the bookshelves, Raina had her collection of Dia de los Muertos dolls. She had collected them at Halloween every year for as long as she remembered. There was a shop at the center of town that handed them out. It was a tradition she and William had started when they were both fairly young. All stick fingers and costumes against the night.
Raina sat across the room from the letter, on the floor. She wanted nothing more than to open it, but whatever was inside it might bring back too much too fast. Old feelings about William's suicide, old feelings she had for William's best friend, Damian. The same things that had probably kept Damian sitting on the letter. Yes, she knew that handwriting was Damian's. Did she want things to change? Was she ready to reopen the bullet hole and kill William off forever? She'd found a nice dark corner in the fabric of life, and now this letter was threatening to rip a clean hole through. To let the light in. To give her a place to crawl out.
Raina crossed the room to her record collections, ran her fingers over the spines of each and every one before pinching her fingers together and pulling out a copy of her favorite Southern Death Cult record. It was white with the band name in black across the simple cover. Raina slid the vinyl disc out from the sleeve and placed it onto her turntable. She set the needle in the groove of track three, and crouched by the speakers to sit down.

She glances at her reflection. There's a screw loose somewhere. But never when it rains.

She sat in the corner for a long time, painting her toes a bright shade of electric purple that matched her hair, brushing the gray carpet this way and that way, first dark, then light, but every time she looked up, the letter came into focus. Stranded on the mattress with one corner standing at attention and waiting for her thumb and index finger to clamp on it and rip at it. She had to. It was like not pealing off the rest of a partially pulled back sticker. Temptation. She crossed the room and sat down on the bed. Laid her head next to it and stared until her eyes crossed and made a blur of two of those taunting corner edges.

And all good people who've lost in love should never lose their souls.

That was it. She pushed herself off the bed, stormed over to her computer desk and wrapped her fingers around a pair of scissors. She turned back to where the letter drew her to the bed. She'd make it bleed with a neat, clean incision along the end. Two folded pages spilled out.

Dearest Raina,

There is no excuse that I could come up with as to why I haven't written in the last year. I guess I was afraid that if I took a moment to think about it, I would feel drawn back to that place. I never wanted to forget you or William, but I also didn't want to remember. I didn't want to see that inevitably, Janet would go on with her life. I was afraid that no one else would. She was always the kind to persevere. She never cried. Even when the cat she'd had since the fifth grade passed away, she didn't shed a single tear. I think that made it much easier for me to forgive William for being the one she loved. I was always curious of her capacity to love. She wasn't the person I wished for my best friend get married to. I wonder why I ever wanted her to love me instead. Especially when you were there, all along, to show me what unconditional love was all about. You were my beacon of everything good in the world. You always have been.
I guess though, I was afraid that if I stayed I would never leave. That if I stayed, William's ghost would hold me there. I couldn't look at you and not see him staring out at me. I couldn't watch you suffering. I wanted to do more than hold you, but I failed. The day of the funeral, when you stumbled as we crossed our way to the grave, you let out this tiny little sound. It was the saddest sound I'd ever heard and I knew than that I couldn't ever comfort you as I wished I could. So I ran, and it has taken me this long to look back. I can imagine you hate me for running and not taking you with me, but if I had brought you along, I would have been dragging the demons along my side. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't running from you, but from what you made me see. I realise now that I should have faced it and that is why I am coming home. There should have been many letters before this one, telling you how miserable I've been in what I thought would be a perfect life. This city is beautiful; the people are beautiful, with lots of garbage and pain. They carry it around like vagrants with shopping bags, but I, alone, am ugly inside and fighting within myself. This letter is the first thing I've written in months. I thought this place would be my inspiration for that book I have always wanted to write, and I think under different circumstances it would be. But not now. Not with no ending to my story, yet. I have thought a lot about things in the last few weeks and pictures of you looking out the window as I drove up the driveway keep infesting my dreams. I suppose you thought I never saw you, but I did. It made you dear to me and at times I felt closer to you than I ever did to William. You seemed to see the world in the same shades as I did. I hope you haven't changed. I hope that when I pull up the driveway you'll be drawing back the curtains and looking for me.

See you soon,


"Mom. He's coming back! Damian is coming back." Raina nearly broke her toe on the hall corner as she rushed out to the living room.
Her mother looked up from the phone bill she'd been staring at. "Does he know about William?" she asked.
"William was the reason he left, mom. Remember? The day after the funeral? Just over a year ago. Oh god, a year. " Raina sat down on the floor across from the couch and looked at her mother. "I'm so angry with him right now."
"You loved him then, didn't you?" her mother scrunched her face as if it were all coming back to her in fuzzy flashback. The lines around her eyes pushed together and folded over one another. "You used to hang on his every word and fawn over his silly jokes. I remember. He was William's best man. Yes. He's coming back?"
Raina nodded her head, reaching for one of her mother's cigarettes off the coffee table. "I don't know how I feel about it. I can't figure out if ... if …" she scratched her head and reached for a lighter. "I can't figure out if …"
"If you still love him?" Her mother finished the sentence for her.
"No. I know I still love him. I can't figure out if I will want to know if he's coming back because of me or because of William."
Her mother's face smoothed out and she lit a cigarette of her own. A stream of smoke glided from between her lips. "Don't analyze it so much, Raina. It only makes it more complicated than it has to be. You always do that with things. Just be glad he's coming back and wait until he gets her to decide it you want to hit him or kiss him." She knelt her head back to the phone bill.
The front door opened and Raina's father came in. He was dressed in his work suit. A perfect picture of respect and authority, a; all pressed tie and starched shirt. Raina felt her stomach turn, butterflies and silent screaming. She stood up, and faced her mom. "Call me when you need help with dinner, okay?" She headed back to her room and read the letter over and over before folding it up neatly and placing it into a shoe box under her bed.

Raina heard the sound of Damian's car pulling into the driveway for the first time in a year. She knew the sound of his engine as she knew the words to the songs that she listened to. Her mother was gone shopping, and her father was at work. Raina smoothed the skirt of the black lace funeral dress she'd picked up from a thrift shop. It smelled slightly of moth balls still despite her efforts to get rid of the scent. Two white roses she'd trimmed from her mother's garden rested on the table by the door. She was going to deliver them to William and Damian would just have to join her, now.
She pulled her black veil over her face and stepped out onto the porch as Damian was getting out of his car. He looked the same, though his hair had grown out from a black spiky style to a longer, messy shaggy style. It was deep purple and curled around his ears and neck. Raina remembered running her fingers through his hair all those nights she and Damian and William had sat and watched old black and white horror movies in the living room.
He was wearing black pants and a black shirt with a silver star on the front that glinted in the sunlight. His boots kicked at the gravel driveway as he glanced up at her, dark glasses covering his eyes.
Without a word, Raina climbed into the passenger seat and Damian got into the driver's seat.
"I don't have to ask where you want me to drive, do I?" He asked anyhow, his voice tensing slightly. Raina knew he'd been expecting this, but had possibly been hoping it wouldn't come.
She shook her head and smiled at him, quietly, holding one white rose to him. He took it, set it on the dashboard with the rows of tiny skeleton dolls he'd glued there over the years. Each one represented a Halloween that Damian, William, and Raina had spent together. It was tradition.
They drove in silence from the house to the cemetery. Damian reached over and clicked on the tape player.

Must have died a thousand times, feeling less than human.

Raina sang along. She knew the words. Chameleons UK was the band. She'd seen them in concert with William and Damian once. It had been an all day adventure. They'd had to drive across one state to catch the band performing in a small venue. William had refused to tell Raina where they were headed. The entire trip William and Damian had laughed and Raina had guessed all the many places they might be headed until it became a game of who could invent the most bizarre scenario.
Damian turned the car onto the street where the cemetery stretched out. An entire block of tombstones. William was the first one who had brought Raina to this place. It was the middle of the night, and they had run through the streets in their velvet and lace, William pulling her by the hand. She'd been drinking from a bottle of absinthe that one of William's friends had made, and the warm burn of it in her belly was only surpassed by the warm burn in her head. She had stumbled through the head stones, wondering where the giggling and music was coming from. William laughed. She was thirteen and he was seventeen. She was drunk for the first time in her life and it was her brother who was going to introduce her to all the fun she'd been missing out on. He'd pulled her past grave after grave and Raina had felt peaceful bliss. They'd finally stopped at a far corner of the cemetery where some other kids were hanging out. They were all William's age, or a little bit older. Raina met Damian that night and scribbled his name all over her schoolbooks and folders the next day. But because he was her brother's best friend, and because he was so much older than her, she had stopped short of flirting with him, instead, clumsily kissing a boy who called himself Ravyn. He was sixteen and smelled like licorice and peppermint. In the cemetery that night, with UK Decay's song Twist in the Tail playing on the small tape player someone had brought, Raina had felt a sense of belonging for the first time in her life. Candles set all around them and the fear of being caught. Raina had watched Damian out of the corner of her eye as she'd let Ravyn touch her between her legs. She'd wrapped her thighs tight around his hand and forced herself against him, all the while imagining him to be Damian who sat against a tombstone writing in a small black notebook. William had stumbled off to find a place to go to the bathroom, and when he'd returned, he'd put a stop to her and Ravyn's childish squirming against one another. He'd dragged her off toward home and told her that acting like that was no way to get a boy to love her. She'd wanted to tell him about her father then, but before the words came out she'd hurled vomit all over the ground and fallen to her knees in the soil, unable to stop herself from getting sick. Damian had knelt down beside her and held her hair back for her because William had to run off and throw up himself. With tiny rocks cutting into the palms of her hands and the skin of her knees, Raina had cried and puked until she had nothing left inside.

Raina climbed out of the car and headed for the place she knew William rested. She could hear Damian behind her. The rustle of leaves under their feet seemed loud in all that silence.
William's headstone was littered with petals from dried flowers and Raina knelt down to clear them off before placing her bouquet of fresh roses on the cold stone. She then reached into her small black clutch purse and pulled a sandwich bag filled with glitter from inside. She scooped a fistful of the stuff into her hand and sprinkled a shower of glitter over William's grave, stepping back to admire the shimmering silver flecks in the setting sun. Damian crouched down to read the inscription on the tombstone.
"He's beautiful, isn't he?" Raina asked, crossing her feet in the grass. "I can hear his laughter when I rest my head to the ground."
"I miss him." Damian ran his hand over the words carved in stone. Raina decided to walk away and give Damian and William some time alone. Maybe William would tell Damian why he'd done it. He'd never confessed to her.
Off on the road that edged the cemetery a group of high school kids gathered, pointing and staring at Raina. It reminded her of her years in high school. Torment. It didn't hurt so much to see a few of them poking fun now, but there had been a time when Raina had been filled with so much hurt and anger that she'd almost gone the route that William had chosen for himself.
She crossed the cemetery to the edge where a giant oak tree had stood since before her great grand parents were even born. Layers of bark hid scars of carving and paint. She loved this tree because it had selfishly given her a place for reading and writing over the years. She could tell the time by the shadows of the leaves in the summertime. She'd been there many a stormy night, walking circles around the trunk, imagining protective energy radiating with her every step. It had done so much for her, this tree. It had grown for her when she'd felt incapable of growing. She reached out with the palms of both hands and touched the bark. It crackled under her touch.
"William and I vandalized this tree once, I must admit." Damian's voice startled Raina. It had crept up like a sudden gust of wind carrying the voice of a ghost. "We pinned a picture of John Norton in his underwear on it when we were ten. Someone took the picture in the locker rooms during swimming over the summer and Xeroxed it. William and I found a stack and put them up all over." Damian crossed his legs and sat under the tree, near her. His hair was a deep purple, but in the sun it shone like ripened plums, bruise colored. His dark sunglasses covered any hint of his eyes.
"That was you guys?" It was hard for Raina not to giggle a little. John Norton's family had moved away so long ago. "That poor boy. I know how he must have felt."
"It was cruel. We were ten," Damian shrugged." I've tried to make amends for it." Damian took Raina's hand and pulled her down so that they were both sitting under the tree.
"I gave my first blow job to a boy against this tree." Raina said. She looked to see Damian's reaction. "I was fourteen, I think. He was twenty-six."
"Holy shit, Raina. I'm twenty-six now. What could a twenty-six year old possibly want from a fourteen year old?"
"Oral sex, obviously." She smirked, pausing. "Lots of my life moments have taken place here."
Damian nodded, his white skin turning slightly pink in the warm sun. "Do people still come hang out here at night?"
"Not so much, but once in awhile. I still come here as much as possible. Mom says it isn't healthy. She hasn't been back to visit William since the day of his funeral"
They sat, quietly, for several minutes. Raina wanted to scream.
"Raina, I'm so scared. I don't know how to act around you. I feel like slipping back into the way things were. It would be so easy. You're so easy to love and be close to. For me, at least. Yet, I know things aren't the way they were and I know you want to kick at me and scream."
Raina shook her head. "You've got it all wrong, Damian. I wasn't sure how I could react until you were truly home. It's all so lucid. It's like I've been here before, but it's much hazier and surreal this time around. Sort of backwards, come to think of it. I've imagined it going every sort of way since your letter came. Take after take in my head, like the filming of a movie. Forwards, backwards, rewind, delete."
"Then, you don't want to yell at me?" He lowered his sunglasses so Raina could see his eyes, the color of raisins.
Raina felt a wave of something coming but forced it back inside like she'd forced everything. "I don't know what I want to do with you, Damian, but I know that I need you. I haven't been close to anyone since William went and you vanished. I have no one. Mom is around, but she is so limp to everything, and her memory is very limited. It works for her, you know? When she has something to say it's very profound, but I still feel alone."
"I'm sorry, Raina. I was selfish and stupid to leave." He pulled her into his arms and everything was okay in that moment.
"You're forgiven." Raina laughed. She knew the longer she stayed in the curve of his arms, the longer she'd have to think about how angry she'd been with him. She didn't want to think about that right now. "Now, listen." She pressed her head to grass and waited for Damian to join her. She loved that he always gave her the benefit of a doubt and humored her strange requests. He hadn't even blinked twice at her in her funeral dress. Now he rested his head next to hers, his lips almost touching hers, and his sunglasses bent slightly off his face. She reached out and touched his hair. It was soft between her fingers and made her smile. He smiled in return.
"Can you hear?" Raina asked, the ground cool under her ear, the sun warmed strands of Damian's hair in her hand, "Some are crying and some are laughing. William's laugh is the loudest. He's thanking me for the shower glitter."
Damian grasped her hand tightly and listened, "Is he saying anything to me?"
"Listen! Sshhhhhh. He says he is just as happy as I am to have you back."

Raina emptied her fourth drink and set it on the bar next to empty glasses and wet circles. It had been a little over an hour since she and Damian had arrived. It was an hour and half ride in the car and the outside of the club had looked like every other hole in the wall place with a gravel parking lot and a neon martini glass sign blinking from above the door. A few kids dressed in black had huddled around a black Mustang in the parking lot sucking back nitrous hits from whipped cream can cartridges emptied into balloons. They'd giggled like insane hyenas.
Inside the club was an instantaneous shift of reality. Blue and purple lights swirled in chaotic circles and white light speckled into a million points of glitter, bathing the bodies of cherub faced kids. Beams of laser lights threw brilliant flashes across pale faces and turned black velvets to a deep bloody burgundy. The music was a mixture of slow minor chords and ethereal voices, rising up to a crescendo of harsh dance beats. Dancers moved beneath the assault of lights like marionettes and puppets, making sweeping gestures with their arms and hands. Raina felt as if they were all bodies moving through the dark sludge of some swamp, all lost and forgotten, never disturbing the surface.
Damian stood next to her, dressed in a black leather coat that fitted slightly at his waist and flared out over his hips, He'd teased his hair out and applied a thick ring of eyeliner around his eyes. Raina loved that she and Damian could come here dressed as though they had stepped into a period film and everyone around them fit into the same movie. She was still in her funeral dress and veil. She smiled and Damian and he leaned forward.
"I'm glad we decided to come." He said directly into her ear so that he wouldn't have to compete wit the music.
"Me too. It's been ages since I've been out." Raina agreed, "William would have loved this place."
"William and I came here a few times when we both were twenty-one." Damian confessed. "We wanted to bring you, but you were just eighteen. William did enjoy it. He wanted to bring you here for your twenty-first birthday."
Raina steadied herself against the bar. Her gloves slide on the surface and she felt herself falling. Damian reached a hand out to steady her.
"I'm sorry." He looked at her. Just then she wanted to forgive him everything. She wanted to forget that time had passed and that he had left her stranded in a less than ideal situation. Could he really not know, as her mother seemed not to know? She wanted to go back nine years and force her legs against Damian's hand instead of that boy she'd never seen again. Maybe things would have changed for her. For William. For everyone.
"I wanted it to be you against that tree." She said in a rush, but Damian turned away as someone walking by bumped into him.
He turned back to her. "What did you say?"
The music shifted and Raina was glad to hear the first strings of Some Kind of Stranger by the Sisters of Mercy unfolding. Up to this point, she'd been content with a drink in her hand, watching the dreaming dancers miming to the music, but now she was ready to dance.
"Oh Damian, we must dance to this!" She called to him, grabbing his arm and leaning into him.
"Are you sure you have enough balance to dance?" He asked her. She watched his lips twist as he giggled. "Your eyes are already half shut."
"Oh yes. You have to be slightly intoxicated to dance to this music." She laughed, pulling him closer to her and to the dance floor. She spun around and began to move her body, swaying from side to side, rotating her hips to move her, inch by inch, toward the dance floor. Finding a spot that suited her, she stopped and brought Damian into her arms, leaning against his chest. She was more intoxicated than she'd thought but as long as Damian was there to lean on she knew she'd be okay. She was always okay with Damian there to lean on. Even at William's funeral.
Yes, I believe in what we had. But words got in the way.
She could smell the mixture of incense and smoke in her own hair and felt Damian leaning into her, running his hand along her spine and up into her hair. He must have been a little drunk himself, Raina thought.
All I know for sure, all I know for real, is knowing doesn't mean so much.
She closed her eyes and leaned her head back so that her face was turned up to him, her lips curled into a mild smirk. He cradled her head and brushed a wisp of hair from her face.
When bodies meet, when fingers touch.
She pressed her body fully to the length of him. She felt exactly right there.
Some kind of angel let me look into your eyes.
He stroked the hair at the back of her head and seemed to welcome the sway of her in step with his lead.
Come here I think you're beautiful. My door is open wide. Some kind of stranger come inside.
Raina felt him tremble. "Oh my god, look, Raina." He said. His voice was almost a whisper.
She opened her eyes, looked up at him. "I am looking, Damian. I am." She wanted him to kiss her, but his eyes were looking somewhere over her shoulder.
"No, look there." He nodded his head toward a figure leaning against the far wall. Raina turned and gasped. Her eyes fixed on the figure as if in slow motion. Long bleached blond hair rustled about the shoulders of the guy as he took a long drag off a cigarette and turned his head to the side.
"William." Raina whispered, breaking free from Damian and running toward the apparition. She faintly sensed Damian trying to catch her from behind.
"William? William, is that you?" She asked, poising her arm out, afraid to touch him. He might disappear in a swirl around her fingertips if she touched him. Spirits and ghost always vanished.
"For you, darling. I'll be anyone you want me to be." The apparition smiled, looking her over. Starting at her feet and working his way up, then back down.
"You don't sound like yourself." Raina narrowed her eyes. She was confused. She placed her hand on the arm of the apparition. He didn't vanish.
Damian caught her arm. "Raina. It's not him. Come on." He started to pull her away and at first she let him. "I'm sorry, man. You look a lot like someone we knew."
"Is it him? Is it William, Damian?" Raina asked. She had to know. Hot wet in her eyes, the rims burned. She knew, even through her drunken haze that it couldn't really be him, but just maybe …
"No honey. It isn't." Damian answered, tugging at her arm, gently.
She started to pull herself away from Damian. "I have to know. It could be. Maybe he came back for a reason. Maybe he needs to tell us something." She tried to work her arm free of Damian's hold. "Let me go."
"Raina, it isn't William."
The apparition stepped forward and glared at Damian. "I think you should let go of the lady." He said. The voice wasn't William's. Raina felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
"You don't understand." Damian said. "She thinks you are the ghost of her brother."
"Let go of me!" Raina screamed, finally breaking free and throwing her arms around the apparition. "William. What is it? Why?"
The apparition placed his arms around her and leaned forward. He reached one hand up and wiped at her tears. "It's okay, love. It's okay." He cupped Raina's face in his hands. His fingers weren't cold, as she'd expected them to be.
"William …" Raina smiled, nuzzling her chin into the palms of his hands. "Did you come to tell us why you did it?" It was dark and she couldn't find his eyes. She wanted to tell him about father, but again she was drunk and the idea turned her stomach to knots and acid crept up into her mouth.
The apparition leaned in too close; she could smell the alcohol on his breath. He covered her mouth with his and she felt his tongue creep in like a wet worm toward the back of her throat. Confused, she thought of her father's kisses, urgent. She stumbled back and fell against Damian "Get me out of here, please." She cried.
Damian led her toward the exit, through the crowd. She could hardly see through her tears and she stumbled into almost everyone they came near. Damian finally got her to the doorway. It was pounding rain outside, but Raina pushed herself out into it and Damian followed.

Raina pressed her back against the wall outside the club, where the overhang just kept the rain off her face. She crouched down and slammed her fists into ground. "Damn!" she yelled.
Damian bent over and grabbed at her arms before she could slam them down again, She struggled, bucking back her head and trying to shake Damian off of her.
"Raina. It's okay. It's me, Damian. It's okay, honey. You can let it out now." He pulled her up against her will and she was standing again.
"He kissed me with his death lips. He kissed me." Raina touched her lips with reddened knuckles, smearing her crimson lipstick across her cheek.
"No, he didn't, Raina. That was not William."
"I saw him. You saw him. You had to see him!" She pointed her finger back at the door leading in to the club. "He was in there and he was going to tell us why he did it."
"No, Raina. He was not in there. That was just someone who looked like him. William is gone. He left." Damian took her by the shoulders.
A cold revelation crept under her skin. It wasn't William inside. It wasn't possible. No matter how many times she read Wuthering Heights, she knew, deep down, that William wasn't going to come back. He haunted her still, but she'd never see him again, He was dead. "No," Raina spat at Damian. "He didn't leave. He's dead. You're the one who left. You had a choice. You're the one who's gone." She tried to focus her eyes on him, but the alcohol and rain made everything blurry. "You chose to leave here. You chose to leave me."
"Raina, we've been over this before. I had to go …"
"No. No, you didn't have to go. But you did." Her hands clenched at her sides. Her fingernails dug deep into the palms of her hands.
"Then you are upset with me still. You said it didn't matter anymore. You said that it was okay as long as I was here now, but you don't really believe that." His hands dropped from her shoulders. Raina wanted to smack him. How could he be so naive?
"No. It doesn't make now okay. It doesn't just erase everything. It doesn't. I kept hoping you would come roaring up the driveway to take me out of here." Raina braced herself against the wall. Damian stepped back a few feet and the cold rain splashed against his face and forehead.
"You know I always felt close to you, Raina."
She wished he'd stop saying her name over and over like she was some kid. She wasn't thirteen, or fourteen, or even twenty. She was twenty-two, and more drunk than she had ever been in her life.
"I wanted so much to protect you and if I had thought it would have done both of us any good, I would have taken you with me. But I couldn't." He started toward her again, but she moved to the side. "I couldn't stand to see you suffering, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it."
"So you ran? Little coward," she hissed, clouds of warm air formed curling licks around her lips in the cold night air. "You were a coward and you never protected me, but I still loved you."
"Raina, you don't know what you're saying. You know I love you and you know I would never hurt you if I could help it. But this time I couldn't help you. I had to run, and I came back because something was unfinished."
"What Damian? What was unfinished? Did you come back just to hear me admit it? Just to see me squirm in this hell of being in love with you?" Her hand flew to her mouth as she realised what she had just said.
"What?" Damian leaned for her. There was no way she could back down now. "What did you say?"
"Fuck you, coward! There! It's all yours. You can run back to your little city satisfied knowing that everything you left back here is shattered and destroyed." She thought she might be mumbling and turned her head away.
"Raina, come here." He forced her into his arms. "I had no idea, Raina."
"Is that it? Is that all you have to say?" She let her entire body go limp and slipped away. "God, I am such an idiot." She stepped away from the wall. She couldn't believe that in all the time they had known one another he'd never realised that she loved him as more than a friend. She'd even thought maybe he'd felt the same, but neither of them had wanted to upset William. Well, William was gone now. And now was Damian afraid of offending his ghost?
"Where are you going, Raina? Get in the car."
"He's dead and buried, you know?" She watched his face to see if what she said had registered. Damian looked back at her with wide eyes and his nibbled at his bottom lip. She started for the road. "I'll walk home, thank you."
"It's over 70 miles, it's raining like mad, and it's the middle of the night. Just get in the car with me." Damian's voice sounded urgent and exhausted at the same time. Raina knew it was a ridiculous concept to walk home. She could barely keep a straight line for all the alcohol in her system, but what would happen if she got in the car? Would the feelings and the memories go away?
She continued toward the main road. She heard Damian get into his car and start the ignition. Was he really going to leave her out here? Suddenly the reality of the situation hit her full on. She'd admitted to her feelings and he was going to leave her stranded as he had left her stranded before. A fresh rush of tears erupted in her eyes.
Damian's car pulled out in front of her and stopped. She started to walk around the back, but Damian got out and blocked her way with his body. "What do you want from me, Raina? Do you want me to reach down deep and find things I have been hiding for the last year? Do you want me to tear down into the deep layers and show you? I can't do that, Raina. I just can't do that right now?
"Coward!" She screamed again, "You can do it, but you won't! Don't do me any favors!"
"Raina, if I go back, and if I remember, I am going to have to remember what it felt like to know." Damian pulled the driver's door open wide. "Please, just get in the car."
Raina didn't want to think about what he meant about knowing. There was only one thing that she didn't want him or anyone else to know, but she also knew that he wasn't stupid. She knew deep down he had to have known what her father had been doing to her over all those years. She realised that is why she was so angry with him for leaving. He had left her, even knowing about her father.
"I'll get in the car, but don't say a word." She agreed. She ignored the open driver's side and started back around to the passenger side. She didn't want to have to pass right by him. She climbed into the passenger seat and slammed the door.
Damian got in and started down the road. For twenty minutes there was nothing but the sound of the heater blowing and the windshield wipers sliding back and forth against the windshield. Raina had been practically holding her breath, but she could hold it no longer. A soft whimper escaped her lips.
"I'm sorry, Damian. I don't know what came over me. I shouldn't have said those horrible things." She looked at him and he reached over and took her hand. One hand still on the steering wheel, his eyes went back to the road.
"You should have told me how angry you were. We could have talked about this under better conditions." His fingers tightened in hers.
"I didn't know how. And I didn't know why I was so angry. I just wanted for things to be the way they were, but I know that they can't."
"Now that I know you have all this resentment toward me? We can work through that, Raina. I'm not going anywhere this time. I just need time."
"You aren't getting it, Damian." Raina shook her head. "Perhaps it's better if we don't talk about it."
"I just can't right now. Please. I know you've been overly patient with me and that I don't deserve the loyalty and warmth you've given me, but I'm just not ready this very minute to talk about it all right now."
"It's okay." She turned her head to the window and pressed her forehead against the cold glass, watching the street slide by in shimmering black beneath the front right tire of the car. " Can you turn up the heater?"

Raina sat, curled in the shower, letting the water wash away all the traces of nightclub cigarette smoke from her hair and skin. It was a welcome downpour compared to the rain, and every warm rush of water that touched her back was an affirmation that she could feel warmth. She found herself humming as the tips of her toes and fingers came back to life. The remnants of hair dye created a pool of grape kool-aid colored water at the drain, whirl-pooling in an angry funnel before getting sucked into the pipes. A flash of red stained porcelain jerked her from her almost trance like state.
"William," she whispered, "Why are you back?" Shaking her head seemed to ease the eerie creep that had started up her spine, but her lips trembled as she climbed out and pulled on her black bathrobe.
Pull yourself together, girl. She focused on her image in the steamed mirror, a blur of an apparition like the one in the club. Tricks done with mirrors.
Her mother was standing in the hall when she opened the bathroom door. The steam from the bathroom rushed out around Raina in billowing curls. "Mom. I'm sorry if I kept you up. I was trying to be quiet."
"You were, honey. I just knew I needed to talk to you before you went to bed. Is it okay if I come into your room and chat with you while you get ready for bed?" Her mom's eyes were a bit pink. She may have been crying. As ready as Raina was to simply crawl into the sheets, she couldn't refuse her mother.
"Sure." Raina headed down the hall and her mom followed. Her mother rarely came into Raina's room. There were things Raina knew her mother preferred not to see. Even when she cleaned the house she stayed away from this bedroom. Sure, her mother was used to the candle wax on the windowsill and the posters of pale, androgynous bands dressed in black on the walls, but the collection of Dia de Los Muertos skeletons and the collection of bat motif things had always made her mother uncomfortable. Especially after William's death.
Raina sat at her vanity and began brushing her hair as her mother sat on the edge of the bed behind her. "What's the matter, mom?"
"I'm not really sure. I was hoping you could tell me. "Her mother picked at an imaginary piece of lint on the bedspread, crossing her slipper covered feet at the ankles. "I couldn't help but to notice that you have been different since Damian came back."
"That's silly. I mean sure I am glad he is back, but ….."
"No, Raina. It isn't silly. I managed to over look things with William. I don't want to do the same with you. You've been really moody since Damian came back, and I don't think I can be overly cautious at this point."
"Mom, it's just … well … I wasn't expecting so much of William to come back with Damian." Her mother gave her a curious look, tilting her head and looking up at Raina's reflection in the mirror. "Part of me was always away with him. I can't explain it, but part of me went with Damian and kept me sane through it all. And now it's back and I don't really know what to do with it."
Her mother sighed and rose from the bed. "Can I help you with that?" She pointed at the hairbrush in Raina's hand. Raina handed it to her. "Please, go on."
Sometimes Raina wondered if her mother really couldn't know about what her husband had done. She'd wondered about it so much, but right now she wanted to believe in her mother's innocence. "Damian seems to be afraid of me, and I don't know why."
"Have you thought, perhaps, that his coming back did something about the same for him? Maybe he left a part of himself here, with you, and now he's having some trouble dealing with it?" Her mom pushed the brush through Raina's hair, gently pulling at the a few tangles. It was almost like old times.
"I guess I always felt like he was the one who got away from it all."
"He can't fix you, Raina. He went, thinking he could fix himself, but he failed. And how he's got to figure out how to do it here. You have to do the same. Maybe together, you can work it out."
"Did you and dad help each other fix one another?"
Raina's mother worked at a knot in the back of Raina's hair. "Everyday, a little bit, but it's more difficult once you have family because you can't be entirely right if one of your kids isn't."
Raina flattened her hands against the vanity table. Her knuckles flushed red. "I'm tired mom. I need to go to bed." Her mother set the brush down and walked out, closing the door behind her.

"I thought you might be here." Damian's voice startles Raina. In the dark cemetery, she can only recognize him by his voice. His feet move just at the edge of her peripheral vision.
"I'll be fine." She answers. She's lying, face up, in the grass next to William's grave, stretched out with her arms above her head and her toes bare against the ground. The sky is obsolete against the stars that force it back.
"I know you will be. I want to help, though." He settles down next to her and pulls her head into his lap. His face swim over her, eclipsing the moon. He presses his hands to her cheeks. She purses her lips and lets out a soft sigh. He shakes his head and his hair brushes her face. "I don't have to ask, but I'm curious to hear you say it." He says.
"What are you curious to hear me say?" Raina asks.
"You're not being fair simply by the nature of you." He lets go of her face. "What do you want?"
He waits for her answer, but she can't think of where to begin. Even though she's been merely thinking in this place for the last hour. She reaches up with her right hand, touches Damian's lips and finally says, "I want to be clean again." She reaches under the hem of her dress and pulls it up to expose her legs and underwear. She feels impossibly fragile. Where she was once only shadow, she is now pale blue in the moonlight. There's nowhere to hide from the weight of his eyes examining her like hands. She blushes. Sitting up, she tugs off her underwear, pulls her legs in, and watches Damian over the peaks of her knees. Less exposed now, but she still feels ashamed. She wishes she could force the poison of her father's seed from her mind so easy as she had coughed it up from her stomach. Raina, confused as to why she'd suddenly be remembering the acidity of her father's smell and the impression of his hand over her mouth, drops her eyes. She hasn't really remembered this much about it for a long time.
"There is something I should tell you first." Damian draws back his hair back with bone white fingers.
His voice brings Raina back to the place she wants to be and she finds again a kernel of who she wants to be.
"Can't it wait?" She jokingly pleads. There really isn't anything she's interested in hearing at this point. Not a damn thing that isn't primitive, explosive, or obscene.
"No. It can't wait, I'm afraid. I've actually waited possibly too long here." He nods his head at her half naked body. "I think I ought to tell you. I sought you out, you know. Practically hunted you."
Raina nods her head, moving her eyes from his body to his face. "I know. I'm not sure what I am supposed to give you."
"Neither am I." Damian reached for her face and ran his fingers over her cheeks.
She licks her lips, calling his to her, and he curls his arm around the back of her head, creeping his fingers into the hair at the base of her neck and pulling her face so close to his, she can see only his mouth. Her eyes flutter half shut. Everything about the language of his body speaks fondly to her, validating her.
"I wonder how many things you taste like." He whispered, separating her lips with the force of his tongue, and she felt her soul practically sucked from her skin. This is how one is supposed to be kissed. It was the first time she could remember it feeling like this - something more than just polite sex politic to make the fucking seem somehow less shallow. He was kissing her with everything he was, not just slobbering against her while jamming his hands down her pants. He was drawing her out of hiding with his tongue. Raina felt herself mentally stumble, as the honesty of his kiss momentarily shifted her masks. Her mind exploded with memories of all the times she's screamed against the demanding hunger of her father's face, and she gasped as Damian pulled his head back, slightly.
" Ahh, the first thing I taste is the pain there." He pulled her body into his lap, wrapping his arms around her, and touching his cheek to hers. She held onto him, silently. They were breathing in tandem, lungs expanding in unison, her breasts and his chest pushing into one another. He whispered, "Edin Na Zu."
"Come again …" She started to ask, not knowing what he'd just said, or what it meant, but he hushed her with a finger to her lips and continued breathing softly into her ear.
"It means, 'Go to the desert.' The Sumerians believed in commanding the evil things as a form of exorcism." Damian pulled away from her and his eyes seemed to blast through her with their sincerity. A subtle flicker of challenge revealed itself in his expression, but mostly she felt his eyes continuing to draw her out as his mouth had. "I am commanding your demons to leave. I am your desert."
It made sense all at once. There was nothing more to be said.
Raina nodded, tears sliding down her cheeks, and raised herself up, hiding her shame behind a veil of hair. In one moment they went from two spheres into one. He came into her like a sunset. A warm ball of energy she could visualize inside her belly. Exquisite pain as he moved the hair from her face and began to kiss each tear, cupping her chin so that none of them fell onto the ground beneath them. Raina pressed her forehead to his, eyes closed, as he lifted her slightly by her hips, and she is felt herself falling, wingless, plummeting towards cemetery soil where Damian caught her over and over. This can't be real. With each descent, she felt her soul quiver and retract, as though trying to escape. With each landing, he called her back to herself with a kiss somehow pure and insinuating. Something inside her started to come loose, then unscrewed. She filled her hands with his skull, needing to grasp something that would keep her tethered to this plane and prevent her from spiraling off into the frightening unknown. Perhaps if she could root her tongue in his mouth, she'd pin them both to the earth. If she was going anywhere, she was taking him with her.
"You're not going to get away this time." Raina demanded, "You're not going to run away from me."
She pushed back, against the force of his persuasion, fighting the strength of him with her own clever tricks, tangling her fingers in his hair and stealing breath from his mouth with her kiss. He allowed her to push him back into the damp earth where she could be the angel that he'd been seeking, hovering over him, slamming her fists into the dirt to prevent herself from simply merging into him. Her journey began with this ride, and it wasn't until moments ago that she knew she was going anywhere. Raina rolled herself into his motion, forgetting any shame and pride, and in one small moment, with her hipbones grinding into his, and her energy harnessed in the only way she'd ever felt anything other than helpless to this strange merging of sex and power, she found the truth. All her guards, like some burlesque dancer's robe, dropped away and she felt truly naked for the very first time in her life. Her fingers melted from ridged claws to billowing tapers. They could burn here. They could burn like Alexandria. She felt the full breathe of herself, a deep set stone at the apex of a pyramid. Her eyes opened and she watched him moving beneath her. He was watching her. He was absolutely beautiful, bone white and fixed into her. She let go.
"I remember you." Damian suddenly gasped from under her, and before she could make sense of these things called words, he'd rolled her over. Her hands pulled clumps of earth in her fists. He covered her body with his, shoving all the questions back into her with his mouth. Just accept it. Just feel it. She was lost again in the clouds, floating in the cosmos, arching her back off the ground for fear she would crush the wings that were surely breaking from the skin of her back. It was difficult to remember her reality, to remember that she was just her body, without ornament or mythic design. The body she had traded in failed attempts to get tiny little pieces of herself back from her father. That same mortal body, but she swore she could feel something trying to release itself from inside. Her spirit was shattering, for an eternity it seemed, as he came into her again, driving fragments of her away. Chasing off the evils, as though she was a tree, and he was the silent purple twilight that sent birds flying from her branches and leaves. He was plucking the bad parts from her, snapping the chords of unfurling dark ribbons that blossomed out of her and yet he was merely inside of her as other men had been. We are just fucking, aren't we? Raina thought. This confusion fueled her desire to let herself be broken apart by him. Did she trust this? Did she trust him? Did she have any choice? The ripples of her conscious self expanded further out from the space beneath him. She couldn't stay here much longer. It would be perfectly okay to spring off this planet and go wherever he took her. In one final blaze of his sun, the ghost of her was knocked quite free of her physical being. They both cried out, and the cemetery echoed back their noise. Damian pulled her up again, into his lap, and wrapped his arms around her. She pressed herself against him, listening to the rise and fall of her catching of breath, catching herself again.

Raina pressed her head against the tombstone. She sat, curled up next to it, hugging it as though it were a child. "I know why you did it now, William. He did it to you, too. Didn't he? Father did it to you as well. " She pushed her lips against the carved words. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. I want you to know that I won't let him win. But this means that I have to leave for a while. Damian's going to take me away. I'm going to sort things out for myself, and for you. I won't be able to come and talk to you anymore. At least not for a bit. I've got a long journey ahead of me. But I love you. And I am sorry I didn't know. I'm sorry I couldn't save you, but I couldn't save myself. Not then. But now I can, and I'll do my best to save you, too." She stood up from the ground, brushed the grave dirt from her dress and knees and walked, barefoot, to where Damian waited in his car. The sun was coming up and the birds had started to fill the cemetery with their song.