All Is BrightBy: P. Jameson
Malcolm Frazier stood outside the small storefront, shivering on the busy sidewalk as people pushed past him in a hurry. Every shove or jostle was hardly felt as he stared through the prettily lit window. Red and white ribbons curled to form big puffy bows. A small green Christmas tree frosted in fake snow took up one corner. Silver balls hung from every branch until it seemed like less of a tree and more like a tin-foil sculpture. Boxes full of probably nothing were wrapped in shiny paper and crowned in curly streamers.
But none of that holiday garb had captured his attention.
Her, something called from inside him. Something akin to a soul, but not. Something he barely recognized anymore. Something dangerous. That one. Look at her smile. The way she touches the pretty things. Like she cares for them even though they aren't alive. If she can care for them... maybe she can care for you.
His heart pounded double time in his chest as he watched the female. She was tall and thick, with bright red hair that fell to midway down her back in wavy curls. She had round cheeks that made him think of apples, and they were dotted with the sweetest pale freckles. But her eyes... he couldn't see her eyes behind the thick glass window. He could tell they were big and round, but the color remained elusive.
It didn't matter their color. She was perfect.
He looked down at his ratty pants and worn-to-hell construction boots he'd traded his jacket for in one of the shelters several months ago. He didn't need it. The cold didn't bother him, even if his body responded like normal, shivering and sputtering. But the boots he’d left home in were coming apart at the soles and walking in them was becoming a hazard. The trade had been necessary.
He stared back through the window at the first glimpse of hope he'd felt in months. Decades even. Because truth was, he'd lost it way before the bottom fell out of his world.
But now there was this. Her. A possibility.
And she was too perfect.
She was like a freshly ironed white shirt and he was mud-caked hands reaching, reaching to crush it in his fists and dirty it.
He watched as she continued to arrange ornaments on a tree. He’d never cared much for Christmas. They didn’t celebrate it when he was young, and when he was old enough to decorate a tree of his own, there’d been no reason to.
He’d lived in the warehouse with the rest of his crew. They had transformed the upper level into a bachelor pad, as close to a house as any of them had, while the lower level was reserved for their business operations. And the pad was no place for homey things like a Christmas tree. It was dirty and stunk of booze and fucking since that’s what it was used for most. Toward the end, Malcom had spent most of his nights sleeping in his truck. Or the park, if it was warm. Sometimes the lot behind the junkyard.
It wasn’t much different than how he lived now, really.
Except now he was broken.
The female twisted suddenly, reaching for some more ornaments and when she did, her eyes caught him staring in from the outside.
Caught. And he didn’t even care. Not really. She’d caught him before, but he wasn’t causing any harm by watching. So he refused to look away.
He stared, locking on to her eyes and wondering again what color they were. If he was on the same side of the glass, he’d be able to see. But he was always outside.
What would happen if you changed that?
He pursed his lips considering. His broken pieces were talking to him more and more lately. Maybe it was a good thing. Or maybe it just meant he was fracturing further.
Malcom sighed as she spun back toward the tree, breaking their connection. It made him somehow feel colder, and damn, he was tired of feeling cold. Not the cold that came from the elements, but the kind that invaded his soul. There was a time he’d felt hot. Powerful. Unstoppable. And maybe no one should ever feel like a god, but he had. At one time. Now he was an outsider. Always on the outside. Always just beyond.
He was going inside. He was going to open the door of the shop, walk in, and feel her warmth again. If he could feel it by just a look from her and a pane of glass between them, imagine how he could burn if he went inside.
But did he want to burn?
Only one way to find out.
Malcolm pushed open the door and stepped into the shop. It smelled like cinnamon and evergreens with a hint of some sweet flower. So much different than the diesel exhaust and garbage he’d grown up on. He drew in a deep breath, wondering if her skin smelled like this. It must. She spent so much time here.
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