Silver EdgeBy: Ciara Knight
To all those who walk a different path, this book is for you.
I knew I’d end up in a psych ward. A building with white walls, lumpy beds, harsh lights, and the smell of Clorox. But I hadn’t predicted the psych ward would be abandoned, sold off to the Community, a family of misfits.
The front doors opened, and a bitter New York wind swept through the lobby, bringing two Straight Edge Community Brothers with it. One in a Yankees cap, the other in a tight black T-shirt.
I didn’t know their names. I didn’t want to know their names.
I never bothered with names. It made things easier that way.
“Hey, Scarlet.” Black T-shirt Guy waved.
I glanced over them but avoided connecting, as always. I stared at the Straight Edge poster. The large XXX provided an eye-contact safe zone, one that didn’t make me jittery.
The poster was mocking me. No drugs. No alcohol. No promiscuous sex. They forgot one line. No life. Only an existence of rules, rules, rules. But that wasn’t life, it was safety.
Yankee plopped down on the yellow couch. His forty-eight-hour-strength cologne surged over me like a noxious tsunami. “Did you land a job yet, Autistic One? You gonna crunch crazy numbers in your head like Rain Man?”
I swallowed my snark. “No. I’m waiting for our mighty ruler to return.” Okay, a little seeped out.
Yankee rubbed his pitiful attempt at a beard. It looked like long bug antennae dangling from his chin. “Cut Ton some slack. He saved you. He saved all of us. Who else would take on druggies? You would’ve been dead before your fifteenth birthday.”
Grateful. Yes, Ton gave me life and a roof over my head. A priceless gift for an orphaned, abused teen who didn’t like to be touched without a heavy dose of street drugs. No one had ever cared until Ton. “I’m nineteen.”
“Your skinny ass don’t look over fifteen,” Yankee said.
Black T-shirt walked over, getting too close, invading my well known no-intruding zone. “Don’t listen to him. You’re clean. And with your mad math skills, Ton’ll have you working some high-paying finance job, or have you do his books for his electrician company.”
Yankee shifted to the edge of the couch, his knee against my chair, threatening to touch my thigh. “She won’t last a day in a job outside the Community. Those numbers done rattled her brain.”
“Stop being an ass. Leave her alone,” Black T-shirt said, his voice taking on an I’m-going-to-protect-this-crazy-runt tone.
I’d been protected, isolated, confused, and imprisoned long enough to choke the life out of an orca. Still thankful, but still choking on rules.
How would I ever know if I could deal if I lived in an overprotective, structured, decisions-made-for-me home. Was I better, or just controlled?
His knee grazed mine, causing my crazy to awaken. A lice-infested, tiny-legs-crawling sensation claimed my scalp. With my anxiety reaching critical levels, I bolted from the common area to wait for Ton’s return in the safety of my room. A haven with no stench of bad cologne, mocking posters, or people. People expected things, like interaction. I wasn’t good with interaction.
I wanted to be better. I tried to be better. But I worried I’d never be more than a recovering street rat.
My fingers ached to pound piano keys, to lose myself in music, but the only thing available was my iPod. I slid my earphones in and cranked Mozart’s Symphony Number Four in D Major. The notes carried me to another world. A world of color, mystery, promises, love, loss… My world.
I tossed my sweatshirt on my bed and crawled onto the mattress. The stiff springs groaned from age. Closing my eyes, I listened to the music and lost myself in it.
Two songs later, a nudge to my forearm ripped me from my happy place. I opened my eyes and found Ton hovering over me, the bald, barge-sized, tattooed dictator with heart. A young girl stood in the doorway.
I stared at her, confused. She had the same dark hair—minus the purple streak—same willowy frame, and large eyes. The same strung-out druggy blank stare.
I tore the earphones out and pushed past him, but the stench of sweat and vomit halted me. I lifted my arm over my nose to shield from stench and sensory overload. “What’s she doing here? Why’s she in my room?”
Ton moved between us, the thick skin on his forehead crinkling. The movement brought the lion tattooed on the top of his head to life. Two fangs slid down from his hairline, as if feasting on his anger…on my fear. That was why he was nicknamed Ton. A ton of tattoos, a ton of attitude, a ton of terror. “This is…”
Ta-ton, Ta-ton, Ta-ton. My heart sprinted and I shrunk into myself like cornered prey. Mozart’s symphony played over in my head, each note taming my thrashing heart, dimming my fear.