To the fifteen-year-old girl who would rather be called M than by her actual name, rural, old fashioned residential treatment facility she stays in is Home. Everyone inside of it is Them, and she cares about Them about as much as the vase of flowers that sit on her dresser. Life is a game, for underneath the surface of a troubled teenage girl is an ingenious psychopath who relates better to playing cards than any living human.
With unwitting help from the only two of Them who she actually cares about- Robbie "Glasses" Reinhart and the girl she calls Pink Shoes- she sets out to play a new sort of game. The sort of game where people will definitely die. Because in her version of The Game, points are only scored when someone dies. And The Game won't be over until there's only one person left.
Who ever said that a two of spades wasn't good for anything?
It's my rules, so I couldn't, but I don't know how she knows that because I've never told her.
I know you can talk, she says, with a pout. Reaches back to pull the second hair tie out of her hair and then tug it over her other wrist with a sigh. Now she's even, one hair tie on each wrist and no ponytail. Her hair falls down her back like a water fall and when she falls back on the bed with another sigh, in the ultimate show of dramatics, it fans out around her head like a bed of exotic feathers.
It is just hair and it looks good.
I know you can talk, because I saw you talk to the people at the front when you first got here.
I reach up and pull another bunch of hair down in my face. It is a window screen between me and her, a one-sided glass where I can see her but she might as well not know I was here because she cannot see me at all, not one little bit.
You're not supposed to let someone see what you're up to. And she is.
Amateur, the sarcastic sorcerer says in my head, for once exactly right instead of the opposite.
She knows my hand and I know hers but I have the upper hand because she does not know and I do.
Just one word, she cajoles, rolling over and propping herself up on her elbows. Say your name, she says. Tell me it. An order like a spoiled little toddler.
Just like a spoiled little toddler, so easy to ignore.
Please, she whines.
One, two, three.
She gives me a long, hard look. Dave says that you're not entirely there, she says. He says that you bumped your head and are not right in the mind and so we should be nice to you and always include you because you can't help not talking to us. Tone measured carefully.
Oh, did he now?
I say nothing.
It's as if I did answer and she nods, with a little smirk, That's exactly what he said. But you know what? She leans inches forward and wiggles up on her knees, even more, over the bridge between our two beds. Our faces are inches apart with only the veil in between. I think you're pretending, she says, and she's real satisfied with herself.
Oh, really, now?
I don't say anything.
I think you're pretending because I see you watch us sometimes and I know you're in there. She reaches out and taps the top of my head, one, two, three times. Uh-huh, she nods. You watch us with a mean human look sometimes, not an animal one. No animal could look that mean.
Glasses is supposed to be the smart one, but she's not so dumb after all and I don't mind as much as I thought I would.
She could be useful.
Street smart, not conventional smart. I could ask her to add two numbers and she couldn't do it but she's a real critical thinker, that one.
You're all the way there, aren't you? She says, and then she reaches out with both hands and touches my cheeks and I should slap her but I don't because her hands are warm.
She pushes my hair out of the way and the veil is gone but I don't mind as much as I should.
Her eyes are blue.
Dark meets light for one, two, three seconds.
You're all there, aren't you? She asks and I feel her breath, thick and moist in my face.
Minty like toothpaste.
The voice is mine.
Ehm? She stares at me and whatever small moment it was is lost in her confused look. Ehm? She tilts her head to the side and frowns, wrinkling her nose because she doesn't know what it means.
What are you saying? She asks. That's not a word, dummy. She sits back with a huff and crosses her arms and I stare back at her and don't blink.