They called me the luckiest girl in Twinbrook.
I guess there is luck in being born rich. It is a luck that amplifies with each million your family has, so I had more of that luck than anyone in Twinbrook. Maybe even more than anyone in the entire state of Terrebonne.
But they called me lucky for other reasons too. Your family can get away with that? A lot of my family’s past exploits turned into their favorite stories, which ranged from civil disobedience to mafia involvement. It felt like a scary place to me, though. We stood so high up above the law that I used to fear how hard we could topple down. But no longer. I believed them after long enough, and tumbling down was not going to happen.
And they didn’t let up with calling me so damn lucky when I went out to a lounge for my first drink before I reached the legal drinking age.
But really, I doubt I was the only teenager in Twinbrook to have a family-sanctioned first drink at the age of sixteen. Perhaps the family owning a bar made it feel different? With that, I may have been the only teenager having her first drink with the utmost approval from the adults. They all smiled and nodded when I asked if I could do it, and even the bartender on duty mixed me something without hesitation. They poured out something as green as my pastel-colored skin.
I kept it still in my grasp for a few moments, as I looked around and over my shoulder. I kept hearing footsteps where there were none. What if it was someone who disapproved? The cops? Mrs. Jalonen, my History teacher?
But each time it turned out to be no one. Should probably drink it before it gets lukewarm.
I gulped the whole thing down, disregarding the fluorescent-green straw they provided for me. Only then did I hear real footsteps. Heels against the asphalt. They clacked against the ground at an uneven pace.
I finished my glass and put it down, just to investigate and also release a hearty groan. I don’t care if she was one of the adults to sanction me having my first drink. I don’t care if she actively encouraged the rest of them to agree. The last thing I wanted was for her to stumble onto the scene. The whole place reeked less of swamp gas and more like the whole tray of amaretto sours she downed beforehand.
“Jo! Poor little gal like you shouldn’t be out here drinkin’,” she said, in a southern-drenched slur. “Thought you’d be drinkin’ in the bar like yer carefree. I thought you were, darlin’.”
“I’m fine,” I muttered. “I like it out here.”
She leaned on me, to support herself during a hearty laugh. Her drunk laugh was known throughout town for its distinctive tone: hoarse and rough with her ancient age. “Jo, if only I knew. So what’s yer secret honey?”
“Gram, I don’t have a secret,” I said, in a soft tone. While that was a lie, what I had seemed like just a small matter of identity at the time.
“But why’re you drinkin’ without a secret? That’s the only reason anyone here drinks. Why would ya poison yerself over nothin’?” She started to lose her footing and slide down the dark brick wall at that point.
She looked up at the nighttime sky in an inebriated haze, with her dark eyes unfocused and glazed over. “No one drinks over nothin’.”
“Well I do,” I mumbled, before leaving her to pass out next to the dumpsters on her own.
At that point in my life, I still felt a bit of guilt over leaving her there on the ground, in one of the most dangerous parts of town. But it was danger she had faced before. A lifetime of actual centuries threw a lot in her direction. And the longer I lived, the less I felt the need to care about her. She might even be the biggest lightning rod in my life to absorb all my pent-up anger and annoyance.
When I thought about it more, I realized that one of the worst things she did to me should have seemed like something minor. She flushed her secrets away in a stream of alcohol, drinking like she kept the fucking Illuminati safe and unknown. And because of that, all I knew of her was the story of an unrepentant delinquent. An unruly, addicted teenager trapped in the body of an elderly immortal woman. A disturbed, hungry monster. That sort of villain to us and herself was all I could write, but without any context.
At best, I could infer that she went mad from what she lived through that she would tell us. But it told me nothing about how she got to do a mission that was guaranteed to turn everyone mad in some way. Nothing about if she had a chance of redemption, or if that demon blood ruined her.
And worst of all, I might have had a chance to forgive her if she did that.
But why does it matter today? That was a long time ago, or in the future? It’s tough to tell, with all the things we messed up.
I have my own place now, in an entirely different town. I have my youth back more-or-less indefinitely, my freedom, and a warm fireplace to keep the house comfortable on cold autumn nights.
Alas, things haunt that new place. Like those books I forgot to put away last night. I knew they were there, but it made sense to forget about them for the night. They are as heavy as old bibles, and reading the title hurt my eyes. Eight Cicadas: Volume, and insert a volume number there. Printed in inoffensive gold ink, but it’s those words. They mean something more to me.
Of course, my first instinct was to try and forget them. I watched the roaring fire and left the books on the floor, right near the shelf. Out of sight, and the intent was keeping them out of mind too.
What are they other than three parts of a difficult autobiography? I have a long past for someone who looks so young, and so does the rest of my family. Most of it is included save for one set of details: the backstory of Annette. Her past, which she drank to cover up.
But why should I care? I don’t wish to return to it.
I picked up Volume One to place it back on the shelf, though it had trouble fitting. I put it on the counter in my nearby kitchen, and called it a night. I went to bed hoping that the book wouldn’t haunt my mind either.
That hasn’t happened. But I’m sure this feeling will pass.