"Venus, planet of love Was destroyed by global warming Did its people want too much too? Did its people want too much?"
It's important to consider which direction the light is falling in a composition so that you can get the shadows right.
People forget that, when they go to draw, I don't know, you don't have to listen to me. It's just that I've got a whole sketchbook full of throw-aways buried in the bottom of my suitcase because that concept hadn't clicked yet and I'd hate for you to make the same mistake.
I know it's weird that it's still packed, I've been here over half a year, I've just never been able to kick that habit. I guess I got tired of unpacking my suitcase only to have to pack it all up again a week later when my new family realised I didn't fit. No one wants to adopt a poet in a district on the hunt for glory. As soon as they realised I was useless, I'd be put right back where I started.
It's a good way to collect subject matter at least.
But the Strauss family doesn't do that. If you displease them, there's no going back to the orphanage, just a scuffle in the dirt and an unmarked grave deep in the woods. We're all just replacements.
My hand aches.
I put my pencil down beside me in the dirt and stare at the cluster of redwoods in front of me. I've watched the sun creep slowly across the trunks all afternoon and I've become part of this place. The rough sketch of a deer blinks quietly at me from the corner of my page and I stretch my legs out, letting my sketchbook slide slowly off of my knees.
Birds chirp in the bush beside my head and when I shut my eyes, I can hear the way the wind moves through the canopy above. It sounds like running water. If I lay like this forever, my body will sink into the earth and I will rest here for eternity.
I haven't found her yet out here, but I will.
The first time I ever spoke to Annabelle, she was showing me exactly where to push a blade into her body to kill her in a way that would let her suffer the least. I didn't even have time to ask her why before we were led to separate sides of a ring to fight each other to the death.
It would have been easy for her to kill me, even being two years older gave me no advantage. My training had been inconsistent and constantly interrupted my whole life as families passed me around and she probably could have won if she wanted. Maybe she did.
I just feel like I've lost.
Maybe Annabelle knew that's how it would be, that life after death would be like this, that it would hurt and be lonely. I feel so strange every day, like an imposter in my own skin. It's isolating to be the strange new kid that killed a beloved sister. I can feel my adopted sibling's shared dislike, their eyes on me with every single move I make inside of the walls of that house.
But I don't mind it, I've spent most of my life as an observer, not a doer and never the kid people think of immediately. I was always ignored not out of spite but because I don't have anything interesting to offer. I've never excelled at anything in particular and always kept my head down.
I don't need friends.
I'll go days without saying a single word to anyone, fingers pulling my hair up out of my face and feet slipping into my runners at four in the morning to start training only to return late in the evening. I eat my dinner late and cold, alone in the kitchen as somewhere else in the house, there is the sound of my siblings talking. I sit in the kitchen until the rest of the house is quiet and then I creep upstairs to find my bed.
Some days I can't just disappear, I have to stay in the yard and train with the rest and I don't make eye contact with anyone. I know how much I've changed, I don't need to look at the rest to see it. I'm no longer the weak-looking kid who arrived last year, I've grown, I won't be picked again to fight. I can't.
The sun hits my skin and I feel it across my legs, warming them. It'd be easy to fall asleep like this, it's safe in the woods, the afternoon sun is ponderous and sweet. I don't have to be afraid.
I've never felt close to any of the Strauss kids in my short time with them but I know that in those few seconds that it took for my blade to breach Annabelle's skin, she loved me, truly and the thought of that has captivated me for months.
So I search for the signs of disturbed earth in the expanse of woods behind the house and I sleep with my back against the wall, a knife tucked safely beneath my pillow.