Rituals.
by Alice aka Alicamel

It was on these nights that she ended up here. When she was nineteen and fourteen and twenty-six all at once. Waiting on the doorstep of wherever he was staying now, waiting for him to find her. And he opened the door, a mug of blood in his hand, and sighed as he always did.

"Problem luv?" He asked as he sat down beside her.

"Isn't there always?" And there always was, on nights like these. She looked at him, brushing away a loose lock of hair, wincing as her hand moved across the darkening bruise. "Don't bother asking, and don't bother staying less you've got something a little stronger."

He looked at her disapprovingly as he vanished inside, but nevertheless returned with a bottle of Bourbon. Once again sitting beside her on the cold stone step, they drank in silence, straight from the bottle. These nights, they were always the same.

"Got any cigerettes?" She asked finally. He handed her one silently, and lit it. She smelled of smoke and alchol and sweat and men.

He didn't know why she was here. Maybe she was looking for a reason. A reason why she wasn't dead in the back streets of LA after picking up the wrong kind of guy; why she hadn't drunk herself into a coma five years ago; why the razors on her seventeenth birthday hadn't worked.

"Who was it this time?"

"I didn't get his name."

"Do you ever?"

Her face was hidden by the shadows, but his eyes drifted across the rest of her body. The sheen of sweat, mixing with thin streaks of blood. Split lip. Bruises on her upper arms. An open and bleeding wound on her right palm, the blood trickling down the bottle as she took another gulp.

"You're buggering up your liver."

"That kind of night." It always was.

He peered closer at her face, at the twisted smile beneath the tear tracks and blackened cheeks, which vanished as she quickly wiped her face with her black lace gloves.

"Come on, little bit." He said, taking the bottle and heading inside. She took one last drag before stamping the butt out beneath the heel of her black boot, and following him.

Inside she stripped off the black clothes, stained with red. He didn't ask. She spun around inside, her eye on the full length mirror she bought him. She had laughed as he just looked at it, and he couldn't help joining in. That was five years ago, before. . . did she miss being fourteen?

He missed it. Missed the light in her eyes, the hope, the joy. So busy looking elsewhere, it walked right by him, and now . . . he wanted it back.

"How do I look?" She asked, her arms on her hips, staring at him.

He took in the pale, brusied skin, the ribs clearly visible beneath the skin, the scars. "Old."
Was his only reply.

She laughed.

While the shower ran, he put the alcohol away and boiled some water. She would drink coffee if he asked her, but only if it was black.

He placed her clothes in a bin bag and pulled out some of the clothes he bought her while she was away, clothes like she used to wear; jeans with butterflies embroidered on the pockets; tops, pink, yellow, green, orange with pictures, slogans, smiling faces and flowers. Sneakers, white with purple laces. And socks, with angels on. Smiling angels with wings and a sun in the background.

There was no black here, only bright, happy colours.

Tonight maybe, she would put them on, if only for a little while.