by Grit Kitty
Alex Barnes went to art school for a full semester, and she had loved it. She felt she might burst during classes because she learned things that made her bigger on the inside than it seemed her skin could hold. And it wasn't just the new horizons for her mind's endless curiosity, it was the graceful trees, the staid old buildings, the quadrangle of grass that was lush on the sidelines for lolling and worn in the middle from daily frisbee sessions. People with bright, complicated minds warmed someplace never touched in her: people who knew so much more than an alcoholic line worker making Buicks. People who could see further than the dingy back yard with its sagging old clothesline and the puppies raised in squalor for pet stores in malls.
The first time she had been arrested for car theft, she never missed her parents, but she regretted bitterly missing school. In prison, she constructed elaborate revenge schemes starring the arresting officers, the attorneys, the judge and the jury. When she calmed, she dreamed about sketching studies of students at play in the sunshine.
In solitary confinement, Alex clung to the memory of these good things, a small and precious commodity in the list of experiences that made her. She could smell the grass when she closed her eyes. She could even visualize in aching detail how sweat beaded on the upper lip of a laughing frat boy. She saw a frisbee, red, glide from his hand and fly slowly, silent except she could hear the tiny susurrations of air as it turned and turned and turned...
The headaches began then, in her small gray cell. Voices came at her and made her scream, furious and helpless. She thought she had gone mad, but then the fit would turn, and she would feel normal. Once freed from prison, sometimes she would hear, see, or feel something good in all the pain that made her a better thief. She got rich, she engaged her new abilities in a way that made her feel alive when she wasn't in pain, and she forgot about school -- until she met Blair Sandburg.
"This is the one thing I really didn't want to do," she said, pointing a gun at his face, "but I can't leave you alive."
Alex should have shot him where he sat behind his desk and let the janitor find his body but she didn't. He was bright, complicated, and he warmed something in her that few could. She wanted to connect with him still, even now, and so she sketched a manic plan to keep him. Take him with her. Take him at least as far as the airplane.
She bullied him out into a cold dawn that broke prettily on mellow stone buildings and lush grass: grass that students would lounge on while they studied and dreamed, and she never would again.
She turned, suddenly angry for all she would never have.
There was a fountain.
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