Reservation Promise / by Ashlie Allen

I painted my face vanilla and ebony this morning so when I glanced in the mirror, my sadness would look fascinating. My mother was in the next room, whistling for my dead brother to come up the stairs. His spirit has been stalking us ever since he gashed his limbs and bled to death in his skeletal car. There were 5 suicides that week, including my brothers'. The last word we said to each other was hey. "Hey, Tage." "Hey, Darian."

I was staring at the water stains on the ceiling when my mother came staggering into the room. "Oh, a bloody car!" she shrieked. "It is my son's blood!" She jerked me off the bed and started running. When we got outside, she let go of me so abruptly, I started spinning. I caught my balance against the Mercury Lynx my brother lay dead inside.

I lowered myself toward the ground, my hands against the cracked passenger window, my eyes fierce with devastation as I stared at his sorrowful expression. An involuntary cry released from me, and with it came the wreckage of hysteria. "My love!" I howled as I threw myself through the grass to hug him.

His body was so hard with decay that when I tried to wrap his arms around me they were inflexible. I shoved his hair into my face and kissed it, ignoring the stench of dead flesh and alcohol. Through the review mirror, I could see my mother squeezing her knees as she rocked in the dirt. She looked devilish with grief.

I rested across the porch as I watched the breeding mosquitoes invade the distance. The humidity made the paint on my face leak onto the wood. I grabbed my head in horror and ran inside the house. The colors I usually left inside a large hole within the wall were gone. Panicked, I screamed and scratched my cheeks. I did not want to see my countenance without a disguise. "Don't be so timid, dear Tage." I heard Darian's hoarse voice. He was leaning against the closet door with his arms and ankles crossed. "Despair is charming. Didn't you find me handsome in depression? You always said no one was attractive if their joy wasn't mixed with suffering." His voice was mingled with gasping and groaning. It was as if he had three vocal chords.

I recoiled towards the doorway. This made him frown, yet his eyes were full of contempt. "You don't want to talk to me? I know you are lonely, and oh, I am so lonely too. Mother finds me revolting, but she keeps yelling my name as if she wants to see no one else. I wish you would call for me instead. I would rather answer to you." "You torture me!" I moaned. "I do find you lovely, but your beauty fractures my heart." He puckered his lips and lifted his brow. I was staring at him in awe. He had long hair that reached his hips and his complextion was a dark shade of russet. His face was angular and heart shaped and his brows were naturally arched. He had a svelte build with wide shoulders.

When he took a step forward, I winced covered my eyes. "Touch me!" he quietly growled. "Cripple my heart instead. I want your sadness and deadly affection." I was shuddering. His expression carried such helplessness, but at the same time he appeared malevolent. I raised my hand and tickled his jaw with my knuckles. He reached desperately to meet my touch, and as he did he exhaled an exhausted sigh. "But the love is still irresistible. I remember you holding me in the car. My ghost was in the back seat. I watched you admire my mane and whimper in anguish. Please ask me to stay. I do not want to be uninvited because I am death." "You scare me." I whispered as I rejected his grasp. "Please go. I do not want you to see my face without paint." The look of discouragement on his expression was unforgettable. I saw his pupils dilating as if his emotions were unpredictable.

A light rain storm had just passed. I took off my clothes and smeared mud all over me. This was my costume, my denial, my self loathe. I fell asleep in the prairie that night. I had never felt so terrified to be alive.

Darian made me a promise when we were children. "I'll never leave the reservation unless you come with me." We both planned to go after high school. Three years after we graduated, he left without me. He was buried beside all the other young adults who had shattered their promises to loved ones.

My mother was sitting in the kitchen when I knelt behind the chair and wrapped my arms around her. "I have hurt him." I said. She was startled, but she knew what I was talking about. She turned to see me. "What did you do to him?" "I begged him to go away." I whined. "I cannot bear the sight of him, mama. He looks so doleful and seductive. He means to enchant me so he can honor his promise." "What promise?" my mother asked. "He vowed he'd never leave the reservation without me. Now he has gone, and he wants me to complete him." She slapped me. It was so sudden I didn't remember the sensitivity of her abuse until she apologized. "Confound me!" her voice trembled. "But confound you if you join him. I cannot live with the death of two sons!"

She climbed off the chair to embrace me. "Thank you." I said. "Your hand has left a burgundy mark. It will hide the natural appearance of my face, which is absolute misery." I made sure to hold my ears as I stood to leave. I knew my mother would roar for me to stop.

Darian was squatting beside the bed with his wrists dangling over his knees when I entered the bedroom. "Hey." he waved. "Remember our final words?" "Shut up." I hissed. "You motivate me to die. Your promise will not be broken." There was a slight struggle, but I managed to thrust my head into the window. Darian had tried to stop me, his face horrified. I caught a glimpse of his tears as the glass shattered around me. The impact was so severe I immediately went unconscious.

He lifted my body and cradled it. Though he hummed peaceful melodies to my dying organs, he was grinning as if my tragedy made him happier than his own. "I am still sad." he said as he brushed his fingers across my lashes. "If you only find me beautiful still, I will find a way to cheer up." His tears dripped into my own. I imagined how the scene looked. My brother licked my bloody scalp and snuggled his face into my neck. He hurled over me like a mournful beast trying to savor the last numb moments of shock before grief overwhelmed him.

I saw the real vision after my body died. There was Darian, rocking my corpse as if I was an infant in need of mercy. "We have attached our promise to eternity. Let us not haunt our poor mother. Instead, let us abandon this land and live for the first time."


Ashlie Allen writes fiction and poetry. She is also a photographer.