Home > Bane (Sinners of Saint #4)

Bane (Sinners of Saint #4)
Author: L.J. Shen

It is said that no two snowflakes are alike. Each snowflake is beautiful and hypnotizing in its own unique silhouette. They symbolize purity.

But every snowflake that’s lucky enough to settle on the ground is destined to be blemished by dirt. Snowflakes teach us the lesson that if you live long enough, you will eventually get soiled.

But even your stains won’t tarnish your beauty.

Then.

A LIAR.

A con.

A godless thief.

My reputation was a big wave that I rode, one that swallowed everyone around me, drowning every attempt to fuck with what’s mine.

I’d been known as a stoner, but power was my real drug of choice. Money meant nothing. It was tangible, and therefore easy to lose. See, to me, people were a game. One I’d always known how to win.

Move the rooks around.

Change the queen when necessary.

Guard the king at all fucking times.

I was never distracted, never deterred, and never jealous.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself being all three at once.

It was a siren with coal black hair who robbed me of riding the biggest wave I’d seen that summer. Of my precious attention. Of my goddamn breath.

She glided from the ocean to the beach like nightfall.

I crouched down, straddling my surfboard, gawking.

Edie and Beck stopped beside me, floating on their boards in my periphery.

“This one’s taken by Emery Wallace,” Edie had warned. Thief.

“This one’s the hottest masterpiece in town.” Beck had chuckled. Con.

“More importantly, she only dates rich bastards.” Liar.

I had all the ingredients to pull her in.

Her body was a patch of fresh snow. White, fair, like the sun shone through her, never quite soaking in. Her skin defied nature, her ass defied my sanity, but it was the words on her back that made my logic rebel.

It wasn’t her curves or the way she swayed her hips like a dangling, poisonous apple that warranted my reaction to her.

It was that tattoo I had noticed when she swam close to me earlier, the words trickling down the nape of her neck and back in a straight arrow.

My Whole Life Has Been Pledged to This Meeting with You

Pushkin.

I only knew one person who went gaga over the Russian poet, and, like the famous Alexander, he was currently six feet under.

My friends began to paddle back to shore. I couldn’t move. It felt like my balls were ten tons heavy. I didn’t believe in love at first sight. Lust, maybe, but even that wasn’t the word I was looking for. No. This girl fucking intrigued me.

“What’s her name?” I snatched Beck’s ankle, yanking him back to me. Edie stopped pedaling and looked back, her gaze ping-ponging between us.

“Doesn’t matter, bro.”

“What’s. Her. Name?” I repeated through a locked jaw.

“Dude, she’s, like, way young.”

“I will not repeat myself a third time.”

Beck’s throat bobbed with a swallow. He knew damn well that I didn’t mess around. If she was legal—it was on.

“Jesse Carter.”

Jesse Carter was going to be mine before she even knew me.

Before I even knew her.

Before her life turned upside down and her fate rewrote itself with her blood.

So here was the truth that even my lying ass wouldn’t admit later on in our story—I wanted her before.

Before she became business.

Before the truth caged her in.

Before the secrets gushed out.

I never did get to surf that day.

My surfboard broke.

Should have known it was an omen.

My heart was going to be next in line.

And for a small chick, she did one hell of a fucking job obliterating it.

Then.

The moon was full that night.

It was chuckle-worthy, if not completely tacky. What a freaking cliché, right? A pregnant, fat, ghostly-white moon sparkling in triumph, shining over the night that carved my destiny, my identity, my stomach, with deep, gleaming gashes.

I stared at it, so still and tranquil. Beautiful things were often so useless.

Don’t just hang there. Call the cops. Call an ambulance. Save me.

I wondered if I was going to die. If so, how long would it take Pam to notice my absence? How long before Darren would assure her I’d always been troubled? ‘Thweet,’ he’d console with his lisp, ‘But troubled.’ How long before she’d agree with him? How long before the Kit Kat on Dad’s tombstone melted under the punishing sun?

“What a shame. Such a good kid,” they’d mourn. Nothing like a dead teenager to make the entire community come together. Especially in the town of Todos Santos, where tragedies only happened in the newspapers and CNN. Oh, yes. This would give them something to talk about. A forbidden and delicious tale about the fall from grace of the current It Girl.

Realization trickled into me like a leaking faucet. Emery, Henry, and Nolan wouldn’t even get a slap on the wrist. Community service? In my dreams. The public embarrassment in the form of scowls and cancelled invitations to the country club’s events next year was reserved for me. I was the outsider. The mortal idiot who mixed with the blue-blooded royals of Todos Santos.

They’d get away with it, I knew. They’d go to college and attend parties. They would graduate and throw their stupid hats in the stupid air. They’d get married, and have babies, and reunions, and take annual skiing trips with their friends. And they’d live. God, they’d live. It was maddening to think that their heritage and money would buy their way out of justice. Because whether anyone bothered to scrape me off the road with or without a pulse tonight, I knew that I was dead. Dead in all the places that mattered.

For a passing moment, I was still the old Jesse. I tried to look at the flip side of things. The weather was nice for February. Not too hot, not too cold. Whatever desert heat clung onto my flesh was diluted by the chill of the asphalt underneath me. A lot of victims bounced back. I could go to college abroad. Darren was an expert at throwing money at problems and making them go away. I could reinvent myself. Forget it ever happened. Didn’t they use hypnosis to suppress things like that? I could ask Mayra, the shrink my parents had sent me to ever since I’d started having nightmares. Science was limitless. Case in point: my forty-year-old mom looked twenty-three thanks to Botox.

Little stones dug at my bare back. My pink lacy bra and panties were lying torn somewhere beside me, and even though my groin was numb, I felt something slithering down my thigh. Blood? Semen? Didn’t really matter at this point.

Steadfast, I blinked back at the constellation, hung high in the inky sky like a chandelier, sneering at my heartbreakingly mortal existence.

I needed to try to get up. Call for help. Save myself. But the prospect of trying to move and failing was far more paralyzing than the pain. My legs felt frozen, my hipbones crushed.

Sirens wailed in the distance.

I squeezed my eyes shut. Often, I’d see my dad on the other side, like his face was permanently inked to my eyelids. That’s where he lived now. In my dreams. More vivid than the woman he’d left behind. Pam always faded to the sidelines of my story, more occupied with writing her own plot.

The sirens got closer. Louder. My heart scurried to my stomach, curling like a battered puppy.

A few more minutes, and you’ll become a piece of gossip. A cautionary tale.

The old Jesse would cry. She would scream and tell the police everything. Act normal, given the abnormal circumstances. The old Jesse would declare vengeance and do the right thing. The feminist thing. She wouldn’t let them get away with it.

The old Jesse would feel.

The ambulance sputtered at the curb, close enough for the heat to roll off the tires and the scalded rubber to stick to my nostrils. Somehow, knowing they’d called for help was even more infuriating than being left for dead, like they knew they were untouchable even after doing this to me. A stretcher opened beside me. I recited the last words I heard before they’d left me in the alleyway, a lone tear free-falling down my cheek.

My Whole Life Has Been Pledged to This Meeting with You

“And what a meeting it was, whore. You gave a good fight.” Nolan kicked my ribs.

I’d inked this sentence thinking Emery was the man I’d been waiting for. Now the back of my neck burned. I wanted to tear the flesh off my neck and dump it right next to my ruined clothes.

With agonizing effort, I moved my left arm to cover my chest, my right arm dragging across my bare stomach, hiding what they’d carved onto my torso like I was a Halloween pumpkin. They’d made me watch as they did it. Held my jaw in their clean, smooth hands, my neck bending unnaturally to accommodate the awkward position. A punishment for my discreditable sin.

The word shone like a neon billboard on my skin for the whole world to see, and to judge, and to laugh, the letters bleeding red into my pink designer skirt.

Slut

The old Jesse would explain, and bargain, and argue.

The old Jesse would try to save face.

The old Jesse was dead.

Now.

I SUPPOSE AT THE END of the day I really didn’t give a shit.

Not about people, and not about the whole popularity contest rich people were so neck-deep in because they didn’t have the usual pain-in-the-ass problems of paying bills and functioning as responsible adults.

I was the beach bum, the stoner, the dopehead—and the drug dealer on probation. I wasn’t Mr. Popular, but people feared me enough to stay out of my way. It wasn’t a conscious choice to become a crook. My mom was not rich, and my dad was never in the picture, so I had to do what I had to do to survive in the richest town in California, and have a little more than basic cable and frozen meals for lunch.

Then there was the whole pro surfing gig I got into when I was fifteen. That cost a pretty penny, too. It was also the only thing I cared about, beyond my mom. I otherwise found myself pretty apathetic toward life. So that’s how I ended up dealing drugs early on. Pot, mainly. It was easier than you’d think. Buy burner phones at Walmart. One for suppliers. One for clients. Change them often. Never deal with people you don’t know. Never talk about your shit. Stay nice and positive. I’d paid my way through my surfing journey and high school doing it, with the exception of pickpocketing every now and then when I’d needed a new surfboard. I tended to abuse mine.

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