This next round for the Music Be The Food flash fiction event is inspired by a band that is very near and dear to my heart. You might know them from their incredible catalog of music, or you may know them from my novel, The Dark Seduction; the band is Die So Fluid and the song, “Bittersweet”, is off their upcoming album, “One Bullet From Paradise”.
Listen to this powerful song and read the first piece of fiction by Jack Wallen.
Jess was that girl, the one all the others avoided in the halls of St. Alabaster’s School for the Blessed. It wasn’t her appearance, for she looked like every other uniformed girl on campus. Nor was there any history to be found, as one climbed her family tree. Like all the students at ASB, Jess descended from the upper one percent. Unlike the others, Jess never found sport in flaunting her mother’s riches; she was too human, too wont of normalcy. Jess comported herself as if she wanted nothing more than to fade into the ivory paint on the walls, to be ghost in the house that money built.
For there were secrets and stories to be had, by listening to all the other girls; of trysts and lies, hatred and jealousy. And every so often, Jess would linger around the periphery, avoiding the radar of her peers, when she’d hear something extraordinary.
Daddy’s in prison.
Mommy’s sleeping with the Vice President.
Sissy’s pregnant with my brother’s baby.
I think I killed my boyfriend.
To some, those words were run of the mill. To Jess, they were the stuff to fuel gasps and nightmares.
And yet…she was the one to be avoided.
On the rare occasion anyone noticed Jess, it would be in the form of whispered rumors that she was born of the devil, that if she spread her legs far enough apart, a cloud of sulfur would cough from her secret place. Jess never bothered to thwart a single word. She’d rather hide away from sight, knowing those who should be her sisters in education would constantly deride and derail her character, than to stand in the spotlight for a single second.
That simply wasn’t Jess.
Or so it was, until the night she bumped into the girl known only by the name Bittersweet. She was part Craft-era Fairuza Balk and Milly Bobby Brown—devil and angel in one crimson-lipped, teenage package.
“I have cookies,” Bittersweet grinned, showing a mouthful of perfect teeth, “made of actual Girl Scouts. If you’re into that sort of thing. If not, I have other delights to show you.”
That was their initial contact—Bittersweet plying Jess from the library with a promise of forbidden treats. From that moment, Bittersweet hovered over Jess’ shoulder, whispering temptation day and night. Jess would wake from her typical empty dream to see Bittersweet perched on the foot board of her bed—a teenage gargoyle with bangs and blue eyes. No matter how many times Jess would beg Bittersweet to leave her be, the temptress remained, smiling down from above with a twinkling laughter filling the void between them.
“Let me melt your ice cream,” Bittersweet teased. “By my side, you’ll be freakified. Everyone will know your name, like black coffee and chocolate.”
“You can’t be in here,” Jess whispered into the darkness.
“And yet I am.”
A silence befell the room.
With the grace of a ballerina and the speed of a snail, Bittersweet made her way down to cuddle up with Jess. “Smoke with me and I’ll kiss your feet.”
“I don’t smoke,” Jess’ voice was littered with a nervous quiver.
“You will with me.”
A cascade of shivers fluttered through Jess’ system. “It’s also against school rules.”
Bittersweet traced a fingertip across Jess’ collarbone. “You know what I mean.”
Before the first tear could break the dam of Jess’ eyes, Bittersweet stood over her, straddling her body. When the intruder glanced down, her eyes glowed perfect crimson to match her lips. “I get clean by bathing in the moonlight.”
With the words spoken, a wisp of smoke rose from behind Bittersweet. The contrail of danger collected just above her head, roiling and folding in upon itself.
Bittersweet offered a hand down to Jess. “I don’t expect you to understand.”
Before the flesh of their fingers connected, a pair of black wings erupted from Bittersweet’s back. “It seems the snake has shed its skin.”
Tears rained down onto trembling cheeks. “What are you?”
Bittersweet shrugged. “I cannot be summed up or pinned down. I am mystery and darkness, delight and joy. My smile is your trick and your treat. Join me and never more be frightened of life or the opinions of others. You’ve known this all of your life, felt the deep secret, that knowing has relegated you to the shadows. No more, say I. Bondage to convention is, well, for the zealots. Say it with me.”
Jess stood on the bed, her legs and arms trembling with both fear and anticipation. She held out her hand so that Bittersweet could take it up and together they whispered, “It’s criminal not to be original.”
In a spark of flame and smoke, Jess and Bittersweet vanished from the room, never to be seen again.
Not that it mattered. Both girls, not being on the radar of anyone in St. Alabaster, were never missed. Even so, rumors did eventually arise from the shadows, of two girls caught up in a suicide pact or murder plot—which rumor depended on the clique doing the whispering.
No parent ever visited to claim their missing child; no question was ever raised from faculty or staff. It was as if Jess and Bittersweet never existed.
And yet in the hallowed halls, when the moonlight cut through the darkness just so, you could hear their whispered claim…
It’s criminal not to be original.