The mind can drift when it’s alone, both to greener pastures and darker shadows. For Scarlet, the silence was always greener. It was her safe space, her mind palace, the place between the shadows where the light shined and her imagination ran wild. In New York, the silence was rare. But there, sitting on the grass beside Lady Bird Lake, just Scarlet and the shore, the silence was as beautiful as she remembered. So, why did it take her so long to return home? Did she really need the excuse of her brother getting married to bring her back?
Scarlet sat there, pondering the positivity of her Big Move to Broadway, until her alarm went off, pushing the thought away for another day. It was 4 PM, meaning she could finally enter the Airbnb she booked, with its private back entrance only a few feet behind her. She chose this specific apartment mainly due to its proximity to the lake and its unique decor. The owners had lined the walls of the living room with life-sized statues, like this simple lake-side apartment was the next Parthenon. It was so utterly bizarre, so tacky, and with the price being only a few dollars different from the similar, daringly monochrome other rentals nearby, how could she not choose it? The theater would have gone mad had they found out she passed up on experiencing such a farce.
Entering the apartment, seeing them in person, she found there was one statue that stood out to her more than any of the others. It wasn’t for its beauty or grandeur or even the sculptor’s skills. In fact, she thought whoever sculpted this one must have been less talented than those who did the others; that or they simply lacked taste. It was the only statue not made of that quintessential pale gray she was familiar with. The color was more like a dull, lifeless version of her own skin. It was practically peach!
Scarlet wasn’t usually one to hold hatred for inanimate objects, but this, this thing, she absolutely abhorred. And yet she couldn’t stop staring at it. Despite its glaring, blinding flaws, there was something about it she just couldn’t place.
It was the man the statue was modeled after. He looked familiar. But how? Who did she know that was so important that someone would take the time and effort to immortalize them in marble? Was he an actor? No, certainly not. That of all things she would recognize. She would have his full name and filmography ready to roll off her tongue in an instant if it was someone from her field. It couldn’t be someone famous. Certainly not.
Scarlet drew closer to the figure, examining its every feature. She couldn’t tell what color its eyes were, nor what color its hair was, so that was no help. And his face was so…average, like the least attractive model in a clothing catalog. There was hardly a memorable feature to make out. Square head, rounded at the edges, eyes the size of key limes, cheekbones barely visible, chin almost perfectly round, eyebrows neat, forehead slightly wrinkled, lips only the slightest bit bigger than hers, and an expression that said hi, I’m an emotionless chunk of clay. He looked like a million different men, not any one in particular.
She moved her eyes away from his forgettable face, took a step back, and decided to look at the rest of his body. A statue without abs? How strange. Barely any muscle definition at all, really. Scarlet had never seen a statue with a dadbod before. It was so off-putting. Not to mention the penis. Every other statue’s privates were covered with shrubbery, as one would hope, yet the one with the least reason to be so brash had its limp dick out for all to see as if it might be of any use. Was the vulgarity of the piece perhaps intentional? One bad egg left in the middle of such simple goodness to keep things interesting?
Eventually, she looked away from the abomination and over to its hands. They were magnificently detailed, with every vein, knuckle, hair, and wrinkle as visible as her own. And there it was. On his left forearm was the smallest sign of something unique; one little line to give her a hint. Scarlet reached her hand forward, grazing her skin over the scar. If this doesn’t tell me who this is, nothing will, she thought.
“Scarlet…” she heard, a whisper coming from within a house she thought she was alone in.
“Who’s there?!” she screamed out, backing away from the figure.
But no one answered. And no one would. Not until she touched him again.
The rehearsal dinner was more enjoyable than Scarlet anticipated. At first, she didn’t want to go. What was there to rehearse, after all? She knew how to eat a meal; she wasn’t an invalid. But it wasn’t really about her. Not even in the slightest. And how could she really not go after so long without seeing her brother? She owed it to Sam, at the very least, to do more than just show up. Anyone could simply go to the wedding, but the rehearsal was for family. Was she not family anymore? Of course she was still family! Distance never did bother blood.
So, she went and forgot all about what happened the night before. Seeing Sam and his boyfriend fiancé so happy, it was hard not to feel a bit of that herself. What a joy it must be to be in love, to see the stars in each-other’s eyes and know that as long as he’s there with me everything will be alright. Ah, she thought, as she drank and drank, one day maybe I will be so lucky.
Back at the Airbnb, things were not as fun. As soon as she walked back through the door, the strange voice she heard just earlier that day came back to her. It felt like so much longer. Time seems to stand still when you’re experiencing such a monumental moment in the life of someone you love so dearly. Somehow, she had forgotten all about that voice she heard before, that little nightmare hidden in a day full of dreams come true. But seeing that face, that porcelain skin and flabby chest, it returned.
Scarlet hoped she was simply crazy. She certainly wasn’t drunk when she heard it first, though she was now, so what else could she be? She believed in astrology (naturally, as an Aquarius), but ghosts? Certainly not. In her drunken haze, she was determined to prove it was her own insanity calling out to her rather than some spirit. Better to fight the demon you know than the demon you don’t, right?
She approached the statue, one heavy foot at a time, still dizzy from all 4 drinks her 134-pound frame was still holding onto. It had been a while since she’d had more than one or two.
“You,” she said to the statue, the words struggling to fall out of her mouth. “I know it was you.”
The statue stared back at her without a word of response.
“You said my name, I heard it! Say it again then. Say it again!”
And again, the statue said nothing.
So, she moved closer, hoping her slow approach would invoke fear, even though in reality she looked like a slow-motion hula dancer.
“Is this what you want? You fucking perv.”
She bent over then, almost falling for a moment before correcting herself, and slid her fingers across the still body’s chest as seductively as her current state would allow.
Scarlet felt it then. Another scar. And with it came a vision of her scratching at a man’s chest like a cat. She shuddered, then shook it away, refusing to fall for that trap. But then she felt another one, and another one. Scar after scar, scratch after scratch, vision after vision. She was still swiping at him, now more ferociously than ever, as her nails caught skin and blood smeared underneath the edges.
Scarlet stepped back then and looked again at the statue’s face. Her eyes were heavy with water, but she could see him clearer than ever now. She knew who the statue was and why she refused to see it at first, why she imagined it as something more grotesque than what it truly was: a marvelous, magnetic piece of marble. He always did have the most beautiful face in the room. This room was no different. Why did she always have to go after the beautiful ones? It was always the beautiful ones who turned out to be the ugliest.
The wedding went as one would expect from a woman who spent the night prior speaking to a statue. She was quiet, quieter than she would have thought of herself after the successful rehearsal dinner, and often caught staring into the distance. She would have trouble remembering what the other patrons were talking about when attention was brought her way. Even Sam’s words, which she was previously so invested in after being away from him for so long, were lost to her.
“And now, you may kiss the groom,” she heard, wondering what their vows were. Now she would never know. What was she to do, ask Sam to repeat them? That’s a request you’d make ten years from now, not ten minutes. And what about his husband, what did he say? Scarlet barely knew the man, and not hearing why he was so madly in love with her brother certainly didn’t help.
When the reception ended, things only got worse. The drinks started flowing more freely, and she would move from room to room not remembering how she got there. At one point, she even used the men’s bathroom by mistake, only realizing what she had done while washing her hands and seeing the urinals in the mirror’s reflection. At least she still cared about her hygiene while drunk out of her mind, though. You couldn’t say the same for the men in there, who moved straight from holding their dicks to holding the doorknob.
Back in the main hall, still holding the paper towel she used to open the sweat-stained door in her hand, the best man was making a speech.
“And that’s when I knew these two were meant to be…”
Was this what she was missing, a bunch of clichés? The same old lousy speech she could hear at any other wedding, recited by the same dumbass best friend who’d clearly never given a speech in his life? Who was this man anyway?
“He sure doesn’t look like anyone my fucking brother would ever hang out with!”
The best man stopped his speech and started to stare at her. Another mistake. What was she to do now?
So, she puked, marking the end of that speech.
By the time Sam had reached the door where she stood, Scarlet was gone, and all that remained was a vomit-stained patch of carpet. Hardly the wedding gift she meant to leave him.
Sam kept looking, but Scarlet was already in the street, running back to her Airbnb with her heels in hand, hair in the wind. It was a miracle she made it back in one piece.
Now alone with the statue once more, she was no longer in the state of being deliriously drunk, but instead right at that perfect level of drunkenly enraged. All that running clearly did something.
“You piece of shit,” she said, eyes only inches from the marble man.
The statue said nothing in return.
“You ruined my brother’s wedding!”
“Aren’t you going to say anything?!”
Scarlet reached forward then, pushing her hands into the statue’s chest, causing it to tilt backward and crash into the wall. It should have fallen entirely, but instead, it was still leaning against the wall, no longer ridged, but bent. And then it started to move, until it was standing again, alive.
“Aha!” Scarlet screamed out, as gleeful as a girl who just won the carnival’s largest stuffed prize.
The statue simply stared in return. It wasn’t talking, like she was sure it could, but it was blinking, so she must not be 100% crazy, right?
Scarlet started snapping her fingers in front of the statue’s face.
“Hello?” she asked. “Anyone in there?”
“Where am I?”
Finally, it spoke.
“Bet you never thought you’d see me again, huh?”
The statue looked at her more carefully now.
“Who are you?” it asked.
“Who am I? What are you fucking kidding me right now?”
“Where am I?”
“Is this a fucking game to you, Jeremy? Another way to torment me? All I wanted to do was love you, dammit.”
The statue kept blinking more than any man she’d met ever would. It was only driving her more insane.
“Who’s Jeremy?” it asked.
Scarlet started to laugh then; her cries hidden deep beneath the vibrations in her throat.
“This is ridiculous,” she said, this time to herself.
“Am I Jeremy?” the statue asked. He sounded like a little boy. Not a single cell in that brain. But a boy wouldn’t be able to do what he did.
“Enough with the games, Jeremy. I’ve had a bad enough night already.”
“Games?” the statue asked, still young. “Who are you?”
“You whisper my name at night like a fucking vampire and now you don’t remember it? Give me a break.”
Scarlet’s head couldn’t help but shake.
“I wish you were.”
Now the statue was approaching her. Scarlet stuttered back, then flailed an arm wildly at it, missing by a foot and falling down in the process. Even all that rage couldn’t help her body beat off all that poison.
“Please don’t,” she said from the ground, tears escaping her eyes. “I’m tired of fighting.”
Then the statue surprised her. It reached out its hand and offered to help. She almost took it, too, until she remembered what that same hand used to offer.
“No,” she said, expecting to have to start swinging again, but the statue retreated.
Scarlet rose to her feet then and moved towards the statue, which still looked as confused as ever.
“I don’t know what kind of sick game you’re playing,” she said, pointing at the statue with venom in her eyes, “but I am not falling for it. Not again. Not tonight.”
The next day was the last one of her trip. The last day with her brother, the last day in Austin. She would be on that plane, flying back to New York, back to her dreams, before the sun had a chance to set.
First, there was the family brunch. She wondered if she should still go, was even still invited, after what she did the night before. But she was his sister, so surely she must be, right? What’s a little puke between family? They probably wouldn’t even remember that. Hell, they might not even remember she was there at all. Scarlet didn’t, that’s for sure. And besides, there were going to be bottomless mimosas. How could she say no to that?
So, she went, and no one said a thing, especially not Scarlet. You would think if they had a problem with her behavior, they wouldn’t have let her drink. Definitely not have 3. But no one seemed to care. Not about her drinking, not about her. She was just there, once again floating into the background when she should be the star. This wasn’t her moment, though. This wasn’t her stage. It was his. It was Sam’s. Let him have it.
Eventually, the food ran out, and so did the table, as everyone around it scurried through the room, forming their own little circles. Sam stood in the corner with his new husband, whose name was a bigger mystery than the statue for Scarlet. She used to be so close with her brother. Back when it all happened, he was the only one she ever confided in. Now years had gone by, barely a word between them, he’d just tied the knot with the love of his life, and she didn’t even know the man’s fucking name. How could she have let their relationship stray so far?
As Scarlet approached them, Sam whispered into his husband’s ear, gave him a kiss, and watched as he walked away. Did Sam know she was so clueless? Regardless, it was one less thing to worry about, so Scarlet was grateful. Then Sam opened his arms, embraced her so fondly, and her gratitude grew. Ever the bear, his hugs were still as strong as she remembered, but no longer did they hurt. Finally, she was home.
“Sam,” she said, pressing her cheek into his shoulder. “I’m so sorry.”
He let go of her, bringing them face to face.
“For what?” he asked.
“You know,” she said, sticking her tongue out and pointing a finger down her throat.
Sam simply laughed.
“When I got here, everything was fine. But when I got to the Airbnb, I saw—”
“I know,” Sam said, cutting her off before she could tell him about the statue.
“I know how easily it can all come flooding back,” he continued. “I had a feeling that’s what was bothering you. But it’s okay—because you’re here. You made it. And I’m so fucking proud of you.”
“Proud of me?” Scarlet asked, barely able to get the words out, her heart was so heavy.
“What, you think I haven’t been paying attention just because you don’t call? I get it. I’ve seen how busy you are. How much you’ve done. You’re gonna be a fucking star, kid.”
For the first time since she arrived, she was smiling, even as tears dripped down her cheeks.
“Still,” Scarlet said. “I could have been better. I don’t even know what your vows were. You may have seen me, but I didn’t see you.”
“Enough! You’re always so damn hard on yourself. Everything’s fine, Scarlet. You’ll get to hear them again when the video’s ready.”
And again, Sam simply laughed, but this time Scarlet did too.
After brunch, Scarlet went back to her Airbnb and started packing. She had closed the door, wanting no more distractions from any stone men. She’d already let the weekend pass her by, she wasn’t going to let the plane back to New York pass her too. She had shit to do.
Eventually, everything was packed, and there was nothing left to do but either run straight out of the Airbnb and over to the airport, getting there much earlier than she’d prefer, or confront the statue once more while there was still time. Hating airports almost as much as she did men, she decided it was a good enough way to kill some time.
“Hey,” she said, jabbing the statue in the ankles with her carry-on.
The statue came to life quicker than she expected, but this time she didn’t move. She had the strength of 4 little wheels, a polycarbonate shell, and the weight of the week’s worth of clothes she packed for one weekend in front of her for protection; she didn’t need anything more.
“Scarlet…” the statue whispered.
“I’m leaving, Jeremy. This is the last time you’ll ever have the honor of seeing my face.”
“I’m sorry,” the statue said. It was more like a question than the true apology Scarlet hoped for, not that she ever imagined she’d get it. She wasn’t in the mood for any more mockery, though, so she simply smashed her wheels into his ankles once more. The statue tilted forward ever so slightly but didn’t show any signs of pain. So, Scarlet hit him again, this time with more force, but again he simply wobbled like a top without even a huff of agitation.
“I wish I could hurt you the way that you hurt me,” Scarlet said.
Again, he was without emotion, though she was certain he was still alive.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said. This time it was a statement, but still Scarlet wasn’t satisfied.
“For what?” she asked.
“For whatever I did to hurt you.”
His voice finally had some emotion behind it. Scarlet felt that this time he actually meant it. But the fact that he wouldn’t even acknowledge exactly what he did to hurt her only made it worse.
Scarlet simply shook her head. It was apparent to her now that words would never change him, just like time would never make what he did not happen.
So, she turned away from him and walked to the door.
“Wait,” he pleaded. “Please don’t go. Without you, I can’t live!”
But Scarlet kept walking, as if he hadn’t protested at all, until she was out the door, and all was silent once more.