Julian did not report the incident. Instead, he holed up in the library, where he was wont to go whenever he needed a place to think.

He used a desk and chair in a corner that was rarely occupied by anyone other than himself, tucked away as it was on the second floor with scant light and no window.

He had memories, too. Maybe not so horrific as Melanie's. But they were his. And some were ugly. And he recalled them:

an episode in elementary school, Halloween, kids and costumes, at a party where a classmate came wearing clown-white makeup, sunglasses, and a bleached blond wig...

another elementary school incident (before children's cruelty to freaks and outcasts grew subtler), his glasses snatched off in the cloakroom, "say cheese," his defenseless eyes nearly blinded by an instamatic flashcube's flash...

then there was the time in junior high, when a film clip of "Albinism in Nature" was shifted, all in "fun," from the screen to Julian's clothes, a seal lion pup projected onto his shirtfront.

Childhood pranks, insensitivities, tasteless jokes; he had run the gamut. Was it any wonder that epilepsy had delivered the final blow?

"Grand mal memories" he dubbed them in retrospect—a misnomer in the sense that his seizures caused awareness of themselves to be erased. Nevertheless there persisted lingering impressions of an intense humiliation, the most enduring of which took place at the last match he had played.

It was repercussions from that which had prompted his overdose. He had tried a second time in the hospital, but that attempt, too, had been foiled. Thanks to Mother.

Mother Dear—his pal, his champion. Mother Dear—his lifelong friend; without his mother he would be dead and buried… twice.

Instead? He was sitting in a dusky library at a half-assed sanitarium playing hypothetical chess with an old maid nun.

Julian examined his hand. The blood had dried and turned brown. The gauze was sticky at the edges. He pried one loose. He sneaked a peek. Five stitches had torn. A flesh wound, merely. He put the gauze back in place. Flesh wounds heal.

But what about the other wounds, the non-corporeal kind, the injuries to one's psyche and self-esteem—like his, like Melanie's? When did injuries like Melanie's ever heal?

When she admitted them. When she faced up to the fact that she was victimized by a gang of sadists and that the fault for this was theirs not hers in the least. She must remember. And he could help her. He had proved that by the detail from his dream. It had been the trigger to her relapse; he was sure of it.

The light had grown so faint that Julian himself seemed to be its source, his white clothes glowing in the shadows of the bookshelves. He failed to notice. His concentration no longer wavered; it had a focal point, a goal. He had a fresh line of play, and (though transitory) a reason for being.

 

Sins...

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