It was weird to have them all here at the same time. I was well acquainted with each, of course, in some cases more happily than others, but their personalities and overall temperaments had conspired to keep them from visiting together.
I guess this was one issue where their interests converged.
"I can tell you're feeling it," the brunette standing closest to my kitchen counter smirked. Her deceptively pretty blue-green eyes gleamed from beneath her brown fringe and her lips were contorted in an expression that was more a purse than a smile.
I cast a cold glance at Cruelty, whose designer jeans and fashionably side swept bangs made her all the more contemptible to me.
"I'm not feeling anything," I pronounced.
Her smile became more savage.
"Well, that would be in keeping with what you are, wouldn't it?"
She was taunting me behind her garish makeup. Somehow, being tormented by someone who lacked the ability to properly apply eye shadow was doubly infuriating.
"Oh, honey," she winced. "You're never going to be more than this disease. I figured some time in the real world would be just the thing to show you that."
Her face now arranged itself into a picture of fake sympathy. Of course it was foolish of me to think I could have a normal life. She, who had caused the condition, was just being a good person by reluctantly informing me that I should give up. It really pained her to do so. It was just so necessary.
"Have you thought about killing yourself yet?" she asked brightly. "You know that you're forty times more likely than the average person to do that, right?"
The grin was back, as reptilian as ever. She was goading me.
"You'll remember Misery, of course," she said, gesturing with her hand to the ragged young woman who was sobbing in the corner next to my refrigerator. "I arranged your introduction the day you were born."
Misery and I had, in fact, been acquainted for as long as I could remember. I'd never seen her face, though. I didn't know if she had one. Hers was always a variation of the same pose: huddled over, her alleged visage buried in her knees, weeping.
"Why did you do it?" I asked Cruelty. I was trying to hide my emotion, for whatever front I put on for her the truth was that I had been feeling everything lately. It played heavily on my mind.
"Well," she said, once again with the air of a wise person who must explain an unfortunate fact to an inferior. "Some people just don't deserve anything but shit. And you're one of them. I could see that even then."
Her face was so animated as she spoke the toxic words that I wanted to bash her skull in.
"It was mean," I declared.
She threw back her head and cackled.
"Oh, 'mean?'" This seemed to supremely amuse her. "Was it 'mean?'"
She wiped the tears from her eyes and threw me a pitying look that did not quite conceal her vindictive pleasure. It was a funny joke that I, of course, just lacked the capacity to understand. Poor, stupid BB. In that instant she reminded me a great deal of my mother.
"You have a little boy's mind to go along with a little boy's body," she exulted. "Maybe that's why real men just aren't interested and you'll never have anybody. Unless you want to let your neighbor the pedophile have another crack at you."
"I think I'll be fine, thanks," I managed with as much dignity as I could muster.
"Oh, but you won't be fine," she smiled broadly. "That's the beauty of it. You'll never actually be fine. How long do you think you can really go on before you end it?"
She looked at the other individuals in the room.
"You see, the condition itself isn't terminal," she projected, speaking as much to them as to me. "A neat little gem I concocted. It destroys absolutely everything but can't actually kill you."
Her voice went husky as she turned with satisfaction back to me.
"I can think of no purer definition of Hell."
I looked at her in defiance.
"If Hell is measured in orders of tacky mascara, then I can think of a much purer definition," I said. "And we're in the seventh circle."
The old man standing by the sink suppressed a chuckle that Cruelty stared down with a murderous glare.
"Laugh away, Fate," she hissed. "I'll have my way with this adolescent yet and you'll help me do it."
Her fierce face turned to me.
"You are a stupid invalid who no one will ever love," she said. "Who the fuck did you think you were by coming here? Do you think you deserve any of this?"
She swept her hands in the air, indicating not only my apartment, but, I knew, my internship, my prospective job, my friends, and every bit of happiness I'd managed to achieve.
"Honestly," she continued. "Do you think you'll get to keep it?"
My chest burned as I leaned forward and sank my eyes into hers.
"Listen to me you worthless cunt," I fumed. "I don't think I'll keep it. I know. No matter what you try to throw at me, no matter how hard you make it, you will fail. Now get the fuck out of my apartment."
The teal of her irises gleamed with liquid fire as she backed away.
"And take her with you," I spat in the direction of Misery. "She has no place here."
Cruelty turned to me, her face a grimace of anger.
"I'll be back for you," she growled. "I'm taking you one way or another."
With that she turned and stalked down the hall. Misery alighted from the floor with a shriek as Cruelty's hand caught her unkempt hair and dragged her from the room.
The three of us remaining in the kitchen were deathly silent as the front door slammed and the two wretched beings stormed down the stairs. After several wordless moments Fate turned to me.
I cut him off with a raised hand.
"No," said. I could tell that my eyes were wide with fury. "No. Just leave."
Fate was rarely flummoxed and usually brushed off my admonitions for him to go, but something about me that day silenced him at once. He nodded and backed straight through a third-floor window.
There was just me and one other now, all alone.
I turned toward the west-facing window as she approached and put her hand on my shoulder. I waited for her to say that everything was going to be alright but she'd never been one to lie, and certainly not to me. Her fingers were tender on my collar. The sun was so bright.
"Do you think he'll help her?" I asked finally.
"I don't know," she answered after a moment. "He might not have a choice."
I turned around and looked into her face.
"Why not?" I wanted to know. "Why can't he fight back?"
Good sighed and brushed a blonde lock away from her face. She looked wearier every time I saw her.
"Don't be too hard on Fate," she said. "He has a more difficult job than anyone realizes. You don't know how often he has to do things he hates."
"Good, I need to know something, and you have to be honest with me."
She smiled. It was her way of saying, I always have been, which she was too polite to actually say.
I took a deep breath.
"Do I have a chance?"
Her expression grew resolute.
"You have a chance," she said. "You have more than a chance. Just keep fighting. Always keep fighting."
She ran a finger down my cheek.
"And don't ever let yourself turn into her."
"I never will," I promised.
We sat there together for a very long time. I thought about how beautiful the sun was and wondered if she was thinking the same thing.