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God of Fury – Chapter 36

BRANDON

Some days, I feel like I’m fine. I can breathe, somewhat, can move, run, talk, and smile.

I can exist and not suffer from the metaphorical bleeding in my fucked-up head.

On other days, I feel like I’m being punished for the good times. I’m being punished for feeling happy when I have no right to be.

Days where my wrist itches and my mind crumbles into a satire of burning emotions and throbbing pulses.

Days where it’s hard to breathe without choking on the gooey ink that’s been flooding my brain since the day I gave up control because of my screwed-up pride.

Today is one of those days.

Today started with waking up in the embrace of the most beautiful, most affectionate soul I’ve ever met and feeling like I got my fucking ink all over him.

I felt like I was tarnishing him, digging him deeper into the black fucked-up hole of my existence until he’d also be submerged in it.

Until he’d have no way out, like me.

That’s why I didn’t want him to see me. I didn’t want anyone to see me. Because the moment they get past the perfect image to look inside, they’ll find a grimy, spineless piece of fucking shit whose worst enemy is his own mind.

Nikolai woke up to me wiping the smudges from his chest and thinking I was stroking him. He smiled and I couldn’t look him in the eye without falling deeper into that muddy hole in my soul.

He smiled and it was okay for a while.

Until it wasn’t.

Until Grace decided to come over for dinner and I had to sit across from her again and pretend I wasn’t being pulled apart by my demons. I had to swallow the food and force it down when my stomach demanded I throw it back up.

It was worse with Nikolai around. The more he watched me like he could peel off my outer layer and see all the ugly parts, the worse my nausea got.

A splitting migraine has been pounding on the back of my head and is making my vision blurry as I attempt to walk to the studio.

I barely managed to tell Dad about our arrangements to leave tomorrow before I bolted out of his office.

If I’d stayed, I would’ve exploded. I feel like a ticking time bomb lately, on the verge of spilling my guts and ruining everything for Mum like an ungrateful brat.

She was over the moon when Grace signed her. I was over the moon when she decided to give me private lessons instead of Lan.

For the first time, someone from the art circuit called me a genius instead of my holier-than-thou twin.

For the first time, I felt more important than him.

Lan never liked Grace or got along with her, and that made me fall deeper into her trap.

He told me not to take her classes and that he’d talk to his art teacher so he could teach us together. But I responded with things like, “It’s none of your business, prick” and “Stop being so jealous,” then went to her just out of spite.

It was only after I grew up that I realized two things. One, from a young age, Lan’s narcissism clashed with hers and he probably saw her for what she was, even if unintentionally. The reason she didn’t pick him was because she couldn’t control him. He’s always been so sharp and manipulative, her tactics wouldn’t have worked on him.

Two, she was grooming me at the time. She said the right things, pushed the right buttons, and used my love for art and my parents to shove me right where she wanted me.

And it worked like a charm.

For her. Not me.

Even before Grace, I didn’t like physical touch. I made out with a few girls, and some of them gave me the occasional blowjob, but I had to stop myself from pushing them away every time they touched me. I had to play the game and pretend it was okay.

Lan, Eli, and Remi kept saying shagging was so fantastic and I felt extremely alienated in their guy talks. So for a short period, I suspected maybe I was gay. Maybe the reason physical touch was revolting was because I played for a different team.

The thought freaked me out to no end. I remember thinking, why can’t Lan be the gay twin? Why does it have to be me? He already excels at drawing everyone’s attention, so why can’t he at least be the different one?

But that thought didn’t have any credence. I never felt attracted to my teammates who stripped in the changing room, and they had pretty fit bodies. I never ogled them even subconsciously and never saw them as anything more than teammates. However, I had to test the theory.

One night, I went for it. There was an openly gay boy at school and he often flirted with good-looking straight guys—Lan and me included. When he followed me out during a party, flirting and touching, I kissed him to see if I liked it.

I nearly threw up in his mouth.

So I thought maybe it was because he was so flamboyant and I wasn’t into that. I tried it with a few other boys, but the result was the same. I felt disgusted and couldn’t get past a kiss.

Turned out, I wasn’t straight or bi or gay. I was simply broken like a fucking malfunctioning machine. When Lan and I were in Mum’s womb, he took everything and left me with nothing. That caused me a lot of stress at the time, and I wanted to talk to Dad about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I thought he’d be disappointed or something.

He had headaches because of Lan, but he listened with a grin whenever my brother told him about his endless shagging adventures. Dad didn’t agree with many of his actions, but he’s always been irrevocably proud of how my brother handled himself in the outside world.

I was so jealous of Lan, so filled with envy that I started to distance myself from him. I blamed him for how was broken. I hated him because I wasn’t like him. I despised him for having everything while I had nothing.

It was colossally irrational, but there was no logic in the daft, angsty fifteen-year-old me.

My biggest mistake was voicing my displeasure about Lan to Grace. She latched on to it like a hyena and got me exactly where she wanted me.

Powerless. Hopeless. Used.

Since then, I’ve been submerged in the dot of ink on my hand that I looked at the entire time she fucked herself on me. While I screamed and begged her to stop. Like a fucking weakling.

I could’ve fought her or pushed her off. I was hitting puberty pretty hard and was definitely physically stronger than her. But I was too confused, too caught up in the attention she showed me, too scared and horrified about the thought of hating the idea of having sex with everyone.

The reason I cut my left hand is because it’s the hand I wrapped around her nape when I kissed her that day. When I gave her the opening to violate me thoroughly.

I’ve often had fantasies about cutting off that hand. Chopping it to pieces. Extracting the cancerous organ that signed my mental death certificate.

The reason I posted stories with #NewDay every day is because I was proud for surviving another day, for not letting my head get the better of me and pushing me down the cliff of my sanity.

It’s been over eight years, but I still can’t escape the ink and the nausea that flooded me during the whole experience.

I remember that day so well. After I stumbled out of her flat, I spent it roaming the streets, walking in the rain with a dazed expression. Though I was drenched, it wasn’t the physical discomfort I felt.

No.

I was frozen, cold and frosty, all the way to my goddamn mind.

When I got home, I stood in my shower for two hours. But it wasn’t water that rinsed me.

Black ink poured down on me, covering my eyes, nose, and ears and jamming inside my throat until I was retching on the shower floor again and again. At some point, I was dry heaving. The entire time, a strong floral perfume clogged my nostrils and my fucking throat and her red fucking nails choked me.

I didn’t go to my bed. I couldn’t.

Whenever I moved, I felt her ghost right behind me, cackling and cooing, her nails sinking into my arm.

I was terrified that she’d do it again.

So I ran to Lan’s room. Ironic, really, since I was the one who demanded we have separate rooms two years prior. Lan never wanted that and he became so petty afterward.

However, when I stood in his doorway, he immediately knew something was off. He jumped from his bed and asked me what was wrong.

I whispered, “Nothing. Can you hug me?”

The moment his arms wrapped around me, I broke down. I cried in his chest for so long that I think I passed out.

My brother held me through it all, and even though he doesn’t know how to soothe people, he was patting my back the entire time. He carried me to his bed and let me sleep in his arms.

He whispered, “Tell me who did this to you so I can end them.”

Then he begged me for the first time in his life.

I didn’t tell him the real reason. Instead, I poured my heart out about how I was struggling with art and school and attention. I also admitted out loud that I hated how I wasn’t as strong-minded as he was.

That worked for a while, but I don’t think he ever believed me.

Then the experimentation phase I went through bit me in the arse and some homophobes started mocking me and calling me slurs.

Lan thought the breakdown was because of that, and I saw firsthand how he targeted them and turned their lives into a nightmare. To this day, not one of them is a functioning member of society.

For a long time, Lan kept watching me, but I was already good at building façades and perfecting my image.

I stopped trying to experiment with guys and kept to girls because they made me feel like Lan. Straight. High sex drive. Normal.

As for Grace, I handled her soon after.

She made the mistake of sending me the footage of what happened with the caption: Study this and you’ll let your raw talent loose.

I told her she needed to be the one who told Mum that she was discontinuing my lessons because of work or whatever excuse she could come up with. If she didn’t, I would show the footage to Mum.

That was a lie. I would rather die than show that to anyone.

Grace was appalled. She thought we were in it together and that I liked her. She even told me that she felt like I’d used her.

used her.

Me.

She complied, not because she thought she’d assaulted me. No. It was fear of the scandal of having sex with a minor. To this day, she believes it was consensual and has often told me we could revisit ‘the good old days.’

She was out of my immediate life, but she never left it completely, not when Mum’s career depended on the almighty Grace Bruckner. She worked so hard to be considered by her and I couldn’t be the one who ruined that.

So I swallowed the knife with its blood and pretended everything would be fine. I did encourage her. I did kiss her back. I did feel drunk on the sense of power she offered me.

A man can’t be raped by a woman.

That’s the stigma that stayed in my head even though the nausea from that time followed me for the rest of my life.

It got worse, not better, but I had it under control. I believed myself to be fine.

Until Nikolai invaded my life and forced me to see just how fundamentally broken I am. That no matter how much I hide, I’m still naked and desolate.

The truth I hid from for years coiled from the ashes. I betrayed that fifteen-year-old version of me and he rose from the decay and transformed into the reflection in the mirror. He became the pool of ink and the eyes who’ll never forgive me for letting him down.

Nikolai fundamentally changed me, because he crushed the lies I’ve been telling myself for years. I thought if I convinced myself I was normal, straight, and completely unaffected by the past, I’d eventually believe it. But that was a pipe dream.

Being with Nikolai hurts because I crave him despite hating myself. I need him so I can mend the broken pieces I shoved to the back of my closet of skeletons.

And that’s wrong.

I’m using him, and no matter how smitten he is with me, it’ll eventually backfire and blow us to smithereens.

If I want to keep him, I need to fix myself.

I need to find a way to talk to the fifteen-year-old me after alienating, discarding, and shutting him up for so long.

My muscles tighten and my migraine pounds harder when I see the woman waiting for me down the hall.

The need to run and hide pulses inside me so strongly, my vision blurs. Still, I walk at my steady pace, forcing down the deep hatred I hold for this woman.

Just suppress it for a few more weeks.

This exhibition will boost Mum to immeasurable stardom and then she won’t need Grace anymore. That’s when I can tell my parents and Nikolai. That’s when I can finally do right by him and my fifteen-year-old self.

“What do you want?” I ask with a sigh, my calm voice unrecognizable.

She smiles and I nearly gag on the smell of her perfume. “Oh, Bran. Are you seriously going to turn down this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of some little misunderstanding in the past?”

“Misunderstanding?” I grit my teeth, all my demons rushing out at once, and I feel my control smashing into pieces. “Did you just call it a misunderstanding? You fucking assaulted me, Grace.”

“I did no such thing. You clearly agreed to it. You kissed me back and led me on. So don’t stand there and claim assault.”

“I told you no!”

“Shh.” She scans her surroundings. “What’s with that tone? Why are you hissing and acting like that delinquent boy toy you brought along? You’re much more elegant and sophisticated and should consider your company. That Nikolai is not good for you—”

One moment she’s standing there, and the next, I’m jamming my palm against her face, banging her head against the wall with a thud. She stares at me through my fingers with wide eyes, and for the first time, I see fear.

She’s scared of me. Good.

“Don’t you fucking dare say his name with your rotten mouth. You don’t mention him. You don’t talk to him, and if you see him, you walk the other fucking way or, so help me God, I will kill you. Am I clear?”

She nods once, her face turning red.

The urge to crush her skull between my fingers burns bright in my pounding head, but I release her. Because how can I be with Nikolai if I’m locked up for murder?

She straightens and stares at me as if I’ve grown a few heads, then backs away from me, probably sensing the murderous energy oozing off me.

I lean against the wall after she’s gone, but I still can’t expel the fucking migraine pulsing through me. Maybe I shouldn’t have come home.

No.

I breathe in.

I wouldn’t exchange the past week I’ve spent with Nikolai for the world. Holding hands, being in public, introducing him to my family, and being showered with their acceptance. It’s been the happiest week of my life.

Until now, that is.

It’s going to be okay.

I’ve survived years. I can handle a few more weeks.

I plaster a smile on my face as I push open my studio’s door. “Sorry I’m late, baby. I was held up—”

My words get stuck when I hear the sound I’ll never forget, not after one night, one year, or eight of them.

“Mmmmno… Mmmm… Mmmm…”

Ink explodes from the back of my throat and I choke on it like I did that night beneath the shower. It floods my eyes, nose, and ears. It swallows my whole body until I can only see Nikolai through a black haze.

His eyes are glued to the screen of his phone as that noise echoes on and on, cracking my ears open like a sledgehammer.

I don’t know how I walk to him when I can’t feel my legs.

I don’t know how I breathe when I’m wheezing.

Blood drips from his hand as he grips the bottom of a broken glass. On and on, his blood seeps into the black lake that’s swallowing me whole.

I don’t think he hears me. He definitely does not see me, because his beautiful eyes are now as empty as mine.

I went ahead and ruined him just like I ruined fifteen-year-old me.

It’s all because of me.

I am the fucking problem.

Nikolai finally lifts his head, and when he looks at me, for the first time since I met him, I don’t see my reflection in his eyes.

That’s what happens when he sees me. That’s what will happen when everyone else sees me.

This is why I hid. This is why I didn’t even want to come out.

I knew it was only a matter of time before every other fucked-up admission followed.

I was naive to think I had time.

But I don’t.

I never did.

“You…you saw…you saw…” My voice sounds like it’s coming from underwater as my vision blurs with moisture.

“You saw…”

And now you can’t look at me anymore.

“Bran—” His words are cut off when I snatch the piece of glass from his hand and jam it against my neck.

Everything happens in a haze, but all of a sudden.

I don’t know how I end up on the floor, drowning in my own blood and the black ink.

There’s so much ink now, choking me, pulling me to its bottomless depths. My strangled breaths come in short, chopped bursts.

Then in the middle of it, strong hands wrap around me and my head is balanced on a solid surface as moisture drips on my face.

Pressure at my neck. Blood everywhere. In my mouth. On my clothes. On his hands.

I see him through hazy red, my lids nearly closing.

“Baby, please…please…” he begs in a broken voice, and I can see the tears in his beautiful eyes.

The eyes that I turned empty.

The eyes that I destroyed.

“Please don’t go, baby, please…don’t leave me…please…stay with me…stay with me…you have to stay with me…” His lips are all over my forehead, my nose, my cheeks, my mouth.

He yells something toward the door, but I don’t hear him over the ringing in my ears.

I reach a hand for him, wanting to touch his hair one final time.

I’m sorry.

The words are on the tip of my tongue, but no sound comes out.

My hand falls as the ink swallows me whole.

It’s finally over.


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