from my novel: Virtue and Vice
Roscoe is messy. When she visits, Edith feels compelled to organize and tidy. When she visits, she never knocks. All he ever does is doodle, or nap. Downstairs, Isaac plays a game, and nods at her. Isaac is white, and not religious, but he's nice enough. The basement suite is small, with a single bathroom and a conjoined living and dining room. Once or twice, she's stopped by when nobody was home, and she watched movies until someone arrived. In his room, Roscoe sits at a desk, scribbling on a comic strip with a thick-leaded pencil. On the wall, there's a bulletin board filled with drawings and doodles. "Wow," she says, picking up an empty can from the dresser, "your room's messy."
He doesn't look up, continues scribbling. "Don't clean it. I know where everything is right now." That's hard to believe. He's messy in an organized way, if that makes sense. Edith has a spot for everything, and can't concentrate in a messy environment. On the side of the computer desk, there's a small basket with needles and bottles of medications. These all cost far too much.
She sits on the bed. "What are you drawing?" In school, Edith loved science and home economics. Roscoe was always an artsy kid. His right wrist is casted, sitting on the desk next to the keyboard. Edith has never worn a cast. She wonders what it feels like.
"It's me as a kid." His room is hot, housing a large gecko named Merlin, whom Edith has played with once or twice. Roscoe puts his pencil down, spinning his computer chair to look at her. He has downturned eyes, dark, that always look sleepy. When he looks intently at her, she sometimes finds herself holding her breath. "Edith, do you have a crush on me?"
Some people find lying effortless, like taking a step, or opening your eyes. Some people are good at this, weaving fibs into everyday conversation as easily as they speak. Some people are so good at lying, they can do it to themselves. Edith is none of these people. She tenses, holding her body tight, putting on a casual face. "Why do you ask?"
He shrugs, looking reserved. "Maggie texted me."
Maggie. She promised not to tell. Edith whispers. "I'm going to kill her."
"So?" It's hard to pretend, when somebody knows you so well. Everything changes. You can do your best to salvage the things you love, but only fate decides where you end up. "Do you?" He sits very close to her, which makes her sweat. Edith has tried to lie, but her body always gives her away.
She dips her head. "Yeah."
"Hmm." The chair wheels away; he picks up the pencil again. "Interesting."
Imagination is easy. Hers runs wild and out-of-control, making real life seem unreal. Her skin burns, betraying her, making the lights too bright. The bed is unmade, but it seems to swallow her whole. "I should go." It's not communication that's the problem. Edith loves to communicate, and she's good at it. But she's emotional and sensitive, and needs to toughen up. This is something her sisters told her all the time as a girl. "I have orders to package." It doesn't matter. He's acting odd. It must have been something she said. Edith stands, swaying, and begins to leave the room. She always falls in love far too deeply.
In his cage, the gecko rustles leaves. Edith wishes, sometimes, that she was a wild animal, free to roam and run. If she could be anything, she'd be a red panda. The most enlightened souls have been able to choose their reborn shapes.
When she reaches the door, Roscoe speaks, quietly. "Firefly."
She turns. "What?"
When he touches her wrist, it feels like a shock. "Firefly." He smiles, stands, much taller than her. "You're so bright. You can never go anywhere without lighting up the place." This is a compliment, it seems. She's never been told anything like this before. "You're so pretty."
Her feet touch the wall. "Thanks."
It's scary sometimes, how quickly things can change. You can step outside one morning, and everything will be completely different when you get back home. Somewhere else, a version of her is living differently, in ways Edith may not have even considered. It's so complex. People are so complex.
"Why are you friends with me?" Roscoe asked once, years ago, after multiple sleep attacks. "You could find way cooler people to hang out with." Why is she friends with him? He's sweet, and thoughtful, and laughs at all her jokes. It's hard to find good friends, especially as an adult. Fifteen years ago, her parents probably assumed they'd outgrow their friendship. But here they are, standing within an inch of one another, both trying to think of what to say next.
He's looking at her differently, now. It's unfamiliar, but it makes her feel like jelly. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Because," says Roscoe, and yawns, "I want to kiss you, but I'm going to fall asleep." His head drops, and then he's down, like a sack of potatoes, thumping to the floor. The cast on his arm is bulky, and heavy, the first to hit the carpet, and the last to move. When he wakes, she squats and begins to help him up. "I can't breathe," he says, as a panic attack comes on.
Edith has never suffered with anxiety, herself. She realizes she's fortunate to be able to say this. When Roscoe has a panic attack, he sits in a ball, rocking back and forth on the floor. He's learned to panic subtly, so that it's hard to tell when he's having an attack. But Edith can always tell. "It's okay. You're safe." It helps, he says, to be hugged and to feel safe.
"Firefly," he whispers, hugging her. He's always so warm. "I love you. Promise not to leave me."
At home, she has multiple orders waiting to be sent. It seems there's never a break from work, but this is part of owning your own business. "I promise." Edith has been wanting to kiss Roscoe for years. When she finally does, everything tingles.
About the author
neurodivergent, trans writer and parent. canadian. lover of nature, animals, mythology, travel, and knowledge. doing my best to feel comfortable inside this flesh vessel i call home.
i enjoy writing gay shit and torturing my protagonists.