Present

“I swear to God, if you cut my ear, I’ll cut your balls off!” I threatened, trying to hold completely still while Jagger hacked at my hair with a pair of rusty scissors. Long tendrils of newly bleached, white-blonde hair fell to the floor in a pallid heap around the metal chair I sat in, coating the linoleum. I could feel him laughing behind me as he continued to chop my previously hip-length hair to my shoulders and the bangs above my eyebrows. To myself, I had been unrecognizable with white-blonde hair instead of the normal red, but I wasn’t taking any chances at being sighted.

“You don’t trust me?” he chuckled.

“With that sharp object in your hand? No! I’ll get tetanus!” I retorted, glaring at him in the mirror hanging before my face. I hadn’t gotten the chance yet to mess with his hair since we had come to the conclusion that mine would take more time. The empty box of hair bleach was placed beside the untouched box of black hair dye on the shelf behind us; we had stolen them from a CVS nearby before anyone would have the chance to recognize us. Now, we were hiding out in the Angelo’s Ice warehouse, the place no one would think to look.

“Relax, Paige, I know what I’m doing,” he promised, snipping at another curl.

“You better. If it comes out bad, I’ll make you look like Paul McCartney!” I vowed.

“Don’t threaten me, baby,” he shivered.

“Would you stop calling me baby? It’s weird,” I ordered.

“How about darling?” he inquired.

“No.”

“Love?”

“No.”

“Pumpkin?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Well I can’t really call you Paige. You won’t be Paige for very long after all this,” he surmised.

“Then call me nothing,” I snapped.

“Okay, then. Your hair’s done, nothing,” he joked.

“Haha, you’re so funny,” I mocked, throwing my wet hair into his face then pulling it up into a ponytail. He made a face at me then sat in the chair I vacated, crossing his legs and tapping his fingers nervously against the arm of the chair. With an uneasy smile on my face, I got to work on his hair.

Jagger kept his eyes squeezed tightly shut the entire half hour it took to make his head of blonde locks an unnatural blue-black. “It’s done, rinse it out,” I instructed, leading him over to the tub to rinse his hair under the faucet. Using the shower attachment, I started to run the water over the back of his head while he continued to silently endure it, until I couldn’t resist anymore the urge to make him laugh and bring back the real Jagger I had become acquainted with. Before he could realize my intentions, I sprayed his face with cold water. Sputtering and coughing indignantly, he pried his head out of the vise of my arms.

“Hey!”

I couldn’t reply when I was laughing so hard. Instead of waiting for my response, he grabbed the shower hose from my fingers and turned the stream of water onto me. I squealed over the peals of my laughter and slid in the puddles, landing on my back. “No!” I screamed as he sprayed me into submission. “I’m sorry! Please, stop!”

“I don’t want to!” he growled playfully, drenching my shirt with the cold water. The normally low temperatures of the warehouse leeched through my clothing already.

“Please!” I pleaded, clawing at the water so it would not hit me directly in the face.

Abruptly, the pounding of water against my skin stopped and I looked around in bewilderment for Jagger. He leaned down and took my hands to help me up, hysterically laughing, to pull me into him. “Thanks!” I giggled, looking up into his eyes. Our laughter died away at the same time, replaced by a tense silence. His lips were slightly parted already, his hot breath fanning across my face. He leaned down to my level, eyes closed, and pressed his lips lightly across mine.

The moment was silent except for the wild beating of my heart. He pulled away from me with heavy-lidded eyes to meet my wide open ones. “I have to cut your hair,” I mumbled awkwardly.

“Maybe later,” he kissed me again.

“But—” I stopped.

I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time, I really did. When Jagger’s lips were on mine and his arms around me, there was nothing else in the world. It didn’t matter anymore that we were on the run, it didn’t matter that all my friends were dead, and it didn’t matter that I was hopelessly in love with Marshall. For now, I wasn’t alone anymore. For now, I was wanted.

Sighing lightly into his mouth, I let him wrap his arms around my lower back and pull me tightly against him. His cold hands raised goose bumps on my hips where his fingers brushed my skin and the cold air from the ice bit at my neck. The frigid ice seeped through my drenched shirt, and I found myself unknowingly clinging to his body in search of any warmth. His skin leeched all comfort from mine. Feeling bold, I slipped my tongue through his lips.

Taking the hint, he returned the kiss and cautiously slid his hands up my back, peeling off my shirt with each inch. The kiss was broken only when the shirt was going up over my head. Instantly, his lips returned with a fury. One hand gripped the back of my head, fingers entwining in the thick strands of my bleached hair, while the other pressed bruises into my left hip. His perfectly white teeth bit down on my swollen bottom lip, drawing the smallest bead of blood. He wiped it away with his tongue.

I couldn’t get any closer, but I wanted to be closer; I wanted the cold to go away. My pink bra was too big now from all the food I had been deprived of since I was last free, so it simply slid off with the shirt. The hand that had been on my hip traveled upward over the indentations of my protruding ribs to take my breast in his palm. Of course I had done something like this with Marshall in the past, but it felt different with Jagger. I felt older in the way that this wasn’t just a fling with my boyfriend on my living room couch. I was about to have sex with a criminal in an ice warehouse.

It wouldn’t be for the first time my shirt had come off by a boy, but I had never gone further than that. Terror filled me for the briefest of seconds until I felt the light touch of his thumb rubbing small circles around the slowly peaking apex of my breast. I could feel him, through the thin material of our jeans, against my leg and moaned. The sound was swallowed by his mouth. Before I realized that his hands had moved back to my jeans, they, too, were pooled around my feet.

I gasped as he easily lifted me off my feet and laid me on my back, against the freezing ground. My spine arched away from the cold into his perfect chest as it came down on top of me, unhindered, now, by clothes. That feeling of terror made my heart flip again when I saw him. The words that ran through my mind were ‘too big,’ but it was too late to go back now. I could feel him, distracted as I was by his lips on my neck.

There was pain, but it was short-lived, and the cold splash of reality slowly faded into just Jagger.

From here on in, it would just be him and me, on the run, to protect each other from the world that had shut us away.

***

The light of the noon sun woke me the next day from my position on the floor. Somehow, I had ended up covered by an old, funky-smelling blanket, but that was all I wore. My clothes were gone and I was alone on the bathroom floor, lying in the same puddle of water I had been hosed in the night before. Frowning with distaste, I sat up and pulled the soggy blanket closer around me. The only sound in the whole building was the drip of water clinging to me falling into the puddles below.

“Jagger?” I called shakily, looking around. When I was met with no answer, I continued, “This isn’t funny, Jagger, where are my clothes?”

Psst!” a voice hissed.

“Jagger?” I winced.

Guess again,” another, more familiar, voice grated.

I spun around and saw the flash of grey and a pale clown mask before the hallucination vanished. “Ugh!” I screeched, shaking my head. “Go away! Go away.”

Going crazy,” the voice mocked.

“I’m not crazy.”

Crazy.”

“I’m not crazy!” I screamed.

The door flew open and slammed against the wall with a bang loud enough to wake the dead. Giving a shriek, I jumped away from the door, pulling the blanket more tightly around me. My worry was in vain, though, it was only Jagger. At first, I didn’t recognize him when his hair was black and slicked back with bulletproof gel, and his eyebrows were dyed to match. He wore sunglasses and carried a shopping bag in one hand and a McDonald’s bag in the other.

“Pumpkin! I’m home!” he called, kicking the door shut behind him.

“I told you not to call me Pumpkin,” I protested through the watering of my mouth. “Is that food?”

“Yup! Breakfast!” he sang, placing it on the table.

“Thank God!” I gasped, taking note of the growling of my stomach for the first time and diving for the bag. Once I was happily situated on the overstuffed couch with a burger in my hand and a packet of fries in the other, I returned my attention to the other matter at hand.

“Jagger?”

“Yes, baby?”

“Stop it,” I snarled. “Where are my clothes?”

“I put them out to dry. I bought you new ones this morning,” he grinned through the food stuffing his mouth and lifted the other bag onto the couch between us.

“You don’t know what size I am?” I mumbled.

“You’re very small, Paige, it wasn’t hard to guess. Besides, I checked the tags on your clothes,” he shrugged.

“Creep.”

“Them’s fightin’ words, bitch.”

Rolling my eyes, I picked up the remote and turned on the television. The news was on, telling the story of the upcoming movie, The Left Behind. “These jeans are never going to fit me,” I grumbled, but they did.

“What’s this crap?” he demanded, staring at the T.V., burger poised halfway toward his mouth.

“New movie,” I muttered, chewing the sandwich.

“And now, here, in this very studio,” the heavily made up host paused for suspense. “Straight from the loony bin! Put your hands together for the Margaretville Massacre Butcher, Paige Taylor!”

Jagger sprayed the carpet with the soda that had been in his mouth.

“What the fuck is going on?” he snarled, slamming the cup down on the table. I ignored him and scowled at the screen.

“I’m right here,” I rolled my eyes.

“Just kidding,” the host laughed. “Since Miss Taylor has refused to give interviews, here’s the next best thing. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together, for sole survivor of the Margaretville Massacre, Poppy Todd!”

Poppy crossed the screen with a small smile on her face, dressed in her normal skinny jeans and band t-shirts with her hair straightened down her back, much longer than it had been the last time I saw her. I couldn’t get passed the image of her on the screen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She approached the host and gave him a hug before sitting across from him in an elegant, gold armchair.

“Miss Todd, thank you for coming to speak with us today about the new movie, The Left Behind,” he smiled.

“No problem, Sam,” she smiled politely back.

“Do you have anything to tell us about the movie that we don’t already know?”

“Um,” she paused. “I’ve been hanging out with the cast back home for a while now and I’ve been watching the filming, and I have to say, it’s extremely accurate to the real events from last year.”

“Are you the one who has been telling director, Wes Craven, about the events this movie depicts?”

She lifted a thick, hardcover book off the table beside her armchair and held it up for the camera to see. The cover was a crude painting of a female face, split in half down the nose and painted in bright colors on one half and shadowed on the other side. The pages were edged in shiny gold. The cover read, ‘The Left Behind By: Poppy Todd.’ “The movie is based off the book I had published shortly after the killings of the same name. The story is told from the perspective of my best friend, the girl you know as ‘The Margaretville Massacre Butcher,’ Paige Taylor.”

“What has been your favorite part of filming this movie?” Sam inquired, crossing his legs and staring at her intently.

“Probably getting to know the likenesses of my friends, especially Victoria Justice, who plays me, and Josh Hartnett, the actor playing Clark Mercer. We hang out a lot ‘cuz they wanted to get a ‘feel’ for the characters. Now we’re all really good friends.”

“That’s awesome, Poppy. I’m looking forward to more interviews with you to come,” Sam folded his hands on his knee, looking into the camera.

“Nice talking to you, too, Sam.”

“We’ll be back in a few minutes to talk to Director, Wes Craven, on the soon-to-be hit blockbuster The Left Behind.”

The show switched to commercial, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the flashing screen, seeing Poppy smiling, though she was gone now. I couldn’t believe what I had seen. I could feel Jagger’s eyes on me and hear the quiet inquiries as to what was wrong with me, but I wasn’t listening. Poppy was on T.V. My best friend Poppy.

My supposed victim.

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