BLISS

There are some secrets that are meant to be shared, and some that are not.

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3. THE SIGHTING

 

"As if there weren't enough of those around here already," Tarinn muttered darkly, casting a swift, reproachful glare in the direction of the two public officers then reverting her gaze before anyone caught it, urgency fluttering quick and sudden in her chest. Amida looked up, eyes wide and unfocused as she wiped a smearing of ketchup from the corner of her mouth. 

 

"Hmm?" she asked, her voice muffled from some sort of burger-sandwich hybrid she had a particular fondness for. 

 

"Oh, nothing. Just - why do they need to put up more of those things?" Tarinn sighed, her voice soft and contemplative as Amida followed her narrowed gaze out through the thick glass of the diner's window, her eyes coming to a jerky stop at the sight of two public officers pasting something huge and glaringly pastel to the billboard in the street. BLISS propaganda was the only advertisement that wasn't electronic these days.   

 

"It's harmless," Amida replied, quirking a shoulder and rapidly losing interest in the workers outside, privately contemptuous of Tarinn's brooding and often insignificant interests, small, inconsequential obsessions that she latched onto with a hungry, possessive nature that Amida preferred to ignore. "They're only trying to help." 

 

Tarinn smiled, the expression ugly and splintered for a moment, curving and breaking in all the wrong places, before letting it fall back into stony contemplation, the happiness of their previous afternoon a distant memory in her long, ethnic features. Amida thought Tarinn to be that strange sort of attractive that was just human and flawed enough to miss out on actual beauty, the kind of features that were very much personal and subjective; Amida sometimes wondered if she'd wandered straight out of a history book, her face furrowed and engaged, her body impatient and twitching, her voice either soft or harsh, leering or submissive. As if she could sense her presence in Amida's mind Tarinn turned, tongue swiping along the edge of her teeth, forehead tensed in thought. 

 

"'A careless today makes an unhappy tomorrow; secure your happiness and remember your BLISS!'" Tarinn read, her impassive voice bordering on a distinctly sour note that Amida tried to pretend wasn't there. Tarinn's hands tightened underneath the table, fingers interlocked and indistinguishable in the shadowy mass of skin, resting where Amida couldn't see them. Around their table, the mindless, ambient chatter of the diner washed over them, numbing Tarinn's sleepless irritation and silencing the bitter rage gnawing at her fractured mind. A pair of shoes squeaked against the tiled linoleum; a waft of something vaguely feminine and vanilla drifted in the wake of a young, soft-faced waitress; someone far away laughed, slapping their friend's shoulder jovially. Tarinn sighed. 

 

"And did you take your BLISS today?" Amida asked shortly, her face painted a careful neutral yet her intent clear in the twist and squint of her dark, dark eyes. Tarinn glanced downwards, saw the fleshy white of her knuckles against earthen brown. Only when the taste of copper hit her tongue did she realise the inside of her cheek was bleeding. The waitress' lingering scent had disappeared in a faceless rush of bodies heading towards the exit. 

 

"Of course, Ami. Would I still be here if I hadn't?" she replied, a slow, easy grin spreading across her face as she cupped her hands around Amida's half-empty glass of chocolate milkshake, absently drumming her jagged fingernails against the blown glass. Amida smiled, blinking away any final, lingering suspicions and leaning down to take another bite of her food, teeth closing hungrily around the remaining mouthfuls of bread and glistening meat. Tarinn's stomach turned at the sight, her gag reflex threatening to empty the contents of her stomach unless she looked away. 

 

It seemed to work for a moment, the bile rising in the throat retreating to the confines of her stomach and her breathing evening out, until the hairs on the back of her neck began to rise, a sure indication that something was wrong. Paranoia seized Tarinn and wrapped her in its sickening embrace, turning her blood cold and her limbs to stone. It was completely illogical for her to think that somebody knew, that someone was coming for her, but logic was not a concept wielded with much grace when it concerned Tarinn, and so for a few terrifying moments she honestly, truly sat there convinced she was about to be killed. When the offending bullet never came, when the predicted knife never entered her body, she allowed herself to turn and risk a glance at whoever - or whatever - was staring at her with such conviction. 

 

A couple of tables away sat a girl unlike anyone Tarinn had ever laid eyes on before - if she was a girl, even. Her hair was cropped into a loose, unkempt style Tarinn had only ever seen on boys, its colour shining the dark iridescent of a crow's feather under the diner's strip overhead lighting. Her eyes were narrow and clean in a harshly beautiful sort of way, strangely appealing in the same way a rare stone would be. She had the palest skin Tarinn had ever seen - even paler than Amida, who was also descended from the Far Asians - and yet it didn't seem as strange on her as it would have been on anyone else. The unusual pallor of her skin was just another oddity that blended into a mosaic of freakish surrealism. Although she was dressed much the same as everyone else, the clothes hung oddly on her, as if a body such as hers was not used to wearing things that softened her at the edges, that blurred the lines between being a threat and simply uncanny. Although she was, in all respects, completely ordinary - after all, there were a select few Ancient Europeans with skin just as pale as hers living inside the City - some small, softly insistent voice told her that this girl was not from here, that she was so much more dangerous than she seemed, that Tarinn had to run very far away from her very quickly. 

 

And the worst part was that she was still staring directly at Tarinn, her face void of any emotion at all.  

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