Iris

byTrueMort©

Hello Readers. I have been writing this for a while now, and finally gotten around to finishing it off. This is another of my emotional, starts dark ends happy stories. The idea of this came to me while listening it the GOO Goo Dolls song, Iris, if you don't know it, have a listen. It brings back a lot of sad memories for me, and I am sure anyone who has felt inner pain and the sense of not being connected to the world around them will understand the lyrics.

I hope you enjoy.

Alex.


Iris

The patch of skin sat there looking inviting. A small area of unmarked flesh on her thigh. Virgin territory.

She didn't want to do this, every cell in her brain screamed at her that it was stupid and pointless, but at the end of the day when everything in your world makes you wish you were dead, a little pain is a reminder that you're still alive.

The razor blade sat in a saucer of antiseptic, its muted steel not caring if she used it or not.

She tore open a sterile wipe and swiftly daubed the patch of skin.

The sliver edge of the razor touched the virgin flesh and drew a thin pink line as it moved.

A pink line that turned rapidly to red.

It always amazed her that for the first few seconds there was no pain. In much the same way there was no immediate blood.

Her teeth gritted as she dropped the razor back in to its saucer. Small swirls of red stained the clear antiseptic.

A now free hand clamped over the cut as she savoured the sharp sting of pain from her thigh. Tears welled in her eyes as guilt overwhelmed the numbness the pain brought.

She lifted the blade once more wanting to block out the world with the beautiful pain a cut would bring. Then anger compelled her to throw the blade in the bin, as once more she silently swore there wouldn't be a next time.

After applying a dressing to the fresh cut, she pulled the baggy jeans she loved wearing on. With a glance at the clock she knew she had at least an hour before her father arrived home. Longer still if he stopped at the bar. Either way she didn't relish his arrival. At least if he arrived home drunk then he would hopefully fall asleep fairly quickly.

An hour. Time enough for her to retrieve her laptop from its hidden space at the very back of her closet.

It had taken many months of going without lunch to save the money to purchase the small cheap notebook from a second-hand store. There was no way her father would spring for anything like internet or cable, so she made do with piggybacking off whichever one of her neighbours used an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

She never felt guilty for hiding the laptop or hijacking someone else's internet. As it was, Iris was fairly sure she would be dead if it wasn't for the small amount of escapism the laptop and her razors brought her.

Fingers danced over the keyboard. She half held her breath as she opened her email. As normal the plethora of ads for Viagra and dating sites filled most of the inbox.

Then her heart leapt.

Sitting there between two spam messages was a mail from Mai. Her fingers trembled slightly as she tapped the mouse pad.

Iris.

My very special friend, finally I'm back in town. I have missed you so much and can't wait to see you once more. I have the apartment all ready for you to move in. Whenever you are able your new home is waiting. I have missed you, and I hope you have remained strong without me there for you. It pained me to have to go, but it was a necessary evil. Webchat me when you get the chance. I will be waiting.

Mai xxx

Iris could feel her heart thump against her ribcage as she drank in the words written in Mai's stiff formal English. Tears stung her eyes once more with the knowledge that her one true friend was home again. They had known each other for years. Mai the petite Asian girl who was a few months older than herself. Her one real friend, and the only person who knew of Iris's self-harming.

She had told Mai everything about her father's short temper and quick fists, and Mai had promised that Iris could move in with her on her eighteenth birthday.

And now there was only a week until her eighteenth birthday.

One week until this life that was more akin to purgatory, would finally be over.

Blurry eyes sought the short cut on her desktop to her webchat.

An image popped open. A plain room with a black and white print hanging on the wall behind that depicted a cherry blossom tree.

"Mai. Are you there?" She asked the empty space.

The image shifted suddenly, and everything went out of focus for a second. When it refocused the image of her angel came in to view.

Long straight black hair hung down either side of a perfect oval face. A tiny pair of red lips broke in to a divine smile that white teeth peeked out from.

Then there were the eyes. Almond shaped and so dark brown they were nearly black. Eyes that Iris could lose herself in forever.

A petite hand waved a greeting.

"Iris. I'm so glad you got my mail. How are you my little one?"

The heavily accented voice was water to someone dying of thirst.

For the first time in an age a smile broke across Iris's lips. She loved how Mai called her 'little one'. Even though she stood a good few inches taller than the five-foot Japanese girl.

Iris had met Mai at school. She had gone in to a washroom and seen Iris applying a clean dressing to one of the many cuts on her arms. It had only taken her to show a small amount of compassion to open-up a few cracks. Cracks that rapidly spread in to the dam bursting and the entire story tumbling out.

Mai's first reaction had been to go to the authorities, but Iris was far too afraid of her father to let her do that. The very last thing Iris wanted was for her father to take his anger out on the one precious thing she had.

For right or wrong they formulated a plan. Mai would go to college at Silicon Valley as planned and as soon as Iris was eighteen she would go and live with Mai.

It had made sense back then, after all Iris had survived three years since her mother had passed away and her fathers short temper had been directed solely towards her. What was a few more months? But the last two weeks Mai had been visiting relatives in Japan. It had been unbearable, but seeing as they had paid the deposit and first few months' rent on Mai's new apartment, it had been necessary.

Now she was back, and Iris could see her on the laptop that was her lifeline to a better world. Tears welled in her eyes once more. It had only been two weeks since their last chat, but it had felt like an eternity.

"Hello Mai." She replied crying openly. "I missed you so much."

The image on the screen kissed a finger and touched the camera. "I got it done." Mai told her grinning.

"No way, let me see." Iris expressed another rare smile.

The image on the screen moved back a little as Mai removed her sweatshirt. A tattoo of a delicate purple flower sat on her bare shoulder blade.

"It's beautiful Mai." Iris said as fresh tears stung her eyes.

Do you think it looks like an Iris? I took a photo with me and they copied it fairly closely."

"I think it is perfect." Iris said as she wiped the tears away.

"How are you coping? I've been worried sick about you." Mai asked

Iris took a deep breath. "I'm alive." She managed to reply, not wanting to worry the most important person in her world.

"Have you been cutting again?" The voice asked softly while edged with concern.

Not trusting herself to speak Iris rolled back her sleeves to reveal her arms that were free from any open wounds and showed them to the camera.

"I didn't ask you to show me your arms Iris. I asked you if you had cut yourself again."

Tears began to flow once more, as the guilt rolled over. "I'm sorry Mai."

The reply consisted of a lot of Japanese that Iris had a fair idea was mainly expletives.

"You should have mailed me and told me how you were feeling." Mai said eventually. There was no anger in the voice. Just grief.

"I didn't want to worry you."

"Iris, for the last time, I want to look after you and protect you. Why won't you let me?"

"Because I don't want the world to see us." This was Iris's get out of jail free card. It came from the song 'Iris' that had become their anthem. It was her way of saying she was too afraid.

"Okay. Enough." Mai replied her voice taking on a hint of anger. "I'm on my way over. This ends tonight. I can't leave you there any longer."

Fear stabbed through Iris's heart. "No please don't Mai, he'll be home soon. If anything were to happen to you I couldn't cope."

"Its only one week, you can hide out here for that long."

Tears flowed freely now. All Iris wanted was to say was yes. But somewhere inside she knew her father would try and find her. If nothing else just to make her life as miserable as his was. And she couldn't let him find out about Mai. She couldn't let her reoccurring nightmare come true. The one where she witnessed her father rain his temper down on the tiny figure of Mai.

"Yes, one week. I can survive that long if I know you are there for me."

Iris could just make out the glisten of tears on Mai's cheeks on the laptop screen.

The noise of the apartment door slamming made Iris jump.

"I have to go Mai. He's home. I'll chat later." Iris said panic in her voice as the cursor hovered over the 'x' to shut the chat window.

With shaking hands Iris frantically tried to shut the laptop down and she cursed herself for not watching the clock closer.

Her bedroom door crashed open, the recently repaired wooden frame splintering once more, and the object of her nightmares filled the doorway.

"What you doin' girl." Her father shouted, his voice slurred by alcohol. He stared at her with bloodshot eyes filled with despise.

Then his drunken gaze spotted the laptop on her bed.

"Where'd you get that from? You fuckin' stole that? Or you spent my bucks on it?" Spittle sprayed from barely controlled lips as he took a step forwards.

Iris froze. She knew there was going to be a beating. She just hoped that it would be just that.

A hand the size of a bear's paw reached out and snatched the precious laptop from where it sat open.

Her father wobbled as he tried to focus on the small screen. "Maybe I can get a few dollars back on this." He said partly to himself. "Maybe take a day off to spend the cash."

Seeing her only lifeline about to be snatched away, Iris reached up to try and grab the notebook back. "Please." She managed to cry as she reached out.

Then a heavy hand swiped backwards.

Iris had been on the receiving end of that many beatings she knew how to roll with a punch to take the sting away from it. Her head bent to the right and the backhand glanced off her cheek.

"What the fuck! You think you can make the rules in my place? This is my house and everything in it is my shit. And that includes you."

His face had darkened with hate and seeing his first slap hadn't achieved the desired effect, he bunched his free hand in to a fist.

As Iris rose from the first attack, knuckles connected with the side of her head.

Spots danced in front of her eyes and the room tilted. She was vaguely aware of the fist draw back for another swing.

An explosion went off in her brain and the room faded away.

***

Iris tried to open her eyes, but everything hurt. The slightest flicker of light stabbed through her consciousness to awaken fresh raw pain.

Dimly voices drifted through to her semi awakened state.

"We have a female, late teens BFT to the head. So far unresponsive."

The dim light began to fade away once more and she embraced the pain like the old friend it was.

***

She was swimming in the ocean. She knew by the darkness she was deep. Somewhere far above she could sense light. It would be easy to drift and let the darkness take her deeper, but something nagged in the back of her mind. Something warm and tender. A hand was in hers, holding on tightly. Anchoring her in this world.

Faintly somewhere she heard music.

'You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be. And I don't want to go home right now.'

Iris's mind came awake.

Music seemed to be playing straight in to her brain.

Hers and Mai's music.

She tried to open her eyes, but only the tiniest amount of light seeped through.

The music cut off abruptly and was replaced by a familiar voice.

"You're safe now. I'm with you. Just rest.

***

A large bear growled showing it teeth and claws. Mai cowered before it, screaming in fear. A clawed paw swiped down and blood sprayed across Iris's face.

Iris screamed Mai's name.

"It's okay, I'm here."

Iris opened her eyes. Mai was holding her hand. Concern washing over her face.

"Mai..." Iris croaked. Her throat felt like sand.

"Here." A hand held a plastic cup with a straw. "Take a drink."

The water tasted like nectar.

"What happened?" Iris managed to ask. Her voice still a dry croak.

Tears welled in Mai's eyes. "I saw it all Iris. Your camera was still on when your father hit you. I phoned the police. They have seen the recording of it all and they are looking for him."

"What will happen to me?" Iris managed to ask after a few moments.

"As soon as you can leave here, you are coming to live with me." Mai told her. "That's if you still want to." She added slightly quieter.

Iris looked around her, and for the first time she realised she was in a hospital. The skin of the left side of her face felt tight, almost like it didn't fit correctly.

"Yes Mai I do want to. Will they let me do that?"

A tiny smile touched Mai's lips. "You can do whatever you want to. It's your birthday today."

The double shock hit Iris like a wave. For one she had have been unconscious for a full week. Then on top of that she was now eighteen and could legally move in with Mai, and away from the life she had been suffering.

***

The face in the mirror stared back at her. Most of the swelling had gone down, and the bruises were turning from purple to yellow. The doctors had said she had been kept in an induced coma whilst the swelling on her brain had reduced. All in all, she was lucky that the EMTs had reached her quickly.

Something else she had to thank Mai for.

In the mirror Iris saw the door behind her begin to open. Immediately her legs went to jelly and her heart beat harder as she expected her father to walk in. As it was the dainty frame of Mai appeared around the doorframe, a beaming smile on her face, and relief cascaded over Iris.

"I brought you some clothes to wear." Mai told her holding out a bag. "I hope you like them."

Iris's vision blurred as her eyes filled with fresh tears. "I don't deserve you Mai." Iris managed to whisper. "Why do you do all this for me?"

A small soft hand brushed away the tears that dampened Iris's cheeks. "When will you realise I love you Iris?"

"I'm sorry Mai, I don't know how anyone could love me." Iris answered between sobs. "I'm a mess."

Glossy raven hair rested against Iris's chest, and arms wrapped around her. "You have a perfect soul Iris, gentle and loving. You just had a bad start to life. Today your new life starts."

Wrapping her arms around Mai, Iris returned the embrace, letting her tears flow and moisten the hair that smelled of flowers.

They stayed in the embrace for a long time until Iris finally broke away. "I love you Mai." She said her voice barely audible. "I would do anything for you."

Mai's smile was like the dawn breaking to Iris, and the room seemed to light up with the happiness that exuded from the delicate flower that Mai was.

"Well if you will do anything, how about you get dressed and I can take you to your new home."

Home.

A word that had filled Iris with fear for most of her life, now sounded warm and safe. She could scarcely believe that the horrors she had lived with for so long were nearly over.

"Do you need any help getting dressed?" Mai asked softly.

A small amount of fear and doubt crept in to Iris's mind. She wasn't really ready for Mai to see her body and the damage it had sustained from both her hands and her fathers.

"I will be okay Mai. I just need five minutes alone."

Concern flashed across Mai's smooth features, but was quickly replaced with a shadow of understanding. "I will be just outside little one."

Once she was alone, Iris emptied the contents of the bag Mai had brought. There was a new pair of jeans, a plain blue t-shirt, grey hoodie, underwear and a pair of new training shoes. Iris felt her heart breaking once more as she touched the new material. She couldn't remember the last time she had actually had new clothes. She owed Mai so much already, and now she wondered how she was going to pay her way for everyday things, without taking in to account the cost of the clothing that now lay on the bed.

Self-doubt slipped back in to her head again. She was sure it wouldn't take Mai long to tire of supporting her. After all, Mai was beautiful, intelligent and strong, whereas Iris could only see herself as ugly, stupid and weak. In short she had nothing to offer Mai.

A knock on the door interrupted her moment of self-pity.

"Are you dressed Iris?" Mai's voice asked. "There is someone to see you."

Hastily Iris wiped the fresh tears away from her eyes. "Just a minute." She called back as she pulled on the clothing, trying hard not to break down again at the feel of the comfort the beautiful things provided.

Finally dressed, Iris drew a sleeve across her eyes and opened the door. Next to Mai was a woman LAPD officer. Dark Hispanic skin, short black hair and eyes nearly as dark as Mai's. Her uniform neatly pressed and badge gleamed on her left breast. A pair of aviators hung casually from a blouse pocket, and the black belt around her waist was festooned with a side arm, ammunition pouches and radio. A bright golden badge pinned to her right breast was etched with the name Lopez.

Something in the woman filled Iris with a feeling of security. Her air of confidence and her easy nature immediately made Iris want to make friends with her.

"This is officer Lopez, Iris." Mai informed. "She is going to take us back to your apartment while you pick up anything you need."

"Please, call me Maria, Miss Davies." Officer Lopez greeted. The corner of her mouth curling up in a half smile as she offered her hand. "Glad to see you are back on your feet. I was first on scene when Miss Chen called in the incident."

Iris took to offered hand enrapt by the strength in it, yet surprised by the softness still present in the skin.

"I'm sorry to say we haven't picked your father up yet, but we are on the lookout for him, and I assure you if I get my hands on him I will personally kick his ass all the way to hell and back." Officer Lopez reassured.

The words lifted the dark cloud that had been gathering over Iris's soul, and she felt the beginnings of a smile break across her lips.

***

Iris paused outside her old building. Too many painful memories flashed through her mind threatening to cloud the sun that had just started to shin in her life. Then she felt Mai's hand give hers a squeeze. She looked down and Mai smiled back at her, the dark eyes full of support and encouragement.

"Okay ladies, if you don't mind I'll go first." Officer Lopez informed with a wink. "Just in case."

Iris took a deep breath and followed the police officer in to the building, Mai's hand still holding tight to her own.

Her old apartment door was sealed with yellow incident tape that Officer Lopez carefully unstuck to gain entry.

The familiar stink of stale alcohol and body odour wafted over Iris and bile rose in her throat. There was nothing in the living room or the adjoined kitchen that was of any interest to Iris. Her only possessions were in her room, which sat beyond the splintered door across from them.

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