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Ty'ana Pope

          I could have killed him, that night in the woods.

          We were alone, no one around for miles, the silence between us filled with the crackling of the bonfire we had spent a near hour trying to figure out how to light safely. No one would have known what I did in those nights.

          I could have thrown him in the blazing fire, I could have impaled him like a finger brushing against old wood, I could have tied him up and left him under the dock at the lake for the leeches to feed on for all anyone would care.

          But I could not.

          I had done it so many times; I had chased people down for blocks on end, I had gutted people alive, and that is not even all of it, cause I had done so much more, and even better I had played my part to get away with it. I had been everyone’s worst nightmare. This should have been no issue for someone like me.

          But I just could not kill him, no matter how hard I tried, I could not. He was just too… something?

          I do not think there is even a word to describe him.

          His voice played so soft and sweet, almost in a way that sticks with you like sap no matter how much you try to wash it off.

          His eyes never glowed, only empty, only ever filled with light hope and deep sorrow.

          His hair always seemed so unkept, but not in a bad way, but in a way that felt like he did not have it in him to maintain his daily appearance.

          He carried a familiar scent to him, almost like home, not the building, but the feeling of a long-distance family that have not been brought together for years, but are finally coming back with one another, at a funeral, not exchanging a word, the despair in the room saying enough and more than they ever could.

          Stupidly, I let the night play on, to give him a chance, to let his actions, thoughts, and words give an explanation to his demeanor, and with that the fire no longer popper over us, instead our voices echoed over and throughout our campsite.

          But soon the fire did not pop at all, and unexpected rain poured from the sky flooding the ground around, just missing us with the incline of where we rested our site.

          We spoke for hours in the tent, waiting for the rain to stop.

          Though rather uncomfortable, he made sure there was no space left for an awkward silence to refill the air, and instead he told me stories; ones from his past, ones he had never told another, ones that told me that he trusted me, ones that made me want to sob into the sky until the angels heard my cries to spare him.

          And I nearly did cry at one point, but he noticed me, stopped, and grabbed my hand; they were rough, yet soft. Nothing about him matched, I was sure of it then. Even his hands contrasted every other thing about him.

          He began to apologize profusely for saying too much and asked if I had anything to say, anything to change the direction of the conversation. I did not.

          So, the rain having stopped by then, we moved on. He brought me outside, the smell of petrichor filling the air, easing the atmosphere. And deciding to take advantage of the now clear weather, he started to teach me.

          He taught me how to fish, how to find poisonous plants and berries, how to avoid them, how to cure any illness with them, how to turn them into a bittersweet honey like syrup. That was my favorite part; mushing the berries and watching their rich nectar ooze out into the little bowls until it was nothing but, the skins of them being taken out to dry out by the fire for a snack later into the night.

          The syrup we made was put in these almost childlike cups, sippy cups maybe. It tasted like what I imagine Ambrosia from those Greek stories tasting like. By the third sip I felt my body glow down to its core; my veins felt electric, my eyes felt like they had opened a new color spectrum, my muscles could climb my way up to the top Olympus from the underworld with no assistance.

          But if this were a Greek story, I would be Paris; falling for a forbidden beauty unknown without thinking about the consequences, because syrup is still syrup in a sippy cup, and it is an even deeper cut when it is poisonous.

          I should have seen it; building trust with a sob story, it was such a typical move, one I had used many times myself, my own game used against me. I should have taken it as my chance to strike, I was stupid not to.

          But I just had to let the night happen, just I let him play his game.

I should have gotten him first, remove this first story and I would still hold my title. I would not be dead right now.

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