(Paisley Hopkins continued from The Nthn Wave.)
Paisley found herself standing at the edge of the beach. She did nothing. She said nothing, she thought nothing. She stood there for Lord knows how long, braindead, staring off into the distance while brushing away excess tears. A small glint of moonlight refracted through the clouds and glimmered across the frozen beach water. It was funny, really. She didn't notice the ice before, when she was with Pia.
The ocean rolled in far distance, beating to a rhythm that Paisley could not follow. Ice lined the water closest to the beach though and what little sand was visible appeared hopelessly parched. December wind tore at her auburn hair. Her body shuddered involuntarily and the weight of her body made the snow crunch. Kelp littered the beach where the snow was absent, like leaves from the old tree in Paisley's backyard. She used to play with Ivy on that tree; the the time for smiling, even out of nostalgia, was long gone.
The brown bandanna fluttered and flipped over her chin; her index finger brushed her collar, then, just as she did the day she woke up. She tugged on her gloves, the ones she stole from the apartments because she neglected to bring a pair to school. They were snug against her fingers because they were one size too small. She made it work, though. She tugged at the collar of her military jacket, wrapped her makeshift scarf back on. Paisley could see her own breath, even with the cloth around her mouth. She used a shard of glass from the food court to tear a piece of fabric from her horse costume. (Better a joke than fan service, she supposed.) The cloth acted as a scarf, but it did not shield her from the cold, not completely. The cold nipped at her face. Again she shivered. She crossed her arms under her chest and stared out at the frozen ocean.
All the while, Paisley thought of fire.
"That," she could not finish. No, she was losing it. She lost it once, she could not let it happen again. Pia wasn't there to pick her back up. She could not, would not, give in.
She liked to think she was a good person. She wanted to believe that God. She hoped that Vahka and Corin were okay, and that the only reason she did not hear her brother's name on the announcement was that he picked a corner and started cowering since day one. Lord knows that plan seemed very tempting. And Paisley tried, forced, strained, to believe that Pia was just an idiot and every decision she made on the island was compulsive. No matter how much she strained, though, she could not convince herself of that. Because Pia wasn't an idiot. She was smart and and stubborn as all hell.
If anyone was stupid, it was Paisley.
Paisley reached into her jacket pocket. She took the liberty of tying another piece of fabric around a glass shard, using to make an amateur handle. She had to be careful with it, since the glass had a slight hooking shape and she could easily nip herself, but the cloth held steadily enough that she could reasonably use it... Looking at it, Paisley shuddered again, and it was not from the freezing cold.
She should have listened to Sarah. She should have bailed and stayed with Corin. No, scratch that, she should have bailed when Pia butted heads with Matthew less than a hour before gunning him down.
Instead you did nothing. And look where it's gotten you.
So very stupid.
"That b-," again, she could not finish. Two syllables, and she hung up on the second. Paisley would not stoop to that level. She shoved the shiv back into her pocket, careful not to cut herself.
Pia's behavior with Matthew first of many, many signs. Pia put up a nice front, but she acted irrationally in many cases; she shot two people, including Matthew, seemingly without any provocation. Paisley didn't even see the second victim until after Pia shot them, but she heard them making a break for it and she heard the single gunshot. Paisley ignored it all at the time; she chalked it all up to self-defense, that there was a reason, and that she could trust Pia. So Pia never explained and Paisley never asked.
Then Paisley shot Genni. Pia looked at her like she was crazy. That, she knew, was the point of no return.
Pia could puff her chest out and squak up and down about how she was looking out for Paisley, and how she was the only one pulling all of the weight. But Paisley realized that none of that mattered to her; it was all hot air. She just wanted to be the Alpha Dog. If Pia really cared, she would not have taken Paisley's gun and left her to die. After Paisley tried to save her.
Pia was her friend though. Paisley loved her; a piece of her heart cracked when she found Pia in the apartment building.
Pia was a friend. A friend who promised to protect her and abandoned her when she needed her most.
Paisley slapped herself. The pain did not set in right away because the fabric around her face shielded her. Realizing that, she ripped her scarf off and slapped her cheek again. And again. Again. Then her hands curled into fists and started hitting herself. Head tucked in, knees shaking, whimpering and moaning but saying nothing. She hit herself until her fingers hurt and her arms burned. Then he started tugging at her hair, but the cold drained her body and no strands budged. She gave up after that. Just crumpled to the ground, dug her fingers into the sand.
She nearly screamed.
Nearly. Because she stopped herself.
In that moment, Paisley remembered.
She felt the bulge of the knife in her pocket. She turned back and saw the broom pole, tucked into her backpack. She remembered Tucker and the times he would rope her into watching this stupid show.
She recalled all of this and, all at once, an epiphany.
So, so very stupid.
Paisley sobered immediately. She stopped crying. She got up. She took her bag and the scarf. Then she walked away from the beach as quickly as she could.
It wasn't until she was far, far away, away from the night's sky, away from the boardwalk and the ocean, and the cameras appeared to thin; and the wind choked; and only she remained; then, and only then, did Paisley Hopkins allow herself a moment of weakness.
She tugged her bandanna taut and fed it into her shirt. She pressed her gloved palms against the outline of her collar, where she assumed the microphone was, and cupped it as if she were choking. Then, with a low, guttural voice, she spoke.
(Paisley Hopkins continued in "I will open my mouth in parables.")