Marnie found me in a corner where I’d begun to collect attention. I knew why people stared. With my hair back to its natural shade, I looked like my brother again.
“You were under stern orders to enjoy yourself. No working allowed.” Marnie leaned against the wall with me. Her presence attracted more attention to my corner, some guests even stopped to whisper.
I returned her gentle smile with a hard look. “This isn’t what working looks like.” I said. She should know that. For one, I wouldn’t be dressed in the tight green dress she’d picked out for me. If I moved too quickly the fabric constricted my shoulders and the skirt, while loose, was too short and thin for protection. The whole outfit was terrible for any type of security work.
My willowy friend slipped smooth fingers through my rough ones. Almost anyone else who tried that would have lost the digits. I don’t like being touched.
Marnie pulled me away from the wall, interested murmurs trailing in our wake. The air in the gardens was warmer, and there were less people to stare at us. However, my vantage point over the main floor was lost. I frowned, realizing Marnie had done that on purpose.
Security wise, the whole event was poorly set up, but my brother’s priority was publicity not safety. I knew that, but it didn’t stop me from noticing every unguarded side door and unchecked coat jacket. The threats my brother and I were accustomed to required more than a cocktail dress.
No one understood it wasn’t simply a matter of taking a night off. The awareness was not something I was capable of switching off on demand. People didn’t forget to breathe, and for me, the cognizance was as just as natural. “Was I scaring people?” I asked.
“That’s not why I came over.” Marnie said, sipping her champagne flute.
That meant yes.
I didn’t apologize. They were staring at me. It wasn’t my fault they couldn’t handle the returned scrutiny. I sent another look towards the garden doors, my brother and his new fiancé were swimming with the sharks inside. They enjoyed it, I knew that. Marnie moved her head in order to catch my gaze and attention. “You were backed into a corner.” She said gently.
I blinked. Marnie wasn’t worried about them. She was worried about me.
“I don’t get backed into corners.” I stated. I didn’t. As rules went in my line of work maintaining an exit strategy was easily in the top five.
She frowned at me and I had to admit that, in this one instance, I might be wrong. People were easy to understand across a battlefield, in the golden indefensible halls of the elite, less so. Maybe I had let the guest’s unnerving interest corner me.
“I’m not good at this.” I said. It was a simpler explanation than voicing the complex feelings of dread and anxiety I felt in places like this. There were too many people I didn’t understand, all seeming to demand reactions I couldn’t provide or even fathom. I didn’t belong here.
It hurt sometimes. This could have been comfortable evening for me. I could have been a person who enjoyed parties and understood shallow words hiding deadly intentions. I wasn’t of course, but I could have been.
Marnie slipped her fingers through mine again and squeezed my hand. From her it was a comfort. “Do you want to go?”
She would have accepted a yes and acted on it, finding a socially acceptable excuse for me to leave or at least allowing me to glare back at our audience in peace.
“No.” I shook my head. My brother was here, this was his night and I wanted to be a part of it. Even if I didn’t quite fit any more.
The thieves have struck again. My first line was stolen through the Legal Theft Project, check out their spoils here.