Still yet another day, on his normal route home from work, Seven spotted a bare-foot, black-haired woman, standing in the middle of Wunderland Road—dressed in just a simple long silver robe.
Horns of traffic blared—as some drivers slowed to pass—hurling curses―and hanging middle fingers out their windows at the troublesome woman.
At first he thought it was a suicide―so he ran over to help—but when he got as close as he could to the shoulder of the road—he saw Her eyes were glowing green. Their gazes met—Her robe suddenly melded into Her skin—and She reached out toward him, beckoning him.
She mouthed the words: ‘Come back to me, Seven …’ and he could hear Her in his head, despite the traffic that divided them, over the horns and screeching tires.
‘You belong with Me in French’s Forest—far from this concrete jungle.’
“No,” he objected aloud—but part of him hung so fast now on Her every word.
Sometimes he wondered if in the Grand Order Of Things, he really did belong with Her, back in French’s Forest―where he could return to his youth, wild and free—dangers be damned. Death be damned. Peace be damned.
It also seemed to him on some rare days, few and far between, that his love for Eva was just a sham—just an escape from the reality of his innermost desires for Faye. She was his one truth, in his dark self. She was all that he truly felt.
But those fears never lasted long―as he all too quickly recalled what life was really like with Faye in the picture—every time their paths crossed―as She pulled Her same old games, torturing his heart at every step. She was a poison.
Deep down he knew that, more than anywhere else, he was better off with Eva back in Old York. Eva was his sanctuary.
‘Come … Seven … Come with Me …’ Faye was his firepit; Eva his bliss.
The Silverskin simmered in lust at him, then streaked out in front of a bus.
The bus driver swerved cross-traffic―side-swiping a sedan hard―that in turn rammed into the back of a van―causing a pile-up of four dozen wheels strong, in a mountain of metal.
Fenders bent and hoods crumpled.
Steam burst valves and fires raged.
Faye walked out of the blaze unscathed, striding toward him—unflustered by the carnage at Her heels—or the Hell that She had so easily raised.
He panicked―scuttling back down from the shoulder of the road in a terror all too real―all too frighteningly familiar. His heart rang as he faced Her once more.
Yet when he looked back again, She was gone, just like the mist in the night.
He caught the next bus home—and keeping his eyes low down all the way―he banished his every last thought of Her.
Later on that day, he came to the epiphany that his new shift at work was now making him more susceptible to these crazy encounters. He had to get to sleep.
So, he ended up switching back to Eva’s schedule, to see if Faye would once again fade from focus—and just like clock-work, She did. He grew excited.
She started appearing less often―and he began growing more hopeful once again for a future without Her persistent meddling in his affairs.
It was still a life spent on constant watch, however, ever nudging Eva back up, whenever she drifted off―always making sure their alarms were harmonized—so that their body clocks stayed in sync.
He would stay up to all hours, whenever Eva were unable to fall under—just so that they would eventually get to slip unconscious at the same time, set adrift together, to enter the abyss as one.
That way at least, gradually over some time, they would be more likely to fall into tune together, to nap in harmony.
No matter how hard, all of the effort was worth it to him, since staying in lock-step with Eva’s bedtime habits did indeed seem to be helping him to avoid Faye.
Also, Eva made it easy on him―never asking why he insisted on sleeping when she did—for she was never the type to let little quirks bother her―or ever get in the way of her love for him.
Instead, in form with her usual unusual grace, she just shrugged off his obsession with her sleeping patterns as an endearing idiosyncrasy. He clung to her.
His neediness got so bad in fact, that he would shake her awake from even the lightest nap—yet still, she never let it stress her in the least. She felt loved.
All she ever wanted was for someone to love her back and Seven did.
“Everything is going to be okay, babe,” she would say―never even knowing what was worrying him such.
She would sit up in bed and cradle him—humming in his ear until he eventually passed out—then she would gently lay him down to bed—kissing him on the forehead. Her inner angel uplifted.
She felt that helping him drift off at night was the least she could do, since during the day he was the one who was always holding her close, during her black-outs. Her fears made her more heartfelt.
But despite their best efforts, after eight months of it going on this way, they were both starting to feel the strict regimen begin to strain their relationship.
“So how far is French’s Forest?” she asked one day—feeling the need for a change of scenery. She nudged him a bit.
“Ninety minutes—why?” he replied.
“We should make the trip sometime. It would be nice to see where you come from I think … Don’t you want me to go?”
“No—I told you, I cannot go back.”
“Aw―babe, we can make the effort once—can’t we? Wouldn’t you do it for me? I’m sure your family must really miss you by now—after all of this long time.”
“You don’t get it … They’re crazy.”
“Every family is crazy, babe … We just get bent by the ones we love—you know. Be honest. Is it because of me?”
“No, not at all, babe. But you don’t understand. You can’t possibly get it.”
“Trust me―I do. I do … Come on—I’m the one always complaining about my mother―right? You always take her side.”
“But, I’m talking about insane asylum material … Meaning the real deal.”
She giggled. “I feel exactly the same sometimes. It’s perfectly natural.”
“Listen, my brother is very evil, but I love him … But he is not for the faint.”
She nodded. “My mom is nuts―but so am I. Families are meant to fight.”
“But there is something else …”
“Oh? What is that to be exact?”
“Promise to keep an open mind?”
“Of course …” she said, nodding shyly—swallowing audibly. “You know that I always do. Haven’t I always said?”
“Do you know what albinism is?”
She nodded again—still quiet.
“Well—my blood, my kin, they are each and every one of them all albinos.
“I’m actually the only exception in our entire family tree. I’m a bit of misfit.
“For some reason I was born with normal pink skin, while they are all totally pale-skinned with these beady red eyes—each of them, to certain degrees, highly sensitive to sunlight. It’s very strange.
“It’s a mutation gone horribly wrong in our family gene pool and it’s really bizarre. It’s embarrassing and weird.”
She acted unruffled by his revelation—but he could tell some contemplation still yet lingered there in her furrows.
“I’ve never met … an albino before,” she began. She poked him in the chest.
He nodded. “I’m the anomaly because … Olin is actually my half brother, you see. We come from different fathers. My real father was normal.”
He had his story all worked out.
“Wow … That must have been so hard for them growing up, never being able to enjoy sunshine—I would just die.”
“It’s not all that bad for them, since they are mostly used to it. They never know what they are missing anyway. To them it’s just normal, being nocturnal.”
“Well … I will admit, that is not what I was expecting to hear at all—but it’s a lot better than I was imagining. You made it sound like they were a gang of murderers—or maybe some kind of cult.”
“No, no … Just reclusive albinos.”
They shared an awkward laugh.
“It’s okay to talk about it with them, they don’t bite … I mean—they aren’t shy about telling their experience of it all …”
After some silence, she asked:
“What if they covered up and down, could they still go out during the day, even just for a bite? What would happen if they did? Does light really hurt them a lot?”
“If they had to they could, but it would be uncomfortable—so they rarely bother. My brother can handle it better.”
“That’s so sad. I feel so bad for them all. But I still want to meet them.”
“Let’s talk about it another time. I just wanted to break the news before too long … Before it turned into a big lie.”
“Well, I want to see them soon … Even if they were a clan of vampires, I’d still want to get to know your roots …”
“Eva, I really, really don’t think―”
“Seven, it’s so important to me …”
So his heart sank and he gave in.
If he denied Eva family visits, she might start to think that he was hiding something. She would stop trusting him.
But if he took her to French’s Forest like she wanted, there was also the very good chance that she would find out that he was indeed hiding one very big thing.
So he made the plans and arranged everything with work and family, and as the day approached to embark on their little vacation, he felt the darkness set in.
(Special Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Rian Torr)