Still, I would never think to use a paperclip to tighten my frames. Simple yet ingenious. I can’t suppress the unwelcome acknowledgment of his resourcefulness even as apprehension coils inside me.

I feel the adjusted grip of the handles at my ears and temples as they burn hot at his nearness, from being in too close proximity with the scorching blue fire that are his eyes. They’re secure on my face, sitting on it like a paradox; a piece of armor, a barrier meant to clarify my adversary’s hand against me–quite literally–but not actually help me in any meaningful way. Like being “gifted” the power to foresee someone’s death but being utterly unable to prevent it.

The moment the thought forms, I squeeze my eyes shut, seeking solace in darkness despite having just had my second pair tuned up. But relief remains elusive as memories flood unbidden, accompanied by their attendant emotions that crash over me like waves on an angry sea.

Stop it, I chastise myself, impulsively trying to swallow around the the silicone boulder lodged in my mouth and failing. I suck in a ragged breath instead, my lungs heaving like a ship’s sails in a storm before my eyes are forced open again by the sensation of movement the sensation of movement gliding feather-light against my temple.

Involuntary dread shoots down my spine at the initial touch. My heart pounds out a terrified rhythm, convinced he’s sliding my glasses away again, this time to permanently deprive me of clear sight in this moment where I need it most. I wouldn’t put that kind of tool-ery past him. But my knee-jerk assumption skids to a halt when I realize what’s making contact with the side of my head.

The paperclip.

Cool metal clashes with the heat of my skin but does nothing to temper the flames raging beneath. As a matter of fact, it stokes them higher, my nerves igniting like kindling as Frost trails the simple piece of stationery down the right side of my face. Slowly. Deliberately.

“Surface tension,” he announces, his voice taking on the depth of an ocean. I frantically search my memory, dredging up long-forgotten high school physics lessons and somehow manage to recall the term amid the chaos ricocheting in my brain. Surface tension. The phenomenon that allows small insects to literally walk on water. As I feel every inch of my stomach sink like stone.

“One of the many unique properties of water,” he continues, still gliding the paperclip over the hypersensitive landscape of my face. “Think of it like an invisible ‘skin’.”

His tone remains calm, almost conversational, at odds with the dread creeping through my veins, at the icy fire fanning across my own, very visible skin. “If you look closely at the top of the water, you’ll notice it forms a kind of stretchy layer. Inside the water, the molecules are attracted to each other. They pull on each other, creating a tight, interconnected network. In essence, they like to stick together.”

He pauses, and a new wave of foreboding washes over me at his next sentence.

“Like a family.”

I blink rapidly against the sudden sting in my eyes, my heart fracturing at the way that word sounds coming from his lips.


Not now. Don’t think about that now.

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