splinters from a broken arrow

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By miistical
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Leann damn well knew that she should have been home an hour ago. She knew, as she walked about the town, that any damn she could’ve given had left her about an hour ago, too.

Autumn in Kansas was always a sight to behold. Everything was painted gold and the people in lil' ole Kiowa felt richer because of it. Leann, however, knew that no matter how gold a paint was, it would always peel eventually.

She continued down the lane, passing parlor after parlor, trying to ignoring everything and everyone. Leann kicked up dust, cursed at it with a silent glare, and kept on; she knew she couldn't keep her head ducked for much longer.

Leann was right, as usual.

"Good evenin', Leann," called the constable. She raised a hand, gave what passed for a smile, and kept on walking.

She must have looked as restless as she felt. The man called out again, "You all right there, Leann? Do I need ta get Don down 'ere?"

Leann paused. She cleared her throat of the plucked angel feathers she sometimes kept there. "No no, I'm quite alright! Jus' thought a walk might clear my head some. I'm on my way home now, actually."

Constable Joe grinned. A part of Leann delighted over his missing tooth and how he smiled as wide as the horizon anyhow. Another part mourned his happiness. "Good, good! Get some rest, missy, and you better feel better in the mornin', ya hear?"

She laughed. "Will do, Joe, will do."

Leann loved Joe. She loved him like she loved Johnny and Simon and Clark—and she loved no man more than the other.

"Oh, Leann, can ya spare a second?"

She waited as Jacob sidled up closer and watched him brighten at the sight of her. Leann loved Jacob, too, just never as much as he wanted her to. Had it not made her feel dirty, she'd have pitied him.

"Hello, Jacob." Her smile was real and she wished she hated him just a little bit more. It'd make everything so much easier. Kinder. "What d'ya need?"

Behind him were the muffled jeers of his friends. Leann tightened her grip on her dress as she watched Jacob grimace. He had the dear, sweet look of apology and—and, oh yes, Leann just wished she could hate him.

He turned back to them, yelled at them something probably at least a little vulgar, but Leann saw only the women across the way. Only focused on how they crowded each other, how their fans hid their faces all but for their eyes, and Leann could have sworn on the Lord Himself that she felt those stares.

She always liked to imagine eyes like that to be black and soulless or silver and glittering—something that didn't belong in the face of a woman who spent her day hidden and always in the same spot. Never changed the fact that they were most likely brown. Brown and regular and oh so human. Leann knew more monsters with brown eyes than red, after all.

Jacob turned back to her, that same sheepish smile in place, and placed a gentle hand upon her shoulder. Leann made sure to not bare her teeth, but it was a close thing.

His eyes were blue and Leann sorely ached for the ability to make a monster out of him.

He opened his mouth and she's sure words came out, but nothing made it to her head. She was too busy gazing at his bashful eyes and pink cheeks and, oh yes, there was that pity she would feel dirty about later.

Leann waited until his mouth closed, all the expectation for an answer written plainly about his forehead. She still had no idea as to what he had asked about in the first place, was afraid to gander a guess at it at all, and so she did nothing but smile and nod. She smiled and nodded and pretended he was not a man as she patted his cheek.

He caught her hand and pressed it into his face. Her skin began to itch. "You really mean it, Leann?"

"O'course I do, Jacob." Leann cupped his face, much to his delight. "I'd never lie to you."

Her voice was a distant echo, but Jacob lit up all the same. He nearly glowed and Leann's hand began to burn.

Jacob leaned forward, pressed the sweetest kiss on her brow, and Leann 'bout near burst into tears. He winked, that one damn blue eye still too pretty, and left with swagger in his step.

(She'd have to cut it out of him, she knew. She would eventually take a rusty butcher knife to that swagger, fill in the hole with all of her pathetic pity, and stitch him back up. Leann knew she'd make that monster out of him.

Leann would get what she wanted and she nearly burst into Holy flames on the spot. She wouldn't begrudge God for it a single bit.)

She finally turned to go home. Her skirts swung about her, her own personal weights. Leann began walking, her body on the ground but her thoughts up in the air.

Leann looked up. She watched as a bird flew on by and remembered why men had women wear weights. She looked down and spotted a puddle. She saw enough to spot a single brown eye.

The rest of her walk home with filled with buzzing ears and blue eyes and angels with wings that coated her throat—and Leann wondered when she became a God fearing woman. Wondered when she gave thoughts to angels and where they stuck their wings. Wondered if it was when she thought of blue eyes and did not see Jacob.

Leann looked up, saw her front door, and forgot how she got there.

She felt her womanly weights as she stood in front of her house. Each weight was a solid presence on her shoulders. Leann twisted her head, trying to see the little devil that had to be resting there, and whispered to it.

"If I gotta have these brown eyes, then I'm gonna use 'em." She twisted again, to where that little angel must be. "I got these eyes for a reason, don’t I? And aren’t monsters suppose to cut humans to bits? Ain’t that what God wanted me to do when he gave me these eyes?"

Leann turned to face her house again. She walked up the porch, rested her hand on the door handle, and pretended she wasn't pleading.

"What a better monster," she whispered to herself, ignoring how God leaned over her head, "than one who eats other monsters?"

She opened the door.

For a split second, all was quiet. There was just Leann, the door, and the clock down the hall.

"Young lady!"

And then, like magic, sound replaced all of the air.

Leann's family started spilling from the woodwork, her older sisters swooping down upon her while her brother stood apart, still as a shadow. Hands pulled her from the threshold, the crack of the door a sign of swift impending doom.

'Shit,' Leann thought in a daze. 'I'm in absolute shit.' Margret and Annabelle ushered her into the sitting room, Don looming about all his sisters behind them. In the familiar worn armchair sat their pa, their ma hovering over his shoulder. She was a rather hefty woman and Leann could hear all the calluses on her in her voice; Don got the most from their ma and damn if it didn't show. 

After her sisters finished dragging her all about, they sat primly upon the carpet that Leann never once remembered clean. She took a moment to really look at them—at what she would have had eventually become.

Leann could feel those feathers again.

Oh, Leann loved her sisters. Never quite somethin' fierce like love should be, but it had always been enough. Not this time, though, not with those crosses hanging about their necks. Not when they had those brown, brown eyes.

"Young lady, just where upon this Earth were you? You were suppose to be home over an hour ago!" Ma never shouted, but she did have the type of voice that just sucked all the air from a room.

"I got lost," came the hesitant reply.

"Lost?" Ma narrowed her eyes. Pa's mouth thinned. Leann thought of the making of monsters.

"I got a lil' turned around and then I ran into Jacob, so—"

A trill left Margret. "Oh, you're so lucky to have him, Leann! A downright sweetheart that boy is."

Annabelle just nodded along, her arms looped with Margret's. Don grunted from the doorway before moving into Leann's eyesight.

Her oldest sibling was a great brute of a man. Had to be, Leann knew, with a pa like that. "He's a bit in the clouds, but he does come from a good family."

A gust of wind rattled the trees outside. Leann caught a flash of gold from over her father's shoulder and shuddered. She thought of Jacob and then thought of blue and then—

"I ain't gon marry Jacob."

Her sisters blinked. Don frowned.

"What now, Leann?" Pa didn't like to shout either, but he's the one that gave her those brown eyes. Leann thought that was far more important.

Leann swallowed, her stomach jittery and clenched like a fist. "I ain't gon marry him, pa. I just ain't."

"Leann!" Annabelle scolded, "You should be grateful to have a man like Jacob so taken with you! I sure know I'd be happy to have him."

"Take him, then, if it means that much to ya."

Their ma huffed. "You need ta marry a good man, Leann, like yer sisters did! And especially a man like Jacob - he'd keep ya nice and tidy! Lord knows that the two of you should've gotten married years ago and we've all been waitin' long enough!"

Leann's shoulders curled inward. She had never been too proud of herself; never got the chance to be. She risked a glance at her pa and flinched at the look in his eyes. Leann thought of blue eyes and brown hair and how God turned the sunset into a person.

Her pa had made a monster out of her, but God had made an angel out of Ella. How could Leann ever compete? How could Jacob ever compete?

"If you keep talkin’ like that, I think we might have a problem."

Something ugly and vicious woke up inside of her. 

Leann looked to her two sisters. It was obvious that they’d be of no help—Margret oft just did as she had been told and Annabelle was the most judgmental woman their side of the entire state of Kansas.

She glanced to Don. They had gotten on better than their sisters, but again there was that look. A full gaze of disappointment; it was like he thought he could look the common sense right into her.

'Ain’t nothin’ common 'bout the sense I have,’ Leann thought, her jaw clenched and eyes narrowed. She turned those eyes back on her parents, missing a flicker of awe - of wonder. Of delight.

Leann had always known they were stern, but that had turned controlling the moment she became a woman. She had thought all men were just mean and all women were just stubborn. Of course, now she knew better. Now Leann knew that her pa was just a right bastard and her ma put up with it because that’s what women did best.

She took a breath. She blinked. In that brief darkness was Ella, all long hair and bright smile.

Leann straightened her shoulders—she had no intention of doing what women did best.

“I dunno, pa,” she said, her hands clutching her skirt. The ache of her knuckles reminded her of Jacob and she clutched her hem even more. “I think we already got a problem.”

He sat up. Leann’s surprised that he’s surprised. She had been back-talking him since forever; really, he should’ve learned by now.

That ugly, vicious thing stirred. It yawned, an open mouth of fangs, and blinked red eyes. In the lighting of her heart, they looked brown.

“Now you listen here, young lady—”

It grinned.


He stilled. Ma glared at Leann and her sisters tried to do the same. Don just looked away. If she hadn’t known any better, she’d have called him out on that smile he was tryin’ to hide.

Pa’s voice went soft. “No?”

“No,” her own voice flat. “I ain’t gotta listen to you. Y'ain’t never listen to me, anyway, so why I gotta listen to you?”

“Leann, I swear on my grave—”

She cut him off again. There was a certain satisfaction in the kind of red he was turning. “Can’t swear on a thing that don’t exist - unless you tryin’ for the ground right now, o’course. You tryin’ to meet God, pa? Though I reckon you’d meet the devil first.”

Margret gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. There was a certain kind of satisfaction in that, too.

“Leann!” Annabelle sounded scandalized. Leann looked at her ma. Sure enough, she looked close enough to beat her.

There was a tremble in Leann's chest that wondered as to how far she could go. The tremble in her hands whispered, "All the way."

“I love her, pa.”

Pa flinched, as if that pained him. What a son of bitch, actin’ like he deserved that pain. Actin' like it wasn't her pain to begin with. Actin' like he wasn't the one to give her that pain.

"Her? Good Lord, Leann, this is about that girl again? When will you learn?" Her ma stepped forward. "That girl is nothin' but a menace, young lady! She ain't gon do nothin' for no one. You best change that tone o' yours real fast before—"

"Before what, ma? How could any of this be worse than it already is?"

Margret stood. Annabelle was knocked out of the way, sprawled across that dirty rug. "What would the neighbors think, Leann? What - what would Jacob think?"

"To hell with Jacob! To hell with any man, in fact!" Leann shouted, her voice breathy and shrill and uncaring if anyone heard her. "There ain't not a single man in this entire state that would ever hold my attention."

"Would you be quiet, you harlot?" Annabelle whispered. Her voice was as harsh as Don's eyes were wide. She braced herself on her hands and knees, neck craning to glare at Leann dead in the eye. "I don't care if you wanna go prancin' about against God's word, but you ain't gon do it in the light of day."

"Excuse me?"

Don gasped. "Annabelle Fawn Jones! You don't go talkin' to our kid sister like that!"

Margret whirled around. "You stay outta this, Don! You always let her get away with things just because she's the youngest!"

"No, I let her have fun because y'all don't know when to stop naggin' her!"

Annabelle talked over their squabbling siblings. "I said, you ain't gon do it in the light of day! Be a sinner at night with the rest of those whores, but God willing you will marry that boy!"

"Annabelle is right, Leann," their pa cut in. "There ain't no good reason for you to reject that boy beyond you wantin' to damn yourself!"

"For Christ's sake, pa!" Don hissed.

Their ma reached over and smacked Don in the shoulder. "Leann actin' like this is bad enough! I will not be havin' two of my children go cross-eyed!"

Leann clenched her teeth hard enough she feared they would crack. She glared at her pa, still sittin' pretty in his armchair. Leann itched to light the thing on fire. "Then I'll be damned! I will be doin' no such thing!"

"Lee, please, just - just calm down—"

Pa raised himself out of his chair, cutting Don off. "You will, Leann, and that is final. We have tried to save you too many times - if you wanna damn yourself so badly, go ahead. But you will not bring any such shame upon this family, ya hear?"

Ma nodded behind him, looking for all the world a living statue. All that was left was heavy breathing. Leann could feel her anger simmer away in her veins; she could almost taste it. That vicious thing licked its lips and grew—it grew until it swelled into her throat.

Leann opened her mouth and breathed fire. A monster they turned her into, a monster they would get.

She screamed long and wordless. It was the sound of broken glass, of fractured weights, of angel feathers turning to ash. Leann screamed her throat raw and clear and spoke for the first time in years.

The sun spilled through a window and her eyes gleamed red.

"No. No! I am done listening to you. I am finished with you, with this, with boys and men and the eyes of judgement! Have I not been a good daughter? Have I not given every time you wished to take? You may have brought me into this world, but this world does not want people like me! The bible might speak of holiness, but I see nothing but the devil here! This is the devil's home!

"I will not marry Jacob because I will marry Ella." She relished in her pa's flinch. "You know why, pa? You wanna know why?"

For the first time in her life, Leann stepped forward. Her pa stepped back.

She leaned in close and breathed, "Because fuck God."

Annabelle let out a strangled noise and Margret fell back to the floor. Don stepped back and bumped into the wall, face going white. Leann watched as her parents could only stare at her. None of them said a word.

Their quiet scratched at something inside of her. Leann couldn't tell if it felt good or not, but she accepted that ache with pleasure.

"If He doesn't want me to be happy, then I don't want Him near me anyways."

Leann spun, turned her backs upon her makers, and walked to the door. Heavy thumps quickly followed her. Just as Leann touched the door knob, a hand gripped her shoulder.

She turned, eyes big and brown and full of fire. Don looked down at her, eyes sad and green and too understanding. The two monsters sized each other up, saw their weaknesses, and met face to face.

'I wish I could join you,' Don's frowning mouth whispered.

'I never knew, I never thought to look up to see you,' Leann's stuttering breaths said.

'It's easier to look down.'

'I'm so sorry, Don.'

'It's not your fault, Lee.'

'All I could see were brown eyes. Never knew they were so green.'

'Brown eyes are good, too.'

'Monsters have brown eyes.'

'You aren't a monster.'

'Then what am I?' Leann didn't ask.

'Human,' Don didn't answer.

They both blinked. Don stepped back. Leann opened the door. The two humans sized each other up, saw their strengths, and turned away. Don headed back to his monsters and Leann sought out her angels.

By the next day, their pa would be no more. A rouge misfire, his son would claim. An accident, the neighbors would say. Unfortunate, the townspeople would cry. They'd make their condolences, not look any of the Jones' in the eye, and carry on. They'd not notice the caged fear in the women or the satisfaction in the last man.

Don would express his sadness at the sudden passing of his pa. He was the man of the house now, he told just about everyone, but he'd make sure everything was fine. When Leann eventually got the news, she'd laugh herself silly; she'd be sick and drunk on that laughter and think of nothing but green eyes.

By the next day, Jacob would make his way for Leann, only to find that she had disappeared into the night. Lost. Gone. Something in him would crack, flicker, and his blue eyes would flash brown. He'd make his way back home and come across a note. An apology in Leann's hand.

The crack grew in size, but he smiled on through it anyway. Blue eyes would stay blue—angels forgave monsters all the time, after all.

No one would notice the absence of Ella Thomson for another week. No one would ever connect her to Leann Jones, wherever they were by then.

By the next day, Leann would be admiring a sunset up close, the gold of Kansas already a distant memory. She would hold Ella and Ella would wrap her wings around her. 

("You got the prettiest eyes ever," Leann would whisper.

"Nah nah," Ella would whisper back, "you got them big ole brown eyes. Ain't nobody competin' against those."

Leann would smile. It would be small and Ella would hate it. "They're just brown, Ella."

"They're yours, though. That makes them the prettiest."

For one moment, Leann saw the world in something more than eyes. Saw it as something beyond her pa's brown eyes and cruel hands, beyond Don's green eyes and kind heart, beyond even Ella's own blue, blue eyes. Leann breathed through it all and blinked.

Her eyes remained brown, but that was alright. Ella liked them.

After all, they were just eyes.)
written in november of 2018

aka. internalized homophobia through the lens of eyes and God.
© 2019 - 2021 miistical
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