Some called it a blessing to be able to see the emotions of a fellow living creature as clearly as seeing the color of its hair, or how prominent its cheekbones were. It was a gift to be able to feel exactly what another feels with the slightest touch; to feel lies like lightning sparks and honesty like sunbeams.
Avory Robinson did not consider feeling what someone else feels - invading the deepest corners of his or her privacies and knowing any emotions that person held so tightly to his or her chest he or she cannot even see it personally - as a blessing.
To know people deeper than they quite possibly knew themselves was not a blessing.
She even didn't know what qualified as one anymore.
There are ways to shield herself from people's agonies: long sleeves, gloves, constant vigilance.
But it is so easy to get caught up in joy, in laughter, in the thrill of being alive. It is so easy to become careless.
She watches the newly engaged couple enter their party and there's a surge of joy that blooms within her fueled by the love of the friends and family around her.
She embraces her beloved friends. She is careful not to let her cheeks brush against theirs.
Alec and his fiancé, Kalib, flash their gold rings. She's never seen them smile so widely. Her skin hadn't made contact, and yet she can feel the adoration radiating off of them.
There is joy in the air and Avory feels every facet of it.
And she is happy. It was not a blessing, but occasionally it could be. It is a time for celebration and Avory puts down her guard and allows herself to feel with every capacity of her being and she is careless.
The couple walks her home after a night of celebration.
She is so caught up in the excitement that hangs in the air and the love she feels for her best friend. She is careless. She cups Alec's cheeks and kisses his forehead goodbye.
The weight of her mistake is felt immediately. A kiss. One of the deepest forms of intimacy. One of the most powerful channels for her empathy. How could she have been so stupid.
Every aspect of Alec's emotions bloom within her.
There is love. A deep, passionate love. And there is the euphoria of being alive. But there something deeper, darker boiling within his very core.
Avory feels all of it.
There is initially anger. Unspeakable anger. Anger that could topple mountains if released. Vicious anger that rages with the fury of a forest fire. Anger at someone – no, not one – someones. So many – so many someones, loved ones, trusted ones.
WHY DID YOU HURT ME IN THE NAME OF THE LORD YOU ARE NOT A HOLY MAN YOU ARE A MONSTER–
Underneath there is fear. Animalistic fear. The fear of a prey in the clutches of a predator. The fear of being seen – no, no, of being caught.
I CAN'T LET THEM CONDEMN ME I AM HAPPIER THAN I EVER THOUGHT I DESERVED WITH HIM YOU CANNOT DAMN ME FOR LOVING–
A deep-rooted sadness exists at the core. Grief. Unmerciful grief. It's overwhelming – it's consuming – mourning the loss of a childhood stolen from him.
I AM TRULY, DEEPLY IN LOVE BUT MY PARENTS REGRET THE DAY I WAS BORN SO WHAT DOES IT MATTER–
Avory pulls away with trembling hands.
Her lips barely whisper the shapes of the words: "It's still there."
Alec turns from her sheepishly. He knows of her power. He knows what she has seen.
"Well, it doesn't just go away," he stifles something akin to a laugh as he turns to face Kalib, "But it's fine."
Kalib wraps his arm around his fiancé's shoulders. He knows of his upbringing. He knows what he has seen.
They thank her for coming and wish her goodnight. She steps into her home. She watches as they walk down the street.
No emotion was truly her own but she feels a surge of love for her friend that is powerful and all her own.
The capacity to love despite anger, fear, and sadness.
That was a blessing.