One year and twenty-six days ago, the East Street Home for Girls released a fifteen-year-old girl named Evelyn Lumley with scarlet lips and serpent-like eyes. Her body was tight and long, breathtaking in motion, like her movements were choreographed as a delicate adagio.
Three years, six months, and seventeen days ago, Evelyn first disappeared behind the cold, stone walls of the Home as a rather disturbed little girl. Before three days had past, she filled the damp hallways with an outburst of screaming between prayer time and supper. Thirty-seven other girls and the five nuns on duty flooded the threshold of the bathroom door to find little Evelyn crouched beneath the pipes of a sink and flailing her porcelain arms at the mob of flying monkeys she imagined before her. “Purple acid!” she shrieked with terrifyingly strong lungs, “I must drop them in a vat of purple acid.” Sister Therese wrapped a writhing Evelyn in her tender arms and let her sip on milk and lemon tea until the fit was over, which lasted through supper time.
The next week, Evelyn acted very convinced that Lucy Molinelli transformed into a vampiric goat after six in the evening, so she locked herself in the kitchen pantry with a bread knife and threatened to bleed her veins dry before Lucy could suck all the blood out between her slobbery goat lips.
When Evelyn finally freed herself from the pantry, she pushed through the crowd of hovering nuns and waved the bread knife in circles above her head, like a demonic pagan dance with bursts of hysterical laughter. All the nuns clasped their hands and prayed that their Father save her soul from the Devil’s snares on her sanity, but Sister Therese began to suspect that Evelyn was more stable than she seemed.
Three months, seven episodes, and a thousand prayers later, the nuns began to doubt the effectiveness of their methods. They gathered their skirts and marched in somber strides to share with Sister Therese their concerns about Evelyn and her increasing insanity. She needs a psychologist, we have nothing for her here. She has no money, perhaps we could reach out to the church. But is the power of prayer not enough?
Sister Therese interrupted their conversation like a storm of coos from a flock of doves. “Have you all learned nothing in all these years?” The sisters recoiled. “Evelyn Lumley may be a disturbed little girl, but she is not insane.”
The nuns protested in confusion. But her visions and hallucinations…Her threats….She could hurt one of the other girls.
“I’ve looked in the eyes of insane little girls and Evelyn is not one. She is lonely and desperate for any sort of attention. Give her discipline not psychology. She stays until she’s sixteen.”
The next time Evelyn had an episode, she sprinted down the halls, scratching at her face, because a ferocious banana was chasing after her in the night. Sister Therese stormed down the hallway with a new leather belt and held Evelyn down for her alternative retribution. Sister Therese brought the belt down on her tender skin, long red welts immediately forming beneath each impact. Evelyn screamed with fierceness only capable of anger. The nuns gathered around the scene with their hands on their crosses, waiting for the Father to erase the anger from her screams and wash her with repentance. But profanities poured from her mouth as she cast all the hate in her heart on the nun hunched over her with a belt, each lash heightening her irrepressible fury. Thirty lashes later, the pain swallowed Evelyn’s petit figure and she collapsed on the floor with the same hardened glaze in her eyes.
“This,” Sister Therese bellowed over the whispering coos of the nuns, “is a child consumed by lies and deceit. Her body must be punished before her soul is cleansed.”
Just as Sister Therese intended, Evelyn stayed at the home until she was sixteen years of age. She had always been a quiet monster – lovely on the outside, but inwardly consumed by relentless resentment. Like many of the girls at East Street Home, her childhood was fraught with poverty and instability. By the age of six, Evelyn was trapped in the great foster children boom of the seventies. She bounced from home to home, became familiar with the abusive fathers and greedy mothers who collected foster babies like stock investments. Naturally, due to a particularly unfortunate sequence of homes, emotional instability, and moderate narcissism, she became wildly and stereotypically damaged. By the time she was thirteen, she had mastered the art of sociopathic breakdown and escaped the foster system with sheer strategic madness.
Her three years, six months, and seventeen days at the home were a haunting cadence of disaster and punishment. At the beginning, Evelyn was too consumed by the intensity of her bitterness to stop the games she was so dearly accustomed to playing. But the next episode earned her a lashing even worse than the first, leaving fiery wounds from the nape of her neck to the top of her thigh. When she tied a particularly annoying 10 year old to a chair under the pretense that bumble bees were flying out of her belly button if not constrained, Sister Therese dipped her hands into boiling water until her slender fingers were covered in blisters like bright red balloons. Her stubbornness persisted to the point of questionable insanity. But her porcelain frame weakened and her tenacity grew weary. Once Sister Therese locked her in the coat closet for eighteen hours without light or liquid, Evelyn’s concrete mentality began to deteriorate into a state of incessant volatility. She lurked around the stone corridors of the house at all hours of the night in her bruised and bloodied body with empty eyes, a consuming sense of beaten hanging heavily from her stare. Bats rustled in the crevices of the ceiling, sending her skittish body into a cold sweat. A simple touch from any woman triggered her nervous breakdown of sweat, tears, and isolation. She refused to interact with the other girls, even at meal times, but the sisters refused to feed her otherwise. She became a frail and skittish shell of the impetuous monster she once pretended to be.
The sisters began to question their support for Sister Therese’s alternative methods with Evelyn, and confronted the girl, now fifteen, in hopes of salvaging what Satan left of her soul. Evelyn refused to speak, glaring at the sisters with the serpent shaped eyes, completely hardened by three years of lashing, burning, and prodding – merely a conclusive battle finally broke her.
Perhaps Sister Therese felt too personally familiar with Evelyn’s incessant stubbornness that bordered insanity, so she never felt shame about bringing a young girl to her knees in profound agony. Perhaps she felt the arms of the Holy Spirit pushing her so strongly to physical violence, she felt it was justified. The other sisters quietly wondered why her façade remained peaceful and confident in her destruction, while Evelyn so clearly crumbled to the base of her existence, just as far from Jesus as she was walking through the doors almost four years ago. But when Evelyn moved out of the home and into the city the day after her sixteenth birthday, Sister Therese watched her with a shining smile, like the light of the Lord shone upon all of them and a chorus of angels blessed her countenance.
Felix Adler found his consciousness in the basement of a donut bakery on East Street, heavy with the stench of butter and cigar smoke. He had always considered himself a decent individual – not overly respectable, but not much like the unshaven misfits at the table in front of him with cigarettes hanging loosely between their lips and silver pistols tucked snugly in their belts. In fact, Felix had lived the first thirty years of his life rather seamlessly until a mild gambling hobby kept landing him in the basements of this bakery shops with burly men and debts to pay.
“It always hurts my heart a little to see a well-dressed white boy hanging out in the wrong side of town,” said a particularly intimidating gentleman at the table.
Felix had been in quite comfortable financial standing just six months ago, but with the passing of his mother and few other relations in the city, the money seemed to simply slip away from him. In an effort to mitigate the face of his hobby, he wandered from club to club, betting his money, and having more bad luck than good. “It’s no large sum you owe us, but we wanted to be clear that you’d have the money in a timely fashion. You understand that, right?”
Felix vowed to the merciful Father that he would never gamble again and nodded his head fervently. “I have, “Felix choked on his words, “three dollars in my pocket. And a check book.”
“You look so pitiful right now, I’ll let you keep the three dollars,” the man chuckled in pity, “but I’ll take the check now.”
When the burly gentlemen released Felix into the beautiful open air he so dearly missed during his twenty-minute experience as a captive, he found himself eagerly searching the sidewalks for his guardian angel.
Felix was not a rational man with his fleeting sense of reality and propensity for precarious situations. He grew up quite sheltered in a middle class family, until he lost his virginity to a whiny prostitute at the age of fourteen and found an insatiable thrill in doing things he couldn’t around his mother.
Perhaps this is why the thirty-two year old man became hopelessly entranced by the sixteen-year-old girl with cold green eyes, gazing curiously at a chocolate donut in the window of the store. And, as inadvisable as it seemed, he used that three dollars to feed her thin figure.
“What are you doing?” Evelyn Lumley demanded as he handed her a brown paper bag with the donut inside.
“Why, I saw you looking at it, and thought you might be hungry so…” Felix averted his vision from her intense stare.
“You think I’m homeless or something?” she snatched the donut and took a bite.
“No, hungry, as I just mentioned before you so rudely snatched my donut.” Much uglier on the inside than the outside, Felix thought.
“You bought it for me, so it’s my donut, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, but…” Felix felt an anger rise within him that countered his initial entrancement. “I would like my unappreciated donut back, please,” and he snatched it back with twice the ferocity with which she took it.
At that moment, Evelyn realized the first kindness that had been given to her, even in its shocking simplicity and lack of purpose. And Evelyn met the first person in her sixteen years that might be weaker than she.
“What’s your name?” she called out to his turned back.
“Felix,” he whipped around, immediately softened by the sound of her voice.
“That’s a cat’s name.”
“It’s middle name. My first name is Angel.” Her disgusted stare prompted an explanation. “My uncle died just before my birth, I was named in his honor.”
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
“You’re oddly unpleasant for a pretty girl,” he muttered.
“But I’m pretty enough to be unpleasant.”
Felix frowned but decided he agreed.
“You were right earlier,” she said, “I’m pretty homeless right now.”
He stared at her confusedly until her sad green eyes prompted a suggestion. “I live this way.”
“Not too far, I hope.”
Three weeks later Felix began noticing her drastic mood swings and long periods of silence, but his unquenchable lust for her young enchantment, and her parasitic nature maintained the bond between them. Evelyn latched onto his affection and gave him nothing in return, beyond the mild comfort of her somber presence. He shared his food and his flat and told her she was lovely, even after she showed him the scars on her back and her arms and her legs.
When she cried out in the night with cold sweat on her neck and nightmares of insanity, he listened to her scream and flail until the voices subsided and she fell back asleep, gripping his fingers between her bony arms.
As time passed by, Evelyn felt gratitude for the very first time, and thanked a man in the only way she knew how. But when her innocence escaped, and all she had left was a history of nightmares and an obsession with destruction, an inexplicable darkness settled over the sliver of humanity she buried within herself.
While Felix was carrying a box of breakfast streusels through the door, Evelyn hurled a hairdryer at his head and shrieked of pale-faced demons soaking her body in boiling water. “You took everything from me,” she shook him with white knuckles and trembling hands.
Felix weakened quickly to tears and cried out pitifully, still trying to placate her, “But I gave you everything.”
Evelyn screamed and cried like she acted for the nuns, and clawed at her skin in hysterics so convincing, she altogether forget if it was still for show. Felix scooped her up and plopped her on the couch as she writhed in his arms. “You’re testing me.”
“You don’t understand,” she yelled, grappling his shoulders in desperation, “I’m insane, don’t you see?”
Felix sat primly on a chair and looked at her intently, a face of realization. “No,” he stated calmly, a disturbed confidence within him, “if you were insane, I could love you. If you were simply damaged, I could love you. But I’m quite afraid you might be evil, and that is rather off putting.”
When Felix sent her away, she considered the great disparity from love and indifference, and how much easier the first was to lose. With the mentality that lighting never strikes twice in the same place, she began glazing donuts in the shop on East Street, assured that affection would not find her there – and the irony gave her a bit of amusement at the start, a self-inflicted punishment she embraced as a lifestyle.
Her life began to embody a certain stillness that comes from living perpetually alone. She rather preferred her temper tantrums, and loved to reminisce quietly over a cup of lemon tea about her ridiculous hallucinations and the horror on the nuns’ faces. Sometimes, a dark smile would creep across her cheeks upon the memories of such unfettered emotion and powerful release; even the agonizing punishment from Sister Therese instilled passion in her chest and created a sense of moral exoneration for her twisted soul. But without her innocence, her insanity, or a sliver of humanity, she could not seem to rekindle the energy it requires to love, or hate, or feel much of anything beyond indifference.