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faces of david
Whether it was people talking about what her uncle had done to her or about Daniel Beck raping her or fabricating stories about her father, Casey Gordon had been a subject on the lips of the people of Pauper since she was a child. People had been talking about her most of her life. She'd gotten used to it, though certainly not comfortable with it. When Andrew Marx finished with his questions about David, and people in the diner were whispering, not quite behind her back, Casey just went on with the business of waiting tables as usual, ignoring most of it, playing off the rest as if it didn't bother her, something she had gotten good at over the years.
She didn't have to put forth much effort to look preoccupied this time, though. Since she woke up, seemingly, with a stranger in her bed, life had turned itself upside down. Her little brother was in trouble again, this time with the police, over some vandalism thing--he'd even spent a night in jail. Her father's health had taken a turn for the worse, though it was hard to even identify gradients in his condition anymore--he was still alive, and that's all that mattered. And, now this guy from the FBI had come to town asking about David, about where he might be headed next.
She'd told Agent Marx that she had no idea where David was going, that she knew nothing much at all about David, not where he had come from, not even his full name, not anything. Of course, by the time Marx had talked to her, he'd heard enough from other townspeople to know that she and David had been close, very close, and Marx didn't seem to believe a word she said.
Of course, Casey couldn't tell Marx what she did know. He would think she was crazy. Hell, she was wondering if she might be crazy for believing what she'd read in David's journals. But, even more than wondering if she might be crazy, she wondered if she should feel guilty. She'd been in love with David. She hadn't dared say that, not to him, not to Johnny, not to Jo, not to her own father, not even to herself except in those brief hallucinatory moments as she drifted off into sleep wishing she might dream about her bright future. However quiet she'd been about her feelings, she was sure she'd loved David, and somehow, assuming the things in his journals were true, assuming that WAS David in her bed that morning, she believed she should have recognized the man she loved, even if his face was different, even if he resembled a man she'd hated for most of her life. She should have recognized David behind that new face, should have heard his soul speaking to hers even though his voice sounded different. She should have just known it was him.
But, she'd panicked. She'd woken up with the face of her uncle looking at her. And, too often in the past, she'd dreamt of her uncle's face on other men's bodies, or Daniel Beck's face, or her father's. Faces were strange things to Casey. In her dreams, as she slept at night or as she daydreamed when the customer traffic was low at the diner, people's faces changed constantly. No one was ever who he seemed. A man who was supposed to love her and care for her would be completely recognizable one minute, then the next he would be some monster, taking advantage of her, forcing her to do things she didn't want to do. A woman who was supposed to protect her from such men turned to a desiccated corpse. Her brother's face turned to that of a leech, it's suckermouth desperate for her blood and her strength. She'd dreamt of David with her uncle's face before. She'd dreamt of him with Daniel's face. She'd dreamt of him with her father's face. Seeing him that morning, with a face so much like her uncle's, it wasn't the change itself that shocked her so much, nor even the idea that it might be her uncle there in the bed somehow in David's stead. What frightened her was that when she'd finally let another man into her life, let one get close to her, he'd turned out to be nothing but a monster.
Having read bits of his journals since he'd left town--she hadn't turned any of them over to the police--she was finding it hard to think of David as a monster, even if, on the surface, he'd turned out to be more of a literal monster than she ever would have suspected.
In his journals, he talked about telling his secret to other people in other towns. The prospect always scared him. But, there were many times that he'd done just that--told his secret. Those times, he spoke in his journal about trusting these people with his life. Casey had loved him. She'd been fairly sure David had loved her back. So, she had to wonder, what more did it take for him to trust her with his secret? What would it take for him to trust her with his life?
With Andrew Marx in town, looking for David, she knew that at least some of what he said in his journals was truthful. Powerful people wanted him captured. She didn't know why exactly they wanted him, but she knew now it was true. And, she also knew that she had a chance to make up for not recognizing David that morning. Maybe he didn't think he could trust her with his life. But, now, at least on some level, whether he wanted it or not, his life was in her hands. People in town had made it quite clear to Agent Marx that if anyone knew where David might have run off to, Casey would know. And, though she didn't know, Marx thought she did, and she would do her best to let him keep thinking that, let him keep thinking she was hiding something useful. If he believed she had important information, he might stick around long enough for David to get a nice head start. She'd dreamt of a future together with David, but for now, helping him run away was the best she could have. His life WAS in her hands, and she wouldn't let him down.
Late the night Agent Marx talked to her, Casey was looking through David's journals again, and she found something she hadn't expected to find, a hint to where he might be headed, a reference to a town, Circus, Colorado. She'd never heard of it, and when she got out her atlas, she couldn't find it on the map of Colorado. But, though David barely mentioned it in his journal, he seemed hopeful, like he thought he might belong there, like it was a place for monsters.
She found herself in tears at the thought of David being a monster. True, in a way, he was. But, in all the ways that really mattered, he was anything but a monster. She'd fallen for him so easily. Three months they'd known each other, but it was barely a week after he showed up in Pauper that she knew she felt something for him. There was just something about him, something she couldn't see, but something she knew was there anyway. Now, she wondered if maybe she hadn't seen the monster inside of him back then, this innocent monster, like Frankenstein's creature, wanting only to find a place where he'd belong.
Casey knew well the sense of longing for a place to belong. She'd been taking care of her father and brother for so long now, she sometimes had to concentrate just to remember who she was outside of that life. The sad part was most of the time she couldn't find anything when she looked. She would just see the girl working far too hard to care for a brother who didn't appreciate it and a father who was still going to die, no matter what she did to delay it. Occasionally, she'd see a younger version of herself, a girl who'd been hurt too many times and just wished for some fairy tale escape from Pauper, Kansas. She dreamed some nights that she might run off to Hollywood with Jo Nielsen, that she might be famous. But, fame, she'd realize, was not what she wanted. She didn't need to have the public, the press, her fans, dictating who she should be. She wanted to be able to find her own self somewhere. With David, as hard as it was for her to believe it, she thought she'd found something resembling herself.
In all their late night talks after work at the diner, she'd felt more free to be herself than she could ever remember. She'd told David that one night, when they'd come back to her place to sleep, and they'd both had a laugh at the clich?of it. Of course, laughter drifted into something else, something magical--though neither of them would admit it, lest they end up laughing again--and they'd fallen asleep in each other's arms, the taste of each other's mouths on their lips. That was the night, she remembered, that she had nearly asked him to make love to her. She wanted him to wash away everything that had happened to her in the past, to wash away her uncle and Daniel Beck, to wash away her father and every other boy who's turned out to be something other than what he seemed.
"Ironic, I suppose," she said to her silent apartment. Johnny was at a friend's house. Her father was asleep in his room. The place was silent, and except for her cat, void of any movement at all. Ellis had been sitting in the windowsill. Now, hearing her voice, he jumped down to the floor then strode over to her as if it was nothing important, just something he felt like doing. Casey put down the notebook of David's that she was holding and picked up Ellis, put him in her lap, where he curled up and let her pet him.
"What do you suppose is in Circus," she asked the cat. "You think there's a bunch of freaks and monsters--" She stopped herself before she started crying again. David's not a monster, she thought. David's not a monster.
She picked up the notebook labeled as "#3", flipped it open, glanced at a drawing David had done long before he'd ever come to Pauper. It was what appeared to be a werewolf, staring up at a woman, silhouetted against the full moon. "The dog's in love," it said below the picture. Casey closed that notebook, tossed it onto the stack of them.
"You think he'll find some place to belong," she asked Ellis. The cat didn't even look up. He just purred. "I've got to teach you English," Casey said.
She looked at the pile of notebooks, and the stack of other books David had amongst his belongings. Two books there she had bought him. Two books of poetry. Robert Frost and John Lazarus. She stared at them for a moment, then reached over and grabbed the Lazarus collection. "Ok Ellis," she said, "let's see if we should go after him or not."
She put the book down. Where did that come from, she wondered. The FBI is after him. I'm not going to chase after him too. Her life was hard enough already. She didn't need to complicate it further. She didn't need to--
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. His life is in your hands, she told herself. And, you love him. Don't forget that. He may be a monster, but you love him.
She picked up the book. "It's up to John Lazarus," she said. She opened the book, and read aloud the first poem she saw.
"The road to Heaven,
As short from here
As from there
As from everywhere.
The road to Hell even shorter.
The threat lies not in choosing the one
Because it is easier,
But in choosing it because it is more fun."
She frowned at that. She'd hoped for something more obvious. She wasn't usually too superstitious. She wasn't one to read her horoscope--well, she wasn't one to trust in what it said anyway--or ask questions of a Magic 8 Ball, though she did have one. But, she couldn't make a decision like this on her own, especially when she hadn't really known she'd be considering what she was considering until it had come out of her mouth. She'd hoped the book could tell her what to do, to stay and look after her dying father and her troublemaker brother, or run after David, catch him before Agent Marx did, warn him of what was coming, and maybe, just maybe, stay with him, escape with him.
She wanted the book to tell her it was ok to drop everything and run after the monster. But, it wasn't going to be that easy.