Griffin tapped the paintbrush against the side of the bowl before bringing it up to the mannequin’s neck. She contemplated, then made two dots, one more oblong than the other. She fanned the red paint with her hand, lightly blowing on it ‘til it gained the desired effect.An arm reached over her head and plucked a fluffy, pink hat on the figurine’s molded hair. It slipped down over the eyes, the nose catching its fall.Griffin pulled it off and threw it in one of the drama department’s shady corners. Her head tilted back to look Win in the face, “It clashed with the morbid feel I was going for.”The boy shrugged, “I for one thought it added a touch of irony.”She turned back to the doll, “It did, I’ll give you that, but it would have made no logical sense.”He slid down next to her, “Ah, how’s that?”She used the heel of her hand to brush away a stray hair, “Well, if you were running from a vampire, the last thing you’d be worried about was your hat.”Win’s upper lip twitched, settled back down.“What?”He kissed her forehead, narrowly avoiding blue lips, “It’s just amuses me that you can talk of logic and vampires and not bat an eye.”Her eyelids came down in a deliberate motion, “There, my eye has been batted. Happy now?”“It would appear so.”Griffin grunted and turned back to the mannequin, “Hand me the seam ripper?”He retrieved it from a pile of used brushes and placed it in her hand. She positioned it against the fabric.“So what happened?” Win asked casually, leaning back on his hands.The seam ripper slashed through the model’s shirt, “What do you mean?”Win tilted his head to the side, maintaining his offhand tone, “What I mean is you don’t spend after school hours on one of your dummies unless you’re upset.”Another rip through the figure’s skirt, “It’s nothing.”“The mannequin would beg to differ.”She set the seam ripper down, “I had a fight with Cory. That’s all.”The muscles in Winn’s face locked up, one by one, “Griffin.”“It wasn’t anything big, a little argument,” her hands knit together in her lap.“Griffin,” the growl in his throat intensified.“Nothing happened. He didn’t—”Win grabbed the back of her shirt, cutting her off. He rolled the fabric back and a hiss escaped his teeth. Her back resembled an abstract that, half way to completion, the artist decided was grotesque and tore to pieces.“Oh, Griff,” his words were soft but she jerked away and stood, pulling her shirt down.He stood, too, facing her across the dummy, “Why do you keep letting him do this to you?”“It’s none of your business,” she looked down at the wooden floorboards, tugging at her hem line.“None of my business? Have you even looked at your back?” His voice verged on shouting.She stooped down and starting piling up her paint bowls, ignoring him.“That’s just great. You’re going to keep on pretending that none of this is happening while that excuse for a douche bag is using you for boxing practice. Well, if that’s the way you want it then—”A bowl smashed against the mannequin’s plastic chest, spraying red paint across the doll’s face and clothes.Griffin stood on her feet again, screaming, “You think I like being smacked every time I say the littlest thing wrong? You think I like being hit over and over because I can’t make it to some concert? I don’t. I hate it. And that’s why,” a trapped breath rattled in her throat, “That’s why I told him to fuck off when he called this afternoon.”Win licked his lips, “Good for you, Griff.”A tear spilled over the ledge of her eye. It became a waterfall as more cascaded down her cheeks. Win pulled her into his arms and she sobbed against his shoulder, soaking the cotton.“Griffin,” he whispered when she stopped shaking.“What?” She hiccuped.“Can I have the mannequin?”She looked over her shoulder and sighed, “Might as well. It won’t do me any good now.”
Cory Stevens woke that night with chills. His feet thumped to the floor and he dragged himself to the window. His arms were raised to shut it when the face on the other side registered. He nearly shit himself.