She sees it the entire evening. How both of them are trying to hide. The two of them in the closet, silent except for soft murmurs that Venus deliberately doesn't listen to. If they exchange words, Venus doesn't hear them. She sits outside and stares at the ground until the lights start flickering in the corners of her vision, and then she keeps her eyes shut until they emerge.
When they stumble out their lips are red and kiss-swollen, Jupiter red from her neck to her hairline and Neptune implacable even with her shirt rucked up out of her skirt. Neptune leaves the closet, hair a mess from Jupiter's hands, and Venus's own fingers can't help but go to touch the back of her neck. It's bare, uncovered by her own hair.
People think she's dumb a lot of the time. She's not, not really. She just wants to assume the best of the world. Even if she's wrong.
She knows the truth about herself, even if it's not the full truth- she looked up the slurs people threw at her in the halls of their school and she felt seen by them. She's known there is something about her that is wrong.
The simplest version of it is: she is not the kind of kid that she's supposed to be. There is something in her that is more than worth hating, something that makes the whole world sneer and snarl and tell her to do better.
Venus isn't kind, either, no matter how much she wants to be.
It hurts, to keep trying like this. She's tried so hard to be good for so long. Tried to bury the aching deep down. But there's no hiding from the evil in her. There's no shutting it out. She can deny it and deny it but the truth is written across her body in a message she cannot for the life of her figure out how to rewrite.
There's a reason that Group South hates her even though she's never done anything to them. Her body is a neon sign that she can't turn off, saying: "There is something wrong about me, and you do not know quite what it is. But it makes me easy to hate."
Venus tries so hard to be good. It doesn't matter. The world sees the truth, no matter how many times she lies. God sees the truth; the way she's trying to grow out her hair, the patches of shaven skin on her arms, the looseness of the button-up shirt, the softness in her voice as she apologizes over and over again.
The dark is no hiding place for her. There is no concealing the beacon of her body, the cracking of her voice. She makes herself small, and it's not enough. She makes herself kind, and it's not enough, and it doesn't work. She can't stop herself from aching.
Okay, so here's the truth: somewhere in her heart there is a little bit of hate for the two of them, the way they kiss in the closet and don't speak. No one will ever love Venus in the dark enough to touch her, to press their lips to hers; no one will love the angle of her jaw, the sharp edges of her. Not even these girls she's loved for so long- these girls that she think might come closer to understanding her without hatred than anyone she's ever known.
She's caught between two worlds; the world that wants something from her, that wants her to shove down the rebellion in her heart until it's squashed and she's tougher and stronger, tough enough to shrug off the way she hates herself and her body, and the world of this cabin, where Jupiter and Neptune kiss, dark swallowing up the words that they cannot speak.
The two of them aren't able to speak the truth. Jupiter and Neptune are just two girls pretending to be good until the lights turn off and they can touch, soft, silent, concealed, a secret no one needs to tell. Venus knows that Jupiter can't speak the words, and she knows that Neptune isn't going to make her, but you don't need to say something to know it's true. She hates to see them hiding.
The lights outside are whispering without voices.
What she wants is a pen, to rewrite the world. She wants to remake the world so that it doesn't hurt her or the girls that she loves who will never love her until she learns how to speak. She wants to remake her body so it doesn't ache to look at. She wants to stop hiding.
Radio static hisses in the silence and speaks her name in honey. Venus was never going to be good in His eyes, let alone beautiful. The lights flicker outside in Morse code and her heart is beating double-time in her chest as she stares down at it and wonders how the devil will feel.
She can feel the two of them looking at her.
Neptune says they need to get out of this cabin and they do, they spill out silent and breathless into the night. They run, all three of them, sneakers pounding the forest floor, fleeing from the lights. Venus knows it's futile. She has known it's futile since the beginning.
The lights won't stop. Truth be told- and it must be told- she doesn't want them to.
Jupiter trips and Venus is underneath her. They get up again and Jupiter falls over again. Neptune and Jupiter keep speaking, keep saying words, keep asking her to be strong and to run so the devil won't touch her.
The devil is making a promise. The devil says they can all be free- for a moment if not forever, in the yellow open wings that say truth. The devil will give her a light that will heal instead of hurt- what light does not save, it burns away, and this light is not godly. The only thing that will go up in smoke here will be their hiding places, and none of them will need to speak to hide the truth. The devil says she can make a world where no bodies hurt and no words sting, no silence wounds. A place where no truth will be punished.
A better kind of salvation.
There is light, singing in her mouth and flashing in the corner of her eyes, and feathers in her hair, and each and every part of her feels like hope. Feathers, and wings, and light enough to live by that will not scorch her skin clean. Venus opens her eyes to the light and lets the devil in.