Lex Barrie

@lex_barrie


“I would like to dedicate this number, to the love in our lives”

In the spotlight, she looks like an angel, her dark brown hair dropping so elegantly over the straps her red dress. With a low cut back, it almost reaches the tip of her spine. Her olive skin can only be described as satin, for it reveals an innocent and playful nature as she dances. Her blue eyes captivate the essence of the sea and the pending waves against a lonely shore. She ever so delicately presses her ruby lips onto her microphone, as she whispers the lyric of her song, her black heels clicking against a marble floored stage.

My “love” was once hers. We used to wander down the staircase, her on my arm and my t-shirt slipping off her bare shoulders. But that was before that day. When the telephone rang and neither of us answered it. The day my love became her most hated possession.
Now, she lays down on the stage, her sapphire eyes protruding into the souls of those who catch them. Her hair flips as she rolls onto her stomach. Then suddenly, she is looking right at me. Her name is Miranda and she performs at this club for Naval officers and officials every Friday night.

* * *

That was how we’d met. I was a lonely body in and out of existence. I’d sleep with any girl at the end of the bar who had “take me” dripping off her lips and then leave them high and dry come morning. With no living relatives, all I had was the darkness in the back of my mind. That’s where the memories of war came in screams of agony as my tears try to drown out the noise. I’d find myself drinking away the loneliness, until the last drop of liquor slid gracelessly down my throat.

One night, Miranda saw me at the bar, drifting in and out of the dead sea. She offered me a dance. My two left feet certainly didn’t help, but eventually we started to rock and sway. We spoke of dreams and desires as the night went on and suddenly I found myself forgetting the darkness. A few weeks later, I asked her to come by my place because she “accidently forgot her sweater at the club last night and I wanted to return it”. When she stopped by, I lead her through to the living room where hundreds of rose petals were laid out on the floor in the shape of two simple words: Be mine?

Her smile parted the clouds hovering over my world and at last, I could see the light.

I was sober for the first three months that Miranda and I dated. Until one night, I met with some fellow officers at a restaurant before our last tour. Within an hour, a purple haired waitress with too much eyeshadow asked me if I wanted a drink, realizing that I was the only one without. So, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have just one. But my “one” soon became three and then six. Before I knew it, my vision was blurry and my head was spinning back into a familiar black.

I woke up the next morning tangled with a naked body, as it breathed slowly in a deep sleep. For a moment, I thought it was Miranda…but purple was not her favourite colour.

What had I done?

I tried to stand up but the pounding in my head stopped me dead in my tracks. I ended up on my knees in a pile of my own clothes, slowly maneuvering through arms and legs before stumbling out into the hall of her apartment. No one ever needed to know about this, no one.

I met with Miranda for dinner later that night. She started to tell me about her night but her voice was drowned out by my conscience banging against the rocks of my new memories. She didn’t need to know, no one did.

The past crept up on me about two weeks later though, the day before I was due to leave.

Miranda played back that message from the call and her voice came over the line.

“Hey! It’s Mindy, you know, the waitress. So that one night we spent together, god I play it over and over in my mind. Can we talk? I think we have something here and I really, really don’t want to let it go. Leave me a message when you get a chance and make it hot.”

The phone striking the receiver still rings in my ears. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Who was that?” I had asked plainly. Her hand whipping around to smack me was the only response I got. I looked back at her in shock.

“I did everything I could to help you!” she’d cried “And you…you didn’t even care.”

Nothing could have made her storm out of my life any faster. She packed her stuff as I tried to explain. How much of a fool I was. How I couldn’t live without her. She swore she would never speak to me again as the door slammed in my face. I hadn’t seen her since. Until tonight.

* * *

That was five years ago and it’s true I have no business coming back here. But after this long, I thought maybe I could take a chance. She sits up when we lock eyes. Everyone stops and stares as I walk towards the stage. My blue lipstick shimmers in the light from above the stage. My heeled boots make a similar clicking against the floor. I untie my blond hair from the bun I’d been keeping it in, letting it fall slowly over my black skin tight dress.

“It’s the captain! Judy Holt!”, whispered a fellow seal in the corner booth.

“I didn’t know the captain was here!”, whispered another from across the room.

Miranda’s legs dangle before me as her hand grips the microphone.

“What are you doing here?” she asks calmly, barely meeting my gaze.

“Please Miranda…I still care about you. I want nothing more than to prove that. Will you give me another chance?”

Her vacant expression leaves an icy feeling in my heart but finally, she faces me.

“I…”

The first round of bullets that shoots through the windows in that moment breaks the glass in a shattering display. Officers were propelled by the force of the penetrating bullets while others dove under the tables and chairs to avoid them. In a split second, I pull Miranda to the ground and shield her with my body. The second round leaves three officers dead in front of us and blood spewing out onto the floor. Lights were flashing from cars outside and then just as suddenly as it had started, there was silence.

“Somebody call 911!” cries a captain to the air.

“Just breathe, please, hold on…” moans a waitress to a wounded young seal.
Screaming and blank expressions fill the room as blood and tears flow like rivers.

Everyone remains motionless in fear, as if the gunmen would soon return.

Miranda is curled up against my own aching body just below the level of the stage. Neither of us move for several seconds before she finally tears away.

“Judy…Oh my god. Judy!” she screams as she points at the bloody hole in my right hand. It takes her a moment to realize what I’ve done.

“You saved me” she weeps, as she presses her lips to mine.

Hers are salty but soft as a rose’s petals. Her familiar touch steadies my heart to a palpitating pulse like the waves on a shore. But it was all only for a moment before another pain washes over me. I looked down and saw the blood slowly trickling from my abdomen.

“Judy! Hold on, okay?” she pleads “I love…”

Miranda’s voice becomes as distant as the approaching sirens as I saw the pool of blood enlarge with each second. She is calling my name as my eyes begin to close. In her embrace though, the darkness doesn’t feel quite so lonely.

August 5, 2018


Ollie Oxford was just 6 years old when he looked at his parents and said “What am I? What can I be?” His parents looked at him and said “Ollie, you can be anything you want to be”.

“Anything?” thought he “Well, if mommy and daddy say I can be anything I want, then I want to be just like them”

The next day, Ollie decided to be just like mommy. He went upstairs and opened the studio door.

Mommy was with her paints and pastels, colours and pens, working away. She turned her back for a second and SPLASH, SLOOSH, SPLAT, a terrifying noise came from the corner.

It was Ollie, of course, covered in blue and pink mixed together. When he saw mommy he looked down and started to mutter, “I wanted to be like you but I used too much blue”.

“Oh Ollie,” said she “Be who you want to be, don’t be JUST like me. Now, clean up this mess”

The day after that, Ollie decided to be just like daddy.
He went down the stairs and opened the garage door.

Daddy was with his nails and hammer and pencils and glue, working away. He turned his back for a second and BAM,BLAM, BRAM, a terrifying noise from around the bench.
It was Ollie, of course, with a nail, some glue and a hammer too. When he saw daddy he looked down and said it once more, “I wanted to be like you but I messed up the glue”.

“Oh Ollie,” said he, “Be who you want to be, don’t be JUST like me. Now, clean up this mess”

The parents knew they had to talk to Ollie.

“But what will we say? What will we do?”

Daddy had an idea, he thought might just work, so he turned with a jerk, to the living room cabinet.

When Ollie came down for dinner that night, he was lost and upset, looking rather blue, then suddenly his parents showed him something new.

“It’s a photo album” they said “Of all your old pictures!” They opened it up and saw that inside, Ollie was in costumes from Halloween.

He was a fireman, a nurse, a ninja and a pumpkin. In each picture he had, he made a funny face or jumped up and down. He had a pirates hat on his ninja costume and a Zorro mask for his nurse.

Looking at the pictures, Ollie realized he didn’t have to be just one thing. He was creative, goofy and fun. As long as he knew who he was, it didn’t matter what he was. He could be anything he wanted to be.

August 5, 2018


As if he was sucking on a sour lemon drop candy, his lips would purse to hold back the tears he would cry alone in his room, every night. The place where he couldn’t come out from, for fear I would see his eyes, bagged and black like the shadow of emotions that hung over him and the feelings of guilt that were painted on his face, in acrylics.

But what could I have done?

When I saw him take those pills, one everyday for two years, some days they worked while others were like this. Where he was washed away by the tides of his thoughts, the waves continually bashing his head on the rocks of his memories. I guess there were never enough pills to make him feel alive.

But what could I have done?

When I saw him lying there with the pill box of antidepressants the doctors gave him for the week, empty beside his cold, lifeless body, clutched in his gnarly fingers, as if he had tried to hold on one last time before blowing out the candle of his life as the wax was still melting.

When his flame went out though, mine burst into anger and hate.

What could I have done?

And each time I asked myself, each time I tried, why would he do this? Didn’t he know he had us, the ones who loved him? Who would wait outside his door hoping to see him and tell him everything would be okay? Each time I tried, there’s nothing but silence. Like when the snow falls the first time, the light and soundless flutter of the flakes as they fall, but then comes that cold wind that chills you to the bone that blows out that same damn candle that was keeping you warm and suddenly you’re in darkness and don’t know where to go or who to turn to.

But what could I have done?

His mind was always wound up like a spool of thread too tight to unwind. Now I feel this anger and hate, that he gave to me as his parting gift from this world. I am filled with it and no matter how hard I try to hate him for leaving me, for making my mom cry herself to sleep every night for another two years or for making me wish I was dead too, I can’t seem to escape the ringing in my ears, that voice that says “He never meant to hurt you, he just felt there were no other options”.

I hear this voice and think that I should’ve cared…because he was my dad, right? So shouldn’t I have cared about how he felt? Shouldn’t I have tried to help him? Cause I heard it was better to talk than keep those emotions bottled up inside. Cause when those waves of tears and emotions come crashing in, all you can do is drown and you die…alone.

My dad wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t even there half the time. Too full of his antidepressant pills that never seemed to work anyways. When I think about him, I think about how we all watched him suffer. From the crack in his doorway, where I would see him take one pill everyday, for two years and yet, never say a word. I wish I had told him, how much I loved him. Or at least, done something. But what could I have done?

August 5, 2018


The Ringmaster’s wagon had a faded red and gold wooden exterior, with black door knobs. The only thing impressive about it was the endless collection of daggers hanging inside, wall to wall. As the sword swallower, the Ringmaster had become accustomed to keeping his daggers out for all to see, some were rusted, some were golden, some were razor sharp. None were exactly like the rest. I visited him twice a week, because he asked me to. He’d been worried about me since he took me in at age 4.

I knocked on the door and within seconds, he appeared, still in his black eyeliner and silvery green jumpsuit from last night’s performance. His face contained two small black eyes and a large nose which held a pair of rounded spectacles.

“Well, if it isn’t my lion tamer. Mornin’ Dimitri. Coffee?”

The coffee was cold, bitter and lumpy. It scratched at my throat making me gag. I stared at the assortment of weapons to appear distracted. As per usual, one set of hooks remained empty where a dagger no longer hung. I had asked him about it, what it looked like and where it had gone but every time he responded with “I think it had a rose, a golden one maybe? But it was stolen boy! Will you focus!”, so I learned quickly never to ask again. I watched him chug an entire cup of slow roasted death before he even looked at me. We now sat facing each other on the floor, where he usually slept. My head rested against the wall behind me, with my legs outstretched. I had always hated these visits.

“So, in our last session…”

This was about the time he went on a tangent about how I lacked confidence, needed to work harder, needed to smile, needed to pretend that I cared for once in my life. He was the man with the swords daring everyone to do better, or else. We had to be the best.

When I was young he used to just hit me when I did something wrong. Honestly, I would have rather been beaten until I bleed then listened to him go on. At one point I just started staring at the bags under his eyes. Once he realized I wasn’t listening, he became annoyed.

“My son” he spat, rolling his eyes, “was up all night practicing and driving me crazy. His routine last night was horrid! The little failure claims he just has to “perfect” it.”

The clowns once told me why the Ringmaster hated his son, Angel. The Ringmaster’s old partner (a lion tamer like myself) was once supposed to inherit the circus. He’d taught many new performers how to control the lion from within it’s cage. They said he was the best, but one day, he disappeared. Rumor got around that he’d been driven off by a student who couldn’t keep up, one who always messed up routines and made all the wrong moves. Angel. The Ringmaster was furious, complaining for weeks about how the show would never be good enough without a lion tamer. That is, until I showed up. Soon after, Angel moved on to acrobatics, but even with his change in position, he was still a slow learner.

“Anyways,” said the Ringmaster with a huff, “I wanted to reserve today’s session for us to discuss those flashbacks of yours. You must learn to keep focused when they occur or that lion will take advantage and strike, like he almost did for the third time last night. Have you still not seen the killer’s face?”

Before I could answer, my head started to throb. I could hear a woman’s piercing scream setting my eardrums on fire. Then as suddenly as it had begun, the screaming started to fade away, filling the open air with silence.

“Dimitri? I asked you a question! Have you seen the face of your parent’s killer?”
I wasn’t dealing with this anymore.

“No, I haven’t”. I pushed past him, got up and stumbled out of the wagon, without another word.

* * *

They always went like this: My mother screamed as she held me close to her breast, while my father is beaten to death by a rounded object that I can never make out. The attacker always reached out to grab me after that. Then, it ends.

I hated the images and I hated the Ringmaster for forcing me to remember them. I don’t care who killed my parents. I didn’t even know them, I was too young. I walked past wagon after wagon, my hand to my head as I watched performers practice. The clowns juggled until they passed out, the acrobats twisted into pretzels that never came undone. If you wanted a roof over your head, you could come and live here, but the downside was you’d have to kill yourself in practice each day to prove your worth. I circled around the big tent when I ran smack dab into a blond haired, blued eyed boy, holding an assortment of acrobat costumes. It was Angel.

“You should go in the tent and practice” he said simply, squinting at me. The boy was a reincarnation of his father, hardcore and stubborn, mostly to avoid being hit. He was nothing more than a piece of clay, ready to be molded into his father’s golden boy.

“Maybe later, my head hurts like hell.”

His stared at me with cold eyes, before he pushed past me to carry on his way. I watched as he left, shaking my head. Then I looked down and saw one of his costumes. I picked it up, huffed in annoyance and followed in the direction he’d headed. I looked around behind every wagon, then I started to open doors. Finally, I walked up to one that was already ajar. I pushed on it and looked in.

“Angel? You dropped…”

My voice failed me as I entered a room of a thousand pictures, newspapers and maps that lined wall to wall. The pictures were of a tall, dark haired man with a thin mustache, who always wore a lion tamer outfit. Next to him was a small child being held by a young woman. In the far corner, there sat a solitary teddy bear on the only shelf. I walked towards it cautiously and picked it up. It was small, missing one eye, with stuffing coming out from it’s right paw. On the back, was a string with a finger hoop. I didn’t hesitate to pull it and just as I did, the teddy bear song started to play, sounding as if the batteries were about to run out.

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…”

Suddenly, I could hear my mother’s screaming again, louder than ever. My father begging for mercy from the attacker. The pictures on the walls came out and swallowed me up.

* * *

My mom clutched me, as I pulled my teddy bear close. My father looked up at his attacker, tears rolling down his face as he screamed,

“Please! I am sorry for leaving, but I had a family to raise! I couldn’t live that way anymore…show after show. Please!”

The person was hooded but I could finally make out the murder weapon from this view. A dagger. Rusted and golden with a red rose on the handle…just like the one missing from the Ringmaster’s carriage. The attacker raised his weapon and shoved it into the heart of my father, as he watched him die. Then he removed his hood and stared at me.

A blond haired, blue eyed boy stood before my mother and I, smiling proudly as he whispered, “If my father can’t go on without a lion tamer then I will give him one. The circus will be perfect!”

He slashed my mother’s throat, grabbed my collar and pulled me from her dying embrace. Then everything faded to black.

* * *

I woke up laying on my back on the floor of the wagon, the teddy bear still in my arms.
“You shouldn’t be here Dimitri”.
Angel stood above me, staring into my eyes.
“I…I was looking for you” I stammered.
“You should be with your lion, practicing. Making my father proud!”
I rolled over onto my knees, as tears formed. I clutched my teddy bear, gasping, “It was you…”.

A smile slowly tore from the corner of his mouth, “Oh Dimitri, you always were my father’s favourite. I figured the same passion to be a lion tamer was in you as it was in your father and I was right. You see Dimitri, my father was wrong about me. I didn’t mess everything up, I gave him the best lion tamer he’s ever had.”

He walked towards me, with the same hateful glare he had in his eyes, the night he killed my parents. My pulse raced, anger building up like a lump in my throat. No. Angel gave his father nothing. I knocked Angel down and climbed onto him as he wriggled on his back. I grabbed his head and began smashing it hard against the baseboards. All the anger I ever felt for his father, this circus and him, all that energy was spent smashing Angel’s skull until I saw the blood forming in pools below my knees. He lay there motionless for several minutes before I collapsed to the floor and sobbed. What had I done? I searched around desperate for an idea. How would I hide the body? That’s when I saw the box of matches.

* * *

The night swept over the land, as I now stared over the circus grounds from the top of the hill. The wind was blowing at my face, guiding me away. The flames from the wagon would soon be put out, only for the firemen to discover the body. They would find me soon if I didn’t leave. Turning away, I pulled the bear out from my backpack and looked at it’s broken face. I smiled as I pulled the string, listening to the bear sing its song.

August 5, 2018