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something like safe

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Molly sits in a courtyard at Myriad, surrounded by friends. They chat about class, about old plays, about projects they’ve been working on. They sing; they laugh; it’s all perfectly wonderful.

And then, unbidden, her second mouth starts spitting ugly words, growing louder by the second, the words spilling out despite her every attempt to keep them in. She shouts out every awful thought she’s ever had about each of her friends, every awful truth about herself. Whether or not she means it doesn’t matter; what matters is the disgust and anger and confusion on all their faces. What matters is that she hurt them.

They leave. Everyone leaves.

Except for Klaus. He stays, hand outstretched. The second Molly’s palm meets his, he yanks her forward, and they’re waist-deep in the pool she remembers too vividly from years ago. Before she can even blink, he pushes her under the water, using his other hand to tug her down by her hair. His fingers are close to her back mouth--close enough to bite, so she does, desperate for a way to escape this.

He yanks his hand back, sputtering curses. Molly takes the opportunity to lift her head up, coughing and spitting. “Klaus, why are you—”

“Don’t,” he bites, harsher than she’s ever heard from him. “I know what you did. What you are.” Every tender look he’s every given her is completely annihilated by the disgust and hatred that fills his eyes now. “Farber told me everything.”

“Moritz?” She looks up, finds him standing at the edge of the pool, expression blank. “Moritz, please, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I—please just tell me what’s happening.” He can never look away, but he refuses to speak to her, just keeps click-clicking endlessly, ignoring her pleading.

Klaus scoffs. “I can’t believe I let you trick me into liking you.” He pushes her under again, and she doesn’t fight him this time. Both mouths gulp in water, and her only thought is I deserve this.


She wakes up.

It takes a moment to get her bearings. Takes rubbing a section of her blanket between her fingers, turning on the light and finding her books stacked on the nightstand beside her, to convince herself she’s in her own room, safe and far from the place that raised her.

She reaches for her phone, and her first thought is to call Klaus. The thought surprises her—she isn’t used to having people she can trust with this. Isn’t used to acknowledging how much Klaus means to her.

But as wonderful as Klaus is, as confident as she is that he would never really hurt her, Molly isn’t quite ready to call him in the middle of the night, dragging all of her shadows straight into his mind with her. So instead, she calls the one person she’s sure will understand, the boy who shares at least a handful of her shadows. They grew up in the same dark, after all.

Moritz picks up almost immediately. “Molly? Is everything alright?”

She already feels foolish for calling. “Fine. Just a bad dream.”

“Ah.”

“Moritz . . .” she doesn’t know where the sentence is leading until the words have tumbled out of her mouth. “I’m sorry I tried to drown you.”

“Oh.” He sounds half-confused, still adjusting to being woken at 2 in the morning. “Molly, you were as much victim as I was.”

She shakes her head. “You never hurt anyone.” She wishes she could say she never meant to hurt him, that she doesn’t know what came over her, but the dreadful truth is that she does know. That loneliness, that desperation, that fear and anger and hate—she can feel it all, even now, and doesn’t that make her exactly the monster she fears she is?

“I’ve hurt many people. I hurt people just by being.

“Doesn’t everyone?” Molly sighs. “Tell me something good, Prince Moritz.”

He says simply, “You.”

She almost laughs. “That doesn’t count.”

“You are good,” he insists. “You’ve made mistakes, but . . . My dearest friend once suggested that trying to be better is the very definition of being good.” His breath catches the tiniest bit when he continues. “You are not your past, and you aren’t a monster. Someone as awful as you believe yourself to be never would have taken my arm when I arrived at Myriad. A monster would never be so kind to every person she meets, never be so willing to find the good in the world.”

The words mean something, coming from him. With anyone else, it would be impossible to quiet the voice in her head screaming that it’s all fake, that the only reason anyone loves her is because they don’t know any better.

Moritz knows better. There’s no hiding from the prince. He knows it all, every terrible thing she’s done, all the worst parts of her. And he stays anyway. It means something.

More than anything, Moritz fears silence--Molly knows it, even if he doesn’t say so outright--but Molly craves it. She’d give almost anything to be rid of the voice inside her head always whispering about her worst qualities, her deepest fears. The harder she tries to keep the words from escaping, the louder they get in her mind.

She can’t get rid of it, so she does her best to listen to things that are good. Things like Moritz’s voice as he awkwardly tries to think of other good things to say to her. He tells her about music, about orchids, about his American penpal and humidifiers and the sound rain makes on rooftops.

Molly listens, and feels something like safe.


The next day, when she arrives at school, Klaus is waiting for her with a bouquet of flowers, and Molly almost melts. She accepts it with a smile. With two smiles, as a matter of fact. “Did Moritz put you up to this?”

Klaus scowls, but it quickly turns to an exasperated grin. “What, I can’t have a nice idea on my own?”

“No, it’s just—nevermind. It’s lovely, Klaus. Thank you.” She leans over to press a kiss to his forehead before grabbing his hand and lacing her fingers with his.

He smiles again, clearly pleased at her reaction. “You deserve something good,” he tells her.

As they walk to class, hands still clasped together, Molly realizes she’s starting to believe him.