Masks

Sasha places a hand on Jason’s bare shoulder, dainty fingertips on the hard muscle of his arm. “Jason,” she says. He does not turn his head.

“You’re leaving me,” Jason says, and then after a pause adds, “Again.” He tries to keep his tone flat, but Sasha can hear the accusation, can feel it biting at her. She feels the soft flex of Jason’s arm as he turns a page in his book, and she wants to sigh.

“Do you think I’m beautiful without the mask?” Sasha asks. “Am I still worth knowing with an ordinary face like this?”

Now Sasha has Jason’s attention. His book falls open on his lap, and he turns to stare. “It was never the mask that I found beautiful,” Jason says, and again, there is something there he doesn’t want to be, because that’s Jason’s biggest weakness and his strongest asset, that inability to detach. He grabs Sasha by the wrist, and if it were anyone else she’d be terrified. “It was what the mask turned you into that I wanted,” Jason tells her. “I wanted the animal lurking in the back of your head, I wanted the violence and the fear and the anger I saw in your eyes.”

Sasha shakes her head, strands of red hair falling across her face. “You wanted another one of you,” she says. “You fell in love with yourself.”

Jason’s grip on Sasha’s wrist tightens, almost painful now, but she doesn’t pull away. “What if I did?” Jason says, and his voice is smaller and quieter than Sasha has ever heard it.

Sasha looks across the room, to the polished red helmet sitting on the table. “What did the mask turn you into?” she asks softly.

Jason mulls the question over for several long minutes before he answers. “A man,” he finally says, firmly.

Sasha purses her lips. Shaking off Jason’s hand, she walks to the little table and picks up the helmet, staring at her smooth young face in its polished surface. She clicks it open and brings it to Jason, fits it over his head, tucking up the long red hair he’s refused to cut after all these months. Another touch and the helmet whirrs and clicks again as it closes. Sasha’s palm is pressed against the helmet, at the cheek. ”Maybe the next time we meet, it will have turned you into something more,” she says sadly. She leans forward, and places a long, lingering kiss on the place where Jason’s mouth should be. Jason reaches a hand up and runs his fingers through her hair, but then she breaks away and steps back, and his hand is left hovering in the air.

Sasha is staring at Jason now. There is a heavy lump in his throat. He wants to say so many things, but in the end he is silent as Sasha turns and walks away.

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