Living with guilt isn’t easy. Guilt is a stain on the soul, an anchor on the heart. Even worse is when the guilt you carry isn’t your own.
For the full seventeen years of Brielle’s life, she’s been inexplicably burdened with seeing the misdeeds of those around her, and of feeling their guilt over those wrongs. Her first instinct when the visions invade her mind is to ignore them, to shut them out. She doesn’t enjoy knowing the intimate details of someone’s life, whether that person is a stranger on the street, or one of the kids who bunk with her in the orphanage. She’s a firm believer in the right to privacy.
But curses are called curses for a reason.
The visions aren’t just sight and sound, but emotion, too. Raw, powerful, overwhelming. When Brielle was young, the guilt she experienced was too intense to hold in, and the only way to unburden herself was to confess, the words flowing out like a tidal wave.
This is why the Brady Bunch are currently glaring at her as she walks to Sister Agatha’s office. All blonde, they act like siblings, defending each other against anyone outside their tight little circle. Brielle has never been part of that inner sanctum, and not just because her long wavy hair is the color of milk chocolate.
Brielle’s an outsider everywhere she goes...forced to look in no matter how much she wants to be on the other side of the invisible wall.
The door to Sister Agatha’s office is open, and as Brielle steps inside, Marie—the oldest of the Brady Bunch—shoots Brielle a threatening glance over her crossed arms from her seat besides Sister Agatha’s desk. It’s a glance that tells Brielle she’d better keep her mouth shut if she knows what’s good for her.
Brielle swallows the nervous lump in her throat, the large room suddenly feeling stuffy. “You asked to see me, Sister?” she asks in a quiet voice.
Sister Agatha is a plump and stern middle-aged woman, her floral print blouse buttoned high up her neck. If she’s ever committed any sins, she mustn’t feel guilty about any of them, because her slate has always been cleaner than the floor she forces them to scrub every night. This is why, despite the nun's stringency, Brielle enjoys her company.
“Yes, Brielle.” Sister Agatha braids her fingers on top of her desk and puffs out her large bosom, pretty little crucifixes glinting at her collar. “Someone broke the sacramental wine bottle in the church last night, and as Marie has a fresh cut on her palm, I suspect she was involved.” She leans forward, her eyes drilling into Brielle. “Do you have any knowledge of this incident?”
“I don’t even know why you’re asking her,” Marie complains, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “I didn’t do it. It’s not like Brielle would even know.” She crosses her arms over her chest and purses her lips.
But Brielle would know. And the moment the denial leaves Marie’s lips, Brielle knows she’s lying. Another addendum of the curse. Brielle always knows when someone is lying, with or without the visions.
Whether she wants to be saddled with that knowledge or not.
Brielle’s nervous eyes dart from Sister Agatha’s stony gaze to Marie’s warning glare, quickly flashing away to the window where the light from the early morning sun pours in. It’s the safest place to focus right now.
If she doesn’t look at Marie, doesn’t come any closer, she might avoid the vision.
“Brielle?” Sister Agatha prompts. “And please, sit down and stop hovering in the doorway, it’s rude.”
Brielle knows better than to roll her eyes or sigh or show any kind of sass in response to Sister Agatha’s orders, meaning she has no choice but to sit in the empty chair next to Marie.
It doesn’t matter that Brielle’s holding her breath, or clenching every muscle in her body, or mentally willing her mind to be a fortress. The vision seeps into her skull like venom, fogging her sight and gripping her soul for a split second.
In flashes, she sees Marie kissing a boy in the shadows of the alley behind the orphanage, hears the boy whisper that they should try to steal some sips of wine, sees the two of them sneak into the church. She can feel Marie’s hesitation as the vision follows them to the altar, witnesses the boy removing the wine bottle and struggling to open it. And she feels Marie’s shock and horror as the bottle slips from the boy’s hands and shatters on the floor.