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Short Story: “Family Face”

Another short story snippet based on my novel character Zouriel. Basically another piece where I explore his character and background, his default setting when his character arc begins in my novel.


Zouriel did not dwell much on his heritage. It was hard to completely block out his origins, all he had to do was look at his face in the mirror and see those tell-tale signs of his father’s genetics. But the fact was that he had been so young when his father died and any attempts to recollect much from those years of his childhood only resulted in some vague fuzzy snippets of being raised high up in the air and soft words he could no longer understand whispered in his ear. In the end it only left him with a deep sense of frustration that such a big part of him had been thrown out in some big spring-cleaning in his head many years ago. All he could do to console himself was the thought that maybe those early childhood memories had been filled with so many traumas that he’d intentionally made himself forget them.

So, for most of his teens the only reminders he got that he was not quite like the other kids was when the teasing and bullying focused on his physical appearance, rather than his awkward behavior. The other boys mimicked the shape of his eyes by stretching their own eyes out in a crude mockery and perhaps there was a slander or two about people that shared his heritage. For a long time…Quite some time actually, there had been nothing positive about his mixed genetics, nothing that made him too sad about the forgotten memories of his father and his side of the family. At least until Marcus.

Marcus had zeroed in on his eyes and called them “amazing”. He’d run his fingers through his hair and told him how wonderful and soft it felt. When they’d managed to steal moments together, curled up close he’d spoken of how he was envious of Zouriel’s heritage, as his family was the whitest most boring family ever. So boring and conservative that his father had more or less bullied him into enlisting in the armed forces.

For the first time in a very long time Zouriel had begun to see what is was Marcus saw in him. He saw the shape of his eyes as a constant reminder of his father and that he had loved his mother so much that they’d never stopped trying for a child, even when the two of them had entered middle age. He realized that his vague, fuzzy memories all carried signs that his father had also loved him very much, but that in the end his sickly heart had just been too full to keep on beating. He suddenly felt pride that there was so much of his father in his face and not much of the mother who had been so ashamed of him when he’d finally lashed out against his bullies and tormentors. A mother who would surely reject him fully if she knew he was sleeping with another man.

Even though their life was far from safe, far from simple, Zouriel found himself making plans with Marcus, plans for what they would do once they’d been shipped back home. Perhaps they’d get a place together; perhaps they’d even dare make their relationship public. And Marcus suggested they get some time off and try and look up some of Zouriel’s relatives on his father’s side, people who he realized he never had any memories of. Was this also his mother’s doing?

“Perhaps we’ll have to take a trip to China”, Marcus had said, grinning in the dim light, a spark of mischief evident in his hazel eyes.

“You do know I don’t remember a word of Chinese, right?” Zouriel had replied.

“Oh, we’ll figure something out”, Marcus had replied, running a finger down the left side of his face, from the corner of his eye, caressing his cheek and then planting a kiss on his chin, working his way up to his mouth.

Despite the ever present danger his life had seemed easy, settled. He had found someone who had healed some part of himself and he could sense that he had helped Marcus too. Together they’d survive this, survive the army, the secret missions and all the horrible crap they made them do. As long as the two of them could have these moments, where Zouriel felt like he was a complete person, someone attractive and worth it, it would be okay.

“You have amazing eyes, Zou.” was Marcus constant reminder as they lay in post-coital bliss in some hidden corner, basking in the heat and proximity of the other. He’d gaze into Zouriel’s face as if he was some perfectly carved marble statue in a museum. Zouriel never knew what to say or how to respond, but Marcus never seemed to care.

That’s why it hit him so hard, why it made the hurt so much worse as he lay there, sprawled against the wall in the dusty, dirty corner of that underground cave, with the stench of blood and death all around him, feeling his own eye dribble down his face in a river of blood. That was one of those eyes that Marcus had loved so. That was his face, previously caressed by his rough, but gentle fingers. Though he was allowed to keep one eye, they still tore that one out and replaced it with something artificial, something fake. The scars covering the left side of his face, stretching out like a spider web over on his right side had erased much of what his father had left there. And Marcus has been completely taken from him.

So never again would Marcus or anyone else be able to remark on his eyes and clearly see his heritage there. Never again would he be able to believe anyone complimenting his appearance. Never again would he be able to see his father when he studied the features of his face.

And never again would he be able to look at his own reflection in the mirror and feel anything else but disgust.

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