Monday, April 28, 2014
Amalia was shopping in a big home improvement store with a small grocery and large electronics section. She needed to get a few things for her modest new apartment and her modest new life. A select few things had survived this transition: Her long blonde hair, her love of antique fire-glass ceramic figurines and the change. Amalia was not tall. 5'5" might have been exaggerating things. But she was a fighter, whether anyone believed her or not.
A month and there had been nothing. Not a whiff of anyone or anything to hint that someone from her previous life was around. It didn't help her relax, though. The first month she'd been away hadn't been far away enough. They'd begun sniffing around almost immediately and she'd had to move again. The second month took them a bit longer, but they'd still found her. So far, this had been the longest amount of time that she'd been free of the fear of discovery.
She'd needed an answering machine, an extension cord, a gallon of milk and a pair of blue jeans. Amalia had never owned jeans before, but they seemed to be a very popular clothing item and she presumed that it would be a good thing to buy. Her small apartment also had a tiny window box that she'd filled with English Tea Roses that were yellow with pink edges. She needed to pick up some rose fertilizer and charcoal soil additive to keep them healthy.
If she hadn't been so intent on reading the label for the answering machine then she would have seen him sooner. Talbot. Four isles over, ten feet down. 6'3" of lanky blonde muscle and sarcasm. Pretending to read the pamphlet about a fax machine. She ducked down, but it was no use. He'd spotted her. Within moments she could smell her own fear rising around her in tangy waves. She silently thanked her small frame and stature as she eased her cart hehind her. She walked as quickly as she could manage in her crouching position. It was no use, she'd have to move so there was no point in her buying those things. No more flowers, no need for an answering machine. No jeans. No hope.
She finally made it to the end of the isle and peeked around the corner toward the large doors. Clear. She looked the other way, also clear. She stood up to check where Talbot had been standing. So very not clear. He was only 20 feet away and looking right at her. The slightly dopey grin that used to undo her insides beamed down at her. Instead of that happy gooey reaction, her intestines seized together in a frozen, angry clench. He was here to collect her and restart their "life together." The problem was that she liked her life out here. It was difficult, but it was her life and her choice. Not her responsibility. His smile faltered as she bolted out the door.
There were carts outside. She tried her best to move them behind her as she ran, but his long legs were made for pursuit. He'd been trained to track and trained to run down his quarry, even through a somewhat deserted parking lot. She'd made it only a quarter of the way around the building and he'd scooped her up from behind. Amalia struck out with flailing arms and legs, forcing him to adjust his grip and cradled her small frame in a solid but surprisingly gentle cage. He was half crouched around her as he whispered into her ear.
"Calm down, Princess... You'll be home soon." All the fight that she felt when she thought of this moment left her in one shuddering full body sob. She was still trembling as he covered her mouth with a strangely scented cloth.
When Amalia woke up she was wrapped in soft down blankets that were lightly scented with rose oil. She had also been bathed and clothed in a satin nightgown. If it had been the first time, it might have been a horrible invasion of her privacy. But it had happened before. More than once before. It never made it any easier to deal with, but there was still the matter of her being stuck, once more, in her gilded cage. A single tear loosed itself from her left eye as she moved to rise. She wasn't bound to the bed, but the doors would certainly be locked.
After a quick search she located slippers and a soft, thin fleece robe and set about searching the posh room. It was most likely a hotel, but her father was powerful and rich. It might have been one of the plethora of large homes that he owned or one of his minions owned. Didn't matter, really. A cage was a cage was a cage.
The door across the room was locked, as expected. There was a locked window on the wall opposite the locked outer door. The fireplace was large, but revealed nothing in the way of a secret passage or even an activator. She'd escaped once before through a hidden passage-way, so it was worth a look. The second door was opposite the fireplace and wasn't locked. Her heart started pounding again as she cracked open the door. Two scents jumped out at her. Talbot, her sarcastic captor and Felicia, her "friend and confidante." They were talking heatedly behind the door.
"And now you care?! What happened to 'thank god she's gone' and 'how can you stand this'? Best friends you were not... and now. Now? Suddenly you're up in arms about keeping her under lock and key? Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh at you or pity you." Amalia was dumbstruck. Felicia was yelling at Talbot. She'd always liked him. They both had. But unlike Amalia, she could leave or she could stay. She could date Talbot or she could move to Tibet. Felicia always had a choice.
"You know why I'm here... As if you're so concerned. Now your 'dearest friend' is back and you're freaking out. Damn, I thought you were smarter than that. The fact of the matter is that she's back. I found her and for better or worse, she's back. He'll pass judgement or whatever the plan is, and she'll serve her 'penance.'" Talbot sounded tired. Even his signature sarcasm was weak.
Amalia couldn't take it any more. She burst through the door. Felicia looked shocked and Talbot took a deep breath and his shoulders seemed to relax.
"Bought time you woke up... you had me worried. Sleep well?" Felicia's oddly feline features always intensified when she smiled. Her dark hair and green eyes were slightly sharper and she glimmered slightly as if on the edge of a change.
"Well enough." She looked back and forth between Talbot and Felicia warily. Felicia was lying, she could smell it. Talbot had a look in his eye that warned of quick action. He was ready to break up a fight if it happened. His normally easy going quick wit masked his real function: guardian. "I'm curious though. If neither of you really wanted me back here, why couldn't you just leave me alone?!" Talbot didn't bite at the bait, but Felicia's eye twitched.
"Fine. If you can't appreciate what we've done for you, then I'm out of here. She's aaaaall yours, 'my love.'" Felicia glared at Amalia first, then at Talbot before opening the door and stepping behind an oriental screen. Her change was quick and she growled back at the dumbstruck duo before loping out of the window, off the low roof and running full speed across a field behind the building. Amalia moved to close the window and Talbot ran in front of her.
"No no no... we're not going down that road again." He closed the window and locked it with a small key. Amalia crossed her arms and glared at him. He met her eyes and glared back.
"I'm not going anywhere in this get up. You know where I was living so I can't go back. I'm stuck here, just as surely as you are, apparently." Talbot broke the glare first.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
This wasn't her bed. Actually, it wasn't her couch. This wasn't her blanket and most likely wasn't her house. She searched through the blur of her memories to find some shred of a clue to where she was or how she'd come to be there. Her mouth was fuzzy and she desperately needed to brush her teeth.
It was a very old, probably well loved albeit hideous, couch that reminded her of the one her roomate in college had bought for their old apartment. A "couch with character" she'd called it. The smell of coffee wafted in from down the hall adjoining the smallish livingroom, followed shortly by a young, very pale young man wearing blue Tardus patterned boxers and slippers that looked like giant brown monster feet. His hair was long and disheveled from sleep.
The young man was rubbing his eyes with the palm of his left hand and carried an oversized white mug that read "Jackass Juice" in hand written black marker. When he saw her laying on the couch he almost dropped the mug and ran back to the kitchen yelling "Kurt!"
Saturday, April 12, 2014
"I like to think of these abstract and difficult to define meanderings of fate as spectors of possibility. Spirits of Destiny, as it were."
Alice doodled as the guest speaker postulated. It was a 'free but mandatory' lecture that all of the developmental psychology students were expected to attend and write a paper about. Mostly he'd droned on about the idea of commonality of human experiences and the developmental gauntlet that many people experience between 22 and 30 when the pathways in the brain solidified upon reaching adulthood. There was quite a bit of discussion about whether the gauntlet was caused by this solidification or if it was just a by-product of the specific "after college, pre profession" transition.
"What I may have taken a while to get to is this: There is an infinite array of avenues that anyone can pursue, regardless of their initial path. Life is flexible and there may be times that things may seem meandering and disheartening, but always remember that there are always options. Even if you finish college with a Theater or Philosophy or Business degree, that doesn't mean that you necessarily have to do that for the rest of your life. My point is do what feeds your soul and makes you happy. If you can find a way to make money at that thing, then do it if you can. The path to happiness and fulfillment is not always a straight line. Thank you."
With that the room erupted into heartfelt applause which Alice was surprised at, to be honest. He did have a point, but what it was and what it had to do with developmental psych were up for debate. She cut through Maloney Park on her way from the Student Event Center in Annex I to the Humanities building and her next class. Alice was mulling over something that the speaker had said about this being her 'gauntlet' and laughed a bit to herself. Gauntlet was a good word for the last year.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Alice wasn't an early riser by nature. She hadn't been to bed. She couldn't sleep, which definitely was out of the norm. Usually she slept like a dead person. But every time she closed her eyes she saw his face. James. Just the thought made her lick her lips and set her hands shaking. He'd appeared in her bar last night, like the ghost of Jacob fucking Marley, except decidedly sexy. Her body hadn't been on her side and it had taken massive amounts of self control not to jump up and wrap her legs around him. Or to run the other way.
He'd looked perfectly polished, but there were lines around his eyes that hadn't been there before and his clothes were slightly rumpled. To the outside observer he was pristine, but she knew him better than he knew himself, or at least she thought she had. The James she knew wouldn't be here. The James she knew would be in Denver still. He'd be pensive and probably moping about the situation, but he would be reconciling with his wife and trying to salvage the pieces of his life that she'd broken.
This James was new. He was different, somehow. More broken, but also more solid. He'd managed to pull through some, no doubt self-imposed, gauntlet and had pulled himself together in the process. Just the thought made her mouth water, which brought back the metallic sting of guilt. She was with Ben. She might love Ben, actually. What did she feel about James?
She had loved the old James. Did she know this James? She wasn't so sure. A rustling up the stairs signaled that Grace and Rick were awake. She set a fresh pot of coffee to brewing, grabbed her newest list and threw away the dead pen so that she could retrieve a newer one from Grace's pen drawer.
Alice eyed the three columns scrawled intensely through bleary eyes. The column on the left side of the landscape oriented paper was James, since he was where she was coming from. The column in the middle was Ben, since it was where she was right now. The third column, on the right side was ominously blank. Grace floated down the stairs and gave Alice a great big bear hug from behind.
"Goooooooood Morning!!" Grace kissed Alice's hair and froze. "What the fuck is this?" Alice stiffened as if being caught with something horrible. She grabbed the paper before Alice could reach for it. "What. The. Fuck?" She was much more calm now, but that didn't mean she was any less angry.
"Good morning to you too. I have news..." Grace held up her index finger to signal Alice to wait a second. She calmly poured a cup of coffee for herself and one for Rick who had just appeared in the kitchen. While Grace's hair was always a mess of curls, Ricks was usually mostly well-behaved. This morning, however, the left side of it was sticking straight up. Grace motioned for him to sit to Alice's right while she sat ominously calm, to her left.
"Okay, explain." Grace looked, almost raptor-like, at her sister and handed Rick the piece of paper. He swore under his breath. She took his hand across the table but didn't break her gaze.
"James is in town." A fresh chorus of cursing came from both Grace and Rick. "He showed up at the bar last night." Rick, the ever calm and contained, slammed his hands on the table and got up in a rush. Both girls stared at him.
"And what the fuck are you thinking?! You're just going to break up with Ben? He's the real-deal, God-damnit!" He grabbed his head with both hands and raked his fingers through his hair. "You can't really be debating this thing? That fucking bastard is still married, you know that right?" Alice couldn't believe what she was seeing. Even Grace was staring at him as if he was a completely different person. This mollified Rick's sudden outburst a little and when he continued it was a much more characteristic volume and calmer. "Do you even care?"
"That is not fair, Rick. She was with James for almost a year and a half. She's known Ben for six months and they've only really been together for two months of that. Sit down before you bust open your hernia scar." Rick sat down, gulped down some coffee and sucked his teeth pensively. Alice couldn't decide if she was more surprised by Rick's reaction or Grace's sticking up for her. Grace had been James' biggest detractor for a year now. Alice could feel the heat in her face, but for all her blushing and intense emotions, she couldn't cry. Not that she didn't want to, but something was holding it all in, making the emotions roiling inside her all that much more intense.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't..." Rick started to push his chair out again, but Grace just grabbed his hands and gave him an all-too-patient look. "I have to finish this thing with James. I don't know if that means breaking it off with him or with Ben or with both of them." She took a deep breath to steady herself. "What I do know, is that like this..." She poked with both shaking pointer fingers into the wood of the table. "Like this, I'm no good to either one of them... and instead of breaking three hearts, I have to get my own fixed. Or at least get my head right."
Monday, March 24, 2014
Her place. Not their place. It wasn't the first time that he'd lamented that fact. They had been together for almost a year and he couldn't think of anything that truly tied them together. Sure, there were feelings... urges. Passion. He'd even told her that he loved her a handful of times. Granted, they were all via text message, but it was out there.
He put on a bright smile despite the melancholy thought and drew Alice into his arms. Pulling her back in tight to his chest she wrapped her arms around his as he breathed in her scent. Her hair smelled like sunflowers today, but the under current of figs and brown sugar was always there. She giggled like something bubbling up from a deep spring and leaned her head back onto his chest.
The park was full of people, but it always felt like they were alone. An island on a soft blanket. The sun was warm and strong, but James still felt cold inside. He had to end it. It wasn't fair to Rebecca.
"I'm not a beast... you're a temptress." She was leaning back on him now, trying to push him back onto the blanket and giggling bubbly again. It was infectious and soon he was on his back, laughing heartily with her. She rolled over and propped herself over him. Her loose blond hair draped alluringly over her left shoulder. It was wavy, wild and free-spirited like her. Without a second thought, he ran his right hand through the waves and pulled her gently to him for a kiss. Pulling away gently, she laughed again and smiled broadly.
"If I'm a temptress, you're definitely a beast."
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Bright sunlight bathed her face, making her wince in pain. Too bright, too early. Candice rolled over, away from the hot glare, on the old couch. Once she was facing away from the light, her eyes snapped open and panic gripped her roiling guts. She patted herself down under the old, hand crochetted afgan. Candice was minutely relieved to find her pants were on as were her underwear, bra and socks. She also made note that there was no tell-tale tenderness between her legs. She hadn't had sex, consensual or otherwise, last night.
She was, however, laying on a very old, very comfortable couch under an equally old burgundy afgan. She also had no idea where she was or how she had gotten there. Candice pulled the blanket over her head and rolled back over to try and survey the room through the holes. Almost on cue, a skinny young man shuffled into the room. His longish hair was rumpled from sleep. He had on large fluffy slippers that looked like giant furry blue monster-muppet feet, a threadbare Aquaman t-shirt and rumpled, baggy pink boxer shorts.
Monday, January 20, 2014
"Hey beautiful." Her head whipped around so quickly at the warm, deep voice that her neck cramped up. He was just standing there, half leaning on the bar as if it were the most natural thing in the world. His jeans and t-shirt were dark blue and soft looking. His open coat looked warm and so did his satisfied but questioning half smirk that always reminded her of a puppy asking for permission to kiss her face. James... She dropped the mop.
Alice had to remind herself to breathe. She also had to resist the urge to jump into his arms and kiss him. Her body wanted to, pretty desperately, but her brain was still in a shaky sort of control. She had a death grip on her apron, just in case her resolve slipped. She could almost smell his cologne. The mop was still on the floor. Tony finally looked up.
"This guy bothering you, doll face?" She bit back a bitter laugh and shook her head towards him. Alice shoved her shaking hands into her back pockets and forced what she hoped looked like a reassuring smile to the man quickly going into bouncer mode. As satisfying as it would be, watching Tony throw him bodily into the alley, he didn't deserve that. At least not yet.
"Nah, I'm alright." He was already half out of his booth and at the reassurance and fake smile he slid back to where he'd been sitting. James took the reassurance to Tony as a sign that it was all clear to move towards her. Suddenly panicked, she stepped back quickly, narrowly missing tripping over the giant yellow mop bucket as it wheeled away. This time Tony was up and standing next to her. If her hands had been out, instead of in her pockets she probably wouldn't have stumbled and almost fell.
"Something ain't right here, sweetness." Tony put himself between the former couple and held out his hands. He pointed to James. "State your business buddy." Tony wasn't a big guy, but he carried himself in such a way that people knew he meant business.
"I'm not here for any funny business, I just wanted to say hi and let Alice here know I'm going to be in town for a while." This made sense to Tony, and Alice's reaction aside, he looked like a decent sort of dude. Clean cut, well spoken and wearing good clothes at least, which in his experience tended to mean that he was alright. He shrugged and pointed to Alice and spoke to James again.
"I ain't going anywhere and I'm driving Alice here home unless her boyfriend comes and gets her. So don't think you're gonna get anywhere with her. Alice is a good girl. A nice girl. She doesn't need or want guys coming around here and trying to scare her..." Tony poked James' chest for emphasis. "...and if I find out that you're being a creep to this good girl, I'm going to take it real personal. Ya dig?" If it had been any other short guy trying to intimidate a tall guy, it would have probably been funny. But there was a reason Tony was such a great bouncer and it didn't have much to do with his vocabulary. James looked understandably shaken and took a couple steps back toward the door.
"Right." He looked from Tony to Alice and back to Tony. "Okay, I'll leave." Back to Alice. "I'm going to be in town for a while, and if you're available, I'd like to take you out for coffee." Back to Tony, with his hands up in a calming gesture. "Just to talk. I know her from Denver. We were... friends." He swallowed hard in the pause and walked backwards toward the door, hands still up. Alice turned to Tony.
"Its okay Tony. I got this..." She walked over to the bar and grabbed a napkin and a pen. Her hands weren't shaking anymore, but she was still a bit uneasy about what she was doing. Had to be done, though, or she would be kicking herself for the rest of her life. Walking back to James, she held out the napkin and looked him straight in the eye.
"I'm off on Monday after two... I have class till then. Give me a call Sunday and we'll figure out where to meet. Just coffee." James opened his mouth to say something else but Alice cut him off. "You better go, before I change my mind." He pressed his lips together, looked down and nodded. With his head still down, but a smile stealing onto his face, he turned to the door. He was almost there before he turned back quickly.
"Nice to meet you, Tony. Alice, I'll talk to you later." And with that, James was out the door and walking down the street almost as suddenly as he had appeared. It was lucky that Tony was standing close by Alice because as soon as James was out of sight through the windows, her legs collapsed under her. She would have hit the floor hard if Tony had not caught her. In the background, the Coke machine continued to drip and Tony's phone vibrated with a new text message alert.