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."