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Bending But Never Breaking
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JewellRavenlock
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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“May Queen.”

The carton of eggs went flying into the air, making an impressive arc before hitting the ground on the other side of the kitchen with a series of crunches.

“Mother ****er!”

“Mama?” A pause. “Everything okay?” Sapphire called to her from the other room.

“Yes! Just startled.”

This was far from abnormal these days. Everything startled Jewell: a knock on the door, the chiming of the clock, someone saying her name, the bang of a trashcan on the street, the shriek of children as they dashed outside, the brush of a stranger’s arm in a crowd, the pan handlers in the marketplace, toast popping out of the toaster. On and on and on. A million little incidents that made her pulse race, her muscles tense, and her heart jump.

Hearing voices in her head was pretty much the top of the list though. The Namekeeper’s whispered commands were never far from her mind. She heard them waking or sleeping. Eilya Fitae Amaavian. Name your allies. Tell me their plans. Tell me what they can do. Now show me what you can do. Bend the water. Pull the blood from this man. Lie still. Do not move. Do not scream. Pretend you enjoy it. Fight this soldier. Fight five soldiers. Fight them with a sword. Fight them with your fists. Fight them with your magic. Protect the priests. Kill the intruders. Take out the witch. Summon some elementals. Kill him. Kill him. Kill him.

The deep, resonant voice of PathFinder was very different but it still shook her badly.

“Don’t do that,” she hissed at the unseen opal. Then she stared forlornly down at the carton of eggs. All of them were broken. “Damnit.”

“Who are you talking to in there?”

“Myself!”

Pause. “Oookay. Do you need a mop?”

“No. I got it.” She grabbed a dishtowel and knelt down, scooping up a few of the broken eggs that had escaped the carton and dumping them back in before mopping up the dripping yolks with the towel.

“My apologies,” the green rock sounded contrite. “I did not realize you were so easily startled.”

It was easy enough, now that she realized who was speaking, to continue the conversation in her head (so as not to arouse suspicion in Sapphire) even though it pained her to do so. She didn’t want anything or anyone in her head again. Ever. “**** happened. It’s made me jumpy. In fact,” she halted her task, fingers bunching up the dishrag as they formed a fist, “you’re partly to blame for all of this.” Upon realizing that, her renewed cleanup efforts took on an angry vigor.

It had been Koyliak’s suggestion that PathFinder (instead of ShadoWeaver, as Jewell originally imagined) might be able to help her when she had revealed to the Fashionista the precarious situation she had involved herself in with the Temple of the Divine Mother. So she had challenged for the green rock. Andrea had been kind enough to allow her to hold onto the opal in the days leading up to their duel, and The Empress had dared to hope that she would escape the coming months unscathed.

Only she hadn’t won the challenge, and despite Andrea’s offer to let Jewell hold onto the opal as long as necessary, she had been forced to return the gem to its rightful keeper because hen she had desperately asked PathFinder for help in protecting her from the calling of her True Name in the event that she did not win the duel, the opal had said no.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t. He just wouldn’t.

That was unforgivable.

“If you had just helped me when I asked, none of this would have happened.” Sitting in the loft above The Line, covered in soot and iron wounds and Ishmerai’s blood, asking Kal to kill her. The chains around her soul at The Namekeeper’s calling. Unspeakable deeds done in the dark of night. The fight at Sanctuary. A knife to the heart. Kal asking, ‘So, what brings you by, lass?’ like he didn’t know. All of it could have been avoided if PathFinder had just said yes. “So get the hell out of my head. I don’t want anything to do with you. Any of you. You’re all worthless.”

“I am sorry for the troubles you went through in February, child, but I am not sure now that I could have been of assistance to you even if you were my holder at the time. However, I do believe I can be of assistance to you now. I saw you at the Battle of Beltane. Your glamour is strong, but you are deeply hurt. You are struggling. Let me help you.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want your help! I don’t need it.”

“But--”

“I. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. It. GET OUT!”

And with a strength of mind most would doubt that she had these days, Jewell forcibly shoved the presence of the opal from her.

Perhaps he expected such an attack, but undoubtedly he did not anticipate the fury behind it. He retreated, sneaking back on the edges of her consciousness to whisper one more thing: “When you tire of being broken, you know where to find me.”

Then he was really gone.

Jewell stared down at the tiny, scattered pieces of white eggshell littering the floor, closed her eyes tight, and tried hard not to cry.
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PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2017 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I thought a basic set of shield rings wasn’t really enough. Not for what I wanted.”

The Temple had made her feel unsafe. Not just in her city, which had always been a haven, but in her own body. She needed to change that and soon. She was tired of cowering.

The knight flattened the piece of paper out on the table. The drawings were precise with Jewell’s neat handwriting filling the margins around each of the ten rings. Her legs were tucked beneath her so she could lean forward, stretching across the table to point out the different features. “The ones on the right hand are a little more typical. Two rings for focusing my energy coming out,” she pointed to the one that she would eventually wear on her pointer finger and the thumb of her right hand. “While these three are for forming an actual shield of energy around me if needed. And they all store extra energy too.”

“Sounds practical.”

“The left hand ones are a little more… interesting. Since energy comes in through the left, I wanted these to protect me from any energy or… well, anything from entering my body.” She explained as if they both were not familiar with the natural flow of energy in the body. It helped make the theory she was working on clearer in her mind to repeat it. “The thumb one will protect my mind.”

“So no psychic attacks?”

“Right. It will shield my thoughts too.”

“Good idea.”

“This next one protects my chi,” tapping the pointer finger ring. “And this one protects my physical body,” she tapped the pinky finger one. “So that should actually help with poisons. I might still keep my other ring though too. Just in case.”

He nodded, twisting the paper to read the label on the one for her middle finger. “Your soul.”

Her features darkened. “Yes. No one has my name and they never will. Not again. But this is just extra protection.” Ishmerai reached across the table to touch her hand. She brushed him off. “The last one is for my heart.”

“But Mira, this is for incoming energy and attacks. That will do you little good if you allow yourself to fall in love again. That is outgoing.”

“I know. I know. These are just preliminary ideas of what I want them to do, though. And that one should at least protect me from empathetic attacks and maybe anything else coming at my heart.” She paused. “Including an iron shiv.”
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PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2017 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Ugh!” she tore the little nodes they attached to her skin from her chest, tossing them away from her as she stepped off the running machine. Once the ground stopped moving beneath her feet, she doubled over, her palms digging into her thighs as she panted, sweat pouring down her face.

“That was terrific, Jewell.” She spared the therapist a scathing look in between trying to convince her stomach not to empty her meager breakfast onto the floor. “Come on. I told you that you have to be more patient with yourself.”

She didn’t have time for patience.

It wasn’t enough that she had defended her Overlord title three times since she had been hurt. It didn’t matter that she had fought a handful of people in Duel of Fists and won since she had been hurt. It didn’t matter that she had entered a Diamond Quest, made a good showing against Nayun and Harris, or that she could walk pretty far without losing her breath these days. It didn’t matter that Sapphire had reassured her that she actually was “a skinny little asthmatic badass.”

She was still weak. She was still infirm. She was still broken. She still couldn’t even jog without causing the machines to scream in alarm.

“It’s not… good... enough.”

“Jewell,” the physical therapist working at the place Eva had recommended her to folded his arms over his chest, “you have a hole in your heart. I’d say that what you’ve been able to accomplish is more than good enough. It’s actually pretty damn impressive considering the doctors still aren’t sure of the extent of damage the iron did.”

The doctors weren’t sure, but Jewell was sure: Permanent damage. Too much damage.

The stab wound hadn’t just stopped her heart. The iron had been in contact with too much tissue inside her body. It had burned whatever it had touched. It had scarred it. It could be years before it healed.

It could be forever.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Hello.”

“You are a bad ass bitch.”

“Don’t be sad.”

“You’re doing great.”

“You are strong and beautiful.”

“You are intelligent and funny.”

“You are worthwhile.”

“I love you.”

Jewell groaned, letting her forehead thunk down against her battered arms folded on the vanity surface. This was supposed to be part of her daily routine along with all the physical and occupational therapy she did. It was supposed to be helping.

She hated it.

Doctor Bronner reassured her that it would work. Eventually. She told her it was a common recommendation for victims of violent crimes to help with empowerment and self-esteem.

Victim. It was a terrible word, but it defined her now. Everything about her. She was a victim. That’s all she was. Someone harmed, abused, and broken by the Temple of the Divine Mother. Shattered glass shoved back together. A porcelain doll ready to break. She could feel the stress fractures spreading out from the scar beneath her ribs all the way to her fingertips.

She didn’t want to be defined this way. She didn’t want to be just another victim. Jewell wanted to be something more. Something greater. But her self-worth was gone, scattered far away and out of reach. She was left full of doubts, hopeless, anxious, weak, devastated, and scared. Things were never going to change. She was always going to be broken.

“No no no no no.” She propped herself up on her elbows, scrubbing her hands roughly over her face. This was only temporary. She wouldn’t be a victim forever. The Empress would rise above. She always did. She would rediscover herself or remake herself or re-define herself.

She would do whatever it took, and she would do it on her own.

Jewell lowered her hands, leaning forward against the vanity strewn with trinkets, jewelry, makeup, and a set of throwing knives. She stared at her reflection in the mirror: sun-kissed cheeks, a freckled nose, and slate grey eyes that had yet to lose their haunted look. She took a deep breath.

“Hello. You are a bad ass bitch.”
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The sun baked her oil-soaked skin.

It was nice on the beach. Nightmares didn’t attack her in the light of the midday sun. They couldn’t get her when she was floating in the water either, letting the murmuring waves cradle her broken body.

In the sea, she was queen. No one could touch her. Nothing could hurt her.

“Jewell? It’s time to turn over.”

“Huh?” She cracked an eye open and then smiled at the cabana boy. “Oh thanks Jared. Do you think you can grab me another drink?”

“Sure thing sweet thang.”

She giggled at the name, turning over so her back could soak up the sun a little more. She kept one eye open to watch Jared jog towards the small beach bar.

He had a nice butt.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She fidgeted with the ring on her right middle finger, spinning it around and around.

“Mama?”

“Huh?” She stopped staring out the floor to ceiling windows and looked at the teen faerie staring at her. Staring at her hand.

“Can you stop that? It’s super distracting.”

Her brow furrowed. “Stop what?”

Sapphire gestured to her hand. “That. You keep twisting your ring around. Are you okay? Are you upset about something?”

Was she okay?

Jewell was never okay. Not anymore.

Some days, she woke up and the panic was already alive and well inside her chest.

Some days, she woke up with her thoughts already racing.

The Veil was down. Fae were flooding the city. She should do something about it. She didn’t want to do anything. She was tired of the fae. She was tired of Faerie. Faerie politics were the worst. What could she do about any of it? Why did she have to do something? She should do something though. If they kept crossing the Veil, people might blame her. Her few remaining friends could be hurt. What if they hurt Sapphire? What if they turned Sapphire against her? The fae knew what she really was. They knew her. If people learned the things she had done in Faerie, they would leave her. She’d be alone. Even Ishmerai would leave. The penthouse would be empty. Quiet. Just like her life.

She should do something about it. What could she do? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. She was useless. Impotent.

“Mama? You’re doing it again.”

Jewell immediately stopped fidgeting with her ring. “Sorry.”
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 02, 2017 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ishmerai frowned, turning the mage lights on with a wave of his hand. “Why are you sitting in the dark? You hate the dark.”

She did hate the dark. That was where her nightmares lived. Where her enemies waited. Still, Jewell sat hunched forward in her favorite reading chair, elbows digging into her thighs. Her face buried in her hands. She flinched against the illumination but didn’t say anything. She didn’t even raise her head to look at the knight.

He crossed the room, sitting on the ottoman that matched her chair. “Mira?”

“They think I feel sorry for myself.”

“What?”

She lowered her hands from her tear-stained face, looking at him with red-rimmed eyes. “They think I’m just sitting here feeling sorry for myself. Not sitting here trying to keep my **** together. Not struggling every day against the desire to just stop fighting. Stop living. They think I’m sitting here like a selfish bitch, feeling sorry for myself.”

He frowned. “Who thinks that?”

“Someone,” she looked away from him. “Everyone? I don’t know. I don’t know.” She curled forward again, folding her arms on her knees this time and burying her face in them.

The knight stroked her short, dark hair and sighed.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

She had been listless for weeks, a ghost haunting her own home.

On days when she did leave the penthouse in Little Elfhame, her destinations were limited to the New Haven baronial manor because Hope didn’t seem to mind that all she wanted to do was float around in the pool and drink; the beach, where she could also float around and drink; a fight club or two; and sometimes a dive bar where she could find some guy who would let her shove her tongue in his mouth in exchange for his hand up her shirt, though she could usually find that at the fight clubs without bothering with the dive bars.

It was a life filled with cheap thrills to lend some color and make her feel momentary alive in between the moments of gray nothing.

And now the Council for Preternatural Activities had to ruin everything.

They had to come to her door with their stupid summons written on stupid paper with their stupid wax seal. Jewell stared at the tri-folded letter and matching cream colored envelope. She glared at it.

She hated the Council for Preternatural Activities.

They wanted her to come testify in front of their judiciary committee. They wanted her to talk about the Temple of the Divine Mother.

They wanted her help in damning them all to hell.

As great as that sounded, she didn’t want to do it. She didn’t even want to think about it. She had spent the last six months coming to terms with what had happened in February and ignoring what she couldn’t come to terms with. Now they wanted to drag everything up again. They wanted to air it all out for everyone to see and hear and know. All for the sake of justice.

She didn’t care about justice though. She just cared about trying to live with it all.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Groggy, she turned over in bed seeking the cool side of the pillow while her body longed to slip right back into sleep. The wound on her side, already healing quickly thanks to the healers kept on Perihelion, stretched and stung, causing her to shift again.

Then her brain turned on.

Her brow furrowed as sleep fled, pleasant dreams evaporated, and her thoughts started to race. In just a few hours, she was going to have to testify in front of the judicial panel of the Council for Preternatural Activities. Going out dancing with Haruka hadn’t been enough. She could run from the harsh reality of what the doctor told her for a little while longer perhaps, but not from this. In just a few hours, she would have to tell them everything: selling her true name, the murder of the Temple priests, the summoning, the people she had killed when they used her name.

And the things they had done to her while she was under the power of her name.

That was what was keeping her awake. It had been months, but she still hadn’t talked about it with anyone. She didn’t want to talk about it. She wanted to go away to the place she had hid in while it was all happening. It had been a little corner of her mind where it was safe and warm. A hiding place that smelled like the lilies that grew along the Sirène river in Faerie, where Ishmerai’s steady gaze watched over her and Kal’s arms were around her.

There was no safe place anymore. There hadn’t been since that iron shiv had slid under her ribs and pricked her heart. And now, in just a few more hours, they were going to force her out into the open. They were going to expose her.

They were going to make her talk about what happened.

How many more hours?

She told herself not to do it. She told herself to keep her eyes closed. It would do no good knowing what time it was. If she knew, then she would just count down the minutes until the alarm went off. She would never get any sleep. If she didn’t look, she could pretend it was just a few minutes after midnight. Then maybe she could convince herself to rest again.

Jewell tugged the blanket up to her chin, protecting her neck from the cold air of the room. She shifted, resting her head more comfortably against the pillow.

Think happy thoughts. Calming thoughts. Soothing thoughts. An island getaway. A soft breeze coming off the water. Condensation dripping from a frosty drink. White sand gorgeously warm beneath the bright sun and stained with the blood of Arish and Malcolm. The pleas for mercy she never got to utter torn from her raw throat.

"Listen ta yer heart, darlin', fight 'em off an come 'ome."

It was no good.

She opened her eyes.

The devil red electric clock beamed 4:04am at her.

One hour and fifty-six minutes.

She wanted to puke.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It started in her chest. Then her arms became to heavy to lift. Her toes were tingling. Everything was slowly going numb.

It was familiar and still terrifying.

It was a show of her progress that she reached first for the tin on the Perihelion's suite room dresser. “F***,” she muttered, trying to get it open with trembling hands. The little white pills burst into the air, scattering across the carpet. “**** **** ****!” She fell onto her hands and knees, digging through the thick weave for at least one of the pills, but her fingertips with clumsy and useless. She couldn’t grasp the pills. They kept escaping her.

She bolted upright. It was too late for the pills anyway. Jewell reached instead for one of her knives. She hadn’t been allowed to bring them into the session hearing today, but there was a small arsenal in her bag. As her heart exploded, she retreated into the bathroom and turned the shower on. It was difficult, taking her dress off while she kept a hold of that knife, but she couldn’t let go. Not now. Not that she had a grip on something.

Even the warm rain shower didn’t soothe her. Nothing did until her blood began to flow down her arms and into the drain.

Then her mind and heart went numb too.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“They touched me. They…” she breathed in through her nose, trying to quell the rising panic. Trying to stop the tears gathering in her eyes. “They took turns. Why not? I mean really,” Jewell sniffled, wiping her nose on her sleeve, “why not? I was there. I was under their control. I couldn’t fight back. Not even if I wanted to. I couldn’t do anything. And I was just a stupid faerie bitch to them. Like an animal. A slave. So why not? Why not do what they wanted?”

Helen listened silently, allowing Jewell to finally talk through this. Finally admit what had happened. She had been forced to do so in front of the Council for Preternatural Activities, but now she was choosing to talk about it.

She dug her knuckles again and again into her thighs, pressing harder each time. There was sure to be bruises there later. “The only rule was that they couldn’t hurt me too much. They couldn’t use me so much that I wouldn’t be able to perform later. At Sanctuary. But they didn’t care what damage they did to my soul. My mind. Me. That was the only rule: Don’t **** her so hard that she can’t still kill people later.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2017 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bleary-eyed, she shifted in bed and looked to the other side. The blankets were all pulled from it, Jewell had them clutched to her chest and bunched up next to her, and it was empty of any body. There was no indent in the pillow where someone had slept.

She was alone.

Ishmerai had sat with her until the mix of medications arranged across her bedside table had calmed her heart and mind enough for sleep to take her. She was tempted to take more and disappear from the world for another few hours, but the golden light sneaking in between her heavy curtains said day had come, which meant she had to get up and head back to the Real World house.

Where there were people to interact with and cameras watching her every move.

She shut her eyes tight, bundling the pile of blankets closer to her. She was not up for that. Not today. Her regular litany of nightmares--the whisper of her name in her ear; children ripped from their beds at night; unfamiliar hands handling her roughly; spade after spade of dirt falling onto her as she was buried alive; Kal asking, “How do you want it done?” as he slid the iron shiv into her heart; blood dripping from her hands; a woman wearing her face laughing and mocking her, “Iron poisoning in the heart, is it? How painful!”; her body out of her control--had been joined by fae lurking in the shadows, out for her blood, and the sing-song whisper of, “A heart, a heart. We could give her a new one.”

Some days, she was able to get up, shake it all off, and go about her business. She could pretend everything was okay. She could compartmentalize all the trauma, the damage, the *** that had been piled upon her year after year, shove it down and away and out of sight, and do what needed to be done.

Today was not one of those days.

Today, she wanted to pull the blankets up over her head and never get out of bed. She wanted to sink into the mattress and disappear. She wanted to die. She wanted to never be born. She wanted to claw her way out of her body and escape.

She wanted to sit in pajamas with no makeup or glamour, her hair a mess, and cry and cry until her tears ran out.

Or stare at the wall in stony silence, pretending the world did not exist.

Instead, with a groan of pure frustration, she sat up, punched her pillow for good measure, and threw the blankets off her with extra vim. “Stupid day. Stupid holiday. Stupid friends.” Jewell grumbled, swinging her legs off the bed and getting up.

She didn’t have it in her today to pretend that everything was okay. She didn’t have the strength and fortitude to compartmentalize and push it all away. She didn’t even have the desire to try.

But she had to anyway because today was Thanksgiving.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Breathe in deep. Count to five. Let it out slow.

Kalamere

Breathe in deep. Count to five. Let it out slow.

Tahlia

Breathe in deep. Count to five. Let it out slow.

"Some people hit women, some people leave their kids."

“Okay, it’s been five minutes. You can take those now.”

Jewell nodded, swallowing the tiny clear cup full of capsules made up by the apothecary that sitting in front of her. They stuck in her throat, but Sapphire was used to this routine already and there was a tall glass of water waiting at her right hand. She didn’t even have to ask. She drank it down.

Breathe in deep. Count to five. Let it out slow.

“Are you sure we don’t need to go to the doctor?”

She shook her head. The doctor couldn’t help her. It was just an episode. So what if they were happening more often, becoming more severe, taking more out of her every time. She didn’t need the doctor. The feeling was returning to her fingertips already. Her toes. Her thoughts were slowing. Her heart ticked on.

For now.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Again she shook her head.

“Okay,” the young woman conceded without a fight. “I’m just going to wash the dishes.” Sapphire hesitated on her way to the sink, looking back at Jewell, “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?”

She nodded again. She wouldn’t lie. Not to Sapphire.

What is okay?
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Twilight cast its spell across the study. While the last rays of the dying sun turned the snow topped mountain high above the sanatorium into brilliant oranges, golds, and purples, Ishmerai worked by the light of a single light, so as not to disturb the lady resting on the sette, pouring over over a series of maps and books and muttering quietly, “If I take the Anasuil pass…”

“Better to go by the Holloway Marshes.”

He glanced up from his work. “I thought you were going to sleep.”

She shook her head as she sat up, white hair a mess and face still marked from earlier tears. “It got too dark.” Demons waited for her in the dark.

He took the hint and circled the room, turning on the different mage lights scattered throughout to produce a rosy, welcoming, safe glow. “Did the medicine not work?”

Jewell’s hand landed on her chest. Her heart still beat beneath it, slower now. “No. It did. I just couldn’t sleep.” She paused before admitting, “I was thinking. Maybe… maybe you shouldn’t go after the relic.”

“What do you mean?” He glanced back to her after turning on the final light, staring at that downcast head of white hair with concern. “Do you want to do the transplant as Eva suggested or have you concocted some other plan that is likely horrible?” He tried to tease her. She didn’t rise to the bait.

“No,” Jewell shook her head slowly. “No other plan. And I’m not doing the transplant. I just meant that maybe you shouldn’t go.” She paused, aware that he was staring at her intently. She was watching her pointer finger draw continuous circles on the nail of her thumb.“Like maybe we should stop trying.”

“Mira…”

When she finally looked up at him, the tears were just gathering in her eyes. “I just can’t keep doing this. It hurts too much. I don’t want to.”

“You will feel differently in the morning,” he stated mildly, impatient with her antics and (more importantly) very concerned about her getting worked up again. She had already taken her rescue medication once when she came home from seeing Canaan this afternoon. And on Saturday. At the rate she was going, he wouldn’t even get a chance to fetch the relic and try to save her life.

“I won’t!”

“Mira, he is just one man.”

“He is not just one man,” she shouted at him, slamming her fist down onto the fainting couch. “It’s every man. It’s every time. It’s this endless ****ing cycle I’m stuck in. And it’s more than that. I’m just…”

Worthless. Useless. Unlovable.

Why am I even here?

In the past, she’d been able to laugh off life’s big and little bumps. Now, each one felt like a disaster. Like her world was falling apart. Jewell pulled her hands up into her hair, pressing her fingers into her skull as she curled forward, elbows finding her thighs. Just as quick as her anger had flashed out, it was gone. She was deflated. Out of steam.

She was so damn tired.

“I keep beating death, Merai. Over and over again. So many times. And maybe I’m just not supposed to anymore. Maybe this is just supposed to be the end of the line for me. Maybe I want it to be.”

This wasn’t the first time she had expressed such thoughts. Death had been dogging her footsteps since she had woken up in the hospital in February with a patched up hole in her heart. She was tired of running from it and for what? The physical pain, the memories, the nightmares that never went away? They were crushing her, and every week seemed to bring some new torture. Some new heartache.

She just couldn’t deal with it anymore. She didn’t want to. Jewell could only handle so much. She had been bending under the weight of each new trial for months.

Now she felt like she was finally breaking.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Life was unpredictable. Somehow, instead of moping around at her self-created heartbreak pity party at home, Tuesday afternoon found Jewell sitting, fairly composed, on the couch in the study of one Martin James. She hadn’t intended to go with Lucy to see her therapist, but a few hours of gift shopping together, some commisterating about men, and a little conjoling from her friend had done the trick.

Martin and Lucy had listened patiently as Jewell tried to untangle the rather convoluted web that had formed between herself, Canaan, Salvador, and Sinjin Fai. And then how it all seemed to fall apart on Monday afternoon.

“I think you'll be alright.” Martin looked across at Jewell. “Do you?”

She tilted her head, giving that serious consideration. Yesterday, it felt like nothing would be alright again. But every single time Jewell said I can’t do this anymore, a little voice inside her said keep going! “I think... I've suffered worst disappointments in life,” she concluded with a shrug.

Lucy started the record playing again--Love is Hell side B--then took a step to the side to look through Martin’s albums.

“That's an interesting way to put it.” He shifted his glass of scotch to the table beside him, then leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “I think some people look at life like a series of disappointments.” He glanced at Lucy's back, then looked at Jewell once more. “I like thinking of it as a series of opportunities.”

She followed his gaze to Lucy, brow furrowing a moment before looking back at him. “What if you're constantly disappointed in those opportunities? Or you miss them?”

Lucy sniffed and looked over her shoulder at Martin. “Are you giving her the 'when one door closes another one opens' speech?”

Martin shot a withering look at Lucy and then looked back at Jewell with an amused smile. “No one is promising you good ones.” He lifted his glass for a sip, giving him a moment to think before resting his glass back on his knee. “I guess the point is more that some people make the best of their opportunities.”

Jewell chewed on the inside of her cheek, offering tentatively, “I'm not sorry for the opportunity to be with Sin. That's been years in the... well making, I guess.”

“I guess that's the glass is half full thing, hunh?” Lucy turned, abandoning the records again to return to the couch.

“Actually, I think you phrased that rather interestingly. You said you weren't sorry.” Martin took another sip of his scotch.

“Do you ever get tired of hearing that?” She asked aside to Lucy before tackling Martin's comment. “How else would I say it?”

“It just implies that someone asked you to be sorry." Martin leaned back in his chair. “Sorry is a feeling. It's regret or sadness. But from the story you told, no one asked you to feel anything about being with this other person. They just would rather you weren't with the same person who was with their other partner.”

“I...” her mouth was open but no other words came out at first, so she just shut it. “Canaan actually told me not to apologize. But," her brow furrowed, “I ruined what we were creating together. And if I wasn't with Sin, I could still be with Cane...” She fell back against the couch, exhausted by this mental gymnastics. “Ugh, does he ever give you a headache?” She asked of Lucy while nodding her head towards Martin.

Lucy smiled, sympathetically. “Yes, but when I admit it, he gets smug.”

Martin grinned. Then he looked at Jewell. “I think that's what you regret. Being forced to choose--" he paused, then amended before continuing, “--not having the option to choose. And losing one or the other thing that you wanted. You needn't regret wanting both.”

She eyed Martin, lips scrunched to the side, before she confided in Lucy without bothering to whisper. “He's good though.” Then she dropped the playful pretense, “I don't regret wanting both, and I don't think I should have to choose. They both mean very different things to me. Just like I mean something different to Cane than Sal does. And," her smile faltered a little, “the fact that Cane was willing to make that choice and see it through? I don't like the way that makes me feel. I don't like the way it makes me feel about myself.”

“How does it make you feel about yourself?” It was Lucy with the question, her brow furrowed. Martin simply nodded.

“Like...” her teeth worked tirelessly at the inside of her cheek as she tried to string her feelings together coherently. There was so much hurt to tackle just waiting inside of her. “Like I'm not good enough for his affection. Like I'm not worth the effort or the time because at the first obstacle? It's just done already. Like I'm not worth anything at all. And you know, all that's not his fault. It's really not. But one bad relationship builds on another until...” Jewell gestured at herself.

Lucy looked at her, drawing in a sympathetic breath and exhaling slowly.

Martin nodded again, then shrugged dismissively. “Well that's all ***.”

Jewell blinked. “Uhh...”

“Martin!” Lucy raised a brow.

“What?” He lifted another shoulder in a shrug. “It is. You're making his decision a statement of your value. But from everything you told me, the decision was about this other person. That's not an obstacle, Jewell. That's another whole person, and a whole set of what are likely complicated feelings.

“Don't make it about your value. You're doing that. Not him.”

But... what is my value?


((Adapted from live play with the lovely Ms. Mitford with thanks!))
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They say old habits die hard.

Even death couldn’t cure Jewell of the worst ones.

“Yo, Empress! Been a while.”

“Jimmy!”

The bouncer at Freddy’s Fight Club was huddled in the doorway to keep from freezing to death in the cold wind that whipped in off the harbor. He greeted her with a teeth-chattering grin. “Been too busy in those fancy schmancy League rings to slum it up with us, huh?”

“Something like that.” She lingered outside for just a moment, “How’s it looking in there tonight?”

“There’s a tournament goin’ on.”

She nodded. She had known that. It was why she had come. A tournament guaranteed at least a few tough opponents, which meant the maximum amount of the drug she was seeking: pain. “Who’s the favorite?”

“Guy named Peitre. Been on a winning streak lately. Smarmy bastard. Gets drunk out of his mind after and gloats.”

“Sounds like a real winner,” she rolled her eyes. “Too bad there’s no one to stop him, huh?”

He put his fist up for her and she bumped it with her own. “Give ‘em hell, killer.”

“You got it.”

The second she stepped inside, her mind felt clearer than it had in days. The pressure building up in her chest--a neverending scream--eased up a little. There was just something about that combination of sweat, piss, blood, and spirits that comforted her. It was familiar and grounding. She knew who she was in a place like this.

Jewell moved through the crowd easily, shrugging out of her jacket and leaving it on a chair, but not before reaching into the pocket and shoving three pills into her mouth. She nodded to the bartenders, who knew her both by sight, before heading for the ring at the heart of the club.

It was time to beat the **** out of something.

*****

Unfortunately, the only fight she was having tonight was with Freddy, the owner.

He had pulled her into his dingy office, begging for a word before she had a chance to submit her name for the tournament. It was also as if he had been expecting her. She stared at him across the piles of paper and cigarette ash. “I can’t fight? I don’t get it. You lifted the ban on me over a year ago.”

“Yeah, well…” he avoided looking at her, picking at a dirty fingernail. “It’s just been reinstated.”

Jewell scowled at him, leaning forward. “Why?”

Freddy was not a big man, he was even shorter than she was, who relied on his bouncers, enforcers, and bartenders to uphold the law of his establishment. He did not want to piss her off. “Look Empress. It’s nothing personal--”

“Then what is it?” she bit out each word.

He finally looked at her, a sheen of sweat on his brow. “That knight of yours, Ishmerai… he got here first.”

Son of a bitch.

She took a deep breath, trying to recover a dulcet, sweet, convincing tone when all she really wanted to do was tear his head off, “Come on, Freddy. Ishmerai doesn’t need to know, and you know I can make you a ton of money tonight.”

“He’ll know. ‘Sides, he paid me more.” He shrugged. “Sorry, Empress. It’s just business.”

The pressure was creeping back into her chest, making it hard to breathe. Damn damn damn that knight. No matter, there were other fighting joints and clubs. She knew them all. “Yeah. I get it.”

As she stood, Freddy’s eyes suddenly widened and he struggled to pull open a stuck desk drawer, rifling through it when he managed to pry it open enough to get his grubby hand inside, “Wait just one second. He left you a note too.” He produced the crumpled piece of paper, brushing some cigarette ash off it before handing it over.

“Thanks,” she responded blankly, stepping back out into the noisy club and collecting her jacket. She was outside on the street, after a wordless goodbye to the bouncer, before she unfolded the piece of paper in her hand.

It was a list of every fight club in the city. Or at least close enough to be all of them.

Dive bars too.

Each one had a check mark next to it.

Son of a bitch. He knew. He knew exactly what she would do the second things went south. He knew that even her failing heart couldn’t stop her cycle of self-destruction. And he had put the word out on her! There was no point in checking out Adam’s or any of the others. They were all listed right there on the damn list in her hand.

With a frustrated growl in the back of her throat, she read the note jotted at the bottom: Go home Mira.

She couldn’t though. Home meant the bodies of Aella and Calla and Ila in the basement, awaiting burial. It meant a crumbling empire and the accusatory eyes of a people she was failing. It meant rooms bereft of Sapphire’s raucous laughter; she had left this afternoon to spend the holidays with her real family. It meant a life without the steady presence of her knight; she had sent him off to his death, but his ghost was still here, watching over her.

Jewell could not go home.

Instead, she pulled her jacket tighter around her and headed towards the south RhyDin slums. It wasn’t what she had in mind when she left the house earlier, but there was still one escape open to her.

“You’re welcome here. Whenever you wish, for as long as you wish it.”

Her lips traced a lazy line of kisses along his jaw. “Are you sure I won’t wear out my welcome?”

“I’m sure,” he promised her, tilting his head to catch her lips with his own. “Take what you will of me and my time.”
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 30, 2017 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hadn’t she been here before?

After Kal promised to kill her; after they showered, washing away the blood and stress and anguish from the day; after they applied salve to her wounds and ordered in take out; after she matched him glass for glass with scotch and then lost herself in his kisses and touch; after she forgot everything that had happened that day just for a little while, Jewell lay with her head pillowed on his chest, sleep ever so near, and asked him if she could stay until it was over.

She only had a few more days left to live, and she wanted to spend a part of each of them with him.


Jewell had come full circle, but the true end was swiftly approaching: the last heartbeat of the very last second of the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Forty-eight days

Twelve hundred hours

Seventy thousand minutes

She felt calmer this morning as she sat in the kitchen of Matadero, eating pancakes. A blue lollipop, music, snuggles, and one of the few nights of uninterrupted sleep she had known this year had helped settle her roiling emotions enough that she could do the math, mentally counting off the seconds she likely had left to live.

Forty-two million

It wasn’t enough, but it would have to be. She had been living on borrowed time since waking up in the hospital last year, and she had already squandered so much of it. How many precious seconds had been lost to depression and anxiety? She had been paralyzed by her nightmares, burdened with scars old and new, too focused on the hurt and sadness to appreciate how carelessly she was wasting the gift Kalamere had given her: more time.

Time to live and laugh and breathe and love.

“I guess. I just… what if this is really it for me?,” she looked up to meet Issy’s steady gaze. “What if this is it and I spend the last few months of my life just being miserable?”

Jewell gathered leftover maple syrup up with her finger, making sure to get every last drop before licking it up, savoring the sweetness. Yes, she had been here before, but this was her chance to get it right this time. Rather than be mired in the tragedy of it all, she could embrace the opportunity held open for her.

“And so,” Martin James smiled, still kindly. “You are feeling your mortality. Which feels lonely. And desperate. Like you want to do whatever you can to guard yourself against the impending doom of death.”

Jewell actually laughed, “Maybe? I like to think it’s more about capturing every little bit of enjoyment and real life out of my life before it’s gone.”


Embracing life, however much was left of it, was easier said than done, but she was determined to at least try. She looked at Canaan and Salvador, her devilish kidnappers. Her friends. “Do you guys want to go bowling?”
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