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The Sound of Sutures
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Jezebel Calient
Young Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

2/10/18

There hadn't been anything to say for a time while they walked. His black jacket was new, learning exactly where his elbows bent and how to follow the broad curve of his shoulder. Green canvas cargo pants and suitable boots laced up like business. His attention was fixed on ice skating outside before he looked at her, "Hungry? There is... more inside."

Jezebel had her gloved hand in the crook of his arm, helping that new jacket to learn its curves and creases. Even through the extra layers of fabric and leather, the heat from her fingertips made itself known, a subtle warmth that seemed to turn up a notch whenever the coldest winds blew. She smiled, lifting her shoulders in a gentle shrug. "We should at least see what's on offer, should we not?"

He nodded as if it was the sky that spoke, the toes of his shoes pointing towards the Cardinal Inn before he walked towards it. It wasn't long before they were directed to the backyard, where the sounds of the party grew. The scent of food was not long after the sounds, it rolled over the air smelling like heavy, salty promises. The dark man's eyes quietly took it in, his stride slowing as he tried to make sense of where a guest was supposed to start.

Her eyes like candlefire widened subtly as she took in all the different sights and smells available. There was so ...much, from the food to the skating to the little favors to what appeared to be walking snowmen, the magic of the atmosphere was dazzling and it brought a smile to her face. She hardly knew where to start either, whether she wanted food or to try the skating or what. A brilliant grin on her lips, her gaze turned up to Tag beside her. "Have you ever been skating before?"

His instinct was to look at the faces of people attending, but there were only the ghosts of recognition and never the fulfilling snap of it. Starless eyes jumped down to catch Jezebel's gaze, "...Not like this." Tentatively sliding over a four foot frozen puddle was a far cry from a skating ring with specialty shoes. He had seen people doing it before, looking like figurines turning in circles like it was the work of invisible strings.

Jezebel laughed, a low and musical sound, as she shook her head. "So we'll both be trying it for the first time," she said, and the idea seemed to please her. Drifting closer to one of the tables, she lifted a small cupcake from the plate that was frosted in blue and white, examining its details a little more closely before she slipped her hand from his arm to carefully remove the wrapper. "I love these little things," she went on as the small confection was eased from its paper fortress, a little coaxing at a time. "It's just a little pop of sugar that is so sweet it sort of overwhelms you, but it's so small that the feeling is gone almost before it started."

"You have a sweet tooth?" His steps weren't far from her own, an echo of her path. When he saw the pizza, a small smile appeared on his lips, "Penny will be sad not to be here." The food spread was decadent and dangerous. Jezebel described the cupcake and he looked at her, the corner of his smile changing at the small flecks of icing and the undone skirt of the cupcake in her hand, "Should you eat before skating?"

"Not much of one," she admitted, "but I do like my little indulgences every once in awhile." Her smile had a knowing lilt to it, a playful flash of color in the corner of her eyes. She gently, carefully tore the bottom half of the cupcake away from its body and then pressed it into the frosting on top, making a tiny sandwich of the dessert confection. "Maybe not, but you'll be there to catch me, won't you?" She teased gently as she tore her little sandwich in half, offering one of the pieces to him as though tempting him into peril. She grinned. "...unless we both go down together..."

Sirens offered playful songs and bits of temptation over the water. Her lake was frozen and there was the weight of something earnest in her voice. He wasn't sure how she made the partial offer of cupcakes and skating seem like eating seven seeds of a pomegranate. Yet, he smiled, he moved to take the cupcake, stepping past her but close so he could say to her ear, "We tend to stand or fall." There would be no man left behind. He was chewing the cupcake, smiling over his shoulder at her. Smiling in the way that touched the corners of someone's eyes.

All too pleased to share this little indulgence with him, it felt like a secret, like a conspiracy between them. It left her smiling in a childishly happy way as she fed half of her half into her mouth, her lips closing over cake and frosting carefully so as not to allow any of it to escape or spill. Letting the sugar hit her tongue in an explosion of sweet, Jezebel smiled back at him as he warned her of the unity inherent in their fate.

Swallowing the bite, she caught the edge of his jacket with her free hand to keep him close until she could feed him her answer, her chin lifting to direct soft words in the vicinity of his ear. "So long as I fall with you, I'm fine with it."

The catch of her hand caused him to turn towards her, face still as she replied. Then there was a smile, softer because of some doubt, hot enough to curl the edge of his paper. No burning, no singed pieces quietly blackening without the flame. The doubt was not what was in his smile, but the regret that there was doubt. He reached to catch her hand that had called him back and now he was pulling her along because there was ice skating and ample chance to allow themselves to be foolish.

He took her hand and she let him, wishing suddenly that she wasn't wearing gloves as the cloth-clad digits wrapped around the palm of his hand. She popped the other half of her shared treat in her mouth as he pulled her towards the entrance to the skating rink, where they could put on the special shoes and then stumble wobble-legged out onto the ice like baby fawns, clutching one another for strength and balance as their laughter came in gusts of icy breath.

Her cheeks had taken on a rosy flush from the chill as she swallowed, the soft pink tip of her tongue catching the corner of her lip to wipe away the last evidence of her cupcake half. When they got to their destination, she didn't immediately feel the need to let go of his hand.

His palm didn't squeeze and his fingers did not strangle hers. His touch was light, up until his fingertips gently pinned themselves to the back of her hand's glove. It was enough pressure that their hands never broke, but never so much that he was somehow holding it hostage. At the rink, he had the face of war when trying to understand something, even if it was only where the rental ice skates could be found. "There." He nodded, and waited for Summertime woman to step ahead of him.

Her touch was similarly light, the warmth of her skin translating across the smooth leather of the glove. Never possessive but never disinterested, her fingers engaged their likes in a conversational dance, twining where possible, moving gently alongside where it wasn't. Locating the rental place at approximately the same time or just after, Jezebel led them closer. She unzipped her jacket with her free hand as they approached, revealing the silver grey body-hugging sweater dress she wore beneath it, long threads of wild red spilling over her shoulders in broad, bold strokes of abstract color.

When it was their turn, she greeted the attendant with a warm smile and a soft explanation of what size she thought she needed.

Tag followed her request with his own, and it was only when the skates were set on the counter in front of him that his hold on her broke. They were larger than he expected. He didn't know how to carry them, he needed both arms to manage it with any grace. There was only one look to Jezebel before he sat at the nearest bench, folding in half to push up his pant leg and work the knot of his boots undone at the top. The laces sighed as soon as the knot came loose. He used two fingers to catch them, working in slack before he could work his foot free.

The sleeves of her jacket were overlong, black with silver buttons that lined the bell curve from elbow to fingertips; Jezebel folded them back a quarter turn as she sat on the bench next to him. Reaching down to work the zippers on the small heeled boots she wore, she had had the foresight to wear thick socks in addition to her black cotton tights, which would surely help cushion her feet against the harsh angles of the ice skate. Flexing her toes, she eyed the skate curiously.

"This seems a Medieval passtime, just a little bit barbaric, no?" She laughed lightly, sounding of summer and tropical heat here in the midst of all this ice and snow storm. She was misplaced in a landscape of white, her colors all the more hothouse flower bright for the contrast. Carefully she slipped one foot into the first skate and began lacing.
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You're driving me crazy
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Jezebel Calient
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The shoes seem... quite serious." They had a weight to them which said as much. From a distance, it appeared that people only hovered on their shoes just above the ice. Sitting as they were, just then, it seemed more to resemble twin axe blades emerging from the soles of worn, white shoes. He was working on his second skate as she finished lacing her first.

The dark man agreed with the seasons, his black hair like pieces of the evening repeatedly cut and neatly brushed forward. All that spoke of the sun was the tone of his skin, but even that had gotten more pale from winter months and abandoned outdoor hobbies.

Finished with the first skate, she leaned forward, putting a little of her weight on the blade, trying out its balance experimentally. Satisfied that she understood the mechanics if not precisely the execution, Jezebel moved on to lacing the other skate. When she was finished, she lifted her gaze to Tag beside her, a smile of anticipation putting the faintest tremble in the full curve of her lower lip. "...Shall we try to stand?"

His attention left her to study the people who had the skates on already. How they were walking, but the sight of it left little in terms of instruction. Jezebel spoke and he turned his head to look at her, "We must make it to the rink so that we can blame the ice." He leaned forward, grabbing the seat of the bench in front of him. It was his crutch before attempting to stand on the blades of his newborn legs.

Jezebel, for her part, watched Tag. Planting both feet a little ways apart, she pressed her hands into her knees and leaned forward, her movements unhurried and gradual as she fed more and more of her weight onto the thin blades that held her aloft. When it felt steady, she rose, her ankles wobbling doe-legged and unsteady before they caught and locked in place, supporting her. Straightening, a smile of delight painted full lips as she held both hands out to her sides for balance. "I did it!"

Between them, she had been quicker about being able to stand, he took a minute more. When he was upright he could feel it, a tightness in his chest that said his lungs ached from holding his breath. He exhaled, it was the same relief of a first cigarette except the taste was better.

"Learning to walk." He thought of Ame, pushing the envelope, he thought of all the shaky steps the boy took without yet breaking away from the wall, and felt a new appreciation for the boy's trepidation. Just standing was a victory. Tag turned a palm up to her, offering that they combine forces.

She took his hand readily, having slipped off her gloves to work the laces on her skates better. Her skin wasn't just warm in his but almost hot, like she'd been holding them in front of a fire for the last several minutes instead of balancing herself in the frigid air. She took one awkward step towards him, wobbled precariously and then righted herself without pulling down on him too much. Her eyes wide, she thought of her son, but also of both times she'd had to relearn to walk herself. This, so far, was proving the most challenging. She took another small step and then another after that, her heat of her smile growing as she got the hang of it.

Whether or not he knew how hot her hands were was unclear. Perhaps it was from the contrast of the cold that he felt the impression of her like a brand, burning when she squeezed during small adjustments to her balance. There was a bias, of how much of her was fire and how much of her he saw that way. Jezebel was quicker to move, to try out the world, but once she had made successful quarter and half steps, he was urged along. He would lose her hand if he did not keep moving forward.

The movements became easier for him after the fifth step. His posture no longer crouched in survival, but stayed at a careful curve. He squeezed her hand, letting her palm leave a warm mark in his not because he was in danger of losing his balance, because he wanted to feel it.

She squeezed him back because she wanted to feel it too, the way it felt to hold his hand like this. As they neared the edge of the rink, her steps became tentative again, hesitant. She held his hand in one and the railing in the other, carefully stretching one foot out onto the ice. It was slippery, the blade catching its teeth with an urge to spin and slip away. Careful as a newborn baby deer, she stepped spindle legged and unsure-footed out onto the ice, her breath caught and her eyes bright.

He stayed two steps behind, an anchor to the walking world they had just started to get used to. Moving his foot was odder than normal, he found it was as though the hinge of his ankle was frozen in place. "Hold the railing." And now it was time for him to step on the ice. Like her, he was discovering that it was an entirely new world to relearn. This was how people glided over ice, how they seemed to hover. He wasn't sure that the sight of ice skating would ever feel the same again.

It was a whole new world, a series of firsts they were discovering together. Stops and starts, moments of perilous wobble and a dizzy twist to stay upright. Desperate grabs for the railing, for each other. Maybe they fell, maybe they fell more than once. But always, they fell together, the soft melody of her laugh ringing in breathless bursts that spoke of joy. Little by little, they got the hang of it together.

Bruises and the song of laughter. It wasn't just her, it was from the children on the other side of the rink. It was from the many little smiles that just seemed to be at the corner of his eye. The coldness he had first felt was gone, replaced by something so warm he was on the verge of taking off his coat. Had the cold ever felt so warm? The contrast of the concrete, the abstract, and there was always the sense that Jezebel's smile was there, even when he wasn't looking.

When their legs burned from learning and their elbows and knees promised only unkind bruises, they were forced to return the skates and slides back into their original shoes.

Exhilarated and breathless, they laughed at themselves and at each other, stealing secret smiles at one another as the skates were returned. Her boots felt awkward, newborn themselves as she relearned how to walk on their tall heels, having just so recently shed the skill in search of something new.

Fingers linked again, they stopped by the table with the favors on their way out, a different kind of smile touching the pretty curve of her mouth when they were offered the set of four Valentines mugs that were reserved for couples. Accepting with a hushed thank you, Jezebel squeezed his hand again gently as they left together. Her fingers had perhaps found a new permanent perch.
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You're driving me crazy
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(( Days later, Tag and Jez. Adapted from live play. Thanks to Jez's player!))

There were times that the idea of a lunch hour was strange to him, mostly because it was such a strict measurement of time for days that were unpredictable. When he was on site men would complain of traffic keeping them, or that any number of incidents had occurred. They felt to him as legitimate as unexpected thunderstorms, rolling their lives with little regard for what time or schedules were. Reasons or excuses always came like gossip, half believed but always with a strain of truth to them.

His site was not far from the marketplace and with Penny in school and Ame being watched back at home, he had that discrete and strange bit of time to ask for her to join him. He asked her to join him not because there wasn’t time to go home or because he’d rather not be alone. He asked her because shadows improved in the presence of a flame. He asked her because he was still burned from her kiss at breakfast.

The message had been simple. It stated that he would be eating at the same deli they had crossed paths at before, though this time he would be without children. He took some effort to explain in his text message that he would not be appropriately dressed. Text messages took effort. Would she still come?

The answering text message came almost immediately. There was no longer delay, either deliberate or unintended, there was no something better to do or let’s make him wait on purpose. Jezebel was there and her message said that she would be delighted to accept, of course, that she was looking forward to seeing him, that she cared not even a little how he was dressed.

Having never had a job beyond the all encompassing work of motherhood, the redhead was not bound by schedules. When her son was away, she came and went as she pleased, driven by whim and circumstance, fate and invitation. She tucked just such an invitation into her bag as she dressed quickly, preparing to meet him on the square.

A short time later, she was crossing the marketplace at the fountain, making her way to the restaurant he’d invited her to once before. A warm smile decorated golden features as she let herself inside, sliding her sunglasses up on top of her head as she scanned the interior for him.

The dark man was work, soil and grease when he was on sites. If she knew the scent of a building’s bones, she could have known the brush of drywall and how the brown leather gloves rubbed their message into his hands. The black t-shirt had a swipe of something across it. Not paint, but something substantial enough that it hadn’t been brushed off. He was the sort that would have, he was the sort that thought the details mattered.

He tapped the toe of his construction boot outside the deli in a ritual he had learned with the job. It was a construction worker’s prayer, an attempt to set loose the reminders of the site from his shoes. He had been only a few paces behind her, stitched to her soles. His hand dropped, an anchor in his pocket meant to dig out his cellphone and find the line back to her. It took only seconds to see she was already there.

He smiled, eyebrows ticking upward as he did so. Did the smile really transform him, or was it just because he had held them so close to his chest before all of this?

“Glad you could… make it.”

Letting her eyes adjust to the relative gloom of the cool interior, Jezebel gently, carefully loosened the buttons on her coat. Coaxing each one out of its catch, she gave what patrons she saw a friendly smile, but did not immediately see Tag among them. Reaching into her bag for her phone, the soft hiss of the door opening behind her distracted her questing fingers, bringing her about in a half turn that made her hair dance and sway in the gust of cool late winter wind that had accompanied the new arrival.

Ah, there he was. The smile that greeted him had ten times the wattage that she’d offered to the other guests, matching the one she found on his face in kind. Her coat hung open, revealing the oversized sweater she wore underneath it, the neckline stretched wide so that it would likely slip off her shoulder once the jacket had been removed, and she took the two steps back towards him. Lifting her chin to press a light kiss on his cheek in greeting, Jezebel eased back a moment later. “I’m so glad you asked.”

His lips didn’t lose their light, not when the soft warmth of her mouth reignited its reason. His eyes lowered during the moment, lifting only once she leaned away and spoke to him. It felt like she had whispered a secret that everyone was meant to hear, a stroke of sound against the side of his face. His lips parted but the words came short of what he wanted to say, “Do you know what you want?”

The direction of his dark, starless eyes pointed towards the counter where the clerk was punching the heavy keys of the register for a group of five customers that had just placed their order. They were a small swarm at the counter, slipping away seconds later with larger plastic numbers that seemed like voluntary tags. The group claimed a larger booth in the corner of the restaurant, swishing their drinks with crackling ice and idle conversations about work.

Tag saw the opportunity to step towards the empty counter, his expression lifting fractionally, questioning if she was prepared or indecisive.

“Always,” Jezebel answered him in a playful purr, her smile matched her eyes in the soft flicker of catlike contentment. {i]Oh, I know what I want,[/i] her eyes seemed to say. It’s right in front of me.

She let him direct her to the counter, where she placed an order for a sandwich that was chock full of fresh spring vegetables and a glass of tea. “Sacrilegious to you, I know,” she looked up at Tag with a grin, “--but I’ve developed a taste for it since I’ve been here.”

Truth be told, she’d developed a taste for rather a lot of things in the time since she’d been in Rhydin. Jezebel lingered close, one hand resting lightly along the small of his back while he placed his order, though her friendly, inviting smile was turned on the person taking their order for the time being.

“Sacrilegious?” It was clear by the way the air caught between them that he was searching to understand what she meant. Her words hadn’t been unclear, just too poetic and yet technical. He had thought at first she meant that she was offended, then… that he should be offended but he could not determine why. It did not occur to him that the tea she ordered was the foundation for what she said. He couldn’t fathom the sin of her sandwich.

Perhaps he was distracted. He swallowed and ordered, looking down and feeling as though they were flirting. Perhaps that was the nature of flirting, that it had to do with only partly understanding and filling the numerous voids with hopes. He broke his lips with the tip of his tongue and smiled again. He was holding both of their cups of tea, his eyes jumping away from the red of her hair to make sense of the commons and where they should sit.

There was a two person booth by the window. The view wasn’t amazing, it was just of the market street, but he wanted it, anyway. “There,” he motioned with one thin cup and then waited for her to take the first step of acceptance towards it.

Jezebel gestured to the two cups in his hand after he’d placed his order. “Sacrilegious. It means... Blasphemous. Sinful. Wrong in a terrible way.” A warm smile caught the corners of her mouth and held, her golden eyes crackling with warmth. “Your homeland has entire rituals devoted to the preparation of tea, does it not?” Her laugh was slow and sweet, “none of which include sugar or ice.”

Her gaze followed his motioning, and she nodded when she understood. “Good choice,” the redhead hummed as she gathered napkins and silverware and then headed that way.

“Oh this is… this is different.” He looked down at their cups and then to her, “To do something as a ritual is… not to do it for the end result. The purpose is to engage in what the act is, to absorb and understand it and not just umm… take satisfaction from the product.” There was another look down to the cups and then back to her, “This is just about being able to drink, not about the act of making a drink. I’m not offended.” There was a smile, the barest hint of humor dawning on his lips. Perhaps he would have chuckled, near-silent, had it been just the two of them.

While she took napkins and silverware he prepared the drinks as people around them had. He shoveled ice into the cups and fed the under a plastic nozzle. Dark, benign amber flowed over the cubes. It was seconds after she settled that he joined her. One disposable cup for her and one for himself. It was a lunchtime menu in a semi-casual place. It was hard to fault it for the corners being cut or the lack of concern for this disposable dinnerware that was served.
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Jezebel Calient
Young Wyrm
Young Wyrm


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Her soft, silky laughter sounded again, once he’d assured her that he would survive the slight. The expression on her face said she might know a thing or two about ritual, about absorbing and understanding for its own sake. Her rites, though, had precious little to do with tea.

She set the little placard they’d been given on the table, sorted the napkins from the plastic cutlery and arranged them into place for the both of them. By the time he’d rejoined her with the drinks, she had two complete place settings carefully laid...side by side. Having tucked herself into the far corner of the seat she’d chosen, Jezebel gestured the empty space beside her with a tip of her chin, her molten amber gaze fixed beseechingly on his face. “Join me?”

There was his nod, even though the air of ‘yes’ was already between them. He sat beside her, not leaning his weight fully into the back of the booth. He kept upright and tense. Perhaps it was that he was that formal, or still had lingering, tight ropes of muscle along his shoulders and neck. Thoughts of what was, what could be, and how much of the interaction was imagined.

The dark man had lived too many times in a place of half dreams, of little inlets of hope that had always seemed real. There was something more substantial here, though. He could feel the warmth of her beside him when he sat, and he tried not to think of it as a promise. Tag felt better when he believed in the momentary nature of the world, that at any minute life could change. She could change. Because things did change.

He still… felt accustomed to the warmth of her. He was hoping it wouldn’t change.

“You know of Japan and the tea ritual,” he said with a smile that was knowing and not shy before he continued, “what of your own?”

Jezebel wasn’t formal. Draped into the corner of the booth, her body was angled partially towards him. She’d shed her coat before she slipped into it, using the folded up fabric to cushion herself from the hard wood panelling, so she was essentially lounging beside him, perfectly at ease.

Jezebel was warmth. The enveloping heat of her could be the comfort of a laundered blanket fresh from the dryer, or it could be like standing too close to a raging bonfire. Today was an understated day, the blood-hot impression of two hands pressed tightly together and then released again. She was inviting but not overbearing, magnetic, but not to the point of suffocation.

Her laughter was a sunbeam filtering through the windows, making a whirling dance of the dust motes in the air. “Rituals where I am from mostly involve throwing people into volcanoes,” she quipped, flippant but also...not. The hard edge of truth glinted in the mellifluous tone of her voice. “I think, perhaps, tea is better.”

“Perhaps.” He did not pretend to know. There was a gentle pause there and he thought, momentarily, that he tasted her lips even though they hadn’t kissed. The memory of them had crept in, perfectly, putting the shadow of her over his tongue while they sat. Her body was angled towards him as in anticipation for an announcement. In those moments he wished for something more profound, he wished he had a secret that could easily be slipped into her ear.

Instead, there was the sun behind her, warming the glass and flooding a light into her hair that marked her red with warning and promise. There was a pause before he asked, “What do you think of dreams? When you have them, what do you think they mean?”

“I dream in rich colors, when I dream. I like to think they’re significant, like they’re visits from people I have known in the past.” That red promise (or warning) sat up, closing the distance between them, her warm amber eyes alight with interest. “What do you dream about when you dream?”

She asked, but before he would have a chance to answer, the runner showed up with their food. Red plastic mesh baskets lined with wax paper and sandwiches were exchanged for the calling card Jezebel had placed at the edge of the table, and she fitted her straw into the mouth of the sweet tea cup’s lid with a careful push, taking a sip before looking to him for an answer.

“I will see those I knew, and those that are now. Sometimes I think my mind is trying to warn me, to make me see something that I missed or… did not understand the first time.” There was a small, vague motion of his hand, as if trying to illustrate some idea he had except that it faded away too quickly. He did not want to sound as if he thought dreams were real, only that they were meaningful. Only in that they seemed to be made of more than nothing.

Food arrived. It broke the conversation, but in a pleasant way. He mimicked her actions with the straw, not taking an immediate sip but balling up the paper to tuck it off to the side. The Pita Frampton. He took a bite of it and then a swallow of the tea.

“Do you ever see me in these dreams?” Her tone carried no innuendo, it was his talk of warnings that made her ask. There was a ‘person’ in particular who came to her most often in her dreams, and she had to believe that what she dreamed of him was real--her mind wouldn’t accept any other possibility.

“Not yet.” There was the faint rustle of coyotes in the grass. Madison’s eyes glowed in the dark and still, somewhere, the land of the sun was basking in its light. He had seen old friends die again and he had drown in sand. There had been joy, there had been moments glorious and horrible. Jezebel had stayed immune to all of it, but that was not forever.

As they spoke, she unwrapped her sandwich, lifting it carefully from the plastic for her first couple of bites. It was chock full of newly ripe vegetables, and for a moment her lashes lowered to half mast, pulsing like the wings of a hummingbird. “Mm,” she said after she’d swallowed. “This is delicious. Thank you again for lunch.”

Part of him worried what his mind would say. If it would be a warning, if it would be a promise of something more. He liked the isolation of it, that no part of what they were was informed by anything other than the moment they had now, unwrapping their sandwiches. He took another bites and then another swallow.

Except that it was not nothing, either, they had agreed in his sunlit kitchen that it was something. The shift from nothing to something was a small step, but also an enormous one. It had made a world of difference, at least, for her.

She smiled warmly between bites of her sandwich. “Perhaps that’s a good thing.”

A comfortable silence descended between them as they ate. Alone with her own thoughts, Jezebel considered the invitation that was still floating in the top of her bag, underneath the folded coat. After another swallow of teeth-jarringly sweet tea, she twisted away from him, gently lifting the fabric aside so as to reach the thick card stock underneath. Drawing one fingertip thoughtfully along its smooth edge, the heat of her gaze lifted to Tag’s face anew. “I am wondering something.”

He had nodded at the prospect of it being a good thing. He did not know what his mind would say to him, in that concerning lull of his thoughts. He had a few bites left to go of his sandwich but he was already full, holding a crumpled paper napkin to his mouth as she drew up papers. They were clearly some piece of mail by the shape and look of it.

The expectation was for her to tell him what it was, not unroll a distant musing. His expression had gravity for a moment as he reflected, “What are you wondering?”

Half of her sandwich was still there, untouched in its wrappings, though she’d finished the first half and enjoyed it thoroughly.

“I am wondering,” she began, pulling the thick cream envelope all the way out of the bag at last and placing it on the table between their plates. Golden eyes with the subtlest ripple of heat lightning in them watched his face with curious, catlike interest, to see how he would react. The corners of her mouth curved up in a little half-smile of anticipation. “How you might feel about going on a small adventure with me.”

The dark man observed her, the little dance of her hands and the presentation of the paper. At the question, the corners of his mouth betrayed a flattered interest. Even with the clues he had been given, she had been unpredictable. The adventure had something to do with the paper she had drawn out, but he hadn’t stitched the details in to know it. There was something young and new about her when she played with the ends of anticipation. A small adventure.

Somewhere, the dust of a prairie brushed over his skin. The wind off the mountains and the distant glow of a warehouse fire. His right hand dropped, absently hugging over the coyote bite of his opposite arm, “An adventure? I can’t just go. There is Penny and Ame. She is in school. This is where they need to be, for now.” He had taken her suggestion to be substantial, to be a change of life.

She watched him, and in the watching she could almost pinpoint the exact moment that the shadow darkened on his features, whether in memory or regret, she couldn’t have said. Lifting one hand, she laid it gently over one of his, covering the palm that covered his fading scar. Chasing away the darkness with her light.

“That’s why it’s a small adventure,” Jezebel laughed, her tone like the gentle hum of a song’s refrain. With a careful slip of her fingers, she took the invitation out of its envelope and angled it on the table so he could see. “I have been invited to a wedding at a mountain retreat, an…onsen on Mount Yasuo. Guests are encouraged to stay the weekend and enjoy the natural springs. I am wondering if perhaps you’d like to come?”

From her he expected the soft perfume of apologies or encouragement. He was certain that no smile could last forever, nor did it need to. Annoyance, frustration, the need to admonish, it was all a dark cloud that brought rain and renewed the life of what two people grew together. He did not feel the sky darkening between them, just the warmth of her hand and the sound of her laugh that reasserted the sun was still directly overhead.

A weekend. Her request brought him relief and then a fragile hum of anticipation. He did not want to hold his breath and hope, he wanted to answer her immediately. There was a difference, though, in what he wanted and what he knew was possible. The dark man nodded, his small, kind smile returning, “I will ask Miss Marjorie and speak with Penny.” Ame was no longer on formula. In the absence of a mother, there was Marjorie and Penny-- the boy might have moments where he questioned where his father was, but they would be brief. It was only a weekend.

He was thoughtful, wondering if there had ever been only a weekend.

The delicate space cultivated between two people needed rain and fire both to grow strong and healthy, but today was not a day for storm clouds. There was desire and interest in the offering, and the truth of that was in the way she watched him as he thought of his answer. But there was no expectation; a ‘no’ held the same weight as a ‘yes’ --no less, but also no more.

A radiant smile bloomed on her face as he spoke, its heat amplified by the strength of her delighted surprise. Jezebel was expecting the ‘no’, that it was too soon, too much, that it wasn’t something he could ask of the woman who sometimes watched his children, much less of his children themselves. She had expected him to make a polite, face saving excuse about how nice the offer was and how much he wished he could entertain it. What she had not expected was a strong maybe, a let me talk to my daughter. A thrill of anticipation snaked its way down her spine, leaving her smile fixed firmly in place.

It was conditional hope, but the hope was there, suffusing her with happy energy. Even so, her enthusiasm was carefully modulated, her tone gentle despite the fizzy sparkle in her eyes. “Of course, I understand,” she said softly, “but I would like that very much.”
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Jezebel Calient
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“As would I,” his admission was not shy or bashful, but spoken in the slow quiet tones of someone discussing part of a dream they had just come to understand. He thought he felt her move, a ripple of warmth like a mirage rising off the road. She fixed him there with a smile, his body undamaged by it because there was no attempt to wriggle away from her. She held him with her eyes, and at some point he was holding her with his.

The second comment came, a curiosity he had to ask though he expected nothing for it. “An onsen in Mount Yasuo?” The inquiry ran deeper than the small polite suggestion of the details. He was asking about the bones, he was asking who the person was and what it really meant. The question wanted to know why his language had crossed over her tongue.

The space between his statement and his question was pleasantly heavy, and for a time Jezebel simply revelled in the weight of it. This wasn’t a ‘date’ in the sense that it wasn’t just a couple of hours spent in pursuit of a common pass-time, perhaps to be followed up by a kiss. It wasn’t just a date to a wedding, someone to be seen with and share cake with to avoid awkward questions about why you’d come alone. It wasn’t a spontaneous, heat-of-the-moment, passionate impulse, spawned by fate and circumstance, either. This was premeditated. A plan.

It was a weekend away together. And he hadn’t said no.

Her lips pressed together like she could actually taste the subtle change in the air between them, like there was a flavor to the way his gaze held her steadily in place. She smiled a moment later; it wasn’t until he’d prompted her that Jezebel really realized what she was inviting him to. With a soft laugh, she curled supple fingers through fire-blazed tresses, then tried to explain.

“I have a friend, Izumi. She is Japanese, and part of a larger group of Japanese women who essentially run the Kabuki District. It is Izumi’s wedding, and -- if I understand the situation correctly -- her boss owns the Onsen.”

“I’ve seen it,” and yet Tag was not integrated, he had not found them and formed the connections one might have expected. Rhy’Din was not uncommon in that there were many subcultures which popped up. There were people who had come from the same planet, were the same race or had the same belief structure. Between them was a thread of similarity which held them all together. Tag listened to what she said, though there was the smallest chill of reservation in his smile, a hesitation one might not expect from someone isolated in the land of the round-eye.

“Then it will be interesting.” His words smoothed over the disruption, ensuring with the slight phrase that he understood, that he was ready. That there was a time to show up without making excuses for why you hadn’t a date, and to appear in the eyes of those that might know you for what you were. The quiet shame of it was gone, the softly spoken promises of an old world no longer took his integrity. He would be seen with her.

Jezebel missed precious little, but even less did she draw direct attention to. Her smile never dimmed as she watched him, listening to what few words he had to say, waiting patiently for each of them. She couldn’t know his predicament, his struggle, but there was an air of acceptance to her all the same.

Leaning just slightly forward in her seat, she smiled at him, warm and not a little conspiratorial. “It will certainly be more interesting now.” The curve of her lips carried secret promise.

An untrained observer would have thought him naive, wandering into a weekend trap with an experienced and confident woman, as if he simply would not realize the implication of events, and what they would add to. On longer inspection came the weight of his soul, that there was no newness there but a long heavy quiet. It held patience and understanding. His lips drew in together slowly and pressed, rolling the meaning of the trip across his brain once and then relaxing.

“It will.” His left hand slipped under the table, circling the swell of her thigh to give it a gentle squeeze before disappearing. His attention forced itself back on the sandwich.

Jezebel knew him for the man he was, or at least, the man he’d revealed to her so far. He had children, he’d been married; his circumspect silence could not be conflated with innocent oblivion. It was the very gravity of his quiet soul that told her he’d considered it with measured care, that he knew the precise weight and feel of the decision he was making.

And still, he’d said yes.

The enthusiasm in her commentary was not lascivious. She was not making crude double entendres in the way she’d said that things would be more interesting with him, though the flame-kissed redhead was the furthest thing from vestal. Her excitement was a genuine interest in being around him, spending time in his presence that was not hindered by late nights or tired babysitters. Her smile had a sunny quality to it that was completely benign despite the magnetic pull of her superheated energy.

But there was that hand on her thigh. Deliberate in its placement, in the exact pressure of its squeeze. There and gone again, she could distinctly feel its outline even after he’d moved away, and that phantom impression of lingering contact drew every bit of her attention. Swallowing once, Jezebel took a breath to ensure her own composure. She said nothing, not quite trusting herself to speak words that weren’t charged with specific intent, but she slipped her fingers lightly into the crook of his arm.

His attention was ripped from the moment when he felt something knock against the side of his shoe. Immediately his eyes dropped to the ground. He hadn’t expected what he saw, he hadn’t known what he might expect. A small girl was on her hands and knees, reclaiming whatever had hit his foot. She didn’t seem to realize that she had come to the foot of a great oak tree. Her eyes were too busy looking down to see that he was above.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! Nevaeh, get off the ground.” Her mother cut the distance to get to her daughter who waved her off impatiently.

“But I had to get my bird,” she said, standing up without her parent’s help and then balancing herself by gripping the end of the table. A half squashed paper crane was pinned between her small fingers, the brightly colored paper making it look like a butterfly had landed on her. The young girl’s ponytail was lopsided with strands of her light brown hair escaping the glittery, purple elastic.

The Dark Man saw the child and smiled as if they shared a secret, putting the tip of his finger on the edge of the table near the girl’s crane. “Did you make that?”

Her mother was embarrassed, but seeing that neither of them was irritated at the girl’s intrusion, she paused long enough to allow the exchange. The little girl smiled at him and shook her head no, lifting it off the table to fix its distorted figure. The paper moved with a tremble between her young and slightly reckless tugging. The dark man knew the little bird well, he watched it flare back into a healthy existence. She showed it off to him, the crane sitting in the palm of her hand. “A lady in the tea room gave it to me.” She beamed before her mother swept in, taking her by her empty hand to pull her away. The mother mouthed an apology to them though he could tell the embarrassment she felt dampened the way she was smiling at them.

The Dark Man renewed his smile for Jezebel despite the interruption of a paper crane.

The subtle heat of her fingers was still buried in the crook of his arm as the child scampered closer, in pursuit of the paper bird that had so recently become a flight risk. Jezebel could feel the fine grit of construction dust, both where it coated his shirt in a fine powder of silt and where the tiny grains had been embedded in his skin. It gave him the feel of a sculpture not quite finished, put her in mind of the artist standing just out of sight with his sandpaper, surveying his own masterpiece in quiet awe.

With this image in mind, Jezebel’s smile drifted gently on her features, the radiant warmth of amber eyes shifting to watch the young girl with her paper crane. Her smile spread to see the way Tag interacted with her, his quiet patience as she corrected the crumpled wings for herself where some men, impatient, would have snatched it from her. She thought of his daughter, imagining them together, what the young woman might be like, and she, too, offered the mortified mother an easy smile of gentle comfort.

“Do you make birds like that one?” She asked as the pair moved away.

“Yes,” there was a nod following the word before he continued, “eh, there is a strange one-mindedness here about military that is not as it is back home.” The hand resting on the table from where he had pointed out the crane turned up, exposing its belly to the ceiling as he continued, “Soldiers were thought to be stronger when they had other hobbies. We were not permitted to write, so some would take up bonsai or origami,” there was a helpless shrug of his shoulders. He was not embarrassed like the mother, but knew that it skinned some personality away from his choice. Prior to speaking it was a novelty, a unique asset and not one that other soldiers diligently poured themselves over.

“It is strange,” he looked at the direction of the girl and then back to Jezebel, “it looks as though I folded it but I could not have. That wasn’t my paper but it has… eh… my signature?” That word, signature, he felt that it was incorrect though it said exactly what he was intending. There were those that had adapted small changes to the formula of folding, ones which distinguished their paper creations from others. At times it had been accidental or some feat of improvement. While it was not as drastic or as personal as a written signature, it was one he had not seen in the versions folded by the coffee shop girl.

Perhaps ideas, small folds in paper, had populated and spread like curly hair or an unusual birthmark. Was the signature he thought of, those minor folds, now merely the standard?

Jezebel found the skill no less charming for being commonplace. Her smile lingered as he spoke, her attention never wavering from his face. It could have been overbearing, the weight of her presence, like standing too close for too long to a raging bonfire, perhaps. Tag seemed to be doing just fine, at worst heedless or even actively interested in the proximity of the flames. Her gaze ticked from his face to the young girl and back thoughtfully, the middle finger of her free hand idly tracing the rim of her paper tea cup. The plastic lid made a soft noise, encouraged by her contact.

“Is it possible that there is someone else here who does it as you do? Someone who learned it from you, perhaps?”

“No,” there was a certainty in how he shook his head. He didn’t frown, but the feeling of it was present like a cold, shady undertow grabbing at the ankles of their conversation, “those that knew me died in the war. It was a miracle that I am here and was not with the Dutch or…” there was a shake of his head, dismissing the hundreds of areas in his past where it seemed that there was a fork in the road. The top of her hand was greeted with the coarse stroke of his other hand gently eclipsing the back of hers.

His eyes on her had softened, enveloping her gently before his weight leaned forward, allowing him the space to kiss her on the cheek. Attention swiveled to the invitation, “When is it?” That wasn’t the question. Is it soon?

Jezebel nodded, accepting him at his word. She smiled up at him, tilting the sunlight of her expression up towards him. “It’s a miracle I’m grateful for, then,” she replied, her fingers pressing lightly into his arm.

The weight of his hand over hers was soothing, a reassuring pressure that reminded her all the more sharply of his physical presence. The outline of his chest, visible through the thin material of his work shirt; the broad slope of his shoulders, squared at attention even as they were twisted towards her. Carefully, she slipped supple fingers into the spaces between his, twining them together like a creeping vine. Her cheek tilted up into his kiss, her head turning to catch the corner of his mouth in an answer.

“Next weekend.” Soon, but not so soon that arrangements couldn’t be made.

“I will let you know as soon as I can,” he looked at the little girl with the paper crane and then back to the invitation, “but I feel there is hope.”

The dark man’s eyes went to her. He had hoped lunch could be longer, that it would feel longer, by being with her. Instead she had burned up the minutes quickly, the flame of her so bright that there weren’t even ashes to indicate that she had consumed the hour. Sitting by the warmth of her was relaxing, he kept thinking of the way she had toyed with the invitation before asking him. He had liked the way she wondered, how her fingertips had gone down the hard edge of the folded invitation before she had asked him.

He was studying her mouth as he thought of all the details. The way their food smelled and how he could still feel that the corner of his mouth was warm because she’d been there. Next weekend. He didn’t want to hold his breath because he might drown, waiting. She never pushed, but he did not imagine that a fire stayed on the outskirts long.

Next weekend. How had a lunch hour gone so quickly and then next weekend exist in a place years away?
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T-t-t-twistin' like a flame in a slow dance, baby
You're driving me crazy
Come on, little honey...
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