Leave Me Alone

6th October 2008

Leave me alone…

Were those not your last words to me, dear Sayuri?

They must have been.

I still remember that night you know…

It was really cold, and I could tell you had been crying.

I could have asked.

I should have said something.

Asked how you were doing, whether you needed anything, if everything was okay, anything!

Instead, I tilted my new hat at you and nodded.

And you smiled back.

Just a tiny little smile, but it made me really happy, you know?

That you cared enough to try and smile for me even though you were sad…

Though, I know you would have done the same for anyone who smiled at you…

Still, as you walked away in that light rain

with the shadows growing behind you as you walked further into the dark night in your inky black dress…

I thought that there was still a chance that we could fix the mess we had made.

Thought things were finally getting better…

I didn’t say a word.

And the next morning they told me you were dead.

Wait a minute Sayuri darling.

Let me pour myself a drink. It’s been too long.

And where did I keep that damned matchbox?!

Sorry, where was I?

I remember the day we spent at the beach

It seems like such a long long time ago

Akane was there too, along with him.

That was nice.

We laughed a lot, all of us.

Sang silly songs all the way there and back.

And you spoke to me as if everything was fine.

As if nothing had been broken.

Like you could not see the past anymore.

And I don’t know if that hurt or helped.

But, I do know that I liked the way your dark hair flew about your pale face

and I liked the black dress you wore…

like the one you were wearing the last time I saw you...

Another drink, Sayuri.

Just hold on.

No, I’m not drinking too much.

Just another shot…

You know what?

I wish I knew you before…

Before all the pills, and the drinking…

I know you’d be mad at me for saying this

I know you would say it would have been the same…

But would it have?

Maybe then you would have said you loved me

Maybe then I would have said the same…

Maybe I would have stopped by that night.

We wouldn’t have had that stupid argument…

Do you remember that night?

I do.

I wish I didn’t.

But now, I realize that it was the last time I ever heard your voice…

And so, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget.

I won’t be able to forget the screaming

the thunder

the shattering of the vase (the crystal one Inari gave you for your b’day)

the yelling

the tears that filled up in your eyes – the ones you rubbed away before they ever had a chance to fall…

I’ll never forget the way you looked at me that night

The anger

the disbelief

and the pain…

‘Just leave me alone.’

Want to know a secret?

It wasn’t the screaming that made me leave…

It was that look.

Your words.

I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting you…

and I realized I had.

Over and over,

So, I packed up my bags and left.

Didn’t even kiss you goodbye.

Left you alone, with only your “substances” for company.

Left a shaky you trying to pour a drink into a glass.

Didn’t even offer to help.

Didn’t call.

Didn’t bat an eyelid when that other guy moved in.

Didn’t say a word to you when I ever ran into you anywhere.

Didn’t say anything when I saw the first bruise.

Didn’t listen to the rumors…

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know he hurt you.

I didn’t want to know.

So… I didn’t.

I don’t know why I smiled at you last night, Sayuri.

Perhaps I thought it was finally time.

Maybe it was the fact that it was raining, and I always love you more when it rains.

But I didn’t say a word…

Would things be different if I had spoken to you?

Would it have changed anything?

Would they still find your body in that bathtub?

I wonder what the last thing you thought of was…

Were you scared?

Did you close your eyes when you drew that line?

Did it hurt?

Leave me alone…

Those were your last words to me…

and I wish I had never listened…

Unforgiven II: Flashback

It looked like rain, Lord Stone thought distractedly, as he made his way towards the North Quadrant of the Castle grounds. He could see her at the top of the tallest tower, the deep red gown framed against the twilight sky. A familiar sight, he thought warmly, despite the cold and exhaustion seeping through his bones.

He climbed the long flight of stairs to the chamber at the top. Home, came the unbidden thought. For now, he corrected himself sternly. The war was moving North, and he would have to set off with his men, soon.

He flung off his cape as soon as he entered the room, not pausing as he moved to the balcony, where she stood leaning against the railing.

She smiled at him as he walked up to her and kissed her forehead, and somewhere in time and space, a heart shattered into pieces. But the two of them didn’t hear a thing over the thunderclouds that hung over them like carrion birds come to claim their prey.

They stood together in silence for a while, watching farmers and village folk scurry around in the distance, preparing for the incoming storm. Another familiar sight he would miss once the war began in earnest. Suppressing a sigh, he inclined his head slightly towards her, and she smiled without turning to face him.

“What?”, they said together, and her smile turned into a grin.

“Why are you sighing?” she asked, sniffing at him curiously.

“I am not,” he replied, indignant.

“Okay.. Why are you not sighing?”

He looked at her for a moment, before turning away and fixing his gaze on the horizon.

She followed his stare.

“Storm’s coming.”

“I know.”

“It’s not safe here.”

“I can look after myself.”

He shook his head, frustrated at her stubborn refusal to go back to the city, where he wouldn’t have to worry about her.

“I will leave soon”, he said, a coldness creeping into his voice that he wasn’t proud of.

She turned to face him, and he could feel her eyes searching his face for something he damn well was not going to let her find.

She closed her eyes and turned towards the setting sun again.

“I will wait for you. Here.”

I don’t want you to, he thought. I’d rather you be safe and happy. I don’t think I will return. And, I cannot take you with me. I won’t be able to protect you. I only want to protect you.

He said nothing. Only took her cold hand in his own as he watched her raise her face to catch the rain that had just begun to fall, fixing the memory of her smile in his mind and hoping she would someday forgive him for what he knew he would have to do.

She opened her eyes just as a flash of lightning illuminated the skies, and for an instant, he saw a glimpse of the path she could have taken, the severity with which she could ensure retribution. But then she turned towards him, only mercy in her eyes, and he knew he had nothing to worry about. She’d forgive him nearly anything.

Nearly.

Song as Sung by Prince Lir to Lady Amalthea, from “The Last Unicorn” (by Peter S. Beagle)

“When I was a young man, and very well thought of,
I couldn’t ask aught that the ladies denied.
I nibbled their hearts like a handful of raisins,
And I never spoke love but I knew that I lied.

“But I said to myself, ‘Ah, they none of them know
The secret I shelter and savor and save.
I wait for the one who will see through my seeming,
And I’ll know when I love by the way I behave.’

“The years drifted over like clouds in the heavens;
The ladies went by me like snow on the wind.
I charmed and I cheated, deceived and dissembled,
And I sinned, and I sinned, and I sinned, and I sinned.

“But I said to myself, ‘Ah, they none of them see
There’s part of me pure as the whisk of a wave.
My lady is late, but she’ll find I’ve been faithful,
And I’ll know when I love by the way I behave.’

“At last came a lady both knowing and tender,
Saying, ‘You’re not at all what they take you to be.’
I betrayed her before she had quite finished speaking,
And she swallowed cold poison and jumped in the sea.

“And I say to myself, when there’s time for a word,
As I gracefully grow more debauched and depraved,
‘Ah, love may be strong, but a habit is stronger,
And I knew when I loved by the way I behaved.”

Late Goodbyes: First draft

It was a cold winter evening, the full moon already making its way slowly up into the stormy sky, sometimes hidden, then shining brightly through angry clouds. There was no other source of light in that cold English graveyard. Something that sounded like a clap of abnormally loud thunder startled a young owl into abandoning his hunt with an indignant hoot, immediately followed by a mad scrabbling sound, eerie until identified as badly laced shoes shuffling through the fallen leaves and twigs scattered all around, and over, the unkempt graves.

A girl scrambled out from behind an old twisted tree, and her eyes were wide with fear. She clutched at her side as she stopped to catch her breath, and the owl gazed sympathetically at the still-bleeding cut on her forehead. A muffled shout in the distance made both girl and owl turn warily towards the distant church, long abandoned to the elements. A shadowy figure emerged from the darkness, and as the moon shone momentarily from between the clouds, it reflected off the steel he carried in his hand.

The girl seemed to have frozen in her place, and she watched the hooded man slowly make his way towards her.

“Don’t make me hunt you down, sweetheart.”, he called out, and she trembled at the toneless sound of his voice.

He kept moving towards her, a deceptively relaxed finger poised above the trigger. She no longer believed he would not shoot her dead if she ran.

“Why are you doing this?”, she asked him, eyes full of grief and confusion.

He was close enough now for her to see him glaring at her, and her eyes widened as he raised his arm slowly until the gun was pointed at her, but she made no other move.

He smirked at her, and then fired.

The bullet flew off into the open sky, and the Owl took flight. She couldn’t stop her heart from sinking at that fitting final act of betrayal as she stood alone before him.

“You don’t have to do this”, she whispered, voice low and steady.

The hooded man took another step towards her, “You know you left me with no other choice.”

She bristled at that, “Don’t pretend like my choices had anything to do with what happened! That was all you!!”, she snapped at him, stepping forward herself.

He waved the gun at her gently, “Stay still, babe.”

“You don’t get to call me that”, she muttered under her breath; nevertheless keeping still, her eyes fixed warily upon his gun.

A moment of silence passed, and the man pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket.

The girl watched him as he took one out, lit it and inhaled deeply.

“Are you really going to kill me?”, she asked, plaintively, after he was halfway through his cigarette.

He looked at her thoughtfully, “I think so, yes.”

The girl glared at him, then looked sadly at the ground, “In that case, can I have one as well?”

He raised an eyebrow at her, “I thought you weren’t supposed to be smoking.”

A moment of silence, and then the both of them burst into laughter, the sound echoing strangely across the empty graveyard. They held their sides as they laughed, and she had to kneel down and he had to lean against a tree, and yet they could not stop laughing.

Until she rushed at him with something she had pulled out of her boot, and he instinctively raised his weapon and shot her. She cried out, then smiled, then fell in slow motion to the ground. He kicked over her outstretched hand to find a red rose clutched so tightly that the thorns had poked holes into her skin and embedded itself there, even as she bled around it. And around the bullet wound in her chest. She tried to speak, then coughed up some blood, painfully, and he stared down at her with eyes full of horror.

He knelt down then, cradling her blood soaked hair in his hands, “Why did you do that?” “Why did you make me do that?!”

She smiled at him, and tried to speak again.

He leaned in and pulled her closer even as she whispered something over and over again.

But understanding the 9 words she said in quick succession until he lost her to all the blood seeping into the earth no matter how hard he tried to keep it all inside her, that understanding drove him mad.

And after that night, his face lived under a cloud that never seemed to leave, his laugh never sounded quite the same, and at night, it was said that you could hear him cursing and raging through any thunderstorm, though curiously enough, he appeared perfectly calm and composed the next day, and his loyalest circle of servants made no mention or explanation of the absurd quantities of chinaware, mirrors and glasses they would constantly be acquiring and disposing stealthily off.

And the women he was involved with, only they knew of the nine words he would whisper in his sleep after a tiring, fun-filled evening at home. (Though the ones who mentioned it to him, or anyone at all actually, they never saw him again)

I love you, I forgive you, We are free.

The Night Begins

He came to her, as he always did, to their chosen secret place, and she smiled as he appeared, breathing heavily from the long walk uphill.

“You’re too happy”, he grumbled, even before she’d managed to greet him.

“Sorry”

He sighed, “Don’t be like that.”

“Okay.”

Damian frowned, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything further. After all, she had returned to see him again, just as she had said she would. He knew it must not be easy. The tired lines around her eyes as she turned to smile at him made him feel a twinge of guilt. But he shivered at the thought of that empty, aching loneliness which was just waiting to envelop him once she was gone for good, and he cast aside those feelings of guilt. Now was not the time.

Cerid was watching him closely, a strange expression on her face as she watched Damian’s distracted frown go through a series of minor transformations, until he suddenly snapped his icy gray eyes on to her warmer brown ones, and even though she smiled comfortingly at him, the haunted look in his tired eyes made her want to cry.

But, Cerid had not cried since the war had ended. Not once. Not even when she had spent two weeks watching Damian destroy everything around him, until the cursing and swearing and whiskey and screaming was all done with, and all that remained in its place was his pale gaunt frame, surrounded only by endless destruction and stony silence. Her heart had ached as she’d watched, but she hadn’t shed a single tear.

Damian liked to believe that it was because she had run out of tears, and not because other people’s agony and pain affected her more than his. Cerid thought it had something to do with the last battle she’d been part of. Because she had had plenty of tears to shed that day. An all of a sudden, the picture of little Remo, lying in a pool of his blood, flashed through her mind.

He had been a day away from his fifth birthday. She had promised to gift him a real kite. He had been counting down the days. The day of the last air-strike… it was Roberto who had found out first. Damian had been in the middle of his own dilemma. Straddling both sides of the war, he had a difficult decision to make. Even though, technically, he would always be of the Shadow Tribe first. Ceridwyn had been at the forefront of the battle. And she had watched Remo die.

Ceri! Ceri!

She opened her eyes to find Damian kneeling over her, eyes full of worry, “Are you alright?”

She laughed, then, suddenly aware of the bizarreness of the situation. “We have to stop doing this”, she whispered, leaning up into the familiar frame of his body. He swallowed, once, twice. “I understand”, he said, “But what am I supposed to do?”

She shook her head at him, despondent and unsettled, “I love you.”

He looked down at her cautiously, then swallowed again, “I have always loved you.”

“And that’s why you can’t stay”, she whispered, smiling up at him gently, even as her eyes sparkled with waylaid tears.

The baby wouldn’t stop wailing. She knew that it was Arianna’s son. Arianna, who had trusted her and helped them escape when the entire kingdom was against them. Arianna, who now lay buried not far from here, shot in the heart with a poisoned arrow, even as her husband fought on in the Outer Circle with the other Marine Corps. Arianna’s son was trapped inside the burning building, and his mother was injured, and there was no one around to help him. Cerid had already lost a lot of blood. But she could hear the shouts in the distance, and it was clear that victory was imminent. She was just steps away from the designated Tower. She’d get medical attention there, and probably be able to send someone for the baby.

But it would be too late.

And as she turned away from the tower and towards Arianna’s home, for some strange reason, she thought of Damian and the last thing he’d said to her.

Dead to me.

He stared at her for a moment, memorizing every detail of her face as she smiled at him encouragingly. “It’s going to be alright. I’m always going to be here, with you.”

“So,” he began, in a shaky voice, stopping to take a deep breath and continue, “What you’re saying is I’ll never be walking alone.”

She beamed at him then, and for just one tiny moment, Damian forgot all about the last night of the Quarter Century War, when he had returned to the village only to find her overwhelmed and outnumbered against Assassins intending to eliminate all the noble-born children.

He had joined in the battle, and afterwards held her blood soaked body in his arms, as the cheer of celebration and jubilation rang out all around them, and the last of her life ebbed away from her. “Forgive me” he had cried, but it had been too late, and the only answer he had was the silence of the blankness in her empty eyes, just as she had promised him.

Sudden darkness. The hill was empty now. A cold wind rustled past the nearby trees, and a whisper trembled at his ear.

“You’ll never walk alone.”

Damian fell to his knees.

The night had begun.

Mr. Ebenezer Brightside

You watch her walk up the stairs, her hair so much longer than it used to be that you almost don’t recognize her. You wait until she pauses, then walk up to her and clear your throat. She whirls around so fast that her hair is still falling into place around her startled face when her eyes widen in recognition. “You”, she breathes, and holds out her arm – you aren’t sure if it’s to steady herself from the turn or to protect herself from you.

“I need to talk to you”, you say, and nearly cringe at the hoarseness of your voice, but her eyes are darting to the stairway and the elevator just visible in the lobby, as if calculating her chances of escape. You wait patiently as she fiddles with her hair, a different shade from what you remember too, and then sighs, “Alright. But, not here.”

Your relief quickly turns to confusion, yet you keep the expression on your face characteristically blank. “Okay..”

She knows you too well though, and answers the question you did not ask by holding up her hand before her face. It takes you exactly six seconds to notice; if the diamond hadn’t been shining so brightly in the sunlight, you’d probably have taken longer. Her hand trembles and she lowers it slowly, your eyes falling with her fingers as they clench into a fist. You look up to her to notice her looking at your face, waiting for your attention. She won’t say your name. “I have to go now.”, she says, and silences your protest before it has begun, “I’ll meet you tomorrow, by the War Memorial. In the evening, at six.”

Six. Once it was dark. She didn’t wan’t to be seen with you. She turns to leave and starts to walk away, and you can’t help but call out her name. She stops, but does not turn around.

“Who is he?”, you ask.

A strangled noise makes it way from her lips as she whirls around, her eyes wild and hair framing her face like the flames of hell, and you remember her from your days together at the war. She seems to struggle with herself as you stand firmly before her, wondering how things could have gotten to this point, until a cloud passes over the sun, distracting you into breaking eye contact, and by the time you look back, the moment is gone. She is standing tall before you now, the expression on her face eerily serene, and more so in contrast to the anger you could have sworn threatened to consume the both of you just moments before. She gives you a tight-lipped smile, her face pale, but her eyes are bright. “That is none of your business.”

She turns and walks away.

“It used to be.”, you call out to her retreating back. “You remember? When you begged me to help you? It used to be. Until you left.”

She pauses again. “Yes..”, she says, thoughtfully. “It used to be. But it is not anymore.”

And, with that she is gone. And the flowers you brought on your way here are suddenly too heavy and dead in your jacket, And the ring on her hand is now shining in your mind, blinding in its meaning.

You walk out of the complex in a daze and almost don’t see her across the road, swallowed up whole in the too-large jacket she has on. Someone walks up to her and hands her a cup of something warm and steaming, and you see her lift up her head to smile at him in gratitude and loyalty. You recognize the smile because it used to be you she once smiled that way for. And you watch as she adds sugar to both their cups, the wind carrying snatches of conversation towards you amidst this sleepy corner of the city.

She is speaking of Christmas as she hands him his cup of coffee; and the man leans forward and kisses her forehead.

And you turn away, suddenly sick.

The Cursed – Excerpt: Nova

(c)

The ground trembled beneath them again. Yonas ran through the carnage, pushing his red hair out of his eyes as he craned his neck, trying to locate any of the Nine. To his right, he could see the brave Sir Richmond battling two creeps all by himself. He tried to catch his eye as he passed, but did not dare to linger. Ahead, in the mass of dust and sweat and blood, something bright and white caught his eye. The Queen of the Lost! He rushed forward, darting through the feet of men and beast caught up in a lust for battle that his young mind could not yet fathom.

He struggled to keep her in his sight, heart soaring with pride as he saw the Lord Shade and his young squire flanking her as she cast devastating spell after spell at the charging enemy lines, only pausing to summon up protective shields around her friends. The elven archer grinned as he spotted the boy, and yelled out to the Queen. But he need not have bothered, for she was already looking at him, a worried smile lighting up her tired features. She swayed, and the Knight and his squire simultaneously leapt forward to catch her, swords at the ready in their free hands, daring anyone around them to come seek a challenge. She smiled at them reassuringly and steadied herself on the forest floor, preparing to cast once again.

Suddenly, a sharp pain stabbed through his spine, and he dropped to the trampled grass, confused. He could barely make out the Queen’s distant screams as she lunged forward, only to be held back by Ether, even as Janek and Shgyar moved in closer and assumed defensive positions. Lord Shade and the Mhak man charged forward, but a tightening feeling in the pit of his stomach brought forth the sudden realization. He had been stabbed. And he was dying.

He could hear the Queen calling out to him, much like the first time he had met her on the bridge outside the town, her dark hair blowing about her pale face, even as Lord Shade spoke to her in low urgent tones. She had caught sight of Yonas perched on the tree growing on the riverbank, and she had smiled at him causing Lord Shade to turn about to investigate the source of her humor. For some inexplicable reason, he left his hands and hung upside down from the tree, reveling in her gasp and the pretty laugh that followed. She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen. And, as he swung upside down on the tree, offering to pluck her some fruit for one of the pretty stones around her neck, he noticed the Lord watching her as she fingered the green gems about her neck, and when she screamed in delight at the berries Yonas tossed her, he saw that the Lord was smiling. Yonas had never before then even seen the Lord of Shade smile since he returned from the first Crusades.

But now she was crumbling to the floor, eyes wide and unseeing and pointed at him. He wanted to reassure her about his place in the palace of God, but did not know how to. He shivered violently, and felt rather than saw her helplessness and fear.

Another tremble took over the ground, and the last thing Yonas saw was the Mhak man peering down at him intently, even as Lord Shade cursed out loud. The trembling intensified, and the two sword wielding men turned just in time to see the burst of flames heading out towards them at a rapid speed.

“Nova”