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And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

05 Feb 2009, 01:30

So, the following piece gets a bit of explanation. This is a short fiction that I promised to one of my players in the Changeling: The Lost game that I'm currently running. It's a scene that she took part in, from the point of view of one of the NPCs involved. I'm thinking of doing one for each of the players, as I reach points in the story where I can do so without ruining their plots.

Hopefully, this story can stand alone without much chronicle info. That said, it definitely needs basic knowledge of how Lost works. I can answer any questions in the comments. :)

-----

“Alright, I’m heading out – see you at home later.” Jasmine blows me a kiss as she walks for the door. I step into it, through it, and tap her lightly on the shoulder. For a moment, I simply give her a puppy-dog look, and she laughs and kisses me properly. I hold her for a moment, feeling her hair brushing against my face, her warmth against my body.

“Come on, Alex.” She pushes lightly. “I’m going to be late.”

“Sorry.” I let go, step back, memorizing her with my eyes as if I’ll never see her again, looking sheepish. Jasmine worked hard to get this job, and she really wants to make a good impression. Owning a tattoo shop makes less money than you’d think, and having a second paycheque would really help with our bills. And she wants the relationship to be equal.

I don’t think that’s possible for us, but I can pretend for her sake.

“I’ll see you later tonight, sweet stuff.” Winking, she turns and slips out the door. She always calls me sweet stuff. She jokes that my kisses taste like cinnamon and sugar, her favorite. It’s funny, the things that the subconscious notices but won’t admit to.

Sugar and spice, and everything nice, and that’s what little girls are made of. The rhyme runs through my head as I clean up the parlour, going over jobs I’ve already finished and messing up basic tasks. I covered it while Jasmine was here, but I’m a bundle of nerves tonight. I don’t want to admit why. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it won’t be tonight.

Thinking about Jasmine steadies me, like it always does. When I think about her, my worries fade, and I can be happy. She trusts me, now. It wasn’t always that way. There was a time when a sidelong glance at another woman was enough to send her into a fret, to leave her pacing in her room until I took her and soothed her and told her that she was the only one for me, now and forever. There was a time where every unexpected absence meant that she was worrying that I was flirting with someone else, that this time my control had slipped.

There was a time when she would have been right to worry. But that time is over. Her family was shocked. “People don’t change.” That’s what her mother used to say. “You’ve got to dump that girl, Jasmine. She’s not good for you.” Now, though, she’s taken it all back. I’m as devoted as anyone could hope for. Now, Jasmine’s mother has moved to hinting that she expects us to get married soon. Maybe we will. A couple of months ago, she apologized to me. Told me that she was wrong about me.

She wasn’t. But I can’t tell her that, so I just blush, and smile, and promise her that I’ll treat her daughter well. And it’s true.

I catch sight of myself in the mirror. I’m keeping my hair long, these days. It frames my face, better. Not quite the image that I should probably be projecting, but I don’t care. Sometimes people see me, they see a willowy girl running a shop like this, they hear me speaking quietly, and they see that I’m nice. They make the mistake of thinking that I’m defenseless. But the mirror lies. It shows what people see, but that’s just a mask that I wear. I’m not real, not like the people that walk into my shop every day. I’m spun sugar and scattered spices, a girl made to order when a real girl wasn’t good enough. People can’t see that, but they can sense it. They feel the sugar, and think I’m harmless. They forget that sugar might be sweet, but spice burns.

I give up on the chores. I can’t focus. She’s coming back. I can feel her in my sugar-spun heart. It’s all going to come apart. The problem with sugar is that it melts away, and then there’s nothing left, and I know enough to be afraid of her passion. She’s coming back, and I’m going to vanish, and then she’s going to hurt Jasmine. She won’t mean to, but I know her. She can’t help it. People don’t change.

The tension sharpens. I can feel her coming, down the street. I didn’t expect that – it makes things worse, feeling my doom walking towards me. Alex. The woman who was me has returned. I always knew it might happen, that the monster who took her and left me in her place couldn’t hold her forever. But I don’t know what to do. I’m scared.

Jasmine. I keep her in my mind. I take my jacket off the hook. I walk into the kitchen, and I get a knife, the sharpest one we have. I slide it into the inside of my jacket, carefully. I’ll tell her to leave. She loved Jasmine, didn’t she? I wouldn’t have been made the way I was if she didn’t. She has to understand that she can’t come back. I won’t have to fight. Please, let me not have to fight.

I step outside. The wind is cold, a hint of snow in the air as I turn to face…

Him.

My breath catches in my throat. The stance is mine, the face is mine. My mind irrationally notes that his hair is shorter. I don’t understand. I know that it’s her, but it’s not me and it should be. Bereft of sense, I take refuge in my bemusement, my carefully-arranged words blowing away on the wind.

”I kept your life warm.”

It’s stupid and childlike but it’s all that I can think to say. Because it is her life. A part of me wants to reach for the knife, just to feel safe, but it wouldn’t be polite. The silence is stretching uncomfortably, and he’s just standing there watching me. I can’t imagine what he’s thinking, but his face hints at enough. Loss. I fumble for words. “What happens now?”

“I don’t know.” He admits it softly. “Is Jasmine…”

“She’s good. We’re still together.” I want to add that she wouldn’t be if it weren’t for me, but I can’t say it. It would be too cruel. He just nods.

“Good. She’s happy?”

“Yes. Very.” He’s just so sad. I didn’t expect that, I’m not ready for it, it’s not the Alex that I never was. The snow is settling around us, and I just want to scream because he should be melting it with every step but he’s not, he’s changed, and people don’t change and I don’t understand. “I don’t think I can explain you to her…”

“No.” He looks down at himself. “I can’t go back to my old life.” That gaze comes to me, and there’s just a spark, a hint of the old flame. “I just wanted to… to make sure she was safe.”

The question is almost insulting. I will keep her safe, safer than you ever could, I want to yell. But he’s so sad. I think of what I was feeling, just a few minutes ago when I thought he was going to take my life away, and that’s him right now. It’s all gone.

Oh, god, what if he wants me to give him a job? I don’t think I would know how to… but no. He’s feeling at least as strange as I am, and I don’t think he likes being around me much more than I like being around him.

He hesitates. “Take care of her. Please.”

I shouldn’t do what I do next. It’s stupid and dangerous. But I’m nice. I reach into my pocket, carefully avoid the knife, and pull out a business card. I always carry a few. “If you need something, you can call me.” I pause. “I’m sorry.”

He nods, takes the card with a hint of a smile. It’s the first time I’ve seen him smile, and when he does I feel like everything’s going to be alright. Even though it’s him, and he’s her, and I know how dangerous she is, I can’t feel threatened anymore. He turns, and he walks away.

And my fear vanishes with him. He’s given up, just like that. Left Jasmine with me, and I will show him that he can trust me. I’ll take care of her, and I will make her happy. And if anyone tries to take her away, if they try to hurt her…

Then I’ll remind them that spice burns.
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

05 Feb 2009, 11:52

Oddly sweet and oddly sad, but I suppose that is what happens when you mix sugar and spice. Wonderfully written. I like watching a changeling and fetch work things out.
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

05 Feb 2009, 15:51

Oooh, that's nice. Really clever twist.
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

05 Feb 2009, 17:56

About how often do fetch-Lost relationships tend to go that way?
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

05 Feb 2009, 23:45

BrilliantRain and Lavos' Advocate: Thanks!

Dinosaur: It'll depend a lot on the people involved. A lot of changelings tend to react badly to finding out that there's a puppet with their face living with their families, and oh incidentally it may or may not be insane. On the flip side, a lot of fetches tend towards a desperate paranoia when it comes to keeping their borrowed lives, making it essentially impossible to live in peace with their changelings.

On the other hand, there are a lot of changelings who just don't antagonize their fetches, and things work out more or less okay. The fetches might be deadly monsters or harmless folks, but if the changeling doesn't bother them they might never find out. ;)

(From a narrative point of view, the fetch-changeling relationship should be one of two things: either whatever reduces the conflict so that other conflicts can take place, or whatever highlights the changeling's own prior failings best to create a beautiful story. I tend towards the latter. If the changeling couldn't hold his life together, the fetch succeeds where he failed, or else destroys his faltering hope for rebuilding his life. If the changeling is kind, the fetch could be a monster. And so forth.)
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

06 Feb 2009, 00:12

Plus, a fair amount of the time, the Changeling has been so warped by the time in fairy land that they can't take their old life back even if they wanted to, what with the time changes and other weirdness.
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Re: And That's What Little Girls Are Made Of (CtL, standalone)

09 Feb 2009, 13:57

Friv, this is excellent. It’s really well-characterised and even though it’s short I cared about the result… and was totally rooting for the Fetch. And it’s a cool twist on the normal (well, implied-to-my-mind-normal) Fetch-Changeling antagonism. Nice one.
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