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.
â€œAlright, Iâ€™m heading out â€“ see you at home later.â€ 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.
â€œCome on, Alex.â€ She pushes lightly. â€œIâ€™m going to be late.â€
â€œSorry.â€ I let go, step back, memorizing her with my eyes as if Iâ€™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 youâ€™d think, and having a second paycheque would really help with our bills. And she wants the relationship to be equal.
I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s possible for us, but I can pretend for her sake.
â€œIâ€™ll see you later tonight, sweet stuff.â€ 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. Itâ€™s funny, the things that the subconscious notices but wonâ€™t admit to.
Sugar and spice, and everything nice, and thatâ€™s what little girls are made of. The rhyme runs through my head as I clean up the parlour, going over jobs Iâ€™ve already finished and messing up basic tasks. I covered it while Jasmine was here, but Iâ€™m a bundle of nerves tonight. I donâ€™t want to admit why. Maybe Iâ€™m wrong. Maybe it wonâ€™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 wasnâ€™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. â€œPeople donâ€™t change.â€ Thatâ€™s what her mother used to say. â€œYouâ€™ve got to dump that girl, Jasmine. Sheâ€™s not good for you.â€ Now, though, sheâ€™s taken it all back. Iâ€™m as devoted as anyone could hope for. Now, Jasmineâ€™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 wasnâ€™t. But I canâ€™t tell her that, so I just blush, and smile, and promise her that Iâ€™ll treat her daughter well. And itâ€™s true.
I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Iâ€™m keeping my hair long, these days. It frames my face, better. Not quite the image that I should probably be projecting, but I donâ€™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 Iâ€™m nice. They make the mistake of thinking that Iâ€™m defenseless. But the mirror lies. It shows what people see, but thatâ€™s just a mask that I wear. Iâ€™m not real, not like the people that walk into my shop every day. Iâ€™m spun sugar and scattered spices, a girl made to order when a real girl wasnâ€™t good enough. People canâ€™t see that, but they can sense it. They feel the sugar, and think Iâ€™m harmless. They forget that sugar might be sweet, but spice burns.
I give up on the chores. I canâ€™t focus. Sheâ€™s coming back. I can feel her in my sugar-spun heart. Itâ€™s all going to come apart. The problem with sugar is that it melts away, and then thereâ€™s nothing left, and I know enough to be afraid of her passion. Sheâ€™s coming back, and Iâ€™m going to vanish, and then sheâ€™s going to hurt Jasmine. She wonâ€™t mean to, but I know her. She canâ€™t help it. People donâ€™t change.
The tension sharpens. I can feel her coming, down the street. I didnâ€™t expect that â€“ 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 couldnâ€™t hold her forever. But I donâ€™t know what to do. Iâ€™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. Iâ€™ll tell her to leave. She loved Jasmine, didnâ€™t she? I wouldnâ€™t have been made the way I was if she didnâ€™t. She has to understand that she canâ€™t come back. I wonâ€™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 faceâ€¦
My breath catches in my throat. The stance is mine, the face is mine. My mind irrationally notes that his hair is shorter. I donâ€™t understand. I know that itâ€™s her, but itâ€™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.
â€I kept your life warm.â€
Itâ€™s stupid and childlike but itâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t be polite. The silence is stretching uncomfortably, and heâ€™s just standing there watching me. I canâ€™t imagine what heâ€™s thinking, but his face hints at enough. Loss. I fumble for words. â€œWhat happens now?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know.â€ He admits it softly. â€œIs Jasmineâ€¦â€
â€œSheâ€™s good. Weâ€™re still together.â€ I want to add that she wouldnâ€™t be if it werenâ€™t for me, but I canâ€™t say it. It would be too cruel. He just nods.
â€œGood. Sheâ€™s happy?â€
â€œYes. Very.â€ Heâ€™s just so sad. I didnâ€™t expect that, Iâ€™m not ready for it, itâ€™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 heâ€™s not, heâ€™s changed, and people donâ€™t change and I donâ€™t understand. â€œI donâ€™t think I can explain you to herâ€¦â€
â€œNo.â€ He looks down at himself. â€œI canâ€™t go back to my old life.â€ That gaze comes to me, and thereâ€™s just a spark, a hint of the old flame. â€œI just wanted toâ€¦ to make sure she was safe.â€
The question is almost insulting. I will keep her safe, safer than you ever could, I want to yell. But heâ€™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 thatâ€™s him right now. Itâ€™s all gone.
Oh, god, what if he wants me to give him a job? I donâ€™t think I would know how toâ€¦ but no. Heâ€™s feeling at least as strange as I am, and I donâ€™t think he likes being around me much more than I like being around him.
He hesitates. â€œTake care of her. Please.â€
I shouldnâ€™t do what I do next. Itâ€™s stupid and dangerous. But Iâ€™m nice. I reach into my pocket, carefully avoid the knife, and pull out a business card. I always carry a few. â€œIf you need something, you can call me.â€ I pause. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€
He nods, takes the card with a hint of a smile. Itâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve seen him smile, and when he does I feel like everythingâ€™s going to be alright. Even though itâ€™s him, and heâ€™s her, and I know how dangerous she is, I canâ€™t feel threatened anymore. He turns, and he walks away.
And my fear vanishes with him. Heâ€™s given up, just like that. Left Jasmine with me, and I will show him that he can trust me. Iâ€™ll take care of her, and I will make her happy. And if anyone tries to take her away, if they try to hurt herâ€¦
Then Iâ€™ll remind them that spice burns.