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She has been standing in the Gallery for some time now, standing as far away from the newly formed frame as possible and yet giving it all of her attention. Despite herself. Her back is turned, but she in her mind's eye she can still see the frame: dull ebony, a torch ablaze, and a single jester's bell. Her heart quails at it.

Eddie appears at her elbow, looking first in confusion at the blank frame she stands purposefully afore, then furtively over his shoulder at the real object of her worried contemplation. "Missstressss?"

She turns, slightly, and sighs.
"I'm alright. Just worried." Her eyes grow distant for a moment. "So many miles, so many lifetimes I have traveled to escape it, to escape them, and yet just as easy as that I am back in their midst again."

The girl starts at some thought, blinks, turns. Exits the Gallery, and makes her way to the Vault of Memories, Eddie flickering by her side. There is a certain basket there in the corner, one mouldering and falling slowly apart but containing a thousand scraps of memory like polished stones that roll about her fingers. She selects one, holds it up to the light.

It is a deep blue, the color of new denim, and the light glances off crystal planes within. If you were willing, we would very much like...
She puts it aside. The next is a deep red, but not what she seeks. Neither is the next. The fourth, a dark gray like wet concrete, is. We'd love to stay, if you'll let us... She sets it aside, near the first.
The next is clear as glass, the one after a dull silver, then greens and blues and oranges, pinks and yellows and purples all follow in their turn, some put aside, some rejected onto a growing pile.

Finally, a small mound growing around her feet, she finds the one she has been looking for. It is an awkward shape, smoothed by time but still lopsided as all the rest she's set aside, and of a bright color like flame against darkness. You should come out and play with us some time...

She winces a little at the weight of it in her palm, the memory growing warm as she studies it. Petticoats rustling, she stands finally, stretching cold limbs and sleeping toes to wakefulness. With a thoughtful backward glance, she Calls a small casket for the memories she's set aside. There are not nearly as many as the mouldering basket contained, but enough to fill the box to the very lid. Into it go all of the lopsided offers, awkward and tentative, direct and subtle. But the last one she holds on to, staring. He was not then who he is now, and they are not now what they then were. The offer is, the girl assumes, null and void. So quickly, quickly, she places the last stone upon the heap in the casket, and closes the lid.

"What do I do?" she asks the Mirror-girl, later.
"Twen-"
"No, no he's not. Not by any way I've counted them before."
"Well then, what are you worried about?"
"I've tried to skirt that group and its... connections for so long. And now that an internal one is broken, I don't want to fall into it and tangle things more."
"He is an adult, you know."
"Yes, and yet, no I don't."
"You cannot take responsibility for his actions for him."
"No, but I can blame myself for my part in them-"
"-if, and you're assuming this, IF summat ill comes of them in the first place."
The girl chews her lip thoughtfully. The Mirror-girl coughs.
"You know, your grandmother used to do this too. We had a term for it then as well."
"Oh?"
"Yes. We called it 'borrowing trouble' then. Nowadays we call it 'investing in Bedlam' because it's what you all do with it these days."
The girl's mouth twists wryly. "If only all of my problems had such a simple root. But I still don't know what to do with this."
"Well then, use discretion."
"Discretion?"
"Keep it a secret, dummy."
She bristles at this, then wilts. "But what of my heart? I am afraid that the same thing will happen as last time, and people will see it blazing out my eyes like some damned beacon."
The Mirror-girl looks troubled, and lowers her eyes. "That, I cannot answer you. You know it as well as I, and we both know how impossible it is to bridle."
The girl sighs, rubbing tired eyes. "I sometimes wonder if it would be better to do without."
"Now just a minute here. Last week you were pining for someone, anyone to lay a hand on you..."
"Yes, but I suppose I didn't specify-"
"So just enjoy it," the mirror-girl snaps, "for what it is, and turn off the brain and just don't do anything stupid."
"Like fall in love with him."
"Hmph. Yes, exactly."

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arsenicwaltz

May 2009

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