Old Habits

Feb. 10th, 2009 12:21 am
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
She has been staring into space for some lengthy period of time when the Mirror Girl clears her throat conspicuously.

"Well?"
"Well what?"
"What did you see?"
The girl is silent a moment, staring down now into nothingness.
"You found the source, didn't you? What was it?"
The girl remains silent, one fingertip tracing a curling spiking pattern against her inner wrist.
"That good, huh?"
"That good."
"So who was it?"
The girl shakes her head.
"My mother always said that... people like me... led lives full of disharmony and imbalance, and that the problem stemmed from-" she makes a choking sound, steadies herself, tries again "-from my evil-"
"From your 'proclivities', hm?"
"Yes."
"Do you believe her?"
A long pause.
"Sometimes."
"Why?"
"Because of things like this."
"Like what?" The Mirror Girl gestures widely. "There's a lot to choose from, you're going to have to be more specific."
The girl takes a deep breath, unclenching her fingers slowly.
"Once upon a time, I threw myself on the mercies of an older woman."
"Oh? You mean aside from this last one?"
"Yes. Although I didn't realize it, and if she did..."
"If she did?"
"If she did, then she is crueler and more selfish than I had ever imagined."
"Hindsight twenty-twenty?"
"Somewhat? I still don't know how- wait, I wasn't finished."
"Go on then. How?"
"When she cast me off, I took it... hard. I determined that I was unworthy, and that was why I had been rejected. I convinced myself that if I had been more circumspect, less in the way, more mature, more responsible, less..."
"...underfoot?"
"Sure. If I'd been all of those things, I convinced myself, she might have loved me, might have given me what I desired."
"Which was?"
She is silent a moment more.
"Love? Sex? Validation? I'm not sure anymore. But I realize now that that was the start. From then on, I was very, very careful never to... to take liberties. Get in the way. Be inconvenient. To assert myself."
"And therein lies the problem, hm? That to be happy you need a partner, but your way of presenting yourself to one leads to you getting walked on."
"Exactly. The furthest thing from partnership."
"And now what?"
"Now I need to clean my house, because this is not going to work if I'm going to tie myself to the Star and the Flame."
The Mirror Girl smiles wickedly. "Oh ARE you..."
The girl shrugs. "Maybe? My impulse is to say that it depends on what they want. That my plans figure next to nothing beside theirs with each other. But the Star had said that it would also-" she breaks off with a sound that is half-laugh, half-sob, "- she said that it would also depend... on what I wanted."
"Sounds... ideal."
"Only if I can figure out what I want."
"And that's a problem?"
"I want it all. I don't think that ever works. So maybe I don't. Or maybe I want part of it. And I'm worried they'll get bored, waiting."
"So it all depends-"
"-On me."
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
And over hours, and days, and weeks, she begins to realize that this must be what it's like. Slowly, slowly and quietly withdrawing from the world, until...

The wind buffets the grass down like a golden pelt across the prairie's trackless, rolling hills. Up one side, down another, over and over again, the breeze flattens and jostles everything in its path until it comes, parting and nearly fizzing, to the tiny shack in the tiny valley between the hills. The clapboards are the dark gray of wood left out to weather in the sun and rain and sun again, roughened by wind and time and quiet neglect. But the roof is sound, and so is the glazing on the draughty windows, at which faded calico curtains flutter, limp and defeated. The kitchen that lies behind these curtains was spotless when it was abandoned, but now has a fine layer of dust over everything. Tiny mouse tracks leave a white trail along the enamel of the ancient stove, and cobwebs bridge the corners with filmy white. Above the stove, just out of the reach of the restive curtains, stand a triple rank of shelves, nailed up crudely but miraculously level.

And on the topmost shelf, perched near the corner on the left, a single jam-sized mason jar.
In it - a mist, a something; something insubstantial and necessary and sickly divorced from where it ought to be. It laps defeatedly against the sides of the jar, halfheartedly trying still to escape.

She squeezes her eyes shut, and pushes the scrying-glass away. It was the last thing in Pandora's box, and the fact that it could ever be captured was what gave her the courage to try. The process was painful - possibly the most painful thing she had ever encountered - and yet she still was not quite certain that she'd got it all. The Banishing she'd called was anonymous, trackless. Though the glass now showed her where it was, she still did not know its location. Better that way, she supposed.

And now, and now, she was always cold, always tired. Actually, she thinks, I have been tired all my life. I always held the thought that there was something coming, just around the bend, to look forward to...

She slumps, collapsing against one marble wall, her petticoats rustling. But the marble is not even cold, does not even feel substantial underneath her fingers these days, just as she has noticed the colors fading around the edges of the Palace. She does not even have the passion left, it seems, to cry. Behind her stands a figure of lumpy white flesh, with a hooked ring of flashing silver.

"What will happen to all of this, when I am gone?" she asked the Mirror-Girl a few weeks ago.
The Mirror-Girl was silent then for a moment. "You know as well as I that it will cease."
"And the rest? The things that give this place life?"
"Others may come, and then they too will go."
"And nothing will stand where I've stood. Nothing will remember."
"No."
"Perhaps that will be enough."

The calico flaps at the windowpane, and a beetle makes its slow progress across one wall.
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
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."

Thorns

Oct. 19th, 2006 04:36 pm
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The bathroom is dark but for a single light trained upon her face. The glass is clear and unsteamed as the girl applies dark kohl to her eyes, but there is a moment where her image in the mirror starts as if spooked, and shies away from her. She puts down the stick of kohl, fingers shaking slightly.

“Speak, Nameless. What have you to tell me?”

The mirror girl sighs imperceptibly, giving up all pretense of following the girl’s movements. Her lips twitch with a sudden thought.

“Nineteen. There, I’ve said it.”
The girl nods, impassively.
“But that’s not what you wish to speak about.”
“No.” There is a pause while the mirror-girl arranges her words. “What is she doing?”
The girl sighs deeply, looking down at the washbasin, and on her fingers curled tight about its marble rim.
“I don’t know.” A pause. “Yes I do.”
“What?”
“She is pushing me away again. I saw it in the back of her eyes that night, that I have gotten too close to her core and now she grows thorns to keep me back.” She looks up from the basin. “It’s not as if I haven’t done the same, when I feel the hunting hound’s teeth at my heels.”
“Does she realize what she’s doing?”
“I should think not. I suspect that she’s adult enough to tell me, if she knew.”
“Does it make it easier to let her go?”
“In a way, yes. It dulls the pleasure of her company, certainly. It makes it easier to…” the girl stares off into infinity for a moment.
“To?”
She starts back to herself, “To follow other trails on the hillside. There are many creatures that would hunt fox, you know. It helps me to remember that she is not the only one out there.” Her lips quirk with a memory. “And it helps me to focus on those who do want me. The Sunbeam, the Wheel, Orion’s Follower, the Dancing Wolf, and…” she pauses again, searching for a word.
“…And the Mask.” The mirror-girl supplies. The girl grins in acceptance.
“Yes, and the Mask.”
“So what then of the Tigress?”
“She is lovely. But each time I looked into those fey eyes of hers, I saw only lust. And standing back, I saw naught but a vector.” Her brow furrows. “I would not be on the end of that chain, not if I could help it. Even as much fun as we had.”
The mirror-girl nods. “Our gift, and our curse, is Sight.”
The girl nods resignedly. “To see beyond flesh, into the tangled mind’s intent, and beyond. It is a hard thing, to read the pattern on the world’s loom, and have none believe you when you tell the shape of the weaving.”

There eyes lock through the glass, and they share a weary smile. The world shudders slightly, and as one the girl reaches again for the stick of kohl.
arsenicwaltz: (Default)
The girl sits chin-deep in lavender scented bubbles, in the large marble bathtub that graces the vaguely defined bathroom in her apartments. Vanilla candles flicker everywhere, in sconces, on small tables, packed onto any flat surface or ledge until the entire bathroom, hazy corners and all, is bathed in a warm flickering light. Nearby, her image in the vanity mirror cups its hands to the surface of the steam-fogged glass, as if trying desperately to get out. Vague mutterings can be heard from that direction, but the girl ignores them at present, lifting one sudsy knee from the water an inspecting it critically. There is a double crescent of purple there, and a matching, albeit lighter one on her left forearm. She smirks slightly to herself, remembering that of the bruises she sustained, these, the only visible ones, were all the work of her own teeth. She sighs then, extending one hand outside the tub to an end table, where a small pot of arnica salve appears on cue. As she rubs the strange smelling concoction into her skin, the muttering from the mirror takes on a more urgent tone, and she sighs. With a look and a wave, she gives the informal invocation.

"Speak, Nameless." The mirror suddenly is clear, as if wiped instantly dry of any interfering moisture.

"HA."

"Hardly the first words I expected from you."

"Yes, well, there they are. HA. Regardless of what you thought was going to happen... HA. I defy you to be unhappy about this one."

The girl frowns, taking a new handful of the arnica. "I am certainly not unhappy about this. But more things were bruised than just my flesh."

"Oh, really...?" The mirror-girl gives the impression of placing hands on her hips, despite the fact that the mirror isn't quite large enough to accommodate such a gesture.

Sighing, she replaces the pot of arnica on the table, where it disappears obediently. "If only there was something similar for my pride" she mutters at the water.

"Well?" The mirror-girl is most insistent. "I daresay you'll survive it."

"Of course I'll survive! I always have. It's just that I feel so stupid for pursuing him. I feel like..."

"Like an idiot. I know. We've had just this sort of discussion *plenty* of times already."

The girl places her face in damp hands and winces. "Don't I know it. At least this isn't another to add to the list, right?"

"Well, not really, but..."

"I mean, I knew the Flame was still mourning his Gypsy, but looking into his grief like that was like standing next to the dark chasm you've just pulled yourself out of, and looking over the edge. It hurt me to see it, and I wanted, I wanted *so much* to help him. Just wanting to help him was like starting to crawl back down into it. I had to stop, and I felt so useless and insignificant in the face of so much pain..." She snorts ironically, "As if I would've believed, a bare month or so ago, that this would ever happen."

Her soliloquy over, she looks back up to the mirror-girl, who is staring at her with a wicked twinkle in her eye. "What? What's that smug look for?"

"You got to play with the Fae. And that makes seventeen." The mirror silences and re-fogs instantly, leaving the girl to stare at her leering reflection with surprise.

"So you think you got the last word? Well, you're wrong about that, even if you are right about... how much I have to be thankful for. And..." a bright smile flashes across her face, chasing the traces of discontent away for a moment, "and trust me, I am *very* thankful."

Mirrortalk

Feb. 19th, 2005 09:47 pm
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In her rooms above the Ballroom, our girl sits in front of her vanity, draped in a black dressing gown. Her hands and feet peep ivory at the cuffs and from under the hem, and a shallow V at the neck reveals that she has wrapped it close and belted it snugly around her. She stares in her mirror dazedly, watching the rise and fall of a pair of tanned shoulders that protrude like an alien landscape from under the soft curves of the comforters on a large bed. There is an unfamiliar head upon her pillow, an unfamiliar scent on her skin, and waking to a warm tangle of limbs both alarmed and comforted her.

Her gaze focuses inward, then slowly she raises eyes to her own reflection in the mirror. The girl in the mirror grins impishly, raising eyebrows and glancing backwards at the man in the bed. Slowly, the somber girl in front of the mirror raises a hand to her reflection and brushes fingers against the glass that now ripples like water.

"To thee, Nameless, I give permission to speak. What have you to tell me?"

The mirror girl clears her throat, and the voice that comes from the other side of the glass is the same and yet different, as if heard through a tunnel partly filled with water.

"I like him. I think we should keep him."
The girl sighs, looks away from the mirror girl's gaze. "I know, I like him too."
"I sense a 'but' coming here..."
"...But, I think he's lying to us."
"Lying? What about?"
"About... about all of those things. About how he feels." The girl glares at the other in the mirror, who sticks out her tongue. "You KNOW how men are. You can't blame me for being cautious."
The mirror girl rolls her eyes. "I know what you were taught to believe about men."
"And learned. Life experience counts for something you know."
"Yes, but that was a long time ago. They were young and stupid, and so were you."
"That didn't make it any less painful."
The girl in the mirror grimaces. "Why do you have to take everything so goddamned seriously all the time?"
"You make it sound like it's safe out here. I'd remind you that it's your body too that I'm looking out for."
"Yeah, but it's not like you've got someone watching you and keeping score."
The girl looks down at her hands. "I'm keeping score."
"So? What is it?"
"Fifteen. Fifteen points against me. He'll be sixteen."
The mirror girl guffaws. "You make it sound like a death sentence."
"It could be. There are a lot of things to worry about out here. Diseases and-"
"But did you enjoy yourself?"
Silence from the girl, who is staring at her hands. Seconds tick by.
"Well?"
The answer is whisper soft, spoken through clenched teeth and with eyes shut. "Yes. I did."
"So what's the big deal?"
The girl looks up, eyes furious now. "I can't be so irresponsible with my body! If I let this become a habit..."
"Ooooh, if you let this become a habit, you might actually be in danger of enjoying yourself! Maybe if you spent as much energy on making yourself happy as you do feeling guilty about it, you wouldn't HAVE this problem!"
The girl's mouth drops open for a second, and she gapes like a fish removed from water.
"Admit it! As much as you like torturing yourself with your fall from grace, as it were, you did enjoy it! It was good for you even! So stop looking at me like I hit you with a fish, and cope!"

The girl laughs suddenly, and the mirror girl joins in after a moment. The laughs blend and then merge, and the girl wipes a hand across the lips of the figure in the glass. Suddenly, there is nobody but her, and she turns to watch the twitching of tanned shoulders among the comforters. A head of touseled brown hair emerges from the nest of blankets, and the face below it blinks groggy green eyes in her direction. Focusing on her, they light with a smile that makes her breath quicken.

With a last glance back at the mirror, the girl stands and goes to join the joyous faced man beneath her covers.

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