Thursday, April 20, 2017

cor : beginnings

a handmaiden carefully painted the curves and hollows of her eyes with red, the color of blood and wine and all fine things. the brush tickled Bryony’s skin, a dusty powder settling deep in her throat, making it hard to breathe. everything made it hard to breathe--the tight boned waist of the dress they’d squeezed her into, the pins digging deep into her scalp, the unsettling weight of anticipation pulling her stomach into painful contractions...she could barely sit still. the gentle tap of another handmaiden behind her reminded her--stop squirming. but she couldn’t. not with so many hands on her sun hardened skin. Not with so many eyes resting entirely on her.


Birdman hated this part. what was the point, he would scream at the guards and handmaidens pulling her away, the yellowy-whites of his eyes disappearing as the rest of his face turned spongy and red. why make a woman who could do everything a man could look like a woman again? It was just a waste of time.


but deep down, Bry enjoyed it. despite the tickling sensation of the brush and the steely grip of delicate women, she enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror and not knowing the girl who sat before. or maybe she wasn’t a girl anymore. not like this. when she looked like this, she was a woman.


her dark brown hair, the color of stained wood, swept back from her forehead, curling into an intricate spectacle atop her head. her skin now looked like the porcelain she’d only seen in shop windows, a color that did not match the dark brown of her hands. gold accented the red paint they so carefully applied, and her heavily lidded eyes were now lined with kohl, making her seem more wild and alive than she actually was. if only Mam could see me now, she thought as the maiden finished the last touches. even her body was not her own anymore. her broad shoulders and wide hips were hidden, masquerading under a blood red gown that pinched and squeezed and resisted her every moment. compared to her ordinary brown dress or white smock and blue breeches, this dress made a farmhand, a fighter, into a bird of paradise.


a poisonous one.


“there.” the handmaiden stepped back, the brush limp in her freckled hand. “you’re ready.”


Bry forced a smile to her newly painted lips. yes, she was ready--to prance and to parade and to flirt. but was she really ready? for the coming days? to fight? to rally? to die?


no amount of finery could make her feel ready for that.



***


as Milo stood next to his father, smiling with faked politeness at the dozens of diplomats pouring past them, he suddenly wished he were seven years old again. small enough to hide in dark corners where no one would find him. insignificant enough that no one would bother to look for him. now, at twenty-one, he couldn’t hide, no matter how hard he tried. everyone wanted to have a look at him, the Forgotten Prince of Golgotha.



“where is your mind?” King Eris, his father, nudged him slightly, speaking only through tightly clenched teeth. his smile never faltered--but Milo’s did.


“just thinking.”


“there is no such thing as just thinking, my son.”


yes, there was. thoughts flowed through his mind like a quiet trickling stream of water, but those thoughts were for him and him alone. he couldn't share them with this stranger of a father. he didn't have enough of the right words for that. besides, Eris would never listen. so instead of answering, he just smiled that pained, practiced grin and straightened his shoulders.



“are you excited for tonight?” the king’s smile soured as he asked, like he had a guess of what was running through his son’s mind right then. “I hear that girl from Snol will be here.”


a chill ran down Milo’s spine. he hadn’t known. of course he hadn’t known.


he hadn’t been to Snol in six years--because he was forbidden to leave the city. he broke that rule as often as he liked, but something deep within him kept him far away from that village in particular, and it wasn't just because of the ire in his father’s eyes every time he brought it up those first few months.



he knew he wasn’t wanted there. not any more.


she would be there. in the same room as him. they might meet eyes. they might exchange pleasant conversation. she might not even recognize him. that might be better for the both of them. ballrooms weren't exactly the best location for hostile negotiations. that was what the arena was for, and he wasn't allowed out there. another grievance he wasn't brave enough to bring before his father. but still...an ache in his heart flared to life, a feeling that had been locked in slumber for fifteen long years. maybe, just maybe, she would be happy to see him. maybe she had missed him like he missed her. like he missed everything about Snol. maybe.


but not likely.


“interesting,” he said instead of pouring out all this. the king watched him carefully, but Milo knew he didn’t care. he never had. he just wanted to know whether this news was something he could twist and manipulate, whether he could use it to his advantage.


Milo wasn’t going to give him that satisfaction.


not again.


***


altogether there were forty-three of them. all solid and firm, like ancient trees lining the arena with skilled grace. and then there was her. Bryony. one of seven women.


she didn’t care that they outnumbered her. she didn’t even care that they were bigger than her, with prouder muscles and broader swords.


she only cared about the woman across the arena in pale dusty pink. if Bry was a flame, this woman was a rose. a cold, dying rose. and if these men were proud of their strength, this woman was prouder. she could crush them with a single clench of her fist, and she knew it.


Bryony’s eyes stayed trained on her, but she never looked her way.


this was why she was here. not to wage wars of men or to win golden coins...although that would be nice.

she was here to bring someone home.



***


“can you see her?” Nox asked for the millionth time, bouncing up and down on her agile toes. her hair sprouted haphazardly from her hair-covering, and the midday sun lit up her eyes like liquid fire. as Hade watched her out of the corner of his eye, he couldn’t help but smile. silly child. “Can you see my sister?” she asked again, trying her hardest to peer over the barred wall. Hade, with his towering six foot frame, looked over the edge with ease--straight into the pit of the arena where his best friend stood, her vibrant dress like a flame against the black sand. she was a vision.



pride warmed his belly. she’d done it. she was here. she was going to win. no one was better prepared for the Scourges than Bryony Haiba. she’d fought her way through life, she would fight her way through this. he knew she could do it.

“she’s there,” he told Nox, whose face was wrinkled with frustration. “right where she belongs.”



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

a year in music : iii


click this photo for playlist of all these songs! <3 

i. i'll be yours
[ girl's day ]


ii. black sun
[ death cab for cutie ]


iii. 6am
[ fitz and the tantrums ]


iv. beautiful
[ monsta x ]


v. love drunk
[ boys like girls ]


vi. crooked teeth
[ death cab for cutie ]


vii. wake me up
[ bap ]


viii. never ever
[ got7 ]


ix. terrible things
[ mayday parade ]


x. after the world
[ disciple ]


xi. i came from the city
[ " the get down " - nas & michael kiwanuka ]


xii. rollin'
[ brave girls ]


bonus : zeke's poem
[ " the get down " - justice smith ]



*none of these gifs are mine unless specified - all credit to creators*

Saturday, March 18, 2017

ttf5-my_first_and_my_last.


"tell me more."

my mother used to say that all the time. on the days where I was the only voice jabbering away in our tiny yellow home, she would smile at my stories and listen closely as I told her about my adventures. her attention told me they meant the world to her, even though they were just stupid little things blown up in the world of my imagination. maybe they did mean that much to her. I liked to think so. that feeling...having someone listen to you without obvious reluctance or distractions...nothing felt quite as good as that.


I hadn't felt that burst of warmth in a long time. I hadn't felt anything, actually. not since my mother kicked me out of the only home I'd ever known. even though it itself had been cold and empty, I found the outside world much colder and far too empty of people like me. ever since then, everything had been as numb as cold steel. but right then, as I stared into that guardian's gold rimmed eyes, as my mind slipped dangerously with the swirl of the alcohol's influence, I felt something.

and it didn't sit right.


she shouldn't be listening to me. a good guardian would have walked away the moment they saw me. a better guardian wouldn't even been here? what was she doing in a deserted 7-11 hidden deep within the rotten innards of Halloway? getting an innocent slushie? spying on us? playing the hero?

either way, here she was, crouching in front of me with her round cheeks cupped in her tiny, brown fingers. a golden ring with a small purple gem flashed in the dim overhead light. she had to be around my age--maybe twenty three or a little younger--but everything about her was a contradiction. her mannerisms were childish, her eyes were ancient, and her expression...wasn't there. no anger. no confusion. no disgust. just...blank anticipation of what would happen next.


"what the hell," I murmured, eyes glued to this anomaly before me. "how...are you here? just...how?"

how could something as bright and unclouded as her even exist in this dirty corner of the world?

those awful eyes flashed, almost defiant--the first sign of any emotion. "um, I walked here? Just like you." she frowned. "although yours was probably more of a drunken stagger."

"...I would probably take offense at that if I weren't so drunk." even I winced at my pronounced slurring. just how drunk was I? the events after leaving Angela with her judgmental mother and the bus ride home were a little...blurry.

I hadn't been this drunk in a while.


"Do you have a phone?" I finally eeked out. the steady weight of her eyes made speaking--and breathing--extremely difficult. this stillness was so different when compared to the fiery woman  stared down this afternoon. that woman had been fricking alive.

this one...just stared.

and frowned. she pulled out an iphone--its case also purple--from her hoodie pocket. "don't you?"

"yeah, but..." pain jolted through the back of my skull, penetrating my brain like an icy shiv. "I don't remember what I did with it. traded it for a vegetable, maybe. or more vodka. probably more vodka." considering the state of my wallet and how drunk I was, definitely more vodka.


that time, the stare came with a tinge of condescension and the tiniest bit of concern. "do you want me to call someone?" the words had a practiced ease to them, like she was used to helping random drunk strangers find their way safely home. although I wasn't exactly random. unless this awkward encounter was just yet another freak coincidence in my freak coincidence of a life.

something deep down told me it wasn't.

"my AA sponsor." the words left a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. damn it. I should've pictured Fox's disappointed scowl when I took that first burning gulp. that would have sobered me instantly. instead, the harsh chant of "you're a monster" echoed in my mind like a cadence of chains.

and now here she was, waiting to help me.


the innate nature of a guardian must be one hell of a habit.

with a sigh too heavy to be anything but reluctant, she pressed the phone into my waiting hands. "thank you," I whispered. she had no idea what it meant. she never would. thankfully, despite blurry vision and shaking fingers, I managed to punch Foxglove's number into the device.  I winced at the shrill ring, not once, but twice before the phone clicked, and Fox's heavy accent filled the crackling silence. "hullo?"

"you always sound like such a dirtbag when you answer the phone. 'hullo.'" I mocked, lips curling in playful derision. across from me, Cora's golden eyes widened. shocked, probably. she'd probably never even imagined a reaper could have a normal, guy to guy conversation before. she was the dirtbag, not Fox.

was it possible for me to be getting drunker, even though I hadn't touched the bottle since she started staring so firmly in my direction?


Foxglove went silent. "Neil? is that you?"

"the one and only."


a pause. "I hate to ask this, because you're normally this bitter, but--you're not drunk, are you?" an unspoken 'again' trailed off at the end of his question. so he still picked up on my alcoholism better than either of my own parents ever had. wonderful.

"very, I answered, swallowing a very petite hiccup. "can you come save me from this grimy convience store before I start gross sobbing? I think I might get herpes from this nasty place."

"you won't get herpes, you idiot," he reassured me. I could see him so clearly in my mind--pacing around his tiny kitchen with his phone cord wrapped tight around his forearm, glancing anxiously out the window towards the pitch black windows of the Moran's apartment, chewing absently at his non-existent lower lip. "whose phone are you on? is there someone there with you?"

"yeah." my eyes flashed up to Cora. "my guardian angel."


her lips tightened but said nothing.

"can you ask them to stay with you until I can get there?"

I cocked a lazy eyebrow at her, opening a reluctant invitation. "care to babysit me a little longer?"


she rolled her eyes, as if there were obviously something better for her to do. there probably was. even so, she nodded. "it's not like there's that much for a guardian to get up to on a Friday night in Halloway."

"hence the reason you're here at a 7-11 getting a slushie." I gestured lazily to the cup resting on its side by her feet, praying to every god I knew of that Fox hadn't heard the word 'guardian' over the phone. he was probably already losing his mind. I didn't need to start a full-fledged panic.

"she'll wait," I told him as gravity's pull dragged me a little closer to the floor. the buzz was starting to become annoying, and all I wanted to was to forget all this had happened. but still...I needed to stay awake. unconsciousness was a danger I couldn't risk at this point. that had been the whole point of sobriety.

so I whispered "come save me" to Fox as softly as I could. whether I needed saving from the guardian, myself, or the darkness gathering outside, I didn't know. I never would.


after telling him which greasy hole I was hiding in, I handed the phone back to her. Cora. the guardian. the woman who was willing to wait for me, despite all my mistakes and all our differences--as drastic and as barbed as they were.

and then I uttered something I never thought I'd say to a guardian in my life time.

"thanks."

a sliver of a smile creased her soft, round face--and it was so fricking genuine. the realest thing I'd seen all day. I kind of wanted to keep looking at it, until the sun finally set and all light had vanished from our tiny little world. it was a smile that looked like it could last milennia.


of course, it disappeared the instant I puked all over her shoes, but the moment had been there, all the same.



and with that, the_tethered_files comes to a close. hope you all enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!

*none of these images are mine unless specified*