Sooner or Later

Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Wed Sep 03, 2014 6:13 pm

There are many things to compare thieves to: cats who are silent and agile, water which rushes over things and seeps into crevices. Wind perhaps, which drifts and dodges, moves gracefully, ever forward through, rather than against, obstacles. But he is not like any animal, water, or the wind, he is quieter and gentler. And especially so here; he is like air, silent and still, innocuous and simply present.

Had he practiced opening this very window, or did all windows simply obey him? Where doors, floors, and joints might creak. in his presence they are quiet, well-mannered subjects. Perhaps he had drifted in the window on moonlight, it’s latch firmly set behind him.

Her room is sparse, but he might go through her footlocker, read every book, or pilfer any number of small objects and still be gone before she woke. But no, the old books, the satchel, the glassy green stone, and the little knife are left to be. The treasure he’s interested in, is apparently quite fast asleep at this very late or more accurately, entirely too early hour.

The chair was brought closer to her bed, near enough that he might reach out and graze her cheek. But he does not. He sits quietly, comfortably reclined, for a long time perhaps, folded parchment under his hand, resting on his thigh. The moonlight illuminating a sliver around the edge of his shoulder and neck, up the edge of his stubble covered chin and cheek, through half curled locks of red made blue in the light.

“Gloria,” he whispered, breaking the spell of silence so softly it might remain intact if he did not speak again.
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 9:18 am

Nothing about the room was remarkable. It could have been anyone's except for the few belongings stuffed like heirlooms into the iron-cornered chest at the end of the bed. There was but one faint, unavoidable label that permeated the humid air of the room: the sharp odor of the girl's perspiration, a sulfurous, unavoidable aroma whose strength was as innate as breath or instinct. Otherwise, the unadorned room offered asylum for the scent of long-burnt wax and the rogue moonlight that trickled in through the shutters.

Gloria, he whispered, and from the depths of her crushed pillow, a dim eye snapped open amid the sleep-swollen leather of her face.

His smooth brandishing of that word dragged her out of the depths of distant dreams. Her shoulders and hips were formless shapes beneath the tattered coverlet. She turned from hip to spine in the bed, the bulging breadth of her belly pressing up like a misshapen globe against the rough blanket.

And when the other eye opened, she saw him, realized he was there--

"Tennant."

On the hay-stuffed mattress, she scrambled up, forcing herself from the bed on the elbow of her mutilated arm. Her shoulder was bare, neither sleeve nor strap visible. Knees lanced up from beneath the blanket, unclothed islands that barely hid the immodesty of her current state. Smallclothes, it seemed, had been abandoned earlier in the night, tossed as a tangle onto the floor. She shrunk beneath her blanket, clutching it to her breast, her face flashing between both cloudy confusion and wide-stared embarrassment.

"I was sleeping," she said, voice hoarse. "I was sleeping."

Questioning, peering through darkness, she tried to find him -- and there, a sentinel, Tennant Tolleson sat.
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Thu Sep 04, 2014 10:43 am

He didn’t snap so quickly, rather he turns his head languidly away as if only half chivalrous given her immodest state. Perhaps it was too presumptuous to assume Gloria wore bedclothes. But it is dark anyway, even if he saw well in it. He stared at the wall and didn’t look back. Still, the moonlight traces a faint line over a growing grin and spreads more readily over his smiling cheeks.

“Yes. And apologies for that. If I thought I might catch you by daylight, I would have called. But you have been terribly tenacious at avoiding me,” his words were still soft, a whisper only barely louder than before.

And he wasn’t wrong, she had had passing words here and there over a month now. But more often than not she was cursing him and dashing away. Now, he was cornering her, so gently demanding that she sit and talk.
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:27 am

"Don't apologize. It -- it means a great deal, that you'd come to seek me out."

He did not look, ever the perplexing gentleman. But if he did--

Without the bounty of her ragged clothes, Gloria was slighter, almost obscenely small compared to the engorged roundness of her belly. Half-sunk in the cparse bedding, the weeks and months had chewed away her excess, and the girth she'd lost in Golben from starvation and exposure had never been entirely replaced. The black parapets of her shoulders were deceptive structures, a facade that, when coupled with loose dresses and tunics, helped hide the ruin of her body.

Gloria Wynsee was but lean shadow augmented by stubborn fat that not even stress could whittle away.

Under the gentle scrutiny of Tennant's question, the duty of looking at his eyes impossible to fulfill. Instead, with the coverlet pinned against her chest by virtue of a cumbersome stump, she scraped at an exposed ankle with shortened fingernails. A nervous itch. A distraction from truths she needed to offer.

...you have been terribly tenacious at avoiding me.

"I'm afraid of what you think, seeing me like this. I can't hide it anymore, and I'm not capable of lying to you, Tennant.

"It's impossible to lie to my friend, or to unanswered fantasies."
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Thu Sep 04, 2014 11:56 am

It was an easy truth to take, she was afraid of him seeing her like this. That was understandable. But the latter.

“A lie to me is easy, say what you like and I will either believe you or I won’t.” He shrugged with a casual grace that matched the nonchalance of his words.

“However, a lie to yourself is dangerous,” he cautioned, sparing a glance in her direction, as if to see if she was decent enough that he might face her again. His smile falls a little at the slight figure on the bed, there was a reason he always filled her plate.

As if waving away the matter as trifle, he continues, “whatever you think of me, you must surely know it is no surprise.” His words had become slower, he was talking about her state. Her being pregnant. And there is restraint in his voice too, some caution as if he approached uneven ground. He was many things after all, but among those, even he possessed narcissism enough to say he was observant. It didn't help that he knew her, better than some and watched her more than most.

He cleared his throat and for once, he fidgeted, shifting the folded paper between hands. Until an opportunity to abort whatever he had intended to say next, presented itself, best they see one another rather than hide in the shadows. Though in truth, it might be easier to say what he had to without seeing her reactions so clearly. A candle or a lantern is sought, whatever he might take and light. “May I?”
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 12:22 pm

...a lie to yourself is dangerous.

"Dangerous, maybe, but easy. It's harder to lie to you, because I -- I think so much of you, in ways I know you have no desire to reciprocate."

May I?

She nodded.

The candle near the bed sagged on its pewter plate, resembling more a fat man's rumpled neck than a taper. The wick, black and curling like a little hair, took fire willingly, for that same candle had courted the wall-sconces in the hallway time and time again and was nearing the end of its life. Orange light brought warmth to the room, surrounding them in its flickering radiance. For those few minutes all that existed was the bed and his chair, his tall, unmistakable frame and her shorter, wider one. They resided in a void occupied only by candlelight, breath, and soft words.

Squinting her damp, sleep-sanded eyes against the candle's flare, she glimpsed the paper he'd brought with him. He patted it back and forth between his palms like a burning coal.

"I can't think of you in those ways anymore, Tennant. Sometimes I don't know what else I can say. So I run. I don't run from many things, but when I know I'm vulnerable--"

Her chin lowered, indicating the paper.

"What's that?"
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:56 pm

The light is struck and he retreats, returning to where he sat.

…no desire to reciprocate.

Perhaps now, but had he? His face softened, he wouldn’t say aloud that she is wrong, but in a wordless manner, his eyes glancing up at her and then away, he does. It’s not really accurate to say he rarely was forthright. He was only ever strategically blunt. Pointed comments played off as casual banter and real honesty reserved.

…but when I know I’m vulnerable.

They were not so different in this respect. Only, she had the courage to recognize it, to admit it, to say it aloud. He says nothing.

She indicates the paper and he doesn’t look, his eyes returning to her with the pull of a slight, smile only half finished.

“Your letter,” his voice nearly broke, as if he had been swallowing something just before he spoke.

And it surely is, the parchment might look familiar despite the weathered creases and stained corners. It must have been unfolded and refolded a dozen times or more, folds no longer distinctly laying one way or another. Had she said something, had she eluded to it. Surely she would have been more forthright. But then, this was them and there was so much and yet, so little.

“I…” He hesitated, taking a slow, measured breath. It was more than just the words, his breath in this sacred space had weight, had their own gravity. “I would be a terrible father,” he tried to smile that easy smile, but it didn’t come and it wasn’t easy. His eyes broke away then, looking down the letter now gripped at the corners by both hands. “But I won’t go. I will be here for you… for you both.”
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:36 pm

Amid even the bleary cloak of a half-waking conscience, she cannot help but speak to him her genuine belief. For in this circle of light, the Broken Dagger does not exist, nor does anything else.

"But you would be grand, Tennant. If -- if you'd a son, a daughter, nothing else in your life would matter as much they would. I see it in you, riveted in your smile and shining behind your eyes, a part of you that loves unconditionally without judgment or question. I recognize that part of you because, time and time again, I looked for it; I desperately, breathlessly sought him out, and always found him in you.

"But you smother him," said the girl on the bed clothed only in blanket and shadows. "The other Tennant, the one that fears being staked to one place by commitment. The vulnerable one. The one that hurts.

"And the disservice done to Myrken Wood, by virtue of his absence, is severe."

In his hand the paper seemed to glow like a shard of light magnified and refracted by the candle's sleepy dance. Her letter, her words, juvenile and blatant and clumsy, written by a silver hand she no longer had. If ever he had seen her at her most immodest, naked, and defenseless, it had been his first reading, his subsequent rereadings. Now, even clasping to the musty coverlet of her bed as a makeshift garment, the seamstress was only superficially exposed in comparison.

I won’t go. I will be here for you… for you both.

To travail the treacherous canyons of his emotions would be to compromise herself in the moment. No. No, Glour'eya. Tell him the truth you're afraid to say...

"I'm always going to be your friend. I'm always going to adore you," she said. "No matter where your feet take you, no matter to which Tennant they belong.

"Where was it you meant to go?"
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:18 pm

For a moment he is gripped with some certain knowing, a resignation to incontrovertible fact. Content. Willing and loving, all the smile and shining eyes, the unconditional love.

But then she speaks.

Even in the dim candlelight his expression changes as each word tumbles out of her. Though he listens much of what she says are too kind words that fall upon him and do not stick. And as the shower of words falls away his brows furrow. It is confusion and then something different, something she might only have had the faintest glimpse of before.

He ought to have smiled. To be happy at the visible revelation that has clearly taken hold.

“Here, I thought.”

“To you.”

Anger.

Tension on the letter is released and he barely holds it, disbelief gripping him. Stillness is too much now, better that he were a cat or water. Standing he shook his head, taking several steps to the side and only every now and again sparing a glance for her.

“Near on eight months ago I got this letter, I…” he glanced up and then away with a significant pause, almost mentally trying to do the math, to recall things Rhaena had seen to wiping, memories now entirely lost. “These last few months as I have watched you I thought, no, I knew,” he might as well have been pacing.

“Who is the father of your child, Gloria?”
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Fri Sep 05, 2014 1:40 am

Near on eight months ago I got this letter...

Ice crawled down her spine from brain to pelvis. Her remaining fingers clutch and press at the blanket's edge, trying to wean some kind of reason out of them -- or comfort, or ease, or rationale -- because her head, like a loose drum, was pounding, pounding. A deafening heartbeat pumped against the inside of her ears. Her cheeks, rarely so prone to color, bloomed hot and red.

He doesn't remember. He thinks we…

"No, Tennant. No."

Up in an instant, wearing the tattered, hole-riddled coverlet like a loose dress or a sagging robe over her bulging frame, Gloria tried to catch his elbow in her capable band. If she managed to stop him, turn him, the girl would look up at his face so that he could see that hers told no lies. "Look at me," she commanded, her visage half-swallowed in the shadow cast by her sharp-angled nose. Her thumb dug into the soft meat at the inner bend of his elbow.

"We did only in that letter what -- what that letter states. There were no hidden moments or obscured truths. We did not lie together, Tennant. You wouldn't have done that to me; you were, even under her influence, too much of a gentleman to let me misuse myself."

(But you could tell him, couldn't you? You could mislead him, deceive him.

Never.
)

She looked away.

"Catch," she whispered. "It belongs to Catch."
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Fri Sep 05, 2014 8:41 am

She blushes and he doesn’t see or doesn’t care.

Of course he thought that! He cared about her, and back then. Then he was a different man, drunk perhaps too; but no matter how fundamentally the same he was, he had been another person. Still, it hadn’t meant he wouldn’t own up to his actions, even if he couldn’t recall them.

Under her hand he stills, he does as she commands. He looks at her, he listens.

“Misuse,” there is some pained venom attached to the repeated word. As if he scoffed at the idea that she could not make rational decisions herself, perhaps her play at being a responsible adult had instilled in him a confidence in her that now, she purported lacking.

“Catch.”

His heat is doused with one word and the name is repeated flatly. For a moment he is still and silent. Then a breath and then, nothing. But soon he will pull away, he would be gentle, delicately lift her hand from his elbow before he turned and headed for the door. Better this way than the window.
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Rance » Mon Sep 08, 2014 2:57 pm

Catch.

He turned to leave.

Behind him, wrapped in her patterned coverlet, she stood on bare legs and swayed like a statue of tarnished gold in the candlelight. She traced lines across Tennant's spine with her pale eyes, symbols and circles, repetitions and arabesques whose nonsensical nature distracted her from the tremble in her voice.

"We can't do this anymore. Our game. I can't."

He was going to depart, vanish, leave her alone; she had to tell him, had to say it, no matter how juvenile --

"Edmund Henderson is going to -- to be mine. I'm going to be his. He needs a woman to see him for more than his soldiering, and I need a man who isn't afraid to show me his softer composition. I like him, I quite like him, and this isn't a world for -- for a stupid girl who has a mistake in her belly and neither trade nor talent enough to spit in the face of convention or tradition. I'm not worth very much," Gloria said, "but I wanted to give you everything. I would sometimes have -- have dreams about being one of your girls, and in turn, you'd be my boy. But fantasies are better left on paper or interred in the pages of letters.

"Your ladies are all extraordinarily fortunate, Tennant Tolleson. But they're not me."

She sat upon the bed and snuffed the candle with her thumb and forefinger. Light vanished. Her room returned to the state in which he'd entered it: shadow-clad, split by silver moonlight, and empty.

"And perhaps that's better for both of us."
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Re: Sooner or Later

Postby Tolleson » Tue Sep 09, 2014 6:18 am

He was going to depart, vanish, leave her alone;

Was he? Had he come here just to leave her, to tell her he didn’t care at all? He would depart, but he hadn’t intended on leaving her. This much he made clear, whether she believed him or not.

There were words. Words he could say. Words he wanted to say. Even questions he wanted to ask. But they weren’t real questions. Questions whose answer you knew and said only to speak the words aloud, to prove a point; these were selfish statements, not questions.

Slow, silent steps spoke thunderously loud. Deafening to him in their meaning, their weight.

This wasn’t a casual quiet, a simple dismissal of words; it was actively not speaking. It was restraint.

Edmund Henderson gave her hope.
Edmund Henderson gave her happiness.

Better to leave her with those, with silence, with feeling right even when she was wrong about him and wrong about herself.

‘Lovely Gloria, say these things enough, believe them and you truly will be as useless as you think. You know so little about yourself and nothing about me. You prove it even now,’ he could have turned, he could have said these things. But he did not. These words never form, they aren’t carried out or even whispered on the slow release of air from a held breath.

The knob is turned. The door is opened. And again, he is gone.

Their game, it was not a hopeless and grasping thing. It did not cry and cry, yell and scream, argue, bruise or batter; it did not fight tooth and nail to be right, to be true. It also was not the undeniable, essential magnetism that drew lovers closer and closer still, weak and powerless under it’s spell. Their game had been company tangled with past and present mistakes and regret.

And she deserved the future. Even if he wasn't ready for it.

Whatever it was between them, it was barely a tender flame in the wee hours of morning. It was the faint scent of a familiar place, a half remembered thought, a sip of wine, a gleeful dance. Much like his momentary presence here in the room, outside of real time or a real place, it barely existed at all. It was but a fleeting whisper of smoke from a snuffed candle, in a dark room. As he always was, he is air and absence.
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