High in the mountains and deep in the forests, winter is on its way. The sun shines brightly but no longer keeps the warmth. From all but the mighty conifers the leaves have fallen and birds will sing no more as they take their journeys south. The bear and the squirrel lie down to slumber, and all things are now asleep.
Well... not all things...
In Rosalin the tourist season has ended. The roads, now thick with ice and fallen leaves, will not see much traffic in the months ahead. The people go about their sleepy lives and content themselves with local gossip and humdrum jobs. Lumberjacks shoot the breeze with bored police officers, while old folk drift between empty cafes and half-stocked shops. Perhaps a morning paper or a bag of groceries will be the only purchase of these early hours.
And all the while... by the clocktower in the middle of town... on a park bench no one sits on... the Rose does what it has done for seven generations...
"Huh?" murmed Reece as he awoke to find a large teddy bear smiling at him. He had fallen asleep at his desk, and the soft toy had fallen on its side in front of him, winking through a half-sewn eye. Bits of stuffing floated around them on the morning breeze. He still had a pair of scissors in his finger, while his other tools had left an imprint on his face from where he had slept on them.
Yawning, the toy shop owner reached past the teddy bear, grabbed the sign hanging from the window, and flipped it to "OPEN". Then he had sat back, rubbed his face, and looked for the coffee pot.
Sunlight worked its way in slowly through the window into Allura's bedroom despite the tired old curtains that gave a lackluster attempt at stoping the morning from intruding upon the girl's sleep. With a groan, Allura turned over and pulled a pillow over her head but it was no use; since she was already awakened, Allura could not sleep again. Two feet wiggled from underneath the blankets at the foot of the bed and in her unusual morning fashion, Allura slid from the bed by slipping down until her feet hit the cold wooden floor.
Standing now, still sleepy but upright, Allura padded into the bathroom. A quick brush of her teeth later, she was tying her hair up in a bun and preparing to open her shop. As an afterthought, Allura changed from her pajamas and into a brown skirt with a white tunic top. Ordinarily, she would flip the open sign before getting dressed but lately, she was more worried that someone would stumble in to her store while she was still in the indecent nightclothes that she wore for the summer, with the weather beginning to get slowly warmer again.
The shop was as it was every morning, something that Allura loved deeply. The heady scents of herbs mixed with the seldom disturbed air gave the store an odor that most seemed to find a little overwhelming but for her, it was satisfying. She breathed in deeply and relaxed with the feeling that it was cleansing her body, this smell of herbs. Not that Allura believed half of what she sold to the tourists. To the mousy people who skittered in like rodents with the warmer seasons, Allura was like a sort of mountain witch selling the bounty. In reality, Allura needed most of the things but here and there, scattered in the store, was a genuine herbal poultice or ointment that would really do its job. That made her feel better about selling them the rest of the overpriced placebos.
"Hmm hmmhmm And I'm never gonna dance again, hmm hmmmhaa got no rhythm." Constance was humming along with the music in her mp3 player. The little device clipped on to the large paisley scare draped around her neck and one earbud nestled in her right ear. She pushed open the door to the local library, stomping on the rug place in front of the door to try and shake off the rest of the snow that hadn't stopped clinging to her clothes when she tried the same out front. Her pair of ankle boots and the loose colorful skirt she wore were hardly appropriate for frosty weather, but she made up for it with hot pink tights and a warm turtleneck sweater.
At least if she weren't damp. Constance made the mistake of not digging out her sidewalk from the first snow of the season and as a result of karma the entire thing iced over and she found herself quickly face first on the cement. On the bright side, she didn't get any MUD on her clothes, so she lived with the dampness all the way during her walk to the Library.
Constance crossed the carpet, minding her foot steps just in case she accidentally tracked anything across the floor, and headed straight for the research section of the library. For the past week she tried doing her research on the internet, but eventually gave up in frustration when she just couldn't navigate the damn thing. Or her computer for that matter. In fact, the only bit of the latest tech she managed to figure out was her mp3 player, and even that required a sales assistant to tell her out to use. She was far too old for this stuff.
Right. Research. Constance stopped at the card catalogs, looking for books on local historical landmarks. She hadn't been in Rosalin for over twenty years. There was probably a few new books with information about the Rose. A rose that she once never believed existed until she saw it herself through the lens of her camera. One that to this day she curses up and down - yet, can't seem to shake a sick fascination for.
Peering through flowing copper hair, Ivan spotted the woman walking in from the outside. She wasn't properly dressed for the weather, and she had her MP3 player blaring out loud. His hand ran through his hair, pushing it from his eyes, as his other closed a book that he'd been palming with a muted thud, and rested it on the counter next to his computer monitor. Adjusted the cuffs on his black button up dress shirt, Ivan gave his full attention to the woman approaching the counter where the card catalogs were. "Welcome to the Rosalin Historical Archives. I must remind you that any electronic devises must either be turned to mute, or must not be loud enough to be heard beyond five feet. Is there anything I can help you find, miss?" Ivan spoke with a deep voice, the words sounding simply perfect.
Noting that her clothes were damp, he lightly ran a thumb along his strong jaw, a moment. "Miss... you do realize that you're nearly drenched? I would advise you to find a change of clothes, as our heater hasn't been working as efficiently as it should be." Ivan would certainly feel bad if the woman managed to fall ill while she was at the library under his shift. Especially when it could be so easily avoided. Absently, he continued to file books from the stack on the counter onto two carts, all the while giving Constance his attention, though his eyes focused on filing.
Taking a brief sip of coffee, Ivan then typed something into the computer, and moved to the printer which began making a horrible grinding noise, and started to literally vomit papers. "Stück der Scheiße!" he hissed at it, as he began to pick up all the papers.
Constance looked wide-eyed and apologetic as she fumbled to check the sound on her mp3 player. With the headphones plugged in, no one should be able to hear it. She pulled the bud out of her eye and frowned. The sound seemed perfectly normal to her. Not too loud at all. Still, she turned it off anyway. George Michael could wait.
"I can change when I get home. Anyways, I-" Suddenly papers were flying out of his printer. "Yikes" she muttered to herself, stepping out of the way when papers came shooting in her direction. "I found what I was looking for. I'll just... be looking for it." Cringing in sympathy go the guy, Constance jumped over a few of the papers scattered across the floor as she made her way over to the book shelves.
She disappeared behind one, leaning back to peek at how bad the printer disaster had gotten and rolled her eyes. Technology. It totally bites!
Fumbling around with the papers, Ivan called out "Argh... should you need any assistance I am more than ready to render assistance." The printer then began to spit ink out of it's printer port. "What the hell!?" He yelled in confusion, but managed to dodge the inky black stream. "It didn't do that back in the seventies..." he muttered, and gave the machine a light rap on it's top, before muttering "Oh, what I would give to go back to pigeon messaging, and scribing...." A large audible sigh escaped his lips, as he stacked the papers all in a neat orderly pile, and reached for a roll of paper towels in order to clean up the ink that had showered all over the counter.
Curiosity... like always then grasped his consciousness. "What were you looking for, if I may ask miss?" He asked as he furiously scrubbed at the counters with what had to be the thinnest roll of Bounty paper towels. A sweat came to his brow as his arms swept out in wide circles, almost having to scrape the ink from the stone counter top. "Oh the director is going to have my head... though that will be little good to him." he began in annoyance, though ended in a slight chuckle.
Kathleen wandered around the small town of Rosalin in a dream like state. She had woken up sometime early in the morning and discovered that she had a deep desire to check out the place that she had left behind. It was shockingly still the same boring and simple town from that day when she had went off to college. This small fact was really starting to piss her off...
She kicked a pile of snow that lay randomly on the sidewalk and glared at the remains of the sticky white stuff on her black flats. She shook it off her foot before it could melt into her shoe, more so then it already had, and shivered. When had the winters been so cold in Rosalin? She asked herself as she wrapped her arms around her body to try and keep in what small heat she could make in her current outfit. She was in a long sleeved red turtle neck shirt with black leggings, the fabric that both pieces were made out of was very thin. Had she thought about it being this cold she would've packed warmer clothes. Instead she was walking around the local shops freezing her butt off.
"I need some coffee...Warm, delicious coffee..." Her one track mind suddenly went to an image of her sitting in a cafe, sipping from a cup. This helped to warm her but not completely.
The morning was passing with less event of note than Allura had hoped - maybe she'd just been overly optimistic when she had thought that something interesting was going to end up happening that morning. Either way, things were very dull and she saw no reason to keep her shop open if that was the case. After she had flipped the sign to read 'Closed', Allura grabbed several bottles off of her shelves and went back to her quarters.
From the back room, Allura steeped a nice herbals tea for herself. It was relaxing, she thought, to not have to be a part of anyone's life but there was a nagging pain to it. Every day, even this long after the betrayal, she woke up expecting to see Canseliet laying next to her on the bed. There was a little bit of sadness to every morning when she remembered that he'd died long ago. She'd watched him die, her heart still bitter at the time. He'd taken a wife, she knew, and he had seemed so happy while Allura had nursed her wounded pride.
These thoughts were oddly nostalgic for her, she decided, and not worth mulling over. Perhaps, she considered, it was due to being cooped up in her shop for her research. It might be cleansing to, just for today, conduct her studies in the library. Such a place was one for study and libraries were some of her favorite places anyway. She was lucky that this little town had such a lovely library.
Already dressed and thus with little to do in order to get ready, Allura grabbed some of her books and made her way to the library. Seldom did people talk to her, for she seemed to exude an aura of aloofness and she most often had her head down when she walked but it was days like this that she wished someone would speak with her. She was lonely today and unhappy because of it. When she finally reached the library doors, though, her wishes had not come true.
Sullen now, Allura made her way inside without looking up and flopped onto a chair in front of a table, her books thumping in front of her seconds after her butt hit the seat. The jewelry that she wore jangled noisily as if in protest to her rough actions.
Managing to clean the mess up as best he could, Ivan tossed the paper towel into the trash, and grabbed the stack of papers he'd printed and tucked them under an arm. Seeing Allura pass by him, he smiled slightly. He hadn't seen her in sometime, and so he decided it wouldn't hurt to take time from work to talk with a friend. Cringing at the symphony of noise her jewelry made, Ivan plopped himself down in a squat next to her chair. "Hello, Allura. What so you think you're doing with a look like that on a face like yours? Something wrong today?" He asked with concern, as the last time he'd seen her she was in an extremely good mood, though it was most likely because both of them were very intoxicated. Either way, she didn't seem to be in a good mood.
"Well I might have something that'll bring a smile to your face." Pulling a book from his back pocket, he rested it on the armrest of her chair. The small leather bound book was riddled with cracks through it's leather casing. "Milyardo's Eleven Elements of the Human Soul." Saw it when I was out and about last week, and I thought of you as I know you like reading about old books involving science. This one's about Alchemy, and that's really old." He said with a chuckle, finding the humor in the fact that he'd seen the man himself perform some of the contents of the book.
With a small start, Allura's head shot up to see who was speaking to her though she already knew without looking. No one other than Ivan would have taken time and note for a special old book. Allura tried to restrain herself from having greedy grabby hands but still her fingers clasped around the bindings of the book before she could help herself. The addition of the book and some company to take her mind off of the morning seemed more than sufficient to brighten Allura's mood and she uncurled her posture a little from the confines of the chair.
"Hmm... beautiful. Where did you find it? It's lovely..." Allura brushed her fingertips over the cover, admiring the letters etched into the fine leather. Ivan was often mysterious about his findings but he seemed to have almost a sixth sense of what she liked. If she didn't know better, she'd almost say that he was on to her secret. Not that he was one to be throwing stones from a glass house - if he had noticed in the years that they'd lived peacefully coexistent in this town that Allura never seemed a year older, the same could be said for him. Most of the residents kept to themselves, their secrets carefully huddled to their chests. She never asked about him because he would then have the opening to ask about her.
"You know, they're so rare... I'd love to be able to see Le Mystere des Cathedrales. I'd love to own them all, really. Take them all out of circulation so that nobody else can have them... But this is only an idle musing. How have you been, my friend?"
It was the dawn that woke him, pushing insistently against his eyes. The first sensation he felt was warmth, an odd feeling during the winter months and especially around here. But the lingering heat was not nearly so alarming as the leaves brushing his face and hands, the feeling of the rough ground contours beneath his back, or the trilling of stubborn song birds. He sat up with a start, eyes grasping for the familiarity of his small apartment and the comfort of the familiar shadows, the humble decorum.
The forest stared back, trees clustered close together and holding up armfulls of snow. It was a beautiful morning, crisp as the hard-edged wind pushing gently against his hair.
Scrambling up from the ground, a more alarming sensation pushed forward in Byron's perception, explaining in a moment what he was doing in such an unfamiliar place.
Blood, sticky gobs of it clung to his mouth and fingers, painted Rorschach blots splayed across his t-shirt, browning tattoos crawling up his jeans. He had no memory of how they got there, of last night or even the day previous. Panic bubbled in his stomach for a moment before simmering, realization and even remorse passing through him like a brief wind, cold and sharp.
His victim lay sprawled beneath an aspen, a few green needles starkly bright against her naked body. Her clothes, strewn across the ground, were not ripped or removed with savagery, but with the careless passion of sex. Settling back onto the snowy ground, Byron's head sunk to rest in his hands but paused when he remembered the blood still on them. Grabbing small handfuls of snow, he clenched them in his fists till water ran between the wrinkles of his hands. Scrubbing the blood from his palms and face, he ventured to the body, hesitantly turning her over.
Her body was stiff, an entire evening in the wintery forest taking a toll on her skin and bones. Her eyes, thankfully, were closed and a pale blue pallor had darkened her cheeks in some sick parody of a blush. Byron felt his heart leap into his throat. It was Brenda.
Brenda Franklin was the pretty daughter of Joseph Franklin, sheriff of Rosalin. Even in death she was beautiful, pale skin as soft as he remembered it and her golden hair now brighter, a halo around her senseless head. Her skin would have been unmarred save for her chest, a vicious hole torn through the skin above her chest, an abyss of shadow and blood.
The shock was a cold numb feeling in his stomach, a sickening realization that he did not feel guilty about her death, but only that it was her who had to die. Usually in the tourist seasons he could be more careful. Attacks in the wilderness, short but passionate affairs on vacation, even trips down the mountain to the larger cities...where runaway teenagers and homeless were missing before he took them...
But he had never been so clumsy before.
Looking at her now, sitting beside her lifeless body, Byron fancied he understood what his hunger had seen in her. She was a perfect creature, crafted of moondust and sunlight. By all accounts she should not have been alone, vulnerable. But her outer features masked a yawning emptiness so similar to his own they might have been soul mates...all his victims and he might have been.
A little calmer now, Byron tried to get his bearings, to understand why his hunger had brought him out here. Usually it disposed of the body once done, an instinctual desire to remain in anonymity perhaps, or even his own guilt removing the body before he could think see them. Was this a sign he was becoming more callous?
The quiet murmur of running water ghosted beneath the icy pine needles, drawing Byron to a stream pushing down the mountain and into the forest. A hole was smashed in the ice of a small pool, a receptacle for the water about three feet deep before the stream continued on. The dark water invited him, an eye staring into him and through him. Symbolism was everywhere if one looked for it and Byron was becoming irritated with how coincidence seemed to remind him of what he was, what he wasn't.
What he didn't have.
Groaning under the weight of her body, he slipped her beneath the ice. She slid into the water easily, her bright golden hair like veins of metal beneath the ice itself. Given a day or two, it would freeze over again. Byron looked at her through the water, the way her face looked like she was sleeping, caught in a dream or floating in eternity. Not many people were buried like this, but he felt it was prettier this way. They looked so peaceful, as if they might get up in a moment and return to life.
He could have changed her, turned her into what he was...but he wasn't that lonely, not as lonely as she was.
Gathering some snow from the branches, he dumped it on her face, blocking it from view. He was clumsy this time, and it might uproot him from the life he'd decided to lead. He shivered, couldn't think about it and turned away from the stream. His bike would be ahead somewhere, and with it a change of clothes. Every month or two, the same routine. Hopeless met hopeless and hopeless ate hopeless. Like clockwork it would begin again. The birds were still singing, but it was a hollow sound, mocking rather than sweet. He imagined his maker in those chirps, laughing at his desires to live normally, to strive for something he could not stand.
Loves makes us weak, love is our enemy.
Love was her enemy, and she had never understood it.
He only hoped Brenda had felt something like love in their relationship, however brief, however secret. She was so full of kindness and life, and she would be missed...searched for. By now she should have been volunteering in the library, then her usual rounds around the town. Remembering her as she was comforted Byron, picturing her riding a bike down the streets of Rosalin, sitting in the park, or bringing warm apple crisps to the shop clerks on a long and trying day.
He left his own clothes in the dirt of a hastily dug and shallow hole. The ground was too cold to dig farther and sated, his strength was no longer impressive.
Something about the forest felt...awake, alive, watching. Glancing at the trees, how they whispered to each other by wind, Byron counted himself lucky plants spoke with no language anyone could understand. But if they moved so gently to this murder...what else had they seen in the long years beneath them?
What horrors could be worse?
By the late morning he was back in town. On his bike, he ducked inside the quiet shops delivering the care packages from Bill at the Post office. In their eyes he imagined accusation, suspicion, the people he had come to know over the two years he'd been here suddenly turning against him. So perhaps he was a little pale, his smiles wan or somehow weaker than they usually were. The one time a police car passed, a stranger in the normally peaceful town...especially on off-season, Byron nearly swerved his bike into a girl walking along the side of the road. He recognized her, the novelist girl, quiet and usually in a world of her own. Yanking the handlebars of his bike, he narrowly missed her, skidding across a store window and spinning off his bike face and across the sidewalk.
"Sorry! Sorry!" He chanted to her, leaping to his feet and retrieving his bike. The packages were fine...thankfully, but he was late for his first delivery, He gave a short wave to her, smiling apologetically, "In a completely different places, sorry for not paying attention!" Then jumped on his bike and peddled, hoping the groan in the frame was just a sigh of exasperation rather than any indication it was breaking.
Stopping by the library, he grabbed one of the packages assigned to him and passed through the door. The lack of the blonde he had left under the ice lent an eerie serenity to the place, more akin to a well kept tomb than a place of learning. He noticed Ms. Fulcanelli toward the back, obscure researcher of the town. He felt drawn to her sometimes, when the month wore on toward the end and familiar hunger rose within him. She was like him perhaps, empty, but at least he had the good sense to stay away from town when the hunger took him.
Every time but this.
"Mr. Holkonsen, package for you," Holding up a wrapped parcel he placed it on the front table, "I'd say it was a surprise, but the folks you buy from certainly leave nothing to imagination." Byron had gone through a 'scholar' phase fifty years ago but had grown tired of books as of late. They always seemed to play the part of the insistent tale weaver or aged professor, droning on about how their work was important. His favorite writer was life, a 'by the seats of your pants' kind of author who had no idea where the story was heading.
I was always a surprise, whether for good or bad.
"Just need you to give your John Hancock, let boss man know it got to you alright." Ivan had a way about him, a musty mysteriousness that only enhanced his friendly demeanor. Sometimes Byron felt something from him to, but it was fleeting...like the echo of something. No expert on the nature of hearts, he'd never questioned it. Placing the clipboard on the table with a pen, he leaned against the hard edged table and glanced around the library. It was small, cozy even, but there really weren't any books that caught his interest.
"Nice day out, quieter without so many tourists huh?"
Hearing his name, he turned to see Byron at the counter with a delivery. Flagging him over, Byron handed him the package, along with the clipboard and the pen.
"It's no secret I like books, Byron." He said with a nod, and gracefully signed the form with one fluid motion.
"Nice day out, quieter without so many tourists huh?"
"That, I've noticed... I wonder why that is." He said looking the young man in the eye. Those brown eyes of Ivan had a way of making most feel as if he was pealing away their mental defenses in order to raid their inner most secrets. Though if he did... he never revealed such. Byron didn't register as anything other than a teenager in Ivan's mind, though he hadn't much time, or much reason to really take a heavy interest in the boy. He was always making his rounds, and Ivan was usually swamped with paperwork, or organizing new additions to the library. "Thank you for this." He said with a nod "I don't mean to be rude, but I've got to finish my conversation with Miss Fulcanelli here." Slipping out a twenty dollar bill, he handed it to Byron. "I didn't expect this until tomorrow, thank you for expressing it." He said then, turning back to Allura
"Boston.. There was this little bookshop that seemed to appear out of nowhere as I was walking down Rice street, and so I went inside, and I found that little beauty tucked away on an old cart. You like it? Happy belated birthday then, Allura. Since you've never told me when it is, I've a feeling that I'm quite a bit late, or perhaps quite a bit early." He said with a soft smile. "Le Mystere des Cathedrales. That will be something I'll keep my eyes open for." Ivan repeated, and lightly rubbed his chin. It was a known fact that if anyone was seeking an old text, that Ivan could find it. Hell it almost seemed if someone wanted the original Bible, that he'd find it within a month. Not to mention he more than likely had read it, considering all the knowledge he seemed to pluck from his memory.
"Also, I don't know if you've read the paper, but the Holy Roman Empire Historical Society, that I've been founded is being accepted into the Collective of Universal History." He said with pride. Ivan was an avid lover of history, and the organization had been a big part of his life since his move to Rosalin five years ago. "I thought I'd go out and celebrate with a few drinks tonight, and I'd be honored if you'd have the time to grace my arm with your touch. Apparently there's a new night club that just opened up on Findley Avenue called "Dempsey's." I thought I'd check it out, what do you say?"
His father had called it the Ipsissimus Tree. Reece called it the Witchwood. At the turn of the century a young woman of Rosalin had been tied to it and burnt alive. The bark was still black and the rope marks visible. For seven decades no villager had gone near the tree. But then Reece's father had chosen to build his toy shop around it.
He was always one to buck the trend.
Now the tree grew and prospered in his basement, requiring neither light nor water for sustenance. All it needed was Reece. All it needed was for him to keep carving. And this morning he did just that. Sat cross legged on the cold floor, the teen was surrounded by wood shavings and used tools. In his hands he held a hot glue gun and strips of ribbon, from which he fashioned joints for the the head, arms and torso of his latest marionette. He worked quickly and fluidly, as if to the rhythm of an unheard song. The wood seemed to glow of its own accord, sharply polished and unflawed by any natural seam or grain.
It was more like working with clay.
Unwinding some cotton thread, Reece hot-glued it to the apex of the doll's head before cutting it off at a length where he could hold it from a standing position. On the floor beside him, he had already fashioned the hand control. The branches of the Witchwood grew in long and narrow shafts that lent themselves perfectly to dowling, and neither rod had split as he nailed them together in the cross shape.
It was two months after his father died that Reece had begun sleepwalking. He would find himself falling down the basement stairs, or waking up nestled in the crook of the tree, cold fingers jammed in the rope grooves. Aunt Agnes, who had cared for him in those mourning months, had tried her best to get him to a therapist, but Reece had refused each time. In the end it was more painful to be separated from the tree than to suffer its nightly summons. By the fourth month he had driven his aunt away and taken over the shop as his full time business, foresaking school and friendships. Toiling by the tree was a pleasure he could not emulate in normal life - a warmth and an adrenal rush that could not be explained.
And with each puppet he crafted, he had the sense that a new family... a family that understood him... was drawing closer to home.
He screwed the lower rod to the head of the puppet, then fed an eye bolt between the shoulderblades and hips. Alligning the cross-rod, he stretched further lengths of thread and hot-glued them to the feet, before repeating the process with a third horizontal dowel kept separate from the others. This was threaded to the hands then manipulated separately. Sweat dripped from Reece's brow as he rose with a breathless smile, holding up the puppet and working its joints.
The marionette... a faceless man... danced in the basement half-light, at first at the bidding of the strings and then... as Reece's hands froze and eyes rolled back in their sockets... the puppet danced of its own accord.
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Another paper littered the rooftop, threatening to roll away slowly into the abyss of sky. The paper didn't hold no real value, as was the case with all of the other papers that were scattered around her. If they held some sort of value, they would still be intact in her roughly bound notebook placed in her lap.
Mia took her drawing very seriously. If she was off by even the tiniest inch of her idea for the picture, her hand would grip the page fiercely, ripping it straight from it's 'tendon' and would be crumbled crudely into a ball. Today was a very bad day, due to the sight of balled paper around her.
It was finally decided that she would not leave that rooftop until her picture was finished. The art shop was closed for today, but it's roof wasn't. Ranymia was working when she wasn't working, as always.
Her finger twitched as it hovered slowly above the blank page of her notebook. Mia didn't even know what she was about to do anymore. With a sigh, she forced herself to realize the deafening grasp on her notebook, setting it lightly aside. Instead of torturing herself, she found pleasure in gazing off of the rooftop instead. The roof wasn't up high enough for her, to be honest. If she could detect a pedestrains eye color from the distance away from them that she held then, then she wasn't elevated high enough. It's not really isolation if you can make out the people under you, her voice whispered in her own head. Mia rubbed softly at her left, blue eye, which was stinging due ti gazing at a blank sheet of paper for a long period of time.
A toothy grin to both men lit her face with a cool glow but at the current point, Allura was more interested in Ivan and his words. From time to time, Byron seemed as if he was trying to call to her with that pitiable expression but she was never open enough it seemed to warrant any actual conversation. She'd only spoken with him once or twice - he was a reclusive fellow, generally. Today it seemed some strange boon that there were people around here. It almost made her want to flee but instead she took a deep breath, holding on to her smile though her cheeks hurt a little. She wanted to seem friendly lest she be left alone with her thoughts on this day.
"I would happily accompany you, Ivan. Tell me a when and a where and I will be there." Already slipping into a girlishness, Allura was surprised to find the behavior so comfortable. Allura hadn't been a woman in society very frequently, her natural life had been spent hiding her identity as best as possible so that people took the old master Fulcanelli seriously. Now, though, she was thinking of what she might wear. Was this a date? She clasped her hand more tightly around the cover of the book, feeling the aged surface of the leather beneath her fingers like a lifeline.
"Maybe you'll show me this old bookshop... I'd be interested to see if it has any more obscure works of alchemy like this. The herbs that I work with, it's very linked to many f the principles in these books. Might I ask what you ordered?"
"I'd be happy to show you that little gem of a store. Perhaps I can find something about Alchemy in my private library as well." He answered with a finger tapping his chin in thought. "Though that will be quite a dig... I think I may have well over ten thousand books now in those shelves. As for tonight, I'll pick you up at sundown. Call me old fashioned, but I rather like the idea, of a gentleman catering to his lady." Giving her a pearly white smile of his own, he then looked at the book that Byron hand handed him. "This old thing? It's an actually a collection of Edger Allan Poe's childhood attempts at poetry. I've heard it's rather horrible." Ivan laughed.
"It should make for an interesting read at least." Watching the expression that seemed stuck upon Allura's face, Ivan leaned in slightly closer. "Now if someone could capture that look in a book, I think I would find myself lost in it's chapters." He said as he was genuinely glad to see Allura with a smile on her face. She always seemed like she was lost, and alone. The light in her eye was a most welcomed change of pace, and Ivan would do his best to fan that little spark, and see if it turned into a roaring fire.
Kathleen, off in her own little world, felt the wind rush by her as some delivery boy on a bike came crashing her way. She jumped back and tripped over her own feet, thus falling butt first into a pile of snow on the side of the side walk that was infront of some store. "Seriously?!" She shouted at him but he was already taking off once again, shouting something about how it was his fault, or atleast that's what she hoped since it was indeed his fault. "Damn it..."
She stood up and brushed off the snow on her shirt with a frustrated sigh. Then she craned her neck around to try and see if there was a big wet stain on the back of her leggings. Of course there was, which meant she needed to change out them. ~Home's too far away for me to walk with out freezing to death.~ She let out a small growl as she glanced around at the stores. She had her wallet with her and there was bound to be a shop open that sold clothing somewhere in this town. Her only problem was that she hadn't been here in years so she wasn't sure which shop was which anymore. "It couldn't have changed that much." She wondered aloud to herself as she started walking toward some random shop.
Reece was jolted from his trance and all at once the marionette clattered to the floor, devoid of life. The teen's eyes rolled forwards and had to lean against the tree to abate his dizzyness.
It was a bell. The bell on the shop door. It had rung. Someone was here.
The teen backed away from the puppet, which now lay ominously still in the shadows of the tree, its featureless face turned towards him and its limbs twisted behind its back. It was like the victim of some horrible fall or car collision. And he could swear its hands was still twitching.
Reece turned and dahsed up the stairs.
When he pushed through the curtain from the backroom, running hands through his pale hair, it was see a girl standing in the doorway looking cold and lost. Her legs were wet and her clothes slightly dishevelled. And, above all, she looked pissed off.
"Mohur..." he coughed to clear his throat then tried again. "Morning."
He placed his hands on the counter, either side of a one-eyed teddy bear that was bleeding stuffing from its foot. Then, slowly, he raised a finger and pointed it at Kathleen, his other fingers clicking in time with his thoughts. Reece's eyes narrowed as the memories returned.
"Kat... Katy...Katrina, right? My dad used to tutor you... when we were kids."
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It was no use. She wouldn't have a note book by the time the sun was about to set if she kept on doing what she did. After tossing the last shriveled paper on the not-so-desolate rooftop, she swore silently under her breath. Lack of focus. There's always a lack of focus.
Mia couldn't have been mad at anyone but herself. The reasons her picture's were not being created correctly was because of the increase amount of stress she dumped on herself. Every time the sun would disappear into the horizon, she immediately became enraptured with seeing the day world in it's darkest element. It wasn't spying, per say. Just...exploring.
"HEY! Get down from there, kid!" a hoarse voice called from below. In a fraction of a second, Mia shot up (a bit too fast), and her head started to spin. The comeback she had in mind was sitting heavily on her tongue as she tried desperately to shake the groggy feeling that overwhelmed her. The roof wasn't forbidden; people that appeared Mia's age, however, always found time to desecrate them in some way, though she would never dream of doing that.
"I said down, NOW! Before I call the c--"
"--Cops. I know. Just a moment while I clean up around here, okay?"she said calmly, and made her way to different corners of the rooftop, rummaging different balls of paper into her hand. There was no way she had the ability to carry them all herself. There was a bulge of papers protruding out of her left arm, which was bent in a slight boomerang.
"Be careful!" the voice called, tickled with a slight tinge of worry. Mia smiled from the corner of her lips. First he was threatening to call the cops, and now he's worried for my safety. What a strange place this is.
Once the last of the 'undesirables' were gathered, Mia made her way down a small flight of stairs, hopping them two at a time. For someone who had a lot of things in her possession, she was surprisingly nimble and quick. But that's just Ranymia. After swinging her legs over the last rung of the stairs, she dropped her trash into the trash bin, making sure to hold on to her note book and pencil.
"I apologize for the fright." she said to a rough looking man who was obviously somewhere around his forties due the poorly wrinkled suit and matted fedora. The only response she allowed for before walking off silently into the street was a small gruff. Night time would fall some time today, whether she liked or not. Might as well spend her time strolling the streets before the moment arrived.
With Ivan's response, Allura's face turned faintly pink and her mouth opened slightly. "Ah..." was really all the response that she could muster for a moment - Allura rarely socialized with anyone in general and was utterly inept at handling compliments. Her fingers gripped the book still more tightly and she seemed evidently flustered.
"I'll see you then, I..." she should have stopped to consider where at sunset he wished to meet her but her mind was too befuddled with what to say. Before she could think of anything, she was on her feet and stumbling a little over the chair legs in order to get past. In her clumsy movement, she accidentally bumped against first Ivan and then Byron. Flushing still more deeply, she apologized to both and all but ran to the door.
It wasn't a long walk to her home but to her, it felt like an eternity. She was so embarrassed that she took several minutes to fumble for her key and open the door to her house. Once inside, Allura felt ashamed of how she had acted. Her panic was so ignominious that she wondered if he still even wanted to talk to her.
Allura paused and thought for a long moment. She'd spoken to Ivan before, but no one had ever asked her out on a date. Panic and the resurgence of betrayal colored her thoughts for a moment but she decided it was still worth going. Ivan had been a good friend. As a compromise to herself, she decided she'd bring along something. Most girls brought pepper spray... didn't they? But she didn't have any. A dagger, Allura decided, was a close second. She'd tuck it in her purse.
Now, though, the question was of what to wear. The modest closet of clothing that Allura owned was nothing special and had little in the way of clothes to dress up with. Biting her lip, Allura tried to think of all of the girls in the town but was dismayed to find that she didn't didn't know any and the few that she did considered her peculiar and unsociable. Then a thought struck her, a brilliant one really. There was a woman who had just moved to town, in the old house that she sometimes passed on her walks.
If Allura could befriend her, she wouldn't know of all of the things that people said about Allura and perhaps she'd have something that she could borrow? If not, Allura supposed that some of her old tunics and skirts would do instead.
Allura didn't waste any time in running over to the house but after several rings of the doorbell, it was apparent that no one was home. Allura peeked in through the windows and everything seemed just the way that one would expect from someone newly moving in. Allura considered leaving a note with her name but if the woman was suspicious or just unfriendly, it wouldn't be welcome at all.
Dispirited, Allura headed back to her meager closet in hopes of finding something acceptable.