Icicles formed over my small porch last night.

Transformation takes time. I’ve learned this meticulous lesson as a student of the fine arts, music especially. As long as we allow the patience of process into our efforts, the results will almost always amaze us. 

I loved the drips running down my steps, the background to a solid possibility.

15 minutes a day of practice, turns into 30, that stretches into an hour… until the performance seems effortless to the listener. 

Drops of water slide into ice.

I took my icicles out of context and made stalagmites of them.

Even if the end result takes a form different from the initial dream, we must take care to remember: the process is truly about the growth.

Growth

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One Drop At a Time

Conversations With a Beast, part 6

So the circumstances were a bit dodgy, but none more so than the ones that led me there. Besides, I liked his responses the morning after my… engagement.  I guess I’ll call it that. I liked it even more so that he’d  left me alone throughout the night, proving he was a man of his word. 

There had been nothing in my luggage to change into for sleeping, because I had no luggage, not that I was in desperate need for night clothes. Clothes were clothes, and I was accustomed to simply sleeping in my oldest tops and such at home. I was planning to stay in my dress. So when Bremeerson handed me a spare shirt–a rather nice, buttoned, long-sleeved, obviously too expensive for me to wrinkle and drool upon shirt–I promptly refused, saying as much. 

“I’d like to look at your legs, and your wearing of my shirt will enable that nicely without me discomforting you too much, I hope.”

“When put that way…”

“I promise to only look.”

Whether my dress or his shirt, there wasn’t much to either, but his shirt wouldn’t smell of sweat and would definitely be more comfortable to lay down in.

“Promise?”

“There’s time enough to come to more intimate conclusions.”

Perhaps I would’ve been less accommodating if he was so obviously a leacher or, worse yet, a perv. I wasn’t a golddigger, just someone who wanted a better life… And this man, this successful and unconventionally handsome individual who so obviously held his own, wanted to look at my legs. His request was almost winsome, almost.

So I accepted his shirt and his trailing eyes when I exited the bathroom, again, a bit later.

“Black suits you.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you.

And that was that. I slept on the chaise unmolested after he retired to his bedroom, at my insistence, mind you. He did offer the bed, but I wasn’t going there yet. In the morning, I woke to the smell of black kafe, much earlier than I was ever used to. Master Shenlen’s day always started much later than my own at home, and I made kafe per his schedule.

“Come eat with me. There’s kafe or cha as you prefer.”

Without thinking, I poured a cup and set it down in front of his plate.

“Thank you, but I’ve already poured my own.”

“Oh, I…” There wasn’t any shame in working hard all your life. So I finished with, “I have my own habits.”

“Of course.”

While we ate, we continued our negotiations from the night before. I found that I was a little less stunned. This was, after all, how the economic elite did things. It was significantly better than being poached and sold, especially when he asked about what I would like from our binding.

He added, “I would strive for a contented companionship.”

“Do you have a library?”

My question surprised him a little, I think.

“I, actually, do.”

“May I have access to it?”

“You’ll have access to a great many things–not everything, but most everything. What would you do with my library?”

“Read it.”

His brows were eloquent. “Anything in particular?”

“Everything, but to start, commentary on current histories and Amnis law, magiks… and folk tales, please.”

“You value reading, very much, I see.”

I just nodded. If not for books, I would’ve gone mad ages ago.

“Can I add something else?”

“You can ask.”

“Can I work for you?” His brows were very eloquent at my request. “You already have power over me. You’ll have more soon. You might as well be my actual boss. I think I might like that better.”

“I didn’t intend for quite that outcome, but… It would be in your best interest to actively help maintain my profits.”

“Does your assistant have an assistant?”

“No… but he would like one.”

“Would you like to interview me for the position?”

He gave an enigmatic smile and a slight laugh at my question, but I think I knew where his thoughts went just then. 

“No. I’ve already done a background check, and our discussions have given me enough insight into your qualifications.”

That morning, the first of many shared over kafe, he extended his hand to shake, saying, “You’ve got the job. I don’t think the Black Feather clan knew who they were sending my way.”

I never considered myself a romantic (or a thrill-seeker) before then, not with the kind of life I led, but there was a look in his eye–one that I wanted repeated, and only directed at me… a soft respect. It was the kind of regard that let my heart know it was going to be in trouble.

Winsome

Conversations With a Beast, part 5

Wineberries used to make my face splotchy and itch. The reactions were worse for other people, but they were bad enough that I avoided them at all cost when I was younger. I thought of those allergic reactions of bygone years, while crossing the threshold away from the enclave’s assembly.

“Hold steady.”

Bremeerson said it as if the words would keep the room from swaying, but the Sun’s Flare–as he had called the drink–was racing through my untested veins.

More to myself than the man now holding me more upright than naught, I groaned, “Not fun. Why would anybody drink this poison?”

“You downed it the drunkard’s way. It’s supposed to be sipped.”

“Don’t believe you,” exhaled outward as I studiously breathed in through my nose, “still poison.” 

And then–because I really can’t hold my liquor, and that drink was horrendously potent–I asked, “Why are you helping me?”

“It was time to leave, and you offered me a drink.” Well, there was that… “Do you have a room here?”

Ha, me able to afford a room at the Hearthstead? As if I’d ever have enough coin to stay here. The clan had given me a two-way ticket on the rails. I was expected to take my rest on the ride back to Master Shenlen’s house.

Seeing me negate with a deliberately small shake of my head, he answered, “Of course not, why would they bother?”

It sounded like he knew the Black Feather clan, as well.

“Steer me towards the comfort rooms, please. I’ll be alright.”

I hoped.

Instead, he ignored the request and took me to his rooms. I had little time to think about being alone with the beast because I quickly found myself on the floor with my face hovering sickly over his commode, vomiting.

Then, though dry heaving because my stomach refused to acknowledge that the ordeal was over, I laughed. He had my hair in a fist chivalrously holding my rumpled braid from the bile, and all I could think was, “What a beauty I make.”

“Indeed.”

Oh, I’d said that out loud… Sighing in defeat, since it made no sense to nurse a crushed ego where none existed before, I finally lifted my face and replied with an awkwardly wry expression, “I appreciate good sarcasm.”

“So noted. Are you feeling better?”

“I think so.”

Taking a deep breath, I stood, flushed my embarrassment away, and took the damp cloth he offered.

“I’ll give you some privacy then.”

He quietly closed the door on his way out, and I washed my face, rinsed my mouth, and then rebraided my hair–thinking about the man who was not acting very beastly.

That was before I opened the door and found myself in real conversation with Bremeerson. 

Without preamble, he stated, “I don’t believe your clan planned for ravishment and, most definitely, not ruination. However, all of the enclave witnessed our leaving together. By now, word of you being quite alone with me here in my rooms have filtered to the gossipmongers.”

I stared at him in horrified astonishment while he continued, “I intended it.”

Intended?” It was more a whisper, but it felt like a scream.

“Of course. You were the most interesting commodity in that gaggle of vendors downstairs.”

“What!?”

A commodity?… And then my brain really engaged, shaking off the last of the Sun’s Flare, and I asked, “How do you intend to acquire?”

“Ravishment… respectfully. Ruin  sours things, don’t you think?” When I didn’t answer, he continued, “Would you prefer a large wedding or a quiet elopement?”

“I… both.” It was the truth as I sat on the chaise stunned. “I’m going to marry you?”

“Yes, if you agree, though it seems like there’s little choice.”

There’s always a choice, whispered through me as I thought about this development. I was worth something to the clans, and now it seemed I was also worth something to Bremeerson… I could work with that.

“What do you gain from binding with me?”

“Access to the clans’ business contacts. They’re very insular, especially your Black Feather. They control a market I wish to explore and… exploit.”

Shifting his seated position to one more relaxed, he stated, “I like the look of you. I like your voice. You spoke with understanding the few times you were able downstairs, but held your tongue during the more idiotic rants… a useful skill.”

“What do I gain… Wait. No, what do I lose?” I asked this, instead of the other, because I’d be gaining the world beyond Master Shenlen’s walls while bound to him.

“Those chapped and cracked knuckles, the bruises that are probably always on your knees. You won’t perform any hard manual labors in my house. You won’t serve anyone. I don’t need another maid.”

“Good to know, but you’re not telling me what I really need to hear.” 

“Yes. I am.”

“I mean my freedoms…”

“Did you have many to begin with?”

I didn’t want to answer the obvious. So I asked, bluntly, “Are you a bad man?”

He thought for a bit, “I have bad habits.”

“Will you hurt me?”

Again, he paused, “I’m sure, though not purposefully.” Here, he spread his hands out, saying, “I have bad habits, and my reputation is built on many truths… to varying degrees. I’m sure to offend you at some point. Take here and now. Certainly, this binding “negotiation” is offensive on more than a few levels, but…”

Looking me fully in the eye, he said, “I won’t beat you or abuse your emotions, if that’s what you fear.”

Then my mind went there, and I asked, “Intimacy and your expectations? I don’t have… much experience.”

Since we were laying everything out on the table, it seemed as fitting as any other topic. Best to get it over with.

Looking at me with an observant perusal, a sharper one, he answered, “I do… I’ll be monogamous and disease free so long as you agree to the same.”

“With me?”

“I didn’t peg you as so jaded a women.”

When confusion maintained its grip on my face, he laughed, “Oh, that particular rumor still persists, I see. My attentions don’t lean that way. So yes, with you.”

“Do you want children?”

It was then that I found my heart racing, awaiting his answer. He took his time, and I was scared.

“Do you want children?”

Swallowing hard, I said, “No, I don’t… I didn’t think I would have any, not as a maid.”

“What about as my wife?

“… maybe.”

“Then my answer is maybe. We’ll reconvene on the topic when we are on more comfortable terms.

I simply nodded because despite my bravado during our conversation, that future frightened me. 

Eyeing me closer, he offered, “I’ve taxed you. Where are you staying? I’ll order a lift.”

“I…” Closing my eyes, I made a choice, telling him the truth, “I have nowhere to go. The clan bought me a rail ticket back. I wasn’t expected to stay after the assembly.”

“A two day journey. They really are a bunch of bastards. I think I’ll enjoy crippling them.”

Thruths.

“Well then, make yourself comfortable since we’ll be sharing much from here on out.”

When I’d clinked glasses with him in front of the enclave, I should’ve realized that I was making a deal with a devil of a beast.

Allergic

Conversations With a Beast, part 4

When is an option viable? The second you think it into existence…

It had been hours, and I was stewing in fantasies of fraternal emolation. A new, more satisfying image would boil up as I sat with my ear mech translating while various ambassadors spoke. Warded against lies, I had to trust that what  was funneled into my hearing was true.

I wasn’t so sure all the time, but there was truth enough to the fact that this enclave was nothing more than a glorified marriage market. Old Kingdom titles and New Stock monies kept haggeled alliances contractual, but had this been dealings on the White Market, most of the women (and a few of the men) would have been sold. Actually, I couldn’t be sure that “selling” wasn’t taking place.

It made my seat there that much more uncomfortable. My clan had polished me up for this engagement (an unfortunate pun), and I had read as much of the joint histories as I could, but I was ill-prepared for any kind of verbal exchange concerning current events and commodities. The clan hadn’t seen fit to educate me prior, and no wonder. I wasn’t meant to speak, at all, simply to sit there being ogled and quickly dismissed.

Present enticements included: warlockian heirs, a handful of daughters from the old corporate regimes, some from the newest mag startups, a couple princesses of the lesser kingdoms… And me. The other clans hadn’t bothered to send anyone else, and maybe that was the point.

I would’ve sat there longer, silently plotting fantastical revenge, but a server had the ill-fortune of a weak ankle or an invisible stumbling block placed in his path, causing the man and his entire tray of drinks to topple and come crashing to the floor.

Broken crystal lay around him as he lay covered in wines and other liquid amenities. Stunned, I could understand why he stayed unmoving in the middle of the carnage. As for the attendees who witnessed, nothing excused their frozen posteriors, especially after I left my seat and began helping the server.

Rather, there was one other individual who stood, the man seated clear across the other side of the cavernous room. I did notice him, being that he was difficult to keep from noticing. However, my regard was painfully cut short by the contrastingly quick insults I heard being said of me. My ear mech ensured every word was translated.

“They really did bring a servant…. What did you expect of the blackborn? … Embarrassment… affront… Someone remove her.”

Hell, no. I wasn’t going to be tossed out like garbage. It didn’t matter that I didn’t belong or that I wanted nothing more than an excuse to be released. I was not the refuse here. So after getting the server onto his feet, I took the only two remaining glasses miraculously still filled with a bit of… Something (I wasn’t sure what they held), and I was going to toast the room twice, then see myself out.

In the act of turning around to do just that, I came face-to-face (well, more like face-to-shoulder with Fenrick Bremeerson, commonly referred to as the Beast of Bremeer. He has a reputation, one that made what I did next highly inadvisable and out of character for me. I should’ve felt shame, but being in a room full of bullies made me bold.

There was an opportunity for an exit that was worthy of me, and the option became viable the second I thought it into existence. He was there. I was there with two glasses. So I thrust one into his hand, clinked mine against it, and downed the drink while he–surprisingly–took a sip of his own. 

“Let me take that from you.”

Bremeerson’s request sounded perfectly reasonable even though the part of my mind where I still had sense asked, what did he expect to take?

So I handed my glass to Bremeerson as he requested. He placed it on the server’s tray, and then–because I must have been in shock–I walked out on his arm.

I heard the clamor we caused behind us, not caring, because I could only place my attention on my escort’s next words.

“You just downed Sun’s Flare. It’s going to hit you in a minute.”

It took less than a minute, because I felt like throwing up.

Viable

Conversations with a Beast, part 3

I was sent to treat. Me. 

My ramshackle “family,” the dubious Clan of the Black Feather, voted me their ambassador for the parley. Actually, while I’m on the topic of that band of bastards, let me say that they sent me out to the enclave knowing full well that I’d get mauled, because they are a deceitful, scheming, back-handed bunch of unfaithful, uncaring, wholly unrepentant bastards. They only claimed me peripherally as a ward of the clan because I was female and not an elderly crone–even with my parentage being questionable.

They wouldn’t have done so three generations back, before the Curse of Sigemao, before the family was doomed to having only male spawn. Even though he made it so that none of the Heise line could render female progeny, I thought the guy exceedingly funny. Everybody in my town did. We all knew the story, but  that was before the clan elders claimed me as their long lost daughter… illegitimate, but very much female– making me a natural shoe-in for their schemes.

They’d plucked me from the “uncle” for whom I worked like a dog… I acknowledge that my living situation could’ve been so much worse. I cooked. I cleaned. I served. But should I truly feel grateful for not being molested or physically tortured? In exchange for an education, I did everything, and Master Shenlen flaunted me around like he was the epitome of philanthropy. I was supposed to be his orphaned niece, not his maid.

I was only nine when I came to live with him, and I had such high hopes after the devastation of losing my only earthly bond. I can’t even say I benefited from a real education. All I got was access to the books in his musty, unused library… and only because I had cleaned and catalogued them.

I have some serious holes in my formal knowledge. So when the elders polished me up and paraded me in front of the enclave for the treaty ratifications, I knew they were handing my ignorance to the other ambassadors on a silver platter. They wanted the Beast of Bremeer and his associates to throw their callousness my way. The clan planned to feel affront and for the changes to fall through.

The Beast had other plans, however. Lucky for me, they involved silver platters without my head on any of them.

Treat

Conversations with a Beast, part 2

He likes his bedroom talk. Surprising, because his quiet and mysterious ways don’t appropriately foreshadow  intimate eloquence. Unfathomable is the term some of the ladies like to use. Actually, everyone seems to use that word when describing my beast or their own. It irritates me to a very questionable degree.

I feel like there should be a good epiteth spat out right here, but I can’t settle on any particular one. Just attach your own at will. Who wants to be unfathomable? It’ll land you at the bottom of the Malvechian Trench, and what air-breather wants to be down there? Besides, it’s dark, and I have no bioluminescence about me.

Oh, lofty-brow raise I see there upon your face… Why wouldn’t I be educated? I know my mouth isn’t always the most proper, but I choose my words carefully, nonetheless– dependent upon my audience.

Just like every other learned person.

I walk between words and between worlds, which is how I found myself being transplanted from my hovel of a hometown to my current abode. I most definitely did not grow up with the tech and mag advances the citizens of Amnim are fortunate enough to possess. Little Shigua is nothing more than a street behind a field with a pump well. It only clings to the map because of its infamous neighbor, Dadeja–a brothel town with a vigerous slave trade.

It’s called “loaning yourself out,” but slapping a free trade name on something doesn’t make it so.  I don’t actually care so much about the skin trade as I do how most of the brothels aren’t freely stocked there. It’s widely known, even with regulations in place to restrict the dubious nature of consent. That’s why staying in Shigua was questionable after a certain age. Poachers lurked even when we thought our town was much too small to hide and hunt in.

They almost got me and my cousin once, but I’m really flexible, and my wrists are small. Make your own deductions about our escape, please. I have reservations about reliving the encounter.

“Have you been faking it?”

Said in his deceptively calm tone…

That was another encounter I don’t wish to repeat, but it’s not a traumatic one–merely uncomfortable–so I can safely relate it. Had I more experience, I probably could’ve done so indefinitely–faked it, I mean. On second thought, the man’s very observant. So, perhaps not. Regardless, he caught me at month four, the second time he decided to decorate my apendages with silk. I did my damnedest to lie, though. I mean, who wouldn’t? Look at him. He’s…well, him! I’m not a martyr. I just wanted the man to enjoy himself, and it was only the fourth month. I was embarrassed at being found out.

It took me a week to cave. It became necessary. Afterwards, he’d gotten so quiet… Not a concern in public, because that’s how he always is, but in the privacy of our bedroom, it was ominous.

“I’m sorry.”

Then I cried. I didn’t get any further for five whole minutes. I was so embarrassed… Because it was still all new to me, and I was still very much corruptible at that point. I had committed the sin of willful miscommunication and silence–the basis for many a romantic conflict.

I did manage to tell him, though. It was with the side of my face creased against my pillow allowing for no eye contact, but I did manage.

“I don’t like playing with those. They remind me of…”

He listened.

Then I stopped speaking so I could hear his comments. That proved a more enjoyable experience. As I’ve expressed before, he didn’t decide upon me because I was biddable. It was because I could control my tongue. Take that as you will. As I’ve said, he likes to talk in the bedroom.

Reservation

(Second day in January, second short piece in. Hopefully, I can maintain the momentum so these two characters get fleshed out some.)

Conversations with a Beast, part 1

Sure. Let’s bash the lady forced to wed the apparent douche, who–by the story’s end–manages to fall in love with him. Weak-minded, kink-driven, or both, she’s got to be crazy.

Well, here I am.

All five-four of me, always cold because genetics say I’m made for tropical climes, crushable because of said genetics, and married to that guy over there. Yes. The one who looks like he’s plotting my death as he stares at me from across our balcony.

Ever think that most of those tales are about brides just trying to make something less sh—y out of a sh–situation? Self-actualization and all that, wouldn’t you try to shape your world by shifting your mindset? Mind you, I’m not in any way talking about the girls shackled to wife-beaters. That’s plain physical abuse, and I can’t say I’ve got experience there, thankfully.

I’m speaking about matrimony with brooding bastards, those moody men who look too damn delicious posing as villains. Why else would I let him stare at me, instead of seeking the privacy of my room? … So I can stare right back at that beautiful body of his.

“Come here.”

I take my time answering his command, not because I’m inately stubborn or trying to summon frustration. It’s because my mind is firmly situated on his first word. I can’t help it anymore. It’s his fault for corrupting me and making me enjoy the corruption right alongside him.

If it wasn’t good, why stay? Why bend to his will, really? There are ways to get out. Desperation makes daredevils out of the doudiest little mice, and maybe marrying this man was my own personal stunt… Quite the story there, another conversation, perhaps.

Actually, I will lay claim briefly. If I’m going to be the beauty to his beast, you might as well know. But first, it’s getting a little breezy out here, and I’m always cold. I don’t particularly enjoy making myself wait to get warmed.

Conversation

(Hopefully, this is the start of a drabble, vignette, or short story a day for this month of January… or for however long I can maintain it with daily prompts. I hope to encapsulate the whole under this title and let the daily prompts decide the story arch or lack thereof.)

Drill

“Do you think it’s over?”

The question stood silent in the once overly bright workroom, like a meerkat. Except, the den was a turn of tunneled hallways.

Teacher one turned to teacher two, who held her gaze on teacher three. Of the trio, he seemed to be the one broadcasting the question loudest. Stress had made his face haggard, but it was fear that now made it also look sick.

Teacher two shook her head. He seemed like he was going to say it aloud, but they needed absolute silence. The door was locked, the lights out, and they would stay huddled in the corner away from the windows until they were released per established procedure.

This wasn’t an announced lockdown drill. It wasn’t unheard of, but unease settled, prickling between her shoulder blades. She was thankful there weren’t any students at school today. If it weren’t for their scheduled professional development, the stress would have been much greater. It was enough now, already too much.

Teacher one had her phone out, searching for area crime reports, any information, as she also texted their peers. She was the only one who had her cell at the time of the alarm, making the others envious. She had something to do, instead of simply waiting.

Noise. Footfall. The door handle jangled… Finally.

Finally

(I can’t even give names to my imaginary peers in this vignette; it’s that kind of scene for me… But it is written, and so it will remain unchanged. What will I do in 2018? I will continue to face my discomforts and fears, acknowledge anxiety, and build myself up. Creative writing will continue to be my therapy and releif.)

From the Bottom

If I could but be drunk 

On ferver and on bliss…

But, alas, could my days be spent

In such a creative haze?

Would not my life be spent,

The word turned as does the world–

On its end?

I fear for those left behind.

No.

My behind…

For it would couch 

The fall.

–C. Green

(There’s definitely no hard partying happening for me this New Year’s Eve, making this poem funnier. I wish this newest year to be one of constructive creation and catharsis. Let good will and good sense prevail.)