It hasn’t taken me long to realize that forgetting is impossible. About eight days, four hours, and thirty-seven seconds. If you want to be exact. I’ve also found that keeping perfect time can be very therapeutic. For instance, in point six seconds, give or take a nano second, Maddie will pound on the bedroom door.
“Three... two...one .” I count under my breath. “It’s open!” I shout before she can even knock.
“How did you know I was out there?” Maddie asks, confusion and suspicion coloring her voice.
“You’re very predictable.” I shrug.
“You really are strange, Twilla.”
“Perhaps I need a hobby.” I suggest with a light laugh.
“Well, that has something to do with why I’m up here.” Maddie says.
“You mean this isn’t just another day of you interrupting my thinking?”
“I would never!” She gasps and slaps her hand to her chest in mock surprise.I just roll my eyes.
“Now, to the point. Guess what day it is.”
“Aw, Maddie.” I groan.
“Fine, I’ll tell you. It is... market day!” She squeals the last words and her shining brown eyes dance with excitement.
“Absolutely not. Nuh-uh. Nope. No way. Not happening.” I cut off each of her attempts to convince me with some form of denial. She pouts.
“I’ll introduce you to my friends.” She offers.
“Don’t like them.”
“We can meet them at the tavern.” She weedles.
“There are always braws at the tavern. Always.”
“Don’t mind if I do.” I say eagerly. She smirks in obvious satisfaction.
Maddie leads me through the streets at a fast canter, shoving people away and laughing at their raised fists and scolding. So carefree. I can’t help but laugh myself.
Suddenly she turns a sharp right, nearly ripping my arm off with the unexpected force.
“Stay close.” She whispers.
“I can defend myself.” I say, offended.
“I know that. But you don’t know how to get in, much less find your way home.”
“Fine.” I say petulently.
Maddie continues to pull me through the mazelike back street; left, left, right, left, back, right, two paces north, five west. So confusing, and yet I remember it all. Yes, I would be able to find my way out of here.
She stops short and starts pounding patterns into the scum covered brick wall on our left.
“Who’s there?” A sleepy looking youth peers nervously out of one of the many doors sunken into the wall.
“Raulf you fool, let me in!” Maddie growls. Rather sulkily, the boy holds the door open and ushers us inside, swiftly securing the several dozen locks attached to the door.
“Madelina m’dear!” A fat, bearded man appears and crushes Maddie in a suffocating hug. I raise my eyebrows at the name. She scowls and shoots me a tell and I kill you glare from under the giant’s arm.
“Okay Papa Drea, it’s getting hard to breath.”
“So sor-hic-sorry my ch-hic-child.” He hiccups. Giggling, he wanders off with a half empty bottle in each massive paw.
Maddie flushes and mutters about replacing his whiskey with pond water. I put my hand on her shoulder.
“Let’s see your friends now.” I say softly. She smiles gratefully and guides me through the kitchen to an open doorway covered by a tattered black curtain and into the room beyond. My ears are assaulted by the sound of yells and shattering glass. Maddie starts towards a nearly filled table in the back, but I pause, turning my head slowly to a suspicious scene.
There, in a dark corner, I see a large figure standing menacingling over a huddled lump. I watch as the standing person reaches out to bat at the shivering bundle like a cat with a mouse. A small whimper escapes through the lips of what I now realize is a young woman. The man laughs lecherously and reaches down to carry his prey back to his lair, no doubt to devour.
“Touch her and I swear to whatever god you piece of s**t worships that you will die by my hands.!” I scream at him. The tavern is silent. The man spins around and his jaw pops open to land somewhere near his feet.
“Ain’t none o’ yah business wench.” He bellows when he recovers.
“Ah, but it is.” I growl softly as I stalk towards him deliberately, shifting into a tiger crouch.
“I suppose you can join us.” He says as he lears at me. “I could always use a spare.”
I smile widely and pounce, knocking him over with the force of the hit. I roll and leap to my feet, my knives already gripped tightly in my hands. He grunts as he struggles to get up, then finally he manages to right himself. He reminds me of a turtle.
“Pathetic.” I chuckle darkly.
With a howl of rage he charges. I duck him and decide to end the fight quickly. A sharp chop of my hand to his throat leaves him unable to move as he falls to his knees choking. I push him backwards onto the floor and press my knife to his chest.
“Do you like to beat women?” I ask. He shakes his head jerkily.
“Will you ever harm another woman again?” I inquire.
“N-n-nooooooo!” He howls fearfully.
I pull out my boot knives and he cowers in fear. I secure a knife hilt between each of the fingers on my right hand. My claws. Ripping away the dirty cloth of his shirt, I place the tips of my blades under his collarbone gently. I look into his small beady eyes and know that he will forget his vows without a permanent reminder from me. Quickly, I slash four deep cuts into his shivering skin. His head falls back onto the stone floor with a sharp crack and a gasp of pain as tears begin to leak out of his eyes
Blood fills the gashes, slowly oozing out of him and covering his chest with trails of red. I watch, morbidly fascinated, as the crimson liquid pools around him. Its dark beauty so great, and yet so horrible. I look away, focusing my attention on his face.
“You have been marked by the Tigress.” I say calmly, dangerously. “And the Tigress is willing to give you a second chance. But if I ever see you touch a woman again, I will not be merciful. You are a marked man, I suggest you start acting like one. Leave and don’t ever come back.” I finish in a powerful whisper.
He crawls, sobbing, to the nearest door. I clean each knife carefully, trying to ignore the whispers and stares. After putting away each weapon in its proper place I look at Maddie. She stares at me dazed and then gestures for me to follow her. I slowly slouch after her to the table where, I assumed, her friends sat. They stare too, scared. Scared of me. I can’t stand it. I walk away, ignoring Maddies protest’s. As soon as I make it out the door I run. I run fast, I run far. I run away.
Sometime later I fall into the mouth of a small alley. I check to make sure it’s empty and then wrap my arms around my legs and lean my head back against the wall, breathing fast. Darkness approaches and the cold seeps in. My breath is visible, and I blow out foggy clouds. But the mist dissipates, and I’m alone in the grey evening again. I barely notice the tears as they freeze on my face.
He’s there again. Of course. I numbly watch as he walks towards me; like a ghost, except that the frosty gravel crunches under his feet. I look up only when he is standing directly in front of me. So beautiful. I smile, and want to reach for him, but I can’t move. He crouches down close to me and examines my face. Softly, he brushes away a frozen droplet of water from my cheek. His warm skin burns me and I cringe. He frowns, worry pulling his brows together.
“Don’t Vin.” I whisper. “Don’t be sad.”
I jerk my head back in confusion, hitting the wall with a thump. But I don’t even feel it. My voice, it sounded so far away, so distorted. So strange. And I start to feel strange as well. I hear him speaking, but his words make no sense. “Please...stay...okay...love...sweet...Twilla...Twilla... Twilla.” his voice fades in and out, and I am not even sure If he is speaking to me, not even sure if he is there.
My view changes, and I realize that I am in his arms. But my limbs are so frozen, so desensitized, that I can’t even feel it as he carries me. I should feel. I want to feel, make sure that this is actually real, but I am unable to.
“What have you done to yourself?” He mutters, pulling me tighter against him.
“I don’t know.” I whisper softly. “I don’t know.”
As I say this, a mantra runs through my head asking: what have you become, what have you become, what have you become. And to this I answer silently, I don’t know. As I slowly melt, my mind comes back to me.
“Why have you been following me?” My words come out suddenly, unintentionaly, piercing the quiet air.
Vin ignores me and continues to walk steadily forward, unaffected by my question.
“Why have you been following me?” I ask again, louder. There is no change in his face as I study it, looking for a sign of recognition.
“Will you not tell me?” He looks down at me, and a thin smile- or is it a grimace?- appears on his face as he slowly shakes his head.
“Well that’s just wonderful.” I grumble, trying to find my way to the ground and my own feet. Vin tightens his grip as I struggle wildly, my arms pushing against his chest and my leags flailing in the air.
“Let me down before I stab you!” I growl. He just snorts. “You think I jest!” I exclaim, feeling for my wrist knives with grim determination.
I feel his body shift a split second before he drops me, barely giving me time to land on all fours, catlike. I straighten slowly, my body unwilling to come out of its protective crouch with the threat of danger near. I turn and begin walking stiffly away.
“You really shouldn’t walk home alone at night.” I stop without turning.
“I think I’ll be fine, thank you.” I hiss, walking into the cold mists ahead.
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