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 Seven

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Scottie Elisabeth
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PostSubject: Seven    Sun Jan 15, 2017 3:16 am

As I sat across from Miriam, sipping my Jack and Coke while she nursed her vodka tonic, I found myself decades earlier, sitting across from a young, eager Sophie as she drowned her widow woes. I had loved those days, where she drank far too much and I could smoke and scout for men and women to harvest from. She never seemed to notice, or at least, never seemed to care, when I would disappear for five to ten minutes to engage with someone who seemed willing, and she always seemed pleased when I would return in a slightly better mood, always then down for shots.

And now, I sat with Miriam as she scanned the room, searching for wedding bands and ring finger tan lines. I watched as her eyes lit up when she found one, her instinctive lip bite when they would catch her gaze. Was she looking for a Glow fix or a distraction?

For the sixth time that night, a fresh set of drinks appeared at the table, undoubtedly from an admirer of her. I wasn’t complaining, without my wallet. For a moment, I retraced my steps in my mind, but at least for now, I had no idea. But that was a problem for another day.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Miriam snapped back to us, her cheeks reddening. “That’s so rude. It’s just habit; please don’t think I’m not enjoying your company.”

“I get it.” I took a ginger drink, sighing as I returned the empty glass to the table. When she looked down at her hands, clearly embarrassed, I offered, “I was just thinking you reminded me of me, back when I did this.”

This brought a smile, even if she didn’t yet look up. “You?” she asked incredulously, then raising her gaze to me.

“If you can believe it.” I took a long look around the bar, and I found myself assessing each individual as my eyes passed over them. “Sophie loved a drink, when she was young.”

There was a short, polite lull before she asked, “would you tell me about her?”

I accepted my fresh drink, taking a moment to stir it before I returned my eyes to her. “Is it necessary?”

“No,” she answered quickly but calmly. “But I am very curious. I didn’t even know you lived with anyone.”

“Well, I don’t anymore.”

“Right,” she cleared her throat, too retrieving her new drink. Another lull. Again, I looked around the bar, this time in the other direction. The bar was bigger than the type Sophie would choose. This one had a game on behind the counter, a separate area to play pool than to eat, two sets of bathrooms for the size. And it was bustling, but not too loud. It was the perfect ambience for a conversation, or for silence. Sophie always liked lively places, where drinks and dancing went hand-in-hand.

Instead, this place was the sort to pick up the sort of men I knew Miriam would be after; the type that shirk off their husbandly responsibilities for a pint and a game of darts, to get wasted and mope in a corner, to shout at a television when a play went wrong. There were few women here and that made Miriam all the more appealing, I was sure, as the mysterious, beautiful woman enjoying a drink on her own terms. There was no wonder so many eyes were on her, even with me as her companion.

“I met her in the ‘40’s.”

Miriam perked then, folding her hands in her lap like an antsy child, eager to hear the story but careful not to put off the teller.

“It was right after Gandhi had been assassinated, because I met her as she mourned over a whiskey neat.” I stared at Miriam’s drink, then my own. Sophie wasn’t one for mixers. “I just thought, how strange, this young girl drinking by herself, and when she told me why, I just thought it was so…unusual. A young woman concerned enough about world affairs to mourn a man she had never met?”

I paused for a drink, suddenly with a lump in my throat. Sophie sure had been something, and thinking of her now made me so long for the adventurous woman she had once been. “And the more we talked, the more unusual she became. She had been widowed the year earlier and didn’t know the area. We just sort of wound up together.”

“Did you…?” Miriam gently inquired, a sly smile on her face.

“No,” I felt the side of my mouth turn up in a smile. “She was so independent. She didn’t need me. She just let me exist in a world with her, and made me so much better for it. She was the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“Did she have a family?”

“Not after her husband.” I stopped then, suddenly uncomfortable. I didn’t know much at all about Sophie’s life before me. It was always just us, and Sophie after she knew me. I now wondered if she wanted a family; to get remarried, to have kids. Had she ever tried for children with her husband? Where were her parents, or her siblings? We had flitted from one place to another as we traveled, moving every several years to a new state or city, and no one else was ever a permanent staple.

“She always had loads of friends though, wherever she went.” My mind drifted to her Tupperware parties, her bridge nights, her Margarita Mondays. Sophie was always so lively, and the party was wherever she was. But at the end of the day, it always came back to just us. She had held her social life around me, never intruding on my solitude but always introducing something new and ridiculous to my routine. And now, I would have killed for her experimental, and sometimes horrible, brownies or for her to bring home another ridiculous vibrating belt exercise machine. Sophie’s quirks got me through the last 70 years without much effort, and the burden of her absence was heavy.

“Sophie was the life of everything, always. She wasn’t rich or beautiful or exceptional, she was just so…just such a good person. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She always took care of everyone else before herself.”

Miriam took my hand, her sweet smile lighting up her eyes. “She sounds lovely. It’s clear you loved her very much.”

I swallowed. But I didn’t.

“Excuse me,” a tall man interrupted, his eyes lost in Miriam. “Could I buy you a drink?” It was as if I wasn’t even sitting across from her.

Miriam blushed and her eyes flicked to me in an apology glance. “Sorry, I’m with someone.”

The man realized me then and looked suddenly ashamed of himself. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize…”

“Thank you,” Miriam politely excused him and he took the out, leaving our table as quickly as he arrived.

“You can if you want. I’m not bothered.”

She blushed anew then, shaking her head quickly. “No, of course not. I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I brushed, eager to be free of the topic. “What about Peggy?”

A spark lit behind Miriam’s eyes then, her look of embarrassment quickly turning into an eager smile. “Oh, Peggy was amazing.”

She was gone then, lost in a happier time as she relayed the ins and outs of her time with the beautiful dancer. I watched her, her animation endearing, and I wished I could feel what she felt about Peggy toward my Sophie. It was so unfair for her that I didn’t. Miriam knew everything about her companion, from her past to her unachieved dreams, and my stomach knotted. I had been too selfish to even consider Sophie’s aspirations outside of an existence with me.

After several minutes, Miriam took a deep breath, settling back in her seat. “I just loved her so much. I miss her every day.”

I had Sophie twice as long as Miriam had had Peggy, yet I wasn’t energized when I spoke of her. I didn’t know her dreams, or her past. I knew her as she existed with me, and I took from her what I desired at any given time. She was there to be an accompaniment of my life, not as someone living their own, and that realization gave my memories of her a nasty haze. Poor Sophie had been a wonderful companion and that’s all I ever allowed her to be. But Miriam loved Peggy, that was evident, and in that instant, it hurt me that Sophie would never meet Miriam.

Miriam was so unlike me, despite being male and female forms of the same demon, and I was jealous of her ability to love so freely and be so uninhibited by the burdens of her past. I was sorry for Sophie, that I had found her instead of Miriam, that she wouldn’t be thought of as fondly as this Peggy, and that I couldn’t give back the time I had taken from her.

“Collin?” Miriam touched my hand again, and this time I shook my head as I withdrew from her to stand.

“I’m going to get going,” I answered as I swallowed my drink in a gulp.

“Oh,” she responded quickly, standing as well as she smoothed out the hem of her dress. “I’ll come with you.”

As she took a step, the heel of her shoe snapped, and Miriam swore as she reached for my arm for balance. I caught her just as she was stabilizing herself. Her pursed lips were my thanks as she glared down at her shoes. “These are my favorites.”

“Are you alright?” I finally thought to ask, my arm still extended to her, her hand still on my forearm.

“I’ll just run to the bathroom to fix it. Will you wait for me?”

I withdrew my arm then, stretching my neck to either side as I sighed. “Yeah, sure.”

Miriam limped to the bathroom, gone through the doors only moments before returning, a fresh pair of the same heels shape-shifted onto her feet. When she returned to me, she laced her arm in mine, and we strode for the exit in unison.

“I can’t believe you were wearing real shoes,” I teased, remembering her wasteful use of Glow as she shapeshifted into her clothes at her kitchen table.

“I loved those stupid shoes,” she mourned. “I know I can recreate them myself, but it’s not the same as slipping your feet into them, buckling the clasp, feeling them squeeze your feet uncomfortably after a long night…”

“You like all that?”

“It’s just one of the few things that makes me feel human anymore,” she confided, and I instantly understood. I never shapeshifted my clothes on. I always put on the actual, physical garments. The laundering was a hassle, but at the end of the day, the ritual was something you learned to rely on to get you through yet another menial day of your existence.

As we reached the corner, where we would need to go our separate ways, Miriam lingered with her arm in mine.

“Thank you for coming out,” she offered sincerely, leaning up to kiss my cheek as she had earlier in the evening. “And thank you for sharing Sophie and Peggy with me. It was really nice to talk about them.”

“Sure.”

She smirked then, rolling her eyes as the streetlight basked her face in an orange glow. “Stay safe out there. Not to be a mom or anything, but would you text me when you get home?”

“Yeah, sure.” I shrugged out of our entwinement. “You too.”

Miriam’s soft chuckle warmed me as she turned from me, her hand flipping up into a wave as she began her journey home. “Bye, Collin.”

For several moments, I watched her, as her hands shoved into the pockets of her coat, as her fake heels clicked on the sidewalk, as her silhouette began to blend into her shadow. Finally, I tucked my hands into my own pockets, noting the pointed corner of Miriam’s envelope as I turned toward Sophie’s.

It wasn’t a long walk, but it was a cold one by streetlight only. There was no moon tonight and the stars weren’t strong enough to fight the artificial cityscape. The bar was in a more residential area, without electronic billboards or flashing business signs. It was a quiet walk, marked by the occasional car appearing and disappearing, and my boots as they thudded against the concrete with each step.

And it hit me—what now? Last night, Sophie had gone. Tonight? What was I supposed to do after I opened her front door without her inside? Without nurses and paramedics badgering me about coroner’s initial findings and insurance requirements?

I retrieved my cigarette packet from my inner coat pocket, retrieving both a smoke and my lighter from the inside. I tucked the stick between my lips and lit, taking a long drag before tucking my lighter back into the packet, which I then stowed back in my pocket. My smoke trailed up with my breath in the cold, dancing in the streetlight, but I entertained it only for a second before I heard an echo of my footsteps behind me.

Suddenly I was tense. I kept walking, staggering my step slightly to be sure there was someone else, and indeed there was. I eyed my surroundings without stopping. There were poorly lit alleyways all around and finally, I ducked into one, prepared for whomever meant to surprise me.

When a teenager with headphones passed the alley without a glance, I exhaled and rolled my eyes. Of course it was nothing. I lingered there for a moment, not wanting to startle the teen by immediately exiting the alley behind him, so instead I savored my cigarette in the dark, next to a foul-smelling dumpster. When the footsteps were no longer audible, I flicked my cigarette to the ground, stomping it as I exited the alley and returned to my route.

The rest of my walk was in relative silence. I felt stupid for my mistake but another cigarette served to calm my nerves before finally I approached the familiar street, alight with the red lights of the ambulance just the night before.

All the lights in the house were off, further emphasizing Sophie’s absence. The nurses always kept the lights on, nearly all of the time, and it was eerie approaching the house in the dark. I shuddered; it didn’t feel right being here without her.

I fumbled my keys in my pocket, finding the right one as I made my way up the lawn. I walked up the three wooden steps to the porch, but froze when I reached the top. From here, I could just barely see the streetlight glinting off the door’s latch—it was open. Just the smallest bit, but it was without a doubt open.

Without turning my head, I flicked my eyes in either direction, assessing my surroundings as quickly as I could. Despite my heart thudding wildly in my chest, I was careful not to make a sound. I was certain I had closed the door behind me this morning. Absolutely certain.

I stood a few moments more, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the total darkness that lay within. My hand gripped the cell phone in my pocket as I struggled with whether or not I needed to use it. It could be anyone; burglars, lycanthropes, demons, a careless nurse that arrived for a shift that wasn’t needed…

My phone remained in my pocket as I removed my hand, moving quietly toward the door. I pushed it open and peered inside, the room vacant. Did I want the comfort of light or security of darkness? I chose the latter, hoping adrenaline would help me with whatever I was about to walk into.

I went to the kitchen next, investigating room by room of the home, until it was just Sophie’s room left to check. I swallowed hard in the hall as I stared at her door. I hadn’t entered Sophie’s room since she had left it and the thought filled me with dread.

After what seemed like an eternity of trying to gain the nerve, I turned the handle, which turned easily at my touch. As the door slowly opened, I quickly scanned the room, looking for anything out of place. From the doorway, all appeared normal, and I finally reached in to flick on the light.

The room illuminated instantly and my pupils agonized the change in brightness, but I forced myself to squint rather than close my eyes. I couldn’t afford to miss anything. On the made bed sat a pastel envelope. I rolled my eyes, shrugging off my paranoia. A nurse had come to leave a card.

I sighed and made my way to the bed. It read ‘Collin’ on the outside of the envelope. When I opened it, though, it read ‘Congratulations.’ I looked around again, suddenly unsettled. Perhaps the nurses would have left a sympathy card, but this?

‘See you soon,’ was all it read inside. Goosebumps covered my arms as the hair on the back of my neck stood. Had they gone after me through Sophie?

“She’d thought someone was with her…” Had there been? Were Sophie’s bouts of paranoia in her final days really a cry for help? I dropped the card and turned from the bed. Then, I saw it. The dresser was askew. My stomach dropped and in a flash, I was pulling it off the wall. The door to my safe was open, the contents gone. Except, right in the center, was my wallet.

I grabbed it without thinking, flipping it open to confirm that it was mine, and my ID stared back at me.

My phone was dialing before I could stop it.

“Hello?”

“Someone’s been in my house.”

“What? Collin?”

“The door was open. Someone’s been in Sophie’s room.”

“…are you inside?”

“Yes.”

“Collin, get out. Call the police. What’s the address? I’m on my way.”

The rest was a blur. I didn’t remember giving Miriam the address, or hanging up with her, but the next thing I knew, I was on the lawn explaining to a 911 dispatcher that my house had been broken into, without directly telling her what had been in my safe to begin with. The card poked me from its place inside my jacket pocket, but I didn’t want to have to explain that one either, especially when I couldn’t explain it myself.

Miriam arrived before the police, in a cab rather than her car. Her embrace was the first thing that was clear, and as we parted, police cars pulled in. After a brief investigation, the house was deemed empty and otherwise secure and I gave a half-hearted statement about missing cash and things that I assumed normal people would keep in a safe. But soon, I was left with Miriam on the lawn, eyeing the ajar front door.

“Just come to mine,” she offered without prompting, but I shook my head, eyes locked on the door. No one was going to get in—or out—without me seeing.

“Can we talk?” I finally managed, starting toward the door without her, and Miriam reluctantly followed. When we entered, Miriam perched on the edge of the couch, clearly uncomfortable. I didn’t blame her; I could barely breathe, my chest was so tight. When she waited, I pulled the card from my jacket and handed it to her.

When she read it, she paled, and her eyes immediately flicked up to me for answers. “What is this?”

“It was on Sophie’s bed.” I took another glance around the room, just to be sure. “I don’t know.”

“What the fuck, Collin?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed, backing to the adjacent wall to lean on it, where I could better eye all the entrances to the room. “I don’t know. Yesterday, Sophie was in her bed. Today, that was.”

“Was it there this morning?”

“I didn’t go in her room until I got home,” I shrugged, uneasy with the thought that it could have been there so long. “But the door wasn’t open until I got back.”

“This is so gross.” She placed the card gently on the floor, unwilling to hold it any longer. “And you just found it?”

“And this,” I held my wallet up next and Miriam eyed it curiously in my hand.

“Whose is it?”

“Mine.”

Again, her face fell. “What do you mean, yours?”

Then, I had no choice. I explained to Miriam about my missing wallet, which of course led to me explaining the barmaid, and the teenager from the night before.

“What are you saying?” Miriam’s question was slow and careful, not the least bit accusatory or judgmental.

“She was just a kid, Miriam. 16. Her dad had done nothing but fuck her over. I didn’t want his ghost to rob her of the best years of her life.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

When I cut my eyes to her, it dawned on her.

“Oh fuck, Collin.”

“I panicked. I didn’t know what to do or I would have done it. I was just trying to…save her, I guess.”

“And the barmaid?”

“Married,” I almost smirked, the irony of my defense not lost on me, despite my unease.

Miriam stared unamused at me and I lost my humor in it.

“I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Okay,” she nodded, her face tense.

“Do you believe me?”

“Of course I do,” she professed, and I sighed with relief. I needed Miriam on my side, especially if I had just become a target. There were no second chances for a dead demon and I wasn’t lucky enough to risk it.

“Fuck, Collin, what have you gotten into?” Miriam brought her hand to her face, rubbing her forehead anxiously as she stared at the envelope on the floor.

“What do I do? They have my machine. They know who I am.”

“I don’t know,” she finally answered, eyeing me exasperatedly. “But you can’t stay here.”

“Where else am I going to go?”

“Don’t be stupid,” she spat then, and I stood straighter, surprised by her sudden tone shift. “You’re coming to mine. I don’t know what the fuck is going on, but we’re safer together.”

“Miriam, if someone’s after me, I don’t want—”

“Would you shut up?” she interrupted, standing sharply. “Get your shit and let’s get out of here.”

She left no room to argue. She followed me, serving as a second set of eyes while I packed a rushed bag, and in minutes, we were locking up the house and headed toward the street, where a cab was already waiting.

I stared out the window as Miriam gave the address, eyeing the home I had shared with Sophie for so many years. It felt terrible to run but what choice did I have? I didn’t have Sophie to look after anymore; it was just me. And it seemed if I wasn’t going to bother looking out for myself, Miriam was going to.

She sat away from me in the dark backseat of the taxi, her face stern in the dashboard light. She had never been so assertive with me about anything and I wished there was something I could say for comfort, but what was there to say? Perhaps discomfort was better than complacency.

As the cabbie drove, I searched my mind for an explanation, or a name. And then it dawned on me. Only one person that knew who I was had known about Sophie…and that person hadn’t seemed at all surprised about the news of her death.
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PostSubject: Re: Seven    Sun Jan 15, 2017 4:26 am

while she nursed her vodka tonic ----Love this. I'm going to steal it, you know, because the drunks in my story are always drinking too.

I had loved those days, where she drank far too much and I could smoke and scout for men and women to harvest from. She never seemed to notice, or at least, never seemed to care, when I would disappear for five to ten minutes to engage with someone who seemed willing, and she always seemed pleased when I would return in a slightly better mood, always then down for shots. ----Absolutely love the picture in my head from this. It's a really nice delivery of back story without forcing it. It comes naturally with the present setting. I just really admire this.

Miriam perked then, folding her hands in her lap like an antsy child, eager to hear the story but careful not to put off the teller. -----Beautiful. <3 <3 <3

“It was right after Gandhi had been assassinated, because I met her as she mourned over a whiskey neat.” I stared at Miriam’s drink, then my own. Sophie wasn’t one for mixers. “I just thought, how strange, this young girl drinking by herself, and when she told me why, I just thought it was so…unusual. A young woman concerned enough about world affairs to mourn a man she had never met?” ----This opened up Sohpie's character so much. I'm actually intrigued by her presence in the story now. Now that I know something like this about her, something unusual.

She had held her social life around me, never intruding on my solitude but always introducing something new and ridiculous to my routine. And now, I would have killed for her experimental, and sometimes horrible, brownies or for her to bring home another ridiculous vibrating belt exercise machine. Sophie’s quirks got me through the last 70 years without much effort, and the burden of her absence was heavy. ---I'm nearly in tears. You've nearly put me in tears. Damn. You're on a role. Everything you have written since we got back to this forum has been stunning. I look up to you soooo much. Pass me some of your drive and talent. I desperately need it.

I swallowed. But I didn’t. ----Immediate heartbreak here. I'm all swelled with affection for their relationship, then he says this. Collin is such a complex character. It's evident from his speech that he loved her, but he is certain he didn't. He has this internal conflict that makes him uber intriguing to read about.

For several moments, I watched her, as her hands shoved into the pockets of her coat, as her fake heels clicked on the sidewalk, as her silhouette began to blend into her shadow. ----Love. <3 <3 <3

----I just want to comment on the Sophie/Collin, Peggy/Miriam thing before I move on with the chapter. How tragic. How beautiful. How amazingly you wrote it. You drew me straight into Sophie and Peggy. I admire how you showed the two character's through Collin's eyes; the contrasts he found in the relationships they had with he and Miriam. I still believe that Collin loved Miriam, even though it was in a selfish manner. It's hard to compare the way he loved her to the way Miriam loved Peggy. I think most readers would let this put them off Collin. But not me. I see the conflict he has. So many people love the way he loved Sophie. That's why so many people feel regret when they lose said person. But I sympathize with him. I know he loved her, albeit in a difficult way. And the Peggy/Miriam thing only made me love Miriam more. Love her.

It was a quiet walk, marked by the occasional car appearing and disappearing, and my boots as they thudded against the concrete with each step. ----- LOVE!!!!!11!!!!!

I retrieved my cigarette packet from my inner coat pocket, retrieving both a smoke and my lighter from the inside. I tucked the stick between my lips and lit, taking a long drag before tucking my lighter back into the packet, which I then stowed back in my pocket. My smoke trailed up with my breath in the cold, dancing in the streetlight, but I entertained it only for a second before I heard an echo of my footsteps behind me. ----I'm so super jelly of your awe-inspiring, beautiful imagery with these last few chapters. I really don't have the right words to describe how in love with it I am. It's just so good. I literally feel like I'm there with Collin. Fab. (to use your word Smile

staggering my step slightly to be sure there was someone else, and indeed there was. ----One of those details most people wouldn't think to write. This is so clever. I don't think I would think to do this in real life. Wow. Love. <3

----Okay. Okay. My ass hit the floor when he went in Sophie's bedroom. The rest of the chapter literally flew after that. I love the sense of urgency, not only in the scene, but in the language you used writing it. I couldn't stop to comment. I had to get to the end. Now I'm all kinds of confused. What's this lycanthrope going to do? What do you have planned, Lily? And I'm seriously hoping the teen is coming back into play. I can't explain why, but I just loved the feeling I got when that conflict came. It's a strange one for Collin, because he doesn't seem like the type of guy to let it get to him, but he did. I want to also reassert how beautiful the details were in this chapter. Damn. I'm super jell. Just so you're sure I'm jell, I told you again. This chapter moved seamlessly through emotions. The beginning was tragic and sweet, then the end made me crap my pants (figuratively acourse). You better be pumping out the next chapter within the weekend. Laughing

Love, Bf
!!!!!!11!!!!!!

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