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 Eight

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Scottie Elisabeth
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PostSubject: Eight    Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:40 am

Miriam didn’t speak to me during the duration of the cab ride. She didn’t speak to me as we made the trek up the stairs to her apartment, or as we entered it, or even as she retrieved pillows and blankets to create a makeshift bed on the couch for me. I felt like a child caught in the act, though I wasn’t sure what I had done to evoke such a reaction. I just sat quietly at her kitchen table as she went through the motions, my eyes on her with each tuck of her hair behind her ears and each sigh between movements.

Finally, she joined me at the table, though she didn’t once meet my eyes. Instead, she stared at the wooden surface, her eyes seeming to trace the lines in the grain.

“Miriam—”

“I can’t believe someone would do this to you,” she interrupted, her glossy eyes finally meeting mine. “How fucking dare they, like you aren’t already suffering.”

I lost my words. I just looked at her, her eyes clearly pained, as her face contorted to stop her tears. She wasn’t upset at me, but at the injustice; at the disrespect of Sophie. In the short time that she had even known about her, Miriam seemed to care more about Sophie than Lily had, who had actually met and spent time with Sophie.

My heart began to thud in my chest again as I thought of my former friend. I was incensed but not yet ready to act. I needed to think. I needed to be sure. But I was sure, and it made my stomach knot. There was literally no one I could trust.

“Do you think the barmaid?”

I swallowed, again retracing the steps in my mind. “I checked the bar. It wasn’t there today. But if I dropped it yesterday, I guess she could have found it? But the room was a mess, I don’t know how she would have noticed it.”

Miriam crossed her legs beneath the table, shifting her weight in her chair. “You need to think, Collin.”

I sat straighter at her sharp tone. For all of Miriam’s beauty and natural poise, her severity was unmatched. It was the same as being rapped over the knuckles by your tutor in grade school, a feeling I hadn’t felt in centuries, yet was overwhelming now.

“I…Miriam, I don’t know.” I couldn’t think. It was all so overwhelming. Who had been in my home? In Sophie’s home? How dare they? “I don’t remember when I last had it. I don’t know when I lost it.”

Miriam rolled her eyes as she crossed her arms, leaning back into her chair. “How can you not know?”

The question was icy and it made me shudder. How could I not know?

“I’m sorry,” she sighed, and her demeanor softened. My gratefulness was palpable. “You’ve had so much going on, of course you wouldn’t remember.” She dropped her arms then, her gaze turning to the large window. “Tell me about the mark.”

I searched my brain, the night before seeming like a lifetime ago. “Urchin. John, or James, or some generic J name.”

“Where’s your notepad?”

I reached into my pocket for it, but found only Miriam’s envelope. I closed my eyes, dropping my hands once more. “I don’t fucking have it.” I sighed, bringing my hands to my face. “Of course, how can this get any worse?”

Miriam sighed, but didn’t speak, and I regretted coming home with her. How fucking embarrassing, seeming so careless to someone I was so critical of. But then, her hand touched my wrist, and I looked up from my hands to see her soft, concerned expression on me.

“It’s alright,” she coaxed, her fingers lightly stroking my arm. “We just need to think. What all was in there?”

I exhaled my breath through my teeth, my cheeks puffing as I thought. “Names. Addresses. Debts. Everything.”

“Okay,” she exhaled, her fingernails tracing gently along my wrist. “Forget that for now. This girl, the teenager, what made you skip her?”

I looked at Miriam with confusion then, the question foreign to me. “What do you mean, what made me skip her? I already told you.”

“I mean why her, of all the marks you’ve completed. Why did you decide to skip this particular one? You’ve collected from teenagers more than once.”

I paused to digest the question. She wasn’t wrong, so why did I skip this one? I had never had to collect from a minor, but 18-20 was probably a fourth of our collections, kids too stupid to control their debt. So what was different about taking from her?

“The house was really empty,” I thought out loud, searching for a reason. “She said Urchin was a gambler. I guess he lost a lot of their stuff.” I looked to Miriam for support, but she just stared, sort of distant, parsing apart my story. “I don’t know; her fucking bedroom was just a mattress on the floor. It just all looked so pathetic.”

When Miriam still didn’t speak, still clearly poking holes in my story in her mind, I grew self-conscious and tore my wrist from her grasp. “What?!” I demanded, standing sharply, the chair falling on the floor behind me.

Miriam’s eyes widened and trained on me, her lips again pursed. “I’m just listening, Collin.”

“You fucking liar.” I walked away from the table then, toward the window, and crossed my arms behind me as I stared out it. “You don’t believe me.” I searched the street for answers, but the few passersby were ants.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” was her response and suddenly she was directly behind me. “I’ve gone out of my fucking way for you, Collin, and you’re going to call me a liar? On top of all the other shit you passive aggressively think about me when I harvest from you?”

My stomach knotted. Fucking succubi. I turned to face her just in time to see her hand fly at me. Her slap stung and I raised my hand to my cheek as she shook the pain out of her offending hand, her face suddenly softening.

“Fuck, that feels better,” she mused, her eyes returning to concern as her gaze again fixated on me. “Stop being such a jackass. We need to be a team.”

“A team?” I asked incredulously, my cheek already numbing from the Glow fix from Miriam earlier that day. “Is this what happens in a team?”

“Just stop being such an idiot,” she complained as she moved from me to her armchair, gesturing for me to sit on the couch. I took my coat off as I obeyed, draping it on the coffee table before taking my seat between the pillow and the folded comforter she had put out for me.

Again, my hand instinctively rose to massage my cheek. “What do you want me to say? I’m not lying to you.”

“I’m just trying to figure out what happened,” she emphasized, her eyes back to their gentle, inviting selves. “Did anyone see you there?”

I closed my eyes to think, but I couldn’t remember anyone. “It was a duplex, but she said the other half was empty. It was the side I had knocked on, but nobody answered, and she was the only one in her side.”

“Wait,” Miriam interrupted gently, drawing her legs up beneath her in her chair. “You went to the wrong address?”

I shrugged, slouching into the comfortable couch. “It was the one we had on file, but the girl answered from the attached house. I knocked, but she was the only one that came to the door.”

Miriam’s brow furrowed and I saw her frustration. Her records were impeccable, always verified. There was no reason to have the wrong address on file.

“Do you think she was lying?” I finally asked, desperately searching for what gave Miriam such pause if it wasn’t me.

“It’s not that,” she insisted after a moment of thought. “It’s just…I don’t know. I’m looking for an explanation in a situation that has none.” She waved her hand then, wishing the situation away as she moved on to the next. “Now, the barmaid. Did you recognize her?”

“Of course not.”

“You just found her?”

I sighed, embarrassed by my own carelessness. “She was in an alley having a smoke. I was trying to find someone to harvest from. It was just coincidence that she was on shift, and that my plan worked at all.”

“How far were you from the mark’s address?”

“Not too far,” I answered honestly, trying to follow Miriam’s train of questioning. “I don’t know, a few blocks?”

“And you’re sure the barmaid wasn’t a demon?”

Again, I shrugged. “The harvest was successful. She couldn’t have been.”

“You’re sure she wasn’t a succubus?” she asked then, point-blank, and my heart jumped to my throat. Could she have been?

“No,” I quickly insisted, shaking my head. “There was no pull when I took from her. It wasn’t like with you.”

Miriam propped her elbow on the arm of the chair then, resting her cheek against her open palm. “Fuck, Collin, I don’t know. Did anyone see you at the bar?”

“There was one guy,” I remembered, thinking of him slumped in his booth. “But I don’t think he even knew I was there. There was certainly nothing stopping the single person working the bar from going out for a slow smoke and leaving the place unmanned.”

Miriam’s face scrunched as she imagined such a place, the sort of place she would never bother with. “I don’t know, Collin. Where else did you go?”

“Lily’s, this morning,” but it felt a lifetime ago now.

“And you’re sure you didn’t lose it in that part of town?”

Again, I paused, retracing my steps. It had been so quiet. It definitely wasn’t pickpocketed off me. And wouldn’t I have heard it if I dropped it? “I don’t think so.”

Miriam paused, but her eyes betrayed that she had a guess.

“What?” I sighed.

“I’m sorry, but you’re sure Lily didn’t take it? You didn’t lose it there, if you…if you had your pants on the floor, or something?”

I snorted a laugh then, taken aback by her accusation. “The encounter was brief. She didn’t even let me through the doorway. I can assure you, my pants were never on the floor.”

“I’m just trying to figure out how you managed to lose both your wallet and your notepad without any sort of inclination as to how,” she reminded me, her tone warning. “Did you leave it at Henry’s?”

I stopped and thought then, going over the encounter in my mind. It had been haphazard but without Miriam there to take her cut, my pants had remained on, and I could have sworn I remembered feeling the discomfort of the wallet as I sat in that stiff office chair. “No, I don’t think so,” and Henry was too busy with the machine to bother trying to rob me, not that cash would be what he wanted of me. “I don’t know,” I complained, exhausted from the interrogation.

Miriam looked frustrated, but relinquished. She resituated in her chair, yawning as her feet returned to the floor.

“Do you want to go to bed?” I offered, kicking my shoes off under her coffee table.

“I don’t know if I could sleep,” she complained, standing. “Tonight has just been so…I don’t know.”

“Yeah.”

She walked to me then, placing her hand gently on my cheek as she casually assessed her light handprint. “Thank you for staying here tonight.”

As she released me, she began casually toward the hall. I stood and started to undress. I was exhausted, not having slept the night before, and Miriam’s couch felt like heaven.

“Collin?” she called from down the hall, her bedroom light emanating into the living room.

“Yeah?” I leaned back into the pillow, gazing in her general direction without being able to see her.

“Goodnight.”

I smiled, the thought of sleeping on Miriam’s couch just so far off from the list of things I ever expected to happen. “Goodnight,” I called back, and she exhaled softly in response before closing her door, the light now gone.

I stared up at her popcorn ceiling for just a few moments before my eyelids became heavy. My pillow was soft and smelled of Miriam’s bedroom, a fragrance slightly more intimate and comforting than the one she wore to work. The sheets were heavy but comfortable, a bit of security in the dark, unfamiliar room.

The benefit of an apartment, there was nowhere to hide. I hadn’t felt secure in Sophie’s house even after the police had swept it, and yet here I felt relatively comfortable in the knowledge that even if someone did want to sneak up on me, they would have to do so out in the open.

I closed my eyes, willing myself into the sleep that so tugged at my dry eyes, but my mind was racing. If I was right and this had to do with Sophie, that would make Lily involved. And if Lily was involved…

I turned over, uncomfortable with the thought of my former friend being capable of such a thing. What if it wasn’t about Sophie? What if it was just coincidence? But then, why her bed? Why her room at all? And who the fuck figured out the combination to my safe?

I stretched uncomfortable still. The card, still on the floor of my living room, absolutely haunted me. Congratulations for what? And how did they know my name? Or where I lived? What else did they know? And how the fuck did they find my machine? And who would want it?

Again, I was on my back, eyes open as I stared at Miriam’s living room ceiling. I would never be able to sleep at this rate.

“Miriam?” I called softly, begging her to hear me, to be standing in the hallway awaiting my beckon. But she didn’t respond, and I resituated once more, unwilling to call for her again. What was she thinking, making me come say in a place that didn’t even have a bed?

And I continued like that until morning, struggling with myself as I tried desperately to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. But there was no comfort to be had. Everything was uncomfortable now. Somebody knew me. Somebody knew about Sophie. Somebody knew about my machine. And somebody had been in my home.

The whole ordeal was maddening. And Miriam’s interrogation was maddening. And what the fuck was that slap? I rolled my eyes, suddenly annoyed at Miriam for everything and anything. If it weren’t for her, I would have been able to collect from Thomas and call it a day. And yet here we were. And I loathed her for it.

But also, I didn’t. And when she appeared at the break of dawn, exhausted looking in her fuzzy bathrobe, to offer me coffee, I obliged without a second thought. And when she placed the foul-smelling mug of drink on the coffee table as she began to nurse her own, I couldn’t help but watch her, her lips tentative of the heat while her body so desperately craved the caffeine, while her attention feigned out the window.

“Is this our life now?” I teased, finally mustering the courage to try the drink myself. I so hated coffee. “Too stressed to sleep, too exhausted to be awake?”

Miriam only shrugged. And in that shrug, I felt so close to her. It was quite the change of pace to see the ever-composed Miriam in a sleepless, almost zombie-like state, just as it had been so different to see her so assertive the night before, and part of me relished in it. If anything good had come from this, it was seeing that Miriam wasn’t always so perfect.

And we only had each other now.


Last edited by Scottie Elisabeth on Mon Jan 16, 2017 8:15 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Eight    Mon Jan 16, 2017 9:48 am

Miriam didn’t speak to me during the duration of the cab ride. She didn’t speak to me as we made the trek up the stairs to her apartment, or as we entered it, or even as she retrieved pillows and blankets to create a makeshift bed on the couch for me. I felt like a child caught in the act, though I wasn’t sure what I had done to evoke such a reaction. I just sat quietly at her kitchen table as she went through the motions, my eyes on her with each tuck of her hair behind her ears and each sigh between movements. ------Flawless scene-setting here. We see Miriam taking control. We see Collin finally experiencing the feeling of being out of control. And I absolutely adore and admire the last sentence. Such a beautiful, seamless scene. The mood is established from the beginning. Love.

Instead, she stared at the wooden surface, her eyes seeming to trace the lines in the grain. ---------Beautiful fucking detail. That's just fab. First off, noting the detail in the grain, and speaking of it to reinforce a mood/action of the character. Awesome.

In the short time that she had even known about her, Miriam seemed to care more about Sophie than Lily had, who had actually met and spent time with Sophie. ----A very fair observation. I like you voicing it to the reader, in case they didn't draw the parallel. I hadn't really thought it until you said it, but I was like, yeah, agreed.

Miriam crossed her legs beneath the table, shifting her weight in her chair. “You need to think, Collin.”----Love the detail, like the pulling hair from a jacket one. Love. <3

----PS. Want to quote the whole fucking chapter. Because as your getting to know and love these characters, it's super obvs. (Stole your word) And you write them with such grace, such ease. The scenes are so crisp, so emotional. Now, I'll quote the part that made me say this:

I sat straighter at her sharp tone. For all of Miriam’s beauty and natural poise, her severity was unmatched. It was the same as being rapped over the knuckles by your tutor in grade school, a feeling I hadn’t felt in centuries, yet was overwhelming now. ----This I want. I want this. I want this to be a descriptor for one of my characters. I'm super jell. Like, how did you think of this. What a beautiful metaphor. I'm so jell. Did I mention I was jell? This is fab. You need to like quote this line in the banner on the top of the forum, though its long. But it's probably one of my flav things you've ever said. It's perfect. It says Miriam harder than anything. I know her just from this bit. I don't need to have read the rest. This totally communicates her. I'm super jell.



I exhaled my breath through my teeth, my cheeks puffing as I thought. “Names. Addresses. Debts. Everything.” ----That's it. Gonna make a note with all your details and steal them.

Miriam’s eyes widened and trained on me, her lips again pursed. “I’m just listening, Collin.” ---Heart. Yeah, Collin. I love how she is so not putting up with his shit ever.

“You don’t believe me.” I searched the street for answers, but the few passersby were ants. ---Noted. Stolen.

On top of all the other shit you passive aggressively think about me when I harvest from you?” ---I just literally said "Oh snap" All ghetto in my head. Fuck yeah. Go Miriam. Don't be a fuckass Collin.

------I want to note how quick the pace is, but how good. You leave nothing out. You have always been able to get the point across fairly quickly. But your fucking detail and descriptors are so beyond anything I've ever read. They are precise. I'm all stumbling around the point, trying to find not-dumb/lame words to use. But you have the right words, and you use them so well. Admire that. Want that. Gonna just steal that.....*makes more notes*

“Fuck, that feels better,” she mused, her eyes returning to concern as her gaze again fixated on me. “Stop being such a jackass. We need to be a team.” ----Oh my fuck!!!!11!!! I totally didn't see that coming! And I was all anticipating a bunch of drama afterwards, but she just fucking says this. Goddamn! Goddamn, I love her so much. She is perfect. She is so fucking perfect. There is no better reaction to a smack in the face. Love you, Mir. Stay you, girl.

-----Laughing Laughing He's so fucking dumbstruck!!!!11!!! But damn, he deserved that! I'm still chuckling. Trying to get through. But it's so funny. HAAAAAHAAAAA!!!!!11!!!!!

---I'm totally thinking hard now. He went to the wrong address. Super weird. Don't wave it on, Mir. There has to be more to that! Way to make me think. I'm intrigued beyond belief now by this wallet thing.

Miriam propped her elbow on the arm of the chair then, resting her cheek against her open palm. “Fuck, Collin, I don’t know. Did anyone see you at the bar?”----The image of this woman is just SO FUCKING CLEAR! How? How do you do this?

“I’m sorry, but you’re sure Lily didn’t take it? You didn’t lose it there, if you…if you had your pants on the floor, or something?”----Lol, someone's closet jell.

My pillow was soft and smelled of Miriam’s bedroom, a fragrance slightly more intimate and comforting than the one she wore to work. ----So sweet. And sweet of him to notice. Noted. Stolen.

And I continued like that until morning, struggling with myself as I tried desperately to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. But there was no comfort to be had. Everything was uncomfortable now. Somebody knew me. Somebody knew about Sophie. Somebody knew about my machine. And somebody had been in my home.----Admire the slow tension building as he's trying to sleep, then this just really drives it home. I'm sick for him now. I especially love, "But there was no comfort to be had."

“Is this our life now?” I teased, finally mustering the courage to try the drink myself. I so hated coffee. “Too stressed to sleep, too exhausted to be awake?” ---This is too cute. Hooray for Collin, actually saying something human and nice. But I love this. It's so realistic and so cute. A good fucking relief of tension too.

-----That last paragraph was perfect. I love how he reflects on the "Miriams" he's come to know. The reader sees all these contrasts of her personality, but it's nice to have it be said out loud. This chapter is tense, but funny, but tense, but cute, but eye-opening. They really do only have each other. And Miriam is obvs understanding of that. Collin recognizes it, but he's so meh with the idea of not being a loner when he really does want not to be. He's a hardass. But I am so in love with Miriam. I love reading about her. She's my super flav. You are so in love with her, and it shows. She comes across with no difficulty.

Speaking to the actual plot, I'm further confused, but in a good way. Miriam brought up that address thing, and that's super interesting. I hope there's something up with the teen. I wanted there to be. I hope there is. Lily though. I'm unsure. I don't think it's Lily, for some reason. But I love not being able to decode this. And I love how he screwed up. And I love how Miriam is all like, Goddamnit Collin, but also, It's okay Collin, and, Here's a slap Collin. She's the grounded one. Love her.

And also, just for you, to express my feelings:





With your awesome prose, that is.

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

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