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“My Amelia, I’ve missed you terribly. Tonight is worth, to me, any consequences that may come of it.” -- Espionage
For all of Miriam’s beauty and natural poise, her severity was unmatched. -- Glow
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 Twenty-One

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Scottie Elisabeth
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PostSubject: Twenty-One   Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:16 am

“You look beautiful,” I confided, grateful when our separate paths took us in the same direction at first.

“I went out last night,” Miriam responded without looking at me, the implication painful but not a deliberate dig. Each time she responded curtly, I felt panic in my chest, afraid that I would never hear her voice again. The last thing I could bear was for Miriam to fade away like sweet Sophie.

“Miriam,” I whispered as I stopped, grateful when she did the same a couple steps later. She sighed as she turned to face me, but neither of us dared to close the gap between us. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

She looked to the sidewalk but I still saw her eyes well. She was still angry but at least the yelling seemed behind us.

“You just really disappointed me,” she finally managed without looking up. “I thought your selfishness was on the surface, not in your core. It was my mistake.” Finally, her eyes found mine, but I hated what I saw in them. Miriam’s indifference was far more painful than her anger had been.

“I love you,” I insisted desperately.

Miriam frowned. “You don’t know the first thing about love.”

What could I say? I didn’t, but I knew what I felt for Miriam was far more than what I’d ever felt. If even that wasn’t love, what was? “I need you.” My eyes began to well as the pit I my stomach deepened.

She nodded, but her frown remained. “I know.” She finally stepped forward, to me, and my heart swelled when she pressed her lips to mine, falling just as suddenly when the kiss broke. “But I’m not Sophie.”

Sophie? What did Sophie have to do with how I felt for Miriam? “I don’t want you to be Sophie,” I insisted, grabbing her wrist before she could pull away.

Miriam smiled a sad smile, but she took my hand in hers. “I’m not angry with you.”

“I don’t want you to be Sophie,” I repeated, the pit growing ever deeper with Miriam’s sadness.

She hugged me, her arms warm and comforting in my despair. I didn’t want her to be Sophie. I wanted her to be Miriam. I just didn’t know the right words to say. When she finally pulled from me, I felt emptier than I ever had. Things weren’t the same, even between us. Nothing was the same anymore.

“I want to come home with you,” I begged as she began to turn, and again, she hesitated.

“Okay.”

I exhaled deeply, not realizing I had been holding my breath for her answer. I couldn’t be without her, not now or ever. She just needed to see how much I loved her and surely she would understand. I didn’t want her to be Sophie or Charlotte or anyone else. I wanted her. I needed her.

As we walked the cold walk to Miriam’s, I found myself always several steps behind her, as if that were my place with her now. I couldn’t be her equal, not like this, and she didn’t seem the least bit concerned with ensuring I was following. She just walked and I walked too and I hoped desperately that she would feel more whole with me present. I needed her to need me, or at least want me, but right now that seemed an impossibility.

I was so focused on watching her feet that it wasn’t until she gasped that I even realized something was wrong. When I looked up, I saw the smoke from the next street over, Miriam’s street, and the blaring of a fire engine filled my ears. Miriam broke into a run and I ran after her, stopping only as she did when she rounded the corner and stopped short as the realization dawned on us together. It was her floor, her apartment, with her large wall-sized window shattered, smoke billowing out of it.

She was gone then. Everything blurred until I found myself holding her back while firefighters blocked the entrance. Then, what seemed like an eternity later, when Miriam was pleading with the fire department to enter her extinguished apartment, I held her again.

Nothing salvageable; wait for the insurance adjuster.

But that wasn’t good enough. Miriam was distraught as she begged for that one, seemingly unimportant shoebox, only to be shooed away with the same response.

Finally, after several tears, hours, and pleas, we were escorted up the smoke-smelling stairs into Miriam’s home. I worried she would fall to pieces at the site of the place, completely destroyed, but Miriam was on a mission and broke from the fireman’s sight into her room, digging for what I prayed would have survived.

Her desperate wails said it all, and again, a pathetic blur until I was on the street, holding Miriam while she bawled against me, her sadness so visceral that I was afraid my own heart would burst with her desperation.

The day turned to evening before I could tear her from the spot. She was a shell of herself. No longer my calculated, composed Miriam but instead a wreck, suddenly dependent on me as much as I was her and I couldn’t even be grateful for it. We found ourselves back at Sophie’s, the house as empty as I felt as poor Miriam cried on the couch. I didn’t know what to do for her. What could I do for her?

“I’m so sorry,” I finally managed, as I knelt in front of her, wondering if those were the first words I had said. I reached for her hands and though she didn’t fight me, they held no warmth. “Obviously you can stay here. Just tell me what you need and I’ll get it.”

Miriam wouldn’t look at me. I had to fight myself from repeating my words, as if she hadn’t heard them. I couldn’t stand her like this.

“Miriam,” I pleaded, needing her eyes on me, needing her attention once more, but she didn’t have it in her. She was lost to me now, stuck in her despair. I couldn’t even ask her to stop being sad because how could she? I was at a loss.

The buzzing of my phone in my pocket interrupted me and Miriam fell into fresh sobs once I released her. My heart panged but I could do nothing for her now. Instead, I retreated to my room to answer, peeling the comforter from my bed as I mumbled my “hello?”

“Got a pen?”

“What?”

“Hello, asshole, this is Lily. Hello, Lily, light of my fucking life, nice to hear from you. Oh I fucking know it. Know how you were asking about asshole Stewart? Why, yes, Lily, I do know what you’re talking about. Great, I’ve got his fucking number. Do you have a fucking pen?”

Still, my brow furrowed. I was only half-listening before, as I retrieved Miriam a blanket, and now as I guided her to lie on the couch, I was even less certain what Lily was saying.

“…what?”

“Oh my fucking god, how much clearer can I be? Are you okay? You’re being fucking dumb right now.”

Stewart. Number. Pen.

“Oh,” I managed, shaking my head as I again parted from my anguished succubus. “No, I don’t. Couldn’t you just text it?”

“I mean, I guess, but I called, so how about you find a goddamn pen?”

My search took me into the kitchen, sour smelling from the neglected fruit on the counter. I ignored it, turning my attention instead to the drawer closest to the fridge, where Sophie amassed enough pens to service an entire office building. It felt almost reckless to write a non-grocery item on Sophie’s pad on the refrigerator, but after a moment’s hesitation, I realized I had no one to answer to now, no one’s rules to follow but my own.

“I’m ready.”

She rattled the number then as well as something else, something far more valuable: his address.

“He definitely lives there. Well, someone does. That’s where I have to go to pick up my camo if it’s a weekend because the asshole is too lazy to meet me at the shop.”

“The shop?” I muttered then, the thought never even occurring to me.

“Oh yeah, that’s…” and she shared that location with me as well. “But they’ll be closed.”

“When do they open?”

“Jinn is there from 10, I think, but asshole doesn’t show up until after noon.”

Jinn too? This was perfect, exactly the information I needed to find what this Stewart wanted from me, if anything. Maybe my machine was all he wanted. Maybe the rest was Charlotte and Henry. But I needed to be sure.

“Don’t go alone though, fuckface,” Lily warned, concern in her tone. “He won’t be happy to see you.”

“How do you know?”

But she had hung up. Whatever Lily knew, she didn’t want to. All I could do was be grateful for the wealth of information I had just received.

Once I realized I couldn’t hear Miriam any longer, I broke my attention from the pad, instead returning to the living room, my eyes immediately landing on the empty couch.

“Miriam?” I called, uneasy as I glanced down the empty hall. I turned my attention to the front door but it was still chained. Finally, a cough from the bathroom settled my pulse.

There was a flush before the door opened and Miriam reemerged in the hallway, wiping her mouth before she saw me. “What?”

“Nothing,” I shook my head, willing her to me. “Are you…?”

She rolled her eyes, embarrassed. “I’m fine. Sorry.”

“No,” I insisted. I got the nerve to close the distance and I took Miriam in my arms once more. “Don’t be sorry.”

“I need to go out.” She pushed past me despite my hold. “I’ll be back later.”

“Where are you going?” I insisted as I followed her, desperate to keep her in my sight.

“I’m going to fucking kill her,” she growled as she turned sharply to me. “So if you don’t mind, I’ll be going.”

“Who?!” I pushed her against the door, desperate to keep her.

Miriam’s eyes were annoyed with me, though still heavy with despair. “Who do you fucking think?” Fresh tears emerged as her angry resolve crumbled. “She’s the only other person in the world that knows about that box, Collin. I’ve always kept it in my closet, even when I lived with her.”

“Lived with her?” I was suddenly lost again, in the dark like the first time we entered the duplex, like when I walked into my opened home.

“You heard her,” her voice broke as she slid down the door, into the floor in a heap. “She knows my weaknesses. Peggy is the biggest fucking weakness I have. She’s punishing me.”

I knelt to be with Miriam. I sat against the door as she fell into me. Her sobs returned and again I struggled with her sadness. “Why?” I whispered, stroking her hair as I held her to me.

“You,” she whimpered and the pit in my stomach plummeted. She was right, of course it was my fault. Everything was my fucking fault anymore. Poor Miriam had gotten caught up in a fight that had nothing to do with her.

There was still so much I didn’t know. What did Jinn have to do with all of this? What did Stewart want? What was my part in this ordeal? One thing, though, was crystal clear. Charlotte was dangerous. She was no longer willing to leave me to my life, or Miriam to hers, it seemed. She had to be dealt with.

“I’m so sorry,” I professed as I buried my face in her hair. Miriam’s chest heaved as she cried, her agony almost too much for me to endure. As I sat, cradling my desperate Miriam in Sophie’s living room floor, there were no words.


My eyes opened to a fist banging on the door against which I was leaned. Miriam, still in my arms, stirred as well and almost immediately snapped into awareness, tensed as if she had never gone to sleep.

As I tried to orient myself, Miriam was already standing, eyeing the door uneasily. When the pounding continued, I too stood, unsettled further when I realized it was still dark out.

“Would you open the fucking door?!” That familiar voice called again and I exhaled, more relieved in that moment than I had expected.

Immediately, I unlocked and opened the door, and my friend pushed her way through me, closing and locking the door behind her.

“What in the holy fuck, asshole?!” she demanded as she shoved me against the wall. “I’m worried for my fucking life and you’re just having a snooze behind a locked fucking door? I’ve been calling you for a fucking hour!”

I was too disoriented to even ask how she knew I was sleeping, or to ask her why her camouflage was failing. My friend had a panic in her eyes I had never seen and when she ended her shouts with a hug, throwing her arms around my neck, I felt even more concerned.

“What’s going on?” Miriam managed since I couldn’t, and I was grateful for the distraction from her sadness.

“They’re knocking fucking doors down in the lycan neighborhood,” she panted. She punched my chest with an eye roll before moving to sit on the couch, but only after she pulled the curtains behind the couch closed. “Like something out of a fucking holocaust movie. There have been talks of raids in the smaller projects but I just thought it was fucking hysteria.” Lily looked over her shoulder, as if she hadn’t closed the curtains, and shook her head as she turned her attention back to us. “But tonight they came to ours. I’ve never heard so much fucking screaming and howling, Collin, fuck.”

Miriam’s eyes turned to me, her despair replaced with a fresh determination. “What do we do?”

When both women eyed me, I felt my pulse quicken again. Why would I know what to do? Why were they looking to me? “Do you know who it was?”

Lily snarled at me as if my question were unreasonable. “Your fucking people.”

“My people?”

“The people that were in your fucking house and that fucking bitch you brought to Sophie’s funeral.”

Miriam’s breaths sharpened as she looked to me. “What the fuck is she doing now?”

Both glared my way as if I had information they didn’t, as if I were in any way a part of this, but I wasn’t. Still, I was grateful to have Miriam angry. Angry Miriam was easy.

“This is bigger than Charlotte,” I assured them both. “Somebody has to be pulling the strings and I don’t think she’s big enough.” I rose my hand to rub the back of my neck, willing myself more awake. “It’s gotta be related to Stewart. It has to be.”

“You said he was one of you,” Lily interrupted, and I was grateful to have the pressure off of me. “So why does he smell like an imp?”

I shrugged, turning to Miriam before she could look to me for answers. She too shrugged and the pressure was off again.

“And what the fuck is Jinn? She doesn’t smell like any of you.”

“Jinn?” Miriam interrupted now, fresh focus on Lily. “You know Jinn?”

“Fucking psychopath wolf looking bitch? Yeah, I know Jinn.”

Miriam crossed her arms over her chest and her eyes were suddenly far off. I was annoyed that she had pieces to put together when I had tried so desperately to but failed, but for now, I was happy to have her distracted.

“Was she there?” I asked my friend then but she quickly shook her head.

“But shit, Collin, they were rounding them up in the back of prison looking trucks. I’ve never seen something like that.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” I told her honestly and after she snarled at my sentiment, she rolled her eyes.

“Thanks.”

“Jinn called the lycanthrope oppression an apartheid,” Miriam blurted, oblivious to our conversation. “Do you think it’s a specific dig at our system? Perhaps if the archdemon was an oppressor—”

“Are you fucking kidding?” Lily interrupted then. “Terry was a lycan. Or, used to be. He used to be our fucking community leader before his promotion. He was one of you fucks when I was a kid.”

“What?” we questioned in unison, Lily’s information too foreign to process.

Lily’s expression grew annoyed again. “Keep up, fuck. We grow up in orphanage things because obviously our parent situation is fucky. Orphanages have community leaders. Terry was our community leader but he left when he was promoted in your little demon thing. Jinn tried that shit with us too but we’re not fucking stupid. Everybody knew Terry. We wouldn’t fucking kill him like those bullshit imps tried to say.”

I was floored, and Miriam’s open mouth suggested she was too.

“A lycanthrope? The archdemon?” Miriam demanded of me then. “Can that happen?”

I shrugged, but Lily’s information was as good as any we had so far. “Charlotte said it wasn’t the lycanthropes.”

Miriam’s jaw clenched at her name from my lips and I regretted it as soon as I said it, but there it was.

“Why are you here?” Lily prodded then, eyes on Miriam. She was looking more and more like her new self as she calmed.

“She,” Miriam nodded viciously at me then, “set my apartment on fire.”

Lily’s expression didn’t falter as she turned to me. “I fucking knew she was crazy if she married you. Shit. What the fuck is her problem?”

Again, I was on the receiving end of glares from both women. All I could do was return to where I formerly sat in the floor. There was no answer to that question, none that I knew at least. The woman I married was long gone now. Charlotte was what remained. And she had to be stopped.
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PostSubject: Re: Twenty-One   Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:05 am

“You just really disappointed me,” she finally managed without looking up. “I thought your selfishness was on the surface, not in your core. It was my mistake.” Finally, her eyes found mine, but I hated what I saw in them. Miriam’s indifference was far more painful than her anger had been.----Omg, she really just said it here. She put it into words. We thought you were only selfish on the inside, Col. How could you be otherwise? Frikin Jerk. And Mir, she always knows exactly what to say, or what needs to be said, and always in the most beautiful way.

“I don’t want you to be Sophie,” I repeated, the pit growing ever deeper with Miriam’s sadness.---I believe him, and her not acknowledging his desperation with these words makes me want to hit her (kinda, sorta). I love her, but she needs to not be dumb. I know she’s probs right, like always. Col has probs been feeling all these emotions as a result of Sophie, toward Mir, Char, and Lily. We were told how selfish and careless he was before, and it wasn’t until after Sophie had gone that he decided he “loved” Miriam. But I think he’s sincere. It feels like he really wants to believe it, and he so wants Mir too. He wants it even, to be true. And I think that’s what Miriam needs to acknowledge; that he WANTS it to be true.

As we walked the cold walk to Miriam’s, I found myself always several steps behind her, as if that were my place with her now.----<3 <3, and I get what Mir’s thing is with this, but I don’t want her to feel this way.

But that wasn’t good enough. Miriam was distraught as she begged for that one, seemingly unimportant shoebox, only to be shooed away with the same response.----Omfg, I totes forgot about the shoebox. *crosses arms, how dark you Gf. How dare you take away the only real love Miriam ever had. How dare you.

No longer my calculated, composed Miriam but instead a wreck, suddenly dependent on me as much as I was her and I couldn’t even be grateful for it----I’m genuinely shocked by this. Wow. I can’t believe he isn’t even a little grateful. That’s impressive. Maybe something in him has finally switched, with Sophie being laid to rest, finally.

“Miriam,” I pleaded, needing her eyes on me, needing her attention once more, but she didn’t have it in her. She was lost to me now, stuck in her despair. I couldn’t even ask her to stop being sad because how could she? I was at a loss.----See, I don’t see this as Collin being selfish here. We are all this form of selfish, and certainly can’t help it. I get this. I sympathize.

“Hello, asshole, this is Lily. Hello, Lily, light of my fucking life, nice to hear from you. Oh I fucking know it. Know how you were asking about asshole Stewart? Why, yes, Lily, I do know what you’re talking about. Great, I’ve got his fucking number. Do you have a fucking pen?”----Oh good god, thank you so much Lil. Thank you for coming along at the perfect moments to save every one from pure and utter despair. You are the best. And this is the best thing ever. This needs to go in the banner. I don’t care if it’s too long. Flav. Love. <3 Laughing

“Oh my fucking god, how much clearer can I be? Are you okay? You’re being fucking dumb right now.”--- Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing

“I’m going to fucking kill her,” she growled as she turned sharply to me. “So if you don’t mind, I’ll be going.”------Okay, I’m such a motard. I seriously hadn’t even thought about who, what, or why had burned down Mir’s apartment. OMG. Whaaaaaaaa?! I literally just had that moment. “Whhhhaaaaaaa?” But this is a seriously badass line. Banner worthy (like a billion other lines from this book). And since it’s on my mind, Lily has the best dialogue there ever was. Her pet names are my flav.

----Poor Mir. Stupid Collin should have just let her go and kill this bitch. Of course they lived together. Of course she would know about the box, but damn, could she not just have burned the box? Did you have to burn her own place, jeez? What a bitch. Stop being jell and move on with your life. Gawl.

“What in the holy fuck, asshole?!” she demanded as she shoved me against the wall. “I’m worried for my fucking life and you’re just having a snooze behind a locked fucking door? I’ve been calling you for a fucking hour!” ------Flav. Get him, Lil. They should be out kicking ass and taking names right now, not snoozing behind closed doors.

Lily’s expression grew annoyed again. “Keep up, fuck. We grow up in orphanage things because obviously our parent situation is fucky. Orphanages have community leaders. Terry was our community leader but he left when he was promoted in your little demon thing. Jinn tried that shit with us too but we’re not fucking stupid. Everybody knew Terry. We wouldn’t fucking kill him like those bullshit imps tried to say.”-----Oh Lily. You’re the best. Thank you for bringing this to the reader. Will comment more on it at the end. Can’t stop to comment. Gotta keep going.

------So if I’m not mistaken, this is going the way I predicted? Jinn may or may not be the archdemon? And she’s extorting the lycans? Obvs there is segregation of the lycans and others going on. So is Jinn behind it, but stupid Charlotte is an enforcer of some type? Gawl, I hate her. And fucking Jinn, who the fuck is this bitch? I really don’t know why you thought I would be displeased with this. It seems you’ve got it figured out from here. I was a little upset about Miriam leaving Collin hanging at the beginning, and sadly, I wasn’t to upset when she found her apartment burned down. I guess I was too annoyed at her for not acknowledging Collin’s vulnerability at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why she is feeling the way she is, and I am grieving for her loss of the shoebox (Pegs). But I really love the way you set that up. For once, we weren’t so sympathetic to Miriam, or I wasn’t. Who knows what others might feel. But yeah, for once I didn’t feel oh so sorry for her. I kinda felt like she deserved it, but she totally didn’t! You know what I mean, I hope. Her character seems more human now that before. She’s not this completely virtuous character, she has her flaws, you know? Even she can fuck up in her and Collin’s relationship. So yeah, it was nice to view her from a different angle other than the one Collin is always viewing her from (aside from the beginning when he thought she was a total whore). So, the plot is coming round, and the story is getting intense. I was a big fan of the last scene in particular. I loved the urgency and how we snapped from one dialogue to the next without skipping any details of action. Lily is the best. Miriam I will forgive and mourn for later. Collin is actually golden in this one.

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

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Twenty-One
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