Making Headway

Lora Belle

New Member
"You know, you really didn't have to come with me," Emer was still complaining as she made her way down the unfamiliar street toward the apartment that had been Thea's alone for all of three weeks. She glanced sideways at Mischa, the man Ravyn had apparently appointed escort and guardian for the two women. "You should have stayed and kept an eye on Thea."

Mischa sniffed disapprovingly. "She is safe," he pointed out. "You do not know what you are walking into."

"I have claws," she protested, pausing as she came to the right door. "Oh ..."

Whoever had come to seal the place had done their best, but a broken door was a siren song for the underclass in Rhy'Din. The broken lock and handle were just too obvious, and it was clear, even before Emer stepped inside, that her friend's first solo apartment had been picked over by the local gangs while she'd been recuperating at the Temple. Even some of the furniture had been removed, the scents marking hands and feet going over everything in this place too numerous to identify too closely.

She paused in the living room, her heart aching for her friend. This had been Thea's first attempt to live alone, and look what had happened to it. Vaguely aware of Mischa scouting the rest of the rooms, in case they had stumbled upon someone else looking to make off with something that belonged to Thea, Emer moved slowly into the kitchen. She knew what she was looking for, hoping that it hadn't been taken along with everything else of value, but to no avail. The silver cup, engraved with Thea's name and birthdate, was gone. It had been a present from her parents on her eighteenth birthday, utterly irreplaceable. And some thieving opportunist had taken it without a second thought, seeing only a broken door and money to be made. A low growl started in the back of Emer's throat as she sniffed at the shattered glass case the cup had always been kept in. She would remember that scent.

Abruptly, she turned, leaving the kitchen before her cat could wake up and insist they go hunting. The little bits and pieces that must have marked the living room as belonging to Thea were also long since gone, but she knew her friend wouldn't have had anything of real sentimental value in that room. The masseuse tended to live her life between the kitchen, the bathroom, and the bedroom. It was to the bathroom Emer headed, bracing herself in advance for what she was afraid of finding in the bedroom itself. To her surprise, not much seemed to have been taken from the bathroom itself - the towels, obviously, and the medicine cabinet had been emptied, but little else had been removed. She even smiled to find the little enamel-backed mirror unscarred, picking it up from where it had been discarded into the bath-tub. At least she would be able to give her friend something of personal value scavenged from the wreckage.

But now, the bedroom. And what a mess it was. Worse, there was no scent in here but Thea, and her attacker. Even the local thugs hadn't entered a room that had clearly been the scene of something shocking. Emer could feel her canines lengthening as she advanced into the room, seeing the overturned bed and mattress, the scattering of Thea's clothing all over the floor. She didn't need to look to recognize the smell of what stained some of her friend's underwear, that low growl reverberating from her chest once again. Even knowing that it hadn't happened here, it was still enough to imagine how frightened Thea must have been; to have entered this room, seen the chaos, the violation of what was supposed to be her most private place, and to be snatched away by someone who should have been a friend.


She started at the sound of Mischa's voice, feeling claws retract as she blinked out of her growing anger. Her eyes snapped to him, the slitted pupil relaxing into something more human. He was waiting patiently by the door, the bag she had brought with her in one hand.

"We should go, yes?" he suggested, and despite her best intentions of salvaging what she could from this place, Emer found herself agreeing.

"Yes, we're going," she nodded, turning abruptly to leave the bedroom, pausing only to retrieve the little battered plush rabbit that she knew Thea would miss. "We'll stop at one of the stores on the way back and buy her what she needs."

It was heartbreaking. All Thea would have from the life she'd lived was one small enameled mirror, and the cuddly toy she'd slept with as a child. No amount of presents or support or new belongings could make up for what had been lost, because of one selfish action. Emer's brows lowered as Mischa escorted her out of the apartment, fully aware that her cat was beginning to stir. She'd be back. She might not be any use against the one who had hurt her friend, but she could track down the thief who had stolen that valuable keepsake. She'd track him down and make him wish he'd never set foot in the place. Gods help him if he'd already sold it on.

Lora Belle

New Member
"Everything's normal ... everything's normal ... everything's normal ..."

The words echoed the drag of the brush through Thea's thick hair as she sat on the bed, purposely keeping her eyes away from the mirror and the wide floor-length windows that should have delighted her. The apartment was beautiful, the perfect size for both her and Emer, and given how close Mischa Varakov seemed to be at all hours, there must have been a smaller apartment temporarily retained in the same building, just for him. With spring coming, the floor-length windows that lined the back wall, encompassing the living room and both bedrooms, were perfect to welcome the sunshine without inviting in the lingering chill. Just a few weeks ago, she would have loved them, but now ...

The brush caught on a tangle, and she abruptly pulled through it with savage force, ripping out several strands and leaving her scalp stinging. She barely blinked at that pain, though, resuming her savage grooming without a second thought. Everything is normal, she told herself firmly. I'm fine. But even she knew she was lying to herself.

How was she supposed to pick up where she left off? So much had happened. Kuori was the best friend she'd ever made outside of Emer. Was. Thea didn't think she'd be able to stomach ever seeing the goliathess again. Especially not knowing now that she had absolutely no defense against someone she had never thought she would need to defend herself against. Not knowing intimately that nothing she considered her own, private to herself, was safe from someone she had thought was a friend.

She should never have gone into the apartment. As soon as she'd seen the door was broken, she should have just kept walking - gone to the 'DOME, or even to the Watch. It had been a stupid thing to do, and it was the reason she was in this mess as it was. She paled as the natural march of memory made itself known; edging through the darkened apartment, coming upon the wreckage of her bedroom, finding the evidence of what had been done in her absence, strong arms holding a cloth over her face, and then ... She whimpered, the brush dropping to the floor with a thump. No. No, she didn't want to remember. Remembering only made it worse.

Bending, she picked up the brush, startled to find that amidst the hairs there was a small clump of bloodied skin. Her hand rose to where her scalp still stung, and sure enough, her fingertip came away with a spot of blood. Frowning, Thea pulled the loose hair from the brush and rose, dumping it into the trashcan, turning away briskly.

This just wouldn't do, she told herself firmly. She should go out, she should get used to people again, she should be herself. Maybe if she faked it for long enough, it would become the truth, and no one need ever worry that perhaps Thea wasn't being entirely honest with them. No one need ever know that the trust she extended so willingly to everyone had taken a very painful blow, and might never fully recover.

Finally meeting her own gaze in the mirror, she nodded to herself, her jaw set hard, and reached for her appointment book. No more cancellations, no more hiding. If nothing else, she could work until she was too exhausted to do anything but sleep. That would look like normal, wouldn't it?

Picking up the phone, she dialed the first number.

"Everything's normal ..."
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