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Mar. 5th, 2010


It's the same old story. She drinks alone, she cries alone. She rolls the tumbler along the edge of the table and wonders if she drops it, will it shatter in big enough pieces to do any damage. She lights a cigarette and lets it burn before putting it out on her thigh, the way he used to. The searing pain cuts through the fog of too much vodka and not enough sleep, just long enough for her to remember why she gets here, and then she starts all over again. Another bottle, another night passed with lungs sore from heaving sobs into a pillow to stifle the noise.

One night she steps out onto her balcony, ignoring the stares from the people bundled up below as the cement chills her bare feet and the wind whips at her naked legs. She lights a cigarette and smokes it down to the filter before tossing it over the side, watching with utter disinterest as it falls six stories to the ground. The next night it's a glass tumbler and the next, an empty bottle that narrowly misses some poor schmuck out with his girlfriend. She doesn't even bat an eye when he tries to be a man by giving her the finger, just turns and goes back inside.

The next night she climbs up on the railing, balancing long enough to hear the phone ring. She knows who it is, knows the message that's being left begging her to come back, asking for forgiveness for crimes that were never committed. Not by him, anyway. His only crime was being stupid enough to love her, as far as she's concerned.

But now, as she smears the sidewalk red, she wipes his record clear.

Jan. 2nd, 2009

[QM] 96: Double Indemnity

The cell cot isn't all that uncomfortable, Athena's decided. She's not big enough for it to fell cramped, and she's slept on harder surfaces before. Ignoring curious stares and suggestive remarks from the cell across from her isn't anything new either. So when the officer unlocks the door, she contemplates staying for a moment, keeping her eyes closed as she pretends to sleep. But then there's a second set of footsteps, the sound of a heavy sigh over her, and she opens her eyes, propping herself up on one elbow, to see a tired and frustrated David looking down at her, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Figures they'd call you," she tells him before closing her eyes again, settling back into the cot.

"They didn't call me," he says. "You did."

One eye opens again to look him over. "Oh. Don't remember that."

"Clearly," he sighs. "Do you even remember how you got here?"

"I think I tried to pick a fight with a homeless guy over by the zoo," she answers, already growing bored.

"Close," he says, "except it was outside your building, and it was a street light."

"Huh," she says, holding her hands up to examine them. "That explains the cast."

David pushes her legs over to sit at the end of the cot. Athena begrudgingly gives him the space.

"If it weren't for your fractured hand, they would've just taken you up to your apartment," he tells her.

"I'm sure I told them they could, regardless," she says with a shrug. "Would've been a lot less trouble for everyone."

"Except for you, with your broken hand," he points out. She smiles at the remark. He doesn't.

"Wouldn't be the first time," she murmurs.

"Athena," he starts, "I..."

"Love me," she finishes with a satisfied smirk. "I know."

"No," he bristles. "Look, I didn't come right away because I wanted you to sleep it off here."

"And here comes my big morality lesson, right?" she sighs. It's a routine they've gone through time and time again over the years, neither one ever gaining ground. But David seems determined to this time.

"You're a detective," he says, "a respected member of the force, and more than that, a sworn protector of the people in this city."

"Don't I do do all of that?" she demands. "Haven't I been doing all of that, in worse shape than I am now?"

"You can't keep this up," he tells her. "Because the next time, I'm not coming to bail you out."

She sits up then, leaning in close. For a moment, he thinks she's going to hit him from the way she looks at him, and his brief sound of surprise is muffled when she kisses him. The other cell erupts in whistles and hoots, quickly silenced by the officer's stern bellow.

"We both know you'll always come for me," she whispers, giving him a wink.

He looks at her for a long moment before standing and walking out of the cell, his head bowed. She gets up to follow him, but the officer swings the door closed before she can leave.

"I'll give you another night to think about it," David tells her through the bars. "I'm not fucking around here, Athena."

She locks gazes with him, looking completely bored by his umpteenth attempt to make her better.

"You have to stop," he urges. "This? A couple nights in holding? Is nothing compared to what will happen the next time."

"And what could that possibly be?" she asks, rolling her eyes.

"You know what," he sighs. "Getting kicked off the force. Rehab. Prison."

"That's what you've said the past five times," she says, walking back to the cot to settle in. With one last look before lying down, she gives him her defiant refutation of his warning.

"I've had worse."

Phyllis: "Suppose I let you off with a warning this time."
Walter: "Suppose it doesn't take."
612 words

Dec. 25th, 2008

[QM] 94: Double Indemnity

Athena stares sullenly at her reflection in the mirror, silently cursing the horribly uncomfortable flower girl dress she's wearing and the woman fussing over her - a cousin of her mother's she's never seen before and will never see again, who came down from New York City for the wedding and speaks with an almost indecipherable Russian accent. Her mother sits nearby, wearing a bathrobe to cover her undergarments as she puts the finishing touches on her hair and makeup, aided by more relatives Athena never knew she had. They've all come out of the woodwork to witness this special, perfect day.

"Cheer up, Verochka," her mother chides, looking over. "Today is a celebration, not a funeral. Smile for me."

Athena obeys, plastering on a smile that will become all too comfortable in the years to come. Satisfied, her mother spritzes perfume onto her neck and wrists before rising to finally don the abhorrently lavish wedding gown her soon-to-be husband had specially made.

"Your mother is so beautiful today," the cousin sighs as she douses Athena's head in hairspray, making her cough as it coats her nine-year old lungs, nothing compared to the damage she'll inflict as an adult.

Finally, they all line up just like they'd practiced, waiting outside the church sanctuary for the string quartet to start up the wedding march. After the first phrase, the doors swing open and the bridesmaids and groomsmen proceed down the aisle smiling and laughing. Then it's Athena's turn. She starts on her way, smile stuck on just as her mother requested, tossing rose petals this way and that. Everyone sighs and whispers to the person next to them about how adorable she looks, and how sweet it is that he would make her a part of the ceremony. That's when she sees him on the altar, nearly five year old Kevin fighting to stand still next to him with the ring pillow. She knows he's watching her, judging her, and for a moment she can't help but freeze down the aisle.

It doesn't feel right being here, in this dress, watching her mother marry another man. It isn't right.

She swallows hard as she sees his eyes narrow ever so slightly, knowing that she's the only one who notices. Quickly, she finishes emptying her basket on the floor and takes her place at the end of the bridesmaids, her eyes down and breathing fast as she hears the oohs and ahs accompanying her mother's entrance. After that, she can't remember any of the ceremony, not even that her hand had tried to raise itself when the priest asked for any objections to the marriage. All she remembers is the look her now step-father gave her at the start of the reception, and how it affirmed the fear that had consumed her thoughts earlier.

He was going to make her pay for ruining this day for him, even if it was the slightest offense. And she knew then that this wasn't right, that none of it was, that none of it would ever be. But there was nothing she could do.

"Suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong."
529 words

Dec. 7th, 2008

You're writing your tragedy

Months have passed since the incident at the hospital. The bruises on Athena's throat have disappeared. The scratches on David's arm have healed.

The sex has gotten rougher. They don't talk about why.

Athena drinks more than ever now, in an attempt to beat back the flood of memories that came back in the hospital, and to suppress the secret that came out. David tries not to worry when he wakes up in the middle of the night and sees that she's not there, or when he hears her in the shower at three in the morning.

They don't talk about where she's been.

David's parents have come out to visit, to check up on their son and grandson. After dinner one night, they pull him aside to ask why he hasn't already married Athena. He tells them that it wouldn't seem right, so soon after Heidi. They remind him that they never like that good for nothing bitch, and that it wouldn't cause them any pain to seem him married to a nice woman who actually loves him.

They don't talk about how every time he looks at her, all he can see is Heidi.

Xander's better at sleeping through the nights, and smiles when he sees Athena's face more than David's. He's already trying to roll over when she lays him on the couch next to her. She reminds herself that this isn't her son no matter what David says, that she can't get too attached because when he grows up he'll resent her, either for not being his real mother or for leaving.

They don't talk about when that could be.

Dec. 6th, 2008

[AA Muses] Step One

My name is Athena, and I'm powerless.

I've been powerless all my life. At first it was natural, the way you're supposed to be when you're a child. "Innocent" is what everyone else would call it, I guess. And I was, until I turned nine. That was when I found out how cruel the world really was, and I became truly powerless. I couldn't save my father from his fate, and I couldn't save me from mine.

I started drinking early on in high school. It started as something I did at parties every now and then, a momentary distraction from my life. By sixteen, I probably could have outlasted an Irish dockworker. I always told myself that it was okay, given my circumstances. It was genetic, and therefore unavoidable. And if you grew up the way I did, you'd be a drinker too.

This isn't my first time in the program, and I know it won't be the last. Sobriety has a tendency not to stick for very long with me. Sometimes I've wanted it to, but I reach a point where drinking is my only way to cope without completely losing it. Part of me wishes that wasn't so, that I could learn to live without alcohol. But the other part of me is perfectly happy and comfortable with slowly drinking myself to death, and that's the side I listen to. Because deep down, I'm resigned to the fact that this is all part of God's plan for me, and I can't change that. If I've been set on a path to destroy myself, then so be it. I wouldn't be the first. And as long as it would mean a reprieve, I'm okay with giving up any power I might have, if I even had it to begin with.

I've been powerless all my life. I honestly don't know how well I'd fare if that changed.

336 words

[AA Muses] Hi.

My name is Athena, and I'm an alcoholic.

I've been through all of this before. Can't really say why I'm back here again, except that I'm apparently a glutton for punishment. See, it's always been my firm belief that my life is better when I'm drinking, worse when I'm not. But... but I'm starting to think that I might just be deluding myself. So I'm giving this whole sobriety thing another shot.

Maybe it'll stick this time.

Dec. 5th, 2008

[QM] 93: Double Indemnity

The sun is just starting to rise when Athena arrives on scene, ducking under the police tape closing off the dark alley. It's a bad part of town, one she's been to more often than any other. Drug dealers and hookers aren't out of the ordinary; gang wars have left more than few a bodies for her to clean up. But the sight that greets her in the alley is by far the worst she's seen.

Sandra stands at the entry to the alley, staring out at the street, unwilling to face what's behind her. David emerges from behind the dumpster, wiping his mouth. He lights up a cigarette as Athena ties her hair back and crouches down to examine the body.

"You ever see a beating like this?" he asks her, doing his best to avoid looking down.

"Nope," she responds, staring closely at the mangled remains, doing her best to put the memories of her father's corpse out of her mind. "You find any ID on him?"

"Like I'm gonna stick my hands in that," he scoffs, risking a glance down. "Someone wanted this poor son of a bitch dead, that's for sure. First glance, coroner said that under all that blunt force trauma? There's knife wounds, burns, couple of bullets."

"Robbery?" Athena asks, getting up and moving to the dumpster.

"Looks like," David affirms, watching her open it up and pull out a neatly folded stack of clothes. "Or maybe not."

She picks up the wallet perched on top, setting the clothes down as she opens it. For a moment, all she can do is stare at the driver's license sitting in it. Then, with a wry smile, she tosses it to David.

"So," she says, catching his eye, "do I laugh now, or wait 'til it gets funny."

With that she walks away, back under the tape into the early morning light, leaving behind a bewildered Sandra and David.

"What was all that?" Sandra asks. David shrugs, opening the wallet to look at the license, letting out a heavy sigh when he reads the name on it: William Herald.

"Christ," he mutters, tossing the wallet to Sandra so she can see. "It's her step-dad."

"Do I laugh now, or wait 'til it gets funny?"
371 words

Nov. 29th, 2008

[QM] 92: Hud

I am thirty-seven years old, rapidly approaching thirty-eight. I am unmarried. I have no children and, were it not for the fact that my biological clock was surgically removed, I'd soon be out of luck in that arena, too.

The fact that I have no husband, no real boyfriend to speak of (David doesn't quite fill that role at the moment) upsets my mother. She tells me, "Verochka, you need to find a good man to settle down with." I try to tell her that I had a good man to settle down with, and he was taken away from me. And ever since then I've been...

Well, I've been scared. Paranoid, actually. At first I couldn't even bring myself to go on a date. For years, all I'd allow myself was emotionless one night stands, when I knew that I could get away with never having to see their faces again. Most of the time I never even bothered to learn their name, because if there's a name, you get attached. You start to care, and I wasn't strong enough to do that yet. Once I was, I could never get past a couple of months, maybe six at the most. Then I'd leave so that they couldn't. I had to be the one in control, for once. All my life, the people I loved abandoned me on way or the other, and that made me believe that anyone I ever cared for would leave me. It's why, after close to nine years of being in love, David and I have never managed to actually stay together for more than a few months. It's why I walked out on Jason the night he asked me to marry him.

It's why I remind myself every moment that Xander is not my son, that I am not his mother, and that he will never love me as such. It's why I'll have to leave, before he gets too old, before he gets attached. Because I know that when he finds out the truth, he'll hate me for that.

And I can't bear to have that happen. I can't bear to lose love, any kind of love, again. So I sabotage every chance I have, because it's easier to hurt than it is to heal.

I try to explain this to my mother, to David, to everyone. They all tell me the same thing, that I'm a coward, that I can't judge the future by the past, that I need to give in to the chance that for once, it might work out in my favor. But I can't risk that. Because I know, all it will take is one last betrayal and then I'll be lost. I'll go over, and there won't be any rescuing me.

Preemptive strikes are always preferable to trying to clean up a snafu.

"Honey don't go shooting all the dogs 'cause one of 'em's got fleas."
495 words

Oct. 31st, 2008

[QM] 87: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

"My God, is it you?"

She shuts her eyes for a moment, preparing herself to turn and face him. It's been eight months since she walked out of his apartment, out of his life with nothing more than a weak excuse. She knows she broke his heart; she broke her own as well, and expects to see it etched into his face as she finally turns around. Instead she finds herself face to face with that soft smile she used to love so much, the one that made her feel safe and validated. The one she thought would have died the night she turned her back on him.

"Jason," she says, trying not to sound surprised or disappointed. He sweeps her up in a tight hug, and for a moment it feels like those eight months never happened, like they've never spent a moment apart.

"It's so good to see you," he murmurs as she pushes him gently away. "I've been worried about you... I mean, when you left, it was like you disappeared completely. I thought you might have..."

"Killed myself?" she finishes, watching him shift uncomfortably as she gives a short laugh. "No. But I'm getting there, slowly."

From in front of the store, another woman calls his name and the both look toward her. Jason looks away quickly, embarrassed; Athena raises an eyebrow, intrigued.

"I didn't think you'd move on that fast," she muses, idly.

"Neither did I," he answers, honest but still slightly ashamed. "I met Karen and she was great - beautiful, smart, funny - but I just wasn't ready. Until..."

"What, she fucked your brains on the first date?"

"No," Jason sighs. "Her kids. I met her kids. She's got two of them, a boy and girl, six and three, and they're... Athena, they're the most amazing thing to happen to me since..."

"Me," she murmurs. He doesn't notice.

"To them, the world is new and full of every possibility," he continues. "I fell in love with them, and they helped me fall in love with Karen. I want to marry her and help her raise her children. My children."

He looks sadly at Athena, who's lit up a cigarette, impatient.

"I wish you knew what it was like," he tells her. "It's too bad you don't have any kids of your own."

The switch flips and she struggles to keep from crushing his head under the tailgate. After a deep breath, she steps in so close they're nearly touching.

"I guess it's a good thing I left," she whispers to him. "Be glad we never got to the 'I can't have children and I don't want them' talk."

Then she turns away, finishing up with the groceries before getting into the car. From the rearview mirror she watches Jason retreat across the parking lot as she finishes her cigarette. Once he's disappeared inside the store, she flicks the butt out the window and lets her head fall against the steering wheel, sobbing. She remembers the joy of being pregnant, the crushing despair of losing love and family in one fell swoop of her own selfish stupidity, the empty years that followed spent swimming at the bottom of bottle after bottle, haunted by dreams of that happy fulfillment that had been ripped from her fingers by the cruelty of fate.

"I thought I heard you saying it was a pity... pity I never had any children."
561 words

Oct. 11th, 2008

[QM] 85: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Nobody talked after my father my died. Not for a long time. My mother simply moved in silence as she collected his belongings, signed the paperwork. I didn't say anything because I was waiting for her. And because earlier, William had dragged me into the hallway and hit me when I started crying. He said I shouldn't make a fuss. What did he expect? I was nine years old, but I knew what it meant when they pulled the sheet over my father's face. I knew what the too clean tiling and brushed metal doors and eery fucking silence meant. What else could I do but start to cry? But he hit me and told me that big girls don't cry. That Mama wasn't crying. She wasn't making a sound. She was just standing there, staring at the sheet, fiddling with the straps on her purse. Frozen whore.

Nobody said anything when we left, either. William and my mother just held hands across from me in the car. I pressed myself against the window, as far away from his as possible, and focused on not making a sound. I didn't want to get hit again.

We walked silently into the apartment and I ran to my room, crawling into bed and burying my face into my pillow. I was still too afraid to cry, to afraid to make any sound, so I just lay there, listening to the nothingness around me. Then I heard the footsteps going down the hall to my mother's room, the squeak of mattress springs as somebody sat down on the bed. After a while I could hear my mother sobbing, the sound muffled through the walls. I was about to start crying again when I heard her speak, for the first time since we'd left that morning.

"Thank God he's gone."

I clutched my pillow tight as I listened to her sobs fade to soft laughs before they became the noises familiar to me every night that William visited. My jaw tightened and I shut my eyes as I cursed my mother for breaking the silence that had swallowed us before. I desperately wanted it back. At least when nobody talked, I could still pretend that we had been a family.

Mr. Chips: "Silence! Silence! I'll have no more of it!"
John Colley: "No more silence, sir?"
396 words

Oct. 3rd, 2008

84: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

I'm pushing forty. Most people don't believe me when I tell them that. They tell me I'm blessed with great genes, that I'll look young for years to come.

I tell them I'm cursed to feel twice my age for years to come. That it's a miracle I look as good as I do.

They tell me that every day is a new beginning, that I only have to leave the past behind to move forward. I ask them if they could leave behind the memory of being nine years old and going to see your father in the morgue. Of being eleven and learning what it feels like to have a cigarette put out on your arm. Of being fifteen and getting robbed of the chance to give yourself away, even if it was going to be to the Senior in your calculus class in the back seat of his car while you were drunk. Of being eighteen and having all your hopes stolen from you. Of being twenty four and losing your only chance at happiness because of a cruel twist of fate and your own stupidity.

Of being thirty-seven and realizing that you've never been in control, but you'll be the one to burn when everyone else figures it out.

They tell me it's unhealthy to dwell on the past. That it's unhealthy to drink like a fish and smoke two packs a day. That if things were really as bad as I say, I'd look a lot worse.

I tell them to go to hell. I'm blessed with great genes, remember? I'll look fifty years younger than I feel until the day I die.

"I don't see how you could ever get old in a world that's always young."
285 words

[QM] 83: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Saturday morning, Athena woke up early and couldn't fall back asleep. After an hour of staring at her ceiling, she quietly crawled out of bed to throw on a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt. It wasn't quite six o'clock; outside, the sky was still gray tinged pink by the rising sun. Holding her shoes in her hand, she crept downstairs and out the kitchen door, putting them on outside. After a quick stretch, she set off at a light jog down the driveway and out to the main road. It didn't take long for her leg to start aching, it never was right after she broke it, but she kept going. Pain was nothing new to her.

She arrived back at the entrance to the driveway a few hours later, just as the mailman was arriving. They exchanged nods and she was almost past him when he called out to her.

"Oh, Miss Herald! I've got something here I think you'll want."

From the stack of mail in his hand he pulled out a large envelope and handed to her. Her heart felt like it would explode when she looked down to see the return address: Undergraduate Admissions, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

"Looks like good news," the mailman said casually, handing the rest of the stack over to her. She could only nod as she turned away and walked slowly back up to the house, going around back to slip in the way she'd left. It was almost ten; everyone would be up, except for Kevin, the help would already be bustling around the house...

Ducking out of sight for a moment, she slipped the envelope under her sweatshirt and under her waistband to keep it in place against her back. Clutching the rest of the mail, she walked into the kitchen; her mother was arranging some fresh-cut roses to be put out in the dining room. Her step-father was drinking coffee and reading the paper, until he saw her. She tried not to let her anxiety show as she set the mail down on the table beside his plate.

"I went out for a run," she explained timidly, although the fact that she was covered in a sheen of sweat clearly gave that away. "I ran into the mailman on my way back."

For a moment, William just stared at her, and she began to worry that he knew she was hiding something. But then he turned back to the paper and dismissed her. "Go take a shower. You look terrible."

With the smallest sigh of relief, she excused herself up to her room, quickly closing the door behind her. She pulled the envelope out and stared at it, turning it over again and again as she sat on the edge of her bed. It took everything she had not to rip it open and examine its contents; before she could, the sound of the doorknob turning made her hide it under her pillow. Kevin, her step-brother, stuck his head in to announce that breakfast was ready.

"I'm not hungry," she replied.

"You just went on a four hour run," he shot back. "You're starving, don't lie. Besides, mom thinks you're too skinny already. She'll drag you downstairs if you don't come by yourself."

With a heavy sigh, she gave in. Closing the door behind her as she entered the hallway, she decided to wait until later to open the envelope. But after breakfast, Marina wanted to discuss plans for Athena's upcoming graduation party, which included a trip into the city to look at locations, followed by a shopping trip for the prom dress Athena insisted she didn't need. By the time they arrived back at home, the sun had set, the help was gone for the day, and Marina insisted that her daughter help make dinner. Reluctantly, Athena agreed, but the envelope was never far from her mind. Once dinner was over, and she'd cleaned up, she went back up to her room and pulled the envelope from its hiding place. She decided to wait until after everyone had gone to sleep before she would open it, to prevent anyone from sneaking up on her.

It was past midnight when the last light in the house went out. Silently, Athena slipped out of her room with the envelope and out to the garden in the back. She slipped her finger underneath the flap and tore it open as carefully as possible, delicately pulling out the papers inside. The moon was out, but not quite full, and she had to squint to make out what the first letter said, but she swelled with pride at what she saw.

Dear Athena,

Thank you very much for your application to the Photography and Imaging program at the Tisch School of the Arts. After a careful review of your portfolio, we are thrilled to say that your work was of an exceptional level, and we wold like to offer you a place here.

She pressed the letter to her chest, looking up at the night sky. The smile on her face grew wider and wider as she thought about her future in New York, about everything she would learn there. Her heart was beating hard enough that she could feel it through the paper, the blood rushing in her ears loud enough that she didn't hear the footsteps behind her. It wasn't until her step-father's shadow fell over her that she realized she wasn't alone, celebrating with the stars. He grabbed the letter as she turned to face him, scanning it over with a smug, sadistic grin that she knew too well.

"I guess congratulations are in order," he said, still looking at the letter. "You did it, you got into your little picture program."

She wanted to take the letter back, but she couldn't move. He looked up at her finally, chuckling.

"I don't know why you thought you had to hide this," he continued. "It's good news! We should be celebrating - or were you afraid you didn't get in? I guess I can understand not wanting anyone else to know you're a failure."

"I knew I got in," she said quietly. "They only send you the big envelope if you got accepted."

"Of course, because you're so smart," he replied. "Too smart for this place."

With one swift move, the letter and all the other papers were ripped in half. Athena tried not to sob as she fell to her knees, scrambling to pick up all the pieces before they blew away. She knew then that she should have waited longer, gone further away. When his hand tangled in her hair and yanked her up, she couldn't help but cry out, not because it hurt but because she'd been stupid enough to think she could get away from him.

"You'll go where I tell you to go," he growled quietly into her ear. "It's my money. I'm not wasting it on some useless art school."

He shoved her back down to the ground, and she knew from the look in his eye that she could expect him later. She cried silently and clutched the pieces of paper as she watched him walk away, wishing she could kill him then and there. Her only comfort came from the tiny whisper in the back of her mind telling her patience.

His time would come.

"You coward! Are you bragging to the stars?"
1223 words

Sep. 20th, 2008

28 Questions You Didn't Care About

1. My name is: Athena Vera Herald, formerly Karakinos, almost Shalev and Morrison at heart
2. I may seem: normal.
3. But I'm really: drunk and slightly crazy.
4. People who know me think: I'm a lovable bitch with a lot of problems.
5. If you knew me you'd: probably disagree with the "lovable" part and emphasize the lot of problems.
6. Sometimes I feel: restless.
7. In the morning I: have a drink, a smoke, then feed the kid.
8. I like to sleep: right now? On the couch again.
9. If I could be doing anything right now I would be: I stopped wishing a long time ago.
10. Money is: A necessary curse.
11. One thing I wish I had is: a nicer past to look back on.
12. One thing I have that I wish I didn't is: nightmares.
13. All you need is: booze.
14. All I need is: lots of booze. And cigarettes.
15. If I had one wish it would be: I don't wish. But if I did, I'd go back in time and change things so that Mama died, not Papa.
16. Love is: eating away at me.
17. My body is: destroyed.
18. If an angel flew into my window at night, I would: tell him to fuck off and pass the message on to his boss.
19. If a demon crashed into my window, I would: tell him to fuck off and pass the message on to his boss.
20. If I could see one person right now it would be: Dmitri. Christ, he'd be thirteen now.
21. Something I want but I don't really need is: to be dead.
22. Something I need but I don't really want is: a reason to go on.
23. I live for: David, the kid, and because I'm too goddamn stubborn.
24. I dare you all to: try and outdrink me.
25. I am afraid of: losing control.
26. It makes me angry when: people say they "know I've gone through".
27. I cry because: I'm terrified of what she's done. I can't help myself when I get overwhelmed.
28. This survey is: more of the same old shit.

Sep. 18th, 2008

[QM] 81: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Athena never knows what the trigger is. A memory, a word, an action. Too much to drink. A nightmare. A chance encounter or a random paragraph in the newspaper.

An old, forgotten clue in a decades old unsolved case.

None of it registers, not on the conscious level. But in the unconscious, she waits and plots. Who to recruit, when it should happen, where the best place would be. She bides her time, guiding the conscious from point to point, the stage manager in this great unfolding opera. As Athena follows the path she doesn't realize she's on the scenes progress, each player coming and going as was unwittingly dictated to them. Acts begin and conclude, reaching their own micro-climaxes and resolutions before it all comes to the finale. The moment she's been waiting for. Her grand entrance.

It's an ironic sentiment, given that the setting is a dark alley that only drug dealers and prostitutes know. There is no audience, except the morbidly fascinated tenants in the apartments above who know better than to look out their windows. But her leading man is spot on. He doesn't miss his first cue, reacts perfectly to each line she delivers. She didn't think he could play terrified, but he does it with amazing skill.

And then the climax of Act V, the crucial moment. For a moment, as he stares up at her - or at least tries to through the one eye she's left him, although it's nearly swelled shut - she thinks he's going to ruin everything. But then his spluttering stops, and she smiles as she stoops to down to make sure it won't start again.

Exit Sadistic Lying Bastard, she thinks.

True to form, William Herald followed his cue to the letter. With one last desecration, she takes her final bow, leaving Athena with only the vague nightmare of a tour de force performance she can only dread to remember.

"And so everyone, according to his cue."
337 words

Sep. 6th, 2008

79: The Scarlet Pimpernel

You know, whenever I think about how I was abandoned under my step-father's roof, left to suffer by his hand and whims, I get bitter. I cried out for help so many times - to my mother, to my teachers, to neighbors and priests and friends and anyone I could get ahold of for five minutes - but nobody wanted to believe that William Herald was capable of such cruelty. So I was pushed aside for his reputation, with no one to fight for me.

Well, almost no one. There was one who protected me, one who sat with me as I cried myself to sleep. But you'll never meet her. At least, I hope you won't Because I've done my best to lock her up, so tight she can't come out again.

It makes me sound terribly ungrateful, doesn't it? She saved me all those years, and now she's hidden away from the world by my doing. But you see, I had to. She was too dangerous, too angry, to hellbent on violent satisfaction. I was in high school the first time I realized it; somebody at school made fun of me for being clumsy with my arm in a cast, and she used it to put him in a two-day coma. My step-father had it purged from my record - one of the few times I was ever grateful for his influence - and chalked it up to disorientation from the pain medication. But from then on, until I graduated from Columbia, a healthy portion of my diet consisted of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. They didn't do much to keep me from carving into my wrists or trying to see how long I could go without oxygen underwater, but they did help to subdue her enough for me to gain control.

It's a terrible thing, to have someone like that in your life. You constantly live in fear that something will happen, that she'll cause trouble and you'll be left with the mess. It's why I hate dreaming; I can't tell if it's just an illusion, or if I'm witnessing what she's done. Sometimes I know - I can hear the screams, feel the adrenaline, smell the blood - but others, it's not so clear. It's what terrifies me about her, what's kept me afraid all these years. Not that you would have ever known.

But the crippling fear of what she might do isn't nearly as tragic as the truth that without her, I'd be nothing. She is my fairy godmother, my guardian angel. My sister and confidante, whom I love more than I have loved anyone else in my life. Above my father, Ravi, David - good people, good hearts - I love a monster more. And I shall until we die.

"I shall love her until the day I die. That's the tragedy."
483 words

Sep. 5th, 2008

If you love me

Why'd you let me go? )

Aug. 30th, 2008

Walk on Water, Walk on Air

scratch the surface if you dare )

Aug. 28th, 2008

[QM] 78: The African Queen

It was a sadly familiar routine. Athena hadn't shown up for work; without saying a word, David had left the precinct to find her. On the way over he had called her phone, getting voicemail the first two times and a groggy, "David, go back to the precinct," the last time. But he'd continued on, pulling up in front of her building and greeting the doorman with a wave as he walked in. A few moments later, he was knocking on her door, softly demanding to be let in. When she opened the door for him the first time around, it caught him off guard.

"You, uh ... you didn't come in today," he said, looking around. She had gone back to the couch where she was nursing her 10 AM whiskey, but she didn't look like he was expecting her to. No red eyes from crying all night, no trashed apartment from an alcohol fueled rage. "Are you ..."

"Okay?" she scoffed. "David, I'm fine. I quit."

"Oh, you - what?"

She smiled a little and got up to pour him a drink, knowing he was going to need it.

"I quit," she repeated. "Yesterday. Gave the Chief the finger and everything."

David sank to the couch, stunned. "But the job was your life."

"Yeah, well," she shrugged. "I didn't want that life anymore."

"I don't believe it," he said, twirling the tumbler between his palms. "You always talked about how much you loved solving the cases, working out the puzzles, putting all the evidence together, bringing closure to the families ..."

"... watching them fall apart in trials because no amount of justice can bring back what they lost?" Athena added coldly. "Watching kids shrug off gunning down other kids in the street? Or women punished because they took action against the men who swore to love and protect them, but instead raped and beat them?"

"No one ever said human nature was glamorous," David murmured, sipping at his drink. "Our job is to be better than that, to set an example."

"Right, because drinking away the nightmares is such a great example," she grumbled. "I can't be better, David. I'm not better. Do you even know how much I've wanted to beat the life out of some of the scum we've brought in? So badly I've dreamt about it; I've woken up and been able to smell the blood. I've wanted to kill so many of them ..."

"But you didn't," he said. "That makes you better, stronger than they are."

"But I might," she answers softly. "And that's why I quit. I can't stay around ... that. It's like a virus that gets under your skin and into your blood and makes you crazy. And I know we're supposed to be immune, but I'm not."

"You could be," he told her, brushing his hand against her cheek. Her eyes closed as she fought the urge to tell him how she could never be, to tell him the truth that was hidden from her own mind. Instead she sighed and let her lips fall gently against his.

"You are," she whispered. "And that's all that really matters."

"[Human] Nature... is what we are put in this world to rise above."
546 words

Aug. 15th, 2008

[QM] 75: The African Queen

It started when Athena was seven and her parents began having heated arguments in the alley behind the brick townhouse they lived in. She knew they liked to pretend that nobody could see or hear them there, but she also knew that sometimes grown ups were silly and needed to have their little bubble of fantasy. The neighbors knew it as well, surreptitiously closing their windows and doors save for the smallest crack through which they could listen to the sound of a marriage deconstructing itself, grateful that tonight it wasn't theirs. In the afternoons, the mothers and wives would see her walking home from school and wave to her, smiling sadly as they shook their heads and whispered to their own children that they should be nice to the girl in the middle of the block because she probably wasn't happy at home.

None of them were surprised when Marina finally loaded up the car with suitcases and boxes, returning a week later to trade the old Plymouth for her daughter. When Athena had to explain to her teachers why she was moving to a different school across town, they solemnly nodded their heads, handing her pieces of candy with wishes for her future success and invitations to come back and visit. Once she was out of their classrooms, they let out heavy sighs and muttered prayers that she get through this without too much damage being done. It was the same at her new school; teachers would stay with her after the last bell to make sure she went home to her mother, or give her a little extra time on homework when they knew she'd spent the weekend with her father.

The new neighbors helped out, too; Mrs. Hanson three doors down would bring Athena home on Wednesdays when her mother had to work late. The family across the street invited them over for Thanksgiving. But by Christmas, whispers had begun to circulate about Marina's new boyfriend, the one who always pulled up in an expensive car in an expensive suit and whisked her off for the night to someplace fabulous they could only dream of. Maybe, just maybe, they hoped, he would rescue them from whatever nightmare they'd run away from.

The day after Athena's ninth birthday, after she returned from the morgue with her mother, the sympathies came flooding out. Everyone they'd ever met couldn't help but say how sorry they were that she had lost her father and Marina, her husband. They couldn't know that the precocious little girl saw right through them, or that her mother was rejoicing inside. They couldn't know that, three months later as they watched her scatter rose petals before her mother as she walked down the aisle to marry William Herald, Athena would start to wish she had believed them.

They couldn't know that in the years to come, after they'd turned their backs in the belief that her future was secure and she no longer needed their pity and their help, she required them more than ever.

"Well I ain't sorry for you no more!"
519 words

Aug. 11th, 2008

Name: Athena Vera Herald, formerly Karakinos
Sisters: None
Brothers: One step-brother
Shoe size: Really?
Height: 5'8"

Blah, blah, blah, more about me. )

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