April 24th, 2004
Characters: Vadira(Mihrage) and Jessie(Nic)
Today is no different- not in the way it begins, not in the way it carries on. Greg is at home, in the fields, working, and she works as well... but her work requires being in town at the moment, requires her to purchase and trade. She doesn't mind- eleven years ago, she minded and minded greatly. Eleven years ago had been the fire that had swept everything from her, her home and family, everything familiar she had ever known. Fourteen... who thought that fourteen would be such an awful, horrifying age? Fourteen was the age of your first crush, your first visit to the capital. It was the age when parents began making plans for marriage for you, when you rebelled against those plans only to wind up marrying the boy anyways because you saw something so good in him that you were afraid you would never see it again, and you make everyone happy for it.
But fourteen had brought a start of fear to an otherwise carefree young woman. The scars on her face testified to that. The burned lot where her house once stood, the razed ground of the fields- all gone.
It was all part of why she loved Greg so much- to go against every convention to marry a girl without anything but the clothes on her back and to love her so well...
No... no, she didn't think of things past. Not anymore.. no reason to. Now was a time to buy eggs in preparation for dinner... dinner or maybe breakfast... ah, well, she'd figure it out later.
The small crowd that has gathered to watch.. It was a preshow.. Something to tantalize the masses and coax them into paying the cost to see the small circus. She was one of the stars of the circus.. And her acts of grace, beauty and balance.. Ones which likely no sane woman would have done. Poles was constructed, high above and held by a few strongarms of the circus as she danced and twirled upon a short rope.
Her dancing movements were also done to unravel a ribbon which wrapped itself around the short single rope 'bridge' connecting the two poles. The silken ribbon twisted about her leg and her body, one movement leading itself into another movement, until she stood.
The ribbon around her arms and legs, outstretched arms gave the impression of a large butterfly against the sillhoette of the sun, and then she dove off of the 'bridge'.. Held only by that ribbon her dance continued as she unraveled herself, after a spectacular array of minutes of the aerial dance she had made her way to the ground..
Smiling broadly to the cheers and applause of the assembled crowd as she took her bows to the audience and then scattered to leave the eyes of the crowd and move behind the colored wagon set up beside them..
It was now the time for the master of the circus to discuss the show, and possibly even work out a meeting or two of interested men for Vadira.. She hoped no meetings would be arranged though as she eased against the back of the wagon. Her hand reaching for the waterskin which hung by the side.
Curious, Jessie neared the crowd, her basket pressed close. She hadn't seen anything of the sort in ages... and anything she did recall brought back sad memories. But they had been good memories once upon a time and she quietly neared the spectacle, watching with awe. Her left eye had lost some of its strength from the fire, but her right eye still saw clearly. Despite that, she could not yet see the face of the performer, but she knew instinctively she must be beautiful. She could see the firey locks in the sunlight and something in her felt a twinge of sadness... but there was nothing certain aside from this show of grace and skill and beauty, and with so little to her own name, she was determined to watch amidst the crowd, to be just as awed as the rest of them.
Jessie had been a girl of a different sort... even now, she was mousey in behaviour, a quiet woman much like her husband, though it was a silence of a different kind. Not a one would hear an awful word from Jessie Lynn, though that was because she refused to say anything aloud... she let her actions speak for her, the look in her eyes. Her temper was reknowned for its ferocity and spontenaity- it seemed impossible that so much anger could live within such a small woman.
But she was no more than a woman now, quiet and amazed at the spectacle which seemed to end far too soon. She lingered, curiously peering up at the rope before she moved past the men, knowing that he path lay on the other side of the cart. Quietly she slipped through the people and past the back of the cart, catching movement and again the auburn locks. The performer? But her face was averted and Jessie hesitated a little at her distance, waiting to see her turn around.
Taking a drink from the waterskin, before she let it hang back upon the hook on the side, her ears catching the sound of someone's approach, "I don't speak with customers until they talk to the circus master." She said, although her voice was lyrical and soft it was said pointedly to turn around someone, as if it was one of the more interested men.. but there was certain rules that she had to abide to as a performer and that was one of them.. And she rather liked it that way..
But that was before turning to look over her shoulder to see who it was. Her green eyes widening, shimmering emeralds in her gaze, and the full lips of the performer, made to look even redder by the application of certain cosmetics, smiled..
She would recognize her old friend anywhere.. Though, they have not seen each other for many years, there were certain things the same, "Jessie?! By the Spread, Jessie!" She greeted before taking a steps forward to embrace her old friend fondly, "It's me, Vadira!"
Quietly said as the woman turned, embarrassed somewhat that she would be mistaken for... good gracious. She blushes darkly at the thought of it.
Jessie's eyes widened at the sight that met her, however. Grown and matured, but the features were familiar, the eyes... those brilliant eyes Jessie had always been jealous of, her own washed out, dull compared to her friend's... her reaction wasn't so swift, but the arms that encircled her brought her out of her memories, things she so easily fell into, and she reached up, her hand on her old friend's back startled. "Vadira??" she repeats, shocked, but as they pull back from one another her gaze is pleased, disbelieving. Her hand automatically reaches up to brush at her hair, to cover her face, but she can't stop staring.
"Spaces, Vadira," she says, having to look up to her. "...you're so tall!" she exclaims, and laughter comes to her, the first time it has in a long, long time... Greg can make her laugh, but it's rare. But this... this is so ridiculous! "Or maybe I just stayed short...? Oh, Lady, where have you been?"
Laughter, laughter as she hugged Jessie.. It was so many years ago.. childhood.. They were young.. and Vadira's hands clasped onto both of Jessie's.. She had noticed Jessie's attempt to hide part of her face, and it brought a sort of confused worry there.. But.. She didn't let it stop the good cheer.
Let nothing stop good cheer. It was so rare to be found, and so precious to hold. "Taller, I think.. They stretched me on a rack.." She said, laughing as she looks around, "Comon.. this is my wagon.. Let's talk. Oh.. I have so much to tell you about.. The places I've been, the people I've seen. And you have to tell me about yourself too, Jessie!" She said, still holding onto Jessie's hands as she climbed up the colorfully painted steps on the end of the wagon, opening the door and walking inside.
Inside, it could have been a bordello, for the small windows set across the top of the wagon only provided just enogh light. The smell of rich perfume permeated in the air. And the only furnishings being a chest for clothes and a bed layered with silken pillows. But upon the chest and hanging through the wagon were various gifts, jewels and gems were strung together and draped across the ceiling of the wagon, glinting in the faint light.
Already she feels like a young girl again, like nothing had happened, like time had not come to step between them and to take her dearest friend away. And she laughs. Such a release, to laugh again! To recall that you can! She holds Vadira's hands, just as the other woman holds hers, and she forgets the scars her hair hides, forgets the silence she has wrapped herself up in, a silence she foregoes only in the dead of night when her crying in her sleep wakes up both herself and Greg.
Up the stairs, and she takes a hand away to lift her skirts so that she might not trip over them going up. Entering the room... it's not like she imagined. Nothing like she could imagine, she's never seen anything so splendid before... heard about it, of course, and it brings her back to Vadira's earlier comment, before they had seen one another... was it really true? Her face, what's visible of it, reflects these thoughts- awed and saddened, amazed and disbelieving. Her hand presses to her mouth, stunned at the over-elegance of it, the luxury and the show.
"Oh, Vadira," she murmurs. Simple Jessie, stunned by the richness about her, the testimony of her friend's life. But... but surely, it must have been better than just the men as well! Vadira was so excited, and she must have seen so much, and met so many people, and... she can't even begin to imagine! And she, Little Jessie, so little to show in return. "It's beautiful," she says, amazement in her eyes as she looks around.
Her eyes glance around at the comment of it being beautiful, a sigh escaping as she smiles a bit, "I suppose so." She replied, the smile coming a bit more easilly to her as she placed out a few pillows and motioned for Jessie to sit before taking a seat herself, one of the pillows picked up and placed on her lap, and her arms resting upon it.
Turning to look at Jessie, "I'm glad though that you think so.. If anything catches your eye, it's yours Jessie." She laughed a bit, before reaching up with her hands, removing one of the necklaces, a saphire strand.. The other jewels it was attached to fall against the side of the walls having the missing link before she holds it out to Jessie, "Here, this one. It matches your eyes." She said, smiling.. And more so the one who had given that to her has fallen dead.. and didn't need to be made sure of his importance to her. Or rather.. Of feigned importance to her.
She steps further in and sits down timidly, unlike the Jessie of old who had shared her friend's tempestuous behaviour. But she is careful as she sits down, looking everywhere she can. She reaches out to push on one of the pillows, amazed at how lush everything is. She's never seen anything like it.
Jessie blinks, blushing madly. "No, no... it's all right, Vadira, really," she says, disbelieving that something of the sort would ever fall into her hands as it does now. But she thought that of Greg as well, and it's only come to good. She looks at it, startled as she turns it in her hands. She looks back up to Vadira, shyly smiling. "Are... you sure? I really don't have a reason for... to have something like this," she says, her hands holding it in her lap.
It's odd, how Jessie seems to hide herself away, despite the fact she sits right across from Vadira. Her sleeves are long despite the heat of the day and her hair seems almost strategically placed, though she makes no motion to it. "Where have you been?" she asks, quickly, wanting to know everything.
"I have no use for it.." She says, not taking it back, "Besides.. I want you to have something to remember me by.. I don't know how long we will be in the area.. But the circus master says that it should be some time.." She said, the words coming forth easilly to her as she tilts her head to the side.
"Where have I been.. Well.. Everywhere.. Solitaire, Sorry, Scrabble, Mahjongg, Go, many others.. We just came from Backgammon.. The Vizier gave me the ruby." She said, her head inclining towards one of the jewels before leaning back..
"They are lovely.. but.. more gifts to themselves than to me.." She said, looking over the display, "Which is why I rarely wear them.." Her hand reached out, and closed Jessie's hand over the saphire necklace, "But you keep that." She said, her emerald eyes holding onto Jessie's gaze, "Because that's my gift to you.. Right?"
Smiling then, before her brows drawn together, "What have you been doing?.. I'll much rather hear of you, Jessie.."
Jessie looks straight at Vadira, startled, but she smiles as well, shyly again. Closer, it's obvious the difference in her eyes- where they have always been a clear greyish blue, the one seems slightly clouded, and she looks away once more, to her lap where the necklace rests. "Oh, well... nothing... quite so nice," she says, not sure how to phrase it at all. She hesitates a long moment, a troubled look on her face before she smiles faintly.
"It's been such a long time, I.... you left before it happened, didn't you?" she asks, nervously. "I... well, that is," she says, looking down once more. She can feel the gems digging into her skin and she forces her hands to relax. "There was a fire... it took everything, Vadira," she says, softly. "Everyone," she adds, softer still. She hesitates, and picks up again swiftly, "it's been years, though, though no one can use the land... no one will, anyhow, I don't know if it's good anymore or not. And I got taken in by a very nice family down the road, you remember the Millers, don't you?... and I... I got married to their son, Greg, so it.. it really isn't all that bad. But... but it's really nothing so exciting, just, you know... it's over with now and... and I've got Greg, and it's just... it's life," she says, unable to look up to Vadira as she stumbles along, never having been very graceful with words, nor with her body. "It's .. more than I could have hoped for after the fire, and I'm happy. I didn't think I would be happy, either. But this!" she says, looking up again, her expression brittle, though she refuses to let it crumble. "This is... this is wonderful, I mean, I never thought I would see you again, you were gone for so long. This is the most exciting thing that's happened to me since I saw you last."
Her face draws in concern and sympathy as she hears of the fire.. Her hand reaching to take hold of Jessie's own hand, as a sign of comfort and support.. as best as she could.. Her gaze soft on the other woman, speaking her apologies of the happening..
And then more.. She spoke more.. and the name.. and the marriage.. She took in a breath, holding it as she looked at Jessie, and then turned her gaze away. Standing up swiftly. One hand on the back of her neck as the other played upon the tassle of one of the pillows..
"You are married to Greg?..." The question came, it wasn't in ecstatic joy, no.. it came sober and solemn.. Almost painful in her tone.
Jessie holds Vadira's hand, but she reigns herself in again, and in her attempt to keep herself together she doesn't seem to notice just how swiftly Vadira pulls away from her. But all the same she looks up, looks at the graceful arch of Vadira's neck as her fingers brush against it and the stance she takes, and there is confusion in Jessie's eyes as she watches her friend turned from her.
"Yes," she says quietly. There is a pause and she resumes, "I never thought he would... he was always so good to me, but I never thought of it anymore than that... how could I? There was nothing for me to give him, all I had was... was me. And I thought about it... fantasized about it, never thought that it would actually happen... I came to love him so much, but I was such a wretch after the fire, I couldn't think that anyone would want me... but he asked me, and not a day goes by that I'm not thankful for it... he's all I have," she says, her words still and quiet in the air between them.
"But... but now, you're back... for a little while, at least... oh, Vadira, will you come to our house? I'm sure he remembers you, you could stay with us for a little bit, visit if it's all right, if you can, we would love to have you over," she says, hopefully, hopeful as one who thinks she hopes too much.
Was there a word for pain.. For heartbreak so vivid within her.. All of their talks he did not ever mention being married.. and to Jessie.. She was torn.. He never gave her any gifts, nothing except his own kind words and the protection he provided her the one time..
And.. And now this?.. With her face turned from Jessie, she could still hear the words, the words that come up over her.. and then the invitation to visit?.. Her head inclined back as she sucked down a particular sweet pain inside her, turning around again as she took a seat and clasped onto Jessie's hand in between hers.
"No.. No, I don't think I should.." She said, before smiling a bit, forcing that smile on her face was a talent, a gift for when she was truly repulsed and still needed to carry on and flatter, "You keep a good hold of Greg, Jessie... There must be many women who would take any excuse to bring him away from you and to them.." Her eyes, the gem-like eyes of the Tarot performer looked inside Jessie's own.. Why did she say that?.. Perhaps.. Perhaps she wanted to warn Jessie of herself.
Jessie watches Vadira, her own expression pained, so willing to sympathize with this woman, this girl who had been her dearest friend, so willing to believe the best of her. "Are you sure?" she asks, reaching out just as Vadira does to take her hands, knowing there is something wrong, but unable to say what. She couldn't understand those words- however could she? She could never think that someone would do such a thing...
She didn't know that Vadira had known him... had spoken with him. She can't imagine it... poor, simple Jessie, so broken already, unwilling to believe anything more could be taken from her, anything worse could happen to her. "I... I'll try," she says, her confusion clearly showing, though she smiles very slightly in an attempt to dispell it.
"I would like to but..." She smiled, her hands still around Jessie's own, "Between practice and shows and everything else.. I wouldn't have enough time.." It was a lie, but Vadira is skilled in lying, and her eyes held onto Jessie's..
The confusion in Jessie's gaze however was even more driving of a certain guilt within her.. How could she. How could she have fallen in love to him?.. She had tried to deny her affection for the man, as he was a simple farmer and didn't have the means to provide the life that she had gotten used to.. But now, the pain was even more stark, even more vivid.. because she knew now of his marriage.
And she knew that if he was in her sight, that she would not think of hurting Jessie's feelings. She would not think of what she would do to her, to satisfy her own longing..
The slight smile on Jessie's face as she brought out another smile to her, "Do you have any children?"
If she knew... if Jessie knew... it's so obvious she doesn't. It took her so long to trust and to open up again, there's no telling the effect this will have on Jessie. If she sees them together, will she know? Will she realize?
"Oh... I wish you could. Just for a little bit," she says, almost painfully herself, though she should know better than anyone that things can never be as they were. She just doesn't know that things aren't as they seem now, either. "But... but that's all right. Maybe we can visit," she says, smiling a little again, unaware that the moment the two of them looked at one another, she would be driven from both their minds. She would be no more than dead to the both of them. Like she had died in the fire along with her brothers and sister...
"No... no, not... not yet, anyways. I... I don't know if I can... but I'm not in any hurry, there's time," she says, smiling a little.
Vadira's gaze dropped as she heard Jessie speak, the words coming forth like painful drops of rain. the little request that Jessie makes. Which would be less painful, to destroy her now or later?.. Eyes lifted back upon her at the request of possibly coming to visit her, "Maybe.." She said, hating herself after saying it.
Her head inclining back as she took in a breath, and turned to smile and her, "Yes.. Yes, there's always time." Her eyes widening a bit, placing more sounds of joy in her soft voice, "Always."
She had to turn her face from looking at Jessie, it was too trusting for her to gaze upon.. And Vadira had lived a life which let her be anything but trusting. "Actually, it might be best for us not to meet again..." She said, at last.. "We aren't children anymore and.." she paused, turning to look back to Jessie, "And your neighbors may not take kindly of rekindling a friendship.. I make no effort to hide who I am.." She said, before pausing a bit.. Looking at her.. that wasn't the true reason, but let it be the reason.
Jessie watches her, confused... she was so happy, but now... she doesn't seem so much so. And Jessie doesn't even know where to start in thinking to apologize, doesn't know what she said to make Vadira so unhappy. She isn't a Lord to be wooed, she's just a woman who is lucky to be married, lucky to be alive at all... though she may not think so soon enough.
"No... no, we aren't," she says, sadly, her hands returning to her lap, unsure whether she should even touch Vadira again. She looks down once more, unable to look back at Vadira, her pain something wholly seperate. "... I have missed you," she says, looking up again, nervously tugging her hair over the left side of her face. "And... and I wish that you would come over... that you would let us come. But you're right.." and she falls silent, hesitating before she slowly stands, uncertain what to do with the sapphire necklace. She puts it finally into the pocket of her skirts, though it leaves her hands to flutter nervously, uncertain as to what they can do now.
"Is... is there anything I can do for you, Vadira? Please, something. It was our memories that kept me going for so long, you have no idea... please, let me do something for you," she says, unable to stop herself as she crouches in front of Vadira, taking her hands again and holding them tightly.
As she took the excuse.. the reason.. which, while valid.. was not entirely the truth behind her relunctance she glanced away.. almost shamefully.. And then the grasp of her hands by Jessie and she smiled, laughing a bit as she heard her words..
She didn't know why she was laughing, perhaps it was easier than crying.. But it came, soft and gentle and she looked fondly on Jessie, "Maybe some fresh fruits and vegetables from your farm?" She asked before her hands remove from Jessie's hold and wrap around her old friend in another hug..
Pulling back, her hands resting on Jessie's shoulders, "Yes.. some fruits and vegetables.. I miss the taste of such."
Jessie looks at her, smiling again, though there is no laugh to accompany it this time. There is something wrong... she can feel it in the pit of her stomach, something is wrong... but she is too naive, too far pressed into the shadows, too much in darkness to figure it out at this time...
"Is that all? Of course! I'll come tomorrow," she says, smiling. She touches Vadira's face- her hands are almost a sickly pale colour next to Vadira's perfect skin, like alabaster or ivory, and Jessie tries not to think of it. She will not think of how different they are, how beautiful Vadira is and has always been. How much she's always wanted to be like Vadira! Knowing that she will always be so small and insignificant next to her. She has always been jealous of Vadira, for being so wonderful and beautiful, and she hates herself for it. Hates herself for thinking that even now.
She leans over and kisses Vadira's forehead, like a child timidly trying to console an adult. "I'll come back tomorrow then. Lady bless you, Vadira... I should get back, though. I said I wouldn't be gone long."
She stands again and smiles, her hand reaching up in a nervous motion, brushing her fingers against the scars made invisible by the hair covering them.
"It's good to see you again, Jessie.." She said, and it was.. It was good to see her, but-- but it was immeasurably painful after the revelation that has occured. Still though, like painted butterfly wings, her full lips smile to her friend.
"Fortunes upon you.." She said, although the word of blessing striked in her heart like an arrow.. If she knew.. But she can't let her know.. She can't.. and she tried to warn her.. And she should let her know.. But, they were friends all those years ago.. And it would bring too much pain into those memories.
Slowly Vadira stands, taking her hand as she reaches to brush back Jessie's hair from her face, "Never be ashamed of your own beauty, Jessie.. There is beauty here in your face and in your heart, you must not be ashamed of it." And these words, ringing with all the truth from the beautiful Tarot woman, as she smiles to her, trying to reassure her..
Perhaps.. Perhaps if she never saw Greg again, then Jessie and him would have thier own life.. And she would find her own way with men who loved her, yet did not have her love in return.. But there would be less pain in that.. and she would need to quiet her own wounded heart in not having the man she did want... And she wasn't quite sure that she could when temptation arises..
Jessie looks down as her hair is pushed back, the scars revealed, ugly rivulets in her skin, cracked from the heat they endured eleven years ago, white now and in stark contrast to the black of her hair. She is startled, truly startled, at Vadira's words... and she smiles at Vadira, blushing faintly. But she says nothing, speechless.
She gives Vadira a brief hug, then turns back to the door, taking up her basket again. "Tomorrow then," she says, her smile gentle, uncertain, so many things but none of them comprehending. She takes a brief glance outside, startled at the sudden brightness, and steps down the stairs carefully. Time to go home and tell Greg...