Time

The room was filled with this tension that seemed to make the air heavy, each breath filled her lungs with this weight. Her heart beat slow and steady, despite the impending battle before her.

She wondered if the calm came from knowing this could be her moment. The one she had longed for so desperately as a child, fighting tooth and nail for mere survival. This could be the moment she finally saw him, fell into his embrace and let him whisk her away.

After all these years constantly fighting a battle she would never truly be able to win, this could be the moment she finally glimpsed her savior.

Death.

Her eyes searched Aleksandr.

She had managed to best him as a child, a desperate animal in a cage willing to do anything and everything possible to free itself. She was as much that little girl today as she was then, and the need to escape was just as critical.

Remaining at Refuge was not an option, succumbing to the torturous routine and demands of Aleksandr once again would be a fate worth than anything else she could imagine. Whether she won or lost, she would not stay here, she told herself.

Swallowing hard, she squared her shoulders and widened her stance. Aleksandr was giddy, like a child on Christmas morning unable to wait for his parents to come downstairs before he started tearing through the decorative papers of his gifts. His obsession with her was evident, and it was his weakness.

Time was everything, she reminded herself.

Hunter was slightly injured. He seemed to limp favouring his left leg, and she could tell by the way he had hunched over when he began to walk away from her, there was damage to his ribs. The car was not far from here, it would take her less than ten minutes to reach it, but she was in top physical health.

With his slow and struggled stride, it would take him at least twice that amount of time. Not to mention he would have to search, the exact location of the vehicle unknown to him.

She estimated he would be in the car in around 30 minutes. She had to make her fight with Aleksandr last at least that long.

The orphans at Refuge were intrigued. Even those with the strongest willpower would abandon their search for Hunter to see a fight between Aleksandr and the one who had held the rank of number one for so long. He would be able to get to the car with minimal obstacles.

Aleksandr smirked at her. “There was a small amount of doubt that abducting that boy would be enough to bring you back here. I was sure you would put in the effort to rescue him back in America, but to think you would come all this way, back to Refuge. There were doubts. I must say I am thrilled.” He rubbed at his bare knuckles as he looked at her. “You are taking this whole redemption thing rather seriously… to risk your life to save someone who means so little.”

She said nothing.

Raising a brow at her, he took a step forward. He was sure to leave his braced knee behind him as he slowly raised his fists.

The challenge was out there, and he waited for her to accept it. There was none here in Refuge that would rush into combat against Aleksandr. His very voice made most shutter with fear as they wondered their fate.

She already knew her fate, and she welcomed it as she rushed towards him.

Her fist strike missed, his head dropping forward and rotating around her swinging fist. She effortlessly dodged his counter, dropping her arms down to block the blow aimed at her abdomen. Kicking her foot out, she tried to connect with his knee.

Despite his obvious handicap, he was fast. He was out of the way of her foot quickly, his own foot coming up in an effort to hook hers and throw her off-balance.

She was ready.

Laughing, he watched her take a few steps back. They eyes one another like wild beasts fighting to the death. “Glad to see all my efforts were wasted over the years of your absence.”

She lifted her fists to him.

He took two slow steps forward before he flew across the gap between them. Her hand caught his fist, throwing it back before she curved her belly away from him, narrowly avoiding another swing. Kicking at his shin, he stepped back and she saw her opportunity. Bringing her hands up, she slammed her palms hard into his chest before throwing her fist into his jaw.

It connected and Aleksandr took a stumbled step back.

An audible gasp could be heard echoing throughout the room. Their spectators were in awe, suddenly aware of her rank and why he had been so unwilling to retire it to another.

Spitting on the ground beside them, he smiled at her. “Excellent.” Looking back towards the darkness, he called for the one he knew would be waiting there. “Twee.”

A machete flew through the air towards them and Aleksandr caught the handle. No sooner had he caught it, the blade left his hand and shimmered in the light as it flipped through the air towards her. Catching it, she watched as he caught an identical blade.

She had landed the first blow and raised the stakes. Aleksandr was a man who admired weaponry, and he favoured the blade. She would have to tread carefully here. In her mind she was counting, visualizing where Hunter was as he made his way through Refuge towards the car.

Holding the handle, she swung it around several times. She would wait for him to make the first mood. He was more of a threat to her now, and she still had twenty-six minutes to kill.

Aleksandr pressed the tip of the blade to the cement ground, drawing a slow circle around himself as the sound sang through the room.

She readied herself.

Rushing towards her, the blade swiped through the air. She could feel the blade slice through the air as it swiped so close to her cheek she could almost feel the sting of it. Her own blade shot out, aimed at his gut. His knee shot up, the blade sparking against the metal of his brace as he swiped the blade again.

It ripped through the thin fabric of her shirt across her chest. She didn’t feel the air kiss her hot flesh, knowing it hadn’t gotten her skin. She didn’t retreat, instead, she pushed forward.

Aleksandr curved his head back at the sharp edge of her blade skimmed the air before his neck and chin. His blade coming down to stop hers.

There was a flurry of sparks as their blades hit one another.

Twenty-one minutes.

She stepped on his blade as it hit the floor.

Lightning cracked behind her eye as his fist connected with her cheekbone. The pain was electrifying. Another fist hit her hard in her abdomen, knocking her back off his blade.

Another gasp.

Bringing the blade up, it cut through the expensive leather of his knee brace. The brace opened slightly, hanging as it was still held together by the two straps below his knee.

His eyes flashed angry for a moment before they lighted with excitement. “This. This is what I have been waiting for!” He undid the two remaining leather straps and let the brace fall to the floor. Putting his weight in his bad knee, he tested it. Accepting it’s strength, he tossed the blade from hand to hand.

Nineteen minutes.

 

 

No Nest To Return To

A knock at the door could barely be heard over Harrison and Sparrow giggling as they shot at one another with foam shooting guns in the study at the top of the stairs. They popped their heads up from behind the leather chairs and would shoot the gun hoping they had timed it perfectly enough to get the other.

Sparrow had pegged Harrison right between the eyes a total of four times, she had hit him once on the cheek and another time on his foot while he had it sticking out from behind the chair. Harrison had gotten her once on the rump and all other shots had missed.

Laughing, Sparrow sat with her back pressed up to the back of the chair. “Are you ready to give up?” She called out.

“Never!” He retorted, a foam pellet shooting past her and sticking to the leather-bound spine of one of the books on the shelf.

She laughed. “Missed me!”

The front door opened downstairs and Vincent could be heard murmuring to someone. Her brow shot up when she heard her name and Mrs. Wilde.

Crawling out from behind the chair, she ignored the shot to her side and leg as she crawled over to the glass that acted like a banister in their condo. Pressing her forehead against the glass, she tried to see who was at the door.

They were just out of reach.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Harrison asked.

Ignoring him, she sat on the top step. Slowly descending step by step, she kept her face rubbing against the glass as she tried to see who their visitor was. Finally she saw Vincent’s back, he was standing just inside the front door with a woman dressed in business attire. She held out her hand, handing him a folder fat with papers.

“Feel free to look through the files. There are letters addressed to Sparrow and yourself in there, along with some paperwork for her legal adoption.”

“I can’t believe this…” He paused, opening the folder to flip through its contents for a moment before shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose. “When did it happen?”

“Time of death is estimated to be around 2:00am. Her body wasn’t discovered until this morning by an orderly. He came around to administer her medications and… found her.”

Sparrow’s heart dropped. On her feet, she walked the rest of the way down the steps towards them in a trance. Her throat was tight, her chest heaving.

“Sparrow?” Harrison took her hand from behind her.

Vincent turned to see her standing behind him. “Sparrow, how long have you been there?” Dropping to his knees, he held onto her arms.

“Is my mother dead?” The question hurt her to even ask, and before she had gotten the answer she already knew it. The way his soft eyes seemed to darken, a line drawing across his brow. He narrowed his lips and held onto her a little bit tighter. She felt herself buckling, sinking to the floor. Sparrow was gathered up in Vincent’s arms.

Tears streamed down her face as the rest of her slowly pulled away into the dark corners of her mind, unable to face the daunting reality that seemed to surround her. She could feel Harrison’s arms surround her, his cheek press up against hers as he ran his fingers down the length of her hair.

Her chest felt empty yet unbelievably heavy at the same time. Darkness seemed to close in around them. Before she knew it she could see the gleam of the moon shining through the window of the living room. The woman had long since gone when Vincent finally stood, gathering her up and taking Harrison by the hand and he walked down the hall to her bedroom.

Setting Sparrow in bed, she stared blankly at the ceiling as he tucked her in. Harrison climbed into bed beside her, gathering her up and pulling her against him as he continued to rub her back. She could feel the vibration of his chest against her ear as he spoke to her in a hushed tone, but she couldn’t hear what he was saying.

Her mother was gone.

Looking back at her life so far, there were a dozen reasons she could have honestly told herself she would be better off to console herself. Yet, of all the reasons her mother hadn’t always seemed the best, there were so many reasons she was. She was her mother, the only one she had, and the only one she ever would have. When she had been completely broken down, unable to pull herself off the floor, she would still find the strength she needed to paste a smile on her face, if only for a moment to convince Sparrow all was right in this world.

She had her problems, but Sparrow would never ask for another mother.

In the back of her mind she had always told herself they would make up the time later. When she was a little bit older, and better and understanding her mother’s illness and her struggle. She would educate herself, and she would walk her mother through those difficult moments.

They would grow stronger together.

That was what she had always thought.

Her mind flashed to the last time she had saw her father. He had been so angry with her mother, so frustrated. He had lived life with her for so long, struggling alongside her. She remembered his words. He didn’t yell, he merely sunk his head and told her he had felt as though he were drowning and he needed to see if he could swim up and finally get some air.

Sparrow understood that feeling now, as she lay in bed. She felt weightless, but she also felt this unbearable pressure all around her. She felt as though her lungs were being squeezed, each shaking breath excruciating.

If she held her breath, she was sure it would feel a lot like drowning.

Her eyes stung as she finally let them close, trapped inside her mind with her memories.

Vincent had never answered her question, yet the answer hung in the air. It grew thicker and thicker making it harder for her to breathe and taunting her, telling her life would never be the same again.

 

30 Days- 2. Ruby

After the words were said, the seemed to fill the air like a smoke Ruby couldn’t breathe through. She was silent for a long time, her eyes wide as she just stared at me. She stared at me until her eyes glassed over and her face contorted, her chin wrinkled and she closed her eyes. Thick tears rolled down her cheeks as she sat there in a calm that moved me.

Then she erupted.

Jumping up from her seat, she hit the table, her mug toppling over as I lifted mine to prevent coffee from spilling into my lap. Her face got red, her hands curled into fists as she stared at me, her chest heaving uncontrollably.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” She barked at me. “You’re going to kill yourself? How could you say that to me? How could you even think such a thing?” There were so many questions she asked me, all ones she demanded answers to.

I waited.

I let her yell, I let her throw her mug up against the wall. I watched as she collapsed on the floor in front of me, defeated.

When she seemed to burn out, sobs shaking through her as her anger ebbed away and all she was left with were the words I had spoken, I finally spoke. “Ruby. I have been thinking about this every single day for the past year. I have been contemplating how to do it, when to do it. Yesterday was going to be the day. I was ready. Staying here, living… every single breath I take causes me this unbearable pain that stabs down to my soul. I don’t know how to explain it to you. All the joys in this world, all that this world has to offer and I would rather end it all than try to hold onto them. Existing is unbearable.” I have lived my life with this constant misery. I have known more tears that I had smiles.

“Mal…”

“The only thing that kept me from doing it up until now, was you. I had read somewhere that dying is easy; it’s being left behind that is difficult. And I thought about you. I thought about you finding out I was gone without an explanation, without having the opportunity to say whatever you wanted to say to me.”

Her brow creased. “Don’t do it! You want to know what I would have wanted to say to you. Don’t fucking do it! I won’t let you.”

I laughed in disbelief. “You are going to watch me for every waking moment of the day from now on?” Shaking my head, I set my coffee table back on the table. “I know it’s selfish of me to make a decision that will affect you the way I know it will. But it’s also selfish to try to keep me here simply because that’s what you want.”

“What is happening?” Her words were halted. “Are we honestly talking about you killing yourself? You are going to commit suicide and there is nothing I can do about it?” Her eyes searched the area on the floor in front of her, trying to find some solution, some compromise. “I could call someone, maybe all you need is some help.”

“No.” It was difficult for her to understand. I knew it would be. She lived a different kind of life. She had bad days, but before long, she was herself again. I longed for a day that was simply bad, I dreamed of days that were mediocre. Instead, I had what every day was for me; torture. “I’ve had help. I’ve had more than help. I’ve had you. I’m afraid this isn’t something that can be helped.” Sliding off my chair, I reached out and pulled Ruby into my arms. “We can spend the day together, if you want.”

A sob shook through her. “Mallory… you’re my best friend.”

“And you’re mine.” I whispered.