Meredith’s Proposition

Sparrow held out a hanger and looked at the confusing thing hanging from it. As far as she could tell it was either some kind of dress or some large scarf. Glimpsing at the price tag, her brows shot up. Whatever it was, it was made from baby panthers or something, because that was the only way the price made any sense.

Carefully, she placed the hanger back in the rack as though she were diffusing a bomb.

“Can I help you find anything?” A slim and angular looking woman walked up to her. She had a pitch black bob haircut with bangs and every single strand of hair was in place. She looked like a piece of art in her black turtleneck dress and the nose like a raven’s beak.

Never had she felt more out-of-place. Clearing her throat, Sparrow shook her head. “Um, no thank you. I am just waiting for someone.” She gestured to the dressing room.

The woman’s eyes widened slightly. “Mrs. King?” She asked.

If someone had told her this morning while she was eating her cereal that she would be talked into going shopping, she would have laughed in disbelief. If that same person had told her they would end up splitting up and she would be stuck spending the day with Meredith while the boys shopped elsewhere, she would have died.

Forcing a smile, she nodded. “Yes.”

As the woman grinned at her, she slowly made her way closer to the dressing room feeling it was safer to pretend not to hear Meredith talking to her as she changed than to chat with the woman who was now looking at her as though she were a meal.

“How is everything going in there, Meredith?” She asked, hoping she would be told she was almost done.

“This place used to have so much more to offer.” She sighed, shoving another article of clothing out from behind the curtain. The saleswoman quickly scurried over to take it and disappeared. “Did you see anything you like?”

The question completely appalled Sparrow. “Oh no. I would never buy anything here.”

Poking her head out, she looked at Sparrow. “And why is that?”

“It’s very expensive here.” Sparrow figured to go with that, not wanting to offend Meredith’s tastes.

Throwing back her head, Meredith laughed and went back to trying things on. “Vincent can afford the prices.” She told her.

Sparrows brow creased. “I’m sure he could, but I am not Vincent.”

“Yes, but Vincent has legally adopted you… after your mother…” she paused. “Therefore you can afford it.”

Her heart beat hard in her chest for a moment at the mention of her mother. The time after her passing had been so confusing. Everything was changing and changing quickly. She could only vaguely recall the conversation she had with Vincent a week later. How he had explained her mother had written a letter when she had first gone into the hospital to let people know what she wanted to happen to Sparrow should anything happen during treatment. Her father had come forward and met with Vincent. She had been expected to make a decision.

Her father, or Vincent.

At the time, she had felt like a burden either way and told Vincent to do whatever he wanted. She had expected him to wipe his hands of her then, finally free of the obligation.

Instead he had fought her father for custody… and won. Later, he legally adopted her.

She knew her adoption meant her father hadn’t fought that hard. He had probably accepted some amount of money to leave her be, sign away his rights. She didn’t realize it was exactly what she had wanted until it was already done.

Her father had left her at a time when her life was hardest, to go back to him now would mean she forgave him. And she couldn’t. Not when she had struggled so hard to keep her mom from sinking, not when she had failed at that and lost her mother in the end.

Vincent had been her Saving Grace.

“I couldn’t shop with Vincent money. He has already done so much for me, I would never take advantage like that.”

Poking her head out again, Meredith raised her eyebrow. “You know, if you came to me with Paris, you wouldn’t want for anything. I have always wanted a daughter to spoil, and there are so many luxuries that go to waste having a son.” Sighing, she pulled her head back in the curtains. “You should come back with me, at least try it for a couple of weeks and see how you like it.”

Sparrow frowned. “You want me to come to Paris with you?” She was confused. Her relationship with Meredith had always been rocky. At first she had thought Sparrow was a toy, a plaything Vincent had gotten to trick Harrison into staying in Toronto. Then she had accepted her but resented her, making sure to put her in her place whenever she thought possible. Then she had silently wished her the worst, her eyes would burn into her but she never said anything, knowing full well Harrison wouldn’t speak to her if she didn’t behave herself.

Now she was offering to bring her to Paris so she could spoil her? Buy her things with equally ridiculous price tags hanging off them.

Something was going on.

“You don’t have to worry about being alone. I’m sure if you ever did decide to come along to Paris with me, Harrison would come along. He has made you that promise to take care of you, and it seems he refuses to sway.”

And there it was. Meredith’s new plan to get Harrison back. Suddenly the suggestion to break off, gals and guys, so we could find things we needed. Girls could get bras and guys could get… rid of the girls or something.

“I never asked Harrison to take care of me. I never asked either of them to do anything for me.” She dropped her face in her hands and tried to rub the feeling of being annoyed from her forehead.

Meredith stepped out of the dressing room and pulled Sparrow to her feet. “I know the two of you are still young, but we could definitely begin getting the two of you ready. We all know you’ll be married one day.” She wrapped my arm around her own. “If you asked him, or if I hinted you were interested, it would definitely be something he would do.”

Marry Harrison?

Nudging me slightly as we left the store, she waved at Vincent and Harrison when we saw them on the other side of the street. “Think about it dear. Honestly, could you ask for a better husband than my Harrison?”

Neville 8. Sinister

A thousand whispers filled every space of the house as Viola made her way up the stairs close behind her mother. It was deafening, she kept her eyes on her mother waiting for her to react to it all, waiting for her to ask her if she heard them too.

Instead she walked across the hall at the top of the stairs and into her parents room. She looked around for Viola’s father.

Brow raised, she turned and went into Edward’s room. Placing him in his crib, she left the room and walked back towards her own, all the while Viola was glued to the back of her heels.

“Viola,” her mother turned back to her, pausing before stepping into her bedroom. “Go on to your room while I check on your father.”

“But-”

“Viola!” Her mother’s patience was wearing thin. “Go on.”

Turning, Viola slowly walked to her room hoping she would be called back before she reached it. She wasn’t, and as she look back over her shoulder, she was given a stern look from her mother that forced her through the door.

Letting out a long breath, she wondered if Neville was upset with her. Her mother may not believe her, but she knew it wasn’t her father banging around up here. She had heard where the steps came from, felt where they went.

Standing with her back to the door, she looked around her bedroom. “Neville?” Her voice was hoarse as she said his name, suddenly afraid. “What are you doing up here?”

The silence made all the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end and her stomach flip.

She didn’t move from her place by the door, her open palms pressing up against the wood.

“The more intriguing question, dear Viola, is what were you doing down there? It seems suddenly your truest friend has become someone you’d rather get rid of.” His voice was smooth like silk, but she felt like he whipped her with his words, each one maker her more and more afraid.

Swallowing hard, she wondered what she should tell him. From the moment she met him he had seemed able to pull her words right out of her head before she even had a chance to speak them. Her heart beat hard at the thought that Neville may already know she was afraid, know she no longer wanted to hear his stories or play pretend.

“What had been your plan? I wonder. Telling your mother I was the one behind your father’s curious behaviour. Had she believed you, what then? Tell me, Viola. Dear friend. What then?”

His voice made her brow furrow and her throats close up. He spoke slowly to her, yet with this urgency. His voice boomed even though it was merely a whisper and all his sentences seemed to fall away, echoing.

Never before had his words so thoroughly chilled her, never had his presence felt so ominous.

Fear weighed on her, blurring her thoughts. “I… I just want things to go back to normal.”

“Normal.” He hissed the words. “Perhaps they will. After we finish our game.”

She shook her head. “I don’t want to play anymore.” She told him.

“You promised.” The whispers surrounded her and she covered her ears, sinking down to the floor.

“Neville, stop it.”

“Viola… you are going to break your word.” There was a pounding on the ground. It was constant, getting louder and louder with every passing second.

Her eyes fogged over as she felt completely helpless. “Stop it Neville, please!”

Her words echoed back to her, all the whispers mocking her.

Play pretend, they sang to her. Play pretend. Over and over.

“No.”

Pain erupted in her ankles as she was dragged under her bed and into the darkness. Pulled away from the door, her head smacked off the floor and for a moment darkness danced before her eyes. Her ears rang, no longer able to hear the whispers as she blinked past the stars and looked up at the shadowy figure above her. His Darin hands clasped over her mouth as his shining eyes looked down at her. “So you don’t want to play? Fine. Do not think your insolence comes without consequence. You gave me your word. Your greedy promise. You got what you wanted. Stories, stories, stories and now… nothing for Neville. It doesn’t seem fair. No. I should show you the weight of your consequences.”

Viola slid across the floor out from under the bed. Neville had shoved her with such force, she slammed up against the wall and lost her breath.

His words danced around her throbbing head, filling her with new fear. Gasping, she pushed herself to her hands and knees. “Neville,” she coughed. “What consequences?”

His laughter was like someone trying to start a chainsaw, halting and alarming. “You’ll see.”

Silence surrounded her so suddenly she felt like she would collapse into tears of relief. The whispers were gone, the constant banging, all she was left with was the throbbing in her head which kept time with the heavy, panicked beating of her heart.

Neville had scared her, and not like he usually startled her for good fun. This was different.

Sinister, she thought of the word he so often used to describe the entity in his story.

How often had he called her foolish? Maybe she was. He had called her foolish just so often as he had suggested he was the sinister being from the story.

Why hadn’t she listened?

Collapsing on the floor, she curled into herself.

Neville had been her only friend. Could she have done anything that would have her anywhere else but where she was now? Was there something she could have done earlier, that would have kept their friendship as it was? Instead of this daunting thing that she felt trapped in?

Her mother didn’t even believe Neville existed, she would never believe her now.

Her head was throbbing, the floor around her swaying.

Closing her eyes, Viola fell into darkness.