My time passed in a haze of routine. I woke up in the morning, swam around the pool, ate breakfast and got ready, filled my day with meaningless activity, made sure I was ready before Bale returned home, ate dinner or attended some social event, showered, and then I fell into a fitful sleep. Nothing was exciting or particularly depressing, I'd accepted my life and it lead to my monotone life. My family seemed to have done much the same, decided that I was happy in my home and let it be. A part of me felt abandoned, but mostly, I was happy that things had settled. I no longer felt the need to battle the sticky emotions within me, simply accepted them for what they were.
As news of SIU passed through the city, I wasn't as welcome outside of the house. People recognised me on the street, and while they were far too afraid to attack, that did not stop their glares. I was looked down upon, feared by some. Knowing that my mother was supernatural, even though they believed me as normal as any other human, made me disgusting at the very least. Children who didn't know any better still came to me, maybe even recognising my face from the television, but their parents stopped them. That wasn't to say that everyone felt that way- some humans were comfortable with me because I was married to Bale, and supernatural seemed to look at me like a martyr. That was somehow worse, because I couldn't ignore people that spoke to me.
So I stayed home, but it was not entirely because of the citizens of my city. I had begun to catch something akin to a cold or a stomach bug slowly. It did not put me out of commission, but I did not have the energy to stay out all day. After eating anything I had to fight to keep it down, failing frequently. I was constantly sweaty and clammy, yet I felt cold much of the time. My head pounded, I had a constant migraine as if the synapses in my brain were battling one another. Atop all of this was great fatigue, I had trouble staying up for more than four hours or so and slept far more than 8 at night. The only benefit to my extended sickness was that my sight's seemed to have disappeared. I hadn't seen anything behind my closed eyes since long before I'd gotten sick. They'd disappeared early into my marriage, though I still fainted without warning, I didn't wake up with any knowledge I shouldn't have. It allowed me to simply exist, a peace I enjoyed immensely.
It was less of a fair trade, and more a silver lining. Knowledge is power, and with power came responsibility. I wanted neither power nor responsibility, in fact, I didn't want knowledge in it's own right. My sight's had always simply been a burden, a painful and constant reminder that I was scum, subhuman. Living without them was like having a weight lifted off of my shoulder, one I could use especially then, when my life had succumbed to Bale.
"Anya!" My name pulled my attention away from my passive not-quite nap. My eyebrows scrunched up in confusion, it was only- oh. A quick glance at the clock beside our bed confirmed that it was nearly 3. Maybe I had been sleeping. I slipped out of bed then, my clothes were comfortable athletic wear, but my makeup was done. I needed only to throw on a hoodie to cover a bruise on my wrist before heading downstairs, where she was still yelling for me. "Come on lazy bones!"
"Sasha, honestly," I said, walking down the carpeted stairs and hoping I didn't slip. I'd tumbled down the stairs many times, and didn't want to do it again if I could avoid it. "Could you yell any louder?"
"Probably," She said, grinning. She had clearly been working, her brown hair was curled perfectly and her lips were painted with thick pink lipstick. "I've been doing a lot of vocal exercises."
I had to agree that she was probably right, "I wasn't talking about if you could literally yell louder."
"Whatever," She said, and I smiled easily. Even when she esasperated me, she still brightened my mood. "How are you doing- want to go for a swim?"
I thought of my bruises before I nodded, certain I could pass them off as some part of my mysterious illness- both the blindness and fainting that made up by my secret supernatural abilities and the many elements of something yet to be defined. I could use a swim. "Yeah, let me get changed."
We both went upstairs to change, and as I dressed in my closet I reminded myself once again how lucky I was to have a friend like Sasha. She'd, of course, cornered me after the news of my family became public knowledge. Rather than upset, Sasha had proved exceptionally understanding. She revealed a lifetime concern over the welfare of the supernatural race, and even if she was lying, her support had been appreciated. Now, settled into my life for better or for worse, Sasha was still the same supportive friend.
It was the act of Sasha shoving me into the pool, and giggling about it, that pulled me out of my kind thoughts for her. I let out a mildly dramatic yelp as I fell, crashing into the warm water without any warning. I pulled out from under the water, making sure to lift my chin up so hair did not cover my face, and glared mildly at Sasha. She wasn't fooled though, and merely grinned.
"So," She said, as if she had not shoved me into the pool. "How are things?"
I shrugged, reveling in the warm water. The sky was covered in grey clouds, and I realized that it would likely snow soon. The pool and outdoor heaters ran, making it plenty warm to swim despite the winter weather. "What do you suppose they did before they had outdoor heaters?"
Sasha shrugged, dunking under the water to keep her hair out of her face and utterly ruining what had probably been a very time consuming process of making her hair and makeup perfect. "I think they didn't swim when it was cold- or they did it inside."
"Shame," I said.
She replied with a noncommittal shrug. "God- this pool is brilliant."
"Best part of the house," I agreed.
"What do your brother's think?" She asked, mildly curious as she started to swim calm laps.
"Uh, well Tim and Mark aren't really speaking to me, right now," I said. It sucked, having my family split as it was, but there wasn't anything I could do about it so I tumbled on, unwilling to brood. "Tom's not a huge swimmer, but he brought his boyfriend over a couple of days ago and he seemed to have fun."
Shasha didn't reply immediately, and I turned to see her in my confusion. She was standing now, biting her lip slightly as if she were debating telling, or asking, me something. I tried to ignore the panic in my chest, but if she was going to ask me something it wasn't going to be good.
"Are you happy, Anya?" She asked, looking at me now with determination in her eyes. I could tell she'd been battling with the question for a while.
"I-" Faced with her, Sasha, my very best friend, I wondered how I'd lied to her so easily so many times before. She was a sister as much as any of my brother's were my brothers, and we'd been together through everything.
"I know everything has changed for you," She said. "I know finding out about your brothers and mom was a shock, and I know you don't love-"
"-I do," I argued immediately, because I did, because the sick emotion forced me to, because I didn't even have control over my mind. "It's not love like-" like I have for James, or you, or my family. "-But it's real." Tears pooled in my eyes, and I blinked furiously. I'd promised I wouldn't cry, not anymore. It was too real to not. I did love him, and I hated myself for it, and I hated him for it, and when I lay in bed in the dark of night, pained from his rejection and attacks, I felt myself engulfed by freezing silence. I loved him, and he owned me, and it defined everything in my life. It ruined me.
Sasha was closer now, her wide eyes watching me somberly. "An-" She never got to finish though, or maybe she did, because as I sunk deeper into despair over the disgusting emotion of love I lost consciousness.
When I woke up I found myself beside the pool, still within the warmth of the heaters but beginning to feel the tingle of cold from winter. My head was pounding, my chest felt tight, and I couldn't decide if I was starving or sick. Beside me, Sasha looked panicked.
"Oh my- are you okay? You just passed out, it was terrifying- hah! Look at me make this about me, are you alright? Do you need anything?" Her eyes were wide with worry, and adrenaline seemed to protect her from the chilly breeze.
"I'm fine," I said, closing my eyes and rubbing my temple. Sitting up I noticed the world spin for a moment before I puked into the grass beside me. "Oh, gross, 'm sorry."
Sasha had always been particularly sensitive to blood, vomit, and similar fluids, but she set her jaw. "It's fine, let's get inside though, come on."
She stood gracefully, because everything Sasha did she did with grace, and helped me inside. Neither of us were surprised when Leslie rushed to help Sasha upon noticing my sick state. Unconcerned that Leslie was supernatural, the two of them helped me to my bathroom, where I brushed my teeth and otherwise washed up.
"Thank you," I said as we settled, the three of us in the living room without class separation. It was becoming obvious that Sasha could care less what Leslie's blood was, if Leslie was my friend. "God, that is getting old."
Sasha grinned, handing me a can of ginger ale before sitting next to Leslie on the couch. "I imagine, I'm happy you're fine."
"Of course I'm fine," I waved away her concern. "I'm already back to normal."
Sasha clearly doubted my normal, and Leslie rolled her eyes on me. I almost laughed, the two of them were dangerously similar. In fact, I realized as I took a generous sip from the lightly carbonated ginger ale, it wouldn't surprise me to find that they were communicating outside of forced interactions to gossip about me and my well being.
A wave of nausea hit me, despite the ginger ale, and I could only thank my empty stomach for the fact that with the help of a tissue I was able to prevent another mess. Leslie and Sasha shared a look of worry as I left to brush my teeth again. My body was shaky and cold, but I wouldn't eat again for fear of emptying my stomach again. Hunger wasn't nearly as bad as the burning feeling of stomach acid.
"Why don't we take you to the doctor?" Sasha asked when I sat down again, this time curling up under a large and plush fleece blanket.
"There's no point," I said, knowing that going to the doctor was all but a death sentence. They already knew about my fainting, and learning about it more would only lead to my secret being discovered. Fear of that made my stomach stir again, but I forced it to quell by reminding myself that I wasn't going to the doctor, and I would not be found out. More than my dark secret, I knew that doctors would not believe, like Sasha had, that the bruises across my body, and whatever other cuts and breaks I had under the skin, were a part of the mysterious cold that plagued me. Despite my apparent stomach bug, fatigue, and otherwise sick body I couldn't risk going to the doctor. I couldn't tell them that though, while Leslie knew the true origins of my bruises, neither knew about the sight. "I'm on medical retirement, remember? They already know I'm sick."
Sasha bit her lip, thinking but not saying a thing. She only looked concerned, clearly wishing that I would go to the doctor, but not yet to the point of forcing me to go. Just before she would argue more, I spoke up.
"Why don't we talk about something else? How are things going, you're about to release your first song, right?" I asked, both sincerely wanting to know about her budding career as a musician and hoping to prevent an argument that I needed to avoid. I knew Sasha wasn't fooled, but she settled into the conversation.
"Fine," She said, putting her own can of ginger ale down. "I actually wanted to talk to you about it before it released, anyway." She took a deep breath, and anticipation built in my chest. She was about to tell me something important, I could tell by the cautious state of her stature. "So, we're releasing the song with a live performance at the amphitheater, and they think I'm going to sing that song I've been working on in the studio, Selfish Love, but I'm not."
"Wait, what?" I asked, confused. The way she spoke, soft as to not attract the attention of anyone, led me to believe she was telling me a secret. Nerves danced on my skin, I could only hope that I wasn't currently being watched. Leslie, too, seemed apprehensive about what Sasha was going to say.
"I'm going to sing a song about people, people like your mom, Anya," After a moment of consideration she nodded to Leslie as well. "And, uhm, you, Leslie."
"What? You're kidding- what are you-? What-?" I was having trouble thinking, a headache had already been forming but now stung violently. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples, as if that would help. "What are you going to say?"
What if she was going to incite rage against the supernatural? A miniscule step of progress had been made, and the safety of those I loved was at stake if the bet that humans could coexist with supernatural was lost.
"I'm hoping, we're hoping, to get people sympathetic," Sasha said, passion helping her nerves. "This new thing, that they did with you and your mom," and it was then that I realised that Sasha was in deep. She was clearly avoiding trigger words- supernatural, SIU, Bale. It was an intentional action, to avoid detection by cameras. No one was watching us now, and if she didn't alert them, no one would. "I mean, you're not even- you know, where does it end?"
"Where does it end?" Tim wasn't going down without a fight ... "You're not even supernatural, Anya, the government is corrupt and using slavery and discrimination to stay in power. This is just going to lead to more unwarranted control."
It was clear that Tim wasn't the only one to see through Bale's plan, something I'd only seen through after fighting through judgement clouded by emotions forced on me. It was more than simply more than Tim noticing, it was humans noticing. I hadn't missed when Sasha had claimed 'we', and knew what it meant. There were humans fighting for supernaturals. She wasn't alone, in fact, it was likely that she'd been recruited. If she had, instead of accidentally finding herself in a rebellion, then it meant that this human rebellion was big, and ready. Ready to make a big move- ready to begin. Ready to send Sasha out, the martyr catalyst for supernatural freedom.
...fire, screams, burning flesh. It was pure and utter chaos. Blood painted the walls, 'DOWN WITH THE LIARS, DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT!'...
"I-" I didn't know what to say. What was safe to say? What did I want to say? What should I say? Could I support something I knew was leading to war. Could I not support something that was so very right? Were some things worth war? Sasha was putting herself in danger- no, more than that, she was signing her life away. Leslie grabbed ahold of herself before I did.
"They'll kill you," Leslie said clearly. "If you're lucky."
"I know," Sasha said. "But it won't be quick enough, and hopefully, it'll get people thinking."
"Why are you doing this?" I asked, weary. What did Sasha have to gain from putting herself in such a dangerous position? I could see it in her determination, she fully knew that she would be caught and killed, or sent out to the supernatural district. She was doing it anyway, accepting her punishment as a cost for something she deemed worth it. But why? She had no reason to do this. She was a singer with a real chance at success, and if she didn't her high class origins would guarantee her a position in some other career. She had nothing to gain, and in our society, the most to lose.
"I know you never really liked history," She said, beginning her explanation. "But centuries ago, before the first supernatural, before the third and fourth wars, there was discrimination against people that were different- different races or sexuality. World War II wasn't the only time, or the last, that it happened. I figured it out when we were kids- they're treating the supernatural just like they've treated people who look like me or Kent or- well anyone who doesn't have pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes like you. It wasn't right for them to discriminate against people because of who they love or what they look like, and I don't think it's right that they do that to people like Leslie and your mom."
I opened and closed my mouth, unsure of how to respond. Sasha looked fierce now, and I wondered if the mysterious 'we' she'd talked about before had been forced to talk her down from something more drastic than a song. I found my eyes searching for Leslie, trying to gauge her reaction. She was looking at her knees, her red hair preventing me from seeing her face, but I could see the falling drops of tears onto her clothes.
She seemed to tell that I was worried, because she looked up with wet eyes, wiping them with her sleeve. "I'm alright, I just- thank you." She gave me the assurances that she was alright, but she'd thanked Sasha. "There is only so much we can do, we need hu- you too."
"I mean-" I started, and then I stopped, realising I had begun to make a statement from the part of me that was supernatural. Without thinking I'd identified as something I'd kept hidden for years, in a time where I no longer had any blatant reminders of my abilities. Since when did I really feel like a supernatural, so much so that I identified as one without thought?
"You already know this, Anya, I mean- you rushed the stage in front of everyone!" Sasha said, "It wasn't exactly thought out, you know, a plan to revolutionise or anything, it was just instinct. You, more than anyone else, have to understand why I'm doing this."
"It's a lot easier to throw yourself into the fire than to throw your friend," I replied, looking at my hands to avoid her pleading gaze as I confirmed her suspicions that I had, in fact, run up to the stage of my own free will. It was a huge statement, but it was something Sasha had already figured out, and something we didn't have the time to focus on. I couldn't imagine Sasha doing the same, especially now, when the government obviously had some plan up its sleeve, a plan it wouldn't have if the supernatural people were properly contained. Time ticked like always but it was obvious, to people like me and Sasha who had our ears to the ground and to people like Leslie who lived in the forefront, that the government was just a slight bit out of step. They were teetering, and in an effort to regain control they wouldn't stop at anything. I knew that more than anyone, and I couldn't find the willingness to blame them.
"You're not throwing me anywhere," Sasha said, her voice determined and forcing me to look her in the eyes once more. Sitting in front of me was- was a woman I'd known since I was a child. She hadn't changed at all, and that was the most shocking part. Sasha looked exactly the same, her words didn't sound out of place, and she wasn't doing anything -I realised- that wasn't exactly what I should expect. "I've been planning this for years, as amazing as you are, you're not why I'm doing this."
She was telling the truth. I could feel it in every memory, every moment of her life. I could feel the determination to protect people who couldn't protect themselves, to give her all to what she believed in. She was going to go in front of everyone and spread her belief, her doubt in everything we'd been raised to depend on, even though it would kill her. Her concert was at the end of the week, and three days was not enough time. 3 years, 30, 300- there would never be enough time to prepare me to watch my friend sacrifice herself, never knowing that I was someone she was giving everything away for.
I pulled myself up to give her a hug, pulling her close and hoping she knew how much I appreciated it, even if there was no way she did. She had no way to know, because she was giving up her everything for a group of people she'd never really met. Whereas I... I was sitting in the lap of luxury, valuing my secret more than other's freedom and lives. Cowardice defined me, and yet I was not strong enough to fight it. I loved Bale, like it or not, and I couldn't betray him. I settled for hugging my friend, thanking her for being the woman I never could.
Just as predicted, three days was not long enough. At Sasha's insistence I was not among the crowds at the amphitheater. Instead I had settled for watching it live in our living room, comfortably exhausted under the same fleece blanket I'd used when she told me. Knowing what was coming offered little comfort. Instead I sat in suspense, thankful that Bale knew next to nothing about me and didn't know to question why I was so tense. He sat in the living room as well, enjoying take away I couldn't stomach. He wasn't worried about the performance in the slightest, he wasn't even paying attention. He sat scrolling through emails, far too dedicated to his work to take a night off.
Sasha was beautiful, of course. She walked onto the stage with confidence no one else had, confidence no one else could ever have. I tried not to think of the practicality of her dress, worried it would get in the way if she tried to run from the policemen when they rushed the stage to stop her from singing.
"Hello everyone!" She yelled, receiving a roar from the crowd. She hadn't released any music, but she was popular and had already won the heart of our city with a couple of interviews. It must have been hot on stage, with the number of lights required to light it up as it was in the dark of early night, but she wasn't showing any signs that it bothered her. "I've got an exciting song for you tonight, hopefully it is worth the wait. I want to dedicate this to my best friend, no matter what, Anya Heshinel!"
The crowd erupted in applause, and my heart began to race as she started, music playing behind her as she closed her eyes to prepare to perform. Her first and last, she wasn't going to half ass it. She'd dedicated this song to me, a goodbye, and my eyes prickled with tears. She was strong, she was beautiful, and her song hit my heart instantly. She was nearly halfway through when the police shot her, ending her performance instantly. A lifetime of experiences, a whole person, a friend- gone in the blink of an eye. Her body crumpled down into nothing, a still warm rag doll of a hero.
I sat on the couch, silent suffering unlike that I'd ever known. The ache of my loss left me numb, unhearing. Bale was in my peripheral, yelling words I could barely hear. The mumble was nothing against the roaring loss of Sasha. Self hate- she had sacrificed herself for people she didn't know, people she didn't have anything in common with, while I sat in my comfortable home alongside a leader of cruelty- was clear. Against that the pain of violence, the pain of Bale yanking me up by my hair, the pain of hitting the coffee table when he threw me down, was nothing. When he kicked my chest to get my attention I felt barely a pinprick, preoccupied by the black screen replacing where my best friend had once stood. Before he could hurt me again I greeted the darkness that seemed to be my only constant companion, gone from the world, gone from the suffering.
The sun shone brightly through the kitchen, the beginning of spring meant the sound of birds chirping could be heard as we ate breakfast. Leslie cleaned silently, the swish of water the only sign that she was even there. She didn't talk much, but I couldn't blame her. Every word she said was an invite for Bale's casual wrath.
The silence was not comfortable, but I'd grown used to the suffocation. It was easy to ignore, the smallest of my punishments. Silence, even the thickest most uncomfortable form of it, was far better than the pain of saying something wrong. The silence broke with the sound of the doorbell, but Bale didn't even look up. Leslie or I would answer.
I got up, despite myself wanting a break from Bale's company. When I opened the door I was welcomed with a hug around my knees and the weary smile of my mother.
"Mommy!" My daughter said, launching herself at me to hug my legs. I had had her a little over four years ago and named her Maia, meaning warrior, in hopes that she would have strength I'd never possessed. In hopes that she would navigate the difficulty of life with the strength to do the right thing.
I welcomed her hug, accepting tenderness from her that I would not expect from my husband. She was beautiful, her every part a carbon copy of myself- except for my Sight. I held her in my arms, squatting down to her level so I could kiss her forehead. I had thanked whoever lead this cruel world every moment of every day that she hadn't seemed to inherit my abilities. My abilities that had been long dormant, leaving behind sickness and narcolepsy in their wake. She was human, pure and simple.
Behind her my mother carried a bright pink duffel bag of Maia's things, having watched her the night before. "She stayed on her schedule, though your dad gave her ice cream for breakfast." She laughed at my grin, "I thought you wouldn't mind too much, but you may want to give her eggs or something."
I nodded, pulling her into a hug for thanks. Mom didn't act surprised even as I said nothing, telling me goodbye and leaving without any odd looks. After all, I hadn't spoken to anyone in 5 years. Exactly 5 years, since Sasha died and broke me beyond repair. The only exception was Maia, and even alone with her I was far from a chatterbox.
With my mother gone, Maia ran into the house gleefully, chattering on about the night with "Gram Gram" and "Pop Pop". They'd watched her favorite movie, in which a puppy made friends with his bullies and in the end put on a wonderful talent show, and played board games. She'd convinced "Pop Pop" to play her in the dancing game, and won. She was very proud of it, not concerned that he was 67 years old and did not possess the boundless energy of youth.
I left her bag on the entryway bench and led her to the kitchen, and when she proudly announced that Pop Pop had given her icecream for breakfast Leslie started making her eggs without prompting. Leslie was like that, reading the needs of us without being told, helpful down to the bones of her fingers. We didn't pay her enough, that much I knew, but I made sure to send her gifts as often as I could without Bale noticing, and we'd worked out a way for her to take home leftovers and food that would go missing without notice. I did everything I could to try and alleviate the guilt of my life. The guilt of benefiting from the mistreatment of Supernaturals, the guilt of doing nothing to stop it, and the guilt of her gratefulness.
I didn't deserve thanks for running on the stage all of those years ago. I had done nothing since. In the five years since Sasha had sacrificed herself much had happened. Humans, especially so younger ones, were becoming aware of the plight of the supernatural. Their awareness, however, was not enough. As had been announced, supernatural people who did not serve direct roles to the human part of Arium were executed. Execution was also a much more popular punishment, even for crimes as simple as being out after dark. The Supernatural city center had been taken over and renovated to become the Supernatural Control Unit headquarters, where a human could go and 'hire' a supernatural to work for them or report any misdeeds. Misdeeds such as looking at them wrong.
More humans were aware, and supernaturals were more scared than ever, which made trying to leave the house nearly impossible. As I accepted Maia's plastic plate from Leslie and made sure she didn't make too much of a mess I realised it had been about two months since I had left the confines of this home.
"Mommy- don't hurt yourself like that!" Maia randomly burst out, her tone sounding almost casual but her worry sincere. The question, 'what?', was obvious to the girl used to a mother of few words. "You're hurting your bruise!"
Hurting my- panic flooded me, had I not put on makeup this morning? Could she see the bruises? A glance at the mirror on the wall made it clear that I hadn't, no bruises were on my body.
"I don't have any bruises," I said, hoping to give a tone that she didn't argue with. Maia, a happy child who had no idea of the horrors of the world, missed it.
"Yes you do," She said, turning away from her eggs to point them out. "Here on your chin, here around your eye, here on your shoulder, here on your tummy-"
I could feel the rage building from Bale. It only served to encourage the terror in my bones, Maia was supernatural. She had healing in her blood, seeing in her blood, and it appeared that she could see the pain and ailments of those around her. I felt a rush of emotion, guilt for poisoning her with my DNA, dread about what Bale would do, and panic- what could I do? More than anything, clouding over the panic that usually left me mute and malleable, was pride. Pride that my wonderful Maia, my wonderful little warrior, had such an amazing ability.
Able to think, I acted on instinct. I stood up and grabbed Maia, kissing her cheek and holding her close to me. She was surprised by the tightness of my hug, but she hugged me back.
"You're my perfect little warrior," I whispered proudly. "Thank you for stopping me from hurting myself."
It was a beautiful moment of motherhood, but it was cut short when I saw Bale's cold and vile glare at me. He didn't care that Maia was his daughter too, he wasn't proud of her. All he could see when he saw her was supernatural scum. It was clear that surprise at what she'd revealed to us, surprise by my words, was delaying what would undoubtedly be a terrifying explosion of violence. Not to my daughter, not today, not ever.
Unlike me she would not grow up to hate herself. Unlike me she would not grow up hiding herself, scared of even her closest friends and family. Unlike me she would never feel the desire to rip out a part of herself, no matter how painful, and never see it again. Unlike me, she would never view constant sickness and pain as a happy alternative to who she was.
I handed her to Leslie then, "Go with Leslie, sweetie, she is going to take you to Mark's."
Excitement grew in her, she rarely saw Mark as he wouldn't speak to me. It was because he wouldn't speak to me, and a little bit because he could heal anything wrong with her, that I was sending Leslie and her to him. He would protect her from Bale, he would protect her from me if need be. I knew it, deep in my bones, just as I knew the hands in front of me were mine, just as I knew I would die for the little girl in Leslie's arms.
Leslie accepted Maia and rushed out, not taking the time to share a look with me, knowing how Bale got. Leslie was as much of an aunt to Maia as Sasha would have been, and I knew she would get her away safe.
"You will not take my daughter!" Bale yelled, but Leslie ignored him, beginning to run. I knew Maia would hear that, knew she was too smart to miss that something was happening, but it was unavoidable.
"Yes she will," I countered, my voice surprising me with it's strength. It had to be strong, though, it had to stop Bale. "And you won't lay a finger, or a single harsh word, on my baby."
"Your-" His eyes were vividly losing control. "You did this! She got that dirty blood from your family!"
"She has no dirty blood," I said, forcing myself not to back up as Bale stormed towards me. He towered above me, but I knew everything he could do, the pain of being hit by someone you loved. Something that I would never feel again, I realised, because the love I had felt for him had never been real. Now, shattering like a pane of glass, I realised I had no feelings for him, fake or real. I could never do anything but despite someone who threatened my baby.
"No- she is supernatural scum! Just like your mother, just like your brothers," Bale was used to my compliance. He didn't seem to know what to do with me when I argued.
"She is supernatural, but she is no scum," I replied. Then, with a burst of reckless bravery that surprised me, "She is supernatural like me."
"Sup- you're not supernatural, you're a halfbreed, no human, no supernatural, a mutt." He roared, as if he thought he could yell me into order. Once upon a time, that very morning even, it would have worked. Knowing that I was between him and Maia forced me to be brave despite fear.
"I am supernatural," I said, "I knew your name, knew your face, knew your pathetic need for control before I met you, and I have known your downfall would come for years."
"My downfall? Hah! You expect me to believe that you are a supernatural, and you've remained hidden for 25 years? Your disgusting daughter lasted 4."
There it was, the official disconnect. He'd signed her off, I had just witnessed Maia loosing her father. "She is your daughter too, Bale," I said, knowing that him giving her up would hurt her. She would feel the bitter pain of being cast off by her own father, her own flesh and blood. She would know, no matter what I did, that he did it because of her abilities. She would begin to hate that part of her, and I couldn't let that happen. "You loved her this morning- that can't have changed."
"That thing you created is not my anything," He hissed, saying 'thing' as if the very mention of Maia hurt him. Knowing how much he was wounding her cut me deep, how could he say these things about his own daughter? "I want nothing to do with it."
"Maia is your daughter!" I exclaimed, tears slowly falling down my face. How could he be so cold? "She is a human being and-"
Surprise at my break from 5 years of silence wore off and Bale slapped me harshly, causing me to fall back into the booth I'd been sitting in. He hit the bruise Maia had seen, and I wondered then if Maia had any idea how I got the bruises. Did she assume they were part of the unidentified sickness that left me fainting randomly, or did she know what Bale did?
"She is far from human, and she is not my daughter," He said. "You, and your disgusting supernatural DNA, killed my daughter." A dangerous glint, a new glint, hit his eyes then. "And now I will kill you."
He lunged towards me again and with a startled screech I jumped out of his way, climbing over the breakfast table to his side of the booth and attempting to rush past him to the front door to run away. He blocked me, lifting me up by the front of my dress, the armholes dug into my armpits until he threw me down with a painful crash.
"You've seen my downfall, hu?" He asked, aiming to kick my head but missing when I flinched and jerked my head forward. I had to get up, I knew that, but getting myself to do it was another thing entirely. For years I had simply accepted the brutality, becoming almost lifeless and limp. Now though, I was fighting back, and failure hurt more than just me. Thinking of Bale getting to Maia sent tremors through my body, I had to do this.
"Yes," I said, forcing myself up, forcing myself to feign confidence. "You and your government will fall down at the hands of the supernatural and our allies. There will be fire, screams of pure terror, the likes of which you will know. Burning flesh will be all you can smell as you gaze upon words written in blood on your walls- DOWN WITH THE LIARS, DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT!" Bale backed up in terror as I spoke, words tumbling out of me without much thought. I felt like I was in a trance, "Your death will be one of few, and it will go without words. You will not go down in history as a hero, you will not go down in history at all. No one will remember you, no one will mourn your loss, and the one time you are recognised will be in celebration of your gruesome and painful death."
"Y-y-your eyes!" He all but screeched, backing away through the living room even as I followed him. I didn't pay his words any mind, trance mostly over but confidence still running. I grabbed onto the coattails of whatever had just happened, thinking only of Maia.
"And if you ever, ever lay a single finger, or in any way allow anyone else to lay a single finger, on Maia the death I just described will be your solitary and everlasting wish." My voice was deep and strong, altogether too much for Bale. He fainted on the spot, giving me petty satisfaction when I noticed he wet his pants.
Relief was instant, washing into me and cleansing me from the fear and terror of my life. I knew that no one could make me go back to the life I had lived before that day. No one could stop me from creating the best life I could for Maia. A life that was the opposite of mine. A life that wasn't here, in these pristine walls that covered up the ugly reality of this home.
I made it to Bale's room, grabbing a bag and stuffing in it things I would need to leave. I took clothing and medicine, charing cables and my laptop, but I did not grab my makeup. I would not cover my bruises any more. After packing that bag my phone rang, a name I hadn't seen on it in years.
"Hello," I answered, realising now that every word I spoke was another flame burning down the prison I had been in. I grinned with pride as I packed up Maia's things- her favorite doll, her clothes, her tablet- so she would never need to return.
"What is happening?" Mark asked.
"Did Maia and Leslie get to you?" I asked, not having time to explain. Not yet. I stuffed in her blankie and zipped the bag, slinging it over my shoulder as well. It was time to leave.
"Yes- what is going on?" Mark insisted, "Maia won't stop crying, and Leslie won't tell us anything." He made a frustrated noise, and I could almost see him pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration. "I love her but tonight is not a night I can babysit."
"I know," I said, surprising myself with that knowledge so much that I stopped for a moment on the porch to be surprised. "You have a very important meeting, but Maia showed off something she got from our side of the family and couldn't be at home anymore."
I was sure people were staring at me, I probably looked entirely different in the way I walked now. Not to mention that I was carrying bags and rushing like my life depended on it.
"Oh," Mark said, seeming to understand what I meant by 'our side of the family'. "That's- uh- impressive?"
"It is," I agreed, grinning with motherly pride as I turned onto his street. "I'm nearly there."
"What about your husband?" He asked, his voice nervous, as if he was unsure of my response.
"He didn't take the news well," I said bitterly, not wanting to be overheard, and not wanting to get into it on the sidewalk. If I did I was likely to break down in the middle of all of these people. I couldn't do that. Not today, not now.
Not when my brain was whirling, a hum running about it as if it were booting up for the first time. Not when the pieces of everything around me, everything far away from me, were coming together. Not when my daughter waited for me, scared and relatively alone. I couldn't break down now, that would have to wait.
Mark never replied, but it was clear he'd managed to connect the dots. He was standing in his home entryway looking worried when I walked in, knowing it was rude but too scared to stay on the streets. Bale, I could handle, but I had run away from my husb- owner, my owner, and they weren't going to let me get away with that.
"What is-" Mark started to ask, but Maia rushed towards me, yelling, and interrupted him.
"MOMMY!" She all but screamed, gripping my knees tightly before I pulled her up in my arms. I held her close, safe and as wonderful as ever, while tears streamed down my face. She was safe, for now, my perfect little warrior.
"What is-" Mark started to ask, but this time his wife, Carrie, stopped him. Grateful for Carrie's intervention, I ignored them to focus on Maia.
"You're okay, we're okay, it is going to be alright," I said, squatting down so she could stand and I could talk to her face to face. I gently moved her hair out of her face, "There's no need to cry, okay hon?"
"But mommy, where is daddy?" She asked, her words muddled together with sticky sounding tears.
"That thing you created is not my anything," He hissed, saying 'thing' as if the very mention of Maia hurt him.
How could I answer that question? I couldn't tell her the truth, couldn't tell her that the moment she'd shown her wonderful abilities he'd abandoned her. I couldn't tell her that he hated her, and that he hated me. I couldn't put the burden of that knowledge on her, but she had to be told something. So she knew that he wasn't safe, that he was a threat. My four year old daughter needed to know that her father was a threat to her life and safety, and that fact burned me like acid.
The doorbell rang, stopping me from having to answer. Carrie opened the door, but I already knew who was behind it. Officer Jackass, and I doubted he was going to arrest Bale.
Author's Note Hello all! So this was last updated March 28, 2017, meaning it had been exactly 3 months since I last posted. Ooops? *pulls up shield to protect from knives and other pointy objects being thrown* To be fair, I got married mid April, and there was the honeymoon, and as always work has been nuts...
Thank you everyone who has put up with my chronic lack of updates. I really appreciate every view, every comment, every follow. Thank you to DelQu, Feraw813, HopelessGenius, Kirisei, Slipcheckmate, bren43050, dipsydoodle1, and midnight1thunder1storm1 for following even through all of this.
We are nearing the end though, so the suffering will end, for good or for bad, sooner rather than later. :)