[Memory, Mature] Becoming

The capital city of Anaxas and the seat of the government.
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jun 27, 2019 9:19 am

Late Night, 18 Dentis 2708
Somewhere in Uptown
"And it rained like you’d never seen before,” Nellie whispered.

It was dark in the small room, close to full with two narrow beds shoved between white-washed walls, gloomy and colder than was comfortable in the autumn evening. Despite the small, tight space, the two small girls were huddled together on the same small bed, their two soft blankets heaped over them, hands clasped in the dark.

Nellie shifted, smoothing her cheek against the soft pillow they shared. Her black hair had – as it did every night – escaped the smooth plait it had started in, and it poured over the pillowcase, curls frayed and messy. There was no light for them but what shown through a thin crack in the doorway, and that was soft, no more than a faint tendril that stretched over the blanket, up along Nellie’s pale cheek. Nellie shifted, and it sparkled and glinted in her eyes.

“In fact,” Nellie breathed, “nobody’d ever seen rain like this was. It rained for days, days and days until all the places where rains likes to go just gave up, and then it splashed out and spilled over into the streets. At first it was just wet, like walking through a puddle, but then it got higher like splashing in the bay, and then higher and higher ‘til you couldn’t even go downstairs, it was so high.”

There was a breathless excitement to Nellie’s voice as she began the tale of what she had called ‘The Flood.’ For the Roalis and Yaris the girls had shared this tiny cupboard of a room, Nellie had always been full of stories of Old Rose Harbor. She was always happy to describe its teeming streets and big ramshackle wooden houses, the docks that jutted out onto the waters of the Tincta Basta, sometimes calm and blue and sometimes foaming and huge and green. She liked to talk about the pirates she’d seen, tumblers too, describing their antics and even giving them voices, mimicking them in the cold quiet nights. Bright jewels seen at a distance and sweets of foreign lands greedily inhaled were described with equally vivid longing as Nellie painted a picture of a world outside, a place not soft and taut like this one but bright and strange and rough and always exciting.

“Don’t worry,” Nellie softened her voice and squeezed the other small hand clasped in hers. “When we go, it won’t rain like that again. And – even if it did, we’d be safe. You’ll see. We have two floors in our house, and the upper one didn’t get wet, no matter how high the rains got. So if they come again we’ll just – we’ll stay up there.” She sighed, a little shoulder clad in white cotton peeking out from under the blanket.

Outside, during the day, she wasn’t Nellie anymore. She was Ava, a strange soft name that didn’t feel like hers, no matter how many times anyone said it. She had whispered Nellie to Emelia in the dark hours of night when the world felt safe still, sworn her to secrecy with a pinky promise. Nellie had explained that anyone who broke a pinky promise would be washed out to sea, even if they were in Vienda and not Old Rose Harbor anymore. The sea, Nellie had explained, always knew if you broke your promise.

“Anyway,” Nellie continued, “the flood went on so long that not even my ma and uncle and aunt could go outside anymore, the waters were too high for anybody. So us and all the neighbors, we made a sort of – um – like a system of ropes and all. They went between the houses, ‘cause everybody had a bucket or a basket. So if you needed anything, like milk and eggs and all, you’d call over and you’d send a bit of money too, in your basket, and then – like just that – after a little while the milk and eggs and all’d come sailing back. An’ sometimes there’d be stuff in it you hadn’t even asked for, extras maybe ‘cause they weren’t going to keep, like real nice soft butter.” Nellie paused. “… not as nice as the stuff here,” she admitted, reluctantly, “but it tasted better.” There was something firm and unyielding in her tone, mingled with wistful remembrance.

“But,” Nellie giggled, very softly, a hushed little sound swallowed up by the blankets and the heavy night, “the baskets’re how I got in trouble. I’ll tell you about them, them and the boats, I’ll tell you about them tomorrow. All right?” Her free hand stroked Emelia’s hair. “Now you better sleep, ‘cause if we’re yawning tomorrow they won’t like it.” Her dark eyes fluttered, her cheek smoothing against the pillow again, although her hand never let go of Emelia’s.

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Last edited by Ava Weaver on Mon Jul 01, 2019 5:45 pm, edited 1 time in total. word count: 857

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Sat Jun 29, 2019 8:56 am

18th Dentis, 2708
VIENDA| LATE NIGHT
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And it rained like you’d never seen before,” Nellie whispered.

Emelia listened intently to the older girls whispered voice, muted green eyes wide in the darkness, clinging to Nellie’s hands tightly as they huddled on the bed together. The meager light from just under the door might be little more than a wisp in the willows, but it was enough for the little wick. She’d been in the the house now for a little over two seasons, delivered scared on the doorstep by the only person she could remember since being a baby. The girl had cried, dark hair curled around her small fingers and streaks washing down her grubby cheeks. Her seventh birthday had passed this Ophus gone, but the only reason that she new was because Miss Natalie told her so. There was no celebration or cake like the story books had in the pictures, it was just another day in the many days she was there. In a weird way, Emelia loved Miss Natalie, she was her only mommy for all she could remember. The ratty blonde woman never showed her affection, blaming Emmie for her poverty and her real children’s problems. She called her a passive, told her she wasn’t safe. But then the oldest boy Tomlin had told her that passives only knew they were passives when they were ten. And she wasn’t ten. She was seven. And he said she was a wick. A filthy dirty wick who belonged with the street rats.

Arriving in the scary house, Emelia was frightened of the woman with the red hair. She didn’t want her either, but Miss Natalie argued and the lady with the red hair argued back, and then here she was. At first, it wasn’t much different; cleaning and sweeping and trying to be a very good girl. But she missed Miss Natalie, and she didn’t understand why there were so many girls that were so sad. Older girls, with fear on their faces, or smiles that weren’t for real. Pretending smiles. Then she saw the men, the old men with their auras all heavy and scary, and they took the girls with the pretend smiles and—

She didn’t know, but it made her feel yucky. The way Miss Genevria sat her on their laps and let them stroke her hair…it wasn’t nice…and Emmie wasn’t good at pretending smiles. So she cried.

Some of the girls didn’t like her, making mean faces at Emmie when Miss Genevria wasn’t looking, or pushing her at night when they had to wash up. They whispered how lucky she was, how unfair it was, and all sorts of mean words. It made the girl cry, her lower lip pouting and big green eyes filling miserably.

But then Ava had been there.

Sick of her crying, knowing the sound of a young child sobbing was not particularly desirable in her place of business, Miss Genevria had taken the raven haired wick by the arm and marched her down the hallway and shoved her into another room. A ‘further from the customers’ room. Sobbing into her unkempt locks, Emelia found herself in Ava’s room. The girl was older, by a lot, but she was nice and pretty and told Emmy stories that made her smile.

She even told Emmie her realest name. Nellie. A pretty bestest name that was their pinky promise, because the sea swallowed people who broke pinky promises. And Emmie didn’t want to be swallowed by the sea.

A small gasp escaped the child from under the covers.

“For true Nellie? For true up to the stairs?” She whispered in a tiny voice full of wonder and imagination just bursting at the seams to be released, the hint of a lisp in her words making her r’s sound like w’s. Her gaze almost matched the other girls with a sparkle of excitement, little heart racing against her chest as she pictured water rising up the stairs inside the house. Emelia loved Nellie’s stories about Old Rose Harbor, with its Baddie Men and it’s tumblers and it’s pirates. It sounded a little teeny bit scary, but lots exciting, and Nellie had said they would go there. They would run away from the house and become swashbuckers with swords and the bestest onna-stick in Anaxas.

Nodding, she smiled, squeezing the other girls hand in return.

“We can run away to the tippy top and the rain can’t even get us!” Emelia squeaked in a high little voice, giggling to herself quickly before quieting so she could hear the rest of the story. The Flood was one of her most favorite stories so far, but truly she loved every single one. In her eyes, Nellie was some sort of hero of Old Rose who had been trapped here. And she had helped Emmie not to get in trouble with Miss Genevria. So she was Emelia’s hero.

“I fink,” The wick said thoughtfully, brow furrowed as she thought of the baskets and ropes, mashing the th of her words together. “I fink I would send chocolate to you if I was sending extra coz chocolate is very special and I wouldn’t want it to spoil. Plus I would want to make you happy, because the Flood is scary and your house is all wet, except the tippy top.” Her vision refocused on Nellie with a sage nod, as if she knew whether Viendan butter was better than Old Rose butter.

And then the world came to an end.

“Awww but Nellie!” Emelia protested with a quiet whine, pouting as the older girl stroked her hair, keeping the fingers of one hand comfortably tangled with Nellie’s whilst the other strayed to her eyes and rubbed them as she yawned even mid-argument.

“I’m not even sleepy.” She lied, blinking heavily and looking over her friends face in the sliver of light. After a few moments of silence, Emelia spoke again, very softly and very seriously.

“I don’t want to pretend smile for them Nellie.”

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Ava Weaver
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Sun Jun 30, 2019 9:58 am

Late Night, 18 Dentis 2708
Somewhere in Uptown
“I know, but we gotta sleep,” Nellie told Emelia. She was starting to feel tired, the pleasant reminiscences curling to something that hurt a little in the pit of her stomach. Nellie knew that meant it was time for sleep, even if these cherished moments snatched at night between chores and bed were the nicest part of her day too, not just Emelia’s. Better than the chores, better than the bruised faint looks of the older girls. Better than the strange lessons Nellie didn’t understand the reasons for, on sitting up straight and walking funny and talking like some fancy golly.

By now Nellie had told Emelia the story of how she had come to be at the house. She had gone to sleep, Nellie had explained in a soft low voice, in her house in Old Rose Harbor, on a hot humid night at the beginning of Roalis, one of those nights when you just knew there would be a thunderstorm later. Nellie had been trying to stay up for the thunderstorm, but she’d gotten sleepy. She had woken up to someone - a mysterious stranger, Nellie insisted - grabbing her and taking her downstairs. They had put her in a carriage. She had screamed and tried to fight but the red-haired galdor lady they all called Madam but Emelia had told he was really named Miss Genevria - she had slapped Nellie and told her to be quiet, her field pressing Nellie down into the carriage bench.

They had traveled by airship to Vienda. Nellie hadn’t been able to suppress a faint wistfulness to her tone - she had been angry and sad and scared but also she had flown, on a real airship. Since then she had been stuck here, in this house, doing chores and lessons and trying to stay out of the way of the older girls. And taking care of Emelia, not that she’d told her that part, only Emelia needed a bit of watching. Nellie didn’t mind.

Nellie was already almost asleep when Emelia spoke again. She froze, eyes opening, and looked at the younger girl.

Nellie was from Old Rose Harbor. She knew what a tumble was, and she knew a bit about the sort of things men and women did, mostly half-understood or misexplained but enough that she had put a picture together. Enough that she knew it was a thing men liked sometimes even when women didn’t. Enough that she knew what happened when the girls only a couple years older than her went away with the men who wore clothes made of the nicest cloth Nellie had ever seen, whose fields filled the room and made you feel no braver than a little hingle.

“Me neither,” Nellie’s voice trembled. For a moment she didn’t know what to say. She squeezed Emelia’s hand.

“We won’t have to,” Nellie promised, all childish sincerity and belief in the rightness of things. “We’ll escape, and then nobody will make us. They’ll be sorry if they try! We’ll come for them with swords, just like the pirates. And guns too!” Her voice warmed and promised and soothed.

“You’ll see,” Nellie said fiercely. “We’ll check the door every night. They hafta forget to lock it once and when they do - then - poof! We’ll be gone.”

Nellie twisted a little to look at the door and gasped. “Oh, I forgot - I forgot to check it!” She let go of Emelia, patting her hair, and squirmed out of the bed, half-falling over the smaller girl. Small bare feet pattered against the cold floor, Nellie’s long white nightdress skimming her ankles.

Nellie reached for the handle. It was a nightly ritual for them now, a check to see if this one time maybe their captors had forgot, maybe they had gotten lazy and the door was unlocked. Every night, Nellie or sometimes Emelia crept to the door after the sounds in the household had died down, after there were no more heavy booted feet on the floor outside, and tried the knob. Every night, it was locked.

Except this time, when Nellie took hold of it - the knob turned, and the door swung in, just a little, the shaft of light across the room widening.

Nellie gasped aloud. She let go of the door knob, fingers shaking, and stared at it, afraid to close the door again, as if the magic moment might break and next time it would be locked.

“Emelia!” Nellie ran back to the bed, her voice soft but tight with excitement. “Emelia it’s open. Quick, quick, get up, get up! We have to go now, we have to go right now.”

Hope was pounding in Nellie’s chest, like wings fluttering beneath her ribcage. Home, she thought. Home! If they could just get out of the house, then - plans for the rest of the trip were, admittedly, vague at best, but Nellie knew that lots of goods went from Old Rose Harbor to Vienda and back. There would be wagons, big enough for two little girls to hide. Nellie was good at hiding, at being quiet, and she would help Emelia if she had to. Then once she was in the Rose, Nellie could find her way home from anywhere. They just had to get out of the house and find a wagon, and then - home, her ma’s arms wrapped around her and Flo and Ned, they would be glad to see her, they must have missed her so much, and even her Auntie and - Uncle. Something twinged in Nellie’s mind, half-remembered, and she ignored it with all her little girl strength.

“Right now!” Nellie shoved her feet in the little pair of black shoes they wore for cleaning during the day, lacing them up. She didn’t bother to change out of her little white nightgown; it was as fancy as a dress anyway. “Put your shoes on, Emmie. They’ll never see us again - nobody’s ever make us - make us - we gotta go, now!”

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Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:00 pm

18th Dentis, 2708
VIENDA| LATE NIGHT
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E​​melia giggled again at the mention of pirates, nodding in the near darkness and offering up another childish smile.
​​
​​ “Big guns with infinity shooting.” She added, her little mind imagining them in super amazing clothes and weapons and sailing on a ship to jump—
​​
​​ “Oh! Check it Nellie!” The wick said quickly, shocked that they nearly nearly forgot! Rolling over to follow the older girls form as she padded to the door, Emmie waited for the same thing she saw every night. Turn, nope, back to bed. Turn, nope, back to bed. Her eyes started to close, sleep catching up with her.
​​
​​Turn. Click.
​​
​​Emelia sat bolt upright, green eyes wide and mouth hanging open, all traces of tiredness disappearing in a heartbeat. It was like a trace, both the young girls staring at the door.
​​
​​The open door.
​​
​​Flinging the covers back, the small brunette shuffled quickly to roll on her belly and slide down the side of the bed, feet landing on the cold hard floor with barely a sound. Soft panting came from her, the excitement and adrenaline rushing through her system. She did exactly as she was told, rushing to slip her shoes on, dark hair tumbling down over her too-big white nightgown.
​​
​​ “Nellie, I’m scared!” Emelia whispered, trembling from the intensity of the moment. This wasn’t a pretending, this was real. They were really going to get away from Miss Genevira and Nellie would take her to the harbour and they would be pirates! No more pretending smiles for the growed up’s with their stupid fields and stupid faces. If they were caught—
​​
​​They wouldn’t get caught because Nellie was the cleverest. She was the cleverest and Emmie was the fastest and they would run really super fast and no one would even catch them.
​​
​​Moving to stand beside the older girl, staring at the door, the wick reached out to hold Nellie’s dress gently.
​​
​​ “I’m ready.” She whispered, half giddy with excitement and half wanting to cry from all the emotions swelling in her tiny heart. Emelia didn’t have a mommy or a daddy to run back to, but Nellie could be like her sister, and that was okay.
​​
​​That would be okay.
​​
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Ava Weaver
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:50 pm

Late Night, 18 Dentis 2708
Somewhere in Uptown
“Don’t be scared,” Nellie said, her voice trembling. She pulled the laces on her shoes tight, and stood back up, her white nightgown tumbling down to cover small pale ankles. “There’s nothing to be scared of. The scary things are here, and we’re gonna leave them behind - way behind.”

Nellie stood staring at the sliver of open door for a moment, her heart pounding in her chest. She had hoped - of course she had hoped - but she hadn’t really expected that the door would be unlocked, and the surge of adrenaline was fading, and behind it was fear, awful cold fear.

Emelia’s little hand wrapped around her nightgown and pulled it tighter, and Nellie looked down to see the girl’s little dark head at her side, to hear her whispered words. Courage swelled again in her chest.

“Yes,” Nellie said, fierce as any pirate. “Good. I’ll protect you , Emmie, don’t worry. Just like a sister.” Just to comfort the other girl, and not at all for her own sake, Nellie reached down and took the hot little hand holding her nightgown into her own, giving it a little squeeze.

“Okay,” Nellie grinned. “We have to be really quiet, all right?” She lowered her voice, demonstrating a not-quite whisper. “Don’t whisper - cuz really that’s louder - but just talk really soft, yeah? But we’ll try not to say anything at all until we’re outside. Just hold onto my hand and - and - “

Nellie gave Emelia’s hand another squeeze, and crept forward. Small fingers curled around the edge of the door and tugged it open a little more, just wide enough for the two small girls. Nellie crept out first, letting Emelia follow behind her, and eased the door shut behind them, very carefully, as silently as she could.

Then it closed - and they were on the outside, standing in the long dark hallway with pale shadows falling in from its windows, making criss-cross patterns of light on the darkness of old wood and rich thick carpet. There were shut doors all down the hallway, and for a moment everything was silent.

Nellie looked down at Emelia and nodded, firmly.

They began to walk, slowly. The wood floor creaked a little and the little black shoes had a tendency to click if not set down very carefully, but they were small and light and Nellie quickly realized it was best to stay on the carpet, off the boards themselves. She tugged Emelia behind her, still holding the smaller girl’s hand.

Door by door by door; almost nothing traveled through them, until they passed one towards the end and heard a long, loud groan. Nellie squeezed Emelia’s hand tightly at the sound, freezing, then pulled the other girl a little faster behind her.

At the end of the hallway was the staircase, long and sweeping and curling, with the carpet runner held in place by little metal rods draping down it. Nellie peered over the railing, but there was no sign of anyone below.

Down the stairs then; Nellie gripped Emelia with one hand and the railing with the other, careful step by careful step, slow and cautious.

Behind them, a door opened, a loud male voice spilling into the hallway, light visible to both of the girls from behind. A softer, lighter female voice said something behind it, the words lost to Nellie over the frantic pounding of blood in her ears.

“Quick,” Nellie didn’t even whisper, breathing the word. She gripped Emelia tight and half-ran down the stairs, quick and silent and light and at the bottom she turned, sharp, and tucked them into the corner behind the curling staircase where a large standing clock say, pressing Emelia into the wall behind the clock and covering the smaller girl, crouching them both into the least possible space. Her heart was pounding so hard Emelia could feel it flutter through their thin nightgowns, but Nellie just gripped them together and held utterly still. They could feel the clock tickling through their bodies, each beat echoing inside them.

Above them, the male voice said something else - the light faded away - and heavy boots thudded down the staircase, step by step, in time with the ticks of the clock - thud, thud, thud.

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