Moderator: Candy Hart
She didn’t party, didn’t giggle about boys, didn’t care about the clothes she wore or how many times she was seen in them. Candy didn’t bother with make-up, though she often had cuts and bruises most girls would want to keep hidden. Candy didn’t care. Her marks of battle were worn like a proud flag, every busted lip, swollen cheek or blackened eye. The backs of her hands and knuckles often scratched up from whatever recent scuffle she could get herself into. She was still standing, wasn’t she? So why duck and cover like there was something to be ashamed of? If she didn’t care, no one else should be bothered by it either.
Born with her father’s temper and her mother’s tendency of distrust, Candy was a lethal combination from day one. Neither of her parents saw a need to try to subdue her querulous nature, if anything they nurtured it to fully blossom. As a child, when most kids were reprimanded for getting into fights with others, Candy’s father was having her talk him through the fights she’d lost so he could tell her where she went wrong. Her mother’s devious personality also played a part in tutoring the young offspring in matters of covert warfare. In the worlds they walked not everyone was as easily subdued, but a slip of hand over a drink could easily even out the odds.
Mr. and Mrs. Wackjob, was the name some of the other children called Candy’s parents. Unfortunate for them, however, that little warrior heard. Her parents couldn’t have been more proud of the seventeen public schools, eight private schools and the two military academies of which she’d been expelled from over the years for various reasons. So she couldn’t name most leaders from any of the realms they settled in, she could take down a man bigger than her in height and weight, handle a deck of cards like a professional and survive fine without most of the luxuries people enjoy. Well, except for cigarettes. That was a vice she had come to depend on. Lucky for her it was a vice she could satisfy easily without paying or trading for it.
It was unknown why Candy was in RhyDin. She’d been out of her parents’ care for three years and traversed the realms as she pleased. If there was something sought out in these travels, it was a secret she guarded well. Perhaps she just came to have a little fun, the only way she knows how.
Quiet. The inn and its noise were far behind. Darkness surrounded her but for the few lights that cast their glow into the street at intervals. The fingers of her left hand became aware of the glass beer bottle she still held and brought it to her lips. Jay would be fine, she told herself. It’d just be more trouble if she went back. She turned again, back to the direction she had been traveling and continued on.
Alone with her thoughts, she strained to think of other things. A job would be wanted and a better place to stay, eventually. Not the inn, too crowded and too noisy. Plus she didn’t like the idea of making it any easier for someone else to note her coming and going without sticking out like a sore thumb. Anyone in an inn could be that person, but else where they had to work harder to blend in.
She took another swig of the beer and a man’s voice cut into her train of thought.
“Hey, baby, where you going?”
He was standing at the side of the road to her right, would be well out of arm’s reach when she passed him unless he moved. She didn’t move away from her path, didn’t show signs of weakness that would only encourage him. Keeping her eyes on him as she walked by, he smirked at her and held his arms out.
“Care to dance, sweets?”
Care. Why did she care? Unbidden she frowned as she looked at the man and thought about Jay’s question. The answer was in the question itself, wasn’t it? It wasn’t why she cared, it was that she cared. Problematic.
Without a word she turned away from the man and went on with her trek back to the church. Beer brought to her lips for another considering sip. Where had this problem started? She wondered, keeping the beer lingering in her mouth a second before swallowing. She had managed to get past his defenses in The Pit and somehow in return he’d gotten by her defenses in a completely different area. Maybe it was because she had taken him down that time, she’d let her guard down in return.
The man’s hand clamped down on her right wrist, tight. “I said, care to dance.” Jay was all sorts of screwing with her guard tonight. She turned to look at the man, this time truly taking him in as she drained the last drop from her beer. He was a few inches bigger than her. Muscular, but it didn’t look like he actually trained. He was nothing more than a brute who liked to intimidate others. His eyes were a gray that begged to be blue and failed, dirt blonde hair shorn short. A black t-shirt stretched against his chest and developing gut, black jeans and boots that were more for show than use. The man had scars and marks aplenty. Sickly green ink stained his bared arms, tattoos from a stint in the joint. He looked at her with anger in his eyes that translated itself to the grip he’d taken. He meant her trouble…and that was his first mistake.
His second mistake was not grabbing the hand with the beer bottle in it.
Her blank, thoughtful gaze changed just as fast as she moved. A flicker of welcoming to the violence at hand, it showed in her eyes half a second before she brought the base of the bottle crashing down on his nose. Flesh, cartilage and bone erupted under the impact, sending blood streaming in waves. His hand released her wrist as he brought both to the damaged nasal cavity. Several steps taken back and away from her, he muttered and cursed and called her names.
“No. I don’t care to dance. Thanks.” It was the same hollow ‘thanks’ that she offered to nearly anyone, given to the man as she wore her animalistic smile. He was down but he wasn’t out and she waited for him to show signs of further trouble.
Expletives, followed by, “I’ll make you pay,” followed by more expletives.
The threat was good enough a reason for her, she was finding frustrations that needed to be worked out and it appeared that he was begging to be that punching bag. The beer bottle was dropped. She took several steps towards him, lifted her booted foot and used it to send him from his feet as she knocked the wind out of him. Going after his fall, she moved to his side and planted the heel of her boot into the soft flesh of his stomach. Holding it there as she removed the switchblade knife from her jacket and held it for the choking man to see.
“If I ever get a whiff of trouble from you again,” pausing in her speech as she let the little light there was catch off the spotless blade. “It will be the last bit of trouble you ever cause. Got it, baby?” Her tone hard and mocking at the pet name he had first used for her. He might have still been mad, she knew, but he wasn’t in a place to do much about it. He nodded to her in response. It could have been a lie, but she would remain true to her word on the threat.
The boot removed from his stomach, he was given a moment of reprieve before she kicked him squarely in the head. His head lolled to the side as consciousness left him. Switch blade put away, she leaned down and checked his pockets. Kicking him onto his stomach as a kindness to keep him from choking while he was out, she also checked his back pockets. A bit of cash was tucked into her jacket and a pack of smokes with a red lighter was retrieved and held in hand as she looked them over. The pack, white with a green clover on the front, was nearly full. A cigarette was brought out as she stepped away from the man, placing it to her lips and lighting up. Pack and lighter then put away into an inner pocket, she exhaled. She’d be spared stealing smokes for a day or so, maybe.
A block away from the scene her thoughts returned to Jay, despite how well the distraction worked for her last time. Candy could understand why he wouldn’t want to get into a relationship if being unprepared and unaware of your surroundings was the result. Relationship.She stopped, muttering her own expletive into the air. Head shaken lightly before she took another drag. Ash flicked off as her walk picked up again. It wasn’t like she wanted a relationship from him or anything. He was forgetful and irritating. He kept calling her ‘dude’ and she hated that. Really hated it. Still… She liked that he let her do as she pleased at times. Touch him and not do anything in return. Sit there and not respond. No demands made on her. She liked that, at times, he grew a spine and put his foot down. She enjoyed talking to him. She liked… crap… him.
A breath of air was snorted out of her nose. That she liked him filled her with further irritation rather than warm fuzzy feelings. She wouldn’t admit any disappointment that he hadn’t seemed to care when she told him they would never kiss. She refused to regret giving him the idea that she was not interested in him in that way. He said it himself, it didn’t matter, it was a bad idea. Besides, he has a thing for blondes.
Candy was counting on his poor memory to spare her from ever answering his question. Why did she care? Well, she didn’t. Even if she did, she didn’t. Should it fall out that he did remember to ask her, she already knew what she would do. She’d look him in the eyes and lie. Mother had taught her that, eye contact always made for truth. Another drag taken then she carefully scratched an itch at the side of her chin. If he asked, she’d lie. Surely, he’d do something out of line at some point and she would get over the notion. Surely...
It was a bitter hope that Candy kept in mind as she continued on into the night.
The room around them was hazy, unclear. The slow steady rise and fall of his torso stood out bolder than anything else. Dark ink of his tattoo stood out against the blue of his hair. The terrain of bare flesh at his back radiated warmth. His spine traversing down into tan khaki cargo shorts. Fingertips of one hand hovered at the edge of his shoulder, without moving she considered touching the whole her hand against his flesh. Instead a singular finger moved and traced the tattooed black crucifix at the back of his neck, slowly, top to bottom. Her finger went still.
They were statues, unmoving for the longest time. Candy felt her heartbeat come once every two minutes or so. She worked her vocals to say something, but words remained trapped in her mind. Her resting finger was disturbed as Jay turned his upper torso just slightly to look at her. She found herself wondering if eyes were allowed to be that blue, moving her study away from them and to the scar that split his brow.
”Why do you care?"
His voice stopped the function of her heart and lungs. She searched her mind for a lie and one could not be found. She couldn’t lie. Lips parted, an answer was coming against her binding and it was going to be the truth. Panic rose.
Candy woke with a start, clutching to the mats and various collected ragged blankets that made up her bed. When she was able to relax a hand lifted to run through her hair. “I need a drink.” It was light out, daytime had come. The shadows created by the sun told her it was after noon. Not that it mattered, if it was eight in the morning she would have still gained her feet from the makeshift bed and set off for a drink. Dressing wasn’t an issue, still in the attire she always wore. A drink, a smoke, and later, duels. If she could keep her thoughts in order, today might just end up being a good day.
“Sweet little Rabbit.” The hunting knife came away from her back, as he brought the cold steel to rest flat against her face. At the edge she felt the red heat of her blood. “Should have listened to Daddy.”
She sat on the squat bed in the small studio apartment, an ashtray within reach and a cigarette in hand. The sun was rising and she had been up most of the night. Jay’s white Black Flag t-shirt still covered her torso. The faint scent of him was on it. The jeans and socks had been ditched when she tried to sleep, only to find herself in the nightmare again. After waking, sleep refused to come again. She was smoking with her left hand and in the right she held the cold black gun her father had given her. The silencer dipped towards the ground as her wrist dangled backwards over a knee, a finger curled about the trigger. It was clean, shiny black, but in her mind’s eye it was flecked once more with red. Beyond it she registered the faint mirage of the gaping hole burrowing in a forehead, just between the eyes.
For what seemed like forever she stared into that phantom face before clicking the safety back on the loaded weapon. Her half-finished cigarette was abandoned into the glass ashtray, recently swiped from a local billiards club. She turned to look back at her bed and knew sleep was a lost cause as the sun sent her silhouette falling against the blankets and mattress. Life could be heard overtaking the city once more as the new day arrived. Candy stood up, going through the motions of readying for the hours ahead until she could try sleep again, the shadows of her past followed in her tread.
Dream land shifted, it wasn’t a nightmare, not exactly, but it was painful just the same. Behind closed eyes and deep within the interior of her mind she watch as a younger version of herself smiled and laughed and thought she was in love. Every tender touch and brushing kiss burned into her mind, a screaming lie she couldn’t stop—couldn’t put into the light before it would be too late. He chuckled, looking up with cold grey eyes that caught her own as she watched them from a distance. He knew.
She awoke with a stir and knew instantly she was not alone. Sitting up in bed, eyes moved until they found a thicker shadow waiting in the corner of the room. Hands searched out the steel of her gun, but it couldn’t be found. It had been left in the kitchen the night before, when she’d made a sandwich for Jay.
“Can’t keep your head about yourself around a guy, can you, Rabbit?” He shifted in the corner. A match struck and brought to life, it cast a heated glow into cold grey eyes.
Her heart panicked in her chest and every muscle in her body went tight with fear. Words could not be formed or found, not by her voice, not within her mind.
He moved several steps towards the window, leaning over and touching the small flame to one of the awaiting candles. In response all the candles in the single room of her studio apartment came to life, revealing him in the full flicker of their glow. His leather boots were fabric worn and scuffed, the tongue and sides folded over showing off white socks that stretched up to his jeans. Fitted and light blue, the jeans hugged against his narrow legs. He widened out through the chest, muscles pressed against a white t-shirt. Thick arms incased in the black leather sleeves of his jacket. Black hair was short and spiked towards the sides, while cut long enough to fall over his eyes. “Isn’t this romantic?” The match stick was shaken out and tossed aside. “Just like last time.”
Using her feet to push back, Candy squirmed away on the mattress until she could feel the wall against her back. “You’re dead. You’re dead. I shot you. You’re dead.” Her voice came out shaky and unsure.
Shoulders lifted in a shrug, hands out at his sides almost innocently. He stepped further into the center of the room, tilting his head and pressing a finger towards the spot on his head were her memory recalled the bullet going through. The spot was pristine, untouched. “Wrong again.”
Eyes pressed closed, like a child hiding from the unknown behind the safety of lowered lids. She couldn’t see him, but his voice remained. Laughter filled her ears.
“Think I’m going to hurt you? You’re not worth it. Hear me, Rabbit? You were barely worth it then, not even slightly worth it now.”
His words cut harder than the knife he had used against her that night so many years ago. Candy shivered and found a lump growing in her throat.
“I know it. You know it. Those blondes and their bloke know it. And this guy you’re getting your thoughts all tangled up with knows it.”
She heard his feet move against the floor, the creak of his leather as he lowered himself towards her. His hot breath breezed against her skin as he spoke in a low knowing whisper, “He didn’t say he wanted to stay because he didn’t want to stay, you’re not worth it.”
Through clenched teeth she forced out her voice, “Go away.”
“He already told you want he wanted. It wasn’t you.”
“All you’re good for Rabbit, is a lay and a kill. And the lay? Had better.”
Her voice broke from her mouth like an erupting volcano, hitting the walls and ringing in her own ears, “GO AWAY.”
When her eyes opened the candles were out, the sun starting to peek through the curtains. Brown/greens searched across the room. There, in the corner where he had first appeared, was a burnt matchstick.
“Time to get up, Rabbit, you don’t belong here.”
His voice sounded near her ear, so close his lips should have been brushing against her hair. Out of the corner of her eye, however, nothing was there to be seen. Warm heat dripped down her arm, onto her own clothing. Ears strained for the slightest hint of movement in the room, but nothing could be heard over the bulldozer rumbled of Jay’s snoring from the bed. The arm screamed in pain as the cut grew further and Candy found enough sense to move. She gained her feet, stepping back towards the door. Her mouth opened with the idea to try and wake Jay, but she was cut short.
“Rabbit. Don’t make me hurt him too.”
Her voice out lost to a painful twist of her heart. Left hand wrapped to stanch the trickle of bleeding from her arm. Still, her eyes could not find anything. Invisible hands grasped her shoulders, holding tight and pulling her back against the door closer than she had been before. The unseen hands grasped and massaged the naked skin of her upper arms.
“Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. LEAVE. NOW.”
With the same force of the voice, the hands pushed her towards her pile of belongings. Her hands searched about, finding an abandoned shirt on the floor and grabbing it to press against the wound. Bracing it against her leg, she knotted it twice in place with basic survival instincts. A low creak was heard just under the snoring, close to the bed. No, no, no, she thought, not Jay. Without another thought she grabbed her belongings and made for the door, slipping into the hall as quickly as she could. Stillness surrounded her and she waited.
“Good.” He stood at the end of the hall, his cold grey eyes edging out from the shadow. A cruel smile graced his face. There was a step in her direction as his body peeled away from the darkness and he started to close the distance between them. “Now, Rabbit…. Run.”
Same as before, with fear in her heart, Candy ran from the man she once love.
Candy perched in the sill to the center window in her studio apartment, back against the glass. Cold metal clasped within her hands, the safety on the gun was put on and off as she thought. Head tilted back, eyes watching the ceiling, she considered that moment with Jay when nothing happened. He had fallen, backing away from her, it had made it easier to pin him. What had started as a threat for him calling her ‘dude’ rather than her name, ended up putting her on a teetering edge. She was on the seesaw, up in the air, her head close to his. The smallest movement could have placed their lips together. But he didn’t and she couldn’t. The seesaw came crashing down and the air had been knocked out of her. It was a fool’s game she played and one she was bound to lose.
Exhaling, she closed her eyes. In that moment she became aware of how tired she was. This time the fear didn’t come, wouldn’t come. She was too tired—in body, mind and spirit—to care anymore. It couldn’t be him, who had sought to hurt her and died at the end of her gun. It was a phantom of some sort. Why it was there, how it came to be, she didn’t want those answers. Would it die? That was all she cared about. If she slept, she would wake and it would come. Earlier she had told Jay she wasn’t sure about taking it on, if she could or what the consequences would be if she couldn’t. Now the consequences were damned, all she had was herself one way or another. Her eyes stayed closed, she slept.
Dancing in The Pit, her world became a blur of fists, feet and muck. Pain was given and taken, again and again and in the end she laid upon his body panting. The rise and fall of his breath was felt beneath her. Each smiled to the other. There had been no loser and there had been no winner, but both were content and eased by their actions. He shifted, turning them and pinning her into the muck. Disturbed, weevils fled to further reaches away from the pair. Grime covered, a hand reached to brush across her cheek and the index finger was notably shorter. Lips lowered over hers in a kiss. It started delicate and quickly became fervent with need. The taste of his mouth was intoxicating. Then laughter came down to them from above The Pit. Candy lifted her eyes, meeting the cold grey gaze and everything stopped.
The laughter continued as she woke, checking the gun that was still clasped within her grip. “Something funny?” Her eyes peeled open, still slanted up towards the ceiling.
“Only you, Rabbit. Only you.”
An odd peace came over her, centered in the sureness of her shoulders. Brown/greens lowered to find him standing before her. Dark hair fell over cold grey eyes. He wore a white ‘wife beater’ with dark jeans and old boots. The gun was lifted, aimed at his head. “You’re not Jesse. He’s dead. I don’t know who or what you are, but I want you gone.”
“Now that just hurts, Rabbit.”
Gaining her feet, Candy made two steps towards him. Her eyes never left his. “Stop calling me that.”
“Sure thing, dude.”
Before he could blink two shots were fired at his head, bullets imbedding in the wall beyond. He was unmarked.
“Ow.” He remarked with a dry tone, as the distance between them was closed at a pace. Her gun waited, still aimed at him, but wasn’t fired for a third time. His hands moved, grabbing her wrist with strength. With the wound on her right arm the additional pain was more than she could bare, the weapon went crashing to the floor between them. “Stop fighting me.”
Her jaw tightened, her body going tense. She wanted to fight, but she didn’t know how she could. Not against this living nightmare. “What do you want?”
Her wrists still in his grip, he guided her closer to him. Elbows forced to a bend as the space was lessened. He stopped inches away from her, his face hovering over hers. He leaned the rest of the way, putting his mouth against her ear. “You.” His lips moved from her earlobe and ran down the length of her neck. Speaking no louder than a lover’s whisper, his words were spoken into the curve of where her shoulder became her neck. “At least I will say it.”
A shudder ran through her body, the lids of her eyes shutting as though to keep the pain of his words at bay. “I…don’t want you.”
His words were an echoing promise, freezing the beat of her heart. Coldness extended into the room, burrowing deep into her muscles and bones from every angle. Suddenly, the room warmed and the sense of him left. When she opened her eyes, he was gone.
She stood motionless, unable to voice disagreement to the words that lingered on in her mind.
She’d returned his shirts, the Misfits tee he had gifted her with and the bloody black tank top he’d left behind after that bad night of his. Reminders of him that she wasn’t sure she wanted about. She wondered what he would make of it, as she exhaled into the air. He hadn’t said anything at their return, not that he was in a very talkative mood anyway. He had rough days ahead, she thought, and she further wondered if she’d be around for any of them. Though, she had agreed to watch his rabbit if things got… hairy.
I want you around…
Somewhat of an answer to the question she had in her mind. He wanted her around, but as far as the emotions that formed that desire she remained unclear. A friend? More? She hadn’t found the voice to ask and the moment had passed. She’d done something though, a small risk. In leaving she’d kiss his cheek, placing her lips to the skin of his cheek closer to his mouth than his ear yet still not touching. Beneath her lips the ridged marks of his scars were felt. Then she left.
It was as far as she would go to tell him. If he didn’t get it—maybe he didn’t want to know?
The cigarette was stubbed out, ashtray pushed away. She turned and crawled under the assortment of blankets on her bed.
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