The swirl of colors woke her up. It didn’t always happen that way. Usually she awoke from her deep escape to sepia tones. Her eyes would open and as objects came into focus they would be colored brown or tan, some maple or even ebony if sleep was deep and motionless.
Today colors swirled around her tinting each spot and object she focused on, not like a rainbow, but more like one of those paint spinners you would do at carnivals when you were a kid.
When the colors cleared, leaving the periphery of her reality, she could see through the window. The moon was just above the trees in the cobalt sky with wisps of grey clouds like a scarf left behind a specter’s flight through the night air.
Mags reached over to touch where she knew Rice’s back should be, facing away from her, smooth and muscled. She closed her eyes and pushed out as much breath as she could expel from her lungs. He wasn’t there. Then she inhaled as much of the night scented air as she could hold. Her heartbeat slowed, she came back into control from a momentary panic with a regular breath and fresh air filling her senses.
Mags always felt a jolt of fear when Rice wasn’t there when she woke from her slumber. She knew she was safe. She knew she could handle herself. She just wanted the assurance that she wasn’t left alone again. It was a fear from childhood, her parents’ death as part of the revolt.
She opened her eyes to the window again. She knew they wouldn’t be there, hanging, swinging, side by side, heads at an impossible angle, from the branches so carefully chosen just outside her bedroom window at the Manor.
It’s what they did, the Bray. They controlled by fear. And when you are five, fear is all you have when you find yourself alone.
She focused on the moon measuring its size simply by eye. She was good at measuring and knowing the sky. She had been asleep for not the usual two, but three complete days. That’s what the moon told her. And she remembered the storm was promised to move in. That’s why they chose the firestart for three nights ago.
Again with eyes closed and deep breaths she traced her memory back to the start of the fire. It put her at ease. Everything went smoothly. A snap and it lit. Beautiful orange, deep red a surprise, and blues and yellows burning the night. Back to the car. Driving into the Woods. Then the sudden stop to avoid hitting Rice. She took another deep breath. She liked surprises and the thrill of a mishap thwarted. She remembered the cold ground on her back and the leaves and his breath. The Firestart was a success.
“You should be proud. It was clean and complete.” A voice from the opposite side of the room from the window broke her trance.
Mags sat up, threw her few out of the bed, and with one great leap, jumped into Rice’s lap. It surprised him. He tried to place the coffee cup onto the side table when he saw her coming. He should have known better but he wasn’t quick enough. Before he knew it she was straddled on his lap, her cotton tee wet with coffee.
“We were good. Weren’t we?” She kissed him in every spot she could reach.
“Yes.” He grabbed her hands gently stopping her. “The meeting starts in about a half an hour. We waited for you.”
“Shit.” Mags pulled herself out of his hold and stomped into the bathroom.
The Manor was, like the filigree silver box, old. But it had gone through a transformation once the Bray’s threat had become credible, Madame passed, and a need for housing the Firestarters presented itself.
Mags held the cards. She was the oldest of the direct heirs. She wasn’t one who liked power, but she knew who she was and what duty and what burden it held for her. The family would have to give over to the cause. It was her call. She didn’t care what the other’s thought. It was the right thing to do.
Once the others moved in, the rooms needed updating. Small bathrooms were added. Some walls were taken down and efficiency kitchens built in for couples or small families who wanted to join the cause. Other rooms were fitted with rows of bunk beds for those in training.
But Mags kept her room, despite the memories. She insisted. They wanted her to lead and move into Madame’s room. But she refused. She not only knew she wasn’t leadership material, she couldn’t imagine sleeping in the same room as her grandmother. All those years and men from every walk of life and profession still held court there. Madame didn’t like fresh air and her room bore the aftereffect.
She didn’t feel contempt or disgust at Madame’s conquests. Mags realized it was part of the game. Women needed to use what they could to get what was needed. Madame was a master. Mags suspected that her grandmother enjoyed that part of the game quite a bit. But she also knew Madame did it for the good of all, if that was really possible.
Madame was always in control. When her parents were hanged, Mags would sit at Madame’s feet to learn. She wanted to be strong like her grandmother. She wanted to be smart and know all the details of running the Manor. She wanted to learn about the economics of waging war and how to feed people. But most of all Mags wanted revenge.
“Revenge is a bitter soup to sip, my dear.” Madame would stroke Mag’s head of long titian curls. Now she wore just a cap of curls kept close cut for convenience.
Madame lifting Mags chin up with one fossilized finger to make direct eye contact between the two, “One mustn’t respond in hate, it clouds the judgment.”
“And one must always fully enjoy physical pleasures,” Madame’s mien a bit haughty.
When she was young, Mags thought of the pleasures of hot chocolate and fresh honey directly from the hives drizzled over cakes of sweet barley. But as she grew and watched Madame, even as her grandmother became grey and withered, Mags realized that pleasure was also power and much more satisfying than a simple taste of something sweet.
And the one Mags took to heart deeply and immediately, “Don’t ever hurt the one who really loves you, else you will always regret it.” Madame looked out the window to the garden with her hand on her breast where the locket was always pinned. By Madame’s will, the locket went with her to her final fire. Mags was assured the burn was hot enough to melt the gold and whatever Madame had placed inside.
Mags pulled off the cotton tee and let it fall to the floor. She slipped out of her panties with a bit of a tease knowing Rice’s eyes would be on her. She smiled wickedly over her shoulder as she stepped into the shower. His eyes followed her moves until steam rose from the hot water hiding her within its swirling fingers and staining the glass with moisture.
“We’re going seaside.”
“What?” She was teasing him.
Without noticing, Rice continued as he thumbed through his notebook. “Seaside. We’re going seaside. I know you’re not as familiar with the set up there, but our maps are clear and current. We’ve…
“What?” She tried again.
“Seaside. I said…” He heard the giggle. Walking to the glass box, he kicked it with his booted foot lightly but with enough force to let her know it was now time for doing business.
“I’ll see you downstairs.” And he was gone.
Mags shouted out and waited for a reply that she knew wouldn’t come. Then she gave a hardy laugh as she finished lathering and scrubbing. Starting fires is a dirty pursuit. She would have to remember to put clean sheets on the bed before they left for seaside.
Mags turned off the water and reached for one of her greatest pleasures. Even after ten years, Madame must have left enough money in the pot and had someone with enough dedication to supply her granddaughter with soft and luscious towels.
As Mags dried herself off, her eyes caught her reflection. The scar was still there. She hoped after it happened the scar would fade. But it hadn’t. She was glad Rice didn’t mind it. But she did. Revenge was a bitter soup. But she was hungry and she was going to feast.
Just as she reached out to the mirror to trace the scar, she would never touch it on her body, it made it too real, the mirror shattered into a web of cracked silver pieces. The blast threw her to the floor and she narrowly missed hitting her head on the claw foot tub.
“Son of a…” before she could finish, Tara came flying into the bedroom.
“Mags? Where are you? Are you all right? Maaaaaags?”
Tara was her younger sister. She held guard outside Mags’ room. It was her job and she took it quite seriously. She was a part of the Armor. She was the most accurate shot and seldom missed during practice. Tara had not seen actual battle as of yet. Mags’ insisted on having the best to protect her. No one argued with her so she never had to defend her demand. It was a good thing because she was sure she would show too much emotion and everyone would see right through it. Mags wasn’t protecting herself, but her little sister.
Tara was only a few weeks old when their parents were murdered, but she bore the brunt of the heinous act. Tara was raised by an old woman and a child. One didn’t have time to mother and the other could only be a sibling. So Tara grew up not sure of anything except a target. She wasn’t as sensuous as Mags but she was just. Tara wanted to be sure all would be well. And it wasn’t.
Mags grabbed her clothes from the firestart night. She didn’t have time to find new ones. She dressed as she moved to find Tara in the bedroom tearing sheets off the bed. All the while shouting louder and louder in growing agony.
Before Mags was able to get to the bed, a second explosion caused the windows to shatter. She could now smell something burning. The Bray’s answer to her last Firestart.
Tara screamed and began to pull on her hair. It had been a while since she sported bald patches, a tribute to the dedicated work of the Firestarters and Mags’ promise to protect her sister. But everyone knew this was coming. The Bray was strengthening. The Firestarters needed to regroup and plan anew.
Mags held Tara tight. She knew this was the only way to get her attention.
Another blast. Tara pulled away from Mags pushing her off the bed and bolted out the door. Mags grabbed her backbag and followed. It was important not to lose sight of Tara.
It was beginning.
The soup was boiling. Mags was hungry and the feast was ready to begin.
Back to Firestart tonight.
I am working in an odd way this NaNoWriMo. I am hoping that writing from a prompt will bring me ideas and characters to put together. Plus if one story isn’t flowing, something new from a prompt might give it more life or take me down a totally different path. I’m game. Also, with my crazy work schedule, this may be the best way not to stress it.
Here’s to taking chances and writing for the love of it.
The prompt from Bonnie Neubauer’s Story Spinner was perfect for it:
The swirl of colors
If you would like to read the first part of Firestarter, here is a link to it and my other NaNoWriMo entries so far: