Please find safety outside of Irena’s Library if you haven’t already. I need to know you’ve made it out alive.
Please do not worry, I’ve found refuge with members from Stein’s family. Please stay safe yourself; it seems a great number of terrible things are happening.
I assure you that you need not worry for me, my lady, but I will take extra care since you’ve asked it of me. I promise I will write to you as soon as I am able. Should you need anything at all, know that you can reach me via writing.
Also, please forgive the scrawl. I lack a proper surface to respond on.
There was always a pianist at my boarding school.
That’s really the only thing I can remember about it, despite trying very hard. I remember nought but the music that would echo along wood frames.
1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.
Sometimes the beats would be to four. I never really knew what made them decide it, but I could feel it. I could feel the change.
1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.
I can repeat these numbers to a tune of a song I’ve long since forgotten.
I center myself. I steady my breathing.
… and the world moves, quickly in circles.
Spinning. Spinning. Faster and faster ever still.
Then there is the disapproving gaze and I slip - and how quickly the world that was just built up came crashing down with me. I’ve given myself a blue ankle.
Jack and Janna are pulling me up, having heard the crash from the other room. They are worriedly asking me questions I don’t hear. I’m too busy holding my father’s disapproving gaze firmly.
I continue holding his gaze as my feet regain my weight beneath them.
And even more as I begin rising - rising up,
And I continue meeting the gaze of disappointment and disgrace as I spin and spin and spin.
These are my battlegrounds now.
They have been since I fell in love with Jack.
And this is how they will always go.
He will disapprove-
-and I will spin anyways.
Sleep did not come easy for Soliana. It hadn’t in a very long time.
In the library they would give her medication to help, but it made her numb. It was like she would close her eyes and vanish from the world, miraculously reappearing when eight hours had passed. She felt no different after it all. It all felt the same.
Without that regulation she was far more restless, and what’s worse? Not only did sleep not come easy for her now, but now sleep came only bringing night terrors with it.
It was twice in the night she woke up screaming until Chrysanthemum soothed her back to sleep each time. It was almost like having a mother with her.
Not her own mother, though, as she was never this close to her own mother.
How was it she could forget her own mother?
Soliana could see her face clearly, the firm lines of aging that had been there the last time they spoken. Yet the only feelings that came when she thought of her mother were not ones of comfort but of distance. No, these feelings of soothing Chrysanthemum gave her were a lot more like the feelings she got when she remembered Janna.
It was embarrassing, but Soliana was grateful. Chrysanthemum knew exactly what to say and how to say it, too.
It was honestly a wonder that people like Chrysanthemum existed, in Soliana’s mind. People that kind for nothing in return certainly were not common back-
There it was again. That thought. That reminder. She’s not from this time. Her age was showing, as Stein would tease her in her last prison.
Everything was so different, she hardly recognized it. The “roads” were shades of black and blue; the horses had been replaced by “cars;” and “buttons” are things on bright, beeping screens and not holding clothes together. What world was she even in anymore?
Why was she even here?
As if on cue - just like every time she seemed to question her existence anymore - a rolled up parchment would pop into existence in her vicinity, and suddenly she didn’t feel alone anymore.
Agonin’s response was casual with her, but not in the way most “modern” men and women seemed to be. It was her kind of casual. The kind where they joked about modern amenities and the ridiculous sense of fashion that people had adapted. Most importantly, he was honest with her, and not in the way that involved treating her like she was simple.
There was such a comfort in his words that no one else seemed to provide.
Obviously because he’d been there. He knew the monster that haunted her.
It haunted him once, too.
More than that, though… he slayed the monster.
If there was something to take comfort in, it was that.
“Ouch!” Soliana winced, snapping back down to her fingers where her thumb had just been jabbed by her sewing needle. She had been living in Stein’s sister’s clothing for the past week, none of which fit quite right, nor were particularly comfortable.
Chrysanthemum had suggested on the second day that they start tailoring some clothes that would be more comfortable for her. It hadn’t taken long for her to pick up her old sewing habits, and that included gazing off into space after staring at the same fabric for too long.
“Are you alright, dear?” Chrysanthemum looked up from her own stitchwork on a different portion of the same fabric.
“Hm? Yes, sorry.” Soliana tiredly tightened another stitch.
“You seem distracted today, do you want to take a break?” Chrysanthemum murmured as she put her eyes back to work.
Soliana ignored the statement at first, only shaking her head in response as they fell back into a silence. She stitched a few more times before slumping down onto the table with a groan, immersing herself into the fabric… and pins.
She winced and nearly shot back up with another “ouch!” almost hearing her mother reminding her that ‘this is what you get for being dramatic.’ When no such remark came, she met Chrysanthemum’s curious gaze. “I have no idea what I’m to do with my life anymore.”
Chrysanthemum studied her carefully. “It has to be very overwhelming,” she looked back at her stitch as she spoke, “going to what probably feels like a very different world than the one you knew… yet the world - as different as it is - may not be as different as you think. Can you remember anything that brought you joy?”
Soliana opened her mouth but Chrysanthemum held up her hand to continue. “-anything besides Jack?” There was a smile on her lips as she said it teasingly.
Soliana let herself laugh. Was this a sign that she spoke of him too much?
No. There is no such thing as too much Jack. There is only a distinct lack of him.
She didn’t want to admit she didn’t have much of an answer. Does it seem sad that her world revolved around Jack? Her known world, that is. She couldn’t even remember her own parents’ names, surely she had to have held other interests?
“Have you ever heard of... pointe dancing?” What was she even saying? There was no way the world still had-
“We call it ballet these days, my dear.” Chrysanthemum interrupted her thoughts and Soliana perked up in her seat suddenly, eyes wide.
“Pointe dancing? I mean a type of dance where you dance on your toes… that’s still… it’s still-?”
Chrysanthemum was nodding with a smile as she worked. “It’s still very popular, too… however, I suppose I don’t know how popular it was in comparison to your childhood.” Finally she tilted her head up with a soft gaze. “So you danced? I knew you looked like a dancer. You have the right build of one, at least. We have one of the best pointe shoe makers located in Aurora Skies, so it draws a lot of ballet attention.”
“I…” Soliana pursed her lips, uncertain of what to say. Was she a dancer? Did having dreams - possibly of her blurry memories of it count? “I think I was.”
“I danced for a while in my younger years, but my parents never wanted to keep up with it. I don’t have many regrets as it seems like such an rigorous art. Stein's sister, Sarah, also dabbled in it, but she decided it wasn't for her after one lesson.” Chrysanthemum had put down her needle to think as she spoke, and it was then Isidore wandered past them in the hallway. “Oh, Is, dearest - is that dance studio still down Main?”
Isidore turned back, his face twisted into thought before he slowly nodded.
That was something she liked about Chrysanthemum and Isidore - words weren’t required. Chrysanthemum was clearly a respectable lady, and Isidore was the strong, quiet type.
Jack was like that too, except whenever he did open his mouth, it was generally to say something smart. The cooks would scold him for his smart-mouthing, and Soliana would tease him for it, but at the end of the day she liked that about him.
He put up with her flair for the dramatic and she put up with his smart-mouth responses. It was why she knew they couldn’t be with anyone else.
Now she was alone.
“That’s what I thought. We’re almost finished here, you can try this on and I can show you the town a little. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you find some clarity if we stop by the studio.” Chrysanthemum gave a soft smile.
Perhaps it had been her line of thought prior to Chrysanthemum’s idea, or perhaps she had just been moved enough, but Soliana felt her eyes fill with tears. “Really?” With a hasty move of her wrist she wiped them away.