Still Life: Evening

It takes Violet a while to realise she’s shivering; this cold gets through every blanket, every layer, right into her bones.

She looks up as she feels a blanket being gently placed around her shoulders; Sofia slumps to the ground next to her, with a small sigh and a smile.

She nods in thanks, tries to return the smile, but her gaze strays again to the trees. She swallows. “Will they accept you back?” she asks quietly. The memories float to the surface – of the magi, and their accusatory looks; the way a hundred pairs of hard eyes had followed them out of the mansion.

Sofia exhales, the sound almost inaudible, and there’s a silence as she seems to consider the question. “My father appears to have disowned me,” she says.

The girl’s voice is calm, without a shake present, and Violet wonders how on Earth…

Sofia attempts another smile, a tired, shaky thing that seems as if it will collapse at any moment, and looks at the floor. “As he exiled my mother. I suppose the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” A harsh half-laugh, like nothing Violet’s ever heard from her before, and her voice is rougher now. She’s usually so bright, always trying to keep them all happy, and she seems… broken. “My mother… She’s still alive. She’s still somewhere, trying to find me. I doubt she will.”

Violet watches her in silence, unable to say anything that will make this better.

Sofia meets her eye, the usual melting hazel of the irises turned to hard rock. “He told me she was dead. For thirteen years, I thought she was dead.”

Violet looks away, unable to hold her gaze. “At least you knew who she was.” The word mongrel slithers into her mind once again, unwelcome and hissed, and she shuts her eyes tightly, trying to drown it out with their names, repeated silently like a mantra, over and over again. The words are new, but they’re warm and reassuring as she thinks them, trying to force out the cold.

Mark and Io…

There is a silence beside her, and suddenly their camp has never felt so empty.

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