Still Life: Dog Days Are Over

I honestly thought I was done with this universe – and I am, now – but I found this in my journal from a few months ago, and since it explains so much and will only take a few minutes to type up, I’m publishing it.

Violet and Seth. High and lowlights.

It all passes, somehow, in a series of moments.

———–

Watching Amelia lay into another girl, too quick and too strong for the girlish giggles she manufactures in front of Rex. The other girl, light and quick on her feet, blonde and wild-eyed and nervous – but not quite quick enough.

The momentary surge of sympathy he feels – someone like him, unlucky enough to attract the wrath of those most popular, most well-liked – as Amelia’s fist catches the girl’s face, throws her off-balance. Amelia’s hissed, furious words that he can’t make out and the twisted anger on her face as she walks away, not even sparing her victim a glance.

The bystander that leaps to the unconscious girl’s aid in a flurry of bright red hair and concerned hazel eyes, bending over her, mouth moving hastily.

When the blonde finally sits up, he recognises her.

Violet, from school. What could she have done to piss Amelia off so badly? He doesn’t know her well enough to have any idea.

If he were better, if he were braver, he’d try to help them. Instead, Seth turns and walks away before they can see him, hating himself just a little more.

———–

She’s looking at him, eyes wide, in their English classroom, and he sees that both of them are considering simply asking for any other partner.

Not the lonely, taciturn girl, the chattering redhead her only friend. Not the angry, unspeaking boy in the corner, seemingly far too aware of the room around him even with his head in a book.

He meets her wary gaze in the silence and she eventually manages, “You’re Seth, right?”

He tries out a smile, small and rusty, like it’s been too long. “Yeah. That’d be me.” A shy, familiar introduction: a hint of something not-quite-English in the accent, a slight deepening of his voice with the awkward delivery, and his thoughts grind to a halt as he realises that he sounds just like his father. Not as Irish, obviously, but far too close to the voice of a dead man.

“Vi…” she begins, her voice failing her. She clears her throat and tries again. “Violet.”

Later he’ll know that that’s the moment when, in his head, she becomes Vi.

———–

She walks through the plain, inconspicuous door with a deep breath; he follows her through, and then he’s in London, but… not. This truly does seem like a parallel universe: the buildings are different in small but noticeable ways, the people have eyes in the strangest, brightest colours…

Sofia’s just smiling next to him like this is normal. Well, it is her home, he guesses.

Violet pauses in front of them, seeming to take it all in, and then turns to regard them. His heart stops in his chest, and he knows his eyes are wide.

Her irises are a bright, clear purple, the colour of lavender and most definitely not human.

“Something wrong?” she asks.

———–

Sometimes he wonders why they stay talking late into the night, trying to put the world to rights by the light of the fire; why she gravitates to him – the two of them seeming to cling to the only normal things left, each other – and listens to him trying to puzzle it out, to rearrange the pieces until they make sense. He wonders why he tries so hard to pull her out of her shell; to make her talk; to make her give him a smile.

When she offers him another, he thinks he knows.

———–

She looks at him with wild eyes, and he knows what he must look like, manacled and crouched on the floor, covered in dirt. The light from the open door hurts, and he’s glad when Sofia appears behind her and blocks some of it out.

He half-expected it to be the Queen, with more sweet words and promises of this endless darkness if he doesn’t tell her where the half-fairy – where Violet – is.

“Vi?” he croaks, and she steps forward, crouching to look him in the eye. Her hand reaches out to touch his face, tentative and shaking – then she snatches it back, seeming to realise too late what she’s done.

He tries his best to smile, and when she takes his hand and leads him into the sunlight, telling him it’ll be alright, he believes it.

———–

Her hand is warm, her fingers laced with his. They watch Mrs. Robertson walk away with their English coursework, and he doesn’t dare look at her.

“So,” he says, trying for casual, “when you talked about seeing me more… you meant as friends, right?”

Beside him, he hears her smile. “Not… necessarily.”

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