The Strange Wills of Hearts

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“Ray?”

I see her when I get on the bus to go home, and I nearly run to reach her before someone else sits down next to her. “What is it?”

She has a bright smile on her face as she tells me. “He’s awake,” she says. “He wants to see you.”

“Thank god.” I nearly crush her in my arms, and I feel tears running down my face. I hadn’t realised how worried I had been. “It worked then?”

Ray nods. It’s as if she has lifted a giant weight which had been crushing my chest. I suddenly feel like I could sprint home to see him. Instead, I impatiently wait on the bus, praying that the traffic doesn’t slow it down.

I break out into a sprint when I get off the bus, though Ray still arrives at my house before me. I manage to slow myself down before my mother sees me running, but as soon as I enter the door, I head straight for my room.

He’s there, lying down on the bed when he sees me. He grins as he sees me. “What took you so long?” he asks in a faint voice.

I just throw my arms around him, and it’s a long time before I let go. “I thought you were going to die,” I whisper.

“It takes a lot to kill me,” Daniel says. “Though to be fair, that was pretty close.” He releases me and leans back to look at me. “You look like shit,” he concedes.

I grimace. “That’s generally what mass blood loss does, see.” He looks shocked. “Didn’t they tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Daniel asks. His eyes narrow and he glares over at Noah, who is standing by the door.

I look behind me. “I insisted on it,” I said. “You lost too much blood, and mine was the closest match.”

“Goddammit Cat Madigan,” Daniel groans. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have attacked Christan either.” He growls at that. “Yes, the asshole deserved it, but you forgot who you’re dealing with.”

“Is he going to do it again though?” Daniel’s voice is hard as ice.

“I don’t know. My guess is not, though.”

He scoffs. “You would’ve killed him if I had died,” he states.

“Of course.” I smile at him, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. “In this world, that’s the only thing left after everything else that matters is gone.”

He’s not looking at me. Instead, he’s looking behind me, and the tired look on his face before becomes one of absolute loathing. I immediately know who it is. “You aren’t welcome here,” I inform the king behind me.

“Am I not to be forgiven ever?”

“No,” Daniel and I say in unison. “I’ve already given you my terms,” I remind him. “And I’m assuming you are not missing an eye, are you?”

I hear him walking towards me. “One more step and you’ll regret it,” Daniel says, shaking slightly.

“Get out,” I order him. Daniel begins to shake more violently. “Noah, get here now!” Jhaq pulled my arm. “I’m not leaving him!” I told her. “Daniel!”

Ten seconds later he stops, and he lies there, shivering. I sit beside him and stroke his forehead, measuring how hot he is. “How many of these have happened?” I ask.

“This is the third,” Noah tells me. “Don’t let his blood pressure rise.”

I think of how much the sight of Christan enrages Daniel, and how my mother and my brother could come in and start screaming. “Don’t let them in again,” I order. “At least not while he’s conscious. He needs to recover and he’s in no condition to work, especially not with his Grace.”

“Yes my lady.” He leaves, and Jhaq, Ray and I are left in the room with Daniel, who has gone silent.

“You are learning, Miss Madigan,” Jhaq observes.

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Madigan, you are a lady,” Jhaq insists. “And now you have the words of one.”

“I…no, I’m not.” I look down at Daniel, now sleeping with a peaceful expression on his face. “I’m not a lady, I’m just his friend. To them, I’m a pet human he keeps for company, no one would take me seriously.”

“No.” Jhaq’s voice is determined. “Master Noah takes you seriously. That is a certainty.”

She was right. Noah paid attention to me and didn’t treat me like a monster. He didn’t call me Freak. That was how Christan was before though…
_______________________________________________________________________________

Daniel woke up again later on, and when he went to sleep, it’s wasn’t the aftermath of a seizure. He was upset about his eye, but he calmed down after I reassured him how awesome guys with eyepatches were. His vanity satisfied, he soon drifted off to sleep, his head cradled in my lap. I didn’t try to move him, I just sat with him.

Noah came in and sat down by Daniel’s bedside. “His Grace has promised he won’t intrude when Daniel is awake,” he informed me. “He doesn’t want Daniel to die, so he won’t do anything that would do him harm.”

If Daniel dies, I will not hesitate to make every fibre of your being burst into flames. “What about Thommand though? I’m more worried about him than his Grace.”

“He’s not going to do anything either. I don’t know if you know this, but Daniel’s a valued member of the king’s peers. Christan doesn’t want him dead now anymore than he did when he held out that dagger,” Noah explained. “Besides, Daniel has a fever still. Thommand’s scared for his own skin, he won’t go near anyone who is sick.”

“True.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You…you and Kaya were close, weren’t you?”

“Of course we were.” And now we’re too close for comfort.

“She mentioned you,” he told me. “She told me how you needed help, with them.”

“The shadows? Yeah, I remember.” Those used to be what I was most afraid of. My Delirium was still being created, from Kaya’s memories, I hadn’t fallen down that rabbit hole yet. “She was going to help me, before…”

“I know.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “How much…do you know about her?”

I thought about it. “I…I know she was escaping from here when she got attacked. Then I saw everything after.”

His face went dark. “Oh.”

“Yeah…” I grinned a little. “There was that too,” I added.

“I…”

“I’m the last person to judge anyone,” I told him. “Your secret, and Kaya’s, is safe with me.”

“Thank you.” Noah went quiet, as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind.

“What is it? Ask whatever you want.”

“Did she…” He sighed. “All my life, I’ve never stopped wondering what went on in that girl’s head. And I can’t help but wonder…” He looked up at me. “You saw her memories. Did she…feel the same way that I did about her? Even a little bit?”

I tried remembering Kaya’s thoughts from long ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, in a way it was. There was so many emotions, so strong and vivid. Rage and fear are the most powerful ones. But there’s calm too, calm and care and trust.

“I’d say so,” I told him. “After what Kaya went through, she swore never to trust anyone again, but she came close to doing that.”

“Truly?” Noah doesn’t seem convinced.

I smiled at him. “I don’t know how much Kaya loved people. People who go through all pain can either abandon love entirely or depend on it even more. But she cared for you the most, I can assure you that.”

He gave me a tired grimace. “You loved her,” I said. “Even after she was changed. Why?”

“I…continue to ask myself that question.” Noah paused. “When I knew her, she was the brightest girl in the world, and she didn’t care less what people thought. She was beautiful. And after…I still saw her that way. Even with her purple eyes and her scars, she was still my friend.” He smiled at me. “You have friends in your world, friends who stay by you as well.”

“Yeah…but none of them felt the same way that you did about Kaya.”

“Not one?”

“No.” I hold out my left hand, showing him the scars. “No one wants to love a freak.”

“He does.” Noah looked down at Daniel. “He will not abandon you…Cat.”

“I hope not.” I touched Daniel”s forehead again. It’s warm, but not feverish. “Hearts are so strange, aren’t they?”

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The Drawer

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“Let me out!” I’m screaming at the door, shaking it open.

There’s no response, but I refuse to let up. “Daniel, I swear to god, if you don’t let me out now, you’re going to be beheaded.”

“What, again? And no, you need to recuperate, and I don’t trust you wandering the castle by yourself.”

“I feel fine!” I object.

“Cat.” Daniel’s voice was tired. “Your head was cut off.”

“Don’t remind me,” I warn him. “I still want revenge for your sloppy stitching.”

“Please Cat, it’s only for one more day. You’re still unwell, just lie down. Your brain has been through a lot.”

“Fine.” I hear him walk away from the door, and I throw myself onto the bed in a rage. “Fuck!” I scream into a pillow. I am such a teenager, I think to myself. I hate it.

At some point, I must’ve fallen asleep. It’s strange…it’s more peaceful falling asleep here than in Reality somehow. Dreaming in the dream…someone should make that the title of a song. Or a book. Either way, I wake up under the covers of Daniel’s bed. It’s warm and it smells like him, like the candles on his desk.

From the bed, I can see it in the corner of the room. Not much care has gone into making it. I wonder why Daniel doesn’t get splinters. Maybe he does, but he doesn’t show it. I wish I could do that.

I get out, and I realise my clothes have been changed. The fabric is so smooth it feels like water on my skin, and in a moment, I’m lost in the sensation.

Then my mind snaps back to the present, and I’m wondering who the hell changed my clothes. It’s only a couple of seconds of considering the potential culprits before I decide that I really do not want to know.

So I push away the uneasy thoughts of Daniel or some stranger taking off my clothes while I slept, and tread towards the desk. It’s like my desk in Reality; completely cluttered with objects. A stack of papers are pushed into a discreet corner, in a language I can’t really discern. The candles have gone out, but the sweet, warm smell of the wax remains.

What catches my eye are the books. Books are everywhere, and some are even in English. One of them reads Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with a ornamental knife stuck in as a bookmark. I smile at the thought of Daniel reading this to his goddaughter. It feels like the sort of thing he’d do.

There are cups stacked up in a tower, almost reaching the ceiling. God, Daniel’s worse than me when it comes to cleaning. The cups are dainty and pretty, and yet I know that he would’ve just thrown the cups onto the tower, higher and higher.

Then I check the top drawer and I find the pictures.

It is done in black ink on a browning piece of parchment. This is no doodle, this has been done with care and love. It seems like it’s Kaya herself who is staring back at me, with her scars and haunting eyes.

There are more. Ray is there, drawn in one of the trees she climbs. A young woman, though not as young as me, stares out at me with dead eyes, her face lined with sadness, almost as prominent as her tattoos. I recognise another woman, another girl I saw die, long ago. She grins tauntingly, as if she knows what hell I went through to find what had happened. I suppose in the end, it was worth it. If only a slight bit.

Then I find me. It’s been drawn from behind, but only I have a birthmark and five red letters on my left hand. When I pick the drawing up, a key falls to my feet. I just stare at it for a moment, before picking it up and trying it in the bottom drawer.

It fits perfectly. But I’m reluctant to see what’s inside. What could be so horrible that it would need to be locked? Do I want to know what Daniel needs to hide? I shake my head. I don’t want Daniel to join the number of enemies in Delirium, anyone but Daniel. And yet, there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head reminding me that it would be just as dangerous to not know Daniel’s motives.

So I look.

Another drawing. Just a single drawing.

Daniel’s arms are around me, his face glowing with a serenity I haven’t really seen before in life. And I’m happy. I see myself and I know that I am truly happy in this picture, as if this were where I belonged in this world. This drawing of me has a cheeky but shy look on her face, and she rests comfortably against Daniel.

I close the drawer immediately, my head screaming out, What is going on?! Something has happened. I don’t know what, but I know deep down that something important has happened to me.

Then I see a reflection in the window, and I spin around with a snarl on my lips and my knife at the ready. “Who are you?” I growl.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Object