Of This and That

 

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Introduction

Hello all!

This first little book will be a compilation of short stories I have written. All the stories exist in the same universe and the characters will appear in several different stories. I'm doing this as a world building exercise. But please feel free to comment and question! I will try and answer them to the best of my ability.

 

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Once for Three

One moment she was there. Her skin touching her own, her breath on the nape of her neck as they lay in bed. Their limbs so entangled it was a feat to free themselves in the morning. She was there, the bed and pillows conforming to her massive form and shape. Every once in a while she would mutter something in her sleep, sometimes English and other times her native tongue. Her muttering would wake her in the middle of the night middle of the night and each time she braced herself, on the off chance these simple murmurs would concoct some half focused spell. Though thankfully that never happened and she simply drifted back to sleep feeling safe in her arms.

But one morning she was simply gone.

Ofure wasn’t sure what alerted her to the change. Perhaps the atmosphere, so heated despite the rather cool day that preceeded it. And beyond that she herself was cold, shivering and shaking. She pulled the blankets closer to her, wrapping herself tighter when she became aware of the empty space beside her. The other half of the bed lay empty, with not even an indentation of the form that had once been there. Instead she was simply gone. Ofure reached out with delicate fingers touching the empty space of the bed. Gone.

Kinky curly locks fell over her face, and her heart ached. How could she just be gone. The house was silent and she listened waiting to here the footfalls of her love returning from a midnight snack. But there was nothing but silence. Thick and heavy, it weighed down her. Sleep did not return to her, her mind raced and her heart ached, burning and throbbing from it all. Sleep would not come.

###

The next morning was a blur. The night sleepless and silent. Thankfully that was replaced by the pitter patter of the rain as it hit the window pane. She leaned against the counter of her kitchen. So used to the sweet aroma of breakfast being made by now, she couldn’t even bring herself to cook. The skies outside were dark and cloudy, the clouds themselves as dark as the night itself. For a moment, she wondered if the sun was still there, hiding behind the darkness.

Down the hall, she heard a door creak open, and slow tiny footsteps making their way towards her. Her heart swelled, but not from happiness but from the pain of knowing she would have to explain this to her little one. She ran a hand down her face, and turned away from the windows idly moving about as if to seem busy. Maybe she could buy some time. The footsteps grew closer and closer still. And yet she couldn’t formulate a sentence. How was she even suppose to begin this horrid state of affairs? Time was tick, tick, ticking away and she wasn’t sure of what to do. And she was always so sure of what to do. That was who she was.

“Kira…why did this happen?” she muttered, turning to see her little girl there.

###

They’d always been told they were simply stories. Stories to put wee ones to sleep. To calm ones mind. To remind oneself that perhaps there was something better out there. That if one were to just disappear, it’s an honor. And despite everything Ofure had seen and could do, she never believed in the Queen’s Chosen. She thought it was just a simple myth. But Kira, Kira always believed in these stories. That as a warrior that was where she suppose to be. All amazons strode to be picked by the Queen. To move onto the next plane. Ofure, a simple witch, enjoyed this plane the earthly plane. But she admired Kira’s dedication, and she loved that the most about her.

It was a sunny morning when Kira first brought it up. It was after they’d cooked breakfast together and gotten Afua out the door for school. They sat comfortably on the couch, a book in Ofure’s lap and Kira’s arms wrapped around her. Every now and again she would peak over Ofure’s shoulder and hair and read a few pages and Ofure would laugh shaking her head.

“Do you even understand what’s going on?” she asked.

“A little bit. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are gay lovers right?” she asked with a wide grin.

Ofure rolled her eyes, but couldn’t help but smile back at her. “That seems to be what they are ensuing. Enkidu has just died and Gilgamesh is very upset about it. Howling to the heavens and begging for the gods to return his friend…and or lover. I think I like the idea of them being lovers better,” Ofure admitted as she bookmarked her page.

“Hmm…I see,” Kira hummed as she returned her gaze to the TV that was quietly running. “Poor guy, losing the love of his life.”

Ofure laughed for real this time. “Enkidu was not the love of his life. Gilgamesh was known for sleeping around with tons of women. But he did bond with Enkidu rather quickly.”

“It could have been love at first sight, like us,” Kira said with a shrug of her shoulders.

“We’ll never know. Unfortunately the story tellers of old weren’t all too romantic. There idea of romance involved necrophilia and beheadings,” she said shaking her head.

“So who would I be, Gilgamesh or Enkidu?”

“Hmmm….I’d say Enkidu,” she said after thinking about it for a moment. “He was born in the wilds, is a wild man and learns to become civilized and a great warrior.”

“So…I die in the end?”

“Not you. But Enkidu yes.”

Kira hummed for a moment, her eyes clouding over for a moment. Ofure sat up some, resting a hand on her love’s shoulder. Kira looked at her and tried to smile, though it wasn’t as full as before. It didn’t leave Ofure feeling like a silly little school girl with butterflies in her stomach. No instead, this smile left her filled with worry. She reached out for Kira’s hand and rubbed her knuckles.

“Want to tell me what’s bothering you?” she asked.

“Not particularly,” she said simply, looking at Ofure. “But you won’t take no for an answer will you?”

“No I will not. Tell me Kira. Please.”

“I…had a dream last night. A dream that I have been waiting ages to have, though I feel now that it has come much, much to earlier. I’ve always wanted this dream, I always wanted the fate the would result from this dream. Ever since I was little girl in the Amazon, making my first spear.”

She paused and finally looked at Ofure and gently stroked her hair. Ofure felt her heart swell and it shook her to the core to see Kira so worried. Kira kissed her head, and took hold of both of Ofure’s hand.

“The Queen chose me Ofure. She chose my spirit to go on to the next plane! She wants me to serve her.”

The words went over head and Ofure could do nothing but blink.

“What do you mean?”

Kira sighed. “Come now Ofure. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The Queen herself came to me in a dream. She has chosen me to be a guardian of the veil. A guardian of the worlds!”

Ofure didn’t now what to say. Her heart ran cold, and her chest felt tight. She couldn’t quite muster up the strength to speak. But Kira was there she reached out, and squeezed her hand and reeled her back into reality. Ofure breathed slowly and moved a little closer, her eyes searching Kira’ds once again.

“Are you sure?”

“Positive/ The Queen came to me in a dream. She deemed me loyal and strong and asked me to guard the veil. To watch over…you all,” she said. “It is a prestigious honor. One I thought I would never have,” Kira said she hung her head, modest even now.

“Oh Kira. That is…is grand news. That is wonderful and it is an honor,”

“You do not sound excited.”

This time Ofure looked way shaking her head. “I cannot say that I am happy. I know that this is what you have been wanting. You’ve told me this hundreds of times before. But you are just going to let her take you away from us? From me?”

“I do not have a choice in the matter love. My fate has been decided. The Queen has spoken.”

“The Queen could be wrong.”

“Come now Ofure. That isn’t you,” Kira said cupping her cheeks. “I know you must be angry with me. I…I would be too. But there is nothing, nothing I can do.”

Ofure bit her lip and trembled at Kira’s touch. She relished in it, hoping and praying that this was all wrong. That this was just a dream. But she knew the legends. She knew what the veil needed guardians and that those here in the plane needed somone to watch over them? But never in a thousand years did she expect this to happen. She let out a trembling breath and simply shook her head.

“I don’t know what to do,” she said as she rose to her feet.

“Ofrue, wait-“

“Kira just give me some time. Please. Just…some time,” she said softly.

Kira didn’t argue. Instead she let Ofure walk away to their bedroom, the door sliding shut behind them. Kira leaned back into the couch, and let out a long sigh. She stared up at the ceiling, unsure why. She closed her eyes and prayed to the Queen for the best.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

That night after Afua had drifted off to sleep, and Kira had laid her down Ofure decided to spea again. She’d been silent the whole day, weighing their options trying to figure out a way this could work for them. For Afua. Because ultimately if this was true, Afua would be losing a parent and she just…she couldn’t even begin to think of telling her that her Big Ma was going to just…disappear.

“How long do we have?” Ofure asked as she stepped into the kitchen where Kira was washing the dishes.

Kira shrugged.

Ofure frowned. “Don’t you just shrug this off!”

Kira sighed and turned off the water, tossing the dish rag into the sink. She shook water from her hands and crossed her arms, leaning against the counter.

“I am not! Really. The Queen didn’t say. She said I would just…I would just know.”

“You would just know,” Ofura repeated, grumbling to herself as she crossed her arms. “What kind of Queen is she? She could at least given us a time frame. So I could try and figure this out. Could it be tomorrow? A week? Two weeks from now?”

Once again Kira shrugged. “She just said I would know. I tried to ask when, but she was already disappearing back into the plane.”

Ofure shook her head. “This is complete nonsense. By law, everything has a time and a purpose. That’s how spells work. That’s how magic is cast. We know the outcome which allows the spell to work and for it to be stronger! But this, this is just something we’re told as little kids. We never actually think it happens!”

She broke down all together, wrapping her arms around herself. This time she couldn’t help the tears from falling. Even with all her years, she couldn’t wrap her mind around this. That she was about to lose the person she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. That she wanted to raise and teach little Afu all she knew. And now, now she was just going to disappear? Just like that? It was too much. Far too much.

She didn’t hear Kira’s footsteps as she made her way over and pulled her into an embrace. She clung to her, and buried her face in her chest. Kira stroked her hair, trying to calm her down as best she could. She spoke softly, humming and whispering just trying her best to help her understand this.

“I am sorry. So sorry. I know this isn’t what you wanted. I know. But we will make it count. We always do. And nothing is going to change. We’ll just…I will make sure that you and Afua are taken care of. I promise. I promise.”

She said those words over and over again. And Ofure committed it to memory. She had to. Those two simple words meant a world of difference to her and she held it to Kira to keep her promise. She had to. She had to.

###

That was almost a year ago. And for a time Ofure actually thought that the Queen had forgotten. That she would let them live a nice long and happy life as a family together. But that was shattered. And now, the morning after she was going to have to tell her daughter her mother was gone…she just couldn’t. How could she tell a six year old that? That her Big Ma had just gone poof! As if she was never even there? She held her chest and tried to take a deep breath. But all she got was a short gasp, as if her throat wouldn’t allow her to take a breath.

“Momma?” Afua chimed from the hallway.

Ofure turned her gaze to the girl, her daughters dark eyes locked on her. Her curly hair was a mess about her head, and seemed to swallow her up.

“Where is Big Ma?” she asked.

“She went out for the day. So it’s just me and you!” Ofure said quickly, too quickly for it to be truth. But she smiled through her quick, little lie.

But for a moment she doubted Afua would even believe her. But the girl just nodded and asked for breakfast. Ofure made it promptly to focus on something else, but the growing sadness was too much. She moved about cleaning the house, cooking, reading all at a snail’s pace. She did her lessons with Afua watching as her daughter grew with that natural magical talent that coursed through her being. Kira would have been proud.

She bit her lip. Held her chest and just watched her daughter. She was now the only thing she had left in this world. There had once been three in their cozy little apartment. But now a soul was gone, leaving the space much colder, dimmer and less homey. It hurt and apart of her wondered, how quickly she could pack everything up and jump ship and get out of here. But once again she looked to her daughter who was now busy coloring on the living room. She couldn’t do that to her. This place was all she had ever known.

It was when her daughter nodded off after her furious coloring session that Ofure knew she had to get herself together somehow. How she was going to do that was beyond her. It felt as if she had lived for a millennia, and yet here she was still so unsure of what would happen to herself and her daughter. Still unable to tell the girl a simple truth. That her mother was not going to be returning that evening. Or ever again for that matter. She’d always imagined that it would be the three of them forever. But now they were down to two. And it stung, and it burned. And left her wanting more time with Kira.

She wasn’t sure how long she sat on the couch, lost in her own thoughts. She didn’t hear the rain as it finally stopped pitter-pattering against the windows. All that was left was an uncomfortable silence, and Ofure still sitting there slowly but surely wrapping her mind around everything that was happening. It hurt so much, so much.

It was sometime before Ofure moved again. This time because of her daughter making her down the hall, wiping sleep from her eyes. Wordlessly, she crossed the living floor and without a word climbed up onto the couch beside Ofure, blinking sleep away from her eyes. Her dark eyes were focused somewhere off in the distance, watching the twinkling stars that were in the sky. They sat there in silence not even saying a word. Every now and again, Afua would tilt her head this way and that, and trying to find something or to take something in at a different angle. But everything still looked the same, unchanged and unmoved.

“Momma, Big Ma isn’t coming is she?” she asked suddenly.

Her words left Ofure breathless at first. But the older woman simply complied and nodded her head.

Afua nodded back in return. “Where did she go?”

Ofure blinked for a moment, and pulled her little close and spoke. The words tumbled out before she could even realize what she was saying or doing. She told Afua of the stars and planets and the planes. How all things were connected, created from not light or darkness, but positive and negatives. The little girl took it all in, nodding her head and asking questions. Ofure told her of the Queen of legends, of how she was very much real and chose guardians to protect the planes of existence. That was all Big Ma wanted as a warrior and protector. To leave this plane behind and go to a new one.

She went on and on. Unsure if because she had a lot to explain, or just a lot to say. And somewhere between the stars and the planets she lost it and finally broke down. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and try as she might to finish her story she just couldn’t. Instead she hung her head and whispered apologies to her daughter. She apologized to Kira for not being strong. For breaking down when their little one needed her the most. It was embarrassing letting all of these emotions just wash over her. She was supposed to be stronger than this. So much stronger. Kira was the loving Mother and Ofure was to be the teacher.

Lost in her sorrows and wishing she could change things, she wasn’t even aware of the tiny little arms that wrapped around her. She looked down seeing nothing but a mess of hair and feeling a cold wetness on her stomach. Ofure wiped her own tears away and gently rubbed her daughters back, shushing her. She could feel her shaking, hiccupping. Ofure wasn’t alone in her pain. Afua was feeling it too, and she hated that feeling even more. That her little girl was going through this. She kissed her head and just held her daughter like this, knowing that she understood. That if there was anyone in this whole world who understood what she was going through it was her little girl who was barely even beginning to understand the world itself.

###

The next few weeks were a strange sort of quiet blur. The sky was cloudy, every now and again patches of blue peeked through as if reminding of better days. The two of them focused, or tried to focus on the norm, doing their day tot day things. They still did their lessons, Ofure observing as practiced drawing her sigils. They were still shaky and messy, unfit to actual cast the spell they were meant to. But she was getting there. With a few more years practice, she’d have these sigils down like the back of her hand.

Ultimately Ofure decided that perhaps it was time to clean up a few of Kira’s things. She wasn’t coming back. All her clothes and belongs were still here. Ofure didn’t dare touch the swords Kira had crafted, which were mounted on the walls of her bedroom and living room. Those were going to stay there. It was the little things that reminded her that Kira had been her.

But the other things they would clean up, box up and move up into the attic. Ofure would find a use for them. It was whilst they were packing her things into boxes, labeling them with love and care that Afua made her way over, tugging on Ofure’s long dress.

“What is it little one?”

“Big Ma gave you this right?” she asked, holding up a long necklace.

The sole item hanging from its long leather strap was a simple large teal crystal. It was etched in carvings, markings and symbols so old that only a few could read them. Ofure wasn’t skilled in the language. But Kira was and told her what the etchings meant. But even now, as the meaning ran through her head she let her thumb trace over the markings, just like she used to do.

“She did. I haven’t worn this in a long time though. Kira gave it to me a little bit before she moved in here. And I wanted to make sure nothing happened to it. You were really little when that happened,” she said softly.

“I was?”

Ofure nodded and smiled softly. “Just a small little thing. Kira gave me this in the park that I first met her in, that she first met you in. Do you remember that?”

“That park with the really big slide? Yeah I do!”

“Well she saw you jump from the top of the slide and was so impressed. She told me all about it. “

“She did? Is that when you fell in love?”

The question caught Ofure off guard. She was sure her daughter knew what love was, and if she were to ask she would explain it was how she felt about both herself and Big Ma. But what did she know about love at first sight? The girl must have been watching too many movies. Regardless, she found it sweet that her little girl seemed to think that is what happened. That she met Kira and they had just clicked. Which was the case, but was it love at first sight?

“I don’t think so sweetie. That was only the first time I met her.”

“But in all the stories, they say they found love at first sight,” she said matter of factly.

Ofure chuckled and took the necklace from her daughters hand and put it around her neck. “Well, sometimes that happens for people. But for Kira and me it was different,” she said softly.

“So when was it? When you loved Big Ma?”

Ofure paused for a moment, gently touching the necklace around her daughter’s neck.

“A little bit before she gave me this. We were discussing about her moving in with us. And how she would become your other Momma. And she was so happy, she couldn’t stop smiling. And I was too. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves when we finally made up our minds. But that was when I knew I loved her. When I saw that she loved you too. I just didn’t realize…she would be leaving so soon.”

Afua shook her head. “Nuh uh. We spent lots of time with Big Ma. And I think we made her really happy.”

“I’m sure your right sweetie. I’m sure your right.”

###

Ofure told many stories. She wasn’t sure if that alleviated the pain or made it worst. But somehow it helped. She told Afua about the first time she met Kira, the first dates they went on. How Kira had spilled food all over her best suit. How they got caught in the rain. Even how Afua ran away the very first time Kira came over. The little girl liked that one the most, unbelieving that she was afraid of her Big Ma. But it was true, seeing that huge woman sent the little girl running for the hills.

It was somewhere between these stories and lessons, that Ofure finally looked out the window to see the dark clouds were finally gone and instead the blue sky and the sun had reappeared. Afua sat in the middle of her room, her attention focused on the spell she was casting. Even now her small little trinkets and toys were hovering just a few inches off the ground, encased in a purple glow. Her gaze was hard and practiced, and she willed the items to float higher into the air, above the sigil that they had drawn together on the floor.

But today Ofure didn’t want to focus on lessons. She didn’t want to think about what was going to happen in the future.

“Let’s call it a day little one. Why don’t we take a walk outside?”

Afua blinked, her concentration shattered. The toys collapsed nosily onto the floor. “Really?”

Ofure nodded and reached for her bag. “Go and get your shoes.”

The little girl was gone before she could even finish her sentence. She returned a few moments later, and grabbed hold of Ofure’s hand.

“Let’s go to the park?”

“You sure?”

“Mhmm,” she hummed. “I’m gonna jump off the big slide again and make Big Ma proud. I wanna show her I’m not afraid. And that I’m still happy!”

Ofure couldn’t argue against that. And so she let the little girl pull her out the door and away from their comfortable apartment that was once for three, but was now for two. And even though they were down one person, one soul, one body it still very much felt like home. And that person was still watching them, and they’d be watching still as a little girl leaped from the top of the slide, down to the ground without ever knowing fear or regret.

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