Blame is, when you think about it, the easiest game to play…
Acceptance – Part VI
Revenge: a single word with power. At that moment, in that place, the idea of revenge was consuming Sheryl. She had the power do to almost anything to hime. Images of the pain and suffering he had caused over so many years ate at her thoughts, pressing her to lash out and take that revenge. It would be so simple to make him walk off a cliff, to end himself, and she found that there was nothing of mercy or compassion within her.
But then she heard Joseph’s voice, “Mistress, why didn’t you come for me?” They brought the shuddering realization that her thoughts were on taking revenge and not what mattered most. She felt, finally, shame, shame for the missing concern that she should have felt, concern that was overwhelmed by the need for revenge.
Sheryl did the only thing she could. She turned her back on him and returned to Joseph. The bonds holding him were nothing to her strength, coming apart easily. Then she looked into his eyes, his confused … were they accusing eyes as well?
“I could not find you. I looked everywhere and I could not sense you. You were … gone. It was like you had been taken from this world and …”
“How? You are … more. You can do more. Why?”
Sheryl nodded in the direction of the steel door that separated this place from the outside world: “This place is old. Perhaps ancient would be a better way to put things. He did not know what he had when he created this place. There are markings around the doorway here, and they are proof against seeking. My kind can be attracted to certain things, and these are proof against my kind and other beings that have powers like ours.”
Joseph had the look of trying to understand, but not being able to. She shrugged: “This place is dead to me. It simply does not exist. He never spoke of it to anyone and only those two there knew of what happened here.
“What does that mean, exactly?”
Sheryl’s answer was chilling: “No one ever came out of here whole.”
She had never held a secret from him. Not one. He trusted her and she trusted him. That hurt in him, the feeling that his belief in her was wavering hurt more than anything she had experienced in her life save one thing …
… the moment that she lost him when he was taken.
Sheryl dropped to her knees in front of him, not looking at him as she began, “I don’t know everything. I wish that I did, that I could have snapped my fingers and been with you. Had I known you were here I would have …” She sighed and looked at him finally as the truth came out: “… I would have burned this place to the ground. I would have wiped him and all that he holds from existence. I would have left nothing here but a smoking crater in my wake and then …”
He was going to say something, but her next words broke before his did: “… then I would have ended myself.”
She pressed on, knowing that, if she didn’t, she might not ever be able to. “You made me promise you something, Joseph. You made me promise to protect you. And I didn’t do that. I failed in that promise to you. You asked me to hold you as my first, my only, the one that I would keep with me and cherish above all others.”
The silence was deafening to her ears, but still she pressed on: “I could not protect you. I did not protect you.”
Again Joseph tried to get a word in, but she stood up, resolved in her own thoughts what needed to happen next: “We need to get out of here. Out that door so I can get you home.”
She brooked no further discussion and she did not care to listen to him just at that moment. Turning from him she approached the two thugs and touched a finger to each of their foreheads, a pink glow appearing there, before she moved on to the cause of all of their problems.
She turned to Joseph and asked him to go and see if the main door was unlocked. He did not look particularly pleased to do so, but he held his words. When he had left the room, Sheryl took hold of the chin of the man whose life she was more than willing to turn into ash and made him look into her eyes. “I hate you. I hate what you represent. I hate what you have done. I hate that you have made me do what I have done.”
He did not reply, how could he? Sheryl had frozen him, both mentally and physically; she had stripped him bare. She felt the desire for revenge coming back again, pressing at her thoughts.
“You think you have power. You believe that you do.”
Her nails dug into his chin as she continued: “Your soul is black. There is nothing I could do to you that would be any worse than what you are doing to yourself. To destroy you, to end you, would be a waste of time.”
She moved his chin, examining him: “But that’s what you want, isn’t it? You want me to. Then you win whether you have me or not.”
He did not reply, of course.
“Leave us alone.”
With those words, Sheryl pushed him to the side, releasing her hold on him and putting him to sleep. She stood up, still bare to the world, and left the room in search of Joseph … She found him waiting just outside of the door.
“Mistress … please.”
Sheryl took his hand in hers: “Later. We are not free yet.” She pulled him towards the main door, pushing it open, and into the bright light of the outside world. Two steps more and she felt her powers fully once more, and the two of them vanished in a puff of bubblegum-scented smoke in the next instant.
Elsewhere, at that moment, back at the Victorian mansion they called “Home,” Celeste was kneeling and looking up at the woman who had come calling for Sheryl. Moments before, she knew, she had looked like Sheryl, but this woman had seen through that illusion in the first instant when they met.
Celeste couldn’t help herself as she explained the plan that she and Sheryl had agreed to. That Sheryl had taken the form of Celeste and then placed the illusion over her that made her look like Sheryl. She told the woman about watching Sheryl leave, knowing that she would be collected by one of his thugs, taken to him, and that they had hoped that the risk of this plan would result in them finding Joseph again … for all of their sakes.
Throughout all of this, the woman nodded and simply asked her to continue. Celeste found it so easy to look into her eyes, to obey the simple requests. She did not fear when the woman had waved a finger at her and Sheryl’s illusion vanished, leaving her as she really was and not who she was pretending to be. There was no reason to worry … the woman had told her so.
When the story came to an end with the words, “We have heard nothing since she left,” Celeste could see that the woman was concerned in a way that she only could dream about.
“Did I do something wrong?”
The woman shook her head, her long raven hair floating about her neck and shoulders as she did so: “No. Everything is fine, Celeste. Why don’t you go and sit comfortably in your chair and, when you do, you will remember everything we have talked about, and you will not panic in any way.”
Of course, that made complete sense and, when she had settled into her chair, her mind came back fully and she saw fully the woman who was across the room from her: raven hair, so-green eyes, a long red jacket that shone in the light, deeply black pants and ankle boots, and a bandeau top. Celeste licked her lips slightly, realizing that she would have happily given herself to this woman if she had not already pledged herself to Sheryl.
A question came to her, but the woman spoke first: “You are claimed already. I respect that. But thank you for the compliment.”
Still, Celeste asked: “Who are you?”
The woman tilted her head to the right and smiled, “My name is Tera. Sheryl knows me … intimately …”
Celeste could not help but have a little fantasy in her mind play out about what that meant exactly … until she gasped and placed a hand over her mouth.
Tera raised an eyebrow as Celeste quickly returned to the floor, kneeling there and looking downwards.
“I meant no disrespect. Please forgive me.”
Tera’s voice was bemused: “Just how much has Sheryl said about me?”
“You are her Queen. As we are all hers, then we are yours, as well.”
The sigh was unexpected: “I do not think you quite understand what that means, my dear. Again, I do not accept for you are spoken for. Now, please, you need not kneel to me, I do not stand on formality … well … save for those moments where it is fun, and this is not one of them, so … Please?”
Celeste felt as if Tera was disappointed in her, but did stand once more and return to her chair … worried.
“I have trust in Sheryl, even if I worry about her frame of mind sometimes.”
Those words hung in the air for the longest moment and then … there was a puff of bubblegum-scented smoke. Sheryl and Joseph appeared, and Celeste ran over to them, wrapping her arms around them … but then she gasped, realizing the injures that Joseph had, and began to cry in anguish.
Sheryl froze in the middle of embracing Celeste and looked behind her to see Tera there, smiling, as she simply said, “Welcome home … all of you.”
She nodded once, then looked at Joseph and Celeste, her heart heavy as she said: “Celeste, please find a place for Tera to stay. I will look after Joseph.”
As Sheryl helped Joseph away, she knew that she would be leaving in the morning …