There was a part of Anna that wanted to stay here forever; warm and sleepy, floating in the moment after sinking and before waking. Where here
was, she didn’t know or particularly care to find out. What mattered was the gentle thumb rubbing circles into her temple, head pillowed in somebody’s lap, heavy blanket tucked under her chin. This wasn’t the dead weight of her father’s mechanical embrace. It wasn't hurried words in the dark whilst her skin itched or the cold click of a seat belt, ripping her away from the only thing that would grant relief.
If she stayed here for long enough, in this warm, in-between place, the before might just float away. Lost.
It was a fantasy. Anna was old enough to know by now that the only things that went away were the good ones.
She cracked open her eyes, and the grey afternoon light quickly swept away what remained of the blissful, semi-conscious haze. She was lying on a sofa in an unfamiliar living room. The room’s owner seemed to be more preoccupied with collecting ugly porcelain birds than they were with cleanliness or organisation, and it showed. Dust collected visibly on surfaces, ran in a long line across the fireplace. Eventually, it gathered in the crook between the ears of a doleful looking tabby curled atop an over-filled bookcase.
The animal blinked lazily at her and leapt to the floor, and it took everything Anna had not to jump. She’d been convinced it was just another ornament, frozen in time, no different than the faded sparrows or hand-painted peacocks lining the room. Instead, it shot Anna a parting glare, before swiftly retreating through a door that had been left slightly ajar.
The thumb, which had just swept a strand of hair from Anna’s face, stilled. After a few moments, “Anna?”
Electric familiarity pushed Anna up into a seated position, the blanket falling away from her shoulders, taking most of the warmth with it. Cool, musty air drew goosebumps across Anna’s bare arms, but it didn’t bother her. All she could do was stare.
Dark, almond shaped eyes, far prettier than Anna’s own. Soft curls that grazed her chin but no lower. Lips, nose, the smattering freckles that brushed the woman’s cheeks - these features were infinitely recognisable. After all, they were almost identical to the ones Anna saw in the mirror every day.
Anna hadn’t seen her sister, Matilda, in over a year, and now she was less than a metre away.
“Matty?” the name was a ghost, and her tongue tripped briefly over its strange form.
Matty grinned, and something in her chest eased ever so slightly. This was her sister
. Anna had spent months after they left screaming and crying and begging to go back, dreamt of this very moment every single night. Every time she saw a woman with the right shape, or the right colours, or the right smell, she was surprised when the face didn’t match. Every time she turned a corner, she’d expected her mother to be there, waiting.
And now. Here she was.
She wasn’t sure why she asked it, but she did, “Are you real?”
Lightly, she batted Anna’s shoulder, before grabbing her arm and tugging her closer, “Of course I am shit-for-brains.”
Anna’s shoulders sagged. She wanted nothing more than to crawl closer and curl up under her sister’s arm, bury her face in her side and never move. She did, screwing her eyes shut as she did so.
“You’re not gonna cry on me are you?” Matty’s voice rang with amusement, but all the same she held Anna tight, the grey scratchy wool of her jumper irritating Anna’s cheek.
Anna shook her head firmly, not looking up. Something in her throat ached and swelled, and she didn’t trust herself with words just yet.
For a few minutes they stayed like that, Anna clinging to her sister as if that would stop her from leaving again. Not that it had been Matty who left the first time. Even if it wasn’t entirely her fault, it was ultimately Anna who had packed her bags in the middle of the night and fled.
“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, “for leaving.”
Maty pulled away, but she didn’t let go. Instead, her hands found their way to Anna’s shoulders, “Listen,” she said, intense gaze yet another thing Anna had missed desperately, “Whatever happened with dad,” disdain dripped from the word ‘dad’ in great, soapy suds, “you’re here now.”
Anna bit her lip, but nodded.
“You probably don’t remember last night, you were so deep under the thrall,” Matty said, and she was right. Anna didn’t really, just shattered glass, falling, then nothing more than brief snippets. The crunch of metal. Somebody screaming. A smooth, round object that had fit so perfectly in the palm of her hand she looked down to check if it was still there. It wasn’t - just an assortment of pink plasters sloppily patching the tears in her skin and a burgeoning ache in her temple.
“But you did well,” Matty continued, tone not leaving room for argument, “You got what we needed. Mum’s very happy.”
Anna couldn’t help the way her brow peaked in surprise, “Mum’s here?”
Matty nodded, smiling.
Warmth flooded Anna’s chest. She hadn’t seen her mum in as long as she hadn’t seen Matty - where they’d been rent in two, it felt like they could maybe, just maybe come back together. All of them, “Can I see her?”
“Come on, she’s in the kitchen,” Matty unfolded, long legs swinging out from under her as Anna followed suit, “you needed sleep, something big’s coming.” she paused, eyes fixing very deliberately on Anna, “We all need to be ready.”
Interacting with: Open!
Location: The Unity Celebration
Colin didn’t know where Violet had gone.
They’d come back from the tower that was apparently where the Witwings lived now and immediately gone back to ‘the internet’. That was where they found out about the festival - a memorial for the Red Hoods. Colin’s first instinct had been to swear loudly about how they didn’t need a memorial, but then he remembered the whole three hundred years thing. What felt like yesterday was actually much, much longer. If he thought about that fact for too long, it grew long and wrapped tight around his throat, so he didn’t. He had to focus his energy on something, anything else.
‘Something’ was finding the others. Finding Samael. Stopping for good the plan that had only been put on pause three hundred years ago. Colin didn’t know for certain who else had come through the portal, so it made sense that Samael wouldn’t either. He only knew about Eliza, Kiri, and Brighid because of the people they left behind - people with blood rich enough to leave a stain. That wasn’t Colin. What he’d suspected, Violet’s device had confirmed - nobody remembered him, not in a way that left a mark. It stung, but he had the upper hand.
The memorial was the next logical step. It was Violet’s suggestion, maybe the other ‘time travellers’ would see the advertisement and head there as well - and besides that, it would be a good way to find out more about what had led to the Red Hoods dissolution. They were grasping at straws, but straws were still better than nothing.
And now, Violet had disappeared into the throng of people gathered at the event, and Colin was lost
On all sides people who talked strangely and wore clothing in styles Colin had never seen before crowded. Elbows and stray bags and small children cut across what little space he managed to find. He grit his teeth as someone bashed into his bad arm, a wave of pain and irritation crashing over him. He had to find Violet again. Had to find someone he recognised. Had to get away from all these people
Colin struggled to the edge of the crowd, it was pointless trying to see anything from within it. He found a space to breathe by the side of a big metal box that seemed to be selling food - some kind of futuristic market stall. It smelled good, but the money still tucked into his boot was no use here. His stomach twisted. Violet had been unnecessarily kind, but he couldn’t keep taking advantage of her generosity, not if he wanted to survive. The thrill of giving only lasted so long, and the sting of irritation that followed wasn’t always metaphorical. He couldn’t rely on someone that had no obvious stake in this. That was just stupid.
He took a breath, focusing once more on the crowd. He had to find Eliaza or Brighid. Avoid Samael, Kiri, or Vitius. Rushing into anything would cause him to fuck up again. For now, he had to be patient. If he was patient, everything would be fine.