Winter’s Day

Bits of snow dropped from the branches, the cold of the wind helping to drive the powdered substance to glide off the houses that they passed in their walk. The wind picked up and more and more bits of snow fell from the trees, the houses, the lampposts. From certain angles it looked like it was snowing though the sky was clear and nothing fell from any point higher than the tallest trees.

It was a cold day and if the looks of the wind it was bound to get colder. Even now she could see people huddle further into their coats and scarves, hands that were already in gloves or mittens stuffed further into pockets to try and preserve what little warmth the smaller limbs generated on their own.

Mary was bundled up in her own winter gear; no matter how little she needed it not wearing it would make her stick out like a sore thumb and she didn’t want any undue attention. Her clothing looks slightly worn, but only superficially. Alex wasn’t about to let her go out in anything that wouldn’t do the job it was meant for, but he also hadn’t wanted to dress her up in name brands or anything too flashy. Not only was that far outside of her own comfort zone, he hadn’t wanted anyone looking too closely at her financial situation either. As long as people didn’t know about their connection then she couldn’t be put into the position of being used against him. He was likely one of the most overbearing and yet understanding people that she had ever met and Mary often wondered just how he had come by those particular personality traits when they were normally so at odds with one another.

This was a lovely world her sister had sent her to even if it had its own problems and issues to deal with.

The smog mixing with the clouds overhead made her sneeze slightly. It was probably going to snow that strange mud-snow that it had been doing for the past several days. Maybe she should have taken Alex’s advice and gone to school in a college town rather than a city?

She never removed it

It was when the leaves on the bushes outside began to change color that she knew.

“Mother, where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise, my darling.”

The smile felt more real than fake and it took everything Mary had not to let the tears in the back of her throat reach her eyes. She’d always been very good at lying and anyone who was as good at it as she was knew that the art in lying is in having just enough of the truth in it to make it real.

“Are we going to have to finish our homework?” her youngest asks, eager for a reason to not finish the packet sent home for the fall break.

“We’ll see, Matt.” She shares a grin with her eldest at the boy’s groan. What she doesn’t say and what her eldest likely already knows is that they will likely never return to this house that had almost become their home.

Matt didn’t remember living anywhere but here, he’d been so young when her husband had left and only a little older when his father had died. She still wore her wedding ring even though it was on the wrong hand. It was a plain enough band that many wouldn’t know that it had ever been a wedding ring in the first place. Her husband’s name was only clear on the ring once the band had been removed.

Mary never removed it.

Frustrated Protectiveness

She gritted her teeth, but plowed on.

“Alex-“

“Are you certain about this?”

“Alex-“

“You’ve never been anywhere here by yourself yet. Please let me send someone as your, ah, guide.”

“I’m not taking a bodyguard.” Mary said flatly.

“They don’t have to be a bodyguard…”

“Oh I’m sure that wouldn’t be their official designation, but at the same time be at least a Third Degree Black Belt on the side, completely learned without your needing it required.”

“There’s no need to take that kind of tone with me.” Alex protested, “I’m just- I’m worried about you, Mary. If anyone ever finds out about our connection-“

“And having a bodyguard won’t out me in five seconds?”

Alex sighed, “I just want you to be safe should anything happen.”

Mary softened, “I know, Al, but I’ll be fine. You seem to forget that I know more about fighting than every single person in your employ.”

“I don’t want you to worry about breaking the seal and hurting yourself!”

“I know how to fight without my ‘extra abilities,’ Al.” her tone was drier this time and less sarcastic, “There have been plenty of times where I couldn’t use them either, brother-mine.”

He snorted, “And that won’t draw attention to you either, I suppose?”

Now Mary laughed, “There are plenty of young women in this day and age who have learned how to defend themselves. Unless I start sporting a colorful costume or a mask, I’m fairly certain that I won’t draw any more attention to myself than your average college student who knows how to defend herself against assault.”

“I reserve the right to have someone tail you every now and then just to reassure myself at least.”

“By all means, check the CCTV footage if you must, just so long as you use that subtlety that I know exists within you. Somewhere, anyway.”

Lonely Library

It was lonely here. Likely because, though she could no longer feel her sister she knew that she should.

Alex didn’t often let her stay anywhere alone for very long. She was grateful for that, more than grateful.

She wasn’t certain what would have happened if she had been alone.

Mary (and it was very strange to think that was her name now) pulled out a book from the shelves standing in front of her and flipped through it halfheartedly. The story was one of those ‘old’ books written back before the turn of the century. Her eyes slid over the words and Mary didn’t absorb anything about them, couldn’t even tell anyone what they were talking about so she closed the old and valuable book and placed it back on the shelf in front of her.

“You know that book’s actually pretty interesting to read.”

Mary didn’t jump, didn’t even startle, when Alex spoke up from behind her. She simply nodded without even looking at him.

Even if she didn’t want to be alone, she had yet been able to talk overly much about anything.

Alex was mostly fine with that and continued talking about the book, the author and even how it had made its way into his family’s collection.

Loss of Balance

Finding a balance between her professional life, something that was necessary to pay the bills and take care of her sons, and her time spent with her sons was very difficult. On the one side, she wanted to bury herself in her work completely so that she didn’t have to think about the hole in her life that used to be filled by her husband. She wanted to keep her body moving so that her mind didn’t have time to think.

On the other hand, she didn’t want to lose anymore of her sons’ lives than she already had. She had missed months if not years of her eldest’s life. She knew that he still blamed her for the divorce between Warren and her. Mary had never been able to sit down and really talk it over with Terry and not talking about it had caused the rift to grow.

“Mary, let me help, you don’t have to work yourself to death for this.” 

“No, Alex,” Mary sighed over the phone, “I need to work, you know that more than anyone else.”

“Mary, you’re missing the best years of Matt’s life, you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you made with Terry.”

Mary drew in a breath of air sharply, but said nothing as she carefully closed the cell phone in her hand.

She wondered if she’d ever find the balance that she needed in this life or if, when it did come, it would ever be allowed to last.

“Alex, you don’t understand,” she whispered to herself, the phone sitting on the table beside her, “My kind are not allowed to do anything other than make mistakes.”

The sun was high in the sky as she looked out the window, the rays beating down on her with a harsh glare as if to remind her of what she was even if she was no longer who she had been.


This was a combination of two prompts: the Dungeon Prompt: Balance and the Art of Succeeding in an All or Nothing World by Sreejit and the Light and Shade Challenge for this first Monday of the month.

Anonymous Gift – SoC

Mary smiled as she held the little boy in her arms for the first time. Warren smiled down at his exhausted wife, knowing that any threats she might have breathed at him-

(“Why did I want this? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Why did you let me do this?!)

-okay, maybe she didn’t so much as breathe them as scream them in the quietest voice he had ever heard her (or anyone else) use.

But this moment, standing next to her as they stared down at their little boy, their little gift from someone out there in the world.

It was worth it.


Inspired by the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness prompt. Make sure to check it out as there is a guest prompter this week!

Extended Family

Mary didn’t talk about any extended family when she started dating Warren other than her older brother, Alex. As he didn’t have all that many relatives either, he didn’t find it odd that he was never introduced to any parents, grandparents or siblings. It wasn’t that odd in his experience to either not have family around or to be so estranged from them that they didn’t factor into any decisions you made.

His parents hadn’t been all that attached to him, but had worked long and hard jobs that kept them from one another as well. They weren’t bad people, but they weren’t very good at interacting with other human beings on anything other than a professional level. There were times when Warren honestly wondered how he’d come to exist.

Don’t You Worry

Alex worried about Mary.

(Alex always worried about Mary, it was practically encoded into his DNA for all that they had never met until they were both well into adulthood.)

Ever since the separation between Warren and Mary, Alex had been worried. There shouldn’t be any reason that he could think of for them to be having marital problems at. All. Much less ones that would require them to have a period of separation. So yes, Alex was very Worried, with a capitol W.

He knew that they’d had problems before.

(Somehow being unable to conceive a child had been something that they hadn’t wanted to broadcast and he had respected that. He’d never let them know that he knew…though sometimes he was certain they were just humoring him about his little attempts to know what was going on with them, but trying really hard not to at the same time.)

He’d known that Warren was having some kind of problems with work.

(Alex hadn’t known just what, exactly, those problems were, just that there was something not sitting right. He hadn’t been able to find out much more than that without letting anyone else know that he was looking. He didn’t want people to know that he was connected to Mary or Warren. It wasn’t safe to let that knowledge get out. Ever.)

“What is going on, Mary?” Alex murmured to himself.

He frowned as he thumbed through what little information he had been able to find out concerning his ‘little sister’ and her husband. The surprise pregnancy between them had been surprising to Alex as well as Mary and Warren. The fact that they’d actually found some way to visit him and talk about it.

He could still remember how that had gone…

“Mary! Warren! What a surprise!”

Alex had been both pleased and displeased to see them at the time. He’d had delicate operations going on and so wasn’t entirely certain when he’d need to go ‘off the grid’ so to speak. Then again, he was always happy to see his sister as she always reminded him that there was good in the world.

(She also randomly inspired him to donate more to charity and to foundations that looked into the cure of this or that illness.)

Mary was very pale and Warren had a pinched look to his face.

“I’m pregnant.” Mary whispered, her eyes almost as pale as her skin.

Warren did not look away, but stress lines appeared even deeper around her eyes.

Alex frowned at the couple, “Why is this bad news?”

Mary looked at the ground as Warren answered. “I’m sterile, Alex. It’s physically impossible for me to be the father of this child and yet, it is also physically impossible for Mary to even desire another now that she is with me.”

“I see…” And he did.

Someone, somewhere, had done something to either Mary or Warren that had caused this pregnancy and though it was obvious that the child had to have come about because of these two, it was impossible for the child to be of Warren’s own issue.

“I’ll try my hardest to look into this, but I’m not sure how long it could take.”

Alex wondered, now, if whatever it was that had caused the pregnancy and then the second one eight years later had been the cause of the dissolution of their marriage.

He had never been able to find out everything about how the pregnancy had come to be and a part of him blamed himself for the ruin that had come to his dear sister’s life as a result.

Wish You Could See

image: courtesy of Janssenfrank and taken from Wiki Commons

Mary sighed as she knelt down in front of the gravestone. Her hands did not tremble as they cleared away the grass and weeds that tried to cover the slab of cement, though her fingers lovingly traced the outline of the letters.

“It’s lonely without you, Warren. The boys aren’t home as often as they used to be, busy with work and school and friends. They don’t have as much time for their mother anymore.”

Terry had graduated high school with honors and was now attending university, his long-time girlfriend off and studying her way through dancing, his job not ending just because he had less time on his hands. If anything, he spent more time with his boss than with his mother.

“I don’t mind so much, Terrance is really coming into what he wants to be and I think he would make you proud with his dreams of going into law. He’s not just going to leave it to someone else to fix the mess that has often happened in our legal systems.”

Matt wasn’t in high school, not yet, but that was more because he hadn’t wanted to skip grades than anything else. Her little boy was smart and often spent time over with his brother at his workplace. Terry’s boss didn’t seem to mind and even let the pre-teen help out as well.

Mary smiled once more at her husband’s gravestone, “It seems that I am nothing more than a thought they have now and then, but I know that they still love me even if I don’t quite fit with them anymore.”

With a sigh, she stood.

“I wish you were here to grow old with me.”


This is a dual inspired post, part of it came from reading a post by Oliana this morning (nothingness) and also from the Light and Shade Challenge.

Has Passed

Warren never met with Alex alone. Mary was always there between them, the link that connected two people who would have never met in any other way.

Sometimes, Alex wondered what would have happened had he been able to help Warren with whatever it was that caused him to drift from his wife and children. Maybe he could have done something to stop it from happening.

Of course, Alex could wonder all he wanted. Nothing would change the past or what had happened as a result.

Speculation means nothing when the time to act has already passed.

But I am leaving the regions of fact, which are difficult to penetrate, but which bring in their train rich rewards, and entering the regions of speculation, where many roads lie open, but where a few lead to a definite goal. –Sir William Ramsay


Inspired by the quote from the Friday prompt from Light and Shade Challenge. This little snippet of my Former Guardian universe is brought to you by the fact that I didn’t stay under the 100 word limit in my last response to this prompt. Hurrah for stories running ahead without authorization!

(I might be a little loopy today.)