Author: Adelianna PM
In a duel against Marik for her father's freedom, Janessa loses. She is thrust into Marik's servitude for life, and is treated horribly. Marik soon finds out that a spirit such as hers is hard to tame, but at what length will he go to break her? COMPLETERated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Marik I. & Yami Bakura - Chapters: 17 - Words: 134,773 - Reviews: 631 - Favs: 175 - Follows: 33 - Updated: 06-22-07 - Published: 05-30-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1366387
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Final Farewell
When Janessa was five, she had flatly refused to start school. "I wanna stay here with you, Mommy." Her mother had prepared for this, and therefore had woken an hour ahead of schedule in order to reason with the stubborn child. After an hour, with Janessa cuddled against her mother on the sofa, she was still refusing to go, though her protests were dying down to murmurs as she snuggled closer to her mother.
"She can stay home one more day until she gets used to the idea," her mother had told her father when he entered the living room. Janessa was half asleep by this time, though she vaguely recalled her parents arguing, sounding almost like those yucky flying bugs that buzzed close to her sometimes when it was hot and sticky outside, humming very loudly. Suddenly, she was yanked awake as her father threw her over his shoulder as the bus rolled to a stop outside of their apartment. She was still in her pajamas, slippers covering her feet when he pushed her almost angrily at the bus. Janessa began crying then, wailing for her mom, but her father forced her to go inside the big yellow monster car, with no backpack or lunch, hair uncombed and nightgown still in place. She had cried the entire day for her mom as kids teased her about being poor as they paraded their brand new clothes and shiny new shoes in front of her.
Part of Janessa had never forgiven her father for that day, and for some reason, that memory burned vividly in her mind as she watched Marik scream, his hands clutching at his face. I just want to snuggle close to my mom and never worry about anything else. She hadn't been able to do that back then, and she wasn't able to do that now. A hurried whisper buzzed in ear, again sounding like those flying bugs she hated as a child, urgently telling her to leave.
Run, go now. Hurry. Run.
Janessa hadn't the faintest notion of what caused Marik's apparent breakdown, though she somehow knew that something bad was happening. It was as though a ghost had come to investigate her plight, whispering a sliver of warning in her ear that seemed to sink to her stomach as it turned into ice, creeping slowly up her spine as it siphoned warmth from her body to use as fuel until it reached her brain, covering her in a cloying spider-web of chills as it relayed the message.
Run, go now. Hurry. Run.
Janessa couldn't move, however, rooted to the ground. A sickly green glow spread throughout the room, becoming darker the harder Marik screamed. He began to laugh through his screeches, emitting harsh, heavy sucking-in breaths that broke off in a kind of giggle. His eyes narrowed as his hair began to rise, as though any of the goodness he had left evaporated in the heat of his shrieks, trying desperately to stick to anything, grabbing at his hair and causing it to lift as he threw any vestiges of kindness away from him with one last scream.
Run, go now. Hurry. Run.
Instinct took control of her then, forcing her legs to run as she made a mad dash for the doorway, hearing his laughter behind her as she sprinted into the hallway. She continued running, and almost slammed into Chatha around the next corner. "I heard screaming?" he asked questioningly.
"Yes yes," she whispered breathlessly, her heart pounding heavily in her chest, drowning out every other sound. "Something bad is happening to Marik."
Chatha looked confused, gazing at something above her shoulder. "No, nothing bad," a voice chuckled from above her. It was a harsh, grating sound reminiscent of Marik's, as though the boy's voice had been grinded into pulp by a blender, sprinkles of pain and loathing added to create the voice that came from above her now.
Run, go now. Hurry. Run.
She bolted around Chatha, not knowing why she was running or whom she was running from. She just knew that something was seriously wrong with Marik and that she needed to leave quickly. Janessa heard Chatha yell from behind her, and then a cold blast hit her hard, lifting her as she struck her head against the wall as everything went black.
When she woke, she thought she was blind. She opened her eyes and could see only purple darkness, ominous and shapeless shadows stirring within other shadows. Before she could panic, that gloom gave way to a pale haze, and the haze resolved into a shadow infested room.
Her head hurt. There was a pounding pain that reverberated through her, pounding in time with her heart. She moved her head slowly, and the pain exploded into a million stars of light. Janessa held still. The pain receded, pounding more softly than before. Or perhaps it only felt more softly now that she had experienced a higher degree of pain? Where was she? She felt confused, disoriented. She tried to move her arms, and after a few tries realized she couldn't. They were tied above her head. She was chained against a wall. She was afraid. Fear, her now constant companion, began to scramble out of her stomach with freezing claws.
She was in a small room. It was barely lit and very cold, water dripping softly down the walls. A few feet away lay Chatha. She was sure it was him. The figure wore the same clothes, and even had a gold ring on his thumb. Yes, that was the boy. What was wrong with his face? He wore a mask, a skeletal mask that she remembered seeing on sale for Halloween. It had been dripping blood at one point; she could see the dark liquid all over his clothes, and all over his feet. But that was wrong. She specifically remembered that the blood from that Halloween mask wasn't supposed to leak. It had to be built better than that. Her brother had wanted to wear it, but her mother was afraid the fake blood would spill, though Kevin assured her it wouldn't. It was a good think they didn't get it, then, because it obviously did leak out of the mask now that Chatha was wearing it.
She closed her eyes softly. What was wrong with her head? She was so dizzy and confused. She could barely think. It felt as though her head was filled with cotton balls. Did she have a concussion?
She heard footsteps and opened her eyes. Everything was doubled and blurry. In a few seconds her vision swam into focus and stilled, and there was Marik. At least, she thought it was him. He seemed. . . What? Taller, darker, more menacing? His hair was pointed in spikes, and a bright Egyptian eye burned in the center of his forehead. And his eyes. . . They were almost alien. He looked so much like Marik, but so entirely different. What was this person in front of her?
The man began to laugh. "Did you enjoy what I did to your little friend?" he asked.
Little friend? Janessa thought. At first she thought he was talking about the Marik she had known for the past few days, but then it dawned on her that he was talking about Chatha. Chatha and the Halloween mask. Then she realized it wasn't a mask, and everything began to swim again. Bile rose to her throat, stinging her mouth an nose, suffocating her as she fell against her chains.
"No no no," the Other Marik playfully, lightly slapping her cheek. "I'm going to have my fun with you first before you go away." She thought she saw his Millennium Rod shine, and her head began to clear. She wished it hadn't. She wanted to go far away.
She then felt something cool against her face. He was rubbing some sort of jar against her cheek. It was filled with water. "Your friend wanted to see you one last time," he laughed. Janessa closed her eyes tightly. She didn't want to see what was in that jar, but he forced her to turn her head, forced her to look into the container.
It was a two-quart jar, maybe bigger, with a wide-mouth lid. At first Janessa could only make out some sort of sea creature, clenched and billowy. The Other Marik began to gently shake the container, and whatever was in it began to open, like a blossoming flower. She first recognized an ear, and then the other. They both held their shape well. The nose, however, was just a lump of thin flesh. The lips were full, but the mouth was just a hole, as well as they eyes.
She would have vomited and fainted if the Other Marik wouldn't have forced her head to clear with his Rod and the bile to forcibly go back down her throat. In the dark turmoil that whirled within her, a mad hilarity began to rise like a feeding shark in a night sea, streaking up toward the precious fragments of her sanity that still bobbled on the surface. A high, silvery giggle tinkled deep within her, and she knew that she dared not let it escape. It was the whooping, bell-clear sickly sweet laughter of madness. If she gave voice to it just once, there would never be an end to it; she would pass the years in a corner, cackling to herself if the Other Marik didn't kill her first.
The Other Marik put the jar down by Chatha corpse, making sure the dead boy's hands clutched around the jar in a gruesome parody of the Headless Horseman, grasping a pumpkin to use in replacement of his missing head.
He walked over to her, laughing again. "Your dear Chatha wanted company. I promised him I'd give him such." He transformed his Millennium Rod into a blade. "And I'm not one to break such promises."
Keep him talking, something whispered to her. Perhaps it was the last tendrils of sanity clutching for a handhold? Somehow she found the strength to speak. Her dry tongue peeled off the powdery roof of her mouth with a sound she could almost hear, and she said, "What are you?"
He laughed. "Why, I'm your precious Marik. You really shouldn't have conspired against me behind my back." He sneered at her.
"You're not him," she stammered, but her words lacked conviction.
He laughed again. "Let's just say I'm his other half. His better half. Now that Rishid is gone, I have control over our body."
Rishid? The Rare Hunter? "What have you done with him?"
"Oh, is that hope I see in your eyes? Think that when Rishid wakes up your precious Marik will return?" He chuckled. "True, he isn't dead yet. I plan to savor that moment. No, I'm going to kill you first just in case my other half is somehow aware of my going ons. After Rishid is gone for good, I suspect my pitiful other half will be gone as well. I plan to make him suffer before that sweet sweet moment."
He walked closer to her, cutting her stomach open slowly. She screamed and struggled, but the bonds that held her were too tight. The Dark Marik laughed. "Oh, I'm not going to kill you that way. It's hardly deep enough to kill you." He pressed against her, licking her lips and then the side of her face. He brought the blade to her forehead and held it there. "I did say you will join Chatha. I do believe that you should undergo the same fate as him."
Her legs felt hot and wet as she relieved herself. Everything seemed to drop within her. She felt so cold. Janessa knew she was going into shock, and felt viciously glad for it. She wanted to go away. And then she did.
It was a simple matter to follow the runt of a girl and the Millennium Item bearer. He had stolen a vehicle and chanced using his Millennium Ring as he sped after them. According to that girl, the bearer owned some sort of holographic imaging device to display duel monsters as dimensional beings.
It would almost be exactly like a Shadow Game. He couldn't contain his excitement anymore as his grin split into a wide smile as he chuckled. How fitting it would be to duel a Millennium Item holder bearing an Item thousands of years old using modern technology to resemble an age-old Shadow Duel.
Bakura followed his Ring out into the desert. His item led him to what seemed to be an underground cavern that was no doubt used as a hideout for the clandestine and illegal affairs its inhabitants participated in.
There was an odd scent in the air, an almost hidden bubble of bedlam that locked away some mysterious circumstance that was currently underway. Very intriguing. Bakura entered the cavern, walking deeper into shadows. He encountered robed figures that the girl had called Rare Hunters, but they were easy enough to deal with.
He followed his Ring down twisting corridors until it came to a stop outside a doorway. Yes. There it was. The Millennium Rod. It had been a few Millennia since he had last seen the gleaming golden scepter. The man wielding it had been the oddity Bakura had felt. The man had killed a boy and was now torturing the girl Bakura had spoken with earlier.
The blond-headed stranger turned to face him, quizzically staring at him.
"You have something I want," Bakura began as he let the power of his Ring flood through him.
"And you are interrupting something that I want to do," the Oddity stiffly said.
Bakura smiled, glad to have irked him. "I challenge you to a Shadow Game," he continued, wasting no time.
The Oddity turned back to face the girl that was crumpled at his feet. "I have no time for this now. After I am finished conducting my business, it would be my pleasure to remove your Item from your cold dead fingers."
Bakura clucked his tongue. "Conduct your business? And what? Let you waste my time torturing some mortal. I think not. You will duel me, here and now, using that holographic duel table of yours."
The Oddity smiled then. "So eager to die. Why, then, should I deprive you have that cold dark pleasure? It'll be entertaining to let the Shadows eat away at you, letting me kill you in the warm bloody wetness of it all."
"Yes, you have done enough of that," Bakura said dryly, looking around him at the discarded corpse on the floor.
The Oddity smiled, walking confidently up to Bakura. The thief held his ground, staring coldly at the advancing figure. "Then let's get it done with," the stranger replied.
"Lead the way," Bakura simply said.
The Oddity did.
Brother, Ishizu thought, urgently calling his name. What is happening to you? She had sensed a great darkness overwhelm her younger sibling, though try as she might, her Millennium Necklace could not pierce the darkness of which was thrust upon her brother. Rishid, you were supposed to protect him. What has befallen you in order for you to not fulfill your duty?
She was sick with dread over worrying about her two brothers. She felt as though she were a small child again, waking from a night of fitful sleep, reaching out to comfort her grieving brother after the death of their father only to discover he wasn't in the bed next to her, or anywhere at all. They had abandoned her, and what was worse, she did not know his location or what sort of misery her brother had involved himself in his quest to avenge their family. She was overcome with despair, filled with hopelessness.
She felt the exact way now, as though she were a small child searching desperately for her brother, her worry driving her on as though it were a beacon of hope, even though she knew those hopes would be crushed like a ship against the very cliff a lighthouse warned against, vanquished by her brother's overwhelming hatred for the Pharaoh.
Ishizu had known for some time the whereabouts of her brother, and had quickly rushed to his domain at the first twinges of shock her Millennium Necklace produced. She now stood outside the entrance, the hairs at the back of her neck rising as she entered the dark confines of the underground catacomb. It reminded her very much of the place she had lived in for more than half her life, and was reluctant to enter. Yet she progressed, stepping over the unconscious forms of her brother's Rare Hunters as she hurried deeper inside the lair. Something was very wrong.
"You feel it to?" a heavily accented voice asked from behind her.
Ishizu had flinched at the sound, yet she kept her face stoic as she turned around, even as her heart resembled that of a hummingbird beating against the confines of its cage. "Shadi, I must find my brother. I fear the evil that Rishid and I have tried to protect him from has overtaken my brother."
"Yes, that is my fear as well."
"We have to find Rishid. He is the only one that can awaken Marik."
"It may already be too late."
His words irked her. "Then we should hurry before it will be."
They found him slumped to the floor, his head bleeding from an open wound. Ishizu stroked Rishid's head, placing it in her lap. "Please, Rishid, come back to us. My brother needs you. You promised to always protect him. Will you not fulfill your duty?"
She covered his injury with her long flowing gown, placing pressure to halt the flow of blood. "Shadi, please bring water," she requested. He did so, and Ishizu carefully poured the liquid into her adopted brother's open mouth. "Rishid, please. It is very urgent that you awaken."
And so he did.
Bakura felt the change before the Oddity was overcome by it. His eyes twitched as his hand shook, his long fingers digging viciously into his hair. The Oddity screamed. This annoyed Bakura. He was about to snap at the Oddity with a clever thought of pun when he felt another change. Three Millennium Items were close by. He was sure it was Shadi. The Thief let loose a string of curse words he hadn't used since the days he was just a normal thief stealing to survive.
There, that was the cause. A man stood in the doorway of what the Oddity had called his Throne Room. He was draped in the dark black robes of the Rare Hunters, his head bald except for a thick strand of hair tied together at the base his skull. Half of his face was tattooed and seemed to shine the harder the Oddity screamed.
The three Millennium Items were rushing fast toward Bakura, so the thief made the very clever choice of leaving. A tactical retreat. He would be back, however, to finish what he and the Oddity had started. Very soon indeed.
That was his plan until he passed a room filled wall to wall with beeping computers displaying bright colors on their monitors. Bakura paused for a moment, and then walked closer. His Millennium Ring pulled him in an almost imperceptible tug toward the main computer. On the screen were two simple announcements. One was that Pegasus, the so-called creator of Duel Monsters, was hosting his own private tournament. Second, that Yugi Mutou had defeated the World Champion, Seto Kaiba. Interesting. Very interesting indeed.
Bakura knew that Yugi Mutou was a vessel for the Pharaoh, the current owner of the Millennium Puzzle. His own host went to school with him in a very laughable and coincidental twist of fate. Bakura had been waiting for the perfect time to claim the Puzzle for himself, and felt the time had now come.
Yes, Pharaoh, I'm coming for you, Bakura thought as his laugh reverberated throughout the pathetic underground kingdom the Oddity had created for himself. I'm coming for you very soon indeed.
Time. It trickled away slowly; reluctantly, matching the descent of blood dribbling down her chin, washing away any coherent thoughts that might have lingered beyond the tightly closed curtain of her mind. And just like a curtain, the drapery gently tugged at the corners of her brain, silky barriers rubbing annoyingly just beyond the edge of her understanding, teased away by the freezing wind, to chill her even as the fires of anger exploded in her heart.
It wasn't fair! Janessa folded a small hand across the gaping hole in her stomach, feeling her fingers sink slowly into the warmth of her body, her life-giving liquid greedily absorbing the intruders. She had received the wound mere minutes ago. It had hurt so bad! She would have screamed if blood hadn't begun to fill her lungs, slowly asphyxiating her to the point were black dots threatened to cloud her vision, the very dirt thrown upon her tomb. Slowly . . . Always so slowly it seemed, she had fallen, her body freezing until she believed she was colder than the vacuum of space.
She couldn't quite remember . . . Where was she? How had she come to be here, in this godforsaken place? But then, what did it matter? The universe seemed to contract, shrinking until it only contained her, and her alone. Everything seemed petty; insignificant. Her only world was the wet and rocky ceiling overhead, and the cold floor that held her blood, allowing the liquid to widen until it encircled her.
She briefly wondered what had become of her assailant, but the thought quickly disappeared as her vision became clouded. She began to fall, and yet was rising and expanding into herself and the universe around her at the same time. A blissful experience, one that would end the burden that was life! Though, she wished she could remember before she died, and then as a melodic tune entered her ears, her mind receded to a place far from where she lay dying, but yet was so close. "Mommy. . ." she tried to whisper, but all that came out was a hoarse grunt. Mommy! Please, Mommy! Can I stay home today? I don't want to go. And then she was gone, dreaming and knowing nothing more.
Her younger brother was on his knees, shivering violently. Rishid was next to him, murmuring words too quiet for Ishizu to hear, though they sounded comforting in manner. Marik looked up at her then, his pale violet eyes lost and confused as for just an instant he was transformed to a child before Ishizu's own eyes. Then the expression was gone, replaced with an air of superiority and arrogance. "Sister. Long time no see. To what do I owe this pleasure?" He stood up, his mauve robes flowing about him.
Ishizu sighed. It appeared he did not remember a thing. "Marik," she began, but then paused, not knowing what to say.
Rishid stepped in, his words flowing smoothly. "Ishizu was worried about you, Marik."
Marik raised an eyebrow. "And what was the cause of her worry?" he asked, directing his question to Rishid, though she were the subject.
"Marik," Ishizu began again, this time her voice loud and clear. "You are intelligent enough to realize that you are not in the same time and place of that of which you last remember."
He frowned, his eyes beginning to cloud with worry. "Yes, Rishid was explaining to me. There was an attack of some sort."
"That is correct, Marik. We were both rendered unconscious."
"Yes," Marik responded dryly. "I figured that much. Though you were knocked out because of that girl." He glared at Ishizu, his eyes mocking. "Thought you could torture me into submission by sending her?"
Ishizu flinched. She had done the girl a disservice by bequeathing unto her Slifer the Sky Dragon, though she followed her Millennium Necklace in all things, and it had assured her that it had to be done. For what purpose she did not know. In time, though, all things would become clear. Until that time, however. . . "Where is the girl?"
Marik's eyes narrowed. "Gone, I assume. She ordered the attack."
"Ordered?" Rishid asked.
"Yes. She ordered another Millennium Item holder to attack me."
Ishizu frowned. "Another Millennium Item holder? There was not another Millennium Item bearer here, as far as I can ascertain." Did her brother imply Shadi was in cohorts with the girl?
Rishid was unusually silent.
"What Millennium Item did he hold?"
Marik glanced at the ceiling, trying to remember. "I am not certain. I have not met him directly, and my memory of the past few hours are cloudy."
"Master Marik!" A Rare Hunter suddenly ran into the throne room, falling to his knees. "Master Marik!"
"Out with it, slave!" Marik was cross, his hand gripping the Millennium Rod tightly.
The Rare Hunter was pale beneath his hood, trembling violently. "Murder. There has been murder."
"Murder?" Marik echoed, the words barely left his lips before he grabbed the cowering servant by the neck. "Who was killed?" Her brother seemed anxious, perhaps even worried. Surely he did not care enough for his Rare Hunters to be nervous over who had perished?
The slave stuttered. "We're not sure. He's not recognizable."
Marik relaxed, releasing the cringing servant. "He? And what of the girl? Has she remained?"
At this the Rare Hunter paled. "She is still here."
Her brother's brow furrowed. "Is she? I would have assumed our attacker had whisked her away from this hell, as she calls it." He smiled then. "Bring her here."
"T-That might not be possible." He lowered his eyes, refusing to meet Marik's gaze.
"And why not?" he practically spit.
The Rare Hunter breathed deeply, and then let his words tumble out, as though pulling quickly at a particularly painful bandage. "She is near death herself."
Marik stilled, the color of his face ashen. Ishizu wanted to reach out and comfort him, hold him, but she knew her efforts would be rebuffed. "Lead the way," Marik murmured.
Ishizu had witness death previously, but the gruesome remains of the corpse she witnessed caused the blood to drain from her face. Marik swept past his former servant, kneeling by the girl. Her face was bleeding, as was her stomach. Blood surrounded her body, in a cruel imitation of heavenly light.
"Why was nothing done for her?" he growled. He turned around, but the Rare Hunter who had led the way was gone. He turned back and touched the girl's face, then looked desperately at his sister. "Ishizu. . ." he words were lost, yet she grabbed at the silent plea and knelt beside the girl.
She bandaged the wounds as best she could while Rishid was sent to fetch a physician. Marik stood in a corner, looking troubled. Ishizu smiled reassuringly at him. "She will be fine, Marik."
Her brother attempted to appear nonchalant and shrugged. "She is of no concern to me."
Ishizu hesitated, then said, "If that is the case, then you won't mind if I bring her with me?"
Marik stilled, his knuckles whitening as he tightened his hold on the Millennium Rod. "For what reason? She is mine. You gave her to me."
Ishizu felt a flash of annoyance at his callousness. "I did no such thing. She is not mine to give anymore than she is yours to keep. I am taking her. Hasn't she been through enough?"
Her brother was angry. "She brought this on herself. She ordered this attack—"
"Ordered?! Is that why she is still here, bleeding? I didn't believe my brother was capable of such cruelty."
Marik growled. "If not her friend, then who attacked me? Who attacked her?"
You, Ishizu wanted to scream, but couldn't. The knowledge that he lacked control over a dark presence inside of him, the very presence that murdered their father and injured the girl he, what, loved? held ramifications that she didn't dare contemplate, let alone reveal. Things are fine as they are, she thought hurriedly, lying to herself. Just a little while longer, my brother, then all will be well. He is what man has made him with their hatred and cruel ways.
Her brother was silent for a while as they carried the girl to a large bed, Ishizu placing a cold washcloth over the girl's forehead. "Sister, today felt the same as the day our father was killed." He was troubled. "Could it be the Pharaoh had a hand in this mess?"
"I do not believe so," Ishizu quietly replied, but by her brother's lack of a response, she knew he hadn't listened to her, deep in his own turbulent thoughts.
"And why was I left unharmed while one of my slaves was killed and another one injured?"
Ishizu didn't answer, knowing he was lost in his own contemplations. "Could it be that Janessa tried to protect me and that caused the threat to injure her? And that you, dear sister, in your plight to save me frightened him away with your Millennium Necklace before he had time to do anything else?" He looked at her. "What does your Item reveal to you?"
"Nothing that concerns this predicament, brother. Just shadows shrouded in darkness."
He snorted. "How very poetic."
Ishizu said nothing.
Her brother looked lost again, staring down at the girl. "She is mine. The terms were set beforehand. She lost the duel; therefore, she is mine."
"Why do you want to keep her?"
Marik looked startled. "She is mine—"
"Why do you really want to keep her? Do you think she'll love you back the way you treated her, the way you'll keep treating her?"
He stiffened. "And what do you know of how I treated her?"
"I know you Marik. God help me, I know you, and sometimes I don't want to believe of what you are capable of doing Marik, but I know you. She doesn't deserve this. Neither do you. Let her go."
He looked so lost. "I'll never see her again."
"Perhaps that is for the best."
"What, does your Necklace tell you that?"
"No," Ishizu said simply.
"I can't let her go. Not yet."
"Ah, I see. She's not to be free until she's answered your questions and agreed to whatever demands you might make of her."
"You think me so callous?"
"At times, you are very callous," she said sadly. "I'm sorry if this upsets you so. But I will act upon what I believe to be the best decision, and that is to take her with me and return her to her family."
"And what do you know of her family? She doesn't want to be there."
"She'd rather be with them than with you."
He picked up a chair and threw it, knocking things over as they tumbled to the ground. "Fine!" he yelled. "Take her! She'll leave for good and I'll never see her again."
He began to storm out, but not until Ishizu called out after him, "You have two legs, Marik. There's nothing to stop you from going after her."
He slowed, then walked quickly out. Ishizu sighed, then continued to watch over the girl.
"Marik," he heard Rishid call out after him. He didn't slow down, however, knowing Rishid would catch up to him. "The physician is with the girl as you requested."
"Does it look like I care, Rishid?"
Rishid didn't answer him, walking now beside him. "Do you have anything else to report?"
"Yes. Chatha was the sole fatality in the attack."
"Chatha? We do have other computer operatives with his technological skill, don't we?"
"Yes. They are being transferred here."
Marik shrugged. "Then no loss."
"Also, Marik, we have reports that a certain Yugi Mutou has beaten the current World Champion Seto Kaiba at Duel Monsters."
This caused Marik to slow. "Yugi Mutou," he tried out the name on his lips. "Do we have a picture of him?"
"Not yet, Marik. It is reported however that Maximillion Pegasus is hosting a private Duel Monsters tournament. The plans for this competition commenced almost immediately after Yugi Mutou conquered Kaiba. It is said that he is the reason for the tournament."
Marik arched his eyebrow. "Interesting. We will have to keep an eye on this Yugi person. Perhaps he is the one we have been searching for. In the meantime, since I now know where Ishizu is, double our efforts to find the other two god cards before she flees to hide them in yet another location."
"Yes Marik," Rishid bowed slightly, then left.
Things were going as expected. Perhaps it was for the best that Janessa was leaving. She was just another distraction to keep him from fulfilling his destiny. He didn't need her. He didn't need anyone at all. He began walking, and before long found himself standing in the middle of his room. Janessa and Ishizu were gone.
That didn't matter.
His room was in disarray. He cleaned slowly after himself, thinking as he worked. He soon reached the corner in which Janessa had set up the television and DVD player, sitting slowly down on the couch. There was a box of movies at his feet, and he slowly flipped through them, selecting a documentary over the migration patterns of whales. At the top of the DVDs, however, was a shiny case with the words The Mummy Returns on the cover. Marik smiled, and inserted the movie.
Five Months Later
It had been a wild ride. Janessa hardly thought over those two weeks in which she was imprisoned. She had awakened almost a half a year ago in a hospital, her mother standing over her, crying silently. She was told she was involved in a hit and run, suffering from lacerations and a concussion. The doctors told her she might not be able to retrieve memories from the attack, as with many patients with head trauma, they were lost forever.
Janessa remembered losing the duel to Marik, becoming a slave, fighting with her father. She barely remembered, however, of what had caused her injuries. She knew it wasn't a car accident. It was shock as well as the concussion that hid the memories from her, keeping them locked away for fear she wouldn't be able to come to terms with what had happened. Sometimes she laid awake, trying to remember what had occurred after she came back from that restaurant after meeting Bakura. She got the sense that something had happened to Marik, and that something had hurt her, yet her recollections were hazy and distorted, and the more the light of remembrance broke through the shadows clouding her mind, the more fear and anguish she felt that propelled her away from that particular memory to ones that were more pleasant.
When she had told the physician she had trouble remembering the few weeks before the accident (a lie so she wouldn't have to explain her absence) her father had taken her words as truth and never again spoke of anything that occurred in those two dreaded weeks.
She didn't either. In truth she did not want to discuss her enslavement and torture. She wished her memories would skip that entire period of her life so that she never had to think back on it again; that she didn't have to go into the future with the burdens of the past choosing the direction in which she should journey. It was a constant companion that she carried on her shoulders, forcing her to travel a certain path in the downward spiral of the present with its weight. And Marik himself was poison in her veins, infecting her very existence so that she was never rid of him as his memory constantly haunted her.
Which was why it was such a shock to see him on television.
Her brother Kevin and his friends were crowded around the livingroom of their tiny house, eating bowls of popcorn and gulping down cans of soda. The Battle City tournament had been all they talked about the last few days, and they eagerly awaited for it to be televised live.
They were in for a disappointment, however, as the finalists in the tournament appeared to be in some sort of soap opera, using the card game to duel their way out of life threatening predicaments. The common sentiment had been that the finalists had been recruited into a show, a television drama, about Duel Monsters in order to sell the cards and make more money for everyone concerned with their distribution. Her brother scoffed at the corny relationship between Mai Valentine and Joey Wheeler, laughing at the ridiculous way the director of the show tried to place her in danger. "If you're going to make someone face a life-threatening circumstance," her brother had said, "make sure they actually do. How can any duel monster card, even a god monster, hurt anyone? This show is lame." The "show" soon ended after Kaiba's duel, not revealing anything else that happened.
Janessa alone knew it wasn't a show. She had left after the Other Marik finished dueling Mai, agitated and depressed. His treatment of the woman was beyond cruel. One of the penances for the shadow duel had been a loss of memories, and every single time the Other Marik had lost one of his, she heard a voice in her mind scream out, "No, not Jenna. Don't let it be Jenna." She couldn't stand it anymore, covering her ears and screaming into her pillow. Why wouldn't Marik just leave her alone?
After a while she calmed, thinking about Yugi. Janessa had wanted to warn Yugi after she had returned from Egypt, but a visit from Ishizu changed her mind. The woman had told her that fate had already been determined, and it was imperative that events played out as she had seen, which required Yugi not to know of anything before the time was right. Janessa didn't like the thought of Yugi unaware of what maniac threatened him, but as Ishizu now had saved her life twice, as well as being able to see the future, she followed her wishes and never contacted Yugi.
Her family had moved from Domino City to a neighbor hood many miles away. Her grandparents lived nearby, her father found a well-paying job, and she began school as though nothing had happened. And for a time it was as if nothing did.
It had been almost a year and a half since she had returned from Egypt when she was confronted with the past yet again. Janessa had stayed after school that day in order to make up a test, and was late and tired coming home. As she walked, Janessa passed a moving truck that was parked a few houses down from her own as men unloaded boxes into the house that until that day, had been for rent. She wondered briefly who the new neighbors were, and if they had a son Kevin's age, willing to be sacrificed to keep her brother entertained so he wouldn't annoy her.
It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining brightly overhead with not a cloud in the sky. Birds flitted playfully with one another, the trees rustling noisily as a cool breeze tugged at their leaves, inviting them to play. The lawn had just been mown, crunching underfoot as Janessa breathed deeply the fresh scent of newly cut grass. This was home. This small house in this slightly rundown neighborhood was home. And she was happy to live here.
"Kevin finally mowed the grass, huh?" she asked as she walked into the livingroom, swinging her backpack onto the couch. She folded into the cushions next to it and kicked off her shoes. "What torture method did you use?"
Her mother chuckled throatily from in the kitchen. "Actually he didn't do it," she called out. She was sitting at the table, eating a salad. "Our new neighbor offered to do it. I refused, of course, but he was so insistent. Said he was a friend of yours from Egypt and that it was the least he could do."
Her world began to spin as though she were riding a haunted carousal, falling slowly as everything around her became softened and dreamlike, as if she were peering at the room from underwater. "What was his name?" she heard herself say.
Her mom laughed again. "Oh, quite embarrassing actually. At first I thought he said that his name was Mary, but it turned out to be Marik. Funny, right?"
"Yeah. Funny." She felt very dizzy. "I'm just going to my room," she managed to say, and wobbled from the couch to her bedroom, holding on to the walls in case she fell.
What was wrong with her? Why would she have such a reaction to him? She collapsed on her bed, trembling violently. She thought she was over this. She breathed deeply, trying to get past her anxiety attack. Janessa felt like pacing the room, screaming at the top of her lungs as she punched at the walls. She cuddled into a ball, hugging herself tightly. After a few moments, however, she felt a stab of anger, so sharp that it almost felt like physical pain. She got up from the bed, and without another thought, strode out of her house. She had to find out why he was here, and to prove to herself that he still wasn't controlling her after all these months. No, she would be stronger than this. She would win this time against him.
When she reached his house, however, her legs felt heavy, as though her feet were encased in cement blocks. She stood still for a few minutes, breathing deeply and closing her eyes, trying to control her fear. The movers had already left, creating a muddy track through an otherwise perfectly kept lawn. Rocks dug into the soft flesh of her heels, though she didn't care. In fact she welcomed the pain.
She then heard soft footsteps come toward her, and she opened her eyes with a start. There he was. Her throat suddenly became dry, her tongue swollen and bloated like a dead thing within her mouth. Everything around her stilled; frozen in shock, yet he kept coming until he was in front of her.
"Janessa," he began, but then fell silent. He looked older, even though his face was softer, his eyes almost gentle. He had grown a few inches while his hair had been shortened slightly; it seemed more blonde than she remembered, as though he actually spent time out in the sun instead of his underground den. His pants were beige, his shirt blue, two black wristbands completing his ensemble.
He took a deep breath, then started speaking again. "Janessa, I . . . I know this must be a shock to you."
She found her voice suddenly. "Damn right it is."
"Yes," he said simply. "I've come to tell you that, well, that I am not the same person you had last met. I'm different now. I've changed."
"And you couldn't have sent a letter telling me that?"
He stood straight and tall, his gaze never wavering. "I've come to ask for you forgiveness."
"No," she said, just as simply. "Now get the hell away from me. I never want to see you again."
"Please. I want you to give me a chance. Let me prove to you that I have changed."
Her laugh was bitter. "A chance?! People don't just change. What do you really want? Are you here to torment me more?"
Marik shook his head vehemently. "No, Jenna—"
"Don't call me that!" Oh, she hated him so much. She wanted to hit him, to hurt him, have him writhing on the floor at her feet.
He paused. "Janessa, I have changed. It's. . . hard to explain." He took a deep breath. "You know of the marks carved into my back when I was ten. They were placed there in order for the Pharaoh to be able to retrieve his lost memory. I had lived in darkness, so long in darkness, always wanting to see above, but never could because of the Pharaoh. And when I was branded . . . I, there was this entity, this other personality created to harbor all my rage and all my hate. He was always within me, suppressed by Rishid's own scars. Yet he was poison. The madness and hate were always there within me, barely beneath the surface. It was like I always had the need to retch continuously, knowing one wrong move would spew forth a vile and disgusting change.
"This personality killed my father. I had thought the Pharaoh murdered him, and I went on a quest to destroy the Pharaoh, to kill him, to free my family so we would never have to live in the darkness again. This taint within me, this other personality, he thrived on hatred, and he was always there within me, always poisoning my actions and thoughts." During his whole speech his voice was monotonous. Now, however, his eyes lit up, a small smile tugging at his lips. "He's gone. I'm free now. So free."
His words of a split-personality triggered something within her brain, but she pushed against it, refusing to acknowledge her thoughts. "Well, in that case, I forgive you Marik," she said, her voice dripping with cynicism. "In fact, I forgive you for placing the blame onto another personality. Of course you changed, not accepting responsibility for your actions. That is so different from who you used to be."
Marik flinched, as though struck, but he nodded his head and lowered his eyes. "You're right, Janessa. Even though he was within me, I could have stopped myself. I could have chosen another path, performed other actions. He is no excuse." He raised his eyes. "Please, Jenn—Janessa, forgive me."
"No," she said, and walked away. "I don't ever want to see you again," she called out, not bothering to turn around.
Unfortunately for her, she saw him almost every day. He was always sitting down on the porch as she walked home from school, asking every time she passed his mail box if she would join him. She ignored him every time, occasionally making rude gestures at him. She couldn't even escape him at home. Marik had somehow slithered his wormy little claws into her brother, who was almost over Marik's house daily, bragging about how Marik was teaching him to ride a motorcycle, or how smart Marik was, helping Kevin with his homework. It was sickening. Janessa tried to play with her brother more, but he just called her a big bore. Of course, she thought he said something else, which led to a huge fight. . . but whatever, that was Marik's fault too.
She was thankful, however, that her father remained totally oblivious to Marik's presence. Kevin did not share his interactions with their new neighbor lest his parents become concerned with some of his activities. Their mother had a big thing with motorcycles and would refuse to let Kevin visit Marik anymore, and their father (in Kevin's eyes) would want Kevin to do his own homework. Janessa, on the other hand, had no idea how Jared would react to his former enslaver. No doubt blow up at his family. She didn't need any other problems to the ones she had already.
She had nightmares every night since she met Marik again. They came in patches, blurred around the edges and small, as though she were looking at them with a telescope from far away. They were of Marik, or at least the other presence he had talked about earlier. She knew she had met him almost two years ago, knew that he had done something horrible to her, but before the dreams became too detailed she forced herself to wake up. She couldn't face them. She was scared, so scared about what she would see, about what she would remember.
School ended, and students were once again free with summer flying brightly before them. Janessa wished she could enjoy it. Her parents were angry at her for her low marks, Marik now sent letters everyday (each one unread and discarded), and she couldn't sleep most nights, afraid of what lay beyond the shadow of slumber. She felt as though she were walking on egg shells, the crack of the eggs pounding in her head, the sharp pain tearing her insides apart. She was a shaking, crying mess, so when her father ranted as usual one night about how harsh jail sentences were for minor infractions, the police brutally stalking victims of the law in hopes of catching them performing more illegal deeds, she exploded.
That was why an hour later she was standing outside in the cold, watching the moon hide behind barely visible clouds that were a shade lighter that the darkness around them. Janessa had been sent to her room, her father raging viciously outside her door for several minutes. That was fine. She could deal with his anger. What she couldn't deal with, however, were the noises her parents made from their bedroom next to hers as they performed the deed every married couple did. She climbed out of her window and down to the lawn as fast as possible.
The night air was cold against her bare arms. She wore nothing more than an oversized shirt. The grass beneath her was slightly wet, finding their way between her toes as she walked to the only other person nearby she could take her anger and frustration out on. It had to be past midnight, so he must have been asleep when she rang his doorbell. She hoped he was, and that she had interrupted a particularly pleasant dream.
After a few minutes of incessant ringing, Marik opened the door. He was groggy, his hair unkempt and standing slightly on end. He wore only black pants, about one size too big as they hung loose around his waste. "Jenna?" he asked, staring at her with wide eyes as he combed down his hair with his fingers.
"I told you not to call me that," she almost growled, pushing her way past him into his livingroom.
He sighed. "By your tone I take it your not here to forgive me."
"Why, do you think I should?"
He rubbed his eyes. "Why are you really here?"
"No! Why are you here?! You're ruining my life. Again!"
"Listen. I changed—"
"Changed? Changed?! People don't just change." She was in the middle of his living-room, shaking furiously. He still stood by the door, shutting it gently.
"You're right. People don't just change. But I have had many self-realizations thrust at me. I became a prisoner of my own body, learning that I had murdered my father, watching as I tried to kill my brother and hurt my sister. Watching as I tore memories from my mind, people from my life, all with a damned smirk on my face. I wanted to sacrifice myself to stop this thing in my body, was prepared to, when the person I hated the most of all saved me." Marik sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I did a lot of soul-searching this past year. I went through periods of self-loathing, periods of despair. My family always helped me when I fell, as they always have, and now I'm here to right the wrongs I have done to you."
"And you think that by getting me to apologize will make everything all right?!"
Marik shook his head. "No. Nothing I do will ever erase what I did. No matter how many people I save or how many good deeds I perform will change a single thing that I have done."
"Then why are you here?!" She was angry, so angry. She balled her fists, her arms shaking.
"Because I hurt you, and I want to help you. I know it won't change anything that I did to you—"
"You're damn right it won't!"
He walked over to her. "Look," he put his hand on her shoulder, trying to force her to sit on the couch.
She jerked away, clutching a glass cup from the table and hurling it at him. Marik ducked, and it shattered against the wall. She stared at him, and then laughed cruelly. "What? Did I break something of yours? Are you going to yell at me? Hit me?"
"No," he said quietly.
"No? Are you going to explain more to me how different you are?" she spat, "how much you've changed?" She put a finger to her lips in mock thought. "Or, when that doesn't work, are you going to start crying, begging me to forgive you, threatening to kill yourself from the shame of it all?!" She began pacing, grabbing random items from around the livingroom and throwing them at the walls. "Then are you going to grab me, hug me and place my head on your shoulders as though I'm crying, whispering words of forgiveness and then pretending nothing ever happened?! Telling me that it's normal and that things will get horrible for everybody if I ever bring it up again?!"
Marik was quiet, staring at her thoughtfully. She was breathing heavily, looking around for more things to destroy. "Are you talking to me, or your father?" he said so calmly that at first his words didn't register with her. Then she looked at him, an odd stillness separating them. When she flew at him she surprised both herself and Marik.
"How dare you!" she screamed, hitting him with her fists, kicking and scratching him as hard as she could, pulling his hair so hard that tufts remained in her hands. She stopped suddenly then, just staring at him. The whole time he had stood there, accepting the pain in silence. She surprised both of them again when she burst out crying and raced for the front door, opening it hurriedly as she ran outside.
Janessa knew Marik was following her, but she didn't care. She just ran. When she finally did stop, she was tired and out of breath, her stomach cramping painfully. She was at a park, almost a mile away from where she lived. A lake was nearby. She walked, hand gripping her stomach, over to the water's edge. The tide was raised, covering the beach almost entirely. The sand was soft and wet, squishing between her toes as she sat down, her feet dipping into the freezing black water. After a few minutes Marik sat beside her.
"I can't forgive you," she heard herself tearfully say. "Not yet."
"I wasn't expecting you to," he said gently. "I think your hurting yourself more than me, though."
Janessa stiffened. "So, what? I should forgive you. Say that everything you did was acceptable."
"No, oh no Janessa. Nothing you say or I say will ever change what happened. It will never make it right. Forgiving me doesn't mean you and I will forget what happened. That's part of us forever. But by holding on to all of your anger hinders you from moving forward with your life. You'll always be there, in the past." He continued when she said nothing. "I never left the day my father was killed. I stayed in that day for five years. Everything I did and everyone I hurt—including myself—was because of that day, because I was fighting against the demons that were present in my past, demons no one else could see but suffered the consequences for anyway."
She snorted. "That's very poetic and everything, but I was fine before you came along. I wasn't living in the past until I saw you."
He began to say something, thought better of it, but then started speaking again. "I don't think that's true. I think you were always haunted by what your father did, yet you could never express your hurt out loud. When I came along, however, you were able to divert your anger and channel it at me."
She shook her head, staring out at the lake. "I don't want to talk about this anymore."
"What do you want to talk about," he asked.
She hesitated, then said, "What happened to your Millennium Rod?"
Marik told her everything. He explained the origin of the Millennium Items and of the Tomb Keepers, of Yugi and Battle City, how his dark half controlled him and tormented Yugi and his friends. Told her how the Pharaoh ventured into his memory world and reclaimed his forgotten name, besting Zorc and the thief that she had known only as Bakura, and being bested by Yugi himself as the Pharaoh was allowed to move on to the afterlife.
"Is he happy?" she asked after Marik had finished.
He looked confused. "Who?"
"Is Yugi happy?"
"Yes." He still looked confused. "Why? Do you know him?"
Janessa nodded. "We used to be friends before he finished his Millennium Puzzle. He became different after that, made new friends, and I sort of drifted off and then away to Egypt where we lost contact."
Marik was startled. "You mean you knew the whole time?"
She laughed at the expression on his face. "Yes. And I knew he had the Millennium Item you were looking for. I was so worried you'd find him somehow."
"I'm glad I found him," Marik said quietly after awhile.
"Me too," she said, just as quietly.
"Is there anything else you'd like to know? Perhaps on the way home?"
"What did your other personality do to me?" she asked suddenly, her tone deceivingly light.
Marik stilled. "You don't remember?" He held up his hands to stop her from retorting to his question as her brow wrinkled and her face twisted in a mocking manner that seemed to say, I wouldn't have asked if I remembered what happened. "All right, stupid question. I don't really know what happened. I wasn't there."
She looked at him in disbelief.
"Well, my body was there, but I wasn't. There's a difference."
They were silent for a moment, before she asked her question again.
Marik sighed, trying to find a comfortable position in the sand. "You must remember enough to ask me the question. What do you remember?"
Janessa looked at her hands. "I keep having these dreams," she said, her voice hushed. "They're so bad, I don't want to sleep anymore. I thought that if you told me outright what happened it would be less traumatic than having to relive the whole thing in patches for who knows how long."
And so he told her, as gently as he could. He left most of the vicious parts out of his narrative, but as he mentioned Chatha's name she cried out. "Chatha," she sobbed. "Poor Chatha. I remember now. . . he cut off his face." She cried harder, big heaving sobs that wracked her small body. He tried to hold her, but she pulled away. "I wish I was dead."
"No. No you don't," he said forcefully.
Several minutes passed, her crying dying down to tearful hiccups. "Does he have family? Does anyone care that he's dead?"
"You care. I care."
"Where are his remains?"
Marik paused. "We burnt them."
"Did he have a funeral service?"
This time there was even a longer pause. "No."
She began crying again.
"Listen, Janessa. Why don't we go down to Egypt? Have a memorial service for him?"
She stilled. "I don't know if I can go back there."
He nodded. "We don't need to go to Egypt to remember him."
She didn't seem to hear him. "I'll try to go. For Chatha." For myself. She began splashing the water with her feet. "Remember when you said you'd take me to an oasis, and that we could have a picnic under the stars?"
Marik's laugh was forced. He remembered what happened after that. "Yes, I do."
"Why don't we pretend we're there now?" She began walking into the water, then wading as the water rose to her stomach.
"Janessa, get back here now!" Marik cried out, sounding worried. She felt a splash of water as he ran to her. "It's freezing!"
"I remember when I almost drowned. Your sister saved me. But before she did, when I thought I would close my eyes for the last time, there was peace. I wish I could feel that again."
Marik grabbed her shoulders. "That wasn't peace, Jenna. That was death. You were dying. Your brain was shutting down."
She began to cry again. "Dead. Just like Chatha. Just like my childhood and my relationship to my dad. Sometimes I remember when I was a little girl, calling for my dad. He was always so strong, and I was always comforted. But not anymore. That's dead. Dead."
Marik held her, and this time she allowed him to.
He let her have one of his shirts since hers was soaked. She took a quick shower first, then dried off with a towel before putting on the overly large white shirt. "I didn't think you had anything this big," she teased when she came out of the bathroom.
Marik smiled at her. "You're welcome to stay however long you want. Perhaps it's best if you stay here tonight. You can have the bed."
She hesitated, and then agreed. The bed was large and comfortable, the sheets soft and warm. She fell asleep almost instantly, comforted by the gentle snoring coming from the livingroom, and for the first night in a while, she had no nightmares at all.
In her dream there was a child standing in front of her, his hair light and his skin dark. There were wounds around his wrists, yet they were healing very quickly. She opened her mouth to ask what had caused them, but then realized she already knew. Most of the chains that had bound him were on the ground, cracked and broken. Yet there was still a chain around his chest, just over his heart. The boy wanted her to free him, but she couldn't. She didn't know how. Besides, why would the boy need to be free of that chain? It wasn't binding him to anything. He looked sadly at her, and then she realized the chain around his heart was around her as well, but instead it covered her whole body. She couldn't move! She felt a key in her hand, but it was so tightly bound that she couldn't free herself. She began to panic, losing hope. Then the boy was next to her, asking her to give him the key so he could set her free. She opened her hand. He gently removed the key and unlocked the chains from around them both. Then the boy was not a boy, but a man. He was smiling at her, and for the first time in a long time, she felt at peace.
The next morning she decided to tell her mother of what her father had done to her. She left before Marik awoke as soon as she was sure her father had left the house for work. The kitchen smelled like pancakes when she walked in, the sweet smell of syrup lingering around her nose. Her mother was seated at the table, drinking coffee slowly. Janessa sat down next to her.
Her mother looked surprised. "You're up early this morning."
Janessa nodded, looking at her hands. "Mom," she began. "I need to talk to you about something."
"You're usually never up this early," her mother continued. "But that's probably because the weather is so nice. It would be such a shame to miss it."
"Would you like some pancakes, Jenna?" she asked, standing up.
"Mom!" Janessa almost yelled. "I need to talk to you."
Her mother sighed and sat down, staring out the window.
"It's about Dad." She took a deep breath, but then couldn't continue. Tears stung her eyes, her throat closing. She never thought it would be this hard to talk to her mother. "Mom, when I was twelve, Dad, he—"
"Janessa, please don't," her mother said quietly.
She was taken by surprise. "Don't what?"
"I can't listen to this, Jenna. Please. If you say it out loud, if you say it to me, then I have to do something."
Her mother looked at her then. Their eyes locked. "I know your father had his troubles, and I know he did. . . unscrupulous things. But it's over now. We're a family again. And if you bring this up, it'll just rip us all apart."
"But, Mom, he—"
"Janessa! You have your whole life ahead of you. What do I have? Would you have me tear everything apart just so you could live more at ease for just a few more years? Please, Jenna. Please."
That was when Janessa realized she had not only lost a father, but a mother as well. She nodded. "Yeah. I understand."
Her mother was crying to. "Good." She wiped away a few of Janessa's tears.
This nasty little secret, this dirty little thing that could never be voiced had created a chasm as wide as a canyon, as deep as her pain, permanently separating her from her mother. She had never felt so alone.
"Maybe," her mother continued, "it would be best for everyone if you went away for a little bit. You could live with you grandparents for a while. They wouldn't mind."
Janessa felt herself nodding, though she didn't feel like doing anything anymore. "I'll go then."
"Yes," her mother said, more to herself than her daughter. "It's for the best."
Janessa stood up from the table slowly, her home, her place of refuge, became the house of strangers. When she crossed the threshold of the front door, she began to run, and she didn't stop until she was crying in Marik's arms.
It took a long time for Janessa to get past all the hurt and pain she had experienced. Or as her therapist said, "accept the pain, understand it, and move on." She had moved in with Marik, her brother coming often to visit her.
She was very angry at first, lashing out at Marik almost daily, sneering at him with contempt and trying to humiliate him. Day by day, though, the desire to harm him faded, now shaming her at the thought of wanting to cause him pain.
She finished high school a year later, and then was lost for a period of time, not knowing what to do. She was only average in Math and Science, detestable in English, and just okay in History. The only thing she really was any good at was art, though Marik kept telling her that she had many talents besides her drawings. She enrolled in a nearby college soon after, aiming for an art major. Marik had already been in the same college for a year before her, and they had lunch together at campus every day. He was majoring in architecture. Janessa had been surprised at first, believing he would study something history related, perhaps become an archaeologist or an Egyptologist, yet he told her he had lived history every day of his young life, and he wanted to do something else for the rest of it.
She had once asked him what his family thought of his moving away, yet he simply replied that they understood. After all, he had two legs of his own. He would go after anything he chose.
Another year passed, and for their break Marik had suggested Egypt. Janessa was a little hesitant at first, but when Marik told her he had ordered a grave stone to be placed for Chatha, she was eager to go and mourn him properly. It was the first thing she did when she arrived at Egypt.
When they went to their hotel room, Marik told her to get ready for a surprise he had for her. She thought she knew what it was, but just smiled appropriately. She had just taken a shower, and was combing her wet hair when she thought about her life and the past few years. Marik and she had an unusual relationship. They had lived together for several years, yet their relationship had not moved anywhere other than the friendship stage. Janessa thought Marik wanted more; she knew she did, yet he never made a move, perhaps too hesitant that they would ruin their current relationship that had just barely been forged. She had a feeling, though, that something would change soon.
When she finished dressing, Marik exclaimed quite excitedly that they should dine at the Abou Shakra. She accepted hesitantly, and wondered why he would pick this as a surprise. She was worried that she would be greeted by the horrible memories that awaited her there. When they arrived, however, she was pleasantly surprised to realize that all her worries were for nothing. She was happy to be there, to be past her fear of this place that turned out to be nothing more than a sheep prancing around in the disguise of a wolf.
Janessa laughed, happy. The restaurant was just like she remembered. The tables were awash with yellow, flowers swimming in the design. Light drifted in through the open windows, cutting through the almost perceptible aromas of the various foods served. The restaurant wasn't crowded at all, and they were placed at a table next to a huge window, a closed rose planted in a pot on the windowsill.
They ate their food mostly in silence, which was unusual for Marik. She tried to prod him with conversation, but he nodded politely, staring at her all the while. They finished their meal without interruption, Janessa not once spilling any of her drinks or food. She was proud of herself. The deserts came, along with a glass of wine. She was halfway through with everything when it happened.
"Janessa," Marik began, lightly holding her hand from across the table. "You mean everything to me."
She remained silent, yet her heart skipped a beat.
"I would like to say that when I first met you, that all I felt was love. But that wasn't true. I would like to say that I had never hurt you. But that isn't true either. Yet you forgave me. You accepted me after what I did." He took a deep breath. "I love you, Janessa. I love you so much that everything inside of me feels aglow in the light of your laughter, and in the heat of your touch. You're so beautiful to me. I will never ever hurt you again, and God help anyone who tries. I will protect and cherish you forever."
Janessa had thought that after everything she had went through, nothing would ever really shock her again. But that wasn't true.
"Janessa," Marik said gently, bending down on one knee beside her as he fished a ring from his pocket, "Will you marry me?"
If she thought her heart had pounded fast before, it was nowhere compared to the fluttering that tingled violently through her. She opened her mouth to tell Marik that they hadn't even kissed yet, that they hadn't had a real relationship that wasn't hidden behind the guise of friendship, but all that came out was a tearful, "Yes."
And then he kissed her. It wasn't like it had been in her earlier dreams. It was slow and gentle. Passionate, yet somehow light. They pulled away and just looked at each other. She felt like crying, and then realized she already was. Marik was too.
They kissed again. She was drowning in his kisses, seared beneath his touch. They held each other then, seated on the bench together by their table. She shut her eyes in comfort and peace, yet before she did, she thought she saw the closed rose bud open slightly. Then there was only Marik, and she snuggled closer into his embrace.