Strangled in a Net of Lies

Disclaimer: I don't own anyone from Chrono Trigger (although I'd like to find out where I can rent Crono for the weekend ::evil grin::). They are all property of Squaresoft, except for Isaac and Ariana, who I created.

Summary: "There is a trollop in the air." A trollop who divests my husband of his marriage vows, then attempts to cleanse her damned soul in the fruity balm of lemon." - 'Feng Shui Junkie,' Brian Gallagher. Established Crono/Marle (married), and possible later Magus/Lucca (I'm not as much of a 'shipper as Rhianwen is ^_^)

Very Important Author's Notes - Please Read!

This was not originally my story. My friend Rhianwen started it (that's why you're probably right if you could absolutely SWEAR that you've read this before), and decided after the first chapter that she hated it and didn't want to work on it anymore. She has given it to me to finish out of fear that I wouldn't quit pestering her until she churned out another bit just for me (wise girl - I wouldn't have ^_^).

It's based loosely in theme and style on 'Feng Shui Junkie,' by Brian Gallagher.

Since taking it over, I have changed a few things. Mainly, I invented a character to be Lucca's husband (Isaac), who is basically acting as an evil guy, 'blame all the problems of the universe on him' sort of character. I thought it really was too gutsy of a move on Rhianwen's part to make it Crono. I'm sure she would have explained it more in later chapters, and probably pulled it off pretty good, but I don't think I can do that. So Crono and Marle now have 'watching from the sidelines'/supportive friends type roles.

Anyway, I'm trying to emulate the writing style my friend used, so it doesn't seem disjointed, and the first chapter is mostly hers with my changes. The second chapter is mine, though. Let me know how I do, okay?

Spring is in the air.

This is the first thought that crosses my mind when I walk into the cute, modest, perfectly typical little home of my husband, Isaac Lesley and I, in the quiet, unassuming little village of Truce. An exceedingly odd thing, as we are in the middle of October.

Actually, I amend to myself, sniffing again at the air in the front hall as I hang my jacket carelessly over the coat-rack, it doesn't smell exactly like spring. The freshness in the air is missing, the smell of the dew sprinkled over everything that one can enjoy if one simply makes the effort to get out of bed early enough - which I, virtuous soul that I am, have done all of twice in my entire twenty-four years on the planet. No, this smell is like a bottled - well bottled, but bottled nonetheless - simile of the thick scent of flowers in full bloom, with just a hint of fresh fruit in there somewhere.

Now, as I've said, this might pass as completely ordinary, if it were a mild, sunny afternoon in the middle of May, if we had left the back door open on our beautiful, well-kept garden for the scent to waft in and drive out the fumes of motor oil that are so very inevitable when a person is living with me.

It isn't the middle of May, though. As I've already mentioned, it's the middle of October. Not a lot of flowers in bloom right now.

Not only that, Isaac and I don't have a bloody garden.

No, there is definitely something odd going on right now. A few possibilities are crowding themselves into my mind, sending chilling trails down my spine like a melting block of ice.

One is that my husband has taken to wearing perfume.

It shouldn't be hard to understand why I would just as soon this didn't happen.

The second one...doesn't even bear thinking about. It's just...well, stupid! Isaac is caring, considerate, wonderful, and most of all, a dreadful liar, and he knows it. The idea of him carrying on with some female is like...

This thought trails off abruptly as I take an unexpected trip, much shorter than the one I've just returned from - a day early, I recall as horrifyingly, fragments of the situation drop into my hands - to the hard, wooden floor.

Peeling myself off of the rough boards, I glare at the cause of this trip, all the more ferociously now that I realize exactly what it is.

A boot.

Now, I know what you're thinking: 'Lucca, silly girl, men do wear boots, too, you know.'

And I agree with you.

But not of a fashionably sleek design, made from glossy black patent leather with a three-inch heel, tapered gently into a fine point that I suddenly feel the urge to drive through someone's forehead.

Not unless they're Flea.

As this thought descends upon me most unexpectedly, I burst into a wild fit of giggles for reasons that I'm not even gonna TRY to understand. Come on! I've just returned from a three-day supply run to Porre with my father, come home to my loving husband only to find the house smelling of floral perfume, and littered with women's footwear, and I'm supposed to be RATIONAL?

Eheh...not happening.

Then, as quickly as it descends, my mirth evaporates into a brisk sort of business-like cool that suits me much better, and I climb to my feet, brushing little flecks of dust from my front. As an encore, I hurl the boot out our kitchen window.

Hrm...maybe I should have opened it first.

Ah, well, worry about that later. I have sleuthing to do. From the lack of a frantic flurry of motion upstairs, I can conclude that I am currently alone in the house.

Excellent. This provides me all the time I need to investigate.

I start with the kitchen. Nothing terribly untoward occurring there, aside from the fact that the window is broken and there's a boot lying in the garden.

Hey, shit happens, right?

Upon closer inspection, I notice that there isn't a single dirty dish in the sink. Not a problem, unless one is familiar with Isaac's housekeeping habits. Or mine, for that matter. I doubt that my dear husband has gone on a three-day fast, or lived solely on the cookies that his mother brought on her last visit from out west, kindly old soul that she is - he's far too fastidious to do anything that much fun - and so it isn't surprising that this irks me slightly.

Still, though, one mustn't jump to conclusions.

The living room. Perfectly tidy. Now, this is a little more ordinary, as Isaac doesn't tend to spend his time in here unless we have company, and I've forced him to.

Ooh...but what's this? I stoop slightly to pick up the paperback lying on one of our heavy, sturdy wooden end tables.

"'150 Favourite Love Poems,'" I read aloud slowly.

Then, very calmly and deliberately, I hold the book out in front of me with both hands, grasping a corner gingerly with each hand, and then, completely sober and utterly without guilt, I wrench the book into two jagged pieces.

I think I could come to enjoy the sound of paper ripping.

Ah! But I have more exploring to do.

The two pieces of the former poetry book join the boot in the backyard, and I move my examination of our home to the upper floor.

As I ascend the steps, the fruity floral springy scent grows stronger. Gagging slightly, I start slowly toward our bedroom, but come instinctively to a halt outside the closed door. Gods, I can't...I think I should start small. I open the door to the left of our bedroom...

...and nearly laugh with relief as I step into our neatly, but plainly decorated guest room to see a suitcase and a variety of smaller pieces of luggage neatly organized on the floor of the room, next to the double bed covered by its quilt of blue and white.

A guest! An unexpected guest dropped by, and of course, he had to put her somewhere to sleep! Alright. Okay. Suddenly, there is a weight lifted from my shoulders, and as I turn to leave, I feel almost giddy.

Until one last thing hits me.

Why has the bed not been slept in?

Certainly, if there had been time for our entire house to begin smelling of this mysterious female's perfume, she has to have been here at least one night.

She could have made the bed this morning, of course, but the sheets are still as fresh and neatly pressed as the last time that Mother was over and insisted upon doing it.

This bed has obviously not been slept in since then.

As a hand of freezing stone tightens around my stomach, I leave the guest room and slowly open the door to our bedroom.

I am not exactly sure what I expect to find.


Some gorgeous blonde...


The devil himself...

Or perhaps all four, engaging in group sex.

What I see is just as bad as anything I could have come up with.

The bed is mussed in a way that I am all too familiar with. One would have to be an awfully restless sleeper to have torn ALL the blankets from the bed on ones own.

Not only that, but I would still like to defend my husband from any claims that he might be experimenting with cross-dressing, and hazard that the filmy, pink, nearly transparent nightie on the pillow does not belong to him.

Not only that, but the long blonde hairs clinging to the nightie certainly aren't his. His hair is as dark as...the hair of someone whose hair is really dark. Hey, I'm no damn poet, okay?


There IS a woman. My, my, my. I suppose this has to do with the idea that eavesdroppers never hear anything pleasant of themselves. By the same token, I suppose that wives who return from their trips a day early are just asking to find their homes and beds littered with the belongings of other women.

After recovering from the shock of the bed, I take a quick peek through our closet. Several garments have been added.

A long red sundress that I've never seen before.

A cute little black skirt and red sweater are also new to me.

And as for the skimpy lacy bright red knickers and matching brassiere laid across the cushion of our rocking chair, making the understated room of blues and greens and greys look faded by contrast, I KNOW I have never seen them before.

Geez. Apparently, this girl has no taste. Completely garish. Just the sort of thing that men with no scruples have fantasies about seeing women in...and soon after, out of.

Is Isaac really just another man with no scruples?

Next order of business.

Who the hell is she?

With a strength born of great purpose, I pull myself from my position crouched weakly against the wall, and stride confidently back into the guestroom.

My first move is to investigate the tags on her luggage. Ariana Harland, they read.

What a pretty name, I would have thought if I wasn't seeing red (I am well aware of the opportunity for a pun on the colour of the underwear being red...) and foaming at the mouth by this point.

Completely disregarding all the nice things that my mother has always taught me about going through someone else's belongings being bad manners, I yank open the zipper of what looks like a large red leather purse, and tug out the first item that my fingers manage to close around.

A nutrition guide. Well, it's good to know that this Ariana girl is properly keeping her strength up for the strenuous task of bonking my husband. I want to know?

Finally, I decide that I do.

I open the little booklet, and my eyebrows shoot straight up into my hairline as the words 'Female - 28 years' flash before my eyes.

Twenty-eight, huh? So, he likes older women for fun. How very interesting.

The next line nearly makes me vomit.

'Height class: 5-foot 8. Weight class: 105 lbs.'

This nausea is not caused by my utterly unbearable envy of this girl's apparently fantastic figure, as I'm sure you're all thinking right now. But come on! 5-foot 8, and 105 pounds? She must be a skeleton!

Hmph. He likes them older and taller. At five-foot six, I've never considered myself terribly petite, but this girl's almost his height! I remember something that serves only to grind the knife in just a little bit harder: he's always bemoaned the fact that I'm a couple inches too short to make some kinky use or other of the headboard in our bedroom. I always assumed that he was joking.

Silly me.

Carefully shredding the nutrition guide into ribbons, I bend down to paw through the red leather purse again. This time, I yank out a make-up bag. Eh, make-up's always bored me.

I decisively climb to my feet and hurl the make-up case out the window and into the back yard of our next-door neighbours. The next moment, the shriek of an angry cat echoes through the area.

Sorry, Jelly. These are extenuating circumstances, you know.

It is at this point that I notice the diamond ring glittering merrily at me from the dresser of our guest room.

Now, WHAT is THIS? Could it be that I am not the only one being screwed over by those two screwing? This certainly LOOKS like an engagement ring, a gold band with a cluster of tiny diamonds set into the gold. And the simple, yet lovely and tasteful gold band engraved with the words, 'To a lifetime of love and happiness' certainly LOOKS like a wedding band.

The poor bastard. A lifetime ended a lot sooner than I'm sure he predicted it would.

Well. Now that the facts have been established, it's time to act. This mysterious Ariana Harland is going to experience the full wrath of Lucca Ashtear-Lesley. Truly an astounding sight to behold, and one that only a handful of people have seen, including my parents and Crono, the poor guy. I have been told by him, though, that the full wrath of Marle is awfully impressive, too.

Hah! No one can equal me!

All beside the point, which is that a blonde trollop is going to die very soon...just as soon as I can stand up again.

I doubt this'll be happening for quite a while.

I am, at this point, huddled into a miserable little ball on the floor, choking on sobs that won't quite come out, shredding that letter to tiny bits, shivering and gagging uncontrollably.

Oh, yeah. I sure resemble someone who helped take down Lavos eight years ago. Froggy and Crono would be ashamed of me! Not to mention Magus. Heh...where's an angry blue-haired wizard ready and willing to Dark-Bomb the hell out of you, when you need one?

I can just imagine it:

'Pathetic little weakling! Someone really ought to put you out of your misery.'

Thanks, friend.

The mental image of the arrogant bastard and his 'the-sun-shines-directly- from-my-ass' expression is enough to give me the strength to stand. Why? Must be the knowledge that there are still people out there worse off than me. Or maybe it's the fact that in my mental image, he's wearing the pink nightie.

Ooh...back to the nightie. Bad idea. Now the sobs do come, as does a blinding torrent of tears. Collapsing back to the floor, I lie in a little ball, the polished wood of the floor cool against my cheek, a puddle of tears gradually forming around me.

Well. This is just ducky.

I can't move.

I don't WANT to move.

I just want to die. I've had a crappy life.

For starters, I was pushed through a tiny opening, much too small for my swollen head, dripping wet and naked into the freezing cold of my mother's bedroom, and into the hands of a midwife that proceeded immediately to give me a sound whack across the backside. Not only that, but that room was way too bright.

I've been a night person ever since.

My luck began to change somewhat when I met Crono at the age of 8 after being chased through town by a group of older boys who decided that they wanted the money my mother had given me to run an errand to the market. Idiots. I hope they're rotting in Hell.

I hold a grudge pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Hey, I remember the good, too.

Under the bracket of 'the good' comes the recollection of watching in amazement from my vantage point quite literally up a tree as a boy with absurdly spiky red hair came out of nowhere and pounded the crap out of three guys at least four years older than him with a little wooden sword.

Once the guys decided that it wasn't worth the inevitable bruises and left, I slid down from the tree and made some remark about his bad form.

We've been best friends ever since.

Pretty sad, isn't it? My first real friend at eight years old. What can I say? I've never liked people. And that certainly hasn't been remedied by the events of the past hour.

Anyway, Crono and I kind of hit it off immediately, and in more ways than the typical 'hey, you're a kid, too, we'll be best friends!' thing. I really think we understood each other better than most people.

And that didn't change at all as we grew up. I mean, sure, I see him less now that I used to before we both got married, but we're still the closest of friends.

I think the first thing we ever really fought about was Isaac. Despite the fact that I met him at Crono and Marle's wedding, and he's known Crono for years - their parents have always been friends - Crono's always hated Isaac. Said he was untrustworthy or something. I laughed and told him not to be ridiculous.

I'm sure not laughing now.

I can still remember the first time I saw him - Isaac, I mean. It was, of course, at the party following Crono and Marle's wedding. I was doing what I do best at weddings: feeling bitter toward all the world. Not that I wanted Crono for myself - god, no. I'm proud to say that I have never harboured any thoughts of THAT nature about my lifelong best friend. It's just that when a girl is twenty years old and suffering from the effects of a twenty year celibacy that doesn't seem to be coming to an end any time soon, the sight of a VERY good-looking man can kind of make her jump into action...and proceed to jump HIM.

I remember sitting at the bar, drinking ale with an already rather plastered Frog, who sobered up pretty quick when I grabbed his arm in a death-grip and hissed in his ear,

"Good lord, Froggy, will you take a look at that?!"

Frog, rubbing his eyes, peered in the approximate direction that I had been pointing. Of course, a large amount of alcohol never does wonders for a person's perception. And so...

"Er...dost thou mean, Magus?" he asked bewilderedly.

"No!" I barked, wondering in the back of my mind how on earth Crono managed to convince Magus to show up, anyway. "Don't be an idiot! I mean the dark- haired guy in the corner!"

"What about him?"

"He's HOT!" I squeaked, shoving my drink at Frog. "Hold this."

And with that, I, one Lucca Ashtear set out on the hunt for a husband. Of course, that didn't cross my mind at that point. Who needed a husband? I was twenty, loaded with alcohol, and sick of weddings. I just wanted some fun.

And I got it.

He was either the wittiest guy I've ever met, or I was just too damn drunk to know the difference.

Probably the second, I have since reflected.

At any rate, we got to talking, and he told me about his recent decision to move to Truce and pursue a career in farming. I longed to ask him exactly how recent the decision was, to see, I suppose, if I could pull a little cheap flattery or flirting from him.

He went on to tell me that he liked to paint in his spare time, and that he considered philosophy a fascinating study.

He thought it was absolutely 'too adorable' when I asked him to explain to me exactly what philosophers DO.

Two hours and about twelve gallons (give or take a pint) of ale later, we were back in the room of Guardia castle that Marle and Crono had given him temporary possession of, pulling at one another's fancy wedding clothes.

I can't tell you how good it felt to get out of that dress.

Of course, when we got married eight months from then, I was right back in another dress.

Sigh. Somehow, that day, I didn't mind.

And so, here I am now, lying on the floor of our home, curled into a little ball, recalling the past three years of wedded bliss, nearly drowning in a steadily growing puddle of tears. As I try with all my might to choke back my sobs, I recall something rather horrifying, something that I haven't thought about in a couple years.

One day, about a month after we'd been married, a woman came to our house, looking for Isaac. I told her that he was out - he had left to work the farm an hour before - and I asked her if I could help her with something. She gave her name as Madelynne Donia, and demanded to know who I was. Rather irritated by the haughty, accusatory tone that she took, I told her just as haughtily that I was Mrs. Isaac Lesley. She stared at me incredulously for a moment, then broke down in tears right there. Alarmed, I insisted that she come in and rest a while before going anywhere, but, of course, she refused, tearing her arm away from my hand and running away.

When Isaac came back in that evening, I asked him about it. He went dead white, then told me casually that she was an old girlfriend who was apparently seeking reconciliation.

Like an idiot, I believed him.

As I recall that he had gone to run an errand that night, and had seemed to be gone longer than an ordinary errand should take, I cease crying, and simply lay there shuddering.

Finally, a good half hour later, eyes burning, skin feeling tight and itchy, head feeling three times its normal size, I drudge up the courage to move. I even manage to stand up.

Yaay me.

Then, nearly tripping and making the rest of the journey on my face a grand total of three times, I climb down the stairs.

Once safely on the main floor, I make a quick decision.

I head straight for our alcohol supply.

Yaay whiskey.

I hoist myself up onto the kitchen counter and lay into the whiskey bottle with a great load of speed and intent, swinging my legs back and forth merrily, heels bumping against the closed cupboard doors.

Half a bottle of truly vile-tasting liquid later, I come to a decision.

Something really must be done.

Besides, that is, becoming so drunk that I'm hard-pressed to remember my own name.

As a recollection hits me, I decide EXACTLY what is to be done.

On my way through the town, I happened to pass a certain tavern that Isaac and I tend to frequent when we've an evening to waste and nothing better to do. I noticed with half a mind that a very wealthy-looking carriage, drawn by two very nice chestnut-brown monsters - horses, technically, I suppose - I'm not a great lover of wildlife - parked in front of it. It seemed a bit strange, but I didn't think much of it. I'm thinkin'.

The carriage obviously belongs to this mysterious Ariana, if those clothes and rings are any indication of her financial state. It certainly doesn't belong to anyone else in Truce.

Oh, you're goin' DOWN, horses!

It's time for Lucca to do a little hell-raisin'.

Anonymously, of course.

After all, I do have this pesky cerebral cortex thing.

Please R&R and tell me what you think! Should I continue? Should I quit while I'm ahead? Thank-you!