Ice Against My Window

By: Kitty Ryan

Rating: PG for themes

The City of Ninver, Capchen: 1030

The little girl curled herself up in a corner of the garden--flushed and feverish, her dress all torn, mud in her hair--and the rain fell in time with her tears.

"I can't do this!"

Darra Chandler was shaking. This humiliation, in itself, was just another thing too painful to bear. She had been reduced to a gaunt, trembling wraith, hunched over in shawls and flinching every time rain struck the window. The humiliation.

"Valden, are you listening to me?" Darra had grown to despise her voice. So nervous, and so weak. It used to be strong enough to wear even the toughest of opponents down. Strong enough to cut the best price out of every item. The clothes on her back and the paint on her walls had been won by her voice. Now it had been reduced to the quavering, high notes of a broken woman. "Are you listening to me?"

She watched her husband drag his hands through his hair. Hair that's become grey all the quicker, since the creature came.

"Of course I'm listening to you, love. Of course I am." Valden put a hand on her shoulder, trying to smile. Darra jerked away, and closed her eyes. She wanted no comfort. I want something done.

"Well, what do you expect me to do, woman? I can't--"

"--We can, Val. We can. She can't stay here any more. She's the talk of all Ninver! Business is lagging, and she's tarnishing all of us. Even the cousins. Gretchen told me only yesterday that Aymery was tested by the Mage-Healer, for madness, Val. Aymery's the brightest star of us all, and he's being tested, his talents are being doubted, because of that--"

"--She's our daughter, Darra!"

"She's possessed. "

"That can't be proved, and you know it."

The rain turned to hail, hitting the glass of the window without forgiveness. Darra screamed, and put her head in her hands, the nails scratching her face, as if they were desperately trying to tear it off. Valden grabbed her, holding her tightly to him, horrified at her thinness, and at the horrible, desperate quality to her voice. "The weather! It's going to kill me! She is going to kill me, Val."

"She's only a child, my love," Val whispered, letting her go. You're tired…"

His face turned, as the slap came.

"Don't you speak to me like that, Valden Chandler! Can't you see what she's doing to me? She's unnatural. She makes unnatural things happen and," Darra bit her hand to stop herself from screaming as a particularly loud volley of hailstones stuck the glass at her back, "and I just can't cope with her any more! Me, unable to cope! Don't you understand how hard this is? Don't you? You're out all day, while I'm left alone with the…the…the creature. You don't know what it's like."

It was Val's turn to flinch. "This…this isn't you, Darra."

"She's done this to me!" Darra turned her scratched, twisted face towards her husband, eyes imploring. "I'm not weak, Val. I'm not shirking anything. I've given her years of my life. I'm giving her my life, and she's taking it. Each tantrum, every scream, every…each time the rain hates me, she's taking more of me. I can't go on like this! Take her away, if you love me. Just for a little while. Let me be me again."

Darra let the words fly out of her mouth, hating herself. Hating her weakness. Hating the world.

"You don't know what it's like," she whispered.

The little girl was standing now, in the middle of the garden. She'd tried to straighten out her clothes around her chubby form, and had run her fingers through her tangled hair until she cried with the pain. She was ashamed of hiding.

The rain tried to comfort her. It moved away, giving her a circle of dry air, into which no hail fell.

The little girl watched her mother and father through the big glass window, and screamed with them.