A Game of Lives
When I appeared, she was already feeding the last of the pages to the flames in her bathroom. As the page she was holding crumbled into dust in her hand, and she let it drop into the bathtub to allow the flames to gut it the rest of the way, she turned and saw me.
"Hello, Lucien." she tucked her hair, now cut short behind her ears.
"It's been what...three years since the funeral?" I asked gently. It had been the last time I saw her.
"I know. It doesn't seem that long at all, does it?" and she shook her head, as if to clear the memories.
"Yes. Almost four, now." and the silence dropped between us.
"So, I know why you are here." she said, and looked away, with only a nod towards the volume in my hand to guide me. As if I hadn't known already.
"Yes. I find it a shame-" I said, pushing my glasses up, "that you destroyed it."
"What would you have me do? Publish it?"
"Yes." She looked at me, shocked.
"You have to be kidding me. What for?"
"I find that you are harboring tremendous amounts of guilt towards the whole incident-"
"-Not entirely undeserved." she added, in a silky deadly tone that I could imagine she last used with my previous Lord.
"Yes. Well, I thought it might help you." She glared at me, her hair falling in her face. And then she looked at the chunks of ash littering her tub floor, and sighed.
"They would think of it as a fairy tale written by an author. It wouldn't be real to them." she said, her words bouncing gently off the bathtub's porcelain surface.
"For some it would. Some might take it to heart, and listen and learn from the past." She looked dubious. I've seen that face a hundred thousand times as dreamers entered the library and were shocked to hear me tell them where their books were. She rubbed at the scorch marks on the tub's floor.
"Larissa," I gently prodded.
"Oh, ok. I'll do it." she said and held her hand out for the book. I slid it into her hands and she felt the heft of it and rubbed the gilt letters, as if lost in a memory she knew I would know about.
I turned to leave. "Lucien..." she paused.
I looked back at her. "You're welcome, Larissa."
"Why are you doing this?"
I stopped. "I don't know. By rights, I should hate you for what you did, but a part of me knows that it was more him than you. In the end, I mean."
"Maybe." she sounded unconvinced.
"In any case, it doesn't matter so much now. That was long ago, by my reckoning. A whole different era. Sweet Dreaming, Larissa." I said, as I faded out.
Author's big end note: This was the longest fic I've ever written, and in the end, I just don't know about it. At times, I feel it was a big success, and at other times, I long to delete the whole thing and forget I ever wrote about it. I was going to write a hellishly long end note, explaining the theory behind chapter 4, why I chose to have the whole thing work this was and what not. But in the end, I think you can figure it out for yourself.
Or, if you still have questions, you could e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love to answer mail. It makes me feel like I did something that people care about.
Also, there is a sequel, of sorts, that has been rolling around in my head since I first structured this out. If you'd like to hear that story too, it would be appreciative if you told me so. Thank you for reading.
PS: Please review!