Prologue – Present day
Do you ever hesitate?
Do you ever miss that step? Lose that train of thought because suddenly you feel so completely thrown off track? As if the world around you is a smooth and working machine you are entirely separate from? Your mind lurches, disjointed, while reality's slid two steps to the left and you're left out of sync. Like a badly dubbed movie.
Do you ever find yourself hovering in the middle of an activity, no matter how intricate, no matter how mundane… and pause? Lose all sense of time? Just for a moment. Do you stand there blinking as you wonder… who am I to be doing this? Pretending that I'm this person.
Have you ever had that?
But then the moment passes, and you move on. You continue your conversation, finish whatever it was you were doing with a shrug or a smile, and you try and think nothing more of it. Because, you tell yourself, what is life without a little self-doubt? All those times you try and hide an emotion rather than offend someone else, all those times you feel like you've stepped out of time with a world that spins around you, they're perfectly normal. Everyone has them.
But what if those moments become everything? What if you use them as an excuse? What if you close yourself in and shut so much of yourself down, that there's nothing left to recognise?
I'm rambling aren't I? Okay, I'm aware I do this. I'm going to be doing a fair bit of it as well. But at least let me start at the beginning.
I'm twenty four, not old by many people's standards, but don't let my age deceive you. I've learned my lessons in life early. More than anything else I've come to realise that no matter who you are, no matter how strong or secure, how wealthy, how popular… there's always one thing that can push you over the edge. One event that can tip the balance.
It could be tiny. Paling into insignificance against the dark and bloody backdrop of war and discrimination. It could be nothing. Like the pebble that sets off the avalanche. Like the single grain of sand that sends the others around it tumbling out of control.
Sometimes I think of life like that, like an hourglass. Maybe because the flow of time is so relentless. It trickles continuously throughout our lives, never tangible, but always touching, always leaving behind marks of its passage. Scars, wrinkles, old age. Missing friends. Time digs in its claws and promises only one certainty; that no matter what happens, no matter how you ride out the waves that come crashing in your direction, sink or swim; one day, that sand will run out.
And there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
Do I have your attention now?
Now I know how this may seem. You're thinking I'm morbid and depressed. You're thinking nut job, bet she just mooches around the mansion… the mansion – yeah that's a hard life – all day, struggling with the fact that she's clothed, fed and well looked after. And maybe you're right. But back then, in the years after the war, I was never unhappy. Well, not to start with anyway. I wouldn't let myself be unhappy. I was just restless. Frustrated.
I wanted answers. I wanted someone to tell me who I was. What my purpose was. Someone to tell me that there was intention behind the curse of my skin, a reason that the cure didn't work for me, that I was more than a freak of nature. I wanted it to be more than a just cruel twist of fate.
Late teenage-angst. Or something.
I was also lonely. I didn't shut people out. Not on purpose. Not at first. I always had my close friends, but there was so much going on in that time that it felt like no one really saw who I was. They lived with me, ate with me, trained with me, but they just knew me as the sassy southern girl in gloves who was acting quieter than usual.
It wasn't their fault I guess. I wasn't exactly outgoing in the first place, not like Jubes or Kitty. I was fidgety and impatient. Stuck inside the mansion; watching others move on with purpose in their lives around me; leaving school, growing up. Like a bug on the wrong side of a window pane, I was drawn to the light outside, but I was afraid to reach for it. Afraid of my skin. Of what it might do to others. Of what they'd think of me. Afraid of myself.
I was careful. Always cautious. Always controlled.
Yeah. There's a nice neat little word to tie it all up into. Four strong walls of protection and care. And I felt like I was suffocating.
Don't get me wrong, I was no emotional mess. Far from it. My life had been one crushing disaster after another, and I learnt to cope by separating myself from it. Finding out I was a mutant. Being a teenage runaway. Magneto. Stryker. The fake cure. I got through it all. I moved on. And at the time I felt I was the better person for it. By not letting it affect me, it made me stronger.
It made us all stronger.
After the Phoenix destroyed what little headway we had made at developing mutant/human relations, Storm stepped out of her shell and took over the running of the school. Jubilee began teaching classes. Bobby and Kitty joined the official team. Hank tried to stop by when he could, now that we were left without a resident doctor. Pete took control of combat. Everyone had a purpose.
Well… Logan was different.
Even now, the memory of him at that time twists somewhere inside me.
He stayed for Jean's funeral, but remained indrawn and elusive, even more so than usual. He shut us out, all of us. The only time I saw him show any emotion at all was when he visited her gravestone in the garden. I could see him from my window. Fists clenching, working to fight back…what? Anger? Fury? Regret? I never knew. I just remember watching him talk softly; choked out words that no one would ever hear.
He left shortly after without so much as a goodbye. I woke up one day to find the bike gone, and that was that.
I pretended that it didn't matter. I had Bobby, and he should have been enough. I swallowed back any feelings that threatened to rise to the surface and I put on a brave front, told myself that was Logan. It was what he did. He was never mine to mourn anyway. What right did I have to feel anything?
But then Bobby broke up with me and consoled himself in the touchable arms of Kitty, and it stung. The rejection. The ease at which I was replaced.
Now I look back on it, I should have seen it coming. There were a hundred tiny signs, even before that stupid ice-massacre of water lilies by the fountain, but I didn't want to believe it, not until it stared me in the face. The clothes on the floor, the scrunched up sheets. The mortified look on his face as I caught them lying there, limbs all twisted and moving together in his bed.
I swore then and there that I would never let them see how much it hurt.
That was the turning point.
From then on I refused to think of it. Kitty? Wasn't worth my time. Boyfriends? Bah. Waste of space. It was then that I started shutting people out on purpose. It was easier that way. Instead I threw myself into my college work, into my training.
When thoughts of my past haunted me, I pushed them away too. I became good at deadening parts of my mind until they were numb and it no longer hurt. Those bitter fond memories of a time when I had family. Of the cool heat of Bobby's arms; the crushed hope that the thought of a cure had given me. Memories of the Professor. Of Scott and Jean. Useless memories that bought nothing but pain.
Memories like Logan's inability to notice me.
They all came with such a feeling of hollow emptiness that I pushed them away. I filed them in a box in my head under things I would never have, things that didn't belong to a person like me, and I shut them out. I refused to dwell; refused to linger.
I told myself those things weren't important anyway. I would not be one of those people who never got over their stupid childhood crushes or dreams of a different life. I was stronger than that. I told myself it was time to grow up.
…So now you're thinking, those of you that like to analyse these things; denial. That's never good. Everything always comes out in the end.
But you know what? Back then, it didn't matter to me. Denial was an escape; it was the only way I could move on.
I had Logan's memories, even though they had faded over time, and he was the expert at suppression, so I took a leaf out of his book. I took everything in me that hurt; the loss, the gaping holes marked by death, the betrayal, being left behind, and I buried them well.
I swept them under the carpet. I hid them under the bed. I shut them away and locked them in a place I would no longer have to confront of them.
What are you thinking now?
That I was stupid? Yes I was. That I was stubborn? Yeah, that too. I still am.
But I was also determined. I decided there was no longer any room for sorrow in my life, so I replaced it with something else. Drive and ambition. They built inside me. A deep rooted tension that before I knew it, had sapped away at the southern shell of what was once Marie, until one day, I snapped.
A broken vase and an argument with Jubilee. That's all it was. That's all it took in the end. My pebble. My grain of sand. The one event that caused me to step over the edge of that brink I had been looking down for a very long time.
I wasn't angry. I didn't yell or cuss or scream. I didn't say anything. I just calmly turned, and went back to my room.
I left the door open as I shoved my stuff into a duffle bag. It was symbolic I suppose, a window of opportunity; for Bobby to apologise for breaking my heart; for Logan to return and offer me that ride he'd promised the night I went for the cure. It was a chance for someone to stop me. A cry for help. Maybe…
But no one came in. So I slung the duffle over my shoulder, and left. Simple as that.
I decided that the sand had run out for Marie. So I turned the timer over.
I became Rogue.