Woo-hoo! Finally, another chapter! What, did you guys think I'd abandoned you? NAWW. I love this story too much. I'm just a perfectionist with it. I refuse to post it unless it sounds poetic and pretentious.
Good luck spotting the Lovely Bones reference. (There's my question! Would it be "the The Lovely Bones" or "the Lovely Bones?" GRAMMAR STINKS.)
I don't own anyone, which they consider to be a massive blessing in their happy-go-lucky fictional lives.
When the winter nights turn black, Ariadne dreams upside-down.
She dreams of cascades of falling feathers and crumbling shorelines, and softly spoken words echo through the unblemished blue pits of her skies, and paper airplanes drift in her wake like dissolving parts of herself.
She dreams, when gravity tugs the snow past her windowpanes, of Fischer.
She lies awake and stares at the ceiling in the dark, tracing pathways and cities on it, wondering what end this maze will come to, wondering if the ground will fall from under her feet when she reaches the center and finds him standing in it.
He rarely speaks, but when he does, he asks her why. He asks her if it's true that his father never loved him. He asks her why she ever told him otherwise.
She can never answer, and the feathers and shorelines turn to whirlwinds of white sand, and she wakes up, and for a second there is a hook in her heart and it pulls her out of her swiftly blurring reveries. Protogeneia is there and she comes and lies beside her, her warmth a beacon, her rumbling purrs like the hum of the sea.
Ariadne goes back to sleep and dreams of nothing. Morning comes and she opens her eyes knowing that she will again be making the journey to the wide, empty house that is half-built; she will again wait on her tiptoes for those cups of cobalt to shatter over her face; she will close her eyes and breathe them in and try to remember that she is not dreaming.
When the winter mornings turn white, Ariadne wakes to the sound of turtle doves.
The snow clings to the rotating wheels of her bicycle as she rides up the path to the construction site. The white sun glistens dully on the naked skeletons of the doorways, reminding Ariadne of knife edges. She rests her bicycle against a pile of planks and pulls her sketchpad from her bag, feeling a quick slap of cold pinch her face; the wind blows the pages open and amongst the geometrical shapes and blocks of tiny handwriting there are black sketches of high cheekbones and blue apathy.
She hears footsteps behind her and turns, the wind still pulling at her loose brown bun and her thick red peacoat and her navy wool scarf; Robert Fischer, Jr. is standing there with his hands in his pockets, calculations flashing across his eyes, his fragile back arching against the curves of the cold.
"You're here early," he remarks. Part of his gray scarf covers his mouth and chin. Flecks of snow melt in his hair.
"I could say the same to you, Mr. Fischer," she retorts simply, snapping her sketchbook closed as though it had never been open. She tosses her head to throw her growing bangs out of her eyes and squints thoughtfully at him. She is a walking gooseflesh girl and he is a statue carved in sea cliffs.
Their breaths steam out in clouds and intertwine.
That is all they say to each other before the workers come straggling in, yawning and shouting. She hesitates before she walks away, wanting to ask him what he dreams about and why, but the indigo bruises of his musings are lost on her, fading in and out like songs with only middles.
They start in on the walls that day. Ariadne stands in the snow with her strands of hair gathered around her chin and directs the workers with crispness and concentration. Fischer watches her and wonders what he's doing there, wonders where he's seen those sharp hazel eyes before. Her fingers protrude from her thick goldenrod gloves and they are milkier than the snow; he wants to study her irises under a microscope and find answers between the flecks of amber and redwood.
About halfway through the day, when his eyes stare at the snow but see thoughts beyond it, he is suddenly aware of her standing next to him, extending a cup of something steamy his way. As is often the case whenever she comes within his proximity, he is a bit perturbed by her presence, and it takes him a moment to reach out and accept her offer. He blinks down at it. It's hot chocolate.
"Where did you even get this?" he mumbles.
Ariadne gives a knowing smile and sips.
Spring gives way to windows, wide windows and round windows and one big stained glass window right over the front door that depicts a mourning dove nesting in the soft confines of a white rose.
Ariadne wears jeans in the spring, jeans so pale Fischer swears she probably bleaches them. With the jeans are big gray v-necks over black turtlenecks with sleeves that go to the elbows and round tortoiseshell sunglasses. She has cut all of her hair off and it wriggles and twists next to her earlobes. She strolls around the perimeter of the almost-finished house and Fischer hopes each time that she will find the perfection she seeks. Instead she always stops – stands up straight – puts her chin in one hand – shakes her head and waves one dismissive hand at the sight of it and strides resolutely away for another night of erasing and sketching and erasing again.
When his attention is turned to the flocks of birds sweeping back into the sunshine, Ariadne gazes at him with perplexed wonder, asking herself why she ever lied to a young man like this, a young man whose fragility sticks its bones out through suit pockets and begs for company. She goes home at night and stares at blank walls and wishes she could go back and reverse it all, because he is living in the illusion that he had a father who cared about him, and she has caused that illusion. There is no permanence to it. It dissolves more gradually each day; she can see it in the way he flickers off whenever his father's name is mentioned. It is in the vanishment that her cruelty lies.
Some days she wants to rush over and embrace him and apologize until it hurts.
She is proud of the house that she has designed for him, compensating for her guilt with grandeur, calling it her modus operandi, he calling it his "humble abode." Occasionally, she thinks they both might be calling it the right thing.
In her petite, tight jeans and small scarlet vests and high-waisted antique belts, she wonders if she looks like a sleeping schoolgirl who spends her afternoons playing hopscotch rather than creating the bones of mansions. Fischer thinks she looks like a painting. That is how little she seems to be real to him some days.
The walls have been built in the house and Ariadne knows that when the doorknobs are in place will be the day she tells him the truth. She has decided that she will no longer conceal the raw pulp of this lie, and when she tells Arthur of her plan, she expects him to approve. He doesn't. Not at all.
"Are you insane?" he snaps, dropping his teacup harshly back into its saucer and setting it on the edge of her coffee table.
"What the hell kind of stupid question is that?" she retorts fiercely, her protuberant brown eyes boring into him. He scoffs at her and shakes his head, looking away, clenching his jaw in disapproval.
"I distinctly remember telling you," he growls, "not to take the job. And after you took the job, I told you to quit. And after you didn't quit, I told you to at least avoid interacting with him as much as possible. And now look at what you've decided to do! Jesus."
"Arthur," she whispers imploringly. "He needs to know."
Arthur lets out a barking sound, something like an auditory brick being flung from his throat, and she flinches at it. It's supposed to be laughter, but she can't imagine laughter sounding like that.
"Ariadne," he replies, looking up at her with a smile more blatantly forced than a peace treaty, "I can't allow you to tell him about what we did. I mean, can you imagine the… the scandal it would cause? Can you imagine how much it would cost him to hire an entire team of hitmen to take us all out? I don't want him to go to all that trouble, and you can sure as hell bet Cobb doesn't, either."
"Oh, to hell with Cobb!" Ariadne spits, throwing her arms in the air in exasperation. "He could be climbing the Matterhorn and we wouldn't even know it!"
"True," Arthur grunts at a low enough volume to escape Ariadne's ears. "Look, I'd love getting caught doing something extremely illegal as much as the next guy, but—"
"Arthur." She says his name with all the firmness she can muster, and it captures him for a moment – he pauses and looks straight at her. "Trust me."
He lets out an exhale and a begrudging smile. "That's not the first time you've asked me that."
"And it won't be the last."
He nods slowly, ponderously, probably just out of habit. After a few moments, which Ariadne allows him, he reaches down and takes his teacup again, downing the last of its contents. His eyes have not strayed from their path to the wisteria bush outside the window.
"How is he, by the way?" he asks after several minutes of silence, and Ariadne stares at him, dumbfounded.
"Fischer. How is he?"
"Oh, um." She pauses, still trying to digest the idea of him caring. "He's fine. I mean, he doesn't talk much, but he never really did. And, uh… I dunno. He's never completely paying attention. He's usually somewhere else, you know?"
"Somewhere else," Arthur murmurs thoughtfully, interlacing his fingers and resting his chin on them. "Some in-between…"
"Sorry?" Ariadne frowns. She's read that in a book once, but she can't recall which.
Arthur clears his throat and averts her eyes, as he often does when he is preparing to explain something. She likes the line that forms between his eyebrows when he's concentrating. He looks like something out of the Louvre.
"Well, sometimes dreamers, after awakening from a particularly complex dream, find themselves questioning their reality in conjunction with the dream they have been a part of. They're not entirely sure which is which. It only lasts for a while usually—"
"But," Ariadne's voice cracks; Arthur looks up at her tightly. "But not for—"
"We will not discuss her," Arthur cuts her off sharply, and Ariadne remembers a word she learned on the first day of her high school French class to describe a rainy day: mal. "You know what Cobb said."
Ariadne scoffs. "Again with Cobb! Arthur, he's not even here. It's not like he's creeping around in the rosemary bush outside listening to see if you do anything he doesn't want you to. Come on! Who even knows where he is?"
"Regardless!" Arthur speaks more sharply than she's ever heard him, and she jumps a little, feeling stupid. "That is not the matter I came here to talk about. I came here to talk about Robert Fischer, Jr., and how brilliantly you're backing yourself into a corner we won't be able to help you out of."
"I am fine on my own," Ariadne snaps, sticking out her chin defiantly, her hazel eyes flashing. "Just because I'm the only girl doesn't mean you guys need to rally around me. I'm not your younger sister! I know what I'm doing, and it's fine."
"Of course you do," Arthur hisses to the floor. "You always do; I mean, why on earth wouldn't you? Women are, after all, all-knowing! Well!" He ends his brief monologue and stabs his eyes into hers. "We'll just see how much you know what you're doing. When he hires a couple of extractors to stick a PASIV in your arm and pilfer everything you hold dear, you just see if Cobb and Eames and Yusuf and Saito and I are there you help you."
"Saito didn't even do anything except get shot!"
"Ariadne!" Arthur has never shouted at her until now; now, as he slams his teacup so harshly onto the table that the liquid bursts up and spills. "This conversation is over! I am going home."
He rises and strides over to the coat hanger to take off his fedora and picks his briefcase up off the floor. Ariadne is fuming so vehemently that she doesn't even have the desire to stop him. He is about to put his hand on the doorknob when his head inches to the left, in her direction, infinitesimally.
"But if you tell him the truth," he says, his voice low, "I will be forced to…"
"What?" she demands after his voice fades, her words catching harshly in the back of her throat. "You'll be forced to what?"
But he has already turned away again, has already thrown open the door and stormed out into the snow. Ariadne catches the glint of one of his cufflinks and it almost blinds her. When he doesn't have the proper manners to close the door and she hears him crunching away, she leaps up and stomps to fix his error.
"You're not invited for tea next week!" she shrieks to his retreating form, and she slams the door with so much fury it makes the house rattle. Protogeneia's tail puffs out and she skids across the hardwood floor until she is safely out of sight.
Ariadne tilts forward and rests her head on the door, feeling the corners of the carvings pressing into her forehead. Her hand is still on the doorknob.
"I never thought dreaming would be the easiest thing," she whispers to no one.
Arthur is a jerk. Go back to the house, Ariadne, and have sexytimes! IT'S NOT LIKE THAT'D BE JUMPING THE SHARK OR ANYTHING.
I have decided that this story will run for approximately six to ten chapters. The end could be nigh! Or maybe not so much.