The first and most important rule of any con is to always maintain the line. The one between the real world and the pack of lies you tell to pull the wool over that world’s eyes. If you don’t, you get caught.
By the time a team breaks down the door to Cy’s cubby and hauls him out of bed and into cuffs, he’s broken that rule a hundred times over. He’s lost count of how often the line blurred, how he found himself believing the fabrications that make up his identity here in the shadowy, brutal world where rebellions are fostered.
The small unit he’s called home for months feels packed to capacity and claustrophobia gnaws at Cy’s insides while he watches Zeb, the team leader, rifle through his belongings. When he pulls out a touchpad that comes to life and reveals the warning Cy coded into the system to prevent exactly what was happening, the man’s stony mask slips and reveals a world of betrayal that Cy realises is the inevitable outcome of any camaraderie they had once shared. When you don’t maintain your line, people get hurt.
Someone’s com crackles with static, and then a voice.
“The captain’s a few minutes away.”
It’s Zeb who shifts, speaks into the small black square affixed to his jacket. “We’re ready.”
Happy new year to my five readers!
A while back, in conversation with my brother, he told me that 2018 is the year of no expectations. It’s not hard to relate to the sentiment — at the beginning of every one of the last few years, I optimistically declared that they would all finally be the years when things settled and stopped feeling like such a mess. After being consistently proven wrong, having no expectations seems like the healthiest way to enter into a year that nobody, least of all me, can predict. (This great take on the proverbial annual horoscope is scarily accurate, however.)
Along with this approach comes a new way of thinking about resolutions. I’ve never had any firm new year’s resolutions, so to speak of, but I did always enter into the year with notions and intentions of eating well, exercising more and being more financially responsible and stable. Then there were promises to write and explore creativity, positive, and so on and so forth. They’ve never really stuck though, and I realise that to me, these intentions and notions have more to do with lifestyle, and less with an achievable goal you set for a year. Despite entering the year with zero expectations, I still want to set myself some goals that, when the end of the year rolls around (if we even make it that far, let’s be real), I can say I’ve done. My new year’s resolutions are things I want to do in 2018, and only 2018.
“Unlike myself, my sire was not a great lover of words. His art was war, and now the history books hail him as one of the world’s fiercest warriors, a fine king, a destroyer of worlds and, somehow, the builder of them too. That was the way of his life. History’s relationship with my father is complicated because he broke and shaped society with equal ease and determination. If there is anything of my father in me, then, it is my ability to destroy as easily as I create. In my younger years, it was a part of myself that I loathed. Older now, and wiser, I have come to understand that it is a necessary balance, the spark that sits at the heart of me, the driving force behind the story you now find at your hands, bound in countless tomes for your reading pleasure.
An Alexandrian librarian gifted me with a love of books and study, taught me to read and write, passed down the ancient, noble art of observation and chronicle. And one other thing. True tomes, Nizam told me, require a special composition: only the most durable calfskin leather, dried and cured till soft but firm, for the cover; fine paper, malleable but not too thin, able to withstand the press of a quill’s point and hold the ink’s bleed; sturdy binding, done with hands and heart and imbued with the sacred knowledge that the final piece will contain a story and nothing is more precious. Were Nizam alive now, he might think that I have forgotten most of the lessons he so painstakingly taught me. Perhaps, though, he would be pleased to know that his secret formula of making books to hold stories is one I have carried through more centuries than I care to count.
In short: this place feels like an oasis, a safe harbour, a home after months of none.
Longer: I have a history with shared spaces I refuse to apologise for; white women are a lot of unpaid work; I was not meant for such things as tools but I am determined, evidenced by the building of several pieces of furniture and being proud despite how much my body hurt, and for how long afterwards; holistic experiences of life and the soaring misery and glorious joy of the human experience are the only way forward and I don’t understand those who choose the soulless banality of not doing that; imagine not caring about someone’s backstory – it could never be me; the big windows let in a lot of light, which makes me happy because the nights have been dark for days; I don’t feel like just a visitor here anymore and am ready to claim this city as my own (which means knowing shortcuts); the mattress we purchased is one of the most comfortable surfaces I have ever laid my body down on; he is so much happier, I think, I can see it in the line of his shoulders, which sank and loosened; there is a fine line between happiness and contentment and most days it’s both, here in this quiet little haven.
Reconciling myself to the fact that I am the Ravenclawiest of all Ravenclaws.
Happy 20th anniversary beloveds <3
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