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Secrets and Favors

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11 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:55 am


Ljuba's shouting jars me, nearly knocking me off the Jeep as I lose my footing and catch myself on the icy pavement. Staring at her in shock, I have to look around for a second to make sure everything is alright before I frown at her.

"What?!" I demand. "Why are you shouting?? Gave me a bloody heart attack..."

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12 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:04 am

"Jean," I sigh, curling my arms across my front as I rub my hands over my arms for warmth. "I wasn't yelling, but you need to calm down. It's not here."

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13 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:12 am

I dislike the noise that comes out of me when she says it, my throat threatening to close off with the tears I've managed to keep at bay up to this point. It had felt insensitive, mourning my own shallow losses when Ljuba had lost the guitar that had been so precious to Maja. Realizing the wallet was gone had jarred me, though, and all I can do now is stare at the Jeep at a loss.

"But I swear, I just had it," I say weakly, certain that if I say it with enough conviction, it'll be true. But I really can't remember having it after stopping at the gas station... after tossing it on the driver seat to pump the gas, right before the men had come up, grinning and threatening, to shoving me into the pumps so they could climb into the car and tear off out of the gas station.

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14 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:14 am

"I'm really sorry," I inhale sharply, trying to still my jaw as it threatens to chatter in the cold air. "What all did you lose..?"

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15 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:17 am

"Everything," I laugh painfully, my arms fanning out to indicate my clothes and the small backpack over my shoulder. "I just grabbed my toiletries to wash up... everything else was in the car."

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16 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:04 pm

I tense slightly as I frown, a lump forming in my throat as I say what I know will sound hypocritical coming from me.

"But, they're just things. I mean, you could've been so seriously hurt, and you weren't. Do you now how lucky we were?"

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17 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:11 pm

"I know," I say, the words coming out near a whine as I let out a heavy sigh and look back at the Jeep at a loss. "Let's just go," I say defeatedly as I step away from the Jeep to put an arm around Ljuba in a half-hearted hug, my hand rubbing her arm before I let her go.

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18 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:32 pm

I lean against Jean as he hugs me, sighing as I look up at the emotional man. 

"Hold on," I say softly, tugging my bag onto my front so I can dig into the pocket tucked against my side. It takes a moment of maneuvering, but I'm able to pull out the small folded rag containing Maja's necklace. It'd been a gift from Jean when they hit their first anniversary (That they were still together for, anyway) and I'd never told him I'd gotten it. Maja had treasured it, and was wearing it the night she died. I only got it because the Guardsmen who were called to our apartment weren't crooked enough to pocket it. 

"You should have this." I say as I hand him the rag, swallowing thickly as I zip up the bag. "To help start your collection of things again."

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19 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:48 pm

"What is this?" I ask as I rub a hand across my cheek to wipe away the tears that had threatened to fall. Unfolding the rag, my hands start to shake almost instantly, a sharp breath hissing past my teeth as I see the delicate gold chain snaked around the jeweled locket. It still has her blood on it, dried and crusted an ugly brown between the links of chain and across the surface of the pendant.

I'm not sure if it's a laugh or a sob that comes out of me as I pick the locket up by the chain, my vision blurring immediately as I start crying uncontrollably. It's the locket I'd given her for our first anniversary. I'd looked everywhere for it after she'd died. I'm making that noise again when I throw my arms around Ljuba, hugging her tightly as I thank her over and over again, the words coming out blubbery and sniffled.

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20 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:51 pm

I'm startled by the second hug, my own arms snaking around him tensely before I grab his shoulders and step back away from him. He doesn't even look at me, his eyes going immediately back to the necklace as I offer a faint smile. It hurts to part with it, and at the moment, I'm wondering if it wasn't a mistake. 

"I'd have cleaned it," I offer lamely, "I just couldn't bear it."

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21 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:09 pm

"No, no," I shake my head as I try to dry my eyes on the sleeve of my jacket, the rough fabric hurting my frozen cheeks. "I understand completely. I'm just so glad you found it! I'd looked everywhere for it. Honestly, I was so afraid he'd taken it, it made me sick just thinking about it."

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22 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:13 pm

I can feel the familiar sting of emotion as I shake my head, a hand coming up to rest on my throat as I shrug.

"No, no. She was wearing it, and-" I exhale roughly, biting the inside of my cheek to try and stave off the tears. "I don't think he saw it for all the blood..."

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23 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:21 pm

A whole new wave of emotion hits me as I try to hide it in the sleeve of my coat, my throat closing up as I shake my head in a vain attempt to get the image out of my head. I'd only seen her after the fact, long after her body had gone cold and the blood had been cleaned up by the guards, but I'd seen the crime scene where her blood had soaked through everything it touched. I remember being shocked that the human body could hold so much blood, the image of it haunting my dreams for months to come. On bad nights, it still did...

"C'mon," I say weakly, the word coming out a croak as I reach over to rub Ljuba's arm anxiously. "We've got a mission to get on with, and it's not going to get done with us standing here in the cold."

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24 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:35 pm

"Then let's go," I nod, gesturing for him to head off in front of me before I look over towards Marnin. He's removed himself from the situation as far as he could without being out of site, lingering near the road as he seems to stare off in one direction. It's moments like this, when he's pointedly trying not to interfere, that I notice his handicap the most. Most people can distract themselves by inspecting cracks in the sidewalk, looking at melt patterns for snow, but not Marnin. His eyes just wander a bit recklessly in his field of view. 

And - like always - it's as though he's reading my mind. Hand in pocket, and out come a simple pair of sunglasses. 

"I think we're ready." I say thickly, sniffling a bit before I adjust the bag on my side and wrap my arms across my front.

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25 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:41 pm


"That's good," I say as I fall into step beside Ljuba, my arm going to hold the strap of her bag as though using her as a guide. Really, I'm just leery of the icy road, for both of our sakes, and without my cane to feel out the road in front of me, I'm less confidant of where I'm placing my feet.

"I'm glad you were able to make him feel better," I say quietly after a moment, a small frown coming to my lips. "But are you really okay with giving him Maja's locket..? You just lost her guitar, and you'd kept it in that drawer for so long..."

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26 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:43 pm

I nod slightly, sniffling again as I keep my eyes peeled on the sidewalk as we walk. 

"They're just things." I repeat quietly.

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27 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:09 pm

I hesitate at that, my lip catching between my teeth for a moment before I look over at her and lean in to put a light kiss on her shoulder. It's a subject I've wanted to talk to her about for a long time, but I'd never been able to bring myself to broach it. Yesterday was as close as I had ever come, and it seems the accidental talk had had more of an impact than I'd meant at the time.

"You made Jean very happy, though," I say lightly, bumping her gently with my hip as we walk.

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28 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:23 pm

"Seemed fair, though, didn't it?" I ask as I look at him, "He gave me all of those old photos... I sort of owed him."

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29 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:31 pm

"Maybe," I shrug, a faint smile on my lips. "I guess it sort of worked out, didn't it? If he hadn't given those to you, they'd have been lost along with all the others."

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30 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:36 pm

A small pang of guilt settles in my stomach as I nod, thinking back to when I'd shuffled through Jean's stack of photos and the ones that'd been lost. 

"Yeah," I nod, "You're right. At least we were able to save some of them."

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31 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:43 pm

"And now he has the locket," I say, glancing toward her with a small nudge. "You both got something that made you happy. That's good."

My ear tilts toward Jean as I hear him scooping up another handful of snow, something he's been at since we started walking. He's trying to clean the locket, a task I can tell even from here is going to be a challenge. Sighing, I pull my coat around me more tightly, my head tilting up a little to enjoy what little sunlight there is on my face. 

"This is gonna be a much longer trip than I anticipated," I admit after a moment of quiet. "I thought we'd be well past Andover by now."

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32 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:46 pm

"I have no idea how we're going to find a ride..." I confess, shuddering a bit as I hug my arms around my front. "I've barely got enough notes for a room for the night, let alone transport across the country."

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33 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:21 pm

"We'll manage, don't worry," I say as I pull my scarf up to protect my face. "When I left Richard, it was winter then as well, and I didn't have a penny to my name. And with you and Jean, it opens up whole new groups of people we can talk into working with us. Much as I hate to admit it, I've always been a bit disadvantaged when it came to sweet talking the ladies. They find me charming enough until they realize I can't see. 

"Somehow, I'm more than certain Jean will rise to that challenge, though. And I know of at least a couple of hopeless dopes who'd absolutely melt at the opportunity to give you a ride. Real nice fellows, but they are dumb as a box of rocks - twins, to boot. You'd think nature would have favored at least one of them with a brain, but no. Chances are they're still working the roads, too stubborn and stupid to yield to the snow."

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34 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:33 pm

"I think you over estimate how charming I am," I smile over at him, slowing a bit so he has to bump into me. "You're the only one who ever flirts with me, ya know."

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35 Re: Secrets and Favors on Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:34 pm

"That really is a shame," I smirk, nudging her hip with mine as we walk. "You're smokin' hot. Why do you think I'm walking so close?"

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