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Arrowpoint Innzone

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16 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:19 pm

"Just forget it," I frown as I start to tape the box shut again, the tape going on sloppily as I try to be quick about it before she has a chance to see what's inside. "I bought something and it's not what I asked for... just - I'm going to the bathroom real quick, I'll be right back."

I can sense her frowning as I drop the wrapping back on the box and pull out my phone, my thumbs already typing across the keypad furiously as I walk. I hear the tittering response before I've even shut the door to the bathroom, an infuriating, What's wrong with it? Grinding my teeth, I hit the call button, and bring the phone to my ear as I pace around the tiny space.

"What's wrong with it?" I demand the moment I hear Richard's voice on the other end. "It's not what I asked for! I told you, I wanted a spruce top, ash back and sides, and a rosewood fingerboard with the silk and steel strings! The one you sent has a mahogany back and sides - now it's just a stupid guitar, it's not Ljuba's! The smell is all wrong and the sound isn't going to be right, it's just-," I grit my teeth angrily as he interrupts, my ears growing hot as I shake my head sharply.

"It will NOT sound better!" I practically yell. "I don't need an improvement, what we had was already perfect! Stop trying to sell me on something different! I know what I like!"

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17 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:37 pm

Marnin's yelling catches me off guard, though it definitely draws my attention in as I take a seat on the bed. I'm not intending to eavesdrop, but it's too easy with only the thin door to the bathroom separating us. 

A guitar? My ears perk at the word, my gaze falling to the box at my side as I try to quietly shove the wrapping off of it, frowning at the tape preventing me from peeking. When Marnin's yelling only amplifies, my curiosity gets the best of me and I find myself tugging at the stray ends of the tape - the adhesive giving easily before I push the top of the box off to the side. 

Inside lays a pristine guitar case, not even the faintest sign of wear tainting it, and I shift onto my knees to look it over in awe. He got me a guitar..? The idea seems preposterous, it seems quick. It's hardly been two days since I lost Maja's. I push myself to unclasp the case, lifting it open when any sense of shame or self control disappears. This guitar is exquisite

There's a tightness in my chest as I shove the guitar case open fully, my fingers tracing the edge of the fingerboard before I pull the guitar out to inspect. Lush dark woods, nary a finger print on it. If I didn't know someone had to make it, I'd think I was the first human to ever lay a hand on the instrument, it's that perfect. Like a child with a new toy, I pull it into my lap and twist it in every direction, looking for every impressive detail when I spot something that brings a tightness to my chest. 

At the top of the neck, just below the head stock, is my name. Ljuba, carved in an elegantly lavish script, exactly where Maja's name had been on hers. I can feel the emotion stinging at my nose, just behind my eyes as I run my fingers over it appreciatively. Without even thinking, I right the guitar in my lap, my fingers running over the strings before I strum them loudly.

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18 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:57 pm

The back and forth is cut off as I hear Ljuba's playing in the next room. I was right. It does sound different. But I'm not sure it's a bad different yet, the rich mellow tones drawing me from the bathroom with the phone held distractedly away from my ear.

"Ah, I see she found it," I can hear the faint voice coming from the other end of the phone, his smiling coming across even with the phone held a foot from my ear. "Ask her if she likes the little treat I left on the head stock."

"You-," I frown as I hang up the phone to take in the scene, Ljuba's expression split into a broad grin as she glances up at me. I can smell the salt from her tears, and I can hear the excited beat of her heart - noting the way it mingles with the instrument's unfamiliar scent and sound. There's a difference in the way she holds this guitar, too - a happy kind of reverence rather than the sad way she'd held onto Maja's, both figuratively and literally... I'd swear, I could feel the weight that settled on her when she touched the old one. Right now, though, she seems lighter. Freer.

"You... like it?" I start again, my confusion tempered by a kind of relief despite my anxiety at the 'wrongness' of the instrument. "Can I..?" I ask as I come forward to touch the headstock, searching for the 'treat' Richard had left.

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19 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:01 pm

"I love it," I say weakly, my voice wavering weakly as I hold it up to him so he can inspect it. "It's beautiful."

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20 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:09 pm

I take the instrument gingerly, trying not to show my surprise that she'd let me touch it so willingly. Still, my touch is light as I run my hands over it, my thumb tracing over the finely etched name in the headstock. That's when I can feel my insides turning cold. It's exactly what I had asked for: Ljuba carved where Maja's name had been, the letters in just the right size... except it's Richard's neat cursive script that's carved it there.

"It is," I finally respond with a little reservation as I hand it back to her. "It's different, though... you're sure you're okay with it?"

Part of me wants her to change her mind, to tell me she hates it. But the part of me that can hear the thrilled little elevation of her pulse as she takes it back into her lap, her fingers picking at the expensive strings in awe, can't stand the thought of taking that delight from her.

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21 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:11 pm

"I like that it's different." I smile broadly down at it, strumming out a short tune before I look back up at him. "And I like that it's from you."

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22 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:16 pm

I scratch my cheek at that, trying to hide the flush there as I smile and finally nod. "I suppose I could get used to it," I admit as I go to move the packaging so I can take a seat beside her. "As long as you're happy and playing again, I'm happy."

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23 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:32 pm

"You got me a guitar," I smirk pleasantly, looking back at the guitar as I run my fingers over the body of it. "A really nice guitar. Maja's was so old, it was falling apart, and it wasn't very good to begin with... But this one? This one's going to be mine." 

I set the guitar off as I scoot towards him, reaching forward to grab his hand. "Thank you."

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24 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:39 pm

I feel another flush as she squeezes my hand lightly, my gaze dropping to avoid hers as I shrug.

"You needed one of your own," I say softly. "I'll be honest. The more you wore through the top of yours, the more I thought about getting you another one... I almost did a couple of times - nothing as nice as this, just stuff I'd found - but I didn't want you to think I was trying to replace Maja's. I just really didn't want you to stop playing if it ever broke."

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25 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 10:54 pm

I smile as I squeeze his hand, looking back at the guitar fondly. 

"A few days ago, I probably would've hated this, but I needed it. I-" I hesitate, my touch pulling from his as I draw my hands into my lap. "Hers needed replacing."

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26 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:06 pm

"Heh," I laugh lightly as I tilt my head to listen to the noises in the room, taking it all in for a moment before I sigh and shake my head. "Some week this has been, huh? I never thought you'd be parted from her guitar. Now it's gone, and you've got a new one... and I don't know why, but it feels like it changes everything. Like it's started a new chapter in our lives. It kind of makes me nervous! Like if that could change, then who the fuck knows what'll happen next. I don't know how I feel about it yet... I kinda liked the certainty, the consistency."

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27 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:09 pm

I laugh softly as I nod, picking at my nails as I look back at him. 

"Seems like it's been forever since we left Old North," I remark, "But I like all the change. I didn't realize how unhappy I was there."

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28 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:18 pm

"I'm glad you're happier," I smile as I lean into her side to nudge her gently. "I can't lie, I always felt kind of smug that you only ever spoke to me... but I also kind of worried about you because of it. Especially when I'd leave for awhile. I was always afraid something would happen to me, and you'd just never speak again."

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29 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:31 pm

I smile slightly at his concern, bumping back against his side before I slide off of the bed to replace the guitar in it's case. 

"You're probably right," I say, admiring the luxurious leather case as I clasp it shut and pull it out of the box to set near the dresser. "I never said it before, and I went out of my way to make sure Itsy wouldn't either, but half the time? When you were gone?" I frown as I glance towards him, "I didn't even bother playing in the bars until my fridge had been empty for a few days. I hated how lonely it was, and the way people would look at me. It took a few days worth of hunger pangs to muster the courage to get through it."

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30 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:42 pm

I try not to frown too heavily at that as I shift uncomfortably. I can tell my eyes are wandering aimlessly, something I don't usually tend to notice, but I can't help it. It's a nervous habit.

"It's better now, though?" I ask hopefully. I've long suspected that was something she was prone to doing whenever I'd leave only to return to find her kitchen incredibly bare compared to the full shelves she would usually have when I was home. I hate the thought of her going hungry, so much so that I've often put off trips until long after my own pockets have run dry and my shelves have gone bare.

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31 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:46 pm

I don't even realize the tears that've welled in my eyes as I pull my bag onto the top of the dresser, going through it to find a clean change of clothes as I sniffle. 

"It's been a really confusing week," I say, setting off the spare clothes to the side, "But I haven't gone hungry."

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32 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Tue Mar 08, 2016 8:43 pm

I frown a bit before getting to my feet and stepping up behind her, my fingers brushing the back of her arm lightly. I hesitate for a moment as she glances back at me before asking, "Can I..?" as I hold my arms out slightly.

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33 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:35 pm

"Hmm?" I frown, twisting around to face him in confusion. "Can you... oh-"

I hesitate before nodding softly, turning to drop the hair brush I'd pulled out onto the dresser before opening my arms for him.

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34 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Tue Mar 08, 2016 10:56 pm

I smile a bit at the awkwardness of the moment, my arms wrapping around her fondly. It still feels weird being able to hug her like this, but I like it. I even like being able to nuzzle against her, my scruff covered cheek tickling across her jaw as she tightens her shoulder up to protect her neck from the intrusion.

"Are you about to take a bath?" I ask, nodding at the items she'd gotten from her bag as I step back to go through my own.

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35 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:03 pm

"Yeah, it's been a few days, I wanted to wash my hair." I respond, letting my hands rest on his sides for a moment before I pull away.

"You can take one after? I'm kind of sick of smelling myself." I laugh weakly, twisting to grab up my things as I head for the bathroom.

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36 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Tue Mar 08, 2016 11:26 pm

"That's fine," I nod as I pull out my phone again. "I have some business I need to take care of before I bathe anyway."

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37 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Wed Mar 09, 2016 12:26 am

I hum a quiet response, nodding as he steps back towards the bed so I can get past into the bathroom. As soon as I'm inside, I latch the door behind me and cut the water on. The noise seems to ease the anxious drumming in my head, and I'm able to relax as I go through the motions of my bath. 

Time passes far quicker than I'd like, the steam from the hot water subsiding and my hair nearly dry before I finally crawl out of the cooling tub. Shaved, scrubbed, and soft. My skin feels brand new as I dry myself off, and for a moment - with the towel over my marred cheek - I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that warrants a second look. I can't describe it, but I feel as though I'm standing in front of my former self, and the feelings of anxiety and dread mix pleasantly with those of giddy anticipation. 

It'll be the first night I've been able to spend alone with Marnin since Crossroads. Since the mess of our relationship started to sort itself out. I'm eager to talk about it, to let my fingers explore his as I work to embrace this new feeling. However, I'm also terrified of what lies ahead. Scared of opening myself up to him in the way he needs. I've been silently berating myself for telling him to stop seeing Luella, for staking some odd claim on him in that sense when I wasn't entirely prepared for the responsibility. 

But I can't feel guilty anymore. I can't stomach the way he pulls from me, looking hurt, whenever I shut down his attempts at physical intimacy. I can't look at his face again when I cringe away from his touch without thinking. 

My hair's still rather damp by the time I'm dressed, the sort of damp that causes it to tangle and stick against my fingers when I try to straighten it. I've redressed, my towel hanging near the door, and I've run out of things to keep myself busy with. My teeth have been brushed, my nails tended to. I've scrubbed at the rough spots on my fingers and even crawled up onto the counter so I could clean the dead skin from my lips and the imagined gunk in my lame eye. I've nearly preened myself raw by the time I start gathering my dirty clothes and heading for the door. 

Marnin is sitting in one of the chairs near the window, his fingers running over something in his hand when I come out. I'm not sure what, though, because as soon as I step out he pockets it as he shifts his head towards me. 

"It's all yours," I say lamely, clearing my throat as I head over to put my dirty clothes back into my bag. Marnin offers a small smile as he rises, his own change of clothes already sitting ready to be scooped up as he heads into the bathroom. 

I wait until I can hear his water running to head for the bed, staring at it as though it's personally offended me. The sheets look soft, but stained, and the comforter is threatening to spill its stuffing in several places. The pillow cases are a busy pattern, and I half-wonder if that's to cover any stains from prior guests. Cringing at the idea, I tug the blankets and sheets back, glancing towards the bathroom door before wiggling out of my pants and folding them neatly to replace in my bag. 

I don't know why I'm trying to be sneaky. Marnin has proven time and again to be more aware of his surroundings than any human should be capable of, but I still make a point to tuck them far into the bag as though hiding them away. Content with my job, I crawl into the bed, pulling the blankets up to my chest as I sit back. 

Now I wait.

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38 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Wed Mar 09, 2016 7:31 pm

Getting out of the shower proves to be more difficult than I'd imagined. The stress over the past few days has done nothing for the stiffness that always develops in my muscles when I'm forced to spend all of my time in a car. Even when I'd relax with Ljuba in the back of the van, there's still an anxiety that coils up everytime she moves. I don't know whether it's my own issues with intimacy, or the fear that she'll have another panic attack when she wakes to find me so close. Whatever it is, though, it's left a stitch in my shoulder that makes the hot spray of the shower feel amazing.

Sighing, I stretch it out once more under the hot water before finally turning it off and grabbing the towel hanging on the hook outside of the shower. I take my time drying off, silently wondering about Ljuba's after-shower ritual and why she had taken longer than usual. It had been tempting to listen in on what she was doing, but instead, I'd spent the time in thought, the tag Richard had attached to the guitar running under my nail as I traced each tiny curve of his handwriting. The same tiny curves of innocuous taint he had put on Ljuba's guitar.

He's a problem, and problems need to be dealt with. And every little dent and bump of skin that passes under my fingers as I dry off is only further evidence that hardens my resolve, the scars and minutely misshapen ribs giving my hands pause as I consider the woman in the next room. I hate that she can see them. It's bad enough being able to feel them, but I can only imagine what ugly color marrs the raised flesh.

She's let me 'see' hers, though...

Sighing, I put the thought aside and grab my pajama bottoms so I can get dressed. Rather than putting on the long sleeves I had intended to sleep in, I decide to muster up the courage to simply go without. Really, I shouldn't be so nervous. Scars aside, I've worked hard to maintain a strong, healthy body... and I'm plenty confident in it when it's not Ljuba who's looking at it. I don't know why that is... Cael has seen me without a shirt, so has Luella and a handful of others. It never made me this nervous.

Gathering up my clothes, I make a point to double check that the light is out before I head out into the bedroom. Ljuba has already crawled into bed, the smell of her soap now mingling with the staleness of the sheets. I try not to pay attention to her gaze following me as I go to put my things in my bag before grabbing my phone and the charger out so I can plug it in by the bed.

"Are the sheets okay?" I ask as I head over to my side to look for a plug-in.

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39 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Wed Mar 09, 2016 9:30 pm

"Yeah," I nod softly, still hugging the blankets across my front as I try to keep my gaze from wandering too freely over his chest. I've never seen him like this before, even when he'd shared his scars with me in the truck, he'd been careful to conceal as much of himself as he could. Still, I find myself watching him as he plugs his phone in, the dim light casting shadows across the muscles of his arms and abdomen in a way I find hard to ignore. 

Clearing my throat, I shift up to sit against the headboard, tucking the blankets across my lap before reaching over to pat his side. 

"They're soft. They're ugly as hell, but you don't have to endure it. Lucky you."

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40 Re: Arrowpoint Innzone on Wed Mar 09, 2016 9:37 pm

"Yeah, the perks of being blind," I grin as I switch the phone to silent before crawling into the bed. I can still feel her watching me as I adjust the pillow and blankets to make it more comfortable.

"You're staring," I point out, feeling a little exposed as I try to keep the flush from keeping across my skin.

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