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26. Not Part of the Plan

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The boys would have their war, as they were destined to. Boys will be boys. Saint continued to hang around, having nowhere else to truly belong. Time and tragedy had aged him, but he tried to appear upbeat around me. Having a godfather was a new sort of feeling that I’d never considered, discovering this long lost part of my legacy.

Despite the conception that things would be a bit tense, there was an inexplicable calm that overcame the bar and community. People felt at ease, despite the mutiny between leaders. I just tried to assume a normal life as best as a person with my background physically could. Or maybe it was more of a mental issue. It’s hard to be certain nowadays. Mom went back to her post at the bar, where she always belonged. I couldn’t imagine her kicking back and enjoying some sort of retirement. We just weren’t that sort of people. Could you imagine if we just hung up our legacies eons ago and let the chips fall where they may? Well what kind of situation would we be in then? Would it be better or worse? Hard to be sure, but I guess there’s no use focusing on possibility when you’ve got actuality staring you in the face.

Edward was a welcome addition to the staff at the bar. He seemed less tainted than the others, more bright and hopeful. I know that now was possibly the worst time to get involved in such issues, but I couldn’t help myself. With a war brewing and everything I knew fading into a blur of possibilities, I had to look beyond what I had seen in Linkon Ransom. His place was far away from me now, defiantly holding the opposition line. For my safety, and that of my family, I had to respect his position from a distance. His journey for revenge would undoubtedly end poorly for him, and I didn’t want to get caught up in the downfall.

So back to Edward. He was more upbeat with kinder eyes, making me wonder what led him down our way in the first place. Perhaps fate has a way of taking care of the misfortunate if they suffer long enough. I tried to consider myself compared to him. Damaged and indecisive, I seemed all the more childish the more thought I put into it. Maybe he was better left on the sidelines for simple observation purposes. I barely knew what was real as it was. How would I even begin to explain my background, my complicated family structure? There was a lot to hold, a lot to hide, and a lot left unheard. I let my thoughts drop for some time until he took some interest in me.

“Need any help?”

Another late night, another arm full of glasses to be washed, I shrugged absentmindedly. I tried very hard to be useful, something my mother could be proud of. Since her return she spoke seldom, constantly appearing deep in thought. I wondered what plagued her memories, but knew better than to ask. She was trying to remember what existing in the light felt like. I could relate to a point, but I didn’t want to add any stress with my childish rants. She watched with an almost genuine curiosity as Edward instigated conversation.

He kept trying to start casual conversation for about a week, eagerly waiting for me to turn around and face him. He was always patient and calm, offering help at every turn. By Friday, my mother had enough of our antics and took my tray of glasses from me herself.

“You should take a walk and enjoy the good weather,” she paused, staring past me. “Hey Edward, you mind keeping her safe for me?”

He nodded, striding over to help her with the tray even as she rolled it away from him. He smiled anyway, slowly mouthing “thank you” to her, before turning to lead me out of the bar. I looked back to find my mother thoroughly proud of herself, content that she’d gotten me to act like a normal teenage girl for a change.

We walked the familiar blocks in silence at first, unsure of what to talk about. I knew all the stories, all the legends. I had become one of them in my own quiet way. I wondered how much he knew about me, my family, my father. I wondered if he’d truly care. There was just something reassuring in his tone that convinced me I could admit to a dozen murders and he wouldn’t run off screaming. Perhaps I was young and hopeful. But I wanted to believe that I had a chance at something real for a change. Who, or what, defines what is real anyway?

We stopped suddenly where the tattoo parlor had burned down some time ago, the plot desolate and black. The bloodstains hadn’t washed out of the alley walls, the patterns lingering and sinister. I shuddered when I thought of the stories I had heard from others about the place. He seemed to sense my apprehension, considering how to go about things.

“Nobody’s bought it still huh?”

I looked at him wide-eyed. “You know what happened here?”

He looked over solemnly. “Who doesn’t?”

I shook my head slowly, trying to play naïve. “I guess nobody wants to recoup the cost of taking out the wreckage and rebuilding on the plot. With real estate so important, I’m honestly surprised though. It’s a really good location.”

He laughed softly. “Depends who you ask. I’m sure someone owns the land, they just can’t bear the thought of rebuilding.”

I took a few more steps, trying to shake out the memories of times long gone. I had heard the legends; I lost count of the lives lost. I wondered exactly how much he thought he knew, how much he truly remembered. I decided to play it off like anyone else, innocent and confused, just wandering down the block oblivious enough. He took the cue after a few seconds and fell into step behind me.

We spoke about everything and anything, most of it unimportant. It passed time and kept me free from my mother’s scrutinizing gaze. She seemed so intent to see through everything, to figure out the greater meaning of it all. I didn’t believe that there was a greater meaning anymore. Most of the great truths had been revealed, leaving me amidst the rubble of what once was and what would come. Angyl had her own ends to tie up I was sure, since she needed to find a side of the line to stand on.

Since I was trying to gauge my new friend’s awareness of his surroundings, I decided to throw some bait out on the line.

“Have you ever heard of the Timeless Martyrs Cycle?”

He shrugged a bit, smiling at me. “Just a bunch of fairy tales. I’ve never physically laid eyes on it though, so it’s anybody’s guess if it truly exists. Hard to believe a set of stories chronicling the deaths of dozens of people where nobody gets caught. But I guess you never know.”

I nodded to myself, trying to weigh his words. Was he playing dumb, or did he truly believe that there was no way such an item could exist? I had seen it – I knew it was real. And I knew it would be distributed again. I gave up after a fashion trying to make sense of things and we continued on in silence.

That would be the first walk in a long series of walks. At first it would be once a week, then twice, until we would go for such strolls every night after the bar closed. My mother approved, so I didn’t have to hide anything from her, which made life easier. We could wander around for hours on end; as long as I came home before the sun, I was clear.

Over time, we covered every safe topic available before wading into the vaguely familiar waters of legendary storytellers. The old tales my mother not only grew up with but survived. She was a part of that mighty chain of tales. The first ringleader of the Serkis. Owner of the safe haven – the bar. She held her own place on the mantle of memorable names. She was someone you ought to know, and I was proud of her for that.

Turns out he knew more than he let on, but entirely from an outsider’s perspective. It was peaceful hearing things through filters and possibilities, quickly dissecting fact from fiction. I knew all the stories, as my mother passed them to me through my infancy. As a witness, she had locked away too much to lie to me about, so she pushed me to embrace the past. As Edward had heard the tales of my parents, I could feel him begin to wonder why I hadn’t mentioned it before; that I was an heir to a community safe haven. It’s not something that typically comes up in conversation. But he didn’t ask loads of questions when he finally put two and two together; he respected my casual manner about things. I was grateful for his lack of curiosity as I was still unable to fully accept my father’s madness, let along explain it.

Suffice to say, a relationship was eventually born from our late night strolls. My mother and I both agreed that Edward’s lack of background in the area made him a safe choice as someone to latch on to. He was pretty well mannered and decent as well, all the more reason for her to approve. He had no ambitions of power or knowledge; he was perfectly content in the corner of the universe he occupied, which was fine with me. I just wanted to survive as best as I could with all the demons and ghosts following behind me.

Would I ever explain to him my true origins, my family history of madness and pain? Perhaps. But I didn’t want to send him running either. Trust is supposed to be one of the foundations of a worthwhile relationship, but there had been so much that was negotiable in my own life that the concept was foreign to me. Everything I thought I knew had changed drastically lately, leading me to question every minute detail. Who can you trust when those closest to you are the ones pulling the strings, leading the façade? I decided it was better to just play it by ear and hope for the best along the way.

Saint was pretty scrupulous about the company I kept however, keeping an ever-watchful eye on my surroundings. He was playing the role of godfather as best as he could, considering we had just met a few weeks ago. There was something cold and distant in his demeanor, a sort of overwhelming grief that he held in his eyes. But he smiled on rare occasions, an almost weary effort to keep himself in motion. I never pushed his buttons, unsure of the entirety of his past, thus how he would react.

He kept himself busy at the bar, mostly as an excuse to follow Edward’s and my every move. He was vigilant, I give him that, and I wasn’t upset for his attention. Too much was changing, too much was at risk at the moment for me to be running free on the streets. There was a war brewing, and blood would be spilt along the way. I was doing everything in my power to make sure it wasn’t mine, and so was Saint.

Business at the bar resumed the constant roar I was familiar with as a child. The return of the infamous Harley Morrow, the bar’s rightful owner, made everyone take on a mentality long lost in the years.

Irish was glad to have the help, but there seemed to be this sort of darkness in her eyes that I couldn’t follow. She had a relationship with Saint that I couldn’t figure out, this sort of love/hate cycle that seemed deeper than just casual quips. I wasn’t sure what side of the war she was supporting, if she was supporting it at all. Getting involved in matters that do not affect you is a dangerous place to be, especially after working so hard to get out of the cycle. She had gotten free of the gangs long ago, getting a full pardon from anyone who mattered. She worked at the bar open to close most of the time, keeping herself occupied to pass time. What went on in her mind, how she operated, was a mystery to us all, but she continued along nonetheless.

For the moment, things were stable, which is a frightening concept. I was happy with Edward, he wasn’t suspicious of my origins and all the players on the field kept their roles under rug swept. Linkon’s campaign for power was in full swing, but as long as we seemed nonchalant about things, the storm might continue overhead without us. Doubtful, but we tried our damnedest.

I would spend hours staring at my mother, amazed that she had survived all this time and barely aged. Her eyes were colder and deeper, the warmth long gone. There was a period of time that I found myself angry and spiteful of her for hiding for so long, for allowing my mind to be tampered with. She had allowed me to become the unbalanced creature I’d grown into. And that didn’t bother her in the slightest. Furthermore, she thought it was for the best to just abandon me into the arms of a rebel. Angyl’s past was even more shady and confused than my own. There were stories that she had killed a number of people, but the warmth with which she cared for me kept those stories out of my mind. I trusted her entirely, despite the warnings. She hadn’t abandoned me until I asked for space, and even then, I knew she would return to me if I truly needed her.

I decided with peace resuming in my life, I could let the storytelling to the more experienced voices on the scene. They have more of a right to explain things anyway as I’m just an idle passerby. Thanks for hanging around with me though.

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