DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Unbeta’d, so all mistakes mine. Not exactly a typical Christmas offering, but it is what it is. Quoted line from Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach. For reversatility , because she asked for a ficlet and because she likes to see Helena suffer a little. ;)
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
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Out here, there's nothing. No houses. Just a few trees, shriveled and bent like old men. No shelter, just an endless sea of white that spreads out across the wide plain, across the wide world as far as she can see. Like Ericson, she's alone on the edge of the globe and even if she doesn't fall off, she's quite certain that there are indeed dragons here. She knows she should have told Myka where she was going, but to be honest, she didn't know where she was headed; only that she couldn't stay there.
As it is, she's not sure where here is exactly. She only knows that, after half an hour of driving, leaving behind the yellow lights of town and the homes festooned with Christmas cheer and the cars and the people and the all of everything, she found this emptiness, this nothingness. It's the one thing she can bear right now, this whitewashed void.
An hour ago she'd been standing in the living room at Leena's, a glass of eggnog in one hand, Myka's arm around her waist, both laughing at Pete and Claudia's antics. A huge Fraser fir, bedecked with brightly colored balls, sparkling tinsel and brilliant white lights, had been brought inside from its home under a clear, cold winter sky to hold place of honor in the great bay window. The snow was still falling outside, magical pieces of frozen lace, weaving together into a thick shawl that spread out across the lawn and inside, the house was loud with laughter and teasing, the scent of wood smoke melding with the spice of pine and the buttery aroma of freshly baked cookies.
She'd looked around her: a fire crackled merrily in the marbled fireplace, the mantle covered in fresh garland. The polished wood of the floors reflected back the glow of the lamps, the tree sparkled with white lights. The room was rich and warm and welcoming and the need to be as far away from it as possible had washed over her with the force of a tsunami. She'd muttered, "I'm sorry", to Myka, grabbed her coat in the hall along with Myka's keys from the table, and walked out the front door.
Now she's here, leaning against the frozen metal of the truck, trying to invoke some sense of atonement in her deprivation, seeking some expiation in the bleak landscape. Her daughter is dead. Her brother is dead. Everyone she knew in that bartered life is dust and she's quite certain that Mephistopheles will come calling one day to demand his payment. Not that she's scared of Hell; she spent a hundred years there, years that ate away at her soul like a worm through an apple. She has everything she could ever want and the guilt is nearly killing her. Usually, she can hold it at bay but tonight, surrounded by friendship and love and all the trappings of this season of peace, all she can think to do is run like a frightened child before she's crushed under the weight of reproach and regret and recrimination.
She shivers in the arctic wind that's sweeping across the plains, blowing the snow into drifts and eddies of white and shadow. A line of Arnold's struggles free from the morass of guilt that's coated her mind, "And we are here as on a darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight ". It's been a hundred years since she read the poem, but the beginning of the stanza conjures itself, an indictment of the world that only love can answer. She's found love, been found by it, been saved by it and yet she's standing alone on the side of a deserted road on one of the longest nights of the year, actually contemplating begging a God she doesn't believe in to forgive her for being happy.
She hopes that Myka will appreciate the absurdity of it.
It only takes her twenty minutes to get home. Home. Home used to be a large house in London. Now it's a small room in the middle of nowhere South Dakota. Next year, it might be in California or Colorado, in Beijing or Beaumont; as long as Myka is there, that's where home will be. Myka's standing in the doorway of Leena's as she parks the SUV and trudges up the steps. She doesn't speak, simply helps Helena slip off her coat, takes one cold hand in her own and leads Helena upstairs. As the door to Myka's bedroom closes gently behind them, Helena murmurs softly, "Ah, love, let us be true to one another "
It may not be the perfect Christmas gift, but it's the best she can do.
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