It had been a year now. A year without him. Without Telly.
Anniversaries like these were a son of a b***h.
Jaelyn Déchue leaned against the stone balcony, looking out over the edge and toward the lights of Glasgow in the distance as her thumb rubbed absently over the obsolete wedding ring on her left finger. She had been looking at it all morning, remembering what it had meant, once upon a time. What it didn't mean any longer, not for a year now. And then, she couldn't look at it anymore. Her eyes closed as she took that deep breath and finally inched it up her finger, slowly sliding it off, feeling like she was betraying him for doing this. Knowing it was tethering her to him if she didn't.
After another shaky breath, slid the diamond ring into her coat pocket. Already her ring finger felt naked, cold, from its absence. The same naked chill that had plagued her everyday for so long. It was too familiar, and like a toxic friend, she didn't want to let go even though she knew she should.
Maybe she was being too rash? Maybe she should just wear it for one more day, just today, for this anniversary?
Gritting her teeth, she shook her head and clamped her hands together. No. This is what she needed to do. Had to do. Why was moving on such a son of a b***h?
When the door opened in the room behind her, she glanced slightly over her shoulder to catch a glimpse at the visitor. Good, another distraction from the ring burning a hole in her heart as well as her pocket.
“I didn’t know you were up yet,” the male voice said. “I didn’t know if you just wanted to piss off today or actually be productive.”
"Who says pissing the day away isn’t productive?” Jaelyn smirked, turning completely to face her younger brother Lincoln as he approached. His pale lavender eyes popped against his light brown skin, eyes that mirrored her own, eyes like their mothers, eyes saturated with pity. It’s something she did not want people to feel for her, not when Telly died, and for sure as hell not now.
But, she didn’t hold it against her brother, not against anyone, for remembering that Telly was gone. It’s not like they could help it; she understood that. The shadow of her late husband hovered over her in words like widow, and in sentiments like poor Jaelyn- so young to have lost her husband. It wasn’t like she didn’t do the same thing whenever she woke up in the morning and found herself alone, his side of the bed, cold. His chair at the breakfast table, empty. It wasn’t like she didn’t do the same thing when she walked down the sidewalk, and her hand reached out from her side, fingers anxious to feel his take hers. It’s why her hands were nearly always bunched in fists, stuffed in her pockets. No, she didn’t blame anyone when she couldn’t unsee Telly beside her either.
“Lounging about like a sloth is hardly productive,” he chuckled, running a hand through the dark mess of hair on his head. “But, we can start with productive, then piss away the rest of the day?” he offered. “I am all for compromises.” Lincoln’s voice then turned earnest, “Seriously though. You ok, Jae? Need anything?” Lincoln knew what today meant. He was there when it happened. He saw what she did, had nightmares that hit replay as much as hers did. Today was not a good day for both of them, only he didn't have his heart ripped from his body and his soul drowning in tears for the last 364 days.
But Lincoln has always been there. There to pick up her pieces. He shouldn't have tied himself to her sinking ship, but he did. To make sure she stayed above the water when all she wanted to do was drown. Her younger brother gave up so much of his own life to make sure she lived in hers. How could she even make it up to him?
Jaelyn sighed, turning back to look over the cityscape. “Don’t walk on egg-shells with me, Link. You’re going to piss the hell outta me. I’m not going to crumble apart.” Anymore. The warm summer breeze picked up, teasing her long ebony curls into a soft dance. “I need to rub dirt on this and walk away. I’ve been moping for a year. What’s done is done.”
Lincoln nodded, though a frown pinched at his lips. “There’s no time limit for grief. It’s ok to be sad.”
“No. You’re wrong. I should have sucked it up and stopped myself a long time ago. Moping around has gotten me nowhere.” She shook her head, jaw clenching. “I need to think clearly, start over, figure out another way to find the thing that killed Telly. It’s hard to think when pain gets in the way. I’ve got to move on.”
“You think hunting the monster that killed him is moving on?” Lincoln asked. “To me, that’s keeping you back in the past. That demon has eluded you for a year, Jae. It’s long gone. Let it go. Don’t let this thing be your Moby Dick.”
“Link, you’re either with me in this or just please piss off. I don’t need advice, lectures, lip service,” she lifted her chin, though sighed in what sounded like defeat. It was both sides of how she felt. Ready to finally take this on and also ready to fade away. It was an odd mix of determination and desertion; something bound to rip her in both directions. She shook her head, “I don’t give a s**t if this is my Moby d**k or whatever,” then hushed, “because he didn’t deserve to die like that.” Telly with his perfect white smile; the balm of her dreams. Telly with his panicked eyes just as the demon raked its claws across his throat; the canvas of her nightmares.
“You know dad would--” Lincoln tried.
Jaelyn shook her head, holding her hand up. “--don’t. Just don’t bring him up. Or mom. Just, bury them all. I need to keep them six feet under or they all are just going to keep me drowning in a bottle of Jack,” She scowled when her voice broke at the mention of their parents. And just like that, Lincoln evoked images of her mother’s flash of golden hair and her father’s barreling laugh. f**k, she missed them. Another two people she knew who were murdered by monsters. Though that happened a long time ago, their absence was a hollowed hole burrowed next to Telly’s. “I’m going to the archives today. Coming?” She saw the look on his face when she mentioned it. He knew being submerged in vast rooms with old dusty books would take hours, and sometimes it wouldn’t even amount to anything. But today, a year ago, Telly died. So today, she would start searching for the demon who killed him, find the bastard, and kill him, too!
Lincoln sighed, running his hand through his hair again. “Yes, of course. I’ll help you figure this s**t out if it will get it done quicker.” He then quickly said, “But if you’re picking what we’re doing for our productive part of today, I get to pick where we end up.” He saddled next to his sister, leaning with her on the balcony railing, nudging her shoulder with his. “Come down and have breakfast before we get all dusty in demon tomes.”
“Breakfast sounds good,” she agreed. Her eyes floated back to the Glasgow skyline. The city looked so far away from their coven’s estate, and for the past year, she was thankful for its distance. Telly died in Glasgow. Since then, she had tethered herself here, in the house, hardly leaving the grounds if she hadn’t needed to. But, like she told her brother, it was time to stop letting the city haunt her. It was time to make that demon pay for what it did to them.
“Even if you don’t find the bastard, he’d be proud of you,” Lincoln said.
Jaelyn looked at her hands, brushing over her now naked finger. “Doesn’t matter.” She then whispered, “In the end, it didn’t matter when it counted, in what I did that day. He still died.” Her voice choked, “My magic did jack shit.”
“We were up against some tough odds. You almost died, too, right? So we were lucky in that way.” She saw Link looking at it, looking at the nasty raised scar that ran down the side of her cheek and disappeared under her collar. Her stomach instantly twisted as the memory of the demon’s claw slowly peeling a trail down her face as it taunted her about killing Telly .
“Lucky?” She brushed at her eyes before the tears broke free. “Somedays, I’m not too sure I didn’t die with Telly,” she said coolly.
“Nah, you’re still kicking it, Jae.” He encouraged. When he looked at her, she tried to not to look at him. But his eyes were magnets and her head pulled in his direction without permission. And in his eyes, he was scolding her for thinking negatively and loving her for trying not to. He had been to hell with her and knew all her secrets. She couldn't hide anything from him anymore. “Even if you had to take a break, you’ve come back from it.” He leaned in, nudging her shoulder with his. “You’re stronger than you think you are.” His go-to pep talk. She had heard it too many times. Not enough times.
“Maybe.” Zombies still moved when they were dead, right? Was she really awake, yet? Was she kidding herself?
“Dad always said we’re always where we are supposed to be. You know, destiny and all that shit.” He chuckled at himself while he clasped his hands in front of him and looked out at the city in the distance. “Even if it means we have to leave some people behind.” Her father with the crazy ass afro beaded in dreads and smile that spread to each side of his face like it would fall off the ends of his cheeks.
“Then, destiny can kiss my ass.”
Lincoln chuckled, shaking his head. “And Mom always said to follow the Fates’ plan or it will break and bend you back to where you were always supposed to be.” Her mother whose haughty, poised visage was always betrayed by the mischievous glint in her eyes.
“Was I on the wrong path before, then, Link? Was Fate breaking and bending me just to come here, now, without our parents, without Telly?” Her eyes darkened. “Were we supposed to be without them? Was I supposed to let him die? Cuz that’s bullshit and the Fates can go f**k off.”
He sighed, “Destiny works that way sometimes. You know that. That’s Witchy seminary course 101 and all the other crap the Mistresses and Masters ground into our brains for years.” Lincoln shrugged.
They stood for a while, just staring out at the big world beyond the estate’s grounds; that big world she was about to re-enter for the first time in what felt like more than the year she’d been playing a hermit. Even though she had steeled her spine this morning, convinced her mind to do it, it still felt so damn hard to function. She knew she was a heartbeat away from breaking. “I just miss them so damn much.” Jaelyn chased a tear on her cheek with the heel of her palm.
Lincoln placed an arm over her shoulder, squeezing her against his side. “I know, Jae. Life just sucks, sometimes. Destiny or not.”
Jaelyn scoffed. “I guess we need to look Destiny in the eye and see what that b***h is planning, huh?”