Today is a holiday here in the states (Happy 4th of July everyone! Hope it’s fantastic and safe!), so I wanted to do something different from the norm to celebrate; something that is both unprecedented here on Nightwolf’s Corner and potentially a new post series, depending on how you guys like it. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while, but that I haven’t had time to implement. And, unfortunately, that’s likely to remain the case for some time. However, nothing starts without taking that first step, right?
I’ve featured a lot of advice/opinion-based posts over the years (and that will continue), as well as a spattering of artwork and, more recently, book reviews. But I’ve never featured writing, in the sense that I post an entire piece of work for your perusal. That’s something I’d like to change, though. In the coming months (okay, more like years), I’d like to start featuring some shorter works of mine, scattered periodically among all the other goodies I bring you. And today seems like the perfect day to kick that off with a bang (pun intended).
For this inaugural post, I’ve chosen to feature Spinning, my personal favorite of the three stories I previously published. Keep in mind that this is still in the (non-professionally edited)condition it was originally published in, and is currently on my list of stories to revise & re-release, so I’m perfectly aware of the typos and stuff. It’s not necessary to point them out (Grammar Nazis, I’m talking to you here). But I do hope that you still enjoy it. After all, it was polished enough to make it into a magazine once upon a time. It’s just maybe not polished enough to pass my Super-Editor standards anymore. 😉
Be warned, though, it is fairly long, so I won’t blame you if you don’t read it all in one sitting. But, should you read it and feel the need to comment, please do. Feedback is always welcome. 🙂
by Kisa Whipkey
“Don’t go,” she whispered, her eyes pleading. I sighed and pulled myself away from the comfort of her arms.
“I have to, Rose. It’s my job. When they summon, I go.” Secretly I agreed with her; I would much rather stay in bed than report to the castle. I heard her disgruntled snort behind me as I pulled on my clothes. When I turned, a pout puckered her full lips but her green eyes were mischievous. She knew how hard it was for me to deny that face.
“Please don’t make this harder than it already is,” I told her. As I expected, her pretend pout became more sincere as she realized she wasn’t going to get her way.
“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” I promised, leaning in to kiss her goodbye and brushing tangled curls away from her face.
“You better,” she returned, her tone snide, her eyes sparkling.
As she burrowed back under the covers, I left the cottage, grabbing my violin from its place near the door on my way out. The morning was brisk and I paused to wrap my cloak tightly around my shoulders. Slinging the violin to its customary place against my back, I headed for the castle.
A bard by trade, music was more than just my livelihood; it was my gift, my calling. Even so, I loathed having to entertain the King’s court. No audience was as difficult to please as a royal one. Though, somehow, I had managed to endear myself to the listeners at Briara Castle. They continued to summon me almost daily and I continued to go. If I didn’t, I would be executed for disobeying a royal order. Not exactly the life I had promised my beautiful new bride. The thought of my Rose waiting impatiently for me to return sped my steps. The sooner I finished my obligations, the sooner I could return to newly-wedded bliss.
The guards at the castle gates barely acknowledged my presence. I had come and gone so many times in the past weeks that I was sure I was now as familiar to them as the rest of the castle staff—maybe even more so, since most of the castle help lived on the premises, while I still had to walk back and forth from the village. It didn’t matter though. Experience had shown me that very few challenged the comings and goings of a Bard. For all they knew, I could be an assassin, and yet they granted me unlimited access to the innermost chambers with barely a cursory glance. Oddly, this gave me a sense of power that I reveled in — especially when faced with an unappreciative audience.
As I reached my usual station at the back of the grand ballroom, I surveyed the room. The King and his attendants were clustered on the other end; a mass of elegantly garbed women hovered between us. No one seemed to notice as I set-up, taking my seat and tuning the violin quietly. It was already in tune of course, but this was part of the performance. If anyone bothered to watch, that is.
Only three more hours, I told myself. I can get through this.
Taking a deep breath of resignation, I brought the cool varnish of the violin to rest under my chin, my fingers finding their familiar homes on the delicate strings. I closed my eyes and began to play. It was a soft melody, haunting; and probably completely unnoticed by the crowd. I was paid for adding to the ambiance, not because anyone really cared about song choice. I knew that when I took the job, but it still irritated me.
Playing from the back of the room for the stiff upper class was not the image I had envisioned when I began my training. I was talented, and I knew it. Music came to me effortlessly. I wanted the adoring fans, the taverns filled with people completely enthralled by my gift. But while those smaller gatherings were more satisfying to my ego, they didn’t satisfy the wallet. I could have been happy trading my services for the simple necessities of food and lodging, but there was no way I could — would — ever ask Rose to live that way.
As I finished the melody, I opened my eyes. One of the women was staring at me intently. It unnerved me to have one of them finally look at me. And not just look in feigned appreciation at the end of the song; she was really seeing me.
I waited the obligatory few minutes between songs, allowing the crowd to drift into new conversations and different locations. The dark-haired woman glided my way. She moved so subtly at first that I wasn’t sure what she was doing; she paused to speak with several other women before her intentions were finally clear. Could she really have liked the previous song that much? She hadn’t looked particularly moved by the melancholy notes. And why was she so intent that no one saw she wanted to speak to me?
Her blue eyes narrowed as she approached. I gazed up at her warily, sure I was either going to get a nasty critique or a vague request for some song she’d heard once that resembled what I’d just played.
“What’s your name?” she demanded. Her voice was low, musical and authoritative.
“Taylor,” I answered, waiting for the berating to begin.
“Hmmm. You’re very talented, Taylor. More so than you realize I think.” One delicate eyebrow arched appraisingly as her gaze traveled over my frame. I squirmed uncomfortably and internally laughed at myself. Since when did the appreciative gaze of a beautiful woman make me uncomfortable?
“I’m sorry, milady, I don’t understand what you mean by that.”
She smiled, her lips curving in an expression devoid of humor but full of knowledge. “You will soon,” she replied and turned away. “Play something fast for me, will you Taylor?” she called over her shoulder as she floated back to the other women, leaving me staring like a smitten fool.
Thoroughly confused and more than a little unnerved, I tried to focus my thoughts. Play something fast, eh? That was an easy request to fill, albeit not one I had been expecting. But then, nothing about that exchange had been what I expected. I looked up to find the strange woman among the others and met her icy blue gaze. I offered a weak smile and lifted the violin in her direction, the age-old acknowledgement of a request or dedication. Then, swallowing nervously, I brought the instrument to rest on my shoulder again.
I didn’t close my eyes as I began to play an up-tempo jig I hoped she would like.
Suddenly, everything changed. I nearly fell off the stool, the strings squealing in protest at the sudden jerk of my hand. The room was spinning, and not the way it does after over-indulgence in spirits. This was a strange blurring of the action around me. The farthest walls seemed to become a circle of colored stripes colliding, like someone had trapped a rainbow in a bucket and stirred furiously.
I could still clearly see the people around me, but they were moving at speeds that shouldn’t have been possible. No one was dancing, no one was running, they were simply continuing their day–accelerated. I sat frozen, watching the jerky blur of people meandering throughout the room, talking for the blink of an eye and moving on to the next conversation.
And then, abruptly, it was over. Everything returned to normal. Almost.
Everyone was staring at me. Finally it dawned on me that they were waiting for me to leave. Somehow, my time here was done after only two songs. I rose stiffly and bowed while applause filled the air. As I bent to put away the violin, I scanned the crowd for the blue-eyed woman. I needed to get her alone and ask her what the hell just happened. But she was nowhere to be seen. My one possible link to answers, and she had vanished.
Hurriedly, I left the ballroom, searching for some sign of the mystery woman. But she was gone, and I would probably never know the answer to her cryptic warning. I shook my head, trying to dispel it of the panic I felt digging its claws into my mind. How could three hours be condensed into a matter of seconds? Was I losing my mind? Had I contracted some rare disease from the chalk on the violin bow? I grasped at that last thought like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood. That had to be it — the delusion had been caused by inhaling too much chalk.
I sucked in deep gulps of air, trying to clear my head and lungs of the poisonous dust. What was I going to tell Rose? How was I going to explain being home so early? Because that was the only explanation — that I had been dismissed early. I was only imagining that time had somehow sped up.
As I walked, I continued trying to convince myself. Before long, I was within view of the cottage, and had almost managed to dispel the fear. I smiled as Rose came into view. Her slim figure was wrapped in a simple dress, an apron cinched around her tiny waist. Her blond hair was piled in an unruly mess on top of her head. She beamed as she saw me and came running out, bouncing like a little girl. She threw herself into my arms, kissing me with fervor. I lost myself in that kiss, letting it chase the last shadows of panic from my mind. I shifted until she was cradled in my arms and carried her into the house, grateful that she hadn’t seemed to notice I was home early.
By the next morning, I had almost convinced myself that the episode in the ballroom had been nothing more than wishful thinking. I had wanted so badly to be anywhere else that I pretended time accelerated. I thought my attempt at rationalization was pretty good, but there was still a nagging voice in my head that disagreed; that parroted back the words of the strange woman, growing louder and more insistent with every passing hour.
I wasn’t requested at the castle, so after a rousing morning with Rose, I took my violin and headed into the forest outside our cottage. There was only one way to quell the last suspicions, to prove to myself that the incident had been nothing but a daydream.
The ground crunched beneath my boots as I trudged deep into the forest. When I was sufficiently away from the civilized world, I found a clearing conveniently littered with stumps and fallen trees. I didn’t waste time pretending to tune the instrument. It was played often enough that it rarely lost its perfect pitch. Instead, I brought the violin to my shoulder and began the same jig as before.
The sound filled the clearing with a happy bubbling, but all the trees stayed stationary as ever. Relief flooded through me, pushing the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding into existence. So it had been the dust, nothing more.
I settled onto a nearby stump and began a different song. This time I chose a smooth waltz, something with intricate, eerie harmonies and a soothing undertone. Again, the world stayed as it should. Reassured, I closed my eyes and lost myself in the music.
I don’t know how long I played, the composition swelling around me like a sea, but finally the song was over. Satisfied, I opened my eyes.
The forest whirled around me. I fell from the stump, the violin flying out of my hand. The greens and blues of nature spun into one indistinguishable mass above me. Oddly, the ground seemed as stable as always.
I stayed where I was for several minutes, but the spinning didn’t stop. I tried closing my eyes and reopening them, but nothing worked. Why wasn’t it stopping? What had I unleashed? Fear and uncertainty choked my breath into ragged, shallow gasps. I knew I couldn’t lie on the ground forever, but I was scared to move.
Finally, I tried to rise. The spinning continued, but I had no trouble gaining my feet. I had expected some sort of vertigo, the rush of wind, the pull of gravity, something. But everything felt normal–it just didn’t look that way.
I ran, forgetting the violin, bolting for the comforts of home; the comforts of Rose. I didn’t understand how I wasn’t falling; the greenery was a blur, but somehow, I could see clearly within a small radius, enough that I could find my way through the trees.
It wasn’t as long as it should’ve been before the cottage came into view. I stopped at the edge of the forest, watching as the sun trekked its way across the sky in a matter of moments. This wasn’t possible! Why was this happening?
I shook my head, trying to dispel the vision, but it didn’t help. The world continued to move faster than it should.
The shrill cry caught my attention. I looked up to see Rose. She separated from the blur of the background, moving as if she were searching for someone, her actions jerky, like a bird hopping after worms. She called my name several more times, sounding more and more worried. Yet she was staring directly at me.
“It’s ok, Rose. I’m right here,” I answered, confused. But it was as if I didn’t exist. Her frenzied green eyes looked through me, and my voice landed on deafened ears. It had only been a few moments, but already the sun was setting, the sky darkening at a rapid pace. And still, my world refused to slow. How long could this possibly last? The song I’d played hadn’t been that long.
Rose started to cry, and each tear seared through me. I tried to reach her, but nothing was working. No matter how loud I screamed, she didn’t hear me. Every time I tried to grab her, to wrap her in my arms, I couldn’t catch her. She flitted away like a hummingbird.
Finally, she stopped and sank to the grassy floor. It was fully dark now, the stars watching our painful dance with flickering eyes. Seeing my beautiful Rose crumpled and sobbing was unbearable. I had to reach her. To let her know I was all right.
I moved toward her. The world shivered around me, but Rose stayed within my bubble of clarity. In fact, the harder I concentrated, the slower her actions seemed to become. Her sobs changed from the rapid pace of a newborn’s heart to the regular shudders of someone in agony. Feeling the first flicker of hope, I advanced cautiously.
Her voice had dropped from the high-pitched sounds of a squirrel to her normal range, but as I got closer it began to lower, her sobs turning to a frightening wheeze. She was moving in slow motion now. She’d gone from one extreme to the other. Why was I the only thing that moved at a normal pace?
I stood over her, confused, watching her pain in heightened detail, trying to decide how to reach her. I couldn’t let her continue on broken like this — I was okay, and she needed to know that. I bent down, reaching out slowly, afraid she’d jerk away again before I could wrap her in my arms.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
I froze with my hand outstretched and turned to find the voice. Standing on the edge of the forest was the blue-eyed woman. She stood calmly, her dark hair fluttering in the light breeze, her sinuous frame relaxed in hunting garb, her piercing eyes serious.
“You!” I cried, staring in shock. What was she doing here?
“Step away from the girl, Taylor.”
“Why? I have to comfort her, tell her I’m all right!” My gaze fluctuated between Rose and the strange woman. Uncertain, I lowered my hand, but remained crouched, waiting.
“When you touch her, her life will be forced outside of time and she’ll become part of the blur around you. Except that when you stop Spinning, she won’t. She’ll be trapped in the Spin. Forever,” the woman explained, looking at me gravely. Completely lost, I shook my head.
“What? I don’t understand.” I felt thick-headed, but the woman’s vague words made absolutely no sense and didn’t explain why I couldn’t comfort my wife.
“If you touch her, she dies. Simple enough for you?” she said condescendingly, her blue eyes flashing with annoyance.
I stared at her while her words sank in. Looking at Rose in horror, I scrambled quickly away. I still didn’t understand, but I didn’t want to risk that what Blue-eyes said was true. No one spoke for what seemed an eternity. I watched Rose’s shoulders rise and fall in painful heaves and felt powerless. Helplessness was a new sensation, and I didn’t like it.
“If you know so much, then you fix this. Make it stop so I can comfort my wife!” I yelled at Blue-eyes, frustration boiling over into anger.
“Come on, you have a lot of training to do,” Blue-eyes answered, turning away and moving into the shadows of the forest.
“No . . . wait! What do you mean? I’m not going with you. I can’t leave Rose like this!” I couldn’t believe she had completely ignored me. I stood, my hands clenched into fists. My rage needed an outlet, and the only thing I was certain of was that this was somehow her fault. I advanced on her, planning to intimidate her into doing what I wanted. But she just gazed at me, unconcerned, her hands on her hips. The lack of response doused my fury, withering it like a fire sputtering without oxygen.
“Please, I don’t understand what’s happening. Can’t you give me something? Some sort of explanation? Can you stop this?” I begged, the embers of my anger cooling into despair.
“I’m sorry for your confusion Taylor, but I can’t give you any information,” she said, her voice softening, “You need to come with me; I’ll take you to the one with answers. And no, I can’t stop another’s Spin. Only you can make it stop, but without training, it will have to play itself out. Now, shall we?” She offered her hand, her body angling away toward the forest.
“But Rose,” I said, looking back at the crumpled figure in the grass. I didn’t want to leave her this way — couldn’t leave her this way! She was everything to me, and I’d promised her. I wanted so badly to go to her, but the woman’s warning held me back. I felt a black hole forming in my chest; subconsciously, I was accepting the inevitable.
Blue-eyes was beside me then, her hand on my shoulder. “There’s nothing more you can do for her. You have to let her go.” I stared into those blue eyes, feeling their ice seep to my core. I nodded silently, giving up.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” she murmured sympathetically before moving away to the edge of the forest. “It’s time Taylor, we must go.”
“I love you Rose,” I whispered, refusing to concede defeat by saying goodbye. This wasn’t the end — couldn’t be the end. I would find my way back.
I turned and followed the blue-eyed woman into the darkness of the trees. Each step was more painful than the last, and though Rose’s sobbing was fading as the distance between us grew, I knew I would always hear it.
From that day on, I was a man imprisoned, serving a sentence for what? Having been too happy? I wasn’t sure. The only thing I was sure of was that I wasn’t the same. I was still alive, but only just.
The blue-eyed woman, Amelia, introduced me to my new family, the Spinners; all of us were bards and all of us possessed the curse of being able to manipulate time. Ironically, we were generally hired as assassins, a fact which caused me to laugh hysterically for hours when our leader, Brenton, told me.
The following months were spent in training. I learned to control my power, to start and stop the Spin at will. I learned how to kill with a single touch. The warning Amelia had given me that day had saved Rose’s life. I was thankful that I’d chosen to believe her. It still unsettled me how close I came to inflicting the worst pain I could on myself. I may not have been able to be with Rose, but at least there was comfort in knowing she was alive. As long as she was safe, there was still hope that I would find my way back to her.
They explained to me that once in a Spin, we were outside of time, existing in a limbo world where time became a tangible object, like smoke. We were invisible in this state to the normal world, and though we did age, we did it differently. Time no longer constrained us, and because of that, we were nearly immortal, living for hundreds of years before gaining our first wrinkle. Brenton was going on a thousand years, and as far as anyone knew, he was the first Spinner.
The one thing no one seemed able to explain is where the curse came from. Why were we capable of warping time while others weren’t? And why were we all musically inclined? They did explain how Amelia had known I was one of them — she was a Recruiter, gifted with the rare talent of feeling another’s Spin before it began. There was much about the Spinners that I questioned, but since none of my peers seemed to have the answers, I resigned myself to their life. Secretly, I vowed to discover the source of this curse, to find a way to reverse it if I could.
Throughout my training, I never stopped thinking about Rose. I was certain I never would. But my new life was not one she could be a part of. We were sworn to secrecy, kept mostly to ourselves and never stayed in one place too long. People became suspicious when you didn’t age. Still, I needed to see her. I knew I couldn’t talk to her, but I needed her. To hear her laugh, see her smile. I was an addicted man, and it had been far too long since my last dose.
Finally, my training complete, I was given my first assignment. I was being sent to the very court where I’d once played. The Spinners had provided a replacement during my absence and secured the invitation for my return. This time as I passed beneath the gates, unnoticed by the guards, I smiled to myself. What could they do anyway? We weren’t carrying any physical weapon, and no one would see the assassination. There would be no way for them to identify me.
After I successfully finished my mission, I could detour past my former home. That thought was more thrilling than anything else and I hurried to my place at the back of the ballroom. I scanned the crowd as I set-up, catching the eye of Amelia. She was clothed in a flattering cobalt-hued dress that hugged her assets to perfection. She blinked, the only acknowledgement she could give me without risking her cover and turned away, mingling effortlessly with the other women. It was comforting to know she was there. I knew I was ready, that I could do this, but having back-up in case I failed was reassuring. While one Spinner had no control over the Spin of another, we could operate within it. So if for some reason I froze, she would be able to finish the job.
I looked over the mass of female heads to focus on the King reclining on the other side of the room. In all the time I’d spent performing here, I’d never bothered to really examine the man paying my fee. A man who enslaved his people, I had since learned, gleaning more than necessary from the hard working peasants and doing nothing to improve the life of anyone but himself. This selfishness was what had made him a target for the Spinners. When he was gone, his eldest son would ascend the throne — a man more dedicated to growth and the success of the kingdom as a whole.
Even though I knew the old man seated across the room from me was corrupt, I was still having a hard time reconciling murdering him. It wasn’t right; there should have been other ways. But until I found the cure for my ailment, I was forced to live by the rules of the Spinners. And that meant killing those I was sent to kill. There was some consolation in the knowledge that his death would be painless; that he wouldn’t even see it coming. But I still didn’t relish the thought of being the one to end his life.
I took a deep breath to quell my reservations as I brought the violin to my shoulder. I locked gazes with Amelia and nodded ever so slightly. Then, closing my eyes, I began to play, calling forth the Spin with the first sweet notes.
I was no longer unsettled by the blur around me. Instead, I rose swiftly, setting the violin down behind me. The Spin would continue until I ended it, the people in the room oblivious to anything but the music that still filled the air around them. I moved calmly through the sea of women, stopping when I reached the King. He sat frozen before me, his eyes locked on the crowd and his lips curved in a smile I was certain he faked. I stared at this man who was old enough to be my grandfather, searching his wizened face for signs of the evil I’d been told he embodied. But I couldn’t see it. To me, he was just another old man.
A flicker of normal motion alerted me that Amelia had entered the Spin with me. She was waiting off to my left, watching intently. I wasn’t sure how long she was going to wait before stepping in. If I failed, if Amelia had to finish the assignment, I would have to return to my training, losing my chance to see Rose. That was something I couldn’t allow, not again.
“I’m sorry,” I breathed. Reluctantly, I placed my hand against his chest. Immediately, I felt the ribbon of his life flicker against my palm like a flag in the wind. When I withdrew my hand, that ribbon would follow, leaving his body and joining the whirl of time around me. Frowning, I closed my eyes and pulled my hand away. I couldn’t watch life leave his eyes; couldn’t gaze into those deadened orbs and know it was my doing that made them that way. I flicked my wrist to rid my hand of the Life Ribbon attached to it, and felt the old man’s spirit disappear into the Spin.
It was over. I’d done it. The old King was dead.
Feeling sickened, I walked back to my place, barely noticing the jerky activity around me. I didn’t even try to find Amelia, though I knew she would be waiting nearby to congratulate my success. Dully, I picked up the violin and sat. Bringing it to my chin, I closed my eyes and played, feeling the Spin dissipate like smoke cleared by a wind. I didn’t stop playing or open my eyes until the scream sounded.
I looked up to see the attendants clustering around the lifeless body of their ruler. Sobs and hysterical voices filled the hall, calling futilely for a doctor. In the confusion, I calmly put away my violin and left the room. No one would even notice I was gone. Amelia met me in the foyer and we walked silently into the fresh air of the courtyard. Once beyond the castle gates, she turned to me and smiled.
“Good job, Taylor. I wasn’t sure you could do it, but you pulled through. Welcome to the Order.” She held out her hand and I shook it without returning her enthusiastic smile. I hoped she would attribute my silence to shock, but her shrewd blue-eyes implied otherwise. Without another word, she turned away and melted into the shadows, finally giving me what I needed—solitude. I was alone for the first time in months, and I knew exactly what I was going to do with my freedom.
I sprinted down the familiar road to my old cottage, praying to a god I didn’t believe in that Rose would still be there. I stopped at the crest that afforded the first view of the house and nearly sobbed with relief. It was clearly still inhabited, laundry was swaying gently in the breeze, and the garden was a profusion of colorful roses, obviously tended by their namesake. No one else would have that many in one place. As I stood there, her laugh chimed through the open window. It was the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard. I smiled for the first time in months and let its joyful notes wash over me.
Suddenly, another laugh filled the air; this one the rich baritone of a male voice. Rose wasn’t alone? I’d had no plan to begin with, but somehow none of my possible scenarios had prepared me for this. Without thinking, I called up the Spin. I had to get closer, to see who was in there with my wife.
Once I was safely invisible, I crept up to the open window of the cottage. Rose was languishing in bed, the covers barely concealing her ivory skin and tousled hair. I knew the glow that suffused her cheeks and instantly felt ice burn through my veins. As I watched, a half-clothed man returned from the kitchen, carrying a glass of water. The sheen of sweat on his torso and the way he grinned at her said it all.
Shattered, I sank down against the wall under the window. I don’t know what I’d expected, but not this. Never this! Rose, my Rose, had moved on; had forgotten me in a few short months! I felt like my lungs would never expand again. I heard their laughter inside, and each note pierced like a dagger until finally I couldn’t take it anymore. The only thing that had gotten me through the previous months had been the thought of seeing Rose again, and now . . .
Fury surged through me. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to play out. She was mine! Forever! Those were the promises we’d made each other. The words she’d said and then tossed aside like so much garbage. It wasn’t right! And I wasn’t going to let them get away with it.
With a primal growl that surprised even me, I rose and stormed through the door. Neither saw me of course, their motions slowing to a complete halt as I came to stand before them. I glared at the dark-haired man in bed with my wife and felt rationality shrink away like a frightened mouse before the owl. He had to die. He had taken everything from me, and now I would return the favor.
I lunged and was knocked off my feet. I slammed into the floor, wrestling with the weight on top of me and snarling like a caged wildcat. At first, I thought that Rose’s Adonis had somehow come to life, attacking me before I got to him, but I soon realized that the person straddling me was too lithe to be male. As soon as that realization sank in, I forced myself to focus on the features above me.
“Amelia?” I asked, surprised that she was strong enough to pin me. Her blue eyes were glaring down at me, and her mouth was set in a firmly disapproving scowl.
“Are you in control of yourself yet?” she snapped, slamming my hand against the floor as I tried weakly to knock her off me. She cocked an eyebrow and I mumbled my assent. Reluctantly, she released me, standing and readjusting her clothes. When I didn’t rise immediately, she offered her hand and pulled me to my feet.
“What are you doing here?” I asked mildly. All the fury of seconds ago had disappeared — knocked out of me along with my breath in that first impact. It occurred to me that Amelia often had this soothing affect on me, and I vaguely wondered if she possessed other talents than Recruiting.
“I could ask you the same thing,” she answered, the scowl still distorting her delicate features. We glared at each other in silence for a moment, neither wanting to explain ourselves. Finally, she sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist the lure, so I followed you when you left the castle. I was afraid you might do something stupid, something you’d regret.”
“I knew what I was doing,” I snapped, anger starting to flare again. Who was she to tell me what I’d regret?
“Do you Taylor? Look at her,” she commanded and when I refused to look toward the bed, she grabbed my face and forced me. “See how happy she is? Would you take that away from her?”
I stared at Rose smiling lovingly at her new partner and felt tears pool in my vision. She had smiled at me that way. Amelia was right. Rose was happy. Killing her lover would have made me feel better–but only momentarily. Stripping Rose of her happiness—again—would have haunted me longer than the satisfaction of revenge would have lasted.
Amelia must have felt my revelation, as she let go of me and her features softened. “I know it’s hard,” she said softly. “You say you love her. If that’s true, you have to let her go. Let her move on. You can never have the life you thought you would, and revenge will only make you feel worse. Trust me.” A shadow of something — pain maybe? — flickered in Amelia’s eyes, but she blinked quickly and turned away. I wondered what she was hiding.
“I don’t know how to do that, Amelia. How do I just walk away and never look back?”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t look back, but you have to give up the idea that you and she will ever be together again. We can do a lot of things with time, but going backward isn’t one of them.” Amelia offered me a sad smile before turning away. “I’ll leave you to say your goodbyes.”
“Wait,” I said. Amelia paused in the doorway, her expression questioning. “Thank you.” I was embarrassed by the hitch in my voice as emotion threatened to overwhelm me, but she just smiled and nodded in acknowledgement.
“Do the right thing, Taylor,” she said quietly and then disappeared. I sighed and turned back to Rose and her lover. Jealousy flared, but this time I didn’t let it take control. I knew what I had to do. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I leaned over Rose, lightly kissing her forehead. Her life ribbon flickered against my lips like a feather. I concentrated, using an ability none of the other Spinners knew I had learned. I sifted through the threads of her life, grabbing anything that pertained to me. When I broke the kiss, I would take only what I chose; I would take away her memories of us. It was the last gift I could give her.
“Be happy, my Rose,” I whispered. Then, before I could change my mind, I left the cottage, letting the Spin stop once I was out of eyesight. I walked away from the cottage, from my past and what I had thought would be my future without looking back.
I stand silently, holding the purple rose gently. I look down at the grave stone and feel the familiar remorse flood through me. If only. Two words I’ve said often, but that never change reality.
It’s been years since I was first cursed with what I now view as a gift. I have been responsible for the deaths of many, but also the improvement of much. I watched from the sidelines as Rose remarried, created a family and grew older. All the while, I remained the same. Mere months for me equaled decades for her. Her children grew and had children of their own. And none of them ever knew I existed.
Over time, the pain of her loss dulled to a bittersweet memory and sense of regret. If only I had never become a Spinner, our lives would’ve been much different. If only I could’ve found the cure in time. But, as Amelia had pointed out all those years ago, we can do a lot to time, except change the past. And while Rose moved on, I never did. I loved her from afar; I love her from afar still.
I kneel before the grave and place the rose on the slightly raised soil. The purple ones had been her favorite. I look at the beautifully engraved head stone, my eyes lovingly tracing the letters of her name. I kiss my hand and place it against the cool stone, closing my eyes for a moment before turning away.
More missions await and there are still answers I need to find. I promised Rose that I would make things right, though she never knew it. I will be the first Spinner to go backwards through time. If it kills me, then so be it. But I am determined to change the past. Only then can Rose and I be together the way we were supposed to be.
I pause when I reach Amelia at the entrance to the graveyard. “Ready?” I ask.
“Are you?” she returns, eyeing me intently. I look back at the grave, sigh and nod.
“Let’s go,” I tell her. Together, we disappear into the forest.
Copyright © 2009 by Kisa Whipkey. All Rights Reserved.