Author: Guede Mazaka
Lazy-fingered, slack-eyed, she took languorous drags on her stained ivory cigarette holder and blew them back out as so many ominous thunderheads. They spiraled high up above her head, only to be shredded into meaningless fragments by the slow-spinning fan.
Her lips curved upwards, but her nails dug hard into the mattress beneath her. “You didn’t think you could hold that girl this time, did you?”
Merlin ignored her. He was a stump gnarled long before his time, crouched over his bowl of muddy water and seeing nothing but what he wanted to see. Whereas she saw everything that she didn’t want to see, but knew it for the truest truth.
“Even then, she left you for him. And that was when this land cried for you. It shan’t do it again.” Vivien sucked in another draft of the sweet-poisoned smoke, feeling its tendrils curl in behind her eyes and hook deep into them. It hurt. She gasped once, arched up into it and stretched out her hands for the long red locks that would be her downfall, for the green eyes glimpsed this afternoon among the streetwalkers that she knew she would be seeking out before nightfall.
It made her feel a little sorry for him. He was the strongest man she knew, and once, the wisest as well. But he’d fallen long and hard, and he refused to learn the crawl that preceded walking once again. She’d loved him for that once, and she supposed that in a way, she still did.
“The story’s done, the players are moving on their road. Let it be.” Gently, as if they were not already frozen to each other, she sat up and drew a hand down his back. Beneath the thin wrinkles of his shirt, his muscles bunched and shivered towards her, and for a moment, he almost came.
But that moment passed. The bowl fell and the water spilled, and Merlin twisted about to yank her wrist-first into his implacability. “Silence, woman. You died too early to know what you’re talking about. Whitechapel’s soil still holds enough power. If I only had the right tool to call it out—”
“—it wouldn’t answer,” she hissed, snapping at him. When he slapped her, she raked her teeth over his hand, and when he flung her off the bed for that, she laughed at him. “You’re a poorer copy. You’re a dreamer who thinks he was there, who dares contend with his elders and betters. You’ll fail.”
“Then I’ll try again,” he growled, turning away.
Vivien pulled herself off the floor and climbed back into his lap. This time, she was not soft and her hands roused him too quickly for him to refuse: weakness of men. “No, you won’t. I’m tired of seeing you diminish yourself.” She purred into his rough arms and welcomed the ripping pain, because then she’d remember past the smoke. “I’ll keep you in the wood with me, sleeping tenderly. And we’ll rot together this time.”