Adventuring through twisted time.
And so, there is this tale from long long ago.
About these women who would come and go.
From once they came and went no one would know.
Oh, "The Women from Nowhere" always roll into your life for a time.
Dancing with the sunset and leaving you in their wake to think you're fine.
But in the end, you always realize her crime.
For she changed your life but left you alone for the rest of your time.
Artemis opened her eyes. The Emerald gleam they held shone in the darkness of her room. Running is all she had done as of late. She missed chasing The Wind. The carelessness of her freedom. The allure of being able to freely blow in and out of people’s lives. Instead, she was hiding out in New York. Using the chaos of the Titanic sinking to slide right in without anyone questioning where she came from or how she’d gotten here. She was just another displaced face in the crowd. And so, two years passed and the war arrived.
Every hair on Artemis's body stood up straight. Her bloodlust singing in her ears and running down her spine in the temptation to disguise herself as a man and join the war. She could join as a nurse but that would just be torture. So close to blood she knew she’d not be able to feed on for fear of being discovered by anyone. At least the bedlam on the battlefield would hide it better. But no, she stayed away from it altogether. She blinked a few times and blew a breath passed her lips to focus back on her work. She didn’t need to breathe... Anymore... But it was always just simpler if she acted as if she did.
“You can’t stay because you’re afraid of what your birth family might do?”
Mama chuckled at the expression on Artemis's face which silently asked how she knew.
“Oh, sweet child. I have been around for a very very long time. I know a thing or two.”
There was a thick and heavy silence between them. Artemis dropped her head. Mama let out a very faint breath as she rose and wrapped Artie in an extremely warm hug. Kissing her head as she took in her scent realizing suddenly, she was going to miss the vibe she contributed to Nowhere. And so, Mama huffed breaking through the silence like a knife through smooth butter.
“We’ve lost so many children. My only fear is what everyone will do upon losing you... “
“But baxt tuke.”
“Earth to Artemis! Damn kid again!?”
Artemis focused back in. Her body still moving as she did her job purely on muscle memory. The woman standing beside chuckling but held a stern face as she shook her head. “where do you go?” it was a rhetorical question because she walked away from Artie after asking. Artie kept her glinting eyes on her before looking at what she was doing. Sorting the mail into their proper boxes and shoots. With lightning precision that nobody questioned because she sucked at this when she first started.
The lunch alarm rang and everyone gathered in groups as chatter and laughter lifted in the air. This was always a peculiar time of day for Artie and if she didn’t play this smart each day the women around her would catch on to her never eating. She quickly dug into her pocket and withdrew and crumpled paper and a short little pencil. “oh my God!” the woman who was speaking to her earlier exclaimed as she spotted Artie staring at the page as she rolled her lips together. “Will you please eat something, fuck!” Artie jumped but not because of the language that she was used to. But because the lady had thrown a sandwich at her. And so, Artie was placed in a delicate situation with the woman’s eyes on her.
“This is the tenth missing coworker…”
“Artemis, I really don’t know
what you want us to do about it.”
Artie grumbled under her breath and went back to flinging mail into the appropriate air shoot with lightning precision. “I want us to be cautious. Curious. And concerned."
“Curiosity killed the cat hun.”
“But! Satisfaction brought him back.
Say the whole damn quote
if you’re gonna try and brush off my concerns!”
Suddenly the alarm flashed again but different this time. This wasn’t the alarm to indicate the end of their lunch hour. Everyone around Artie began to scatter. The machines stopped clanking. The chatter and vacant songs to bid the time all quieted quickly. And so, as everyone ran to hide from the blaring alarm and the loud clanks of the giant iron door being lifted to where they were, Artemis continued her job. Sorting her letters and sending them up with the pneumonic tubes. Her coworker, whom she had been bickering with grabbed her to pull her off to the side to hide.
“Ay, you!” but it was too late.
Artie wiggled free and stepped out into the man’s view.
“It’s your lucky day. Artemis this is Madeline.
Alright now that you two know each other so well show ‘er the ropes.”
As soon as the man left and the door came slamming down leaving all the mailwomen in the dim-lit basement of this high rise, all the women came out and got right back to work. Completely forgetting about the rest of their lunch hour. Ignoring Madeline but scorning Artemis for being so stupid. Artemis rolled her eyes “Ignore them. They’re all just chicken shits is all. Come on let’s get you acclimated!..."
She studied Madeline for a moment and it didn’t take long for her to not only figure out where she worked before this but also that she wasn’t all human. A kind smirk grew on Artie's face.
“…You a newsie?”
The music sang the flappers jived, the lights flashed and flickered the world was caught in the swing of things, but bubbling beneath the bright surface there was darkness. On the heels of the tragedy of the titanic came the first world war; it seemed like the parts of the world affected by the sinking of the Titanic had barely recovered when this war happened, despite the two years from then to now. Madeline was not affected by the Titanic but something had affected her rotting its way into her and changing her, but nobody saw it. She did not know many people honestly, but the ones she knew either did not know her well enough to see this change or they did not see her clearly drowning in her own regret. All the world and her mind were spinning out of control, reeling in darkness and rolling around in chaos that when Madeline finally managed to stop spinning, she found herself standing in the middle of New York in eerie silence and alone.
My eyes swirled around the empty streets, I thought I would never see the city so quiet that if someone before all of this had bet me this very scenario, I would have lost all the money I had been saving through the years in a matter of seconds. I glanced down at the paper in my hand for just a second and took a deep breath, dropping my arm to look around the street once more while the pages brushed passed my pant leg as my hand swung back and forth. I was the last Newsie in New York and I could feel a sombre frown grow on my face as I walked alone back to O’Malley's news-press. I whistled softly to let O’Malley know I was back his smile making me smile though both were sad. ‘How bad did it go?’ he physically braced himself for the bad sales report. “All but one!” I chuckle out to the contrary of his belief” but actually…” I flipped him a dime. “… this one is mine.” I hopped up on the window counter and let my feet dangle as I looked out as the soundless streets, O'Malley joining me as he leaned on the counter and looked around with me, just in time for me to share half of my sandwich with him.
The two sat in silence as they ate smiling at just the familiarity of the moment but their smiles eventually fading at separate times when they both came to terms with this being the last day they would do this together. “when do you ship out?” Madeline broke their now sombre silence to ask “Tomorrow bright and early.” She gave a curt and sad nod to his answer “well, I will be there to wave you off as I have done with the others.” She offered him a kind smile which he accepted and not before long O’Malley newspaper press, the last one in the city was closed. Madeline was home now and it was not even barely 8 am, newsies got to work before the sun trying to be the first to update the world as it woke. She sat and circled all the possible job ads in the paper she bought that she could possibly apply for along with a few she had no experience in, yet. She made quick work of the search wanting to seize the day, her father’s words of “STAY INSIDE MADELINE!” only pushed Madeline farther outside faster.
This man spoke quicker than torrential verbiage that pours for an auctioneer’s mouth and I was sure my distaste on the matter spread across my face. He clearly had not noticed though because before I knew it, I was hired and we were descending the steps quicker than he was speaking my hand trapped within his ahead of giving me a chance to tell him I actually did not want this job. What the hell was even this job again? It did not help one bit that all the ladies buried deep in the dark lit run-down basement of this extravagant skyscraper all went into hiding as this wisecracking asshole flounced into the room practically without me. Artemis, I noticed her eyes first but honestly this room was quite dark and those were the clearest and brightest things I had seen in the past few minutes. I had barely caught my breath before Artemis now began to move quite quickly, all the waves of movement I was used to sure I just was not expecting to be hit by this wave. I paid close attention though to the words she shot out my way, playing catch with each sentence she jankly stapled together before she tossed them at me. I took a deep breath and held it a second blinking a few times as her question finally settled in my mind.
“Wi… uh…” New Orleans Creole was always her default “Yea.” Her raspy voice was soaked in a French drawl with tips of her word dipped in a charming Southern twang that she could turn up or down when she did not want people treating like a foreigner, or when she just felt like it. Red. She could not tell you how many times this woman had said the word red but she made a point to highlight its importance and Madeline understood. Madeline’s mind was caught in a twister of information and while it would take a while to sort it all out, she did understand her responsibilities here as Artemis pitched them at her. Red. Seeing something so suddenly bright in the dark made her remember that the world was filled with colour and that it was not just black and white like the contents of this dull basement. Red. It was her anchor at this moment, her opportunity to catch her breath and ease her muscles as this was the first time she had stopped moving while still listening since the moment she walked through the doors somewhere upstairs. Red. It was in her hands now and once again she was on the move her legs moving as a response to not just topple over and have her slam the floor with her face, she was being pushed. She realised that quite late into this situation and with all the words being shot at her again all she was able to catch where “Floor 44.” And “Tell Carol I said Hey!” because she was pushed out the door and into the hallway to take the elevator or stairs. “What the Fu-“ the door to the basement slammed behind her.
"A Nawlins Newsie in New York. Well, how about that?"
Artemis snorted as her glow in the dark green gaze glazed down a moment. She had to review the work ticket Gomez, the fast-talking bloke had given her when leaving Madeline in her charge. Artemis was well traveled at this point. Collecting the knowledge of accents from her time with her caravan to her own travels. New Orleans was one of her favorites. Though the place was sort of ruined for her as of late with the other Dracula's set up there at the moment. She flicked the ticket and scoffed faintly before just starting to walk.
She assumed Madeline would just follow and keep up. Newsies were all about moving fast and being first. So surely she could keep up. "Alright so according to your ticket. You're a parcels slinger. You personally deliver all the things that are too big to shoot up the Pneumatic tubes." She brought her to a cargo container and patted its side. The large empty vessel echoed with each slap of her hand. "This one is yours. And don't worry. There are three of you making runs upstairs. You've got floors..." She glanced down at the ticket once again "...25-50."
She clicked her tongue and shook her head. Giving a soft chuckle " You've got the highest floors. I hope you're hiding Moxy beneath that beautiful face because... You'll likely need to punch somebodyintheballs... With grace of course." She grabbed the top of the high cargo container and hoisted herself up to look inside. Of course, there was an easier way to access the inside but this was the quickest. "You're in luck!" She dropped back down to the ground soundless and lite as a feather. "The two others you'll be working with had been picking up the extra load until this position was filled. They've already taken your first load. Just watch that for the next couple of rounds."
She took a deep breath and offered the little lost flower a smile. Handing her her ticket. "Your jobs fairly simple if you ask me. Unless you're bad at names just like me. I lasted fifteen minutes at your job. Then they locked me down here because I couldn't get the names straight. Anyway, when you're not up there making your deliveries you'll be stuck down here. But the ladies here get nicer as time passes. Just gotta give ehm time. The other two girls broke through the stigmas by helping out around here when they're down here with us. Just a suggestion if you want to make things easier."
She looked around shaking out her wild hair. "I actually think that's every-" she cut herself off when she remembered the most important part of Madeline's job. "Ah fuck the red letters." And so, the fast pace started back up as she hurried. "The red letters are thee absolute most important thing about your whole job. You see a red letter and stop everything to see who it's for and get it to them. The red letters are so important that we can't even use the Pneumatic tubes to send them. They have to be hand-delivered. And keep in mind that a red letter may have bad news but if someone says you're fired that ain't their fucking call. "
She never looked back as she hurried to her tube station. She just knew Madeline would follow. She cursed under her breath seeing a letter in the tube slot. "This tube is yours just like the cargo container. But unlike the container, I'll likely tell you when you've got a red letter." She took a glance at the envelope as she passed it over to Madeline. "Oh lucky you. This one is just for Carol she's on the 44th floor." Once the letter was out of her hands she pushed Madeline to the hallway door.
"Tell Carol I said Hey!!"
She pushed her out the door with a chuckle.
"Was that letter really for Carol?"
"Oh, that poor girl.
She'll either come back addicted to cigarettes.
Or dying from the second-hand smoke of them."
"Yeah. But at least
When the alarm
She won't be here."
You can't save her from that."
"No, I can't. But we can at least prepare her."
And so, as Artemis gave her coworker a sad smile. Spinning an elegant silver ring around on her first finger with her thumb.
The alarm they spoke of went off.
Her ears had popped several times on the way up here and swallowing hard or yawning did not help get rid of the clogged feeling. Madeline treaded the floor carefully; her movements were slow compared to the fastness of everyone around her and it seemed that only her eyes could really keep up with them, catch them as they sped by. Everyone was moving so fast Madeline for a moment had to be sure she was not trapped in some bizarre time spell, with her luck and connections she would not doubt the possibilities. Before she could actually be sure of anything, however, everyone stopped, froze when they saw the red letter, Madeline held in her hand as her arm lightly swung. Swallowing hard one last time she approached the Secretary who was already staring at her from among the frozen workers "uhm, I gotta letter here for Virginia Carol."
Virginia Carol, she was currently circling me like a vulture circling a dead carcass. I was trying to turn and watch her as she watched me ' stop moving.' I listened out of habit and I scorned myself for it, but my eyes kept track of her until she reached my blind spot. Was she who I should expect to punch in the balls with grace? How does one punch someone gracefully? I focused back on her when she stopped in front of me, leaning on her desk as the smoke from her mouth swirled free at the faintest part of her lips. 'You are new.' She spoke matter of factly "uh... Yes ma'am." Her head tilted as my voice saturated the air around us 'Now where did they find a southern bell like you I wonder?' Her eyes seemed to study me while I could not help but smirk. Bell? Oh, she was charming.
Madeline made a face and shook her head "I found them actually but I do not think I will stay." Carol frowned ever so faintly then "well that is quite unfortunate..." She extended her arm behind her gently to stub out her cigarette. "Anything I can say to change ya mind?" Madeline dropped head a second before shaking it and looking back up "No, not really, I will give it till the end of the day and then decide if this is a fit or not." She shrugged raising her hand that held the red letter "this is yours." Carol pushed herself off her desk and to her feet effortlessly "well if it is any consolation I would like to see you around here. A fresh face is always exciting." She extended her hand and took the letter before tapping it against the fingers of her other hand; it was blatantly obvious she was avoiding its contents.
It was moments like these I often wondered what was it about me that made people want me around. I was flagrantly aware of my aura but I doubted it affected people so quickly and strongly as people tended to respond to me. Maybe for her, this was something different, a fresh face meant a fresh story from me and a fresh start for her. I had no expectations of her or no looming backstory heard through gossip before floating up here. The spark of excitement and enticement mixed in her gaze quirked my curiosity but ultimately I gave a curt nod and stiff-lipped smile "I shall keep that on my mind throughout the day." I left thereafter and sank back down to the bottom of the building once more. 'What did the red letter say!?' I had just walked through the door to the mailroom and all the women who had just been avoiding me like the plague were now hounding me like was covered in the scent of blood demanding answers I did not have. I pursed my lips and shook my head "don' know. She seemed to want to avoid opening it, specially with me there." They groaned and with a faint roll of my eyes, I made my way back over to Artemis and smiled. I was there for barely a second, could not even get a word in before parcels started to slide down the shoot and barrel into my container. I was going to say something but now I had forgotten so I huffed out a chuckle as I worked my way towards the container, the other two parcel slingers making their way towards me to probably introduce themselves and help me get the hang of things. "I get the feeling I will not be down here much..."
All the mailroom was silent. All the women stuck to the shadows and moved in sync. The men present peeked around corners and prodded down alleys. Finding no one. They kept this game of cat and mouse up for a moment longer. The men, however, eventually sighed in frustration. "We know you're here ladies. Keeping this up just makes it all worse." Artie scowled. Studying their features, that man's voice. She rose her hand faintly to tell the ladies who could see her to be still. That command trickled down through to all the women there. A domino effect of effectiveness. She watched as they left and as the giant door to the mailroom came slamming down the women came out of hiding.
Slowly, the light chatter and laughter filled the air and grew and grew. Until it was all back to normal again. All normal but Artie. She worked like nothing was wrong but her face told the story of her mind. Those men didn't work here. Artemis knew everyone and on the off chance, she didn't Gomez would. Yet he didn't know those three men. They had badges but no names.
She jerked the moment she hears Maddie's voice. So lost in her thoughts the little newsie managed to sneak up on her. "When you get the hang of things you'll be down here all the time." She laughed faintly as she finished working. "What do you think of Carol?"
She smiled and couldn't help but chuckle. Yet none of it reached her eyes. "Before you go I should warn you. There's something strange going on down here." She moved in close to Madeline and grew a bit quiet. "Women are being taken from here and end up missing." Artemis frowned and huffed. " We bid our time hiding where we can but every time we think we know their schedule they change it." She looked into Madeline's eyes trying to decipher her expression.
"I'm telling you not just so you're warned but really to say you shouldn't come back tomorrow."
She twisted her mouth. "It's always nice getting to know someone new but I'd rather that someone new be safe then the next target."
An invasion of Madeline's personal space was common more often than not and she should be used to it with how often it happened but she was not. Madeline never really expected it when it happened and for her, it was always hard to tell who might be the one to move in on her. Her eyes went faintly wide and she blinked as she stepped back slightly as Artemis closed the space between them, she even stopped breathing unsure of what was really happening. When the realization of Artemis's word struck and made sense in her mind "oh!" was all Madeline could croak out in her shock at the news she just heard.
I opened my mouth to try and say something more but not only would nothing come I found my name being called once more by the other parcel slingers. I closed my mouth to a sad closed mouth smile and nodded my head. "Certainly something more to think about.". To begin with, I did not actually expect to get this job so quickly as I did and now there was something darker creeping about. I really did not know what to say or how to reply but ultimately I already knew what I was going to do. I was quiet as the ladies showed me the run of things, the typical slick-talking and fast walking not unfamiliar to me so I caught everything they said and did even while my mind turned the decision I had already made over.
The end of the day came quickly and Madeline was finally able to catch her breath as she stepped outside and started up at the sky. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before sensing a familiar presence and glancing in the direction the sensation came from. Madeline smiled wide at Artemis taking her in fully now that she was no obstructed by the dim lights of the basement. " Is everyone's first day so... Chaotic?" Madeline laughed out as she walked towards her. She eyed her in silence a moment thinking over her next words. "Why have you stayed?" She blinked a few times as her eyes scanned around trying to fathom an answer on her own. "Because I know why I am staying." She said as a sly smile grew at the edges of her mouth.
Some might have thought it was foolish to share with the new girl about the abductions. But Artie couldn't stand idly by with Madeline not knowing. With any new person not knowing. She just didn't feel right about it. Maybe because no one warned her. She was just thrown to the wolves down here and if it weren't for the fact that she was quick on her feet and a lot keener than she let on she would've already been taken. Furthermore, she hated that no one knew of these men that would come do the taking. She'd been here for a while now. Long enough to make some very good friends out of the few good men that worked here... And weren't fit enough for war... Or injured and returned home. None of them knew what she spoke of. What any of the women spoke of when it came to this topic.
They weren't covering up or lying either. She realized this when one of the men's sister went missing here. When the work whistle rang telling everyone the end of the day had come Artie didn't rush out like everyone else. She took her time to clock out and moseyed on. Making her rounds to bid everyone she knew a good night while secretly hoping to spot one or all the men no one seemed to know about.
She never did.
Her green eyes glistened in the setting sun as she stepped outside at last. Watching the sky turn purple and pink. She spotted Madeline as soon as she stepped out but stayed put when it seemed she just needed a moment to herself. She smiled as Maddie spoke and let out faint laughter at her question. "Some days are worse believe it or not." She froze hearing her next words. Stunned. Numb even. Which was surprisingly a hard feeling to get her to feel. She stood there in disbelief. When she warned Madeline of what was happening she never expected her to want to stay. "Why!?" She unfroze to express her bafflement. She closed her eyes as her brow narrowed and jaw tightened.
"I uh..." She had to think. She knew better than anything else why she stayed but when pressured for an answer under the circumstances she became flustered. "Call it instinct or stubbornness I guess. " she shrugged gathering herself finally. "You could even call it stupid but... Once I found out there was a mystery here and no one was taking it seriously or trying to help I couldn't leave. All the missing women and their families deserve better." She twisted her mouth and shrugged. Nibbled on her lip as she looked away. Staring back at the sunset again.
"No one deserves to never see the sunset again."
Words were beautiful and persuasive, nice but for someone like Madeline they were often a double-edged sword, the person could be saying one thing but doing another because they never meant the words they spoke. Not that she could hear these words for many years anyway, so Madeline learned to watch and read body language, gaze into one's eyes to see if their heart matched their utterances. Artemis words were quite convincing but her face and eyes were far more telling and it made Madeline have to look away because that conviction to help she saw in Artemis was also in her. It was not often she found another like her who would do anything to save an innocent soul but it was always a relief to know she was not alone, that her burn to do what she knew was right was surrounded by various fires and not a lone flame. No one deserves to never see the sunset again. Madeline had missed the moment Artemis had enunciated these words but the fire in her felt them and made her return her gaze to Artemis.
Those words and the emotion behind them were personal anyone could tell and I ached for whatever story laid behind her words. I would not press for the answer though and who is to say the story would not bring up things I could still be struggling with and I certainly did not need that. "No one working here should have to deal with this or take it upon themselves to handle it and certainly not alone. Regardless this world is cruel and its people are...victims of circumstance I guess. You are not alone Artemis." I huffed out before drawing in a heavy breath through my nose, holding it there before audibly sighing it out. "I know this is not what you wanted to hear from me but like you I... I can not walk away knowing the truth and knowing no one else will care enough to help." I twisted my mouth at my words and ran my hands through my hair before the setting sun hit my eyes causing me to squint.
Madeline's demeanour changed then as a clear remembrance of something trampling into her mind. She mumbled in Creole under her breath as she began to trot away slow. "How close to 6 are we?" She asked a bit frantically but something told her she should go. "I am so sorry I just remembered I needed to do something important with my family. I will see you tomorrow." She quickly explained as she jogged backwards before hopping around and taking off. She had lied, however, to an extent because in truth her father did not want her outside. They were in an unfamiliar place during a time of war of which he was a part of as much as could be. He was trauma riddled and paranoid, becoming very overprotective of Madeline as the years turned to decades. She slid through the doors of her home and narrowly managed to change before Dimitri came in.
Artemis watched as Madeline explained. Much like Madeline had done with her. She very quickly learned that Madeline's emotions played out on her face. Maybe she couldn't hide them. Or maybe she just didn't want to. Either way, it made for a very vivid conversation and she wondered if she was just as expressive when she spoke or had she lost all idiom. "Victims of circumstance." She hummed. That was certainly a nice way to put it but not something she'd personally apply to all. People needed to be held accountable for their actions. They needed consequences. Some even needed to be handled in a public fashion to discourage others from doing the same thing.
And so, all of a sudden Artemis shuddered ever so slightly at her own thoughts. They were hauntingly reminiscent of a life and family she left behind. One she wanted to share nothing with but alas was stuck with many similarities. Her thoughts weren't wrong except for the vindictiveness behind them. It scared her to think where these thoughts would go and what would become of the scenario if it came to life. It was a grim and horrifying realisation for Artemis. That those wants for violence were bubbling deep within her. And so once again, she shuddered but harsher this time. A faint frown displayed at the very edges of her lips.
With one sharp breath, her attention was back on Madeline's fully. Frowning even more once she realised, Maddie wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. And though the extra help wouldn't hurt she would forever blame and hate herself for putting another woman in unknown danger. She studied her as she spoke, finding a subtle comfort in being able to tell that Maddie wasn't human. Not fully. Which meant she wasn't entirely defenceless. The question was, however, what was she? Sanguine was out the moment they met. Lupine was out now too. Artie was raised by enough wolves to know when someone wasn't one. They were too far inland for Sirens as the nearest body of water was days away. It was then when Maddie's demeamor changed and Artie wasn't sure what to really do at the moment taken by surprise. She watched the young woman runoff clearly trying to beat the sun and part of her was screaming "catch her!" While the other more sensible and confused part kept her trapped in this spot staring at her dumbfounded.
Artemis scratched her head and hummed to herself a little after Madeline was gone from view. Huffing though she didn't need air as she began to walk home. Occasionally, looking back to where the new girl had run. Playing it out again and again in her head. Wondering if she was secretly in some trouble of her own and if she doomed her to a nasty fate by not following her. Eventually, as she reached the door of her home she told herself she was overthinking. Leaving her worries at the door as she entered. Or so she tried. She always tried but she was alone. She'd been alone for year's now. Too afraid of the mess of her life bloodying up someone else's. It was here though in that isolation that every thought. Concern. Memory and nightmare crawled out from the dark and encased her completely.
Drowning her in a sea of panic.
And burying her in heavy hopeless emotions.
Madeline felt as though she had barely even caught her breath by the time her father came home and her mind spiralled with all the thoughts on how she would manage this job behind his back. Being a newsie was much easier for her as her shift ended hours before his but now the clock out times nearly overlapped and she knew the moment overtime was required she would be royally screwed. Madeline rolled her eyes and huffed at how very Cinderella-ish her life had become and she was anything but fond of it, in fact, she was hardly a fan of fairy tales like that or even their Grimm tale origins. So now that her life matched the worst part of every one of those tales she found herself rather frustrated and annoyed.
I turned the fire on the stove down to let the food simmer until it was done as I huffed away my thoughts... Or tried. My father seemed lost in his own thoughts as per usual which at the moment worked to my advantage as I did not want to talk right this second. I flopped onto the couch and groaned silently as my muscles relaxed and melted into the welcoming cushions suddenly realizing I had not sat or relaxed since the moment I opened my eyes this morning. After a few slow and heavy breaths I looked to my dad hunched at the dining table looking over what I could only guess was that old flyer he received from the front some time ago. "You should go, Papa." My tired voice managed to pierce the air and grab his attention. I sat up as he looked up and over at me "you said it yourself, your new assigned ward is likely out there, this grows truer and truer the more the days pass and you are still here without him." My words delicately coat the air.
Dimitri dropped his head with a huff and a nod as he rubbed the back of his neck. "I would be risking everything heading out to war just to look for him." He said after a moment and Madeline nodded softly. "Then ask for help. I am sure you would not have been assigned to this person without the one who sent you the assignment considering everything first." Her careful words saturated the air and the look on his face told her what he intended to say next which made her stand. "Before you say what I think you are going to; I have been taking care of myself since I was four and you since I was five respectively. You leaving, though as always I will miss you, will not be anything I cannot or have not already handled." She said matter of factly and yet somehow still cautiously.
This conversation carried on through dinner and into the night but by the time we set out for our rooms for the night he had agreed to go and by the time the sun rose he was gone. A silent home had become my normal lifestyle, one I admittedly did not entirely like but I did enjoy the freedom it bought. I took a breath of relief as I took in the silence realizing all my worries of rushing to and fro to avoid being caught by my father were gone but now replaced with the worries of his safety. Though I was much more used to this worry than the other. The second day of work was possibly busier than my first as it was packed with the learning of who is who and what floor they worked on for the sake of proper package delivery. All of it coupled with snide looks or crass and crude remarks which were all uncalled for but I ignored them either way. I had seen Artemis only in passing today, thus far at least, so when the lunch bell tolled I set out to find her which only took a second. "Not eating?" I ask with a tilt of my head as I sit beside her my eyes scanning around at the rest of the women here and not focused on her at the moment though my ears were.
Artemis could no longer tell you which was worse. The loss of her dreams or the tiredness she eternally felt. At least the nightmares left with those dreams. But then her family in a sense did too. All the pros matched the cons quite easily and plagued her already tired mind. She no longer cared about the agelessness. The cold heart frozen in her chest. The deep thirst for primal violence to sate her hunger.
It wouldn't matter. It didn't matter because all she wanted was to see her family again. Knowing they'd still be safe by being with them. She missed their love and acceptance. She even missed Mama's wild schemes. She snorted to herself at the thought of that. At the thought of all the things, she missed about gypsies because they were the very things she used to hate about them.
In the course of one night, Artie would go from laying on her back and staring up at the ceiling. To anxiously finding ways to keep her ever turning mind from spiralling downwards. And so suddenly she desperately missed sleep and the place her dreams would take. The peace she would feel all night.
She didn't regret the reason she was this way. She would never regret that.
And when finally the sun rose and work came she was given a small sense of peace. But it wasn't enough and it would never be enough. Suddenly, bubbles floated into her drowned mind realising a familiar voice when they popped. Pulling her from the deep abyss of her mind to find she'd just been running off muscle memory this entire time. "I'm not hungry." She smiled. She didn't even remember leaving her home. Or clocking in. So finally she stopped moving.
She stretched and sat beside Maddie. Rubbing her face and taking a deep breath. Though she didn't need one. "Did you make it in time to help your family? Had me worried about you all night."
Being who she was Madeline set half of her sandwich to the side in case Artemis changed her mind and wanted it. Or in case anyone here wanted it she would happily share it. "Well, this is all yours if you want it." She noted as Artie sat next to her freezing mid-bite when she heard Artemis utter her question her way. Admittedly Madeline was never a good liar because she never kept up with the lie eventually feeling so guilty for lying that she would out herself. She swallowed slowly as that guilt began to fester within her, rising up as she tried to swallow her food down.
"I... Made it in time." I stammered out as I wiped my mouth and licked my lips. Turning to look at her face and give a wary smile. "I had not told my dad about this job and so he thought I was home. I just... Needed to beat him home." I admit as I clear my throat. "Sorry to worry ya. We are all clear now though." I swallowed hard feeling as though my food was still in my throat. I opened my mouth to speak again but was cut off by the sound of the main door opening and slamming and the sudden wave of nerves and anxiousness coming from the women around us. 'Maddie!?" I hear the man who just entered call. 'Carol wants you on the upside asap!' He speaks again upon finding me. "Oh... Uh... Okay!" I say as I slowly rise and brush myself off, watching him leave without saying another word.
"Is this normal?" She looks to Artemis as she asks and offers her hand to help her to her feet. "Because I would like to keep my lunch hour smoke free." She lightly jokes with a wry chuckle that ends in a huff because something tells her that is not going to happen. With a deep breath, she rolls her shoulders back and fixes herself. "Wish me luck I guess, since everyone here thinks I am getting canned" she smirks and scoffs before heading off to see Carol.
Her eyes flutter as she comprehends Maddie's word. It had been very long. Artemis almost forgot what it was like to have someone care about your whereabouts. Or to have to report where you were going or would be. The memory of that was warm. Bringing a faint smile to the edges of her lips. That quickly faded once she heard that Carol was asking for Maddie. She stood with her and eyed the man that had come for her. Trying to coerce him into telling her why he was sent for Madeline.
She clicked her tongue when he averted her gaze. Rolling her eyes as he left. "It's not entirely out of the blue. It's likely got something to do with that Red-letter you gave her yesterday." Artemis was pretty calm and nonchalant at the moment. Hoping her demeanor would make the suddenly rigid Maddie more lax. "Ehh." She waved her hand at the request for luck. "Just speak Creole or French and Carol will forget what she was talking about." She leaned on the table behind her as she crossed her arms over her chest. Keeping a confident smirk on her lips as she watched Madeline leave.
"You're freaking out.." " I'm freaking out!!"
Her coworker laughed. "I know." She came and pat Artemis on the shoulder. Who currently was starting at the exit Maddie had taken like a sad puppy. Pouting, which only pulled more laughter out of her coworker. "You were right about her not having to worry." She wiped her tears of laughter away. "I heard she told Virginia she might not stay so she probably is just following up." Artemis shrugged the woman's hands off her shoulder. "Well, it's about time something made you laugh..." There was a hidden bitterness in Artemis's tone but she hid it nicely.
Smiling to further hide that she hated how the women here dismissed her. To them, Artemis was the eccentric coworker. Possibly crazy. And any display of serious emotion from her was laughed off or disregarded. Rather than make a big deal of it though Artemis simply smiled. Made a joke or two. While at the same time changing the subject. The whistle blew soon enough to tell everyone lunch was over. And so, back to work like a well-oiled machine they all went.
All deeply dreading the thought of who was next?
Who was the next woman to go missing?