Winter Wars

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Is it possible to fall in love with your sister? And I don’t even mean that in a weird incestualized romantic way. It’s more like the feeling you get when you think you know someone and then they do something completely different from what you’re used to and you love it still. That’s the feeling I get mixed with pride when Trina threatens to cut off Ethan’s hand. She even manages to make a hospital gown look dangerous.

To be honest, if she hadn’t I would have. No one touches my sister without her permission.

It’s almost a crying shame when Onyx wakes up. Sure that Trina could hold her own and that Ryner would protect her if Ethan decides to act on the murderous look in his eyes, I go to Onyx.

Onyx is almost glowing with health. Her eyes are calm and alert as she takes in her surroundings. “Where am I?”

I sit at the foot of her bed keeping a wary eye on Ethan while talking. “Well, I’m gonna assume you know you’re in California. This is Westmoor Replica.”

“Westmoor Replica,” she murmurs. “I don’t remember getting here. They stormed my house, tried to kill me. I ran. I was hurt.” She lifts the blanket to inspect her formerly mangled legs. “But I’m not. What happened?”

“You know that potion you gave Jayson? He didn’t use all of it. Figured he’d save some for whoever else might need it.”

“Is everyone here selfless?”

“Not him,” I gesture to Ethan who’s still staring down Trina. When it comes down to it, she’s just as stubborn as me.

Onyx sighs. “I should have known I couldn’t give that to you without being branded with you. It’s not such a bad thing, I guess.”

With a grunt of disgust, Ethan sweeps from the room. As the door closes Trina drops her knives and faints. Great in the moment, not so good after. Everyone, Onyx included even if she’s only just woken up, knows how close to death Trina was challenging Ethan. He may have a promise to our parents, but he also has his own agenda.

I turn back to Onyx sure that Ryner can handle Trina. “You know, we could always use more help. Not many people are trained in health. One of them is kinda incapacitated right now.” I nod to Trina.

She shrugs. “I’m already here, no matter how unfortunate the travel experience was, if I can be of any use for inconveniencing you, I’ll help.”

I give a small laugh. “That’s an understatement, but if you don’t want to you don’t have to.”

“No, I hate to be stationary especially when I could be helping people.”

“Hmm, hold up, I’ll be back in a sec. With food, you’re probably hungry.” As I go, I wince as a spike in the headaches hits with a brief flash. Trina stand on a balcony with a flag in her hands. Since Trina made the very unwise decision to attempt understanding my headache, it’s lessened to the point of it being tolerable.

I don’t know why it’s like this, but since this month started it’s slowly gotten worse. Pride getting the better of me, I decided not to ask anyone for help—genius move, I know. But believe it or not, I was excited about the training no matter how much I complained. I didn’t want to take the chance that it would be canceled because of a headache.

I find Jayson in the kitchen with Victor and Claire planning dinner.

“Hey, Marcy,” Victor says absently. One thing I’ve learned about Victor is that he’s a man of few words, but never fails to greet someone when they walk into a room.

Jayson stiffens at the sound of my name and keeps his back to me. The sound of a knife on a cutting board stops for a moment then continues. Okay, so maybe I made a mistake this month. A very, very big mistake. I’m almost sure everyone thinks I hate Jayson now, but I don’t. I just chose the wrong target, but my hormone and pain crazed brain usually goes for whoever I think is weakest—and for the last two year that has been some poor schmuck that works for Sebastian. Not saying it was right, just saying I could have done better.

“I need to talk to Jayson,” I pause then add, “And get some food. Onyx woke up.”

“If that’s the case,” Claire glides over to the fridge and takes out a Tupperware container of tuna. “She can have this. I made it earlier. Should still be good.” She goes to the pantry and starts to root around. Jayson still hasn’t moved from his spot.

Knowing he’s fidgety around me again, I don’t mean to sneak up on him, but it’s not all my fault that he doesn’t hear me walk up next to him. “Jayson,” I say again.

He stabs the knife into the cutting block and says, “W-what do you want?”

Instead of facing the problem like a normal person and talking to him, I forge ahead and try not to let him know how horrible his stuttering makes me feel. “I need your help in locating one of the field medic training facility. I figured that if anyone would know it’s you.”

“I do,” His grip tightens on the knife handle. “Why d-do you want to know?”

I shift my weight and wonder if he’s ever gonna look at me. “Onyx is a nurse and I think she’d do some good there. She doesn’t want to inconvenience us with her presence so I thought it would be a good idea.”

“Y-yeah, um, I think you should ask Ryner.” Jayson turns and walks to the cabinets and I follow him like a lost duck. Victor and Claire seem to be ignoring us, but I know they’re listening closely.

“He’s busy taking care of Trina. Not even an army can get him away from her bedside.”

“Then ask someone else.” He turns away from the cabinets holding four containers of varying sizes and hurries back to the cutting board.

“I don’t want to ask someone else. I want your help.”

He yanks the knife out the board and sets it down before turning to me. With a mixture of hurt and anger in his eyes, he mutters, “And what makes you think I want to help you?”

That sound just now? That’s the sound of his words piercing my armor. The armor that’s kept me distanced from everyone, keeping them at arm’s length. I know now that I can take that armor off, but it’s as much a part of me as my arm or leg. And maybe I don’t want to take it off. Maybe I still want to keep everyone away.

Jayson finally meets my eyes, but I would have prayed to any god if it would make him turn away from me again. “You’ve been pushing me away for weeks. You’ve all but hated me. What reason do I have for wanting to do anything for you?”

I squirm under his gaze. What am I supposed to say to someone I’ve treated like the dirt beneath my feet when I want his help? You can treat me like crap and we can call it even? You can keep hating me even though I don’t want anything more than to be your friend again?

“Damn,” I kick the ground with my boot. “And I had a good apology for you.”

She laughs. “Save it for another time.”

Oh, right. Those words. The ones I haven’t said correctly in years. I’m sorry. It’s kinda funny when I think about it. They used to flow so easily from me like water over a cliff. I didn’t have to think about and it wasn’t something I dreaded slipping out. It just happened.

Jayson scoffs and turns away from me. I tug on his sleeve and take a deep breath… but nothing comes out. I can’t say it. I can’t push the words past my lips. Instead of feeling remorseful, I get angry. What I’m angry at, I have no idea. My head pounds with another spike and I wince. Ryner is dragged away by masked men unconscious.

“I wanted your help, but I sure as hell don’t need it.” I hiss and stalk out. Muttering to myself I walk upstairs and stay there until the next morning getting next to no sleep.

“You look horrible,” Even though I hear someone walking behind me, I still jump when Onyx sits down next to me. At least she looks and sounds better than yesterday, which is more than I can say for myself. The headache is gone, but my head is still throbbing with its ghost.

“Well, I feel like shit so it’s no doubt I look it,” I grumble.

“I’m a fairy,” she bumps my shoulder with hers. “We’re empathetic. I know you feel like shit and I kinda know why. Question is, do you know why?”

“Yes. No. Maybe.” I throw my hands up. “I don’t know.”

A knowing smile graces her lips as she begins to speak. “Since I don’t really know you I won’t say that this is completely accurate, but I can take a stab at it. You couldn’t apologize to Jayson because you think it’s a sign of weakness and you haven’t never been able to be weak in a long timer. If you apologized, you opened yourself to his rejection and since you haven’t had many people to rely on recently, it would be…” she trails off looking to the ceiling as she searches for the right word. “Heartbreaking.”

“Heartbreaking?” I repeat.

“Friends can break your heart too,” Her tone is matter-o-fact. “It’s so much worse since you never expect it to happen, unlike a lover where there’s always a chance that you’ll be heartbroken. Point is unless you can let people in, and I mean really, really, let them in. Let them see all the ugly and the pretty, all the embarrassing and prideful moments, then reconciling your relationship with Jayson will prove next to impossible.”

“But what if I don’t know how?” My thoughts move as slow as cattle as I keep talking. “What if I’ve forgotten and I don’t know how to fix it?”

With a smile half joking and half sweet, Onyx says, “Then, my dear wolf, you need to do what you do best: take a risk. Wear your heart on your sleeves. Run off the cliff before looking over the edge and pray to God there’s something to cushion your fall.”

Wear my heart on my sleeve? I’d rather get stabbed thirty two times before letting that happen. I used to be like that and, well, look at me now. Not exactly the poster child for openness. But still, it’s killing me to know that Jayson basically hates me and it’s only been a few hours. How did he endure this for a month?

Onyx stands and stretches. “Ethan wants me out of here as soon as possible which means in about five minutes. I’ll be a few miles away training the future field medics. If you ever need me, please feel free to call for me. I’ll be here in a flash.” She snaps her fingers and winks out of sight.

I sit on the stairs for a long time before deciding to try to talk to Jayson again.

“Oh, no, love. You don’t want to do that.”

A slim hand reaches out to steady me so I don’t pitch headfirst down the stairs. “Matrianna.”

She gives me a joking smile and takes my hand. Her lips brush my knuckles before I tear it away. “Indeed, love. I never did get to talk to you.”

“What do you want? I have things to do.”

“Jayson doesn’t want to see you right now.” She says her smile dipping at my crestfallen face. “Sorry, but you really have hurt him. You were the first person who he thought might accept him with all his faults and flaws and un-admirable qualities.”

“I-I didn’t mean for that to happen.” My shoulders fall. “Again, what do you want?”

“Here’s the thing, love.” She crosses her arms and leans against the rail. “You have a very special type of precognition and it’s blocking my ability to see into the future, so I want to strike a deal.”

Shifting my thoughts away from Jayson, I focus on the woman in front of me. “What kind of deal?”

“I don’t see much for this war, but I can see the state of this country if you do and don’t win. All I want you to do is win it for me and I’ll grant you a wish.”

“What do you care for this country?”

“Let’s just say I’m invested in its future.”

“That makes me want to trust you.”

She frowns at my sarcasm. “Have you been talking to Ethan?”

“’Course not, I don’t like him.” I shift my stance and glare at her, I don’t like her either. Something about the way she looks and acts puts me on edge. “It’s not like he would tell me whatever he was on about. I don’t want to either; it’s his business.”

“Shame, it’s rather interesting.” She circles me as if appraising my haggard but defensive stance. “You’ve seen more than me even if you don’t know it. The wish can be anything you want.” Her smile reveals pearly white teeth. “I can do much more than see the future.”

“Limitation?” I ask. If Ethan was with, he’d give me his death glare. I’m not really considering her offer. I’m considering considering because I never know what might happen. All she wants is for me to win, but this war isn’t a game of cards and if it were everything would be on the line. Every card would hold more value than the other. Every king would be an army and every death would be a card lost.

“There wouldn’t a limit,” she coaxes. “Anything you want, I can give you. No catch, no backfires. Swear it on my life.”

One wish for winning a war. No limitations. No catches. Anything I want.

“Don’t answer me now,” she says pulls her hair back into a ponytail. “And a word of advice, a romantic relationship with you won’t end well no matter who it is. It’s not you, but the future that would hinder it. Be safe, love. The real fun has only just begun.”

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