[As a reminder, I’m slowly but surely uncensoring the names of the perpetrators in this blog. So, Ash = Rowan. March = Vali. April = Kirra. Kieran = Apollo. Asra = Sage. Anything completely in Italics happened exclusively in the inworld. TW: Discussion of sexual assault, massive Shutter-Island-style self-gaslighting, abusive relationships, discussion of abuse, mentions of suicide, cults, mob mentality, online cancellation.]
“I love how my abuser agreed to a virtual Open Mic but I could never get them to video call when we dated.” “My abuser claimed they never liked soup. Who the fuck doesn’t like soup?” “My abuser used to claim that they didn’t like foreign music because they couldn’t understand the lyrics.”
We never did wish Apollo a happy birthday, that year. I kept wanting to fight Kaspar’s discovery that Apollo and Kirra were, in fact, one in the same. I’d unfollowed Apollo for Xanthe’s sake, but I was scrolling through Apollo’s increasingly Kirra-esque posts for proof that I’d made the right decision.
I wasn’t finding any.
I did, much like Xanthe, consider Apollo a friend. An infuriating one, an untrustworthy one, but someone whose presence was at least reliable.
That, and the implications of that possible mistake were haunting me. What if I did, indeed, accidentally saddle Xanthe with three additional years with their abuser? Have I completely, irreparably, single-handedly damned us all?
“D.I.D. can cause sufferers to be led back to their abusers, unknowingly or unwillingly.” I kept having to delete my own search history. If we Did have D.I.D., did it mean most of the people I cared deeply for were just a lonely brain’s way of comforting itself?
That couldn’t be more bleak. I hated the explanation for even existing, some visceral revulsion I felt at even considering the possibility.
I was practically praying for Apollo to get back to himself, to prove that he and Kirra were separate, to even give me a hint– a goddamned sign.
“Remember when my abuser said they liked Jeffree Starr?” I rolled my eyes. Yes, Nebula had liked Jeffree Starr back in his Myspace days in 2009, when he only had music and an androgynous visage to his name. Supposedly, Apollo had never met Nebula. Kirra had.
If this were a box that housed Schrodinger’s cat, it would have smelled putrid and had several flies and maggots crawling out of it. But I didn’t want to open it. So, Apollo stayed, unfollowed, but a ticking time bomb on Xanthe’s contact list.
I didn’t know what else to do.
He was very clearly trying to provoke us, too. Xanthe had began the hobby of making personalized bookmarks. They posted the picture below and the very next day, I discovered Apollo going on a particularly furious online tirade about how bookmarks were a ‘waste of resources’ and how ‘real readers’ shouldn’t mind bending a book’s spine or dog-earring it. I had no strong opinions either way– I was simply glad that Xanthe was channeling their creativity.
(Okay, that’s a lie. Why on earth would you dog-ear a book you goddamned heathen?)
Honestly, I would have rather them made a million bookmarks and have their thoughts turn away from their more recent planes of overthinking. It was true, that the household was finally beginning to socialize with them again, but Xanthe’s state of mind had ruptured and was enduring the full heat of a mental infection.
“Now that I’m integrating you,” Xanthe muttered, presumably to me, searching terms on their laptop like ‘Nephilim’ and ‘angel of time.’ “It’d be interesting to know where the ‘angel’ aspect comes from. My best theory is that you’re Suriel– I think it was originally a ‘Watcher’, which fits some of your abilities. And of course, some of the ‘Watchers’ of mythos bred with humans to create the Nephilim. Which, honestly fits my fucking past lives, in that every time we fall in love, it’s killed us. And since you appear to me as an angel–…”
(Or or or, we were touched as a kid and now one of us presents as a pure, sexless being. I don’t have a psych degree or anything, buuuut…. -Sparrow)
They were so far from the point and also so very close. “Speaking of the Nephilim. Do you remember those books you read when you were first conscious? The Infernal Devices? Do you ever want to reread those? It may be a morale booster.” They’d spurned my voice lately, but I tried to send the suggestion somewhere out into the system, to be said by whichever lips would be most likely to say them. I believe it was Aberle who finally did. Between this Cassandra Clare series and Black Butler, it was no mystery how the timing of the introduction of these materials would immensely effect Xanthe’s development.
They’d been utterly vibrant in 2013– when first awake– as compared to now. I was hoping that leading them back to their roots may serve as a sort of ‘refresh.’ Even better if I could keep their mind from falling into these dark, conspiratorial spirals.
“I realise now that I’m not the sort of god that can change what will happen. Overall. But I can change when,” I watched them write into their journal. “The plague would have happened over this decade, but I made it happen in such a way that it would grant me a stay of leave and a break from work.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Their body had ceased to heal within the inworld. Their wounds, though having congealed, were making no sign of fading. Their form was left weakened, but functional. One would think that with their limited strength, they would stop picking fights in the inworld for about three fucking seconds but this was Xanthe we’re talking about. Their barely steady hand grasped their glass of wine as they spoke to, you know, the Queen of Chaotics. “You realise why I had to be the one to defeat Chandra, right? I’m… essentially created to be a god of this world. I realise lately, through what’s happened, that I have more control than I’ve ever realised. It’s like this world actually reacts to me, in some odd way. And I need to learn to control it before it ruins everyone’s lives.”
I thought I was about to have a stroke.
Like I’d said, agonizingly close to getting the point. Aluciel was not amused. I didn’t blame her. Xanthe was leaning heavily on their cane, trying to put weight off their bad hip as they poured themself a seventh glass of wine. “So. You’re trying to tell me that you’re a deity. Not only a deity, but essentially the protagonist of the planet.” There was a dry sort of mockery that I always liked whenever she spoke. “How awful it must be, to have the world always revolving around you.” Aluciel, of course, was thinking of the coup Xanthe launched that had gotten her father killed or ‘de-bodied’ years before. She still may hold a grudge.
“I’ve since accepted it as my cross to bear.” Xanthe smiled crookedly. Their smiles and their laughter never lingered these days, more a punctuation than a response. “Your granddad’s a god, isn’t he? Is it that hard to believe, in our world of gods and monsters, that I may be one of you?”
Aluciel stood as well. She had been having tea with Andrew in Demetri’s garden when Xanthe had strode out to explain why the Chaotics Queen owed them an apology and also why she should trust their advisement more often. This was done, and I stress this, as Xanthe was at least six glasses in. “I’ve met deities, Xanthe. They’re powerful, nearly indestructable. Then there’s you.” Aluciel gave the cane a light kick, sending Xanthe toppling over onto their bad hip. They winced visibly, hissing between clenched teeth. “Before claiming godhood, Xanthe, you should at least get yourself back to basic human abilities. Like healing. Or standing.”
Xanthe cackled, a little too high-pitched for anyone’s comfort, struggling to their feet, which only further proved Aluciel’s point. “I take it your vote is for ‘monster’, then?” They asked Aluciel breathlessly. Though she was in the house by now, she doubtlessly heard them.
The household situation may have improved, markedly, but that didn’t mean that Xanthe was just magically better.
The question of Xanthe’s world seemed a mystery that no one quite wanted to let go unsolved.
Not everything was roses after Sage’s intervention. Granted, I didn’t expect it to be, but I was allowed more socialization throughout the days.
It was a lot like when Oscar Wilde was transferred out of Wandsworth Gaol over to Reading. For those who don’t know the reference, the isolation and horrid conditions in his initial imprisonment were killing him, and likely would have killed him, if his friends hadn’t lobbied for reading materials, writing materials, and more humane circumstances.
But it still seemed a cause worth celebrating. Now I could bloody breathe a little. “Thank goodness for Sage!” Wayne, my therapist, said after I’d recounted the tale. “If I ever have children, I’m going to name one after Sage. And look at you, getting along with Vali. I bet in a few weeks’ time, you two will be skipping through Highland Park arm-in-arm!”
It was true, Vali and I had hung out more frequently. Aside from watching Bohemian Rhapsody the night of Sage’s intervening, we’d also hung out and watched a film called ‘Cam’ together. I have to admit, though I was trying, my brain apparently still didn’t accept him as a person. I can barely remember any of his dialogue. It was like I was back in Savannah, looking for people that were an alternative to ‘alone’, trying to fill the deadly silence with any kind of voice I could find.
And as Rowan’s right-hand man, he clearly had value. But gods, he fucking bored me to tears.
I think it was the night that we’d watched Netflix that we opted to take a walk. We walked towards Highland Park, which was humorously what my therapist had referenced. “Now that we can talk again, I wanted you to know… Have you heard the tales of Narvi and Vali?”
“No.” I’d heard the shift between the usual diminutive of Valerian’s name– from Vaal to Vali.
Night had been one of the only times where taking walks hadn’t been bordering unseasonably hellish temperatures. We were at that part of Highland Drive that split a bit to create a tiny park between both sides of the street. We’d also been doing the usual ‘hanging out’ talk, you know. Commenting and joking about our surroundings.
“They’re the twins of Loki,” Vali continued, “Rowan and I have been theorizing that we’re–”
At this point, Jane pulled up in her car. “Hey, I saw you two wandering around down here and thought I’d join you!” She went to look for parking and joined us soon after.
I couldn’t help but note that Vali’s entire conversation about gods and past-lives and magic shut down in Jane’s wake. I let them chatter to each other, but Vali did seem somewhat more reserved. My NPD was definitely picking up on the fact that I was being invited into knowledge that Jane wasn’t yet privy to.
Not that I was always included, mind you. No one had bothered telling me that Zara was over, which was quite the shock when I was walking out to the balcony to write and enjoy the weather. I opened the door and– boom, there’s the girl who shrieked at me for daring to self-harm within my own goddamned house, just in the space I was paying for. “Oh–” was all the noise I made before backing into the house.
Fabulous! Great! Thanks for the heads’ up!
I am and was ashamed at how much visceral fear shocked through me. Like yeah, I didn’t think Zara could physically hurt me. Socially? Mentally? That was another matter that my improvement in conditions couldn’t equip me for.
There’d been talk of starting a bonfire earlier in the day. When I, you know, forced back into my feral cat phase, had carefully crept down the stairs to see if I were finally allowed on the porch, I found it blissfully empty. My relief soon dissolved into bitterness when I tasted the unmistakable scent of a fire in the air.
I leaned over and saw Zara’s white car in the driveway.
God fucking damn it.
“Zara still hates you, you know.” That was an interesting conversation starter that Arkady presented me with, days before, while seated on the couch.
“Okay.” That response was easier than explaining to Arkady that, yeah, Zara was pretty, but not everyone was chomping at the bit to hear her talk about what things spook her on a nature walk when she’s stoned out of her skull.
“You should apologize to her.”
I looked at him. “I think I missed where she’d apologised to me.” And that definitely led to a cyclical argument.
So, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when he was unsympathetic. I went into the kitchen to have a refill on wine, the proximity to the off-limits backyard giving me quite the earful of the laughter I was unable to join, and ran into Arkady.
“Hi.” I said flatly. “Has the bonfire started yet?”
“Yeah, but…” Just fucking say it. “Zara’s over and she’s still… uncomfortable with–…” His eyes were looking at everything but me.
“Yeah.” I finished for him. Me.
And just like that, all of my hard-won progress seemed temporarily erased. I went onto the front porch with a glass of wine and a book– Dracula, to be precise. It was a good reflection of my life, given that no one can beat a dead horse quite like Bram Stoker in that novel.
Then– something entirely unexpected happened. Rowan came out and sat with me, carrying their own book. The bonfire party was still at full tilt at the back of the house, but here Rowan was sitting, reading a book with me on the porch.
I gave them a questioning look and they responded with an almost shy, understanding sort of smile. “I felt bad that you were out here by yourself.”
See, that’s what people don’t get about trauma-bonding. It isn’t bonding over trauma, like many guess. It’s creating the traumatic circumstances and then being the one to ‘save’ the victim. And guess who knew fully well that Zara would be coming over and chose not to tell me?
I actually stood and hugged them. There they were, showing me an unprompted bit of kindness even when the majority had chosen not to. Even stranger, it was only a short while until Vali came out and joined the both of us. It’s odd, looking back, the strange victories I counted in my favour.
It wasn’t long before I saw that white car pull away from the driveway. I gave her a snide little wave, hoping she saw me with, you know, actual people this time. I gave it a moment, then I walked into the backyard to enjoy the last of the bonfire. Jane and Arkady were already there– deep in conversation, but I sat with them.
Jane was recounting another story with Jude, their ex. It may have been my paranoia, but it seemed like every time Jane would recount this, it seemed to always feature details both convenient and familiar. “And he would always push boundaries, you know? And he’d always act confused or like he didn’t understand. And I get that he has trauma but he can’t break down every time I confront him about something, you know?”
Arkady would be nodding along to this. My heart, shrink-wrapped in cellophane by the feel of it, was squeezed tighter into its hot, suffocating cocoon. “I definitely understand that,” he said emphatically.
I was torn between shrinking down in the lawn chair until I went at least six feet under the ground or clearing my throat to remind them that I was still there.
“I still check on him. I have to, you know,” Jane continued, “He gets into these, you know, suicidal moods. And I get that it’s not fair to me, to have to deal with that. Like he even made me freak out and cry once. That’s why I disappear sometimes and go over there. I still like, care about him. He just gets into these self-destructive moods…”
Yeah, I’m feeling pretty close myself.
The rest of the conversation was thankfully switched over to their favourite topic– the walks they took and how nearly every leaf caught in the wind or animal cry in the distance was the goddess, Hecate, showering her favour upon them. That conversation always beheld an odd dynamic– sometimes Arkady would be explaining something that happened and Jane would actually correct him on, you know, his perception, and then explain his point of view herself.
Sometimes you just had to sit back and enjoy the fire.
One way or another.
It was mere days later when I saw something that I didn’t realise that would turn the tide permanently. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
See, Jane had developed a close relationship with mainly Arkady, despite being introduced into the house by Vali. And of course, Jane was enjoying the open affection that was reserved for everyone except your dear narrator. I remember her going to bed and asking, “Can I have a biss?” before collecting platonic kisses from all three of the other housemates. Somehow, the ‘bird language’ seemed unseemly on her lips.
But despite these countless magical discussions with Arkady, I’d never really seen her and Rowan or her and Vali hanging out on their own. Therefore, Rowan wasn’t terribly interested in her as a friend– and probably still had a grudge since the rock-throwing incident.
Therefore, Jane wasn’t magic. Obviously. You can’t be more than human unless Rowan liked you, you see. She was just human.
And imagine when Jane, like many people who had interacted with this house, started to have ‘flashes of a past life.’
The three of us, Rowan, Jane, and I were crossing paths in the dining room when Jane, out of seemingly nowhere, addressed Rowan with, “Hey, Rowan! [Arkady] and I were talking and discussing my dreams and we’re both pretty sure that I was part of the Seelie court, and that I was banished–”
I couldn’t hear the rest of Jane’s sentence, for the expression on Rowan’s face had its own goddamned volume. The look in Rowan’s eyes was as if they’d slammed a door shut in Jane’s face, just a flat denial that Jane didn’t appear to pick up on.
Rowan dodged the conversation in its entirety, the way one would when someone would try to hand them a pamphlet about Hell and repentance, and made their excuses to be anywhere else other than where Jane was.
I felt an opportunity forming, some sort of changing tide that was always so instinctive with NPD.
There was also the fact that Jane clearly couldn’t handle having access to substances. There’d been a night recently wherein she knocked over like three things and refused to drink water. “Mate,” I finally told her. “I’m a fucking drunk myself and I think you’re being bloody annoying.”
Then she said something really baffling. “No, no,” she slurred. “I’m not that drunk. I’m just acting.”
How kind of her to make me look good in comparison.
Granted, I wasn’t exactly on solid ground. Despite the tearful hug in the driveway, Arkady proved to be my stalwart adversary into any peace I were to have. It was a weird world, wherein Rowan and Vali were more on my side than the love of my life.
I only have the vague notion of how this next conversation began– so do forgive me. It was on May 25th. We’d somehow gotten on the topic of– well, everything. “What you did had lasting damage!” Arkady argued. Gods, I can’t even remember where we were? Living room? Kitchen? “You led a mob mentality against Vali and Zara–”
“Holy shit, the dead horse you’re beating is literally bones by now,” I’d snapped. “Sage said not to bring up anything over two weeks old.” Maybe he responded, maybe he didn’t. I feel like this must’ve gone on for some time. Eventually, I did address the topic. “Look, I may have misread the Chandra situation. Okay? A lot of fucked up things happened and I wasn’t quite sure of anything. She had control over hallucinations, she had–”
“Xanthe, she isn’t real. Anything Chaotics isn’t real.”
I remember being taken aback by this. Oh, right, we’d been in the living room. I’d been on the couch. He’d been sitting on the floor, on the cushion, so he had easy access to his vape pen charger. I kind of thought he was trying for some odd tangent of racism. Specieism? Like damn, I know us elemental godlings aren’t quite as aesthetic as the fucking Unseelie Court, but–
“Chandra isn’t even Chaotics.” I said, slowly. “I don’t know what she is.”
“Xanthe. We need to talk. I can explain later, but you need to shut this conversation down. Tell him you don’t want to talk.”
Somehow, Xhaxhollari’s voice chilled me to the fucking bone. It was the first time since the Chandra incident that he’d spoken to me. He sounded actually scared.
Arkady sighed. It was that same reaction as if he was trying to convince a child that the monster under the bed didn’t exist, when the child in question had aged past thirty. “Xanthe, I talked to Apollo. He told me that it was all a roleplay. The Methusilla, the Chaotics, all of it. You made it up.” “Xanthe, we need to talk about this. It isn’t that simple.” “He told me that the situation with JaK in the river happened because he didn’t want to do it anymore–”
“That was Kirra that did that. Kirra tried to kill JaK.” Between what Arkady was saying and the desperation of Xhax’s tone, I could feel something about to land– the whistling of a nuke just before it hit. And what could I do? Dive under a fucking desk? “You talked to Kirra.” I’d meant it as a question, but it wasn’t by the time it made it to my voice.
This same person used to tell me how furious he was with Kirra, tell me his revenge fantasies about her. This same person had allied with her.
Arkady’s tone took on a more indignant tone, as if I had purposefully deceived him about something I didn’t know myself. “I didn’t mean to talk to her! I didn’t know Apollo and Kirra are the same person, Xanthe! You told me otherwise!”
“Because they’re not!” I can’t describe the horror growing in me. It was beyond anything I’d ever felt and, you know, if you’re a reader of this blog, that’s saying a lot. It was an interesting feeling, the sensation of your mind fracturing beyond the point of no return. “You talked to Kirra,” I repeated.
“Xanthe, I’m so sorry. Xanthe. Listen to me. I’m so sorry. It was more than just you involved. I had to make a choice–“
But I saw the flicker of regret in Arkady’s eyes, behind the will to win the argument. He saw that I was afraid. He could see that I hadn’t known.
He finally, after what seemed like months of trying, had gone too far. And this time, he knew it. Which meant my worst nightmare was a reality.
Suddenly, I was outside. I was running.
Running from the worst betrayal I’d ever imagined on three different fronts, running from the grotesque truth, running from the voice in my head desperately apologising as if he had thoroughly damned me. Maybe he had.
I was halfway through the woods in Pinnacle Hill. I didn’t remember running most of the way. My feet were bare, cut up from the sticks and rocks. I didn’t feel it. I remember that, at one point, I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was having a heart attack.
I hoped I was.
I leaned against a log and threw up– a couple of times.
Suddenly, I was on the ground. I didn’t remember falling.
I was having one of those cinematic flashbacks, the sort that seemed to override my sense of time and space– of Kaspar furious with Xhaxhollari, months before. Neither of them telling me why. The fact that Rowan and Apollo had hung out, privately, without me. I pulled out my phone, scrolling frantically through my timeline. I was looking for Apollo’s name, trying to see that I wasn’t making him up in his entirety.
I looked at his profile. And his most recent posts.
He talked about his ex a lot. This was a new development. His ‘abuser.’
Someone unnamed, who didn’t like soup, someone who heartlessly cheated on him ‘because poly.’ I saw one of his friends, Holliday something, someone I’d never really even personally knew, comment something to the effect of, ‘Well, what do you expect? They’re a fan of Oscar Wilde for fuck’s sake.’
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t fucking breathe.
I watched the tears fall to the ground, barely able to comprehend them.
I’m fucking crazy. I’m actually fucking crazy. I’m the kind of sick you stop feeling sorry for. The sort you awkwardly skirt around. Delusional. Hallucinatory.
I could start to recall some of the more bizarre, vitriolic arguments the two of us had had in a new light. Missing pieces started falling into place– the way all of his friends seemed to hate me from the get-go, the way I would have panic attacks after we would sleep together. About how sometimes people seemed to confuse Apollo and Kirra, as if they hadn’t realised the two were twins. Years ago, Asher mentioning how I’d dated Apollo, then looking stricken as if they ruined everything by just a mistake. How Arkady never took the fact that Chandra sexually assaulted me seriously, as if I had–
As if I had brought it on myself.
Fuck you. I fucking hate you. You knew. Fuck all the way off. You fucking Knew. I thought it with as much vitriol possible to Xhaxhollari, who was trying to apologise with all his breath. He was a voice in my head and, in the end, wasn’t that what everyone was? All this time?
“Xanthe. I didn’t know. I hoped it wasn’t true. If I had known, I would have never–“
Shut the fuck up. I balled up the leaves in my hands. I’d been planning a tattoo, of the date I’d broken up with Kirra– an ankle shackle, shattered, with the date 1-11-16, with the words ‘De Profundis.’ I was free. I was so proud of myself, all those years ago, because I’d finally been free.
Free to go right back to monster who turned me into something like him.
I shrieked. A wordless, despairing shriek tore through me. It felt like it was coming from someone else. I could hear it echoing off the trees.
I went through my phone and blocked Apollo on Facebook. Gods, he’d been my fucking Facebook friend. How long had he watched my increasingly depressing statuses and patted himself on the back at a job well-done? Knowing that my fucking partn– ex-partner had come to him just to see how crazy I was?
This whole time, I was at least comforted by the thought that at the very least, Kirra was suffering in Ohio, probably living with one of her parents. Maybe even erased from the whole of existence by my supposed time powers. Meanwhile, she– he, rather– had been in my flat and drinking my wine.
I blocked his phone number. Then I blocked every email I ever knew him or Kirra to have had. Then his Instagram and Tumblr. Then I threw my phone across the clearing.
Then I screamed some more. Maybe someone would hear, maybe someone would just come and lock me up and I’d never have to actually face that half of my life had been a lie. Gods, if I’d made up the Chaotics, then Kaspar–? Aberle–? My fucking sons–???
My phone went off.
“Please come back safely,” he’d texted.
I laughed. It was more of a coughing sound. My throat felt so raw.
I was beyond contemplating suicide, to be honest. I was stuck wishing beyond all reason that I could go back to January, when I’d tried to jump from the High Falls railway.
That suicide would have saved me.
A suicide now would just be a moot fucking point.
All three of those names were people that Arkady had ‘channeled.’ I was in love with Visarden and William. Neither of which had ever talked to my abuser, never screamed at me, never had said cruel things. And Thorne was a friend. Honestly, I was hoping for Visarden.
Visarden Blackthorn is who I interacted with the most in those first blissful months in our relationship. Who Arkady’s voice always shifted into to say the sweetest of things. The one I’d left love letters for. The one who had written me one in turn.
When I’d read Arkady’s “Okay.”, I began walking mechanically towards the bottom of the hill, perhaps eager for my hopes to be dashed. I hadn’t seen Visarden in months, damn-near a fucking year.
My heart contracted when I spotted Arkady. Arkady, who had held me when I’d had panic attacks about Kirra. Arkady, who had cursed her name and vowed to help me rekindle my confidence after her. Arkady, who said he’d always protect me. Arkady, who had been one of the only safe places I’d ever found in this fucked up, twisted nightmare I called a life. “Who are you?”
It was the image of Arkady, who had asked my abuser about how to deal with someone as crazy as me. “Xanthe?”
It wasn’t Arkady.
That short ‘A’ sound in my name made my world spin.
See, Americans tend to pronounce it like “Xay-enth.” This was more of a monosyllabic ‘Xahnth.’
I knew that accent. That delicate, musical British accent. I’d know it in my sleep, in my dreams, I’d know it in a fucking coma. “Visarden.” I whispered it. It probably wasn’t audible.
My legs were carrying me, automatically, towards him. Within seconds, we were embracing. I sobbed into his shoulder and he held me tighter. “I love you. Oh my gods, I’ve missed you so fucking much. Where were you? Where the fuck were you? It’s been Hell. Holy fuck, it’s actually you.”
I don’t think I could have handled the further revelations without Visarden having held me. Holy shit, I’d made out with Apollo. I’d slept with Apollo. I helped him get hired at the inn. I’d let Arkady be alone, drunk, with Apollo.
See, back in 2019, during that fabled Maycation, we’d actually hung out with Apollo– Arkady, Rowan, and I. Mainly because I wanted to prove to someone outside of Cotton, Casey, and others that this fucker actually existed. Arkady had lost his wallet that night and we thought he’d left it at McDonough’s.
Through some circumstances I honestly forget, Rowan and I decided to take an Uber to McDonough’s to retrieve the wallet and it was decided that Arkady remain at Apollo’s.
This was a time wherein I thought Apollo irritating but generally harmless. But if he was Kirra– if he was my abuser, the same one who waited until I was Smashed before hurting me sexually, and I’d left a quite drunk Arkady with him–… Oh fuck. Oh gods.
“I love you, too.” Visarden’s voice broke through my revelations. “Of course I love you. What’s happening with you and [Arkady] has nothing to do with us, darling.”
My knees were weak. I had to have him to support me, to have his arm around my waist as he guided me from the hill to a log at the edge of our backyard.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
“Can I kiss you?” I regretted it as soon as I’d said it. Mainly because I would frankly still taste of stomach acid and that wasn’t the last impression I wanted to give my scarce love.
Visarden frowned. “I don’t think [Arkady] would be quite comfortable with that. Otherwise, I would.” That was comforting, at least.
I rambled to him, trying to explain the earlier revelation and why I’d asked him here.
Visarden was taken aback. “[Arkady] did that? I’d understood that you were on break, but that– seems–…” He frowned, trying to find the word for it.
I’d laughed. “Oh, he fucking did!” But then I was hit with that wave of remorse again. “Oh my god. I left [Arkady] with him,” I shivered. “I left [Arkady] with Kirra. I never would’ve put him in that sort of danger if I had known…”
Visarden, seeing I was distraught, was eager to comfort me. He kept his arms around me the entire time. He was reassuring me as I peppered him with questions. “Of course I’m not angry with you. You’ve clearly been suffering a great deal. I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you; it’s just hard when [Arkady]’s suffering as well. This really isn’t like him at all– he isn’t quite himself.” “I don’t blame you at all, darling. You didn’t know. You truly didn’t know, I can see it in your eyes.”
We spoke more about how Arkady hadn’t been himself and gods, was I always just fucking gunning for an excuse not to hold him responsible! “I know. I’ve seen. And I wish I could help him. Fuck, I’d sell my fucking soul for him to just get back to himself.”
Visarden put his arm around me and squeezed. “Now, now, dear. There’s no need to go offering more than you have.”
Our eyes met and, despite everything, I smiled at that. He smiled back.
It was during this comforting that Jane had arrived home from her job. She came upon Visarden as I dried my tears alongside him on the log near the shed. Just like that, Visarden switched out and Arkady was back. Jane was just wondering what we were doing– I was currently holding back homicidal urges at the interruption. Arkady explained in his flatter, Rochester accent that we were only talking. He leaned away from me as he said it.
No. Come back.
For that was the last time I would ever see Visarden within the outerworld. That was the last bit of quality time I would have with him. And it was interrupted by an unwanted housemate wanting to know what we were talking about.
I don’t know what happened to him, apart from my mind’s desperate attempts to comfort me. Did he go dormant? Did he split? Did he suffer Neb’s fate?
I may never know for certain.
Only that it hurts a Lot.
There I was, having unwittingly fallen in love with something that was likely an alter, left hanging when they disappeared abruptly. I also didn’t realise my system had done that to someone else, seven years before.
But we’ll get to that.
I didn’t really talk to anyone about my Apollo/Kirra discovery. I was still processing it– assessing the damage before I tried to figure out where the fuck I could even begin healing. And of course, DID continues to fuck with me because I definitely didn’t remember the rest of that night, or that I’d even had this conversation, or that I even considered that I had DID at this point? Holy shit.
I barely remember the rest of week. I wanted to reach out to Kaspar about it, maybe Aberle. Maybe Cotton. (Oh, I definitely had thought Cotton was an alter, but he isn’t.) But hell… Would they just disappear as soon as I told them? I couldn’t risk it.
So, whenever we talked, I only told them that I was fine, but not to talk to Apollo anymore. Especially about me.
The rest was just distraction.
AJ’s life appeared nearly about as on fire as mine, being as we were both facing homelessness at the same time. How romantic.
Their mum had decided to sell the house they were living in and basically wished AJ the best of luck, despite AJ’s inability to get or keep a steady job. So many of our conversations over the past six years I’d known them had gone similarly. “My life sucks, there’s no way out of this, nothing will ever get better, I hate my body, I actively starve myself, I’m going to kill myself soon.” With me responding, “Here’s a thought. Maybe brainstorm about a plan B.”
I was about as helpless as ever to help them, which they resented. We were only narrowly avoiding fights lately.
It was about a week later when Rowan had claimed the porch for some alone time between them and Vali for couple time.
“Actually,” Rowan told me, one-on-one. “I know you tend to hate weed smell but if you’d like, you can hang out with us.”
Oh, shit, am I being invited somewhere? I was still to the point of being willing to hang around in mustard gas to avoid being alone with my own thoughts.
I sprayed one of my face masks with peppermint oil and joined them both out onto the porch. “It’s not really a couple thing,” Rowan admitted. “You can hang out with us if you want. I just really wanted some time without [Jane.]”
And thus I did. And I chatted pleasantly with them both.
I felt an odd giddyness that Rowan didn’t want anything to do with Jane. It felt hypocritical to be, but. Hell, Jane didn’t give up life in an entirely other state with the promise that she and her mental health would be taken care of. She was a temporary boarder that had grandparents– that she even seemed to get along with– within the same city. And also, the two of us seemed to be kind of bonding over it?
Damn, I could almost see why the household used scapegoats so often. It really brought people together!
At one point, Arkady came to the porch. “Xanthe? Rowan told me they wanted some time alone with Vali.” It was at both a reminder and a challenge, which Rowan was ready to meet head-on.
“No, I told Xanthe they could hang out with us,” Rowan said, firmly. “I did want alone time. But not with Vali. Just with anyone who wasn’t [Jane.]”
I remained silent, thankful for the presence of the mask that hid my twitching, barely-hidden smile. Oh, it was someone else’s turn in the hot seat. It was like hearing a teacher yelling at a student and realising it wasn’t you, for once.
Arkady squared himself. “That’s not fair to Jane. She can’t get hints. She’s part of the family too, Rowan.”
I raised my eyebrows. Oh, you ARE capable of standing up for an autistic person being blatantly excluded? Fascinating.
Rowan wasn’t to be swayed. “They’re not part of My family.” Oh shit. I recounted this to Sage, who had this to say:
Arkady looked vaguely affronted at this turn of events but made his exit. I felt like giggling maniacally. Then I stopped myself. Jane was someone in the household that was the ‘odd one out.’ Wasn’t I in the same goddamned position? “No, it’s not the same thing,” I would later justify in my journal. “There was no ‘forever’ promised to her. This was all just temporary. She knew that. If this all falls through, she has grandparents she can move back in with. I will have nothing.”
On a lighter note, after having pretty much dropped an atomic bomb my sanity, Arkady actually seemed to treat me more nicely. Perhaps out of guilt, perhaps over the discovery that I had truly been ignorant that Kirra and Apollo were one in the same. Perhaps Visarden had confronted him to basically say, ‘What the fuck are you doing to my poor daft creature?’
He was making efforts to include me more– though he’d taken to calling me ‘Zeity’, which I loved friends calling me. But from someone who used to call me ‘My gear’ (a steampunk play on ‘my dear’), it was markedly grating. But hey, at least he was addressing me. And he stopped picking fights with me about my world or Zara, which was a plus.
We were a bit more playful, having had small play scuffles like we used to. Throwing pillows at one another, tossing wads of shampoo lather at the other one, making roasting jabs. Just lately, as I was journaling on the porch and contemplating what the fuck me and mine even were, Arkady interrupted my existential reverie to play ‘The Coffin Dance’ on his phone and dance in such an energetic, flamboyant way that I couldn’t help but burst into giggles. It genuinely made my night.
Then June 7th came. I remembered the night before, how I was once again trying my peppermint mask theory to try to hang out with Rowan and Vali in the ‘smoke lounge’ part of the basement. I remembered that Jane came, pushing for her turn at the bong– taking two to three hits before running out again.
“That was good weed and they didn’t even say thank-you,” Rowan said, frowning. “I feel like we should probably start saying no to sharing weed and alcohol with them. It’s not technically legal and they tend to go overboard.”
The three of us agreed on that and we went to bed shortly after. I’d had a morning shift that next day– yes, the [HOTEL REDACTED] had hired me back just the week previous. I did my usual morning routine of checking my phone– then saw the following:
Man, you know it’s a problem when *I* think you have a lot going on.
I was actually eager for when Rowan would wake up. Jane had been our favourite subject lately and I knew they’d have a field day over this. A bonding opportunity!
The rest of my work day was rather pleasant. Especially since we were deep in the pandemic and there was hardly a single guest I had to deal with. I was essentially being paid to read all day, which is the best stage I’d ever reached at this particular hotel. I’d noticed that Jane had posted a status recounting the events, by now adding how she had been AMAB and her ex had been AFAB, which is why justice was so cruelly not in her favour. Added now was a recounting of how she’d tried to choke Jude out safely.
Choke Jude out safely.
The original screenshot may be lost to time, but not the comments reacting to it.
Like I’d said in the last blog, Xhaxhollari and I had gotten addicted to YouTube drama. And a common enough folly was the accused taking to Twitter or Facebook directly after confronted– no time for examining optics– and oh is the result fun.
This was no exception.
And my brain– my crazy, sick, tortured brain knew a changing tide when I saw one.
[Note: Jane’s screen name was Seven Annica Phoenix Summers at the time.]
Ladies, gentlemen, and everything neither and in-between–
The trump card had spoken.