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Verse

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Burdens
« on: April 10, 2017, 09:37:26 am »
Their closet was a heart-felt display of good momentum. In the morning, when he was in a hurry for a meeting, running later than was afforded anyone else, passing the open doors to their chamber of clothes and shoes centered him. Sitting on his knees now, weekend bag by his side and scanning the lacquered wing-tips and capped toes of his usual footwear, he drew deeply at the serenity of their effortlessly coexisting articles, superficial and secret. In a sense this room was a contract that lent him solace because it bound him to Helena. He didn’t know what to take from here, today.

There had been a routine phone-call yesterday, late hour. So late he’d been blinded by the screen when he accepted. Helena had stirred and he’d taken care to speak softly, one hand on her hip, over the cover. Father had no such obligation when he painted a well-known story with deeper colors, outlined in denser shadows. I am tired of this now, the voice said without syllables and Lerham Lancaster knew this was the lucid part of his city-dream. The acute focus of something that would become a fond memory. He must have gone along with the conclusion of that call with such alarming, seething rebellion that it lifted Helena from her sleep.

He suppose making love could be an offered comfort, but she’d not meant to help him in that way at first. She wouldn’t deny him if he moved for it. He was better at the act than explaining the patches of his emotional quilt that were tattered, she knew this better than anyone, as that kind of seamstress. Still, their current entanglement afforded him some artful diversions she’d not allow in the first iteration of their relationship. So he’d kissed her where she liked until it would have been awkward of her not to respond. It was awkward, also, to run along that kind of sear while thinking of his family in the large house he’d just recently flown. At the cruelest of the pleasure, before it became a wrecking vibrato in them both, he’d turned her so he could hold on to the back of her neck with his teeth so he wouldn’t say something damning.

There had been nothing left to dream than the anger he’d inherited and the cost to his conscience that it generated. There were images of loving something so much, and holding it too close. And the shattering. Helena tried to reconcile the son that obeyed and the brother that protected, but there there’d never been any conflict at first, not really, because he was wholly both, separate. Like creatures living their lives in forests that never touched. But then there was this him, still forming after adolescence, that wanted something for performed duties, no, he’d want something regardless. Familiarity from father, perhaps acceptance as a peer – it was simple thought it couldn’t be easy – but from sister, that he owed his world, that’s when the dream ate him. He awoke by Helena, against her hair, with a sense of being smothered while breathing too fast.

Lerham liked to pick his outfits. A mother that was gone had inspired him. Her little dandy, spinning in ridiculous frocks and swinging sawed off, remade canes. She’d clapped from her bed and he’d felt accomplished, striding out on loud leather heels. Today he was not so playful, reaching out and pushing a pair off the rack until the boots fell into his lap. Everything smelt like Helena and everything rung of her wisdom. He held his breath and wouldn’t listen. It was impossibly early, but they weren’t strangers to the hour. He tended to the expanses of the Lancaster economical entity that required a face, which had him active at inconvenient times. She had people who needed her in a more profound way, which sometimes did not respect sleep.

He was wearing sturdy clothes, coming out. Leather and black, but none of it was crisp. Son coming home from the glass and concrete to the wood and flowers. He didn’t want to look too well put-together. It was a bit of an affront to seem too happy when seeing his sister. Helena was still home, but he knew that. The bed was made and she was her beautiful self in the morning hurrying in to be lemonade bright around her. His brown eyes were warm, candy hued, looking at her. He’d not assaulted his hair with all that much product today. No suit and tie, combed to the side and back, like when he’d met her the first time, in her office to speak of—much the same thing he was leaving for now.

“It’s just a couple of nights.” His right shoulder shrugged to bring attention to the bag hanging from that hand, as though she’d miss it. He’d go home sometimes, so why was his voice different today? Some darkness fell over the burnt sugar of his irises and he brushed the hair back into the wave he preferred. When it wasn’t smeared and kept in place, its charm was unruly. He was a bit apprehensive about coming closer, but he also wouldn’t leave without proper contact. He did miss her when he had time to think of her. In many ways, Helena was his solace. It was a pity he’d be opposed to that, on occasion. He hoped that could be part of his flavor, the kind, needing heart with the escapist spirit. Why did he always escape to the family estate?

He didn’t want her to wield her sense, the way she could express it, or have him see it himself. If not his sister, he was protecting the cracks in him, the hiding, gradient mosaic, loved like any old hurt is. That kind of pathology sees to itself, and is happy to build its own defenses, which leaves the outside man to seek out significant others that take the edge off. He’d always felt that Helena would save him if he let her. Today, he thought, saintly, that she had other faulty people to deal with. Such a bright hero, and not coward, son Lancaster. He smiled at her within a sigh. “Maybe come over for dinner or lunch?” A compromise, since returning them to bed now, even with her favorite attentions, wouldn’t serve to change the subject. Father says sister needs me.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2017, 10:55:16 am by Verse »

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2017, 09:41:17 pm »
Helena Cross liked to take her morning coffee on the balcony of the apartment. The unit was not situated in an exceptionally pretty part of the city, nor was the morning bustle picturesque or pleasant to listen to. However, perched on a metal patio chair stories above the early surges of traffic, Helena felt she could center herself. She was serene in her routine, because the impending stresses of the day demanded it. Her days were rarely hectic, but they were often taxing.

Lerham had been up and packing a bag in their closet when she’d woken and dismissed their alarm. The two rarely slept in long enough to hear it go off. He’d been quiet, so she thought to leave him that way and went on at her own rhythms. As she’d set the coffee pot to brew, she had blinked back foggy recollections of a late-night romp through the sheets. Lerham had been persistent and invested, which she’d found difficult to deny. Retrospectively, she wondered what the nature of the phone call had been; it had left him agitated and physical last night and demanded he arrange an away bag this morning.

Helena had let the thoughts go with the steam off her mug and stared down at the crawling cars. She was very good at separating her professional practice from her personal life, or so previous boyfriends had remarked, but that did not mean she was any less keen. Her schooling could prescribe a number of reasons why Lerham was the way he was. To that end, she’d considered quite a few of those options when they’d first met. When Lerham was on her schedule and occupied the chair on the opposite side of her desk. Wednesdays at half past six. She had let more critical analyses of his motivations die over pad Thai in a restaurant down the street from her office. A Thursday, at eight. She had never involved herself with a patient before.

When she had finished her coffee, she retreated into the apartment and shut the city sounds behind the glass sliding door. Lerham was still occupied when she returned to their bedroom, so she made the bed and scrubbed her teeth and ran a brush through her thick autumn hair. She was examining her chignon in the mirror, tucking loose falls of auburn behind her ears when he emerged. She met his gaze in the reflection. Blue eyes leveled over tortoiseshell glasses, one neat coil sweeping across the left peak of the cat-eyed rims. “I know. It’s not a problem, is it?” she replied in her soft brogue. Her lips curled upward just so. She turned to face him, the morning light catching her cheek as it skirted the window blinds.

She was effortlessly prim even in her house robe, pretty in the way that made brash men wish to test her composure. She touched the side of her glasses, pushing them up higher on the bridge of her nose. “The call was very late.” She suggested. Helena inclined her head. He’d not wanted to speak of the call last night and wasn’t anticipating he’d want to now, either. But, he didn’t have the refuge of her hips to distract with this morning.  She didn’t want him to feel forced to share. Helena seemed to pay particular mind to not making him feel forced to say much of anything, when it came to his family. “Drive safely, alright?” she said, offering him an acceptable path to avoiding her initial question.

Helena had never met the father and sister that lived in the country, but she felt as if she knew them already. Much of that familiarity had been closed in his patient records, but it wasn’t as if she would have been able to simply expunge their sessions from her memories. In some ways, it left their current relationship with more breathing room, because he had been open with her before she’d had personal reason to care. In another way, Helena thought it was a little strange that most talk of his family home had ceased once he’d made a new home in her bed. “Give my regards to Liliana and your father.” She said. She always told him to, when he went. She wasn’t entirely sure that he did.

Helena went back to the mirror, turning from him again. “Would you like me to come?” she asked, pausing small adjustments to her hair to throw him a glance over her shoulder. She looked surprised. “Of course, I’d be happy to come. I’m off tomorrow, if you want me to drive out.” She added quickly.

She was prettily unprepared for the offer. It was endearing, but did emphasize the newness of their relationship. They had fallen together so easily it was simple to forget that they’d not been sharing this space for long. “I’d love to meet them, actually.” Helena said with a smile. It was true and it was not. She would not have met Lerham if he’d had an exceptionally normal family dynamic to bring her to. It left her curiously apprehensive, almost suspicious, of the suggestion. But, then there was also the simpler desire of a woman in love, eager to meet her beau’s family. All those thoughts were plain in her expression. Helena was an exceptional therapist particularly because of her transparency. She was remarkably and genuinely empathetic with all her patients, and it was much the same in other facets of her life. “But don’t feel like you must invite me out if it isn’t a good time. I understand you need to go home sometimes.” She added. Again, with the gently offered escape routes.             


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Re: Burdens
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2017, 11:56:21 am »
Reasonable response. He really was going to miss her. He’d like to fit his cheek into hers, sundrenched, and pretend they were  going to neglect their appointments. He’d like to lift her and spin them both until they toppled back into the straightened sheets. Play at staying home, in this haven that smelt like her. They could have their coffee again, later, when the morning panic was diluted in a steadier tumble and speed of a day that was beginning, but not waking up anymore. “Not for me, no.” A problem. But he supposed he’d not been beckoned in such a stoic tone if everything was right at the big house. Lerham worried about their coexistence without him. It built discomfort in his stomach when he thought about it for too long. Him here, soaking in light and delving into conversations with Helena, holding her hand, them out where the world didn’t insist life was for living.

A remnant of his usual grin made his lips larger when she corrected her speckled frames. It was funny to him, how disarming that was. He’d explained that to her, the duality of dispensing wisdom and then putting her vision back into place like a child. He should not be as attracted to it as he was, if he’d really thought it was childish. Surely that would be a psychiatrist’s opinion too. “Father doesn’t keep normal hours.” Because he owns this city, not just a bit of grass outside it.

He came to her, and dropped the bag somewhere to the side before the V of his fingers followed her meeting lapels. There was more in him than was being set free with words. He let her know that much, at least. He always drove safely. He was regretful, leaving, even though he’d missed the tensions in that house. He’d not completely gotten used to breathing free like this. Her cheekbone fit against his upper lip and he kissed her face as the bridge of his nose lifted her glasses. “You be safe too.” And then he hugged her to him, and drew what he could to keep her close while he was away. Lerham was affectionate and liked to live well inside her personal sphere. He suspected that was a very real reason why they could never be professional with each other again.

“They talk about you a lot.” He said about his family. It was true about father, who usually didn’t speak too much of anyone but Lili, and Lili too, who was more curious. It was not a deliberate effort on his part to keep his lives separated, but Perceval Lancaster rarely went anywhere, and Lilian wasn’t always in shape to go. Still, if he’d pushed he could have orchestrated something. If Helena got a hold of that reasoning, she might lead him to some kind of self-discovery on the subject. He wasn’t sure the answer would be worth the price.

There was some somber to that thought, and he felt immediately guilty, and kissed the corner of her lips for it. “Of course I want you to come. It is time, isn’t it?” he was starting to let her go, savoring the softness of the material she wore as his fingers made its way off. Inconveniencing the recently proper sheets again didn’t seem so far away, now. It would not be to escape, since she’d already assured him the two of them were at peace. It would be for the simple reason that she was wearing her glasses, and the sunshine napped in the depth of her jugular notch. She wore her robe, and that would be practical for him. Soft fabric against his blackened denim. How pretty, her undressed and him barely so. “I’ll see if the chef can make pad thai.” He wasn’t sure the joke would be obvious. He suppose it wasn’t unthinkable. Father would just have whatever he liked if the dish wasn’t to his fancy. Lili might try. He wasn’t sure she’d ever had anything from that particular gastronomical branch. That hit him with survivors remorse, again.

Lerham was his usual vulnerable, visited by cut-out shadows then. He’d been taught to be vicious with his family’s money, and it was hard not to wear some of those decisions on his mother’s softer pretty. Someone who thought they were close had said she’d always been waiting for him to lose his composure. They didn’t speak, anymore, for other, convenient reasons. That kind of outburst seemed to be waiting in his jaw, his gait, but for now Lerham had always been sweet. Domesticated, pampered predator. A conflict waiting to happen, and all the intrigue that comes with a person like that. Perhaps it was an innocence someone might want to see the conclusion of, when that event was a such a promise on his complexion. But child, he’s seething, like a rusted, open-mouthed trap. But mom, he’s kind, like the middle of an endless summer.

“I already can’t wait to come home to you.” he started, bending down in the null space to pick up the bag and hang it on himself. “But if you miss me too much, I’m sure you have other handsome patients you can be inappropriate with.“ he took a few steps back, and his boots were kind of loud on the floor. He was proud of that joke, from what she’d be able to tell from the grin. “Come, see me out.” She liked to have her calm in the morning, and he wasn’t sure she was planning by single minutes or tens of them, but he’d bother her in this way, anyway, he decided. He could not be described a brash yet, but he still liked to see her outside of her composure, sometime. This kind of teasing was a testament to that. And bed play.

He hung on the door and took his keys from below the mirror. If he was being honest, it was completely unfair for him to have this kind of life, when he knew how Lili lived. Perhaps that was why he always came running when there was a reason. His candy eyes disappeared away into the conundrum for a while before he’d return with some applied lightheartedness for Dr. Cross. “Tomorrow, then?” he said, reminding himself not to hold her for too long.

And he would be on his way soon, and the great lands that had so many secret places opened up for the barreling car with a sentiment that said it had missed him and asked him why he’d returned in the same emotion. This place had been his entire universe, growing up. At night, in a room with a wealth of toys, he could not imagine an end to the land that Father owned, and that cars were magical, because they could take a person from this cosmos. To this day he’d never walked from the estate to the city, so he supposed the younger, red-cheeked Lerham had not been proven wrong, yet. He was a bit of that child when the gates opened without the uncharacteristic buzz. Father was traditional, even if he liked the efficiency of motorized things. The driveway was endless, and he took it in no time.

When he’d taken the bag from the seat Helena would usually warm, and stepped out, he felt as though he’d not grown at all, looking up at the brick and windows of the gothic, preserved, almost untouched house. Iron spears and roses and vines. This had been here for as long as there’d been people, he used to think, and he suspected father with his heavy backhand and eternal judgment had lived for longer still.

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2017, 04:25:36 pm »
Helena leaned into that small kiss, a comfortable gesture that said she cared. She was cute that way, a secure lover. Steady. Helena laughed. “Ah, yes, I shall be safe too.” She said, reaching to wrap his wandering fingers in her own. “You should get going.” Helena suggested. There was an invitation to disagree in the curl of that statement, an offer to retreat to their bed and delay her from work. She’d not see her first patient until ten, so she supposed she could afford it. Practical woman.
 
Her brows lifted when he mentioned his family spoke of her. “Oh, perhaps it would be good for me to visit after all, then.” She said. “I don’t want them to get the wrong impression.” That she was uninterested or reluctant. The late Beatrice Lancaster would have liked Dr. Cross quite a bit. A very decent and thoughtful woman for her darling son. Dr. Cross would have liked Beatrice Lancaster too. It was a shame, then, that the buried mother was a long shadow over Lerham’s family home now. Helena would find her memory chilly when she went, though she might have been a kindred spirit to Mrs. Lancaster in life.
 
“Yes. It is a good time.” She agreed. The smile she gave him was encouraged. Helena would have never said it, of course, but it was possible she’d been waiting for such an invitation for some time. Regardless of her reservations, she was the type to seek grounding for her relationship with Lerham. Meeting his family, certainly, was an appreciably tangible step.
 
She sighed when he let her go. “You have a chef?” she asked. Helena supposed she could have figured as much. She was aware of the Lancaster name prior to Lerham’s first visit to her office. Their early sessions together had confirmed the family wealth. Still, a product of a modest and well-meaning family herself, those small and luxurious details still struck her as unexpected. It was cute, that sort of surprise, even if it was short-lived. She was shaking her head at him quickly on the heels of her own question. “It’s rude to bring up a person’s past mistakes.” She said in a very therapist voice. Helena seemed very tied to that understanding—that their extracurricular friendship and their Thai-food excursion had inherently been a mistake. Fortunately, that definition only extended to her professional sensibilities. Though she mentioned it often enough, it was apparent it was not a mistake she regretted. Rather, she may have been a bit proud of it.
 
Helena made a sound of protest though, when he hung on that joke. “I will remind you, Mr. Lancaster, that I have never had an inappropriate relationship with my patients. I’m quite careful with professional decorum.” She protested. It was true on a technicality; when Helena had acknowledged their brewing chemistry, she’d meekly suggested transferring him to a co-worker for his appointments. If Lerham had not felt similarly toward her by that point, it was reasonable to assume he would have fallen for her then. Flustered in her forward, but earnest nonetheless. A breath of fresh air, that Helena. It was also a fair point that Lerham was the only patient with whom she’d broached such a relationship, which should have been a small comfort to them both if either cared to analyze the implications of that behavior.
 
“Tomorrow,” Helena agreed, following him to the door and reaching on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek before he left.
 
\\
 
The home was lovely in a restrained way. A gilded cage, in some sense, which wore the cage more suitably than the glimmer. When Beatrice had been the lady of the house, it had been a good deal livelier and the window frames had worn cheery coats of white paint. Now, the property was stagnant. It had remained well-maintained, but no degree of grounds keeping could truly trim the settling veneer of anachronism the entire household seemed to embrace. It was a matter of heart that could not be easily countered by the technological advances wired within the gates.
 
Liliana Lancaster was at the center of it all. As she sat in the lush of their greenhouse garden, she was the pretty ghost of a deeply missed mother. 
 
Lili was slender in the sort of way that earned sympathetic glances. She was dainty out of obligation rather than nature, but she wore it well with her bird bones and large eyes. It was hard to imagine her without the clinging sense of wilting potential that hung heavy over that slim frame, which may have been her downfall. Tragic beauties are, more than others, deeply shackled to their fate.
 
She was picturesque when she looked over her shoulder at the family butler, bright copper coin eyes flooding with the gold light through the glass. "Miss Liliana, your brother has arrived." Came the polite notice she'd been waiting for; it was the primary reason she was on good behavior. Her smile was more appreciative than it should have had to have been.   
 

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2017, 12:22:44 am »
He had moved along when Helena suggested it, even though her loveliness reminded him what had drawn him out of the destined house in the first place. Honestly, he was forgetting the urgency of his trip, anyway, with her lilt and the dalliance it put in his thoughts, tidy starts be damned. She was wearing her glasses in a way, he would argue, that was making things increasingly unfair. He wondered what the doctor would have replied if he accused her of such manipulations.

So he saved her pretty surprise over father's culinary availability, and found the door with her. She treated him to exactly the fluster he'd petitioned for. She kept him in a good mood in the car, and he thought of her now, standing in the foyer where he'd manically hunt Liliana, deliberately tripping himself to make her cackle. He had spoken quickly with Dominic who'd gone to tell the lady of the house.

There was a little boy, then, dressed in all the handsome of the softer life, and all the shadows of a confused soul, walking slowly through the memories he'd been trying to make sense of with a woman that would come tomorrow. He missed his vests and the shirts, but it was part of this homecoming to look like someone else, because he hoped with all the chambers that were filling his heart with adolescent blood that he'd turned into a creature with more control. There was power here he didn't want - that he'd fled from - waiting to shackle him to a task that shouldn't be his.

Dom had been perceptive in ordering him to put his luggage away on a trolley that was nowhere in sight. Lerham now had the time to anchor himself. In the end he'd found it by the stairs, well camouflaged in a new forest of healthy, tall plants. He laughed to himself and saw what Helena might when she visited. This kind of living was ridiculous. He patted the bag fondly before he turned away swiftly. Dom had enough time to announce his arrival.

The brother ran through the corridors, and almost didn't see the pictures on his way. Father wouldn't let anyone touch mother's portraits unless it was to clean them. Lerham, who'd been blind for longer than anyone else, had discovered Liliana's likeness to the beautiful woman who stayed large in their lives even after her passing. Every day they became more the same. It was the illness. It made the remembrance of mother meet the decline of Lili. He tried not to think, and hurried deeper into the home.

He passed Dom on the way, and the older man winked. He'd said the garden, and Lerham knew it would be the one with a glass sky. Soon he stood at the beginning of the expanse of sheltered plants. He was out of place in these Victorian and Gothic directions, with his modern lambskin and flattering hood, so he was foreign, an unsettling being, coming into the glassed out. He invaded like soot onto the laid out stone, and brushed some leaves as he pretended to look for her. Perhaps he was clinging to the delay of what would be a fond meeting. Perhaps he was afraid of her advanced peril, and how he'd be able to measure his absence by her visible decline.

She sat somewhere obvious, he discovered, but it was a wonder he'd come to that place without a straying turn. His chest filled with a wealth of love that wasn't lacking in guilt either. He was stupefied by the first, as it is prone to, and started running. Healthy intruder in black, with his clothes fluttering as he hurried. He became wiser when he saw her narrowness closer, and his knees gave as though it was intentional. He came to a stop close enough for her to be caught in the turbulence of his speed, without having to share in the impact of his body. He breathed with an open smile, and held his arms wide for her to come to him instead. He wanted to squeeze her, but now he was afraid of leaving cracks in her rib cage. He'd do her more wrongs before the end.

"Look at you, more beautiful every day." And he meant it. It could only be true if he looked forward to seeing Beatrice replicated - which had its own implications for Helena to examine - or if he enjoyed her downward spiraling health aesthetically. It would be both, he'd come to learn, and that kind of conflict would be far the lesser of what he'd face. "I've missed you." and that was so true it cleansed his heart of guilt for two breaths.

Somewhere in the house, Percival moved upon hearing the news of his son's presence, too.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 03:58:09 am »
Lili's expression had not maintained its delight after Dominic retreated. In truth, she was conflicted. Her brother visited often enough since leaving the house, and it was easy to fall into her old patterns when he was so eager for it. When they both were. Still, it felt somehow like she was coddling him and that is was unfair. Really, Liliana thought, he ought to settle into the nettle web of his own guilt. He had left her when she needed him most. Her lips, decadently full between such softly hollowing cheeks, puckered as if she'd set her teeth into something sour.
 
When he found her, she was an uncanny flood of his youngest memories. Beatrice Lancaster had passed away when Lerham was ten. Liliana had less than half of that phantom to recall. Her tenuous hold on her mother's existence made this blossoming into her likeness all the more uncanny. Nonetheless, Lili was sitting in gossamer white by their mother's favorite hydrangeas and dreaming of running by the sea same as she had. Lili even gave Lerham their mother's smile when she went to him.
 
She hugged him as tightly as she could, which was not very tight at all, and then stepped back to stand with her chin up and thin shoulders squared. Like such a pose might imply robustness of health. "As pretty as anything in a doll house can be." She replied. It was a joke, sort of. Beatrice had disliked similar images. Percival would attest that the woman's stubbornness on the matter had been a good deal of what killed her. At least, that was what father was quick to remind Lili of.
 
"I missed you too. Now that you're here, maybe you can tell Father he can stop watching me like a prison warden." She suggested. Always quick on that point. Liliana sighed and brushed at her knees, as if any amount of dust would have been allowed to persist in that greenhouse. Lili laughed lightly, again with the sort-of jokes. "Or, better yet, turn around and go back to the city. Just take me with you."
 
Liliana stretched and then reached for Lerham's hand to lead him from her greenhouse. "You look like you're doing well." She said. There was an odd intonation to that. A little chill because they both knew he'd left her behind. "How long are you here for? Father didn't tell me you were coming until this morning. He made it sound like it was a last minute thing." Lili said. She was quick to command his attention when she got it, these days. Something like she was trying to make up for lost time as quickly as possible. Or, perhaps, trying to get her fill before he left again. 
 
She paused at the door back into the main house. "He didn't make you come, did he?" She asked. In the shadow of the doorframe, her brunette had gone from caramel candied to something rich and dark. It suited the way she was looking at him through her long lashes. Coming back for any reason other than wanting to see her would be upsetting. It might as well be the same betrayal as leaving in the first place had been. Lili had been angry with him, then. She seemed to have made some sort of peace with his departure now. Still, it had left her undeniably sensitive. As if she might believe he'd left to get away from her, rather than the house she was desperate to escape herself. 

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2017, 12:06:17 pm »
He always wondered if hair and clothes and words could make one person more like the other, if at the base there were no physical similarities. He wondered that abut himself, and if Helena with her myriad of patients would tire of the particular set that was him. Mostly he wondered about it when he saw Lilianna like this, heir to mother’s taste as well as he lovely descent. That dress was enough unlike Beatrice’s that he understood Lili must have picked it herself, and enough like what mother would wear that he wanted to hold on too tight when she gave him the embrace. Instead, as always, he enjoyed it like one does a breeze, and gave pressure back with his arms around her, a good amount, so she wouldn’t feel that he was placating her condition. It was a fine line that he danced well. He concluded, always, upon seeing his sister that she was simply herself, but of the woman that had passed, the same way he was.

He smiled wide and huffed through his lips at her joke. At least that much he would always give, if he thought anything she did was in jest. Her stance was adorable, in the most morbid sense. He tried to see the humor in it, as well. It was not so funny when she mentioned the great lord of the manor and his tendency to hover. Lerham had benefitted from Percival’s eyes being so intently on the daughter, that he’d not fought his son’s departure so hard. Though, father had beckoned and he’d come, so perhaps the old man simply had a plan that wasn’t based in obvious force. Lerham didn’t know if that kind of scheming was to prefer to Percivals otherwise—archaic views on reprimand. Lily was right when she named him a warden.

“He’s just worried about you.” We are both worried about you, was the meaning in the bid for sympathy in the sight that carried his words. Also, in the breath, was a bit petitioning for her forgiveness, and scolding her at the same time, for making him defend the man. They both also knew Lili, despite her nickname, was not so prone to wilt quietly in one place. “And I think you’ll like the city. I’ll have Neuman take us around, and I can show it to you, the new places I like.” It wasn’t so impossible, was it, that they’d get to have that kind of sheltered adventure in their driver’s care? Then why did Lerham feel like he’d just lied to her. The truth was that his worries for her were soothed, knowing she was where she’d always been.

But I am doing well, Lili. I am enjoying privacy with Helena and I am thriving at my assignments for our company. My heart is free and full when I’m not thinking of how I’ve betrayed you. She must never know any of it, if he loved her. “The city air does wonders. I think the fumes kill everything else.” He joked. He held her hand with long fingers, making rings around her palm as he followed so as to not challenge her bones. Their personalities fit into one another perfectly, as always. She only wanted his attention and he only wanted to bask her in it. Lerham was also thirsty for her company. Above everything that he owed her, and everything he wished she’d have, he also enjoyed her person.

“I’m here a while, actually.” He’d set away a few days. It was dark that he was proud of that. Usually a long while would mean he didn’t have a meeting in the city that month. Now it meant he might be able to spend most of the week. “And you know how life is in our business.” That you might never see the inside of. “I take what time I can.” His revel in her pace and their normalcy back halted when she did.

His stomach easily turned as it would, and he tried not to wretch when she looked at him that way. When mother’s hair became dark, it was when she was the strongest, because she was being serious. Lili also wore it around gravitas. Lerham held on to his expression, because if he didn’t he would fail her further. She might notice the loose grip shrinking on her hand. “Ah, he wanted me to come, and called yesterday.” Lies needed to be crafted with some finesse. She wasn’t the kind to look up records, but he’d worry about it if he didn’t include it in. “But I had already decided before then.” Too weak, too thin. “I invited Helena too. She comes tomorrow.” Perhaps that kind of enthusiasm could sell it to her. “I always want to see my rascal sister.” He said and let go of her hand to lift her up. Her weight was negligible, now that his body was grown and hers was sicker. It was with hurtful ease that he spun her once, laid across his arms. “And wanted to show you off to my lover.” Father had said she was acting up, and that this kind of instability in her mood might affect her illness. An eloquent way of asking the leash back for what needed to be restrained.

He put her down soon. All he ever wanted was to carry her around, but he was afraid she’d sour of it, knowing it was to spare her joints and muscles rather than horseplay. He wanted to ask her how things had been, but father told him often. She was not doing as she was told, and she was particularly bad lately. Lerham thought not to prod that subject, but realized Lili would have been hurt at such reasoning. She did not see her behavior as defiant, at all. “How have you been, Liliana? Father and you getting along?” he posed as they walked through the corridor. Lerham made sure to keep his eyes on her, so he wouldn’t see her grown up image on the walls. It cut him to know, the way things were progressing, she might never have pictures of herself, in that age. “Helena is spoiling me and telling me what’s what, so it’s good and bad, at our house. We’re thinking of getting a dog, but I think we’re too busy.” It was actually a matter laid to rest on that conclusion, but he liked to paint a quaint quarrel for Lili, so that she’d be entertained but not envious. That kind of bickering might have its own charm, he realized at the tail of his statement.

Dom returned, those long legs swift around the house. When they were children, he was impossible to outrun if he meant to collect them. Lerham wizened up to that futility and would usually make sure to run behind her, to be caught first. Today there was no arms to lift them and take them to father, only a pretty little silver box, barely thicker than an envelope. He handed it to Lerham in passing. “Just for the afternoon. There’ll be a little more with food.” Said their beloved caretaker as he hurried on.

Lerham looked at the box that flipped open all too easily. A couple of pills and a lithe syringe with a green liquid inside it’s chamber. Brass details like it was some kind of pretty trinket. Just like father would have it. He smiled down at Lili, to see if this was going to be a problem. He was hopeful, but he wasn’t sure.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2017, 07:56:01 pm »
Lili’s smile flared, but the expression was about as thin as his excuse had been. Sometimes it was best not to call each other on their lies. At least he was staying for a while. She shrugged. “Well, as long as you’re taking me back to the city with you, I guess it’s fine.” She said. Still on that joke. And after he’d teased about the air quality too. Lili’s illness was rooted in her lungs and painted in the pattern of her immune system. It was a predominant motivation for all the plant life in the house. Fresher air, or something. That’s what some doctor in a long lineage had said, though that professional had been quite new age for the history of the home. Liliana had not seemed to miss the doctor when they’d left, though she’d appreciated the greenery.

She was quick when he twirled her. She might even have been something exceptional and physically artistic if her body had been stronger. Instead, she seemed like she might be a little faint from even that small playfulness. That was frail even for her, by any memory Lerham would have of her. In truth, it was a little clue into the ruckus she’d caused yesterday. Something upsetting enough to put Percival on the phone with his son at such a quaint hour. If Lerham pressed her on the matter, it was unlikely she’d be forthcoming.

“Helena.” Liliana said. It was always a little bit of a toss-up, whether Lili was feeling nicely toward that new woman in her brother’s life. Sometimes, she was eager to hear about Helena Cross and sometimes she said the name like it was foul tasting; it was hard not to be envious of a chic life in the city, where Lerham was by choice rather than genetic necessity. Today she seemed inclined toward the former. “You should let her get the dog.” She said. “You can make time for it.” Lili said. Lili was not allowed to have a pet. They were too dirty.

“It’ll be nice to finally meet her. You know, you told us about her a while ago and you’ve still never shown me a picture.” She said. There was probably something to that. Probably more to it that Helena was a very pretty, visual opposite to both sister and mother. Athletic, tailored, auburn Helena.

Liliana had seemed like she was going to ignore Lerham’s inquiry about their father, but then sighed in a way that said she would consent to return to the subject. “I’ve been fine.” She said of her health, which was as much of a lie as Lerham’s excuse for coming had been. “It’s stuffy around here, as usual. I don’t see the point of living out in the middle of nowhere if I can’t go out to enjoy the nothing. So, there’s that.” She shrugged. “But I guess, technically, the air in here is really good and I shouldn’t be complaining.” She rolled her eyes. “Can you confirm, City Boy?” She swung their arms, her tiny hand still clasping his. “And Father is Father.” She added. “He worries. As you say.” She seemed especially terse about that. Another allusion to yesterday, perhaps.

They had made it out of the greenhouse and were headed toward the formal dining room when Dom reached them. She let go of Lerham’s hand. Like clockwork, that Dominic. She didn’t fault him for that, no matter how annoying his deliveries were. Liliana caught her brother’s eye, that questioning smile making her pout a bit. “It’s a little unfair to be taking his side this fast. You haven’t even been home an hour.” She told him, but she didn’t sound like she was planning on resisting. Lili wasn’t naïve to her condition, after all. She was just tired of it. She thought they all should be, really. Which was not to say she had any morbid attachment to her fate, only the sense that she was wasting time.

When they reached the dining room, the table was already set for three. Lili sat down in her usual chair. “Tell me more about Helena.” She said. “You haven’t really told me much, other than you fancy her.” Liliana said. A practical sister then, looking out for her sibling. “It would be better if I knew a little more about her before she visits, don’t you think?” she said. A practical sister, but those sensibilities must have seemed new. She’d not been afforded the chance to dream about boys her age and develop those kinds of sympathy. When she’d been a very little girl, she’d followed Lerham around a lot, but that had been the extent of her romantic experience.

 

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2017, 09:58:40 pm »
He fantasized about stealing her away, sometimes, to his city. It was a dark kind of happening in his head, where her body could take a rough kidnapping and father was an infuriated but later reasonable villain. He'd mentioned it to Helena in a light voice. He understood his mistake when he'd said it, and had quickly tried to ask her of her work after that. He wasn't sure her coming along on that conversational train had been out of genuine distraction or out of mercy. There was a wealth of knots between the siblings here, and he appreciated Helena left them to their own unraveling.

The dismount became a little rushed when he saw her exhaustion in his arms. He didn't let go for a while, even though her feet were allowed on the floor. The apology hung off his lower lip, a wider petal than hers - and thinner, in that - but he breathed it in like rain offspring, to have it dissolve against his teeth. He examined her in secret after that, to see if he found any other signs of her weakening. Under her eyes, maybe, or an erratic pulse when he touched her.

"Oh? And what dog, then?" she didn't need the speech he'd readily provided Helena. He was in a mood to give Liliana exactly what she wanted. "She'd look gorgeous with a fox, with her hair, but the city frowns on that kind of animal." There were foxes around here. The two of them had become mad with greed for kits they'd found on the grounds. It was endearing in Lili, but Lerham, thinking back on his own age, then, felt a little embarrassed. Father had been especially stern on that subject, and today Lerham was grateful.

"I'll show you if you want." It wasn't as though he was ashamed of his love, her image. It was a preposterous notion. But still, after offering, he didn't pat for his phone. Tomorrow, at dinner, it would be inevitable, anyway. He wondered if he was being unfair to his doll sister, if he were to collide her with such a woman without preparing her. In here, information itself was rationed. Lerham didn't worry about Lili finding Helena herself because she wasn't allowed more than a very modest amount of computer time. At times that was a great horror to him, thinking of it, but he thought Lili was unspoiled for it.

"Oh, yes. I joke, but we've always had incredible air here." Was that too much? Her lungs. He was too busy guessing on what she'd been up to yesterday to invest in another plunge into another verbal misstep. "How about we show the grounds to Helena tomorrow? You can go out with us then. It'd be odd if you didn't come." Feasible, though not waterproof. The lord of the manor did and got exactly as he wanted, and mostly that was for his daughter to stay indoors, in dresses that could have been mother's.

It was evident in the three vacant chairs, that his rules were for others and not himself. Lerham sat beside Lili. Today the table was intimately made, with only a corner of it decorated. Sometimes father had the ridiculous notion that they should use both ends, with Lili somewhere in the middle. Usually it was when they were too in tune against him. Lerham had to assume this was proof of nostalgia. He put the silver etui on the table in the easiest way he could preform. As though she was some pet that needed to be unsuspecting.

"I moved in to her home, it is a lovely apartment." That smells like her even when she's gone. "She's a therapist, you know, and quite accomplished." He poured her glass for her and turned to face her, elbow on the table. She was lovely in this light. Little sister, with her little chair. There had been a time when she'd been too small for even that. "We have inside jokes and she's very forthcoming with my heart. Like it's precious." His mouth was open and smiling, putting the first pill on her empty plate. "And when I'm out of line, she either tells me or she blushes." Perhaps that was too crass, with the implication. "We discovered our gravity, and now I speak to another doctor." he shrugged, but he was proud of that. "Sometimes when she's with me, she is someone else completely, but it fits. Everyday she unfurls a little, and it is always exciting to see her, to me. You'll know what I mean." He wanted to tell Liliana Helena was quietly passionate, and didn't guard her secrets very well, and that he loved her for it, but he didn't know if Lili should taste such truths yet. It could be cruel to tell her. He did not ask her the question back, because there was no one in her life that could be a viable suitor.

"Sounds like a good person." Percival said, stepping in. Leather shoes continued to announce him as moved and sat down with most of his gray suit on. The jacket must still be in the office. His beard was a little wilder than it had been, but still very intentional. His hair was short, obsessive, on the sides of his head which was exactly why Lerham hadn't adopted the look. Giant of a man, straining the tailoring. "Does she do what you say?"

And it was so inappropriate and spoken in such a level tone Lerham almost answered it. "We compromise and we humor each other." he choose, instead. There was more but Percy thought there should not be.

"This girl here does no do what she's told." Deep, father's voice. Faded eyes on Liliana. The food was coming in. "Tell him, Liliana." Father was served first.

It was unusual for father to be so sure his son would agree with him. More often than not, the older man would lecture and Lerham would listen. Brother looked at his darling sibling, encouraging. The only time the two saw eye to eye was when Lili's safety was compromised. Lerham was curious.

Percy ignored his children as only he could, cutting up his meat.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2017, 06:08:39 am »
Liliana listened to her brother talk about Helena and had nothing to add. She wanted to say something about how he spoke like he was in love, but it would have sounded shallow. Lili didn’t know anything about those things. When he didn’t offer a picture, only words that said he would, she didn’t prod any further. A little like Helena that way, maybe, thinking of his comfort. Or she didn’t want to know all that much either.

“A therapist?” Liliana did ask, when that point came up. She hadn’t known. He hadn’t said. He hadn’t mentioned seeing any kind of doctor since he’d left—for good reason, probably, but it remained that this detail was striking. Lili had picked up a fork and was prodding at the pill he deposited on her plate. A fox for his city love and white powder for his sister. She thought that seemed unfair. Surely he remembered the tiny kit she’d wanted so terribly.

“Why would you need to see a therapist?” she asked, and then puckered her round lips like pinched petals. It was a silly question. She could think of a lot of reasons he might need a therapist, out of this home. None of them were likely to be correct; something close to the truth but a few shades off. She had her biases, after all. Helena didn’t. As if she could swallow away any possible answer he’d have, and none were likely to please her, she took a quick gulp of water and pushed down the pill. Honestly, she didn’t even know what this particular one was for. She’d gotten tired of asking and Dom didn’t volunteer. Maybe he was tired of explaining.

Liliana sat up a bit straighter when Father came into the room. He was a handsome man, the sort that must have grown finer with age if the various callers on their house were any indication. The nearby town had enshrined this manor in strange Briar Rose fairytales and Percival’s heavy pockets and connection to the city had drawn a good deal of interest. Lili disliked most of the women that came. Not because she minded the idea of Father finding a distraction, but because his obsessive caretaking and her mother’s death seemed to be part of the appeal. Liliana wondered if it was possible to prime one’s self for Stockholm syndrome. Maybe she could ask Helena.

The sister visibly flinched when their father spoke. It was hard to ignore a direct order from the man. The rush of pink in her cheeks said a good deal about that struggle. Percival knew too, the way he went about his supper like he’d already gotten his way. Sneaking away was one thing, but she’d always been paralyzed in his presence. His concern for wellbeing was an overwhelming weight she could not hope to stand up beneath. How could she? Lili wasn’t a bad girl, despite the implication. She’d never wanted to upset her family. They were all she had. It was just so hard, sometimes. This place was so stifling. Liliana swallowed hard and stared at her plate. She felt so small. Father had never acknowledged that she was a grown woman, for all intents and purposes. When she was with him, it was hard for Lili to remember it either.

“I went out for a walk.” She said to the dish. She might have imagined it, but she thought Father’s knife pressed his plate a little harder after that. “I went further than I was supposed to. Well, I didn’t tell Dominic I was going out to begin with, I guess.” Liliana said. “I was just walking. And then I thought I’d gone sort of far so I wanted to see the town.” She cleared her throat. Really, she wanted Lerham to be on her side in this. He always was, half way. But the other half stung worse than Father’s punishments. It was easy to remind herself that Father overreacted when she collapsed into her bed in the aftermath. It was harder with Lerham. Her brother had always seemed so steady. Someone she could rely on.

“So, then I had to run a little bit, to reach the town before…” before Father found out and caught up. “Well. I felt fine.” She said. Last night, when Percy had called his son, Lili had not felt fine. Gasping and pale, her brow damp with cold sweat. It was disgusting that she’d been lovely then. Liliana wouldn’t tell him that part. It was fine to leave it all at the edge of town. She really had thought she was okay then. It had made going home that much harder. “And I’m fine now, so there wasn’t really anything to worry about.” Lili tried. Small voice, because she was certain Father wouldn’t care for it. He might not say much about that bit though, with Lerham there. At least, she hoped he wouldn’t.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2017, 05:45:52 pm »
It was unthinkable to share all the things he'd seen Helena for, in the first place. He'd not bought in to the stigma when he sought her out, but understood how it might sound, outwardly. Would the two like to hear their names now? He'd felt acutely lonely in the city, even thought he had shallow acquiantences - people bidding for relationships to make accsess to the fortune easier - and then the thought had come up. He had this wealth of weight on him, that he only discovered when he wasn't nodding and remembering father's words, or runing with his arms behind Lili to catch her if she toppled. He'd not made much progress with Helena on the subject of himself - there hadn't been enough time before they found other uses for each other - but he'd discovered part of the magnitude. He often wondered if she regretted that, about their current union. "When you meet Helena, you'll want to see her too." it was as formidable an answer as he'd given before, on why he'd come. Even father scoffed at that, which was as condescending as only he could make it. Like the man wasn't in the business of protecting Liliana, also. It could be charming that Lerham was such a flawed liar. It was perhaps not that he tried so often.

A sullen convenience, then, that Lili was in bigger trouble than himself. He listened closely but also tried the food. He knew well about being in this kind of spotlight, and tried his best to make it easier for Lili to tell her story. As when they were smaller, he placed his foot next to hers, touching, so that father wouldn't know he was lending her comfort. Her lips, that had always been ignored by the wilt in her lungs, started with a very engaging meaning. He smiled and sucked some sauce from his own mouth. Of course she could walk. It was a pleasure she still had, and one he encouraged.

The story was not on an upward trajedorty to her credit. He hoped it was going to end with dodging Dom's surveilance and coming home triumphant to an unjustly irritated father, but she went on, and Lerham stopped eating. When she said she was fine, after she had admitted to running, his foot had gone from hers. "What? You ran? And no one knew where you were?" The town was impossibly far. Immediately his love for her tried to compell him to tell her it had all been alright, since she was well now. He remembered that she wasn't, with the way she'd taken their spin before. "But you don't feel fine." the silver he'd been eating with was back down on the table, and father breathed in a way that either meant he enjoyed the taste of the forkful, or his son's upset. Lerham didn't know his face had hardened around eyes that were distraught. Mother had said more than once that it was endearing and unbecoming, because it was unfair.

"She was unwell all night, despite the medicines we administered. That's why I called." Percival added. Lerham nodded at the facts as they were digested in his mind, still looking at the shrinking girl. His blood was roiling at the image. Lili was a splendid bedridden misery. He'd taken it upon himself to see her through bad nights and always felt like he'd failed her if he hadn't been there to watch her lips inflamed and keep her dry. Lerham hadn't examined that sense of duty and seen the selfish angle of it. It was normal that your heart was beating a happy rythm when you were at your sick sister's bedside, wasn't it? It was made worse, too, without his knowledge, that she'd been good about the prohibitions put on her by her condition, and not given him such a night in a while, and now he'd gone without. Suspended between that scene, and concern, and a small amount of anger, he didn't ask why father thought Lerham could help after the fact.

"Lili, please. You have to be careful or..." he started, and his voice was taking on a familiar tender that didn't sit right with the older Lancaster's intentions.

"Do you remember what happened to you when you ran off for candy, Lerham?" Percival asked, not lending his son one eye as he took some wine.

Lerham nodded to himself. A halloween. He'd run toward the town too, to trick-or-treat when Lili couldn't. He'd come home with droves of goodies - people liked to spoil the Lancaster children when they came to visit the cobblestone walks and wooden houses - but it had been half an hour after their cerfew. Father had put a belt across his feet fourteen times. Lili had cried when she found out, and thrown away the candy she had left, and felt sick about the treats she'd already had. Percival thrived when the siblings were calmed by punishment, especially if the shame wasn't directly tied to being lashed. Father had always been barbaric and elegant. Lerham tried to gasp but his tongue had pressed against the vault of his mouth in stress when he realized his father's goal.

"Sir?" he petitioned, tiger coat eyes large like the fear infecting him. He turned to Liliana and was further determined to protect her. "You shouldn't, dad. She's already not well and..."

"I won't." It gave Lerham the relief he wanted. And then the explanatory silence while the head of the table chewed held up a devastating suggestion between the three. Lerham stood with wrathful wrinkles on his upper lip, ready to finally scold their diety of a parent. Percival kept him from such rebellion with a tightening of his own brows. "She's good when you're here. She misses you and that's why she did it. You're putting this familly in danger by selfishly running away." Lerham almost fell over from the assualt. All his insercurities targeted. It had to suffice to just sit back down. "This will be for her. It's the least you can do."

There were many objectsion he could make, things that Helena would put his faith in, but he didn't belive them now. He only believed the confirmation father had given about his doubts of leaving this house when Liliana was dying. He looked at her once before sliding more pills to sit by her glass of water. When he ate the rich, perfectly laid up food it tasted as foul as he was for escaping. Swallowing was a small burden compared to what he deserved. In a morbid act of agreement, his hand went down to tug at the buckle of his belt, to hope the leather was from lamb.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2017, 03:58:52 am »
Liliana sighed. She’d never been afraid of Lerham, so she was afforded those honest reactions. “I’m as fine as I’ll ever be.” She muttered. “Stuck here.” Low enough that Father might not have heard and, if he had, he’d probably ignore it. It made her angry, honestly, that he would say something like that. It was one thing to see Father drown in the delusion of saving her, but she’d thought more of her brother. If it was morbid to want him to face the terminal nature of her breath, it was also intimate. Because Lili desperately needed someone on her side. She wanted to remind them both that everybody died eventually.

It was the worst part about her illness. It wasn’t exceptionally hard to do things doctors agreed would prolong her life. It wasn’t difficult to keep her alive. It was, however, seemingly impossible to cure her. She was left, bird in cage, wondering for whom she was supposed to be living at all.

“That is probably because the medicines do not particularly work.” Lili said stiffly, reaching for her glass and gulping down half. She took them because there was a chance, and sometimes there was a little relief. But Father always acted like her existence was fueled by the little capsules. That upset her too.

It was probably for the best that Father was occupied with Lerham, for once, but it wasn’t encouraging that the talk was still of her. She realized their father’s intentions half a beat before her brother. Perhaps he’d been away from home too long. The look of horror on her face was unchecked.

“Wait, no, why?” Liliana was ready to plead her case and Percival had already achieved his goal. Really, it was just like Halloween. Lili was as upset with just the prospect of Lerham administering her punishment as she was when Father had already loosed his belt and laid it across her pallid skin. She whipped her head to look at her brother. “wait…” she tried again, copper coin eyes too wide. If he had any doubt that he’d agreed to their father’s request, that expression firmly pushed it away. Lili couldn’t even hold his stare.

She was entirely silent for the rest of the meal, taking her remaining pills in a rush and staring intently at the contents of her plate. She finished less than half, but drank three more glasses of water. It was all the medication. They three all knew it, but there was hardly a point to commenting on it anymore. Besides, nothing about the atmosphere at that able felt conversational. How like Father to lay things out so quickly and give no mind to the rest. This was probably part of, her punishment. Suffering through this meal. And she’d been naïve enough to think he might be kind with her this time. Father never punished her when she wasn’t doing well and she’d been far from well all night. Lili had thought that Lerham’s visit might be her salvation in the morning.

But no. He was quite not. Rather, this was the worst sort of turn.

“May I be excused?” she asked, when it seemed both father and brother had finished eating too. One of them would find her later, surely, to administer whatever unfortunate justice they saw fit for her crime of freedom. Father was too civilized to demand it right then, or insist upon some scheduled hour. It he really did intend for Lerham to do it, it was likely Father would make no further plans at all. Leave it up to her brother to find the right time to enact violence on her. So, maybe it was that Father was too barbaric and civility had nothing to do with it. Honestly, Liliana wouldn’t have known which explanation made any sense. It would have been impossible, living in Percival’s paradigms. Lerham was supposed to be the one with perspective. The one who knew life beyond.

She got up before she was given an answer. Really, the only offense in that house was leaving it. She was allowed this much sullen. Liliana left the room without looking at her brother. It wasn’t his fault. Neither of them had any say if Father wanted something. But it was easy to blame him. 

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2017, 08:22:28 am »
Neither of the men could listen when she criticized the medicine. It was all they had. She was right to think they hung all their hopes there. They were all three loosing her slowly, and both Percival and Lerham would have to face it if they stopped believing in the chemicals. Her heart was by far the strongest on the subject of its nearing silence. Her father had pushed his knife, broadside, into the meat to answer her about the ineffectiveness of the elixirs and the tablets. That little tension in his shoulder could be deafening. Lerham heard her before the onslaught of manipulation, at least.

The brother, when she protested with exactly three words, was pulled up from the grave his father had sunk his conscience into. It was mostly because of her loveliness, then. She was usually strong enough for her own faces, or that languid had simply developed alongside her aesthetic, but this vivid play brought morning to something inside him. He decided it must be hope. Already she was more alive. How simple of Lerham to think he could lash her into health. But that was a flawed theory his father shared in. Perhaps the brother's determination and new fascination was also unchecked, where it surfaced on his handsome details through the recent sense of duty.

Percival made a point out of his own new mood. The chipper came with no more offers at conversation. Really, he ate well, with manners deep in his marrow and a practical way with his hands. Sometimes he would pause to let his mouth behind the beard linger on the flavors. A courtesy of the effort of the chef. Dom would later compliment the diligent artist with a recanting of Percival's subtle approvals. It was a sign of the lord's contentment over both taste and his son's obedience when he said nothing to his deeply loved daughter as she was allowed to leave without being reminded of desert. Like free roaming of the house, sweets were still allowed her. Today it wasn't strange she'd have none. It was possible the father might see abstinence from it as her initiating her own punishment. If it was so, how proud he must be.

Lerham watched her walk off. She had a light step today, physically, which meant she had not been lying about being fine. At times during its battle, her body, though obviously infinitesimal, could be heavy for the strength of her legs. He soon understood he was not simply quietly seeing her leave, but also lamenting on the form of her stride, since he was setting upon altering it later. He decided the rush that came was one of guilt. He was partially right.

The mousse with a thin chocolate coat, still preserving the shape of the ridges of the swirls, tasted strangely fresh and bitter at the same time. Before he was gone from the table but after he’d stood up and bid father a simple greeting, Percival said he was looking forward to meet Helena. Lerham thought it was more conversation than he was due.

He found his room soon, and it was clean. He’d moved here when it was odd for Lili and he to live in the same chambers, anymore. She’d immediately been given the room next to it. Back then, Percival had Beatrice, and Lerham was expected to check on Lili as often. In the end, they’d mostly fall asleep behind the same door, anyway. He took off his shirt, which was a matter of a sipper and a shrug. Short sleeve underneath, close to his body. It was unfair that he had been allowed long muscles and admirable posture, mother’s healthy dandy, and he thought often if there had been a deal before he was born that Lili had not bartered well. He tried to hide it with layers, but the sweater had become oppressive. The t-shirt revealed was flattering and he thought to change until he saw his belt. Somehow it was appropriate to come with some blaring physical display. He should be taking some time, he certainly wanted to call Helena, but instead left the room quickly.

He wondered where she would be, and started looking for her in the most merciful haunt to find her, the neighboring chambers. Lerham primed two fingers for their knuckles, but before the rap he rolled his eyes at himself. What was his message with this? May I come in and give you a smarting lesson? Please can I have your audience and by the way, see my authority. He ran his hand through his hair and it made dark rows back and over his head. No disarray, but with his warm eyes with black rings, the change might unsettle her. He had of course only done it for the comfort of his fingers over his scalp. Lerham turned the knob and pushed it open, controlled.

“Liliana.” He begun. He had to look around, and if he found her anywhere that wasn’t on her bed, he’d ask her to sit there. If she was not to be found, he would take a moment to live some old scenes quickly, and then continue with his hunt. He’d bizarrely feel unfulfilled until he found her. If she was under the glass ceiling again, would he have to lay her down among the green to make her skin another color? He had to pretend to be a little daft, then, to suppress what moved behind his diaphragm.


Sent from Health First City Clinic


From: Darius Clements <dr.clements@hfmail.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 24, 2017 12:10 PM
To: Helena Cross
Subject: RE: Stevens pat. 23425

 

Hello, old friend!

I'm glad I ran into you the other day, after all our correspondence. I feel like you and I had a really good connection in our classes. Well, I should keep this professional and we can catch up next time we meet up.

I know I have been a little pushy on this subject, but I really think you would be a good fit for our hospital. We can refer patients to you and you will have access to all our facilities. But you know all of this already.

I have have confession.

You know I have been trying to recruit you for more than a year now, but lately I have found another reason why you should work with us. Please take this the right way. As you know, Health First is primarily owned by the Lancaster group, and, well, I guess you might see where this is going.

I inherited a patient from my predecessor but we were told, from Mr. P. Lancaster himself, I hear, that my care should be hands off. I can tell when a parent just wants a clean bill of health and from what I have on my file, it doesn't seem so far off. Dr. Wright seems to have had very little contact with the patient. I am expected to just comply. I probably will, too. Politics.

I know this sounds underhanded, but I am asking you to just tell me one or two things about the patient when you meet her. It should be inevitable, since you're already sharing your home with her brother. I know you didn't mean for our small talk to be used to asses neither your significant other nor his family, but I really just want to lay this to rest. If you ever see her, or if you have, and she seems, for all intents and purposes, fine, then I will feel better about declaring her as such.

Please know that I have only her best interests in mind, and I've found it increasingly hard to even approach the issue of meeting her in person.

Thank you
Darius

-

Dr. D. Clements
Office no. 435
tel: 057-2378934
« Last Edit: April 24, 2017, 10:30:03 pm by Verse »

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2017, 10:30:08 pm »
Helena was lovely when she was distracted, because it was unusual. An exotic bird that day, then. She was taking her lunch in her office; the view of the city was objectively better here than her apartment, though her home balcony had more worldly appeal. From here, she watched the urban kingdom like a highly educated Rapunzel. Her mother had called earlier. They were not close these days. Helena had tucked the elder Cross into her own file, neatly stacking professional distance in the middle of a relationship that should not have been subject to it. In a sense, that made her relationship with Lerham ironic. She took a bite from an apple slice with skin the same red she’d stained her lips. Families were strange. Her profession, she thought, largely relied on that strangeness.

Her PC chimed with incoming mail as she took another bite of her fruit. Helena was surprised to read the sender name—she’d not communicated with Darius much in a professional capacity. They were colleagues turned confidant mostly, so it had been better to keep their work paths from crossing too closely. Furthermore, she’d been busy lately. Even their friendly interactions had lagged considerably since Lerham had moved in. Still, she was not overly surprised he reached out, upon realizing the object of his concern. “What timing.” She said. As if her impending trip had not been enough distraction for her thus far. Helena sighed and rubbed her temples.

She would send Lerham a text later that evening to say she missed him and mention that she’d like to speak privately on the phone when he had the time.

--

Lili was not in her room. She had returned to the greenhouse to pretend she was further away than that. Father had crossed the line, she thought. It wasn’t fair to ask Lerham to agree to his ridiculous punishments, let alone carry them out. She pulled at her long hair. It wasn’t fair that Lerham had gone along with it either.

She was crouched by a bush of azaleas when her brother found her. “You aren’t going to do it, are you?” she asked when she heard him approach, but did not turn back to look. There was some genuine expectation in her voice. Sitting there among their mother’s flowers, she’d thought maybe it was possible. “You know it isn’t going to change anything, don’t you?” She said. It wasn’t rebellion. Just fact. She’d been hungry for the world for years now. Sometimes, when he’d still been home, his stories had been enough to keep her where Father wanted her. But, even then, it hadn’t ever really been enough. And who could blame her?

“Besides, I’m fine now. Nothing bad happened.” She said, because Liliana could not live her life remembering every episode of drowning. Lili did finally turn to him then, little sister on a backdrop of pink blossoms. “I don’t have forever. I don’t want to have only this house to remember.” She said. Hope had turned to a little pleading. “He’s only making you do it to control me… and you.” She made the sort of face Beatrice had made when he would act up and disappoint her. They both believed he was better.

But it was hard to be better when she was a hand tame fawn, long lashes and pouting lips and white dresses. Maybe she understood that a little, because there was a little knit to her brow that said she wasn’t sure she’d convinced him. She glanced at his belt. “You’ve only just come home.”

Verse

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2017, 02:16:21 am »
She was missing. His better self breathed in relief. It was a strong puff that went out to wreck some disorder with the smaller sighs that she'd filled the room with. There had been instances, not far from now, when he'd not thought of himself as a visitor here, when he'd make her breakfast because she shouldn't always have to walk, first ting, and when he'd tell her about all kinds of adventures they could have from her bed. He went away from the memories soon, closing her door, before her empty chambers could feel like a premonition, come from the other side of a promised tragedy.

He suspected he might find her exactly where he did. So he'd gone a few other places, first. No Lili in the kitchen, still warm and lively, and no sister in the library, calm and welcoming. Instead her littleness right there, by the violently beautiful flowers, flaunting so much pretty color it wanted to spill. Lili looked like she was trying to take up some of that radiance. He thought she looked apart, then, with all her subtleties. Maybe it was cruel to make a garden for her like this. But he remember how well she fitted between the colors.

"Hello, Liliana." he'd already met her here once, today. He couldn't greet her the same way, because, yes, he was going to do it. Maybe he thought he was negotiating with her flight, the same way he'd come closer to game, calmly. She wasn't looking yet, after all. "I looked for you in your room. I've missed it there." was all he could answer when she pressed him on the futility of his task.

"But something could have happened." he protested when she said more. His illusions of being quiet and catching her were halted like a heart is by billowing fear, when she turned. He supposed she fit very well in this place, actually, with her luxurious lips and bereft complexion. Wasn't she a azalea, herself? She played a tune that was both unbearable - a string played to whip at his worth - and lovely, because she had expectations and little ambitions. It was easy to be on his knees beside her after something like that.

"When he's right, he's right, Liliana." was all he could think of. What is wrong with control if the result is true? Because making her skin smart now was all he could do for not having been here yesterday. It was his repentance if it was her penance. He sat with her a little then, and looked at mother's haven with her. "And I said I'd stay a while." now that I've come home. As though the meaning was that he'd be doing many pleasant things with her too, besides bringing leather fast to temporarily mark her.

He thought it was a bit like a lie to soften his posture, and caress the grass for his own amusement beside her, like he'd forgotten or even been swayed by her points. He still lived in that air for a little moment, borrowing a strand of her precious, brunette darkness too, tugging as though he meant to buy it. "Do you remember the lavender lotion?" he asked when he placed the hair back where he found it on her, a little undone. That cream had been applied when she'd stayed out in the sun for too long. Maybe it was dark to say it in a kind voice. "I think I saw some on your bookshelf."

He would lean closer, if she'd let him, his motions could be convincing, hypnotic with purpose, sometimes. A kiss for Lili's head, one that lingered to entail both his sentiment of adoration and apology. He couldn't spoil her, because it would just be another disservice. He had to act, even if she was being so lovely now. "Would you please lay down, Lili?" he asked and stroked her back. The other hand would break his spell of tender, when it held his belt and tested the buckle. "And roll up your dress a little, for me?"

He could translate all the hesitation into his saintly suffering, then, because he had to, or he'd just crumble for her usual charms.

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2017, 03:47:00 am »
She didn’t have it in her to fight him, really. She didn’t really have it in her to fight Father either. It wasn’t a question of physique. It would have been a ridiculous comparison to begin with. Emotionally, she’d not be a match for either because they’d comprised her world. She could conceive of it though; sometimes when she was running she imagined saying nasty things to Father. They were never any more cruel than the truth, but that was harsher than any good daughter would fling in their parent’s face. Liliana’s full breadth of deception, met eye-to-eye, was laid out in pleas and optimism.

He was patronizing to make it seem like he needed to ease her into this. She’d been mulling over his inevitable arrival among the green since she’d left the dinner table. It had given her enough time to believe he’d be kind. Yet, she had still steeled her realism for what was to come. Lerham wasn’t immune to their father either. Her eyes, which looked like rust in the late light, reflected sunset and something caught between defeat and disappointment. Such a lame excuse. “But, he’s not right.” Lili said. She could be blunt about their father with him because he had been her confidant and sympathizer for years. The contrast that placed them in now was smarting. She wondered if he’d feel that too.

“And you’re going to do it anyway.” She said.

He seemed to ignore her and she so she ignored his gentle reminder to self-care. Lili turned her face away from him and shook her head when he played with her hair. She was not obligated to forgive him for this. She was not obligated to forgive Father for this either.

A long sigh. “You’re not supposed to be like him, you know.” Liliana said. She had not moved to oblige his request. “You’re not supposed to, but if you are you shouldn’t pretend like you aren’t.” Lili laid down. On her back so that she was staring up at him. She stared at him like he should keep her gaze. Look her in the eye because it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. Thin fingers curled over delicate fabric. She hiked the skirt up high over her thighs. Small and frail, but a woman still.

“Do you supposed that this will be it?” she asked. “And you’ll stay a while and he won’t ask you ever again?” Lili said. Like it was out of the question that she’d “behave.” Certainly, she’d been more inclined when his visits were rare treats. Lili hadn’t risked being punished if she knew Lerham was coming. Her time with him was too precious now. Father had used that as a reasonable means of control at first. She’d been getting worse lately, though. That’s what he’d told Lerham on the phone. Wandering off more. Being sullen about the demands of her treatments and the rules of the house. Maybe he’d ultimately set a bad example, flying free, even if it had served to string her along for a while.

The pale skin of her soft white thighs, slender and untouched, flushed before he’d even loosed the belt. Warm pink rushing in anticipation of the hurt. Psychology was amazing. Lili was still staring at him. If he was on Father’s side now, Lili was on her own. She could learn to keep a secret from him too. The look on her face said as much. A little nervous, a little insolent. Teeth pulling the skin on her plump lower lip taut. “Will this be it?”

That expression had probably been heartbreaking to their father, once. That man had picked sides in the steady way he was best at, though. The same side he’d picked to fight for Beatrice.

The Lancaster women were insistent on opposing good intentions. It was as if they couldn’t help it. “I need you, Lerham. You can’t be on his side.” She said. A final plea for the aftermath, then, when she could stop despising him for this. Liliana must have realized it was unlikely, because she closed her eyes.

Verse

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2017, 12:53:38 pm »
Lerham couldn't hear her assessment of father's orders. Wouldn’t. He had to tell himself that she'd disagree, no matter how true or false father's intentions were. It was her additional pathology, in this, and why the brother needed to exact this lesson. The way she looked, like someone speaking to their last thing, was impossible to forget. If there was pain for that, he'd have to take it. If he crumbled now that would be a greater damage to her than not coming at all. Lerham was married to that kind of excuse now, that this would make her better, that next time she wouldn’t run. A cold tilt of his head, as though his chin in its direction would make the indoors ground more inviting to her. I am doing this, anyway.

The way she carried on, for him to hold some truth in his new role, it sounded like a logic Helena might employ. And what should he pretend like, instead, if not father? Lerham Lancaster didn’t strike his sister, nobody would, save Perceval. He didn't know what this could be, other than what it looked like, a punishment dealt. But even Lerham was sure there was more. If he searched inside he was sure he'd find hesitation. He couldn't afford that. He though he gave nothing outward, but she would have seen that he was stricken. ”It’s not like that.” I’m not like him. It would be hard to believe, towering over her.
One of his heels dragged backward, denting the grass when she unfolded back, eyes still on him. He’d not asked for that, and his confusion could be her first triumph, if she counted them. The request for her to turn stuck somewhere between his intentions and his duty. Pretty little sister, submitting her legs to be branded. If he’d been more damaged by her beauty and pent up instead of unresolved, the revealed legs, small in every aspect, but fetching, would have brought realization. What a wave of conflict this presented Lerham, that she should have such gravity by just lying there, waiting. It was only by strict self-denial that he didn’t follow the shadows up underneath the remaining protection of her dress. Would there be naïve flower prints, secret lace? Innocent cotton?

“I will stay.” Was his answer. If father asked again, and the same things were true, then Lerham would have to make the same choice. She could have his company. He felt that he owed her a good brother more now than ever. Debt is the greatest motivator. He’d not seen Lili like this before. It wasn’t right, but somehow it intrigued him to stay, too, in a house with this sister. She’d not hear that from him, now.

With the rosy expanses that decided to live on her legs came some hard resolve finally. That kind of diluted blood will move any man. Such unbearable things in the air. He took out his belt but didn’t know how it had gone so quick before it hung by his side. Teeth on her lip. Did she know to throw around this kind of lovely? No. She’d not lived enough and that was part of her tragedy. And her final plea betrayed her. Lerham had decided this was not for himself, anymore. Indeed, she needed him.

A lift and drop of a long arm. A flick. There was no control, energy raging free over the lacquer, but the leather bit the grass first, so the power of the strike was muted. Still it laid a mark across her shin. His breath hitched, wanting to ask how she was. How preposterous. He lashed himself, on her, two more times for the thought. He should have wanted to be done with it, but fixed his eyes on her face. What did he hope to see?

Then his attention was over the folds of her dress, collected in her braced hands, and then the mystery she all but revealed at the apex of her legs. He meant for the next lash to clap her foot, but the leather went with his eyes, and licked across the inside of an already rosy thigh. “How many was that?” he posed, and he did not know himself, then, or the plan to strike the other thigh to interrupt whatever answer she gave. Surely the sound would be rapture.

If he had been negligent with his love and his focus before, flown-out brother, Liliana, if she saw through the punishment, would see he was intently aimed at her then. This brother would always shower her in attention, because he didn’t know a father or the name Helena or the dread of this house, only how his heart lived up for his sister. Perhaps Percival knew the brother and the sister - she with her reactions, and he with his inclinations - better than a quiet stone deity would.

Dominic, who’d known the spirit of a man when given this dark freedom, had already seen fit to roll mother’s old chair with it’s quiet wheels to the side of the opening to the garden.

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2017, 12:33:25 am »
Lili felt sick when the first lash fell. It wasn’t as hard as Father would have done it; Lerham was still hesitating, even if their discourse had leaned steadily toward the contrary. That didn’t make her feel better about it. In a way, she was complicit in whatever corrupting of their childhood this qualified as. She swallowed back the bile that rose in her throat and, with it, any sound.

Her silence was practiced. It left the sing of his belt on her skin to fill the quiet and it was vulgar, like listening to infidelity it shoved her heart further back against her spine with every fall. Her teeth cut into her lip. She had not opened her eyes.

When he asked how many times he’d chastised her with the leather, she realized she had not been counting either. It wasn’t hard for her to recall each whip though, red skin keenly aware, and as she began to say a number it tumbled into a startled cry. How cruel to steal the sound from her when she’d been so stoic, the belt stinging across her thigh like the worst sort of intrusion. Lili stared up at him then, fingers curling tighter around the balled fabric in her fists. She looked at him like he'd humiliated her and it was difficult to be sure he was punishing her for anything but her present vulnerability. She was not sorry for running. She was sorry he had agreed to their father. It was that kind of expression that had made Percival punish her most severely.

But she was still a soft creature and the pain was sharp and present and she was crying. The tears that weren't caught in her long lashes had shined her copper irises to gold. There had been an instance in this garden, when Beatrice was close to the end and everyone in the house had known it. Lerham and Liliana had found her, though it was unlikely the sister remembered. Mother Lancaster had fallen, it seemed in a spell of weakness, and was laying in the pretty disarray of a death-bound woman. She’d not been in this exact spot, but she’d made the same expression. Tawny eyes turned molten with tears, frustration cut in her gaunt cheeks. She’d told her son not to tell his father. Their little secret, her crumble. Liliana was every ghost in that garden, dark hair and white skirt.

Liliana had never been able to sympathize with that similarity, but she'd endured as many lashes for running as she had for dying when she looked back at her father with Beatrice's eyes. It was unpredictable, what the son and brother might see and for what insolence she would receive his strikes. She had inherited her mother's illness in her bones and in her soul.

When he had finished, which he would, and Lili had suffered in the quietest way she was able, she remained splayed on the mossy ground like a fracturing doll. If she had wailed and sobbed, she wondered if he’d have stopped sooner. It implied he had been searching for her pain. Would he see that thought and worry for his heart? Empathetic Liliana pressed a hand to her chest. Or, perhaps, he had stolen some of her remaining life rhythm with the fall of his reprimand. Her slim legs were already writing the signature of his belt in blue. If their father had faced the same conundrum, punishing the way she spent her breath frivolously at the risk of her health, she couldn't understand why he'd wanted to share the burden. She couldn't understand why Lerham had taken it upon himself either.

She tried to stand up when she couldn’t bear to lay beneath him any longer. Lili made it to her knees before she could not go further on her own. Had she always been so frail? Even when he’d found her here some hours ago, she had not been so small. Her dress tumbled to cover the evidence of her punishment. Lili still had not spoken to him. Finally, “The chair, please.” She said it without looking for it because it was not the first time it had been necessary. Lerham should have wondered what happened in his absence that she’d expect it now.  “Dominic can take me to my room.” Like she might not have wanted to him to stay, like she might not have believed she needed him after all. “And you can go tell Father you were a good boy.” I hope it makes you both feel better.   
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 01:00:54 am by VenomousEve »

Verse

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2017, 01:32:25 pm »
She was filling up with every visit of the strap, swelling from the inside with breaths she swallowed. It was not entirely grim to him, though it should have been. This ordeal could have rested in his mind as darkness, something bad for continued development, to save her, but when he saw that she had some skill in keeping her sounds, he wanted them. Perhpas it was out of sport that he asked her. It was certainly excessive to lay another velt on the inside of her leg when she answered, to make the spoken number shrill.

The heavy in him was lifted by adrenaline when she present those eyes. What would she see back? He felt many things, but the sordid sense of adventure and the dread dominated them all. He remembered mother on Liliana's face, and his arm not wrapped with leather almost went to his heart then. The relief he got from turning her skin into sacrement was short lived and inneffective, but it took him quite a few tries to realise that. Eventually, when he woke up from thinking he was brave like a brother whe he was really greedy like a man, the strap would be as lax as his fortitude.

After he was stunned by her splay, his creation, he quickened to wanting to take her hand by her heart. But he didn't deserve that. At best, he'd just taken running from her, so that maybe she could walk a little longer, alive. Just like he knew not to mix their fingers over her chest, he understood he was had no right to help her get up. How painful for Lerham who had returned from a shallow frenzy. He was cracking when she asked for the set of wheels and he was unmade by her quip. He had to report to Mr. Lancaster. Was it unfair to think she was being unfair?

Retrieving the helpful contraption was easy. There were flat stones cutting through the grass. Lerham hoped she would let him help her up at least, and was even willing to violate her refusal, again, to pretend he was a caring brother who suffered himself for the percieved wrongs he did to her. "Please learn from this." but he had already forgotten what the lesson was, written in furious pink and turning to a seething blue on her. He reached for her cheek finally, because he couldn't have anymore of his own confusion. He wanted to see how she felt against him again. Maybe her wrath ended at mercy. All oceans thin into shores, somewhere. But while his digits were naked, fine because they'd been affluent all thier lives, his palm was still wrapped in the tool of their current sepparation. He was agahst at his misstake when it graced her cheekbone.

Dominic had come, and took the handles of the needlessly pretty chair. Lerham felt like the worst kind of child when she was taken from him, back out onto the flat sones. "I'll take you, Lili." familiar voice with her shortened name. The butler suffered with her, for all he could show. "Sir. There are an assortment of your favourite jams and breadsticks, if you'd like." And that was gentle Dominic being harsh. He rolled the girl away. Before they went over the threshold, there was the sound of Lerham's buckle singing against the grass.

As Dom walked them, he lent what he could from behind her. A quick touch of his hand on her cheek to shave away tokens. She would remember he always wore gloves, and notice that the expert fingers were not clad, then. He even touched the back of her head, as though she'd done something exceptionally impressive. Her room came all too soon, for his liking.

"Is there anything you want, Lili?" the man asked, squatted down infront of her, having put the chair as close to her bed as it would go. Friendliest smile. Dominic was not confused, like Lerham and sometimes Percival himself, on how to serve the Lancaster family.

Lerham would also be there, later, on the other side of the wall. There was only so much time he could waste in this home without Lili. Father had been about as talkative as he could be, recieving the solemn son's succsess. The man had even offered for Lerham to stay in the office in the wake of Liliana's sortir. Lerham could only stay for as long as was curteous. Right now father was a totem of weakness, to the son.

And so there he was, trying to think well-rounded thoughts and see this test from a healthy perspective, when he wasn't smeling his belt and putting his hair in a worse state ontop of his head. While the anxiety built, as he sat against the wall they shared, he could only dream up one medicine. It was a desperate, wretched solution, but he didn't know anything else.

Lerham had not used his private bathroom for such lonely releases for quite some time, and never in pursuit of absolution. It helped for as long as pleasure stayed, and then a little with the exhaustion after that, but then he was empty of even the heat that had carried some of the guilt for him. He retreated to his bed fast, day clothes on, and called Helena's number.

"Hey, sorry I didn't write back right away. It's been a day here." he said with a smile on his voice. He thought he was a much better actor on the phone. "Me and Lili went at it. Siblings, you know?" he continued. "How was your day? People are looking forward to seeing you here." And I am hoping that you'll make me forget about my sister's skin.

VenomousEve

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2017, 05:17:55 am »
Liliana looked at him like he was an imposter. Was he an effective enforcer if he had become something worse than their father? Her wide eyes, doe-like under any other light, didn’t have an answer. Brother abandoned, father’s mantle pulled in grotesque. She curled her lips and he was a stranger to her. “Did you learn as well?” She asked him as she trembled on all fours, the beaten dog. It was wrong, Lili like that. Fading fairytale princesses deserved glass coffins and uninterrupted sleep. This was too visceral, too raw, but her skirt tucked all that away and she was the one disrupting the fantasy. Groveling.

She pulled her face away from his touch like he’d slapped her. The leather over his knuckles made him a proper villain again with the way her dark hair cut the pale of her cheek. Lili was still staring at him, sidelong. “You used to understand, at least.” She told him. Perhaps he had forgotten. It wasn’t that she’d never been left to fight her own side of these rifts. The Lancaster men had only ever seemed to bond over pressing the Lancaster flowers in security. But Lerham had always been sympathetic. He’d plead with her, but he’d never overwhelmed her.

Would he have resorted to it sooner, if he’d known how well her fading flush wore violence? Liliana’s lip quivered. Stubborn or weak.

Dominic restored her, dutiful butler with the throne that had been their mother’s. Perhaps it was worse, Lili perched on that shrine of her decay; unquestionable queen of the waste. At least a dog beaten twice might bite. She smiled at Dom gratefully, small and tired because she had been punished for her optimistic spirit, and did not say anything further to Lerham.

Still, she winced when she heard his belt buckle bite the earth.

Lili deflated when they reached her room, shoulders sagging when Dom came to crouch before her. She sighed. “I’m fine, Dom, but thank you for asking.” She said. Distant expression. Beatrice had worn it often in the greenhouse, wistful stare out the glass when she’d finally come to terms with the end. It had been depressing, a bright woman facing the dark that way. It was surreal on Liliana’s youth. She leaned back, chin tipped upward. “I have you on my side, at least.” She said. Not that Dom had ever opposed her father or stopped Lerham. “I don’t mean to be unfair or hurt them. I just want…” she trailed off and made a vague gesture at the air. It wasn’t as if she knew how to finish that thought. When she looked back at him it was apparent she was conflicted. “I want to be mad at him, but it’s hard.” She pressed the heels of her palms over her eyes and exhaled in frustration.

“Actually, if I could bother you for it, could you bring me the lavender cream?” she asked. The one Lerham had remembered. Lili reached to pull herself onto her bed. When she had situated herself, she pulled her dress high to uncover the nebulas welling beneath her skin. Bands of universe bleeding onto her thighs. “He did it longer than father would have.” She said. “But not as hard.” Liliana touched a bruise gingerly. “Is that better or worse?” She asked it like a girl wondering about the nuances of a crush. “I thought he understood me.”

--

Helena had been napping when the phone rang. She was glad to hear from him and it brought a smile to her lips. Lovely, auburn coils splayed on her pillow as she rolled to press her palm where he usually slept on their bed. “It’s good to hear from you. I miss you already.” Helena said. “It sounds like you’re having fun.” As always, there were no questions for more than he wanted to give. He wasn't as good of an actor as he thought, but Helena also supposed siblings could not be expected to love each other perfectly. "I can't wait to meet them either. Speaking of..."

She hummed. “I received mail from a colleague. A friend from medical school, actually.” Helena said. She sighed. “I wouldn’t generally mention, patient confidentiality issues and all.” Another sigh. “Well, he approached me as a friend. Anyhow, he’s asked me to verify that Liliana is doing well when and if I meet her.” She said. A pause. “It’s rather coincidental timing, I suppose. His clinic handles her file and he just asked the favor so as not to be intrusive.” She did not mention that the tone of the mail had made it seem the Lancasters had not been overly open to visitation. But Helena’s delightful transparency carried without words, the slant of her voice opening a space for him to explain if he wished. She wanted him to, that was obvious too, but she wasn’t going to pry. Helena never, ever pried.

“I thought I should tell you. I don’t have any obligation to report, of course.” She said. “Although, I can’t imagine there’d be any reason not to.” Because Helena knew nothing of the art bled onto Liliana’s legs. She was kind enough to leave the subject there.

"I don't mind you visiting home, of course, but I wish you were with me at night. The bed is lonely."


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Re: Burdens
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2017, 01:14:23 pm »
Already he was escaping back to a world where there was no domestic legacy to carry. He knew Helena's waking voice and it helped in painting the room he'd left this morning. How he'd trembled on his feet, and how wretched it had been to see Lili on her hands and knees, it was all fading into Helena's endless forgiveness. An absolver with fire hair, or rather, since it came at no price, his confessions, perhaps she was a disolver, instead. It could be that women like her could contribute to the worst of men, if they loved the wrong person. Surely, if he kept escaping into his City Nymph, the answer to Lili's question would always eventually be that no, Lerham had not learned anything.

"I miss you too." and it was truer now than when he'd called. Maybe a kiss on her eggshell cheek, or his arm around her waist, and they could fall back to sleep together. His meticulously reassembled eden shattered as though it was made of glass threads - the last pinch from the blower, sewn decadently but porous and brittle - when she thought it might had been entertaining, his homecoming. Fun? How devastating that he nodded out of reflex. People in Helena's field would have a field day, surely. He had to be wiser with his voice, and not tell her something he'd not examined himself about Liliana's rich colors and fall from doll to plaything, all sanctioned by the king.

"We're having fun." he repeated with a hollow softness. She didn't see the hard smile, and he didn't know if he'd put it in his voice, either. "Lili was... acting up yesterday, though." Like that wold encompass everything that had transpired. He shrugged to give some of the air that could make it more understandable, but Helena couldn't see it.

It sounded a bit like reckoning to him, her casual mention of the friend who'd like to know of little sister's state. Father wouldn't dream of keeping physical help away from his daughter, he'd sooner go overboard there and exhaust rather than soothe, so it was easy for Lerham to know that Helena's friend from the clinic was interested in Lili's heart and mind, rather than her lungs.

"He must be sought-after, for Liliana's file to end up on his desk." Void of melody, and that was too telling. Lerham cleared his throat. Even if father didn't care think highly of the mental things, believing his family to be of sturdy such stock, Perceval wouldn't have anyone but the best to asses his children. It was an easy bet, too, that this doctor would be from an institute heavily reliant on Lancaster funds. "How familiar of him to go this way, through you. I appreciate that." And he did, said the pitch. "Not that father is too forthcoming with these things." he laughed a bit.

"No, no. I think it's good. We can be straightforward about it to Lili, and then if she's uncomfortable, maybe we can simply have him visit for a more clinical evaluation." That would never happen. Helena needed to be swayed, and Lerham thought it should be possible. It wasn't that he thought he could manipulate his lover, but rather that he felt their emotional bond could make her see things as they were, through the family lens. Why was it exhilarating, the thought of folding her in to this starkly separate cosmos with them?

"I think you should know, Liliana is a woman of her age." he was darkly amused with that. "And she is a little pouty for our spat today. She'll probably be sour with me. I hope you won't brand me an unfit brother simply because my little sister is displeased with me, the day you come." It was as good as a lie, and it coated his mouth in something rich. Displeased was not so right, when she'd turned her cheek from him and said he wasn't on her side, anymore. "I can't always play the nice brother, if she's acting out." That, in his mind, was so true it was a fact. His tongue still tasted sweet, which should have clued him in to what he was doing.

"I wouldn't mind being home right now, either. Liliana is in her room and I think I've spent my allowed quality time with dad." he said. "If I find the spirit for it maybe I'll play with some risky ventures our advisors have picked out for me. Other than that, I was planning on just missing you, too." there was a reason she'd upgraded him from patient to bedmate, after all. "I was just thinking that you'll be here, in my childhood room. Isn't that a fun thing? I think the echoes of the little boy I was will be livid with accomplishment to see such a beautiful woman in his future." he laughed and missed Helena miserably, then. "Maybe we can vacation here when that time comes around again." it was a good, working scenario in his head, because he'd forgotten how much he'd hated and taken to educating Lili in the glass roof garden. "Anyway, I miss your scent and how you move about our bedroom." one of his hands turned around its wrist to show her a skirt of fingers to describe her elegance. This was not a video call. "Perhaps you can send me a picture. Just something I can look at as a last thing, tonight?"

-

When Liliana proclaimed that she was alright, Dominic nodded as though that could be the only truth, but he didn't stand to make it his dissmissal. Sometimes you are fine when you say your are, and then the word dies and so does your conviction. He would always be on everyone's side, if he could. "I am sorry, Liliana. Right now I am right in front of you." not your side. It was as dry as anyone could jest. Dom was prolific with this kind of humor.

This man had loved this girl ever since she'd been in her mother's belly. He'd loved her mother as well. It wasn't hard for him to stay with her and listen. "I think you should feel however you feel." he said. "Even if it's hard." A friendly curve to his lips. He meant that she should not deny herself her own emotions. He'd given her enough advice that she would know to infer it. "Do you remember when you two wrote on the silver" my silver, he almost said. "with forks? I think Lerham wrote 'tea' on the pot." more dryness. Idiot, redundant child. "And you just scribbled on a tray. I was mad then." Sometimes that memory would make her laugh and blush. He was perhaps as fond of it as it infuriated him. That set had been his responsibility, and they'd only gained access because her arm and hand had been small enough to get into his private key cabinet.

He stood and nodded when she asked for the cream. The people in this house had always been courteous to him in their requests, perhaps not always Perceval, but the butler would have doted on them if they were insufferable, as well. "I will get it for you." And then he was also staring at the expression of Lerham's adherence to her discipline, written in anger on her legs. Dominic took his own advice and felt what he wanted to feel about the pretty over her bones, and the transgression from the brother. It wasn't as though Dom had liked it more when Perceval dealt it. Somehow this was closer to art, and so some other intent was revealed in Lerham.

"It is better." Dominic said. He didn't have the knowledge of Helena's books, or her practice with other people's minds, but Perceval had loved Beatrice a little like this, and Beatrice had never left. It was secret to the children, of course, and most likely a pillar in Percival's plans. But in the end Dom wouldn't be a liar, would he, if he said it was better. Because the father had never corrected the daughter as he had her mother, and now the son had, even if it was only barely showing. Liliana thought Lerham was evil because this was fresh to her, but Dominic believed both his children were innocent, and that everything they did was an outlet for love. This love letter simply wore new colors, and Lili couldn't read it, yet. She'd probably not want to hear that explained, considering her current state of mind.

"We men are idiots, Liliana." he said, instead. "But a lacking mind doesn't mean a lacking heart." He was bent over her bed and petted her hair on both sides before kissing it on top. Dominic's affection was like his scolding, very valuable and deserved when it came. "You'll decide yourself if you want to stand for that or not." He stood straight again.

"Now, there is a matter or another grievance." he said with some somber. "You didn't have your sweets after the meal, did you?" not so serious, then. "How about I get something with the lavender cream?"

The butler had all intentions of barging past Lerham's room with that cargo, whether she'd want it to include dessert or not, and drop the vat of cream and fuss loudly over it, to have the brother stick his head out.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2017, 04:43:36 am »
Helena’s breath was organic static over the line, soft hitches with rustling sheets. It was intimate, because his room was quiet and their apartment was empty. When he echoed her sentiment, she thought it sounded unconvinced and that said as more than it ought to. She’d been his therapist before she’d been his lover. Even if he’d never sat across from her desk, she supposed that thin agreement would have settled oddly with her. He’d mentioned the dynamics of his family home. There would not have been a point to their meetings without honesty. He’d not hidden the fact he had only scratched the surface of all the turmoil, too. Helena sighed, soft and without judgement, but it wasn’t hard to guess at her dilemma. Sometimes her commitment to separating their relationship from her profession kept her from asking the things she had a right to.

“He’s very well regarded, yes.” Helena said. She sounded impossibly neutral on the matter. It wasn’t to say that she questioned Darius’ skill. But it was not irrelevant that his family was a long line of physicians and he sported a pocketbook made fat by lineage as much as his work ethic. “And he’s a good man.” She added, because that was true too. “Liliana is in good hands. Well, with you and him as well.” Helena laughed at the flattering joke and mocked the belt and the bruises on Lili’s thighs without knowing.

“I’m glad you don’t mind it. I didn’t want to bring work into it,” Helena never wanted to bring work into it, “but I think it’s a simple enough favor. I’d like to think it would make things easier on your family’s part as well.” She said. She sounded relieved. It would have been better if it had all stopped there, but Lerham was preparing her as much as her call was preparing him. She frowned a little and was glad he wasn’t there to see. Helena would have openly admitted she was concerned he would disapprove of her carrying her clinic to his dinner table. Lerham was not likely to be so open with what he fretted over now.

“I wouldn’t do such a thing.” She assured him, but more hung in the air. “Of course, she’s growing up under unusual conditions. If she’s acting out, perhaps it would be worth taking the time to understand what she’s trying to get to.” Helena suggested. “I’m sure you’re a nice brother. You should never really have to play at it.” She said. That was about as much scolding as she’d ever gotten to. Quiet and reasonable suggestions for unreasonable behaviors. It was quaint and effective, prim just like her.

She was willing enough to leave talk of his sister at that, and her giggle was genuine when he conjured her to his room. “Ah, well that does leave me in an odd position. I wouldn’t want to disappoint, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t aim to keep child-you innocent.” She said with a delightful coyness that she rarely brought beyond the confines of their bed. Private woman, but eloquent in those spaces. “I should love to visit again.” She paused and then snickered at herself. “I haven’t even been out to see you yet, and I’m already certain I’d be delighted to visit again.” Her accent sang a little thicker when there was laughter to distract her tongue.

“I suppose I can do that much, if you’ll send me a picture in return. I can’t wait to see you tomorrow. Perhaps that’s silly, because you’ve only just gone, but I’ve been anticipating seeing you at your home since you left.” Helena sighed. When they ended the call, she sent him a picture as asked. Tasteful, as always, but she’d taken a moment to give him a bit more of a view than such a picture required. Her way of flirtation, but it had the sort of modesty made it more than she’d intended.

--

“Oh god, will you ever forget that?” Liliana yelped and covered her face with her hands. Her cheeks were pink behind her fingers. “I was really little then.” She protested, peeking between her fingers. “And you forgave us. I mean. You did forgive us, right?” she giggled.

Lili laughed again and acquiesced to dessert. “You’re the best, Dom,” she said. “You know just what to say to make me feel better.” She sighed and leaned against her pillows, clearly exhausted. There was a real chance she’d be asleep before he returned with sweets and lotions but there was no doubt he’d bring them to her bedside regardless. “He is an idiot.” She added in echo. “I love Lerham, but I can’t stay in this house forever. Even if he does end up just like Father.” A little hardness to that statement, which was sad. Her eyes were already shut. “I hate upsetting them, but it’s not fair. Father is hard enough. Lerham is supposed to love me the right way.” She was half mumbling, and couldn’t have known half of what that meant. 


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Re: Burdens
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2017, 03:53:26 pm »
Lerham had hoped for more detail on the doctor that wasn’t Helena. If the man had gone through this kind of trouble, it meant he could be reasoned with, but this kind of tenacity could also pose a problem later. Lerham couldn’t know that Perceval would have thought the same thing. Perhaps Darius’s triumph was exactly that, circumventing the iron gate of Lancaster senior’s veto. Lerham was also happy to know Helena vouched for this man, of course, but that thought should have come sooner. The brother didn’t see this, in himself. When she laughed, he was able to hide the protest and parting of his truth-stricken lips in her pretty sound. He forgot that confession as soon as her merriment quieted.

“It will.” Make things easier for the family. He thought he meant to agree with her sentiment, but it was more true that it would make it simpler for himself to oversee. Perhaps all Lancaster males have the same heart. “We want you to get to know Lili, anyway. You can do whatever you can with what you learn, especially if it’s for her benefit.” How proud he was then. It was the kind of logic Helena might appreciate. Why wouldn’t he be generous, if he thought he could steer what Helena saw?

Next he took note. Father liked to say Liliana was acting out in a way that suggested she was being unreasonable, expending the energy. Lerham had not thought there was any mystery to the source, but Helena was being sound saying they should try and see the little girl’s side. It of course cast the session between his belt and Lili’s legs as a mistake. He wanted to know what Lili felt, too, if only to help her better, but that sentiment was caught in him now, with the rampant, dark elation that came at the cost guilt. That bitter would grow if he listened to Helena completely on this. “I’ll try to listen.” Was all he could manage.

She had all the reactions he’d fallen in-love with for his suggestion. Was child Him innocent? Perhaps to a fault. He thought he was thoroughly uncorrupt, still. If that was true it was becoming increasingly less so with this stay. She could listen to him roll around in his childhood bed, content with how she was responding to him. Lerham was not as closely kept as Ms. Cross, mostly sweet, so far, but there were little looming signs in the way he’d kiss her, and play at controlling games, in privacy. Just little holds here and some lighthearted pushing there that could lead one to suspect a heart that wanted his way, and that refusal would be bothersome.

“You can come again.” He assured her. “We will set a date when you’re here, for when it fits.” It would be in his own and her court then, because father and sister were deeply rooted here, never truly unavailable, shallow flight of yesterday aside. He was further into love with Helena, upon this. She wore such titanium airs about her, because she possessed that kind of beauty, but she was also run-through with blushing veins.

“I miss you too, Helena Cross.” He answered when she said her bit about the image trade.

He laughed in delight to see her being perfectly herself with the picture she sent, and took one of himself from the side, highlighting the fact that he was in a bed and his hair was slightly undone. Overly confident smirk. There was no coincidence in how his collarbones and neck were prominent. He was miserable for a moment, looking at her, but sounds outside halted his despair to replace it with curios worry.

Dominic was perfectly poised standing over silver when Lerham stuck his head out. “Oh, look at this.” The man said and Lerham was already at his feet, gathering the little treasures. He didn’t even discover that everything touching the floor was superfluous. Dom knew how to manipulate his dear children. “I’ll take that back.” he said and handed the bowl with the icy sweetness and the little can with the cream to Lerham instead. “I suppose you’ll help me with this instead?” and there was no force in his voice, rather it went up as though he expected thanks.

Lerham looked down at them and then up at ever stoic Dominic. If there was an unsaid protest there was a louder, wordless counter. Lerham found himself knocking at her door soon. She expected Dom so she wouldn’t refuse him. His knock was leagues different, though.

She was resting, and he thought that was good when he made his way inside after having spied. The icecream got to collect fog on its container while he sat on his knees, watching her. She’d always slept pretty. He was moments from eating the dessert himself, watching her. Out of morbid curiosity, or acute nostalgia, perhaps, his eyes went wide at the hem of her dress. Her feet were wearing purple straps and no shoes, and he breathed with the weight that deserved, but with a heat that was confusing. With the cream squeezed in his free hand, he tugged a little, the way she’d done herself, to have the edge of the fabric move upward. How strange, contaminated starlight shooting over her. Thick, vulgar paths.

He followed one comet far, frivolous with her secrecy, until he had to gasp, seeing where the end of his belt had licked underneath her former modesty. He’d hiked it up too far, her protection, and uncovered what he’d been curious about before. He gave the dress back to her, which didn’t land it anywhere lower than now, but he did it with enough panic that the wind alone might wake her. If it did, he’d conjure in his panic that he should shake the small can of cream at her, as though to dispel her suspicions that might be wrong, but not too severe.

“I wanted to sooth it for you.” He’d lie, and start at the lid.

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Re: Burdens
« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2017, 05:13:51 am »
Lerham had not been away from home so long that he should have forgotten, but perhaps he was further from their former heart than she thought. His knock was as good as the profile of his face, an unforgettable impression on her small world. It roused her from sleep enough to hear the door sigh open, but she thought she might have dreamed his knuckles on the wood when Dom had promised her sweets.

Lili kept her eyes closed when he came to her, initially to play a small trick on Dominic and then out of uncertainty when she recognized her brother’s footfalls. There was a deep movement in her chest that quailed at the thought of engaging him. She’d wanted, if nothing else, the luxury of a night alone before facing her disloyal sibling. Liliana breathed softly. He was quiet at the edge of her bed.

She was certain that she could feel his gaze on her, heavy for them both. His fingers on the hem of her dress and the slow draw upward. Lili wondered what he thought of his handiwork. If he regretted what he’d done or saw what he wanted. Father had often seemed conflicted in peculiar ways. She had never doubted he was sure of himself and his ways. Rather, he occasionally wore the face of a man who was aware of, but could not acknowledge, the futility of his actions. He was adept at punishing Liliana but never her disease. Lili almost opened her eyes to see if Lerham had learned that expression. She did not know what she would have done if she saw it.

Lili couldn’t think on it long; her skirt was drawn higher than she expected and it took all her self-control to keep her breath from hitching. Simple beneath the antiquated skirts, she wondered for the briefest moment if she should have worn something more adult. Certainly, his mature and lovely Helena must wear more memorable intimates. Liliana did not question why she concerned herself with the adequacy of her simple grey cotton, beyond recognizing her own unhappiness had cooled. Her brother ought to thank Dom for that. The butler had soothed the girl’s heart many times in the past.

He dropped the fabric as quickly as he’d revealed her, and in that startle he drew her from her ruse. She blinked at him, surprise genuine enough that he might believe she’d not been aware of him until then. Liliana’s gaze shifted to her pulled-up skirts and she was quick to pull the dress back down. Soft flush, like a schoolgirl caught. How odd that she made such faces when she’d never lived a life to learn them. Human nature, then, born without context. It should have struck Lerham as a toxic thing—his sister was impossibly disadvantaged to the worldly Lancaster men. It wasn’t a thought in her mind, though, so she didn’t have reason to give it root in his. 

“Why did you come?” she asked, though his purpose was obvious enough. She understood, now, that Dominic had probably planned this much. So elegant with taking the upper hand, their dutiful care-taker. Still, the question was posed and not without intent. The ice cream and salve did little to address what she wanted to know.

Why did he think to come to her now, after what he’d done? Was it an apology? Regret, guilt, or something more like their father. Disappointment entrenched in a bizarre and endless optimism. His answer didn’t seem to please her, but she was certain it hadn’t pleased him either. “I can do it myself.” She said, which was the sort of phrase that had always begged so much protest in this house. 


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Re: Burdens
« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2017, 11:44:44 am »
He thought it looked fluent, the way she woke and addressed her skirts without scolding him about it. Lili hadn’t lived a life that taught her it wasn’t fine for her grown brother to look at her like that. Only thing she pressed on that matter was her own fussing with the fabric, and the concern for modesty in her expression. So natural was the display that he forgot to appreciate her overlooking what should have been his second transgression today. There was still the first one, though, present in her question, and missing in his answer, which she became aware of with her tone.

"I know." he admitted and held out the pretty can for her. "Dom got you some ice cream, too." Somehow the deceit of claiming that favor was too much for the boy who'd already bullied his sister with the leather he was still wearing. Would she apply right away? It could be an act of indifference, if Lili was inclined to punish him, and quietly add that film to her new colors as though he didn't matter, in the room or on her skin. Whould their butler have helped her, if he’d come instead, since he was always in her good graces? The image that came was quickly swallowed back, intentionally.

So among thinking about the sound she'd made when he'd told her to count, and the surprise surge in his belly at gray cotton and the shape it dressed, he also thought he couldn't say he was sorry, even if he wanted to. Lili had forgiven him plenty growing up, she and mother were fountains of absolution, but he didn't know if he'd drunk his sister dry in the garden, because that act had been different in a very deciding way. All other misshaps had been for honest naivety or other, unhelpable sins. In the grass, she believed he betrayed her, left her alone, somehow. Now he had to cling to hope that the good feeling, that kept reminding his heart and chest of their cermon above Lili before, was the feeling of being just. She'd ran, she mustn't run. That thought brought his arm back if she would reach for the can.

“If you want to see the town I’ll take you. You can feel the wind through the car window.” He said and pulled the lid open and sat closer. Harsh, but father had taught him he shouldn’t falter when she had. “Pull you skirts up, please.” This was the third time, now, and it was becoming impossible to think anything other than that Lerham liked when Liliana’s skirts were up. He noticed that he liked it most when she was made to pull them herself. She might wise up to that, too. He didn’t suppose she’d squeeze the fabric now. Two fingers, with lavender scented wealth, dabbed on her foot. He thought to massage to spoil her, but realized this had to be a gentle application, or it would truly reveal him to be a sadist.

“I don’t mean to be cruel to you.” He said and was as firm as he thought he could be with her new purple details. Perhaps that was as close to an apology she would get now. Lerham looked around her room for other things to talk about. It seemed impossible that they’d been able to run in here. Every nook had been an adventure, growing up. The attic - kept spotless by Dominic and a merry crew, so that Beatrice could breathe in her own home - had been exhausting to explore. He wondered if it had been childhood’s dreams spending his energy fast, or if he’d just set his breaths to Lili’s and became tired in her pace. Now this place was intimate. He traced the center line of a dark lick, its edges dissolving into a gradient that married into her pallid. “I love you, you know, Liliana.” He said to the mark.

He wanted to ask her of her hobbies now. It was too painful to think of. What if she answered that she did nothing with her days? During his residence, they were always together. It might break him, and chain him to this house, finally, if she said she spoke with Dominic in passing and listened to father’s lectures and went to sleep. That meant his life with Helena would change irreparably. “Have you gone into the basement, yet?” The adventure they’d never embarked on. Now that he knew what kind of pretty his little sister was, it fit so well. Little gothic, Victorian doll, wandering in the darkness. A lovelier ghost than the ones they’d inflated with their frights before. On more than one occasion they’d started going, and made it past the libraries of wine bottles, but never even opened the black gate with rust painted black, that would lead to ancient, earth-swallowed ruins.

“We should go at some point, now that I am here.” He said and sighed with some longing. The enjoying smile was one she’d recognize. Lerham had returned to her again. And then he looked down, where he was applying the essence of a flower, and realized her wandered further up again, under her skirts once more. It didn’t feel so wrong, despite the sudden ruckus in his heart, because he’d not been devious or malicious. “I’ve gotten braver.” He said, and meant about the early horrors waiting in the Lancaster house’s intestines, underground, but it would seem he meant with his fingers. That too.

-

Dominic was gruff, as much as he could be. It showed in the hardness of his usually expertly light heels. He also tugged once on his lapel, which had no real function, since his clothes were always in place. A bit of the expected nature of an older caretaker of the family - hardened and a bit judgmental, walking down the halls – when he’d rarely been that kind before. Whatever Percival had told him, he’d not liked. The father rarely took knowing accomplishes, but it was hard to spare someone like Dominic, since he knew everything. Still, it was his creed to serve, so he would very well have to go summon the Lancaster children, despite the look that Percival had concealed, looking down at papers.