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Ever: Ever Changing

By: Snow E M Nicholaa

Page 1, The story about a street girl named Ever, trying to cope with her past.

Ever

          Ever Changing

 

It was happening again. I had gotten what I needed and was sneaking out of the semi-dark room. Then he stirred in the bed. He sat up and saw me. Surprise and horror registered on his face. I knew what took place next, and I wished I could change it, or at least close my eyes and pretend like it didn’t happen. But I couldn’t.

Before the man could do anything, I rushed to his bedside and stabbed him in the chest. The knife parted his skin with sickening ease. It made a squelching sound as it cut through his soft insides. I felt his warm, sticky blood ooze over my hand as the fluid exited his dying body. It didn’t do to leave witnesses…

Knock, knock, knock. That sound thankfully woke me from my nightmare. I pulled off my covers and left my bedroom. I walked through the still dark suite. I narrowly avoided tripping over the leg of a crystal table. I wasn’t acquainted with this place yet. I surveyed the room to get my bearings.  Around the table were chairs that looked like they were made of glass, but I knew that wasn’t possible. There was a davenport facing an empty ornate fireplace. Across the room was a kitchen.  Intricate paintings hung on wall-papered walls. A large window with heavy curtains was placed opposite the door.

 I turned the door’s golden handle and found myself face to face with a lady I had never seen before. She was older, but had applied heavy makeup to try to cover her wrinkles. Her grey eyes were the same shade as her hair, which was piled at least a foot on top of her head. She had painted her lips blue to match her over-the-top dress, set with jewels and peacock feathers. Her numerous items of jewelry jingled as she invited herself in and her high heels clicked as she walked.

                The enthusiastic expression on her face fell momentarily as she looked me up and down. I knew what she saw: a seventeen year old girl with messy, limp brown hair; dark narrow eyes; and a face with a fixed frown. My clothes were dirty and crumpled.  I assumed this was not the kind of appearance she was used to. I bet even her servants cleaned up.

She quickly regained her composure though. “So, are you the new renter?” Her voice was high and excited, like she was trying to sell me something.

I nodded.

 

 

 “How do you like Golden Suites?”

                “It’s very nice.” I replied. It was, in fact, the nicest place I had ever stayed at. Normally, I lived in hovels and alleys, or when I could afford it, sleazy hotels. “And you are?” I inquired.

                “Oh!” she covered her mouth with her hand as she giggled. “Silly me, where are my manners? I’m Pradilla. I live in the suite next to yours. What’s your name?”

                “I’m Ever.” I didn’t give her my real name. I didn’t know what it was. Instead, I gave her one of my aliases, my favorite.

                “What brings you to Golden Suites?”

                I hated questions, but I figured as long as I was careful, a little small talk couldn’t hurt. “I came into a lot of money lately.” Not a lie, but not the full truth either. “I was looking for a place to stay, and-”

                Pradilla cut me off. “Oh! That’s why you answered the door, and not a servant! You don’t have any!”

                I nodded slowly, not sure where this was going.

                “Well, that just won’t do. You can have one of mine. I’m not particularly fond of him anyways.”

                “That’s okay. I really don’t need any-”

                Pradilla broke in again. “No, I insist. I’ll send him over. Ta-ta!” She waved as she left my suite, her shoes click-clacking all the way.

                I sighed in annoyance, and then went to my bathroom to go clean up.  Leaning on the marble countertop, I undressed, then got into the shower and let the hot, soothing water stream down me. It was a luxury I had seldom experienced.

                I began to scrub down. I felt a pain in my hand and looked. I realized I was beginning to rub it raw, unconsciously trying to get the blood I always saw there to come off. But it wouldn’t. It could never come off. It was the blood of a murderer, and you couldn’t uncommit murder.

                Eventually, I turned the gilded knob that controlled the water and dried myself off with a towel softer than clouds.  Pulling on a clean outfit, I heard a noise and stopped to listen.

                Someone else was in the suite.  I pulled open a drawer where I had hidden a knife and slid it up my sleeve with practiced ease. Whoever it was could be harmless, but it never hurts to be cautious.

                I left the bathroom and saw a man standing in the kitchen, cooking. He was around a foot

taller than me, but that wasn’t much of an achievement, since I was only about four ten. His jet black hair was cut short. His clothes were in good condition, but they were a common working-man’s outfit. At the moment, I couldn’t see his face, since I was on the opposite side of the room to him and his back was turned.

                “Who are you?” I demanded.

                I had startled him and he turned around. As he faced me, I took in his features. He looked to be no more than a year older than me. If I had paid attention to such things, I would have labeled him handsome. He had green eyes that looked wise, strong cheek bones, and thin lips. He wore the complacent expression of someone who long ago accepted his fate.

                “I am Keirnan, Miss. Ever.” His voice was soft and while not hopeless sounding, it had a placating tone to it.

                “How do you know my name?” I asked with a suspicious edge to my voice.

                “Lady Pradilla told me, Miss Ever.”

                Of course. He was the servant that Pradilla sent. I had assumed that she meant she would send a servant later though, not immediately.

                Keirnan turned off the stove and went about transferring the food from the pan onto a fine plate. When that was done, he poured juice into a goblet. Then he set the meal onto the crystal table and pulled out one of the glass chairs. I waited for him to sit down, but he didn’t. After a moment, I realized the food was for me, and he had pulled out the chair for me as well.

                I belatedly sat down and began to eat. One might think it would be awkward to eat with a knife in my sleeve, but I had practice. I did most things this way when I was on the street.

The food was succulent, though I didn’t know what it was, because I had never had it before.  The juice was a refreshing mix of flavors I was unable to describe, but the slight burning sensation reminded me of wine.

                I could sense Keirnan standing behind me. I supposed that was typical behavior of servant while their employer ate, but I didn’t like people where I couldn’t see them. Old habits die hard.

                “Come sit down,” I ordered. “You’re making me nervous.”

                Keirnan looked uncomfortable, but he obeyed.

                I remained quiet for the rest of the meal. I wanted to see how long Keirnan could stand the silence.  For me, it was a test of character and self control. If you spoke only to fill the silence, you probably didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

                The game had never lasted for more than an hour, but this time it backfired on me. Keirnan managed to keep it up for the rest of the day. The next morning, I was so fed up with it that while

Keirnan was making breakfast, I burst out “Why don’t you ever talk?”

                “You haven’t given me permission, Mrs. Ever.”

                “People have to give you permission to talk? What kind of nonsense is that? Listen, as long as you work for me, you have all the same rights as a normal person. You can talk, sit and whatever else you regularly have to ask to do, whenever you want to. And stop calling me ‘Miss Ever’. Ever will do just fine.”

                Keirnan looked at me in shock. “Thank you.” His appreciation was so sincere, so heartfelt, that I felt sorry for him.

                “You’re welcome,” I replied. “I hope you made yourself something to eat this morning. If you didn’t, just take some from my portion. I didn’t eat all of mine yesterday anyways.”

Keirnan brought two plates over and we sat down. He still looked dumbfounded.

                “Are you all right?” I worried.

                “I’m just a little taken aback, Mi-, I mean, Ever. I’ve never had a superior treat me like this before. Meaning, giving me freedom. I’ve been subjected to other people’s will ever since I can remember.”

                I didn’t normally pry into other people’s affairs, but Keirnan had made me curious. He had

been working as a servant all his life? Voicing my inside thought, I asked, “How?  Most people don’t take on servants until they are at least twenty.”  I knew because I had tried to become one when I was about seven, but no one would take me on.

                “I was an orphan. Lady Pradilla took me in. When I was little, her servants took care of me.

After I got older, I started working for her. She fed, clothed, and housed me, but in return, I served her. I’m more a slave than a servant.”

                It was my turn to be shocked. I remembered what Pradilla, a woman that should be like a mother to Keirnan, had said. ‘I’m not particularly fond of him anyways.’

After a brief interval of silence, I decided such a revelation as Keirnan’s deserved one in return. “I’m an orphan too.” I said, my so soft it could've been mistaken for a quiet breath. “I grew

up on the streets.”

                I almost went on. Keirnan’s face was inviting and it would be so nice to let someone else know my story. But I held myself back. I had gone quiet too long to spill everything now. Keirnan didn’t probe, just left it at that. Day by day though, my tale came out a litte more. Keirnan was so nice and such a good listener. He didn’t push me farther than I felt like going, merely let me say what I wanted to. Altogether, it came out something like this.

“I’ve lived on the streets ever since I can remember. I don’t recall any parents, but I assume

they were beggars. When I was little, I begged too, for food and money. Most of the time, this would land me in an orphanage. If you’ve never been to an orphanage, I recommend keeping it that way. They’re nasty, and unruly. I managed to keep away from the bullies, and usually escaped an

orphanage as soon as I was dumped there. When I got older, I pick pocketed enough to stay alive and out of orphanages.”

                I didn’t mind telling him about this. After the felonies I had pulled off, petty theft hardly

seemed like a crime. I wouldn’t go any farther with the story though. The rest was a vile spiral

downward I wasn’t ready to shed light on.

                I was grateful Keirnan didn’t ask how I came by my money. I would have to lie and I didn’t

want to lie to him. He was so kind to me, doing anything and everything that needed to be done around the house. I guess this was because he was supposedly my servant, but it was more than that. He did everything without complaining and in earnest. And he didn’t just do the bare minimum. He did little, thoughtful things, like leaving a flower, picked from the garden outside Golden Suites, on my pillow. It wasn’t a servant-master relationship. It was something different, something special, but I wasn’t sure what yet.

                One day, I was looking out the large, paned window of the suite, down onto the clean street

below. I saw a young, unkempt girl walk quickly up behind a well-dressed man. I didn’t know her, but I knew why she was there. This was the richest part of town, where thefts paid off the best.

Without breaking stride, she reached into the man’s waistcoat and stole something from his

pocket. He didn’t seem to notice, and she just kept going.

Keirnan was suddenly at my side. He led me away from the window, and unknowingly, away

from dark thoughts. I was conscious of my hand in his, sending tingles through my body. I loved the

sensation, but I was afraid of it too. I had never experienced it before, and it was exhilarating,

addicting even. That’s what scared me.

                I slowly pulled my hand out of his grasp. Keirnan looked hurt at first, but then his expression

changed to one I had seen a lot when I talked to him about my past. It was the kind of look that made me think that he would wait until he got what he wanted, even if it took eternity.

                “I have a surprise for you,” he told me.

                “Really?” I asked, a little wowed he had even thought of something like that.

                Keirnan nodded. “It’s in town. Will you come with me?”

                I accepted readily. As I spent more time with Keirnan, I realized I enjoyed being around him.

I felt like there was something missing when he wasn’t around. I was unsure how to deal with this

feeling as well. I could only compare it to hunger, and there was one thing I knew about that. When

it struck, you had to feed it. At this point, being without Keirnan felt like starving myself.

                Keirnan led me through the city, keeping in the nice part of town. I saw several opportunities to make a little money as unwitting nobles walked by with heavy purses just begging to be stolen. But strangely, I felt no inclination to take the items off their hands. For so long, I had done it to survive, but I had enough money now that I didn’t have to. Also, Keirnan wouldn’t want me to...

                The last thought had been subconscious, and as I thought about it, I didn’t believe Keirnan had to do with it. But even as I came to that conclusion, I knew it was wrong.

                We arrived at Noble’s Theatre, the most prestigious theatre in the country. I looked at Keirnan in bewilderment as he purchased two tickets with money I had given him for upkeep of the house and anything else he needed. He gave me a warm smile that melted my heart as an usher led us to our seats.

                The theatre was massive, seating well over a thousand people, and even in the dim light, I

could tell most of the seats were filled. The stage was even larger than the seating space. A heavy

red curtain was drawn to obscure the set.

                The usher brought us down stairs to reach seats only a few rows from the stage. Keirnan and I sat down in the velvet seats.

                The show began in a moment. I had never seen a play before, and I thought it was delightful.  It was funny and allowed me to take my mind off of things that I could never stop thinking about. The best part was not the show, but listening to Keirnan laugh. It was a sweet happy sound, one that I wished could go on forever. I decided then to try to make him laugh as often as possible.

                After the play, we left and Keirnan began to lead me down the street. I noticed he was

walking the wrong way to get back to the apartment.

                “Where are we going?” I exclaimed, almost laughing.

                “To go have dinner,” he replied. “You are hungry, aren’t you?”

                I nodded, smiled and let him lead me on. The restaurant he took me to was very fancy, with marble collumns, gold and silver paint, and velvet seats for waiting.

                The host informed us that a reservation was required to, as he put it, “eat at the finest restaurant in

the entire city”. I made ready to leave, but Keirnan stopped me.

                “We have a reservation. It’s under Ever.” he told the host.

                The host checked in a record book, then nodded and waved a waitress over. She brought us

to our seats. The dining room was large, filled with more than a hundred tables. Candles set on each

one, providing the only illumination.

                In the soft light, I could tell all the people there were dressed in finery. I suddenly felt out of

place in my plain clothes, but Keirnan took my arm and guided me on, making me feel just like I

belonged with all those nobles.

                We sat down and talked about nothing really.  It was nice to make small talk, and just stare into

Keirnan’s kind eyes that twinkled like stars in the candlelight.

                The food was superb, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. I mainly focused on Keirnan. As I

did this, I realized something. This hadn’t been an on-the-fly decision. Keirnan had thought it out.

In the end,I was footing the bill, but that's not what mattered. Keirnan had taken time to plan this,

just for me. That meant he thought about me, that he cared.

                As we walked back home, I let him take my hand, relishing in the sensation, forgetting my

fear. In the darkness, Keirnan whispered in my ear.

                “You are the most marvelous person I have ever met.”

                I felt myself blush. I leaned my head on his shoulder, and we walked the rest of the way to

the suite in silence, cherishing each other’s company.

                As I laid in bed, I went over the events of the night in my head. I had let myself go, let myself feel, and it had been so good. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. I thought Keirnan was wonderful, and Keirnan thought the same thing about me. I repeated his exact words in my head, loving how each one sounded. “You are the most marvelous person I have ever met.”

                Then slowly, dreadfully, I came to an awful realization. When Keirnan found out who I was, what I had done, he wouldn’t think I was marvelous. He wouldn’t want anything to do with me. And I knew I couldn’t hide my past from Keirnan forever.

                                                                --------------------------------

                I had been living at Golden Suites for around a month when it came. The knock on the door

that I’d been dreading, the one that meant they had found me again.  I was tempted to let Keirnan

get it, but I decided I didn’t want him caught up in this. I paused to check I had a knife on me just in

case they weren’t here for the reason I had assumed. Then I called out to let Keirnan know that I

would get it.

                As I opened the door, I saw it was exactly the person I had expected. He was the man who

told me what my missions would be. He didn’t pick them for me; someone higher up probably did

that. No, he was just a go-through.

                Even though this tall, imposing figure was one of the few people I knew from my profession,

I had no idea what he was called. Names were not something bandied about in my line of work.

                “What do you want?” My voice was soft and cool, as if I was not at all scared, though I was.

When talking to these kind of people, you had to appear in control of yourself.

                “We have a job for you.” His voice was deep, as his size indicated.

                “Why do I need to work? I have all the money I need, and more.”

                “Money doesn't last forever,” he said. “Besides, you have a talent. This,” he gestured at my

suite, “is just a grain of sand compared to the wealth you could gain.” He paused for a moment. “By

the way, I never got to tell you, but good job on that robbery. Nice and clean. No witnesses.”

                “You know how I work. I don't leave witnesses.”

                “Which is why you’re so valuable. The Claw is willing to pay you big bucks for this next job.”

                After a minute, I asked, “Why now?” I didn’t bother asking how the Claw had found me. They had spies who could find anyone in a heartbeat if they wanted to. What I wanted to know is why they had waited so long.

                The man shrugged. “The big jobs thought it was best to give you a break. So are you in or

not?”

                “Listen, if I want the job, I’ll come in.”

                “We might move headquarters soon.”

                I looked at him as if he had just said the dumbest thing in the world. “I can find out where it

is with ease if I really want to. As you said, I’m pretty good at what I do.”

                He nodded, and closing the door, I ended the conversation.

                “Who was that?” Keirnan called.

                “Just a peddler. he was trying to sell me ‘magic’ amulets. He attempted to show me how a

levitating one worked and dropped it on the ground and broke it.” This earned one of Keirnan’s

precious laughs.

                Nothing eventful happened until that evening when I heard another knock on the door. Tis

time Keirnan got it. I was afraid the man from the Claw had come back and was surprised and

relieved when Keirnan admitted Pradilla. She was dressed in black, from her hairnet, to her makeup, to her dress, to her high-heels.

                “Are you coming, Ever?” she asked.

                “Coming where?” I replied, confused.

                “To the funeral.” She looked at me expectantly, as if she supposed that should jog my

memory.

                “Whose?” I said, ignoring the expression.

                Pradilla tutted. “You need to keep up on the times, dear. Mr. Rim Tilte’s. You know, it was

just plain awful, he was murdered in his sleep, murdered I tell you. It’s pitiful. His family is

devastated.”

                “Wait. He had a family?”

                “Yes, a wife and two children.”

                Pradilla went on, but I didn’t hear her. I was lost in my own world of confusion, grief, and

guilt. He had a family? He had had a life? And I had ended it, and hurt other people , children, even

though I hadn’t laid a hand on them.

                I had stood up to greet Pradilla, and now I stumbled back.

                “What’s wrong, dear?” Pradilla inquired.

                Keirnan came to my side to steady me. I saw concern in his eyes as he whispered, “Are you

alright?”

                I blinked to clear my mind, then said, “I’m fine. Pradilla, I am afraid I won’t be able to go. I

feel a little faint.”

                “Whatever you think is best, dear. Good-bye.”

                After she left, Keirnan asked again, “Are you okay?”

                I nodded. “I feel a little bit sick, but I’ll be alright. I;m going to go ahead and go to bed.”

Keirnan walked behind me as I made my way to my bedroom, I suppose to catch me if I fell. I

tumbled into the soft bed, not able to sleep quite yet. I kept turning over in my mind that I had killed a man

who had a life just like I did, and his was probably worth more than mine. I thought about how I had

ruined so many other people’s lives by killing and stealing and stealing from them. Or by spying on

them and telling someone else so they could kill and steal from them. Ever since I was little, I had

done it. I had done it to stay alive. But now I didn’t need to , and I hated the person that had done

those things.

                Eventually, I drifted into uneasy sleep. The nightmare was back. For so long, I had kept it at

bay; looking back, I think thanks to Keirnan. But now it was here, with all the horrible details of how Rim Tilte's death  had happened.

                Then it flashed to a scene I had not seen before. A woman and two children stood grieving

over the man I killed. I screamed that I was sorry, I screamed and screamed and screamed, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t bring their husband and father back to life.

                I woke up with Keiran shaking me. As I opened my eyes, I could tell it was still dark outside.

                “Is something wrong?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

                “You were screaming. Are you alright?” He sounded genuinely concerned.

I almost brushed the question aside, lying both to him and myself. But I couldn't lie any

longer.

                “No,” I confessed, almost crying. “I’m not. I haven’t been completely honest with you,

Keirnan." I hurried on, afraid that if I would stop, I would never start again.  "I work for the black market, called the Claw. I have since I was twelve. It was the only way I could get enough money to stay alive. I steal, and I spy, and... and I kill.”

                    I waited for Keirnan to run away, or show some form of disgust. But he didn’t. Instead, he

clasped my hand and said, “I know.”

                Those two words were the most shocking I had ever heard. “H-how?” I sputtered.

                “I put it together. There were a few clues. First, what little you told me about yourself. Two, I found daggers hidden in various places in the suite. Then, I listened to your conversation with the

‘peddler’.”

                I was silent for a moment as I took this in. “Then why don’t you hate me?”

                “Ever, you’re not just a murderer, or a thief, or a spy. You’re a person with good qualities.

You can’t see them, but I have. You have to get past what you've done, and become what you want

to be. People can change, and out of anyone, I have the most faith in you.”                                                   

               I wanted to hear more.  He was promising me impossible things, amazing things. “Keirnan, how can I? All I’ve ever known is a dark life. How can I change?”

                “Let me help you. Ever, I love you and I will do all I can for you. I was going to wait but,”

Keirnan, still holding my hand, knelt down beside my bed. “Ever, will you marry me? We can get past this. I am willing to help you, but in the end, it is your choice.”

                Now I cried, amazed by his conditionless love. I realized, even though I hadn’t known what to call it, I loved Keirnan too.

                “Yes, Keirnan, I will marry you if you will have me.”

                Keirnan picked me up from the bed, spun me around , and embraced me.

                                                                                Epilogue

                “You were right,” I said to Keirnan as we ate dinner in the suite.

                He gave me one of his lovable laughs. “Since when? I need to document it!”

                “Now you’re just making fun of me,” I teased. “I was talking about the night you proposed to me, almost five years ago. You said I would get over it, my past meaning. With time, and your help, I have. Of course, I’ll never fully forget...” I let the sentence hang as I remembered.                     Keirnan took my hands, bringing me back to reality. “I don’t see myself as just a murderer anymore,” I continued.  “Thanks to you.”

                He smiled at me. Suddenly we heard a knock on the door. My eyes flicked to it,then back to

Keirnan, a worried expression on my face. We were both afraid of who it might be, but Keirnan rose

to get it anyways. He opened the door, revealing the employee from the black market, the one I

knew. He came by every now and then, trying to get me to work for the Claw again.

                “I am here to speak to Miss Ever,” his low voice intoned.

                “She is indisposed at the moment,” Keirnan replied.

                “Indisposed!” he exclaimed in disbelief. “I can see her right there!”

                I rose and walked over by Keirnan. “For you, and anyone else who comes from that

despicable place, I’ll always be indisposed.”

                With that, I slammed the door on the man and the dark side of my past. Then I turned to my

future and kissed my husband.

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