Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood & Bourbon

======================================== NAVIGATION: CAMPAIGN SIDE ========================================
======================================== NAVIGATION: DASHBOARD SIDE ========================================

Victoria II, Chapter I

Breakup Woes

“You’ll be okay, and I’ll be here to make sure of it.”
Victoria Wolf


Thursday evening, 27 August 2015

GM: Sylvia gets a call on her cell around dinnertime.

“Je… Jeff and I broke up!” Anna sobs.

Victoria: Sylvia accepts the call and sets it to speaker, a pizza of cheesy pizza dribbling down her chin.

It’s a moment before she responds.

“You… no… oh, honey… where are you?”

GM: “At home,” Anna sniffs.

Victoria: “I’ll be right there. Don’t move. Not an inch.”

GM: “And with a stu… stupid dinner I made, f… for us.”

Victoria: “Do you want to stay on the phone while I drive?”

Pedestrians beware. Lucky Sylvia, she’d been so hungry that she didn’t bother changing before wolfing down half of her first slice of pizza. She bangs her foot on the coffee table, hops to the front door, and does her best to pull on her boots.

GM: “Y… yeah…”

Victoria: “Okay, okay!”

She snags her bag, checking to be sure the keys are inside. The phone is removed from speaker and slotted between her ear and shoulder, while the pizza box is slammed shut and tossed under her arm.

Forgetting something?

Other boot. Right.

GM: “I’ve still got… I’ve still got my ring on, oh my g…! I have to get rid of it…”

Victoria: “DO. NOT.”

“Toss it in a drawer, okay? Don’t do anything brash.”

GM: Anna gives another little sob.

“I… I won’t… but we’re done, we’re over, he’s going to Philly…!”

Victoria: “Anna, baby. You’ll be okay. Okay? You’ll be fine.”

She shuts and locks her apartment door behind her, clomping down the stairs.

“Five minutes. Just five minutes.”

GM: It’s a brief enough drive to Anna’s and Jeff’s shared apartment in Riverbend. The building is white and mid-range. Sylvia lets herself in with the key marked “Do Not Duplicate” that Anna let her duplicate. Anna’s curled up on the couch in front of the TV with a blanket and a miserable look. She looks like she’s been crying for a while.

Victoria: “Anna…” she breathes. If she had ears on top of her head, they would wilt.

Sylvia sets the pizza down on the table beside her, her bag on the floor, and wraps her arms around the girl as if she were a wounded child, fingers stroking her hair, hand at her back.

“I’m so, so sorry.”

GM: Anna cries into Sylvie’s neck.

“We… we had a huge fight… I didn’t wanna, wanna move with him… so… just like that…”

Victoria: “Shhh… Let it out. Let it out.”

And she holds her, as long as she needs, no matter how much she cries, no matter how late it gets.

GM: Anna cries into Sylvie’s arms for a long time. It all comes out. She and Jeff had been engaged, after all. They’d made wedding plans. Decided on venues. Invitees. Sylvia was going to be the maid of honor.

Then Jeff got the job offer in Philly. He’d already moved from Miami to New Orleans, to stay together with her. He thought she should “return the favor.”

“And what’s worse… I feel so, so selfish,” she sniff-hiccups, blowing into another tissue. “He moved for me, and I just… I just couldn’t…”

Victoria: “Shhh…” she continues, stroking her hair gently. As she cries, Sylvia moves onto the couch beside her, front to front, giving her a shoulder to cry on.

“Sometimes… the things we do for others aren’t done for us. Sometimes, things they do for us aren’t returned. Life isn’t always fair.”

She squeezes her as a child squeezes a stuffed bear.

“Would you have been happy in Philly?”

GM: Anna starts to shake her head against Sylvie’s shoulder, then just rests against it.

“N… no… I love my job, so much, I love the city, I lo… love getting to see my parents, and y… you…”

Victoria: Another tight squeeze.

“You loved him, and some part of you will always love him, but the path he set before you is one you can’t follow. Loss is part of life.”

Such a great oversimplification, but she hopes it helps.

GM: Anna gives another loud sniff.

“Yeah, w… well… it still h… hurts…”

Victoria: “It’ll hurt for a while, but you’ll be okay, and I’ll be here to make sure of it.”

GM: “I don’t even wanna, wanna look at him… he drove off, said he’d… be back for his, his stu… f…”

Victoria: Sylvia leans back just enough to look at her. She kisses her forehead.

“Look at me. I want you to eat a slice of pizza. Eat it slow. By the time it’s done, you’ll feel a little better, and you’ll see less Jeff. Okay?”

GM: Anna closes her eyes for a moment at that kiss, taking slower breaths.

“O… kay,” she repeats, nodding.

Victoria: She sets the pizza box in Anna’s lap, and lifts herself off the couch.

As Anna munches the pizza—slowly, she anticipates—she moves around the apartment collecting every little piece of memorabilia of their relationship that she can find. Pictures are the obvious answers, but less obvious are things that only those close know are special—the cake platter he bought her when she had her foray into at-home baking, the table runner that she’d gotten him for the dinner at which they announced their engagement.

She smiles, seeing the smut novel she bought Anna as a gag open on the bed. At least she’s reading something.

Five minutes later, she returns.

“How is it?”

GM: The smut novel about a dominatrix bringing assorted subs to heel, after the endless teasing over her job.

Anna looks like she’s read through most of it, judging by the place she is in the book.

Sylvia also finds a lamp loin dinner set out on the table, only lightly touched.

Anna’s made her way about halfway through the pizza slice when she returns.

“Less hungry, ’least,” she says glumly.

“Thanks for… pizza.”

“Made him the lamb to celebrate his new job.”

Victoria: “Eat the whole damn pie if you want, babe. I’ll order another. Wings, too?”

She wants wings.

She checks in on Anna briefly, but detours to set the plates of lamb in the fridge before returning.

GM: “Fuck it, why not.” Anna munches on the slice some more. “Still got work tomorrow.”

Victoria: “We’ll spare the alcohol until Friday.”

GM: “Show up sloshed to work.” Anna gives a weak laugh. “That’s what I hear. From some of my kids. Everyone gets totally sloshed at those debutante balls.”

Victoria: Sylvia snorts.

“Yeah. Sure. I believe it. You best not show up trashed. You’ll be principal of that place, one day.”

GM: “No, never,” Anna says seriously. “I love working there.”

Victoria: She settles onto the couch beside the pizza demon.

“I’ve known you for years, Anna. You’re my best friend. I’ve never seen you happier than when you had your first day. You told me every minute in such detail that I swear I could picture it all exactly as is.”

She pauses, appraising her.

“You made the right choice.”

GM: “I hope so,” she says glumly. “Maybe Philly has good schools… but I don’t wanna give up my whole life, either…”

“He said I was being unfair, that he’d did this for me.” She sniffs again. “That I was b… being self.. ish…”

Victoria: She takes Anna’s face in her hands.

“Anna. Everyone is selfish. We need to take care of ourselves before others. Even our family. It doesn’t mean sacrifice can’t be made. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. If you give up too much of yourself, you’ll waste away.”

She smiles a faint smile.

“I’m selfish, too. I’d die if you left.”

GM: Anna gives another sniff but manages a smile back, looking up at Sylvie.

“Me… me too.”

Victoria: She doesn’t let go of her face.

“Do you want me to be here when he comes back?”

GM: Anna nods again.

“Y… yeah.”

“I don’t wanna see him ag… again, this soon…”

Victoria: “Do you want to come back to my place? I’ve got shitty movies, and a fluffy blanket.”

“And the forecast shows a 0% chance of Jeff.”

GM: “Y… yeah,” Anna repeats.

She manages a weak smile. It looks as glum as anything else.

“I was… kinda looking forward to you, telling him off… but that’s probably better…”

Victoria: She smiles with a wolfish glint.

“I could call him.”

But she shouldn’t.

“Go pack a night bag and your morning clothes. Come on.”

GM: Anna’s smile grows a little more solid at that.

“Yes, Mom.”

Victoria: “Don’t forget clean underwear!” she adds, hamming it up.

GM: “I won’t,” Anna says, and then hugs her.

“Thanks, Sylvie… you’re such a good friend…”

Victoria: She hugs her back.

“Of course. You matter to me more than anything in the world.”

GM: “Even more than being a dominatrix?”

The quips have mostly died down after two years.

Mostly.

Victoria: She earns a swat on the rear.

GM: “Eek!” Anna stands up straight.

Victoria: Sylvia smiles the sweet smile of a young debutante at her first ball.

“Why can’t I have both?”

GM: “Clearly,” Anna mumbles, rubbing her rear.

Victoria: Sylvia pokes her tongue out.

“Hey, you asked. Go get your things, unless you want me to go off on Jeff.”

GM: “I dunno, I… I kinda do…”

Victoria: “Should I get back into my work uniform? We can stop by the office and pick up the cigar cutter.”

GM: “Okay. I don’t want that. But I just want… I don’t know.” Anna rubs her eyes again. “I don’t wanna hate him… he should follow his dreams… but I have to make myself say that.”

“You know?”

Victoria: She stands up from the sofa, looking into her eyes on more equal footing.

“Anna?”

She waits.

“Say it to me. Say exactly that.”

GM: ‘More’ equal is still less than fully equal. Sylvia remains the taller one.

Though she usually does.

“That I don’t want to hate him?”

Victoria: “Repeat after me: Sylvia St. George, I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

GM: Anna frowns.

“Sorry, I’m confused. Those sound like words to say to him, not you?”

Victoria: “Uh huh. And if you can say them to me, you can say them to him.”

“So, break up with me. Come on.”

GM: “Sylvia St. George,” she recites, “I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

Anna pauses.

“And for the record, I am okay if you want to be a dominatrix. Really. I think it’s a cool job.”

Victoria: She purses her lips and stares.

“Focus. Come on. Say it again. I don’t want you breaking down and letting him take one over on you.”

GM: “Sylvia St. George,” Anna repeats, with more conviction, “I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

She sniffs again after that and dabs her eye.

Victoria: Sylvia tears up.

“B-but… but, Anna. I fucking love you. You can’t just… without you…”

She falls to her knees.

“I’ll… I may as well die without you in my life.”

Ham: meet cheese.

GM: Anna manages a smile, at the cheese-slathered hammy line.

Then she starts crying again.

“Oh, god,” she says, with something between a laugh and a sob, “I’m a m… mess…”

Victoria: Sylvia rolls her eyes and climbs back to her feet. Her hands clasp Anna’s arms, and she shakes her with gentle firmness.

“Anna, you need to be able to say it. Are you going to be able to say that to him when he begs you to come? When he guilts you? When he blames you?”

GM: “But I have a life here, that I love. I can’t just give that up, to be wi… with…”

The pair are interrupted as the apartment’s front door unlocks. Jeff walks in. He’s a man close to Sylvia’s height, though slightly below it, with ginger hair and a short beard. He’s dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

There’s an awkward pause.

Victoria: Sylvia is glad she stood up, and the faux-tears will add a nice touch. The look she gives Jeff will haunt him for the rest of his life. There’s no need for whips and chains and knives and fire.

GM: “Hey,” he greets, a little stiffly.

Victoria: Crickets.

GM: Anna looks up at her fiance, puffy eyes still wet with tears.

Jeff seems to forget Sylvia in that moment, and sits down next to his one-time wife-to-be. He wraps an arm around her shoulder. Anna melts into his embrace.

“Hey… it’s okay…” he murmurs.

“Maybe we both said some things we shouldn’t have.”

Victoria: Sylvia’s forged-steel restraint is the only thing that keeps her from exploding.

“Jeffrey.”

GM: Anna sniffs and nods at his words.

“Can you give us a moment?” he asks Sylvia.

Victoria: He looks into the eyes of a wolf.

She looks to Anna.

GM: Jeff clears his throat.

It sounds nervous.

Mistress Victoria has had several years to perfect that intimidating stare.

Anna looks between them uncertainly.

Victoria: She clicks her tongue.

“I’ll be outside, Anna. I think it’d be best for you if we are still on for our plans.”

GM: Anna gives a nod.

“About that,” says Jeff once she starts to leave.

“Anna, I had… I went through this whole speech, after I realized what an ass I was being. But—I love you,” he says. “I want to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Do you still want to?”

Victoria: Victoria’s stomach lurches.

GM: “Ye… yes…!” she answers, sniffling again as she nods. “I love you. I always will. But you nee… you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry those are… aren’t…”

Victoria: The engineer offers Anna a somber, supportive smile, and turns to leave.

GM: “Compatible,” she resumes, “wi…”

Jeff hugs her. She cries into his shirt.

“What if they can be?” he says.

“Anna. I felt like… like a knife was twisting up my insides, thinking of life without you.”

“It was a physical pain.”

Victoria: Her hand touches the door.

“Imagine what she felt like when she called me crying.”

GM: Jeff frowns at her slow exit.

“Like complete shit, I’m sure. Anna… you don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to break things off.”

She stares up at him.

He rests his hands on her shoulders.

“Come with me. To Philly.”

“We’ll find you a great job.”

“You can fly back to visit your parents.”

Victoria: She leans on the door, her head against the cool of the glass.

Come on, Anna.

GM: Anna looks ready to cry again. She starts shaking her head.

“I can… I can’t, I have a life here…”

“So do I,” says Jeff. “But you know how much this job means. For both of us. We’ll find you a job at your dream school. You can fly down every weekend to visit your parents, if you want.”

“We can come down for vacations.”

“We can get married. We can have it all!”

Victoria: She smacks the door, her rage boiling over.

BANG!

“You selfish pig! If you loved her, this wouldn’t be a sales pitch! You don’t want to marry her. You want your cake in Philly, and to drag her along no matter how she feels!”

“You don’t want a wife. You don’t want to lose your toy.”

GM: Jeff fairly gapes, his face turning red.

“This is none of your fucking business!”

Victoria: The heat rolling off her pales anything New Orleans can offer.

“Anyone who wounds my friends—who breaks off their marriage in some alpha-male knee-jerk reaction to being told no—makes it my business.”

The hate in her eyes makes the thought of murder seem on par with asking for dessert.

‘Maybe? I’m kinda full.’

Sylvia is eternally hungry. Insatiable. She’s confided in Anna on one of her cravings, but not the other.

GM: “I didn’t… I didn’t break off the marriage!” Jeff yells. I HAVE to take this job! What would you know about having a career, when you’re fucking guys for a l-"

“Don’t say that!” Anna yells, voice still raw from crying. “That’s not what she does!”

“Yes, it is! She-”

“No, it’s not! That’s awful, take it back!”

“All right, fine, it’s not! I don’t judge either way! She can make a living however she makes a living, but that’s TOTAL bull that I’m ending our marriage because I got a once-in-my-life job offer, which, yes, she wouldn’t know about!”

Victoria: The accusations wash over her like a stream over smooth stones. It wasn’t a week into her internship when she was first accused of being a whore, just for where she worked.

That bothered her.

This doesn’t.

Sylvia changed. Sylvia hardened.

“But you are, Jeffrey,” she says icily. She sees an out—a way to win over him, and it freezes her anger.

“Because if you cared whether she’d be happy or not with the move, you’d have brought it up after your interview. Don’t bullshit us that it was an afterthought in the acceptance letter.”

GM: “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?! I got the job, it’s across the country, that’s how it is! Anna can stay, Anna can come, but I’m never getting another offer like this one! It’ll make my career!”

Victoria: She looks to Anna.

“There you go, Anna. You heard the same words I did.”

Anna can stay. Anna can go.

Anna isn’t a consideration. Anna’s an afterthought; a bonus.

GM: The heat seems to drain from Jeff’s face as he realizes what he said.

“Anna. I… I didn’t mean it like that!” he exclaims, backpedaling. “I just meant that it’s up to you, you decide, it’s your ch-”

“Go away!” Anna sobs.

“Ann-”

“I heard you, Jeff! Go away!”

She turns around and buries her face against a couch cushion.

Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t smile. She wants to. It felt good, sinking her jaws into that weakness, and ripping out the sweet marrow.

She can’t sit beside Anna as she is, but she crouches there, resting a hand on her hair.

GM: Jeff looks between them, casts Victoria a dark look, and stalks away.

The door doesn’t slam, but it closes with more force than is perhaps strictly necessary.

Anna cries into the couch pillow.

Victoria: Finally, she sits beside her.

“I’m so, so sorry, Anna…” she comforts, rubbing her back. “Come here.”

GM: Anna turns around and sinks into her arms, laying her head against Sylvia’s chest.

“Why’d he have to come back…!”

“I f… feel, ten times worse…”

Victoria: She wraps her arms around the woman’s back, pulling her atop her as she lays back.

“I know, I know.”

She heaves a sigh.

“Get your things. Pack a bag. Let’s go to my place.”

GM: “Honestly, Sylvie, I just… wanna go to bed, right now.”

Anna pulls away and looks up at her.

“Can you stay?”

Victoria: “Forever,” she answers, holding her as tightly as a mother to her child.


Thursday night, 27 August 2015, PM

GM: Anna goes off to bed early. She’s tired. She has work in the morning. She’ll feel better in the morning.

Sylvia, at least, sets her own hours.

She’s working on her laptop when she hears the faint wisp of paper sliding underneath door.

Victoria: Sylvia is a good girl. It’s illegal to open someone else’s mail.

It’s not illegal to retrieve it. Who’s it to?

GM: It’s to Anna. It’s also not in an envelope. It’s from Jeff, and the first sentence starts by saying how sorry he is.

The full thing is two pages.

Victoria: She drops the letter and opens the door.

GM: She sees Jeff making his way down the hall.

Presumably, he’s not planning on staying the night.

Victoria: She watches him leave. She could stop him, and talk to him, and console him, but she doesn’t want that. No, she wants him gone.

He’s bad for Anna.

She closes the door, locks it, and settles down to read the letter.

GM: He apologizes. He says he realizes how harmful his words were. How they made it sound like Anna was an afterthought to him. He says she isn’t an afterthought to him. He says he never stops thinking about her. He’d meant to say whether she stays or moves is up to her, that she decides what she does with her life. He doesn’t want to issue ultimatums, or to try to sweet-talk her or wheedle her into something. He admits he did that. He’s sorry. He says her feelings are valid and that he hurt her through his words, whatever his intentions were. He made her feel like he didn’t value her. He repeats how that’s not the case. He says how much he loves her and cares about her.

He says that she knows how he feels about the move. He doesn’t try to make any further sales pitches, or bring up old scores (like, Sylvia knows, how he moved once for her). He says he wishes things didn’t have to be this way, but this is how they are. It’s up to her what she wants to do. He says she should listen to her heart and make whatever decision she thinks will bring her the greatest happiness and fulfillment.

He says that he’ll love her and treasure their time together, whatever she decides. She will always be a part of him.

He says she has his number if she wants to talk.

He says he’ll come back for his things while she’s at work, if he doesn’t hear from her. He says a clean break is best if they want to call things off. Maybe later they can reconnect, but he thinks a clean break will help them to heal faster, which is what he wants for her. Her wants her to be happy and to thrive and succeed. Wherever she lives and whoever she marries.

He signs the letter with,

All my love,
Jeff


Victoria: Victoria takes the letter, reading it on the sofa.

Then she reads it again. And again. And again.

The letter she reads conveys all the man’s love, and all of his manipulation.

She folds it neatly, setting it on the table.

If she gives this letter to Anna, it’ll mean a chance for Jeff to earn her good graces once more. She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t like Jeff. She admires the good heart he has in him—when he wants to—but this isn’t the first completely selfish act he’s committed. When Anna first moved with him to New Orleans, it was with hemming and hawing as far late as Thanksgiving.

If she doesn’t give her this letter, it’s admitting that she doesn’t trust her to make the right decision for herself; that Anna will be at risk without her protection; that Anna won’t learn from her lessons.

That she’ll lose Anna to a future that excludes her. Her business, and her life, and Marcus are all in New Orleans.

She sets her jaw and pinches the bridge of her nose, beyond fatigued past where she’s content to be given this decision.

In the end, she closes her laptop, tucks the letter under her pillow, and goes to sleep.

Tomorrow, she’ll give Anna the letter—and give her a choice: Open it, and open the wounds wider. Feel that pain again. Or don’t, and let the healing continue.


Friday morning, 28 August 2015

GM: Tomorrow comes, as it always does, though earlier than expected. Sylvia would say she only got up this early in high school, but she didn’t get up this early in high school—she got up later. Teachers have to get ready earlier.

Anna showers and steps out out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

“Morning,” she smiles. “Shower’s yours if you want it.”

Victoria: She offers her a tired smile. Sylvia St. George isn’t up this early. She’s a creature of the night.

“Anna… would you sit down for a second?”

“…you can put on pants first, if you want.”

GM: Anna laughs. “Always wise.”

She’s soon back and changed into work attire. Nice, non-jean pants and blouse.

Victoria: She pats the sofa, and pulls out the letter.

“He came back while you were sleeping, and put this in the mail slot. I… thought about whether to wake you, or to burn it, or to leave it where it is.”

She sighs, appraising.

“I don’t want you to read it. It’ll bring you more pain. It’ll hurt, just like when he came back last night, and you’ll be just as hurt as you were—this time going into work.”

A pause.

“I love you. You’re my best friend. If you want to read it, it’s yours, but I don’t think you should.”

GM: Anna takes that in slowly. She looks at the letter.

“What’s… what’s in it…?”

Victoria: “Exactly what you think it is. More of the same. A rewind to the same as what happened, twice.”

GM: Anna closes her eyes, then stands up.

“Get rid of it. Just get rid of it. I’m going in to work, I don’t want to deal with this.”

Victoria: She gives Anna an understanding expression.

“Have a good day at work.”

GM: “I’ll try,” she sighs. “After breakfast.”

She heads off to the kitchen.

Victoria: “After breakfast.”

Which, if Sylvia were remotely a morning person, she’d have already made.

She looks to the note, reassured that she’s made the right decision. Anna will hurt, but she will be better in the longer scale. She will find someone new to love, though it’s better if she takes her time. Anna’s personality is addictive, and diving too quickly into the romance pool would only see her hurt again. Or used.

Sylvia won’t let her be used.

When she leaves for lunch, she walks through the alley behind Anna’s apartment building. She pauses behind the dumpster, pulling out the letter.

All my love

She burns it and crushes it under heel.

None of his love. Their relationship dies.

She considers for a moment how much power she held over the pair of them, though it doesn’t bring the usual inner smile it normally does. No part of her position in deciding the fate of their relationship felt good. No part of it brings her joy. She doesn’t like hurting Jeff, because hurting Jeff hurts Anna.

She kicks the dumpster.

He won’t hurt her anymore. Not now. Not unless he comes back.

Comments

False_Epiphany False_Epiphany