Friday, March 23, 2018

Riptide (pt. 2)

I was sitting with my back against his side. My feet were up on the arm of the couch and the blanket thrown over my legs. With the fire and his warmth at my back, I was comfortable. At the same time, something deep inside me was roiling with unease. "I keep having this nightmare that I'm laying in a pool of water. And the tide is coming in. I keep dreaming that I'm going to drown." His arm came down from the back of the couch to wrap around me, drawing me closer to him. He kissed my head.

"You're not going into Aegir's realm any time soon," he said softly, "You're too sensible and stay on dry land."

"You know that's not what I am dreaming about," I replied, unable to keep the annoyance out of my tone."

"You have a point in telling me about this nightmare you have been having since you were sixteen. A nightmare we have discussed already, what is it?" I sighed. I looked up at the heavy beams of the ceiling and the joists that supported the loft. "You're afraid ... of me?" I shook my head. "Yourself?"

I dropped my eyes to look at my feet. "You're not going crazy." He said. "You're not a danger to anyone. Except for yourself. You keep hurting yourself. Bottling up all this anxiety and pain. You're drinking the poison instead of just pouring it out. If you can't talk to me, who can you?"

"You don't understand..." I started and he went very still.

"You are not alone, don't you see that?" he said, his tone mild but I could hear the irritation beneath it. "We keep telling you to turn to us. And you say that you can't let us help you because the burden is unfair. Well, you realize that you are right. You don't understand why you are right."

I could feel myself starting to shut down and I ground my teeth trying not to let the reflex of stepping out of myself during anything remotely like a conflict happen. His right hand opened and landed on my stomach with a soft thump. There was a sensation like I was being pulled down into the earth and then everything became very clear and focused. "That is why you are right," he said in my ear, "It isn't fair to you to expect you to hold a lifetime of pain inside. This is why you feel like you're drowning. You're exhausted from treading water and refusing to take the hand offered to lift you out of the water. Do you want to be struggling like this all the time?"

I meekly answered, "No."

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the timidness in your voice."

"I said no. I don't want to be struggling all the time."

"Then stop and let somebody help you. Haven't you learned anything over the last three months?"

"I can't do this. I can't just give up."

"It's not giving up. It is a tactical redirection. And hiding behind a shieldwall as you catch your breath and ready your weapons for your next attack. If you keep running out in front, you're going to catch arrows. And the crash is going to happen. So, take the parachute, jump tandem because you're afraid of heights, and trust us. Or you're just going to get kicked out of the airplane and caught, carried down, and develop a greater list of things you feel you are not allowed to do."

"No sense jumping out of a perfectly good airplane."

"This one is crashing, it's not good anymore. Jump."

I groaned in frustration. "Do you trust me?" he asked. "Do you truly trust me?"

"Yes."

"Then let go all of this damn control and feel. You want to exercise control, fine. Put it into things like writing, exercise, and getting healthy. Use your iron will to resist unhealthy sweets and being inactive. Be precise in your words. Do your embroidery. Keep complete notes on all of your spinning projects and your knitting and crochet. Stop trying to control how you feel, when you feel it, or how you think you should be responding to things. It's slowly killing you."

"The ones inside me... it's chaos. I can't let them ALL out. I can't do it. It's not safe."

"Some of them are not as safe as others. But you are not a dangerous person. You are a heroic woman who puts her own well being at risk for the sake of other's health on a regular basis. You are the opposite of that woman. All of the others, they are reflections of you. They are all based in your goodness and kindness, even the cruelest of them. Somewhere, within that hurtful aspect, there is a seed of kindness and goodness."

I closed my eyes. "Do you want to grow, my flower?" I looked over my shoulder and gave him an awkward, lopsided smile. "Yes?" I nodded. "Then let the seed coat break and grow. You'll become healthier for it. And happier."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Riptide. (pt 1)

It started playing and he laughed. I shrugged and stared at the computer screen trying to figure out ... everything? What the hell I was going to write? What the hell I was or was it who the hell I was? I just was confused. I felt like I was caught in heavy current and being pulled away from dry land. I guess those are called riptides. Those places where the water looks dead calm but there's a fast current pulling everything out into the deep water.

He placed a hand on my back. It was over a scar from when I was an infant. I hated those scars after day one of being teased for them. Here I am thirty eight and a half years later, you can't see them so well but I'm always aware of them. It's part of the reason why I wear shirts that cover up my abdomen and I don't go barefoot. He tells me I'm beautiful because of those scars. It's hard to hear that.

I sigh. A part of me says I should just give up on writing today. He gently reminds me that a retreat is not always a sign of defeat. It is strategy when taken calmly with a plan to re-engage the opponent later. I mutter something about how the war never ends. His chuckle is filled with rueful knowledge of exactly what I was calling a war.

"Victory will come in its time." I shook my head. "Giving up is how you lose. Keep fighting. You're making headway, you just can't see it."

"A part of me really wants to fight you on this and then consider make up sex," I said tiredly. He chuckled. I looked over at him. His hair was this combination of copper and golden hay that wasn't the pink of rose gold but it was neither. It was as if a red haired person could go partly blond in the way a person with dark hair could. It was confusing. I focused on that confusion for a moment because it was more comfortable than continuing the discussion.

"We don't have to talk about it now, sweetling," he said. I frowned slightly at his use of my other beloved deity's pet name for me. He laughed. It was a joyful sound of pure amusement. I couldn't help but smile. Then I laughed as I realized he did it just to get that look of mild annoyance and make me laugh.

"I need to get the words out but I don't know how," I said after the moment had passed and the darkness was closing in on me again as I sat beside someone who was pure summer sunlight in an almost human looking form. If I looked out the corner of my eye at him, he shimmered in the way sunlight hit the forest floor or how it danced on the lake in summer. It was a quality that slipped away as I turned my gaze directly on him, as though he was carefully putting something behind his back. At one point, I'd have been upset by this. After our last conversation, I realized it was for my own good.

"You see more than most do," he said, reaching up to gently rub my aching shoulders, "It's hard to communicate because of it. You feel more than most do. You do your damnedest to not feel it, but you do. It's why that conversation the other day was so hard for you. Because you can't run forever. Not from yourself and what you are."

I felt like the conversation was about to go over that familiar ground again. Instead of feeling ready for a fight, I just felt tired. Like I wasn't even able to communicate with a deity that could look into my very soul what I was struggling with.

"There is a reason why you should be writing. There is a reason why you should be making art. That coloring book was no pure coincidence. Consider it a cane to help you relearn how to walk after breaking your leg. Consider it like the morning pages, a creative rehabilitation process. You've been injured and now you are healing. Part of the healing process is building up strength. You're not caught in a riptide, darling. You are in a very safe place, with someone to lift you out of the water when you become weary and bear you to safety. But you must swim to regain your strength. And, if you're tired, get out of the water and sleep."

He gave me a pointed look and then at the computer. "Sleep," I sighed.

"Yes, sleep, dear heart."

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Storm breaker.

I walked into the cabin just before the snow started to really fall. He looked over from where he knelt feeding the fire. His hair was a tangled fall of wheat-gold silk that gleamed in the red light. I saw a smile there I hadn't seen in weeks. It was fond and gentle. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. "It's fitting that the blizzard starts when you arrive, my storm cloud," he said. Uncomfortable with his jest, I scoffed at being called 'storm cloud.' He brushed the dust off his jeans and stood. As I leaned back against the door, I could hear the wind's moans growing into an eerie howling.

"Buffalo plaid has a bad history," I said. He shrugged.

"Everything has a bad history, even I," was his answer. I sighed. "You are so angry but you don't know what to do with it. Pouring it out on paper helps you, but you are afraid to do it. Do you know how hard it is to hold back a storm?"

He picked up a couple of mugs off of the table and walked to the couch. He handed me one. I took a sip and found tea that had gone long cold. He had been waiting here for a while. "How do you do this?" I said, "Be here and be elsewhere at the same time." He gave a half smile and shrugged.

"How do you hold two thoughts in your mind at the same time?" he said.

"Rapid switching," I answered. He chuckled.

"Stop holding back the storm. It's exhausting. You're living in a human body. Let it out. If you can't say it, write it and then burn it. Fire and ice are your playthings, after all."

"It hurts."

"As does cleaning out an infection, if you remember. At least you don't have them waking you in the dead of night and holding you down to do so."

I shuddered at the memory of the curette against my bone as they scraped out the staph infection in my right leg. Even with pain killers it was agony. Traumatizing is a mild way to describe the effect that experience had upon my ten year old mind. My skin crawled and suddenly the cream colored tea looked too much like what they cleaned out of my leg day after day for a week. He reached over and picked up the mug out of my hands.

"You're not listening, where are you right now?"

"Home. With you." He shakes his head.

"No, you're back in the hospital. You're here. And you're there. Why can't you focus? Because you're split into three pieces in this moment. They're all struggling in different directions. Why do choices scare you? The hospital. That is why they scare you. They made you choose which nurse did the procedure that evening. You were never sure who it was because it was dark in that room to you, though they could see clearly. Your fear of hospitals starts there. It is a reasonable fear, especially after the death of your great aunt at that hospital a bare year later."

I looked away and closed my eyes. "This is one of your small fears, but you have never let it out. Let it out of you. Don't let me narrate it. Tell your own story," he said as he put his hand on my shoulder. "Didn't it ever occur to you that perhaps you are the storm breaker and it is because of the storm inside you? All of those memories put this weather to shame. And you can hear the wind screaming now, can't you?"

I nodded, feeling like I was going to start crying. "A hurricane needs rain," he said, "As does every thunderstorm and gentle downpour. And snow is but frozen rain from higher in the sky. Tears are not shame. They're rain. The earth is parched, my love. Quench the thirst."

"I can't cry on command," I said bitterly.

"I never said you should. Only that you should let yourself cry, bleed even as your wound is debrided."

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Untitled #3 part II

I looked up at them. I felt horrible. I had no pithy comments anymore. I had nothing. My words failed me. So, I dropped my face into my hands and heaved a shuddering sigh.

Freyr's voice softened. "Don't cry," he said, "Don't be afraid. You're not in trouble. We're not going to hurt you." Loki gently but firmly took my hands and pulled them down into my lap. I blushed with shame as the tears began to roll hotly down my face. "Listen to me," Freyr said, "It is not your fault you were deceived. Nor is it your fault that you were harmed. None of this is your fault. Not even him."

"I initiated that... that mess. I made the first move," I said bitterly.

"No, you didn't," growled Loki, "He did and you didn't realize it. He chose you for his next target."

I closed my eyes. I swallowed hard in an effort not to sob. "It was not your job to stop them from hurting anyone," Freyr added, "Not him or those who came before him. Though, cursing them wasn't a bad idea." I opened my eyes and looked over at the Grain Lord in surprise. "How can anyone blame you, given everything you've tholed? You have done everything you could just to survive. What did you say? She asked you how you got through it all and you answered 'I don't die.' You are a survivor. A warrior of one long weary war. That war is over now. They can't hurt you anymore. You've made that so. By curse, by blade, and by silence."

"Who else is the shadow against the flame, anyways?" asked Loki with a fond smile, "Your chosen form as you walk through worlds is a person wrapped in darkest shadows and night. You are seen only if you choose to be. So it is you also move through the world. Including your veils now upon the physical plane, which is why they make you feel so safe. If you could wear a hooded cloak everywhere, you would. This is why you love your shawls so much. Shadows and night always survive. Even in the brightest flames, a shadow will be cast."

Freyr set a hand on the crown of my head, cupping it as though he was holding an infant. Loki set a hand against my right cheek. "You will be well again. And the next time of darkness will be less severe. Even now, you grow healthier," Freyr reassured me before placing a chaste kiss on my lips as Loki's brushed against the back of my left hand.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Untitled # 3

The room was empty. All the furniture that had been there was gone. It was dark, only the light from the doorway I stood in shone. I was struck with an awful feeling that he had left. That he had taken everything that had ever been there and there was nothing left. "Come forward, min swete," his voice called from the depths of the room. I crossed the threshold somewhere between tears and relief at the sound of his voice. "Closer," he said.

I walked farther into the room and the door behind me silently swung shut as it always did when I crossed beyond the tenth pace into the space. "I'm ... I'm sorry I haven't come here in so long," I said with a voice that dwindled down into a whisper. Contrite was perhaps a good word for the feeling rattling around inside me, or perhaps it was despair. It had been so long that I couldn't tell anymore. I had been trapped in this numbness and sense of quiet terror that everything I did was wrong for what felt to be an eternity.

"Time is different for you than it is for me," he said from somewhere before me. I heard the sound of footfalls. They seemed to move around me to the right and draw closer. "An hour, a minute, an eternity, they're all relative. You know this, do you not, my dear almost physicist. My sad student of the stars who turned from heart's joy because of their cruelty. You know the stars are not what cursed you and that it is not the stars' cruelty that turned you from such joy."

I strained to hear where he stood, to gain some idea of where he was through the queer echoes of the now empty space. "And now, here you are lost and trying to find your way back home," he said behind me. I realized with some sense of despair I couldn't clearly tell if it was his voice or his voice that spoke to me. That was when I felt warmth behind me, as though I was standing in a ray of sunlight. "You never left us," said Ingvi. "We have always been with you."

"And watched over you and yours, as they were our own. For they are ours to care and keep because of you," Loki said as he resumed pacing. Ingvi's arms settled lightly around me. Loki continued to walk. With each step, he drew closer and yet moved around me. "You seem to have this curious disposition that we would abandon you as others have. You seem to have this wondrously strange obsession with forgetting things and forgetting people. So many strange and odd concerns you have, volva. Tell us, spae-wife, have you found the roots of Yggdrasil and of your fears, or just those of the tree?"

"Why do you do this?" I sighed at Loki. He laughed. It sounded bright and sharp, like the snapping of dry fir boughs in a merry fire. "I'm in therapy again. I'm doing the work now. I have been doing the work."

"All this busy work does nothing to help you heal," Ingvi said.

"Rocking chairs," added Loki. I immediately thought of the magnet with a pithy quote about the effectiveness of rocking chairs on productivity.

"Well what am I supposed to do?" came my reply in exasperation. "I can't forgive myself for being flawed. I can't talk my way out of being traumatized. I can't force myself into being healthy. What am I supposed to do then?"

"Be," answered Ingvi in a whisper at my right ear.

"Be what? Be broken? Be depressed? Be pathetic or crazy? What exactly and precisely am I supposed to be? I was told I'd never live to see my children grown. I was told I'd never amount to anything. I was told I'd be dead by thirty five. Now I'm in the winter of thirty eight and struggling. I don't even know why I'm writing anymore beyond the fact that I can't help it. And when I can't write it is painful to me."

I closed my eyes in an attempt to regain control. Anger solved nothing with these sorts of things. I was angry, so very, very angry. I wasn't angry with them. I was angry with the people who had hurt me. I was angry with the fact that they walked away perfectly fine and I was left wounded to the soul. And I was angry with myself for the fact that I wasn't healed yet, despite all of the work I had done. I found myself beginning to despair of being healthy.

Loki stopped pacing and stood in front of me. "Why have you stopped doing what you loved? Why did you stop singing? What made you give up on astronomy and your lovely tarot cards? Why have you only allowed yourself to make practical things, and then only in desperation to quiet your mind?"

"Because it hurts," I answered, "All of it. It hurts. It all hurts in a bad way. And I'm sick of hurting."

I bitterly gestured at my knees. "These have been my pain since youth and it's now getting into my back and hips. And shoulders, let us not forget that. As well as the old injuries that hurt now with the weather. Along with the new one that I am still healing from and can scarcely do anything because of it."

"Why did you fall?" Loki mused in a serene tone. "Sun warmed ice. Much like the rime at the gap," he said like one with a slowly dawning recollection. "You were warned," he said, moving closer to me. Heat flowed from him. Behind me was the warmth of a sunbeam, before me was the roaring heat of a bonfire. "Silly girl, you didn't listen," he sighed. "And what's become of you? A badly bruised, if not fractured... no, it is broken just not badly. Though you did not want to get the pictures. Your pride ever so strong."

Anger found an outlet. "YOU caused this?!" I demanded. Loki laughed.

"I did and he caught you," he answered.

"A SHOVEL CAUGHT ME!" I stormed back at him. Freyr's arms tightened around me.

"Factually correct, but I am the reason why you didn't get a badly broken set of ribs and possibly punctured lung," Ingvi said.

"Why didn't you stop HIM?" I said.

"Because you needed a lesson," Ingvi said sternly. "Because you need to rest. You have been ignoring your needs again. You have been ignoring your illness again. Thus, you needed a course correction. The vessel needs to be on the correct course and sometimes that requires being harsh with it."

"I am not your ship. I am not some boat on the ocean, a thing."

"Ah, now she sees her humanity. All it took was breaking a rib, insulting pride, and two gods being directly in her face," Loki contributed drolly. "Oh, and it is broken. That's why you're not healed already," he added. Loki moved aside and a chair was behind him with a light upon it. "Come, sit. You and we must talk," he said as he gave a grand, sweeping gesture to the chair. The light upon his coppery red curls gave the impression of sparks but did not reveal his features.

"How do I know this is not mind fuckery?" I muttered, after mentally cycling between pentulant, bitchy, and suspicious responses. Loki chuckled.

"So suspicious. Suspicion is her armor, Freyr," he said, "Suspicion, sarcasm, and exceptional cheerful/pleasant facades. All a very effective trio, as most don't suspect it. They expect sarcasm, bitterness, and anger. But her anger is so very, very carefully hidden away. Along with much of her heart."

"I've noticed," Ingvi said dryly, "Are we doing this or not?"

"All-Father says this is the best way, I'm not sure I agree," Loki answered. As they spoke, I was effectively herded into the chair. Loki made a show of dusting off the impeccably clean red velvet seat cushion as Freyr carefully all but set me in the chair.

"Do what?" I asked.

"Explain something to you," Freyr said. I looked up at him. The warmth of familiarity eased away. It was not Ingvi my lover gazing on me. It was Freyr, the King of Alfheim and Lord of Grain and Life.

Loki knelt beside me. In that moment, I felt very small and as though they were attempting to make themselves smaller to speak to me more clearly. It was disturbing. They were openly accommodating me before my eyes.

"You are alive for a reason. You are here for a reason. You are not worthless or easily replacible. You are not easily broken either. You are valuable. You are a treasure. A little goddess in human clothing. But that humanity is part of what makes you such a treasure. You are here to love this world. Your spaecraft and witchery, it is effective. No amount of self doubt can change it. Stop assuming.

And stop believing lies."

I caught myself before I made a biting comment at Loki. "I have never lied to you. I have even told you the truth when you didn't want to hear it. Now, go rest."


Friday, March 10, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (Part 2)

After a period of uncomfortable silence, a quiet man stepped around the screen. His clothes were more costly than those of the man who sat in the chair to my right. The pale yellow of the doublet looked to be something like the silk that my father had purchased from the East, reflecting the light with a sheen that looked almost golden. The thin man stood at his lord's right hand at a stance reflecting attentiveness. His pale blond hair was plaited into a braid that rested upon his shoulder, with a bow of the same color as his doublet at the end. He would have seemed a dandy except for the solemn expression on his face.

"Auguste," the lord of Winterwood said, "Bring this young woman to her quarters. See that a maid is provided for her, one who is close to her age. You know what must be done." Auguste gave a half bow to my captor and then turned his pale blue eyes upon me as he straightened. Something like pity was in them as he stepped up to me and offered his arm.

"Please, come with me," he said. I looked down at the unfinished cup of wine and then around me, uncertain where to place it. Auguste took the cup from my hand and set it upon the table. I started to take the blanket off of my lap when he returned and lifted it. With a deft hand, he quickly folded the woolen thing and set it back upon the chair where it began. He then took my hand and helped me to my feet.

As he lead me away from the taciturn man sitting at the fire, he seemed to become less tense the farther away we went. We were half way down a corridor when Auguste spoke. "Once a year, he demands tribute. It is not wealth he seeks, but a wife," he said very quietly, "A woman comes for a fortnight and then is sent back to her family. This usually happens in the spring. Winter is a black season for him." I wanted to ask him to explain but his hold upon my right hand hardened. "He is a man of unusual tastes. I only knew of one like him when I was a young man in my homeland. None have managed to ... bring him peace," Auguste continued in his quiet, cautious tone, "Be cautious, Miss. His mood is fickle this time of year. His hungers are stronger because of it."

We stopped before a door that was heavily ornamented. Auguste let go of my hand and took a key out from his pocket. He unlocked the door and lit a lantern within. I walked in and found myself in what seemed an elegant antechamber of sorts. A chaise lounge was before a window that had shutters closed and dark red velvet curtains drawn. Gold trim was heavy upon them, making it all but impossible for a draft to move them. A small desk with a chair sat across the room from it with a painting hung over it. A cloth hung over it. As I approached it, Auguste quickly stepped before me. He lightly set a hand on my shoulder to stay me. "Do not move the curtain," he said, "Never touch it. It is forbidden. As are other things, which Rochelle will explain to you. Abide by the rules and remain as ... quiet as you can, and I expect your liberty will be returned to you with out any harm."

"It is cold in here," I said to him and he nodded.

"I will light a fire in the next room. You can wait for Rochelle there. I will have a brazier brought so that this room will be warmed as well." As he opened the door to the next room, I looked over at the covered painting. Auguste called to me as he lit a fire in the fireplace of the next room, "Unlike the others, you have an excellent chance of his kindness. Even during this dark time of the year. Remember to be careful what you say, though. If he thinks you are inclined towards him, he may not let you go for a very long time."

"Why are you telling me all of this?" I asked as I walked into a spacious bedroom. He straightened as the tinder caught and the fire began to snap merrily. His expression as he looked down at the growing flames was filled with something that looked like regret.

"I can not spare you from this fate," he said, very quietly, "I can, however, help you to move through this with as little trouble as possible." He then briskly moved away from the fireplace and began lighting lamps.

I walked towards him. "This doesn't tell me why, sir," I said. Auguste looked over at me, his face seemed older in the light of the fire and the lit lamps.

"There is a monster here," Auguste said, "You have not yet seen his face. Once, there was one who could tame him. She is no more and he seeks another to stand in her place. Others have broken under that weight. I tried to help them. I do not wish to see him suffer but it is far worse to see those innocent souls endure what she did. Remember, Miss. Do not touch the curtain or disturb it in anyway."

He took his lamp with him as he left. When the door into the hallway was shut, I heard the key in the lock. I looked around the bedroom. It was richly appointed. Though it was a comfortable room and far finer than what my father owned before his fortunes turned ill, I knew this room was still a prison. A gilded cage was still a cage.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Untitled # 2

I am at a loss for words. So much has happened so quickly. I feel as though I am stumbling around. They see me. They know what I am going through. And they bid me speak. But how does one put this into the narrow confines of words? Written words, no less.

World-Breaker laughs. It is a beautiful laugh. He simply laughs as I flail about in this queer mixture of terror and elation. I find myself filled with joy for his laughter and shame for my terror and elation. I am so confused, but he just laughs. I would ask him for answers, but he has made clear to me that not all things have answers and not all answers are for me. So I struggle and find myself timid over some of the oddest things.

Ingvi... Ah, Freyr, your laugh is equally lovely. If his laughter is the snapping of a bonfire on a chilly night, full of merry brightness, then yours is the warmth that beckons me to draw closer and set aside the cares of the day. But, you also have been reluctant to answer the questions that arise. You simply smile and tell me that I already know what they are. I am so twisted up that I find myself struggling to tell what direction I am facing. And you just chuckle as I reel and try to find my bearings.

The world about me grows more distressing, but it seems a paltry thing compared to the prospect of utterly abandoning past identities. But, I am not allowed my masks. If World-Breaker is not taking them from my hands and shattering them upon the ground, you are slipping them off my face and pushing me before a mirror to see what I truly look like. And it bleeds into everything.

I can not shunt aside this gnawing terror that I am inheirently wrong on the basis of the fact that I continue to draw breath. And you laugh at this as it is pure nonsense. Where you had been angry, now, you laugh. You both tell me that I am clinging to vestiges of who I was as you chuckle.

And yet, here I am, looking at myself asking is this who I am? A part of me says I should simply let myself fall into this place of respite and comfort. Another part of me quails saying that some one, somewhere is going to punish me for not keeping the masks and clever denials all at hand. But yet, you take my hands and draw me farther along this path.

How is it that I am liberated when I place myself into your hands? How is it that I am stronger when I let myself fall apart under your watchful eyes? How is it that you all know exactly what is happening within me when I say nothing of it? Am I so easy to read?

You tell me that I am more than what I have felt and insisted I am. Now, as you hold up this mirror, I am terrified by what I see. I don't even know why I am so frightened.

And yet, as you both laugh, he sees me. He sees deep into who I am. And he embraces me, and it feels like fire whipping through me. Flame and heat coming together to scald me even as it warms that ice inside me.

What is it that I have become? Why do I fear freedom?