tagRomanceDynamics of a Human Heart Ch. 09

Dynamics of a Human Heart Ch. 09


Nothing goes as planned
Everything will break
People say goodbye
In their own special way
All that you rely on
And all that you can fake
Will leave you in the morning
But find you in the day

Oh, you're in my veins
And I cannot get you out
Oh, you're all I taste
At night inside of my mouth
Oh, you run away
'Cause I am not what you found
Oh, you're in my veins
And I cannot get you out

-Andrew Belle "In My Veins"

Normalcy crept back into their lives as gradual as the turning of October leaves.

Miranda felt Grey's absence keenly, at first. She would wake up having dreamt of him or catch the scent of tobacco, which would propel her into memories of him. It made her ache in a place beyond bones and blood.

But through it all, Sam was there: she comforted her and consoled her and never once judged or was insulted or insecure about how Miranda felt about the man. And slowly, the days became weeks and she thought about him less and less.

And then, one day, she didn't think about him at all, and she cried as she knew that their bond, whatever it had been, was gone. When it was over, Sam held her and told her she loved her.

And that was enough for Miranda.

One of the girl's favorite holidays, Halloween was fast approaching and the girls began to assemble the components for their respective costumes: Sam would dress up as Death while Miranda would dress as her sibling, Dream, both characters from Sam's favorite comic, "The Sandman". As the characters were siblings and the girl's lovers, the incest jokes from their friends were always readily at hand.

There was one other noteworthy event.

"'Sweet home Chattanooga! Where the skies are blue!'" Sam was currently belting out a modified version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's classic tune with a slight modification to reflect hometown pride. Dressed in boxer shorts and a tank top, Sam spun like a dervish, occasionally bouncing off a wall and knocking things from tabletops and shelves.

Miranda was curled up on the couch with a book, doing her best to ignore Sam's best efforts to make it very difficult to read. She might have been annoyed at her lover's impression of the Tasmanian Devil if she hadn't, in fact, found it adorable.

The doorbell rang out then, only somewhat audible over the blasting music.

"Dibs!" Sam cried out. She wheeled full speed toward the door and proceeded to hit it with enough force to send her ricocheting backwards and nearly out of her chair, "Ow!"

"Exactly how much caffeine have you had today?" Miranda called out without looking back from her book.

"Just. Enough," Sam replied, enunciating each word with exacting care. She grabbed the doorknob, twisted and jerked it open.

"Oh," she said, her expression falling, "It's you."

For a moment, emotion managed to outrun reason and Miranda felt a surge of something unidentifiable, but wholly undeniable.

Sam moved out of the way to reveal Isabel and Luke.

"Hi," Isabel said softly.

Sam snorted, "Look, Miri, its Judy Iscariot plus one."

Isabel flinched and sighed, "Yeah, I guess I've earned that."

"And then some."

She presented a bottle of wine, "Moristel. It goes well with stuffed peppers, braised lamb, and begging for forgiveness from friends and loved ones."

Sam laughed a little, "They really do make a vintage for everything. Get your ass in here."

Isabel smiled brightly, "Thanks Sam," Isabel reached back to take her husband's hand, "Come on, sweetie, let me show you how a Spaniard eats crow."

"Does the wine go well with that too?" He asked wryly.

"Shut up."

Sam led Isabel and Luke into the living room. Miranda already had glasses in hand.

"Hello Isabela," Miranda said, her manner cool.

"Hey Miranda, feel like giving me a few minutes to pour my guts out?"

"Not on this carpet, I just had it steamed."

Everyone laughed at the stupid joke and the tension drained from the room. Miranda shut off the classic rock and put on one of the quieter Joy Division albums.

Isabel removed a corkscrew from her pocket and popped the cork, "Custom dictates that the wine breathes for the better part of an hour."

"Fuck that," Sam snorted, "Booze me."

Isabel shook her head with a smile, but proceeded to pour the wine. She held up her glass, "It's considered poor form to not have at least one toast when one is sampling such a fine drink."

Sam and Miranda looked at each other for a moment. The Asian girl nodded and Sam sighed, shaking her head, causing her blond tresses to shake as she hoisted her glass, "Here's to friends and loved ones, may we forgive all the stupid shit they do."

"I will drink to that," Luke said.

"Absolutely," Isabel added.

"Cheers," Miranda said quietly and they clinked their glasses together and sipped the wine.

"Oh, that's like liquid sex," Sam commented.

"That is smooth," Miranda replied taking another sip from her glass.

"It's from Aragon, where I was born," Isabel informed them.

"Is all the alcohol there this good?" Sam asked.


"Good God, woman, why on earth did you leave?"

"Because I watched someone I loved die."

Silence descended upon the table like a shroud. Sam and Miranda sent an uncomfortable look towards Luke.

"He's already heard the story," Isabel assured them, "Now it's time for the other people in my life that I love to hear it."

"There was a time," Sam mused, "that being called your loved one would have made my millennium."

"That's because you always assume that your loved ones will have sex with you," Miranda replied.

"Oh yeah," Sam grinned around her wineglass.

Miranda smirked, shaking her head before turning to face Isabel.

"This was, God, five, six years ago or so," Isabel began, "Back when I went by 'Alana'."

"What, Isabel isn't your real name?" Sam blurted out.

"It is, now. But my name was, originally Alana," as she unbuttoned her collar and exposed the white scar on her neck, "That was before...everything."

Luke reached over and took his wife's hand, "It's okay, babe, take your time."

Isabel nodded and took a steadying sip of wine, "I was doing my post grad at MIT, mathematics naturally, and I got invited to a fraternity party held by Alpha Chi Ro."

"Those motherfuckers?!" Sam cried out, "You gotta be fucking kidding me."

"That's the connection," Miranda said quietly.


"Miranda has the right of it," Isabel sighed, "I went to the party and I met someone, a guy. He was a member of the fraternity. We talked, God," Isabel looked up at the ceiling for a second, "it felt so long since I'd just talked to someone: no classes, no thesis or research or anything, just a connection with someone else for a few hours. He suggested we go out for a drive, I agreed."

"Oh, I so don't like where this is going," Sam said quietly as she looked over to Luke. His face was locked in an expression that she hoped she never saw again on someone she cared about.

"Good instincts," Isabel said quietly. She rubbed her scar absently. "We went out for a drive. Wound up in this parking lot of some bar," Isabel exhaled hard and wiped at her eyes, pinching the skin at the bridge of her nose, taking several deep breaths.

"And then, he raped me."

Miranda's eyes closed as she winced in sympathetic pain. Sam's eyes were pools of azure misery as tears streamed from her eyes. Wordlessly, she wheeled over to Isabel and threw her arms around the other woman.

"I'm so sorry, Izzy!" She held the other woman tightly. Isabel folded her hands over Sam's arms and sniffled.

"Yeah," she whispered, "Me too."

"What's the scar from, Isabela?" Miranda asked quietly.

"A shoelace. He tied it around my neck while he was—"

"I got it, thanks," Miranda drained her glass and refilled it as Sam pulled away from Isabela, running the back of her hand across her nose, sniffling. "Mrs. Hillsgrove, she had the same scar."

"Yeah, it's like a signature of that fraternity, rape and ligature marks," Isabel sniffled and wiped her eyes, "Assholes. I put up a fight and the bastard started punching me, he broke my arm, broke my nose, knocked out two of my teeth."

"What happened afterwards?"

"When he finished, he said we weren't done. He started to choke me, I couldn't see or breathe, and I knew I was going to die," she looked up to face the others, "But then his windshield just...exploded and I heard this...this scream, like an enraged animal. Isabel scoffed a little, "Scared the hell out of me," she sipped her wine; "Anyhow, he was just torn away from me and out of the car. I was too busy trying to see and breathe, but I heard him, Mike, I think his name was, he was screaming and I heard that other sound, I thought he was being mauled by a bear. I must have blacked out," she drained her glass and Miranda refilled it wordlessly.

"When I came to, I was outside of the car. My clothes were back on and I wasn't bleeding anymore. Mike had been beaten to a pulp, there was so much blood I wasn't sure he was alive. He had this thick chain wrapped around his neck, it was covered in gore. And standing there was this odd-looking man in a tan coat, smoking a cigarette. '"Fancy a fag?' he asked me," her voice dropped into a cockney accent.

"Our hero," Sam commented dryly, releasing Isabel and wheeling back to sit by Miranda's side.

"I told him I didn't smoke," Isabel gave a little laugh, "He said 'Well, now's as good a time as any to start there, luv'."

"Grey," Miranda said softly, "Deus Ex Machina."

"Pretty much," Isabel confirmed. "He took off his sunglasses, he had these amazing green eyes and he said '"You have two choices now poppet; you can try to play by the rules, take him to court and sit and watch him get off on a technicality or have his buddies vouch that he was somewhere else because the rich don't go to jail over something as innocuous as rape and attempted murder. Or, you can follow me and I promise you, if you can give it some time, you'll have your revenge, free of corrupt courts and liars'," Isabel gave a small shrug, "It sounded like a good offer, I agreed."

"How Faustian," Sam commented dryly, "What happened to Mike?"

"We left him there and we went to this motel."

"You just got into Grey's car?" Miranda asked incredulously, "After seeing what he did?"

"There was something about him, even standing there with blood all over his shirt, I felt safer with him than I'd felt with anyone. I just felt like I knew that he wouldn't let anything happen to me."

"Yeah, he has that effect."

"We made it back to his room and he cleaned me up. I remember, he was so gentle and patient with me. He wouldn't make a move until I made it clear to him I was okay with being touched. He spent the whole night cleaning my skin, bit by bit until I felt clean and safe, at least as clean and safe as I was going to," she gave a small laugh, "I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up, he'd stitched up the worst of the injuries. Set my arm and nose, I never felt a thing. He'd brewed some tea and it helped with the pain."

"Then what happened?" Sam asked.

"Then, we talked. We talked about everything, except...what had just happened. I told him about Aragon, everything in me just wanted to go home and try to forget."

"What did he say?"

"He said 'right then', and we wound up on a private plane headed for Spain."

"He has his own plane?!" Sam asked agog.

"No, he said it belonged to someone who—"

"Owed him," Sam and Miranda exclaimed at the same time.

"Apparently, the person in question wasn't able to make an inside straight, whatever that means."

"It means the owner of that plane shouldn't play cards with conniving Englishmen," Luke informed her.

Isabel cleared her throat, "We went to my parents' farm, just outside Osca. They were so surprised when we just showed up on their doorstep," she smiled faintly at the memory. "Jorge—"

"Okay, need to interrupt here," Sam piped in, "How did the whole 'Jorge' thing start?"

"We were in a taxi, on our way to the airfield and I asked him what his name was. 'Names are such transitory things' was all he said. I pushed and he asked our cab driver what his name was."

"Jorge," Miranda concluded.

"Exactly, so after speaking with the driver, he turns to me and says 'One name is as good as another, you may call me 'Jorge' as well." She laughed a little, "I found his cryptic attitude very frustrating."

"Join the fucking club," Sam commented dourly.

"What happened when you got to your parents place?" Miranda asked.

"Jorge didn't offer them any information, he allowed me to tell them as much or as little as I wished. 'It's your story to tell,' was all he said." She coughed once and took a sip of wine, "So, I just talked with my family and, eventually, I told them what happened. My family was very grateful to Jorge. My parents were about ready to hug him when I swear; he sent them a look that would have frightened a shark."

"Yeah, he's not big on being touched," Sam informed her, "Jury's still out if it's due to the burns or just generally being fucked in the head."

Isabel frowned, "What burns?"

Miranda and Sam exchanged a look, "Never mind, we'll fill you in later," Sam assured her, "Carry on."

The only time Jorge spoke was when my parents asked what he did for a living. '"Freeloading Englishman' was all he'd said."

Miranda snorted lightly, "That sounds true to form."

"He left the room after that, citing that it was now 'a time for family' and as soon he was gone, I just fell apart. I cried until I couldn't breathe, it was the first time I had since...," she closed her eyes for a long time before opening them again.

"The next three months were... almost idyllic, given the circumstances. During the day, Jorge and I would walk outside and talk about everything: philosophy, history, theology. I had never seen such a hungry mind before. I taught him everything I knew about non-linear equations, heuristics, chaos and singularities and he just soaked it in like a sponge. Soon he was coming up with ideas and formulas I'd never dreamed of," she gave a little laugh, "I had created better than I had known and it was a little off-putting."

"Gods and monsters, Doctor Frankenstein," Luke commented dryly.

Isabel's expression turned wistful, "It was one of the most intellectually exciting periods of my life. At night, we would all get together, my parents, Jorge, me and we'd cook. My father studied under Jose Andres, a very well-respected chef and very talented at molecular gastronomy."

"I've heard of him," Miranda commented, "He taught a course in culinary physics at Harvard."

'"Culinary physics'," Sam mused, "I like it."

"My father is an amazing chef, Jorge learned everything he could about cooking from my parents and even tried his hand at a few new dishes," she smirked slightly, "My father said his meals were 'aesthetically pleasing but lacking in passion'."

"Oh, that had to sting," Sam laughed.

"The only passion he's shown us is anger, which doesn't tend to translate well in a culinary sense," Miranda put in.

"Although his grits are fantastic," Samantha reminded the other woman.

"I'll take your word on that."

"It only made him try harder," Isabel sighed, "but no matter what he did, he just couldn't capture whatever elusive quality my mother and father were able to imbue their food with. My father said Jorge's cooking was good for the eye and good for the stomach, but that truly fine cuisine was good for the soul."

"Poetic," Miranda mused.

"Well, to make up for it, he performed magic tricks after dinner for our entertainment."

"What, like sawing a woman in half?" Sam said with a grin, "Cause it's not actually a trick if he gets some poor woman and cuts her in half just to make a spectacle of it and don't glare at me like that, Miri, you can see him doing it as easily as I can," Sam finished, sticking her tongue out at her lover who had been indeed glaring at her.

"You're entitled to your delusions," was all Miranda said.

Isabel smiled slightly, she always did enjoy their banter, "No sawing in half, instead he did coin tricks and sleight-of-hand, anything that involved misdirection and physical manipulation."

"Grey is skilled in all forms of manipulation, it's one of his defining characteristics," Miranda informed her grimly.

"He was pretty good, almost a natural showman in a strangely grim and reserved sort of way, but what he really excelled at was bondage."

"I beg your pardon?" Sam demanded.

"Not what you're thinking," Isabel amended, "He was a very talented escape artist. My grandfather was a sailor and he taught my mother everything there was to know about knot-work. She was very, very good at it," she took a sip of wine, "But, no matter what we did, he'd be loose in under sixty seconds," she sighed, "Which is what made his apparent death so bizarre in retrospect, but I'm skipping ahead."

She took another sip of wine and exhaled.

"And then," she continued, "About three months later, we were in Barcelona, there was a parade that Jorge said he wanted to see. And we were sitting at an outdoor café, talking about dinner when we got home," she frowned, "But then he...changed."

"Changed?" Sam said with a frown.

"One minute he was fine, the next," Isabel gave a short little laugh, "the next, he had the posture of a coiled asp."

"What did he do?"

"He was so still, only his eyes moved; they narrowed and I turned to look at what he was looking at...and there he was, just sitting there, talking to this girl."

"'He' who?"

"The man who raped me."

Sam nearly choked and went into a coughing fit as Miranda eyed Isabel warily.

"How?" she asked calmly.

"I don't know, I don't think I could have comprehended any kind of explanation, I was trying too hard not to have a nervous breakdown."

"What did Grey do?"

Isabel gave a slight snort, "'Grey'. Well, it's more fitting than "'Jorge' I suppose. To answer, all he did was reach into his pocket, calmly, and then folded his newspaper and slid it across the table to me. Inside was a knife."

Sam wiped away the tears from her coughing fit, looking shocked.

"A knife? What kind of knife?" Sam asked.

Isabel reached into her pocket and placed an object on the table before them.

"This kind of knife."

Sam, tentatively, reached out and took it. It was a folding knife, a thing of metal and plastic. Examining it, she unfolded the blade. It was just under three inches long and curved, like a talon, with a serrated edge.

"Wicked," she breathed. She offered to show it to Miranda, the other girl waved it away.

"Did you kill him?" Miranda asked quietly.

A long pause and then, slowly, like gears grinding against themselves, Isabel nodded her head.



Isabel closed her eyes and winced slightly at the effort of remembrance.

"He—Jorge—, he got up from our table, God he was so...relaxed about it all, almost casual. He walked into a small alley near the café and all he told me was 'Let him see you and then follow', I was so scared, so angry, so—I don't know, I don't have the words for it."

"But you did it?"

"What else was I going to do? I got up from the table and I just stood there, waiting for him to see me. And after a while, he did," she gave a short laugh, "He looked like he'd seen a ghost. He gets up from the table, doesn't say anything to the girl he's with and he just comes towards me."

She shuddered and Luke reached out to take her hand. Isabel closed her eyes, sniffled and covered his hand with hers.

"I'm okay," she whispered. She coughed and cleared her throat, "I went down the alley with him right behind me and I passed Jorge at the mouth of the alley. He looked me in the eye as I went past him and all he did was tap his inner thigh with two fingers."

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