Carmen's fingers were grasping the gun, but only loosely... they had gone limp with the sadness of the memory.
She had heard Jeredynn shout, and turned to see nobody but him with an unreadable kind of pain in his eyes. It had sent her back, reeling through a blur of ten years.
Six years old again, her long hair in braids. Singing a nonsensical rhyme as her mother led her by the hand down the front path to the car. Daddy was at work, and Mummy said they were going to surprise him. She had put lots of bags in the boot of the car - maybe they were presents.
"Wait in the car, honey," she smiled, closing the door after strapping her into the back seat. Carmen watched absentmindedly sucking on her strawberry lollipop, clutching her teddy bear in the crook of her arm. It was getting dark - Carmen wondered why they were going out in the night time. She followed her mother's path to the front door with her eyes and then stopped in surprise, seeing the shimmering black haze hovering to one side of it. It was the shape of a person, with two glowing black irises where the eyes should be.
"Mummy!" Carmen called, raising a sticky hand to the glass which was stifling her shout. Too late - the figure had a new addition to it, a sharp elongation to one arm like a blade, and it was slashing towards her mother's back and there was screaming, hers or her mother's she couldn't tell, and her mother's lifeblood spraying out across the front of the house like worthless graffiti.
That was when Carmen's memory cut off, shutting down abruptly and refusing to go back to that dreadful night. Instead it offered up another memory - Carmen in the children's home, aged eight. She had been taken there when a nice man had come across her in the car, abandoned, for countless hours. Daddy had never shown up. Mummy had never got back up from where she had fallen by the steps like bags of rubbish. No. no. no - she mustn't ever think of that again.
Carmen, the eight-year-old girl with hair strung with daisy-chains, was sat at the desk in her shared room, doing her homework. "Good girl," her mother smiled over her shoulder, and Carmen smiled back contentedly, saying, "I always am, Mum." The foster kid sprawled on the second bed gave her an odd look and hurried out of the room. Carmen didn't mind. Solitude was never alone for her, when her mother was always there. A soothing presence, ready to comfort or encourage when needed.
There was a knock on the door the kid had closed behind her; it opened and there in the doorway stood a man with silver-shot brown hair, receding up his stern forehead. The Director, come to take her to the Guild where she was told everything. Everything. The shadows who infiltrated the world, demons taking on human form, destroying everything and everyone. The Guild did everything they could to destroy them in return. As a victim of their savage attacks, Carmen had been taken under the wing of the Guild, where her father had worked before his assassination that same day when she was six, and been trained to recognise and annihilate those evil creatures.
The one thing that kept her strong throughout the tiring days was her mother's presence always beside her, the calming voice always in her head. She clenched her fists on her knees, nails biting into her palms.
All that brought back by Jeredynn's exclamation.
She shook herself and got to her feet, pulling the momentarily forgotten Lolita to her feet as well. Jeredynn was still on the floor, submerged in whatever his own memories were.
"Jeredynn?" Carmen asked tentatively, reaching out a hand but stopping inches short of his hunched shoulder.