Garnet admitted to herself that she was afraid.
It was not just what Erinye had told her, not solely the discovery that the girl she had found herself drawn to was something more, something other. Maybe a monster, although a part of her was certain that Erinye was no monster, at least not the kind that needed to be avoided.
Of course that made her afraid. What was Erinye that she could heal that quickly, that she could dent that desk? Garnet was mostly trying not to think about it too much because she was worried a war would break out inside her.
But Garnet was trying to wrap her head around the fact that she had just spent the night. With a girl. She had never thought of herself as being concerned about that sort of thing. Who cared, right? As long as people were happy, what did it matter? She still felt that way.
This was different though. It wasn't about Erinye's body. Garnet blushed as she thought of the way she'd touched the other girl, of the way Erinye had touched her. No, she had no problems with Erinye's body. It was just... that she had always expected to find a prince. The fairy tales never talk about the maiden being rescued by a princess. Garnet had always thought about herself finding the right guy. She knew that was what her mother expected, what her grandmother and friends expected. But here she was, utterly spellbound by this tiny girl who could dent a desk with her fists.
Garnet stumbled on an uneven spot in the pavement and lifted her eyes, looking around. Someone was there. For a second she thought it might be Erinye, but then she felt the hairs rise on the back of her neck. No. It wasn't Erinye.
A large, older man stood in her way. How he'd appeared so fast she wasn't sure, but she found herself hunching her shoulders, wrapping her arms protectively around herself. Not good. Very not good. Her breath was coming faster, her heart pounding as the fear Erinye had scented became full-on panic.
"Well well, little girl. I wouldn't have expected you to be playing with wolves. Maybe she has better taste than I expected." As he spoke he slowly began to advance towards Garnet. As he moved, a sheathe and hilt glinted over his shoulder and Garnet shivered. His words were lost on her and all she could think about was getting away. And if Erinye would save her.
"P-p-please. I don't... don't know what-" was all she managed to say before the old man reached out and grabbed her wrist, tugging her closer. She could smell the leather of his duster, smell the odour of his body, and something else. It was almost familiar, some wild scent that tickled at her awareness. Together, however, the scents made her shiver in fear.
This man was why mothers warned their little girls to stay out of the forest, urban or otherwise.
"I should have known. Little pup, playing games she shouldn't play. I'll teach her. At least you know how to act. Maybe I'll keep you both." His expression was arrogant, and the leer he offered Garnet made her yank her hand, feeling his fingers press deeper for a moment before he let her go. She glared at him, fear still riding her hard even as defiance rose to join it.
"What, you think you have teeth, little girl? Go on. Get out of here. I'm going to have a talk with the puppy. It seems the stakes went up."
Garnet fled, stumbling as she twisted through the alleys, not stopping until she was in her favourite park. Curling against the chain on the swing, she felt exposed. Too frightened to move, though, not ready to go home and face her mother.
Everything was coming crashing down. All the pieces of her old life, the safety, the security, her expectations and her dreams. It was all crumbling away, leaving her with... nothing.
That wasn't true. It left her with more than that. She had herself. She had choices.
She had Erinye.
That last thought warmed her even as it kept the fear within her. She wished the other girl would find her, tell her everything was alright. Scare away the monster.
At least now she was reminded that Erinye was far from a monster. That man, he was the monster. The things he'd said....
Just as Garnet was starting to think about his words, trying to remember them through the shivers that still plagued her, she heard voices. Lifting her head, rubbing her hands over her face to try to get a little colour into cheeks she knew were white with fear, she realized that it was her friends approaching.
The group of girls that approached got much quieter when they saw Garnet. There were no exhuberent greetings, no smiles or waves. The sneakers slowed to a halt a few meters away and Garnet winced mentally. This was not good. Not good at all.
"What's with you, Garnet? You've been all weird lately. We went by your house 'cause you were supposed to come to the mall with us today and your mom was all freaked out. She called my mom last night, wondering if you were at our place. And what was with that weird chick you were talking to?" The first girl, Caitlyn, seemed angry, like she was ready to call Garnet out.
The second girl, Sherry, usually sweet and rather quiet, put a careful hand on Caitlyn's shoulder. "Cait, it's ok." As Sherry turned to look at her, Garnet noticed that Sherry had been crying. "Did you know about Mark? He's missing. Nobody's seen him and the police thing something happened. Something bad." Sherry's eyes were haunted, like she couldn't believe anything bad could happen to Mark.
For a moment Garnet could feel Mark's fingers on her, feel him shoving her to the ground, hear the awful things he'd said. Her shoulders hunched and she flinched before anger kindled in her, burning on the fear that lingered.
"Good! I hope something did. He was a jerk. He..." she couldn't finish, couldn't tell these girls what he'd tried to do to her.
"What? He what?" Caitlyn again, her arms crossed and tears gathering in her eyes. Garnet remembered that Cait had been looking at Mark an awful lot lately, had been upset by the attention he'd given to Garnet.
"Cait... I... nevermind. I'm sure he'll be ok." She wasn't sure, though. She had a feeling they might not see Mark again.
And she had bigger problems to worry about. It was an awful thing to think, that Mark's life did not matter, but that man she'd run into had scared her far worse than Mark did. Far more than Erinye ever could.
"Garnet, we're worried about you. We just... you aren't acting like yourself." This from the third girl, Jennifer. Garnet looked at the three, considered their clothes, the way they had done their hair and their makeup. The fact that they lived their lives exactly as she had thought she had to live hers.
Taking a deep breath, she realized that she didn't feel caged in anymore. She actually could breathe.
"You know, I think you're right. Or maybe I finally am acting like myself." The girls looked at Garnet in confusion, Caitlyn readying some retort, but Garnet pushed up from the swing, shrugging, and walking away.
She was tired of caring. Tired of worrying what they thought. Tired of worrying what everyone thought.
She was finally realizing that the only opinion that mattered was hers.
Because Erinye was the only one who had never asked her to be anything else, never expected her to conform. Just for a moment Garnet could feel the pale girl's skin under her tongue, could smell the scent of their bodies entwined. Hear the soft breaths as they both fell into slumber.
That was what it meant to care. To accept someone and not demand they be anything other than happy.
It didn't mean that her mother didn't care. Or her friends. But not in the way she needed. Not in the way that would let her figure out what she was going to be.
As the other girls looked on in confusion Garnet walked away, back into the city.
She needed to talk to Erinye. Tell her it was ok. That she would accept whoever, whatever, the other girl was.
Because that was who she wanted to be with.