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The Edison Curse

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The Edison Curse: Prologue

 

                  Once upon a time, there were two lovers. Whilst happy, their love affair was forbidden in the eyes of society and it came with great strife because of the colors of their skin. Building a cabin in the countryside where no one could find them, the lovers had a small family and lived happily for quite some time away from disapproving eyes. One day, traveling down a lonely old path with his son, a hunter came across a light skinned boy running wild through the woods, eyes bright and smile beaming. Curious at the boy’s color, he and his son stalked the boy until the young lad stopped at a home not far from the trail. Seeing the lovers for the first time in years, the hunter was reminded of how beautiful the young woman had been when they were children. Driven mad with jealousy and disgust, the hunter waited with his son until night fall and devised a plan to right the wrongs he felt were abominations. Trusting God and his own mindless rage and prejudice, the man set forth with his ghastly plan and snuck into the home when the candle light had dimmed, and the noise had ceased.

 He had his son corner the children in the small one-room home, two boys sharing a small bed near the farthest wall, before he creeped across the room and stood over the unaware couple. The house was quiet when the first gunshot echoed through the woods. A moment of utter silence and then the wails began. The woman cried out for her dead lover while her boys lay frantic and crying across the home. The woman recognized the hunter right away and pleaded with all she had for the safety of her boys. The hunter, having not one ounce of regret for his actions, explained that this must be done. But he would spare her so that she could live in the shame of her deeds until one day God would take her. In his madness, he explained that this time on earth would give her the chance to repent before she faced her maker.

 Three people lost their lives that night.

 Job finished, the hunter and his son went to leave the quiet home. A small voice cried out from the darkness of the home, coming from the mother who held her babies while they chilled in the moonlight, before it grew louder until it could be heard from every corner of the forest, searing itself into the minds of the hunter and his son until they fell to their knees and gasped at the pain. The woman, driven mad by the loss of her soulmate and her children, evoked an ancient ancestral magic and called forth a curse – a most horrible one at that – to follow the ancestral line beginning with the hunters’ son – Thomas Paine.

 The curse would last for as long as there was a Paine line – made impossible to break since the curse fortified that the line would forever have Female children to carry out through time. The heartbroken witch had made the one thing given by God and tainted it to spit in the hunters’ face; his line would forever know pain in the form of one true love – the soulmate bond that was present in everyone being warped and creating horrible side effects and happenings for both lovers. For anyone who loved a Paine would suffer, deserved to suffer. Being cursed with the inability to stay away from ones soulmate – you’d find them even if they lived across the world, the Paine line would suffer through unimaginable sickness without their soulmate, would die if they hadn’t found them before the age of 30, would suffer their dreams and live their nightmares, would be driven mad by hearing and feelings others’ thoughts, would always know exactly and how often their soulmate was in danger, and it could very well lead to the death of a soulmate before their time. Driven mad with her rage and her heartache, the young witch finished her curse and happily joined her family when the hunter strikes out in anger and devastation, for he knew that the witch had cursed his family forever, had cursed his son.

 Years went by and the curse took full effect as soon as the hunter and his son returned home. Things were comfortable for a month after leaving the forest, long enough for the hunter to contemplate the curse nonexistent, when his wife – his soulmate – took ill. Feeling the effects of her sickness as acutely as if it were his own, he suffered with no visible ailments as she tossed and turned in agony day in and day out – some kind of mysterious fever that left her in excruciating pain. It was a fate worse than death and the hunter watched as his only love shriveled before his eyes, holding her hand as much as he could when he wasn’t fisting it for self-control to not scream out in pain. The hunter began to contemplate killing his own soulmate, though the idea was atrocious and made him sad just thinking of it, for his own sake and hers – she did not want to live in any pain any longer. Forgetting about a specific part of the curse, the hunter agreed to smothering his soulmate one night while she slept fitfully. He could barely do it from the tightening in his own lungs, the stiffening of his body as she tossed underneath him, but he managed, and she drifted peacefully away. Relieved to no longer be in any pain, the hunter was overcome with guilt and devastation at the loss of his beloved and sunk so low into a depression that he contemplated ending it all. He needn’t have to in the end – the curse did him in under a week of her being gone because in the witches eyes the hunter couldn’t suffer if she weren’t around any longer. He mysteriously suffocated in his sleep one night and was found by his son the next morning when he didn’t show up for breakfast.


 

1814 London

 Thomas Paine marries Katherine Pierce on August 6th, 1814 in London. They have a daughter soon after who they call Elizabeth. Thomas watches as she grows up, loves her more than his own life, and tries to forget what he and his father did that fateful night. Not believing in curses, he doesn’t take notice to Elizabeth’s sickness until it’s too late – until she’s so bedridden from her soulmates absence (a sailor of all things) that one day she just slips away, leaving behind a daughter named Katherine Elizabeth. Driven mad by his grief and the knowledge that he killed his daughter, Thomas hangs himself from the staircase on his forty-fifth birthday, leaving behind a grieving soulmate before she too joins her husband and daughter a month later having succumbed to her own grief.

 


 

1820s London

 Katherine Elizabeth Pierce grows up in a poor house deep into the seedy streets of London. Working as a fingersmith, she steals everything she has and meets Murphy Willows when she’s finally tired of being driven mad by his religious dribble that he yells about in the streets (even his dreams involve some kind of religious rhetoric!). Having knowledge of the curse, her grandfather having written her a journal explaining everything, Katherine keeps Murphy close and watches out for any kind of danger that might befall them. Falling pregnant in the spring, she knows something’s wrong two months in when she feels a strange movement in her belly. Delivering a stillborn baby boy, Katherine takes the loss hard and Murphy does his best to console her. When she falls pregnant again and feels that same movement in her belly, she knows. It’s a boy again. And then she understands – this is how the curse will punish her, will make her pay for her fathers and grandfathers mistakes. Pleading to God, to the unseen ghost of the lover her family wronged, her prayers fall upon deaf ears before she falls pregnant a third time – this time it’s a little girl. They name her Isabelle Willows and she’s the most beautiful little girl in the village.

 Katherine takes the news of having a girl very hard and might have not considered children had contraceptive been available. Being that it wasn’t, she tries her best to look after her daughter while keeping a close eye on her soulmate. Waking up earlier than usual one morning, there is a sudden fear gripping her, a deep seeded worry that something is going to happen. Warning her husband, he doesn’t believe in such nonsense as witches or curses and tells her quite plainly that God and the Devil are enough to worry about. She can feel the excruciating pain when it happens, and she doubles over in front of her daughter who narrowly moves out of the way as she comes tumbling down.

 Murphy dies while building a home for a couple in the city. A log crushes his chest and the pain of it makes Katherine wish she were dead too. Her daughter grows into a lovely young woman and has suitors left and right, but she can’t see any of it – she loses her sight quickly after losing Murphy and she hasn’t been the same mentally since his death. Closed off and cold, Katherine waits for the death to find her and it comes several weeks after Murphy dies – longer than Katherine thinks it should but it makes sense because the whole point of the curse is for them to suffer and she has certainly been suffering. She dies suddenly at 54 and leaves behind her daughter and the knowledge of everything she knows regarding the curse, having filled the journal with her own story before passing it down in her will.

 It carries on much the same way for generations and generations – sick soulmates, soulmates who die in accidents, feeling intense pain and being sick often when you’re away from them more than two days, the world throwing you together with this person, your life essentially ending when you meet them, and you can’t pull yourself away no matter if you try. They will always find you. And you will both suffer – that’s the way of things. Countless families, always girls being procreated and only ever one girl after the first is born – one child. Meanwhile, the world around them shifts in perfect harmony and the Paine life is left to look on in jealousy and wish for a simple time.

 It's all led up to the current generation. It’s all led up to this.

 


 

2018 New York City

 On this day 26 years ago, Marcus and Susan Edison have a little girl. They name her Katherine Edison and she is special. After years of trying to conceive, the curse affecting Susan’s fertility and leading to several miscarriages, Katherine is their miracle and she is everything they’ve ever dreamed of in a child. She is bright, happy, bubbly, just the right kind of bold and confident. She makes friends easily, people gravitate to her, and she takes to school like a pro.

 And then the nightmare starts.

Chapter Text

 

Brothers Grimm

 

Seven Years Old.

                  Kat is seven when she first starts drawing what she sees when she sleeps. Colors and nondescript pictures that four-year old’s draw. Only her parents don’t realize that the brown she uses is for the dessert, the rock where someone else’s dad takes them hiking, doesn’t realize the blue is for the seaside where someone desperately wants to go swimming but is not allowed because it is not appropriate for girls to swim in public when they are unmarried, don’t realize that the green she uses when she’s painting a woman’s hair isn’t for the hair – it’s for the silk headscarf that someone’s mother wears. They don’t realize that she craves something that she’s never actually eaten but vaguely remembers the exotic spices and how comfortingly full it made her feel when someone dreamed about it. They don’t realize that she hums foreign songs that she doesn’t understand the words to, but someone sings during lessons with their mom, or that she can write in a different language, understand none of it, nor read any of it, but she knows the exact shape of the letters because someone is learning how to read and write in private tutoring.

                  They don’t realize that she has an entirely different life to visit when she sleeps. And that it isn’t her own imagination conjuring up in her drawings but the real life of a person thousands of miles away. 


 

Nine Years Old.

                  When Kat is nine she dreams of someone on a hike with their dad. They speak in a different language and Kat never learns someone’s name, but she feels close to them for some inexplicable reason that she can’t explain. It’s like she’s able to walk beside them as they go about their daily tasks and explore this other world that Kat knows nothing about. The hike is long with several stops in between for water and snacks, but they reach the top of a peak that overlooks the city – a city Kat doesn’t recognize, the architecture funny and the colors different. It is beautiful in its own way, dusty and full of possibility. Kat recognizes the feelings of appreciation but also of displeasure with something, likely the strict rules that someone loves to break. They are rebellious even at this young age and someone’s parents find it all amusing now but worry after Mehran – someone’s older brother – who is several years older and hanging out with a bad crowd.

                  Kat doesn’t like Mehran who is sometimes mean to someone and she never focuses on him for too long in the dream unless someone does – which is rare because someone is almost always playing with their friend, Shireen, who is the same age. Today it’s just someone and their dad on the hike, someone’s mother never comes, and Mehran chooses to spend his time elsewhere, and someone is quite content about this. At the top of the hill, there’s a steep drop that ends at the bottom of a ravine and someone is always told to avoid the area because it’s dangerous. Going out of their way to step over crumbling rock that might have them tip over into the ravine, someone loses their footing in the loose rock and goes tumbling. When they land, bruised and scattered, there’s a screech and a wail as their arm suffers a break from landing atop it. 

                  Kat awakes with a scream, immediately grasping onto her arm as pain shoots from every direction. She can hear her parents stumbling around in their bedrooms, alarmed and fearing the worst, and soon her father is bursting through the door and holding her to his chest, mumbling something to her mother before asking her what’s wrong. Kat can only hold her right arm close to her chest as she cries big fat tears into her father’s neck. They share a troubled, quite look of knowing and her father puts her arm in an ace bandage and a sling so that she can hold it close to her body, the pain fading and sleepiness taking hold once more, though her own bone isn’t broken.


 

Eleven Years Old.

                  Kat is eleven when her mother gets the call that changes their lives. She’s been at her wits end all day, pacing back and forth with a hand clenched over her heart, and though Kat has asked her plenty of times what’s wrong, her mother won’t divulge what has her so upset. It causes Kat to become anxious and she holds her arms to her chest and lays back against the couch, focusing on the ever-present vagueness of someone in the back of her mind. She doesn’t realize this isn’t normal, has never thought to ask because it’s always been this way for her, but she can feel that she is never truly alone. Often when she feels like this, a warmth seeps into her skin in odd places – like her wrists, her forearms, her chest – and it feels as if someone is touching her, holding her close with affection and protection even though she cannot see them. Kat appreciates the hug and wraps her arms tighter around herself, hoping that wherever the comfort is coming from, someone knows that its appreciated, that they might be able to feel her too.

                  She likes to think that it’s her soulmate – the one everyone talks about in school, the one she’s supposed to talk to on her thirteenth birthday if she’s lucky. She’s never heard anyone speak about feeling this way, being touched and held close by the ghost of someone, so she’s never mentioned it before. And it feels sacred between the two of them, so Kat never bothers too think much of it. But when the call comes in and her mother’s voice catches before she’s falling to the kitchen tile with a heartbroken wail, Kat knows that no amount of comfort the ghost gives her will be enough for tonight.


 

                  Her father was hit by an oncoming truck on his way home from his practice. Kat hears the word ‘alive’ and she’s able to breathe but then she hears the hushed whispers of the doctor and her mother as they speak words like ‘paralyzed’ and ‘never walk again’ and ‘permanently disfigured from the waist down’ and ‘lucky to be alive.’ Kat doesn’t feel lucky. Luck would be never having been in an accident in the first place, to be narrowly missed. Kat thinks that if her father were awake right now, not attached to machines that are breathing for him, he’d believe the same thing as she does; this wasn’t luck. It was something else.

                  And all through the night Kat is held by someone who’s not there. She doesn’t dare return the caress for some reason unknown to her.

It just feels wrong. 


 

                  Things change after that. Her father recovers enough to use a wheelchair to get around, enough to be released with intense physical therapy, and he tries, he really tries, to not let her see how much this is affecting him. But Kat knows. There is something in her, something ingrained in her very being, something different that allows her to just know. She catches these feelings that aren’t her own and she’s able to differentiate between herself, someone, her father, her mother, her grandmother. These are the people she’s closest to and maybe that’s why she can feel them. This, she knows, isn’t normal and so she says nothing because if she said something then she would have to sit down and speak for hours with her parents, analyzing everything. And Kat… Kat just wants to be left alone sometimes. To have something that doesn’t make sense – doesn’t have to make sense. To have something that isn’t analyzed for why’s, how’s and what if’s. Her parents try, they really do, but Kat feels caged in this land of knowing and longs for something that just is. Without thought, without mind, without reason, something that just is.

But it is so hard lately.  

                  It is so hard because sometimes, and Kat would never tell her mother this though she thinks that she might know anyway, sometimes there is a shot through Kat’s heart, a sour bitterness of resentment towards her mother from her father. He blames her. He blames her, and Kat doesn’t understand why… It wasn’t her fault that he was in the accident, right? But there is a heaviness in her mother’s heart, a deep guilt and seeded hatred for herself, that Kat doesn’t understand. She blames herself. And Kat… 

Kat just wants things to be simple again.

                  The only reprieve she gets is in her dreams. In her dreams, she’s sees the world in a new light, a happier one, and she enjoys different food that she’s never tasted before but feels so ingrained in her that she would know the smell and the taste without ever having it when she’s awake. She gets to see incredible sights like the Eiffel tower, a few new beaches when someone travels with their family, historical palaces and an abudance of art. Kat has never been outside of Connecticut and so she enjoys when someone shows them something she hasn’t seen before, especially when someone is experiencing it for their first time as well; a food, a new drink, a new place, a new name.

                 Kat learns someone’s name on a simple Tuesday night after a tense dinner with her parents, one in which her father left early to disappear into his study. He is there more often now than he is with her, they haven’t spoken to each other in three days and he is more withdrawn than ever. Kat goes to bed after dinner, wants to get as far away from her mothers’ guilt as possible. If her mother isn’t careful it will swallow her alive. Kat longs to help them both but feels that it’s out of her hands, doesn’t understand the situation and they won’t explain it to her. She’s felt more and more like this since the accident – not in control of her own life or her own destiny, as if the world is pushing her to something.

                  She falls asleep reading The Three Snake-Leaves by the Brothers Grimm, pictures of lovers being buried alive and of dancing snakes in her head before the scene switches. In her dream, someone is at school and she’s practicing her name in English as an assignment for class; Atafeh. It is strange, foreign, exotic and Kat doesn’t know what it means or how to properly say it. But she takes to spelling it on scraps of paper when her parents have a particularly trying day. A-T-A-F-E-H H-A-K-I-M-I. They don’t ask her about it but that’s only because she’s faded into the background of their feelings for one another. Kat is invisible in the face of their turmoil. 

She learns how to pronounce it soon after when she hears it during role call – able to now pick it up out of the crowd.

 


 

 Thirteen Years Old. 

On the night before her thirteenth birthday, the day when some should hear from their soulmate for the first time, assuming they’re the same age or older, Kat learns the truth.

                  She isn’t the slightest bit nervous, unlike most of her friends in school who have turned thirteen before her and told her of how they reacted the first time it happened. Kat’s been in touch with her soulmate since she was a child and though they’ve never talked before, Kat knows her. She knows what type of person she is, wild, bold and outspoken, she knows what kind of clothes she wears from watching her pick out her outfits for years, she knows her best friend and she knows her secrets and all the things that her parents and her brother don’t. Kat knows that her intended is a female. She knows how beautiful said female is because she’s hit puberty now and things have changed inside of her; Atafeh is attractive and rebellious and she’s the type of person that Kat Edison would want to be friends with, longs to be friends with. Not only because Atafeh is her intended but because the girl is fiercely loyal, understanding and kind. Kat sees this every day she’s around her best friend Shireen who is often still so upset about the death of her parents. Atafeh is fiercely protective and she’s the type of person who would always have your back when you need her most – Kat needs that kind of influence in her life, she’s only ever had casual friends and few “best friends” that she hardly speaks to anymore. Junior high is funny like that.

                  Kat cannot wait to speak with her and knows that Atafeh had her thirteenth birthday earlier this year so she’s just waiting on Kat. Atafeh draws shapes on her arms and words in her own language, something Kat doesn’t understand but is trying to learn, in the hopes that she’ll write back but, alas, Kat isn’t thirteen yet and they don’t show up on her skin – Kat only sees them when she’s sleeping, when she’s dreaming. But tomorrow those words will show up and that’s what she’s most looking forward to – talking to Atafeh.

 


 

                  That night when she heads up to bed, her mother follows after she’s settled in, which Kat finds unusual. There’s an old book in her hand, bigger than the books that are housed along Kat’s bookshelves, bigger than the printed Scarlet Magazines that she has on her bedside table. The pages are worn, and they tell the story of some things that Kat’s been experiencing all her life. Her mother explains the curse that has haunted her family for generations, the curse that will follow Kat throughout her life. Kat listens, numb but afraid, and for whatever reason she believes her. Her family history is bleak, and she’s always thought that something must be going on, bad luck maybe, to have such a devastating ancestral backstory. Now she knows the truth.

                   She isn’t the least bit mad at the witch for cursing Maurice and Thomas Paine. If anyone hurt Atafeh Kat would… Atafeh. It strikes her then why her mother feels guilty and why her father blames her for the accident; the curse. Piecing together her life, her parents lives, she realizes that it’s always been present – through her mother’s many miscarriages (always boys), to her birth, to her mother wincing in pain every time her dad bangs his knee on his desk or gets a papercut, and then the accident.

                     If Atafeh were to meet Kat, the girl would be in real danger. She might die. She could end up like her father or worse somehow. And Kat couldn’t bear it – doesn’t know how her own mother can look at herself in the mirror and know. Kat’s ideals of soulmates change, she realizes that Atafeh would be much safer without her. And isn’t that perfect? The one thing Kat has been looking forward to since her father’s accident has been speaking with Atafeh and now she can’t bring herself to do that. The curse is already making her suffer and she’s not even thirteen yet.

                    She requests to be left alone and her mother obliges with a whispered goodnight and a tearful apology. Kat is left angry, furious, cheated, and miserable in her room. Alone. She feels so alone, and it strikes her suddenly that this is the first time she’s ever felt that way. And when the slight scratches of pen can be felt across her skin later, Kat neglects to answer even as lies awake, staring at the moon and cursing her luck, her family. She stares out the window, sitting on her window seat, and keeps her arms covered with blankets so she won’t be tempted to reply. Because she can’t. She won’t.

                     Atafeh deserves someone who can love her the right way without feeling like she has to stay for Kat’s sake. She deserves to be safe and as far away from Kat as possible. Because, in the end, Kat cannot bring herself to answer the neat scrawls on her arm, though she’s fluent in the Farsi now, no matter how happy that might make the girl. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: The Making of Adena El Amin

Thirteen Years Old.

                  Kat spends the next three months after her birthday ignoring the writing of Atafeh on her arms, legs, and wherever else the girl decides to mark her. There is a slip of her pen one day, a little nick of ink that dots her wrist and it nearly stops Kat’s heart when she notices what she’s done. Kat isn’t sure of a God up there watching out for them all, but she prays to the universe and whoever else is listening that Atafeh doesn’t notice her mistake, hopes that the girl writes it off as her own ink. But there’s a small circle of blue pen around the dot and what she thinks is a question mark. Kat switches to pencil after this and throws all of her pens and markers away, even though she loves to draw and finds it therapeutic. There are no more mistakes after that but Kat notices that Atafeh stops using black pens and switches to colorful ones instead. She stops writing on Kat’s arms, her own arms, and instead takes to drawing doodles. This only makes Kat more frustrated because she wants to draw too. She uses pencil but it’s not the same as drawings in color and she’s much too afraid to use markers, charcoals, or paint – especially not paint. So, she grits her teeth and tosses that interest, that pastime that she used to enjoy before she was thirteen, away.

                  When she isn’t making sure that there isn’t a trace of herself on Atafeh’s body, Kat spends her months reading very carefully through the book given to her by her mother. But only one third of what she reads applies to herself. There is no mention of how she can feel her soulmates emotions from thousands of miles away, there is no mention of how she can identify her mother and fathers emotions, or how she’s able to view Atafeh’s life when she sleeps, or why she can feel Atafeh’s hands on her skin when the girl touches herself in any type of way, how Atafeh always knows when she’s upset because she feels arms encircle her as if the girl is hugging her own body tightly in order for Kat to feel it. It occurs to Kat whilst reading that the connection must go both ways. She doesn’t know if Atafeh can see her own daily life like Kat can when she sleeps or if it’s just the emotional and physical response that they have in common. Kat hopes that Atafeh is unable to see her life, it would only make it harder on them both.

Things that do make sense in the book and that apply to Kat:

  1. She’s cursed.
  2. Heightened sense of danger and wellbeing of her soulmate.
  3. Extreme pain shared between the two of them (Kat hopes this is just on her end and not on Atafeh’s as well considering her own bad luck).
  4. May share an occasional dream or two about one’s daily life.
  5. Writing still appears normally on the skin as a mirror of the others just as it does for all soulmates in the world.

Things she assumes are true:

  1. She’ll die at thirty if she and Atafeh haven’t met by then, haven’t made things official by then.
  2. If she were to have children, she would have a baby girl.
  3. Space away from Atafeh once they’ve met has to be minimal otherwise Kat could end up very sick or even near death.
  4. She will die soon after Atafeh does.
  5. Atafeh is in danger as soon as she meets Kat – maybe even before then.

A frustrating list of all the problems Kat has that are not covered in the book:

  1. She can view Atafeh’s life every night in her dreams while the girl is awake in her country – somewhere Kat knows to be in the middle east. It isn’t a rare occurrence – it happens every night. And Atafeh has been in, at least, a few of Kat’s dreams as well, looking out into her view of the world.
  2. Kat has a heightened sense of where Atafeh is in the world. Once when the girl was traveling closer to the united states, Kat could feel this sense of warmth grow marginally inside her chest and somehow, she knew that the girl was closer to her than she once was.
  3. They can feel one another, comfort one another, physically and emotionally.
  4. Kat can feel Atafeh’s emotions almost as clearly as she feels her own and she knows that the other girl can do the same from the many times that comfort has been found in phantom hugs and affectionate caresses.
  5. Kat has certain… quirks that make her different from other people. Otherwise, not “normal.”

             When Kat isn’t stressing herself out about all these unknown things that she can’t talk about with anyone, especially her parents, she likes to focus on Atafeh and occasionally goes to bed early just so she can fall asleep faster. Every night she learns something new about the girl; her favorite foods, her favorite music, her favorite movies, the relationship she has with her family, how she likes to spend her free time, why she finds it so fun to bend the rules. She takes note on a lot of these and naturally forgets some of them because she’s only human. But Kat knows the big stuff and the stuff that no one else knows.

              Music is Atafeh’s life and she comes from a family of musicians. Her father teaches her how to play piano, how to read music, how to identify keys and types of music from sound, and her mother teaches her how to sing and Atafeh’s voice is beautiful, and Kat could listen to her speak or sing all day long. Her brother, Mehran, is a musician as well, a piano prodigy, and he’s quite a bit older than Atafeh. Kat knows that he’s fallen in with the wrong crowd and that their parents suspect that he’s doing drugs. She knows how much the girl worries after her brother but is unsure how to go about helping him. Atafeh’s family is rich, her father being some important political figure in their community, and Atafeh lives in a mansion. Atafeh’s best friend, Shireen, lives in a poor district elsewhere and Atafeh occasionally takes money from her bank account to give to the girl so that she can pay tuition at a lower education all-girls school that the community looks down upon. She’s hoping that Shireen will join her in her private school one day soon but the other girl keeps getting turned down.

              Kat admires this about Atafeh. She is kind and she doesn’t look down upon Shireen despite the girl not having money. But Kat notices the looks that Shireen gives the girl when she’s not looking and there’s a jealousy that builds in Kat’s belly each time she notices it. Kat occasionally contemplates that look when she’s awake later and she knows. As for Atafeh’s feelings, Kat notices looks sometimes that speak of the girl’s interests – she is curious but entertains boys because it’s easier, accepted. She often asks herself how she’d react if Atafeh were to kiss one of them or go out on dates with someone and she knows that she shouldn’t feel badly, has no right to feel jealous, but she does. Mainly because these people get to see Atafeh every day, get to speak with her whenever they want, and they haven’t anything to worry about. Meanwhile, Kat has to face the reality that any contact she has with the girl puts Atafeh in danger.


 

 

Sixteen Years Old.

               They are sixteen when Atafeh kisses a boy, the first one of them to have anything romantic happen. Kat flinches in her sleep and wakes herself when it happens. She gets up, takes her blanket with her, and sits upon her window seat as she contemplates the moon and the conflicted feelings she can identify in her soulmate. The girl is scattered, confused, and ultimately afraid; it wasn’t what she thought it would be. When she kissed the boy, there was very little feeling at all and it was more awkward than anything. Not how she believes kissing should be because the whole point of kissing someone is to feel something, right? The girl is so confused that Kat is left in a numb state as Atafeh’s emotions overtake her own, she doesn’t even have enough room in her mind to be jealous. She tries to comfort the girl, to wrap her arms around herself and start up a gentle rocking motion, and it seems to help. Kat isn’t surprised when she feels the tell-tale writing on her arm but is shocked when she realizes that it’s in English. Kat knew that Atafeh had been learning the language, but she’d only ever written to her in Farsi before – this is new and terrifying. Because how does she know that Kat is American? Speaks English? There are literally thousands of other languages in the world that Kat Edison could speak but here Atafeh is, just knowing. Heart stopping in her chest, she refocuses on the words and reads once more.

'Are you there?'

               And what should she say? For the first time in a very long time, Kat is struck with the need to write Atafeh back. Can’t believe that the girl wrote to her in English of all languages, wonders if Atafeh can see her in her dreams as well. There is a big squeeze in her chest and she feel so alone, knows that her soulmate feels the same and that they both crave the same things – they both wish, more than anything, that they could speak together. It is Kat’s fault. She neglects to answer, feeding Atafeh’s fear that she might not have a soulmate after all, that she might be crazy. There is a familiar scratch of ink once more and Kat steels herself before she glances down and reads.

'Please.'

                  She only hesitates a few moments more before moving up from her seat and around her room, acting on impulse more than thought. Dropping to her floor, she peaks underneath her bed for a pen, knowing that she dropped one months ago when she needed to forge a document for school with her parent’s signature. It’s still there, Kat not bothering to move it because she still doesn’t write in pen unless she has to. Uncapping it, she leans back against her bedside table and ignores the knobs of drawers digging into her back for the moment as her arm comes up towards her face. She pauses and thinks.

                  If she does this, if she gives into this overwhelming desire, then Atafeh will know that, somewhere in the world, Kat Edison exists. She is no longer an intangible thought; she becomes real and solid, outlined in the girl’s heart. There are tears falling from her face, her eyes blurry, when she writes back. It is not what she wants to say, it is not enough for all the thoughts and feelings that Kat wants to give to this girl but she feels like she needs to say it. She needs to say it because –

'I’m sorry.'

                  Whimpering to herself, sniffling, Kat tries to quiet her own sobs as the threaten the silence of her room. She feels hopeless, a ship all alone out in a hurricane with no mayday call to give, no one to come and save her. There are so many things that she wants to say but can’t. And now Atafeh knows that Kat Edison exists and the relief that she can feel through their bond is strong before it’s overwhelmed with anger and suddenly there’s a sharp pain her arm. Desperately trying not to yelp at the pain and the surprise, Kat glances down to see a reddened smudge of dark blue ink seeping into her skin from where Atafeh must have stabbed with a blunt pen. From what Kat can tell, which isn’t much, it likely didn’t break the skin but there will be a bruise come morning. Kat’s crying ceased with the surprise, but she can feel a simmering in their bond, picking up on just how angry the other girl is and how she regrets what she just did. There it is, the familiar scratch of ink and she winces at how hard the pen is being pressed into the other girls’ skin, longs to do something but being unable to. 

'You left me alone.'

                  And that’s true enough but also not true at all. Kat may not have spoken with the girl, but she was always there. Always there in Atafeh’s dreams, silently cheering her on, and always there when she needed comforting or when she needed encouragement or just needed to feel like someone was there. Kat could see their bond if she closed her eyes tight enough and she could send those messages, silent as they were, through it until they shot through Atafeh’s heart and gave her the courage or comfort, whatever she needed, to get through anything she faced. Kat knows that Atafeh immediately regrets what she just wrote, she can feel that and immediately sends comforting vibes the girls way, hoping beyond hope that she knows Kat doesn’t blame her for anything, isn’t mad at her for saying whatever she needs to say. Kat feels so old sometimes… Forced to grow up too soon with the burden of their bond, and the knowledge that Kat can never keep her safe enough – not while she’s around, at least. And that’s not her fault. None of it is Atafeh’s fault – most of it isn’t even Kat’s.

                  Kat knows that sometimes her own emotions can get the better of the girl thousands of miles away. She knows that her emotions are sometimes so intense that they threaten to exhaust Atafeh if they aren’t careful. Sometimes Kat feels resistance in their bond, a tug and then a shield being put into place, just to make it manageable, and she is so proud that Atafeh learned how to do that – to block Kat out, even just a little. Because there have been times when Kat’s emotions (usually anger or overwhelming sadness, never happiness) knock Atafeh down and keep her in bed all day. If Kat could save her from this, if she knew how, Kat would live her whole life alone in order to spare the girl. Because no one can understand how good that girl is, how wild, how free, how passionate and alive she is. A soul like that shouldn’t be threatened with a shadow like Kat’s in her mind, in her soul. Kat hopes that Atafeh can become stronger than her, stronger than the curse, and push Kat out of her mind forever. She thinks it might be the only way the girl can salvage herself without Kat staining her.

'Stop it.'

Two little words and Kat’s back in place with her arm close to her chest, staring at the writing, feeling the resentment and the hurt there in their bond. She hadn’t been aware of it, but she’d been testing their bond, closing her eyes and finding that bright rainbow of colors in her mind, the thread that connected her to her beloved, to see if she could find any loopholes, to see if she could break it. An overwhelming sense of guilt plagues her mind and Kat’s head finds her knees, bringing them close to her chest, and leaning over until she lays onto the cool hardwood floor. In the fetal position, she tries to find something happy to focus on, tries to look through her memories and choose an orange one, the color that associates itself with Atafeh, with happiness, before she finds one.

Kat is winding her fingers through the grass as she looks up at the sky. She knows exactly how many miles separate them, but she swears she can feel Atafeh here with her lying beside her in the grass. She knows now that the girl can see her in her dreams too and it’s the first time she’s ever contemplated speaking out loud to her, just in the chance that she is here dreaming of Kat. She doesn’t know why it didn’t occur to her before that she could talk to Atafeh while she was awake, on the off chance that she did see the same things Kat did whilst sleeping. Kat thinks, believes, that she is with her. The thirteen-year-old doesn’t know how to explain the multiple occurrences in her day when she’s suddenly comforted, or when she feels a tinge of amusement (green, always green in color, sparking behind Kat’s eyes), or when there’s slight anger (not her own, which she can identify from how it feels and what it looks like inside her own mind (a deep tumultuous burgundy signifying Atafeh’s, Kat’s a brilliantly light red)) at something someone said to her.

There is a nudge on the thread that connects them, a greeting, and a grin brightens Kat’s face; she is here, saying a silent ‘hello.’ Hand raising in the air towards the sky, Kat lets it flow through the air like a bird, wishing she had wings so that she could fly to visit Atafeh anytime; silently knowing that even if she did have wings, she wouldn’t go. Closing her eyes, dropping her hand to her stomach, Kat sighs and enjoys the warmth of the sun beating down upon her face. In her dreams, when she can see Atafeh, it’s like Kat is living the girls’ life for her rather than standing next to her. Kat sees things through the girl’s eyes, feels her feelings along with her own, but doesn’t control it. She wonders if the view is the same for Atafeh; is she behind Kat’s eyes or beside her? Either way, she’s with Kat and that’s all that matters. Trying not to think too much of it, knowing that this changes things now that she knows their dream sharing is the same, Kat begins to speak.

“My name is Kat Edison.” She introduces herself quietly, voice only a few octaves higher than a whisper, “I’m fifteen and I’m your soulmate.” It sounds silly, maybe a bit stupid, so Kat giggles as her cheeks flush a pretty red. She doesn’t tell her about the curse, for some reason she knows that Atafeh isn’t aware of it, nor does she discuss the fact that this is the first time she’s ever talked with Atafeh; two years have passed since her thirteenth birthday and she’s never once answered the girls’ messages. Sighing happily, Kat stretches and turns her head to the side, her hand searching for someone that isn’t there to hold. “I miss you all the time.” She admits, hushed, as if it’s a secret. “I know that might sound stupid because we’ve never met before, but I really do miss you.” Voice breaking on the last word, Kat’s rubs at her eye and clears her throat. It is a bittersweet happiness with them and Kat thinks that it might always be this; happy one moment, sad the next when they realize what they are and what could happen. She can feel a deep understanding radiating out towards her but its tainted with confusion because things don’t make sense when you don’t have the whole story and Atafeh doesn’t.

The truth of the matter is that Kat longs for this girl. It isn’t just physical – it isn’t just wanting a hug or even a kiss. Atafeh would understand Kat, does understand Kat. And in a world where her parents only ask about her when she seems unhappy, which is a lot admittedly, and when she doesn’t have many friends, no friends who are mature enough to have conversations about this, Kat longs to be understood. And she knows that Atafeh would hold her and comfort her and it would actually work – it would be the first time she’s felt comfort since her mother told her about the curse. So yes, Kat longs for the girl’s company and for the arms that she knows she can sink into and receive nothing but comfort. And in that moment, when she needs it the most, she can feel an abundance of warmth being sent her way.  

It was the first time Kat knew that Atafeh saw her in her dreams too. There is a familiar scratch of words on her arm again and when she glances down she can’t it when her eyes tear up once more and a soft sob makes its way into the silence. Because they are words of forgiveness, of understanding, and a silent acknowledgement of what she always knew; Atafeh was always with her. 

'I miss you too.'

 


 

                  Kat is on the cusp of seventeen when Shireen and Atafeh become something more than friends.  It is heartbreaking to watch and not just because it’s her soulmate.

It is a disaster. 

                  What they’re doing is practically illegal in their country, if not actually illegal. Kat saw it coming but it doesn’t make the tight squeeze of worry in her chest dissipate when they finally kiss (and admittedly do a little more than that, something Kat didn’t want to see and tried desperately to block out with a mental shield which was only semi-successful). Kat has been on dates with boys, nothing special, but what they’re doing isn’t that.

Atafeh is seventeen when she falls in love for the first time.

                  Shireen is her best friend who now attends the same private institution that Atafeh does. She is quiet, reserved, and her soulmate believes that she’s a ‘good-girl’ and is frequently trying to break her from that by bringing her places where she might have the opportunity to cut loose. Atafeh kisses strangers, has an on-off boyfriend that Kat thinks is good looking but knows is no good, takes party drugs and gets wasted when she’s out with her friends. Her rebellious nature has only gotten worse with age and Kat has to admit that it got much worse when they were sixteen and Atafeh’s brother entered into a rehab and mental facility. She became the apple of her parent’s eye, especially her fathers, and got away with a lot. For whatever reason, Kat thinks that maybe the girl is trying to prove something, but she’d have to ask who she’s prove it to. The sixteen-year-old wonders if maybe she’s trying to prove something to herself.

                  For herself, Kat tries to focus on school and less on her soulmate and the curse. She makes good grades easily, joins a few school clubs to keep her mind occupied, and tries her best to focus on whoever wants to date her this week. She gets asked out a lot, only ever boys, and she almost always says yes. She’s not interested in a relationship because if she can’t Atafeh then she doesn’t want anyone else. But she indulges them and goes to their parties, out with them to eat where they pay for everything, and maybe she goes home with some of them. She’s no longer a virgin, her v-card came and went with a foreign exchange student last summer by the name of Andre, and she’s not holding any of Atafeh’s own exploring against her. Atafeh is still a virgin, unlike Kat, but she’s not in a hurry like some girls are to lose that. In fact, the girl has always been very patient with herself – unlike Kat who gets frazzled and anxious easily. Kat even likes Shireen - at first. 

                  They go out to parties together and they dance. They tell each other about their dreams and Shireen speaks of how much she wants to escape Iran. Dubai. She wants to go to Dubai. Atafeh is much more realistic but nonetheless a dreamer and Kat knows she keeps a destination journal underneath her bed of all the places she wants to visit and those she’s crossed off her list. Shireen is actually not the first girl that Atafeh’s ever kissed, though the girl doesn’t tell her that. In reality, that title goes to a charming girl that Atafeh met in Amsterdam last summer – just after Kat lost her virginity coincidentally – and it was fireworks. It was the way that Atafeh always wanted to feel when kissing a boy but never could, no matter how good of a kisser he was. Despite not being Atafeh’s first kiss, Shireen turns out to be the one that matters most and soon they’re sneaking around.

                  One night when Atafeh and Shireen are partying they get caught on their way home by the morality police. The level of fear that Atafeh has as she pulls over to the side of the road is overwhelming and, despite the dread that Kat suddenly feels, she does her best to comfort the girl as they’re on the way to the police station. It works very little if at all, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her; she is focused and calm despite the circumstances. At seventeen years old, Atafeh is a queen among men. And they don’t break her…

But they break Kat.

                  Because in the interrogation room, the officers touch Atafeh in what they call a “thorough search” but Kat has a different name for it; sexual assault. Atafeh is trembling and she’s afraid and in pain and Kat is…

                  She’s at the carnival. Connecticut can be beautiful in fall and Atafeh has never been here before, never seen this before. Kat doesn’t know why she picks this place of all places for them disappear into, but she does. She pushes so hard at their bond that she breaks through the mold that separates their minds, blending their world together and sharing this memory with her soulmate, forcing her to see it instead of what’s going on in that room. Kat doesn’t know how she does this but it’s like she’s put a projector into the forefront of Atafeh’s mind and flipped off the switch to reality, so all they can see is this memory of Kat at the carnival.

                  She came here with friends, but she likes to take at least one ride on the ferris wheel by herself before she leaves. Her parents have agreed to pick her up at 7 and she has just enough time for one last ride before she has to make her way to the parking lot. The leaves have just started to turn colors and Kat’s always admired how they look from up here at the top, above the carnival and some of the buildings nearby. In the dimming light of the day, Kat can make out the yellows, oranges, reds, and browns that signify fall. She knows that Atafeh hasn’t seen something like this in her own country, knows that it looks different especially given that she lives in the capital of Iran, a large city. In the memory, revisiting it now, she can feel Atafeh’s ever-present curiosity, but it’s still tinged in discomfort and fear, though nothing like before in this peaceful place. Still, it is appreciated, and Kat can feel that monstrous gratitude hit her square in the chest. They sit here for a while, up top and looking over the leaves, before Kat gently backs out and away, letting her come down and find her way though she feels the girl trying to stop her.

                  When it’s over, when Atafeh has been questioned and no one has told her where Shireen is, Atafeh is immediately bailed out by her father and goes home. They are disappointed in her like they never have been before, and Kat thinks that’s fair considering their son just got out of rehab and now they’re worried that their daughter might be going down a similar path. Atafeh tries desperately to get ahold of Shireen but can’t reach her and doesn’t hear from the woman for a day or so. She goes on a hike with her dad, but they get in a fight, something Kat’s seen only a handful of times, and it seems as if things are unraveling. This all started happening when Mehran came home only a few months ago and Kat has always been suspicious of him, especially now that he’s back. He looks at Atafeh as if she’s dirty these days, as if he’s so much holier and worthy than she is. It makes Kat’s blood boil and Atafeh has noticed and she’s taken to watching him more carefully than she had before.

                  When Atafeh returns home from her hike, Shireen is there. And of a second, Atafeh is happy. But then she notices the way they’re all dressed, the cups of special tea and how Shireen, Mehran, Atafeh’s mother and father, Shireen’s guardian are all arranged. It’s the way Shireen avoids her gaze that gives it away and Atafeh puts two and two together, familiar with this type of gathering because it’s culture, and she realizes that Shireen, the girl she’s in love with, is marrying her brother.

                  Kat is quiet.

                  She doesn’t know how to comfort this mess of a girl, but she tries desperately as Atafeh drinks until she’s drunk and then stupidly gets behind the wheel. Kat is trying so hard to be the friend that Atafeh needs right now but she can tell that it isn’t helping so she backs off and lets her feel it. They haven’t talked in long while. Atafeh doesn’t write on her arms anymore or anywhere else, not since Shireen kissed her and Kat tries not to feel betrayed by that. It hurts her too.

                  Kat is trying to focus on her own life, trying to ignore the way her parents keep hinting at psychology schools or how she feels so unsure of what or who she is anymore. She’s lost herself in this thing with Atafeh – doesn’t know how to be herself without focusing on the curse or their relationship. It wasn’t simpler when they were younger, but it wasn’t so involved for Kat – not like this. And Kat…

Kat doesn’t think that she can help Atafeh with this anymore.

                  It isn’t because she doesn’t want to or that it hurts too much. It’s because Atafeh won’t talk with her anymore. It’s because she doesn’t reach out and, while Kat can sense her in her daily life and visit her in her own dreams, there is a wall between them. Kat no longer feels the extent of Atafeh’s feelings; she only feels what the girl wants her to. Kat’s never had the privilege of hiding from Atafeh, it would be much easier if she could, and it’s always been the other girls gift of ability to block her out. And Kat thinks that, maybe, Atafeh doesn’t want…

                  Doesn’t want to be shielded from this. Doesn’t want to be hindered in any way emotionally that might stunt her growth here. So, Kat does the only thing she can do.

  Kat lets her fall by herself.

                 And when she pulls back, when she makes the effort to reel in her own connection with Atafeh, it leaves her feeling relieved but also empty, free. And Atafeh cries because she can feel it but she’s thankful for it and Kat knows that she’s made the right decision for once in her life. Kat pulls herself back so far from Atafeh that she gets several nights of sleep a week where she doesn’t see the woman at all, where she isn’t interjected into her life. Kat finds that she prefers this to watching Atafeh every day. It is a level of freedom neither have had before. While the emotional bonds are still there, they can both still sense the others’ emotions, they do not pry, and they do not offer comfort. It’s become an unspoken rule between the two of them that if its wanted or needed then a request should be made. It seems formal and maybe a tad banal and unromantic but it’s better than going crazy with the want to comfort someone all the time, better than feeling like they have to do that because they can feel each other’s emotions too.

               But Kat lets Atafeh know how proud she is when she sees how Atafeh stuck up for herself, when she leaves on a plane to Dubai and goes her own way like she’s always wanted to do. Atafeh knows that she can’t stay in Iran, can’t watch her brother and the girl she loves together even if they aren’t soulmates, and she knows that if she doesn’t leave now then she never will. So, she grows wings and takes flight and gets a new name, reminding Kat of that time in the park when she wished for the same ability. Kat’s approval of all of this isn’t needed but its greatly appreciated and her encouragement is met with the first positive emotions from Atafeh in months; she is happy that Kat is happy for her.

              Atafeh leaves home at seventeen years old. She leaves with a new name; one Kat finds fits her better. When she arrives in Dubai with several thousands in her bank account, forwarded by her mother when she confides in her on a layover flight, she is no longer Atafeh.

                                                                   She’s Adena El Amin. Or rather, she’s becoming Adena El Amin. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Catch Up

 

18 Years Old

          Over the course of her last year in high school, Kat gradually loses contact with Adena. She makes sure the girl is safe in Dubai. She stays around long enough to see her moving into a small apartment, paid for by her mother who she still talks with, and get a job in a restaurant that she seems to like. Adena is flourishing under the relaxed rules of this new country and she takes to it like fish out of water; she is still heartbroken over Shireen, but she meets new people, people like her, and that wound slowly closes.

           Kat doesn’t do it as a punishment or anything other than not knowing what else to do. Her entire life has revolved around this curse and she’s graduating soon. It seems like the time to try and focus solely on herself and she hopes that Adena doesn’t resent her for it. She knows that the other girl can feel her pulling away and occasionally there is a tug of longing and pleading so severe that is makes her breath catch, makes her second guess herself. But if she doesn’t do it now then she never will so she works ahead and tries to cut Adena off gradually, regardless of the other girl’s feelings. Though, sometimes, she thinks the girl might understand why Kat is doing this because she doesn’t force the issue or push back.


19 Years Old 

            In the beginning she can only hold a shield for an hour or two before her nose begins to bleed and a horrible headache forms behind her eyes. It is the most difficult thing Kat has ever had to do. Keeping Adena out of her head, all but forcing her entirely out of her life, is not something that she masters in a day. It takes her two months of daily work and meditation before she can hold up a barrier between them for more than six hours. And that’s with constant reminder that she’s working on it – it takes her a full year of working diligently to block Adena completely; there is no more shared dreams and no more shared feelings. Kat can still feel Adena but it’s in the back of her mind, another sense that she only focuses on when she wants to, and they can still communicate via markings on their skin, Kat can still feel Adena’s pain physically. She guesses that because her shield is more of a mental aspect, the physical can still pass through.

           Adena, for her part, takes to her new life with open arms and Kat thinks that it makes it easier for them both. Adena is still bitter because Kat’s cut her off, was incredibly hurt when she could feel Kat purposefully pulling away, but she makes no move to communicate or to stop Kat. They are still children with heavy feelings and misunderstanding and Adena is only months older than she is – Kat doesn’t blame her when she feels betrayed, feels like Kat has left her alone when she needs it most.

           But for once in her life, Kat wants to be selfish. She wants to forget about the Edison curse and go and live her life. By the time she’s graduating high school, she’s blocked Adena out completely and on her way to a posh Ivy League school. Having nothing to worry about, Kat lets herself go. She makes a lot of mistakes, spends a lot of nights with men and women who show interest, and she drinks a lot. She parties and she misses days of school, like kids in college do. She goes to seminars on things that interest her and finds joy in women’s empowerment and feminist studies. She joins student organizations and even briefly considers joining a sorority. For the first time in her life, she is free to do as she pleases without the watchful eyes of her parents and the ever-present feelings of Adena.

           She finds freedom of expression in clothing, becomes obsessed with different designers and looks; her style game greatly improves. She stumbles her way through her freshman and sophomore years of college and learns which classes she likes and which she hates. It leads her into the land of Marketing where she learns that she can make a career out of social media – something she enjoys and is very good at. She learns how to sell a company and she minors in management studies because she’s determined to make something of herself. Kat is self-motivated and sure of herself; she is so confident that her presence blinds people when she enters a room, draws them in.

          College is an opportunity for Kat to find herself and she does. She has so much fun and meets so many different people, is exposed to so many different cultures. She goes out on dates for the first time in her life and realizes why relationships could be so important to someone’s life. Kat doesn’t fall in love with any of them and they only last for a few dates before she moves on. She can’t bring herself to connect with them when she knows that across the world there is someone perfect for her. If she can’t be with Adena then Kat doesn’t see the point in being in a relationship with anyone else. Especially not when none of these people are her soulmate.

           Ultimately, she just doesn’t like anyone enough to try something romantic.

Until he comes into her life.

 


21 Years Old

          She’s just come back from Christmas break when she meets him. He’s handsome and charming and he pays attention. She feels some type of way when she’s with him, warm and happy. She genuinely enjoys his company and he is the first person that Kat can actually talk to about serious things. Of course, she doesn’t tell him about Adena – no one would ever understand – but she talks about other things; her insecurities regarding graduation, where she hopes to go from here, even little diatribes about her childhood. It is different with him than with everyone else and Kat grows comfortable. When they do have sex for the first time it feels different. Kat doesn’t have a lot of close friends, but she knows without talking to someone that she likes him. Genuinely.

          It scares her, and he can tell. He assures her that they can go slowly, and Kat is reassured that she’s safe with him. They get drunk off of too much wine one night and they sleep together – which is fine because he’s kind of her boyfriend now. When she wakes up she finds that she’s late for class and rushes to get ready; she kisses his cheek before she leaves, a small smile on her face as she walks out of the door. For the first time in a while, she’s happy with something more than her academic life. College has been a whirlwind of experiences and finding herself. There has been a lot of good times and a lot of bad times, Kat feels full when she looks back at all of it. She knows where she’s going after she graduates, or at least she thinks she does. There is a publication that she’s been following religiously since she was a teenager and her father knows someone who can get her into the social media department. Normally Kat would be reluctant to take that kind of help but she’s resentful of her parents.

         It is strange, the relationship she has with them. Kat is resentful that they passed along the curse to her, but she can’t very well hate them for having her, can she? They’re the reason she’s alive and the reason that she’s in the world at all. Kat just doesn’t think that she could grin and bear it, bringing a baby into this world and knowing that she’s going to live a cursed life – that her love life will be awful, and she could very well die before thirty if she’s unlucky. Or worse, she could build a life with her soulmate and one day everything changes – just like her own parents – and live with the knowledge of knowing that it’s her fault. To live her whole life knowing that whoever she loves is in danger once they meet.

         Kat wonders if her mother regrets having her. After the accident that left her father paralyzed, she catches her mother looking at her with a troubled expression. The emotions that Kat can feel from her when this happens isn’t regret but it is a deep sadness and shame that can be overwhelming. Shame because she’s living through an awful time with Kat’s father, who clearly resents her and knows that if he leaves, Susan will die. And isn’t that awful in itself? To know that your lover would rather run away than be with you but can’t in order to save your life?

That’s why, when her period is late two months before graduating, Kat knows what her decision will be before she goes to the doctor.


22 Years Old (5 WEEKS LATER)

She is pregnant.

         With a girl. Of course, it’s too early to tell what the sex of the baby is considering Kat is only about six weeks pregnant at most, but she knows. History is deemed to repeat itself, but she won’t let it. She takes 483 dollars out of her college savings account, makes up an excuse about needing car repairs if her parents think to ask, which they don’t, and makes an appointment.

         She doesn’t tell him. She doesn’t speak to him again after graduation and avoids him as much as she possibly can after the abortion. They cross paths a handful of times before graduation but Kat avoids his eyes and walks the other way when she can. He is deeply hurt, Kat can see it when he looks at her, and confused but she makes no move to speak with him. She’s alone again and doesn’t bother to pick up her diploma when she graduates, doesn’t even think to attend. She immediately rents an apartment in New York City, can’t bear to go home and see her parents, and she spends a month in solitude, getting to know this new exciting city, before she gives the go ahead to her father to put in the word at Scarlet.

         She doesn’t mourn, doesn’t grieve. She does her best to not think of what ifs and could-have-beans’ and largely is successful. When she has bad days and the thoughts of the baby come back up, she drinks a lot and passes out on her sofa. When she begins work at Scarlet and meets Jane and Sutton, two of the other Scarlet assistants, her smile comes a little easier and some of that weight slips from her shoulders. They become thick as thieves and Kat gathers the courage and tells them her biggest secret. She shows them the book because Jane is skeptical and they’re silent through the night, processing, but they never leave her alone, even when she cries. They hold her, and Sutton makes her laugh, Tiny Jane snuggled up on one side and Sutton on the other. She finds an incredible support group, friends that she never even imagined having, and they make it easier for her to breathe, for her to live.

 

         She doesn’t tell them about the baby. She keeps a sonogram photo underneath her bed in a pink box; inside there is a pair of pink Chuck Taylors and a soft baby blanket, also pink, with the picture of a rabbit on front.

 

Life goes on. 

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: Bittersweet

                  Kat is twenty-six when they meet. She awakes that morning with a feeling of anticipation in her belly, a roiling sort of feeling that makes her anxious. She does her best to ignore it as she gets herself ready for work. She’s looking fierce today, as usual, and is feeling confident but that feeling of anxious anticipation doesn’t leave. She walks Sinatra, a rescue mutt that Jane found in a trash can last summer and Kat quickly grew attached to, before she leaves her apartment, clutching a thermos of coffee as she goes. She is sure to grab her mail before leaving the building and the first three letters are hers but the last two belong to someone else – someone familiar.

                  Adena El Amin.

Kat nearly drops her coffee.

                  The address on the envelope states that this mail was supposed to be delivered in a different district of New York – nowhere even close to where Kat lives. She’s not shared a dream or feeling – besides the occasional physical pain – with Adena El Amin since she worked on cutting the woman off before and during college. Kat has had a chance to make a name for herself outside of the constant visions of the other woman and she enjoys her life. She has two of the best friends that anyone could ask for, she’s kicking ass at her job, and her sex life isn’t too bad either. And now the world is sending her a gigantic kick in the ass.

                  Annoyed, Kat shoves the envelope in her bag and marches down the stairs quickly to catch a cab.

 

                  Her thoughts race in the cab on the way into work. Adena lives in New York – it makes Kat’s head spin to have that confirmed. There have been several incidents in the past few years where she feels as if she’s been close to running into the woman. It’s the universes way of fucking her over yet again, fucking them both over, and Kat knows that it was just a matter of time. Eventually the world would stick them in the same place at the same time and they would meet. Doomed to forever be a part of each other’s life.

                  Kat’s grown up a lot since shutting Adena out. She’s made countless mistakes, had several successes, and she’s still alive – which is something to celebrate in her family where everyone seems to die before fifty. Still, she feels as if she’s floating aimlessly – just like when she was a child, a teenager. That feeling of being lost has never left her. She goes to work each day and does a really good job, she kicks ass and is promoted within two years of being with Scarlet, and she has great friends, but these are the only two sure things in Kat’s life. There have been no romances past a few dates and one-night stands, nothing ever seems to stick. She can’t picture her life five years from now – but that’s also because she’ll die in five years. Provided that she doesn’t meet Adena before then.

                  Kat can’t explain how it feels to know, down to the day, when you’ll die. It makes everything else both meaningless and meaningful. It is in the little moments, when she’s laughing so hard that she’s crying with Jane and Sutton or when she feels genuinely proud of herself (something that doesn’t happen often), when she remembers. And it will hit her so hard that it leaves her breathless sometimes – this is it. Moments like those, moments worth living for, are numbered for her. While that makes them more meaningful, because she truly does try to live life to the fullest, it also makes it unbearably hard to live.

                  Some days she awakes with the gut-wrenching fear of her impending doom. She used to keep a calendar in her room to mark the days and schedule events, but she took it down because it reminded her too much of how little time she had. Five years would pass in a blink of an eye and she’d be gone. 1,825 days and Kat Edison would be no more. She’d be gone…

She doesn’t even have 1,825 days now because she’s already twenty-six and she’s been twenty-six for four months now, it’s August and her birthday was in April, so… 1,688 days. It is a punch to the gut every time she does the math, so she tries not to think about it, but some days are hard. Some days Kat calls in sick and sits in her room, in this old chair that she found at a flea market one afternoon and stares out the window at all the people who are living their lives, blissfully unaware of how much time they have. She thinks about all the things that she won’t have – marriage, children, a home, timeTime. And she grieves.

                  Her parents used to call but Kat’s stopped answering the phone. The closer she gets to thirty, the scarier it gets. And she can’t forgive them for what they did – having her, cursing her. It is such an awful, confusing feeling to resent them for having her but being thankful that they did – because this is her life. She wouldn’t exist if not for them and she can’t deny wanting to live. Kat… Kat desperately wants to live. That’s all she wants – more time. She’s never been religious, but she prays on the days when it strikes her harder than others, prays for more time and apologizes time and again for the woman her ancestors destroyed. She prays for herself and for Adena, who won’t ever get to meet her, Adena’s soulmate, if Kat has anything to do with it. She prays for Adena a lot. It is such a strange thing to feel so connected to someone you’ve never met, someone you’ve only ever shared dreams with, had a minimum of three conversations with in your life. But that connection has never wavered. It’s the only thing that’s stayed constant in her life – her connection to Adena.

                  Kat might not be able to see her anymore or feel her presence every second of every day, but she knows the woman is living her life to the fullest. She can still see their bond clearly in her mind, those intertwined strings, and it brings her a little bit of comfort to know that Adena is alive somewhere in the world; it makes her feel less alone but also more alone than ever. It’s bittersweet because… Because Kat loves her, and she can’t be with her. Because being with Adena means killing Adena or having her hurt in a way similar to her father – her father who still can’t bring himself to meet her mother’s eyes some days.

Kat can’t do that. She can’t doom Adena to a life of uncertainty where she has to constantly look over her shoulder or one in which she’ll meet Kat and then be left alone if Kat dies. It’s better if they don’t meet at all. At least this way the two of them don’t know what they’re missing, what they’ll miss. Kat may not be whole without Adena but at least she’s safe – at least they’re both safe.

                  That’s why this mail thing is so upsetting. She’s angry, frustrated, and tired – so goddamn tired and resentful. She has a pitch meeting at Scarlet today, Jane’s first day as a journalist, and she should be excited because it’s a new year for the magazine – it’s sixty-first year – but she’s exhausted.

She thinks often about leaving the city; just running off one day to a random place on her bucket list. That’s one of her biggest regrets – not being able to travel as much as she’d like. She started the job at Scarlet immediately after graduation and her abortion – which she doesn’t talk about, doesn’t tell anyone about – and picked up so much pace in the job that she was soon promoted. The responsibilities kept pouring on and on and Kat went with it because… What else was she supposed to do? It was easier to go with the flow then contemplate her very short future.

                  She knows she should be more proactive considering she’s got so little time. But denial isn’t just a river in Egypt – it’s become Kat’s ever-present confidant over the years. It’s how she gets through most of her days, living in the moment, going with the flow, and she’s all for whatever works, whatever makes this easier. Because easy isn’t something that Kat has a lot of and she doesn’t like to take it for granted when it comes along. It’s amusing because she’s not an easy person. She’s outspoken, brave, bold, tough, and she’ll punch you in the mouth if you offend her or her friends. She’s unafraid of most everything – except time. She’s terrified of time. And Adena El Amin. Adena El Amin, everything she stands for, and the trouble she could bring to Kat’s life is terrifying.

                  The only upside to this easy approach to life is Sutton and Jane; the two best friends anyone could ask for. They met when they were all interns, low-level assistants, and Kat’s easy-going nature, Sutton’s unbreakable spirit, and Jane’s determination made them easy, fast friends. Sutton and Jane soon became Kat’s family, her sisters, and she’d never even dreamed of having such good friends. They were supportive of each other in every way and called each other on their bullshit when it was needed. They genuinely loved one another with everything they had, and Kat had spent the last three and half years having the time of her life with them.

Kat tries not to think about what will happen to them when she dies. She understands that she’s not just their friend – she’s family. And it hurts because Kat knows that Sutton will take it very hard and Jane will be angry because that’s how she deals with her grief. It will be so hard for the two of them and Kat often thinks about what would happen if she just up and quit her job, moved away, and never spoke to them again. Because surely a quick break would be better than a sudden death? Death was permanent and space, not to mention betrayal, might cushion the blow. But it’s… It’s out of the question. It’s out of the question because they picked her up when she needed them most and they’re the only reason she’s still alive. They save her life every day and they don’t even know it. Kat knows for certain that her grief and her depression would have taken over had they not been there. Her saviors, her sisters.

She plans. She plans because she has to make this easier for them.

Sutton will get Sinatra when she dies. She loves that dog and isn’t even mad when he gets his hair on her clothes. He was originally going to live with Sutton and Jane, but their apartment is too small, and they agreed that he’d be happier with Kat. And Kat can afford the dog daycare that he attends several times a week while Jane and Sutton don’t have that luxury. Kat would leave Sutton her savings because she doesn’t want it going to her parents who have plenty of money and Jane does just fine for herself. It isn’t a lot of money, she won’t make Sutton a millionaire by any means, but it’s a security that Sutton doesn’t have. She’d also receive half of the lucrative stocks that Kat has in Steinem – which could actually make her a millionaire one day. Sutton would also get first picks on whatever clothing, jewelry or shoes that she wanted to take from Kat’s apartment.

Jane would receive free reign on any of Kat’s décor and belongings – besides the family heirlooms like the Edison Curse book and the family journals, some jewelry and things she’s specifically identified in her Will. She’d get most of all the pictures they’d taken together and Kat’s college sweatshirt that she loves to steal whenever she comes over. It is absolutely too big for her but its soft and she loves it. She’d received all of the games that they play on drunken game nights and Kat’s fountain pen collection – a nerdy interest that she picked up in college and she’d get the other half of the stocks in Steinem – splitting them down the middle between her two best friends.

Her parents would get the Edison Curse book, the journals, and they’d all receive a letter. Kat hasn’t gotten around to writing them yet, it seems far too real to do it, but she knows some of the things she’d say. Her parents would get her forgiveness. She’s not ready to forgive them just yet but she hopes that she’d be forgiving before she died. They would receive copies of every issue of Scarlet magazine that she’s written a piece for or appeared in some capacity. They would have the luxury of not having to decide things for her funeral – Kat’s taken care of that down to the smallest details - they’d get the name and all of the information that Kat has on Adena. And they would have the obligation to take care of her, to make sure that there isn’t anything she needs. They’d be obligated to answer any questions that Adena might have regarding the things that Kat’s left her – they’ll be obligated and contractually required to give Adena the letter that Kat’s left her, explaining everything from the day she was born to the day that Kat dies.

Adena. Adena would get the truth. She’d receive all of Kat’s journals – chronicling the events of her life from 10 years old to now – and she’d get to know Kat through pages in a book and her own writing. Kat… Kat doesn’t like to think about Adena being alone when she dies. She would encourage her, in the letter, to live her life to the fullest and to meet someone who could love her perfectly without obligation, without the ever-present danger that Kat would pose. Adena would receive the answers that she’s always yearned to have regarding who Kat is and why she’s done the things that she’s done. Kat knows that their abrupt end and all of the weird out-of-this-world things that have happened have confused Adena. The woman would get everything that she’s always wanted – Answers.

But she wouldn’t have Kat.

She’s planned all of this, but it doesn’t matter what she leaves them. Kat knows that her absence will be felt regardless of how much she plans and tries to make things easier. It is one thing to cushion a blow and another to erase a past. Kat can’t erase herself from their memories and her loss will be felt regardless of all the things she does when she’s alive. There is nothing easy about loss, about grief, and Kat knows that time can help you cope but it doesn’t get easier.

Kat. Kat wants to be buried with the pink box under her bed. With all the memories, possibilities, and happiness that she could have had with her daughter.

That’s how she knows that grief doesn’t get easier – you just learn to carry the weight.

 

It is a heavy, heady thought-provoking topic to be had in the back of a cab that smells of old food and sweat. She’s had to retouch her makeup on her way but when they pull up to Steinem, she’s new and ready to face the day. There is a weight upon her shoulders with all of the thoughts and emotions being brought back to the surface. The mail in her purse feels as if it weighs a ton and the only thing that really makes her smile, for the first time today, is the sight of her friends waiting for her.

They take a photo to catalogue Jane’s first day as a journalist and Kat doesn’t say anything about the mail because Jane is very nervous as it is. Kat can feel both Sutton and Jane’s emotions – they are the closest people in her life. She’s not ashamed to admit that she prefers Sutton. Jane is high strung, Type A, judgmental and incredibly insecure. Kat doesn’t know how such a tiny body can carry that much anxiety but she’s happy when Sutton is around as a buffer between herself and Jane. Jane is all lime green and yellows, an unpleasant combination of colors that she wears about 80% of the time. It doesn’t make her like Jane any less, she loves Jane for her determination and her realistic approach to life, but it can be tiring being around her for long periods of the time without blocking her out somehow or having Sutton there.

Sutton is the opposite. Sutton has a very impressive range of emotions – she isn’t anxious and high-strung like Jane. Kat’s found that most people flitter back and forth between primary and secondary emotions. Sutton’s primary emotion is cool confidence and a sense of deep calm. Sure, she can be insecure, angry, guilty, and all the other things that people are but, primarily she’s cool, calm, and collected; she takes it one step at a time. It is a breath of fresh air to focus on Sutton after focusing on Jane – Sutton is lavender, pale pinks, and deep reds. She’s Kat’s favorite and they have a lot in common – more so than Kat and Jane. But Kat loves them equally because they’re both incredibly strong women who have pulled her so far out of her depression that she can’t help but feel eternally grateful. She harbors so much love for the both of them.

Kat finds that most of Jane’s problem is intimidation. She’s intimidated by Jacqueline – which is normal because everyone is a little bit intimidated by Jacqueline – but she has this way of putting herself down, of assuming people’s opinions, that Kat hates. She hates it because it’s usually not true – Jane actually has a terrible sense of how people see her. She allows their opinion to influence her actions, to dictate how she sees herself but Kat doesn’t know how to go about approaching the subject with her. It’s was a big deal with her last relationship and Kat should have called her on it then, but her friend was hurting and doubting herself, she just wanted to be supportive. But Kat knows that it might get in the way of her career path with Scarlet.

Sitting here in the August pitch meeting, watching the nervous way that Jane plays with her pen and jots down a thousand different notes, Kat inwardly sighs and tries not to worry. She’ll figure it out or she’ll need to be corrected – but it’s a problem for another day. Lauren is talking, because Lauren always talks, and Kat is trying desperately to listen because it’s important subject matter. But the mail on her desk inside her purse is at the forefront of her mind and she’s thinking. It’s only interrupted when there’s a sudden shock of surprise from both of her friends immediately followed by dread and worry, and – oddly – a brilliant happiness that radiates from both of them. Kat glances at Sutton first because if Sutton is reacting so viscerally then it’s serious.

She finds the blue eyes of her friend before she’s gestured to look up at the projection screen. Following her gaze, Kat’s heart stops at the sight of a familiar face.

Everything is suddenly closing in on her. All she can see is Adena El Amin staring back at her from an issue of Scarlet magazine. She takes Kat’s breath away – literally – and it’s the first time that she’s ever seen Adena in front of her. She’s seen the girl’s reflection when they were kids and teenagers, but this is… Kat can feel Sutton and Jane’s eyes on her, but she can’t look away. It is as if everything in the world closes in on this moment – as if it’s the only moment that matters. All Kat can think about is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… Kat can’t breathe.

She can’t breathe, and Sutton is pulling on her arm and thankfully, by the grace of God, the image of Adena is off the projection screen. Her breath rushes out of her in a loud choking exhale and she attracts the attention of a few board members. Sutton is busy rubbing her back, trying to be comforting but making Kat even more anxious because she can feel the frenzied emotions from both Jane and Sutton. The rest of the board meeting passes by in a blur and Kat hopes that Jane’s obsessive note taking will save her because she got absolutely nothing out of this. She wants to leave immediately and head to the fashion closet to freak out with her friends, so she heads to the door.

“Kat!” It’s Jacqueline. Catching Jane and Sutton’s eyes, she shakes her head and gestures for them to go on before she turns around. Jacqueline used to intimidate Kat but after two months at Steinem that wore off for the most part. She has a lot of respect for the woman, but she always knows that Jacqueline is incredibly observant, and Kat is having a mini freak-out over the thought of Jacqueline asking her about her lack of attention. Or worse – if she’s alright and how she feels.

She meets her boss in the middle, coming back around the long table and stopping at the end of the table. Jacqueline is looking over her with keen eyes and Kat knows the questions before its even asked. “Are you okay? You look a little…” She flounders for a word for a moment, but Kat beats her to it.

“I’m fine! Great, actually.” It is so not great. Kat’s sure that Jacqueline sees right through that lie based on her facial expression. But her boss doesn’t comment and instead goes headlong into a work task that is the upmost importance.

“The lesbian Muslim artist – Adena El Amin - can be persuaded to rethink her decision about where she’d like to publish,” Kat really doesn’t like the way this is going, “and I think that you can convince her. You did an amazing job with convincing that actor last month and I really need you to try and succeed here because I think our readers really need to read an article about this issue.” Kat swears she can feel the blood rushing to her head and she stands there, numb, and watches Jacqueline check her phone and then mutter about needing to go check on something with printing before she’s out the door and leaving Kat behind.

Fuck.