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Exposure

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“…I find my mind travelling to you more often than not these days. I imagine what it would be like to sit with you, talk over coffee, watch as the sunlight dances over your features. I imagine the images of you I could produce in your quiet moments, your soft days and the curl of your lips coming through the film as I make you laugh…

I make a point of not investing, W. I’ve told you so many times on paper, in my head, in so many different ways, that alone is the better road. Everybody leaves in one way or another. So many times on paper and in so many different ways, you have agreed.

I can’t fight the fact any longer that you have changed my life over the last six months. These letters, these…conversations between us. The anticipation that hangs in the air as I wait for your reply and all without ever physically being near you…

I have opened up and laid myself bare before you, she of the other world. Faceless woman of the unknown. The most private of thoughts that run through me, over me, around me. This was impossible for me to have ever done before you. Maybe because I haven’t crossed your path? As if I’m talking only to myself?

You have opened the world of possible to me. The world of want and raw need, for you. And it’s scary as shit. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised if these admissions scare you and this communication is the last we have.

I’m willing to take that risk, to be able to finally admit these things, W. I would risk it all to jump with you, if you would jump with me.

You have my undivided attention.

I think we need to meet…”

N

……..

Waverly sat back in her chair and remembered to breathe. The brunette had known within herself that this had been coming for a little while now. Only because if the woman that had penned the letter she had just finished reading hadn’t of stated it, she herself would have.

N had consumed her inner most thoughts for months now. Months. What had begun as nothing more than a stupid remark in a book she never thought would get noticed 12 months ago, had turned in to the most amazing adventure she could have imagined being on.

So many thoughts squirmed through her mind as she threaded out the implications of meeting the mysterious, yet thought provoking, button pushing, enigma of a woman that only signed herself off as N. Oh how she wanted to. Waverly had wanted to for the longest time. Her brain wandered down the path of imagination with the mysterious photographer more than she could admit to anyone, ever.

Waverly herself, was a loner. Just as N had written, everyone always left in one way or the other. The dark haired woman had no time in her life for anyone who wanted to play those stupid games. She would never commit and even with Champ it was purely casual and only when she felt the need rise within her, to unwind the tightly wrapped coil constantly following her around internally. He didn’t seem too fussed that she was seeing him less and less these days anyway. He had plenty of numbers to call aside from Waverly’s, which he never made a secret of, either. It suited her to be involved casually with a womaniser, she admitted to herself for years, because it was the least chance of someone wanting anything serious and long term from her.

Waverly leaned forward, grabbing at her coffee cup to take a sip of the now lukewarm liquid. She stared out of her apartment window at the frost beginning to seep in at the edges, bristling its way further and further towards the centre. She turned up the heat and ran her slender fingers through thick, wavy hair and sighed. Ottawa would be stupidly cold again this year. Balls.

It would take at least one week to get a reply from anything she sat and wrote back to N. She wanted to write back immediately however she needed the moment to adjust. God how this woman had taken over her thoughts. Her dreams. More than once, Waverly had woken in sweat and loud pants, hand at her centre, from dreaming of the mysterious woman who had described herself as tall, auburn haired and alabaster toned. All warm honey eyes and Waverly could only imagine what the dimples looked like that N admitted her face made apparent when she smiled, which wasn’t often, she recalled, from a letter she had once received.

Waverly was scared. Just as the letter stated, it was scary as shit to feel the things she was feeling. Her heart fluttered in her chest at the thought of N becoming invested in their connection, however strangely it had come about. Waverly admitted to herself that she too, had become heavily invested. Deep set, inner Waverly would normally want to run. And run far. She still saw herself as a flight risk in that present moment but something kept pulling at her to remain.

“…I would risk it all to jump with you, if you would jump with me. You have my undivided attention…”

As Waverly ran the words over her tongue she hummed quietly at the thought of being able to touch her. Run her fingertips over the taller woman’s pale skin. Watch as her hooded eyes became pools of want, only for her. Watch her enraptured when they spoke of nature, biology, art, photography. Death. She hummed again and closed her eyes as she imagined waking up beside her, warm breath on her shoulder as she kissed her softly awake, moving downwards to where she was craved…

Waverly came back to reality and let out another huffed breath. N definitely had Waverly’s undivided attention as well, it would seem. So, so dangerous to let herself feel this way. It was dangerous for the other woman as well, considering the bit of background she knew about the mysterious lady and why she also chose to go it alone, most of her adult life.

The brunette reached down to grab at the shoe box beside her feet. As she opened the lid and trailed her fingers over the envelopes, she went to the bottom of the pile, reaching for the first ever one. She took herself back to where it had all started, knowing it would help her make her decision…

……..

12 months previous:

Waverly stood in the cramped bookshop, eyeing the numerous timber shelves jam packed with spine after interesting spine of pages. She could lose herself in here for an eternity and still never get through everything she wanted to. She had made it a habit whenever she travelled somewhere, to find the smaller, out-of-the-way book places to sit and relax. Take stock of her current situation and lose herself in the smell of paper and dust and raw ink.

As she was handed her coffee, she smiled politely at the cashier and made her way towards the back of the building. Floor to ceiling shelves ran along most of the walls. Those shelves that weren’t as high leaving the walls exposed, had given the owner the opportunity to pepper them with expressive, random and chaotic art work. Waverly had spent half an hour scanning the shelves when she had found a book that piqued her interest.

As she sat and stared towards the front of the store, she was happy that she had found a quiet, out of the way place. As the mottled ginger and black furry being made its way toward the small brunette, she opened the first page, smiling down at it.

“Going to look at some cemetery’s this trip, bud. Hoping this will get me geared up.” She smiled as the furry fiend mewed softly and jumped up on the chair opposite her.

Waverly had found herself in Buffalo, New York for the last few days. There to talk about the possibility of a position at the Museum of Science when she was finished her Degrees, she never quite knew how to take a place until she had searched out their main cemetery. How they treated their dead was always of interest to the young woman as she was drawn to the study of Thanatology. Along side her Natural History Major, she was set in her current job as PA to the Curator of the Canadian Museum of Nature back in Ottawa but obviously didn’t want to be an Assistant her whole life. She wouldn’t be studying if that were the case.

Death had consumed Waverly for most of her young life. Her adult life too. She had decided that if it was going to remain a running theme, she would give herself the power to embrace it, not be afraid of it. Knowledge was power, after all. Hence the attraction to Thanatology, or the study of death itself. As well as the actual mechanisms of death, Thanatology taught the wider psychological and social aspects of it as well. How people viewed death, dealt with death and with grief. Waverly would no longer be scared, as an adult, if she could help it.

“Beautiful Death…” she breathed out the Title quietly to herself as she began to thumb through the pages.

She sat in quiet awe as she ran her thumb over images depicting great stone structures of worship and gratitude to their departed family members and friends. Mausoleums full of wonder and love, loss and heartache. She caught her breath as she wondered how a single photo could convey the sadness contained within a wall of plaques with ashes hidden, however show the happiness of celebrating a passed loved one at the same time.

“Staring in to your future, huh?” Waverly’s thoughts were interrupted by a raven haired woman of similar height to herself.

“I’m sorry?” Waverly quizzed as she looked up, clearing her mind away from the thoughts of ashes and walls.

“Just coming to see if you needed a refill and I saw what you were studying there. That kind of place is in everyone’s future.” She smiled solemnly as she held out the coffee pot to the small woman in the chair.

“Well…true.” Waverly volleyed back.

“Spend your time wisely, girlfriend. We may all die alone but that doesn’t mean you have to walk through life without someone to sometimes hold your hand.” The raven haired woman smiled at Waverly a little brighter this time.

“Oh God no. That’s all too complicated for me. Fates plan for me is to remain a loner, I’m convinced.” Waverly smiled back as she sipped at her cup, adding the sugar that was offered to her.

“What do you think, Shop Cat? Yeah…I didn’t think so either.” She snorted in reply as she looked over to the furball curled up on the other chair, lifting his head to meow quietly.

“Tempt fate then, if that’s what you’re convinced of. Be a little crazy and imaginative. See if fate likes the idea of you being a solo traveller while you trip around the sun. My gut tells me someone like you…there’s someone for you. Their heart will call right when you both need it to.” The cashier winked at her as she walked off, leaving Waverly to mull over their small but significant interaction.

The small brunette sat back in her chair and pondered, staring down at the book in her lap. She absentmindedly traced her thumb over the wings of a moss covered Gabriel, standing high in watch over a family plot. As she read the fine print, she noticed the grainy, over exposed shot had been taken there, locally at a place called Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Waverly wandered off in her brain for a moment. Okay so what would happen if she did tempt fate? She knew it was a farce. No one or no one thing was going to just magically jump out at her and make her fall madly and deeply, changing the course of her life forever. That shit was for saps who knew no better. She was too cold and cut off for such things. People left. People died. Live with the right now and never think too far ahead. The only thing she ever thought further ahead about was her career. Nothing more.

Still, something had sparked in her at the raven haired woman’s comment. Ignited the tiniest of embers in the back of her brain, the deep recess of her chest. Tempt fate. Waverly knew her course in life better than anything else. She didn’t allow room for anything else, that was why and it was done on purpose. Nothing would throw her off her beaten path.

She huffed out a derisive breath at herself for wasting good brain energy on the split moment consideration. It kept niggling at her, though and she found herself looking at the thing the cashier had called Shop Cat.

“Should I just?” She asked the fluff ball opposite her.

He flicked his tail at her in response, popping himself off the chair as he walked towards her. Rubbing himself at her ankle, he deftly jumped up on her, sitting across the book in her lap. Waverly giggled quietly as she moved to scratch at him behind the ear, eliciting the beginnings of a purr from deep in his throat. He quietly began to paw at the statue of Gabriel beneath him as she scratched.

“Well…okay then. Let’s see if fate will let me die all alone, without the need to be babysat and have my hand held, yeah?” He mewed quietly in response.

She gently removed him and placed him on the ground beside her, as she grabbed a pen from her bag. Waverly ear tagged the page, with the washed out, grainy picture of the moss covered Angel as she began to write her small message underneath the turned down corner.

“Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go…”
Mail box 298, 340 Euclid Av, Ottawa

The quote had always been earth shatteringly loud within Waverly’s ears, following her down her path since the death of her older sister, shortly after the death of her father and disappearance of her other older sister. She studied and applied herself and withdrew to within. She was the wise man. Death would not take her by surprise as it had done in her younger years. Never again.

“Alright Shop Cat, looks crazy and imaginative to me. If someone by chance finds that and it speaks to them enough to write to my town Mailbox…hell I would say that’s tempting fate. That someone would have to be pretty amazeballs.” She laughed as she scratched the cat behind the ears again and stood to get ready to depart.

As she closed the book, she took one last look at the moss covered Angel. If she had the time, she would try to find it on her trip around Buffalo and it’s cemeteries. Waverly slid the book back on to the shelf from where she had originally fetched it and headed back towards the counter.

“Tempt fate?” The caramel skinned woman asked with a smile.

“Oh and then some.” Waverly winked back at her sarcastically.

“Rosie. I’m sure that heart will call to you sooner or later.” She winked back.

“Waverly. And I’m sure whomever it belongs to, it will continue to stay as quiet as it is now.” She laughed as she exited the unique little hole in the wall.

Tragedy had littered Waverly’s life for as long as she could remember. Even so, she took mild enjoyment out of the moments where she genuinely laughed as it didn’t happen often. This was one of those times. She turned her head to the sky as she made her way down the sidewalk.

She mumbled quietly.

“Good luck, Universe.” She giggled and shook her head as she walked in to the afternoon sun.

Six months later:

Waverly struggled with the coffee in her small hand, fishing in her pocket with the other, for the key to her mailbox.

“God damnit.” She mumbled, as the coffee spilled slightly, the angle becoming too inclined as she was contorting herself for the key ring stuck on the seam of the denim.

Once freed, she opened the metal slot and collected the various envelopes and papers, heading towards her Jeep to get herself home, her final assessment pending.

She arrived home to a warm house, the coffee machine had begun its song 15 minutes earlier.

“Thank fuck for timers.” She thought, as she slugged off her bag, heading towards the bathroom to shower and rid herself of the weight of the day.

As the warm water sluiced over her, visions of Willa danced through her head. Between Willa and Wynonna, her two older sisters, she was never fully alone in her mind or her dreams. Ward, her father, only seemed to want to show up in her nightmares. Figures.

Willa was headstrong and defiant. She knew what she wanted from life and be damned if she wasn’t going to get it. Daddy loved her. He just loved her the most. Wynonna and Waverly could never get close to the pedestal he placed the older sibling on. She stood above all and even though she knew it, she tried her best not to show it.

There were times though, it came through. Waverly stung at the thoughts. Willa teasing and poking and prodding her for reactions she knew she would get. Blaming Waverly when all hell broke loose because of her constant prodding and jabbing of the younger girls buttons. Ward was never too far behind with the strap, or the back of his hand to put her back in her place. Waverly found herself wincing as the water no longer warmed her. Wynonna would appear shortly after, soothing away her tears and threatening to kick the shit out of Willa, should she do it again.

Waverly exited the shower before the familiar flashes of Willa in the barn back home found purchase in her brain matter. Death was a surprise then. Death was a surprise before then. But not any more. She had the power, so long as she stayed on her path. Finished her education and lead the solitary life of withdrawal that she had become so accustomed to.

As she sat at the table with a fresh brew, drying her hair with a towel, she began to flick through her mail. Two utility bills and a magazine from National Geographic. Nothing too serious. One bank statement followed by a slightly crinkled, cream envelope. It looked like it had been caught in spatters of rain somewhere along the way to a mailbox, to get to her.

There was nothing on the front of the envelope except for her Mailbox address and nothing on the reverse when the small woman flipped it to have a look. She raised her eyebrows, tilting her head in slight confusion as she ran her fingertip underneath the flap to separate it from the larger part of the envelope.

As she withdrew the crisp, white piece of paper, she studied the hand written note in black ink. Beautiful, neat, cursive handwriting just delicate enough for Waverly to know it was forged by a female hand.

“Do not fear death, for it is always at our side. When we show fear, it jumps at us faster than light. But, if we do not show fear, it casts its eye upon us gently and then guides us in to infinity…”

N – Mailbox 54, 6th Street, Buffalo NY

Waverly continued to stare at the white paper. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she had made fun of fate and it’s friend the Universe and now they were hardcore fucking with her. Giving her just enough time to forget about her random note on a page, in a book, in a store, before they had decided it was time for her to listen to them.

She ran the tip of her finger over the N at the end of the page. Whoever this was, had picked up the book she had sitting in her lap six months previously, found the tagged page and corrected the fold. Finding her note they had decided to respond to her. This was completely outrageous. The odds of it actually happening must have been…profound.

Yet here she was, sitting at her table staring at the note. Staring at the beautiful, effortless loops and joins of the lettering. Staring at the N and wondering for all she was worth, what it stood for.

“Fate. Huh. Well how ‘bout that.” Waverly huffed out a breath.

She found the corners of her mouth curling upwards in a smile as she tapped the paper up and down on her warm palm, already composing her response in her brain.