- Karina -
Karina Cameron-Jones stood back from the group of exhibit attendees, fingers nursing a flute of warm champagne as yet another crowd of faceless, nameless, people drooled and fussed over the two dozen black-and-white photographs displayed on the gallery walls like they were the finest art pieces in the world.
She glanced at the images from across the room, somewhat bemused. They were good photographs - a bit edgy if she had to categorise them. their subject matter was primarily abandoned mills and desolate dockyards outside Seattle - but that was it. there was a theme, of course, one of loneliness and abandonment. but still, the way the people around her fussed, you'd think they featured something far grander. and as their comments filtered across her hearing, one thing stood out the most. That being that she really had no damned idea what people saw in them.
Then again, she never did.
Karina merely took the photographs; she left their interpretation, and ultimately, their appreciation, up to others. An introvert and shy person by nature, it made her uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of this much praise and attention. but she couldn't deny that it paid the bills. Quite nicely, at that.
Tonight, it was also paying the bills for her friend Davey, the owner of the funky little art gallery deep within Port Angeles, which at an hour to closing, was still packed with prospective buyers.
Karina was numb with the whole process of meeting and greeting. Of, smiling politely as everyone from rich and extremely bored housewives, to stuffy and proper nine to five businessmen, all the way to pierced and tattooed goths tried to impress one another - and unfortunately her - with an analysis of her work. Honestly, Karina couldn't wait for the exhibit to end.
She had been hiding in the shadows for the past hour, contemplating a stealthy escape to the pleasurable grasp of a warm shower and a soft pillow, both waiting for her within the confines of her hotel room. A moan of want builds in her throat at the prospect of losing herself within the comfortable entanglement of her silky hotel sheets. Yet there was still another hour of the exhibit to go.
Karina was surprised she'd even managed to hide at all. It had nothing to do with the fact that this exhibit was to honour her work and thus everyone was here to see her. It was the simple fact that she tended to stand out in a crowd due to her almost exotic looks.
Deep raven black hair fell around her shoulders in soft waves, her dark eyes shining like pools of melted sin and her skin was a soft caramel toffee colour that contrasted starkly with the lighter coloured skin of the occupants of Port Angeles and the nearby city of Seattle. No, her whole appearance screamed of the knowledge that Karina was a part of the tribe that resided sixty miles away from where she currently was.
The Quileute tribe that was located within La Push, Washington.
It had been years since Karina had stepped foot on the tribal lands, the bitter sting of the last time she was there was enough to keep her away. She only ever ventured as close as Port Angeles and every moment spent within the city was partnered with her praying that no one from her past was there and would notice her. Karina didn't want word getting back to the tribe that she was there, so close to home - but so far away at the same time.
A concrete fact that would soon be changing.
Sighing, Karina rolls the flute of champagne through her fingers once more as she returns her attention to the gathered crowds. Dark eyes watching the way everyone moved, and whilst she saw them. She also didn't. Nothing they did at that moment interested her. She just wanted to leave, quickly.
Despite the urge to disappear back to her hotel room, she knew she couldn't. Not right away. She had promised a few of her remaining friends - Davey, Lisa and Malia - that she would join them for a celebratory dinner, complete with drinks - after the showing. And like the soft-hearted soul she was, she pushed aside her own wants and wishes and agreed.
Karina was slowly regretting that.
As the clock finally ticked ever closer to closing time and she could see the last stragglers make their purchases and escape into the cold October chill, Karina found herself gathered up and bundled into the back of a cab, before she could even contemplate once more making an escape. Her body falling against the leather seats where she sat trapped between the door and the soft contours of Malia's body.
"Tonight was out of this world crazy, " Davey's slightly diminished - but still kinda there - Scottish accent rings out inside the car interior as he leans over the other two women and grasps Karina's hands between his larger ones. "Thank you so much for letting me host your work. "
Despite herself, Karina couldn't help but smile softly at her friend's excitement. "Of course. You don't need to thank me. "
Davey's jade green eyes sparkle with mirth as he pins Karina beneath his gaze. "The gallery has honestly never been that busy. And tonight's sales receipts are far higher than I've had any other time. Just, wow 'Rina. "
Karina wanted to join in on the excitement, to feel the flush of it warm her blood. But she couldn't, something was holding her back. Even the knowledge that every piece that had been featured was now sold and currently being packed away to be sent to the new owners, did nothing to spark a reaction within her.
She just prays the smile she sends towards Davey is more fulfilling than the look she knew was shining in her eyes.
"You erm, weren't too miserable were you?. " Malia asks softly from beside her, gaining Karina's attention.
The differences in the four friends were all the more noticeable as they sat there, confined within the backseat of a cab heading to god knows where. It had never bothered Karina the differences in her friends, all of them having met in college and managing to keep their relationships as they navigated each twist and turn that was the adult world. But right now, in her wistful state, she was taking notice of it. Where Karina was tanned skin, dark hair and long legs and exotic softness. Her friends were stark variations yet all strikingly beautiful in their own way.
Davey was built like a quarterback, from his broad chest and shoulders, to muscular arms and legs. His blonde hair shone like woven gold and paired with his jade-green eyes meant that he got all sorts of attention no matter the room he entered. Both male and female. Add in his accent and well, Karina herself had been witness to the effect he had on people. His long term partner, Aiden could also attest to that, the chef finding a sick amount of humour in the whole thing.
Then there was Lisa. A fiery five-foot tall redhead who was the life of the party no matter where she was. With deep soulful blue eyes that contrasted beautifully with her red hair, she attracted many a person's attention. That attention varies dramatically from amusement to annoyance, depending entirely on the situation the redhead had devised. Some days Karina couldn't even believe she was a lawyer, not with how many times Karina had been forced to interfere and diffuse an oncoming bar fight or brawl at a concert.
And then the last member of their group was rounded up by Malia. The bubbly schoolteacher who never let anything get her down. With her blonde hair and blue eyes, long limbs and athletic body, she was the definition of an all American girl. Her sometimes shy demeanour pulled everyone into her orbit and when you were there, it was extremely rare that you were anything but happy and relaxed.
Even now, Karina could feel that exact feeling washing over her - well attempting to.
"C'mon Mally. " Lisa laughs loudly, her smile infectious for everyone. "How could she be miserable with half of the Olympic Peninsula falling at her feet. I honestly thought some of those guys were literally going to start kissing the ground she'd walked on; they were that enraptured by her. "
None of Karina's friends could truly argue that point. Even she was hard-pressed to find a shred of denial within those words and yet it was exactly what she was feeling. She was miserable, completely and soul-crushingly miserable. Though it had nothing to do with the exhibit.
"Hey, 'Rina," Lisa says, bringing the Quileute's attention back inside the cab. "Who was that tall hunk of a man in a suit who had you talking for around an hour?. "
Karina shrugged. "Oh, some rich lawyer from Seattle. We were talking about commissioning some original works for his personal collection and office. "
"Oh, nice. " Davey cries happily, his fist-pumping into the air like a high schooler. "That would bring in one hell of a bonus for you. Not to mention even more exposure for your work. "
"Yeah, it would. " Karina replied without much enthusiasm.
She had a whole stack of business cards in her purse - at least a year of steady work, if not more - yet she was tempted to open the window and scatter them to the wind. To release herself from the burden that those little cards carried. The small ball and chain that was slowly wrapping around her ankle and dragging her down.
Karina let her drift gaze outside the car, watching in reticent detachment as lights and lives flickered past without a single care in the world. The streets were bustling with people - couples strolling hand in hand with love shining in their eyes, groups of friends laughing and talking as they either headed home or to the local club for a night of partying - everyone was having a good time.
Everywhere Karina looked the small city of Port Angeles beat and pulsed with colour and life. Karina absorbed it all with her artist's eye and yet, felt nothing in comparison. Lately, she had felt as though she was caught in a loop and was turning and twisting her in every which direction. Trapping her in a pointless cycle of passing time and punctuated with little purpose.
"You alright, 'Rina. " Malia asks, her soft hand coming to settle on the curve of Karina's elbow. "You seem off. "
Karina shrugs as she brings her dark mocha eyes back inside the cab and towards her friend. "I'm just... Tired I guess. "
God, that excuse seemed weak even to her ears.
"You need a drink. Pronto. " Lisa jokes, her whole frame bent forward so she could look at Karina. The strands of her red hair brushed against the skin of Karina's thighs. A tantalising touch, softer than a feather, and yet it felt heavier, grating. Burning deep into Karina's soul.
"Nah, what our girl needs is to let her hair down and have some fun. " Davey counters, his jade eyes shining and his lips curled upwards almost catlike. "Come on 'Rina, when was the last time you truly let all your responsibilities go and just enjoyed yourself? "
Too long, but Karina really wasn't keeping track. Before she had been the type of girl who enjoyed the simplicity of going out, of having fun and letting her hair down. But that had been before her whole world tipped on its axis and left her scrambling for solid ground. Since then Karina had avoided everything to do with partying and having fun. It left her uncomfortable and feeling as though the world was closing in on her.
One thing Karina knew for sure was that there was no way that having fun was going to cure what was currently causing her state of restlessness. Her restlessness could be summed up with one simple reason. No loose ends, no if-buts-or maybes about it. She was restless because tomorrow she would be returning home for the first time in seven years to attend her twin brother Jared's wedding.
Karina had talked to him sporadically since she had left home after what she not so affectionately dubbed 'the incident' and when he'd asked if she was coming, practically pleaded with her. She couldn't refuse. She had wanted to, Karina had wanted to argue till her throat was hoarse. But this was her twin brother, the person she'd had every step of the way growing up.
So that all now played out with one outcome, she was going home.
In retrospect, Karina was looking forward to seeing her twin. After 'the incident' the two hadn't talked at first, after all, she was the one who had left in the middle of the night and thus abandoned him. She had heard from one of her old school friends that not long after she left, he disappeared and ended up - different - and far from his usual self.
Karina ignored the news, a part of her knew that nothing would remain the same after her abrupt departure. Thus whatever she heard regarding her brother was simply categorised with that. The truth was, it was easier to conceal everything in a pretty little bow than admit that maybe she didn't know her twin as well anymore. That not only had she broken ties with their parents when she left, broken the relationship with their younger brother but also completely and utterly destroyed her bond with her twin.
When he'd reached out just before their twenty-first birthday - after getting her number from their aunt - she had been surprised and apprehensive. A fear that Karina now realised was stupid. Of course, at first, the conversation had been awkward, reminiscent of the fact that three years had passed since they had last talked. But within an hour they were talking as they always did, sharing every aspect of their lives with each other, laughing about random things and simply being twins.
Karina listened with rapt attention as he gushed about his girlfriend Kim, empty promises falling off her lips that one day the two would meet. Empty promises that her brother remembered - yet Karina never remembered saying the first time she'd meet her brother's girl should be his wedding day. But that was what was about to play out.
A wedding where she would see her two brothers for the first time in seven years, meet Jared's girl and no doubt run into her parents whilst hopefully not arguing with them and causing her brother's day to be ruined.
Yeah, it was going to be - awesome.
Her attention is brought back inside the cab by the loud argument playing out between her friends, all of them unaware of her mundane worries, and instead of worrying about here they're going to be going instead of dinner - Davey and Lisa were adamant on a club, Malia as voting for dinner as they'd planned - Karina, she just wanted the option that meant she could leave quickest.
Running the scenarios over her in her mind, she throws her vote in with the club, a sympathetic smile sent towards Malia as she does. The sound of Karina's voice breaks the tension that had started to build as all three friends stare at her in open shock for wanting to go to the club. But they didn't know what she was planning, that as soon as they were all distracted she was going to slip out. She'd leave them all an apology voicemail - and they'd forgive her - she just wanted, no Karina needed to be alone.
It wasn't that Karina didn't love her friends, she did with everything that was inside of her. But recently they had become almost claustrophobic. Their love was like a pillow that was slowly suffocating her and she just needed to breathe on her own. Karina understood their actions, god did she understand, yet she needed to be alone. If only to process the myriad of things she was going through.
The journey to one of the trendier clubs in Port Angeles, as well as the first few drinks, pass by in a blur. Karina was present physically but mentally she was far away. It was wrong she knew it was to force her friends through this sham of an outing when she clearly wasn't enjoying it.
Her whole presence was a shell of the lively chatter of the other three, where a smile curled up their lips - hers remained flat and uninterested. And internally, she was counting down the minutes till she could leave.
Squinting through the harsh flashes of neon, her dark eyes land on each of her friends watching with a critical eye as they see they were all otherwise engaged. Davey and Lisa were in the middle of what looked to be a rather thrilling shot race whereas Malia was currently giggling like a schoolgirl due to whatever her dance partner was whispering in her ear. Their happiness showed in their eyes and with a sad smile, her feet carried her towards the exit.
The cold hit her like a battering ram, the warmth of the club having caused a light sheen of sweat to gather on her toffee skin, which was now being stolen by the icy chill that was part and parcel of Washington. clutching her arms close to her body, a hand lifts to hail a cab. its headlights illuminating her was a balm to her jaded soul. the weight currently crushing her chest, easing with each step she took, her body folding inside the confines of the car with no more words shared but her destination.
She's thankful that the driver seemed just as willing to be quiet as she was, as honestly, she wasn't sure if she had any more juice in the tank to be social. heated skin presses against the cool glass of the window as the scenery passes, the chill enough to focus her, and keep the wanton need of sleep from claiming her in that moment. As her hotel comes into view, the driver pulling as close to the front doors as possible, she reaches into her purse, grabbing the fare as well as a generous tip and hands both over, soon escaping with quick strides.
Her heels click along the aluminium floor of the hotel as she walks through, eyes never once lingering on anyone she passed for fear of being dragged into another conversation. actions almost robotic as she enters the elevator and goes to her floor. Karina only lets out the breath caged inside her chest, once she escapes the iron cage and slips behind her hotel room door. her head falling heavily back against the wood as she allows the silence to become a blanket, soothing her.
obsidian eyes drag towards the bed, the want to climb within it almost consuming, but there was one thing she needed more. pushing off the door, she heads towards the bathroom, stripping out of her clothing as she goes. Karina did not even care about the mess she left behind her, her expensive clothes nothing more than a scattered trail marker highlighting her journey. Reaching inside the shower she turns the buttons allowing the water to fall down, her body soon following and a light hiss falls silently off her lips as the warm water batters against her abused and tired body.
leaning forward, her heated forehead now leaning against the cold tile, Karina can't help but let the tears flow. the lock finally unleashing everything she had hidden behind it. her knees buckling beneath her, causing her to crash harshly against the floor. yet she doesn't feel it, the pain not registering against the maelstrom inside of her. a hand coming to cage the shrill sounds of grief and pain against her lips, as though the simple action could stop them. Yet there was no stopping them now, they had been given life and were punctuating the air around her. each syllable like a knife, stabbing deep beneath her skin and reminding her why she was feeling it.
why she was so restless, so torn, so pained.
It was the only weakness she would allow herself - this moment here - the shower washing away her tears and pain and letting it dissolve down the drain. for she knew come tomorrow she had to be stronger, she had to keep the pain within her soul. After all, it was her brother's wedding. and there was nothing in this world that Karina would do, or put before her brother's happiness. which meant she would cage everything she was feeling, refusing to allow him to carry such a burden and worry about her.
Slowly the tears subside and Karina stands, pushing off the moment of weakness as she sets about washing her hair, cleaning her skin of the night's activities. each action helping her to gain control - to lock her emotions back inside their cage - before she climbs out. drying off and slipping into an oversized shirt. falling beneath the sheets, she sends a small prayer to taha aki for a dreamless sleep.
And the strength to get through tomorrow.
She was going home.