I blinked, breathing heavily, attempting to calm myself. I felt the part of me that was still a doll fade quietly – not gone, but subdued. It was quiet, but it was present. It would always be present. I had spent too long as another person’s puppet – it was not something that could be forgotten in the short span of a day.
As my breathing calmed and I regained control of my faculties, Glint cleared his throat and gestured to the knife that I was still holding to his neck. I relaxed my arm and let the weapon fall to the side, taking a few steps back, until I felt the damp coolness of the alley wall behind me. I slid down to the ground and brought my knees up to my chest. A tear formed in the corner of my eye.
“I thought I was free. I thought I was me again. But now…”
As if to mock my weakness, the rain chose that moment to begin drizzling down upon our heads. Only a drizzle, but enough to make the alley feel colder and damper than it already was. I paid the sensation no heed.
“Now I know I will never be free. Even though you broke his hold over me… what he did to me, what he made me do… it’s become a part of who I am. I will never be a free woman again.”
By this point, my tears were beginning to flow freely, matching the increasing intensity of the rain. It was getting colder by the second. I began to shiver, in part from my despair and in part from the rain. Glint silently took off his jacket and draped it over my head, shielding me from the rain. I said nothing, but thankfully gripped it and pulled it closer to myself. It was warm. It smelled of tea leaves.
I felt a hand placed upon my head. I didn’t look up at him. I didn’t move. After a while, he began to speak again.
“When I was 6, I stole from a woman with 3 children. I don’t know what happened to her husband, but based on the contents of her hovel, she was likely a basketweaver by trade. Basketweavers are a rather underpaid group of craftsmen. She must have been struggling to support her family, espcially with three young children to feed. I happened upon her home one time while on the run from guards. I was hungry. I was tired. I had been running for hours – back then, I was still just a fledgling thief. Seeing her open window, I broke into her home and happened upon a loaf of bread on a dusty kitchen counter, as her back wss turned towards me. I entered the kitchen, trying to be quiet about it. But she turned around just as I laid my hands on the bread. Her eyes widened. Whenever I think back to that moment, I wonder how I knew that she was going to struggle to keep hold of that single loaf. Most likely, that was all she and her three children had to eat. Regardless, I knew at that moment that if I didn’t silence her then, she would scream or wrench the bread from my grasp, or both. It would have alerted the guards – that frightenrd me. It was that fear that made me move.
Before she could do or say anything, I clamped one hand over her mouth, and used my other to shove her head into the kitchen counter. Once, twice, five times, ten times. Until she stopped struggling. Until she stopped moving her mouth. When I let her go, she was no longer breathing. Two of her three children – infants, most likely – had started to cry in the adjacent room. I heard a third trying to comfort them – the thin walls of that house did little in the way of stopping sound from carrying. I took my prize and left the same way I came. The children never saw me. I never saw them. I never knew what became of them. Nobody knows it was me that killed that woman. Nobody except you, now.”
I remained silent. I knew what he was trying to do. I knew what he was going to say. He was going to use this anecdote to say some encouraging thing about how all of us had done things we regretted. But he didn’t understand. He had chosen to kill that woman of his own free will – he was able to claim ownership of his mistake. In doing so, he was able to accept it, to accept his sin and move on. I did not have such simple recourse available to me. What I had done, I had done unwillingly. I did not need to forgive myself for there was nothing to forgive. No – what troubled me was not the evils I had commited on the ends of another’s strings. What troubled me was that I was unable to cut myself free of those strings. All traces of Advent had vanished, and all I had to define me, to prove my existence, was the doll designated Alpha. That wad the cause of my relapse – realising that Advent no longer existed, I had slipped back into what was most comfortable. Glint’s empathy was unhelpful – though still appreciated.
As I opened my mouth to thank him for his concern, however, he put a finger on my lips. Then he said something entirely different from what I had expected to hear.
“There. You just used the context of our discussion and formed a conclusion about my intent in relaying this secret. That conclusion, that thought process which led you to it – that’s all you, Advent. Not Alpha’s. Alpha would have quietly accepted my empathy and taken my assumptions about your mental state as truth. This analysis, the tactful appreciative dismissal you’re about to give me, this innate understanding of what ails you – this recognition of yourself as a being that is not Alpha. All of that stems from you, Advent.
What does it matter if all records of Advent have been erased? You are not your past. You are you. Advent, right here, in this moment, the Advent of right now, the Advent crying in the rain. That’s who you are. That’s all that matters. If you have no history, you simply have to write your own. Write your own deeds into the books of history. Make sure that nobody forgets who Advent Whiterose is, ever again.”
I looked up, peeking out from under the collar of his jacket. The rain had soaked through his white dress shirt, causing it to cling closely to his lean musculature. His chestnut hair – usually neatly combed down and tidy – hung in wet clumps over his face.
“Write my own history… how should I do that? How can I make sure that I never forget myself again?”
“That’s for you to figure out. But until you do, I’ll be here to remind you – to help you remember that you’re more than a doll. No matter how many times you lose yourself, I’ll always help to bring you back. I promise.”
Glint flashed me a dazzling smile. Not one of his sly grins or his amused half-smiles, but a genuine, comforting smile. I felt my heart skip a beat. I was still anxious, but perhaps, if Glint would be there for me… perhaps I could become my own person. Perhaps I could become truly free. I posed him one more question.
“You’ll stay with me? You’ll help me to be free again? Can I hold you to that?”
“Of course. It’s a promise.”
“Then stay still.”
Glint had barely a moment to be surprised before I yanked his head downward and stole his lips with my own. In that moment, I wrote the first moment in the new history of Advent Whiterose.