CHARACTERS: Dahlia Hawthorne, Iris, Anthony Hawthorne
WORD COUNT: 3,084
SUMMARY: Dahlia Hawthorne and a few family reunions.
It was no secret when Dahlia Hawthorne emerged from the unforgiving currents of Eagle River, and came back to life for the first time.
She bluntly chose not to go back into hiding, and ensured that her only identity was a name printed on some amended, but nevertheless genuine, birth certificate. She lived in plain sight, cheerful on the outside, but gave just enough pause, allowing her eyes to go blank for the briefest of seconds, so that anyone who knew what she'd been through with think that yes, some of the trauma from that incident on the bridge still consumed the poor girl. Those unaware of the tragic events five years ago merely would write it off as thoughtfulness; apparently a rare quality these days, Dahlia was told.
The jewel that had supposedly been lost at the bottom of Eagle River, presumably where Dahlia's body ought to have rested, ensured that she had the means to support herself entirely, if not the inclination. While she paid for the basics (a sizeable apartment in a quiet part of town), she had long since learnt that all manner of things could be freely gained, providing she smiled in just the right way, enough shyness etched into the expression to show she was irrevocably aware of what the lightest of touches against the back of one's hand could inevitably lead to. Fine food, expensive clothing and all manner of gaudy gifts were easily obtained, along with the men who were willing to fork them over.
Two months after she had shed the shell of Melissa Foster, and her miraculous resurrection by water was a lot less interesting to those in the know, herself included, the idea to visit the Hazakura Temple lazily fluttered into her mind. A week later, after a meal that left a lot to be desired, she convinced her date for the evening that it would be simply lovely to take a long drive up to Eagle Mountain. Thinking, as men of his age were wont to, that this suggestion would lead to a romantic fumble in the back seat of his dented Sedan, he drove the whole way there with the pedal to the floor. By the time they arrived, it had not been dark for much longer than an hour. Dahlia stepped out of the car, abruptly closed the door behind her, and explained, through the half open window, that she would not be longer than an hour or two, and would he mind waiting?
It turned out he didn't. His pathetically naïve willingness to sit alone in his car on the off-chance that she might eventually reward his patience inspired Dahlia to remember his name; he could very well be useful in the future. In she went through the back door Iris had shown her long years before, and in an effort to avoid the overwhelmingly intolerable head nun her sister thought of as a mother, darted through the corridors in the dark.
Upon stepping into Iris's quarters without so much as a knock, Dahlia's first thought was that the room had not changed an awful lot in five years. It took her a second longer to think to rest her eyes on Iris herself, and she gave a sort of sneer at her appearance, though she didn't have it in herself to be overly critical. In the pale, flickering light thrown from the lamp on her desk, with shock and surprise in her mind and pulse, Iris looked, for a moment, like her own ghost. Almost inclined to roll her eyes, Dahlia shrugged off her heavy overcoat as Iris recomposed herself, and all of a sudden her sister was upon her in a way that she had never dared to approach her before, hands clasping hands, feet moving, almost tripping over themselves, in a way that suggested she might think to embrace her.
Dahlia stepped back, reclaiming her hands.
Her own sullen disapproval of Iris' reaction caused her to gather her senses quickly enough, and the only kindness Dahlia showed her was in thinking to wonder whether or not Iris had been aware of her return. She did not have to wonder for long, thankfully; as she sat by the edge of Iris' shin-high table and awaited the promised tea she had very loudly and very suddenly announced she was going to make, Dahlia by chance spotted the edge of a newspaper clipping beneath whatever book it was her sister was indulging herself in this time. After all the painfully unfortunate business with Terry, and the controversy one Mia Fey had managed to stir up, there was an inescapable air of interest surrounding her. When approached by a journalist, she had opted to do an interview.
As things turned out, it had been a dreadfully dull week for news of any real worth, and so her story had ended up on the second page of a respectable paper. Better to have her own words twisted and taken out of context, she thought, than some contrived speculation born of an idiot's imagination spewed all over the page. All in all, she had come off rather well, and most likely succeeded in invoking sympathy from a sizeable chunk of her audience. Iris herself would not have believed much of it, Dahlia supposed, though she would have very much liked to have been able to fool herself in such a way.
With the aforementioned tea between her hands, they spoke of a number of things that Dahlia deemed unimportant. She was content enough to talk about the tea itself (it was far too weak), but then Iris, not quite as restrained as a nun ought've been, bombarded her with all manner of ridiculous and time-consuming questions. Dahlia answered vaguely, and later that night, recalled none of the specifics of the conversation. When Iris asked her where she had been all that time, Dahlia simply said “Far, far away,” and that she “Probably couldn't have been reached by telephone.” Dahlia herself sparked off several new topics, and muttered things like “If only you'd turned up to the bridge,” and “Oh, but if only I'd known I couldn't count on my own sister.”
Iris was careful not to say anything of Valerie, Terry or the case, and when she stepped around the topic, her footsteps were almost deafening. Two hours passed, and still Dahlia did not recall her initial purpose in coming. She rose to her feet, intention clear, and then Iris was moving forward again, pale fingers around her wrist, trying to claim it for her own.
“Don't leave,” Iris said, and there was very nearly strength behind her words. “At least stay until morning.”
Dahlia couldn't tell what terrified Iris the most; whether it was the thought that Dahlia might scold her for attempting to order her around in such a way, or the thought that Dahlia would be gone all too soon, out of her sight and causing any manner of trouble. Nor could Dahlia tell what inspired her to say yes, though she had a strong feeling that the mere possibility of a long drive home so late into the night was enough to sway her.
Leaving the temple only to tell what was, for all intents and purposes, her chauffeur, that she would not be returning with him, she found him sleeping in the car. The windows were wound up by that point, and she tapped delicately on the window, waking him. He started, immediately torn from any lingering fragments of dreams by how happy he was to see her, and had the window open as soon as Dahlia's knuckles had retreated from the glass. Would he mind picking her up at ten in the morning? she asked, because it was, after all, a Saturday, and then leant forward, as if to kiss him. Unfortunately for her eager driver, a moment before their lips were due to meet a light in the temple came on, flooding the both of them, and Dahlia jumped, pulling back, melting into a pile of endearingly girlish giggles.
In the dark of Iris' room, her sister breathed that she knew Dahlia had only been trying to do what she thought was right all along, and that her intentions had never been bad. Not really. When they awoke the next morning, Dahlia sat on the edge of Iris' disagreeably hard mattress, and allowed her to braid her hair. Departing with a grunt in place of a goodbye, Dahlia stood outside the temple at precisely ten o'clock, and waited a whole eight minutes for her driver to show up.
She sulked for the entirety of the journey home as he apologised profusely for his tardiness, and promised to make it up to her by taking her to that one restaurant they were both well aware was outside of his price range.
The openness of which she lived those few short months made her quite convinced, though uncomfortably so, that one day, he father would track her down. Naturally, he would be understandably angry at her having disappeared without a trace, but surely some part of him would be overwhelmed with relief to learn that his daughter, the one he had chosen to keep, was alive and well, happily living out her life. She did wait for him, wholly unaware that she was doing so, but the visit never came until she had long since been in jail.
In truth, she was not entirely unused to visitors. Every now and again, a stray ex-boyfriend she'd purposely misplaced would wander into the facility during visiting hours, and tell her, through a pane of scratched glass, that there must have been some sort of mistake, because he knew that she could never do something like that. Dahlia would sit there at a slight angle so that she never quite faced her visitor, and so never had a direct view of him pouring his heart out, with a glazed look in her eye that usually meant she was contemplating just how atrocious that evening's meal was going to be. Worse than all those visits, however, were Iris'. Dahlia had long since decided that she would no longer lower herself to the level of speaking to a traitor, and so when faced with her sister, would stare at her through the glass until she became convinced she was merely looking at some reflection of herself, disfigured by emotion, and never breathe a word. Perhaps Iris begged for forgiveness. Perhaps she only ever tried to comfort Dahlia. Either way, Dahlia could not stand it.
When her father arrived, Dahlia felt that she should have been far more surprised. She was immediately aware of how little she actually cared, and upon looking at him for the first time in six years, found that the dully faint pang of disgust she felt for him barely even covered her skin like a film of dirt. There in front of her sat Anthony Hawthorne, eyes at once darting all around. Not because he could not comfortably bring himself to rest his gaze on his daughter, Dahlia knew, but because the condition of the jail and what it stood for was so far beneath him that he felt he had wandered into another world. He wore a tailored grey suit, double-breasted, and had probably dressed down for the occasion.
No matter what he thought of his surroundings, Dahlia had not found prison as altogether confining as she had first thought. The women in there were easily controlled, much like the men in the outside world, and it seemed like all Dahlia had to do was be herself to command respect among the inmates. It was known that she was in there for the long-haul, so her fellow criminals were acutely aware of the fact that she would not feel that she had anything to lose, and so could act as she pleased. Those who still clung to their moral compasses as they waited for release (prostitutes, mostly, along with the occasional drug dealer or shop lifter) knew to stay out of her way, and a silent glance or a few short, sharp words often seemed enough to deal with those who thought a little too much of themselves.
When her father finally did look at her, Dahlia's first thought was that he was judging her ridiculous outfit. The thick orange fabric, entirely shapeless and offending to the eye, clung in folds and creases to an approximation of her frame, making it look as if she was fed far better than she truly was. Dahlia tugged at her collar, which did nothing to shift her shirt into what could be considered the right place, but it caught her father's attention enough to inspire him to speak.
“What did you do with the jewel, Dahlia?”
That was the first thing he'd said to her in years, and all at once, Dahlia found herself in a fit of laughter that hurt in such a way that was reflected in her face; other inmates, meeting with disappointed family, turned to look at her, and a guard walked over, inquiring as to whether there was a problem. Dahlia batted him away sharply, straightened herself in her seat, and fell silent again. Her father looked at her, waiting for an answer. He drummed his fingers against the ledge in front of him, promptly realised that he was making contact with something altogether unclean, and pulled his hand away.
Mentally, Dahlia begged him not to ask another question, not quite believing that she had oxygen enough in her lungs to withstand a second fit of laughter. Outwardly, she shrugged. Anthony grit his teeth, and Dahlia found that she still recognised the expression as one of utmost irritation.
“Where have you been?” was his second question, and a far more reasonable one at that. Had she been somebody else (Iris, for example), she may well have been able to delude herself into thinking he actually cared for her. Of course, Dahlia knew that Where have you been? actually meant Where has my money been?, and so did not allow herself to become wrapped up in any sort of positive feeling.
“Europe,” she said with a quizzical look, suggesting that she may have made it up on the spot, “And then back in the States.”
He frowned, lines forming in his already wrinkly forehead as he mentally tried to calculate how much that would've cost, flights and accommodation and all. His frown deepened as he reached an imagined number, far from the truth, for he hadn't taken into account all the people Dahlia had paid off to keep quite about this and that, or all the generous Europeans willing to buy her any number of desirable trinkets.
Briefly, she took it upon herself to wonder whether her father was any more despicable than her mother. He had his good points, she supposed; he had taken her from that terribly backwards mountain village when he'd had enough of his wife's self-chastising breakdown, and had always earnt plenty of money. He'd even been willing to give Iris up with minimal prompting from her, and as a child, Dahlia had rarely ever wanted for anything material. However, his faults far outshone his practical generosity; for example, he should have been well aware that Dahlia had murdered his step-daughter and desecrated the corpse by bundling it into the trunk of a car, and yet he did not seem to care. He didn't so much as breathe a single angry word to Dahlia, spoke of only his stolen pride, manifested in the form of a jewel, in the same detached manner she had become accustomed to being spoke to in by him.
Her father left without answers and an abundance of irritation, and when a guard attempted to remove Dahlia from the booth, she snapped at him, demanding she be allowed to sit there for the full twenty minutes allotted to her. When she did eventually rise to her feet, body seeming to move without her express permission, the same guard escorted her back to her cell. Unlocking the door, and ushering her in as forcefully as he could without direct physical contact, he leant close, grinning.
“Just three more years, Hawthorne,” he said, smugness lost to anger. Some time ago, Dahlia had learnt that the guard in question had been friends with Valerie, and had intended to become more, before Dahlia's whims made that all but impossible. She wasn't surprised that he was counting down the days to her execution, and though it had never been outright proven she was responsible for Valerie's death, Dahlia made no attempt to deny any of his claims.
Sat back in her cell with empty hours to waste away, Dahlia pondered what she might say to Anthony Hawthorne, should he ever return. Perhaps she would give him some false lead to follow, some ridiculous claim that she'd buried the cash she hadn't yet burnt up, deep in the forest around Hazakura Temple. It would be delightful, she thought, if he stumbled upon Iris during his excursion, and saw her face in her sister's, mocking him from such a distance. Or perhaps she would make up a name of a man she had never actually encountered, and explain that the money had been deposited in his savings account. The thought of passively torturing him in such a way held an appeal for approximately half an hour, after which point she immediately became bored with the thought of him.
How dreadfully dull everything had always seemed to her, and how that was true more than ever, confined to such a pathetically small room so far beneath how she ought to have been living that she sometimes believed it all to be a dream. There was to be no hope for someone like her, she had long since been told, but she did often cling to the faintest of hopes that one day, there would be a third life for her. Another chance to take revenge against those had wrong her, against those whose continued existence continued to scorn her.
It was a good thing, after all, that she was a very, very patient woman.