The Power of a Whisper
“Sometimes the greatest damage can be done not with an attack but with a whisper.”
Nathaniel placed his hand on Briar’s shoulder as she stared in front of her. She recognised the place in front of her, it was Central Park in New York. And she recognised the frozen figure in front of her, paused in time with her face contorted with rising vomit…
It was her. This was December 2013, mere weeks after Greece.
Briar leant over and vomited behind the shrub. She had been running every morning. Running until she made herself sick and then running some more. It was the best way to get out of her own mind. Running away from everything but she always ended up back with herself.
She and Tim had been at the hotel in New York for a few weeks now. The weeks since Briar had been returned home by a man with someone else’s face. Tim had been so happy to have her back or was that horny to have her back? He never wanted to talk about what had happened to her in the days that she had been missing. Every time she tried to talk he tried to shut her up with kisses and foreplay.
But Briar didn’t want it, she could not bear to be touched. Every time she closed her eyes she saw their faces and the blood.
Her mind whispered ceaselessly about the evil she had done; about how terrible she really was.
Her mind whispered to her that she had no place in the world, no right to live when she had taken innocent lives away. Nothing silenced the whispering except running so Briar did it every moment that she could.
Last night once Tim had passed out on a cocktail of booze and drugs, Briar had visited Katie’s room in the hotel. Katie had come to visit to help Briar. She had dropped everything and come, and that meant so much to Briar.
Katie was the only person who understood the kind of hell Briar had been through. With her own deadly trauma in her past, Katie understood what it was to not be in control. Katie was the only one who knew what Briar had done and she did not judge Briar for it.
Katie’s understanding didn’t stop Briar judging herself.
“Are you okay?”
Briar looked up from the shrub to find a young teenage girl standing beside her with a concerned look on her face. She seemed so lovely and kind, so full of life. Briar recoiled, nearly slipping over, as she imagined Hades forcing her to murder the girl.
The girl looked confused and hurt as Briar pulled away.
“I… I think I’m sick. I should… I should go before I… I get anyone else sick,” Briar stammered. The compassion in the girl’s dark brown eyes killed Briar. She did not deserve anyone’s kindness or concern.
“I hope you feel better soon.”
“Thank you.” Briar gave her a little wave and ran away. She ran until she could not run anymore. Then she went back to the hotel, showered and left again without a single word to Tim.
She could not face him. She looked at him and saw everything about herself. Saw everything that had happened in Greece but more than that she saw the fuck-up she had been for years.
And all she felt was that she was a worthless disappointment.
She had been rescued by a man wearing the face of a man who was the closest thing to true goodness that Briar had ever known. Now Briar was haunted by that face looking at her with disgust. So much disgust and disappointment.
Alistair Rosenthorn. The man who had wanted to spend his life with her. The young man who had looked at her with such love and adoration. Who looked at her like he had found an angel on earth and yet she was closer to the devil. In those days, Briar had known she was not the good person Alistair thought her to be, and she had fallen so much further since then.
She had started at the bottom and found ways to go down.
And now…well, such a good man could only ever feel disgust towards her now.
It haunted her. She was so worthless and had ended good and innocent lives. She deserved obliteration, the whispers were certain of it.
Briar found a bar, one of the ones with lights too low and booths to hide away in. It was too early in the day for it to be packed out or to be a place for love, lust and intoxication to wrap themselves around willing victims. Briar sat with a glass of scotch in front of her, the rocks now melted to ruin the drink but Briar did not care. She had not even sipped it, instead, she sat rolling the glass between her palms over and over. She stared into the amber waves within and wondered how strong she was.
Was there an ounce of goodness? Was she strong enough to rid the world of a life so disturbed and depraved?
She had not contemplated such deeds since she was fifteen, not since she had run from her aunt’s home and that man. She had never thought of hurting herself since; she had learned how to run. Now, no matter how fast and far she ran, she still found herself there.
A song came over the sound system and Briar groaned. It was a song that was sweet torture taking her back to Alistair and the happy memories from before she ran.
And I know that you’d be here right now
If I could have let you know somehow, I guess
Briar made her way to the bar and ordered another drink. Straight this time, and this time she drank it. And then another. The third she carried back to her table.
I know I could have saved a love that night
If I’d know what to say
Instead of makin’ love
We both made our separate ways.
The fates were cruel bitches putting this song on.
There was only one man Briar had ever made love with. One man that it had been more than sex, more than pleasure, more than fucking. One man where it had meant something to her. Where lips gently brushing her skin could make her moan and shiver more than a more intimate act with a different man.
Briar groaned and fell back against the booth seat and looked at the ceiling as memory assaulted her. Briar remembered that week away. Their final romantic trip away.
Briar would wrap herself in a sheet and stand on the deck watching the sunrise over the clear blue waters. She remembered how he would come up behind her and his breath across her skin would make her shiver. His lips would move over her shoulder blade, such gentle and soft touches that could make her weak at the knees. He would wrap his arms around her waist and she would rest back against his chest feeling happy, feeling content. That was how she knew she was in love, that contentment. She felt so deeply for him and that had meant it had to end. For his sake.
How she wanted that again. But it was something she would not have. She did not deserve it. There was too much blood on her hands, and now there was innocent blood on them too.
Briar was broken and damaged and did not deserve a place in this world. It would be better without her.
Briar squeezed her eyes shut, the whispers were so strong. Suggestions of how to end it but she was a coward. She did not want to listen but the whispers were insistent. Briar shook her head and opened her eyes, glass rolling between her palms. She was so worthless, she needed to just take a final run. One final run and the whispers would stop.
Briar looked up. For a second she thought it was Hermes again but then she looked into his eyes.
“Jesus Christ.” Her brain couldn’t form the next words as she stared at the object of her thoughts. The silence dragged for a moment before she found her tongue. “Al, Al, Alistair?”
Briar had nothing more to say, no witty remark, no excuse that would allow her to flee. She just sat there staring at Alistair. She didn’t even realise the whispers in her head had fallen silent.
Briar turned as the memory froze around them. “No, please, Nathaniel. Let it play out, let me savour this. His sweetness…”
“You need to understand why this memory.”
“Because it’s Alistair coming back to me.”
“That’s not why, Briar,” Nathaniel replied and pulled Briar’s attention back to him. She had looked back to the memory. He placed a hand on her cheek.
“Briar, please focus.”
Briar almost snarled. It was Alistair. Alistair who had helped drag her from darkness, she had been so close to ending her life. Those whispers…the whispers…
With that thought, Nathaniel had her attention.
“Those whispers, were they just in my own mind?”
Nathaniel shook his head. “I could protect you in many ways, hide your location but I could not hide you completely and she wanted you dead.”
“Persephone? I mean Hillet?”
“Yes.” Nathaniel paused for a moment and took a breath. “There was little I could do but put whispers of my own in other ears.
Briar narrowed her eyes. “So, it wasn’t fate or destiny that had Alistair in that bar when I needed him?”
“Well, I did not bring him to New York, that was fate. I just gave him a gentle nudge not to drink from the mini fridge.”
“I see.” Briar wasn’t sure why that knowledge annoyed her but it did.
“It was fate and destiny that meant that Alistair could quiet the voices,” Nathaniel said, trying to lessen Briar’s disappointment. “I did nothing to influence his feelings for you, nor make him talk to you. Nor did I have a hand in what you mean to each other. Your souls have been bound since the first life you shared.”
“We are bound? Like bonded like Katie and Henry?”
“Your souls have bonded in past lives and part of that bond remains. It is why he could literally quiet the demons. But your souls are not bonded in this life and you are both weaker for it.”
“Well, that’s not because I don’t want it. Don’t you think I want to share something as deep and profound as what Katie and Henry have?”
“Do you? Have you ever admitted that before, spoken such words to Alistair? Do you think he knows you want that or does he think you hold back from him, from your love?”
Briar opened her mouth but her arguments died on her lips. She had been holding back. Sure, she had reasons for it but they were mostly excuses. She really had never shown that she was willing to open up that completely to Alistair. She had never said that she wanted that commitment.
Briar’s shoulders dropped. As usual. She was the architect of her own disappointments.
Not wanting to think about how much she had screwed up again, Briar locked on to another part of the conversation. “You said we had lives together before this one. Is it something I get to know in this time? Lorelei mentioned past lives if I had any. I’d been hoping there might be some.”
“You had past lives and if they are important then you will see,” Nathaniel said and got thumped in the arm by Briar.
“I know that smirk. You know already, don’t you?”
“Perhaps we go there now.”
“Now? But I thought we would see more of Alistair and I reuniting.”
“You have seen what you needed to see of that time and you have learned what you needed to learn about the whispers. Anything more you wish to know about that time you must speak with Alistair himself. It is not my place to show the rest of that time, we have far more to see and you have far more to learn. Unless you don’t want to know anything about a past life?”
Nathaniel’s look was mocking and Briar wanted to smack him again for exploiting her curiosity. Hitting him would not achieve much and Briar had to admit that she was dying to know her past lives and any connection to Alistair. Of course, she was curious to know any other connections she had to anyone else in a past life but especially Alistair.
Briar was now eager to be done with the visions and the trials so that she could return to Alistair and tell him exactly how she felt. She wasn’t scared of it anymore.
It seemed there had already been good to come from her facing this journey. Now she just had to face the rest and survive to return to Alistair.
Now, now Briar felt like she had even more to fight for, more motivation to make sure she survived.