Jason

This week’s character portrait is of Isabelle’s impulsive, slightly unobservant, but well-meaning brother, Jason Clements. As the image on his shirt implies, Jason has a fondness for squirrels. As he once told Nesrin, “When we were little a squirrel used to climb up on my bedroom windowsill and knock until I brought peanuts, then it would come back with berries or leaves in return. For awhile that squirrel was my best friend.” Nowadays Jason is a graduate business management student subletting an apartment from Nesrin with Isabelle. His other interests include puzzles, second-hand items, and video games.

Mother and Child

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Isabelle dusted her ceramic village every day, whether it was her turn to clean or not. She kept it on a shelf in the living room, and had to be careful with the duster in case she knocked something off. Concentration was also a good excuse for ignoring Nesrin when she came out the hallway.

Nesrin, not realizing that conversation wasn’t wanted, said “Again? You’re going to dust the paint off sooner or later.”

Isabelle shrugged. “If I do I’ll just repaint it. I painted a few to begin with anyway.”

“Really? Which ones did you paint?”

Isabelle was tempted to give a curt answer and move on. Instead she motioned for Nesrin to come over and pointed to the post office. “That was the first one I painted, then the doctor’s office, this house, and the train station. The rest came already painted.”

“Wow. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.”

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Did the collection start with the the post office?”

“Actually it started with the yellow house in the middle. I got it when Jason and me were still in the orphanage and pretended it was the house my parents in Mexico lived in. After we got adopted our new parents got me more for birthdays and Christmas so I had a sense of heritage. Sort of represents the other way my life could have gone, you know?”

Isabelle looked at Nesrin, then shook her head and went back to dusting. She only made two more swipes before she stopped again. “Hey, do hidden ones know things about people?”

“Depends what you mean.”

“I mean about people you haven’t met. Like telling fortunes, I guess?”

“Some of us can, but there is some disagreement on whether or not we should use it.”

“What do you think?”

Nesrin pursed her lips. “Where’s this going?”

“I… Forget it.”

“You wanted me to tell you about your birth parents.”

“I more wanted you to show them to me, maybe show me where they live. Jason sees his once in a while, but I’ve never seen mine. I just want to finally know the real answers to some of my questions.”

Nesrin shook her head. “You’ve developed a perception you can live with. If I do this you may find the story was preferable to the truth.”

“I’d rather have an unpleasant truth than something fake. Por favor, Nesrin. I need to know where my blood comes from.”

Nesrin studied her eyes, which was a mistake. “Alright, I’ll take a night off and we can go now, but remember I warned you. Grab my hand.”

Isabelle did so, and felt the sensation of being dragged through the air.

Nesrin let go and stopped to text her boss so Isabelle could get her bearings. They were on the outskirts of a town at the edge of a dry, flat stretch of land. “Unless I’m wrong this should be roughly the spot. We’re in Arizona, specif…”

Isabelle wasn’t listening. Her eyes were glued to a long, dark line in the distance. The border.

Nesrin put a hand on her shoulder. “That’s where they’re actually from, this is where they are now. Which do you want to see?”

Isabelle’s hand rose up to her hair. “Show me them now.”

“Then there’s a restaurant in town we need to go to. We can walk from here.”

The town took on a somewhat old-fashioned atmosphere from the antiquated architectural style of the buildings; sort of a mix of western and retro. The restaurant Nesrin mentioned was small and simple, with a neon light that wasn’t turned on.

Nesrin said “Your mother’s a waitress here. We’ll sit down and I’ll point her out. You can decide what to do from there.” She held the door for Isabelle and followed her in.

Isabelle looked at all the waitresses. There were one or two she thought were possibles, but at this point it could have been anyone. By the time they sat down she could barely walk. She didn’t dare rush Nesrin for confirmation, but when their waitress came she saw Nesrin’s eyes bulge and didn’t need to.

“Hiiiii. My name is Celia, I’ll be taking care of you this evening. How are we doing today?”

Isabelle stammered out a few syllables. In the split second that she could look at Celia she noticed short, greying brown hair.

Nesrin leaned forward. “We’re doing great, thanks.”

“Great. What can I get you to drink?”

Isabelle tried to speak again and got nothing. The woman wasn’t as tall as she was expecting, or as thick around the waist.

“We’ll both just have waters.”

Celia walked away and Isabelle’s forehead dropped to the table. Slowly she lifted it up. “Es mi madre.”

“Yes.”

“Did you see if she was wearing a wedding ring?”

“No.”

“No you didn’t see or no she wasn’t?”

Nesrin motioned with her eyes as the woman returned with their drinks. Isabelle barely heard what Celia said. She managed a smile, though. She also saw there was no wedding ring. She heard Nesrin say “I’ll have a chicken quesadilla, she’ll have a cheese quesadilla.” A few seconds later she heard her mother say “Are you alright? You seem a little out of sorts.”

Isabelle imagined her eyes dilating. “I’m okay, thank you.”

Her mother walked away and she let herself breathe. “Okay, so, the ring. Do I wanna know?”

“You tell me.”

“Oh venga, sabes quiero saber!”

Nesrin shook her head.“Are you thinking of telling her?”

Isabelle started to call her out on changing the subject, then she stopped to consider the question. “No sé. I’m not sure I can find the right words, or force them out.”

They sat in silence until their food arrived.

“Here we go. Everything look alright?”

Nesrin waited for Isabelle, who said “Yep, it all looks fantastic. Thank you.”

Nesrin quietly clapped.

“Good, then let me know if you need anything else. Enjoy.”

Isabelle said a silent prayer, then cut into her quesadilla. “I saw a scar on her face. It starts behind her ear and goes to her chin.”

“Yes. It was a rough crossing.”

“Did you see her eyebrows? When she smiles they don’t move to match. It’s like they’re set in a permanent sad face.”

“I saw.”

Isabelle pushed the quesadilla pieces around. “I want to tell her, and ask her things, and tell her more things. I want a lot of things.” She looked at Nesrin. “You’ve said before that your father was human. I guess that means he’s…”

“For thousands of years. I still have Mother, though.”

“Did you know him?”

“He was there for the first forty years or so. He taught me writing, pottery, haggling, and whatever else he knew. Of course for our people I was still a mere child.”

Isabelle didn’t pry further.

Her mother stopped on her way to another table. “Can I get you anything else? Some desert, maybe?”

They both shook their heads.

“Okay, then I’ll bring your check. One check or separate?”

Nesrin put up a hand. “One.”

Isabelle felt her throat dry up. It felt like playing an arcade game when her token was running out. She zoned out through the check coming and Nesrin paying; she needed to script and rehearse her lines for when her mother brought Nesrin’s change.

“Here you go. Thanks for coming in. You two have a nice night.”

It had caught her off guard. She didn’t call out or put out a hand, just turned to watch her mother walk away. She stood slowly. “Okay, I’m ready to go home.”

“Whatever you want.”

They walked past a few tables until Isabelle noticed Celia cleaning a table. Isabelle watched her for a few moments, then started walking again.

After Nesrin took them home they sat out on the balcony. Nesrin watched the clouds while Isabelle wrote in her journal by the light from a streetlamp. Isabelle had written down her mother’s name and the name of the restaurant. She’d get the name of the town from Nesrin later. Now she was making a sketch of her mother’s face.

“If you want go back I can take you anytime.”

“Thanks. We’ll see if I can get over my nerves.” She drew a question mark next to sketch, representing her father. “On the other hand, maybe you’re right; maybe I have enough to go on now and it’s better to fantasize.”

They went in about midnight. They had to pass Isabelle’s village going in. Nesrin went right past, but Isabelle stopped to move the restaurant to the front of the shelf before going to bed.

Drabble: Consider

Gobelen shook his head and smiled. He seemed more amused than insulted that we questioned whether we really saw him or not.

“You still doubt your senses, Dear Rescuers. You still believe the jinn to be merely the creations of stories, found nowhere but in the minstrel’s song. Why do you wonder so when we’ve been talking all through the night? I tell you we a very real, and not only us. Consider something with me—consider that all myths have their roots in reality, and that all stories have some truth to teach. Open your minds and let me fill them with images of the horned and winged horses, and the folk that dwell in the waters. Let me reveal the image of the chimera, unravel the legends of dragons. I will tell you a story of the wonders I communed with before my imprisonment. Only listen with open mind and heart, and soon you will marvel, as I do, at what God has created.”

Isabelle

Here we have a portrait of Isabelle, the focal character of the last major story and the next. Her hobbies include painting ceramics, drawing, and Taekwondo. She also has a fondness for second-hand items, but (paradoxically) distrusts flea markets because her adoptive grandmother always taught her that “they’re called that for a reason.” Isabelle is a second-year graduate psychology student with a focus in developmental psychology. She was adopted by Lillian and Oliver Clements at the age of 8 along with her adoptive brother Jason (two years younger than her), and is 24 years old at this point in the series.

Cave of Clutter

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On some days Isabelle and Jason would do almost anything to avoid their school work, even if it meant technically doing more work. This time the distraction was going through the boxes they kept in the spare bedroom, separating things they wanted to keep from things they could get rid of. Clothes, books, toys, pictures, and knick-knacks were spread all over the bed, all over the floor, and on the nightstand. The siblings were standing in the middle pulling items out of the boxes and adding to the pile.

Nesrin was leaning on a wall in the closet. “If you’re determined to get things out of this room, I would happily put them in my storehouse in the hidden realm. There’s more than enough space.”

Jason chuckled. “Must not have as much in it as this.”

“Oh this is nothing. My people have millennia to accumulate possessions. It’s what led to the misconception that we can magically create unlimited wealth.”

“Thanks, Nesrin,” Isabelle said, “but we really do need to get rid of some things.” She held up a battery-powered lantern without glass. “I mean seriously, why do we even have this?”

Jason held up a two feet tall plush clown on a stand. “Probably the same reason we have this.”

Nesrin walked out of the closet and picked up a house coat with a red and white rose print. “What are you going to do with the stuff you don’t want?” She slipped the sleeves over her arms. “Surely you’re not going to just throw it out.”

Jason sat the clown down and picked up a cookbook. “Of course not. We’ll probably find somewhere to donate it.”

Nesrin found the sash to the robe and tied it around her waist.

Isabelle stopped and looked at the box. “Or we could sell it; get a little extra cash for school supplies.”

Jason snorted. “Who’d buy any of this?”

“People like us that stop whenever they see yard sales. I bet we could do pretty well from all this old junk.”

Nesrin reached into the air. Her eyes flashed gold and she produced a dollar bill. “You can start with this house coat.”

Isabelle took the dollar and held it up. “See?”

“Where would we have the sale, though? Our lease doesn’t let us sell things in the complex.”

Nesrin was looking at her new robe in the hall mirror. “You can rent a booth at the flea market for thirty dollars a day. Forty for a weekend.”

Isabelle squirmed. “I wonder if it would be worth it.”

Nesrin came back in with her hands in the robe’s pockets. “If you want more of a profit you could take some things from my storehouse. Some of my junk would be quite valuable by this society’s standards. I’ll take you there and you can have your pick.”

Jason and Isabelle shot each other excited glances.

“That would be worth doing just to see the place,” Jason said.

Nesrin smiled. “Excellent.”

She made several motions with her right hand and her eyes took on a steady gold glow. Soon the bedroom began to fade away and a circular wall of bookcases took its place. As soon as the bookcases were in place a small, light brown bird fluttered in and landed on Nesrin’s finger.

Nesrin kissed its beak. “Hey, Lind. These are my roommates Jason and Isabelle. Guys, this is my pet nightingale Lind.”

Lind fluttered around the two new arrivals, then flew in front of them, looking them in the eye. Finally she flew back to Nesrin and nodded her head before perching on her shoulder.

“We’re in the library right now. The main display area’s this way.”

She led them through a winding line of books that went on for several yards before opening into a room that was part museum, part warehouse, and part bank vault. The first thing Jason and Isabelle saw was a crimson steam locomotive.

“Do you like it? It’s a Jones M2 class from England.”

Jason ran up and almost climbed into the cab. “You have a train?”

Nesrin patted the front of the engine. “No, only the engine. For a full train I would also need some coaches or freight cars.” She pointed to a long wall lined from floor to ceiling with wooden filing cabinets. “Those drawers contain multiple types of currency. Don’t mess with them, and don’t touch any locked chests or doors. Other than that, anything you can easily carry is yours.”

Isabelle walked forward slowly, unsure where to start. The first thing she came to was an Easter tree decorated with Fabergé eggs. “You’re sure you don’t want any of this?”

Nesrin waved a hand. “Having this much excess for so long sort of removes the fulfillment you get from possessions. The things I really treasure are locked away; anything out here I basically just happen to have.” She picked up a bronze and gold egg with a clockwork design. “You may want to avoid anything too suspicious, though. Sell enough of these and we’ll have federal agents showing up at the apartment.”

Isabelle nodded and backed away from the tree. She walked to a line of tables where Jason was admiring sets of kitchenware from various countries and time periods.

Jason held up a glass chalice. “Okay, I’m convinced. With this kind of merchandise we’ll do great.” He put the glass in his other hand and picked up a plate with swirling blue patterns around the edges.

Isabelle picked up a wooden stand holding a dozen wine stoppers. They were all marble, and carved into the shapes of angels. Perfect.

There was so much they’d have to choose at random. She turned around and caught a glimpse of Nesrin’s wall of money. If what Nesrin said was true, there had to be more money in those drawers than was on the physical planet.

“Hey, Jason, does it bother you that Nesrin keeps that much money under lock and k…?”

“Awe yeah, swords!” Something shiny had caught Jason’s eye, and he’d ducked under the table to make a beeline for the sword display. He picked up a long, curved sword and pulled it out of the sheath. The first thing he did was look at the reflection of his face in the steel. He then proceeded to swish the blade through the air as if he were in a duel. “I think I’ll take this just for me.”

She tilted her head, but didn’t say anything.

Jason tried the sword in his other hand. He slipped it back into its sheath when she saw Nesrin coming with four cardboard boxes.

Nesrin put the boxes down beside the sword case. “I figured you could probably use these. They’ll be here when you want them. I see you found my shamshir. That one has a weird story behind it. It once belonged to King Vologases V of the Arsacid Empire. ”

Jason ran his fingers over the sheath. “Oh that is cool. Why would you get rid of this?”

Nesrin gestured to the room around them. “You honestly think I’ll notice? There’s more here than I ever look at. In your world it wouldn’t just be gathering dust, it would have been dust literal ages ago. This way it can get some appreciation and make you some much needed money. It just makes sense.”

Isabelle held up a hand. “Speaking of things that do or don’t make sense, do all hidden ones have enough money to line a wall?”

“Not all. Jann don’t have any. Most of us do, though. After long enough it just sort of happens.”

“What do you do with that much?”

Nesrin shrugged. “Buy things? I choose to pay rent, and pay for whatever else I need instead of just taking it like most hidden ones do. Most of it just sits with the rest of the so-called treasure unless we’re bound to a master who wants to use it, which I never intend to be again.”

Isabelle’s mouth hung open. Memories raced through her mind of the broken springs in orphanage beds and the chips in the ceilings. “You realize that means collectively your people could actually fix all the world’s problems. Probably you could single-handed.”

“Theoretically, but new ones would just come up, and where would the fun be in a perfect world, anyway?”

“Qué?”

They were interrupted by Lind taking off after a toy dragonfly Jason had sent flying.

Nesrin took the opportunity to say “There’s something I need to go tend to. I’ll be back for you and Jason before long. Feel free to keep looking.”

Isabelle didn’t respond at first, but finally said “Bye.” When Nesrin was gone she looked down. She was still holding the wine stoppers. She put them in a box, then went back to the table and grabbed the heaviest gold plates and cups she could find. After that she found some piles of jewelry and raked in pieces at random.

Jason was playing with some wind-up figurines painted like fifteenth century explorers. Satisfied with the slow, mechanical way they marched, he put all six in his box. While he was still putting in the last one he saw two pewter bookends in the shape of wolves. “Hey, check these out.”

Isabelle smiled. “They’re nice. We’ll get a good price for them.”

“More like they’ll look great holding my books up in my room.”

“Oh venga! This whole thing started with trying to get rid of stuff.”

“And make way for new stuff, like really cool bookends.”

“You… never mind.” She left him alone and grabbed a handful of silk scarves.

By the time Nesrin came back they had both filled both their boxes, and Isabelle had found two shoulder bags to fill up besides.

Nesrin surveyed their takings. “Excellent choices, you two. So, you ready to head back?”

Isabelle said “I am” at the same time Jason said “Yeah, I guess.”

Nesrin kissed Lind’s beak and the bird winged away in search of new amusement. Nesrin went back through the motions from before and their apartment began fade into sight.

Jason heaved his two boxes onto the bed. “Now I get to figure where to put all this stuff.”

Nesrin frowned. “You mean until you sell it?”

Isabelle huffed. “Don’t ask.”

Nesrin rolled her eyes with a laugh. She turned to Isabelle. “I suppose you still want to call the flea market?”

Isabelle shook her head. “Actually I think stuff like this would do better in a pawnshop. I’ll find one this evening after I get done sorting through the other boxes.”

“Cool, cool. Well, I better get ready for work tonight. Good luck selling all this.”

“Thanks.” She watched Nesrin go, grateful that they wouldn’t see a lot of each other that night. She picked up a silver candlestick, tracing the design with her fingers. She sat it down and happened to put her hand in her jean pocket. She found the dollar Nesrin had given her for the rose robe.

On second thought, maybe she’d only use half the money for school. Someone else might need the other half. She’d figure that out later, too, while her pollino brother slowly realized he didn’t have room for his two boxes of toys.

Drabble: The Bottle Opens

Opening of the bottle

 

Gobelen’s memories of the dark day were vivid. Then again, he had no way of knowing how long ago that day was when his prison permitted him no light or sound. There was only the voice that had sentenced him to the bottle ringing neverendingly in his ears, and the visions of the lead seal forming over the exit.

Gobelen perceived a deafening crack and blinding light. Could it be…?

Cautiously, he unfolded into the world beyond the bottle. This world was different from the one he’d known. He examined the stars that shown within the walls of the house, then the strange devices that filled the room. He guessed it was a kitchen because of the fruit and bread he saw. He wondered if he’d been kept in Solomon’s palace, or the home of some other great king. Whatever the case, the most important question was how to ensure he did not wake from one nightmare into another.

Julrane 1

 

I decided to do a portrait for Julrane of the Sea Dwellers next because I love this character. She also gets a drabble to herself for the same reason.

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As soon as Nesrin was asleep Julrane grabbed a flower she’d been hiding and snuck out to plant it. She knew Nesrin was named after a certain land flower, and she’d been fairly confident she could breed a variety that grew underwater. It had taken almost a year of secret nighttime trial and error to create the white and blue-green rose she now held. Now all she had to do was dig in the sand, which she loved doing anyway, and wait till morning for Nesrin to see it, which would be easily the hardest part of the process.