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"Jizabel, you have to stop. Doesn’t this hurt?"
…Jizabel, doesn’t this hurt? Is that a question about my wounds and illness? I almost ask or answer before the soft grip on my wrists lets me know something’s wrong. I feel I’ve cheated and lied to get here, so the fear of being discovered begins to grow thick and dark in the back my mind.
That fear and stupor only grow as I feel Cassian slip away from under me to stand at the bedside. Collapsing onto the bed from the sudden loss of support, I feel naked- vulnerable in the worst way possible. I lie there, face down, feeling as if I am seventeen with my cover just blown on some Dellilah mission: numbed terror creeping through my veins. A hand that doesn’t wander past my neck runs through my hair, lips press to my forehead and I hear “Just get some sleep, alright Jizabel?”
There’s footsteps and the creaking of springs as Cassian goes to sit in the armchair, snuffing out my candle and leaving me his bed to sleep in.
I don’t sleep as he told me to, instead I just lie in the silence and try to corner my thoughts. I try to convince myself that it shouldn’t matter if love is real or not; after all, the object of feigned affections can’t ever tell the difference. Sometime in the middle of the night it feels like Cassandra whispers in my ear: you enjoy dragging other souls down to your level.
I do not, not this time at least. Not with Cassian.
There’s an unwanted realization that I was about to do something horrible to Cassian, that I should be grateful I was stopped.
In truth, there’s just a growing dread that wells in the pit of my stomach. The thoughts buzz about my mind: of the the warmth I could have had if Cassian would have just touched me, of what I now want, of what if I just ruined my only chance to be loved. Father would be so disgusted, to hear me think like this of his killer; I do not believe I give a damn what father would think. Just that Cassian will be disgusted when he realizes what I’ve tried to do.
I rush to the washroom when the fear in my stomach becomes something physical that I need to purge and vomit.
In that rush I make sure to lock the door, but forget to tie my hair back. The pale strands cling to my cold sweat and fall in the basin of now filthy water.
I’d just washed them, I’d just washed them and now they’re like this.
I don’t mean to, but I rest my face on the ceramic’s edge as my body continues to heave and spasm. It’s exhausting and violent, and I could fall asleep- my first restful sleep of the night- if not for the frantic turning of the knob and insistent shouting. The shouts all run together as one sentence: Jizabel, are you alright, Jizabel, what’s wrong, Jizabel, please answer, open this door.
I wipe some of the vomit off my face and prepare to speak up, knowing Cassian will pick the lock if I’m quite for too long.
I mutter out I’m fine the strongest able.
Too late. Cassian barges in to cautiously kneel by me. Cautious because of the filth I’m sure.
I groan out I didn’t want you to see me like this…so disgusting.
"Damnit, Jizabel, that’s no reason to have locked me out. Not when you’re this ill."
As I continue heaving, I realize that that’s it. That’s my excuse. The drugs, the disease and the exhaustion are why I acted as I did tonight. That’s all Cassian need know, and he won’t ask further if I don’t want him to. I don’t bother trying to stop the heaving when I respond in groans:
got drunk… can’t remember how got here… please, run bath…So sorry, about tonight
And of course, Cassian has to be just kind enough to oblige and not recoil away from the mess I am when he has to help me. I’m surprised he draws the water himself instead of asking the servants. It’s what I’d prefer, but I’m surprised he’d still indulge me. Maybe my lie was believed.
I slip into the water and am told to wait there. I may have imagined it, half asleep as I was, but I think I muttered Cass, thank you.
She’ll lie and steal, and cheat, and beg you from her knees
Make you think she means it this time
She’ll tear a hole in you, the one you can’t repair
But I still love her, I don’t really care
With someone like Jizabel, there are some fears you just have to have. Like fearing that you were too blunt with him, fearing that that compelled him to poison himself, and fearing that if you’re not quick enough you’ll find a corpse on the other side of the bathroom door.
But, tonight it seems that fear’s just an emotion and not much more.
His problem right now is just all the emotions he can’t find a better way to process, and not a more real sort of poison.
Jizabel’s has this habit, from back in Delilah -before that, probably- of turning thoughts and fears into physical illness at times.
What did Zenopia call it, somatoform? Well, the name doesn’t matter. What fear is it this time?
I rush to the servants’ washroom, to rinse off and get a change of clothes. I take the time to grab towels and a pitcher and glass of water. If Jizabel were actually as drunk as he says I’d look for some remedy.
But we both know that’s not the case. We’re just pretending that things are something easier for him to cope with.
But, what fear is it this time?
I’ve seen this before, when he can’t deal with thinking he’s unwanted. He’ll come up with all these stories he’ll stick to- like father loves me- hoping that one day he’ll believe them himself.
So what can I do to not hurt him, but go along with the act? It’s just too much for him to take if I try to have an honest conversation about what’s wrong.
I better hurry back. Seeing how he was asleep, Jizabel could actually drown in the tub.
The stairs are of fine make, completely silent as I make the journey back up with the pitcher balanced on a pile of towels and rags.
I have to put all that down to push the door open.
Jizabel hasn’t drown at least. Instead he just fell asleep, arms folded on the edge of the tub, chin resting on them and hair splayed out on the surface of the water.
He stirs and wakes when I wipe his face with a damp washcloth. He tries to speak but only gags on the taste in his mouth.
"Jizabel, here- drink this." A pale arm stretches out to take the cup to his lips, which swallow the water and croak out thanks.
"Do you need any help, Doctor?"
In a whisper he responds: “Please keep your voice down, Cassian. It’s just the headache from the alcohol.”
I lift the pitcher over his head. “Of course, sorry Jizabel. Should I?”
He nods and shuts his eyes before I pour the water down his hair and back.
"Can you do the rest yourself, Doctor, or should I help?"
"I am fine, Cassian. Just a bit groggy. If you could retrieve my soaps and robes, and throw some rags over that…mess in the corner."
I nod and get up to do as he asked, before then he lightly catches and releases my hand.
"Cassian, thank you for doing this."
It can’t possibly be healthy to let him pretend, but… if it keeps him from feeling pained, what choice do I have?
"Sure thing, Jizabel."