Doors

By: Vhodka Black

Date: 28th Jun 2021

Vincent’s hand was warm where it rested in my own as we stood there half waiting for Alexis to open the door and grant us a reprieve from the early morning heat, half hoping that the door would never open and we could turn back around and leave. Okay, maybe that second part was just me. I was afraid, I was petrified. I’d spent the better part of the last twelve years dreading this day and now it was finally here and I could run no longer. On this side of the door I was Vhodka Marie. A friend to many, a lover to one, the ruler of my own universe. On the other side of that door I was… Mom. In the blink of an eye my entire life was about to change. Or hell, maybe it already had and this was just a case of the lady doth protesting too much.

Our apartment was all but packed, the only thing left to do was turn our keys back into Mr. Wu before we left for New York and a new phase in our lives. Not sure why he insisted we turn our keys in when we didn’t have a front door but I’ve learned Mr. Wu ain’t nothin’ to fuck with so we would oblige his request, no matter how insane. I didn’t know where we were going when we got to New York, where we would live, if we would find someplace that felt as much like home as the apartment we had grown up in. I’m not particularly sentimental but that was one thing I was sad about even if I never admitted it out loud. It seemed like a lifetime ago the first time I set foot in that shitty one bedroom above a Chinese restaurant. The only reason I had initially signed the lease there was because of its proximity to Parts Unknown and the man beside me and in those early days of the affair being so close meant that it was easier to see one another. Easy for Vincent to slip out under the guise of running errands to spend a few hours with me in our own private slice of the world. You can’t imagine how valuable that was to me. The apartment was the one place where we didn’t have to hide. I remembered the first night he came to me after he had married Candice. We had agreed to stop seeing one another once he was married and we made good on that agreement, at least for a few months, anyway. Then one night there was this knock at the door, when there was still a door, and there he was on the other side. It was the beginning of the end.

It seems some of the most seismic changes in my life all start with opening a door. The one currently before me that would make me a mother, the one that I had opened a decade ago that made me a mistress, the one that I would open on the tenth of July that would make me something else entirely. We weren’t just leaving a shitty apartment behind, we were leaving my memories. Don’t make fun of me but what if the apartment was the one thing keeping us together? What if when we left the magic wore off and things blew up in my face like some great cosmic joke? I guess that was a stupid fear considering how close we’d come only last week to calling this whole thing off. But we didn’t. It would take more than one bitter hag ex wife to kill this relationship though other things in my life were apparently not so hearty.

OPW was dead and gone, replaced by something new that I knew more about than you and less about than I’d like. That was scary in and of itself. I knew my place in the world in OPW, in this new world I didn’t know where I stood or who I stood among, only that I was supposed to arrive at an address at a certain time on a certain day to learn what the future held for me. Under normal circumstances I would have been worried but at this point a job really seemed like the least of my worries. Besides, it didn’t matter what lay beyond that door – I was going to plow the fuck through it no matter what it was.

My head turned to take in Vincent’s form beside me, finding him already staring at me with a look on his face I couldn’t quite name. Thoughtful, maybe. Or anticipatory? Of course he could just be watching me for any indication that I was about to bolt out of this uncomfortable position to sweet sweet freedom. Fat chance of that in the dress and heels he had specifically instructed me to wear this morning after I’d come out in something much more casual.

I’d like you to dress up today. The dress I like?” He had said, running his lips across the palm of my hand as I stood in the bathroom doorway of our aforementioned apartment. I’d have kicked a fit about it but he rarely asked and when he did it was always with reason. Now, he may not tell me the reason until thirty seconds before we step out of the car but there always was one. And for this, I acquiesced and slid into the dress and heels, arranging my hair on top of my head in some complicated style I’d never be able to replicate again. The one thing that made it worthwhile was the tailored suit the man beside me was wearing. I liked when he wore suits, but then again, I also liked when he wore nothing at all so maybe I’m not all that picky. As scared as I was for what I was about to do it seemed a little less scary as long as the man beside me was holding my hand.

The door abruptly swung inward and framed in the sweet sweet paradise that is central air conditioning was Alexis Austin. Alexis is beautiful, she’s always been the type of woman who could not wear a stitch of makeup and still look flawless but today she looked worse for the wear. She looked beaten down and tired with bloodshot eyes and hair two days past needing shampooed. Her arms were crossed under her breasts but instead of looking defiant she just looked like she was hugging herself to keep whatever was happening inside her from spilling out onto everyone else. In all the years I’d known her this was the worst I’d ever seen her look.

« Vhodka Marie »
Jesus, you look like shit.

« Alexis Austin »
And you look like a hooker with a heart of gold. What’s with the fancy dress? Chaperoning a middle school dance after this?

« Vhodka Marie »
You know how much I love to do the electric slide.

Alexis turned disappearing into the house as we followed in her wake to the dining room. As we all took our places around the reclaimed barn wood table or whatever material was en vouge for the lesbian sect these day I couldn’t help but look around for signs of Ripley. It’s weird, I didn’t want to do this five minutes ago and now all I could think of was ripping the band aid off and getting it done.

« Alexis Austin »
Relax, she’s not here. Bobbi took her to an appointment so I could talk to you before we do this.

« Vhodka Marie »
Oh boy.

« Alexis Austin »
I’m going to cut right to the chase. This has been a lot on her, more than any kid her age with all the stuff on her plate she already has should have to deal with. She’s taken to him okay, and I get the sense she’s excited about the prospect of having siblings. But I don’t know how she’s going to react with you, honestly. I know you had your reasons, fuck, I know WE had our reasons. They were good, they’re still good. But I’m not sure how they’re going to muster up in Ripley’s eyes. She may hate you for it, she may end up hating all of us for it. But she’s old enough for the truth.

« Vhodka Marie »
I’ll do my best, Alex.

« Alexis Austin »
Of that I have no doubt. And I may love the two of you like family but if you hurt my daughter I swear to fuck I’ll tear you to pieces with my bare hands.

« Vincent Black »
Our daughter.

« Alexis Austin »
The thought that I share a child with the two of you makes me nauseated.

« Vincent Black »
She’s going to trow up.

« Vhodka Marie »
Trow up so bad.

« Alexis Austin »
Oh, grow up. You’re parents now.

« Vhodka Marie »
He’s been a parent.

« Alexis Austin »
That reminds me, I have to rip your dick off over this Candice shit.

« Vincent Black »
I’d like to opt out.

« Vhodka Marie »
Why does it have to be the dick? Haven’t I suffered enough?

Alexis leaned forward on her hands scrunching her face up at Vincent, her mouth hung open but whatever she would have said never made it past the sound of the front door opening and the product of Vincent and I bounding in with Roberta “Bobbi” Parker hot on her heels. Bobbi was to Alexis what Vincent was to me, minus the dick and years-long illicit affair. She was rough, tough and loved to dive in my second BFFs muff and I liked her more than I’d ever admit. See, Bobbi and I had a routine of sorts. She gave me shit, I gave her shit, thus was the way of the world. Ripley stopped in her tracks taking in the sight of all three of her parents sitting around the dinner table obviously talking about her and didn’t quite seem to know what emotion to settle on. I watched as her eyes went first to Alexis, then to Vincent before finally settling on me with a look that I can only describe as cautious contempt. In that moment as I stared at the daughter who now knew she was my daughter I felt lower than dirt for putting her in this position. If I was a religious person I might have prayed for whatever higher power to get us through this but since I’m not it looked like it was all up to me. We were fucked.

« Alexis Austin »
Hey kiddo, look who stopped by.

She might as well have been speaking French for all the reaction it got out of Ripley whose eyes were ping ponging between the three of us. Bobbi behind her took inventory of the situation and saw fit to bail us all out. Remind me to send that woman flowers. No, not flowers. She’s not the flower type. Maybe some sandpaper? Or furniture varnish? Bobbi seemed like the type to refinish old furniture. Okay, remind me to send her a bottle of Old English.

« Bobbi Parker »
Alexis, I need to see you about that thing. In the other room. Now, please.

Without another word Alexis gathered herself and stood, stopping to place a kiss atop the head of our daughter before departing the room. Ripley took a deep breath before crossing the room to take the chair that Alexis had just vacated. The silence between us hung thick in the air as I looked over the product of the love of a lifetime. Ripley was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in our life and even though I was dreading this moment I could not be sad about the choices I had made. Bringing her into this world was the right thing to do, even if I had done it for somewhat selfish reasons. When Vincent had told me to get rid of her I had heavily considered it, even drove to the clinic one morning in my old piece of shit hatchback that was missing the hatch portion. I remember sitting in that parking lot and staring at the building in front of me thinking how different they looked from on television. There was no picket line, no angry mob for me to cower from as I passed. No one here who would pass judgement and make this any harder on me than it already was. Just another life altering door in a long procession of them. On one side of the door, I carried the culmination of the affair. She was me and she was him and she was us. She would grow and she would prosper and she would change the world in ways in which her father and I could have only dreamed of. On the other side of that door the wonderful person that I knew was growing inside of me would be ripped away, never to be known by anyone but me. Because make no mistake, even if the world never knew she had existed I would. I would know that I had given up the one thing I had that Candice could not and would not ever give him. Or so I thought. Or so we thought.

« Vincent Black »
Callan asked me to tell you that he watched that video on YouTube that you suggested.

« Ripley Austin »
Did he like it?

« Vincent Black »
He did.

« Ripley Austin »
That’s good.

« Vhodka Marie »
Hi Ripper.

« Ripley Austin »
Hello Francesca Bickett.

Jesus, my government name. I was neck deep in serious shit sinking fast and the conversation hadn’t even begun yet. I thought we still had a few more years before the teenage attitude set in? Like doesn’t that hit around sixteen? With all the hormones? Fuck don’t remind me about the hormones. I’m not ready for boys and period talk. I’m barely ready to get out of bed in the morning as it is. This was the reason that I had given her to Alexis. Alexis was good in these situations, she thrived in them. Whatever default program a woman required to raise children had been installed at birth on Alexis’ hard drive. I was a computer virus. A broken down colorful iMac from the nineties that was all but obsolete in this day and age. I might be fun to look at but my usefulness was questionable and always had been even in my prime heyday. Ripley stared at me blankly as if we were talking about literally anything other than what we were about to talk about. Please, don’t let me fuck this up.

« Ripley Austin »
That is your name, isn’t it?

« Vhodka Marie »
Yeah, you just usually call me something else is all.

« Ripley Austin »
I used to call you Auntie Vee but I can’t call you that anymore on account of you aren’t my aunt.

The lump in my throat was the size of Alaska and suddenly I couldn’t seem to squeak any of the hundreds of words flying through my mind past it. What do you say to the child you gave away like a free puppy? “Hey, I know we all spent your entire life telling you that I was your Aunt but I’m actually your mom and a gigantic fuck up so hope that’s cool with you. Wanna go for ice cream?” I didn’t like her calling me something so impersonal but I also didn’t have any better suggestions as to what she should call me. The words I’m sorry didn’t even begin to cover it. Under the table a warm hand much larger than my own found mine and gave it a squeeze. I shifted my gaze to Vincent who held my eye contact for a moment before nodding his head. I could do this.

« Vhodka Marie »
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I understand this is weird and messed up for you. None of us wanted this to happen.

« Ripley Austin »
You just wanted to lie to me forever?

« Vhodka Marie »
What? No! That’s not what I meant.

« Ripley Austin »
It’s what you said.

« Vhodka Marie »
Did not!

« Ripley Austin »
Did so!

« Vhodka Marie »
DOUBLE DID NOT!

« Ripley Austin »
DID SO BY INFINITY NO TAKE BACKS.

Fuck, she had me there. My eyes closed almost involuntarily as I expanded my lungs with the deepest breath I could take before blowing it out through my lips and opening my eyes to focus on the sulking daughter before me. At that moment, I was struck by the realization that she looked a lot like me. It was strange, seeing this miniature version of myself sitting cross armed in front of me. Jarring. All that I could hear were the words I’m sorry being played on a repetitive loop in the back of my mind. The words themselves seemed small and not at all encompassing the enormous amount of deep regret that I felt in the pain I was causing the small girl in front of me. No words would ever begin to cover it.

« Vhodka Marie »
Ripley, you want the truth so here it is. I am your mother, I have always been your mother since the day I pissed on a stick and two lines appeared. While I may not have been in your life in the capacity that either of us wanted, I was here. I’ve watched you and cared for you since the moment that you were born whether you realized it or not. The choices that I made… I thought they were the right ones. Fuck, I mean they were the right ones. Alexis, your mother, has afforded you the life that you deserved and that I could have not given you.

« Ripley Austin »
You gave me away.

« Vhodka Marie »
Yes. I did.

« Ripley Austin »
Why didn’t you want me?

There it was. The question I had been dreading since the day I drove away from the abortion clinic knowing that I was going to bring this child into the world. She deserved the truth but I couldn’t bring myself to give her all of it. There was so much of this story that I didn’t want to tell her. I’d make excuses and say it was for her own sake but in truth I just couldn’t bear the thought of how she would come to view us if she knew the facts.

« Vhodka Marie »
We were very young, not much more than kids ourselves. We were married to other people at the time that I got pregnant with you and no one knew about us, not even Alexis. The man I was married to… he was a terrible person, Ripley. If he would have found out that you were not his. I don’t want to think about what he might have done to you or me.

That was the truth. My former husband was in the simplest terms a sociopath. He had no moral compass or right or wrong and the thought that I had been with Vincent would have driven him out of his mind with rage. He would have hurt her, hurt me. It wasn’t a risk I couldn’t take. I could never tell her or the man beside me how scared I had been of what might have happened had Bryan found out about this. It wasn’t just that he had a mean streak, which he did, it was that he was cruel in ways you could not possibly imagine. Even worse, he was possessive. Of me, especially. If he would have ever sniffed out that I was seeing Vincent, that the child inside me was Vincent’s and not his own… it turns my stomach even now to think about how close it could have been. He would have hurt me to hurt the baby to hurt Vincent. Not because he himself was hurt but simply because I belonged to him and what we had done was not allowed.

« Vhodka Marie »
I have always wanted you, Ripley. Always. But I knew that I couldn’t care for you so I made the hardest decision that I have ever had to make in my entire life and gave you to the one person I knew would love you just as much as I do. Alexis is like a sister to me. She wanted a child desperately but had given up on the chances of ever having one of her own. When I decided to keep you I knew that this would be the best thing for all of us. Alexis would have the child that she had always dreamed of and I could still see you and be a part of your life.

« Ripley Austin »
What did he get out of it?

Her eyes shot to Vincent beside me, taking him in as she considered the words I had spoken.

« Vincent Black »
I did not have a good childhood, for reasons that do not matter now at this point. Because of the experiences of my own childhood I was afraid to have children of my own. What happened was not anyone’s fault, only the culmination of flawed individuals doing their best to make the decisions they thought were best at the time. I understand that you are angry with us, but is it really so bad that you were so wanted and so loved that your mother moved heaven and earth to make sure that you would have the kind of life that the two of us did not have and at that time could not give you?

Ripley sat in silence picking the threads on the sleeve of her sweater for what seemed like a very hard time. Finally, after what seemed like forever she looked up first at Vincent and then to me.

« Ripley Austin »
What do I call you now?

« Vhodka Marie »
Anything you want.

« Ripley Austin »
Can I call you Fart Butt?

« Vhodka Marie »
That’s Mrs. Fart Butt to you.

For the first time in a very long time Ripley smiled and with it I felt like maybe, just maybe, everything might eventually be okay. After spending some less tense time with Ripley we took our leave of a situation that was much more comfortable than it had been when the day started. Vincent informed me upon departure that we needed to make a couple of stops for reasons he refused to elaborate on. At this point I know him well enough to know that arguing is futile if he wishes to keep a secret and I might as well just sit back and enjoy the ride. The flight back to Parts Known was short but it afforded me time to think about the future and what I would find on the other side of the door in a few short weeks.

Or I guess more specifically, WHO would be on the other side of the door. Surely some of the faces would be familiar to me and some of them would be unknown. I didn’t know what the schedule of events were or if I would even see any action that first night. There was one singular goal in my mind that became more clear everytime I looked at the stitches peeking out from a swath of my beloved’s hair. The game plan was simple: find Candice and leave her in a pile of gushing fluids and pulsating meat. It was one thing for her to put her hands on me, that was to be expected, but it was another entirely for her to put her hands on Vincent. And yeah, I get the irony in that considering I just decked him with a right hand a few short weeks ago but that was different. That was a hand, not a bat. And it was a receipt he had expected. The bat when he was already down was crossing a line. No doubt the fact that he had just stood up in front of everyone in the world and chosen me over her had likely played into the actions she took. She never couldn’t handle not being the be all and end all to everything within six miles possessing a dick. That’s Voo for you though, a legend in her own mind and the minds of those stupid enough to think a warm hole and some latex makes you anything other than used condom. See, the thing about Voo is that she has to at all times be infallible. She wants you to think that she’s strong, that she’s in the right no matter what and that she is in control at all times. The woman can’t bear to ever look like a bad guy in the court of public opinion. One thing you can depend on is her ability to always make herself look like the victim in any situation and this business with the bat would be no different. Except this time it was for one very simple fact. Vincent was mine and no one fucks with things that are mine. Not even the great VooDoo.

So when I hit that door my goal was clear, find her and eliminate her in whatever fashion I could. After that? Well, the rest of the night would be about making a point to anyone else in that building and whatever puppet masters were watching. The days of Stratford and Wolf were gone, this was a new era. MY ERA. No longer did I have to play in the kiddie pool thanks to respect and family politics. This was a fresh slate and I knew that this night would set the marching orders moving forward. I was tired of being a foot soilder, it was time to be the general. Whether it was Candice or Dane or, hell, some free agent being mumbled about on Twitter, it didn’t matter. This was my night. This was my company. It was time to lead the world in a new direction, to share a new vision of the future.

It wasn’t all that much later that I found myself again standing before a closed door that little did I know was about to change my life. This particular door was not the door to a house however but the door to what appeared to be a storage unit in the middle of nowhere but not all that far from our apartment Vincent informed me. Vincent stood with his back to me and produced a key from his pocket which was used to unlock the padlock on the door. He deposited the key back into his pocket before standing back and motioning me to go ahead of him into the unit.

At first, I didn’t quite understand what I was looking at as I took several steps into the room trying to make sense of it all. Actually, I kind of wondered if I was having a stroke or something because I knew the room that I was standing in had to be some sort of extremely vivid hallucination. A moment ago we had been standing outside of a non descrip storage unit and now I found myself standing in my apartment. Our apartment. But not. I mean, it was the same apartment I’ve always lived in but it looked the way it had the day I had left with Ripley still in my womb, leaving behind nearly everything I had acquired in my life up to that point. I’m not even just talking about this storage unit having all of my THINGS in it, I mean it was literally arranged to look identical to the apartment that I had left behind all those years ago.

« Vincent Black »
When you left I didn’t know where you had gone, no one did. The days turned to weeks and one day I found out that Wu was going to put your things out on the street. I didn’t want you to come home to nothing so I went over and packed them up and brought them all here. For a long time, I couldn’t come here. Avoided it. Bought the place to get out of it, actually. But once a year, every year, I came here and sat amongst your things and just.. remembered. One day it occurred to me that this room was about the same size and configuration as the living room in the apartment so I started moving a few things around. I put the chair there and hung the poster here and then I felt a little better. Each time I came, I did a little more until one day I opened the door and was in your apartment again. I sat down in this chair and I read a book and pretended that you were just out of sight in the other room. Imagining that you were always only a few feet away from me every time that I came to this place.

Vincent turned, running his hand over a small end table next to a beat up chair I had pulled out of a dumpster over a decade ago. I’m not sure what he saw in my expression but he smiled and continued as he pulled out a drawer on the end table seeming to look inside for something.

« Vincent Black »
This place used to be the only link that I had to you. I would sit here imagining what our life might have been like together had we made different decisions. Had I made different decisions. But now, I don’t have to imagine anymore because some twist of fate brought you back out of the other room, back from around the corner where I pretended that you had gone when you left.

His words were lovely and tugged at something in my heart even if my brain was screaming we were in serious Buffalo Bill territory in the creepy murder unit. Vincent turned to me, taking my left hand in his own hand and bringing it up to his mouth, placing a kiss in the palm like he had twice before earlier this day. Then, without warning, he dropped to one knee.

« Vhodka Marie »
Fuck.

« Vincent Black »
Yes, but let me finish what I was saying first.

« Vhodka Marie »
I wasn’t… okay. Go ahead.

« Vincent Black »
Fran, I don’t want to ever have to pretend you’re in another room again. Marry me.

« Vhodka Marie »
You’re joking. This is like that time in Vegas, isn’t it?

« Vincent Black »
I assure you I am not.

Vincent reached into his pocket and produced in his hands a tropical flavored ring pop in which he held up in front of me.

« Vincent Black »
This is for later because I know it was the first thing that crossed your mind.

The ring pop is discarded over his right shoulder while his free hand reaches back into his inner jacket pocket to produce a small ring box. Carefully he released my hand to open the lid on the small box that displayed a ring probably worth more than everything in this storage unit and the land it sat on combined. I’m not saying I couldn’t breath, but fuck me, I don’t think I took a breath for a good eleventy billion minutes. This had to be a dream, right? Like it had all the inner workings of a dream. We were in the murder unit, the man I have pined after since I met him at nineteen years old was down on one knee presenting me with a ring. Totally a dream, yeah? There was no way it could be real.

« Vincent Black »
This one is for now, for the rest of my days and yours. Marry me.

« Vhodka Marie »
Yes.

« Vincent Black »
Yes?

« Vhodka Marie »
Fuckin’ A.

Vincent withdrew the ring from the box, sliding it on my finger delicately. It fit like a glove and I had all the questions about how this was possible which he seemed to read from my mind without me having to ask as he stood.

« Vincent Black »
I used the ring pop for sizing.

This whole thing felt surreal. I was going to be Vhodka Wolf. Francesca Wolf. Fuck, I must really truly love this man cause the thought of my last name being Wolf made my butthole clinch right on up. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking loved Sarah and Xavier. Sarah, the true north of my compass. Of all of our compasses. The person who does so much for others but rarely gets much back in return. She was a literal angel and the thought that I could really call her my sister was almost as good as getting to call Vincent my husband. Then there was Xavier, sweet beautiful Xavier. The one person who had been supportive of Vincent and I from jump street. Or at least since the moment he had found out about us. As much as Sarah loved us individually it was hard for her to get past the affair and what it would do to Candice and the children. Harder still for her to get past Vincent breaking the vows he had made to a woman that was family to them all. Sarah was conflicted in the beginning about the selfishness and the hurt that we had both caused another person she loved and cared for a great deal and while she eventually came around I knew in some ways she would always be disappointed not just in her brother but in me as well.

Xavier was an entirely different story. He had none of Sarah’s hang ups, no matter how much he had liked Candice. Upon Vincent’s admission of the affair and his plans to divorce his wife in pursuit of me he had not cast judgement, only given his sometimes quiet but mostly very vocal support of the both of us. Xavier welcomed me into his family with open arms, never making me feel less than or that I had encroached on a territory that I did not belong to. But more than all of that, Xavier understood me. Maybe it was a twin thing between them that allowed him the power, I don’t know. But for whatever reason, Xavier had done his utmost to make me feel like family from the moment he knew I mattered in the slightest to his brother. I valued him and his support more than I would ever be able to tell him in any words.

Then there were those other two fucks. Okay, okay, I guess Jack isn’t that bad. A little dull, a little uptight, but whatever. But fucking Kal X. Wolf. I swear to fuck that man was the literal devil. I don’t say that because he hated me, which he did, I say it because I swear I saw horns hidden in his hair once. No shit. The thought that I was now going to be related to that stuck up takeout bag of dog shit and rotten potatoes made me want to scream and forcibly eject myself right off the planet. But then, the sudden realization of what this news would do to Kal hit me and made it all worthwhile. I mean, that and the marriage, of course. See, as much as I hated Kal, Kal hated me right back. He saw me as a whore, a dalliance, something for his brother to pass the time with before eventually returning back to the family that lived up to Kal’s ever important “legacy”. That’s what it all came down to with Kal, legacy. It was never about his siblings and their wants and needs and desires, no, it was only ever about how things made Kal look. How things affected Kal’s reputation. Do you know what a woman like me would do to Kal’s carefully crafted reputation?

« Vhodka Marie »
I’m going to be a Wolf.

« Vincent Black »
No, you’re not. Neither am I. We’re going to be Black. The Blacks. Mr. and Mrs. Black.

« Vhodka Marie »
Speaking of black, you didn’t have to wear a suit for this.

« Vincent Black »
I know, the suit isn’t for this. It’s for the funeral.

FUCK! I knew it was a murder unit! Instinctually I pulled away from Vincent looking around the room for something I could use to defend myself as he laughed and pulled me back to him, kissing the tip of my nose before resting his forehead against my own. My body relaxed in his grip, the weight of the metal around my finger a strange new sensation as I rested my hands flat against his chest. You know, just in case he was lying and did try to murder me.

« Vincent Black »
Not yours. My fathers.

« Vhodka Marie »
Your father? I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to say to that. Sorry seems wrong but thank god seems insensitive. I wish it were Kal? No, that’s not right either.

« Vincent Black »
You don’t need to say anything but I would like you to come with me.

« Vhodka Marie »
Hey. Look at me.

My fingers dug into his chin, pulling his face back enough that he could focus on my own.

« Vhodka Marie »
You and me, together as one, against all others. Even corpses of abusive pieces of shit.

Vincent cradled me into his body and I laid my head on his chest, his own head resting in my hair as we stood in a place I thought only existed in my memories now. My eyes found the door and I couldn’t help but think about the version of myself who had stood outside that door only moments ago not understanding how radically her whole world was about to change. Doors are funny things, aren’t they?

July 10th, 2021

One funeral, one wedding and several weeks later I found myself standing outside of a different set of doors entirely. Vincent beside me vibrated with contained energy as he clenched and unclenched his fists just waiting for something to hit. My eyes traveled up the length of the structure before me taking it in for what was to be the very first time. The air around us was electric with the sounds of media and fans each clamoring for a word from us or information about what was to be happening inside on this night. We knew that we were not the first to arrive nor would we be the last.

The doors before me would lead me not into an abortion clinic, or the home of a friend or even a storage unit to the past. No, these doors would lead me directly into the future. What did the future hold for me? For us? Any of us? Can we ever be certain when we stand there on the outside, our hand wrapped firmly around the knob of the universe? When I passed through this door how would it change me? Would it make me a friend or foe? Would the place I found in the hierarchy of this strange new unknown be at all similar to what had come before?

There was a time in my life that the unknown scared me. I would have been afraid to pull open the door before me and learn what fate had decided I would be metamorphosed into beyond it. But those days were in the past, beyond a series of doors that had brought me to this place in time. With each doorway I walked through in my life I grew into something more and into something less. More sure, less afraid. This doorway would change me, too. But there was one thing I knew now about my journey into the next room. No matter which side of the door I was on, I would always be a Fighter.