Baron greeted her with a bow as she entered. She bowed in return, though she didn’t know what the gesture meant in his eyes. He was different. He seemed older, for one thing. Mostly in his demeanor, as well as the subtle strands of gray in his hair. His voice was low and melodic.
“Good afternoon, Keira. How are you?”
“I’m okay. Just a little out of place at the moment.”
“But of course. I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable as we go along. I’m glad you’ve chosen to meet with me. It is unusual for a visitor to initiate meetings. I am looking forward to learning more about you. Follow me.”
He led her down the quiet hallway to an elevator, which brought them downstairs. This reminded her of Dre’s demonstration at his house. Was Baron about to demo something, too? They walked out of the elevator and she followed him while peering at their surroundings. This space was not open and expansive like Dre’s basement. There were dozens of enclosed spaces spread throughout, and Baron was leading her through a maze of hallways. They stopped at one of the larger rooms and entered. Inside there were weapons of various sorts hanging on the walls, as well as protective gear for sparring. Was he about to spar with her?
“What do you study?” he asked.
“I did MMA for a while. Mostly I liked boxing. Why, are you testing me out?”
“When we have the luxury of time, I wait a little longer before doing so. We don’t have that luxury now. I hope this is acceptable for you.” He took a step back and turned slightly, with his right foot in back. His left foot turned about an inch inward. His arms rested at his sides.
“Okay. Are we serious though? Like am I trying to knock you out?”
He nodded, then raised his hands up. He kept them open. She raised hers as well. Open. She was glad that she could sense movements so quickly and was fast enough to react, because she felt his attack before he even seemed to move. Lightning combos of fists, elbows and kicks rained upon her in endless succession. She dodged what she could and blocked or parried what she couldn’t. Finally she landed a left fist into his solar plexus, slipping it just under the right hook he’d sent. The blow sent him back about six feet. He paused, seemingly unfazed. He wasn’t even sweating. She was, but was nowhere near tiring. He smiled and nodded. “Round two,” he said.
Again she was defending an onslaught of blows, but this time the attacks were coming from all directions. He seemed to be switching sides of the room in an instant, and the cumulative effect was as if six or seven people had surrounded her and attacked at once. It took all of her concentration to keep up. He was definitely the toughest opponent she had ever encountered. Then he was gone. Just like that. The room was silent. She guessed that he was planning a sneak attack. She stood still. She closed her eyes, waiting. She would let her instinct guide her movement. Her right leg shot out to the side and connected with his belly. He flew across the room into the wall where bo staffs of varied lengths hung. Several of them fell to the floor. He stood up, nodded, and bowed. She returned the bow. He spoke.
“You are the only opponent that I’ve never hit. Not even once.”
“You’re the first teleporter I’ve ever faced. I never had to work that hard before.”
“Dre told me you were special, and that I should push you to your limit. He was correct, though I am not sure that your limit has been reached.”
“Well this was the farthest I’ve stretched so far. Honestly I’m glad we’re on the same team.”
“You’ve decided to join us?”
“I’m still thinking about that. But I at least know that I respect you, and could probably learn a lot.”
“Let’s sit down and speak more on what you are able to do, and we can explore ways to utilize those abilities on our security team.”
“Yeah we can do that, but I want to get to know you, too. You didn’t say anything about you, like what you study and how you got involved with Dre’s group and all of that. I wanted to learn about you as a person before I joined.”
“We can do that, yes. In which case, I should invite you to tea. We can go to my favorite little place and speak there. Would you like to follow me in your car?”
She agreed and, after cleaning up the room, they headed out.
In 1997, Toronto photographer Lincoln Clarkes began shooting for his stunning, albeit shocking photo series of over 300 female heroin addicts in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. A year later, when the Heroines series was first published and exhibited, public reaction was split: praised as humanizing a forgotten sector of society, but also condemned as exploitative and voyeuristic. However there’s no doubt that international media attention of the work raised awareness of these at-risk women, some of whom had gone missing (the remains of at least five were later found on serial killer Robert Pikton’s farm), and played an important role in helping a community that had, until then, been largely ignored by the city and law enforcement.
"The loneliness of the women was heartbreaking, they were dropping dead left and right and never knowing if they would make it to tomorrow. Many of their friends were going missing by the week. I think they really welcomed the attention and enjoyed participating in a photo project; the image being perhaps the only thread of their existence. Most of them lost everything that came before; they had nothing left to lose except their lives. Each woman had private tales that I tried to tell silently in the language of a photograph. It was an introduction to the people uptown that didn’t want to see or know these women. For the first time they were looking into their eyes."
Sierra DeMulder // “Today Means Amen”
"The word today means amen in every language. Today, we made it. Today, I’m gonna love you. Today, the box cutter will rust in the garbage. Today, the noose will forget how to hold you. Today. Today."
Unbelievably excited to finally release this project. Please share, spread Sierra’s beautiful words, positivity, energy.
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Author’s note: I’m having fun selecting these samples. Mostly because I know how fun it’ll be once people read the whole thing and the samples are then understood in context. Kind of like a movie trailer, except in this case the actual movie is better than the trailer. Just know that all of these excerpts do (and will) make total sense.
That afternoon was rough. In the tattoo shop, his client seemed bent on doing everything he recommended that she not do. He’d already had to send her home the day of their original appointment, as she’d attempted to shave her own arm that morning, thinking she’d do him a favor. The skin was reddened and needed to heal, so he’d sent her home after rescheduling the appointment. She was not happy. Neither was her boyfriend, whose name she was having tattooed to her right tricep. His name, surrounded by a burning moon. She designed it herself, she’d declared proudly, as if he couldn’t tell that on first wince. Now on their second appointment, Radni had asked her to let him know if she began to feel uncomfortable and needed to stretch at all. She did not; she rather began complaining that the process was taking forever and that her arm was going to fall off. This statement was punctuated by a sudden jerk of her shoulder, which nearly made Radni drive the needle into her arm as if he were an inebriated nurse at a blood drive. She was crying from the shock of what almost happened, and the boyfriend was stammering about a physical condition she had that made her shake when she’s scared or tired, or blahblahblahblah-Radni didn’t give two fucks. He just wanted to complete the work before she drove him out of the room screaming. They wanted a break, though. He strongly suggested that they only take five minutes or so, in order to continue while her endorphins were still flowing. They left and came back in half an hour. It took about that long to get her settled again. Once the tattoo was completed and bandaged, he practically pleaded with her to not uncover it for at least a few hours. He could only imagine how soon they’d be back complaining about raising or scars.
It was so thoroughly unenjoyable that he’d wondered if he should have cheated a little, using his abilities to lessen the pain she experienced under his needle. But he vowed he would never do that. If people wanted to avoid pain, he felt, then they should avoid marking their flesh with ink. The pain was half of the point. He’d always felt that he learned the most about a person through the way they experienced, and accepted, pain. And there, in that tattoo parlor, his connection with each client was a microcosm of a world that often felt too big to love. He witnessed people literally taking ownership of the pain they’d welcomed into their body. It and the art was a part of them, a visual statement of some large or small thing that they had survived. He liked that. But this particular day was bad.
He was glad to have caught some of the sunset on his way home after work. Then he’d stopped at Market Garden. Keira was there, which he did not expect at all. Then they had ice cream. None of that might have happened if his day had ended on time. Maybe he should have felt grateful for that difficult couple. He didn’t.
Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.
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“Are you hungry dear?” Her mother looked like she’d been sleeping. But she must have had peaceful dreams. She seemed content.
“Not really, Mom. But I can make something for you, what would you like?”
“Well I’ve got this cod that should be eaten soon while it is edible. Would you help me eat a little, too? You always cook so well.”
“Alright.” She had learned to enjoy cooking years back. It was something she clung to, as all she had was her mother. It was a shared thing for them, this method of survival. Of course, her mother also had her faith. Alexis did not share it but would never try to take it away from her.
The seasonings were all in the same place they’d been all her life. She grabbed what she needed without thinking.
Her mother turned on the antique record player. It was one of the few remaining relics of the pre-war era, and was probably worth quite a bit to collectors. And it still sounded great. Alexis wasn’t used to having the music on while cooking, though. Her mother was in a different mood today.
“What’s up, Mom? You okay?”
“Why do you ask, honey? Do I seem unhappy?”
“No, you don’t. Never mind.”
Her mother laughed. “You are worried for your old mom. That is kind. Where is Andre?”
“I don’t know. Was he supposed to be here?”
“No, I just haven’t had both of my children in the same room with me, in so long. It would be nice.”
“Yeah. He just gets busy.”
Her mother nodded, and wrapped her arms around Alexis.
“I’m so proud of you.”
What had gotten into her? What was she so happy about?
She was about to place the fish in the pan when her mother turned her around and held her arms in dancing position.
“Are we dancing, Mom?”
Her mother smiled and began to lead her around the kitchen to the pace of the song. After a few twirls, Alexis loosened up and began to enjoy it. She didn’t know her mother could lead so well as a dancer. Three songs later, they stopped, sweating and smiling. “You forgot the fish, dear,” her mother said, laughing.
They watched a movie after eating. This was also unusual, and rather chilling for her to remember that only the two of them were there. Instead of five. It hurt for her to know Dre wasn’t here tonight, seeing Mom like this. She ended up tucking her mother into bed that evening, for the first time. She almost stayed the night, just to complete the ‘dream sequence’ all the way to the end. She left, though. Smiling. When someone surprises you like that, she thought, the least you can do is believe it.
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She let herself in, as usual. His house was never locked for her. Hell, there was little security of any sort that she could see. Dre just said that anyone ignorant enough to break in would get what was coming to them. She knew he could back that up. She went to his office and it was empty. Then she checked her watch. She was ten minutes early. He was probably in his music room.
The sound of the piano keys rang into her as she climbed the winding stairs. And there he was, back to her, head hunched down as if barely staying awake. She stood in the doorway listening. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine that she was in a concert hall; he was that good. Who knows what their lives would have been like if he hadn’t gone to prison. Or if he’d realized his own strength when saving her from their father. Or if people had never developed such dangerous abilities at all. Watching him just then felt like she was visiting an alternate universe, where Dre was the same but everything around him had changed. And soon the visit would end. She’d return to the Dre she’d always loved. And feared for.
The music ended. He spoke without turning.
“Hey Potato Head.”
“How’d you sleep?”
He turned to face her, grinning.
“Not me. But fuck it. Oh yeah, I hope you’re not mad at me.” For missing her last fight, he’d meant.
“It’s whatever. I know that dude was there you didn’t want to see or whatever.”
“No, Alexis, it’s not ‘whatever’. You know I wouldn’t miss you unless I had to. I heard Jake Jones was going, and if I had gone that night I would’ve killed him. In the middle of everybody.”
“Dre, it’s whatever like I said. If I was gonna be mad about something it’d be how you keep me in the dark about half of what you’re doing.”
“More than half, honestly. But that changes now.”
For the last two years she had been his financial advisor, primarily helping with investment decisions and fiscal management. He’d deliberately kept her out of his plans, to protect her. She understood that. But now that was changing?
“You’re gonna meet some of my guys.” He stood and walked downstairs. She followed.
“Why? And why now?”
“You should be proud of me, sis. I’m finally accepting that I need a little help.”
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The next morning Alexis woke up before her alarm. After a couple of minutes the previous evening returned to her, and she breathed in deeply. Exhaled. She had an hour before she’d need to go to work.
The kitchen, it seemed, was not the same kitchen. The silence was not the same. All of it was aftermath. And hardly anything had even happened! she thought. She kissed me once. And tied her to her seat without the use of her hands. And spoon fed her. And whispered in her ear. Fuck. Not to mention that she couldn’t fall asleep that night until she’d pleasured herself, with Keira forefront in her mind. First time for that, too. First time thinking about any woman that way. It didn’t matter. The evening and all of its perfect could not be undone. The wine could not un-pour itself from Keira’s mouth. The carpet could not un-walk her. The echo of her knock could not be dissolved from the door. All of that was hers, now. Keira had given it to her.
But then she’d left.
Sitting at the dining room table, she returned to the talk they’d had at the park that night. She remembered Keira’s voice when she talked about drowning in the lake; her voice sounded almost content, though she was probably resigned. She seemed to be carrying so much within her like dead weight. Like stones in her pocket while walking into a river. Yet she was still very alive. Alexis was beginning to understand who she was dealing with. And maybe falling for. This is gonna be hard, she thought. She might fuck me up.
I’m sorry but if you hate on Katara for some reason, you at least have to admit
She is a good waterbender
listen here. Katara is not just a good water bender, she is a master. at 14. not only that, she went from having only a loose control of her abilities to fucking showing down an actual teacher of the art form in a year or less.
not to mention just the amount of growth and development of her character in Book one alone is astronomical.
not only that but she isn’t just a fighter, shes one of the BEST healers that has EVER been seen in the water tribe. her abilities are amazing and at the beginning of the series, she couldn’t even keep hold of a fish.
i think it says a lot about people with undeveloped potential.
ALWAYS respect Katara.
If you don’t like Katara I probably don’t like you
I agree with all of this, but I still say Toph is my favorite bender. She is master among masters.
If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.
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