Today is a good day for
Todd—though they mostly are, as of late.
He’s heard people,
mostly the damned, mention the “good ol’ days”; these must be his in the
By the end of the
afternoon, he’s improved greatly on his stitch counting and his triple crochets
and, especially, in mastering how to properly turn his piece so his rows are no
longer frustratingly mismatched. It’s still a work in progress, but Granny
Ethel’s lessons are wonderful as always. Next up is learning how to incorporate
another yarn color for bright, fun designs—or in his case, dark and
atmospheric—after their midday break of coffee and desserts, of course. Because
as fond as she is of his preferred black yarn, she insists he has to branch out
from solids eventually. There’s no growth if one always remains in their
Instead of coffee,
however, Granny Ethel is in the mood for tea—and just as with everything else
he’s inherited from her lifestyle, the art of brewing tea presents a difficult
She doesn’t take her
tea from grocery store boxes and tiny sachets—she doesn’t buy those in bulk
because they only go to waste and sit stale in the cupboards. When she drinks
tea at all (that is, when she isn’t in the mood for espresso), it must be fresh,
and from organic, homegrown ingredients. For this reason, tea isn’t an
impulsive choice of drink. It must be planned. It’s another lesson she’s
instilled in him during his stay, and, the week before, they’d spent an entire
morning identifying each of the specific herbs thriving in the back garden, and
which parts were best used in which blends. Of course, he is well acquainted
with the rosemary and sage, the lavender and thyme, the basil and juniper, and the
chamomile and anise. But lemongrass is new, and it grows in abundance in the planters
set on the windowsills.
Because it’s such a
novelty, he chooses it as the main note and adds in chamomile blossoms to
offset the citrus tang. It’s a challenge to balance it just right so neither is
too overwhelming, nor too bland, and he doesn’t expect this to be a great
attempt, but Granny Ethel is honest with her evaluations and generous with
encouragement. There’s also the matter of heating the water to a proper boil,
and not overheating the mix, then steeping it for the right amount of time…
Well, there’s a reason
he never apprenticed to a potion brewer and enlisted in the debt collecting
department for souls instead.
But for Granny Ethel,
he tries his best.
The kitchen counter,
small as it is, is a difficult surface to work with. The kitchenware is tiny in
his hands, and if he isn’t careful when he moves, his horns scrape the ceiling
above, sending a fine powder of popcorned drywall down like snow out of season.
Water sloshes out of
the kettle and spills across the granite, some trickling down onto the tiles,
and the small, fragile jar he mixes the herbs in cracks beneath his claws, but
doesn’t shatter. He scoops out the blend with care and packs it loosely into a
metal tea strainer, but even so, most of it ends up scattered across the
counter. Grass and petals bounce and dive out of the tea ball as he fumbles to
secure the latch, and by the end of the struggle, only a small portion of what
he’d placed remains within.
He tries once more—and
again. And once more, just until there’s an appropriate measurement of herbs
trapped inside. Then, ever-so-carefully, he sets the tea ball into Granny
Ethel’s favorite tea cup (the special one, decorated with playful kittens and ribbons
and an elaborate, golden cursive “C”) and pours boiling water over it to steep.
A freshly-baked apple
pie waits on the small, round dining table, taken fresh from the oven only an
hour before. A sliver of the circle has been removed for tasting—and it is
delicious. Slicing two pieces of the pie is a far simpler task than brewing
tea, and Todd makes sure that Granny Ethel’s piece dwarfs the plate it sits
upon, because she deserves the best. And bigger is better.
The two dessert-filled plates
sit across from each other, equidistant, on the table, on finely crocheted
doilies that serve as placemats. The pastel yellow tablecloth covering the
table is riddled in fragile, embroidered daisies and winding leaves and it
screams spring despite the heat of
summer weighing heavy in the air. He’ll have to find another to replace it
with, soon. Maybe one with sunflowers.
As he considers this,
the doorbell rings.
It isn’t something he
thinks twice about anymore. Not since their new friend from the supermarket made
it habit to participate in their weekly Yahtzee or domino nights, and their
bi-weekly trips to the bingo hall.
Neither does Granny
Ethel—he can hear her call to the door from the living room, remaining in her
seat, “Come in, dear! The door is unlocked.”
But it isn’t a game
night, or a bingo day.
It’s midafternoon on a
Tuesday and the only thing scheduled for the remainder of the day is a rerun of
one of their favorite TV dramas about two women in law enforcement.
The door creaks
open—it’s something Todd’s been meaning to fix, though the home is sorely
lacking in tools and hardware necessary for the job. If there was hinge
lubricant around, it would fix it right up, but he may have to resort to
cooking oil as a quick fix.
Curiosity gets the
better of him. Carefully balancing the teapot and teacup in both clawed hands,
he approaches the carpeted hall between the kitchen and living room to take a
peek at the mystery guest. But multitasking, pouring the tea and looking at the
same time, proves to be a mistake and in hindsight something he should have
The tea, so carefully
prepared and brewed, overflows from the fine china cup, spills onto the
matching, chipped saucer and steadily splatters the floor. Todd doesn’t even
move, doesn’t blink, as it saturates the floral rug beneath his claws. The
drips are the only thing moving in this scene removed from time, and all else
stands still, even the dust in the air.
Neither of them
expected a guest today—neither of them ever expected this particular
guest. Mostly because one believes he is already present, and one believes he
is too selfish to ever even have the passing thought to visit, much less call
“Oh no, Todd, the carpet! Hurry
now, dear, hurry, go and—no, I’ll go
and grab a towel, I know where the cleaning ones are!”
Granny Ethel is the
first to break free from the frozen atmosphere—though she refuses to
acknowledge anything aside from the growing stain on the living room floor.
Todd quickly rights the white china teapot hanging from his claws and holds his
other hand steady to prevent the flooded teacup from dripping more hot tea to
the puddle below. It doesn’t work—seems to make it worse, actually. It’s a vain
task, so he gives up and cradles it all in his large hands, doing his best to
keep the remaining tea contained in his palms.
the clean-cut young man standing in the open doorway, a jarring juxtaposition
to the black clothes and heavily-blackened eyes and metal accessories from
familiar photographs—but even in the full Sunday suit, those downturned, bright
eyes are unmistakable, and they are fixed unblinkingly on Todd’s decidedly
un-Todd-like form. “Who are you?”
I’m you, but better, doesn’t seem like an appropriate response, no
matter how true it is. Todd the demon holds his silence and doesn’t break the
gaze, because it feels like a challenge.
This man is the human Todd, and he’s come to visit.
Today is a….strange
day, for Demon Todd.
Tea time is no longer a
pleasant, cozy time. Not with their extra guest, seated between them at the
small round table with a (small) slice of pie of his own and an untouched glass
of water—no tea, no coffee, for him. He’s tall—a bit too large for the small
table, though Demon Todd is one to talk. But being who he is, it’s only natural
he dwarfs everything around him. This Human Todd, though… just what is his
Granny Ethel hasn’t
spoken a single word to the young man the entire time and her silence is
strange. She’s usually such a chatty, friendly woman.
So they eat in
silence—but not Human Todd. He sits still, staring with narrowed, mean eyes, on
edge. But not entirely frightened, like the general public tended to be in his
presence. It’s odd. Perhaps it runs in the family.
As he sits in the
silence, he wrings his hands together—clean hands, like one unaccustomed to
frequent physical labor. No dirt in sight underneath his nail beds. Not even
flecks of old nail polish hinting at remnants of a secret grunge lifestyle
never quite grown out of. Whatever he has grown into certainly isn’t that of
someone who toils in the underworld or its culture, like his counterpart.
No, rather, it reeks of
money. Given—not earned. And possibly taken, too.
Demon Todd has an
inkling of why Human Todd is here. After all, he didn’t come alone.
Accompanying his arrival were three large, expensive suitcases, stuffed full.
Still sitting in the living room, out of place.
At long last, as the
last crumb falls, Granny Ethel speaks.
“Well, dear, speak up,
speak up. What brings you here?” she asks the young man as she pats at the
corners of her wrinkled mouth with a cloth napkin, and she avoids speaking his
name despite the fact that she must
know who he is.
The words, though,
aren’t entirely conversational. With the three of them sitting at the small
table, it more resembles a conference—no, a hearing. Especially when she pulls
up the thick, round spectacles hanging from crocheted strings around her neck and
sets them atop the bridge of her nose to better see the new visitor.
Human Todd’s eyes drift
warily from the long, sharp claws tapping silently on the tabletop, and he
clears his throat before looking to his grandmother, wearing a sickly sweet and
fake smile as he does. “Well, it’s been so long. So, so many years, Gran. I’ve
missed you, see. Dad was in the wrong, and he treated you terribly. I
understand that now.”
“Ah, Arthur…” she
replies faintly, setting the napkin down on the table and folding her hands
across her lap. Yes—she knows exactly
who Human Todd is. But the behavior is still so unlike her. No joy, no sweet
smiles. All gone, drained, as empty as the teacup set in front of her, but not
even leaving the dregs of what she once was behind.
Demon Todd briefly
considers kicking Human Todd to the curb.
“He said awful things
about you, and I listened. I came here by way of apology, to take care of you, but,”
briefly, and not without a flinch, his eyes wander to Demon Todd, and linger on
the dark, hand-crafted shawl perched on his spiny shoulders, “it seems like
you’ve already gotten that under control.” His gaze lingers, fixed in a poorly-concealed
grimace. “Who are you, by the way?”
Granny Ethel speaks for
him, and for a moment her cheer returns. “This is my wonderful grandson, Todd!
He’s such a polite young man. And it’s true, life has certainly become easier,
and better, since he arrived and helped out so, so much.”
Demon Todd can only
nod, but if he could smile without it looking like several rows of craggy,
sharp teeth gnashed together in malicious threat, he would.
Human Todd wrenches his
gaze away, and pulls at the collar of his pristine white shirt. His hairline
shines with sweat, and it isn’t due to the cozy temperature Granny Ethel
prefers to keep in the house.
“Then…who am I?” he ventures quietly, eyebrows
furrowed in an odd mixture of confusion and shame. Ah, the bafflement of
“Why, dear, I couldn’t
say. In fact, I’d say that depends entirely on you! Actions speak louder than
words, don’t you know.”
The sweat creeps down
his temples, shining in the faint light. “Right, I…I see.”
“But if you’d like a
name…I would insist on Theodore. What do you think, Todd, dear?”
Demon Todd nods once
more, pleased by the way the conversation unsettles the man. In fact, the
situation is much like naming a pet. Although something fluffy and small, or
covered in feathers, would be preferable to this sweaty human.
“Theodore it is, then!”
Theodore—switches his gaze between them, fingers tugging at his shirt collar
once again. “Alright. Theodore it is,” he agrees, as if, perhaps, it has been
his name all along, and using a shortened form of it had been a way to rebel,
once upon a time. A memory lost to time. A privilege denied. “I guess I deserve
“Well, now that we’ve
got that out of the way, Theodore, dear, how long are you planning on staying?
I must warn you, showing up unannounced means Todd and I haven’t been able to
prepare for guests. I’m afraid that means you and Todd will have to share a
room until we’re able to make other arrangements.”
Theodore gulps audibly,
Adam’s apple bobbing. He refuses to meet Demon Todd’s—just Todd, again, something of a victory—eyes. “Y-yes Gran.”
“And you must be aware
of the house rules. Everyone contributes in any way they’re able.”
“Actions speak louder
than words, right?” Theodore asks, shaky fingers reaching for the glass of
water set in front of him. Not quite making it and falling still on the table,
“That’s right, dear.” Granny
Ethel smiles, at last. Full of her old joy again, as she should be. Renewed. Her
eyes, large and owlish behind the clouded lenses, turn to Todd. “Now, Todd,
won’t you be a dear and show our new house guest to his room?”
Todd looks to the dirty
dishes on the table, caught between wanting to tend to them before taking care
of any other, less important, duties.
I’ll take care of the dishes.”
Well, Granny Ethel’s
word is law.
He rises to his
feet—careful, always careful. Barely resisting the urge to let the ends of his
horns graze the ceiling above Theodore so he gets a nice, healthy dose of
powdered scrapings on his painstakingly slicked-back hair.
The man follows,
cautiously, and keeps three steps behind as Todd leads him out of the kitchen and
into the living room to scramble for his luggage, then down the hallway to the
guest room, not making a peep, and not even stepping hard on the floors just to
startle his counterpart a little, because one, it would flatten the carpets
into ugly tracks, and two, Granny Ethel would want him to be a good host.
who—what—he is. Yet even when Granny Ethel is out of sight and out of earshot,
he doesn’t question it. He simply goes about his business and does his best to
ignore the hulking beast standing in the doorway, watching.
Though, between the two
of them, Todd isn’t sure which one is the real monster.
buckle in folks, IM POSITIVELY SHOOK BY HOW GOOD THIS UPDATE WAS AND IM GONNA TELL YOU W H Y. this is also kinda weepy bc im Emotional. major spoilers for shokugeki no soma chap240 so please be aware !!
Quick TL;DR: Megumi has exponentially grown in this series, and her character development is showcased brilliantly through this one chapter via: her skill set improvement and her emotional+mental growth. Despite her loss, her character development was much better handled as compared to Takumi’s match and ultimate win. In fact, the key point of her development is seen through recognition by 1) a world class gourmet/food critic 2) Akanegakubo Momo.
ONTO THE ACTUAL POST. which is under the cut bc this got Long.
Could you get away with a translucent/slightly pink shade of nail polish at work?
A while back Navyy got me a Zoya naked manicure set and I’ve definitely worn that to work a few times. Haven’t really ventured beyond that in the workplace (which is basically just a clear coat).
I can probably wear nail polish with a hint of color/shine and go completely undetected. And, because I’m out to everyone in our immediate team (with the exception of my boss who just started a month ago), I might even be able to pull off a subtle color that was noticeable without feeling like it was causing issues; as long as I didn’t have any external meetings.
Either way, at some point I am bumping up against limitations within the gendered expectations of dress/presentation/professionalism - whether real or perceived (and there’s plenty to untangle there). Longer term I hope I can move past some of that, but for now those are the choices I’m sitting with even if they aren’t always perfect.
Hi Cassie! After yesterday’s post on Last Hours and Great Expectations, I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk a little bit about Dark Artifices and how it’s partly based on Poe’s Annabel Lee? I don’t really know what questions to ask, since there are so many things you won’t be prepared to tell us yet, but could you perhaps talk a little bit about what you feel are the “bones” of the poem, and which bits you wanted to explore through a retelling? I know that, like with Jem, death in the original doesn’t have to mean death in the retelling, but death and love that outlives one of the lovers are pretty central points in Annabel Lee. Most of the other themes, like the characters being childhood friends in a kingdom by the see, having a love on which the angels did not look fondly and refusing to be separated by angels or demons, are all themes which seem to match up well with Jules and Emma. But aren’t these the “clothes”, rather than the bones? I would love to hear your interpretation. Or will you approach this entirely differently than with TID and TLH, since it’s “partly based”, rather than a “retelling”? On an entirely unrelated note, does Julian have any other self-destructive tendencies in place of the scrapped smoking habit, or is it just the nail-biting (and a hinted-at recklessness when it comes to his own well-being)? I’m not asking to know what those tendencies are, only if there are any ;) — tlgrande
I’ve always loved Annabel Lee — it has a high romanticism to it. It’s beautiful and haunting in ways that I hope to invoke in Lady Midnight and the other books of TDA. The ocean, forbidden love, devastating loss, the refusal to accept death, and lovers being forcibly separated are some of the “bones” of the poem that it shares with The Dark Artifices.
I can’t go into great detail about the connections, because I don’t want to get spoilery, but I can say a little bit about the relationship between the two works:
1. The themes, settings, and overall atmosphere of TDA are influenced and inspired by the poem. There are aspects of the plot that relate to the poem, and there are aspects of the plot that are unrelated as well. The sounding sea, the kingdom by the sea, the tomb by the sea, all those are important to TDA — the proximity of the ocean is of huge significance to the characters and the story. There’s also the issues of forbidden love and devastating loss which … I probably can’t go into yet. :)
2. Like A Tale of Two Cities in TID, there is a direct textual relationship between the two. The characters of TDA will encounter the poem. The poem will be important to the plot. The poem is a real thing in the book, as in it is a work the characters reference and discuss.
3. Julian does not hurt himself physically. I’m not even sure he’s physically reckless, as he’s too conscious of his need to stay around for his brothers and sisters. But he’s reckless with himself emotionally and mentally, and tears himself up in ways that are not immediately visible.
Jily Prompt: James being extremely embarrassed when he realizes he's in love with lily in sixth year
Shout-out to the anon who sent me this prompt! This was fun. Someone should send me another because I’m at this airport for another four hours.
At the start of sixth year, they had to smell that bloody love potion. Everyone was very secretive of what they smelled and some would provide unhelpful clues of what they had smelled. James knew what he smelled, and kept it to himself. Making up stupid scents such as ‘snitches and quaffles’. He may have thrown in some food items to throw off the pack.
In reality, James smelled the lavender that reminded him of summer days. The smell of a fresh roasted coffee, as if someone had the grounds still embedded under their nails. There was a hint of ink and something sweet, like candy mingled together. There were other scents but those were the ones that stood out.
He always thought love potions were bullocks.
Lily Evans, while a talented witch, always seemed to be cold. She was constantly shivering in the dungeons and covered in goose bumps in charms. She claimed it had to do with the shoddy castle and something about airflow. It all came out gibberish to James.
He became accustomed to lending his robe to Lily. It came to the point that she never asked, and he never offered. Instead, she would just grab the robe from his bag and wrap it around herself.
It was only after one stint in which Lily had kept it for a week, that he got it back. It was between classes and in the bustle of the crowd, James just threw the robe over his bag and rushed off to his next lesson.
It was only later when he pulled out the robe in the library that he realized something was different. To start with, Peter was literally sniffing the robe that James had put on. James recoiled from his friend who was frozen in his odd stance, giving James a guilty look.
“What-“ James started, dropping his quill as Peter straightened up.
“Your robe. It smells differently.” Peter said smugly, and James rolled his eyes. Figures that Peter’s nose would sniff out something.
“Yeah, well, as long as it keeps me warm - couldn’t care less.” James said in a brisk manner, returning his attention to the notes in front of him.
“Fine. But it does smell good. Reminds me of your mum’s garden.” Peter said, his quill quickly making scratches on his parchment.
James paused, eyed Peter, before discreetly sniffing his own robe, praying to Merlin that no one would notice his behavior.
Lavender. He was frozen for a second, thinking how it could be - then he remembered that Lily was a witch and most likely wore some perfume. Or maybe it was her soap?
James shrugged, and went back to work. Deciding that he wouldn’t mind if Lily wore his robe more.
A beep. A noise. A smell.
Where am I?
Can’t move. A room. Which room? My room? No, unfamiliar smell. Another room. Another beep. Yes, of course. Stupid. A hospital. Obviously.
But why? Why here, why now? What happened.
Oh. A feeling. A hand. Whom’s hand?
Long fingers, short nails, a hint of dry skin. Warm. A man, yes a man.
Obviously a man Sherlock. And you know exactly who it is, don’t you. Don’t be stupid, brother mine.
Another hand. One on top, one below.
Warm, safe, home. Obviously, John’s hands. Stupid.
Light. Bright. Very bright light. Blinding.
A thumb. A caress. A feeling. Home.
One eye, other eye. Blinking, twice.
“Sherlock? You’re awake?”
Or am I? I’m not sure. What happened.
Oh, yes of course. A needle, a pinch, a relief, a blood stain.
“Why again, Sherlock.” Sad voice. Sad John.
Can I say something? Trying, only muffled sounds. Guess the answer is no, how annoying.
“I’m sorry Sherlock. I should have been there.”
You are here.
Eyes still open, blinking.
New feeling. Hand, in hair. My hair.
John’s hand in my hair. Gentle, reasuring.
Please more. Something, anything.
I see his face for the first time, though my eyes have been open for long.
Hair, eyes, nose, lips. Sad lips. A shy smile? His lips, I long for. Please.
Eyes: Blue, red? Vains visible. Crying.
“John.” It only comes out as a whisper.
“Sherlock? I’m here now. It’s okay, you’re gonna be okay.”
Lips, on mine. Please. But no.
“Is he awake?” Another voice, a female.
Blonde, blue eyes. Short hair, Conclusion: wife.
Hand dissapir from my hair - No home.
“Maybe you should let him rest, John.”
The female, the blonde, the wife. A liar.
Suddenly lips on lips. Not my lips, her lips. That wife.
Foot steps. One, two, three. Fading.
Alone, afraid, awake.
At Pedro’s Halloween party, Balthazar spends the night being a wallflower as he examines his friends’ hands. (Inspired by “An Ode”) (“Would his hand fit in yours? I bet it would, better than any other guy’s ever could…”)
Lately, I’ve been curious about hands.
Not in a creepy way.
Just in an observant way, like how your hands could say a lot about you. Mine for example are calloused, rough because I’m a musician, which is a hazard of the skill. They’re also clammy. Clammy means nervous and yeah, I guess, I’m a pretty anxious person.