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Regarding a Djinn
Day 8 [Family]
- Aaliyah was a fellow orphaned child brought to Mubarak and raised as a soldier. Although sleeping in separate barracks and only seeing one another between lessons, Aaliyah and Scarlett became close. Aaliyah was always the quieter of the two; she was obedient and respectful to the elders. She never questioned anything, unlike Scarlett. Everyone perceived Scarlett as the one dragging Aaliyah by the hand with her firey disposition. Nobody noticed the subtle pushes Aaliyah would jab into the other girl's back, silently goading her into whatever direction she pleased. The unknown puppeteer.
One night, Scarlett sniffed hard as she choked on a sob. She looked down at her hand resting neatly in Aaliyah's, then back up to the girl's smiling face. A shudder shot down her spine as Aaliyah stroked her thumb over Scarlett's knuckles. It was tender. "There, it's finished," Aaliyah had said, reaching her other hand to caress Scarlett's cheek. "You won't tell anyone, will you?" She added, brushing away Scarlett's tears as new ones fell. Afraid she would cry out loud, Scarlett only nodded an affirmative and looked down at her hand again. Her skin had bloomed in reds from the inflammation. It hurt. She didn't know why Aaliyah liked to hurt her like this, but she enjoyed how sweet she was to her in the aftermath. Aaliyah smiled again. Then it was suddenly worth letting the other girl break her fingers when she leaned close and kissed her forehead.
"Good girl," she whispered.
- Years later, Scarlett is assigned a task that separates her from Aaliyah. Since betraying the sect, Scarlett does not know what happened to the girl she once considered family. There are times she still thinks of her.
- Family is not an accurate description of their relationship, but to boil Scarlett and Damien down as business partners would be akin to only addressing the tip of the iceberg. They met online. Scarlett was job-hunting, seeking thrills and cash. Damien was able to provide her with both. Across emails, he was polite but brisk and specific about the kind of person he wished to employ. He rejected Scarlett's job application, but when she grew persistent, he agreed to meet for an interview.
- In-person, Damien was intense. He felt distinctly cold and unwelcoming regardless of the charming smile he wore as they spoke. There was little Scarlett could do but squirm in her seat as he barraged her with a series of questions.
How good are you with a camera?
Do you understand editing software well?
Are you bothered by violence?
Look at me. Do you understand what kind of job this is?
- She does not know why Damien likes to hurt people, nor how he found a group of people who enjoy watching him hurt others. But they pay obscene amounts of money to access the videos she takes of him. Scarlett gets her thrills, and her cash and Damien is mostly courteous toward her. Sometimes, however, Scarlett suspects she gets more out of this than just that. When she watches him through her lens, blood on his cheeks and eyes empty, a familiar shudder runs down her spine. Is this what it feels like to have a family?
Day 9 [Turning Points]
- The earliest turning point in Scarlett's life was the passing of her mother. Barely able to understand the gravity of such a loss, she had no way of knowing this would change the trajectory of her life. Scarlett was seven years old and spent five years witnessing the deterration of her mother's health. When illness finally took her, there was nothing Scarlett could do. She had no known family to take her in, so she was placed in the care of the sect. Scarlett does not equate her mother dying as the defining cause of how her life turned out. Instead, she recognizes many events of her life are linked to her connection with Mubarak.
- Objectively speaking, Scarlett's affections for Jasper were unhealthy. She refuses to see it that way, however. At the time, she knew meeting Jasper would result in a turning point. But she did not predict just how big of a turning point it would be. Jasper was a dedicated man with many secrets. It was Scarlett's job to gather evidence of his involvement in several attacks against Mubarak, and its affiliated groups. In truth, it was not important to prove his guilt as much as it was to uncover why he was involved. Under the guise of extending peace to Jasper (after the failure of two attempted infiltrations), Scarlett arrived as a researcher to aid him.
- She believed this mission would strengthen her bonds with the sect. Instead, it drove a wedge between her and her loyalty. Jasper was both kind and distant toward Scarlett. Keeping her at arm's length with the certainty this alliance was a ruse, but kind in ways she never experienced while at the sect. For the first time in her life, she was treated with respect. Her desire to know more about him became personal. She wanted to know everything about Jasper.
- At first, he was suspicious of her fondness, but later learned she was willing to go as far as turning her back on the sect for him. Jasper then used Scarlett to further his research. As predicted, she had let him. When the sect caught wind of the situation, soldiers were dispatched to retrieve Scarlett and kill Jasper. They were half successful, managing to kill the man but lost Scarlett in the process. She fled - to this day she harbors ill emotions toward Mubarak for the murder of the man she loved.
Day 10 [Food]
- She is not a good cook. Culinary talents weren't considered important skills, thus she never learned to make anything outside of very basic meals. More often than not, Scarlett will order out. It is convenient and she has the means to do so. She prefers hot and spicy foods like curries, noodles, or other chili-seasoned meals. Cold foods such as ice cream or salads rarely make it into her diet.
- Extra: she can make pancakes quite well. It took her months (and one burned apartment) to master.
- The first time she left the bland meal plans at the sect, Scarlett lived with Jasper. He was a rich man with staff who had prepared meals for Scarlett and himself. Extravagant and delicious meals became the norm. There was only a sprinkling of simpler more home-ly meals throughout the week. She grew accustomed to expertly seasoned steaks and beautifully garnished international foods. Nowadays, she may turn her nose up at anything inexpensive. (Oddly enough, her all-time favorite meal is BBQ skewers.)
Day 11 [Partnership]
- Believing herself to be a romantic, Scarlett is actually more obsessive than she lets on. Love, for her, is an unconditional and uncontrollable spiritual connection decided by destiny. There is no concern over gender or identity, be it species, personal beliefs, or others. Scarlett believes in the one. She is obsessive and in turn, prone to jealousy and possessiveness. When happy and secure, Scarlett is a sweet and doting lover. However, she can be manipulative, violent, and desperate when fearful things are not going well.
Falling in love
- It is challenging to win Scarlett's affections because she is not one for whimsical love. She craves intensity, heat, and passion. She likes a stable person who appears to be in control. As someone who feels many things are out of her control, she seeks the opposite in a partner. She cares little for being protected by one's strength but seeks to be emotionally cared for instead. Someone who is sweet and gentle to her when she craves it most will melt down her walls. Because of her obsessive nature, she is willing to forgive almost anything. This is why she tends to become attached to those that hurt and console her in the same breath.
Day 12 [Technology]
- Scarlett owns two cell phones, one for work and one for personal. Her work phone has a long list of contacts and two apps. One opens the camera, and the other leads to a strange but cheerful tapping game. It has a rather large and bulky protective case on it. Her personal phone has only two contacts. One is named J and the other D. It has an orange protective case and a red bell charm attached to it.
- She also owns a few cameras. One is a digital disposable camera that is replaced each time the previous one is thrown out. The other is a canon EOS r3 reserved specifically for jobs. In addition to these, she owns a variety of smaller cameras more suited for spying or surveillance.
- As for laptops, she switches semi-frequently between brands, power, and function. The cost of them does not come out of her own money and she has no say in what kind of equipment she will receive. The laptops are for work and are provided to her through her employers.
- She's well-practiced in technology such as computer networking skills, programming, reverse engineering, knowledge of several programming languages, and more. She is talented in cyber-security and works many jobs overseeing secure networks for illegal online groups. Using video editing software was once a weak point of hers, but she has since become more adept. Scarlett is by no means the best of the best, but she has a respectable reputation and a willingness to learn more.
Day 13 [Happiness]
At three years of age, Scarlett struggles to grip her mother's hands as they spin. The world reduces to blurred colors and a cool breeze in her hair. She's convinced the world will collapse upon her if she fails to keep up with her mother's quick steps, so she squeezes her eyes shut and clenches her jaw. Her mother laughs. "Dance with me, baby!" There's so much joy in that voice that it gives Scarlett the courage to open her eyes again. She looks up at her mother, long dark hair fanning behind her tall and slender frame as she spins them in circles. Subtle lines crease the corner of her eyes, matching the lines near her mouth that is stretched into a grin. Eventually, Scarlett laughs along. She tugs her mother's hands and leans back, trusting that she wouldn't let her fall. They spin faster and laugh.
"What are you doing?"
The book in Scarlett's hands is squeezed shut and loose pages fly out from the force of it. She turns toward the voice, gaze falling on Jasper standing in the doorway with his brows pinched into a frown. He says nothing for a moment. Unnerved, she laughs and tucks a log of hair behind an ear. "Silly me, caught snooping around," she sing-songs, bending to pick up the scattered papers. Focusing on the task at hand is made difficult with Jasper essentially staring daggers into her back. Scarlett is further startled when the man crouches alongside her and wordlessly picks up a few papers. Distracted by his close proximity, she stares at him. Notes how long his eyelashes are and commits the slope of his nose to memory, then wonders how soft his lips would feel -
"Oh, um," she flusters.
"Next time you want information about me, just ask."
Scarlett forgets how to breathe when he pats the top of her head. Then he stands and leaves without another word. She sits there for a moment, contemplating the butterflies in her stomach.
Scarlett suppresses the urge to set the whole apartment on fire and focuses on the task before her. If she squeezes the spatula any harder, it might bend from the force. Carefully, she slides the spatula under the bubbling pancake. Takes a concentrated breath, then flips it over. She expects the same result as every other time - to be met with blackened crisps and flakes of failure. Instead, it's just an ordinary pancake. Something wet falls down her cheek. Her chest aches when she remembers the person she'd wanted to impress is no longer around. Yet, through the haze of sadness lingers soft happiness balanced between success and bittersweet memories. Scarlett finishes cooking the batch of pancakes and plates up two servings. She eats alone, but it makes her happy to pretend Jasper is there too.
Day 14 [Serenity]
Eternity with you is a dream
A few seconds spent admiring is all Scarlett allows herself. If she sits close to Jasper's sleeping face any longer, it will only make it difficult to pull away. He is beautiful when he sleeps, she thinks. As she leans forward to center her weight before standing, she breathes in the scent of shampoo from his hair. Perhaps, she muses, if she steals his shampoo, she can imagine him next to her at night. Light footsteps carry her across the room, stopping before a wardrobe. Scarlett opens it carefully, plucks a white shirt from inside, and brings it to her face. She imagines herself wrapped in Jasper's embrace, his gentle hand petting the back of her head. Thinks of the way his muscular frame would feel against her body. Wonders how daring or how roughly he'd ---. She turns to look at the sleeping man. It's not enough. All the snooping, the careful steps, and calculated breaths are not enough. A need for more is swelling within her and Scarlett does not know how much longer she can take before she cracks. They're soulmates. She knows it; she can feel it. One day he will know it too. But, for now, Scarlett places the shirt back in the wardrobe and turns to leave. Before heading to her own bedroom, she heads to the bathroom to search for a bottle of shampoo. Nothing Jasper wouldn't miss.
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