Chapter 310: The Pace of Change

on April 22, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 9: Who Is Mackenzie Blaise?, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Effort Is Put Forth

Nicki did show up for dinner the night after we had our talk, and Grace did come with her.

I was more than glad… I felt a profound sense of relief. Not because I had been afraid they wouldn’t show up, but because I myself very nearly didn’t, and in my long moments of vacillation I had argued quite persuasively that they probably wouldn’t be there, so it wouldn’t really make a difference if I was or not.

Have you ever noticed how even after you’ve decided to do a thing, you still have to do it? No matter how much effort it took to make the decision in the first place, you can’t just like take that effort and use it as a down payment… no, before long you’re realizing that however hard it seemed to be at the time, making the decision was actually the easy part.

So, I decided to get on with my life instead of agonizing around in circles over the mysteries of my missing memories, and Rowan’s. So, I decided to make more time for my friends and lovers. I decided to just live my life in some sort of balance, instead of alternating between getting bogged down in drama and burying myself in my school work.

So many decisions. So much resolve.

Such… resolution.

I’m not saying that nothing changed after that conversation with Nicki. I’m saying that no matter how much conviction I’d put into my promise… I still woke up the next day the same person I’d been the day before, feeling much the same way about much the same things.

This did mean I was a bit impressed with how resolute I’d sounded the night before, in that moment… but outside that moment, I couldn’t make myself feel what I’d felt then. I could agree with everything that I’d said to Nicki… I mean, it certainly all sounded sensible enough… but I couldn’t quite convince myself there was anything I personally could do about it.

I felt disassociated from the whole thing, from myself, really… like the conversation had happened to someone else and I’d only witnessed it, or heard about it secondhand. That probably should have been a scary thought, given everything I’d been through, but the only response I could really muster was, “No, that seems about right.”

Who was Mackenzie Blaise?

Who would I be, if I wasn’t a half-demon, or if my life hadn’t been ripped apart when I was nine years old?

Who would I be if I still had all my memories, if I didn’t have to worry about stumbling blocks left in my brain… excuse me, I should say mind… by someone who thought they knew better than me when it came to the contents of my head? Who would I be if I hadn’t had my grandmother building her own walls and digging her own pits in my head for most of a decade? What kind of a person might I have grown into, if I’d been allowed to just grow instead of having her ironclad morality hammered into me, a twin litany of damning sins to be avoided at all costs and reasons why I was damned all the same…

Who would I be?

Fuck that… who could I be?

Earnest desire to change and resolution to do better by those who cared about me were nice and all, but the thing that got my ass out the door… well, got my ass into a clean pair of black jeans, a plain fitted tee, and my favorite jacket and then out the door… was spite.

How much time had I wasted? How many opportunities had I passed by? How much further might I have gone already… academically, professionally, romantically, in any sense, really… if I hadn’t had to spend so much time and energy convincing myself and everyone around me that I wasn’t going to go berserk and start feasting on the flesh of the innocent at any moment?

Oh, and if you’re thinking to yourself, “This is it, the moment when she goes evil and gives into her inner demons,” well, two things. One, how long have you been reading this, waiting for that one thing to happen? The other is that as I said at the start of this bit, when Nicki and Grace showed up for dinner I felt relieved. A feeling of relief implies that there is some other feeling to be relieved… which, in this case, was guilt.


Still me.

Just me, realizing that my inner demons are… just me.

Like I said, making a decision doesn’t mean you’re done. Change happens incrementally. I had made the decision to live for myself, whoever that might be. That got me dressed up a bit and out the door. That got me eating dinner at a reasonable time like I was a fully mortal being who needed to eat people food… or maybe like I was a social being who needed the company. It meant I was there when I said I would be, when Nicki took a chance and showed up like I’d asked her to. All of that led to me sitting at a table with some of the people I loved the most in the world, looking around at each of them like I was seeing them, really seeing them, for the first time in a long while.

There was Amaranth, the first person in longer than I could remember who had ever looked at me and seen me. Amaranth, my miraculous revelation, who had taught me what it was to love and be loved. Amaranth, whose body had been built to a model of perfection that, if it wasn’t exactly mine, was one with which I could not quibble; tall, somewhat athletic but soft and generously padded and curved, skin forever sun-kissed and hair always cascading down her back in perfect amber waves.

She had been my first… well, many firsts. Thinking about our first first never could help but bring a flush of heat to my cheeks, not just for the reckless urgency of that encounter in the shade of a campus tree, and in fact not mainly for that, either. The truth is most of that had been and remained a blur. No, what stayed with me was the feelings that had followed: embarrassment, rising shame, and then grateful relief washing away the shame… but somehow, the embarrassment stuck around.

I didn’t mind. I really didn’t.

“What are you thinking of, baby?” Amaranth asked me. “You haven’t looked at me that way in a long time.”

“…that’s exactly what I was thinking of,” I said. “I’m sorry, I…”

She put her finger up to my lips, a once-familiar signal that had been so little-used in our relationship lately that the only reason it worked immediately is that I was confused.

“Baby, I don’t know what you think you have to be sorry for,” she said, her voice a throaty purr, “but when you’re looking at me like that, you don’t have a thing in the world to be sorry for. Is that understood?”

She removed her finger.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, probably with a touch more conviction than I’d ever said those words before. Well, that steely resolve was good for something, even if it didn’t make for tremendous motivation on its own.

“I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that,” Steff said.

Steff… beautiful Steff, wild and vulnerable and alarming Steff, who always seemed like she had even more shit to sort out than I did. We could probably have taught each other a thing or two about dealing with baggage, if we didn’t have so much baggage to deal with.

“Well, to be fair, she’s learned to guard her own tongue these days,” Amaranth said.

“I didn’t mean the shushing,” Steff said. “I just… man, you two together. It’s like… textbook.”

“Boring and overpriced?” Ian said. Ian… another notable first, and so far, only. I don’t just mean that he was the only guy I’d been intimately involved with, but in all honesty, he was the only person I never worried about whether or not he really liked me for myself.

I mean, I knew that Amaranth loved me, but I’d be lying if I said I had never worried about what that even meant. Nicki and Glory and even Steff all had these images in their heads of me that I knew was a big part of the draw. Ian, though… well, there had been times I’d wondered if he did like me, but at least that was because I knew he had few illusions. Ian, who could do anything he put his mind to but couldn’t decide what he wanted to put his mind to.

“I’ll be honest,” Nicki said. “This is exactly how I always imagined you guys would be together, all the time… the way you’re all looking at each other, back and forth, and the… um…”

“Banter?” Grace suggested.

If Nicki had some illusions… well, she was a revelation in her own way. What she saw when she looked at me wasn’t me, I knew, but it was a version of me, and it impressed her.

As much as I could get myself worked up good and proper over a good piece of humiliation, I found that I liked impressing her. I liked being impressive… and maybe that was a good motivation for change, as good as spite or better.

Okay, so maybe, on reflection, I hadn’t really squeezed into my tightest jeans just for spite…

End of Book 9

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21 Responses to “Chapter 310: The Pace of Change”

  1. cbob says:

    Yay!! And many

    Current score: 5
  2. zeel says:

    It’s baaaack!

    Current score: 6
  3. Gruhl says:

    Eagerly and patiently awaited. I hope everyone will find their way back here, and that new readers will drop in too. I do advertise to my friends, as much as I can without being obnoxious.

    Welcome back would be inaccurate, perhaps even presumptious, as it is I and other readers who get to visit your imagination. So instead I’ll just say ‘Thank you’

    Current score: 9
  4. Grant says:

    Thanks AE. This was pretty much the definition of “short and sweet”. A great appetizer for the chapters to follow.

    Current score: 3
  5. gripho says:

    Good to see updates are back 🙂


    Current score: 2
  6. Mike Conner says:

    The resteraunt is open again! Got me a table right at the front!

    Current score: 3
  7. Liobi says:

    It returns!!

    Current score: 0
  8. euthanatos says:

    Awesome! Looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next book.

    Current score: 1
  9. Zathras IX says:

    Inner Half-Demons
    Aren’t all that different from
    Full inner Demons

    Current score: 2
  10. Readaholic says:

    So cute!!

    Current score: 0
  11. Charlys says:

    Been reading since 2008, just after I finished college myself but I’ve never commented before. Stopped reading a while, then picked it back up again recently from the beginning and caught up to real time finally just in time for the previous chapter (I am now officially in the same boat as other fans, eagerly awaiting the next installment!). I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you so much AE! This story has enabled me to acknowledge aspects of myself that I otherwise may not have been able to and resonates with me on many levels (really, gou’ve no idea). I know how difficult and daunting keeping the restaurant open must seem at times; being one who suffers from acute depression and anxiety, I understand just how hard it can be to motivate oneself especially to keep something going for so long. I commend you wholeheartedly AE, and am gleefully cheering from my own little table in the back corner of the room that the restaurant is indeed still open, at least for now. I am most eager to see how this unfolds, I love each and every one of your characters (ok, well maybe not Puddy, she’s a Narcissistic bitch) and the rich and wonderful world you’ve developed. So many unanswered questions that I sincerely hope will one day be answered. No idea if these words will ever reach you as I understand they’re moderated by another but if tey do, please just know that even if those questions never get answered, I completely understand. I feel for you, truly I do. I know I’m just some faceless commenter you’ve never met or even knew existed until now but that’s exactly why I write these words: so that you know concretely that amongst all the people who complained in the past about pacing, characters, lack of updates or whatever else, there are some out there who have never offered a word of complaint or criticism and who have and always will appreciate this story and the fact that you’ve poured so much into bringing it to life, who will continue to wait at their secluded table in the corner quietly sipping tea while waiting for the curtain to rise and the next act to begin (ok, I guess I just turned this into dinner theater, but you get the idea, lol). Thank you once more for everything. Take care and never forget how truly amazing you and your imagination are! <3

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      Welcome to the head! We have coffee and doughnuts, but Nocker ate all the muffins.

      Current score: 0
  12. Kobold says:

    Oh my goodness this was good.

    “Have you ever noticed how even after you’ve decided to do a thing, you still have to do it?”

    Story of my life there. Maintaining that conviction is pretty difficult. Kind of going through something similar at the moment. Made a decision to do something. Working on actually doing it. Or at least consistently so.

    Current score: 3
    • Tierhon says:

      Yes, the number of times I’ve made a decision to do something and that’s as far as I got, is more times that I’m willing to try to count.

      I think that is why I like this particular story series so much, even though in most ways I am completely different from Mack, I still I identify with her background, and the reasoning you gave her.

      P.S. Still loving all of your stories AE! A good book is like a good friend, even when good friends don’t see each other for years it is still merry meet and merry part till we see each other again.

      Current score: 1
  13. Angnor says:

    Awesome to see it back. Looking forward to where you take us from here. <3

    Current score: 0
  14. Alex says:

    You still got it. Fun to read!

    Current score: 0
  15. jayloo says:

    Cycle of change! She seems to be actively moving through it now. I had to go back and start from the beginning to get my fix. Wish I’d started again earlier!

    Current score: 0
  16. Grant says:

    For those who look for updates here but don’t check AE’s blog be aware she has recently lost a family member.

    Thought go out to you and your family Ms Erin.

    Current score: 0
  17. Arancaytar says:

    […] many decisions. […] much resolve. Such… resolution.

    “Wow!” 😛

    Current score: 1
  18. PrometheanSky says:

    Very glad that MU is back, but I’m looking forward to the next chapter more. The first chapter after a long hiatus tends to not have as much character as when the updates are coming regularly, or at least semi-regularly. Though I suspect some interesting ideas have also been germinating in the meantime, so it’s a tradeoff.

    Current score: 0
  19. Righteous says:

    I appreciate the meta-commentary in this one. Hope it’s a sign of things to come.

    Current score: 0