On July 6, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a yellow hat, a carousel, and a glass.
This freebie story for my Work in Progress, The Players Are the Thing was the result. (I’m thinking of working this into the draft itself.)
At first she wasn’t sure if it was really Zoe. Laughing, hanging onto the pole of her horse, a yellow hat askew at a jaunty angle upon her black curls, matching the yellow jacket she sported.
“Of course it’s her,” Amberwyne whispered from her imagination. Encouraging Rhane not to hide within her own mind. To take a look at the world around her. “She always seems to have fun, doesn’t she?”
Indeed. Zoe disappeared around the bend, only to reappear as the carousel made its circuit, smiling at the children and the parents on the other horses. Heedless of the fact that she was the only single adult riding without a child.
How like and unlike the intense player who wore black corsets and top hats to match Beatrix’s own, arguing with her Game Master. Daring everyone to throw themselves completely into roleplaying their characters. Heedless of how hard she made everyone breathe.
Completely different, yet just as passionate. Living in the moment with all the fierceness which burned in her green eyes.
Peering at her from behind a glass of liquid courage to keep her nerve up, being out in public, Rhane could only admire and envy that fierceness.
“You have it, too.” She could almost feel Amber’s touch on her shoulder, her character’s whisper in her ear. “Go talk to her.”
“Over there? Where all the children and their parents are?” Rhane shrank behind her glass, wishing she could shrink inside herself.
“Where Zoe is.” If Rhane hadn’t known Amberwyne wasn’t real, she would have sworn she felt her character’s nudge. “You’re already in sight of all those people, but Zoe hasn’t seen you yet.”
This wasn’t encouraging. Rahne gazed at the last inch of liquid courage, swimming brown and thick in her glass.
Someone started talking loudly on their phone, making her jump. She met the eyes of a strange woman at another table. Saw her lip curl in contemptuous amusement before she continued to babble into the pink plastic rectangle she held in front of her.
Rhane didn’t sit back down. She started moving toward the carousel. Throwing her shoulders back as Amberwyne might before striding out to meet Rhiannon, lurking in the shadows waiting.
That had just been roleplaying. This was reality.
“Think of it as roleplaying.” Amber smiled, winking at her. “Remember, you created me. I’m part of you. Anything I’m capable of, you are.”
Not likely when you were playing a fantasy character who could summon a sword of golden green light. Not to mention travel over hill and through forest to locate all the curses left behind by a seductress enchantress.
Amberwyne was an ideal. Someone Rhane got to play on those weekly nights when Beatrix ran her roleplaying campaign. Someone bold enough to face down duplicitous rogues like Rhiannon.
Rhane wasn’t Amberwyne any more than Zoe was Rhiannon. Even so, Rhane walked forward to meet Zoe as if she was.
The carousel came around the bend again. Green eyes locked upon her, widened with surprise. Watching Rhane as if they were mesmerized by her movement.
Once again, Rhane was daydreaming too much. Still she kept walking, paused when Zoe disappeared around the curve again.
The painted horse made its round, returning, Zoe on its back. Zoe stretched out a hand, offering it to Rhane.
No way. She didn’t expect Rhane to jump on. Did she?
“Go for it!” Amber cheered her inside her imagination. Where would she be without her imagination?
Rhane grabbed the hand, felt herself pulled onto the carousel. She grabbed one of the bars, swaying on her feet.
Zoe didn’t let her go. With surprising strength, she hauled Rhane onto the horse behind her.
Rhane panicked, grabbing onto Zoe’s back, sure she’d fall. Instead she slid against the other woman on the back of her immobile, moving steed.
“I’ve had fantasies like this.” The whisper was barely audible, drifting over Zoe’s shoulder.
“What?” Face hot, aware of her breasts pressed against the other woman’s back, her entire torso rubbing against her, all Rhane could do was hold on.
“Nothing.” Zoe raised her voice, leaving Rhane to wonder if she’d imagined it. “What are you doing here?”
“Braving the outside world.” Rhane found herself murmuring against black curls, staring up at the brim of hat, inches from her face. “Only to find you here to inspire me.”
“Glad I could inspire you.” Zoe shifted ever so slightly. “I didn’t think you ever left Beatrix’s apartment.”
“Not often.” Rhane squirmed a bit. The carousel music was loud, too loud to talk over, but the horse was slowing to a stop.
Zoe slid off its back, leaving Rhane feeling awkward while children were helped down by their parents.
A hand extended to her. Zoe winked. “Need help?”
Rhane accepted the hand, landing somewhat awkwardly. “Sorry. I don’t have a great sense of balance.”
“I’ve noticed.” Zoe didn’t let go of her hand. “You move very slowly to make up for it. I marvel at how graceful you are.”
“I’m not graceful.” Rhane looked away from those brilliant green eyes. “Beatrix is always complaining about how klutzy I am.”
“Beatrix complains too much.” Zoe started walking over the green, slowing her step to match Rhane’s. “She should be grateful to have someone like you.”
“She’s flirting with you,” Amber murmured from her imagination. “She likes you.”
Rhane looked away. “Zoe, are you flirting with me?”
The other woman winked. “Took you long enough to notice.”
Rhane dared a glance at those red lips, curving in a smile. Such a bright lipstick Zoe wore. Different than the darker shades Beatrix favored. “You know Beatrix and I are together.”
“Maybe Beatrix needs to be reminded of that.” Zoe raised Rhane’s fingers playfully to her lips. “She doesn’t appreciate you nearly enough.”
“She’s just under a lot of stress.” Rhane looked down at her feet. “Work, running the game.”
“And you’re not?” Zoe stopped her, making Rhane look into her eyes. “And even if you weren’t, how is it OK to take it out on you?”
“She’s right,” Amber chimed in. “Beatrix doesn’t appreciate you enough. You deserve to be appreciated, Rhane.”
“Don’t.” Rhane bit her lower lip. “It’s not OK. None of this is OK.”
“Maybe not.” Zoe heaved a sigh. “Would you hate me if I told you the reason I asked to be part of your game was you?”
No, this couldn’t be true. Zoe had be teasing her.
“No, she’s not,” Amber murmured. “She really likes you.”
“Why?” Rhane dared to look back into those green eyes, fixed upon her. As if she, Rhane were important. Fascinating, even.
“You interest me.” Zoe ducked her head as if Rhane’s own gaze was too much to bear. “Just being around you makes me happy. I had a feeling anywhere you were, any game you decided to play in would be fun.”
Rhane flushed at these words. “Has it been? Fun?”
“I’ll admit, I’m falling in love with Rhiannon, even if Beatrix was the one who created her.” Zoe grinned at her own words, pushed a black curl off her forehead. “One of the things that makes Rhiannon amazing is the company she keeps. You and Amber.”
If anything could have utterly disarmed Rhane, it was this. People could think whatever they wanted of her, but they’d better not say anything bad about Amber. Ever.
By the same turn of thought, if anyone liked or appreciated Amber, Rhane couldn’t help but appreciate them in turn.”
“You know, there’s another something which makes Rhiannon amazing.” She glanced at the other woman from under lowered eyelashes. “You.”
“That so?” Color rose in Zoe’s cheeks, but she smiled. “Thank you. That means a lot coming from you. I must be doing something right, playing her.”
“You must be.” Rhane smiled right back, reached out to lace her fingers with Zoe’s.
Right now there was no thought of Beatrix or whether this was cheating. Right now there was only Zoe.
If only that had been true.
Just look at her. Look how happy she is.
Beatrix gritted her teeth, fidgeting with the purple die in her hand. Watching the two women walk away from the carousel hand in hand.
One was supposed to be her girlfriend. The other was a player she’d invited herself into their gaming group.
And they’ve both betrayed you. Are you going to let them get away from it? The whisper seemed to breathe from the die itself into her fingers.
No, Beatrix hissed to the presence in her mind, the one that was growing stronger and stronger of late. No.
Low sultry laughter filled her mind, a laughter which she’d imagined many times while running her game. Laughter which couldn’t be real.
We’ll see to it they both pay for their betrayal. Rhane and Amberwyne.
Beatrix nodded, no longer wondering if she was losing her mind.
She no longer cared.