- .♦. Magdalen and John Brown loved each other hard and fast. From the moment they were introduced by well-meaning relatives, the pair got along. They were married a respectable 6 months later at the church and a year later had their only child, a daughter they named Jessamine Calypsa Brown. Though they had intentions to have more, tragedy struck and John was taken away to meet his lord and maker when Jessamine was only five. Magdalen took it hard, but pulled herself together for her daughter and found work making clothes and cleaning house. They moved in with Magdalen's mother and father the next year to save more money.
Selling the house was a smart move on Magdalen's part. She tithed the first ten percent, put 40 percent into the bank for living and the remaining 60 was put into savings for Jessamine's education. The family doted on the girl. Jessie was small, but bright and precocious. She had her father's unwavering smile and his unfiltered laugh. She had her mother's problem solving skills and running legs. It all served her well through her early years. She excelled in school, taking to education like a duck to water, her free time spent with several friends on the playground and running as if she were going to try out for the Olympics. Every month, Magdalen put more money into Jessie's education fund. Every year, her Magdalen's mother and father helped when they could. Right up until their death during Jessamine's final year of school.
The house was now too big and full of too many memories. So, she sold this one and the two of them found a small apartment. Again, the money for the sale was largely put into Jessamine's education fund... and it was a fortunate thing.
As she matured, she decided the job she wanted to persue was that of a lawyer. And so, all of the saving paid off. Applying for scholarships and more, she was accepted into a program in Florida. Jessie was dropped for the more adult sounding Jessamine ... and shortened by college friends into Jessa. She flourished in university.
- .♦. Graduating with a very respectable GPA and several job offers, Jessa took the BAR and passed, earning an entry level position at a law-firm not far from Tampa. It was there that she met Charles Navier.
Tall, dark hair, brown eyes and a smile as infectious as his laughter, they hit it off. It only took three dates and 80 billable hours for the pair to become inseparable. He met her mother. She approved over a phone call a few weeks later.
A year later, he proposed with an emerald ring he designed himself. They were in the midst of wedding planning when he started to get sick.
- .♦. There was not much that either of them could do. The firm was understanding, cutting back both of their hours to manageable time while allowing for insurance to be maintained. Charles' health continued to decline. The visits to the doctors and hospitals became more frequent until the cancer left him bedridden.
Jessa spent more time at his side than at their apartment. One day, he asked her to leave. What was the point in watching him die? They fought. She left to get her head straight, started walking around the city and found her way into The Chicken's Foot. It was the name that caught her eye. Out of the ordinary and distracting enough from her headspace to pull her in.
- .♦. The store was full of knickknacks. Walls so crowded with old worn wooden shelves that she was hard pressed to say exactly what the walls were made of. Wood? The floor looked like it had seen better days, creaking with each step, half comforting and half unnerving. She almost felt like it would give way beneath her - just like her world. She paused here and there to look at the items. Snow globes without snow, filled with scapes of people in every day scenes rather than landmarks. An old, handmade Venetian mask. Worn leather-bound books. She paused to reach for one and was interrupted by a quiet voice.
"I think that's not -quite- what you're looking for."
She turned, book forgotten. "Pardon?"
There, before her was a petite woman. Her skin looked as old as the shelves, wrinkled and dark with age. It creased as she smiled, offering a linen handkerchief. "Your makeup is smudged. There's a mirror behind you. Seems you've had a fair bit of a hard time, hm?"
Jessa took the offered handkerchief and turned to the gilded mirror, staring blankly at her reflection. Tired, sad, almost a ghost of who she had been months ago. Sniffling, she dried off the tears and carefully fixed what was left of her eyeliner. "... yeah.. it's uh... not been good." She paused, her fingers running along the black tatting that lined the handkerchief. "You ever... feel like your world is about to come apart at the seams? Like it's going to crumble at any moment and you know that if that ONE thing happened you'd lose yourself in that moment?"
Behind her, the woman's skirts rustled against the floor as she walked about, "Oh.. I know a thing or two about that."
Jessa paused, lifting a hand to her face in an attempt to stop another shoulder shaking burst of tears she hadn't known she was capable of summoning. "Nh.. God, I've.. you know, I've prayed. I've been to church. My mom has been praying. It's... nothing is helping. I'd give my heart and soul to fix it. I would."
"Would you, really?"
"Without hesitation. Yes. He means everything to me." She turned, gesturing toward the door. "I can't lose him. I would do anything, and if that was my option? Yes."
The woman suddenly smiled, reaching a hand up to Jessa's chest. Wrinkled fingers tapped at her sternum, the liver spots fading as she spoke, her voice growing steely - grey eyes locking onto Jessa's brown eyes. "So it's been spoken. A gift. A sacrifice. An exchange. Heart and soul for hope and hale. Given to be got, until stars align and a favors be need."
Jessa's chest went cold and all noise stopped. She seemed to black out for ... she couldn't even say how long. When she came to, she was sitting in Charles' hospital room, her head on his hand.
- .♦. Jessa passed the entire encounter off as a dream. They apologized to each other. Routine almost returned... until two weeks later, his tests miraculously came back clear. The cancer was gone.
They celebrated with a wedding. Things seemed perfect. For a while. Until Jessa started to feel... wrong.
Her temperature was lowering at odd times. When her pulse would normally race, it slowed.
And then one day it stopped. She had a panic attack that ended with tears and Charles' being afraid of her. How could she survive without a heartbeat? What had happened?
She suddenly remembered the woman in the shop. Could that have happened? She told him about it. He didn't believe her.
Magic? That sounded INSANE.
That night, she had a nightmare about the shop. The woman touched her chest and pulled her heart out. She woke up screaming - and as she screamed, her pores leaked black goo like sweat. The more she noticed, the more she screamed. Charles woke up and ran for the wall. The matter began to coalesce into strands of cold, inky darkness, surrounding her like dark webbing. She called Charles' name, begging for help and several strands reached for him.
He screamed, reaching for a bat. He swung and threw it, missing the strands and hitting Jessa as he ran out of the room. She blacked out and the black matter disappeared. She tried talking to her mother, it didn't go well. Charles explained what had gone on. Explained the woman at the shop. Magdalen blamed the devil, satan himself must have taken over her daughter.
- .♦. Things were tense after that... and after another event similar to that, Charles filed for divorce. Citing irreconcilable differences is a lot easier than saying you think your wife is a freak and an unbearable monster. The divorce was quick. She let him have everything he wanted. He gave her the condo.
Jessa quit her job and sold the condo after taking her maiden name back. She moved out of state shortly after.