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A Flame is Born

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December 15th, 2000

Alistair Irving paced around the dingy waiting room of the clinic. Distantly, he could hear the screams of his wife, currently in labor with their second child. His first child, four year old Cordelia, was sitting a few feet away flipping through a picture book. Alistair spared a glance at her, to make sure that she was still where she was supposed to be, and she looked up.

“Daddy, can we go home yet? I’m bored” She said, stretching the word “bored” out for what felt like an eternity.

“I’m sure it won’t be too much longer sweetie, we’re just waiting for Mommy to finish with the Doctor, then we can come home.”

“But it’s been days!” Again, stretching the end of her sentence far longer than was truly necessary.

It had in fact not been days, it had however been ten hours. It was taking far longer than the birth of their first child who had been welcomed into the world less than an hour after labor began. As Alistair pondered that thought, he realized that this pregnancy had been more complicated than her first from the very beginning. They hadn’t even realized that she was pregnant with Cordelia until she had missed her second period, but with this child, his darling wife had morning sickness almost immediately. She couldn’t sleep. She was sore all the time, and now she’d been in labor for over ten hours! It was almost like her body was rejecting the baby.

Another of Maya’s screams pierced the quiet of the waiting room, unsettling Alistair even further.

“Is Mommy ok?”

“Yes sweetie, she’s fine, this is just a difficult process.”

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s getting your little sister.”
“My little sister is here!?”
“Yeah, we’re just waiting for Mommy to get her.”

Alistair had already explained this to Cordelia about a dozen times, and he was starting to get impatient with her. Before Cordelia could ask anymore questions that she’d asked already, a nurse poked her head out of the door, she was wearing scrubs emblazoned with the insignia of the Institute, as such, her uniform was very neat and orderly, a little jarring in the rundown waiting room. 

“Mr Irving, your wife is ready for you.”

Alistair left his daughter with Maya’s mother and followed the nurse into the clinic proper. Behind the doors of the waiting room, the clinic was far nicer. Everything looked pristine. It was however, needlessly sterile, clean white walls, all the countertops were metal. It was however, depressing, a sad place to bring a new life into the world. He took in all of this in the span of a couple seconds as he followed the nurse to his wife’s exam room.

“Right through here, Mr. Irving”

Alistair stepped through the door and the first thing he saw was his beautiful wife, sweaty and exhausted, lying in her hospital bed. He stood beside her bed and placed his hand on her cheek.

“How are you doing, Honey?”

“Wonderfully, now that the pain is over, the epidural is really doing it’s job”

Alistair let’s out a little chuckle at that.

“So where’s our baby?” As he asks, a small gout of flame sparks behind him.

Alistair turns around and notices the nurse holding a small, ash grey infant playing with a small ball of fire and giggling.

“I’m sorry ma’am, I think you have the wrong room. No child of mine could be a fire elemental”

“I was here the entire time sir, this is your child. 18 inches, 5 pounds 9 ounces. All your daughter.”

When she says this, Alistair turns and glares at his wife.

“That thing is not my child” And with that, he storms out of the room and heads out into the night, leaving his wife, his newborn, and his four year old at the clinic.

 

October 12th, 2005

Asher sat in her room, headphones on and blaring, turned up way too loud for a four year old and, in all honesty, her taste in music wouldn’t be considered appropriate for a child her age. The music however, was far better than the sounds of her parents screaming at each other. 

All they seemed to do these days was scream at each other. Mommy promised it would stop after she went to the doctor, she was sure that would make it worth the doctors sticking her with needles and taking her blood. It didn’t hurt much, but she cried anyway, which made daddy yell at her. The screaming didn’t stop though, if anything, it seemed to make daddy angrier.

Ash heard a crash coming from the kitchen, load enough to over power her music, causing her to pull her headphones off.

“Damnit Maya! I don’t give a shit what that paper says, that THING is not mine!”

“Of course she is Al, you’re the only man I’ve ever been with, who else's could she be?”

“Oh, I could name name’s Maya, I could name name’s!”

At this, Ash decided to put her headphones back on. She didn’t understand what she was hearing, but knew that she probably shouldn’t be hearing it. Not only that, she didn’t want to hear it, she was tired of hearing Daddy scream.

As Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit came on, Ash turned the volume up higher and went back to her coloring book. The fridge was covered in drawings, and papers from school, but they all belonged to her older sister Corey. Daddy didn’t seem to like any of Ash’s coloring. 

As she reached for her grey colored pencil she felt a sharp pull on her shoulder jerking her back and causing her headphones to fall off. She looks up into her father’s light blue face, his blueish purple hair falling into his greenish eyes.

“Where the HELL is your glamour”

“I’m in my room Daddy, I thought it was ok in here.” Ash responds with tears in her eyes. Her father’s grip on her shoulder was starting to hurt.

“You are supposed to wear your glamour at all times!” He punctuates each word with a shake of Ash’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry Daddy, I’ll put it on now.” She’s actually crying now as she tries to pull away to grab her glamour.

“It never should have been off in the first place!” He screams in her face.

“Let go of her right now!” Maya shouts from the doorway.

Alistair releases a large sigh and storms out of the room. Shortly after, the sound of a door slamming reverberates throughout the house.

“Mommy… Why doesn’t Daddy love me?” Ash asks, choking back a sob.

“Oh Honey, he does, he just doesn’t know how to show it”

“He knows how to show Corey.” 

Maya sadly doesn’t know how to respond to this, so she just pulls Ash into a hug and rocks back and forth with her, letting cry into her shoulder.

“It’s ok sweetie, you’re loved.” Ash may have only been four years old, but even she picked up on the obvious omission of WHO in fact loved her. Ash looked over Maya’s shoulder and noticed her older sister walking by, looking snotty. A cold air followed Cordelia as she stalked off to her own room.

That night, Ash cried herself to sleep.

 

December 29th 2009

Ash sat quietly in her room, playing her new violin. It was the first nice thing her dad had done for her, buying her a nice violin for her birthday. Of course, he followed it up with some of the worst insults he’d ever said to her. Her grades had been slipping so her mom had hired a tutor, her dad responded to this by saying it was “a waste of money on that idiot.” All that really meant to Ash was another night crying herself to sleep.

Today, she was trying to ignore the sounds of her parents fighting again. Sadly, her new violin just wasn’t loud enough to drown them out. It was the usual fight, the same fight she’d heard for as long as she could remember. As always, her father refused to believe that she was his daughter, then her mom would bring up her great grandfather for some reason. Something about how he was a fire genasi, whatever that meant. Ash thought it must have something to do with her interest in fire, and the way to could create it. It didn’t matter though, she’d long since stopped calling fire, it always seemed to make her dad upset.

There was something different about this fight though, it seemed more serious. Her dad was getting more and more aggressive and her mom sounded on the verge of tears. Under normal circumstances, she’d probably go out and see if she could help, but that only ever seemed to make her dad angrier. Her other option of course, would be to go spend time with her sister, but Corey has only gotten more distant over the years, it was starting to seem like Corey wanted nothing to do with her.

A few minutes later Ash heard the telltale sound of the front door slamming, Ash assumed her father was off to the bar again. He always seemed to drink after a big fight. There was a knock at her door, and then her mom walked in with tears in her eyes.

“Hi mom, are you ok?”

Maya sniffs loudly and steels herself. “Yeah, everything is great sweetie, I just wanted to hear you play”

“Ok mommy.” 

Ash picks her violin back up and starts to quietly play. Music always came to her easily, and she’d been practicing for about a year with an old hand-me-down, so it didn’t sound like the screeching wail of a beginner, but she was still somewhat new to the violin, she wasn’t quite playing a song but Maya did not seem to mind. Maya sat quietly in the corner of her daughter’s room and listened to the sweet violin music.

Alistair never came home, and two days later, Maya was served with divorce papers citing irreconcilable differences.

 

2015-2018

Things had changed a lot for Ash in the six years since her parents divorce. Her father hadn’t even requested custody of her, in fact, he’d signed away all of his parental rights to her. He was however awarded fifty percent custody of her sister, Cordelia. Whenever she would come back from their father’s house, she would be far worse than usual. Cordelia has been cold for years, but far worse than usual, refusing to talk to Ash at all and being downright cruel to their mother. On her 16th birthday, she moved in with her father full time, and Ash hasn’t seen her since.

It wasn’t all bad news though, after her father left, Ash no longer had to wear her glamour at all times, she was allowed to be herself at home. She started exploring other aspects of her personality. She got piercings, three in the cartilage of her right ear and an industrial in her left as well as her eyebrow. She also got an undercut. 

Her mom encouraged her to explore her music more and she found a love for the guitar, something about the music helped her focus and her grades improved and she discovered a love of science. Before long, she started playing her guitar in coffee shops and started to save up a little money.

The biggest change for her however, was that she started noticing people. She was looking to start dating, but if she was honest with herself, she didn’t understand boys. Her first boyfriend bored her, he only ever wanted to play video games. Her second boyfriend wasn’t much better. But there was a girl in her classes, a cute, bookish, brunette named Heather. Every night she went to bed dreaming of asking her out, but she didn’t know how to approach her. Heather barely seemed to know she existed. 

More to the point, she was worried about what her mom would think. Her mom has been nothing but loving and accepting, but when she thinks Ash isn’t looking, she cries. Ash didn’t want to give her anything else to stress about so instead, she vented her frustrations through music. She would sing love songs to a disinterested coffee shop. 

This went on for a few years, with Ash playing her music and otherwise keeping a low profile. When she wasn’t performing at the coffee shop, she was at home reading or tinkering with electronics. Her mom even allowed her to purchase a handgun to tinker with, a .50 caliber Desert Eagle, which she heavily modified and named “Muscle.” Things continued in this way until, one day after a performance, she was approached by a green haired woman in a leather jacket.

“Heya, name’s Rob, loved the show you really killed it up there kid”

“Thanks” Ash responded after a slight hesitation.

“Listen kid, I’m puttin together a band and I think you’d be a great fit on lead guitar, what’da say?”

“I dunno, seems like a big commitment.”

“Come on, you really wanna play in coffee shops for the rest of your life?”

“Not really… I’m actually trying to get into Woodside. I want to be an engineer. Not that it’s really any of your business, I don’t even know you.”

“You’re right, sorry, my name is Robin Aurora Tempest the fourth, but everyone calls me Rob. And you know, it’s cool to have a dream, but where’s the harm in having some fun along the way. Join my band, make some friend’s, we’ll have a great time.”

The word “friend’s” actually piqued her interest. Cordelia had been particularly vicious about here, even being four years older than her, her words carried a lot of weight at school and people were afraid to get on her bad side. Ash had never really had friends before, maybe it’d be good to branch out a bit.

“You know what, I’m in.” Ash sticks her hand out and says “My names Ash”

“Well, Ash, why don’t you come over to my place, meet my friends.”

“I think I’d like that.”