What Really Matters (Sharing Fiction in Progress)

Quick Intro Spiel:

I’ve read a lot of comic book content over the last several years, and somehow, last week, I got hit with a story idea that I couldn’t let go of, and knew I’d have to write. Initially I thought it would be like a once-off flash fiction idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it had the potential to grow into a novel-length story in a similar fashion that Adrift did. I started mapping out my main characters on Saturday, and things kind of snowballed from there.

In the past, I haven’t shared my in-progress fiction writing so publicly, but I thought I’d give it a try and start sharing this content on my blog. If you enjoy this piece, I’ll be categorising this and future pieces set in the same universe under “Magatama: Moon and Tara’s Saga.” That’s my tentative novel title, but we’ll see how things change as I progress. Like my debut novel, I probably won’t be writing and sharing the story chronologically. Unlike my first novel, I’ll be writing with American English because I live in the U.S. now and I’m setting the story primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pointing that out because I generally still write with Australian English for my blog.

I’ll likely be touching on topics that are culturally not my own, and since these will be draft works, I am open to being called out for cultural insensitivity and asks for me to do better. My goal is to present better representation in this kind of story, but I’m a white Australian woman, so I will not have all the same lived experiences as the characters I’m developing. However, I will also be embedding other, more universal (and sometimes personal) lived experiences that I hope transcend cultural differences into these characters.

Because I’m currently inspired by superhero comics, this story likely would’ve been better as a graphic novel/comic book, but my art is not up to par with comic books, and I’m not at the point of paying someone else for art. So, prose this is for now.

Content warning (for the overall story, not necessarily this piece): domestic violence, explicit sexual content, general violence, emotional/verbal/psychological abuse, queer issues.

Onto the story!

What Really Matters

This was not what Chariya Sukkasem set out to do when she started trying to save other women like her. Other domestic abuse survivors that the police department and legal system aren’t really properly set up to protect, because emotional abuse doesn’t leave the same kinds of scars that physical abuse does.

Yet, here she was, on the balcony of an empty house in the Fruitvale, looking over a backyard with swings and a slide in it, and making out with the man the Chronicle identifies as a vigilante known only as Moon. Some of East Oakland’s teenagers kind of worship him like some sort of superhero, because he’s saved a few of them from deadbeat dads who could’ve easily helped them follow in their fathers’ footsteps with drugs or guns or sideshows.

Chariya’s daughter Alice feels differently about Moon, though, which is one of the reasons Chariya hasn’t shared her own vigilante endeavors with her. Fifteen-years-old is not the age for someone to be worried about the trouble a parent might be getting into. The most Chariya wants her daughter to be worried about is homework, and getting into college. Thankfully Alice hasn’t also had to worry about peer acceptance, and Chariya feels grateful for that. Would that change if Alice’s peers found out her mom was a powered vigilante?

The sound of a BART train nearby shakes Chariya out of her train of thought, and she refocuses on the masked man in front of her. He’s not dressed like the kinds of superheroes you see in comics. He wears black cargo pants with various pockets, and a dark long-sleeved turtleneck shirt with a large white crescent moon symbol on its chest. His mask is more like yellow-tinted aviator goggles that do a decent enough job of hiding his eyes, and a black beanie to hide whatever his hair looks like. Definitely more vigilante-looking than superhero.

How did I get here? she wonders, ever so briefly, before Moon’s lips part hers and she sighs, sinking into the kiss.

Chariya lets one of her hands slip underneath the back of Moon’s turtleneck. It’s just t-shirt material, nothing close to bulletproof. Moon has this warping ability that allows him to dodge bullets. She’s seen him in action a couple of times, avoiding them. That’s sort of how they met. They were both trying to save different members of the same family from the husband/father, who happened to be a drug dealer who also carried firearms.

Something similar happened tonight, but this time it was an older fellow—a grandfather set in his conservative ways, who, along with his wife, had ended up with custody of their two grandsons. Their mother—this elderly couple’s daughter—had died in a car accident deliberately caused by their father, who ended up in prison for his efforts. Chariya knew all this because she’d met the grandmother through the domestic violence help center she volunteers at. She had no idea what brought Moon to their home.

The grandfather did not appreciate vigilantes showing up on his doorstep. He didn’t even bother to ask questions, just started shooting as soon as he saw Moon in his outfit, and Chariya in her flexible green-and-white suit. Tonight, she’s wearing leggings, short-shorts with pockets, a gold chain belt that she sometimes uses to fight with when her martial arts aren’t enough to take someone down, and a halter top with visible midriff. She supposed the make-up she wears to hide her identity may have scared the man into thinking she was a demon. After all, Chariya paints her face the shade of green that oxidized copper turns, adds a vertical third-eye painted in the middle of her forehead, and adorns a gold feathered-crown atop her head (in part because it helps keep her dark hair in a bun and out of the way). But there was no time to find out what the man was thinking.

A stray bullet hit Chariya in her thigh, which got lodged in the muscle. As soon as Moon heard the police sirens heading their way, hopefully in response to the gunfire, he lifted up her small 4’10” body and carried her to the nearest abandoned house.

By the time they got inside, Chariya’s wound had healed, but Moon couldn’t quite believe it. He placed his hand on her thigh where the wound should have been, and rather than push his hand away, Chariya found herself placing her hand on his and lightly squeezing it.

“You have your powers, I have mine,” she’d said with a smirk. She glanced around the entryway of the house, where they’d been sitting at the base of the staircase. “How’d you know this place was vacant, anyway?”

“I’d been trying to help the family who lived here, but unfortunately they lost the house recently due to bank foreclosure. Really tragic,” Moon replied. “Here, let me show you something…”

That’s when Moon took her hand and led her upstairs to the balcony they’re on now. He explained that he’d installed the play equipment in the backyard himself.

Just as Chariya doesn’t know who Moon really is, Moon doesn’t know Chariya’s real identity either. She identifies herself to those she encounters through her vigilantism as Tara. Chariya isn’t a goddess—nowhere near something like that—but the Buddhist deity Tara embodies what she felt like her goals were, when she stood up and decided to use her gifts. The deity is sometimes known as the “mother of liberation.” She liked that. Not that Chariya is a practicing Buddhist—her ex-husband beat that out of her with his words—but Buddhism is the religion she was raised into in her home country, Thailand.

“Tara—” Moon says, breaking their kissing. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. I… may have just gotten swept up by my adrenaline. I know we don’t really know each other that well yet.”

In that moment, Chariya finds herself even more attracted to the vigilante she’s with. He’s essentially asking for her consent.

“What do you want?” she asks. “Do you want to keep going if I’m willing?”

“I was thinking maybe I should ask you out on a proper date first.”

“What, like, out of costume?”

Moon shrugs. “If you were into that.”

No one knows Chariya is Tara, and she’d like to keep it that way, for her own safety as well as her daughter’s. And yet… there’s something really attractive about Moon, and she hasn’t been with anyone since her divorce. She doesn’t want to simply stop.

Feeling a pulsing sensation between her legs, Chariya struggles to find the will to let logic help her decide what really matters in this moment.

“What if— what if I want to continue, but just as Moon and Tara?” her breath is low now, and with her hand still under Moon’s shirt, she runs her pointer fingernail in a circle between his shoulder blades.

She’s unsure how far she should push things, while he’s appearing to desire something more romantic than animalistic.

Moon places a hand on the small of her bare back and pulls her closer to him so that their waists are almost touching. She finds herself wishing they had—wanting to feel if he’s as turned on as she feels.

“What would be the ground rules?” he asks her. “If we’re not sharing our identities, then, what? All in costume? Dry humping?” Chariya’s heart skips a beat at the thought. “What are you looking for if we continue?”

“Well,” she starts, and takes a risk, letting her hand glide down his back and under the hem of his cargo pants and underwear. “Masks stay on, I think. That’s only fair. But I don’t think what’s under the rest of our clothes is too revealing.” With her hand on his ass, she brings him as close to her as she’d been desiring, which is to say she can now feel just how turned on he is. “Condoms are a must, though. You carry any in one of those many pockets you have?”

“I might,” Moon replies. “But even if I have one on me now, I’m not sure we should go that far this fast. Can we get to know each other a bit better first? Still masked, nothing identifying, just… I dunno… maybe have a way to communicate outside of randomly running into each other when we’re trying to help others?”

“You have a marker in one of your pockets?”

Moon pulls a black marker out of his right thigh pocket and hands it to her. Chariya uses her free hand that had just been holding his ass to lift up his shirt, high enough to expose a comma-shaped jade pendant on a string around his neck. She gets a nice look at the faint but still noticeable muscles of his abdomen, then writes her number starting with 415 on his chest.

“This is my burner. Text only, though. I only accept calls if it’s an emergency.” She lets his shirt fall back in place. “Are we calling this a night, then?”

“I don’t want to, which I’m sure you can sense—” yes, she can, his body is still pressed against hers. “But I think it’s the right thing to do. For tonight. Since we’re bound to keep running into each other, and I don’t want that to get awkward. I’ll text you.”

Moon brings her in for one last, steamy kiss, then warps out of the room and into the backyard. He waves at her, then disappears completely.

If you enjoyed reading this and want more, please leave me a comment to let me know! Comments encourage me to keep going because I know there’s interest from people who aren’t me. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s