This is the sixth installment of “Magatama: Moon and Tara’s Saga”. View the parent page to read the complete introduction and for links to read the previous installments in the correct order.
Content warning (for the overall story, not necessarily in every installment): domestic violence, explicit sexual content, general violence, emotional/verbal/psychological abuse, queer issues.
“You fucking slut. I knew I couldn’t trust you!” The voice of Chariya’s ex, Monty, enters her mind, and she stops moving.
Chariya moves her head away from Moon’s gaze as she tries to hold back tears, and rests her head on his chest whilst otherwise still laying on top of him. Her legs remain either side of his body.
“Are you okay?” Moon asks.
Chariya nods her head against his chest. She responds in slow bursts, trying not to give away her true experience. “Yeah, I… I was just thinking… I don’t… don’t want to get… too carried away. Too soon. Can we… just snuggle like this for a while?”
Moon lets his hand rub her back briefly before settling back into a full embrace.
Hearing Monty’s voice in her head feels like a shock, but she’s not surprised. She feels like she should have known this was coming. Though Chariya had never been unfaithful to Monty, accusations like this were common once she asked him for a divorce. He’d also say things like, “You’ll never find someone who loves you like I did ever again.” So of course it makes sense to her that she’d hear his voice in her head just as she’s trying to finally enjoy the company of someone new for the first time since she met Monty.
She doesn’t want to think about him, but he’s really ruined the mood for her at this point. Chariya searches her mind for an idea of how to refocus her attention back on Moon.
Considering one of Moon’s text messages earlier in the day, Chariya asks, “So. Since you would like us to get to know each other better, and you said you were an open book, I guess we can talk more while we lay here. You mentioned the school-to-prison-pipeline before. I’d like to know more about why that motivates you. Did your father go to prison? Were you ever at risk?”
“No, nothing like that,” Moon says. “I guess it was more… seeing kids with so much potential follow problematic paths, and feeling like voting for change wasn’t doing enough to help them. Some of them needed a role model, someone to look up to, in a way they didn’t seem to get in the public school system. It’s like… we’re in Oakland, right? Superheroes aren’t based here. They ignore these kinds of problems for our youth. And it just seemed like if I could help fix some of these issues with kids, they could grow up and help society at large benefit from their experience.”
“So there wasn’t ever like a kid you knew who ended up in prison?”
There’s a long pause. With her head on Moon’s chest, Chariya can feel his heart start to beat a little faster.
“It’s a little more complicated than that. There had been this one kid that… I guess you could say I’d been mentoring, in a way. No familial relation. But one day he doesn’t show up, and I learned shortly afterwards that he’d been shot at a sideshow. He was rushed to hospital, but didn’t make it.” Chariya feels Moon’s chest rise as he swallows and takes a deep breath. “I’d discovered I’d had this ability to warp by then, but I hadn’t really had any reason to use it. Learning of his death is one of the things that made me feel like there was more that I should’ve done. Could’ve done. To prevent something like that from happening.”
Chariya slides her body from resting atop Moon so that she now lays next to his left side, but continues to rest her head against his chest, and lets her left arm wrap around his stomach. “Do you go to sideshows to break things up like that then?”
“Sometimes, yeah. If I hear about them early enough, I can get there faster than the cops do.”
“But shouldn’t you let the police arrest some of those people?”
“Ah, now that’s a question,” Moon says, lightly rubbing Chariya’s back with his left hand. “This would be one of the things the cops hate me for. My goal is to keep these kids out of prison and working toward a future that will do just that. Getting arrested doesn’t teach them the lesson the government thinks it’s supposed to. It doesn’t give them a new lease on life, realize the error of their ways, and put them on the straight and narrow. Far too often it keeps them in a never ending cycle of crime and punishment, because having an arrest record can make it harder for them to get decent employment once they’re out. There are better ways, but our society isn’t set up well enough to follow them right now. So… that’s where I step in to try and help when I can.”
Chariya scrunches up her face in confusion. “How are you able to do that just by breaking up a sideshow?”
Moon shakes his head. “That’s not all I do. Having the ability to warp like I do means I can confiscate and hide their weapons. Sometimes, if they keep losing them, they give up the path because they can’t afford to keep replacing them. But what I also try to do is find the kids I can mentor to a different path, either by myself, or finding someone else who’ll believe in them.”
“I guess I never really thought about these issues from this angle before. It’s nice you show them this kind of compassion. They probably don’t get much of that in their lives.”
“That’s why I do what I do. What I can, with what I have. I wish it was something I could impact the country over, but… Oakland is where I am, and I’m just one person. I can’t save everyone, but every kid I save makes what I do worthwhile.”
Chariya feels a smile forming on her face. “Thank you for sharing this with me.”
Moon moves his right hand to give Chariya’s arm, currently still wrapped around his stomach, a squeeze. “It’s nice to be asked.”
“I feel like I’m connecting dots in my mind as to why we’ve crossed paths the times we have now. It seems likely that some of the kids you help have problems for the same reason the women I help do. Toxic men in the house.”
Moon nods. “Yeah. Toxic men are unfortunately one of the biggest problems that cause so many of the issues we face today.”
Chariya turns her head so she can meet Moon’s gaze for the first time in this conversation. “It is really weird to hear those words come from a man’s lips.”
This causes Moon to bring them both up to a sitting position. He maintains her gaze. “Then you clearly need better men in your life.”
Chariya scrunches up her face. “That obvious?”
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone,” Moon says with a grin.
Chariya bites her lip briefly, then leans in to kiss Moon. It’s a slow, sensual kiss, rather than one with tongues exploring mouths.
When they part, Chariya says, “I like you, Moon. Thank you for being you.”