Sorcha has been packing boxes too, packing them up to put into storage, taking the things she'll need for work in her flimsy maroon fabric suitcases, the ones still monogrammed with her birth-name. She says she'll be back after Marx has left, but Azure doesn't think she actually will, not when she's already proved to herself that she can pack herself and her son into her friend Clover's tiny house with room to spare. The West bedroom is already gutted. The bed is missing, and the boxes that have been hiding under the bed are stacked tidily. Marx's computer desk is almost untouched, so at least that looks normal. Azure knows that he'll be packing that last. Already the interesting spices have disappeared from the kitchen.
It wouldn't have been so bad if this had been less sudden. Azure had been prepared for the turmoil of moving coming up in April, when Sorcha, her son, and her fiancé Marx were all going to be moving out-of-state with Clover and her family. It was the natural order of things, somehow: her roommate of four years gets engaged, and moves off to start a new life by building a cabin in the wilderness with husband and son. Azure has had almost six months to become accustomed to the idea, and she was treasuring these last few months, because she knows she'll probably never see her roommates -- the woman who's become a sister to her, the boy who's the closest thing she may ever have to a son of her own, the man she's been putting up with for her sister's sake and even getting to like on his own terms -- again. Azure has grudgingly accepted that whether she agreed with his parenting decisions or not, Marx was going to be her little nephew's father, and has stepped back from helping raise the boy and even started biting her tongue when Marx inevitably flew off the handle and acted like the control-freak father he was desperately trying not to emulate. Now, Sorcha has decided that it's all over, and is stepping in and trying to make up for god knew how many months of not asserting her needs and requirements by trying to assert them retroactively, all at once, forcing Azure to step right up and call her on the carpet and make her at least pretend to act sane. Azure hates being forced into that position, especially given that she was seething and wishing that Sorcha would assert herself for the past god knew how many months. Over a year of collectively substandard housework has taken its toll on Sorcha's nerves, Azure's sanity, and the general state of the apartment, and moving is only exacerbating this.
The living room is the worst. Sorcha's computer desk, the major piece of furniture in the room, has been hauled out and packed away. Marx's boxes are everywhere, with a scattering of the eight-year-old boy's toys to make things even worse to walk around on. Azure knows she should move the router to her room, but is it even going to be worth it when they're all going to be gone so soon? She has a few more days to decide whether she's going to move this month, or keep on living in this corpse of the apartment she's been in for the past four years until the date she'd originally decided on moving out. It would be easy to stay. She doesn't have anything of her own packed yet. Her cat will be going to join Clover's household as soon as Shammash settles in and he and Thomas, Clover's husband's striped ginger tom, have it out for good and for all and decide who rules the household. Meanwhile, Eris Raven misses Shammash dreadfully, but at least she's not trying to pack herself in any of the boxes like Shammash was when Sorcha was packing her suitcase. Azure can't decide which her cat is going to hate more -- being without Shammash, or having to get used to Clover's house, Thomas, the new people, and the dogs. Azure can't decide if she is going to like or hate living on her own. Right now, she's trying to be optimistic. She thinks she's failing.
If not for the long conversations Azure's been having with her best friend Darkside, she'd be curled up in a corner of her messy room, hiding in the closet with a sewing needle pricking illusory feeling back into her numb fingers. As it is, she has decided not to answer the phone any more, and that the vacuuming she usually puts off until the situation is dire can be put off even longer. It's not like any of the colorless carpet is un-cluttered enough to vacuum; it's got boxes all over it, and Azure doesn't know which ones can be moved safely or which ones can't.
It will be better once Marx and all his things are safely out of the apartment, moved in temporarily with his brother or his mother until he can get a real job and save up enough money to start his own life, somewhere far -- or near -- Azure doesn't really care. All she cares is that soon, he won't be rubbing glass-edged up against her shields, and she won't be called on to summon inner strength out of nowhere at the bad hours of the night when he starts crying again. In theory, also, once Marx is gone, her sister will come back and they'll pretend that they're just their carefree original household again, just the three of them, for these last few months. But Sorcha thinks that as long as she and her son can slip into Clover's household so seamlessly this soon, it doesn't make sense to keep both of them paying rent on this huge place, and Azure can move out sooner. Azure wishes, just a little, that she could pack up herself and everything and everyone she holds dear and go with them to freeze in the woods and build a new life there, but even though she'd be welcome, she can't leave the city. It's gotten into her somehow, and she breathes in harmony with it now, not to the same beat as Sorcha. Something inside her needs the constant noise of other people about their daily business, oblivious to her, the knowledge that on the other side of those flimsy apartment walls that might as well be three feet of stone for all she looks beyond them, that there's other life out there and not just the crushing cold and wilderness.
For now, it's enough to hide and pretend everything will be made right again once the hail of boxes has been shoveled away. She can smile and cling to the medallion her best friend Darkside gave her years ago, before she and Sorcha had even moved into this apartment together, and pretend that if she just acts like she's the strong one and everything's under control, then everything will somehow magically come together. She's held it together before for everyone, by faking it like this, and this shouldn't be any different. It's hard to explain to Darkside how this is different, and scarier, than any of the other times the world has come crashing down square upon Sorcha's shoulders, and Azure's had to grab ahold of her and hold both of them up. Azure has survived all of the other crises without her pretty little grey cat, and she'll survive this one without her too. But before, there was always someone else there that she could be strong for, and Azure has always known that she's never been able to be strong for herself. It's time she learned.