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 Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)

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Joshua Murray
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PostSubject: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:20 pm

July 2023


The Murray Manor had come to be something of a home in the last six years. A small, but only very minute, sense of homliness had begun to creep through the terribly cold corridors of the vast estate of the Murrays. Not that it was cold in the sense it would leave one shivering, but for the first twenty one years living there, Joshua Murray had never thought of the Manor as home.

Only with the addition of his most precious flower had the halls started to feel like they did now.

And it was slow progress.

After all of the operations, all of the therapy, all of the sleepless nights waiting for his Azalea to return to the world, they were starting to make progress. His Azalea now moved like she once had, spoke in her voice like she once had, and listened to Josh in the manner she always had. However, his Azalea was not quite the same as what she had once been.

To many an outsider, and many of the Healers who worked on the case, it was noted that Azalea Harrington did not function as a normal human would. She would not do anything herself, resembling the idea that her decision making had been lost. She would comply with the simplest of commands without question. His Azalea would not argue with anything he said, and lived almost flawlessly with the aim of fulfilling each of Josh's requests.

The world at large could see what Joshua Murray could not, though.

For six whole years, Joshua Murray had been working tirelessly to bring his Azalea back. From building the witch a greenhouse in the grounds of the estate, in an exact replica of the Hogwarts greenhouses she had loved so much all those years ago. Though, Josh had found that after numerous outings together to the greenhouse, it had not brought his Azalea back to him.

He was not deterred, though.

Josh had set up a routine daily, where the two of them would break their fast together, Josh sitting with the morning paper and picking up topics which they could discuss together. It would end up with his Azalea simply agreeing to each statement he made with little and less output to the contrary, but Joshua Murray was persistent, and did not give in.

From there, his Azalea was given time to do whatever she wanted under the supervision of the staff. The Healers had still said she was not well enough to be left alone, but each time Josh arrived back from the solar, the reports offered little and less insight in to what his Azalea wished to do. A long list of activities had been tried, but the witch neither looked interested, or amused by anything they offered her.

After that, Joshua spent the afternoon with his most precious flower. Walking the grounds, visiting a number of the Murray's second, third and fourth homes, spending time in the library trying to find something his Azalea would take to. The list of things that they had left to try was growing smaller each week -- after all, you couldn't dismiss something just because the witch had not been interested the first time, you had to keep trying to see if it would take.

It had been shortly in to 2021 when the Healers had brought the next suggestion to Joshua. His Azalea's health was stable now, months of results, tests, and copious amounts of medical examinations had denoted that the witch's body was capable of bearing children. A child, the Healers had said, could possibly bring the witch out of her shell.

The head of the Murray family had not needed to be told twice. The potion with which Azalea had been being administered for the last three years to ensure she would not fall with child had been removed from her diet, her diet had been altered to include foods known for aiding in the likelihood of conceiving a child, and Josh had not been lax in his efforts to make this a possibility.

Each month came with the news that they were not successful, though, and with each month that passed without success, with each month that promised no change in his Azalea, Joshua Murray's mood turned fouler, his patience thinned, and new Healers were brought in.

***

The sun had risen early that day, illuminating the manor in more light than was necessary. Joshua had left the four poster bed where his Azalea still led, sleeping quite peacefully, in favour of collecting his robe and heading to shower. As he left the room, he sent the lady's maid to his Azalea, denoting how he would need the witch washed and dressed for breakfast by nine.

On cue, Joshua had arrived at breakfast at nine sharp, taking up his seat just before his Azalea had entered the room, dressed immaculately as usual.

"Good morning," Josh greeted with the smile that only his Azalea could bring forth to his lips. "How did you sleep?" The young man continued, reaching for his paper and reading the front page as he always did whilst he waited -- with baited breath -- for the witch to answer his question in a different manner to the reply he received each and every day.

Turning the page to the next headline, Josh glanced across the table to see Azalea's food being served. "The Ministry have still not disclosed to the media the happenings of the Cayman Islands, A-Azalea." He prompted, waiting to see if she would offer her own thoughts on the subject today.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Thu Jan 18, 2018 7:13 pm

It was a new day.

Azalea Murray knew this not because of the sun shining outside the bedroom window, nor did she know this by looking to the calendar that rested on her beside table. No, she knew this only because she was awake. It was always a new day when she rose from sleep, that was what she had been taught. As the servant quietly roused her from a dreamless sleep and lead her to be washed and dressed, the lifeless doll followed. Washing and dressing always came after the new day.

Her existence was written in sequences. Getting dressed was a series of orders by the Lady's Maid, being led to breakfast by the Butler's. And then it was Master Murray's turn. As the doll took her place at the breakfast table, dressed in a sleek cut, ankle length lavender dress of her master's choosing that would be more suited to a formal gathering than at breakfast, she knew the drill. Breakfast meant gathering the cutlery in front of her and using it on whatever food was presented.

"Good morning, how did you sleep?"

Conversation, another routine sequence she had been taught over and over. Raising her perfectly sculpted and made up face to her master's, the doll gave him a smile. "Good morning, I slept very well thank you, what about you?" This was what was said whenever someone uttered a good morning, this was the only response she had been taught.

The doll picked up her fork, following the sequence of eating, regardless of the answer. She had performed the action she was required to, its result was not relevant to her in the least. She would perform it a thousand times if someone said "god morning" a thousand times.

"The Ministry have still not disclosed to the media the happenings of the Cayman Islands, A-Azalea."

Chewing the edges of her pancake daintily, the doll waited for her food to go down. She had been taught to do that after an incident where she hadn't been able to prioritize swallowing and answering a question and had attempted to do both at the same time, making the healers realize how dire her condition was.

This time, the trail of conversation was unrehearsed, differed from the pattern she knew, in which case there was only one response. Brown eyes staring blankly at the master, Azalea Murray gave the reply she'd been told to give when she was confronted with anything previously untaught.

"That sounds very interesting," she spoke mechanically, returning to her breakfast.
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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:04 pm

Joshua Murray's eyes always fell upon his fiance when she came in to the room each morning, taking in the arrangement of either lavender or the soft oranges that were picked out each day for his Azalea to wear. Joshua preferred the lavenders on his Azalea, in truth, they looked much prettier against the almond skin beneath. Each day, Joshua would see the stylists later in the morning, waiting with baited breath for Joshua's silent approval of their work, before relaxing. Only for the charade to begin once more the next morning.

The morning's choice of attire was one Joshua approved of, his eyes getting what could be considered to be a happy shine to them as he took in the Lady Murray as she entered for breakfast that morning.

As the usual topic of conversation was introduced, and the same answer came forth, Joshua's jawline moved only in the slightest to show his distaste for the same sentence being repeated once again. Another day for the records in which it would take for his Azalea to become better. "I slept okay." Joshua replied, though the words were barely uttered for her response had foretold the fact this conversation would not change from the conversation that they had had the day before.

Instead, Joshua glared at the front page of his newspaper instead, almost as if wishing to bore a hole through it. The gentle clinking of the cutlery denoted his Azalea had started the routine of eating that morning, and Joshua joined her only a moment later, eating the food without particularly tasting it.

It had been a hopeful stab in the dark, truthfully, throwing the topic of the Summit at his Azalea in that moment, hoping to jolt something, even in the head of the Murray family knew that he would get only four words from her.

And, right on cue, Azalea replied with the words she'd been taught again and again when she did not know the sequence in which she had to reply. Josh placed his knife and fork down on his plate after a moment, his appetite not bothering with another mouthful in that moment. Where this would have usually signalled the table to be cleared, Joshua Murray had retaught his staff that the breakfast, luncheon and dinner were not to be removed from the table until his Azalea had finished.

No, instead, Joshua's blue eyes remained on the young woman before him, watching her eat the pancakes she had been made with careful movements, movements that had been drilled in to her over and over again until they'd stuck.

Leaving the subject of the Cayman Islands, Joshua tried again with the witch. "What would you like to do today, A-Azalea?" He asked just as patiently as he always did. The answer, he already knew, but, unless he kept trying, there was no way in the world that his Azalea was going to get better.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:51 am

Breakfast continued like it always did, fork, knife, cut, pick, insert, chew, swallow. Repeat. Slowly, the single pancake on her plate disappeared in bite sized pieces before the human doll was engaged once more.

"What would you like to do today, A-Azalea?"

Putting the cutlery carefully down, Azalea Murray reached for her napkin as she'd been instructed after meals. Brushing the soft material to her lips to gather nonexistent crumbs, she replaced the napkin softly before looking at Master Murray. This was a dual protocol interaction. She had been taught a standard answer but had also been instructed to answer differently if she wished.

The doll did not understand what "wished" meant.

Biasing her chocolate brown gaze to Master Murray once more, the doll smiled her empty, blank smile before her beautifully made up lips parted to utter the answer that hadn't changed since he'd first begund asking it.

"Whatever you'd like to do, darling."

She had been instructed to inject happiness into this answer, but the doll failed every time.

The doll did not understand what "happiness" meant.  
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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Sun Jan 21, 2018 3:13 pm

The response from Azalea was the same as it was every day, her eyes meeting his in that moment as she delivered the words she'd been taught to repeat in the face of the question he'd posed. That did not stop the frustration inside Joshua from growing once more at the repetition of the words she'd been taught, of course, it simply made him write off another day as not having any progress.

"I thought we might go to the greenhouse. To see how your plants are getting on." Josh supplied in response to what they would do that day. "I believe some of the flowers are coming in to bloom, and... they need your expertise."

Again, Josh did not expect the world to suddenly change in this moment. But, his Azalea loved her plants, she'd always loved her plants, and it was through the plants that Joshua was going to bring his most precious flower back to this world. Back to herself. Back to him.

"I was hoping you would show me how to correctly prune and sort through the dead heads of the bulbs." Josh added, trying to prompt the conversation on the topic she loved so much. There weren't any dangerous magical plants in the greenhouse, all of them were picked especially to ensure that Azalea couldn't be harmed by the plants in the slightest. And, of course, Josh did not need teaching in this area, he'd watched his Azalea for years before she'd become unwell, tending to her plants with the utmost care, with the softest of touch. He knew exactly how to do it, but he wanted her to remember how that felt.

But, if today would be any different to the other times in which Josh had tried, he could not be sure.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:57 pm

Master's words came out in a torrent the doll did not understand nor tried to. There were certain key words she knew the reactions too such as "greenhouse" and "flowers", things she was supposed to show interest in if the human doll could express an interest in something in the first place. As it was, Azalea Murray simply listened attentively, as she'd been taught to.

"That sounds wonderful," came her automated, mechanical reply as she rose from her seat to find the shortest, most unobtrusive route to Master's right side, waiting for him to stand before slipping her small arm obediently through his. The walking sequences commenced shortly as Master Murray led them away, his most valuable collectible walking quietly, stoically by his side with a perfunctory smile on her otherwise bank face.

The only expression of change to touch the doll's pale, refined features were a slight dapple of the sun in her chocolate brown eyes, making the empty orbs look lifelike for but a moment before the light showed an empty and hollow shell beneath. As they stepped out into the grounds, Jodh and Azalea looked like the most normal of pairs from afar. A handsome gentleman and a beautiful lady out for a stroll. but a closer examination would reveal that the doll took steps as he did, expressed herself in empty, mechanical gestures and if not ordered to move and walk and live, would prompt stop doing all of it.

And never be aware of the change.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:15 am

Joshua's lips twitched upwards in to the smallest hint of a smile with his Azalea's acceptance of going to the greenhouse. If, of course, it could be said she was accepting and not, instead, agreeing with his every suggestion as she had been trained to do. The plates were collected as the two of them stood from breakfast that morning, his Azalea moving to his side, taking his arm, and following him out in to the grounds of Murray Manor.

Their conversation was idle at best, Joshua pointing out the flowers she'd once loved so very, very much. The usual response, the learned response ensued, but he was not deterred.

The greenhouses were slowly aging. The nine years in which he'd had his most precious flower was showing in the weathered stone work now, but Joshua knew that this would be the one place he would get his Azalea back. Today... was different, though. Slightly, not overwhelmingly, but different no less.

"We have a surprise today," Joshua confided softly in the Lady Murray as he reached out to open the door of the greenhouse for her. "You will like it, A-Azalea." He said, more of a reassurance for himself than for Azalea. Inside the greenhouse it was warm, so very, very warm, as it would be in the height of summer. The rows of flowers in varying shades stretched out before them, but they were not the part Josh was bringing the older witch to see.

"This way," he prompted, his hand not leaving his Azalea's as he moved towards the back of the greenhouses, to the extension not visible to the outside. It had been shut off, and the glass was covered with black to make it darker than the main house. Opening the second door, Josh let them both in. The faint sound of movement ensued within, but Josh's eyes had turned to his Azalea in that moment. "I... found you vines, A-Azalea." His voice was soft, hopeful, waiting as his eyes remained on hers.

A spark. That's all he wanted. The faintest trace of life in the eyes of the woman he loved.

Just one.

That would be all he needed.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:20 am

As they walked, the sun warm on the doll's skin but not for long, or perhaps it lasted forever. There was no way for Azalea Murray to tell the difference. The doll would, as she did every day, defer to ehr master's opinion on how she felt about everything she was instructed to perform.

The change in temperature as they entered the greenhouse was noted on her almond skin but not on her features, her brown eyes remained blank, her lips curved in a natural smile and her forehead smoooth, devoid of worry lines because there wasn't enough awareness in her to warrant a concern over anything.

When Master Murray opened a room lading into darkness, saying something the doll could not understand, she merely waited. Waited for a cue, waited for another instruction, waited for something. aited an eternity.

in times gone by, the dark rustling wines would have been overjoyed to sense her, leaping up like thin, dark snakes to wrap themselves around the doll and drag her to their midst where he would happily stay, buried in dirt and wines, for hours, comforting the tendrils like they were her own children.

Today, there was only a curious rustle, an irritated one as the door opened to their dark nest, before the vines lay quiet once more. they would not recognize the doll any more than she recognized herself these days. The magic in her that drew them all but diminished.

"That sounds very interesting." the words echoed around the dark room, as empty as the one from whom they came.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:52 pm

The hope in Joshua's mind wavered for a moment when his Azalea responded with nothing more than the words she'd been taught to reply when she hadn't been given the right cues. But, Joshua Murray was nothing short of persistent, and if he had to spend hours in the greenhouse to get what he wanted, day after day, he would.

"A-Azalea," Josh prompted the witch softly, motioning to the vines. "Don't you remember what these are?"

Please remember.

"You don't have to reply with 'that sounds very interesting', my most precious flower." The blonde continued, aiding her in to a kneeling position beside the plants before letting her go. "Don't you remember, A-Azalea? These are your favourite plants." Josh explained as patiently as he always tried to explain the world to the woman before him.

Just something, I just need you to remember something, Josh thought, determined to bring the woman he loved back from before Harold Swanson had tried to ruin her for him. But, Joshua Murray had ended Harold Swanson, and he would end this nonsense that the Healers kept talking of when they spoke of his Azalea's condition.

She was the Lady Murray, now, and Joshua would stop at nothing to get her back to the world of the living.

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PostSubject: Re: Tu Hai Meri Azalea (Azalea)   Sun Feb 11, 2018 6:17 pm

Had the mindless, mechanical being any idea of acceptability, she would have known her answer had not been acceptable. Different instructions were issued to illicit a different response. But she didn't have a different response. Instructed not to reply in her usual manner, the doll felt silent, unable to produce an answer period.

Her eyes remained blank as her position was altered from standing to kneeling, the thin wines pressed into her hands hung like limp rope, no recolonization from either side. Whatever the master was trying to do, it wasn't helpful. No further instructions came from him leaving his doll in a suspended state of mind.

Time passed, it always did. Not until A New Day but it passed regardless with the doll and its owner knelt on the greenhouse floor, trying in vain to awaken magic in the plants or the being lifelessly holding on to them. Plants needed life to grow, and there was no real life inside the creature kneeling amidst the vines.

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