Chapter 1: The Do-Over

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I scrambled to the edge as I watched him fall into the pool of bubbling chemicals below us. The fumes from the toxic waste burned my face as I peered over, screaming as I watched my husband plummet to his death. His hand was outstretched towards me as he disappeared into the cream-colored boiling liquid. "No, no, no, no!" I kept repeating, my body becoming hysterical as grief wracked through me. I was trembling so hard it felt numbing and my sobs came out as screams that ripped through the sound of bubbling and fizzing. I stared at the tub of chemicals, praying that he would resurface but he never did...
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I woke to the black of night, sweat on my skin and my heart pounding. It was always the same dream tormenting me night after sleepless night. It had been five years since Jeremiah Valeska and Ecco's death, and I was still dealing with the repercussions of loss and murder. While I determined that I did not regret slaying my husband's killer, I found that I couldn't touch a gun after the event. To my luck, I was accepted back into Saint Ignatius under my alias "Harleen Quinzel". Ivy knew a lot about changing identities, and she helped me find someone who would hack the school and put my existing credits under my new name so that I wouldn't have to retake freshman through junior year. I figured that perhaps she had to change her identity in her life, and it left me curious on who she had been before. I suppose it didn't matter, as I just wanted to move forward in my life rather than look back and I figured she would want the same. In an odd way I felt closer to my late husband, as I finally knew what it must have been like for him to change his entire identity to protect himself. The thought brought a smile to my face as the image of the goofy red head who gave me a pencil on my first day of college resurfaced. I finished the courses that I had left incomplete when Jeremiah turned into the crime king of Gotham City and I completed my senior year of college. I then entered Saint Ignatius's excelled medical program to become a doctor of psychiatric medicine for the following three years. My graduation would be that night and the event weighed on my heart. I always pictured this moment to be a happy one, a milestone that I would get to celebrate with my husband. But I was walking in this life alone now, and I would have to make do with what I had left. Over the course of my studies, I had made some disturbing discoveries. I had developed Stockholm Syndrome in my relationship with Jeremiah following his transformation. He had isolated me from my friends, he had even turned some against me. It was all in an effort to make it so that I had to rely solely on him, which in turn made the idea of complying with his new lifestyle more appealing. I understood now that it was unhealthy, I knew now that he had manipulated me. But despite all that I had learned about myself and where my life had taken me thus far, I couldn't make myself hate Jeremiah. It wasn't his fault that Jerome had sprayed him with insanity gas... I loved him, I missed him. In the shadows of Gotham, sometimes I swear I could see him. I began practicing some of the tools that I had learned in Psychology class to remind myself that it was all my brain tricking me. Something deep within me had changed after loosing my husband... There was this darkness within me, this logic that made no sense that so often clouded my own. Sometimes I could swear that there was a voice in the back of my head, prompting me to fall deeper into this new realm of sanity but I refused to let myself listen. All I had to do was close my eyes, take a deep breath, and pinch myself. I would then say aloud "it's not real" to bring me back to reality. I didn't fall back asleep that night, I instead laid there staring at the ceiling until the sun came up. Once I heard the sound of clanking pots and dishes, I knew that Ivy was awake and making breakfast and therefore it was acceptable to get up. I emerged from my room and entered the kitchen. Our apartment was a humble establishment, most of the appliances were broken or badly fixed, and the floor creaked and the walls were peeling with paint. But this was home, it was my new beginning. "Good morning." Ivy greeted me as she placed a cup of coffee in front of me. I took it gratefully and took a sip, willing my sleepy mind to wake up. Selena then entered the room, stretching her limbs and yawning. "I don't know about you guys but I think I might actually strangle our neighbors... They snore too loud!" She complained and I chucked. "After I graduate and get a job, I'll buy us an apartment in the center of Gotham. It will have sound proof walls if you want Selena." I said hopefully. Ivy and Selena did not have traditional jobs, so I knew that it would be up to me to help get us out of the ghetto of Gotham. Selena did hair and pick pocketed, while Ivy worked in a lab we built in the guest room to take out certain toxins and gases from the plants she grew to sell them on the black market. I didn't mind that my roommates were not perfect, as I was very flawed myself. They both knew of everything that I had done, and who I had been before. Yet they treated me the same as anyone else, and I was thankful for that. "Are you excited for tonight Harls?" Ivy asked, wiggling her eyebrows. I wanted to say no, to tell them that I was dreading walking across the auditorium stage in my cap and gown. Instead I just gave them a smile and nodded. I would rather they didn't worry about me, I already felt like a burden. "Yeah, I am." I replied, painting on a smile. They had done so much to help me recover from my grief when they hardly knew me, and I was determined to repay them for their kindness. I would be okay tonight. I would be fine.

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