This is the last reminder that we're shifting over to Wordpress (though our address, www.merryfates.com
, will stay the same.)
My story, which involves wedding rings, is up here
Don't forget to add the rss feed to your friend's page. <lj user="merryfates_rss">
My story for September is up at our new site! It's about faith and witnessing and death and... HATS.
"Death's Red Bowler" click here to read
And don't forget to add the rss feed to your friend's page, because after September there won't be more reminders! merryfates_rss
Today's post is available over at our new site, merryfates.com
! For the 5th week of August, we're looking back at the FIRST STORIES we ever published here, and discussing what we've learned and how we've stayed the same!
Come join us, and regularly scheduled fiction will be coming in September.CLICKY, CLICKY
Here's what I need to save a life: coffee.
Regular, hot coffee works fine, but I like mine to be full of syrup and whipped cream and to smell like candy. Edgar would say (under his breath) that it's because I'm a pain in the ass. But what's easier to get noticed--someone with an ordinary coffee stain, or someone smelling like peppermint and stained with an impossible to remove blob that only sugary syrup, whipped cream, and coffee can bring?
Besides, my job is hard enough that I figure if I can make someone else's easier, maybe then one day the universe will pay me back somehow. Maybe it will give Gloria the ability to walk again, or maybe it will make Edgar stop being an ass.
Maybe one day I'll be able to do things normal people can. Like have dreams that are just that, dreams. Or go outside just because I want to. That would be nice.
I can't be thinking about any of this now because now I hold my Peppermint Surprise! latte--the name would make me smile, if I smiled when I was at work--and make my way through Union Station.
It's thirty-seven steps to the door David Lewis will come through, the one by the gate his train from Maryland uses--he takes the MARC line to and from Germantown. His security team is lax because he's not just loud, but abrasive, and he won't live in the city, which means all four of his bodyguards have to commute in and out with him, plus live in Germantown too, and if you've ever been to Germantown--well, let's put it this way. It makes DC look positively glittery.
And DC is not even remotely glittery. It has power, and lots of it, but it is not a shiny city. Most of it--past the gloss of the Mall area and Georgetown--isn't even pretty.( Read more...Collapse )
When the car stopped, Memphis held out his hand to help me out.
The thing is, we’ve never been that sort of friends. Ellie, my best friend, she’s a touching friend. She punches my shoulder and hugs my head. She jostles Dylan when they ride the bus together and holds hands with her sister when they shop. When she first met my mother, they hugged.
But Memphis and I are not that sort of friends. In fact, I’m not sure we are friends at all.
When he held his hand out to me, it took me a long moment to take it. It happened three times, is why it took so long. Once in my head, me reaching out out to grip his palm. Twice in my head, me shaking my chin and getting my own self out of the car. Third time, in reality.
I took his hand. He was wearing his brown t-shirt that shows off his shoulders and the knotted bracelets that show off his arms, and when he took my hand, the bracelets slid down and touched my thumb.
I’ve been the violinist for Spot the Travesty! for three years. That makes them my whole world. What that makes me to Memphis, I’m not sure. What that makes me to the rest of the world is the travesty, easily spotted — a senior high girl in a band made up of twenty-somethings.
When Memphis took my hand, he gripped it like I was drowning, then pulled me out of the car so fast that our bodies were propelled together. It had just begun to rain and so his shirt was speckled darkly. It was light enough that it looked like an intentional pattern on his brown shirt, marbled and flecked like a wild bird’s egg. Behind me, the other car door’s slammed as the rest of the band climbed out.( More after the cut!Collapse )
There he stands three steps higher than I, dark eyes locked onto my face and the scythe-like curve of his smile the way it has always been. I bow my head and step nearer, my slippers thin enough I feel the smoothness of the stone under the balls of my feet. I go deliberately, softly, hoping to pass him by.
He catches my right hand. I lean against the curving tower wall as he puts his face to my sleeve. I am nearly undone by the feel of his hot breath in the crook of my elbow, and then he pushes back my sleeves and touches his lips to my wrist.
His words slither up my skin, “I will kill you, if I must.
It is a sharp thrust of steel straightening my back. Gripping my knife – only a small lady’s knife, for cutting her dinner, for showing off her father’s favor – I twist and stab it at his face.
My hope is surprise will win me the day, but I might’ve known better. He grabs my left hand, crushing my fingers under his and against the hilt of my knife. Slamming me back, he laughs.
I am pressed between the hard stone wall and his body. The metal of his armor coif shimmers dully in the daylight melting through one thin window over my head. It is like dragon scales, growing out of his forehead and spilling all down his body, changing him. With my hand still trapped in his, he puts the tip of my knife to his cheek and together we cut. I shove all my weight into him, into my arm, but he is too strong, and only a trickle of blood leaks from his skin.
He smiles at me again, and my knees are week. I will not bend, I tell myself. I will not bend
. But through his smile he suddenly cries out, as if in fear and pain! “Aoife! No!” And before I can react, swings me down the stairs.
When he lets me fall, all the world falls with me.( .... read more!Collapse )
First, there are the little things—the all-in-your-head things. You think they matter, but they don’t. If you obsess about them too long, they can make you feel guilty or like a bad person, but they’re just distractions, so let’s get them out of the way.
Don’t think about how hurt he’s going to be, or if your mother will say, “Honey, maybe you could be a little less callous?” or, “Honestly, Georgia! What was wrong with this one?”
Don’t think about it.
You’re thinking about it.
Maybe we should start over.
Once, I was standing in the cafeteria with Elizabeth Knox and she was in a real state, fuming about Skip Swanson because he was having a creamed-corn fight with his friends and almost knocked us down.
She said, “Chivalry is dead.”
She said it like she was announcing the death of Western Civilization, when she really just meant opening car doors or spreading your coat across a puddle. But the truth of it hit home, and I knew that she was right. That no one was going to slay dragons for us.
The first rule is that you have to be sure you’re leaving for the right reasons. You can’t call it quits because of failed chivalry. No one is going to come riding up to your tower and climbing up your hair, and really, who wants that?
The fact that once, when Skip yelled at me in PE to get off my ass and stop acting like a helpless female, Jason Curtz did not sweep in and carry me away on a white horse is not a reason. The fact that once, at a party, Jason called me his little sugar-bunny in front of his friends? I gave him back his letter jacket the next day.( . . .Collapse )
Thank you so much! We had some great entries!!!!
The randomly selected winner of the three prizes is.....
Caroline Sibley! Her story "Feel" is here at her tumbler
Congrats, Caroline! Email me at email@example.com with your mailing address, and the three of us will send out your prizes!
Thanks again to all of our Watchers. You guys are the best. Don't forget this week myself, Brenna, and Maggie will be posting OUR story responses to the same prompt from the contest. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! A 3-in-1 week!
Howdy, trusty readers!
Over the past month Maggie, Brenna, and I have been deep in talks about the future of The Merry Sisters of Fate. This was prompted by the recent LiveJournal outages over the last 6 months. Because we have a schedule, and you our readers deserve for us to stick to that schedule, we've decided that we're going to be moving our blog over to a brand new website. Truthfully, it's something we've been considering for months and months, this has just made the final decision easier.
As of September 1st, all new Merry Fates posts will be at the new site: http://merryfates.com
. Between now and then, we'll post there and mirror here.
If you'd like to add the new feed to your blogreader, the feed is: http://merryfates.com/feed/
If you want to add it to your LJ friend's page, you can add the new feed directly to your friends: merryfates_rss
In honor of our new blog home, and to make up for that Week of Silence thanks to the attacks on LiveJournal a couple of weeks ago, we're hosting a prompt contest!
All you have to do is write something original based on the prompt below, and post it to your blog or Facebook where other people can read it. It can be a story, a poem, flash fiction - anything you like! Link back here (or here
) in the comments, and you're entered!
We'll randomly select a winner for THESE AMAZING PRIZES:
- a signed advance reader's copy of THE SCORPIO RACES
by Maggie Stiefvater
- a signed advance reader's copy of THE SPACE BETWEEN
by Brenna Yovanoff
- a signed hardback of BLOOD MAGIC
by Tessa Gratton
The deadline is this Friday at midnight CST. We'll announce the winner on Saturday.... and then next week, Brenna, Maggie and I will each post a story that WE write, based on the same prompt. Brenna on Monday, me on Wednesday, and Maggie on Friday, the way we used to post back in 2008 when The Merry Sisters of Fate first began!
Here's your prompt, "The Turret Stairs" by Frederic Burton:
Have at it! :D
I am running through the trees. Even if the moon wasn’t so full, I’d know the way. I’ve done it countless times on Bessie, trotting noisily through the scrub. Never bare foot though, and never alone.
Never like this.
I’m glancing behind me every third step or so. Can’t help it. But he’s not following. Not yet. It’s fine.
These are the words I keep repeating to myself.
He’s so big and heavy, I’d hear him if he were here....if he were close. I know this. But I also know that the blow I gave him with the candlestick - hard as I could make it - won’t keep him down for long.
I’m glancing at the ground, jumping the fallen branches and rocky patches. Even so, corners of twigs dive into my heels and flint-rock scrapes the palms of my hands when I stumble. I shove a fist into my mouth, stop the screams. My skin tastes like blood and salt and desperation. But I must be quiet. He mustn’t know where I’ve gone; mustn’t even guess. I try to move like the kangaroos do, on velvet padded paws, jumping with the sway of the trees.
All the same, Bessie will know. Her hooves would pick out this path just as soon as he lets the reins drop.
But would he let the reins drop?
He’d pull a bit into her mouth and yank her head around and kick, hard. He won’t want to trust her.
I stop. Pick a thorn from my foot. As I do, I look around me. I need to be careful now. I’m at the very bottom of the gully, where Gilbert says the spirits live. It’s darker here, and the vegetation is thicker. I used to get lost here until Gilbert told me about the red banksia tree that marks the small pathway that leads directly up to the yard. When I jumped the summer-drained trickle of the creek, several feet back, I was crossing the line of where my father’s property ends. I’m in wild country now; the place nobody owns. If I were to turn right and keep walking, this land would stretch all the way into the mountains and to the desert-land beyond. It’s good that I’m here. My father might not expect it from me. Be careful of wild country,
he told me in the first weeks after we moved, don’t go there alone.( Read more...Collapse )
Nothing in Evan’s life moved, not even the rocks. He came from York, a seventeen hour drive if you drove the speed limit, which he did. York was a place of matching curved driveways leading to houses identical in shape if not in size, neighborhoods like hands where each finger lay perfectly against the last. It was a clean place, York, and productive. The early risers there built online industries and internet storefronts and digital marketplaces, all of them apocryphal until the power cord was plugged in.
Evan left York his first year of college. He didn’t tell anyone that he wouldn’t be back. It was either a Monday or a Wednesday or a Friday at nine a.m. when he stood up in class and abandoned his notes on his desk. He’d gotten in his car and kept driving until the road signs looked different. It took him fifteen hours, long after his home town radio station had turned to static. Then he got out by the side of the road and walked into the trees to pee, and he’d driven another two hours to Elevation. In those two hours after the road signs turned from green to blue he’d sped, then, for the first time in his life. We don’t really enforce the speed limit, but he didn’t know that.
He told me, later, it was the first time he’d felt his heart pound since he was nine.
Which was funny, because when I met him was the first time I felt mine stop.
# # #
Everything about Elevation surprised Evan. The roads surprised him because they jerked around hills and crawled through crevices and gasped up inclines. The old buildings perplexed him, some of them repurposed into shops or houses, some of them collapsed on themselves, lungs that wouldn’t breathe again. He was bewildered when our phone systems went down with no warning or explanation. He didn’t understand how his car was such a commodity or why we only had strawberries in the store when strawberries were in season.
But the thing that bemused him the most were the boulders. Back in York, he said, they didn’t move. ( More under the cut!Collapse )
Just before my Granny Ava died, she pulled me near to her face so all I could smell was antiseptic and her slight sour breath. “Peach,” she whispered, “your mother… isn’t… human.”
I jerked back so hard the metal bars on the side of the hospital bed we’d had rolled into her living room rattled. “Gran!”
She waved one boney hand. It flapped from her wrist like torn paper. “Listen.”
Holding my breath, lips pinched tight, I leaned back in so she could continue. “Your mother never dips her fingers into the well of holy water at Mass.” Granny Ava touched her hand to her forehead. “She saves the host on her tongue.” Ava touched her heart. “I’ve seen her tuck it into her pocket just as she kneels to pray.” As she touched her left shoulder, her eyes floated shut. “And that rosary she uses – plastic!” Finishing the Sign of the Cross, Granny Ava grasped my wrist. “You must beware, and remember. I can’t die without someone else knowing.”
My throat was dry. I wondered what death knell in her brain was making Granny say these things.
“Peach!” she hissed. “Promise you won’t forget.”
As though from some great distance, I looked at the thin white hair curling away from her forehead, at the red flush surrounding her eyes, at her lips, which I used to kiss in exchange for a song or a hard green peppermint. “I promise,” I whispered, thinking, my rosary is plastic, too.
And then my granny died.
Mom came in from the kitchen, one hand on her cheek and the other gripping my dad’s. The glass sliding door let in perfect white light from the backyard to shine over our tableau, and sorrow felt like a water balloon sloshing in my stomach.
Dad moved around to put an arm on my shoulder. “Hey, kiddo, you ok?” I nodded, my eyes on Mom as she took my place perching on the bedside stool. Tears tightened her eyelashes and she touched Granny’s forehead reverently. Dad said, “I’m going to call the hospice nurse.”
I stayed back, and saw as Mom picked Granny Ava’s rosary off the baby blue quilt. The blood red beads had come from the Vatican, blessed by the Pope himself
, Ava always said with pride. It was only because I was staring that I noticed Mom tug her sleeve up high enough to lift the rosary without it touching her skin.
***( Naveen Rao opened the heavy wooden door of St. Sebastian’s just enough for me to slip in.Collapse )photo by Mason Long, via flickr CC.
Hi, all! Just a quick announcement:
Tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, at 9pm EST, all three of us will be chatting online with WriteOnCon!
For all the information you need, Follow this link
Come party with us! Hee hee.
I. The Waiting Room
They come to the forgetting place when they are too shaken and too damaged to remember. They come when they can’t accept or move on, when they can’t let go.
The living aren’t the only ones who cling to tragedy, grieving for things they can’t change. The dead can be just as mired in the past.II. Max
He is standing against the wall. At least, he thinks he is standing—the sheer uncertainty of being dead makes it hard to know for sure, and sometimes he suspects that he is only acting out the illusion of a body, not wearing the actual thing.
He’s watching four grizzled men play poker with the stone-faced seriousness of bankers. They don’t speak as the deal passes from one to the next, and it seems to him that they have never not
been sitting exactly like this, one on each side of the card table.
The game is silent and grim. It leaves no room for anyone else. Not that he has any inclination to join in.
His name was Max, and he still goes by it. At least, he is Max to anyone who cares to call him anything. Most of them are politely indifferent to him, sunk deep in their own misery.
Like the four men at the card table, they are all living out their own tragedies again and again, wandering the forgetting place until it coaxes them into remembering and they can finally move on.III. Emily
She is pale and beautiful, almost unbearably so. Her beauty is fierce, an integral part of her, while her paleness may only be an interesting side effect of being dead.
She is the weeping ghost, and he loves her in the thin, desperate way that only shades can love—transparent and uncomplicated. Pure as glass.
He doesn’t remember meeting her, only that it was after he came here. He thinks that she has always been beside him, tears streaming down her cheeks. She has never once looked at anyone else.
The way he feels about her is the only thing about the place that doesn’t make him feel trapped. His love is, against all reason, growing stronger. This, this steady deepening is the only indication that time is actually passing.
When she turns her eyes up to meet his, he feels as though his heart, which does not exists, may start to beat again. Her gaze is steady, excruciating, and he thinks that if he keeps looking, he will get lost there. His love for her is enormous and acute, and sometimes, it seems to have the power to transform him.
Everything else just stays the same.IV. How He Died
With a flash of light and a burst of noise. With a bullet in his brain and his eyes turned blankly toward the ceiling. He died with a gun to his head, but it might as well have been a knife in his back. ( . . .Collapse )
The letter is hidden between a box of straight pins with colored heads and a cut glass candy dish. Its contents disintegrated from individual peppermints into one big lump long ago. I take the yellowed envelope down and slip it into my jacket pocket without looking at the seal. I know it isn’t broken.
My very first crime was stealing from that candy dish. My oldest cousin snuck up behind me with a fat green garden snake twisted in his hands and I dropped the lid, knocking off a sliver of glass.
My second crime was using the box of straight pins to pay him back when I was whipped with a leather belt, and he was not.
The linoleum floor has yellowed and pieces are missing. Part of me wants to find them and fit the chips in like a puzzle, but no one is here to care. The door to the kitchen is cracked half an inch, but the knob is gone. I slide the tip of my finger over the strike plate and wiggle it to fully release the latch.
Nicotine coats the stained kitchen cupboards. The cookie jar sits to the left of the stove, below the curio shelf holding tiny jars of dried herbs. The smell of neglect is two notes off from the vibrancy of life that used to hum in this room.
Witches used to be welcome here, before progress and electricity brought better ways, smarter ways, or so the Outsiders thought. Finding that things like love potions and tarot cards were a regular way of life on our side of the mountain was a shock to them. A shock and an abomination.
Why use a rod to know exactly when to plant a garden or the most fertile spot to do so, when the Farmer’s Almanac indicated the first, and a good compost pile provided the second? Who needs a healer to tend to the sick and dying, when modern medicine could offer a cure?
The setting sun shines through the bottles sitting on the windowsill above the sink. I stare at the stained glass shadows they make on the kitchen table. I wonder about the last time anyone sat there. They had to know what was coming. Were they afraid, or were they angry?
The first time the two men came to our house, Granny had not managed kindness, but she had been hospitable. After all, they’d passed through the haint blue door into the warmth of the elm log fire without incident. So many cautions taken for protection, yet they had no effect on the men from the city. If anything, they drew the wrong sort of attention, just like the empty black cauldron in the front yard.
The men hadn’t come to our house on a witch hunt. They’d been looking for me. The simple act of stealing Teaberry gum from the country store brought about the ruin of my family.
I chew a piece now. It was legally acquired – one of the first things I bought with the paltry sum the prison warden had given me when he set me free – purchased from the same store I robbed two years ago. On my eighteenth birthday. One day could make such a difference. Gone; sent to county prison because of a long juvenile record.
Not here to listen to the screaming when the men returned with reinforcements.
The same cousin who’d held up the fat snake so many years ago is the one who whispered the location of the letter, left by my mother as her last living act. I touched my hand to my jacket pocket now, and wondered yet again how he’d escaped the fate of the rest of the family. How he knew where the letter was, and when it had been written. I wanted to kill him where he sat on the day he came to tell me, but a guard and a thick sheet of greasy glass stood between us.
But I would find him.
I pull the envelope out, turning it over and over in my hands. Do I read it now, when my heart is calm, or after I view the cautionary tale the authorities had staged in the front yard, the one that no one dares to remove? I imagine curiosity seekers peering through the protection of the forest to see if the rumors are true, if the punishment is as horrible as everyone has been led to believe. When they find it to be fact, I suspect they run home to hide recipes and wands, charms and tea leaves. Maybe they find spots in their cellars, or bury them with their dead. No one wants to meet the same fate as the members of my family.
As much as I want to read the letter now, I don’t know if the fire of revenge will clear my vision or cloud my purpose.
I put it back into my pocket and follow the carpeted hallway. The bookshelf to my right is empty, a hundred years of knowledge, most likely destroyed. When I reach the front door, I hold onto the knob for a few seconds. Then I take a deep breath and step outside.
The blackened, charred remains of my family are heaped on a funeral pyre that hasn’t burned for two years. Nothing grows on the ground around it. I can smell the smoke; hear the screams.
My stomach turns, but I do not close my eyes.
I take the letter out of my pocket, sit down on the front porch, and rip open the envelope. I read the contents aloud in a strong, clear voice and look up.
In the center of the funeral pyre, something moves.
Myra's debut novel HOURGLASS
is available now! You can learn more on her website here
Image by Vilseskogen.
I have it.
I finally have it, after all this time, and its presence buoys me with a confidence like the one a man gets when he has a dollar bill in his pocket. There is no man in the world rich enough not to be lifted up by the feeling of paper bills folded over each other, stuffed into a wallet, so much more tangible than a credit card’s fickle plastic body.
And this is so much more than money.
So it is a skip in my step that propels me down the stairs to the street. The day is a lover with cold hands on my face. Every bird in the world calls my name and I pull my hat down, rakish, like I mean trouble.
I have not been trouble for a long time, but now, I think, I could work my way back to it. It is twelve blocks to my cousin’s, and that gives me plenty of time to imagine how I will break the news of my acquisition to him. My cousin Felix has always been the clever one, quick with words. He’s the man who steps forward with an arm outstretched and a greeting for a woman’s jewelry. I always stand behind him and wonder how it is that he sees their necklaces or their earrings. I see eyes and hair, nose and hands. Felix takes everything else, so this is all I can steal in a glance.
If he were in my place, walking the twelve blocks to me, knocking on my door, triumphant as an archangel, he would make the words bigger than the thing itself.
Maybe I will not have to say anything at all. Maybe he will see it on my face.
Nearby, a boat cries out, the mighty bellow of a broad-chested animal. The pier where the cargo ships come in is only blocks away. Some days it smells like Poseidon’s rotting corpse walks the streets, but not today. Today it is fair and cold and the wind blows me forward. Felix’s money comes in on those ships. His wife calls it filthy money, and she often leaves the room with her arms crossed over her breasts and a mutter behind her teeth, but I see her in the shops on Saturday and his living spends as fast as the clean bills.
She says that I am as dirty as Felix’s ships, and he tells her that he is trapped with both of us. Sometimes it feels my fate is tied in with the ships and their grim cargo, only one of us Felix is happy to see when it arrives.
Oh, but he has treated me well. I cannot speak ill of my cousin. It is his money that puts a roof over my head. I can’t ask for his charity and his respect both. Only now, my pocket, my left pocket, is weighted with this thing I have acquired.
I will have his respect now. He will either give it freely, or I will take it.
A man calls out to me on the street as I pass. He sits with his back against the gray grim stone this city is made out of, and when he shakes his cup at me, it clatters a filthy little tune. He has only one leg.
I do not have anything, and what I do have is Felix’s, but today, I reach into my pocket — not the left, because I do not want to touch it — but the right, and I drop some coins into his cup. “Happy day to you,” I tell the beggar.
“I’ll have what’s in your other pocket,” he says to me. His voice is pinched and high. It’s a boy’s voice, not a man’s, and it gives me an ugly turn. I think he has stolen that voice from someone, and somewhere, there’s a boy with a croak or a whisper in return.
“I beg your pardon?” I ask.
“With that in your pocket,” he shrills, “you don’t have to beg for it.”
My coat doesn’t hang to reveal an outline of the thing in my left pocket, and it’s a mysterious outline in any case, so I am disquieted. I kick the man’s cup over and tell him to close his mouth. He laughs, a woman’s laugh, and I nearly take what I have newly acquired out of my pocket to make him be quiet.
But no, I won’t. It’s meant for bigger things than stuffing a beggar’s voice back into his lungs.
The houses grow shutters and window boxes as I grow closer to my cousin’s. The ones I have left behind stand shoved against each other like passengers on the train. These well-dressed houses upwind from the pier stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, just far enough apart to be professional. Close by choice rather than necessity. Felix’s has a blue door to show his trade. His wife despises it, but she married it anyway. She thinks her children won’t grow up to be blue-door men as well, but she is full of the optimism that’s fathered by pride.
I used to want one of these fine houses that sat just above the scent of sluggish water, but surely now I could do better. Surely now I could have one of the houses on the hill, one with a rakish tilt to match my hat. Maybe I could leave this gritty city altogether. My roots are deep but I think I could live with shallow ones if I had better soil to put them in.
There are steps, here, in the walk, that separate the cargo district from Felix’s district. My thoughts have caught me and so I trip on the first step, unthinking. For a moment, as I hurtle toward the ground, all I can think of is the thing in my pocket and what would happen if it hit the ground, and how it could all be over before it began. It is so much more than I thought it would be, the shape and size of the responsibility, and it is almost too late when I wheel my hands out to catch myself.
I save myself, but only just.
The wind finds sweat on my palms.
Felix didn’t think I could find it. Or perhaps he didn’t think I was really looking. I know his wife thought that I was like so many of the other blue-door’s brothers and cousins and sons. Spending the day insensible in a shared room in the cargo district, living the life that arrived in the ships each day. But I know what I wanted, and I knew where to find it. It just took me a long time.
Now that I have this thing, though, I have to use it. I feel it in my pocket and I don’t know how I can’t.
I stand on Felix’s doorstep. The blue on the door is brilliant, like he just repainted it. It looks as if it would color my finger tips if I touched it.
I smash the knocker down, three times. I hear footsteps inside the hall.
The day is a scavenger, stripping meat from the bones.
I say, “I have it.”
Author's Note: I like being coy.
Photo courtesy: Christopher Verdier
She waits to kill her king with a glass of sherry cupped in one palm and a dried cornflower in the other.
The blue petals flake away each time she moves, as she curls her fingers one at a time until they are a cage around the flower. Juro gave it to her when she first came to the palace, with a promise that if she fulfills her part of the plan and takes her vengeance for the slaughter of her family, she’ll be a hero.
It’s lived in a glass vial on her vanity since then, like a small blue eye watching her dress for dinner with the king, for dancing or riding out with him on a quail hunt. Occasionally she took it to the window and curled up on the cool stone bricks to stare south over the city. Through the marbled glass the mountain peaks where she’d grown up were muddy teeth cutting up into the sky. From this distance she couldn’t see the fire scars or broken houses, the poisoned wells. The graveyards.
All that this king's old father had caused.
This morning, Juro slipped into her bedroom without a knock, surprising her as she sipped dark tea and watched her watery reflection across the surface of the window where rain slithered in fast rivulets. The teacup had dropped from her fingers and hit the carpet with a dull ping, not breaking but splashing hot water against the tops of her bare feet.
Juro knelt and wiped them with a corner of his fine jacket, excitement making him less vain than usual. She hugged her dressing gown shut over her chest and watched the top of her handsome friend’s head. His dark hair combed back smoothly, and was caught up in a tail by a red silk ribbon. Matching earrings glittered at either side of his face, like points marking the edges of his wide, flat grin when he stood to face her. “Today, Messina, today is the day,” he said, and then he put his hands against her head, crushing her curls, and kissed her.
Once, his kisses had thrilled her, made her body melt and her resolve harden. But now, she opened her mouth and a string of guilt fell down her throat. She pushed away. “Juro, I’ve been thinking.”
He groaned and snatched one of the cookies off her tea tray.
Ignoring the hint, she stood tall in the center of her room, knowing soon she would miss this place. With its silk hangings, gilded mirror, and four-post bed that had its clothes changed every other day by a maid she shared with only two other ladies, this room was the best luxury Messina could ever hope to know. There was tea brought every morning, and dinners in the banquet hall, a private bath whenever she wished. Tomorrow, she suspected, she’d be back to cold streams and sand for soap, beer to drink if she was lucky, and straw under her back at night.
She said, “He didn’t know the things we hate him for.”
Juro slid a look at her that was at once pitying and amused. “Ignorance is no excuse for what was done in his name.”
“Nor is ignorance a reason to kill a man.”
“For God’s sake, girl, this is why you’ve been here for the last two years! Why we invested so much into you. To get you close to him. Closer than any of us might be.”
“I know.” She stepped nearer to Juro, touched his lapel. “And I have done so. I know him, and he can learn and change. He could do good from the throne – isn’t that a better outcome to hope for than open rebellion? Then the chance of someone worse ending up in power?”
“Messina.” His voice was hard and low. “Think of your parents. Of my sister and brother. Of all our families, cut down though they certainly might have learned and changed
.”( The fury in his eyes was difficult to look at, but she'd had much practice these years in doing unpleasant things.Collapse )
The apartment was small, but it was in an excellent location, right in the heart of the Warehouse District and a five-minute walk from the Expo Center. Adeline was only staying for a week or so—just until the trade show was over and all the boutique orders were in. Hopefully, there would be a lot of them. It had been a slow year.
The girl who usually lived in the apartment was a bartender named Daniele. She was away on a month-long trip to Spain and was renting out the place for ridiculously cheap as long as the temporary resident agreed to water her plants.
Adeline wasn’t much of a plant person, but you couldn’t argue with a weekly rate that was, quite frankly, phenomenal.
The night she got into the city, it was raining hard and the streets were flooded, full of tiny white-capped waves and floating trash. She had to wade from the taxi to the curb, holding her suitcases up out of the high-running gutters. It had been a long flight and everything had begun to blur together, so that later, she barely remembered the slow, clanking elevator ride upstairs, the turn of the key in the lock and the headlong fall into sleep.*****
She woke up late the next morning, in Daniele’s bed, with the sun coming in through unfamiliar curtains.
The first thing she noticed about the apartment was that the whole place had a smell. Not unpleasant, but strangely specific. It was an ancient, shut-up smell, like abandoned attics and pages turning into dust. It reminded Adeline of estate sales, or how she thought mummies would probably smell, but she found it oddly addicting. She couldn’t stop breathing it.
She took her time unpacking, arranging her things on the bathroom counter and the dresser, alongside Daniele’s. Then she wandered down to the lobby to see if there was anyplace to eat nearby, a cafe or a coffee shop.
Outside though, the road was blocked off by barricades and police cars and the sidewalks were crowded with gawkers. The girl at the front desk only raised her eyebrows and gave Adeline a bored look.
“What’s going on out there?” Adeline asked, feeling a little disoriented.
“Looks like some pure fool got it into his head to climb up on the roof and start yelling about how he’s going to jump. It happens in the summer, sometimes. If I were you, I’d just stay in ‘til it quiets down.” ( . . .Collapse )
Thanks to everybody for playing in the contest! We had a lot of fun reading your quotations! The winner, chosen randomly, is silvertwi !!!
Congrats! Email me at tessa dot gratton at gmail dot com with your address and I'll get your signed, doodled copy of BLOOD MAGIC mailed out!
Because it's the FIFTH week of the month, it's CONTEST TIME!!!!!
We're giving away a signed, doodled in copy of BLOOD MAGIC, which just came out last Tuesday. Ooooooo! Ahhhhhhh!
All YOU have to do to win is:
Write a sentence or phrase that epitomizes YOU - something zany and creative or twisted and funny, whatever you think suits you best. Imagine this is something you found skimming through Bartlett's Familiar Quotations
. Comment to this post with it.
On Friday, we'll choose a random winner and BLOOD MAGIC will be yours!!!
We can't wait to see what you come up with!