Prompted @ Tipsy Lit | The Pomegranate

This week’s Tipsy Lit Prompted challenge piece is about big risks. Enjoy, and remember – feedback always appreciated here at manuscripts & marginalia!

Note: Word count squeaks in at 499, right under the 500-word max.

Prompted @ TIpsy Lit

He’d been following me for a week. I thought he was new to the neighborhood. He never paid any attention to me, so I felt like the interloper. That should’ve been a clue; men always look at me. At first it’s a glance, then a sweet, studious stare. They say I remind them of their mother. Damnedest thing.

He never batted an eyelash in my direction. Vanity should be my shield, but I set it aside.

My stomach flips; we’re going over a hill, I think. Images of torture porn and abandoned warehouses fill my head. I didn’t want to cry, but terror takes over and tears dampen my blindfold. I will the car to stop, and then it does.

He opens the trunk and the air is cool and fresh.

“Not the way to make an impression,” he says. Nimble fingers untie the blindfold.

The canopy overhead filters sunbeams into lacy patterns of light. Mossy tree stumps and boulders form a perfect circle.

In its center is a woman.

“Thank you, Moshe,” she says. Her skin is darker than mine, but not as smooth. She looks older in the eyes, even though she must be close to my age.

“I am sorry he scared you,” the woman says. “I did not think you would come on your own, if you knew why I summoned you.”

She sits on a boulder and gestures to the stump beside her. I walk forward and sit on it awkwardly, tucking my knees under my chin. I cannot find my voice. Perhaps it has been taken from me.

“Moshe has been my familiar for a long time,” the woman continues, “but it is good to have you here again.”

My mouth feels heavy, but it manages to form the word.

“Again?”

“Poor Eve,” she strokes my cheek.

“My name is Av – ” I can’t finish saying my name; it tastes sour.

“You’ve forgotten,” the woman looks away. “Do you remember me?”

A name surfaces and when I speak, the wind carries it away: Lilith.

“They took it from all of us,” she says. “They stole our power first. Made us wives when we were goddesses. We didn’t know subservience, and it never took.”

Lilith’s dark eyes are angry and fierce when she looks at me.

“They lured us. Set us up to fail. And when we did, they left us without memories. Without knowledge. It took many lifetimes for me to find myself again. Even more to find you.”

“Eve,” I say.

“There are more.” She gestures to the circle and I feel a pang of sorrow.

“Eat this,” Lilith breaks a pomegranate open with her hands. Seeds burst and the juice ruins down her skin, dark and beautiful.

“Remember,” Lilith begs, “and we can fix it. Restart salvation.”

Images flash in my mind.

The serpent.

My husband.

Hiding from Him, dried juice staining our lips and hands.

I fish out the seeds, ripe and tart. Knowledge returns, and I bid adieu to Avalon.

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Prompted @ Tipsy Lit | Go Fish Yourself

My first foray into the Tipsy Lit Prompted challenge, this week’s piece is about family game night. Enjoy, and remember – feedback always appreciated here at manuscripts & marginalia!

Note: Word count is 482, right under the 500-word max.

Prompted @ TIpsy Lit

“We should have done this years ago,” Michael says. He wades out of the sea of stained, warped cardboard boxes, long forgotten by anything other than dust.

Julie hands him a bottle of water and surveys the basement. It’s a sad monument to their mother, who would have kept it in order, would’ve forced Dad to give away things outgrown and unused.

Sweat beads on Julie’s arms and drowsy fatigue rolls over her. She is exhausted, but not from the funeral – from the decades that preceded it, always on edge and uncertain how long their father’s tenuous grip on life might hold.

Sensations of gratitude and loss bubble to the surface of her consciousness, and although Julie has been preparing for this for most of her adult life, she’s not ready to confront it. She opens the closest box and begins to rifle through it.

“Jeez,” Michael says as he peers in, “are those just pieces of board games?”

“It’s like someone poured the rec room closet into this box,” Julie says.

“Oh my gosh,” Michael’s voice takes on that edge of childhood wonder and elation. He pulls out a rubberbanded stack of bent cards. The colors have faded, but Julie recognizes the massive deck she and Michael designed one particularly rainy summer.

After excavating several layers of instruction manuals and game pieces, Julie unearths the flimsy cardboard painted with garish patterns and undisciplined shapes.

“Go Fish Yourself,” Julie laughs. She remembers how fun this game was, how she looked forward to playing it every week – up until she didn’t, when gossip became her game strategy and thick, sweet-scented lip gloss won you a better prize than picking the ice cream flavor Mom got at Kingman’s Sundries.

“Do you still remember how to play?” Michael asks. “I mean, it’s Tuesday. It seems wrong to ignore it.”

“I think so,” Julie replies. “Let’s show the kids.”

When they get upstairs, Julie’s husband is trying to goad their youngest daughter into giving up a dirty dish towel she found buried in the pantry.

“It’s a magic blanket for a princess,” Callie wails.

“Sorry, sorry, I turned my back for one minute,” John says. He stares at Julie and her younger brother, dusty and sweaty and grinning like fools.

“We need to take a break,” Michael glances over at the other children, sitting motionless and maudlin on an ancient plaid couch. Julie places the cardboard on the kitchen table and she and Michael sit down.

“Do you want to be the Warden?” Julie asks. “I think you should. I’d be better as the Teller.”

They don’t talk about taking the roles their parents would play, or why they must. The transition to “survived by” is made easier with heavy-handed paint jobs and the low-grade fever of competition.

“Hey kids, come play a game with your Mom and Uncle Mike,” John calls.

Julie begins to deal.

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Speakeasy #166 | Grandfather’s Advice

He taught me how to read people’s eyes.

Brown for sorrows,
Blue for gold,
Hazel for gallows,
Green for lies told.

I didn’t understand until I was older, coming home on the heels of heartbreak.

“What color were ‘is eyes?” Grandfather asked.

“Brown,” I sobbed, but understood.

My friends thought it was crazy advice.

“Only sadness, riches, death, and deception – what about love?”

“Not for me.”

It could never be that simple.

I met him at the pool, his lean mahogany body slicing through the water next to me.

“You’re fast,” he said when he got out. He wore sleek black swim shorts and goggles with mirrored lenses. The reflection of my towel-wrapped figure stared back at me.

“So are you,” I smiled. My prayer was one word: Blue.

The goggles slipped over his head.

Hazel.

When I emerged from the locker room, he was waiting for me. We walked through campus together. His name was Demetrius, but everyone called him Meter. Studying to be an architect, he pulled out a notebook with things that inspire him: lots of Stanley Kubrick sets and Frank Lloyd Wright, and a surprising M. C. Escher print with a waterfall and steps and layers. He has a flair for the dramatic and innovative, the type of design that would inspire someone to stand still and appreciate a building.

“I never got your name,” Meter said. His hazel eyes mocked me with their happiness. My stomach flipped, and I’ wasn’t sure if it was because of my attraction or my fear of the fate those golden eyes foretold.

“Delaney,” I said. “My friends call me Lane.”

“Meter and Lane, meeting at a pool,” he chuckled. “I better give you this.”

He jotted his phone number on a page in his notebook, and with a gentle tear it separated and I found myself staring at it, taking it, and writing my own number on the now-damaged page.

Meter called me that night. And the next. And the next.

Now we’re swimming by day, dating by night, and I wait for Death.

I feel like I’m wading into the water by Grandfather’s house, where the bank is soft and the river calm. When I leave the ground behind, the river surges around me and I have to stand strong and solid to keep from slipping and floating away in the strong current. I’m like a rock planted, forcing the water to flow around me, but time may loosen and free me.

“Hazel for gallows,” my roommate sing-songs when Meter comes by to study. She sashays out of the room on a cloud of perfume and “I told you so” glances.

“Is she…okay?” Meter tips his head back and mimes pouring one back. I can’t laugh. I have to tell him.

“It was something my Grandfather said about eye color,” I reply.

“You have one of those, too?” Meter says. “My grandmother had a thing with hair color.

“Red is shallow,
Brown is fun,
Blonde is fallow,
Black’s the one.”

“That can’t be true!” I laugh. My hair is like autumn leaves.

“Neither is your grandfather’s rhyme,” Meter kisses me slow and soft. “I love you, Lane. Even if you’re shallow.”

“I love you, Meter,” I say and blink back happy tears.

In the morning, my mother calls. I listen to her as I fight back sobs and scribble times and instructions. I sit on my bed and cry. Meter arrives, worried I missed our daily swim. He sees my face and the shaky scrawl on the notepad. He pulls me into a hug and I am silent as he packs my suitcase, escorts me to the student parking lot, drives to his dorm, and comes back with his duffel bag.

I sob the four-hour drive from school to home, and the only smile I see when I get there is from my mom, realizing that this man I love has taken great pains to get me here.

My eyes are red and puffy on the day of the wake. Meter holds me up as I walk to the coffin.

I’m not prepared for it: his supine state, the fancy suit, his pale cold skin. Worse is the picture of him, ringed by memorial flowers. He’s young and handsome, full of life and so different from the man I knew, with milky eyes and liver spots, hunchbacked and hobbling.

That’s when I notice Grandfather’s eyes were green.

This piece was written for the speakeasy #166 challenge. Word count is 740, under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!

Speakeasy #157 | A Winter Spell

Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold. Outside Fern saw tree branches heavy with ice. Indented snow marked the narrow path to the forest. She could not see it, but beyond the gate she knew it wound like a labyrinth around the trees. It connected with several other roads, but in the dark, in the winter, a lone traveler might get lost. Fern was there to help them.

A wolf howled in the distance, and Fern burrowed into her thick blanket. The glow of the fire made her drowsy, but she had work to do. She took a long swallow of the bitter coffee, her lip cutting on the chipped edge. Fern tasted iron and dark, peaty earth as she stared at the portfolio. Fern traced the outline of her favorite, a child curled into a pod.

“I asked for you,” the old woman had said when Fern stumbled out of the forest, dazed and half-mad from wandering alone. Fern did not remember anything before her twelfth birthday. She had no other family, no other past. She was born in the woods, claimed only by the old woman.

“I asked for you,” the old woman had said, like she had made some pact to bring Fern forth as her own. The old woman did not live long enough to teach Fern. She had to find the magic on her own, which made it both more special and dangerous. She caught glimpses of it dancing in the trees, saw it shine from the corner of her eyes. Fern found incantations spilling out of her when she chopped wood. Spells sparked from her when she set her traps. Each place she walked was sacred.

Still, she echoed her predecessor’s sentiments. Fern wanted company. It was not enough to hear a pack of wolves in the distance or command birds with her whistle. Fern longed for conversation.

The potion was easy to make. Fern danced around the cottage with a fire piled high and a cauldron full of iridescent liquid. When it was finished, the potion was a soft periwinkle shade that smelled like cinnamon and sugar. Fern drank a cup of it every day until she scraped the bottom.

That is when the children came.

At first, it was just a sickly one every few weeks. They were already dead by the time they arrived, corpses still in motion. Fern did what she could, but each one died in the night. Fern made a pyre and shed tears for them all. She managed a few names, or scraps of ones – “Bas” and “Liesel” were her favorites – but it made no difference. They were all hers to burn or bury. She asked for them. She mourned for them.

On the last day of winter, Fern threw off her covers, ready to put an end to her experiment.

A little girl in furs picked at the congealed potion in the cauldron. When she saw Fern, she shrieked.

The little girl was frightened, Fern thought. She survived the forest and found this place, and I startled her.

“It’s okay,” Fern said in a soothing voice. “You’re okay. I will keep you safe.”

The girl looked better than the ones before her: bright, rosy cheeks and soft blonde waves, curious gray eyes that flitted between Fern and the door.

“I won’t hurt you,” Fern whispered. “I promise.”

“Are you a witch?” The little girl asked.

“No,” Fern laughed. “I am a lonely woman, stranded in the forest. My name is Fern.”

“Oh,” the little girl replied. “We got lost, too. My name is Margaret.”

“We?” Fern asked. “Are there more of you?”

“My brother,” Margaret replied. “He wanted to look around outside, but I was too cold. I was supposed to stay by the fence, but it looked so warm and smelled so nice, and I had to come inside.”

Outside. Fern sucked in her breath. What would the boy see? What would he understand? He would see pyres and old bones, a shed with trinkets and toys, small shoes and torn cloaks. He would not understand.

“Run, Greta!” The boy’s voice carried over the wind. The girl’s gray eyes grew wide and scared, and she darted to the door.

“No, you don’t understand!” Fern cried. “I asked for you!”

This piece was written for the speakeasy #157 challenge. Word count is 714, under the 750-word max. As always, feedback is appreciated!

Flash Fiction | Perspectives

Hey, it’s a writing challenge piece! This one is for Chuck Wendig’s current writing challenge: 10 chapters in 1,000 words.

Feedback always appreciated.

Wes sees the sliver of light cut through the dark hallway. Caitlin is there. Her tears drip into the sink. Her face twists in a mix of shame and surprise, and she looks down at the plastic object in her hands. The symbol is a stark revelation. How could something so small change so much? Wes turns around and her sobs grow louder, primal. He fishes the box out from the sock drawer and returns.

“I kept trying to figure out the right time,” Wes says as he opens the box and gets down on one knee. “Will you marry me?”

Wes stiffens when she starts, but his grip stays tight. There’s a little kiss behind her ear, and Caitlin knows he’s close to getting sick himself. Wes can’t stand vomit or bodily functions. Christ, how will they be parents?

“Hey,” he says, another kiss on the top of her head this time, “happy wedding day, beautiful.”

Wes looks back. Caitlin stands in the doorway, barefoot and pregnant. A fucking cliche.

He smiles, because Caitlin is his fucking cliche.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Wes says as he sets the glass of water down.

You didn’t,” Caitlin smiles. “Come here.”

Caitlin puts his hand on her swollen stomach and he feels a slight movement, a little kick. And then another.

“They’re already playing together,” Caitlin laughs.

“Or fighting,” Wes laughs. “Is it too early for sibling rivalry?”

They’re under the covers, just like in grad school, but the conversation is more serious. Wes still has the same dopey grin, which Caitlin finds both irritating and irresistible.

“We could still find out, you know. It’s not too late,” Wes says.

“I want it to be a surprise,” Caitlin counters.

“Do you think you know?” Wes asks.

“Not really,” she replies, “but I think I have a preference.”

“Yeah?” Wes says. “At the same time.”

“At the same time,” she agrees. She closes her eyes, like saying it out loud will be a wish the universe can grant or deny.

“Both,” they say together.

I thought she would be hungrier. When are the weird cravings going to start? Wes wonders. Caitlin’s unhealthiest treat is a slice of toast with peanut butter and honey. She goes to prenatal yoga twice a week. Wes cuts up carrot sticks and cucumber slices every morning before work. He never sees Caitlin eat them, but they disappear, the only evidence an empty glass Pyrex container in the dishwasher.

Caitlin can’t remember if she painted her toenails. She holds a mirror up and tries to find the right angle. The yoga helps, and Caitlin glimpses chipped peacock blue varnish. There is still a dull shimmer. When will I be able to paint my nails again? When will I even have time? Caitlin thinks. She sighs and slides the shower door open, twisting the knob until a stream of water shoots forth and splashes against the tile.

Wes can’t sleep. Again. When he closes his eyes, he sees numbers. Calculations. How much he’ll need to save every year to cover the family’s expenses. How much will be deducted by the government, by insurance. How much college will cost by the time the twins are eighteen. How much Wes has already added to their joint savings account. How much the company will match to his 401(k). How many hours Wes has to work. How many hours he can get away with working.

Wes turns. Caitlin stands behind him, a duffel bag by her feet. She looks tired and scared. Her dark hair hangs down, still sleep-matted on one side. Caitlin did put on lipstick, but hurriedly – there is the faintest hint of pigment blurred at the corner of her mouth.

Wes sees the whole picture, the whole Caitlin and not the fragmented parts of her. Adrenaline hits him, punches him straight in the gut.

Hospital. Now.

It’s time. Her eyes water with each painful contraction, coming closer and closer. Why did she decide on a natural birth? Why didn’t she listen to her yoga instructor’s advice about hypnobirthing?

“Christ on a cracker!” Caitlin exhales.

“Hey, beautiful,” Wes holds her hand. Pain rolls through her like a storm, each nerve ending feeling the downpour. Wes winces in pain, his brown eyes widening as her grip tightens.

“Shouldn’t someone tell me to push?” Caitlin stares at the nurse, with her too-big smile and her too-calm demeanor.

“When it’s time, dear,” the nurse says calmly. “You’re not quite ready yet.”

Caitlin’s jaw drops. She wants to reply but the nurse turns to Wes and addresses him instead.

“Did you make any calls on your way over?” Wes shakes his head. He’s been next to Caitlin this whole time.

“Shit!” Caitlin says. Her parents. His parents. They don’t know yet.

“Go make your calls. She’s not going anywhere, and neither is that kid of yours.”

10:28 AM. Five pounds, five ounces. Nineteen inches. Emma Lillian Wright.

10:30 AM. Five pounds, five ounces. Nineteen inches. Mason Samuel Wright.

 

“Both,” Caitlin smiles. She does not think about rejection or painted toenails.

“Both,” Wes replies. He does not worry about the numbers.

Wish granted.

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Flash Fiction Challenge | The Veteran, Completed

Remember those 200-words-at-a-time writing challenges over the past few weeks? Well, what I didn’t mention was that for each piece I wrote, I actually continued and wove into a fuller story. Here is the longer, completed version of The Veteran.

Feedback always appreciated.

Lying nude in the middle of this cotton field, I sense things differently than I have in sometime. I’m cold. It’s the first time I’ve felt cold since she died. The air flows over my body like ice cold water from a stream. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can’t help but to hope that I die in this field. I’m, however, smart enough to know that’s not going to happen.

Nothing has felt the same since they killed Adrianna. Every day I roam from city to city, hoping beyond hope that someone will recognize who I am and decide to take my life away. It never happens. Every now and then someone will recognize who I am, but usually they are too frightened to do anything about it.

I don’t blame them. I did some very nasty things at the end of the last war. Several countries banned me from entrance. I, however, did what I needed to do to make sure that the war ended. I did what I was paid for. Little did I know that the immortality they offered as payment would be spent in exile, trying to come up with ways to bring back Adrianna.

—-

I lay there vaguely enjoying the sensation of feeling again after having been numb for so long. I was pondering my next move – I’d heard a rumour of a woman in a nearby village who might be able to help me – when I heard voices calling in the still morning air.

I moved quickly, careful not to disturb the cotton in my haste, on to my front bringing my knees up under me so I could spring up quickly if I needed to. As I did so my hand darted to the pile of clothes by my side and the slender yet deadly blade concealed beneath.

As the voices moved closer I sought the quiet place in my mind,the place where I could leave my self behind. I needed to disengage my emotions, to leave my humanity behind and find the monster within.

I had hoped to be able to leave that part of myself behind but it seemed I would have to hold onto it, for now.

I stood slowly, aware of my nudity and how it would affect my seekers, and held my blade out ready for whatever was thrown at me. Every sense on high alert.

“Over here. We’ve found her,” a voice called.

—-

The morning sun filters through a ragged line of trees to my left, laying bands of apricot light across the field of cotton, and the cold morning air feels charged with the energy of a million lodestones.

About fifty yards to my right another voice takes up the call, and then another, transmitting across a line of a dozen men who wade slowly through the thorny sea. Some cradle their rifles, others walk stockade-style with their arms hanging loosely over the ends of the weapons slung across their shoulders.

I keep the knife handle tucked into my palm so that the blade rests against the length of my forearm and conceals it from view. I want to cover myself but reaching for my clothes right now isn’t a good idea.

When the men are within ten yards they stop and form a half-circle around me.

“Put down the knife.” A tall, flinty man with grey hair steps forward.

“And if I don’t?” I’m ready to spring. To see blood. To feel the pulpous give of fat and muscle.

“Then you’ll never see Adrianna again.” His smile parts the thin lips enough to reveal a pair of sharp, white canines and my blood turns to ice once again.

—-

“Put it down,” the man commands, “or I’ll tell ’em to really let your pretty little girl have it this time.”

I place the knife on the ground.

“Kick it over here.”

“I’ll cut my foot,” I say, my voice even. “Aren’t antibiotics getting pretty expensive these days?”

“Christ,” the leader mutters. He gestures to a younger man nearby – a kid, really – who darts out from the circle and grabs the knife. I see beads of sweat glisten on his forehead, and he purposefully avoids my eyes.

Good – I need fear; perhaps it will be catching.

“Well, go on,” I say. They put a bag over my head but do not let me dress. I walk naked through the field. There is a slice against my bare skin and a trickle of warm blood. The sound of rotating blades approaches and a dart punctures my neck. I swat at it like it is an annoying gnat.

“Told you it wouldn’t work!” A voice cries out.

“She’s immortal, not invulnerable,” their leader says. “Triple it.”

When I wake, Adrianna is beside me.

Not breathing.

I scream.

Glass shatters. The building shakes. I can hear other people now, and they scream along with me. Things and people break because of me. I feel wrath, and I will not hold back, I will not restrain myself, I will not give into the myth of control, because next to me is Adrianna and she should be in terrible pain from what is happening. She should be in terrible pain because of me.

Adrianna lies still, her dark eyes unblinking. Her skin is pale ash, and when I touch her cheek I feel the coldness seep into me. It cuts through the fury and numbs me.

It was the hope that did it. Hope lifted me, made me think there was a chance.

“It’s the only way we knew we could get you there,” a voice crackles through a speaker. It must be the leader.

“Where am I?” I ask. “Why aren’t you here, too?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

I feel it: the creeping quiet, the unfortunate serenity. Everyone in this building is dead except for me.

“It’s best you don’t know exactly what facility you’re in,” the voice continues, “but we’ll be there soon. Leave the room, take a right to the stairs, and keep going up until you see sunlight. We’ll be there.”

“I don’t want to leave her,” my voice shakes with the admission.

“I’m going to give you the only good reason you should,” the leader says. “It’s vengeance. Make the nations who did this to her – to you – pay for it.”

I do not speak. I do not move. An hour passes and I hear the echo of footsteps and the crunch of broken glass. Someone came for me.

The leader opens the door. He has my clothes and knife. He leaves them on the floor, along with a phone.

“The number’s programmed in, if you change your mind.”

I nod. I will call them, join them, and exact my revenge. But first, I have to resurrect Adrianna.

Flash Fiction Challenge | The Fair Folk’s Favor, Completed

Remember those 200-words-at-a-time writing challenges over the past few weeks? Well, what I didn’t mention was that for each piece I wrote, I actually continued and wove into a fuller story. Here is the longer, completed version of The Fair Folk’s Favor.

The wolves came in. That’s what happens when you leave the front door open at night, which is exactly what I did. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I was in the kitchen warming up some midnight milk for myself when I saw their shadows slinking along the hallway, breaking up the moonbeams across the floor. I heard their panting, smelled breath most foul. I froze, of course. But–and I guess this was stupid of me but I still had my wits about and what else was I to do with them–I tried to figure out just by looking at their shadows if these wolves were scared, bored, or hungry.

You’d think the hungry ones are the most dangerous, but these aren’t ordinary wolves. And if they were bored, I was as good as dead.

Very quietly, I shut off the gas. Stove dials would make too much noise, and so would my bunny slippers. I slid the biggest knife we had from its place in the wooden holder with the brood of ducks on it before I realized that one, I tended to focus on the most mundane things when I am scared, and two, I sure as hell didn’t know how to wield a knife.

—-

Well, not against wolves like these anyway. It just wasn’t in me. They couldn’t help that they’d been corrupted any more than I could help fixing what had been done. Why did this always seem to happen? I was planning a quiet few years this time with no conflict, no involvement in anything. The wolves were always the first to come. I knew they’d be followed by elves, dwarves, pixies — all needing my help and here we’d go again.

I clenched my teeth and sliced the big knife over the palm of my hand. The blood flowed and I cupped my hand to collect it. Then I watched the milk turn pink as I turned my hand over the saucepan.

I lifted the pan in absolute silence and squatted down to cast the grisly mixture across the floor. The wolves smelled it immediately and closed in to lap it up. I didn’t move a muscle, counting on the distraction to keep them interested until they started to change. Luck was with me and it didn’t take long. Their matted fur smoothed and their rank panting mellowed to something not much worse than dog breath. There were three of them and they padded over to surround me, nuzzling my skin with their night-chilled noses.

—-

“Good boys,” I mutter. “Go.”

They stare up at me as though they expect something else.

“Go!” It is a harsh command, but they linger. Why? I have nothing more to give them.

My heart thuds in my chest when I realize what the pack is – not hellhounds, werewolves, or skinchangers. These are Cu Sith, and it’s taken me this long to see the greenish tint in their dark fur.

I don’t expect to be alone, but my breath still catches when I look up: Melvina.

This is why you don’t leave the door open. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Maleficent thing,” I say, “you tricked me.”

She wears embroidered brocade. Impractical for the weather, but the Sidhe have no need for practical things.

“Such silly magic,” Melvina shakes her head when she sees the pink paste on the floor. “A child’s trick. It would not work against beasts of the Fair Folk.”

“I did not know they were the Sidhe’s hounds,” I reply.

“You say our name?” Melvina grimaces.

“I have your wrath already. What do you want?” I answer.

“A favor.”

“Sorry,” I hold my hands up and smirk, “I’m fresh out of favors.”

“Sweet mortal,” Melvina’s pale hand caresses my cheek, “to think you have a choice.”

Melvina looks around my kitchen, her sapphire eyes washing over it as though everything is new to her. The stove, the pan, the tepid milk mixed with my blood.

“I asked out of obligation to respect mortal courtesy and politeness. You are not one to say no, Dougal. Make no mistake – should you choose not to come with me, I will enchant you. It will be easy with you.”

The way Melvina says it makes me blush. She knows I find her beautiful, moreso than the few other Sidhe I have met. The limited skill I have is nothing compared to her powers of suggestion.

“You should have killed them, Dougal,” Melvina continues, her eyes locked onto mine. I can feel myself melting, and I am not sure if it is fairy magic that dances in the air between us or something else.

“I couldn’t kill them,” The words come out of me, as slow and thick as sap.

“If you used the knife against them, I would not have come in,” Melvina picks it up by the handle and pretends to draw the blade against my throat. “You used the knife on yourself. You slid it against the flesh of your palm, and drew your blood into milk of human kindness.”

Melvina throws the knife on the floor and kisses me softly on the lips. I pull her in closer and her dark red hair tangles in my hands, knotting in my fingers as I kiss her. This comes from a place of lust, starvation, and magic. I cannot remember if I feel whole only when I kiss her, or if I felt whole before the kiss began. I am half-mad or enchanted, or possibly both.

I kiss her until I do not care.

“What do you need?” I ask.

“Mordred,” Melvina whispers. “Avalon.”

“Legends,” I say. “Legends from long ago, Melvina.”

“And I am a fairy tale,” Melvina gives me a sad smile. “I am still real, Dougal.”

When she leaves, I follow her, not bothering to shut the door.