Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 11 - Ghost of Boyfriends Past

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She landed in her backyard in a soft flutter of feathers. Sanctuary was rare for the likes of her, and this place was most definitely hers. She headed inside and flicked on the kitchen light switch. After tossing the keys on the kitchen counter and digging her cell phone out of her purse, she found his number and tapped the ‘dial’ button.

It rang once before a weary male voice whispered his hello.

Dammit, she had not even considered the time. “Did I wake you?” she asked, chewing on her bottom lip.

The voice on the other end perked up. “Madeleine?”

She smiled. “Yes, it’s me. I…I got your message earlier, but I needed some time…”

“Oh.” He sounded disappointed, but she pressed on.

“But I think a movie is a great idea.”

The disappointment faded. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. I mean, if you still want to go.”

Milo chuckled. “Oh, yeah, I do. I haven’t been able to get you out of my head all day. Er, I hope that didn’t sound too stalker-ish,” he said sheepishly.

“No, no, I’ve had my share of stalkers, and that just sounded, well, interested. It’s been a long time since anyone’s been that, well, interested in me.”

“Then they were idiots.”

It was her turn to chuckle. “Yeah, so I’m figuring out. How was your day?”

He paused, as if contemplating just how to answer her query. “Work was, well, it kept me on my toes. Imps are nasty little bastards.”

She reached into the fridge and pulled out something to drink. “Imps?” She popped it into the microwave and pushed all the necessary buttons. “Do tell.”

Milo chuckled again and related a story about imps and a grocery store. He made it seem so commonplace, as if everyone took down dark supernatural creatures every day, and perhaps that was because, as he told her, he pretty much did. She really liked his laidback nature and his storytelling, and she felt like she was standing in that store, battling those mini-demons herself.

The more he talked, the more she felt connected, tied to him. Not only was he smart, but he was funny. She had picked that up at the restaurant, yes, but she had been so curious about his supernatural side, it had been a tad distracting.

“The last time I saw you smile like that, you and I had just started dating,” a soft, sad voice whispered. It had been so quiet, those words, she had almost thought she had imagined them. But when she turned, Milo still talking in her ear, the very faint, silvery form of her ex lingered in by the kitchen doorway.

No way.

“You can’t be here,” she hissed as quietly as she could manage.

“What?” Milo asked.

“Um, nothing, just a pesky bug crawling through the kitchen.” She watched the ghost, willing him away, but he did not go. “You were saying?”

Milo yawned. “It wasn’t important, Madeleine. Just sleepy ramblings.”

The yawn was contagious, and she covered her mouth. Outside the kitchen window, the sun tugged at her. “It’s late. I’m sorry to have kept you.”

“No, don’t apologize. I had almost lost hope that you’d call me back. It was worth the loss of sleep, I promise.”

She smiled and the ghost sighed. She ignored him. “Let’s do it again, this phone call thing.”

Milo chuckled. “Yeah, let’s. Until then, I bid you good night.”

“Good night, Milo. Sleep sweet.”

“Good night, Madeleine.”

She hung up the phone and turned her full attention to the ghost still hovering above the threshold. “What do you want?”

He shook his head. “Oh, nothing. There’s nothing I could give you now. There never was really, was there? I’m a failure, and I let you down so many times when I knew what you wanted was so very little…”

“Then why are you here?” she interrupted what she knew could be a long diatribe over his life of continued failures and ‘woe is me’. Given that he was dead, she did not really see a point in letting him carry on. It had been annoying when he was alive. It was somehow more so with him after death.

“I just…” he paused, his mouth moving silently in contemplation. “I just wanted to see how you were doing after I was gone, and it seems,” he sighed, “you are doing well. He seems like a nice guy.”

She scoffed, “Don’t play like you have clue as to what’s going on in my life. You didn’t before, even when you were apart of it, and you sure as hell don’t now. I don’t have time for this.”

His form shimmered, the lines blurring. He was expending some pretty good energy to hold onto this plane, and while she would have once given him kudos for the effort, her patience was wearing thin with the rising sun. “You’re still mad at me.”

“No,” she shook her head at him. “I stopped being mad at you once I set you on fire. It’s cleansing like that, purifying.”

He frowned. “You didn’t have to kill me, you know.”

Madeleine thought about it for a second. “Um, yeah, I really kind of did. I mean, what were you doing with your life? Weren’t you the one who said you were wasting it? I mean, you couldn’t keep your wife or your kids. You couldn’t get promoted at your job. You were up to your eyeballs in debt and dragging me down with you. What, really, did you have to live for, Gene?”

Ghostly eyes widened. Was he actually tearing up? “You always knew how to hurt me.”

She crossed her arms. “You always made it real easy.”

“I should go then?”

He made it a question, and she was quick to answer. “Yes, you should. You should get the hell out of my life and never come back.”

“I’d hoped…”

“What, Gene? That we could be friends? That I would look past all the bridges you burned between us and forgive you yet again for being a whiny bastard?”

He shook his head. “I guess I deserved that. I loved you, you know.”

“Yes, maybe once upon a time, you did,” she replied with more than a little sadness than she was happy to let show. “Once upon a time, when I was shiny and new, and we could play at being the happy couple, maybe then you loved me and not just the void I was filling in your life. But at the end, that’s all you wanted, to not be alone, to be able to tell people that you weren’t so worthless after all, because you had someone like me in your life.

“But I’m not a placeholder, Gene, and you just didn’t get that. You were just as bad as Patrick,” he flinched and half-faded before her eyes, “in your own way.” She sighed, suddenly really tired and thankful for the plastic coating that kept the sun’s full power out of her house. “But I can’t do this. I won’t rehash this with you again. You didn’t listen when you were alive, and really, what are you going to do with the information now that you’re not?”

He faded away—the sun affected him as well—until only his head remained, like a morbid Cheshire Cat. “You’re right, and I’m sorry. And I know you hate that, too, the apology, so I’ll stop. I just thought you should know what I heard on the other side.”

Madeleine sat up straight on the bar stool. “What did you hear?”

“Someone has made it known that they are interested in your mage.”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. “Who?”

He shrugged, as much as he could with just a head. “There’s no name attached, Maddie, just whispers.”

She ignored his use of her nickname. For the information, it cost her nothing to let him call her that. “Which channels?” She was pretty sure she knew, but she needed to hear it.

He grimaced. “You won’t like it.”

“But you knew that when you came, Gene. For the love of the gods, for once in your life, do right by me and just tell me.”

“Dark channels.”

Ah, shit. She fought to repress the shiver riding her spine. “Anything else?”

He shook his head. “No, just be careful. If he’s important to you…”

“He is.”

“Already…” he sighed again. “Just take care of yourself. You know better than anyone what such a message, such an interest could mean. Good bye, Maddie.”

“Good bye, Gene. Find a way to have a good afterlife, okay?”

He sighed, a great, shuddering breath, and faded away. “Not that I deserve it…”

She ignored his parting remarks and thought instead about what he had told her. Could this be a ruse? Could Patrick have somehow tapped into the other side—not to be confused with the Other World, where he could easily access—and passed the message there, knowing that Gene would take it to her in his misguided quest to seek her favor? No, that did not sit right well with her.

Patrick liked Gene about as much as she liked eating small, furry creatures: not at all. And quite honestly he did not think the man was bright enough in life to even attempt to befriend (though, really, who would the vampire ever deem worth befriending?), he would not bother trying to get the message to her through the ghost. No, he had other ways, other minions like Tamus, and it was far too close to the minotaur’s visit to be a direct attack.

Now, would Patrick use the Other World to take out the mage? That she could see. Maybe not take out literally, but more so to observe and bring him back information. The light side of the Other World would find such spying beneath them, but the dark side, well, they could conceivably seek to curry favor with someone as powerful as the elder vampire by going above and beyond the mission laid before them.

If her heart could beat, it would be a rabid animal in her chest at this moment, trying to break free of her rib cage. Her interest in Milo had more than caught Patrick’s interest, and that did not bode well for either her or the mage. Would he even be prepared against an attack? A horde of imps was one thing, and what had he talked about from the other day? Gnomes? They were piecemeal in the hierarchy of dark side creatures.

It suddenly occurred to her that backing off now was not enough. She could not call off their first date. She could not just admit defeat to Patrick.

Because even if he believed her, which he most likely would not, there was no way that the other vampire could ensure all those who had been duly informed could be called off. Or if they would heed it. Blood lust was rampant on the dark side, and once the call had been made…

She shuddered.

What in the hell was she going to do now?

Continue: 12

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