Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wicked & Wonderful: Chapter 26 - Bri & Abby

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The first thing she saw when she pushed open the door were bunny slippers. They were propped up against the adjacent wall at the end of short, pajama’d legs. She pushed the door open a couple of inches more and peeked around it. Against the far wall sat a cute, albeit exhausted, young woman with a cup of coffee in her hands. Her aura smelled of magick and fur, and while she was certain this person wasn’t a werewolf like Vince, she was most definitely a wereanimal.

“You must be the wererabbit I smelled earlier,” the vampire offered. She hadn’t meant it to be predatory, but the small shiver the girl gave couldn’t be mistaken. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just trying to figure out how to, well, get out of here.”

The woman rubbed an arm with a free hand, but did not look up from her drink. “You know it’s almost dawn, right?”

Madeleine nodded and felt stupid. The super wasn’t even looking at her. Nodding was futile. “I know. I have a friend coming to pick me up.”

“Oh?” The woman met her eyes, and in an odd reversal of roles, Madeleine felt mesmerized by the twinkling of the other woman’s irises. “Milo will need to know where you’re going.”

“I know.” Damn if she couldn’t break eye contact. In her arrogance, she had assumed the woman had made the connection on accident, but the sudden sense of devotion, like a warm blanket of compliance, made her realize otherwise. “You’re really good.”

The woman smiled. “And I’m not even trying.”

“I can see why they keep you around.” Madeleine forced her eyes closed, and while the connection had broken, she could feel the remnants still floating there inside her, whispering words of obedience with ties strong enough that she took a subconscious step forward.

“It’s because I’m cute.” Her voice drifted through the vampire’s self-imposed darkness. “I mean, can you imagine any of them as the office eye candy?”

Madeleine could feel her, the sheer supernatural heat of her, suddenly in front of her. What in the hell was she doing?

“My name is Sabrina, but you can call me Bri. Most people do.” The heat dissipated until she could only feel the line of the other woman in the distance. “Oh, and you can open your eyes now. Can’t have you walking into walls now, can we?” The vampire opened her eyes slightly, but Bri was already halfway down the hallway. “Are you coming?”

Madeleine nodded again, the wererabbit giggled and they wandered down the hall paces apart. The further they traversed, the more she could hear, as if the mind trip had somehow cleared out some of the cobwebs from her fight-induced torpor. Male voices grew from whispers to actual conversation that required no supernatural hearing to discern. Bri motioned her to stop, and she did.

The other woman disappeared into the room where the men had gathered, her presence disrupting their discourse, and their conversation fell back to whispers. There was some vague shuffling of chairs, a grumbling of disagreement, and then Milo appeared in the doorway.

“You look better.” It wasn’t a compliment, just a fact. He said it with a look that was more a medic looking over someone who should’ve been a corpse, all serious and sterile. His energy said otherwise, but he clearly trusted her as much as she trusted him. Great, another bridge burned.

“Blood does that,” Madeleine forced a smile. “Thank you for that, thank you for the blood.”

They stood there, in the ever-growing awkward silence, and she fought the urge to reach out and touch him. The thought that he might recoil scared her more than the ever-encroaching dawn. They both tried to speak first, both futile efforts that ended in more awkwardness.

This was ridiculous. They were both grown adults, and they were going to have to work together to get through what was to come. To be stuck standing their like gawky teenagers was simply a waste of time.

“I have to go,” she finally managed. “I have a friend picking me up,” he opened his mouth, but she put up a hand to stop him. “She’s a Wiccan and a psychic. She’s also been my friend for a long time. She can be trusted. I’m going to check into a hotel near my house, or rather where my house used to be, and I’ll call you from there, once I’m settled. I’ll be back here tonight, and we can go from there. Just wanted to let you know before you thought I’d just skipped out on you.”

“I wouldn’t think that,” he whispered.

“Then you’re a better person than I am.”  She turned on her heel and headed down the hall.  She fought the urge to turn back, to see his face again, but she kept her eyes forward, focusing on finding a way out of the building, away from him.

It wasn’t so much that she needed to get away from Milo, but that her restraint was already strained, her control tenuous at best as it was, and one more look would’ve broken her resolve.  It would’ve set free the chaotic emotional spinning in her head, and once the flood began, she wouldn’t be able to help whatever fell from her lips.  None of it would salve the wounds between them, so she gathered what remained of her dignity and ran.

She found an exit easily enough, and as she slip through the glass door, she breathed a sigh of relief.  She leaned against the cool exterior of the building and closed her eyes for a moment.  Twilight was always interesting to her.

That period of time right after the sun set and right before the sun rose was a magickal time for the undead.  However fleeting the moment, it had always given her a sense of humanity, even if the tug of impending darkness or dawn reminded her that she was just pretending.  She just pushed those thoughts away and reveled in the sheer joy of returning to what she once was.

This twilight, however, weighed heavily on her tired body.  Blood was good, but this was one of those times when fresh from the vein would’ve been better.  And the older blood after the supernaturally-infused blood of the other mage had been just enough to dull the edge.  She could walk, move, but flight…

Her eyes popped open at the sound of a passing car, but it wasn’t Abby’s little two door green sedan, just a random car in the parking lot.  If she hadn’t gotten her ass handed to her by that damnable minotaur, she would’ve had the strength to fly to the hotel, just met Abby there.  But the simple fact remained that she didn’t and she couldn’t, so she was stuck here until her best friend arrived.

Because nothing said “fuck my life” like falling out of the morning sky in a ball of fire and feathers.

Well, except for maybe that impact.

She didn’t have a watch, so she didn’t know if the GPS-promised ten minutes had passed, and she began pacing a short length of the sidewalk.  She didn’t want to think right now.  Not about what had happened.  Not about Milo.  Definitely not about Milo.  And while she realized the futility of trying to keep those thoughts of out her head, she continued her near frantic pacing, counting the ten steps forward and ten steps back.

The counting moved from inside her head to spill out of her mouth.  If anyone had seen her, they would’ve thought her clearly stark raving mad, pacing, counting, hands waving in the air with each turnabout.  In her need to separate the parts of herself, she didn’t hear the quiet roll of tires along the curb or the sound of the passenger side window going down.

“Hey, crazy lady!” a female voice called from inside the vehicle.

Madeleine stopped her pacing.  “Abby?”  She walked to the car and peered in to see her best friend leaned over from the driver’s side.

“Uh, who else would stop to pick up someone who’s clearly escaped from a mental ward?”  she replied with a smile.  “As if you weren’t aware, a little thing called ‘dawn’ is coming, so unless you’d like to go all crispy critter on me, do you think you could manage to get your butt in the car already?”

The vampire chuckled and opened the passenger door.  She shifted the seat forward and crawled into the back seat.  Abby handed her a heavy blanket—“burnt vamp would ruin the upholstery, you know”—and she curled up beneath it across the seats.  The darkness was blissful, so much so that soon enough Madeleine fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

She awoke to the gentle proddings of her best friend.  “What’s going on?”

“We’re here,” Abby replied.  “Um, I’ve got you all checked in. We’ve just got to get you out of the car.  Granted, it’s pretty much dawn now, so you’re going to have to remind me how this works.  Are you going to burst into flames once the blanket comes off?  Is this a ‘sun must touch’ scenario?  Because there are shadows under this awning.  Not big ones, none that are going to last longer than about another fifteen minutes, but big enough for you to slip on through.”

Madeleine peered over the edge of the blanket, passed Abby and noticed that the woman was right.  Shadows, yes, but they’d be gone if she didn’t get moving and fast.  “The lobby still windowless?”

Abby shrugged.  “Pretty much.  I mean, unless you’re looking to check out their continental breakfast spread in the atrium, yeah, we can get to the elevator without any sunshine on your shoulders.”  She held out her hand.  “So we’re going to make a break for it?”

The vampire nodded, and the witch smiled.  “Let’s go!”

Madeleine slid the blanket away, took Abby’s hand and got out of the car.  She played hopscotch with the shadows and the sun, and together the women made it safely inside.   The front desk clerk watched them with more than a little disdain to accompany her terse little frown.  What the hell was her issue?

Did she think Abby was helping a drunk friend in?  Or maybe she thought they were lesbians?  Arizona wasn’t exactly known for being a liberal state.  It didn’t matter, though, regardless of why she was staring, Abby had clearly had enough.

“Ah, was there something wrong with my credit card?” she asked in a tone that practically dare the other woman to say something, anything.

“No, no, ma’am!” the desk clerk replied all flustered, her face turning red.  “I just...”  Abby raised her eyebrows.  “Is there anything else I can help you with this morning?”

Abby smiled.  “Oh, no, I think you’ve done quite enough, don’t you?”

The woman blanched, and the vampire’s best friend’s smile just broadened.  The first shimmers of magick rode off her skin in a curtain of heat, and Madeleine rolled her eyes.


“Oh, come on,” her words riding the magick across the room.


The heat dissipated as instantly as it had come.  “You’re no fun,” the witch pouted.

Madeleine waved her into the hallway.  “Abby, she’s not worth it.”

Abby leaned against the wall and pushed the elevator’s up button.  “Maybe not, but she’d already earned what I was about to do to her.”

“Karmic return?  Really?” Madeleine asked as the doors opened.

“Threefold, Elvira,” the witch chuckled.

They both stepped inside, and the vampire swore she heard the desk clerk faint and hit the floor.  Abby must’ve heard it, too, because the chuckled turned into full blown laughter.

The walls of the elevator were blurry gun metal gray.  Abby’s reflection was muted, distorted, and it was almost like being in a carnival house full of fun mirrors.  It was a sobering moment for both of them.

The witch walked forward and touched the space on the wall where Madeleine’s reflection should’ve been.  “Is it weird?” she asked quietly.  “The whole lack-of-reflection thing?”

Madeleine leaned against the back wall.  “Sometimes, I guess.  Sometimes it makes me feel very unreal, like I must be part of someone else’s dream, without a reflection.  I mean, I had one when I was alive, right?

She didn’t wait for an answer.  “Every human has one.  So where did it go?  Does it mean I don’t a soul either?  I mean, do you have to have a soul to cast a shadow?”

“No, I think you need a soul to open automatic doors.”

She opened her eyes and looked at her friend.  It had been a small jest, the minor homage to a prime time cartoon character, but an effective one.  “Thanks.”

Abby shook her head.  “You just sounded so down, like you’ve thought about this a lot.   I haven’t lived three hundred years like you, but I don’t need several lifetimes to tell when a friend is hurting from a really old wound.”

The elevator binged, and the doors slid open.    “Come on, Maddie, let’s get you inside.  You look like death.”

She chuckled and caught herself.  “Oh, Maddie, I’m sorry.”

“Nah, Abbs,” the vampire said with a smile that felt real, a first for the day.  “That was kind of funny, everything considered.”

Abby’s smile flickered and warmed.  “Yeah, everything considered.”

The room was plush, easily a honeymoon suite.  It meant the curtains were heavier, the carpets thicker, the security in the corridors more expensive and the only folks who were able to enter were those with a code.  It meant she would be safe here, and with the room under Abby’s name, it also meant no one would know she was here, except the people, person, she wanted.


She pushed the image of him away and listened to her best friend securing the bedroom.  Abby had made another crispy critter comments before insisting that the vampire sit down on the chaise lounger and disappearing into the other room.  The quiet of the suite and her extra-sensory hearing made it easy to hear Abby’s sneakers brushing over the carpet fibers in rhythmic waves.

It was soothing, white noise, and sleep snuck up on her again.  She curled into a fetal position, pulling the chenille throw off the back and over her body.  Her final thought was that she should’ve called Milo first, to let him know where she was, that she was okay, but fatigue took control and she was gone.

She woke up in the same copse where she had first met Milo.  The sunlight was less frightening this time, and she spent a minute letting it warm her face.  She missed this sensation, and she tried to commit to memory every part of how it felt for when she woke up for real.

“Milo?” she called out a moment later.  She stepped through the trees, a summery breeze playing with the hem of her dress.  “Milo, are you here?”

The grass felt like carpet beneath her bare feet, and she felt like a child again with the plethora of forgotten sensations.  Sure, she could walk barefoot through grass at night, but it wasn’t the same.  It was cold and prickly, not warm and smooth like this.


She looked up from the tickling grass between her toes and saw him just beyond the nearest grouping of trees.  “You look rested.”

He shrugged.  “I think we’re in the process of resting, you and I.”

Madeleine reached for him, faltered, and dropped her hand.  “I don’t know where we go from here.  I don’t know how badly I’ve ruined things with you.  And I...” she looked away from him.

He touched her chin and lifted her head upwards.  “You what?”

She sighed.  She could feel tears welling in her eyes.  “I’d miss you, Milo.  My life would be less without you in it.  I...”

“Shhh...”  Milo leaned in and laid a chaste kiss on her lips.  “I know, Madeleine.  I know.”

“You do?”  She hated how scared she sounded, how broken and needy.  Patrick had called her ‘wanty’, back in the day, this want she had to be validated.

But Milo just whispered, “I do,” and kissed her again.

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