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The phone kept ringing. Despite the fact that neither the home or cell phone numbers had worked the first time – or the second, third, or fourth times - Neil kept trying to call. Listening to the ringing wasn’t much of a distraction, but it gave him something to do, something to focus on even if it didn’t help lessen the twisting in his gut or stop his thoughts from drifting to the slip of paper and the pendant that had caused the anxiety in the first place. It wasn’t like Veene not to pick up. It wasn’t like Veene to leave notes.
Cities were amazing, especially these days when the worst smell was the occasional sewer wisp and the thick, sharp scent of warm asphalt and tar. It was much nicer than the days where cities reeked of the sewage and rot left out on the streets and the stale smells of sick and dirty people and then there were the places where the air was so choked with dust it was a wonder anyone living there managed to breathe.
Lye was perched at an outdoor table at a little café down a side street, she could see people walking by in a steady flow at either end of the lane. Not many people cut down this way, but those who did tended to be worth watching. She liked people watching, but found it too difficult to do in more crowded venues, it became easy to get distracted and not much people watching would get done.
Despite being down a side-street the little café was crowded with people, many of the customers sat to themselves with books or newspapers – another reason Lye liked to come here, it was always nice to see people read – and some sat in small groups, exchanging small pieces of their lives through conversation. Sometimes, if she was sitting close enough, she liked to listen to those conversations.
She didn’t know who the people they spoke of were, but she liked to hear the way people talked about their other relationships – the fights they had, and the great times they had, the people they met or re-met, their grandmother’s special tea blend that was far superior to the tea this shop had to offer. She liked listening to it because it made her feel connected, even if she wasn’t partaking in the conversation, and even if those people didn’t know her, there was something engaging about hearing a full conversation.
Sometimes someone would quietly take the seat across from her, without asking, as if by sitting down without asking they might avoid detection. In most places she visited people asked, but there was something about this shop where it seemed more polite to quietly take a seat over asking, aloud, for permission. Lye liked it, she liked to smile at the people who sat down across from her. She wouldn’t say hello, or ask how they were, she’d just smile, and it was nice to see people relax in response.
Kids were stupid.
It was Katie’s seventeenth birthday party and everyone who was anyone was gathered in Katie’s basement. Which, naturally, meant Leiko was there. She had landed herself the body of Leiko a few weeks prior, and had found she, supposedly, had friends. She had, at first, wondered how she had wound up in the body. The last time she had been to the mortal realm the fascination with the occult had been dominated mostly by stuffy old men terribly afraid of death. It hadn’t taken long to learn that Leiko’s group of friends – now her group of friends – had a thing for ghosts and Ouija boards and séances and tarot cards.
It was cute.
He wasn’t really sure where he could go now. Torrin had found land, but he didn’t know where he was. Then again, he wasn’t entirely sure he had really known where he was for the past few decades. When he had first gotten himself lost he had wanted to find his pack again, his way home, but he didn’t feel that drive anymore. Darcy had become his home, and he had been thrown out. He had found land, yes, an unfamiliar strip of sand dotted with large coarse rocks, but maybe he should have stayed at sea, where the waves and dark waters looked familiar, at least.
He had spent days on the beach, the sand had been entirely covered in his paw prints earlier, but it had stormed and the rain and ragged waves had washed away all evidence of his pacing. The wind and rain had stopped, but the sky was still gray with clouds. Torrin had resumed his pacing, stopping to sniff at the dark clumps of sea vegetation that had been thrown ashore. He was half hoping to find fish trapped in one of the clusters, he was hungry but didn’t much want to leave the beach in search of food. He felt somewhat attached to the beach by this point and didn’t want to get lost.
I’ve always been good at pretending.
I’ve always been praised for my creativity, my imagination. I’m told that others would kill to do what I can do, to see the way I see.
As a child I would play with my friends, make-believe. We’d save each other from dragons. We’d be rogues and thieves, and kings and queens, in the sprawling forests and exotic kingdoms of our backyards. Long car rides would be accompanied by strange creatures, fairies and nymphs and large wild cats, who sometimes would try to steer us off course, but we knew well enough not to listen. Sometimes the trees would be uprooting, trying to walk away or start a war, and it would be our job to appease them. I was a hero, kind and brave. I was clever and cunning. I was skilled and knew the strengths of those around me, and how those strengths might play off my own. I was a wonder to behold.
As I grew older, things started to change. I became the dragons, and those being saved. I’d be friend and foe, and creator and destroyer, in the sprawling worlds both inside and out of my mind. I would make the mistake of veering off course, following whims and bad decisions, those mistakes would turn into the greatest of failures. Sometimes people would be upset with me, be it a small annoyance or a larger problem, and I wouldn’t know how to make things right, and I would know I was hated. I am pathetic, worthless and afraid. I am stupid and dull. Those around me are so phenomenally skilled that there’s nothing I can do that would be of added value. I am a plague to myself.
I’ve realized that being good at pretending isn’t always a good thing.
There’s a spec of light in the fog, so small it could be a single mote of dust caught in the rays of the sun that had long since slipped beyond the horizon. As I get closer it gets slightly larger, a pinch of pixie dust, until it separates into two flat, round white circles - the eyes of a cat reflecting the lights of my car. The two discs grow, and grow separate, soon it’s apparent they glow with a light of their own, turning the fog into a skirt of light around them. Then they’re passing me, the twin lights so bright and so fast that they’ve burned a streak across my eyes that look blue every time I blink.
I check my mirrors, but I cannot see their taillights in the fog.
When it rains, it pours,
be the rain warm, or cold.
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