Chapter Eleven: Polaroid

They woke up late, Nicholas told her as they were getting in the car.

Annabelle leaned her head against the glass and tried not to remember the end of her last journey.  Light rain for the first hour but after that it was clear skies.

She tried not to think about that either.

After a few hours of driving, they turned away from the ocean.  It had barely been in view at a few points anyway.  She didn’t have a lot to say to him.  After he bought her breakfast, this time a pleasant salad, he didn’t seem to have a lot to say either.

She didn’t want to go to sleep again, but without anything going on, she soon found herself nodding against the window.   Asking him to put music on seemed like a lot, and she wasn’t going to force conversation.  She was fairly certain she wanted to talk but right then a conversation was an impossible scenario, so far fetched she couldn’t even imagine a beginning.

The drove through a few large towns.   Eventually he slowed the car and pulled out his phone.

“We’re close.”

“This is Modesto?”  Annabelle looked out the window as they passed some buildings.  One looked like a miniature cartoon castle, tan and light blue.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I told you we’d be here today.”

“I know, I just didn’t know.”

“About on par then?”

“Par?”

“It’s slang for like ‘normal’  or ‘average’. Excited to be home?” he asked.

“Not home for me.”

“Yet. It’s not home yet. I’m sure you and Abby will get along great.”  Nicholas didn’t even try for excited, or if he did it failed entirely.

“You know her?”

“Naw, but Nicole brought her through a few years back. A Fryhelian, actually.”

“Shapeshifter?”

“Umm, not entirely sure.”

They pulled off the bigger road, and drove past a few giant complexes stores, and a couple of buildings that looked like fortresses.  Half-an-hour and quite a bit of backtracking later they parked outside a 4-story brick building.

The apartment was on the third floor.  All she had beside her clothes, was the little yellow stuffed toy, and she carried it up the stairs.  The door was red wood and he tapped 3 times.  The girl answered it in just a moment, as if she was waiting for the knock.

Her hair was mild yellow, and her eyes a light green.  She wore a shirt with a large cartoon bear on it and bright red jeans.  She showed every tooth she could, as she smiled.

“I’ve been waiting for you!” she said and almost jumped to the side ushering them into the apartment.  It smelled of flowers but there was a sweet underscent that stood out to the fairy.  “Febreze’d the whole place.  Don’t have company a lot,” she added her voice dull, despite the forced excitement on her face.

They walked in, and she shut the door.  Annabelle gripped his arm, and dragged him over to the large front window, her mind racing.  She could not name it, but something in the back of her head was pushing panic on her.  Abby followed, and looked out with them.  The red roof of Nicholas’s car was just visible.  The road was mostly clear, just the occasional vehicle passing by.

“I’m Abby.”  She held out her hand.   Nicholas shook it, but Annabelle declined her eyes wide, as the underscent caught her nose again.  “What brings you here?”

“To Earth?” he asked, his eyes pulsed open, just a flash of thought.  Annabelle had a similar flash, as she realized the source of the smell.

“Or Modesto.  Whatever you want to talk about.”

“Just needed a change,” Annabelle said.  “Nicky, I left the rest of my stuff in the car. Will you go get it?”

“Let’s go together,” he said, his face blank.

“You won’t need it.”   The girl smiled and drew a short dark wand from behind her.

The glamour faded and it gave the appearance of the skin melting away all at once.  The left side of her face had been burnt by Annabelle’s fire.  It was already healed, but mages were good with healing.  The fairy wasn’t sure what dark magic helped the girl survived but her remaining eye leaked it like tears from all sides.  Tendrils of night ringed her eye and escaped her mouth as she breathed.

“What gave it away?”

Nicholas’s hand slid behind him but she waved the wand.

“Nuh-uh,” the mage said with a laugh.  She reached down and moved a metal cannister from behind the couch.  “Propane. Also got the stove on. You pull the trigger, we all go up. Tell her too.”

“It’s gas, it’ll—.”

“I get it.”

“Just so we’re all clear. This is just about you and her.”

“Why him?”

“He killed my drake.”

“No, Billy did that. He killed Billy.”

“I did shoot Billy.”  He nodded.

“I don’t care.  It’s just about you two. You die here I don’t go back to Oregon and kill the short chick.”

“How did you find us?” Nicholas asked.

“The leprechaun, Billy, at the garage passed me your phone information. I had it cloned and then followed the trail. Redeyed here last night.”

“I didn’t get any of that,” Annabelle said.

“She’s not from Fryhel.”   Nicholas tone was flippant, Annabelle nodded trying to match his smile.

“I was born here. In Nebraska, actually. I had talent, so much, the College came for me. I moved to Stydran when I was nine.”

“Didn’t work out well for you did it?”  Nicholas gestured to his face, as he spoke.

“It worked out great. Until this pixie bitch burned me, I was one of the Lord’s top mages.”  Annabelle wanted to point out that she couldn’t have been that great a mage, if being ugly lost her rank.  It seemed like a bad moment for that sort of remark.

“You did that?” he asked, with a low whistle.

“I’m not very sorry. She killed Abby.”

“How’d you know?”

“I’m no pixie. I can smell it through the flowery perfume.”

“She’s in the tub. I’m going to slit your bf’s throat then you’re going to join her. I already drew you a bath.”

She glanced at Nicholas.  He was calm, his eyes fearless as they cut to her.  The leprechaun stood ready to face death as his father had been.

Annabelle looked out the wide window behind him and wished she had taken the time to enjoy that last flight.

“And if I.”  She held up her fingers, thumb poised to snap.

“We all die and I still win.”  She laughed a little, and tilted her head to the side.

The fairy looked to the kitchen and snapped her fingers.  The mage took the bait, glancing toward the other room.

Annabelle grabbed her hand and sent her mind into the mages.  The girl resisted and she was right to be proud, the magic in her flowed thicker than blood, but the fairy was determined.   She danced across the girl’s mind, smashing into the defenses and slipping in where she could.

The battle took only seconds in the real world but hours passed for them.  With a triumphant cry she froze the girl and returned to her own body.

Nicholas was still staring at the kitchen, taking his time catching up.

“Only for a second,” Annabelle said before he could ask.  The mage was already waking, she could feel her brand slipping.

“What?”

The fairy slammed her lips against his, a quick touch.  She couldn’t give herself time to enjoy it.

A hard push on his chest not looking at his eyes.  He yelled a curse word as he sailed through the glass.

One hand wrapped around the mages again.

“Want to dance?”  Annabelle asked and snapped her fingers.  She spun the girl, who screamed and pulled back.  But no human could break a fairy’s grasp.

The flames rose, as always her home, and she felt their bright touch for the last time.

***

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

EPILOGUE

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