Chapter Four: Rose Tattoo

They drove straight to the back of the lot, and Nicole pulled up to the container.

“Go inside, and I’ll grab a few things. Be back in a mo’.”   Annabelle got out, and she drove off with a wave.

As soon as she dropped the bags, she collapsed onto the mattress, certain once more that the metal room had held fish people.  The fairy glanced back at the pile of hay, and even began to call the magic to burn it, but decided that would only make the smell worse.

Annabelle pulled the white bottle of men’s body wash from one of the bags and splotched a bit on the pillow, before turning it over.  Leaning against it she sniffed the bottle, inhaling the heady aroma of the purple liquid.

Her mind calmed and she suddenly became aware of just how hungry she was.  When had she last eaten?  Yesterday, she decided after some thought.  A few tulips.

Fries. She suddenly remembered the red package of potatoes. After going through the bag, she decided on an apple and a pear.  Both were strange varieties and sweeter than normal, but she enjoyed them.

“Knock, knock,” Nicole said as she returned.  “Brought us a few drinks, and some soup.”  The girl held a carton of bottles in one hand.  Her other held a plastic container topped with a blue lid, and a loaf of bread.

The beer was a welcome release, Annabelle downed it quickly feeling her hunger double as the alcohol burned in her.  The soup was some type of thin red, and was salted heavily, but it was so good she could barely stop herself from from just drinking it from the bowl.  She ate her half and passed the other to the leprechaun.

“Finish it I’m fine,” she said opening the orange bag of candy she had picked up at the store.  “It’s tomato my mom makes it.”

“I love your mom,” Annabelle answered.  “I love her so much.”

“I’ll mention it.”  Nicole passed the red bag over.  The fairy popped it open and pulled a few brightly colored pieces out.  Dropping the hard bits into her mouth she bit into them, over-sweet off tasting fruit flavors exploded into her mouth.  Her eyes shot wide.

“I love whoever made this too,” she said shoving a handful into her mouth chewing hard on the candy.

“Thought you might,” Nicole said.  “Well I thought you’d like it, anyway.”

Nicole pulled the ‘burner’ phone from the bag.  She hung her legs out the open door, as she played with the little black toy.  She removed her own, and after a second music rang free of the device.

“Mp3’s, are where the music is coming from,” Nicole started.  “Let’s get going with phones first, you guys have telegraphs right?”

“In the Stydran, and outlying,” she said. “Maybe in south Fryhel.”

“Well texting is like that but you just type the messages yourself. And they go directly to the person you’re sending it to. See, like this?”  She held up her phone, the little light was filled with boxes and black blobs.

“I can’t read those letters,” she said, her eyes squinted.  “Are they in English?”

“Yeah, they’re in English,” she said, a low sigh afterward.  “Your eyes aren’t so great.”

“They’re beautiful,” she replied.  “Everyone says so.”

“I mean the seeing stuff,” she said.  “I forgot about Fairy eyes. I’ll text Nicky to add it to the list.” She tapped out a message.

“What to the list?”

“Glasses, you’ll need to see a doctor.  We have a guy, well he’s a dragon, but he’s also a hell of a doctor,” she said.  “Let me see that pack of black shirts I got you.”

Annabelle tossed it to her, and the girl ripped it open.   She removed a knife from her boot, with a dark blade.  She sliced two holes in the back, and tossed the shirt over, before repeating the process with the rest of the package.

“Wings go through the holes,” she said.  “If you’re home or in decent company.”  She slipped the first shirt off, and Nicole showed her how to roll the cloth up for easy reuse.  As soon as the wings were free they began to flutter of their own accord, beginning to buzz after a moment.

“You want to stretch those pretty things a bit?” Nicole said.  “I’ve got some more stuff to do with your phone anyway.”

“Thank you,” Annabelle said throwing the black shirt on first, and shrinking it with the rest of her. She left the sandals and hugged Nicole, her tiny arms just laying across the girl’s chest.  “For everything.”

“Careful, the dogs are loose and some of the clan’s been drinking.”  She emphasized the last bit with a pull of her own beer.  “Pa said you’re safe, just avoid them anyway. Everyone’s on edge lately.”

“I’m always careful,” she said.  “Well most always.”

Glamours could not stick to the small body so she was pink once more, her eyes reflecting the fires where she was born.  She flew up first, to the top of the stacks and then along the cars, dashing as her fancy called.  The night was beautiful, the earlier rains having brought up the deep scents of the earth.

At the outskirts she saw a few of the dogs.  A friend of hers was eaten by one when she was younger so she was weary of them in her smaller form.  She almost wanted to change size, to go pet them, but they looked vicious and growled at her from the ground.  She headed back toward the house, but stopped just at the edge of the light.

Annabelle’s heart was light with drink and the night air stoked her fires.  She shot upward, and arched down to the next stack, leaving a streak of yellow sparks behind her.  The little bits of fire hung in the sky a moment before fading away.

“Dumb sparkle bitch,” Greg’s voice from inside the house. “You burn anything you pay for it.”  She stopped, and stared into the darkened room it had come from.

“Do a heart,” a woman’s voice said.  Annabelle nodded at the blurred women below her. Trailing fire the fairy flew fast, she looped wide for the curves and did a curled trail at the end.  The shape hung for just a moment and she was glad for the distraction.

“Can you do names?” a slur, from the garage.

“Six letters or less an’ shapes I’ll throw in free,” she said, the phrase she always used when she performed at the fairs, or markets.  She opened her mouth to call out a price, but stopped herself.

“I, then a heart, then R,” the drunk said, after a minutes thought.  “‘S fine like that.”  A few woman made ‘awe’ sounds and Annabelle noticed the crowd outside the back door had grown.   Twenty or more people sat outside, in various sizes, and states of drunkenness.

“Still sleeping in the garage, Andy,” a woman said, laughter from the crowd as she drew out the letters.  She waved her hand afterward underlining it with crackling sparks.  Putting the extra effort in to turn them a bright red and the last one purple.

“Me next.”  And she answered a few more requests, before just writing ‘Night’, adding two stars under it in pink. Her usual signature.

She flew off toward the back of the lot, glad she had brightened someone’s night.  She twirled in the air, but slowed as she noticed the glow of a cigarette or pipe from the edge of the long lot.  It flared again, and she could smell the sweet pungent aroma of smile flower.

She wasn’t someone who could handle her flower, so she just started to fly past.

“Hey, come here a sec, Aroe? Was it?” Greg’s voice, again.  She glanced back to the darkened window then flew down.  It actually was Greg, and he seemed far more relaxed than a few hours ago.

“Hello Mr Murphy,” she said with an in-air curtsy.

“Fairy,” he said, and returned with a slight bow.  He clicked his lighter a few times cob pipe held to his mouth.  She flared the embers of the bowl with a snap of her fingers and he smiled at her.  He took a long draw,and exhaled a few rings of the smoke, until with a light cough he lost the whole cloud at once.  His voice was tight, when he spoke again.  “Not a lot of Fairies I’ve seen can control themselves like that.”

“Sir?” she asked.

“The colors and letters. Never met a fairy can read decent,” he said.  “Or one that would light an old man’s pipe, after all the earlier talk.”

“I was just trying to be nice.”

“Aye, well it was kind of you,” he said with a little laugh.  “My son he loved fairies. Used to think that was why the whole helping things. Getting his shillelagh in every girl he could.”

“He’s a young man,” she said.  “It’s nature.”

“We always chase the worst for us.” He stared up at the night sky.  “Bound in blood, girly.  That’s what love is. Bound in blood.”   He finished his pipe, and tapped it on his boot.  “Sleep well, and safe. Welcome on Murphy lands, all decent are.”

She flew off glad she had run into the old man.  But part of her wondered what had set him off earlier.  Nicole was leaning against the outside of the little home, her eyes dancing with mirth.

“I’m glad I didn’t tell you not to burn half of Portland down or something,” she said.  “Impressive though. Damned impressive.”

She drew out ‘Nicole’ in green, using a heart for the ‘O’.  Flying hot, and fast she barely made it to the ‘E’ before the fade started.  She spelled ‘Sorry’ after, one she had done a lot.

“I used to do it for coins,” she said as she landed on the girl’s shoulder.  Nicole let her ride inside before she brushed her off onto the mattress.  “When I needed money.”

“Shake what the gods gave you, I guess,” she said.  “Here’s your phone. Probably don’t shrink it, mine doesn’t do so well when I do.”  Annabelle turned half size, big enough to hold the phone, but small enough to not need a lot of drink.

“More beer please?” she asked as she sat the phone on the mattress.  “Sorry, really about the family thing.”

“It’s fine. Want try some of these?” she said, handing her one of the long yellow fruits.  An hour, at least, passed as they drank, Nicole talked once more, about all the food stuff again.  Restaurants, and their etiquette this time.

“Pizza for lunch after your appointment,” Nicole said.  “No pepperoni but we’ll get you some veggie or something. You like cheese?”

“Yes, I love it!” she said excited at the prospect of more new food.  “What appointment?”

“Nicky texted, Noon,” she said with a tap to the side of her head.  “Tomorrow.”

“Who is Nicky? Do I get to meet her?”

“Him my brother Nicholas,” she said.  “Pa’s an ass. His dad named him and his brother ‘Gregory’ and ‘Craigory’  though so I guess it’s a family thing. We got off light too. Oh, and you did already. He was the drunk guy in the garage.”

“The stabby one?”

“No! That’s Billy. Fuck Billy, I hate that guy. Black hair, really, really drunk. Uhm, the-.”  Nicole stopped, and ran her hand along her leg from the knee down.

“Oh,” she said with a flush, remembering the young man.  “The cute one?”

“Don’t say that to his face,” Nicole said.  “It’ll go straight to his freakin’ ego.”

“I love confident guys,” Annabelle said.  “Is he…”

She stopped, seeing the ‘slam you into a wall’ look showing on Nicole’s face.  The face passed in just a moment.

“He’s not interested in Fairy’s love,” the leprechaun said.  “Even if he is he’s been through a lot, don’t tease him.”

“What’s wrong with my love?” she said.  “I wouldn’t tease him.”  She leaned over, and grabbed the bag of fruity sweets.

Nicole sighed.  “When did Javell die?” she asked.

“This morning. Well it’s night here, so…” she looked around.   “I don’t know how long nights are here.”

“Same, just without the blue in the last few hours,” she said.  “Just forget about it, but stay away from my brother, or at least don’t say anything you don’t know is true forever. Best if you don’t say anything.”

“I loved Javell,” she said as she picked up on the gist of their conversation.  “I do love him, still, just it’s been a long time.”

“I don’t want to argue with you,” she said a sad look on her face.  “You say you love him, it’s fine.  Just don’t say that to Nicky.”

“What happened to him? The leg thing, I mean.”

“Lots of stuff,” she said.  “He won’t talk about it and it’s not my place to tell you.”

“I could go to him,” Annabelle told her.   “I could comfort him without words.”

Nicole’s eyes widened and she chugged some beer.  “I’m not going to get involved in any of that,” she said.  “This conversation is now about peanut butter cups.”  She held out one of the packages.

Annabelle liked the candy so they spent awhile talking about them.  Somehow she ended up laying down, her bottle of bodywash set up by her pillow.

“Shrink up,” Nicole said and then laid down next to her. “Leaving the door open, the rain is nice.”  They both made themselves smaller and climbed under the sleeping bag.  The pillow was too large to use so they just laid on top of it.

“You’re a nice person, Nicole,” Annabelle said and threw her arms around the girl.  The other girl wiggled out of the embrace.  “Nice family. Sorry I almost tried to stab your dad.”

“He won’t take it personal.”

“I saw him, on the way back. He said I was welcome here. Didn’t seem near as mad.”

“He’s a good man and a good father. He hates all this though just does it for me and Nicky. Freaked out when he heard about Nicky’s leg. Almost smashed the portal himself,” she said.

“All what?”

“The refugees,” she said.  “We’re the ones that pulled the Murphy’s into the Rose Path.”

“Rose Path?” she asked.  “I thought that was a myth.”

“It is, but that’s what we call our group. After the myth.” She pulled her hooded shirt off and her other sleeve up.  On her shoulder was a rose, the words ‘Better Life’ etched on it.  “We get the tattoos, during our induction.”

“Wow, can I get one?” she asked pulling up her own sleeve.

“Only members of the Path get them. Rose Path ain’t an easy life, kid. You’re an easy case. That give you an idea?”

“Is that what you’re brother has on his leg?”

“No, it was on the other. He didn’t get it redone,” she said.  “Aren’t you sleepy?”

“Not yet,” she said, and then rolled onto her stomach, tossing the blanket down to her feet.   She flapped her wings a few times, enjoying the warm breeze on her back.  “Is he going to get it redone?”

“I doubt it,” Nicole said.  A snap of her fingers and the lights went out.  The small room was dark, besides the slight glow from Annabelle’s skin.  “Can you turn that down?”

“Sure.” Annabelle made herself dull.  “About your—.”

“No,” she said.  “Ask him, you want to get shot, but I’m not telling you anythin’.”

“Can we talk about this world then?”

“What do you want to know next?”

“Anything, just keep talking. Help me get to sleep.”

“You’re lucky,” she said.  “I’m too tired to be insulted over that.”

Annabelle thought she’d never sleep, lost in the exhilaration of the new world.  Her eyes were open one second, the next strong hands were shaking her awake.

***

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