Annabelle woke before him. The sun was barely out and she ate a few pieces of the fruit. Afterwards she cleaned her hands, and then carefully lifted the phone from his jacket pocket. She tucked her wings under her shirt, they poked out but it hardly made a difference.
The door creaked, she opened it just enough to squeeze through. The lock clicked, she checked for the keycard in her waistband.
Nicole was the last person he called. She pushed the picture and waited.
“Yeah, I made a fool of myself trying to sleep with your brother, but this world has a nice ocean. I don’t quite want to throw myself into it.”
“Ocean? Wait, first Nicky turned you down? Nicky? Is he wounded? Like head wounded?”
“I’ll check but he just didn’t seem into it.”
“Was he drunk?”
“Well I know Pa wasn’t there to piss him off.”
“He said I was weak.”
“Sorry, A,” she said. “I did warn you.”
“I know you did. Sorry too. Is everything alright there?” Annabelle cleaned the steam from her glasses with one hand.
“Good, well not good. Still just starting to work on this. Clan stuff.”
“You too, kid. Don’t worry about Nicky, he’s probably just thinking you’re like the others. We both know you’re the best damn fairy on this world and any other.”
“Yeah it’s so blue. We’re right outside it.” Annabelle paced around the parking lot.
“What?” she asked after a moment of silence.
“Where are you guys? Town name? Nearest road?”
“Ashland, and no, but you should be. He’s not taking the quick route. He’s taking his time.”
“Maybe he just wants to get away.”
“I should put his phone back, he was still sleeping.”
“Tell him the moneys at a western union usual Rose info. He’ll be able to pick it up.”
“I wasn’t going to tell him I called you. I just wanted to talk to a friend.”
“I’m glad you did. But tell him and keep his phone! Don’t give it back. He can be phoneless for a while.”
“I don’t want it. He had…” They talked a few more minutes, Nicole trying to explain the concept of blackmail for most of it. The leprechaun had some business though, Annabelle let her go to it and then spent a pleasant few minutes memorizing the waves in front of her. It had never even occurred to her that this planet would have an ocean too.
She felt a little better on the way back to the room. Whatever light mood the conversation evoked, his empty chair cast shadows across. The shower was running again and she sat on the bed, eating the rest of the fruit.
The door opened after a while and he exited the bathroom wearing just the beat-up shorts.
“I called Nicole. She said the money was at the Western Union and normal Rose Path stuff.” She gestured to his phone, on the table by the TV.
Annabelle saw flashes of color as he walked around the room, but she forced herself not to focus on the tattoos. After a moment the fairy removed her glasses.
“I am sorry about all the stuff I said, and did.”
“No need to be.” Nicholas pulled a shirt on, and then walked over to stand in front of her. He took the glasses out of her hands and sat them on her face. Crooked and without any sort of extra touching.
“You picked these out.”
“Nice tell you my social security number too?”
“No and she was drunk, she didn’t really want to tell me.” Annabelle fixed her glasses, regretting the little scrape on the lens again.
“I saw the end of your show. I saw the whole show, both of them. You did the stars so perfect, I knew you must like them.”
“I like them because I do them so well. They look good under my name.” She didn’t lie often, she wasn’t that type of fairy, so she didn’t think a little one would hurt.
“All the things you do look good.”
“I’m not touching you.”
“I’m just being honest.” He backed up a few paces and put his hands up.
Nicholas started to gather up the few things they had, and then he took them to the car. When he came back, she left the room and sat back down in the front seat. They drove across the small town, stopping in front of a brown store.
“Want to come in?”
“I’ll be fine.”
A head shake as he left. Regret sank in at the same speed as boredom but she occupied herself counting cars. When she lost focus there she read the white tags on the back of them.
People went by, at one point a kitsune crossed the lot in a hurry, but most were human. Annabelle had given up hope, steeling herself to brave the store to find him. As Annabelle opened her door, she spotted him on his way back. One hand held a pin box, the other a bag. He sat in his seat and dropped a small stuffed toy onto her lap.
“What is this?” Annabelle’s hand shook as she lifted the toy. She tried not to smile, pushing her urge to hug him or the toy, or both at once, down.
“It’s a stupid peace offering. You can burn it if you want.”
“I know it’s a peace offering, you’re still a uwarun, but what is it?”
“Oh, it’s an emoji. It’s like a little picture to represent emotion in a text, or tweet.”
“No, nope, not even doing the social media talk.”
“What does this one represent?”
“Uhm, well hearts for eyes are…” A mild rose ran across his cheeks.
“I think I can guess.”
“I won it. In a chance machine. I was going for the dumb looking one.” Eyes on the sky as he spoke.
“It’s nice. Thank you.”
“Food too.” He wiggled the pink box.
“Yeah, orange juice too.”
“Thank you.” Nicholas sat in the seat, facing outward again. He twisted to grab some doughnuts and then sat quietly while he ate them.
“I could get you something else. I thought fairies liked sweets.”
“I’ll eat in a minute.” She held the little toy up, staring at it’s bright yellow skin.
“What’s a Uwarun?” Nicholas’s pronunciation was terrible. He let the word out at once, instead of the slipstream Fairy required.
“Not something to talk about while eating.” She set the toy down, and grabbed a doughnut.
He swung his legs in, and then glanced over at her but didn’t speak. They didn’t get back on the large road, just pulled onto a small one, and drove along the ocean. After a while he started playing with the radio. Eventually music came through clear and he turned it up.
Hours passed in silence, and today it was fine. He didn’t seem to mind either, so eventually she leaned her head against the window once more.
After a few more switches he gave up on the radio. Annabelle’s eyes were closed but music blared, tinny and small like from Nicole’s phone. She opened one eye and saw him attach his phone to a cord.
“Battery is shit, lately.”
“Where are we going?”
He stared at her for a long time. “California. Modesto.”
“Nicole said we were going the long way.”
“How did she know?”
“The ocean. It was so nice, I told her about it.”
“Did you tell her everything?”
“I told her you turned me down. I didn’t tell her how mean you were. How you danced with me and then called me a whore. Again.”
“You really wanted to dance.”
“We all make mistakes.”
“Why did we take this route?”
“It’s a pretty view.” Nicholas was looking at her, just a glance, but she got the feeling he wanted to extend the thought.
“She was a water elemental.”
“Are you sure you want to talk about this?”
“I treated you like you were her. Figured you might want to know why I was mad.” He took a long deep breath. “She came through while I was on duty. I don’t normally take guard times but things were busy. Dad ordered me to, and I bitched, but I was there.”
“Sitting in a garage that bad?”
“It was a Friday.”
“So? It’s work. Gotta be done”
“I wanted to do other things. Anyway, she came through, and said she was being chased. She just wanted to make it to the ocean.”
“It’s not that far.”
“Other one. It’s pretty far from here.”
“It’s a really big planet. Also we’re not a Pangaea, we’ve got separate smaller continents.”
“That’s amazing. How many continents are there?”
“I was doing my dramatic backstory.”
“It’s fine, just never told anyone this.”
“I said sorry.”
“You don’t care I’ll just clif note it. She liked another guy, a wyvern, and things didn’t go my way. I tried to take off but she needed some cash. They did. She knocked me down, robbed me, and he took my leg off. Woke up in the basement of a friends in New Mexico. They shipped me home.”
“Sorry, some elementals are just not nice.”
“I knew what she was. I just thought maybe we could overlook our natures for a while.”
“Doesn’t make it any less horrible. What she did.”
An hour of silence passed. Annabelle was too awake to sleep again, so she stared out across the ocean, dreaming of the type of boats a world like this might have.
“You like the water?”
“It’s no excuse for how I treated you,” he continued. “She was just the same, a lot of the time. Danced with my Dad the first night there. Danced with me a lot more. We we’re going to live on the ocean together. In Florida.”
“Why would you want to live here? It’s always raining.”
“Right, sorry, but still water. Too much is bad for you.”
“No, too much is bad for you. Leprechauns need water. And food regularly. Are there any donuts left?”
“A strange twisted one with brown stuff on it and a pale one with pink goo in the side.”
“You like the goo?”
“Is it a Goo?”
“No we don’t have those, it’s strawberry jam.”
“Then yes, I like the goo.”
“I’ll take the strange one then.”
Silence overtook them again. Chirps broke it throughout the day. Comments, a quick meal. One awkward knuckle brush, that lingered on her skin for the afternoon.
Eventually he pulled into a small motel, this one only a single story. A large antiseptic smelling pond sitting in the middle.
“Two beds?” she asked preparing to argue with him. Nicholas looked like he was about to collapse, and there was no way she was sleeping on a full bed if he was in a chair again.
“I can get two rooms,” he said as he got out.
She jumped out after him. “No one room is fine,” she called after him.
“We can get two.”
Annabelle shook her head, running to the other side of the car. “Just one. I don’t want to sleep in a room by myself.”
“Damn girl THIRSTY!” A woman yelled from by the pond. The people with her laughed.
“Was that an insult?” she asked, keeping her voice low.
“They think you want to sleep with me.”
“So it was—.”
“I’m done here.” Nicholas walked off toward the building and she climbed into the car. The people at the pool were still laughing, maybe not at her anymore but it still felt like that.
He returned in just a few minutes and drove them around to the back of the building. One hand raised up, holding a keycard out and she took it slowly from him.
“It’s 42, dummy. I’m just going to go get dinner. You don’t want to be alone, you don’t got to be alone.”
Annabelle went inside, and chose the bed farthest from the door to bounce onto. She laid there a few minutes before she went into the bathroom.
The fairy took her shirt off. The light was off so it was hard to see well. She left it dim and turned to the side. The wings both flexed up. With a few sharp breaths, she flicked the switch and stepped into the other room.
She leaned against the wall breathing heavy for a moment, before she returned.
Two teeth had torn through the top section. Her gorgeous little curlicued ‘A’ just off the center of the wing was shredded. A strip dried strip hung in the center of the two tears. She flapped them slowly and watched the upper piece flop. Useless.
Stripping the rest of her clothes and climbed into the shower. The water wasn’t really warm enough for her, she preferred just heating the skin. But the pulse of it against the back of her head felt nice.
With a creak, the door closed and she climbed out. After toweling off she put her clothes back on. Nicholas was on the bed she chose, a bag of food in front of him. A separate bag set on the other bed. She sat down on the free bed and ate.
“Get some rest. We’ll be there tomorrow.”
“Okay. Goodnight.” She crawled under the blanket.