The car ride was uncomfortable and it was not just the way her wings fit in the seat.
The fists still hurt against her chest and her pride stung, being trounced by a leprechaun wasn’t a high point in the fairy’s life.
She talked the whole time, Nicole, her ‘nice’ tone strong again. There were many more cars on the street, but the girl told her not to worry about it, she would be set up in a place with a bus service. Driving was something that could wait. Instead she explained money, and how it could be earned through a job. Much like in her world, just with infinite extra steps, until they pulled up outside a giant stone fortress.
The massive building was blue at the top with blazing white letters. Light, bright as daylight was visible through wide glass doors. The courtyard in front was full of cars, more steel than she could have imagined sat open in this world. They drove around the lot a few times, before parking in the darker end.
“You sit here a minute, okay, A?” she asked. “Just chill here and I’ll grab you some clothes. You like any color?”
“Black,” she answered letting her head sit against the cool window. “Like he wore.”
“Glamour your skin a human shade, at least,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Hair is fine, pink is cool here. Looks cute short too.” The girl hopped out of the car, heading toward the lights.
Unsheathing the glass knife, its rounded handle sat cold in her hand she considered death and its allure. Her eyes focused on the blade, she saw herself in it slicing deep into her arm. The fire would consume the car but at least this would be over. Paradise couldn’t exist without him, she knew, but could she really end her years for him?
Would he want her to?
She looked into the odd mirror hung in the center of the glass. Her hand touched the scar on her cheek where the arrow had—.
Her normally red eyes even darker from the tears ate back into her. She lost herself in them for a long time, planning the glamour. His skin had been so smooth, and pale but she honored Nicole with a thin spattering of freckles across the bridge of her button nose. Eyes, as bright as new leaves on a citrus tree, his eyes, bored into her again.
Her new looks in place, she sheathed the blade.
Nicole was standing outside the car, a small red box of some food in her hand, a thin bag on her arm.
“Looking good, Wings,” she said climbing inside. “I hope you like potatoes.”
“Never eaten them,” the fairy admitted.
“Well here’s to new experiences,” Nicole said smiling as she handed her the box of food. “We’ll go get you a few more things and some decent supplies in a minute.”
French fries, as Nicole explained, were a chief source of salt and happy, two things valuable to life regardless of the plane. She talked a lot more, again, and Aroe did her best to keep up with the whitewater rapids of information that flowed through the girl.
She finished the salty snack, unsure despite the illustrious history of the food how she felt about them. Nicole handed her a thin piece of paper and motioned with her hand.
“Napkin, or paper towel, if it’s thicker or comes from a roll. Wipe your hands and face too. Can’t just burn them clean,” she said. “Just clean them normally and go easy on those things.”
“Are they limited?”
“Everything is, one way or another, but yeah, we’re going to run out of stuff on this world one day.”
“Why do we use them for something so minor then?”
“Lots of reasons but mostly we can’t just magic things clean all day, Princess. Go easy on water too. Ever use a tap?”
The continued talking for a while. Nicole explaining bathrooms and their etiquette in this world. Nothing too foreign, all worlds have outhouses, and she had seen automatic water in the Stydran fortress.
As she talked Aroe slipped her clothes off in the front seat, and tossed her old skirt, and top into the gray bag. The new clothes were strange. They were a simple black color, and soft as her old outfit, but heavier, like normal human clothes. The top had a bunch of white markings on it, but no wing holes. The pants just a patch of them on the hip. She shimmied into them, annoyed with a scratching tag against her bare back, but otherwise comfortable.
“Hold off on the shirt,” Nicole said removing some thick cloth rolls from the bag.
The outfit was completed with two strapped sandals, something she had never used before. Who needs shoes when your feet rarely touch the ground? After she slipped them on she rolled the soft pants up a little, to keep them from dragging.
“Now,” Nicole said. “The hard part.”
They both stood on the darker side of the car. Nicole wrapped the cloth around her chest pinning the wings down, tucking them into the back of the pants after. It didn’t hurt exactly, they were flexible, but almost immediately she felt the desire to flick them out, and take to the skies.
Instead she threw the shirt over her head, ready to face the real world.
“We should head inside,” Nicole said, smiling at her. A light sprinkle of rain fell on them, as they rushed into what she now knew was a SuperStore. The spot where the arrow pierced her leg had healed, even the scar gone, but as she dodged through the night, something about the cold brought back the pain. Maybe it was just the running in the dark, but she was happy to make it into the store.
The inside was bright, and warm as if under an enchantment. She followed her new friend in, returning the wave the man at the entrance offered.
“Let me know if you need anything,” he said with a large smile.
“So this is a Market? Here?” Aroe asked scooting in closer to Nicole, putting her hand on the girl’s arm. Nicole grabbed her hand and removed it glancing around.
“One of them. We’ve got a very big world. You’ll find out but just focus on this sort of place for now. Everything you need under one roof.” Nicole pulled a gray metal cart, with black wheels from the stack of hundred. She sat Aroe’s hand on it. “We need to get you some more clothes, a bag, and some toiletries and things. You like fruit?”
“Of course,” she answered offended that the other girl would even ask. Nicole steered the cart toward an area filled with them near the entrance. She hardly recognized most of them, a few apples, and cherries larger than she had ever seen. Oranges she knew and they had her favorite pears. The rest were foreign to her eyes, but the sweet scents mingled.
“Aroe’s a strange name,” Nicole said, picking out a bunch of bright yellow fruits. “You can keep it, your choice, but you don’t have to. Keep that in mind. We need to know tonight though.”
Aroe nodded as Nicole launched into another long rant, this one about the foods she should eat. She was supposed to avoid certain things and Nicole pointed them out as they wandered between shelves taller than she’d ever seen outside a library.
“A library of food,” she said as they finished the last aisle and moved across the way. Nicole laughed, slowing her constant speech. Soft tainted flower smells permeated this section. It was filled with bottles of various potions she assumed, like the section Nicole had picked up the bitter silver canned brew she called an ‘Energy Drink’.
“Do you guys sweat?” her guide asked pulling a bottle off the shelves. She popped the top open with her thumb, drawing in deep with her nose, before holding it out for Aroe to sniff.
“No,” the fairy replied with a shake of her head.
“Lucky,” Nicole said with a laugh. She grabbed another bottle and repeated her ritual.
“That smells amazing,” Aroe said grabbing the bottle to hungrily suck down the scent. “What is this?”
“Men’s Body Wash,” she said with a smile. “Next aisle, for us.”
“I want this one,” she said. “It’s like cedar, and lavender, and uh…”
“Grapefruit,” Nicole finished. “According to the bottle, but you should use the girls ones. Or well whatever you prefer but the girls ones are nice too.”
“Can we get both?” she asked. “I just want to smell this one.”
“Does it remind you of something? Or someone?”
“No, Javell never smelled like this. I’ve never smelled a man like this,” she said as she realized she could barely recall his scent. She sat the bottle back on the shelf but her eyes lingered, Aroe wondered what he would pick.
“Fuck, kid,” Nicole said. “I do this so much, I forgot too, for a minute.” The leprechaun grabbed the white bottle, and stuck it in the cart.
“He really loved me,” she said tears in her eyes turning to steam.
“Lots of loves don’t end well, my friend. It’s not the endings that make us, it’s the epilogue.” Her face clouded and Aroe threw her arms around the leprechaun. She returned the hug for just a second before she pushed Aroe’s hand back onto the cart.
“You’ll be okay, Nicole,” she said.
“I think that last bit was backwards,” she replied followed by another musical laugh.
Aroe nodded keeping her hand on the cart, as her friend dragged them to the next section. Citrus scents stood out to her, so she picked mostly them. Next was underwear, another first for her, then more clothes and the last section on their list.
“Electronics,” she said smiling. “Going to get you a burner, a temporary phone, until you get your info from Nicky. Better decide on a name and I’ll text it over.”
“Text?” she asked.
“On the way home. We normally do this over a week, but I guess I’ll teach you that tonight too,” she said, grabbing a bright green package. “This will just be until you get to your town too. Normally we’d find you an apartment nearby, and a job, but with the whole—.” She stopped, moving her hand around. “Thing, just the whole thing, we should probably get you out of Stumptown. I’ve got a friend in Cali that wants a non-normal roommate.”
“More, in a bit, just focus on the name? Aroe good? Aroe Aarons? He wants to get on this.” They had wandered out of electronics and into a section of brightly colored dishes. Racks of silverware caught the fairy’s eye, her own image visible in the stacked metal.
“Anna,” she said suddenly, remembering the name from years ago. “My first human boyfriend called me it. He was a priest and he said Anna was a proper christian name for him to use during our trysts. He was very pious.”
“Sounds like it,” Nicole said with a giggle. “Anna, and we need a last one too. A surname.”
“Can I just borrow yours? Anna Nicole?”
“Uhhh, why don’t we try.” She glanced around, her eyes settling on a small cup. It was plastic like much of this world, and featured a monster in a blue suit embracing a woman in a yellow dress. “Belle you are Annabelle Rose.”
“Thanks.” She threw her arms around the shorter girl, and then let go, dancing in a circle around the cart. “I like it.”
“I can tell,” she said and then removed the white toy she kept playing with from her bag. “I’ll let him know.” She started tapping on the toy, Aroe, now Annabelle, continued dancing.
“Cute, but you’re a terrible dancer,” a voice said. A man near the back of the aisle.
“What?!” The fairy stopped dancing and called the heat in the large room to her.
“Foreign, it’s a traditional dance, and she does it beautifully,” Nicole said quickly. Her hand caught onto the fairy’s shoulder, and pulled her away from the aisle.
“My mistake,” he called smiling.
“That’s one of my best dances.” Annabelle grabbed the cart again.
“It’s beautiful, but human dancing is a lot different, and you can’t just flash fry people for insultin’ your booty shakin’ here.”
“I was just going to burn his eyebrows,” she said.
“Still, no,” she said. “No eyebrows, or anything on humans. Even if they know you’re a fairy, they can get weird about stuff like that. Little magic but especially eyebrows being burnt off and things.” Her own hand ran across her slightly bushy brows.
They grabbed a sleeping bag and pillow, both the same color as her normal skin, her new namesake painted onto them. They finished the trip out with some fruity smelling sweets in bags. Nicole grabbed one she explained was chocolate, a rarity back home and peanut butter, which Annabelle had only ever heard about.
She’d seen jars of the sticky brown substance at market, a week’s work got a few scoops of the stuff. Some fairy’s coveted peanut butter above all, they worked toward their daily dose like it was the only joy available in any world.
Checking out brought another litany from the leprechaun. She stayed quiet, Nicole switched between the human language they had been using, and Fair tongue, for the explanations.
“<She’ll ask too many…>”
“<’Questions’, Syilaette?>” Annabelle provided the word.
“<Syi is honey, laette is cake. Literal cake, or a good friend.>”
“<Never heard it.>”
“<Easier to slip into English for some words. Most the young kin don’t even know as much as you.>”
“<Sorry,>” Nicole said.
“<The way of things,>” she replied, sounding sorry herself.
A the end they paid using a small silver card.
“You’ll get one of these too,” she said. “In your new name. We can’t just give you all the gold that was sent on ahead in cash but it won’t last forever. Job, as soon as you get there.”
“I understand,” she said accidentally slipping back into English.
“You’ve got a pretty accent,” the servant said an older women with steel gray hair. “Where is she from?” she asked turning to Nicole.
“Uhh,” Nicole appraised Annabelle, flinching as she said, “Guam?”