It was our first Thanksgiving together. A Human holiday I'd never particularly identified with... until now. I sat at the dining room table with a glass of 30 year old whiskey, neat, and silently watched all the chaos around me.
Rain was in the kitchen bouncing between the stove, the sink and the counter; slicing, shopping, stirring. An occasional stop by the oven to check on the turkey and she started the circuit all over again. Lily moved around on her own busy trajectory, the two of them managing somehow to never be in each other's way.
The back door stood open and the warm autumn California sunshine came in on a sweet breeze. Glancing outside I took a moment to appreciate the roses and cannas that were still blooming thanks to a long summer. The sky was gradient blue; milky to saturated in its transitioning shades and a faint smear of clouds kissed the horizon.
The sound of laughter brought my gaze back to the kitchen where Drason was chopping carrots, apparently incorrectly, and Rain was teasing him about it. Kheelan stood leaning against the wall between the kitchen and living room, his feet crossed at the ankle as he popped cashews into his mouth.
Rain had moved to the sink and was washing her knife, laughing at something Kheelan said and flicking water at him from her fingertips. He made his way to her in two long strides and wrapped his arms around her, pinning hers to her sides so he could wet one hand and return her splashes, making her giggle.
I couldn't help but smile as I watched Kheelan change his hold on her, his arms relaxing from playful imprisonment to an affectionate embrace. He pressed several kisses to her cheek before Rain turned her head to claim a quick kiss on the mouth.
Now. Now I understood the holiday and it had nothing to do with the pilgrims, Indians or food, it was the people who made it special.
Kheelan, my best friend since childhood, had never given up on me all the years I was gone from Faerie. And Rain, the one of a kind woman who brought me to life long before she broke my curse.
Rain met my gaze and looked a question at me which I answered with a smile. I watched as she came around the island, drying her hands on a towel as she walked. Arriving at my side I sat my glass down and wrapped my arms around her hips from where I sat, looking up into her beautiful face.
She stroked my hair before letting her hands rest on my shoulders, "Are you all right?" she asked, and her concern for me always warmed me to my bones.
I smiled up at her, "Yes la mia bellizza, I'm perfectly wonderful. I promise."
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
“Want to know how I got these scars?” Eric asked Amy who was nestled against him, her long fingers tracing the lines of the raised, rough tissue on his chest.
Looking up from where her head was resting against his shoulder she smiled a languid, post sex smile and blinked slowly at him, “Sure.”
“Well, I was backpacking through Europe and when I was in Venice I had stopped in a café for some lunch. Now mind you, I was traveling on a shoestring so lunch was nothing more than a bottle of water and a cheap sandwich from a corner mart, but I chose to eat it in San Marco Square just to make it feel fancier.”
Amy shifted her weight, propping her head up in her hand and leaning onto her elbow, her eyes losing some of their sleepiness as Eric spoke of faraway places she longed to visit.
“I was sitting on the ground against one of the pillars of the Doge’s palace, content to just watch the colorful collection of people passing by, most of who acted like they were the only people there. They were so unaware of things going on around them and were accidentally rude to others they hadn’t bothered to notice were sharing the city with them. It was both comical and annoying.”
It was Eric’s turn to shift, turning onto his side to face Amy, mimicking her head-propped-in-hand pose.
“But it was the three men in long black coats that caught and kept my attention.”
“Why?” Amy asked, her voice curious.
“Well, it was July in Venice, much too hot for the coats they were wearing. Plus, they were walking really slowly and their heads were swiveling around in slow motion like they were looking for someone. As it turned out they were looking for someone, a girl who didn’t look much older than 16, and when they saw her they made a synchronized beeline for her.”
Amy sat up, pulling a pillow into her lap and wrapping her arms around it, her posture tense. “What did they do to her?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I don’t know what they would have done, but their intent seemed sinister to I jumped up and made my way to the girl. Fortunately I was closer so I was able to intercept her.”
“What did you do?”
Eric flipped back onto his back, lacing his fingers behind his head and crossing his feet at the ankle. “I took her by the arm and started walking her out of the square. I told her there were three men after her, but she said she knew that. She told me they were sent by the mob, she had information they wanted and she was trying to stay in hiding.”
“What was the information?” Amy asked, leaning forward.
“I don’t know; we never got that far. We heard the three men’s shoes on the stone sidewalk as they started running after us so we ran too.”
Eric sat up and crossed his legs, mimicking Amy by clutching a pillow in his lap, leaning in as he continued, “Venice is a twisty, labyrinthine city. We tried to lose them in the alleyways and by hopping across rows of tethered gondolas, but we couldn’t shake them. They finally caught up to us and tacked us both to the ground. I couldn’t even see what was happening with the girl, I was too busy getting my ass kicked. The guy who was pummeling me actually tried to end me, stabbing me three times and leaving me for dead.”
Amy pressed one hand over her mouth, stifling a gasp.
“When I woke up in the hospital I didn’t really have any information to give to the police since I never got the girl’s name. I never knew what happened to her.”
“Oh God, Eric. Really!?”
Eric smirked, “Nah, I got these when I fell into a barbed wire fence on my Uncle’s farm.”
Monday, November 25, 2013
They say the Candy Man can do anything. He can sprinkle a sunrise with dew; he can take tomorrow and dip it in a dream, but what they don’t tell you is that the Candy Man can also steal your soul and turn it into a mind twisting confection.
Yeah, I wouldn’t have believed it either, not until ten years ago when I won that cursed golden ticket. I’d thought all my dreams had come true! My family was being taken care of and I was learning how to be a chocolatier from the genius behind Fizzy Lifting drink, the Everlasting Gobstopper and the gum that was a complete meal.
I didn’t learn the truth for six years.
Saying Willy was eccentric was a monumental understatement, but then most genius’ are. I was taking the Wonkivator to the Nut Room to check on the last batch of pecans we’d received but by accident I pushed two of the buttons at the same time; that simple slip of the finger would change my life.
I was whisked off to a part of the factory I’d never seen. It was the opposite of everything else I’d seen, in place of the bright colors was black and gray, making me feel like I’d stepped into an old movie I didn’t have a script for. I walked down the monochromatic hallway, the length of which was unbroken by a single door, it simply felt like a funnel leading me toward the unknown and I thought for sure the pounding of my heart would echo against the slick walls.
Reaching the partially open door at the end of the long hallway I peered through the narrow opening and couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Willy had three children, no older then 5, sitting at a tiny table and he was having a tea party with them. A miniature tea set was arranged on the table alongside pastries, cakes and cookies which the children were gobbling up as fast as they could get their hands on them, stuffing them into their chocolate smeared mouths.
As I watched he took one little girl by the hand and led her toward a small machine that sat in the far corner, the black metal of it nearly lost in the shadows. I couldn’t hear what he was saying to her but with a nod she stepped up onto a box he had at the base of the contraption and bent forward to look into the brass eyepiece, much like the ones you find on a nickelodeon.
Willy started turning a small crank on the side of the machine with one hand, the other hand pressed to the back of her head to hold her in place. With a pop and crackle sound the machine came to life, whirring and buzzing and after only a few moments the machine gave one last popping sound just as the little girl’s body went limp. Willy stepped on a pedal hidden in the floor and a trap door opened under her feet, dropping her into a chute that I was certain led to the incinerator.
I was too shocked to move. To scream. To do anything more than continue to stare.
The two remaining children remained oblivious, far more interested in the sweets they were given than in wondering about their missing friend. Reaching down Willy plucked a piece of candy from a slot just under the small crank, holding it up to the light and smiling at it a moment before popping it into his mouth.
He shuddered when the confection hit his tongue, rising up on his toes and spinning around in pirouettes with unrestrained giggling… like a little girl. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, couldn’t believe that Willy was stealing children’s essence, their souls, and I guessed that this was how he’d remained ageless. I suspected too that this was also where his ideas for new candy came from, after all nothing is more creative than the unshackled imagination of a child.
When he turned and started skipping toward the two remaining children I knew I had to stop him, I had to save them, and with a sudden yell I burst through the door and ran at him. I think I had hoped that being filled with a little girl’s essence he wouldn’t be able to react and process events like an adult; I was wrong.
Willy turned and his polluted gaze pinned me, almost stopping me in my tracks with the sinister intention behind his eyes but I barreled onward, dropping my shoulder to ram into him but he stepped to the side and instead of taking him down I experienced a painful encounter with the wall. I fell backward and my head connected with the floor, soundly ringing my bell, and even when I felt Willy grab me I couldn’t react.
I could feel myself being dragged across the room and felt the cold press of the brass eyepiece against my face and still I couldn’t get my limbs to respond. I felt the machine pulling at me, pulling and sucking the very essence of me out through my eyes and my energy and spirit surged through the inner workings of the machine. I spun, twirled, was mixed and beaten, pulled and pushed until I finally came to rest.
Willy’s fingers grabbed me, holding me up and I found myself looking back at him through the spun sugar wall of a piece of hard candy. I could see my body lying at his feet and watched as he opened the trap door and let it fall into the incinerator, now he could make up any story he wanted to explain to my parents why I wasn’t ever coming back. Shit.
As he sat me on the top of the machine to give me a full view of the room his voice was eerily calm, chiding me, “You can just stay here now and watch, Charlie, that’s what you get for being naughty.”