Updated: 13 hours ago
Chapter 1: Click here.
Last Segment: Click here.
Chapter 27: Leaving Alex sometime later was tough, but at least she wasn’t left to stew in her twisted emotions by herself. When she got back to her room, there was a mite of a faerie sitting outside it reading a book. One quick glance told Sabrina that the girl wasn’t a child, just a young adult no more than five-feet tall. Her curly auburn hair cascaded out of a high ponytail that was held up by a thick, bright orange scrunchy.
The eighties-era accessory caught Sabrina’s attention right away. But the girl’s wings were even more noteworthy, as slender and curvaceous as the rest of her figure. They must have been at least a little iridescent the way they caught shades of both her jeans and her light pink sweater. Easily reflecting the softer color up top, they ended with just the starting tinges of a darker blue at the bottom. Big brown eyes and a cheerful smile completed her appealing look.
“Hey!” The girl chirped, the simple word wrapped in a light brogue. She bounced up from the floor like a miniature kangaroo, confirming her height, or lack of such, in the process.
Despite her downcast mood, Sabrina couldn’t help but like her. “Hey, yourself.”
The other faerie patted one hand against one thigh like she had too much energy to remain completely still. “Your brother sent me to find you. He had something he needed to attend to and thought you might want some company.”
“In other words, you’re my babysitter?” She tried to turn the question into as light of a joke as possible.
She must have succeeded in that effort, since the girl grinned saucily. “Pretty much. I’m Lauren, by the way.”
“Sabrina.” She held out her hand.
Grasping it, Lauren used her other hand to brush a stray wisp of hair out of her face. “So where are you off to?”
“I have no clue whatsoever. Any ideas?”
“How about a grand tour?”
Sabrina gestured. “Lead the way.”
So the little faerie did just that, guiding her from room to room and answering whatever questions she could. The resulting experience was fairly interesting, and she made good company even if she couldn’t completely distract Sabrina from her troubles.
That was until they reached the library.
For a private collection, the room was expansive. At first glance, she figured it featured somewhere between twenty-five to thirty bookcases lining all four walls. Each was so perfectly fitted that they looked carved out of one massive, single piece of wood.
The overall earthy colors of the room were soothing and yet striking at the same time. With the shelves stained such a deep rich brown, the larger effect could have easily been too dark. It was saved, however, by a very white ceiling and a large chandelier dangling from the center. Not to mention the two plush couches in the center of the room that were such a ridiculously cheery green, they almost offended Sabrina’s American sensibilities.
Almost, but not quite, perhaps because of the somber accents elsewhere around her. Or maybe it was the way the entire place was a study in contrasts. She realized that when she took another look, stepping further past the doorway.
There were the colors, of course, which stood out most vividly. But also, among all the standard classics she could see – Phantom of the Opera, Wuthering Heights, The Chronicles of Narnia – were three shelves full of children’s stories all at easy, tot-accessible height. She could tell they were for children because of their pink and blue and yellow spines, hues that no self-respecting novelist would sheathe their precious works in.
Then, in the middle of each wall, a space was cut out about two feet below the point that would have nestled them dead center. In those shallow alcoves rested four works of stunning art.
Two of them were glass sculptures tinted in every color imaginable, including the faerie colors she was growing used to. The first one had a milky-clear base that started out like a thick trunk before spreading out into hundreds of tendrils arranged to look like they were blowing in a breeze.
Right across from it was another glasswork that resembled an opening cabbage. It was large enough to just barely fit inside the boundaries delegated for it, though not nearly as tall as it was wide or deep. Like the first sculpture, it featured a full range of intricate colors that reflected the light and cast off a billion more vibrant shades.
It should have been tacky: a bad psychedelic dream or a drug trip spawned by big bright yellow smiley faces, snap bracelets and high-top shoes. But it wasn’t. It was gorgeous and compelling and enough to drive her to distraction. With Homer resting in the nook right above, Sabrina couldn’t help but liken its affects to the sirens calling out to Odysseus’ men.
Which she had something in common with, according to Dr. Morrison. Yet that unpleasant reminder didn’t seem so damaging when she had such a captivating object to stare at. It only took the space of a few heartbeats for her evil HPAC handler to fade from her attention altogether.
As fascinating as the sculptures were, when Sabrina managed to tear her attention away from them, she found the paintings that took up the other two nooks even more so. They were simplistic to the point of being almost childish: mere murals of open meadows at dusk with twinkling lights. But there was something about them that was so peaceful, they beckoned to her. It was as if, should she join the dancing fireflies, everything would be okay.
“Lauren?” Sabrina asked, especially mesmerized by the one on the right. It wasn’t any more compelling than the one on the left, but she was closer to it.
Lauren had dropped down onto one of the couches with her legs propped up on the cushions and her book resting beside her. “Yeah?”
“Why does it feel like I could step into this picture?” Her voice sounded weird even to her.
“It’s faerie art.” She shrugged. “It has that effect on humans. Some of the greatest artists you know of were part faerie.”
“Really?” It felt as if her eyes were spinning into a cartoon-style vortex.
“Sure. How do you think they made a living instead of starving along with their colleagues?”
Sabrina still didn’t look at her. “I thought they just stocked up on inspiring opium.”
“No, silly. That’s writers.”
The simplistic explanation and the factual tone it was delivered in should have made Sabrina laugh, but she was still too distracted by the pretty picture. She wanted to breathe the art in like air until it not only surrounded her but consumed her as well.
“So why is it having this effect on me?”
“Probably because you’re still new to all of the faerie hormones and effects.” Lauren looked up from her book again. “I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ll get unaffected soon enough.”
“So you don’t have this fantastic urge to just stare at it?”
Another shrug. “It’s nice art, don’t get me wrong.”
“Could you please drag me away?” Sabrina had to work hard to speak the words.
Lauren grinned but stood up anyway. “What kind of literature are you into?”
“Not really a bookworm at the moment.” Sabrina tilted her head to see the painting from another angle. “Much more of an art connoisseur.”
“Work with me here.”
“Umm… Right… I’m eclectic… I like a lot of things.”
Lauren sidled up behind her and gestured to the left. “How about this section over here?”
The new voice successfully jolted her out of whatever state of fixation she’d been in. Turning around, she squealed and ran toward Deanda as fast as she could to fling herself into her arms. Words escaped her, though that didn’t mean sounds followed suit.
Deanda returned the fierce embrace, and they stood there hugging each other for some time. Sabrina wasn’t keeping count. All she cared about was her best friend and the fact that they were together again.
“Where the hell have you been?” She demanded, not really serious but not really joking either.
Deanda pulled away just enough to give her a very incredulous look. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Sabrina forced her back into an embrace, which Deanda didn’t fight off. “I missed you so much.”
“I was scared to death! All I could think of was you being hurt and alone and –” The sentence ended in a sniffle and a sob.
She obviously didn’t want to finish it, and Sabrina didn’t want to hear it either. They changed the subject by mutual agreement.
“Where are the boys?”
Deanda jumped on the subject like it was a magic guarantee to keep herself together. “They’re here, but I made them wait outside. I wanted to make sure you were okay. You are okay, right?”
Sabrina nodded. “Yeah, they just ran me ragged and drove me crazy, but I’m okay.” It was at least somewhat truthful, she thought, despite how she was going to have nightmares for years and avoid gyms for even longer.
“You’re sure?” She frowned, her eyes narrowed in concern.
“I’ll give you the details later,” Sabrina assured.
She meant it too. It was just that she didn’t want to unload until they were alone.
The door opened again. “Is it safe?”
It was Dallas. No big surprise. Alistair probably would have waited in the hallway until summoned. Patience, however, didn’t seem to be his best friend’s style or preference.
Not entirely sure she wanted either of them to come in, Sabrina nevertheless nodded her permission and stepped away from Deanda to give Dallas a somewhat awkward hug. He didn’t seem to have any similar reservations, hugging her back with a gentle intensity like he was afraid of hurting her but didn’t want to let her go.
The gesture made her lower lip tremble and several rebellious tears slide down her cheeks. When one of them splashed onto his arm, Dallas pulled back, his face a study in regret.
“I’m sorry!” He apologized, his tone and expression and posture filled with dismay. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She tried to shake it off, but Deanda was already at her side to take her hand and start steering her out of the room. “We’ll be back later, guys. Don’t worry about it. It’s not you. Seriously.”
Just like that, they left the bewildered Dallas and Alistair behind. Lauren too, though being female herself, she probably was much more in the know than either of the guys ever could be.
Having never been to the place before, Deanda didn’t know where she was going. That left Sabrina to direct her along, sniffling more than once and wanting nothing more than a tissue and a warm blanket. It seemed like unnecessary humiliation to have her nose running like a three-year-old with a head cold. Insult on top of injury, really.
They got back to her room – yet again. Life was beginning to seem like one bad case of déjà vu – and sat down on the bed behind the closed door. In typical Deanda fashion, her best friend didn’t wait long enough for the silence to lengthen uncomfortably. It wasn’t in her nature.
“Okay. Tell me what happened.” She looked almost sick, like she already feared the worst.
“I love you, do you know that?” It wasn’t a stalling tactic. It was simply a fact, and she felt the need to say it.
“I love you too.” Deanda put her arms around her and hugged her, continuing even before she released her. “Now talk.”
So Sabrina did. She told her about everything, from waking up with Alex and Mr. Smiley arguing over her, to her weird vision to discovering her strength, spending too much time with the eerie Dr. Stewart and snapping Martin’s arm.
The details left Deanda mute, her lips parting every few seconds with an apparent effort to say something.
But before she could manage, Sabrina felt a twinge of something only vaguely familiar. The scene in front of her divided, leaving one distant part of her mind aware of her surroundings and the other shooting forward at disorienting speeds. It all halted just as abruptly as it started, and her world, or some version of it, cleared to a very different scene.
It was one where she was fighting Mr. Smiley for dear life.
Keep Reading: Click here.