For those of you who've been around, you know that I have a novella coming out in the beautiful collection mentioned above. Since it is coming out in a little over a month, I thought it was high time I shared an excerpt with you! So here goes:
Her hands went to her throat and closed around a gold cross. I hadn’t seen it hiding between her breasts until that moment, and I didn’t care. I could think of only one thing, she knows exactly what I am.
I searched her mind, desperate to establish that connection. I wondered if she couldn’t see my face properly. A cloud over the moon perhaps. She was thinking about the cross. That it was a gift from Kai, her daughter, for Mother’s Day, and she’d yet to take it off, because she was afraid if she took it off for even a moment, her brother would run away with it, pawning it in the first shop that took real gold.
“If he owes you money or something, I’ve got nothing to do with that,” she said, her fingers twitching on the gold.
I couldn’t help but smile, my head cocking an inch to one side. She looked ready to scream. I slipped into her mind, trying to grab hold of something, anything to take this utter failure into my control again.
Great. Another sick ass junkie. It doesn’t matter if he’s in a nice suit. He could’ve stole the suit from anybody. Or he could be one of them so-called drug lords. This is Merek’s fault. He led this asshole here, and now I’m the one who has to deal with this bullshit.
There was nothing to grab onto. Every inch of her mind was a slick surface.
“I came to see you, actually,” I said, which was true. It was her scent I followed all those years ago, when she was just a child. She smelled of nightshades and jasmine, and far beyond that, too far for a mortal’s nose, the salty waves of an ocean.
My voice wasn’t what she expected. She’d expected a harsh, grasping voice like her brother’s. One as worn and tired as the pockmarked and hollowed face that matched it—I saw both this face in her mind’s eye and in the recliner behind her, framed by a window. The only difference was that the brother in her mind was bright with her anger. This face blazed with decades of hate and a vigor that the crumpled skeleton in the chair simply did not possess.
I pulled out of her mind, relieved. At least this one small magic had not failed me.
“I don’t know who you are.” She flicked the end of her cigarette out of habit. Nothing happened. The ash fell minutes ago and the end of the burnt paper sat black and wilting. “And even if I’ve forgotten you, which I’ve never forgotten a face in my life, I didn’t invite you here. It’s late and you’re unwelcome. Go home.”
“Listen, man. I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing, but I’m not interested. I just put Momma to bed, so don’t come up in here causing trouble. I’ll call the police. Don’t think I won’t. We have enough junkies in this house.”
This is the part where he begs, she thought. Come on, just five dollars, or ten. I know you’ve got that. That’s what he’ll say. Only they say it every other day until it’s thirty or forty a week and nearly a hundred a month or two hundred that neither Momma nor I can conjure from thin air. The sliding bills from month to month can attest to that. We’ve slid so far that now it seems like all I pay are fees not bills. Late fees, reconnection fees, interest fees, surcharge fees. Things they slap on a bill to make the bill harder to pay. I don’t understand it. If I could pay the damn bill I wouldn’t be stuck with a fee, now would I? But not being able to pay costs more? What kind of fucking world—
“I am not here for money,” I said.
He says that, but I don’t believe it. When your own brother will walk up and say, you got five, Lettie? I know you got five more in you somewhere. Between your tits, maybe? You got five, I’m sure.” And he’ll search you, shake you down, beat you down until he finds it and won’t think about helping you up.
Junkies are flies, buzzing and landing on the same piece of rotting meat. Where there’s one there’s another. And here he is. Sick. Every single one of them—
“No money,” I said. I moved again, in hopes the moonlight would fall on my face, light me up and make me someone she’d loved and wanted. It didn’t happen. “But I am sick. You’re right about that. Not with the drug coursing through your brother’s veins.”
“What you got? Hepatitis?” She flicked the end of the dead cigarette again. “AIDS?”
And more truth plucked from her mind. How she knew about these diseases. How she lost three friends to one and five to the other.
“No,” I said. I was in full moonlight. Nothing. Not a single glimmer of recognition. “Let’s call it…malnourishment.”
She didn’t know me, and that could mean only one thing.
“How about you come back at a decent hour,” she said and took one more step toward the door. “Didn’t your momma ever teach you not to creep up on women in the dark?”
“No,” I said. “I believe my mother skipped that lesson.”
In truth, I barely recalled having a mother. And maybe even those handful of memories were a dream.
The devil would smile like that, she thought, and I refrained from reaching up, from fingering the edges of my smile to see if it was true. A too-pretty smile that somehow manages to soften you, weaken you and yet strikes a pure, deep chord of terror through your guts.
“Well this isn’t how I wanted this to go,” I tell her at last. “But we don’t always get what we want, do we?”
I might as well have stuck the red cherry of a cigarette to the soft underbelly of her arm. She turned and threw herself at the door, intending to get inside and reach her mother’s bedroom as fast as she could. Her mind trilled ahead of her, laying out the plans for getting inside, getting to the room, and calling the police. She was sure there had to be something, surely something that she could use to stave me off until they arrived.
Only she didn’t so much as lift her foot before my hands seized her. I yanked backward. One scrape of boot and then up. Wind whipped and whistled around us. Thankfully, I was high in the sky before she began to scream.
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