Normally there’s something beautiful about early mornings in the country. The quiet of the forest, the smell of the dew on the grass, and breathing in the crisp clean air while enjoying a hot cup of coffee. The idea of a warm drink out on the porch is especially appealing on such a cold-to-the-bone day, or it would be if I wasn’t still in boxers and a thin t-shirt from last night. There’s water on the porch from last night’s rainfall, and the wood is slippery under my bare feet as I walk to the edge of the top step.
I start to tense as I descend the first step, begin shaking on the second one, and practically start convulsing on the third. I want to step off the stairs onto the painfully sharp gravel of the driveway, but I can’t. I’m willing myself to move, to take another step but I can’t. I physically can’t. Nancy—sweet, beautiful, lovely Nancy—said I couldn’t leave the house and that seems to mean anything uncovered by the roof.
I give it everything I’ve got—sweat beading down my face and my body shaking—as I try to step into the driveway, but I can’t move. I want to scream, maybe even cry, but I don’t. I just stand frozen on the step before admitting defeat, muscles relaxing the second my brain acknowledges it’s lost this battle. I stare out into the woods hoping to get a glimpse of an antler, a flash of golden hair, or maybe Ben waiting in his car, but there’s nothing. Just the trees, dirt, and silence.
“Pierre, baby,” Nancy calls from inside the house, her voice melodic and soft. “I’m hungry. Would you cook me some breakfast?”
“Of course, my love!” I shout back, heart beating fast and warmth spreading through my body. “What do you want to eat?”
“Yes, of course!” I say fast, turning quick on my heel, climbing the steps of the front porch, and rushing to the kitchen. I slip on the floor with my wet feet in my hurry to make Nancy—sweet, beautiful, kind, gorgeous, Nancy—something delicious to eat, and I fall hard as I take a turn through the living room. I push myself back up, ankle throbbing and already looking a little swollen, and limp to get the food ready.
Opening the fridge I realize that it’s been a while since I last bought groceries—having been sidetracked by caribou-people, teen wizards, and sirens—and this is going to be a bit more of a Frankenstein brunch than I was hoping for. But, hey, at least Nancy’s guaranteed to be surprised.
I crack some eggs into a frypan and, while they’re cooking, I cut whatever fruit’s lying at the bottom of my fridge and put it in a bowl on the table. I put the eggs on a plate, stuff a not quite mouldy piece of bread into the toaster, and fix Nancy—glowing, soft, ethereal Nancy—a spot at the table. I put the toast on her plate and push the “start” button on the coffee machine before taking a seat across from hers at the table.
Her heels ring out from down the hall and my heart starts beating so fast I think it’s going to leap out of my chest. I can’t wait to see Nancy—kind, beautiful, melodic…—but part of me, the part of me still fighting the siren’s hold, is dreading her arrival. It’s not the way that she can control me that bothers me, it’s the fact that I want her to do it and I’m happy to comply that shakes me to my core. I hate her, even if she tricks me into thinking she’s my soulmate.
She comes into the room and gives me a predatory grin. I leap to my feet and pull the chair at the table out for her sit down on, cringing from the pain shooting up through my ankle. She grimaces at the old food before picking up a fork and taking a tentative bite of her eggs. The toaster pops and I rush to set the bread down on her dish.
“Do you like it? Are they okay? Do you want me to remake them?” I ask, crouching beside her and staring at her plate.
“They’re fine, baby. Is there any coffee?”
“Yes! There is, my sweet, my love, my Nancy.”
“Awesome. Just a bit of milk with two sugars,” she says, waving a hand in the direction of the coffee machine before turning her attention back to her food.
I grab the first mug I see from the cupboard over the counter—one of mom’s favourites—and fix the drink as requested before presenting it to her. I stare at the cup before she takes a sip and gives me a nod of approval.
“Do you want to sit with me, sweetie?” she asks.
“Nothing would make me happier than to spend the morning with you, my love.”
Smiling, she points for me to take a seat across from her—which I do gladly—and ask her permission before taking a slice of green apple from the bowl and chewing it slowly.
“Did you sleep well?” she asks.
“Yes, absolutely. Knowing you were comfortable in my bed made me glad to sleep on the floor in the hall, my love. Knowing I was there to keep you safe if anyone came in during the night brought me a sense of calm.”
“I’m glad. I think your bed’s a bit lumpy though. You’ll have to get a new one when we go into town later this week.”
“Of course. I’m so sorry, my love. Whatever you want, my love.”
She smiles at me—how can teeth be that white, or eyes that blue?—and I sigh with contentment. Nancy reaches her hand out across the table to me, and I hold it as she finishes her meal in silence, occasionally eating the bits of fruit or toast she doesn’t want. When she’s done, and has a refill of coffee, she wipes her mouth and the hand that was holding mine on a napkin, crosses her arms, and leans forward in her chair.
“—whatever, I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”
“Fred. He’s a wizard, works at the local Tim Horton’s, and hiding in the body of a teenager. You know, Fred.”
I open my mouth to answer her, but shut it tight before any words can escape. I want to tell her, or my body thinks it wants to tell her, but for the sake of the world I know I need to keep it to myself. After a few seconds I open my mouth and try again.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you lying to me?”
“Yes, my love. I’m so sorry.”
She frowns an exaggerated fake frown, looking up at me sadly through her lashes. “Baby, I thought we had something special. I thought you loved me.”
“I do love you!”
“But you don’t trust me?”
“I do trust you, Nancy, my love. My sweet.”
“So then I need you to tell me where Fred is hiding.”
I open my mouth but, again, I shut it before I can say anything. I open it again, but I can feel his whereabouts on the tip of my tongue, and so I shut my lips before anything can escape, shaking my head to her.
She gets up, eyes flashing dark blue, and crosses the space between us. She wraps a hand around my neck and pulls me up out of my seat, then presses her lips to mine. She kisses me hard and my eyes roll back in my head as my veins are filled with cold fire. At first I feel hot, too hot, like my body is being held under boiling water. Then, as suddenly as I was hot, it’s much too cold. I feel lightheaded, my legs shake, and I can feel the air being pulled from my lungs. I feel… drained. Like Nancy’s stolen a little bit of, well, me. Or my energy, to be exact.
“Please, baby, tell me where Fred is. Where is he hiding?”
I want to cave to her, I want to tell her everything she wants to know, but I know I can’t. I know Rose, and Ben, and this whole stupid town will be at risk if I say anything, so I fight Nancy’s hold on me for everything I’m worth and shake my head violently in protest. I can feel my jaw muscles straining from the effort of keeping quiet, and my body hurts as I work against her magic, but still I won’t talk.
She pushes me backwards hard, throwing me into the table with about as much effort as it would take her to chuck a ragdoll. I crash into the wood, knocking everything to the ground around me as I fall. Plates break—along with my mom’s favourite mug, a pang of nostalgia and sadness ripping through me—and food spills everywhere, and I soon find myself in a puddle of broken china and hot coffee as Nancy looks down on me. She’s furious.
“Fine, be like that. I don’t care. But you’re going to break to my will, everyone does, it’s just a matter of time. Now go outside and wash my fucking car. I want it spotless. Now.”
I nod my head and rush out to the driveway, not able to change into warmer clothing or shoes as I hobble through the house and limp down the front steps. I open the garage and grab a bucket of cold water, soap, and some sponges. I rinse the car down, unavoidably soaking myself with water in the process, before I suds it up.
“Why are you washing her car?” a familiar voice says beside me. “And why aren’t you in pants? Too much fun with a blonde?”
“Oh, thank fucking Christ. I never thought I’d be so happy to hear your voice,” I tell Rose. And I mean it. I never thought I’d be so elated to see this golden haired piaffhomme. “The siren, Nancy, she’s the one who forced me to come out here and work myself to death.”
“You mean the creature I saw you with last night?”
“Woman. She’s a woman.”
“If you say so… she sort of looked like a formless being to me, but whatever you say.”
“Really not the point, Rose. I need your help.”
“But you looked so content last night.”
“Well that was before she broke my mom’s coffee cup, fucked up me and my kitchen, and wanted to know the location of Fred.”
“The greasy looking wizard!”
“Oh. Oh! Oh no, did you tell her?”
“No! That’s why I’m out here—”
“Making friends, are we?” Nancy asks from the porch.
I drop the sponge in the water, splashing myself, before turning to look at her.
“Yes, my love. This is Rose, she’s a centaur.”
“I’m not a centaur,” Rose shoots back, annoyed.
“I really don’t care what you are. Pierre, do you own a gun?”
“Yes! I do, my love.”
“Are you ready to tell me where Fred is hiding?”
“No,” I answer honestly.
“Then I want you to go get that gun and—
“Don’t listen to her, Pierre,” Rose begs.
“—and hunt Rose down.” Nancy commands.
Rose grabs onto my arm to try and stop me, but I push her hand away hard before running to get the shotgun and bullets from the two separate lockboxes in the garage. As I work to load the gun and grab a few extra bullets, I can hear Rosaline and Nancy—beautiful, glorious, bitchy fucking Nancy—arguing from the driveway. I walk out onto the gravel and aim the gun at Rose, who looks stunned.
“Wait,” Nancy orders before I can fire. “If you tell me where Fred is, I won’t make you shoot your friend. So tell me, baby, where is Fred hiding?”
I give a pleading look to Rose, before starring Nancy down and shaking my head in defiance.
“Okay, then until you give me Fred’s location, you’re going to hunt Rose down.”
I turn back to Rose, who’s already begun backing up to the woods, and aim the gun at her.
“Run!” I scream.
She does, dodging my shot but not by much, and heads into the woods at full speed. With a last glance back at Nancy, I follow after her.
Photo Credit: Flickr