Warning: Sexual situations, violence
It was a very minty morning.
Dina didn’t like him to mention her scent, that had been clear from the first time he’d brought it up, but she didn’t seem to mind him inhaling her.
She rolled over to face him with a sleepy smile, almost falling off the edge of the bed. “You know you can get a double sleeper from CheapEazzze for like 100 molies?”
“This one’s comfier.”
She tasted even better than she smelled. The alarm went off and Mike hit it without missing a beat of what he was doing.
“Final exam today?” she asked, as his lips moved to her neck.
“Not ‘til Friday.”
“It is Friday, honey.”
“What happened to the rest of the week?”
“Must have been a time warp.” She forced a laugh. “You better get ready. I’ll find you some breakfast.”
He hadn’t progressed very far by time she got back. “You better not fail for my sake, Michael Bachelor.”
He shrugged and sighed. “Useless degree anyway, right?”
“Isn’t it a little late for that revelation?”
“I know. Believe me, I know I should have figured this all out a long time ago.” He let himself fall back on the bed with another sigh. “It’s not like I didn’t have a plan. Everything was planned out for me. One plan, no backups, nothing else to even consider. I’ve spent most of my life trying to do what my dad wanted me to do instead of finding out what I actually want to do. I never thought I’d have a choice!”
She brushed back his hair with her fingertips. “Sports?”
“Yeah, and that fell through like a meteorite. I couldn’t go into that now if I wanted to, not with my... family background and everything my sister has been up to lately.” He could feel her stiffen up as he said this and for a brief second he wondered if it bothered her more than he’d thought. She was back to stroking his hair before he could start to worry.
“You’d be accused of cheating?”
“Yeah.” He gritted his teeth. “But it doesn’t matter because I don’t even want to do it anymore and I was never that great anyway.”
“Well if makes you feel any better, RatRace says that any degree is better than no degree when it comes to higher pay.” She left his field of vision for a brief moment and came back with said magazine in hand, seemingly having pulled it out of thin air.
“You take that with you everywhere?”
“Everywhere.” She nodded. “And this month’s issue has a section on careers and degrees. Let’s see...philosophy, page 25.”
He sat up and looked over her shoulder as she flipped through the pages. “Professional party guest? That might be a hard one to break into.”
“I know a professional party guest, and you’d be better at than she is. You’re more charming and less, um, creepy.” She scanned further down the page. “What about journalism?”
“I don’t think so.” He swallowed. “My dad’s a journalist. Sports journalist, of course.”
“Okay... how about paranormal?”
“You mean like a psychic phone-a-friend or something?”
“Or a cult leader.”
“I could see that actually, but I’ve kinda been trying to break the habit of living a lie,” he said. “Speaking of which, I should probably stop wearing that letterman’s jacket.”
“But then how will you pick up chicks?”
“With the potential of a promising future, I guess.”
Dina closed the magazine. “Mike, SimNation has the best employment rate in the entire world. If all else fails you can just pick up the newspaper and take whatever job is in there. The hard part is not getting fired.” She sounded like she was speaking from experience.
“Have you been fired?”
“Culinary, law enforcement, retail. I like to take chances; my bosses didn’t.” She winced and grinned at the same time.
“You’ve had more jobs than me.”
“I prefer to be my own boss anyway. You can come work for me when I start my own business.”
“Won’t your rich husband have a problem with that?” He felt like an ass for saying it but her smile didn’t falter.
“We can still keep in touch, you know.” Her eyelashes were wet as they brushed his cheek.
“I...” he started. It was hard to say while breathing her in. “I think it has to be a clean break or it’s not gonna be one.”
“Would that really be so terrible?”
“We’d be pulling each other in the wrong direction.” He held his breath for a moment. “I don’t even have a direction. You don’t want to get dragged into that. I know you don’t.”
“I love you anyway.”
So many years later, they were pacing themselves. Plunging would have been easier.
She was somehow both guarded and vulnerable at the same time, and it was best to keep things light until he could figure out how to get through without breaking anything.
There was no hurry this time. Mainly because he knew she wouldn’t fully open up to him until he did the same for her.
“You are not selling the couch to buy a new dress.”
“My wedding dress paid for the couch!”
“The couch is a better investment.”
“Perhaps you could sell my coffin? I can get by without it if I sleep under the covers during the day.”
“Nobody’s selling anything! Deeds can get a perfectly nice dress downtown with her heist money. If she hasn’t spent it already.”
“I’m gonna look so cheap standing next to Bella and Mrs. Tricou and Olive...”
“Olive! Professional party guest and bride!”
“You’re really gonna bug her about this in the middle of the night?”
“She’ll be up.”
“Guess who just got a last minute invitation to Mrs. Tricou’s ball?”
“Excellent. Don’t tell me you’ve found another meal ticket already?”
“Hahaha...ha.” Dina wasn’t sure why she was laughing. “Er, I’m going with Michael Bachelor. Bella Goth’s brother.”
“You are aware he’s a simoleonless schoolteacher, right?”
“Um... I was wondering if I could please borrow a dress for the occasion?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I do like that boy more than I like most people. His mother was a close friend of mine, and he reminds me of her in many ways.”
“Glad to have your approval. So...about the dress?”
“Oh, of course, dear. Name a color, silhouette, and neckline.”
Rainelle didn’t magivestium home that night. Sometimes company won out over convenience.
“You’d better move your truck before the gnome-kicker sees. She doesn’t like anything in her yard that’s not rotting and covered in flies.”
“Would be worth it rather than making you walk all that way, Nelly. Anyhow, I’d reckon she’s too zonked to come out and give us any grief. Always is by this hour.”
“How does a slob like that get work as a maid?”
“She used to be the best there was. Kinda famous for it even.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“Swear to plumbob. She took on the CleanBot some ten years ago in an epic battle of maid vs machine.”
“Mama thinks it was too poetic to be anything but a publicity stunt. The inventor was this smug-faced, misanthropic wizkid who got taken to the cleaners, so to speak, by a skittish little mouse of a girl.”
“Well if that’s true she certainly doesn’t like to take her work home with her,” Rainelle mused. “Speaking of robots, did you ever find the one you were looking for?”
“Nope. I still don’t believe this ghostly nonsense though. Headless robots don’t just spring to life and walk out on their own.”
“Well, I’d appreciate it if that witch wouldn’t come snooping around the deli anymore. Maybe she’d have found him by now if she weren’t so obsessed trying to pin something on me.”
“She’s just thinking logically, Nelly. It would be a convenient place to hide him.” He shrugged. “And I can’t say much against Mrs. Goth. Witchiness aside, I daresay I’d have been sacked for all this if she hadn’t stepped in.”
There were so many things she wished she could tell him, and so many reasons why she couldn’t. “...are robots made of iron, Eldy?”
Elden chuckled. “Well there’s a non-sequitur if I ever heard one.”
“No, robots are usually made of lightweight metals like titanium.”
“I guess that makes sense.” She got out her keys as they reached the doorstep. “What about wrought iron fences, like down by the House of Fallen Trees? Is that real iron?”
He tilted his head. “Iron alloy, possibly a mild steel, depending on when it was made.”
“Odd thing for a fairy to decorate with,” she muttered.
“Fairies? What are you talking about? I’m pretty sure there aren’t any of those around here.”
“Oh they’re around, Eldy. Bad ones. Bad witches too, with skin as green as a plumbob.” She put a hand on her belly. “To tell you the truth, sometimes I feel a little scared for my baby.”
Elden hesitated. “Any word from the daddy? He should be the one protecting you two, Nelly.”
“He’ll back any day now.”
He shuffled his feet as she unlocked the door. “Well, if you ever need anything, you just holler and I’ll come running.”
“You’re too sweet, Eldy.”
“Nah, Nelly, you’re just too pretty.”
“You have a good night, Nelly!”
“Bailey, that was naughty! What on earth has gotten into you?”
“Evil,” someone whispered.
Rainelle turned to see a haggard figure knee deep in the fresh snow. “Do you know what that thing is?”
“That ‘thing’ is a dog and his name is Bailey.”
“It’s a monster! Or did you not notice the evil glowing eyes?”
Rainelle tried to scoff, but it came out as a squeak. “What are you talking about?”
“My parents used to hunt that creature. I can recognize it by its howl alone.” Brigit’s eyes caught the gleam of the moonlight. “A cursed wizard out for revenge.”
“Revenge on who?”
“The one who cursed him, of course! His evil is limited in this form, but he can still make you as monstrous and worthless as he is with just one bite!”
“He hasn’t even tried to bite me.”
“Witch flesh is sweet to smell but bitter to the taste,” she growled. “But he’ll rip out your little boyfriend’s throat out as soon as you turn your back.”
“...I’m not a witch!”
“Oh, I’ve been trained to spot your kind as well. Dark magic is probably what brought that thing here.” She was slowly drawing closer, her face spreading into a mirthless grin. “Who are you trying to curse?”
“Not all witches curse people!” Rainelle struggled to keep her voice low, hoping against hope that the Hicks couldn't’ hear them.
“Oh even I’ll admit to that, but if that’s the case here, why do you smell like essence of vipers?”
Those eyes came a bit too close and Rainelle’s wand was in her hand before she could even think.
“Is that really the best thing to have around with a little one on the way?”
“I’m sorry to wake you,” he groaned.
“What’s going on? Are you going to break again?!”
He felt bad making her sound so worried. “No, no, it’s just pain... in my chest and stomach. It’s almost gone now.”
Nina narrowed her eyes. “You don’t have a stomach.”
“It still hurts sometimes.”
“You keep out of my business! Unless you want the police to know what you’ve got buried under your trailer.”