A New Life

Lucy lived her life on gut feel and a creative budget. She was no stranger to unusual rental arrangements, old buildings and dirt, but this? This was a new low. She ran a finger against the wall, pushing grime aside to reveal a small trace of the faded wallpaper below. It might have been roses once, Lucy wasn’t sure. Lucy wasn’t sure about much when it came to the cottage. What she did know was that this building was old-an ancient-the Crone reincarnate as a dwelling.

Lucy stared at her dirty finger and let out a sigh, part contentment and part apprehension. The cottage was going to be a lot of work, and she wasn’t even sure why she had come. Well, she knew why. The ad had called out to her just like so many others before. The landlord had been brutally honest about the state of the cottage, and Lucy had been just as brutally adamant that she needed to live there.

But she didn’t know why. And that was the thing about Lucy, each place, each new home, it always had a purpose, some reason for Lucy to be there, and she always knew. Seconds after stepping across the threshold, she felt right, but now she stood in this cottage and felt nothing. The Crone was silent, guarding her secrets deep below her creaky floorboards.

“Home sweet home.”

The lack of direction nagged at Lucy. Had she been wrong this time? In the aftermath of the breakup, she had wanted to get away. She had scoured site after site, desperate for something, anything to call out; nothing had. Weeks passed before Lucy stumbled across that scrap of newspaper on the bus. Had she imagined the pull? Fabricated the connection so that she could run away?

No.

A Mewl broke through Lucy’s thoughts. She smiled and turned toward the front door. Her whole life in a glance: two large travel bags, a big toolbox of art supplies, and three cat carriers.

“Patience, Hades, Mama is coming.”

The cat made a low grumble in his throat. He was done with patience.

Lucy knelt beside the cat carrier and released the hatch. Hades was a muscular cat, full black and built for the hunt. He glared at Lucy, then gave her an affectionate headbutt before slinking off to explore. Lucy opened the second carrier. An orange ball burst out and buried himself in her stomach.

Lucy laughed, “It’s okay Maggie! Silly boy. Come off now, let me get your sister out.”

The ginger allowed himself to be set on the floor, but he stayed glued to Lucy’s leg.

The final cat was pressing against the bars of her carrier and purring deeply. Lucy opened the door. A gray tabby stepped out, sat down and began licking her paw.

“Ah, Blue, ever the lady.”

Lucy gave Blue a little scratch before standing up and dusting her knees off. “Right, lets get to it then.”

The kitchen was off to the left. Lucy stepped through the arch and was greeted with a bounty of cleaning equipment and detergents. The rental agreement had been a simple one. Lucy could stay in the cottage rent free, as long as she cleaned and fixed the place up. The landlord would supply everything that was needed.

“Well Magma, we’re kitted out. That’s for sure.”

The ginger gave a little purr and pressed close. Lucy knelt down to give the scaredy cat some love.

“It will be a good place Maggie, You’ll see.”

Magma looked up at Lucy. His eyes were big and pleading.

“No? I’m not doing a great job of convincing myself either. But we’re here now. Best make the most of it.”

The vacuum cleaner was a sturdy looking thing, and Lucy almost died hauling it up the stairs. Magma insisted on circling Lucy’s legs. The stairs were narrow and required an unnaturally high gait. By sheer force of will, she arrived at the top with only a few scrapes and bruises.
Lucy wheeled the vacuum into the bedroom. The bed was iron frame, but at least the mattress looked new. New-ish?

Modern?

Lucy plugged the vacuum into the socket. Her first thought was that electricity seemed entirely out of place in the cottage. Her second thought, relief that the cottage had electricity. Magma hopped up onto the bed.

“Lets see if this works, huh?”

“Mew,” he said.

“It’s going to be noisy.”

“Mew.”

Lucy gripped the pipe with one hand and compressed the power button with the other. The vacuum screamed to life. Magma twitched, but remained glued to the bed. Lucy pushed the vacuum forward. Dust billowed up in its wake. Magma sneezed.
Lucy sneezed.

Magma sneezed again.

Lucy turned the vacuum off.

“We need better gear.”

Lucy (and Magma) headed back downstairs. They passed Hades on his way up.

“Hunting?”

“Mrrp!”

“Not yet clean, Blue?”

The tabby twitched an ear toward Lucy, but remained fixed to her task.

Lucy crouched down in front of her art box and clipped it open. Magma hopped in.

“Outta the way, boy,” Lucy said as she pushed the ginger aside. With just a little bit of rummaging, she found what she was looking for: a dust mask and goggles. She was about to head back upstairs when she heard Hades’ deep meowl. Her skin prickled. She turned. Hades stood before her, his eyes blazing.

“You found something?”

Her voice was hushed. The house had called her. Hades had found the why.

Hades meowed again and then led Lucy upstairs. They passed the bedroom and entered the study. An old closet stood ajar. Hades sat before it. Lucy steeled herself for what she was about to find, and then peeked inside. Three pairs of round kitten eyes stared up at her. The emancipated form of their mother twitched, but she could not stand.

“Hush,” said Lucy. “I’m here now.”

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Thell arched her wings too late. The slight updraft that should have slowed her fall didn’t come. Her feet smacked into the rough brick and she flung forward. She threw her hands out, pumped her wings furiously, and grappled with her boots for solid purchase. The words streaming from her mouth matched her limbs in their inelegance. In one final thrust of her wings, Thell came to a standstill.

Congratulations cupcake, A+ landing!

Thell closed her eyes, took a deep breath and sighed it out. She meant for it to calm her nerves, but really, nothing would do the trick today. She was exhausted and angry and that damn gash in her bicep wouldn’t stop throbbing. This ridiculous excuse for a landing hadn’t helped matters; Thell could feel fresh blood welling up beneath her makeshift bandage, and she wasn’t sure how much longer it would hold up, but that was a problem for later. She took in another deep breath and sighed.

“Damn cat.”

Why felines had such a vendetta against fairies, Thell did not know, but she wished they would get over it already.

Or maybe they could all just fall over and die.

Thell took a moment to register the morbid nature of the thought. She was meditating, was supposed to be finding her calm center, but honestly, it felt like a waste of time. Thell had never been particularly good at meditation and on a day like today she wasn’t even sure she had any calm to find. Maybe murderous thoughts would serve her better for the task at hand. She wasn’t going to be facing off against cats this time, but murderous was murderous, and Thell would take what she could get.

Thell opened her eyes.

She had landed on a window ledge. The grime buildup was many years old and a musty smell permeated the stone. A thick stench rose up from a dumpster in the alley below. That was Thell’s target. She had visited a lot of dumpsters today, but unlike the others, this bin was devoid of life. A black and white feather sat atop the lid.

Fairies had not been displaced when humans set up their towns. They had adapted to urban life quickly and it soon gave rise to a new profession. Those known as Divers made their livelihood digging through human garbage and selling their wares at Market. It was dirty work and dangerous. The profession attracted fairies out on their luck, willing to get dirty, to take the risks, and to shoulder the prejudice of the wealthier Fae. Because it also attracted the worst kind, diving encouraged the formation of gangs, mob bosses and underground dealings. Thell had firsthand knowledge; she used to be a Diver.

Used to, Thell. You got out of this life, remember?

Thell gave the feather one more look before craning her neck to survey what little of the roof she could see. No Magpies, but they wouldn’t be in plain sight. That feather was a challenge. The Magpie pair had long ago claimed this dumpster as their own and no rodent, bird nor fairy would dare take from it. Thell inched as close to the ledge as she could and stretched her neck out just a little bit further; a bit of sky dusted with afternoon orange, but nothing else. Thell backed into the cover of the window ledge.

Blasted Corvids!

They were probably watching her, their beady eyes glinting in anticipation.

“You don’t have to do this Thell.”

The words rung hollow. Taking on the Magpies was as good as signing her own death certificate, but this dumpster was her last hope. If she came away empty handed she could wave her new life goodbye. A new life that was starting to look horribly similar to her old life…

Thell knelt down, and taking dirt from the ledge, muddied up her wings; their iridescent nature was as good as yelling “I’m here! Eat Me!”

Thell looked at her reflection in the window. The doll’s clothes were dirty and bloodstained. Her face was a mess of sweat and grime. This was not how a house servant was supposed to look.

But non of the other house servants had ever been Divers.

Thell had thought that Madame Hersh hired her despite her background as a Diver, but it was becoming perfectly clear that Thell had been hired exactly because she had been a Diver.

Madame Hersh had a strong craving for human things. She was a powerful fairy and she did not take kindly to failure.

If I fail…

Thell had accepted that morning’s shopping list knowing her maid’s uniform would need to be put aside for the Diver’s. Three items on the list had not been available at Market; better odds than Thell had hoped for. The first two items had been challenging, but doable. The last item, Thell muttered it like a curse word: “Organic, pasture-raised Camembert.”

The Magpie dumpster belonged to an eco-conscious, French Restaurant. If the Camembert was anywhere, it was here.

Thell took a steadying breath. She stepped from the ledge and dropped. At the last second, her wings flared out; Thell’s feet were feathers on the ground. She dashed across the alley, careened around the dumpster and slammed hard into the back of it. Her heart beat furiously; her fists clenched tight against dagger hilts.

One… Two…

Thell peered around the dumpster. The alley was as silent as before.

Damn those Magpie! Where were they?

Thell pulled a ball of fairy light from her pocket. It rose and came to a rest beside her shoulder. She turned to face the dumpster. It was overfull and the lid hovered, leaving an easy entrance.

A trap.

Thell swallowed her fear and rose; in a matter of seconds she was through the gap and wading knee deep in half eaten croissant. The aroma of soured food stung her. Garnish, baguette, snails, and then… there it was. The silver wrapping sparkled in the fairy light. Thell waded closer. She blinked once, twice, but the words remained: Organic, pasture-raised Camembert.

That was too easy.

Thell sniffed the cheese; pungent, but fresh.

Much too easy.

A chill ran up Thell’s spine. She shook it off. Fairies did not need much and soon Thell had scraped together a fist sized ball and wrapped it in a corner of foil. She tucked it in her pocket and turned. A shadow passed over the exit.

“Damn.”

Thell extinguished the fairy light. The shadow passed over once more, slow and taunting. Cautiously, Thell made her way toward the exit, stopping just short of the light. She crouched behind a wilted lettuce leaf and waited. Minutes passed. Thell waited. An eternity.

And then her moment came. A beady eye peered through the gap. Thell launched herself forward, pulling her twin daggers free as she sprang. The blades landed first, a meaty squelch and caw of alarm. Thell slammed into feathers. Black wings flapped. Thell was flung sideways. She gripped her daggers and pulled them free with a “PLOP”. Blood gushed from the socket. The Magpie screamed in fresh anguish. Thrashing feathers blocked the exit. Thell tucked her wings tight to her body. She ran and arrowed into the mass. With a screech and tumble she was out of the dumpster and falling. She crashed to the ground, landing on her bad arm. Thell cried out and rolled. She was barely on her feet when a beak slammed down. The second Magpie. Thell had barely evaded the attack when it came again. She sidestepped, but a taloned claw was waiting and caught her wing. Its tear was audible.

Thell flapped her wings. She tried to rise, but the pain swallowed her. The Magpie was advancing, slowly now. It had already won.

Human noise blared into the alley, Thell turned. The kitchen door had swung open and a busboy was hauling out garbage. Thell stumbled toward the door. The promise of freedom filled her with adrenaline. She flapped, lifted. The door was waiting. The Magpie shrieked. Thell whimpered and pushed on. The Magpie threw itself after her. Thell cried. She was so close…

A sudden blending of yells and caws made Thell pause. She glanced over her shoulder and laughed, the Magpie had collided with the busboy.

Thell took a moment to savour the sound of victory before stumbling to safety.

 

#

 

Dusk was settling across Heritage Park when Thell finally arrived back at the Mansion. She deposited her goods in the kitchen and was just making her way down the hall, dreaming of the very long, hot bath she was about to have, when Madame Hersh’s voice drifted in from the living room,

“…how embarrassing. If I hadn’t heard from Toyanne this morning… Camembert is so last season. It’s all about the Chèvre now, goats milk you know.”

 

 

 

 

 

On overthinking and Just getting $#!@ DONE!

Hi! Hello! You there!

 

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me! Thing is, I have been FIGHTING with my art. Rabid, teeth gnashing, foaming at the mouth, snarling into the abyss kind of fighting.  And I’ve been dissatisfied. Oh so horribly dissatisfied. I kept going back. Kept trying to start over and found myself in this endless loop of pain and anguish.

Eventually I realised it was time to quit. The art wasn’t getting any better. The circles were vicious torture devices, holding me back from actually PUTTING STUFF OUT THERE.

I finished my piece on Thell, moved onto something else and figured out what I had done wrong.

The Thell piece fell victim to overthinking. I was trying too hard. I was planning too much and when the planning didn’t deliver the results I wanted, I went back to more planning. I overthought it some more. I got lost in preparing to make the art and by the time I got to the art all the spontaneity was gone.  The momentum to create wasn’t there anymore. That spark of inspiration went POOF!

 

The next piece, the piece for an OC called Lucy has gone much better. The process was more organic, more enjoyable. I will be sharing her story a bit later in the month.

For now, here is a collage of attempts at getting Thell “Right”. Next up, Thell’s story.

 

ThellMess