Saying Yes To the Dress

After becoming engaged, one of the first things I did was start looking at dress pictures. What can I say? I love fashion, and the ultimate fashion statement is the wedding gown. After a few weeks of mooning over dresses, I narrowed down my interest the below three dresses were my ‘dream’ dresses – they all had elements that I loved, but were far out of my price range. While they were out of my range, they gave me a good idea of what I liked in a dress.

swanlakeSwan Lake by Paolo Sebastian

paoloseb

Also Paolo Sebastian

giselleGiselle by Galia Lahav

From there, I started looking into bridal stores, and comparing their offerings against the expensive designer gowns that appealed to me. So, armed with a battalion of photos and some preconceptions of what would and wouldn’t look good on me, I made appointments at three local bridal shops in early October.

My first appointment was on a busy Saturday at a David’s Bridal in Jacksonville. I say appointment, but we actually just walked in and got very lucky. I learned a lot about wedding dresses that day, and especially about what kinds of dresses looked nice on me. The one thing that I thought would look bad – dropped waists – actually looked really nice. The dresses I assumed I would love just didn’t do it for me.

This was the dress that my Mom and Grandma fell in love with at David’s Bridal. It looked pretty good on me (Grandma was ready to buy it then and there!) but I felt like it made me look older. I love a good old Hollywood style gown, but I didn’t want to feel old on my wedding day. Plus, my vision had more of a tulle, faerie airy garden feel.

LongSleeves1

Next, we had an appointment with The White Magnolia. We arrived a few minutes early, but didn’t come in until right at the appointment start time since we knew they are appointment only and often very busy. Unfortunately, the bride before me wasn’t quite done with her appointment and we ended up waiting half an hour. We had been asked when we made the appointment if we wanted champagne, and I said yes, but we weren’t offered any. It was a disappointing start to what I was really hoping would be a special experience.

When my appointment finally started, I tried on quite a few dresses that looked good, but got caught between two dresses. One was a fabulous mermaid, and the other was the dress I actually ended up purchasing and fit my vision of a light and airy faerie tulle gown – which shall remain nameless so that Dave won’t see it by accident! I saw the mermaid and fell in love at first sight, and liked how it felt on but I wasn’t a hundred percent convinced.

JimHjelmMermaid

The distractable mermaid dress that I didn’t buy.

You see, I always thought I would be the kind of girl who had a ‘moment’ when they found the right dress. I was waiting to look in the mirror and suddenly become overwhelmed with joy and tears. That’s not what happened for me. I looked at myself and felt satisfied, that the dress looked nice, it fit my vision, and was in my price range. I was content, not overjoyed. So, I went home and slept on it. When I woke up, I looked at the pictures my Mom took of myself in the two dresses, and realized that the mermaid just wasn’t for me.

A few weeks later, my Dad and I made an appointment to go back to The White Magnolia and look at the dress, as Dad had very generously agreed to pay for my dress. I specifically asked for the champagne this time when I made my second appointment (the previous time the appointment setter asked me, which is their usual procedure from what I understand), and unfortunately when we arrived it wasn’t ready – but this may be because we did come in a few minutes early (roughly five minutes) and the store hadn’t really set up yet. Despite this unpreparedness on the store’s behalf, putting on the dress and seeing myself in the mirror, and the way my Dad looked at me, sealed the deal for me. Dad surprised me by paying in full for the dress that same day.

Now, although I tried my dress on with a nude slip, I ordered a white one. I agreed with my Mom who felt it would feel more bridal. But, in January I had a moment of panic wondering if I made the right choice, and tried to call the bridal shop to change the slip color. Apparently this isn’t an uncommon occurrence, and the Kerri from The White Magnolia was very kind and understanding about my sudden case of dress regret. She told me that if the dress was in production, we couldn’t make any changes, but she also assured me that if I didn’t like the slip after I saw it in person that I could buy an additional one in the nude color from the designer.

Fortunately, my dress was already in production and the color couldn’t be changed. I say fortunately, because the white slip was definitely the right choice! The dress came into the store in early February and once I got to see it and try it on, everything was right again with the world.

We took the dress home and it has been stuffed into my closet ever since. I’ve been working hard to lose some weight, so in a few months I’ll make an appointment to have my dress altered – both for my short stature, and for my (hopefully!) slimmer figure.

Of Diamonds and Rings

Now that our Engagement has been announced, I figured it would be a good time to start blogging about the engagement an wedding planning process!

Dave and I didn’t have a typical engagement. There was no bended knee and roses. It was over a Skype call after I returned home from a visit to Canada. We were distraught at being apart again and wanted to start a life together. We couldn’t think of any reason why we wouldn’t want to get married, and it would make it easier for me to immigrate to Canada – which we had already been planning. So, why not? We love each other. Let’s get married.

That was in September 2014. On Valentine’s Day 2015, I finally got my ring. Having the ring made was a wonderful, and occasionally stressful, process – but I wouldn’t change a thing.

When we started looking at rings, I basically knew what I wanted. My favorite jewelry designer is UK-based Alex Monroe, so deciding on a designer was easy. I was originally interested in the Wild Posy Twist ring pictured below – but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

posytwistI got in touch with Susie from the bespoke area, and told her I was really interested in cherry blossoms rather than posies and she let me know that they had a past collection that featured cherry blossoms. I still wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted posies or cherry blossoms, and I’m sure I harassed her quite a bit, and got multiple quotes based on different designs and stones. Here’s a photo of the example ring with a stone for visualization purposes:

ringuIn the end cherry blossoms were just right. We decided to do stones in each of the flowers, have the flowers in rose gold and the band in white gold – to mimic the look of a cherry tree. I ended up purchasing a .47 carat lab created diamond and had Alex Monroe source two smaller morganites to fill the smaller blossoms. I think of the diamond as my science magic diamond.

We finalized our order with just enough time for Alex Monroe’s studio to finish the ring before Valentine’s Day weekend, when Dave was intending on visiting for an ‘official’ proposal. During production, Susie let us know that morganites at the small size required for the smaller blossoms were too pale a pink – basically clear – and suggested using pink sapphires instead. I was concerned about the cost difference, but Susie told us that since this was a change form our original quote that the studio would be willing to cover the difference to ensure we got the perfect ring. How sweet! We went with the sapphires, and I really can’t think her enough for making my dream ring possible.

We ran into some issues with customs – apparently a diamond traveling from the US to the UK then to Canada is a bit complicated – but in the end it safely arrived at Dave’s work, where he let his co-workers puzzle over the Mystery Box on his desk. Behold, the mystery box.

download_20150219_222239Dave proposed to me officially on Valentine’s Day in the morning. It was just the two of us, and we had fun surprising my Mom at breakfast. Without further ado, here is the completed ring – my precioussss!

good5good7

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #10

The Chief manages to collect himself enough to make an indignant response, “I did, I gave you his file. If you had bothered to read it, then maybe you would have known.”

“We aren’t supposed to read each others files, we’re supposed to be able to trust our partners. We’re supposed to trust our superiors to assign us to partners they believe we can work well with,” Amber says, her anger dissipating slightly. She knows that the chief wouldn’t have given her Gavin’s file if he didn’t think it was important. The big man hated reading and files even more than she did, and he gave it to her himself.

“You do work well together, and you like having Gavin as your partner. He’s good for you, keeps you in line.” the Chief replies, sensing that he has an opening here. “If you had known, what would you have done differently?”

Amber leans back in the chair again, groaning in exasperation, “I don’t know, maybe I wouldn’t have pestered him as much? I mean, it’s hard to know what will trigger a possessed person. Maybe I wouldn’t have done anything different at all. But, not knowing could have gotten us killed.”

The Chief snorts, and pulls out one of his cigars, “I’m surprised you survived this long, to be honest. No powers, no magic, and still you want to do this. Some people might think you have a death wish.”

Amber lifts an eyebrow at the Chief, but before she can respond the chief continues, “I know you well enough to know you’re not crazy, Amber. You bring a valuable perspective to this job, one that those people,” the chief waggles his fingers around vaguely, “they just don’t understand. And that’s why you’re not going to treat Gavin any differently now that you know, right.”

“Right,” Amber says, the tenseness in her body releasing. “But…is there really nothing that can be done? I mean, how long has he been possessed – 15, 20 years? He hardly has episodes, not one in the two years we’ve been partners. You think the demon would have gotten bored and left him. Found greener pastures.”

The Chief shrugs  his massive shoulders, which gives the impression of a minor rockslide, saying “Who knows, but as far as we can tell nothing has worked in removing the demon. Your sister reviewed the case, too, and couldn’t think of anything that hadn’t already been tried.”

“Really? The great and powerful red witch can’t think of anything?” Amber says with obvious sarcasm to decide the honest surprise and disappointment that she’s actually feeling,”I guess she is human after all.”

“Aren’t we all?” the Chief says, snorting a little, “Well, part human in any case.”

Amber smiles faintly at this, and the chief chuckles a little at his own joke.

 

The smartphone drops into the half full gas station trashcan with a dull thud, causing the various debris to shift around a bit. Sky sighs a little, regretting the loss of yet another expensive phone in the search for the truth, but at least having the smart phone meant that he was able to update his blog before going dark. After a moment of mourning for his poor phone, he goes into the gas station to pick out a cheap disposable replacement.

He makes his way to a nearby motel, his moped sputtering as he pulls into the parking lot of the Seabreeze Motel. He had considered leaving town all together, but that smacked of cowardice; Sky Wotcher could be accused of many things, but cowardice as not one of them – especially not when he was this close to discovering the truth. He parks in the lot, then covers up his moped with a dustcover. This wasn’t because he was afraid of his moped getting damaged; it was already a half-rusted out pile of crap. It was to keep people from getting a good look at his very unique and easily identified moped and its license plate. You could never be too careful, and he knew that the suits were looking for him. With what he had seen tonight, there was no way that they wouldn’t be.

The events of the past few hours were a confused jumble, or at least it made him feel confused. He thought that he could remember everything that happened with enough clarity, but couldn’t piece together any meaning from the things that he had seen. He had the truth, he just didn’t understand it. Sky had the feeling that he just needed some distance and time to think. Things would make more sense in the morning, he just needed to stay out of the suit’s clutches for long enough to piece everything together and finally post his damning article not just to his blog, but send it out to all the national newspapers. They couldn’t ignore him this time, not with the evidence that he now had.

He walks into the motel’s lobby, hood pulled up around him. He goes to the counter, and is eyed with some suspicion by the thin, unshaven middle-aged man standing behind it.

“Evening sir,” the front desk clerk says, “How can I help you this evening?”

“I see that you still have some vacancies. I just need a room for the night…maybe a few. I can pay by the day right? In cash?” Sky says, reaching into his pocket for the wad of cash he’d just emptied out of his checking account.

The clerk sighs a little, “Son, you don’t want to worry your parents. Why don’t you just go on home now?”

“I don’t think they’ll be worried.” Sky replies, irritated. “I’m not a child. Now, can I have a room or not?” he slaps some crumpled bills down onto the counter.

The clerk looks down at the money, then back up at Sky still seeming hesitant, “You got an ID? Best if we have one, and a credit card just in case you mess anything up.”

Sky’s eyebrow twitches a little, but he takes a deep breath and takes out a few more bills, “I just need a room for the night. Now can you help me?” he says, waving the bills at the clerk, “Or should I go down the street to the Super 8?”

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #9

“I guess you’re the expert on that,” Gavin says, with just the slightest hint of sourness in his voice.

“That I am,” she says, jovially. “If exorcists don’t do it for you, maybe you should give the bartender a try. Let’s stop by Rhett’s on the way home. I think the place is just your style, if you have a style of bar in any case.”

Gavin laughs a little before saying,”No, I think I’ve had enough excitement for the day. I’m just going to go home and sleep.”

Amber nods a little, responding, “All right. Get some rest, then.”

She watches as he drives off in the passengers seat of another agent’s car, Gavin’s own having been left behind at the fairground. After giving a brief wave and watching the car disappear around a corner, she drops her hand like a lead weight back down to her side, and her normally mischievous expression dims. She reaches into her pocket for her phone.

 

Twenty minutes or so later, Amber is sitting across from an uncharacteristically quiet chief. Her arms are crossed over her chest and despite being leaned back in her chair she projects all the signs of an angry cat just waiting for a reason to pounce.

The chief on his side of the desk swallows, trying to summon up his usually ever present irritation at the lazy redhead so he can deliver the lecture he had been intending on giving her, but under the weight of her flashing eyes he can’t seem to find the right words. But, not being the kind of man who likes to carefully think before speaking, he decides to barrel on.

“Look, MacSweeney-” he starts, but Amber’s eyes flash and she leans forward. This action strikes him back into stupefied silence.

Amber lets the flabbergasted chief flap his mouth soundlessly for a beat before finally relieving him by saying, in what the chief feels is a gratingly calm tone, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #8

The conversation dies down again, but the silence between them is far less obtrusive. Amber reaches out to take Gavin’s hand, and gives it a light squeeze. She doesn’t let it go, but continues to hold it, and Gavin wonders at the tenderness in her expression. At first, it seems like pity – but upon closer expression it is closer to fear. Not fear of Gavin, but fear for him. Gavin doesn’t really know how to respond, so he doesn’t. They sit in the companionable silence until they get to the hospital.

A few hours later, Gavin emerges from the exam room after having been thoroughly poked and prodded by the medimages until his exasperation became so acute that they dared not keep him any longer out of fear of provoking another incident. Gavin blusters into the hallway, and looks for Amber. He hears her before he sees her, as she’s snoring in a chair in a nearby waiting room.  He’s a little surprised that she waited, but pleased none the less.

“Amber,” he says, gently shaking her shoulder. “Come on, it’s time to get out of here.”

Amber snorts awake, sitting up right in the chair and looking a little flustered. She rubs her eyes in a child like way, and yawns a little  before levering herself up and out of the chair. “Mrr…so what did the doctors say?”

“I’m fine. Maybe a slight concussions. I just need rest. The chief told me to take a week and check in with the exorcist who originally handled my case…” Gavin seems uncomfortable at the thought of missing work. He’d always been a stickler for routine, even before the possession made routine necessary to keep the demon inside him in check. Without work to organize his days around, he wasn’t sure what he would fill his time with.

Amber crinkles her nose a little, looking doubtful before saying with a slightly sour tone of voice “Exorcists…do they really help?”

Gavin shrugs a little. “They can’t seem to get rid of the demon entirely. Apparently it’s a powerful one. And the treatments do seem to help suppress it, but that’s probably more the coping strategies that we develop than any supplements or rituals they actually perform. Sometimes it’s just good to have someone to talk to.”

“Mmmm. Like my bartender,” Amber muses, “Bartenders are always good listeners. They have to be to deal with drunks all day.”

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #7

“Well, I’m sure that’s going to hurt in the morning. But other than some nasty swelling, I think he’ll be just fine. Didn’t even break the skin, lucky that,” she says, then stands back up. The door to the mobile home shuts with a clang. She can hear Sky slip on the gravel outside and fall to the ground cursing, before getting back to his feet and running off again. She shrugs to herself and reaches into her jacket for her cell phone. “Yeah, this is MacSweeney. I need backup and a containment crew at the carnival. And a healer for Gavin.”

She stands silent for a few moments after the call ends, just listening to the snoring of the old fortune teller who had slumped on top of the table and had been comfortably drooling onto the table all through the chaos of the last few minutes. Amber’s takes a deep breath and feels her racing heart slow to a more moderate pound. She swallows a little, then licks her dry lips, trying to ignore the urge to search the mobile home for alcohol. Before she can make a decision, she’s distracted by a groaning sound coming from the floor.

Gavin sits upright in one sudden movement before trying to struggle to his feet. He slumps back down almost immediately and smacks the back of his head against the cabinet behind him. “ARGH!”

“Don’t try to get up, Gavin. Just stay there, a healer will be here soon to get a look at you, ok?” Amber says, getting a nearby pillow to prop him up with. “Here, just stay still. I’m going to go outside and direct the containment crew as they come in.”

Gavin looks up at her blearily, fear hiding just behind the shame in his eyes. She squeezes his shoulder, and gives him a reassuring smile, before going to the door and leaving Gavin alone with the gently snoring old lady.

 

Soon enough, Amber is riding along with Gavin in the back of a medimage van.

“That was a tough one,” she says, sounding relieved. “The crazy old  bat, drinking tea from a cursed urn like that. I’m surprised she didn’t kill more people.”

Gavin says nothing, and looks away from her. She continues, “I guess that the tea leaves aren’t a very popular fortune telling method around here…” but her voice trails off when she realizes Gavin is ignoring her.

The medimages had taken Amber aside for a few minutes after loading the stretcher on the van, explaining in furtive whispers that Gavin was actually very good at handling his demonic possession, and that she should not worry in the least about this episode. Amber wasn’t sure if they were trying to reassure her, or themselves, by the way they laughed nervously. And although he could not hear exactly what they were saying, it wasn’t difficult for Gavin to guess. The longer they spent talking in hushed voices just outside the van, the darker his mood became, so that now he’s brooding into the silence, letting it grow into a dense barrier between them.

After spending a few minutes fidgeting in the uncomfortable silence, Amber reaches under his chin, lifting his face up and over so she can look him in the eye. His eyes burn defiantly into hers, as if he’s waiting for her to say something demeaning.

She blinks at him a few times, then lets go of his chin, and nods a little. She says, “You must not be feeling that bad if you have the energy to give me that look.”

Gavin snorts, and wipes his nose a little, “My head is splitting.”

“Kinda like your personality, eh?” Amber responds, nudging him with her elbow.

“That’s exactly the wrong way to think about it!” Gavin says, glaring at her again, his voice rising to a shout. “The demon is dangerous, he could have killed you!”

Amber smirks a little, “Oh come on. It wasn’t that bad. He wanted to screw me, not kill me.”

“Those two things are not mutually exclusive.” Gavin pronounces this statement in an ominous tone.

“Look, we found the urn and contained it with no one hurt in any more or less a permanent way. I think that means we did our job, and didn’t screw it up too bad either. Nothing permanently injured but maybe your pride. That kid did wallop you pretty good with the crystal ball. I was scared he broke your skull, but apparently you’ve got a hard head.” Amber grins a little, “Although that doesn’t really come as much of a surprise.”

Gavin mutters, feeling  uneasy still, but mollified by her congenial tone. “You’re one to talk.”

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #6

“STOP!” The door to the motor home bursts open and a winded Sky comes tumbling into the room, nearly tripping over the laces of his untied chucks. The two agents turn, alarmed at the sudden intrusion, turn to face the skinny hooded young man.

Taking this distraction to her advantage, the old woman makes a sudden movement with her hand, fingers splayed toward Gavin. Gavin has just enough time to tilt his head in mild confusion before being blasted backwards by a sudden wind. Gavin crashes into a pile of pillows, cats and thick dusty curtains, causing much yowling and the flying of feathers to ensue. Before the old lady can blast her as well, Amber throws the weighty metal ball at the ground, and all sound comes to a deafening halt.

Sky tries to move toward Gavin to help him up, but finds that his movement is sluggish and labored. Amber, however, seems to be moving at normal speed, yanking the urn out of the old woman’s hands. Even though her movement is also stilted, the old woman lunges at Amber, and Sky can see that her eyes are red and the veins around them have turned black, a blackness which was starting to spread across the rest of her face. Her hands, reached out in a claw-like motion, were also black, darkest at the nails but moving steadily up her arms.

Amber backs away a few steps, her hand shaking slightly as she takes a sticker sheet from her pocket. Each sticker is embossed with an odd golden seal. She quickly removes a sticker from the sheet and places it on the urn, then places the urn safely down on the counter. She carefully peels a second sticker from the sheet and approaches the old woman. The grandmother’s wizened features shift in slow motion from red-eyed rage to wide-eyed realization, but it’s too late for her to stop, as she’s still in mid-lunge. Time and sound return to their normal flow without warning, and the old woman snacks face first into Amber’s open palm, the sticker landing in the center of her forehead. Before the old lady falls down, Amber deftly catches her under the arms then moves her onto a cushioned stool.

Gavin is sitting up on one elbow, shielding his eyes with his other hand. He groans a little as Sky stumbles over a cat on his way to help Gavin up. \

“What the hell was that?!” Sky shouts, causing Gavin to cringe at the shrill sound.

As Sky leans down, offering Gavin a hand. Gavin takes the hand, but once he’s back on his feet he grabs the young man by the throat, and shoves him back against the wall metallic wall of the motorhome, causing kitten colored plates to crash to the floor.

“Gavin!” Amber says, alarmed at this uncharacteristic display of violence. She supposes that Gavin must have his limits, and Sky just managed to find it.

Sky claws at the fingers closing around his throat, legs kicking uselessly at his captor. Gavin hisses, his eyes narrowed into thin slits of rage. His arm starts shaking as Amber approaches him, trying to stay calm. “Gavin, you need to let him go. He’s just a stupid kid.”

Gavin drops Sky, who inhales in a great wheezing gasp, and turns to face Amber instead. His head tilts to one side and a slow, lecherous smile crawls across Gavin’s usually placid face. It takes Amber a moment to process this, and realize that he’s approaching her. His walk has changed as well, walking stiffly and at a quick tempo, his hips have a bit of a sway and his pace is almost lazy.

“Well, well…aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” come unfamiliar words in an all too familiar voice. Amber thought she had heard every tone that Gavin had at his command, being that he had only two – annoyed and angry – and had she blinked stupidly at this new tone, her skin crawling at the languorous sound of it.

His green eyes linger too long on her neck and over her chest, and Amber takes a step back from him before he can reach out to brush a curl from her face. “You see me every day, Gavin.”

“I suppose in a way, I do see you every day. But it’s not every day that I get to come out and play,” Gavin tilts his head the other way, green eyes dancing gold in the reflected light of the candles still guttering on the old fortune teller’s table. Gavin backs her into the counter, the urn wobbling dangerously behind her before settling back down into place. He reaches up both hands to her face, thumbs digging into the meat of her cheeks, “I could just eat you up.”

Amber swallows a little, allowing the reality of this to settle on her, before saying in a flat tone, “You’re possessed.”

Amber glances off to the right over Gavin’s shoulder, and Gavin follows her gaze – but it’s already too late. The crystal ball cracks over the back of Gavin’s head, and her partner falls away to the ground again, revealing a shaky Sky. The crystal ball rolls away across the ground, and Amber kneels down to check Gavin’s head and make sure that Sky hadn’t fractured her partner’s skull.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #5

Sky watched as the three agents came out of the restaurant. In their formal suits they stand out from the tourists, students and locals who generally dress down – though no one but Sky is particularly interested in their comings and goings. They pass by a one man band performing on one of the side streets, and Amber stops to drop a dollar in his guitar open guitar case before being prodded along by the other two.

 

They quickly make their way back to the Grimoire office, and Sky settles in for another long period of waiting. He’s tried to peek in the windows of the office before, but had been thwarted by tightly closed blinds, and soon gave up on window peeping all together. Eventually, Amber and Gavin emerge from the office and climb into their car. Once they are a decent distance away, Sky emerges from the bushes and follows them on his moped, keeping a few car between them at all times.

Gavin is intently watching the rearview mirror, and nearly misses a stop sign. The agents fall forward against their seat belts as the car pulls to hard stop.

“Sorry,” Gavin says, refocusing on the road. “That kid is following us again.”

“He has a tendency to do that,” Amber replies, brushing a recently freed curl away from her face and back behind her ear. “Just ignore him.”

Gavin’s tense expression doesn’t leave his face until they arrive at the carnival. His shoulders relax a little as the two lose themselves in the crowd. He’s never been a big fan of crowds, but having more people between them and the prying eyes of the conspiracy theorist does help to ease his mind.

Amber leads the way through the crowds, dodging small children as they run past and ignoring the many distractions that she normally falls prey to until they reach the far end of the carnival. There, they find a lone RV with a sign out front beckoning guests to come inside and have their tea leaves, tarot cards or palms read by the ‘famous’ Madame Griselda. She comes to a stop in front of the RV, and Gavin bumps into her a bit, as he was looking over his shoulder for Sky.

“What do you think of that?” she says, lifting both eyebrows meaningfully.

Gavin narrows his eyes and approaches the sign outside of the RV, reading the warnings listed in rather fine print about how fortunes are just a form of amusement and that ‘Madame Griselda cannot be held responsible for the portents revealed or any reactions that the client may have to such revelations.’

“Curious,” Gavin says looking back at his partner. “Selene would love to see this.”

Amber snorts, “She would, if she ever left her shop. You know that she finds the outside world overwhelming. Come on, let’s check it out. I have a good feeling about this.”

Gavin felt a chill run through his body, but ignored it and knocked on the door to the RV. Gavin had seen the results of her ‘good feelings’ too many times not to notice that while they might feel great at the time, they usually felt like a pounding hangover by the time she woke up the next morning.

“Come inside, my dears,” a sweet if feeble sounding voice beckons them from inside. Gavin holds the door open for Amber, and then follows her into the RV.

The RV wass decorated with all the kitsch that you would expect from an old lady with too many cats to feed. The walls are covered in decorative plates featuring kittens, and strewn about are numerous afghans and throw pillows, none of which matched and half of which were occupied by bored felines. In the center of the small mobile home sat a round table with a tufted stools arranged around it and a crystal ball in its center, enshrouded by a gauzy bead-fringed canopy.

Gavin had to force himself to sit at the candlelit table, watching the beads swing dangerously near the flame as Amber took the seat next to him. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, pushing down the fear that this was a death trap ran by a woman who was clearly crazier than a witch.

The old lady sitting on the other side of the table, who was wearing a fluffy sweater and pair of reading glasses with a beaded strap, takes this meditative silence from Gavin as a good sign, and says in her reedy but enthusiastic voice, “Ah, young sir, I see that the spirit is strong in you.”

Gavin chokes down a horrified outburst of laughter, and Amber covers for him saying, “Oh yes, Madame Griselda. Gavin here is deeply in touch with his spiritual side. He was hoping that you could read his palm, or maybe tea leaves?”

“There’s a bit of a chill in the air tonight. Perhaps the tea leaves would suit you?” Madame Griselda gets up from the table, her skirts swishing around her ankles as she goes to the stove in the little kitchenette behind her. She fiddles with a jar, spooning some loose tea leaves into an infuser, then pours some water from her kettle into a dainty china teacup. The old woman’s gnarled hand shakes only slightly as she settles the teacup on the table in front of Gavin. Gavin hesitantly reaches to take the cup, which is painted with delicate pink roses, from its saucer.

 

Sky is loitering around outside of the fortune teller’s RV, doing his best to look nonchalant. He even bought himself a cone of blue raspberry cotton candy. Every few minutes, he peeks in through the half-open blinds of the old woman’s RV, but can’t gather very much from the few scraps of conversation that he’s managed to catch so far.

“Damn,” he mutters to himself, skirting around to the side of the RV and then around to the back of it. There’s another window on the other side of the motor home. Even though the view from this window is no better than it had been from the other window, it did provide him some shadows to hide in and a little bit less exposure to the crowds of carnival goers. He looks inside just in time to see the slightly stooped old gypsy-esque woman settling a teacup and saucer in front of Amber’s taciturn partner.

Then, something very odd happens. Before Gavin can take a sip of the tea, Amber slaps the cup out of his hand. Gavin yelps, scalding tea splattering over his hand and shirt. The old woman squawks in protest, and the teacup shatters on the floor.

 

Amber nearly trips as she stands up, pointing at a jar behind the old woman. A green ceramic jar that is oddly shaped like an urn. “That! That’s it, it’s the thingy! The death thingy!”

Gavin stands as well, pulling his badge out from his suit jacket in a smooth movement. “Ma’m, we’re with Grimoire, and you’re under arrest for the murders of Sean Carmichael, Michele Swann, and Louis Sanchez, and the attempted murder of a federal agent.”

The old lady looks rather confused, and smiles nervously at the two agents. “I’m sorry, dearie. Is this what the kids are calling a ‘punking?'”

The two agents look at each other, surprised at this reaction. Amber finally stammers out, “No Ma’m, this isn’t a joke of any kind. You’ve been giving people tea from that cursed jar. It’s been killing people. I’m actually surprised that more people haven’t died.”

The old lady is still confused,  but her smile is starting to slip. “Don’t be silly, dear. Tea doesn’t kill people.”

Amber goes around to the kitchenette, “You know, you’re probably right. It’s probably harmless. But maybe we should take a sample and have a look at the urn just to make sure, ok?”

“Now wait just a moment, that there is an expensive antique!” the old lady protests, getting up to snatch the urn away before Amber can take it.

“Don’t you touch it, you might break it!” Amber is surprised at the speed at which the tottering old lady moved, and the odd screeching tone in her voice. From way that Gavin was watching the old woman in concentrated silence, Amber thought Gavin must have thought the old woman’s sudden change odd as well. Gavin moves around to the other side of the table in at a slow, careful pace.

“Madame Griselda…?” Amber says in as soothing a tone as she can summon up, moving a bit closer to the old woman from her side. At the same time, she slowly reaches into her jacket pocket to withdraw a small round item. The weight of it gives Amber a bit of comfort, and some strength returns to her voice as she asks, “Are you feeling all right?”

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #4

He watched her for a moment longer before turning back to his notes. They spent a few hours in companionable silence, concentrating on their coffee and words. Around noon Amber scooted back from her desk, chair squealing in protest. She stretches back in the chair, catching her foot on the open drawer to keep from toppling over backward in the cantilevered chair. She makes a bit of a grunting sound as she twists her head back and forth, neck cracking a little. “Lunch time, handsome?”

Gavin nods a bit, “But let’s do something different today. What about the Milltop?”

“It has been a little bit since my last visit to the Milltop,” the redhead replies ponderously.

Gavin’s frowns a little before saying, “Don’t tell me you got kicked out of there too…”

Amber feigns offense at these words, her voice tinged with affronted dignity as she responds, “Of course not. What would make you thinks something like that?”

Gavin stares at her in silence for a moment, before deciding to let it go. He gets up from his chair and collects his jacket from the stand by the door. “You’re buying today,” he says, making it a statement rather than a request.

“Fine by me,” she replies, hopping up from her chair. She grabs her black patent leather purse and slings it over her shoulder as she walks out the door he’s holding open for her, sharp heels clicking on the hardwood floor. “We should invite Brandy as well, he should get out of the office every once in a while.”

Gavin and Amber approach the front desk where the blonde Brandon is sitting, his hair tucked behind his slightly pointed ears, a sign that he is more stressed than usual, as he normally hides the points of his ears very carefully under his hair. He smiles faintly as the two duo approaches the front desk, “Going to Scarlett’s for lunch?”

“The Mill Top today,” Gavin replies.

“You should go with us, Brandy. You’re looking a little pale,” Amber says jokingly.

Brandy laughs a little, getting to his feet, “Because elves are so well known for their dark tans. And you’re one to talk anyway, Gavin is tanner than you are and he hardly sets foot outside.”

Gavin grumbles a little, “I do go out sometimes.”

“I still say that freckles count as a tan,” Amber says with a bit of a pout as the three of them make their way out of the building.

 

Soon the three colleagues are comfortably ensconced in the back corner of the Milltop restaurant with drinks in hand. Gavin tries his best not to think about what exactly Amber is drinking, which smells suspiciously like alcohol though Amber denies it, and instead concentrates on his tea. It’s warm with a hint of lemon.

Brandy’s glass is filled with some kind of fizzing fruit juice with cherry skewered onto a red sword-shaped plastic swizzle stick, and is completely unabashed at his choice. People tend not to judge an elf for drinking a ‘girly’ drink. Then again, most people can’t seem to tell the difference between male and female elves, so perhaps it’s less a case of not being judgmental and more about not having a frame of reference from which to judge. Brandy sips his drink with unabashed delight.

“That Sky kid has been following me around again,” Amber says, stirring her drink idly with her straw. “Any tips on what to do about him?”

Brandy wrinkles his nose a little, “That wormy conspiracist kid with the hoodie that smells like cheezits?”

“The very same,” Gavin says, taking a sip of his tea to mask his amusement at Brandy’s sour expression.

“How do you know what he smells like anyway?” Amber says, quirking an eyebrow at Brandy.

“Elves have very sensitive noses, and acute hearing as well. Actually, all our senses are sharper than yours really,” Brandy says without the least hint of superiority. He says it as a plain fact, which is a bit of an oddity amongst elves who generally like to brag, and a trait that has endeared him to his coworkers.

“Then how can you stand being around Amber?” Gavin says, then jumps a little in his chair as Amber steps on his foot “-Kch!”

“Some people are an acquired smell,” Brandy says, smiling gently at Amber and patting her arm fondly.

Gavin is slightly put off by this show of familiarity, but the subject returns to its intended target before he can form the question that was bubbling up to his mouth. Amber asks, “So what do we do about the kid?”

“Maybe a better question is ‘what can the kid do for us?’” Brandy says, his mouth turning up at one corner. “Grimoire is always in need of writers, and it’s not unheard of for mundies to be brought into the fold.”

“You think he would really go for something like that?” Gavin says, doubtful. “What are we going to do? Have him pinky swear that he won’t expose the magical community to the general public? He doesn’t trust anyone. He’s not going to keep his mouth shut if we let him in on the fold.”

“That’s the best part – he doesn’t have to keep his mouth shut,” Brandy says, clapping a little as the waitress brings several baskets full of fried shrimp and fries to their table. “Now that looks good!”

“Anything else I can do for you folks today?” she says in the pleasant tone that most good waitresses have acquired, the one they can pull out even on the worst days when drunk patrons try to play grab ass or when they received what would be considered a good tip for a party of three, instead of the party of eleven that she just had to hustle for.

“This looks great, Cher. I don’t think we need anything else for right now.” Amber says, dipping one of her shrimp into the small cup of tartar sauce hanging on the side of her basket.

Once the waitress is out of earshot, Brandy continues, “Well, I’ll talk to the Chief about it and see what he thinks. It’ll probably be a few months before we can get confirmation from the head office. I’m sure you can keep him pre-occupied until then, Amber.”

“I’m still not sure I like this, Brandon. The kid is delusional. I know you both think he’s harmless, but he rubs me the wrong way,” Gavin says, carefully peeling the tail from one of his shrimp before popping it into his mouth.

“Brandy and I have experience with people like him, Gavin. Trust us. He’s harmless,” Amber says in her easy tone with a hint of a smile. “It’s sweet of you to worry about me though.”

Gavin fights back the heat he can feel rising in his face and concentrates on carefully peeling all the tails off of his shrimp. Brandy has the good sense to change the subject, and Gavin is only too pleased to let Amber and Brandy squabble about gnome containment methods for the remainder of their meal.

 

Meanwhile, from across the street a harmless kid in a worn grey hoodie is watching the door of the Milltop Tavern, making notes in an equally worn black notebook. If he had been the usual kind of kid you find in St. Augustine, it would probably be a moleskin. The city was littered with artists, or artistes as it were, most of them students from the nearby college. You could see them in the spring once the chill of winter had faded – not that winter in Florida was much more than an excuse to wear boots for a few weeks – laying in their bathing suits on the west lawn, playing guitar and reading books, or sketching in their moleskins. But, grey hoodie was not that kind of kid. In fact, he wasn’t a kid at all – but a adult who just happened to look very young. It was probably the way he dressed.

His name was Sky Wotcher, a cruel joke that his parents unwittingly played on him – but he was used to it now and though he didn’t embrace the name, neither did he fight it. Sky shuffles his feet a little, unused to standing for long periods of time, and he moves instead to sit on a nearby coquina concrete bench.

He had been following Amber for days, after the contract with his temp agency had been completed. While waiting for a new position to come up, he decided that it was high time he took his investigation of the red haired woman seriously. He had known from his prior encounters that her name was Amber MacSweeney, and she was purportedly a reporter for Grimoire, a small but far reaching tabloid newspaper that could be found in grocery stores and gas stations across the country. They had even started publishing a Spanish language version the previous year. Her partner is Gavin Faust, a quiet man who collected insects. Even Sky thought this was a little odd, and he believed aliens were amongst us.  His investigation thus far had mostly consisted of following Amber to various bars and watching her hit on or be hit on by other drunks. However, the previous night all of his hard work in tailing her had finally paid off when he watched Amber and her partner break into an RV.

Whatever they were looking for, they must not have found because they left empty handed. Sky had no idea what carnivals had to do with extra terrestrial life, unless the freaks who worked there were actually aliens. The idea that aliens had disguised themselves as humans to infiltrate the planet was one that had been frequently discussed on the internet, and even featured as a plot point in a number of television shows and movies. It was an idea that appealed to Sky, although he felt that it was far more likely that aliens would actually be creatures that looked nothing like us. If the biodiversity of the Earth was any sort of indicator, then the biodiversity of the entire universe must be even greater. What are the odds that the first alien they met would be humanesque? Then again, if they could reach Earth without detection, then they might indeed have cloaking technology that they could disguise themselves with. The debate was endless.

NaNoWriMo 2014: Spin Doctors #3

The evening starts with a slow trickle of people and builds until the fairground is filled to the brim with lines of people waiting to go on the best rides. With people coming out in full force for the first night of the carnival, the carnies are busy keeping the lines moving and the guests plied with all the usual sweets and artery clogging snacks. With the carnival crew sufficiently distracted, Amber and Gavin edge their way to the shadowy outskirts of the camp where the carnival’s RVs are parked.

They make a round of the camping area, surveying the outside of each RV. Most of them are older models, a little beat up from hard use, but obviously well cared for. After finding nothing particularly suspicious, they double back to where they started.

“Well, if there are mythies in this camp they can probably disguise themselves without much effort, and they don’t require anything large of particularly odd to sustain themselves,” Amber says, eying a kitschy hula girl in the window of the nearest RV. It sways slightly as the pendulum ride whirls around.

“That doesn’t mean that no one in this camp wouldn’t have the know-how or ability to use the urn, though. Plenty of mythies can wield magic and still appear human to the undiscerning eye,” Gavin responds, trying the door of the RV. “Locked.”

“Darn,” Amber grumbles, before realizing that Gavin is looking at her expectantly. “What? You think I can pick the lock? I’m not that kind of a bad girl.”

Gavin sighs a little, looks around furtively, then takes the pin from his tie. Amber’s eyes widen as she watches her partner display a talent she never suspected him of having. “Seriously? And just where did you learn to do that?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” he says with the ghost of a smirk as he trips the lock. He steps back and holds the door open for her. “Go on and take a look. I’ll stay out here and keep a look out.”

Amber hurriedly scoots on into the RV and the door creaks closed behind her. She takes a cautious step forward into the RV, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the low level of light filtering in through the half open blinds. Once her eyes have adjusted, she moves carefully through the small motor home, careful not to disturb or move anything. She pokes around for a few minutes, then emerges from the RV, startling Gavin a little.

Gavin breathes out hard and triggers the lock before pulling the door to behind his partner. “Nothing?”

“No, nothing. But that doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the first one. We should search a few more tonight, but I don’t want to push it. Let’s just come back tomorrow if we don’t find anything tonight,” Amber replies. And that is just what they do, and also what they find – nothing.

Amber manages to get Gavin to buy her another cone of cotton candy before they head out, and busies herself on the ride home with licking the sticky fluff from her fingers. Gavin wrinkles his nose at this, but refrains from verbally expressing his disgust with this behavior. Despite this, Amber can tell that she’s annoying him.

“Did you never eat cotton candy as a child?” she asks, an eyebrow quirking up and a smile playing across her lips.

His expression softens a little and he clears his throat before responding, “No…I’ve never been a big fan of sweets. Even when I was a kid. My sister loved it, it meant she always got double.”

She nods appreciatively, “You must have been a great big brother.”

“What makes you think I am the older one?” he says, glancing at her as he pulls up to the antebellum home that they started their morning off in.

“It’s obvious,” she says, shrugging a little.

“You must be an only child, then?” he says with the question hanging on the slightly upturned tone at the end of the phrase.

Amber laughs as she slides out of the passenger seat, “Guess again, hot stuff!”

Gavin shakes his head a little as he watches her walk down the sidewalk a ways to retrieve her abandoned heels. She waves him off as she heads into her house, but he waits until the door is safely shut behind her and the lights come on before he drives off into the night.

Amber locks the door behind her as and surveys the house in the warm light cast by the lamp on the table by the door. Bottles are scattered across the floor, some broken and left as they were; she hadn’t even bothered to pick up the pieces of glass. The furniture is antique, and probably had been well cared for at some point in time, but is now coated with a fine layer of dust. She takes a deep breath and slowly lets it out, then goes to retrieve a broom from the hall closet.

Once the house has been tidied up enough for her to walk around safely, she stows the broom and goes to the fridge. It’s mostly empty, with a few old boxes of Chinese and a lot of beer. She reaches for a beer, and hesitates for only a moment before grabbing it.

Unbeknownst to Amber, a shadowy figure is watching her from outside through the lenses of a pair of binoculars. He’s young, wearing a faded pair of jeans in danger of falling to pieces at the knees, and a shirt bearing the mantra “The Truth Is Out There!” As she pops the top off of the beer and takes a pull from it, he shakes his head and makes a note. His writing is the kind of chicken scratch that might only be considered legible by doctors, or the nurses who have to decipher their notes in any case. The man himself actually has a hard time reading his own writing sometimes, though he would never admit it.

He watches Amber until she disappears from his line of sight, then crawls out of the bushes. He has to pause to free himself from a particularly thorny bush, and nearly trips over his own untied shoelace before he makes it to the curb, where an old moped is parked. He hops on the moped, and it gutters to life noisily. He looks over his shoulder nervously, wondering if the sound of the engine coming to life might alert his prey, but all seems quiet apart from the sound of his engine. He is slightly disappointed by this, but considers that he is simply cleverer than the agents; after all, they have yet to catch him or shut down his website. And he’s certain they follow his work, him being the foremost expert on paranormal activity. In the St. Augustine Area anyway.

The man scuttles off into the night, Amber watching him go from the crack of a drawn shade. She shakes her head a little and has another sip of beer before retreating to her room.

 

In the morning, Amber arrives to the office looking fresher and considerably cleaner than she had the previous morning. Her hair is still wild with curls, but she has at least made an effort to tame it back into a bun with bobby pins and copious amounts of hairspray. She has two coffees in hand, and sets one down on Gavin’s desk moving to her own to sit down.

Gavin seems pleased, though his expression doesn’t change. He opens the coffee to check it; it looks black. “Did you add anything?”

“You take it with two sugars, right? No cream?” she asks, seeming confidant that she already knows the answer. He nods, and she smiles smugly before saying, “I’m more observant than you thought, huh?”

He shrugs a little, “Not particularly. We’re hired to be observant. You wouldn’t be a Grimoire agent if you didn’t have some observational skills. And we’ve been together long enough now that it would be odd if you didn’t pick up on some of my preferences.”

“What kind of coffee do I like then?” she says, lifting an eyebrow in challenge.

“The Irish kind. More booze than coffee, really.” he replies, much to her amusement.

“Oh, come on! That’s not fair.” she protests, her easy laugh rising to the surface. He focuses his intense gaze on her, but she can see the glint of teasing hiding behind his serious brown eyes. “Ok, ok, sometimes,” she says, waving her fingers at him a little, as if to dispel his laser focus.  “But not often.”

Amber settles into her chair, which definitely had a bit of Irish flavor to it this morning, and perks up a little. “Oh, I almost forgot. I had a visitor again last night.”

Gavin pauses from reading over the bit of typing he had just finished, looking up. “Again? I thought he had finally given up after the last time…”

“He’s got some spunk, you have to give him that. He doesn’t give up easily,” she unlocks one of her desk drawers and draws out a case file.

Gavin looks over at her, the pinched look he gets when he’s concerned but trying not to look it crawls over his otherwise calm expression, “I know that you think he’s harmless, but what if his behavior escalates? You’ve seen his website. The kid is nearly delusional.”

“He would be delusional if the foundation of his beliefs weren’t actually true. But I do think it’s odd that he hasn’t managed to get at least one case right. As many as he’s written about, you’d think he would have gotten close to the truth at least once by now – even if it was just by accident. I wonder what the statistics are for things like that,” she says, finding the page she had marked as her previous stopping point. She had folded the edge of the paper down, a habit which would make Gavin cringe if he knew about it.

Gavin thinks about this for a moment before saying, “It is kind of interesting just how wrong he always is. Even with details that were reported correctly by the news outlets. What do you want to do about him?”

Amber shrugs with all the nonchalance of a cat, more concerned with the file she’s reading over than with any danger that her stalker might pose, “I think it’s about time we told Brandy about him.”

“Not the chief?” Gavin asks, scribbling a note down.

“And how exactly do you think the Chief would react to a situation like this?” she says, booting up her laptop.

“Good point. Let’s tell Brandon, and he can tell the Chief,” Gavin says, speaking aloud what Amber had been thinking all along.

As different as they are, it sometimes surprised Gavin how in sync they had become. They’d only been partners a few months now, but he could already feel himself becoming more relaxed around Amber. Because of his condition, Gavin had never really let himself relax around anyone, not even his family – or perhaps especially not his family – but there was something about Amber that both amped his guard up and caused it to crumble. He wasn’t even sure that Amber was aware of his condition, what with the way that she’s been treating him, but how could she not be? Everyone else was.

There was a look that people would get in their eye when they knew about his condition – a certain avoidance of eye contact, a barrier that people subconsciously put between themselves and him. But Amber had no such barriers, and when she looked at him it was with the same brightness and curiosity with which she approached everyone else. She spoke as her thoughts came to her and acted almost entirely on instinct. It was refreshing, and at the same time terrifying. If she already knew, then it made no difference. But if she didn’t know and he told her, it could change everything. The part of him that was rigidly, compulsively honest balked at the thought of this dishonesty, but the smaller part – the part so quiet that he didn’t even hear it talking to him – comforted him with the idea that this is small secret is not a lie. It is simply private information, which Gavin has every right to keep to himself. God only knows that Amber has her own secrets.