“Morning. Do we have any coffee left? Or vodka? Is the pot boiled? Lovely. Where’s the vodka? Anyone?”
Megan gestures for me to sit at the kitchen table while Sophia rushes around the kitchen opening cupboards in a frenzy. Curtis is here, which puts me at ease, but the two others that stare at me the moment I sit down put my blood pressure even higher.
“We had vodka yesterday!” Sophia screams.
“Check the bar,” a man says, he is half-cast with trimmed, dark hair and a beard that rests on top of the edge of the table.
“I have,” Sophia mutters. “I need vodka with my coffee. I need rum. Where’s the rum! We had rum yesterday too!”
“Okay,” Curtis says, taking a sigh and placing his cup down to look at Megan. “What happened?”
“She had a fight with Milasia,” Megan says.
“Well that would do it,” Curtis says. “Sophia it’s seven in the morning, you don’t need rum.”
“Shut up, Curtis. You know, you spend years dedicating yourself to your unit, going on week-long errands and putting your life at risk, and for what? What are the thanks I get? Morning, Sophia, enjoy this punch to your head! Where is the rum!”
“Far left cupboard!” the woman yells.
“Thanks, Jo, someone that actually gets me,” Sophia mutters as she finds the bottle. She starts tipping it into a mug and I watch with my mouth half open. She then adds coffee and boiled water, stirring it angrily. “I don’t understand that girl. I never have. Why is she here? Can someone tell me why she’s here?”
“And I take it she lost?” Curtis whispers to Megan. Megan nods.
“Milasia is a piece of work, but the art of handling her is to be better than her in battle,” Jo says, quite thoroughly. “Look at Megan, Milasia doesn’t dare go near her, because she knows she’d lose.”
“Well we’d all lose against Megan,” the man chuckles.
“Sophia, I’ve been offering you extra training for months,” Megan says.
“Yeah, like I have time for extra training,” Sophia hisses, finally taking a seat at the table, with the bottle of rum. “Between running around for Sam and watching Theresa, I don’t have time for anything. I gave as good as I got, didn’t I, Theresa?”
Everyone looks at me for an answer, I just subtly nod my head and glance away.
“Crap, I forgot about you,” Sophia says to me. “What do you want? Coffee? Orange? Rum?”
“Coffee is fine,” I say.
“I got it,” Megan says, pressing down on Sophia’s shoulders. “You stay sat down before you give yourself a seizure.”
“Whatever you want to eat, Curtis will make it for you,” Sophia says. “We have fresh rabbit, deer, elk, chicken, lamb.”
“You eat that for breakfast?” I say.
Sophia nods, gesturing to the half-cast man. “Yeah, Cain’s a hunter.”
“I usually wait for everyone else before I start cooking, but I’ll make an exception.” Curtis stands. “How about some chicken breast and eggs?”
“That sounds delicious,” I say. “Thank you.”
I focus on Sophia with concern as she tips the entire cup into her mouth and then pours herself more. I think I’m beginning to understand her frustration. She’s mad at herself because Milasia beat her, because she lost, and to them that must mean something big. She has a bruise on her jaw and a gash on the side of her head that’s gently bleeding, but it’s like she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about her injuries; she just cares about losing.
Megan passes me a steaming mug of coffee and I smell it first to make sure it’s real. The smell is divine. It reminds me of home.
Suddenly, a scream erupts through the castle. It is piercing and desperate, a scream of pain like no other I’ve ever heard. I flinch in my seat, and that’s when Sophia reaches out and grips my wrist.
“It’s our way,” she whispers. “It won’t last long.”
I pull my arm back, turning my head to the door. The scream belongs to Milasia, and it doesn’t sound like it isn’t lasting long, it sounds like it will never end.
Jo stands. “That’s Milasia.”
“Leave them,” Megan orders as she stands with her back to us, looking out of the window. “Sam knows what he’s doing.”
“He’s punishing her for a fight?” Jo demands. “Bullshit! Milasia fights with one of us on a daily basis. What happened?”
“It was more than a fight,” Sophia mutters, turning to look at her cousin. “She attacked me. Threatened to kill me. It was my fault; I shouldn’t have provoked her.”
“She wouldn’t have done it,” Cain says. “You know she wouldn’t have. Do you really think she deserves that?”
I wince as the screaming continues. No matter what Milasia has done, listening to her cries are heart-breaking.
“She would have killed Theresa if not me,” Sophia says. “And Sam has declared her as under his protection. She went against his order, and Sam deems her fit for punishment.”
“This isn’t right,” Cain hisses as he stands angrily. “You have a blind spot when it comes to that witch and it’s gonna bite us all on the ass!”
Sophia keeps her head high as Cain storms out of the kitchen. Once he’s gone, she returns to the bottle.
“He has a point you know,” Megan says.
“I don’t care about points, Megan. It’s time everyone around here grew up. And don’t you have somewhere more interesting to be today? You don’t need to babysit me.”
“Okay,” Megan says, she nods at Jo. “Let’s go. Curtis can you-?”
“Yeah, I’ll keep an eye on her,” he says.
“I don’t need anyone to keep an eye on me!” Sophia yells as Megan and Jo leave the kitchen. She turns to me. “Can you believe that?”
“No,” I say. “But Sophia, you need to slow down. You’re going to be drunk before noon at this rate.”
“Who are you, my mother?” Sophia chuckles. “I’m fine. I can handle my drink. It’s my unit that drives me crazy. I mean as if-”
I stop listening to her ramblings as I notice Curtis doing something peculiar in the corner of the room. He places his hand above a plate and his palms glow a light blue, I can physically hear the food sizzling and heating up. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. To heat food like that so quickly the temperature he radiates must exceed three hundred degrees at most. And he contains it so well, so professionally, I’m in awe of it. He spins around, holding the steaming plate in his hand without it burning him, and he places it in front of me. I just stare at him.
“What?” he laughs.
“-it’s not like you’re a raging, murderous witch is it? What is their problem, I mean seriously I can’t understand why-” Sophia continues.
“Nothing,” I say. “It looks great. Thanks, Curtis.”
I begin eating as Curtis sits back down, the chicken is white, dressed with a type of bbq sauce, and the eggs are cooked to perfection. He cooked this from his hands. Sophia mentioned they could do this, but seeing it done is completely different.
“I’ve been cooking for the unit for over a year now,” Curtis says. “Apart from Sam, I’m the only one that can contain my temperatures to one place. I began teaching some of them, but after they almost set the castle on fire I thought it best to stop.”
“You know, normal people just use ovens.” I grin.
“What fun would that be?”
“Why are you being so nice to me?” I ask. “I mean, I get why Sophia is, she’s crazy. But why are you?”
“Well, I could be executed for saying this, but I’ve always found the wars between our kind pointless. It wasn’t wiccans that killed my parents, it was other slayers. I guess it just made me realise that there is bad in every species, and no one can fight against that.”
“I wish everyone else had the same realisation,” I say. “It would make everything so much easier.”
“It sure would,” he says. “But at the end of the day, we’re stuck with what we have. Out of all the pointless war and deaths and rage, there’s something amazing that happens.” He looks at Sophia, who is rubbing her head and grunting. “We find our family.”
“You’re such a cheese ball,” Sophia says, pushing his shoulder.
“I’m a cheese ball that cares about you, so for the rest of the morning I think you should go lay down. I’ll take care of Theresa, I promise. The others can live without breakfast for one day.”
Sophia yawns. “I am feeling pretty tired. And drunk. Okay, fine, as long as you’re okay with that?”
I nod. I don’t care either way. I’d rather be left on my own if that were an option.
“I’ll resurrect later. I’m taking this though.” She grabs the bottle before Curtis can stop her, and in the next second she disappears in her seat.
“So, what was she planning to do with you?” he asks.
“Something about the roof and practising magic,” I whisper.
“Interesting,” he says. “But I’ve got a much better idea. How do you feel about breaking some rules?”
“Love it,” I say.
“Great. Eat up, there’s something I want to show you.”