“Can you help me with something, Kali? It’s for Say,” Shay whispered.
Kallima nodded shortly, keeping her eye on the girl across the table from her. Sable kept her head low, trying to cover the deep purple bruise around her throat. She had received a few hugs from staff and other orphans, but the majority of the student body were gossiping over what had made her try to kill herself. A deadly stare from Kallima quickly silenced everyone she overheard. She did, however, keep track of what they said.
Most of them thought she finally realized that she would fail out of school. Other theories involved a boy rejecting her, Gavin being too harsh with her, or her using “pollen,” whatever that might be.
One older girl said that Sable had the stature of a violated woman, which sparked a wrestling match in Kallima’s mind over whether or not she could even consider that a possibility. On the one hand, no one seemed remotely interested in the girl but Shay, and he refused to act on it. Then again, Shay was also good at hiding his attraction, so what did Kallima know? The fiery girl heard enough of it in the Mortal Realm to know it was not uncommon, and it seemed, if anything, even more frequent in the Faerie Realm. After all, Gabriel had been more than forward, and he was sixteen. Who could say what an older person could or would do to such a small thing as Sable? She countered this in her mind with the insistence that advances on the fifteen-year-old were illegal. Even if they had permission from her uncle, who may or may not have been thinking of selling the girl’s body, only someone her age could touch her.
Besides, Sable had made no mention of such an attack, and Kallima trusted that she would. After all, she had made her promise.
Kallima lifted another piece of fish, watching Sable stir her potatoes with a fork.
“You’d let me know if someone hurt you, wouldn’t you?”
Sable hummed, looking not up but sideways. Amelia elbowed her, and she sighed.
“‘Yeah, sure,’ I’ll tell you or ‘yeah, sure,’ whatever you say?” Kallima pressed.
“Sable...,” Shay said with a whimper.
“I’m fine, okay? Like, I had a moment. It’s over,” the gargoyle hissed.
“But you’re not fine!” Kallima said.
Shay said, “We’re just worried about you, Say.”
“You know what?” Sable said, rising, “I don’t, like, want to hear about how I messed up again. Can’t do anything right, can I?”
She sped out of the hall. Shay started, but Ignatius pushed him down.
“Give her a minute,” the senior said shortly.
“No. She won’t. She needs time,” Ignatius said.
“She needs a friend!”
“I’m not arguing with you. But you’re not the friend she needs right now.”
“Then who? Kali?”
“Mm. Anyone but you.”
Shay gaped then asked, “Why not?”
Ignatius said, “Because you have nothing to add. It’s like you said, your life is perfect. You’re not an orphan. You’re not poor. You don’t know what she’s going through.”
“He’s right. You don’t, but we do,” Kallima said. “Amy, could you go check on her?”
Kallima handed the girl her room key with a nod, and Amelia took off. Kallima leaned into Ignatius and sighed.
“So. What do you need?” she asked Shay.
“The Triponi Orchestra is going to be in Greston again on Tuesday. I was hoping you could make a door for me and Sable?”
“Like a date?” Ignatius asked.
“No! It’s a birthday present. I feel bad about forgetting. I’ve never... She’s wanted to play with them for ages. Ever since she first heard them on recorder. I thought, I dunno, that she’d enjoy seeing them in person.”
“Actually, I’m certain she would,” Kallima said. “She was quite jealous when you gave me a recording.”
“So you’ll do it?”
“Of course! All I got her were raspberry scones, and they taste worse than I remember.”
Ignatius said, “I couldn’t think of anything non-material either, so I made a holster.”
“A what?” Kallima asked.
But Shay overlapped her question with the half-shriek, “Are you crazy? It’s dangerous to make those, Ig, even if you can get the materials! You’re gonna get caught.”
“Relax. I can’t get caught if she doesn’t show it to anyone. And I know she won’t show it to that bastard uncle of hers.”
“What is a holster?” Kallima asked again.
“It’s really cool, Kali, you’ll love this,” Ignatius said, grinning. “It’s just a little pouch, see, like what you’d put coins in? But the neck can open up to a foot across, and it can hold a few hundred pounds of supplies.”
“Wow... It’s like a space pocket that she can just carry around then?”
“Yeah. Figured it would help her hide things from her uncle, so he doesn’t break them. Everyone deserves something nice, you know?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to hide herself in it,” Kallima said.
Shay nodded in agreement and said, “It’s not something air-friendly. If she turns to stone, though...”
“Someone would have to pull her out,” Ignatius said. “If she turned back to flesh again, it would kill her.”
“You can’t give that to her!” Kallima snapped. “She’s sick!”
“Oh, she wouldn’t fit, Kali! It doesn’t open that far. But Shay has a point. I’m going to get in trouble over it.”
“Why?” Kallima asked. “Is it bomb or something?”
“It’s made of a precise, complex combination of metals heated to such a high temperature that it is rendered in a permanent state of malleability. An advanced set of incantations is then performed to lock the capacity, reduce the perceivable size, and limit the strain it puts on the owner,” Ignatius explained.
Shay shook his head and said, “Normal fire doesn’t work. It needs a magical source. A phoenix flame would do, but, traditionally, dragon fire is preferred.”
“Blaze... He helped you?” Kallima breathed.
“He said... he told me,” the golden boy said, “that something happened over break? That you two maybe need to... split up?”
“News to me,” Kallima said. “We were told that we shouldn’t see each other, but I didn’t think he was seriously considering it. Why, what did he say?”
“Just that it would be better if you two stopped seeing each other.”
“Don’t worry, Kali,” Shay said. “I’m sure he’s just using Ig to see how you’d react.”
Ignatius growled and said, “I know what I heard.”
“And I know Kali’s crazy about him. So stop it.”
“She’d have to be crazy, given what he is. What sane person-?”
“Iggy, are you trying to break up Blaze and me?”
Shay laughed hysterically at the accusation, but Ignatius flushed enough to answer the question. Kallima joined Shay’s chuckling.
“Oh, Iggy… I didn’t realize I was doing that,” Kallima said. “I’ll stop leaning on you now, all right? You’re sweet and all, but… You’re my friend.”
“Y- yeah,” Ignatius breathed, shifting from fiery-red to pasty-white. “I think… I’m gonna go throw up now.”
Shay and Kallima continued their cackling as the golden senior scampered silently from the room. Then Shay cleared his throat.
“So, um, Tuesday. A little before seven, I’ll come to your room,” he said. “Try to pretty her up, okay? I don’t want her to feel like trash.”
“Of course. Should I put her hair up for you?”
Shay pouted and blushed.
“She has such a pretty face. I don’t know why she hides it. I’m surprised boys don’t flock her when it’s up.”
Kallima scoffed and said, “Well, then. I have a plan. Don’t say anything to her, okay? Just show up like you said and dress nicely.”
“Why do I have t-?”
Kallima, smiling mischievously, stood and left the boy at the table. Her heart raced excitedly with the news she had. This was just the thing the half-gargoyle needed to lift her mood. When she reached the room, she pressed an ear to the door to make sure she was not interrupting anything. The silence that ensued assured her safe entrance.
Inside the white room, Sable laid across the bed on her stomach and stared at her beacon. Amelia sat at one desk. She glanced at Kallima before returning her attention to the still and silent grey girl.
“We need to have a seance,” Amelia proclaimed, adjusting her buns.
“Why? I know what she’ll, like, say,” Sable said.
“There’s a reason she’s in Underveil, Sable, but I won’t know why until I do a seance.”
“Let her do it, Sable,” Kallima said, making her roommate flinch and crackle. “Give you both some peace.”
“Do it for Kali,” said Amelia. “She’s the one Maddy’s draining.”
Kallima blinked at this revelation.
“Sable’s mum is draining me?”
“Well, yeah. You have the most energy, and you’re physically and emotionally close to Say. It’s not malicious. She just wants to help.”
“She’shisappoindime,” Sable said. “I know. Tell her I don’t, like, wanna hear it.”
Kallima said, “She’s not disappointed.”
“No, she’s worried. I think… It’s something about her death.”
“I don’t WANT to hear it!”
Kallima set her hands on Amelia’s shoulders.
“You should go,” she told the spirit fae. “She’s only getting more upset. We’ll deal with it later, okay?”
“Promise. We’ll talk on Thursday.”
“And aren’t you supposed to be in a lesson right now?”
Sable grumbled into her pillow.
“Wajapon? Snaligalboo anifin wippit.”
Kallima pushed Amelia out of the room then sat on Sable’s bed with her.
“Say, you love music. You can’t just give up on it.”
“No, you’re not. In fact, a boy in art asked me if I could get him a date with you.”
“He wants to take you out on Tuesday.”
“Because you won’t be here Friday. I promise you’ll like it. Now, go to your lesson. Miss Orchid is probably wondering where you’ve been.”
“Now, Sable,” Kallima scolded.
The grey girl groaned again and slinked away. Kallima sighed, rose, and entered her roommate’s closet. Sable kept only a few dresses at the school: a pale grey tunic with tattered hems, a light blue dress thinned and dulled by time, and a rough-seeming cream gown. The only pair of shoes she owned were strapped to her feet, and they were practically worn through as well. Kallima was about to move to her own closet when a clink and a glint caught her attention. Kallima pushed aside the dresses to reveal a tall, rectangular bottle labeled “Kelson’s Sleep Tonic.” She pulled the cork and gagged at the musky stagnation inside.
She started out of the closet, thought better of it, and returned the bottle of alcohol to its hiding place. Then she left the wardrobe and picked up Sable’s beacon.
“Did you do that, Madelyn?” She asked. “Did you want me to find it?”
A faint whisper passed across the back of her neck like a breath, making a shiver run down her spine.
“If that was a yes, do it again.”
Another, weaker chill rushed through Kallima’s body.
“Oh, Say…,” the redhead breathed. “Don’t worry, Madelyn. I’ll take care of her.”
How she intended to do that, she had no idea. Instead of worrying about it, she focused on her schoolwork until her roommate returned and collapsed onto her bed again, chuckling.
“So,” the gargoyle said, “someone wants to, like, take me on a date?”
“Ha. What is it, pity? Like, he feels bad for the desperate girl?”
“Not that he said.”
“Hm. He wants sex, then.”
Kallima whipped around to stare at her roommate. Sable glanced back when Kallima asked her to repeat herself.
“Is he a lord’s kid?”
“They all think they can, like, buy sex whenever they want. Most of them will back off, like, if you say no, but… Well, you dated one. Some don’t care.”
“Do you want me to call it off?”
“Naw. Like, I may as well get what I can. If he spoils me enough, I might not even mind, you know? I know, like, what I am,” the grey child insisted.
“And what would that be?”
“Mm. I’m not smart like Ig or strong like Shay. Not kind like Amy. Not powerful like you. Not even pretty like Case. Not, like, a lot of options for me, Kali.”
Kallima, in a fluid sweep of her body, eased herself onto Sable’s bed and began petting the girl’s thin, black hair.
“You are not a whore, Sable,” she assured her tiny classmate, “and you never will be. I promise.”
“You can’t know that.”
“I won’t let it happen. I’ll have Shay convince his dad to buy you from Gavin. Shay would never take advantage of you, would he?”
“Please. He probably wouldn’t even touch me, like, to punish me.”
“Then it’s settled. Shay will buy you from Gavin before he can sell you to anyone else. So will you just try to relax a bit? Enjoy being a kid?”
“I… I’ll try.”
“Excellent. After art tomorrow, we’re going shopping.”
Sable grunted and melted deeper into her bedding. Kallima shrugged, determined yet concerned. Like Ignatius, cracks were forming in the grey child’s resolve.
But they were far deeper and growing faster than his.