I sit on the bench at the park watching the humans go about their evenings. Some are walking their dogs, some are on dates, and some are sitting on benches like me watching the end of a colorful sunset. I like people-watching. I don't get out enough as it is. None of us do.
I live in a house on the outskirts of town with some... like-minded individuals. We've found out that we are safer together than apart. So we've all been together for at least fifty years now. I was Sorscha's first, and we fell in love with the others along the way.
But tonight I needed to get out. Be on my own for a while. Maybe I'll hunt while I'm at it.
I can feel the chill in the air. It's almost Halloween, so we should be expecting the first frost soon. It's going to be cold tonight.
I get up from my seat on the bench and decide that hunting is probably a prudent idea. Hopefully, there will be some stupid teenagers wandering around that I can scare. This close to Halloween the cemetery is probably my best bet and easiest scare.
I find an old graveyard about a block away from the park. It has statues for me to hide in and mausoleums to trap them in. Perfect. I hear laughter along the back and smile as I make my way through the graves.
I disperse my form into shadows and smoke. Flitting and creeping from shadow to shadow I hear them more clearly as I get closer. There are three of them a girl and two boys. I let a twig underneath me snap. The little shriek they all let out sends the smell of fear my way. I breathe it in gluttonously. Delicious.
They calm down a bit, but I smell that they're still nervous. I collect my shadows to form a tall man in a coat and hat with no face. One of my favorite forms.
It works wonders as I shift over the ground towards them. They scream when they see me and trip over themselves as I soak in their fear. Running through the headstones I follow them out at a leisurely pace. Luca calls it 'creeper speed' but he's part snake so what does he know about walking?
After a good meal, I collect myself into a corporeal form and head back to my car. Walking through back alleys and side streets I stroll through them taking in my surroundings. I feel a little pull of fear to my left but it dissipates as I get near. Odd, usually it's the other way around.
Curiosity gets the better of me and I follow the pull. I pass through a gate and see a small form huddled in the corner of someone's backyard.
"You're awfully small to be out by yourself," I say trying to get the small creature to look at me. She does. I'm shocked to find a little girl around eight years old. She looks into my eyes and breaks my small dark heart.
"It's safer out here." She says.
"Monsters are out at night," I warn her.
"I'll take my chances. They can't be worse than the ones in there." I can feel the fear and rage and hate in her words. This poor little thing has been through a lot but what?
"What is wrong my sweet girl?" I ask just as a door opens from the house in question. I see her flinch and curl up into herself even further.
"Get the fuck in here you little bitch!" I hear some monster call to this sweet creature. No. This will end tonight. I see the little girl take a shuddering breath and stand up shaking the dirt off her clothes. I notice they don't fit her, and she has a big bruise on the side of her face. She will not be going in there.
"Would you like some help, my dear?" I offer. She looks at me with wide dark eyes. I don't think she's ever been offered help. Thank goodness she leaps at it.
"Yes! I don't want to go back in there." She's on the verge of tears.
"Then come with me. My family and I will take care of you. We've always wanted a child anyway. Would you like that?" I ask wrapping an arm around her.
"Are they like you?" She asks. Observant, that's a good quality to have.
"Yes and no. They look different, but we are similar in many ways." I say.
"That sounds nice." She says with a small smile.
"Then let's get out of this awful place. My name is Shadow by the way." I offer her my hand.
"I'm Reyna. But I don't like it." She says with childlike honesty.
"Well, I've had many names. Why don't we give you a different name then? One you like?" I suggest.
"That sounds good. A name is a big choice though. I need to think about it." Wise beyond her years too.
We continue walking and chatting. She tells me about her school and how she doesn't like it. She likes learning but not the people there. I tell her about something called homeschooling and how they used to do it all the time when I was younger. She likes that idea.
We get to my car and I sit her in the back with my jacket to warm her up, and we drive home. She's asleep by the time we arrive at the large house I call home. I notice my beautiful Sorscha is at the door waiting for me.
I step out and motion her to come here. I head to my sweet girl and pick up her sleeping form. Sorscha obliges but I can tell she's hesitant until she sees the sweet bundle in my arms. I see her tears form as she takes in the bruises and the thinness of her tiny body.
"Well, get her inside and warm. We can talk about what to do then." Sorscha commands. I obey because I've already fallen under this little creature's spell.
I set her down on the couch and place a warm soft blanket over her frail form. I turn to see that Sorscha has gathered the others too. Good.
"What is going on?" Luca asks suspiciously.
"I was walking to the car and this poor thing was absolutely terrified hiding in an alley. But she wasn't scared of me." I say as they all turn to the little girl with curiosity burning. "She said she would rather come with me than go inside to her family. By the look of her, I don't think they treated her well at all." I say also remembering how that woman shouted at her.
"Poor thing. What's her name?" Asks Sorscha.
"She says it was Reyna but that she doesn't like it. She will be deciding on a new name. She says it's a big choice, so she's going to get back to us on it." I say with a smile. Ezra and Luca are trying to stifle smiles. Sorscha is kneeling by her head brushing back her dark hair. Looks like I'm not the only one under her spell.
"Is everyone OK if she stays with us?" I ask just to make sure.
"She's not going back there!"
"Where else would she go? She belongs here!" I grin. I'm glad they think so too.
"I'm going to make her some food," I say stepping over Luca's long shimmering tail.
"I'll help." Ezra volunteers wrapping his arm around my waist. We walk into the kitchen and go about making a can of soup for her. It's hardly a two-person job but I can tell Ezra needs to do something other than wait. As I stir the soup his arms come around me, and he kisses the side of my neck. "Thank you for bringing her. We've wanted a child for so long. Thank you." He kisses me again and gives me a squeeze and goes to grab a bowl and spoon for her.
We have wanted a child for a long time. It just wasn't in the cards for us what with us all being different. Sorscha is a Banshee, I'm a Shadowman, Ezra is an Incubus, and Luca a Lamia. It just wasn't going to happen. But now we have her. Maybe things do work out in the end.
I bring out the soup to find our girl awake and talking to everyone like she has always been here. Like she belongs. Which she does.
"I'm ten years old!" She says and notices me in the doorway. "Shadow!" She greets me with a smile and my heart melts.
"Hello, my sweet. Ezra and I made you soup. Would you like some?" I offer.
"Yes, please! I'm starving!" No one comments that by the look of her, she's not far off. I hand her the soup, and she digs in without pause. If she keeps eating like this it won't be long until she's healthy and strong.
"We were just talking about that pesky name business." Sorscha enlightens us and my sweet girl nods with her mouth full. I smile at her. "She decided she wants a name from her new family." I can hear the emotion in her voice. My girl swallows her soup.
"I chose Rowena! After Sorscha's mom!" I smile widely. Rowena was a powerful banshee and an even stronger woman.
"I like it. It suits you." Ezra says and I nod in agreement. Rowena grins and continues eating her soup happily.
She is an incredible little girl.
10 years later...
"Mama! I need your help!" Mama is the best. Not only is she the best mom ever she's also a Banshee which means she feeds off of sadness and grief. That helps her with her job as a grief counselor. Also, she has impeccable taste. Which is why I need her help. I have a job that's a little weird today.
I'm a part-time photographer for the Lexington Post when I'm not at school. Today's interview is for a local surf competition and it's at the beach. Where I still have to look professional but walk in the sand. And probably get wet... great. Mama walks into my room.
"Still stuck on this huh?" She says with a teasing smile. "I say wear capris and that pretty blue blouse you wore to dinner with Gemma."
"That's perfect! Thank you, Mama!" I run up and kiss her on the cheek before running off to get dressed. I hear her chuckling behind me.
I'm dressed and out of the bathroom throwing my chestnut hair into a ponytail and grabbing my bags. I need to hurry or I won't be able to grab breakfast. I almost collide with Papa Luca's tail but I manage to jump over the dark iridescent scales at the last minute.
"Bye Papa Luca! I'll see you before class!" I call as I hit the stairs.
"Bye Mouse. Good luck today!"
I hit the landing and give a hug to Papa Ezra and Papa Shadow. They wish me luck and I meet Mama at the door hugging her goodbye. I head to my little sky-blue beetle and head to work. I am so lucky to have my family. I remember only too well the monsters I came from. I can't express what it meant to meet Papa Shadow that night.
I pull into the parking lot at work with my bags in hand. I wave to Wayne, the security guard at the front desk. He waves me through and I settle down in the elevator. I exit on my floor only to be bombarded by Josie, the journalist paired with me today.
"Rowena! Thank god you're here! Do you mind if we take your car today? Mine is in the shop." She whines.
"I don't mind at all Joss. Do we need to do anything here? Or should we just head out?" I ask. I like Josie she's a good bean just a tad scatterbrained.
"We can just head out now if you want. Do you want to grab breakfast on the way?"
"You read my mind!" I say turning around and getting into the elevator again.
I wave goodbye to Wayne and he shakes his head.
"Did you even make it to the right floor?" He asks.
"I got one foot out this time," I say chuckling. I never get to stay long on the floor. I'm usually out on assignments or just delivering the pictures. Heck! I haven't even met our new editor yet.
Josie and I head to my car and get in. We make it to the Café with plenty of time to spare. I see Josie crinkling her nose at something.
"What's wrong?" I ask. She picks something off the bottom of my purse.
"Oh, I just saw some more snakeskin." Shit. Papa Luca must be shedding again.
"Oh sorry!" I say grabbing it and throwing it in a nearby trash can for her.
"What kind of snake do you have again?"
"Mexican Black King Snake," I say with a smile.
"A little thing like you has a pet snake?" A voice says from behind me. Josie is biting her cheek trying not to laugh as I turn to see two guys looking at me with intrigue. Intrigue is bad when you are trying to hide a twelve-foot-long Lamia.
"Ya, he's pretty," I say with a shrug and turn to the counter and order a muffin and a tea. I go and wait for my order while Josie orders hers. The two men join us over at the counter.
"Is he poisonous?" The blonde one asks. I grin at my private joke. Lamias are venomous but I've never tried to eat one!
"He's a teddy bear to me." I shrug as I grab my order and Josie grabs hers. Josie giggles our way back to the car. Then we are on our way to the surfing competition.
The beach is big, bright, and loud just like most of the surfers there. I start clicking away with my camera as soon as we get to the banner. '35th Annual Lexington Surf Competition'. Crowds of brightly colored people in brightly colored clothes are packed on the beach. I've already lost Josie to the crowd. I'll find her later. I climb up onto a rock to get a full picture of the crowd. As good as I am, I am not tall.
I see the expanse of the beach cluttered with people and see my shot and take it. I put my camera away before I go to get down. Cameras are expensive. Hopping down I see Josie talking with a cute guy. I stay close but not too close like a good wingwoman.
I'm sitting in the sand taking a few pictures of the surfers when Josie finds me a bit later.
"I got a date tonight." She says proudly.
"I'm happy for you. Did you get the interviews done already?" I ask.
"Yep. Here are the names." She hands me the names of the three people she interviewed so I can grab pictures of them. After a couple of hours, we head to my car making our way through the throng of people. I accidentally bump into what feels like a brick wall but when I look up I see a pair of amber eyes that send a jolt right into my soul. Before either of us can think we both are torn away and lost in the surrounding people. I didn't even get a good look at his face. Get it together Rowena! You have work to do.
I drop off Josie and head home before class to pick up my stuff and check in with everyone. I can't seem to stop seeing those eyes, it's frigging distracting! I'm going to be useless in class today I can feel it.
I open the door to find everyone at the table chatting.
"Hey! I'm home for now!" I call out.
"Hello, sweetness. How did the interviews go?" Mama asks.
"Good. Nothing special. I got some good pictures though." I say.
"We knew you would." I smile as I sit down.
"What is everyone up to today?" I ask.
"We're having a lazy day today. Would you like to join us?" Papa Shadow asks.
"I'd love to but I have class in an hour and I believe Gemma is picking me up tonight for girls' night. I think she needs to talk." I inform them. Papa Ezra shakes his head at me.
"You're always so busy lately. You need to make time to take care of yourself. Not everyone else." He says. I know he's right but I can't just ditch school or Gemma.
"I will schedule some 'me time' tomorrow." He looks happy with that answer as I give out a round of hugs and get ready for class.
I'm taking a business class so I can open my own bakery. Food has always been important to me but I haven't had to worry about it since I came to live with them.
I head upstairs to change into some comfy jeans and a t-shirt. I have to dress fancy for work but not for school!
I head back out to my car and notice an odd noise coming from it. Looks like I need to see a mechanic soon but I still make it to class. I sit beside my partner Geoff. He's nice but usually very quiet. Which is good because then I can get my work done. I'm too chatty otherwise.
"Hey, Geoff. How's it going?" I ask. He smiles.
"Not bad. Just nervous for a date tonight." He says. Good for him.
"Man, it seems like everyone I know has a date tonight." I laugh. He smiles as the class starts.
Once the class is done, I pack up my bags and head to my car. My phone starts ringing and I smile seeing that it's my bestie, Gemma.
"Hey!" I greet.
"Hey, hun. Are we still on for tonight?"
"Yep. I'm just heading home to get ready. Do you mind picking me up? My car is making weird noises today."
"Of course, I have treats for Luca anyway."
"Are you trying to take my place as favorite? Because that's the way to do it. He's still raving about those mouse-sicles you brought last time." I say smiling getting into my car. I watch people walking past me as I talk.
"Like I could. Besides he does so much around the house and doesn't get out. He deserves nice things." She's not wrong. It's nearly impossible for him to go unnoticed and for a 'bloodthirsty lamia' he's very sensitive. It's good that I have such an amazing best friend. She's the one person who knows everything. She's a vampire so she gets it too.
"Very true. They all deserve the best." I say. I always make sure they know how much they mean to me. I only know too well what my life would be like without them.