For Love and Money
“Does Henry need to invite you inside the house?” I whispered.
Emma stood in the entryway with a full cardboard drink holder in her hand, staring at me blankly.
“No. Where do you get these ridiculous ideas?” I shrugged my shoulders. Emma wore an emerald green silk dress with long sleeves and tall boots. She looked ridiculously overdressed.
“Chris, how lovely to see you. What are you doing here?” With my friends, she added in a tone well below what Henry could hear. Her faint murmur made the hairs inside my ears quiver.
“I devised a devious plan to give these two a human and yet non-human life at the same time. My specialty, as you well know.”
“What is your rate, three percent, five percent?”
I took a sip from one paper tumbler of chai. “Two of earnings, three of future acquisitions.” I provided the information in a quiet voice. Chris did not look happy.
“Average, but nothing from Henry, I expect.” Emma leaned her hip on the edge of the couch as if she were posing for a portrait.
I replied by slowly shaking my head no with feigned disinterest.
“Chris, I’m only here to deliver a hot beverage to a friend, but Alerie’s has many friends. Her terms should be a flat one percent, and of course, all of Henry’s expenses are to be absorbed, since he is a fucking angel.”
“Your rude antics are not appreciated, Em. But if properly incentivized, I may be persuaded to meet, perhaps exceed your expectations.”
Emma looked at Henry and then back at me. “She is the best. I advise you to accept her final offer and trust me for ten seconds. You know who sent me.” Emma tilted her head toward the floor, waiting for my answer. Chris’s posture followed her every inflection like a snake watching its prey.
“Of course,” I replied, crossing my arms. Henry grabbed the arms of his chair, white-knuckled and tense.
“It’s fine, Henry. I’ll explain everything in a minute.” Henry sat back in his chair. My tone was too dismissive, but things were happening fast and quiet.
I took a deep breath and tried to focus.
Emma pulled what looked like a pencil pouch from her purse. I put my hand on top of hers.
“Some secrets I keep aren’t entirely mine. I won’t betray Pax for any amount of money.” I whispered, trying to copy Emma’s dusky murmur.
“I’ll be damned, Pax, you bastard,” she mouthed the hushed tones even lower than before. “This bit of blood won’t reveal your secrets, but it will share your memories from the last twenty-four hours.” I looked blankly at Emma and tossed my eyes toward Henry.
“Keep quiet about what you see, or you will never receive another vial from my hand.” Emma’s inaudible murmur reached Chris. She nodded her head once and flicked her pinky in the air mocking a juvenile pinky swear. I accepted the cold appendage with my own and held out my other arm for a blood draw.
Emma’s smooth, cold fingers rolled over the delicate skin inside my arm. I felt only the slight movement of a needle in my vein as she situated the vial. Chris smiled eagerly when Emma handed her the small warm container of my blood. The tiny puncture wound on my arm closed a second later.
I moved behind Emma and knelt beside Henry. “It’s all fine. Chris wanted some of my blood. Emma drew it for her.”
“For life insurance?”
“For drinking.” Henry hid his mouth behind his half-empty bottle and slumped down in his chair. I popped up, seeing the meeting was over. I met Emma and Chris at the doorway. “I’ll be right back.”
“Two packets, one for Alerie and one for Henry on audio and hardcopy. Keep them away from prying eyes. You will see my notations correcting Alerie’s fees to one percent flat plus a monthly quarter-share of our growth funding proceeds for both of you in perpetuity. You will realize the depth of my generosity when you receive your first payment. If you change bank accounts, alert me at once.”
I reached out to Chris to shake her hand. She cupped my fingers between her two cold appendages and pulled me close. “I will feast like a king for a year on the images you shared of one day.”
“I’m so glad. Maybe we three can meet again to fine-tune my future.” Chris smiled and breathed in the air around my neck before leaving.
I went back to Henry. “We need to talk about this. You can’t stay in the White. You obviously wanted a human life experience. Why are you throwing that away?”
“It’s boring sometimes. The White was never boring.”
Emma smirked. “Many of us would kill to live a few of your boring days.” Emma’s cold hand rested on my shoulder. “Walk me to my car pincushion.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes, Henry.”
“You have no idea what a legacy you offered Chris. You are her new favorite drug.” The car waiting for Chris pulled away from the curb. “Dole your blood out carefully, or she will get the wrong impression. You already have one demon on your tail.”
A sickening wave of heat fluttered in my stomach. “There are so many things kept from me as a child. How am I supposed to know all this shit?”
Emma smirked and flattened her perfectly painted lips. “It be what it be, as the kids say.”
“No kids say that.” Emma’s sports car sat parked in the wash of a streetlight. The car was new, shiny, clean, and very black. Emma looked like she was posing for a magazine ad standing by the driver’s door.
“Take a day. Talk to your wolf father or even Dagen. I don’t know what all a wolf child is supposed to be taught, but you are behind the curve.” Emma opened her door and tossed her purse on the passenger seat.
She paused for a moment, looking down at the pavement.
“Your angel will fly home. Don’t hang on when he does.” She reached out and pulled a stray piece of fluff from my hair. I grinned and nodded in agreement.
Watching Emma drive away, I felt abandoned. My emotions were jumbled and didn’t feel like my own. A new text vibrated my phone. It was my mother asking if I set a meeting with my other father, Rafferty.
“No,” I replied.
“No time like the present.”
I walked to the edge of the sidewalk and called Dagen. It rang three times, and I was about to hang up when he answered.
“Dagen Bissett,” he announced with the hint of a Gaelic accent.
“Wow, that accent sounds so natural.” He was quiet. “It’s Alerie,” I stammered.
“I try to always use my American, hot wing eating voice but sometimes I forget,” He snickered. “Are you okay? Do you have a problem?”
“Oh shit, I’ve turned into that person? I’m sorry to bother you again. You must be tired of my constant drama by now.”
“No, it’s no bother at all. I just...you know. What’s up with you?”
“Now that was very American, I need to contact Rafferty. My mother is hounding me, and he seemed kinda odd, maybe shy. He didn’t leave a number but made my mother promise I would contact him. I was hoping you knew how to reach him.”
“Sure thing, I can get him a message. He walked out of the Grove after twenty years. Reacclimating makes us act strangely for a few days.” The rustling of a second body near Dagen crackled on the phone.
Us? He isn’t alone. Why would he be? I thought.
“Maybe show him how to use the internet so he can order himself a fucking phone.” This time I clearly heard a second person breathing under Dagen’s controlled laugh. “I’ve caught you at a busy time.”
“No, no. I’m outside taking in the evening air.”
“Um-hm. I can hear someone else’s breath on your phone and almost make out a second heartbeat.” The line went quiet. I could hear rock crush under footsteps. “Is it common for us to pull a bird out the air mid-flight?”
“Hopefully, no one saw you.” The voice was new, deep, but young-sounding like Leo’s.
“I don’t think so. Who is this, and what have you done with Dagen?” My question came out more like an accusation.
“He’s here. Don’t worry about Dagen. I’m Rafferty. I would love to meet you, Alerie. We need to talk about your next visit inside. Tomorrow morning if possible.”
“I can do that. I met with Chris tonight. She set up my account. Said she’s known you forever.”
“Chris, yes, a very long time. Bring your paperwork. I would like to see it.”
“One percent flat and a quarter share in perpetuity.”
“Chris must be an admirer. A driver can collect you at eight if that’s agreeable. Dagen asks that you drop a pin,” he questioned.
“It’s for my location.” I could hear the alert ding on the phone in Rafferty’s hand.
“Yes, the angels home. I assumed you would be at your own.”
He was keeping track of me. I found his comment stalkerish and sweet at the same time.
“Awe, at least someone knows where I am.”
“If Chris found you assume everyone knows where you are.”
“My very old phlebotomist friend dropped by to check on me during Chris’s visit. We sent Chris home with a smile.”
“Dangerous game, but if played well, very beneficial.”
“I hope to be a good player, but this life was kept from me. I’m sure they assumed I would never need the information, but now my ignorance is getting dangerous.”
“I can help with that and more. Thank you for reaching out to Dagen to find me. I appreciate your willingness to meet me.”
“Dagen is the only person that hasn’t lied to me or omitted uncomfortable information. I value his honesty.”
“It’s good to know what a person values. For some, it’s money. For others, it’s blood—for some, it’s the truth. I look forward to our meeting tomorrow. Sleep well.” The phone made beeps and scratching noises as it was handed back to Dagen.
“You still there?” Dagen asked.
“Only if you use your leprechaun voice.”
“Very funny. How about I pick you up in the morning. We can talk on the back way to the house.”
“Thank you, there are things I want to talk to you about, but not over the phone, and not here.”
“Are you are upset? I can hear it in your voice. Take a deep breath. Come on, do it.” I took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. “Enjoy existing where you are right now. Today’s problems may still be there tomorrow, but it will be a new day.”
“Thanks, I’ll see you in the morning, goodnight.”
I could see Henry walking around in the living room from the street. I needed to close his blinds and find a way to let today die without an argument.
My stomach began to growl. I needed to go inside, finish making sandwiches, and carry on with the evening. There was a lot of time for me to think about the future.