Orphic Phantasia

25: The Morning After

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She held the skinsuit up as if to check it for tears and imperfections. “Why is everything you own a shade of black?” she asked.

“It goes with my cloak,” he said with a shrug.

“Well, at least it’s better than what I found you wearing this morning.”

Dante grimaced in recollection. At least Kat was taking it in good humour now. “That was Joel’s idea,” he said.

“Joel isn’t exactly known for his taste in fashion,” she replied, as she slipped the armour into his bag. “It might suit some people, but it’s not you, Dante. It’s not the Dante I grew up with.”

The room filled with an awkward silence. Dante wanted to say “well, I’m not the Dante you grew up with” or “the Dante you grew up with died six years ago”, but he didn’t have the heart. He’d already seen Katrina on the verge of tears that morning. It didn’t suit her. It wasn’t the Katrina he grew up with.

“And speaking of the Dante I grew up with,” Kat said at last, “I hear you promised Emily some paintings?”

Dante stuck his hands in his pockets and grumbled. He only owed her a painting if she could prove to him that faeries were real, and she had done nothing of the sort.

“You know you won’t be able to synth art materials at this Avalon place, right?” said Kat, back on her knees and rummaging around beneath his bed. “Annie’s older brother said places like that don’t really do — ah, here they are! — the whole art thing.”

She emerged with a satchel of materials she had given him as a birthday present the year previous. She gave him the same present every year.

“It will give you something to do when you get bored of looking at the same old beach every day,” she said.

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug.

She placed the satchel in the larger bag, which she then zipped shut and hoisted over her shoulder. “Come on,” she said. “We’ve got, what, ten minutes?” She glanced at her cellular. “Five?”

With a babble of panic, she stumbled out of his room and towards her own. Dante reached for his cloak and pulled it over his shoulders. Just as he was about to head out, he noticed the Tablet, still sitting on his desk, white, innocent.

He reached over and slipped it into his cloak pocket, just in case.

~*~

Emily was about to knock when the door to Leira’s room slid open and a dishevelled mess of golden hair glared up at her with violent eyes.

“I en’t going,” said Leira, “so don’t be trying to ask me otherwise.”

“What changed your mind?” asked Emily. “Don’t you want to stop me from doing anything stupid?”

“Ye can look after yerself already. I ain’t ye mother. Now, if ye don’t mind, it’s six in the feckin’ morning and I need me beauty sleep.”

“Wait! I’ll … it’s your birthday next week! Don’t you want to—”

With a grunt of discontent, Leira slammed her door shut.

So, it was true after all. The one person she needed most of all, the one friend who could help her escape her Sidhe-written fate, had suddenly and inexplicably changed her mind. Leira Byrne, never one to shy away from trouble, had opted to stay at home and sleep.

A “suggestion”, as he would have put it, a whisper in her ear, the slightest of nudges to ensure she played the part they wanted of her, to ensure Emily played the part they wanted of her.

That voice in your ear, that little whisper that influences your decisions, maybe it’s not just your imagination… Maybe it’s not even you…