Orphic Phantasia

46: The Reclusive Writer

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“C’mon, Shell,” Alonie insisted, perching precariously on the sofa’s edge, “don’t tell me you’re gonna fall for her crap? It’s not real. It’s just some stupid voice in her schizo little brain making shit up. She’s not some fucking goddess, she’s just some—some stupid, messed-up whore with delusions of fucking grandeur. It’s all they ever were. Just some—”

Alonie slammed her fist into the side of the sofa, then collapsed to the floor, her fire spent.

Shelley stared into the blank void of her cellular, where a twisted, fuming reflection looked back at her, spitting out a frenzied defence of Emily in a thick, Grampian accent. The words were there inside of her, waiting on the tip of her tongue, but she knew the moment she let them go would be the moment she lost Alonie forever.

No, all things considered, right now Alonie needed a shoulder to cry on more than she did a proverbial punch in the face. Emily was her sister after all. No amount of vitriol could change that.

Shelley knelt down beside her broken friend. “Hey,” she said, reaching out for her. This really wasn’t her thing. Emily was always the empathic one. “I—”

Without so much as a warning, Phoenix Rogan’s voice filled the apartment. “Ms Eoghan? Are you in? Ms Adelheid? Ms Odette?”

The way Alonie’s expression snapped from tearful despair to angry scowl said it all. As Shelley jumped up to answer Phoenix’s call, she scrambled for shelter behind the sofa. Anyone would have thought the Veritas editor some kind of razor-clawed dinosaur with needle-sharp teeth.

“Ah, Ms Eoghan, excellent!” she said, inviting herself into the lounge (actually, a dinosaur would have been preferable, if Shelley were being honest). “I was wondering if Ms Kent has left her room?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Shelley noticed Alonie start a slow crawl towards the stairs. All Shelley had to do was keep Phoenix distracted. No easy task. She brushed a stand of hair behind her ear and, tensing every muscle in her body, replied, “I haven’t seen her. I—would you like some tea?”

She almost stumbled over her own feet as she moved over to the kitchen. Phoenix, seemingly oblivious, followed.

“I’m more of a coffee person,” she said, “and I’ve already had six cups this morn. While I’m here, however, I have some questions I’d like to ask you, please?”

Shelley tried to pinpoint Alonie’s position in her head as her friend shuffled along behind the counter not three feet away. “Sure,” she replied, picking up a wooden spoon Denny had left on the counter top and twisting it through her fingers (come to think of it, a dinosaur would have a friendlier smile than Phoenix, too—also, a more trustworthy one).

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Phoenix has blundered into all sorts of awkward situations because of her tendency to invite herself into places.