Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Flash Fiction: Always a Bridesmaid, Part IX

Almost there! I think this one is going to be 12 parts, at the most. For more flash fiction, most of it self-contained, search the #fridayflash hashtag on Twitter.

Always a Bridesmaid, Part 9: Collision Course

The bruises from the demon's death-grip had faded by Monday morning, but Tiffany still felt them every time she moved her head or left arm.

She had let Amber stay the night, deeming it safer to keep the girl near her since the demon was angry at the bride's best friend for seeking professional magickal help. Like Tiffany, the black-haired girl had been scared by the events of the night before, but unlike the witch, she was okay with admitting it. Over and over. In a breathless "Omigod, I can't believe it's this bad!" way, which only made Tiffany feel more out of control of the situation. Finally, she turned from the sink to where Amber polished rose quartz crystals at the table.

"What do you think this is?" Tiffany asked. "Some sort of game?"

"No," Amber said. "It just doesn't seem real. Everything's been happening in everyone else's dreams, remember?" She placed the pink sphere she'd been polishing on its clear plastic base and stood. "But if you don't think I'm taking it seriously enough, I can leave."

The girl's reply brought a memory back to Tiffany, of her own teacher, who had told her, "One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is find the student's balance between overconfidence and utter lack of it. The most difficult for the teacher is to be patient."

"No, don’t leave," said Tiffany. "I just remembered something important. And you saved my life last night, even if you didn't realize it at the time." Had she been overconfident? she wondered. Or not confident enough? She tried to remember more of that conversation, but as usual, when she struggled against the spell that had hidden her memories, a little dervish of pain swirled through her head.

"Are you okay?" asked Amber.

"I'm fine, just tired from trying to figure this out. Why did the demon set Lydia up with Trent? It makes no sense! Do you remember how they met?"

"Online, I think. She's a web designer for small businesses, and he wanted her to do his site."

"What kind of work does he do?"

Amber thought for a moment and bit her lip.

"Well?" Tiffany twisted the dish towel into a knot so she wouldn't throw it at the girl. "C'mon, Amber, it could be important. Why are you laughing?"

"Because he's an exterminator!"

Tiffany closed her eyes and slumped against the counter. Why did she bother? But the irony wiggled into her brain, and she couldn't help but smile, then chuckle. She wondered if he went after demons with the insecticide.

"That makes sense. I bet he's a good one."

"Oh, yes, no insect survives the assault of Master Trent, Demon-Slayer and bug killer!" Amber mimed a thrust with an invisible sword. "And he'd be a fine husband for someone else, but Lydia doesn't love him."

"I could tell." Tiffany returned to drying the breakfast dishes and then paused. "He's particularly juicy prey for the demon with all the energy from the animals he's killed. I bet he hasn't shed it, which explains the ego."

"What do you mean?" asked Amber. "What energy?"

"Well, you know how some cultures revere the animals they hunt and have elaborate rituals around it? They're the smart ones. Any time you kill something, you release its energy, and if you're not careful, it can mark you and change you."

"So Trent's covered in bug energy? That's disgusting!"

"And spider and mouse and whatever else he's killed." Tiffany thought. "But why not go after him directly? Why go through Lydia?"

She smelled it again, the rotten egg, whipped cream-spoiling odor of the unhappy ghost. A column of noxious brown smoke materialized in the middle of the kitchen between Tiffany and Amber. The smoke swirled and tightened until it took on the shape of a man, about six feet tall with medium build.

"Back, spirit!" Tiffany yelled and held a wooden spoon like a wand. Not as good as her crystal-tipped one, but it would have to do.

"I mean no harm, Witch," it said in a nasal voice. "I come to warn you!"

Tiffany crossed her arms, but before she could say anything, Amber spoke.

"Danny?" she asked. Tears came to her eyes. "Danny, is that you?"

The apparition nodded.

"You know this guy?" asked Tiffany.

"Yes." Amber tried to take a deep breath, but the spirit's smell made her cough. She finally choked out, "He was Lydia's first husband. A chef."

"So why did you ruin her dessert?" asked Tiffany. So much for professional courtesy!

"An accident."

"You said you had a warning," Amber said, and Tiffany mentally applauded her focus.

"The demon is greedy," the ghost told them. "He wants more than the spirit of another man. He will enslave all the souls he can reach. Only one can stop him, and time grows short."

"Who?" asked Tiffany.

"Not you. Listen to your Brownie, Witch! Stay away from the courthouse square tomorrow!" With that, he vanished, and a cold breeze swept his smell out of the kitchen.

"Well, at least he cleaned up after himself this time," Tiffany said. She tapped the flat of the spoon against her palm and pondered the ghost's warning.

"What are you going to do?" Amber asked.

"What else? I'm going to bake brownies for the wedding tomorrow. Whoever is coming is going to need my help."

"Idiot!" Tizz hissed from the outer room. "Can't you leave well enough alone?"

Amber jumped. "What was that?"

"That was Tizz, the Brownie the ghost was talking about. She's a sort of fairy."

"Shouldn't you listen to her?"

Tiffany sighed. "Probably, but I've had enough of being warned away from things I need to finish. I'm going to see this one through."

"Then let me help!"

"Great! I'll show you where the Magic Mint is so you can wash it and start chopping it. We're baking it into the brownies."

"Are we going to get high?"

Tiffany sighed. Patience…


Marisa Birns said...

Tiffany is very brave to turn her back on the advice.

Somehow I think she is also very smart to do so :)

Loved the humor. Especially the last two sentences.

Laura Eno said...

I love it that a chef can be so smelly!

Anonymous said...

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do, but this one makes me want to read the rest.

The characters just pull you right into the story.

Nice writing!

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent. The ending was great. I'd probably wonder the same thing if I heard Magic Mint was being baked into brownies. Looking forward to finding out how it all turns out.

ganymeder said...

I really love this series. Also, I love brownies. Just sayin'...

Great job.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Eww, I'm still thinking about the guy with bug energy clinging to him. But thank goodness the thought of the brownies replaced it. I would really like some of those.

Great dialogue and interesting details! I enjoy these guys!

mazzz in Leeds said...

The ending made me chuckle!
And bug energy - I bet cockroach energy is rather strong... ewww.