First Family Dinner (The Day Before)

It was the day before the big day. Our first family dinner with most of our families getting together for the first time. Everyone’s but mine. Which was depressing in it’s own right. Even Sage’s long lost brother was going to be here. It was the first time we were all meeting him. Sage had invited him and told him he didn’t have to come if he didn’t want to. But Adam was let’s just get it all over with. Everyone had family coming but me. It didn’t help my mood any.

And even after my talk with Dee I still hadn’t felt any better about what was going on, if anything I felt worse because I let more of me slip through the shields when they were around and I could see I brought the mood down. Dee felt my feelings and Dev heard my thoughts. But neither one of them said anything to Sage who was happy as a clam.

I was busy. Yesterday I bought groceries. Today I was preparing some of the things for dinner tomorrow. Dee was off and helping me in the kitchen. Dev was taking an early shift which meant he played stock boy so he could have tonight and tomorrow off completely. Sage was working, though I think he and his brother were chatting more than they were working. His case load wasn’t very high at the moment but that could change in the next minute.

The boys were at school, so it was pretty much just me and Dee in the house. She kept eyeing me as I boild potatoes and eggs, and cut up vegetables, “What?” I asked.

“You are so much happier in the kitchen, but today you aren’t.” She said. Her face had a light sheen of flour from baking pies, and cookies earlier. She was making a chocolate cake now. Dee claimed it was all for me, but I knew it was for the dinner.

I just shrugged as I continued slicing vegetables on the cutting board on the island while she mixed her dark batter on the counter behind me. We did our own thing. We’d worked out a system. And it helped that I moved with the grace of a cat because Dee didn’t really pay much attention while she worked. But it worked out for us. I think she bumped me on purpose just to be closer.

I was done with my prep work and she was still working on her baking. It smelled sweet in our kitchen and she smelled even better. I washed my hands in cold water, not bothering to let it warm up. Didn’t matter anyway. I wrapped my arms around Dee’s body and she rested her head against my chest. Physical contact helped. She smiled up at me then stood up straighter and finished her working. “Are you upset you don’t have any family coming tomorrow?”

“Wouldn’t you be?”

Dee nodded. “It’s only ever been me and my Dad, but yeah I’d be upset if he couldn’t be here.” She poured the cake batter into two round spring form pans and elbowed me a little so I’d let go. She smiled at me sweetly. “Thanksgiving isn’t a Venatori thing is it?”

I shook my head. “No. Jason’s family celebrates it as an end of harvest season. It’s a whole farm thing and since there are human’s working there too they have to keep up appearances. It’s just another day for us.”

“No Christmas either?”

I shrugged. “We don’t do holidays usually. Christmas is celebrated to a degree. Really depends on where you live. And how much time you spend amongst our own kind. Here in New York we don’t follow as much human tradition because we are all self contained inside the AU building.”

Dee sighed. “That’s kinda lonely.”

I shrugged. “It’s what I grew up with. I don’t know any better.”

“Now you are one of us. You have to pretend to be human now.”

“I can pretend but I never will be. I don’t beleive in your god. I don’t celebrate the same things.”

“You do celebrate things then?”

I shook my head. “No not really. We have birthdays and anniversaries. The Ad Aetatem is a big deal, not a celebration but a yearly event held every year. We have the annual art and war festival and our version of fight club championships. The only parties we have are funerals. Nothing else is worth celebrating.”

“You celebrate someone’s death?”

“No we celebrate their life. Their acomplishments, their family legacy. We celebrate their moving on. We don’t beleive in heaven or hell. Or karma and incarnation. But we do beleive we return to the fabric of the universe and our soul or essence is used to create more life.”

“You worship the universe?”

“We don’t worship anything. Nothing is worthy of blind devotion. And that’s where things start falling part. Every Venatori beleives that – nothing is worthy of blind devotion. But when it comes to tradition, they follow without thinking. It’s always been that way. But they don’t think why? or how? or can I change that and still be following the law. The Aeternus started breeding with humans because of such the blinders of their race. Once a path was laid they didn’t deviate. Part of that is still in our DNA.”

She turned around and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. “Nox, I will never understand your people. The concepts are so alien to me. But you, I see you changing the world. I feel it.”

“I can’t change the world now. I’m nothing. I’m Exuli, I am less than human. I forsake my people. I gave up tradition. I wanted nothing to do with them.”

Dee sighed. “You are such a downer.”

“I’m sorry.” I said letting go and pulling her arms form my shoulders. I walked into the living room and I heard Dee open the oven and slide her cakes inside.

I flopped on the couch and Dee followed me there but took my phone from me and put on a waltz. She grabbed my hands and dragged me into the open space between the living space and the dinning area. It wasn’t very big but big enough we could dance. “Dance with me.” she said even as we were already onto the third step of a classic waltz. “Focus on the music, Nox and me. Don’t think about anything else.”

I sighed and did as she asked. The problem with wanting to please someone sometimes meant I did things I didn’t want to do. And right then I didn’t feel like being happy.

“Why do you want to wallow in misery Nox? You have such a good life. Three wonderful boys to love and who adore you. You’ve got me, Dev and Sage and we all love you. You have a live full of love.”

I sighed. “I just don’t belong here.”

Dee shook her head and we just danced. The music flowed into another song and I pulled her close when she tried to leave me there alone. She wrapped her arms around me and I held her close my nose buried in her rose scented hair chanting to myself, I have a good life. Now I only had to beleive it.

Lost Friend

The orange door to my new bedroom reminded me of the fire curling their way up the curtains. The memory of my mother spitting at me, calling me a monster as fresh in my mind. I saw her mouth move, I heard the hatred in her beautiful voice. I hugged my only friend to my chest as I sat on my bed waiting to meet my roommate. His name was Aaron. I’d met him in the sitting room with Mr. Lance. But I was all alone right now – waiting for Mr. Dorian to come back for me.

Fear and Mushu were my only friends. I tasted fear, I could smell fear. I felt fear running through my veins like ice. I saw my breathe in the air like a cold winter’s day.

The door burst open and a big black boy walked in. His lips were huge, his ears flapped like Dumbo and he work a red baseball cap backwards like some gangster on TV. Not that I’d seen much TV. His eyes were black and they stared a hole through me. I saw nothing but hatred in his eyes. I hadn’t done anything to him, but he hated me. He knew what I was. Like my mother he hated. me.

I got up off my bed and took a step towards the boy – my roommate. I stuttered, “I’m sorry….” But before I could say anything else he snatched Mushu from my arms and held him high above his head.

I jumped trying to get Mushu back. I started to cry. “Give him back.”

Aaron climbed up top of his bed and dangled the little dragon from his hands above my head. I could feel the fury rising, see the orange glow of fire starting. I saw it catch the sheets fire, and then the alarms blared, startling me and more fire leapt up. Aaron jumped from the bed leaving Mushu sitting up top.

I started for the bed to get my friend but hands were wrapping around my tiny waist and whisking me away from the fire. “Come on, Nox, we have to get you out.”

“No, Mushu.” I cried. But no one listened.

I kicked and screamed and the hands let me go, but there was a wall of air blocking my way I couldn’t save Mushu. I sat on the other side while the fire burned and Mushu died, screaming a silent death. My friend lost in the fires of my fear and anger. My fault….