Mordecai, of course, is the link between them, and the past chapters trace what happened during his and Brigid's partnership. As even this small piece implies, things did not ultimately end well. The question is, what does that mean for Ciara, and what is Mordecai's true nature?
Here were the things that I believed in: curling irons, books heavy enough to double as paperweights, dry cleaning, and the flat, smooth rock under my butt. I had a firm idea about the powerful breeze winding through my curly hair and causing my book’s pages to flap like a desperate bird, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to believe in all kinds of unlikely realities. I wanted to believe, for instance, that my mother would be home for dinner, or home at all in the next two weeks. I wanted to believe that my father would call me from whichever co-op or artists’ retreat or unholy pilgrimage he was undertaking. But Mom would work late, possibly get called to Japan or Greenland or Middle Earth or something, and dad would forget to call until it was four in the morning on a Wednesday night and I had a Latin test at seven.
Other beliefs I wanted to nurse included: the existence of kind faeries, a just God, and the dazzling worlds depicted in my heavy fantasy books, where good triumphed over evil and parents only neglected their kids because they had tragically died before the story started.
But seventeen years of life and a steady diet of old fairy tales and modern television is enough to be skeptical.
The wind was relentless. My hair flew in every direction, and the book became a living thing, fighting to escape my grasp. I wasn’t wearing the most practical outfit, either, because I had decided to try wearing my favorite style in public. These clothes were old-fashioned by any standard, featuring lacy, full skirts, long sleeves, and more bows than were strictly necessary. My dress was white with black details, and my hair was (poorly) restrained by a black, rose-topped headband. I had on white stockings and shiny Mary Janes with a little heel. In my mind, I was a refugee from a more elegant and refined time. To everyone else, I had forgotten that Halloween was two months away.
The entire ensemble was imported from Japan, a gift from my mother after a business trip. It was beautiful, expensive, and until this moment, had never been seen by anyone, except for the few hundred people in the online communities I frequented. I loved this style. I collected this style. But the thought of wearing my Lolita clothes at school or to a restaurant intimidated me; things were bad enough without giving people an obvious reason to harass you.
The creativity of cruelty was another thing I believed in.
Despite that, I had received mostly polite stares since my arrival in the park. Whenever anyone came to grab a stray Frisbee, they would pause for a second and let their gaze linger on the petticoat and stockings. But no one said a thing, aside from a five year old boy who asked if I was hot.
I was boiling. The dress had a high collar, and I felt the sweat gather there as I sat with my book, trying to read, to exude an aura of prim elegance. The wind was not helping my efforts.
I cut my finger on the book’s pages as I tried to flatten them out, and I winced as blood welled from the wound. I didn’t notice it then, but a few drops fell from my finger and into the clear, placid stream beside me, which was really more of a trickle than a body of water. Clusters of stones formed a rocky bed for the stream, almost entirely exposed, bright with the sun. My blood splashed against one of those stones; one drop of it, not enough to mention or miss.
I sucked on my finger and surveyed the park anxiously, hoping that my display had gone unnoticed. The afternoon had shifted to early evening, and the area’s population had thinned. The families were home now, fixing dinner; the dogs were asleep on the bed or in the yard. A few joggers passed by on the trail, but they were intent on their exercise and did not even glance at me.
I was about to stand, thinking I had survived this whole endeavor, when one of the rocks caught my eye. It was glinting with an intense, unnatural light, like a piece of coal in a fire. Disturbed, I took a step back, and then light erupted from the stone, blinding and howling.
I opened my mouth to scream, but something silenced me. Another mouth, hot and insistent, pressed to my own. I was too shocked to fight back, and strong hands on my shoulders held me still, besides.
The light faded, revealing a body, then a face—almond skin, black hair, wicked horns. A man, or something like it. He pulled back and opened his impossible, cat-like, ink and amber eyes. His expression was hopeful, pleading, and, to me in that moment, absolutely terrifying.
I tried to wrench away from his grip, and his claws tore the sleeves on my dress. His claws.
Obviously, I needed to re-evaluate my belief system.