A Talespin fanfic by Lizzy Spencer (KarmaCat) Page 13
Orly plucked at her base's strings, deftly forming the baseline to "Hey, Pachuco!". It was all she had to do, considering that Shere had not let either of them go to school since Sarabi's accident. His actions were a mystery to Sarabi, but Orly knew why: her father was scared to let either of the girls out of his sights. It was a perfectly rational fear, and Orly knew he would soon get over it. Besides, she was missing school! She hated school! The books, the nuns, the ugly plaid uniforms....she honestly felt she got more out of plucking at her base and watching the birds perch at her balcony, relaxing at the seven bird feeders she had placed out there for them.
"Hey, it's forty three, hey, the man's comin' for me...." she sang along, trying to imitate Jonathan Simms's voice as best she could. He was the lead singer of their band, The Swing Kings, a thin white crane with a set of fantastic lungs. His girlfriend was Maria Galindo, a small brown fox who was the manager of the band. Orly liked Maria, who wore a skimpy hot pink dress, smoked an ever-present cigar, and laughed a lot. She sometimes subbed base for her, which she was going to do this weekend when Orly went to England to see Grandma.
Poor Grandma. Orly wished she wouldn't die. Her house had the smell of Orly's mother all over it, that sweet, warm smell. She still remembered her mother's scent even though the woman died when she was two. She had a picture of her on her dresser which Orly peered at often. Her father said that she looked a bit more like her mother than Sarabi did. Orly wasn't so sure, considered she could barely remember her mother as anything other than that two dimensional sepia tinted photograph.
She once heard a recording of her playing the violin. It made Orly cry.
She rested her head against the body of the oak base and peered silently at the picture on her dresser. Her mother was standing next to a mast of a boat, smiling, wearing old jeans and a white collared shirt with the top button undone. She had lowered her sunglasses past the bridge of her nose and her eyes were sparkling over the rims, eyebrows raised suggestively. Orly didn't know who had taken the photograph. She thought her father was holding the camera but she couldn't be sure. But there she stood, on the bridge of that same boat all the time, with that familiar smile big and bright as the sun.
"I wish you could see me," she whispered. "I wish I knew what you thought."
She missed her mother. Despite never knowing her, her absence could be felt everywhere. Orly wondered what her father had been like when she was around him. If it was anything like how he was when he talked about her, then it must have been something to see indeed. And that made her miss her even more.
But she never talked about these feelings to anyone in her family. It upset her father and Sarabi never seemed to want to hear it. So she talked about them to Gabriel.
Orly smiled. That boy really was the love of her life. When she had first met him she was terrifically in love with him, but that soon faded as their friendship grew, as she got to know him better. Now she loved him as a brother with an unspoken devotion. He was there for her when no one else was. And she would do anything for him.
Gabriel was a funny kid. He liked to paint his shoes. Almost every time she saw him he had a new pair of colorfully painted shoes. He had made her a pair for her birthday, baby blue with glitter and lace for laces, saying that he obviously didn't expect her to give up her army boots for them but hoped she liked them anyway.
Orly smiled. What else could she want from a friend?
She curled around a pillow on her bed, feeling suddenly sleepy as the sun settled into bed over Cape Suzette. She thought of her sister and her father, and Gabriel, and tried to remember her mother's perfume, a base line repeating dimly in her head, as she fell into a light, sweet drowse before dinner.
There was a knock on Sarabi's door.
"Dinner is on the table, Sarabi. Come out."
"I...I don't feel well, father. Eat without me."
"May I come in?"
"NO! I mean...I'd rather you didn't. If you don't mind."
Shere shrugged. "Whatever you want. I'll have Michael heat something up for you later?" Michael was their cook.
"Are you sure there isn't something I can get for you?"
"Very well then. Get some rest, my dear." He started to walk away, but then backtracked and called, 'By the way, Sarabi-"
"A young man asked about you. His name was James, I believe."
"D-i-i--d he?" she stuttered.
"Yes. A friend of yours?"
"Never...never heard of him. Must be a street person."
"I certainly hope not. You're sure you're all right, my dear?"
"I'm fine. I'm terrifically tired, father, I think I'll go to sleep. Yes, right to sleep with me. Goodnight."
Shere raised his eyebrow. "Goodnight, my Sarabi. Sleep well."
Shere knocked on Orly's door. When there was no answer he opened it a creak. She was asleep, curled around a pillow.
"Are you not feeling well either?" he asked.
Orly opened her eyes and smiled at him sleepily, a look so similar to one August used to give him when she awoke in the morning that it sent shivers down his spine.
Orly sat up and stretched her arms. "Mmmm, I'm fine papa." She leaned forward and put her arms around his neck. "I love you and what's for dinner?"
"It's...I don't remember. Orly, I'm just forgetting everything these days."
"It's okay Papa, you're allowed to be senile."
Shere sighed disdainfully. "Please be a good daughter and find a way to kill me before that happens, would you?"
"THAT'S kind of a lot to ask. Besides, you'll live forever. The immortal rich." She rested her head against his shoulder.
"The good die young," he replied, and his face immediately fell when he said it. Orly knew what he was thinking about, so she changed the subject.
"Isn't Cape Suzette beautiful, papa? All the colors on the bay. There can't be a better place to live."
"That's why I decided the make Khan Industries headquarters here. A fantastic view diverts the eyes of the suspicious."
"Go to him," that voice said. The voice was speaking to her again.
Sarabi was in the shower, cold, letting the water beat down on her. "Shut up."
"He is the consort."
"He is the janitor."
"You must go quickly. There is little time left. Soon the moon will be out of phase. You must go to him this night."
"I won't do any such thing. I-" Sarabi's voice was cut short when she suddenly folded to the tile with such a tremendous shudder that she thought her lower body would shrivel and die.
"Stop that!" she almost shrieked. "It's...it's inappropriate!"
"We did not do that. You did. Your entire being begs for him. Do you not feel it?"
"Don't patronize me," Sarabi growled, even though the comment had no real relevance to the conversation. It just seemed like a good thing to say. Even though she was currently denying to herself that she was having an actual conversation with the voices in her head.
Cold water soaked into her fur. It did nothing to deaden the pangs. She rested her forehead against the bumpy tile and looked out through the clear glass door to a clock on the far wall. It was eleven thirty PM. How long had she been suffering like this?
At least nine hours.
She extended an arm and turned off the shower, a few last drips hitting her on the head. Her hair was soaked and stuck to her fur, cold, but burning. Everything was burning.
This was ridiculous.
She got herself to her feet, threw on a blue terry cloth bathrobe and walked to the balcony, her mind racing. She looked over down past the balconies, and saw a flask of black and white. It was James, on about the ninth floor, sweeping. Sarabi began to tap her claws against the railing like her father did when he was nervous. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Feeling so drawn to him.
Another pang, this one the same caliber as the one she had gotten only minutes before. When she had caught her breath, she looked back over the railing at the pale blotch that was James, the pang receding. She swallowed and looked up at the moon. It was full. And then back down at James.
Her hair dangled, wet, over the side of the railing.
The pang was still bouncing about inside of her.
Her eyes were locked on James.
Her resistance was waning.
She considered her options.
And when she thought of spending the next nine hours in this torturous state, the other option didn't seem nearly as bad.
She had to face it. There was only one way out of this.
She looked at James again and recalled everything about him all at once, his voice, his scent, his breathing, the way the muscles in his back moved when he was cleaning the office...his arm brushing against her neck....
A drop of water seeped down a strand of her hair and fell.
...the sensuality she wasn't even aware of....
Practically unbeknownst to her, Sarabi was already out the door. She got on the elevator. As she grasped the rail and looked at the fancy molding on the wall, she began to feel strange. No, pleasant, really. Like she had had a few glasses of expensive wine and was just starting to feel the effects. And the thought of James made the drunken sensation even stronger. She began to feel deliciously warm.
Not NEARLY as bad....
James flinched. Something cold had landed on his head. A drop of water.
"Where the heck did that come from?" He looked up. Not a cloud in the sky. "Leaky pipe, probably. And a million bucks says they'll ask me to fix it."
He swept with deft, angry motions. The ninth floor employee lounge was supposed to be non-smoking, but they didn't seem to care. He slammed the cigarette butts into the dust pail like he was swatting away a horde of angry bees.
He took a moment to stop and look out at the glittering lights of the city, to smell the moisture that came from the far-off bay. He briefly recalled when he used to work on a deep sea fishing boat for this crazy guy, Wildcat. He was a nut, that guy. But he knew how to pilot a fishing boat and he always paid James well, so what did he care? Rich guy. Struck oil when he was out west with his fiance, a little blonde bear with a southern accent named Clementine. Wildcat had some lady, James could barely recall that her name was Rebecca Cunning-somthing, take care of his finances for him, and he made a whole truckload of money. He just fished for fun.
James had loved that job. He loved being free out in the water with the wind in his face. The boat was fancy, yellow, called the "Deep Sea Duck" - letters on the running board in red script. Occasionally Clementine, Wildcat's fiancé and later wife, would ask James if he would "so oblige her as to whip her up a nice 'ice tea' or a 'lem'nade'?" And he did. He didn't mind. They were good to him.
And now here he was, sweeping cigarette butts of off a porch of a building whose owner had a snooty daughter he was in love with. What a life. But it was strange. When he first came to work at the building due to a series of unlikely events in his family, he had felt as if he were starting a new stage of his life. As if he had a purpose being there that he could not identify, a purpose far grander than cleaning floor after floor. And every time he saw Sarabi that sense of purpose multiplied.
Down at ground level he heard a car screech and his heart skipped a beat.
Sarabi. He had been so terrified when he heard about what had happened to her. But despite the initial terror, he knew somewhere, deep inside himself, that things were going as planned. Planned by whom, he didn't know, but as planned. Nevertheless, he paced for hours on end, his sister, Jessel, watching him trace a line back and forth across the living room carpet, plaiting glass beads into her long black hair.
"What's wrong with you?" she asked. "You look like Bearilyn Monroe's dress zipper."
"Shush up, Jess."
She sighed wearily. "I'm sure she's okay. I don't think you should lose sleep over it."
He stopped his pacing for a moment and glared at her. "How can you expect me not to worry when I...I-"
"You SHOULDN'T," Jessel warned. "I've told you so many times, it's only going to hurt you more. Face it Jimmy, the girl doesn't even talk to you. I don't even understand why you care."
James didn't understand why he cared either. Sarabi never did talk to him. And he still wished he had never sent her that note. It was just a stupid thing to do. But nonetheless, the first time he saw her, something had clicked. He had to be near her, to be there for her. He just knew that something was right about the girl. Something was wonderfully right about her.
But that didn't mean she gave more of a crap about him, now did it?
"Why can't you fall in love with a nice girl?" Jessel had said. "A nice ACCESSIBLE girl who's a few degrees above freezing?"
He just shrugged and told her he guessed it didn't work that way.
Guess. Huh. He KNEW it didn't work that way. But despite himself, he was still obsessing about her, only wishing she would give him the time of day - hoping-
"Who am I kidding?" he seethed at himself disdainfully. "She wouldn't spit in my mouth if I was dying of thirst. She'll probably marry the rich son of one of her father's rich friends and they'll go play polo together at all the country clubs all over the world. And I'll still be here sweeping up butts."
James put the broom aside and sat down on the sizable green couch with a cup of coffee and put his feet up on the table. There was a radio next to him and he absently flipped it on, and, finding whatever was on annoying, he twisted the knob to get another station. He found a decent song and loosened his tie. The maintenance crew was so insistent that he look nice to clean Mr. Khan's office. Like Mr. Khan really cared about those things. Sometimes he wished Mr. Khan didn't exist. So Sarabi wouldn't exist.
Orly could stick around, though. Orly was a pretty good kid. At least people could relate to her. She didn't keep herself so foreign from everyone, which was why he thought she would make a good go between for him and Sarabi.
James told himself to stop thinking about it. It was over.
He rested his hand on his chin and listened to the radio for a moment. He sighed and closed his eyes. Just forget about the whole thing. Start over. Get a job somewhere else if you have to. Just forg-
Suddenly, James started to feel incredibly sleepy. No, it wasn't sleepy, exactly, it was more like he was starting to vibrate. It was a pleasant sensation, even though he wasn't sure what it was. He sank into the couch and lowered his eyelids. It was kind of like...a little like...being drunk.
Hmmm. Well, it was late anyhow. He was probably just tired.
Sarabi was coming down the elevator.
James smiled slightly. How did he know that? He was feeling so intoxicated that the revelation didn't surprise him all that much. It was perfectly natural that he knew. Kind of.
He was just feeling nicer and nicer as each minute passed!
"What do they put in that cleaning fluid?" he mused to himself. "I knew the fumes were strong, but this is ridiculous." He stretched out his arms and yawned, his eyelids drooping. "I suppose a quick catnap right here wouldn't...hurt anyone." He crossed his arms and let his chin fall onto his chest.
"Your time has come, consort."
"Hghhnhm? What was that?" He didn't open his eyes. The voice was oddly familiar. And somehow, an account of this drunken feeling, it wasn't even unusual to him that he was hearing a disembodied voice from out of the blue.
"Your duty approaches very soon. Do you remember what your duty is, or has this corporeal body caused you to repress it?"
He shrugged. "I dunno."
'We told you of your many duties before you were born. This is your first duty, regarding your escort. Do you remember?"
"Sarabi?" he replied sleepily.
"Oh. Oh yeah, I remember. That's why I like her so much. I remember now." A wry, inebriated grin crossed over his face. "Yeah, I recall. Whoopee. You told me that when I was a little kid. You...you used to talk to me then. It was nice. Why don't you talk to me now?"
"You have repressed too much. Corporeal existence does that to every entity eventually. We all forget why we are here. Due to your age and full initiation into a corporeal body, we cannot directly communicate with you unless you are in the state you are presently in."
"What am I presently in?"
"You are inter planing. Your escort is as well."
He yawned. "M'kay. That makes everything easier." And he felt a sudden, but tremendous, flow of compassionate love for Sarabi.
"We are going to supply you now. It will only take a moment."
"M'kay." And he felt a sudden influx of power come into his body. He held his breath. It felt like trillions and trillions of butterflies fluttering throughout him. But a sudden warmth descended over him and eased the sensation. "You are a Holy Conduit," the voice said.
"I accept my duty," he replied, not even knowing he had said it.
And, with no shock at all, he watched as Sarabi opened the glossy lounge door with a light creak, and stepped through, clothed in a blue terry cloth bathrobe, her hair wet. She smiled at him, a warm, genuine smile, and he could tell by her sleepy eyes that she was feeling the same thing he was. He got up from the couch and walked towards her. She glowed with a million colors.
She closed the door and leaned against it, whispering, "James- they were telling me such pleasant things about you...but I need to explain. I have to apologize for the way I treated you, because I was wrong about you...I- "
"Shhh. I know why you're here," he replied softly, taking her face in his hand. He ran his fingers back over her cheekbone and into her strands of wet hair. She closed her eyes and exhaled, and he kissed her gently on the forehead. "I know why you're here."
"I accept you, Consort," she breathed unconsciously as James nuzzled her jaw. The pangs were receding now. She was doing what she needed to do. And as she wrapped her arms around him and drew herself close, Sarabi breathed a long, slow sigh of much needed relief.