|The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt|
Predecessors of marionette lines ghost from the corners of my frown down. The rest of me is fine, in the finest sense of the word. But all I can see is the future of those lines.
Cascade happens to all witches. It’s a fucking balloon payment on the horizon.
I thought there’d be more time. Far more.
Outside dark energy beckons from treetops, rippling through the moonless night, promising another quick fix. I know better. I know how this works. I know these lines are the beginning of my end. My tipping point.
My reflection in the window confirms it, but so the hell what? If nothing else I am pragmatic. I pause only long enough to decide to rack up the biggest debt ever made to dark matter and invite slouching shadows inside.
Make me gorgeous. Again.
It works. Again.
There’s just enough time to slip into my dress and stilettos before my niece is at the door.
“Aunt Lily? Everyone is here and dinner is ready.”
It’s the third time she’s banged on my door. I open it just as she scoots to the top of the stairs, and Claude—who the hell invited that asshole?—is jogging up the steps to hit on her. She’s barely a teenager. I sense the aftershock of my spell heading my way. This one’s expensive. No armload of stray cats can repay a spell once cascade hits. Besides, there aren’t any. My bleeding-heart niece keeps calling the SPCA. She’s a panther pretending to be a kitten. It’s annoying as shit.
The aftershock is nearly on me so I direct it at the girl and Claude. I think she senses it because she runs down the first two steps before it hits her. Claude doesn’t notice a damn thing beyond her bouncing breasts before it hits him face first. He nearly flies down the stairs. Backwards. The girl rolls, head to heels before momentum stretches her out and slams her down the last few steps.
Damn, it looks painful.
She’ll be fine. Like all the women in the family she has the witch gene too.
Not that it won’t leave a mark. But she’ll heal fast.
“Goddammit, Lily!” Sissy, shouts from the bottom of the stairs. It’s a stupid thing to say considering her daughter is sprawled at her feet, not to mention Claude’s broken and bleeding on the marble. Besides being a pedophile he knows we’re witches and he still comes around. I’ve never had much sympathy for stupid and really don’t care if he bleeds to death, but I do care that Sissy is being inappropriate. Most of the guests freaking out have no idea what we are. They’re here because of the money or to fuck me.
Only the second motive ever pays out for anyone.
“Is she—Sarah—okay?” I try to sound concerned. Someone is calling an ambulance and most of the rest return to examining Claude. The musicians are warming up in the ballroom. I put my hand on Sarah’s back and hiss at her to get up. Sissy is glaring daggers. What the hell is her problem? I pay more attention to the kid than she ever has.
“It’s her birthday!” Sissy has the meanest eyes. Who would have thought she even remembered when Sarah’s birthday was? “Her sixteenth!”
Shit! Why didn’t Sissy mention that sooner? It hits me that she’d planned to use the extra dark matter drawn toward the girl for herself. I search Sissy’s face for signs of cascade and find it. And she didn’t even bother trying to fix it!
Once more we’re in this thing together. It’s good not to have to face it alone, even if she’d stab me in the back in a heartbeat. I kind of respect that about her.
Sissy turns her back on everyone else, including her daughter, to growl at me. “No one will get any now! It won’t come if she’s hurt!”
Blood and power arrives at our sixteenth year. I’d have scratched someone’s eyes out for trying to claim my birthright. This girl’s different than me and any other witch I’ve ever known. She won’t know what to do with dark matter even when her own body begins to generate it.
“Pick a man for her,” I say, eyeing the half dozen strangers. They all want something from us, but we don’t give. If I have something to say about it tonight, neither will Sarah.
“She’s just a girl, and not an attractive one at that! Plus she has a broken rib. Can’t you sense it? She can’t just will it away. Not with an aftershock of that magnitude! What the hell did you cast?”
“Do try to keep up. I’m not offering her up to one of those leeches. I’m giving her one to use.”
Sissy blew out a breath. “Do you think she’ll do it?”
“She’d better.” I hoist her to stand, trying to look like a concerned Aunt and noting she’d at least tweezed the unibrow. “Giorgos,” it's the name I remember. He's one of those working on staunching Claude’s head wound. “Please help my niece!” They’re all surgeons but I feel a pang of disappointment as the best-looking rises. I should have given her Stephanos. Still, dark matter is more important than more bad sex. Giorgos takes my hand and I put Sarah’s in it, nodding toward the dining room.
“If you don’t know what to do,” I whisper in her ear, “you’re dead to me.”
She heard every word and there’s only so much time I’m willing to waste on her. I’m a witch in cascade now. I turn my attention to Stephanos as a thought floats to the surface of my mind. Everyone falls apart in the end. Maybe it’s about more than us. The thought startles me. How long has anarchy been slouching around in my head? Ridiculous. I rest a hand on Stephano’s arm. Tonight it’s all about me, and he’ll do.