Made of Glass Ch. 02bybrightlyiburn©
Chapter Two: More Stepsisters
'They fluttered 'round her, dark-winged butterflies
So like her, so unlike her
With wicked lips they whispered temptations
Until she forgot which way was up' -- K.A.
Fear and instinct kicked in. Ellery ducked, losing her balance and smacking against the wall. Something whizzed past her ear; the laughter grew louder. She scrambled back to her feet and reached for the nearest light switch, the one just inside the living room.
Light flared, yellow and bright, flooding the room. The laughter turned to shrieks of surprise and dismay. Ellery turned, ready to chase whoever it was from her home; students from her art school here to play a prank? But no. She stared, leaning heavily against the wall, her breath catching in her throat when she saw the intruders.
Three of them stood in the middle of the living room. Tall, slender, all of them redheads like her—but far more beautiful than she'd ever be. They wore clothing that clung close to their bodies—tight halter tops, form-fitting skirts; the one in the middle wore stylishly ragged cut-offs. While she gazed at them, mouth hanging open, they started to laugh again. The middle one flicked back long hair—longer even than Ellery's—and took a step forward.
"Who are you?" Ellery demanded.
More giggles. The other two leaned into each other like drunkards, swaying.
"Niamh," the middle one said. Less giggly than the others.
"Ohh, don't say it like she's going to understand," one of the other two piped up. She had strange eyes, clear and bright as crystal. "We're your...oh, what's that silly human word?"
"Stepsisters!" the third crowed triumphantly. "We're her stepsisters."
"Oh, how very droll," Crystal-Eyes giggled.
Niamh rolled her eyes. "That's not quite the right word, but it'll do," she said. She tossed her head back, indicating the other two. "The one with the pretty eyes is Sadhbh. The one with the braids is Muirne. And it's true; we are your sisters."
Wow, Ellery thought, shaking her head. I wondered what it would take. Guess I'm finally having that psychotic break Nancy keeps saying I'm due for. Damn her stepmother. She hated when Nancy was right.
"Well, no more cheap American beer for me," she declared, moving to step past her hallucinations. "So, gals, hope you can show yourselves out. Had a long day, don't really have time to play Suzie Homemaker with my new psychosis."
Maybe it was a dream. Maybe she'd already gotten home and passed out on the couch. That couch was uncomfortable enough to give anyone nightmares.
When she tried to walk past Niamh the woman turned suddenly, faster than Ellery's eyes could track. One second she was several feet away; the next, she had Ellery by both wrists. Niamh towered over her, almost a foot taller. Her face—so sharply defined, with high cheekbones like a model and a mouth fuller than any Ellery had seen—twisted into an indecipherable expression.
Heat spiraled through Ellery, coiling her stomach painfully tight. Something passed through her, like a cloud of dark smoke rising from her toes and up into her head. It left her giddy, left her swaying on her feet.
"What—" she gasped.
"I didn't give you permission to walk away," Niamh said quietly.
The other two approached, swinging their hips in seductive stride. The one with the braids—Muirne—rested her hands on Ellery's shoulders and leaned down. Ellery started as Muirne's cheek brushed hers. Her heart started to beat faster; sudden fear made her mouth go dry.
"Is she really our sister?" Sadhbh wanted to know. She made a moue. "She's got the hair and eyes, but otherwise she looks nothing like mother."
Ellery stilled. "Mother?"
"Our mother," Niamh said, "and yours. Brighid. Queen of the Unseelie Court. I suppose you knew her as Bridget."
"Horrid, common name," Sadhbh put in.
"The Un—the what?" Ellery tried to jerk away and backed into Muirne.
"The Unseelie Court. The darkest court in all of Faerie. Oh, that's right...you don't know any of this, do you?"
"Fairies? You're kidding, right?" Ellery twisted, wrenching herself from Niamh grip. Did they hear how her voice quavered? "Okay, whatever. Look gals, Tink, I do believe in fairies," she clapped a few times, "but uh, only when I'm drunk. Which I apparently am. So if you'll excuse me..."
Wind raced around her, stirring her hair. How? she wondered, backpedaling. The window isn't open... But she knew. As Niamh and her sisters circled around her, their every movement as graceful as dancing, Ellery knew. She saw light shimmer around Niamh's fingers, a dark light with silvery edges. In the glow of it markings appeared on Niamh's face: Whorls and stripes, vines with sharp-tipped thorns. Ellery spun, trying to get away, and saw similar markings on the faces of Muirne and Sadhbh.
"We're not fluttery little pixies," Niamh hissed. "We are Fae. And despite my protests, so shall you be as well."
"Mother wants you back," Muirne added, "now that he is finally gone. You may not look it, but you're one of us."
Ellery shook her head. "No. No I'm not. This—this is all just some weird dream. I'm going to go to bed and tomorrow..."
They laughed, all three of them; not the tipsy, college-girl giggles, but deep, rich chortles. She tried to back away, but Muirne was there. Heart racing, Ellery darted back towards the entry hall. With a rush of wind and a tinkle of chimes Sadhbh was there, suddenly in front of her. The woman—the Faerie—wrapped her arms around Ellery and drew her close. Despite the sisterly affection, fear washed through her.
"We're going to have such fun together, sister," Sadhbh sing-songed. She almost sounded sincere.
"Let me go," Ellery whispered meekly.
"Oh, Ells," Niamh sighed. "We can't. But she's right, we will have fun, a great deal of it."
"What do you want? What do you desire?" Muirne asked. "Anything you wish, we can get for you."
Unbidden, a single thought flashed into Ellery's mind: Kort. She closed her eyes, swamped suddenly by memories. Everything about him, every detail, down to the calluses on his fingertips from hard work and playing guitar. She thought about his tattoos; simple barbed wire on his left bicep, a tribal pattern over his shoulder blades, some Chinese symbol low on his abdomen and, oddly, a dragonfly on his right forearm. She wanted to trace them, all of them, with her fingers, with her mouth...
Ellery's cheeks flushed. She opened her eyes to see all three Faerie gazing down at her. A wicked smile turned up the corners of Niamh's mouth.
"See? Look at her face," Niamh said. "There is something. You want it, sister? It's yours."
"H-How?" Ellery stammered, before she could stop herself.
"We have ways. Many ways. Want money? A snap of my fingers and you'll have it. Want family? Well, here we are. Want a man? A little glamour and he's as good as yours..."
"No!" The word burst from Ellery's lips. "No, this is insane. Leave me alone."
Yet more laughter. Ellery shoved Sadhbh away and stumbled into the entry hall. She slammed her shoulder hard against the wall, hard enough to bruise, as she made her escape.
It was still pouring outside but she didn't care. She raced out into the rain, letting it wash over her. Not Kort, she thought, shivering. They meant...like using magic. Like, trickery or something. I can't do that to Kort. How could she even consider it? How could she consider a word these nutcases said?
The real nutcase was her. Having these hallucinations...Except Ellery couldn't bring herself to believe they were hallucinations. They felt real, solid. Their laughter kept ringing in her ears as she pounded down the sidewalk, oblivious to the pouring rain. Maybe if she went elsewhere she could convince herself they were just a dream. There was still one safe place left in the world.
Whoever that is, Kort thought as he rolled out of bed, I'm going to kill them. He grabbed a pair of sweatpants from the floor and yanked them on. Of course, he'd tried ignoring the pounding on his door but it hadn't stopped. Who the hell could it be? He made it clear to everyone he knew that he hated being woken up in the middle of the night.
As he padded out into the living room shouting joined the pounding. He could barely hear it over the roar of the rain outside but it sounded vaguely female. Kort sped up, wondering...But surely it couldn't be. Not now, not at this hour, not here.
He yanked the door open. Ellery fell inside, as if she'd been leaning against it. He caught her around the waist, taking the brunt of her weight as she crashed into him. She shivered violently, soaking from head to toe. Kort shivered too, but not from cold or rain; she pressed into him, her face against his chest, so he could feel the trembling of her lips. With one arm tight around her he closed the door, then pulled her further into the living room.
She didn't answer.
"Hey, look at me," Kort said. He put two fingers under her chin and pushed up gently.
He almost never saw Ellery cry. Occasionally he saw her nose go red, like she might, but she always held it in. He knew just from looking that she'd been crying tonight. Her eyes were red and swollen, still glossy with unshed tears. Shocked, he drew her to the couch and made her sit down.
"What is it?" he asked as he sat next to her. "Ells, what's wrong?"
She sniffled. "You'll never believe me."
"Try me." He paused, looked at her, frowned. "Jesus Christ, you're soaked through. Hold on just a second."
He rose, a little reluctant to leave her. For a moment he stood watching her, making sure no more tears would fall. Then he moved quickly through his apartment, gathering what he needed.
Kort grabbed a towel from the bathroom. From his room he retrieved a T-shirt and pair of old sweatpants. These he tossed to Ellery. She managed a watery smile as she gathered them up. Then he went into the kitchen, to the cupboards. He took down two shot glasses and a heavy glass bottle full of brandy. He almost never drank it—it was too expensive to drink all the time—but tonight he thought it was in order.
As he walked back into the living room, he froze. Ellery had already stripped off her wet shirt and jeans. She stood, trembling, dressed in nothing more than simple black bra and panties, toweling herself off. She's right here, whispered a voice at the back of his mind. You can touch her, kiss her, finally... Kort ignored it. She was upset about something. Even if he changed his mind, decided to make a move, he sure as fuck wasn't going to do it now.
"Is that the good stuff?" Ellery asked as she finished dressing. She wrapped the towel around her shoulders.
"Of course. Now sit down, or you're not getting any."
He smiled. Ellery sat back down, then looked up at him with pleading green eyes. He settled next to her again and filled both shot glasses.
She sighed. "I'm telling you, you won't believe me."
"Just try. Give me a chance, okay?
"All right..." Ellery knocked back her first shot and began.
Kort listened to her story with growing incredulity. At first, when she held out her glass for more brandy, he considered refusing. But despite the words coming out of her mouth, her voice was stone cold sober. And she sounded like he felt, like the whole thing was hard to believe. Faerie? Not just any Faerie, either, but stepsisters? And the whole time he got the impression she was holding something back, like there was some detail she didn't want to reveal.
"I...left," she said quietly, holding out her glass for a third shot. "I had to, I...God, Kort. I should be checking myself into an asylum, shouldn't I? But I don't feel crazy. It all seemed so real."
"I told you that you wouldn't believe me." She swigged the shot back. "I don't blame you..."
Kort took a deep breath. He knocked back a shot of his own and closed his eyes as the brandy burned down his throat, warmed him stomach.
Did he believe her? He probably shouldn't. But when he looked at her...This is Ellery, he thought, the only real friend I've ever had. Oh, he had others, but she was the only one who would drop everything for him, if he needed her. During high school she'd ignored his bad reputation, ignored his attempts to brush her off, and barreled into his life.
It started small. She noticed he often forgot to bring his lunch and started bringing sandwiches for him every day. Then one day she appeared at the garage he worked at back then, looking for a job—or, at the least, help fixing up an old Harley she'd bought off some guy for maybe a hundred bucks. That had been the day Kort gave in. Intrigued by this tiny little redhead and her too large bike, he surrendered and let her into his life. Even if he'd known ahead of time how strongly he'd be attracted to her, he wouldn't change that choice.
He smiled gently. "I believe you, Ells. I...I'm not entirely sure why, but it doesn't sound like you're lying."
"Oh!" she breathed, relief evident on her face. "Oh, Kort, thank you, I...I can't face this alone."
She hiccupped softly and leaned into him, pressing her face against his arm. Now that she had the story out in the open, the brandy seemed to finally hit her.
"Maybe...maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and find out it really was just a dream," she murmured, voice slightly slurred. "Right? That has to be it..."
Kort kissed the top of her head. The scent of rain and roses made him want to kiss other places too, but he restrained himself. I don't care if it's a dream or if it isn't, he thought. This is the last thing she needed, on top of everything else she's been through lately. If he could protect her in any way, help her somehow, he would. After all, she'd gotten him through high school, helping him focus whenever his mind wanted to wander away from studying.
"Why don't you stay here tonight?" he suggested quietly.
"It's all right. I've got a couch; I can sleep on that for one night."
She sat back, shook her head. "No." Ellery held up a hand, cutting him off before he could say another word. "I'll stay, but...I'll take the couch. I won't feel right, stealing your bed."
Then join me in it, he almost said. Instead he kissed her forehead and left her there to go collect a pillow and blanket for her. When he came back out into the living room she was already asleep, curled up on the couch. Chuckling to himself, Kort lifted her head to put the pillow under it, then covered her with the blanket. She mumbled incoherently in her sleep but didn't wake.
He stood watching her a moment. Then he went and retrieved another pillow and blanket. Perhaps he should sleep in his own bed, but he didn't want to leave her alone. So he stretched out on the floor next to the couch, on his back, one hand reaching up for her. Kort wound his fingers through Ellery's and closed his eyes. It wasn't exactly the way he'd envisioned her first night staying over at his place, but it would do.