Made of Glass Ch. 10bybrightlyiburn©
Chapter Ten: Butterfly Brand
'The whisper of wings brands her skin
Watercolor emeralds wrapped in precious metal
Wires binding her close to kith and kin
Catching her in their butterfly net' – K.A.
The air was too warm, too thick with humidity. Smoke drifted up from a nearby window, carrying the cloying scent of candied something-or-other baking in an oven. Ellery leaned against the low wall surrounding the roof of the apartment building and sighed. It had to be nice, making dinner with your family, sitting down to eat with them.
Nicer than worrying about legal troubles, she thought. Nancy was still on the warpath over that damn necklace. Fortunately there was a limit to what she could do without real evidence, but it didn't stop her from harassing Ellery. There'd been some fourteen phone calls from her in the last two days alone. Ellery considered asking to hide out at Kort's place but she wasn't sure how he'd react to that. So for the moment she found sanctuary on the roof.
Well, sort of. Sanctuary from Nancy at least; not from her sisters.
"What's that woman's damage, anyway?" Sadhbh said, her tone sulky. "What did you ever do to her?"
"She's a bitch," Niamh said simply.
Ellery rubbed her forehead. "That does seem to be the verdict. I
have no idea why she hates me so much. I tried to be a daughter to her, even though it was hard to have her and the girls move into our lives, but..."
"Well, forget her," Muirne said. "We're all the family you need."
"Us and Kort," Sadhbh giggled.
Ellery shot her sister a dirty look. Sadhbh sat to one side of her, Muirne to the other; together they worked on weaving Ellery's hair into tiny braids. Niamh sat atop the wall, a tall glass full of shimmering amber liquid in her hand. More and more these days, whenever Ellery wasn't with Kort she was with her sisters. Even Niamh no longer seemed as scary as she first had, and they had a lot of fun
"What about mom?" Ellery asked. "I thought she sent you to fetch me."
"Yeah, but she's away right now," Sadhbh replied. "She does that sometimes, just poof disappears—well, you know. So it can wait until
she gets back."
Niamh's eyes narrowed. "But you know where she went, don't you, Sadhbh?"
Sadhbh looked away. No matter what happened, Sadhbh and Muirne acted subordinate to Niamh. Yet for all that, Sadhbh didn't say a word. What's going on here? Ellery wondered, glancing back and forth between her sisters. The air buzzed, going warm with tension and power. Aside from glamour—and their disappearing trick—her sisters rarely used their powers. Now she felt it, so thick in the air it raised the hair along her arms.
When the silence became too much to bear, Ellery cleared her throat. All three of her sisters looked at her.
"So uh...what is that stuff?" she asked, pointing at Niamh's glass.
"This?" A smile blossomed on Niamh's face. "Want to try it?"
"Is that wise?" Muirne questioned. "Maybe we shouldn't—"
"Oh nonsense! Ells is family. She's allowed."
"Maybe I shouldn't," Ellery hedged. "If it's not a good idea..."
"It's fine," Niamh insisted.
Sadhbh bit her lip. "Well, it's not alcoholic or anything, so..."
Niamh snapped her fingers. Three glasses of the liquid appeared on the wall next to her. Ellery took one when it was handed to her and inspected it carefully. It looked as harmless as apple cider, just richer and brighter in color. A thin film of foam lay across the top of the liquid, glimmering in the moonlight. Weird, Ellery thought, holding the glass up to catch the silvery light. It's beautiful...
Cautiously she took a sip. For a moment she tasted little except a faint hint of apples. Then flavor flooded across her tongue, filling her senses. Apples, yes, but berries—darker ones like blackberry and blueberry—and a tang she couldn't name, though it reminded her of nights on the beach. And she could have sworn she tasted shadows and starlight, even though that was impossible.
She pulled the glass away from her lips and stared at it in astonishment. Then she took another sip.
"Good?" Niamh nudged Ellery with her toes.
"Yeah. Really good. What is it?"
"Just something we like to drink," Sadhbh replied. She leaned into Ellery's shoulder. "You're totally one of the family for real, now."
Warmth flooded through her; from the drink or from Sadhbh's words, she wasn't sure. She drank more, savoring the taste of the liquid and the press of her sisters' bodies. In between sips of the drink, Muirne continued working on her braids.
"Not quite," Niamh said. "She still needs one of these.
She held out her left arm. Low on her forearm—in a similar spot to where Kort had one—was a tattoo. Dark butterfly wings, limned in purple and silver, spread across Niamh's arm. Ellery studied it curiously, trying not to grin. It wasn't funny; she just felt giddy for some reason. She finished off her glass and didn't protest when Niamh pushed another one into her hand.
"You all have these?" she asked.
Sadhbh held out her arm. Her butterfly was lighter than Niamh's, its wings filigreed around the edges. Muirne's was actually blue, with streaks of darker blue and green like veins.
"We can take you somewhere you can get one," Sadhbh said. "If you want."
Ellery drained her second glass. "I don't know. I mean, they're cool and all, but also kind of permanent."
"That's the point." Sadhbh wound an arm through hers. "Come on,
Ells, why not?"
"It's almost dinnertime," Ellery protested weakly as her sisters
dragged her to her feet.
The giddy feeling intensified. She sagged against Muirne, trying not to giggle. Her sisters hauled her upright and spun her to face the wall. With Niamh's help they got Ellery up onto the wall too.
"Uh, guys..." Ellery tried to pull back. "This isn't the way to the stairs, you guys."
"We don't need the stairs," Muirne said.
"Well, I do."
"Not when you're with us."
She struggled against their grip, but they were stronger by far. The lightheadedness she felt didn't help either.
"Relax," Niamh murmured in her ear. "You're safe with us."
Ellery's sisters clutched her arms and stepped off the roof. Ellery opened her mouth to scream—but the fall never came. Instead the air went buoyant beneath her feet, fluffy and light, feeling the way clouds looked. She gaped as they floated slowly across the parking lot. If they drop me, she thought, I'm so dead. But she grinned anyway. Cool wind rushed through her hair and the sky, dark and full of stars, felt close enough to reach up and touch.
Her sisters laughed; she laughed with them. Perhaps it was only because she felt a little drunk, but just then she couldn't remember
why she'd ever been afraid of them.
"All right, you're done."
Fingertips ran along her arm. Ellery shivered at the sensation they left behind: a sensual fire that immediately left her breathless and aroused. She jerked her arm back, then whimpered at the pain pulsing through her newly tattooed flesh. I don't care, she thought, glowering. I don't want anyone but Kort touching me like that.
Even if the Faerie who'd done her tattoo was gorgeous. Really gorgeous. Like, emerald green eyes and dark hair gorgeous. High cheekbones and a delicious, crooked smile gorgeous. Even though he wore a T-shirt she could see the hard lines of muscle through the cotton. Maybe if Kort had never made a move, the Faerie guy would be more tempting. Not that he wasn't tempting at all—she was only human, for crying out loud—but he wasn't Kort.
"As feisty as your sisters," he said, grinning. "If you ever decide you're available, little fire hair, you know where to find me."
"Down boy," Niamh retorted as she helped Ellery up. "Available
or not, she'd still be our sister."
"Hey, relax, Ni. I was just, you know. Giving her a warm welcome."
"I know all about your 'warm welcomes', Ciar. Give it a rest."
"What's the matter?" Muirne put in. "That little mortal girl
you've been lusting after the past couple years still not giving you the time of day?"
Ciar scowled and shooed them out of his shop. With Muirne and Sadhbh to support her, Ellery managed to stumble out of the tattoo shop even though her arm throbbed.
When they'd first brought her in, she'd been too star struck for her surroundings to really sink in. She wondered if the other mortals here—for their were others, she could tell—saw what she saw. In basic design it looked like a human mall: several floors, escalators, shops on all sides, even a foot court.
Yet foliage grew everywhere. Clinging vines wound around railings and grew above doorways. Huge leaves, some larger than Ellery's head, hung down like awnings over doors. Flowers in vibrant colors—fiery red, peacock blue-green, sunshine yellow, amethyst purple—were everywhere, framing shop windows. Lights danced in the air, silver and gold sparks like fireflies that drifted above their heads. I've never seen anything so beautiful, she thought, awed.
"You sure you're set with that Kort guy?" Niamh asked, nudging her with an elbow.
Ellery snapped to attention. "What?"
"Ciar is...well, he's as yummy as he looks, shall we say. And he was totally into you."
"That was probably just the glamour."
No matter how many times Ellery told herself she shouldn't let
her sisters put glamour on her, she always gave in. It felt so good to have people look at her rather than through her. Like an addiction she let them use more and more on her every time. Except when she saw Kort; then she put up with as little as possible.
Sadhbh shook her head. "Nope. We can see through glamour. He likes you, all right."
"It's the small breasts," Muirne said matter-of-factly. "He loves 'em. Loooooovveess. But you didn't have to be so jumpy, Niamh. I doubt he'd act on it. He's mad about that girl, whatshername."
Niamh snorted. "Mad is right."
"What is this place?" Ellery asked, to get them off the topic of dreamy Ciar. And to keep her mind off her arm.
"Just what it looks like," Sadhbh answered. "We have places like this, too, you know. It is, as you can see, open to mortals."
"Do they sell...I mean, is the stuff in the shops Faerie stuff?"
"Not in these ones. That stuff is more...behind the scenes. All of this is mortal safe. Wanna see?"
Like I have a choice, Ellery thought, but she laughed as her sisters pulled her along. Silly though it might be, the butterfly tattoo on her arm made her feel more like one of them.
She'd had Ciar make hers green, a green that matched her eyes; she thought Kort might like that. It had large, graceful wings, like a Monarch's but more curved and fancy along the edges. Twining braids of silver, gold, and copper lined every major detail. Warmth flooded through her when she thought about it. For once in her life she had
something the rest of her sisters had.
"So, what are you wearing for your next date with Kort?" Sadhbh asked, as they walked along the upper floor.
Ellery shrugged. "No idea. I'm going through my new clothes pretty fast. But..." She flushed. "He likes them..."
"What about that?" Niamh said, pointing to a store window.
Ellery turned to look. She'd been trying not to look at the clothing here too much; a few glances were enough to see that it was all heartbreakingly beautiful. This made her breath catch in her throat. With thin, beaded straps and a draped front, it should've looked like any other little black dress. But the material shimmered with thousands of silver specks; neither glitter nor sequins, just something that made it look like a night sky full of stars.
"Perfect," Ellery murmured.
"No, wait," Sadhbh said, frowning. "It's not quite...come here."
She grabbed Ellery's hand and pulled her into the store. Together they found a second version of the dress, one in a dark blue—a color that would be less stark against her skin. Ellery ran her hands over it, over a mesh netting with small flecks and the layer of silk chiffon beneath it. Light. Airy. And perfect, she thought.
When they came back out of the shop she carried a bag with the dress in it. Not that she knew for sure what she and Kort would be doing for their second date, but she could adapt. As long as they weren't rock-climbing or something, she'd be fine.
"Sure you don't want to let Ciar see you in that?" Muirne teased.
"If Kort wasn't around? Probably." Ellery grinned. "I'm not blind, after all. But Kort is around and well, he's the one I want."
"He is pretty hot for a human," Sadhbh said. At her sisters' curious stares, she smiled innocently. "What? You know I popped out the other night. Just wanted a peek at lover boy while the two were on
Ellery bit her lip to keep the surprise off her face. She glanced covertly at Sadhbh, but nothing showed on her sister's face. That's odd, she thought. I mean, maybe she was there during our date, I don't know. But... But that definitely wasn't the first time Sadhbh had seen Kort. Why would she lie about it? Neither Niamh nor Muirne seemed to suspect anything, at least.
"Oh, how about here?" Niamh grabbed Ellery's arm.
"You guys are way too handsy," Ellery chided with a laugh, pulling away. "Where are you dragging me—"
She trailed off as Muirne and Sadhbh pushed her into a toy store. Not a toy store for children: one for adults. The malls she was used to didn't usually have these. People in her small town could be, well, uptight about this sort of thing. I can kind of see why, she thought, blushing and staring at the floor. It was hard to look straight at any of it.
"How cute," Niamh cooed, poking Ellery's flaming red cheek. "Ells is embarrassed. What's the matter, sis? Don't you own a vibrator?"
"Um...no," she responded, rubbing her cheek. "I don't really need one."
Niamh let out a trilling laugh. "Every girl needs a vibrator. Ooo, how about one of these?"
She held up some odd contraption that looked a bit like a small remote. Packaged with it were two small, vaguely egg-shaped things of different sizes. Ellery stared at it, baffled. What on earth do you do with it? she wondered. Niamh tried to hand it to her; Ellery backpedaled quickly, bumping into a counter. She felt a little ridiculous, acting like the thing might jump at her and bite or something, but she had no experience with this.
"Don't me so mean, Ni," Sadhbh said, wrapping an arm around Ellery. "Though she's right, Ells. A girl ought to have a vibrator."
"Who's side are you on?"
With her giggly sisters dancing around her, Ellery allowed herself to be dragged further into the store. Not that she intended to buy anything—or let them buy anything for her. But maybe it would help her get over some of her shyness. Her date with Kort—namely what had happened after it—had been a big step forward for her. Yet even so, she found herself a little uncomfortable around him in the days since. Bringing that timidity under control, even a small bit, would be great.
And if anyone can help with that, she thought, watching her sisters parade around, waving enormous dildos, it's these three.