The phone rang at three in the morning and Misty had just gotten in to bed an hour earlier. Groaning, she reached over to her night stand without looking and slapped around for her phone until she found it and answered the call.
“Someone had better be dead.”
“Misty? It’s Tom. I’m in trouble and I need your help.”
“Oh yeah. You’re in trouble all right.”
There was a sigh on the other end.
“Look, I know I woke you. I’m sorry. You can kill me later but right now I’ve got a problem.”
“Your problem is that you woke me when I had just gotten back from Pakistan after three months of not seeing my bed. I cried, Tom.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Misty was so unnerved by it that she sat up.
“You’re not talking. This must be serious.”
There was more silence, then a sigh. “I think I may have gotten myself cursed.”
“Cursed? Curses aren’t real, Tom.”
“They’re real, Misty. So real that since the old lady that I nearly hit while I was out paragliding cursed me, I’ve nearly died four times.”
“That could be just some amazing bad luck.” Misty said as she pushed back her mass red curls.
“It’s not. It’s the curse.” Tom sighed and continued on. “I tripped over a turtle earlier, Mist. Who trips over a turtle?”
When the laugh rose in her chest, Misty didn’t bother to fight it as it rolled out of her.
“It’s not funny. I could have fallen down the steps I was just about to walk down when it happened and probably would have broken my neck.”
Misty swallowed the next laugh and sighed. “Where are you?”
“I’m downtown, trying to get back home. I thought the walk path by Roxy’s Diner would be safe, but I was wrong.”
“You’re not that far from me. Come to my place, you can sleep on my couch. I’ll leave the door unlocked and blankets on the couch.”
“Okay. I’ll be there.”
“If I’m asleep when you get here, just lock the door behind you and I’ll see you in the morning.”
Misty hung up the phone and got up from her bed with a grumble. Walking out in to the hallway she pulled on her robe and tied the belt. Pulling blankets and a couple of pillows from the hall closet, she dumped everything on the leather sofa in her living room while on her way to the kitchen. Unlocking the back door and leaving a hoodoo bag on the table that she’d gotten from a hoodoo priest in New Orleans the last time she was there. He said it would bring good luck to whomever she gave it to as a gift.
Scribbling a note for Tom to take it with him when he left in the morning, she considered her sisterly duty done and stumbled back to bed. Tom would get a kick out of it. He was always reading books on that kind of thing. With a yawn, Misty dropped back in to bed and was out before she remembered that she was still wearing her robe.
The sun was high in the sky when Misty woke up. Cursing, she crawled to the edge of her bed and tried to swing a leg out, only to have it catch on the edge of her robe and send her tumbling to the floor. Swearing up a blue streak, Misty managed to untangle herself and walk out to the living room to check and see if her brother was still there. He wasn’t there and it looked like the blankets hadn’t been touched.
Walking in to her kitchen, Misty grumbled about ungrateful siblings. The sight of her kitchen door made her stop as she pushed the door open. The solid oak door that Misty had lovingly restored before going to Pakistan was off it’s hinges and cracked in half. Livid, Misty turned on her heel and marched over to the living room sofa. Snatching up a pillow, she buried her face in to the pillow and screamed.
There was a loud thunk and then an “That shouldn’t be there. Why is that there?” coming from the kitchen. Paisley left the pillow on her face and groaned.Footsteps on her hardwood floors had a faint squishing sound, as though her uninvited guest had stepped in to a puddle and forgotten to change his shoes. Misty pulled the pillow off and glared at her visitor who was too busy looking around the house in wonder.
“You humans, always so inventive.” The Visitor said as he picked up the remote for Misty’s TV and stared at it as if he’d never seen one before. “So amazing what you do with your curiosity. What does this do?”
“That’s a remote control. Who are you?”
The Visitor smiled. “Remote control. I like that. I’m Hamaliel. You can call me Scott.”
Paisley studied him closely. She knew that name. His brown hair was a mess and his brown eyes looked like they were filled wish mischief. They were so familiar, but she couldn’t place them.
“You’re not normal, are you?”
Hamaliel laughed. “No, not your type of normal.” He walked around her living room, picking up objects and holding them out to her when he couldn’t name them.
“That’s a snow globe. Why are you here? Why are you wet?”
“Because you gave the hoodoo bag to your brother and I landed in your birdbath.” Hamaliel said while he studied the tiny buildings of the Paris skyline in the globe. “How did they get Pairs inside this globe?”
“That’s not the real Paris, those are sculptures of buildings inside that globe with water and glitter. What do you mean by because I gave him the hoodoo bag?”
Hamaliel thought for a moment before answering as he put the globe back down in the spot where he picked it up from. He knew how humans liked their spaces the way they put them.
“You gave him the hoodoo bag that Jaques LeVau gave you.”
Paisley’s mouth tumbled open. “How- but, You- You couldn’t have known that.”
“You still stutter when you’re flustered. I thought you would have grown out of that by now. It was cute when you were six and you played with my younger self. I admit though, it is kind of adorable that I’ve flustered you after all these years.” Hamaliel said while he roamed the room again. There had to be more that he hadn’t seen on his first go around. She certainly had a lot of stuff. “What is this room? Is there more stuff in here? Can I look?”
“That’s the dining room and yes, you can look in there.” Misty said as she stayed where she was, thinking. She faintly remembered a brown headed boy she used to play with that her parents never saw. They said he was imaginary and about the time she was eleven or twelve, she never saw him again.
“You never saw me again because you didn’t need me anymore.” Hamaliel said as he came back in to the room holding the bottom half of her chicken cookie jar. He had his hand in the jar and was fishing out a chocolate chip cookie that she’d gotten from her neighbor down the street after arriving home last night.
“Don’t eat too many of those, they’ll make you sick.” Misty said absently as she thought about those days. That was just after her brother was born that he stopped showing up, even in his bee form.
“You always did like me as bees, I never did figure out why.”
“I was afraid of them. You made them friendly again.” Misty answered him without thinking. “Stop reading my thoughts, Scott. It’s rude.”
“You used to like it when I read your mind.”
Misty frowned at him. “I’m not seven anymore and thinking about how Mrs. Wilburton looks like a fat toad. What am I thinking now?”
“You’re worried about your brother, why I’m here and how I would look naked out of these – what are they called again? Jeans.” Hamaliel said.
Misty blushed hard. “That’s not funny, Scott.”
“I didn’t say it was-” Hamaliel stopped short when he saw she was blushing. “Now that’s inventive Misty, but we don’t have time for that. You need to shower and get dressed.”
Misty sighed and pushed herself upright and off the couch. She wobbled unsteadily on her feet and Hamaliel was by her side before she fell, holding her upright.
“You push yourself too hard, Misty. Proving yourself to him when you mean nothing to him isn’t worth your time.” He murmured in to her ear as he held her.
“He’s my father, Scott. I can’t just stop loving him because he doesn’t love me anymore.”
“He isn’t worth your time.” Hamaliel said and took a step back. “Go shower and get dressed. We’ll go find your brother.”
Misty nodded and walked off to her bedroom, thinking about what just happened in her living room. Stepping in to her bedroom, she sighed when she looked at the bed. She so hoped that when she came back in to her room she’d find herself sleeping. Misty looked down at herself and realized she was already wearing her robe, so she turned on her heel and walked to the bathroom to take a shower.
Today couldn’t get any worse. She thought. Later on, she’d regret thinking that.
Misty stepped out of her bedroom, fully dressed, an hour later and found Hamaliel sitting at her dining room table thumbing through a a magazine she’d tossed there before leaving for Pakistan. He looked up when he saw her and frowned. Misty brushed a hand over her clothes and looked down at herself. She didn’t think she looked half bad in her favorite pair of blue jeans, yellow tank top, boots and green army jacket.
“What? Is something torn?” She asked.
“That shirt is too tight.” Hamaliel sounded like he was in pain when he said it and it made Misty do a double-take.
“Your shirt, it’s too tight.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
“I’m not. Change it, please.” He asked.
“Why?” She asked him as she studied his face. It was drawn in like he was in physical pain.
Hamaliel couldn’t look at her. Instead, he studied the magazine he’d already flipped through at least three times since she went to shower. When he spoke, he spoke to the floor.
“I’m attracted to you and I shouldn’t be.”
Misty looked at him, bewildered. Her eyebrows drew up and when it dawned on her what he was, she grinned. She remembered while she was in the shower that he was afraid he’d never find his place or belong.
“So they finally found a place for you up there in his corps.”
He nodded, still not looking at her.
“Where did they place you, Ham?” she asked, finally using the nickname she’d given him.
Hamaliel sighed. “Virtue.”
Misty stared at him, mouth agape. “V-virtue?”
When he nodded, she started laughing. Hamaliel hunched over staring down at his feet. When he didn’t laugh with her, she stopped laughing at looked at him. The man before her was different than the boy she remembered in the shower. The boy was a ball of mischief, forever getting the two of them in to trouble for one thing or another. Walking over to him, she knelt down and looked at his face. Misty lifted a hand and brushed aside his hair so she could see his face better.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have laughed. Was that were you wanted to go?”
Hamaliel and sighed and looked at her. “No. I wanted to be with you, but they wouldn’t allow my entry in to the guardians. They said I’d be at risk of falling.”
“Would that have been so bad?” She asked.
“Yes. I wouldn’t have been banished. No home, no family.”
She knew what he was going to say next and said it for him, “No brothers.”
He nodded and stood up, leaving her where she knelt and walked to the back door that he fixed while she was occupied.
“Come on. Let’s go find your brother.”
Misty shook her head and stood up. Some things never changed.
Bells rang so loudly in Tom’s head as he tried to sit up. The throbbing in his head mad him flop over to the side instead and that’s when he hit his head on the bars. Clutching his head in both hands, he rolled the other way and fell off the bed he’d been laying on.
Somewhere in the room, something laughed at him.
“Poor, pathetic Tom. All he wanted was an adventure yesterday and ended up cursed.”
Tom sighed, but even that made his head hurt. “Well, as far as days go, this wasn’t actually my worst day.”
The thing laughing at him edged closer. “Do tell.”
Tom smiled. “You should have been there when my girlfriend pulled me out of a donkey show in Tijuana. That was a bad day. I was the donkey.”
A startled laugh came from the other side of his bars. “Oh, that is a bad day.”
“So, yeah. As far as days go, this isn’t my worst. Not my best, but certainly not my worst.” Tom made himself comfortable on the floor next to the bed he woke up on. It was cooler on the floor, out of the light and he was fairly certain that whatever was on the other side of the bars didn’t want him dead yet. Eventually he’d be looking for a way to pull his neck out of the guillotine, but not yet. He hoped.
“So, tell me about some of your other adventures, Tom the Cursed.” The thing on the other side of the bars asked as it settled back down in the dark.
Tom thought he hear feathers scraping against the wall as whatever it was settled down. He shrugged and yawned. His head felt a little better.
“Well, there was this one time my girlfriend and I were up in Alaska hunting down a Sasquatch that had wandered a little too close and ended up flashing a school.”
That got it’s attention again after waiting for Tom to start telling another story.
“Do go on, Tom. We’ve got all day before he comes back.”
“He? He who?”
“Uh-uh.. you tell me a story, I tell you information. Trade?”
“May I ask one more question before I start telling my next story?”
“How long have you been down here?” Tom may have been a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. He knew a creature like that would only want stories if it was stuck down here.
The creature laughed again. “You are clever. I’ve been down here exactly three hundred years.”
Tom jerked his head up and poked his head over the bed. “Three hundred years? Without stories? I’d die.”
“I think that’s what our captor meant to have happen. He underestimated me.”
“Well, then I guess I better get started then.”
“That would be a good idea. He’ll be back as soon as the sun goes down.”
Tom started his story. “Well then, my girlfriend and I heard from this Algonquian spirit healer who lived on a reservation out in Montana about this Sasquatch that was going blind..”
Misty grabbed Hamaliel’s hand and hauled him up and on to the riverbank next to her. Panting, she slapped his shoulder and said, “Nice going, Dundee. You got us lost while following directions from that seer who was was dealing cards out of the back of a van.”
Hamaliel panted, face first in to the sand. He heard the sarcasm in her voice and ignored it as he pushed himself up to look at her. “You’re covered in river weed and your hair looks..” He paused there and finished getting up.
“My hair looks like what?” She yelled back at him.
Hamaliel grinned and hobbled over to a fallen log and sat down, pulling at the laces on his boots and emptying the pebbles that washed into them from his trip down river.
“Her advice was good until the river, you have to admit that.”
Misty got up from the bank and walked over to the log and sat next to Hamaliel. “I’ll admit it if you admit that it’s a little suspicious that she told us to trust no one and come out here by ourselves.” Misty bent down and started untying her laces and emptying her boots as well.
“I have faith what I was told was true. Where’s yours?”
“I left it behind in Pakistan.” Misty put her boots back on and tied the laces again. She got up and started walking down the bank, looking for the next marker the seer said would be there.
“How?” His question was innocent, but it wasn’t something she wanted to talk about.
“Not now. Maybe later.” She started thinking about anything else than that day and finally he gave up trying to search her memories.
“Okay, but you’re going the wrong way. We passed it back here.” Hamaliel said as he got up and started walking in the opposite direction.
Misty grumbled and eyed his neck, thinking about how much she’d love to strangle him. She gave it up when he kept walking and with a sigh, followed him down the bank. She had a feeling this day was going to get even longer.