Fay opened her eyes, and blinked, frowning at a dingy gray ceiling. Had she be dreaming? Momentarily disoriented, she looked around to get her bearings. The motel room she had been shown into earlier that morning was not at all impressive. The sagging four poster bed, covered by a dubiously clean Lone Star patterned quilt, lent a forlorn air to the place which a dripping faucet and peeling wallpaper did nothing to dispel. One look around was enough to convince Fay that the sign exclaiming “Ed’s Motel, Best Rooms In Town!” was either a bad sales ploy or some serious wishful thinking on the part of the large, greasy man who had led her to the small third-floor room.
After an hour of tossing on the lumpy mattress, she had finally drifted into an uneasy sleep from which she was suddenly roused by…what? Fay turned to look at a small clock on the bedside table. The digital numbers flashed 7:30 a.m.
She groaned, and then tried to recall what had woken her. There it was again, a soft tapping on the window. She sat up quickly and listened. The tapping was repeated, more insistently this time and Fay drew the curtain back warily. Mitchell’s face suddenly appeared in front of her and she jumped noticeably.
“What do you want?” She demanded, forgetting that he probably couldn’t hear her. He motioned for her to let him in. Huffing slightly, she released the stubborn catch and pulled the heavy frame up in one fluid motion, stepping aside to allow him through. He gave his surroundings a cursory glance while Fay continued to question him. “What are you doing here? Do you realize what time it is? And how did you get up here anyways?” “Balcony,” he replied briefly. She sighed, foot tapping, “Well, what do you want?” Mitchell’s eyebrows rose. “I’m taking you to meet the rest of the team, of course. Didn’t I say I’d find you when it was time?” “Yes, but I didn’t think it would be this early!” Fay replied. “I would have thought that you especially enjoyed getting up early,” Mitchell stopped as he gave her a brief once-over.
Fay folded her arms tightly, knowing that her rumpled clothes, unchanged from the night before, and a tangled, curly mess that she had been too exhausted to deal with did not leave the best impression.
“But, obviously not” the boy finished. Her lips tightened, “Well, we can’t all be night owls like you. My kind may be early risers, but I for one needed sleep! Of course you are probably an insomniac, just like the rest of your pack!” Mitchell snorted, “Grumpy, grumpy. I see, well…” he considered for a few moments, “I’ll wait while you change and eat something to take the edge off of that temper, then we can go see about a meeting. After all, I wouldn’t want introduce you to them like…that.”
“Fine.” Fay went to her backpack and began rummaging through it before drawing out a bundle of clothes. I wonder if they’re all that bossy.”Do you always talk to yourself?” Fay whirled around to find him watching her, amusement curling his lip. “I thought you had gone!” She exclaimed. “Nope.” “Well, you’re certainly not staying here! Get out!” He shrugged, “Ok,” and began to climb back out the way he’d come. “You could have just used the d-” but he had already vanished. “Rude.” “I can still hear you, you know,” came a voice from outside. Fay muttered something in an indistinguishable language that would’ve passed for an insult had anyone within hearing understood it. She flicked her hand toward the window and a stiff breeze slammed it closed. Smiling with satisfaction, she returned to the task at hand.
Fifteen minutes later, Fay found herself staring blankly into the room’s only mirror. Slowly, she pulled back her tawny hair, lightly traced the edge of a small ear that tapered to a sharp point at one end. I wonder if I will always have to hide who, what I am. It seems so unfair, and yet…no, her hand dropped back into her lap, I must be doing the right thing. After all, it is for their good…isn’t it? Fay sighed and shook her head as if trying to clear it. “Well,” she squinted at her reflection, “I don’t know what I’m letting myself in for, but I’m sure not going to get anywhere with that kind of attitude!” And with that, she nodded decisively and combed the strands back into place, hiding their secret once more.
With quick, determined steps, Fay made her way down to what she supposed was the motel’s lobby. Not seeing Mitchell, she headed towards the open door through which a stream of light poured in, illuminating the interior and its dire need for soap and water. She stood outside, blinking in the early morning sun, still rather pensive from a lack of sleep –stupid know-it-all boys– and a small knot of apprehension that was beginning to form in the pit of her stomach. Absently, she rubbed her arm, wincing as she did so. Frowning down at it, she forgot to watch where she was going and bumped straight into a figure, her forehead colliding with its chin. Glaring up into the light, she saw Mitchell looking down at her with an unreadable expression on his face. “Let me see your arm.” It was not a request. “No.” Fay tucked her arm behind her back, feeling rather childishly stubborn. Mitchell did not reply, but reached around her to grab her wrist, bringing their faces close for a moment. Her eyes widened as she tried to shake free, but found herself unable to. Frustrated, she allowed him to pull her arm straight, gasping involuntarily as he gently pulled up her sleeve. He gazed at the six inch long bloody furrow that raked itself down the inside of her arm, and for the first time in their short acquaintance, Fay saw something that could’ve passed as regret cross his face. “You should get that taken care of.” Fay’s chin came up. “Thank you for your concern, but,” yanking her arm away, “I’ll be just fine.” Mitchell’s face hardened once more and he started walking in stony silence.
Fay followed, beginning to feel sorry for her hasty reaction and then, quite unaccountably, annoyed. I hate consciences, she sent a brief glare up at the sunny sky. Really, they’re most inconvenient. Her conscience pricked again. Oooh…!
“I…I’m sorry.” “What?” “I said…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted like that.” He looked at her. “You apologize too much.” “Sorry,” Fay started, then clamped her lips shut. A wary smile spread across Mitchell’s face, and he chuckled softly, shaking his head. Fay smiled ruefully, and then suddenly remembered a point that had been bothering her.
“Why did you get so angry when I challenged you?” His smile disappeared. “I think you’ll find that questioning our courage is…not a good idea. But,” Here, he had the grace to look slightly sheepish, “We also have a reputation for notoriously short tempers.” “Oh, that time of the month, is it?” She asked innocently. His lips twitched, but he went on as if he hadn’t heard. “How ’bout you?” Fay eyed him. Finally, she said simply “I just hate being called a pixie.” “I noticed.” “Well, it’s quite insulting, it is,” she replied hotly, “being compared to some empty-headed, thoughtless…” “Hey, hey,” he held up a hand, “I get it.” She nodded once and they lapsed into silence. It was only then Fay noticed that they had left the town and were headed toward the very forest that she had made her way through the night before.
Interesting, I wonder…but her thoughts were interrupted. She tried to remember what the question had been.
“I’m sorry?” “I said, where’s that accent from?” “Oh, I…ah…grew up near Dublin.” Mitchell accepted the explanation without further comment.
They emerged into a small clearing and Fay could see a run-down cabin at one end. “Um, Mitchell?” He held up a hand for silence and proceeded slowly. As they neared the rickety structure, she noticed strange black designs on the wood. Are those scorch-marks?
Mitchell opened the rickety door and motioned for her to follow him. Fay stepped lightly over the ancient boards, not making a sound. Opening what looked to have once been the door to a closet, Mitchell revealed the blank wall behind. Fay stared.
“But…” “Shh!” He placed a hand on the wall and then looked at her. “Well, go ahead!” She put her hand next to his. At his signal, they pushed gently. Suddenly, the whole wall began to shudder and separate, swinging open to reveal a small staircase that descended into darkness below. “Shall we?” He motioned toward the dark opening. As they navigated the small space, Fay could hear the creak of the wall closing behind them, leaving them in the pitch-black. But the farther down they went, the more she could discern a faint light at the end of the staircase. Finally, they rounded a bend and Fay stopped dead, her breath catching in her throat and the tingling mixture of fear and expectation rushed through her once more. Mitchell looked back at her. “You ready?” Letting the breath out slowly, Fay raised her chin and squared her shoulders. “Yes, I am ready.” Moving past him, she strode into the light beyond.