Mr. Henderson was the head Shifter on the West coast, and as such he was a very powerful man in both the Shifter and Supernatural communities. It appeared that the previous killing had merely been a dry run to see if the rogue I had observed before could do what he had, and removing Mr. Henderson was to be the more significant act. All this swirled through my mind as Stefania gently shook my shoulder. Thank god I didn’t have to work out more than that.
“Take your time, Janice,” she cooed at me. “Tell us everything.”
I sort of groaned in reply. Where to start? What to say?
“How about a nice cup of tea, dear?” Gina offered.
“Oh, give the girl a chance, Gina.”
“That’s alright.” I managed. “I nice hot cup would help.” A minute later, they were both staring at me intently as I sipped gently at my cup. It was time to tune them out. I concentrated, and told them, “I saw Mr. Henderson get onto a plane. It was a small one, a Lear jet, or something like that. I saw the same boy I had seen in my other vision shake the pilot’s hand.” I put my head in my hands, indicating that I didn’t really want to say any more.
At last Gina helped, saying, “Come on dear, take a sip, or put the cup down before you drop it.” She took it from my nerveless hands when I didn’t move, but she didn’t push it, or ask for anything else. It seems I had said enough already. I simply curled up and let them do their thing while I chilled.
I actually nodded off for a bit. Waking, I glanced at my watch. Hell! Way more than a bit, it had been over two hours. Having that vision must have been more of an effort – or more stress – than I had thought. Stefania was sitting across from me, smiling at my reaction. “Better?” she asked.
“Yeah, thanks.” I whispered. “How did it go?”
“Good and bad.”
“Which means in English?” Damn, I didn’t mean to be so abrupt, and most of all not with her.
Now she laughed, which meant she understood, at least I hoped so. “Good, in that we managed to stop the assassination, and catch the young kid. Actually it was a bit of a struggle. It really helped that you knew his power came through touch. Anyway, the bad part is my we witches don’t yet have the power to police and punish our own. So for the moment the Shifters have him, which is allowable as he is a Supernatural who has attacked one of theirs. The problem really arises because he has recourse to the human courts, and if he ever gets transferred to their custody, it will be tantamount to setting him free, as they don’t have the facilities to keep someone with his talents.”
Ouch! So that was the bad.
“Come on, dear, let me get you home, I understand you have a party to go to, and there is a young man who’s called up to check on you a couple of times.”
Crap, must be Harry. I suppose I couldn’t fault him for worrying in the circumstances, and it was certainly what a good guy would do. “AARRGH”. The scream sort of came from my throat on an involuntary basis, and made me feel a whole lot better, but brought me a rather strange look from Stefania.
She was cool, and said, “If you like, you can tell me all about it in the limo home. You are now my responsibility, even if we haven’t formally adopted you into our ranks yet. Whatever help we can give is only yours to ask.” She paused. “I also imagine that David – Mr. Henderson that is, will be looking rather kindly on you as well, and will also be more than happy to do what he can for you.”
I was quiet until we were well on our way home.”How should I address you?” I started, not knowing quite where to begin.
“Good question. For now, and in private, Stef will do, or Ms. Zancolla. When another of the coven are around it should be ‘Mistress’, as I lead them, and they do need reminding now and then.”
I sat for another minute or so, bolstering my courage to ask the question bugging me. Then, in a spurt of daring, it came. “Stef,” I was nervous, and wanted the familiarity of reassurance rather than the feeling of formality. “Can you tell me something about relationships? …I mean witch relationships.” She was real good here, keeping a straight face, so I plowed on, “I’m really confused right now…the boy who called…Harry. You see, I’ve known him all my life, with none of us knowing anything about this witchy stuff, and although he’s pretty much my brother’s best friend, he’s never been nice towards me.” I rather trailed off while getting to the nitty gritty here. Again she gave me the space to gather myself. “Now he’s turned around completely. It’s weird; suddenly I’ve turned into the love of his life, and to hear him talk, I always have been, and am virtually his personal goddess.”
This time she did say something. “And why is this so bad?” I could sense the sly grin she wanted to hide.
Head in hands time for the real admission. “I’ve loathed him for years, but since this witchy thing started for me, I’ve been crushing on him like he’s the handsomest guy out there, when, deep down, I know that he’s just… the same old Harry the shit.” That was it, three tender minutes of blubbering in Stef’s arms while the chauffeur drove on was what I needed. Thank god for Stef, as she just held me, and dried my tears when I finished. “So, is this normal for us witches, or what?” There, got it out at last.
She didn’t answer me. Damn, no help yet. When we did stop at my house, I didn’t get an answer either, as both my mum and dad met us. Kodak moment, with me looking like sludge, and dad totally befuddled. It seemed mum had straightened him out, after the twins had taken the opportunity to sniff him out as a witch. At least there would be no more bigotry against us at the breakfast table. I took the path of least resistance, giving both of them a hug as I rushed past, saying, “Gotta get ready, talk to you later,” as I went to change and get ready. I wasn’t entirely eager for the party, but it was much better for me to let Stefania do the explanations while I chose my outfit.
A quarter of an hour later, there was a light tap on my door as I was playing with my makeup. It was Stef. “Just came to say goodbye and thanks again, Janice,” she said as her head curled round the door. “I think I straightened your dad out.” She looked around my room. “Nice room,” Yeah, so I was a good student and a bit of a neat freak. Then it came, “The other answer you need.” At last, this had to be about Harry, so I perked up. “Honestly I’ve no idea, but I can check our archives and see if I can come up with something.” Not what I was hoping for, but she gave me a hug and wished me a good evening, noting on the way out, “He’s here, by the way.” Crap, what to wear?
It took me too long, but I think it was worth it. I looked very female and girly, but intentionally not sexy, in my pink skirt and yellow top with long hooped stockings to my knees. Him, he was just hot, as I couldn’t see anything else. I needed to get this spell or whatever it was removed fast and soon, or I wouldn’t know which was up, down or even sideways.
I remembered floating almost to the most regular sort of kid’s hangout, although I knew Harry drove me there. Don’s was just enough upmarket that something better than a burger was on the menu if the kids wanted to splurge. I had been there tons of times, but this was different. It was the first time I had been here with a guy, and definitely when wearing a dateworthy outfit, and it seemed everyone else in the place, and there were more than a few I knew, were well aware of the fact. I managed to keep the table between the two of us, which was a mixed blessing as I couldn’t stop looking him straight in the face, and… closing my eyes worked, but made me burble.
He put the menu solidly between us. Perhaps he had the same problems, and if fate were kind they would be worse. “Choose something nice,” he suggested. “I’m going to have the pasta with shrimps.” Wow, spend it cowboy. It wasn’t exactly that he needed to impress me.
“I’ll have the same, thanks,” was the easiest reply, and I thrust my nose into the menu, pretending to look at desserts, but in reality I was hiding. When I chanced to look up, he was drooling, and not at the food. That was it. I pulled up my napkin, fortunately not a cloth one, and slapped him about the mouth with it for all I was worth. “Stop it!” I virtually shouted at him. “Do you know how dumb that makes you seem?” Perhaps not the brightest thing to say across the full diner.
“Yep,” he smiled back, “and I don’t care.”
“Well I do, and if you don’t want me to walk out now, behave!” He settled down after that, and I was able to ask him, “What the hell has happened to us.” Before he had an opportunity to say anything, I reminded him, “If you say ‘I don’t care’, I’m off.”
“I don’t know, Janice,” he said, speaking normally now. “You’ve always been my ideal, but…” He spread his hands. “I see you, and I see everything I ever wanted in a girl.” He managed a grin, “Although you seem to be intent on keeping things low key.” Which meant he had at last noticed that my clothes were saying, ‘I’m not ready yet’. Understatement of the month.
I tried to watch him, hoping that the idea of familiarity breeding contempt might help the attraction mellow down enough to be more easily handled. It worked after a while, and we were able to eat without jumping each other into a lip lock across the table.
How we got to the party, I don’t remember. It was all rather surrealistic, with my attention anywhere but where it should have been. I do know that as soon as we arrived I dumped Harry to get some space, and ended up in a corner with my besties, Abby, Jean, and Dottie, who had the been invited because I had been blackmailed into coming. Talk about girlie whispering, we gossiped for ages, with me wondering how long it would take Harry to find me.
“He seems handsomer,” Dottie told me, catching a long range glimpse of him.
Abby brought us back to earth. “He’s giving you space, girl. There is no way he doesn’t know exactly where you are. See, good guy.”
I sighed. Was I the only person leery of us hooking up? I took the chance to examine the room. I had seen it before, but then it had been the green and brown tones that suggested a shifter home that had really impinged. Now, with a bit more leisure, I took in high ceilings and a few cross beams with a fan or two. I also imagined that I could see some claw marks up high. Was Tom or one of his sons a bird shifter, or was it just a courtesy for visitors?
Music for dancing started in, and I grabbed my headphones in an almost panicked fashion, and jammed them on. Either I got them on in time, or the number wasn’t one of my triggers. All too soon he was there, beaming and polite, holding out a hand. I couldn’t say no, and he led me out for a fast number. Now, with me sporting these muffling headphones, which I hadn’t bother to tell to him about, I sort of had to rely on his signals to know what he wanted. Not unusual with boys, lots of whom I knew had challenges expressing themselves coherently in the first place.
A couple of numbers later, the tempo came down a bit, and Harry motioned me to pull off my headphones, clearly wanting to ask me a question. I backed off, shaking my head, and disaster of disasters, he pulled them down. That’s when it happened. Suddenly I was dancing, but not on the floor, oh, no. I was looking up at them from… Okay I was above them peering down at Harry’s head while the strains of ‘Dancing on the ceiling’ wafted through the room. Way to find another trigger song. Meanwhile how to get down? Correction, how to get down with my neck intact, while my feet did their own thing?
“Jani, are you alright?” Ken and Harry stretched their necks towards me. It seemed they had the same question. Then the music stopped. I didn’t fall, but by some miracle my legs started behaving a bit better. Not trusting anyone but myself, I inched my way to the nearest beam, and made to hold on. Then I noticed my skirt hanging in such a way as to show…One hand left the beam as I squawked. Hearing some movement below, I saw them pushing a sofa into position below me. This was going to be a night to forget. Perhaps I would knock my head and really forget.
They wanted me to let go, but if I did, I wasn’t going to fall, so I shouted, “I’m still stuck.” Damn, I was going to have the most shitty weekend and beyond. Then my stomach lurched as gravity went right side up. I went head over heels and landed on Harry and the sofa. It toook one glance at him for me to decide that passing out was my best option.