there's a coffee shop just on the corner of aven and principale street. it's one of the few in the town that is perfectly safe to go in there, though time passes strangely inside. the fae that own it try their best to make it work. when i first moved in with alissa, she introduced me immediately. the faerie that works the register speaks spanish and italian and french and russian. alissa speaks to her in lilting spanish tinged with a chilean accent. i don't understand, but i like the sounds. they're softer than english or french, less blunt. they sound full of laughter.
i'm at the coffee shop now. a guy's tapping his hand on a bench near me, and i'm trying to focus but the sound is persistent, and it reminds me. god, it reminds me. it's too much.
a faerie drifts over. she's taller than me. god, it's not fun when a fucking faerie is taller than you. "est ce que ça va?" she taps the tattoo visible through her sheer shirt. "votre émotion a dominé celle de tous les autres."
i don't look at her. "i'm fine. can i have a mocha? shot of calm, please." she nods. her ears twitch as she drifts away. the bird tattoo behind my ear sings softly - a melody from when i was young. alissa sings it sometimes when i'm in a state. she hands me tea, and she sings.
the coffee arrives, and so does alissa. "come on, mi vida!" as my prosthetic reforms and attaches to my stump of a leg, she leans forward, asking a question without words. i nod, and i smile. she always makes me smile. alissa spins me around and kisses me. "missed you, ma vie. how are you feeling?"
"better," i say, and she positively beams because she knows it's true. the faerie hands me the mocha and ruffles alissa's hair before striding off, apron cast aside into the portal near the register.
"good, then. i was wondering - maybe you wanted to go out to the fields? i'm really excited to test out the new camera - and you could pose!" of course. it was alissa's birthday last week - all of us pooled our money to buy her that new canon rebel she's been wanting for ages. i swear, she nearly cried when she opened the packaging.
"course, love." i'm weak when it comes to alissa - i'd walk into the ocean if she asked me to.
she smiles brightly and interlocks her fingers with mine, barely allowing me to finish up my enchanted coffee before she's running out the cafe. "come on!"
"jesus, babe. gimme a moment."
the sky is golden in the setting sun, and alissa sets me up among the sunflowers for pictures, head tilted slightly, mounds of black curls contrasting with the green stems. i try and look almost aloof, lips slightly parted as if i'm about to speak. "okay, now pretend i've said something really funny." alissa turns the camera slightly.
"how can i? you never have."
alissa snorts and fiddles with the buttons. "ugh, fuck me."
"don't tempt me right now. i'm being a professional." alissa tries to keep her face serious, but there's the edge of a smile on her lips. she's excited about the camera, i can tell, and the pictures must be turning out well, judging by the focused look in her eyes. she's really enjoying this. i'm so glad.
after a couple more poses, alissa puts the camera down and walks over, summoning a sunflower a couple feet away from us and letting it fly into my hand. my tattoo sings quietly when i tap it, and the sun sets just over the tops of the sunflowers. france really is gorgeous, especially in the countryside.
alissa leans into me, speaking soft spanish i don't understand. but it sounds lovely, and i settle into it. "what'd you say?" i ask, braiding the edges of her hair.
"i said, this is some call-me-by-your-name-ass bullshit." we both laugh, hard, and in the light we look golden. the southern sea-breeze is gentle, and all i can hear is her soft breathing and the wind rustling the plants, and the last of the day birds singing in the distance.
"peace within, in and out, peaceful way of thinking now," i chant softly, weaving a bit of magic into the words. i want peace right now - i don't want my mind to wander into tragic places, painful memories.
and we spend a few minutes like that, watching the sky deepen into blue and purple. alissa's skin is soft and her perfume smells like heaven (she must have enchanted it with some kind of attraction spell earlier today) so i'm not bothered by the quiet or stillness as long as i'm curled up on her chest.
and then, out of the quiet, i hear something. it's so soft i think i'm imagining it at first, but no - it sounds like a baby. a baby crying.
alissa turns to me, biting her nails. "do you hear that?"
i nod, pulling runestones out of my pocket. "we should go, alissa. that could be a demon doing an imitation." the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and i get up quickly, helping alissa up.
alissa nods but she doesn't look convinced. "letitia, what if it's a real baby?"
and then alissa pulls out her talisman and runs to the sound, and like an idiot, i follow her. "alissa, what the hell are you doing?"
i run into her, standing still next to a clearing in the field. there, a few feet away, lies a baby wrapped in linen, crying. no - not a baby.
a changeling. she's curled up in the blankets, fire drifting around her, giggling as her movements make them smash into each other. a broken iron cross lies by the blanket, and suddenly, bitterly, i'm in love with her.