Episode 20: An Unexpected Concession

 Kerry spent the next hour enjoying fresh strawberry rhubarb pie–made with locally-grown strawberries and rhubarb–and catching Rowen up on everything that she knew about the process of buying Paxwood House, this house of historical significance that had once been the mayor’s home. The time to go home came too soon. She had barely touched on what she knew about Silphium Resorts, and she hadn’t gotten to the part where she asked if it could be possible for a vampire to be a lawyer, either. That question felt just a little bit too weird for a first conversation about the realities of magic.

It had been entirely engaging enough that she completely forgot about her fight with Char until she was riding her bicycle home alone, and it struck her how much she really wished she could talk with Char while she rode, tell her everything she’d just learned from Rowen and Alex. Mx. Cardoso? No, in this context, his first name felt more right somehow. 

Now, she wondered if she could call Char and tell her that things felt so heavy because Paxwood House had an aura that clung like smoke and made it harder to see things clearly.

No, that would sound like she was dismissing Char’s feelings, when that dismissal of her feelings was one of the biggest reasons Char was upset with Kerry in the first place. 

She’d asked for space. Kerry had to give her space.

Finding home empty didn’t surprise Kerry all that much–lights off, doors locked, still and empty like no one even lived there, except the front yard was as impeccably maintained as always. Saturdays were an excellent day for connecting with the other city councilors and the big movers and shakers in the Paxwood community besides. Her mother was almost definitely out there schmoozing.

So Kerry got online and looked up Rowen Hayward, and sure enough, found the articles that Alex had mentioned, confirming Rowen’s loss of arm just about a year ago now. She’d just finished her graduate program in physical therapy at Boston University when a tragic accident occurred and she lost her arm. None of the stories mentioned a demon or signs of an epic battle to save the world, but that was what Alex had said to expect.

Kerry pulled her blanket up around her as she pushed her laptop over to the end table, sighing. From what Rowen had implied, with her desire to start up a Chosen Ones Community Center, there were lots of people with magical destinies out there trying to save the world. If that were really the case, though, wouldn’t the news media be aware of it? Weren’t things like demons trying to destroy the planet on a regular basis newsworthy?

But, there was definitely no denying that Alex had worked magic at the diner, or that she felt so much lighter ever since Alex had done whatever aura cleansing thing with their mouse familiar. Every time her thoughts shifted to Char, she still felt her gut twist in knots, sure, but their fight didn’t feel quite as much like a world-ending tragedy. It would take work, but they could get through this.

The garage door opener rumbled, signaling the return of Kerry’s mother. Great! Still early enough that she could share about the alternative buyer she’d found.

Her mother swept inside and went through her usual routine, but there was a bounce in her step instead of the exhausted drag that usually followed her after a Saturday night out trying to get the community or her fellow city council members to agree with her on some issue effecting Paxwood or another. If Kerry didn’t know better, she’d think that her mother just got home from a magical date.

“Things go well tonight?” she asked, sitting down at the dining table while her mother went to the fridge and got herself some ice water.

“I went out drinking with Tricia Anholts, and let me tell you, she’s much more persuasive than I expected,” her mother replied. “She really does have a point about the kind of business that Silphium can bring into the town if they convert the old mayor’s house into a bed and breakfast, and you know her family used to own a bed and breakfast right here in Paxwood, so she understands the kind of tourists and vacationers we usually get over our peak seasons, too.”

Kerry raised an eyebrow. “But, Silphium is still a soulless megacorporation that wants to open a Starbucks in Paxwood House. And, I have some good news, too.”

“Maybe I mis-evaluated Silphium, though.” Her mother sat down across from Kerry, taking a sip of water. “Hugh makes some excellent fiscal points about the influx of revenue that will follow opening a restored mayor’s house to the public as a bed and breakfast.”

“So, let me make sure I’m hearing this correctly,” Kerry said. “You were out for drinks with Anholts and the Silphium lawyer, and now you agree with them, even though Silphium has sent people to try to persuade you in the past, even though you’ve objected to their presence in Paxwood time and again because everything you’ve researched and heard about their corporate infrastructure indicates that they’ll support chain businesses over local businesses to increase their own revenue every time, and they don’t do anything at all to support small business owners.”

“Tricia is a local. She understands Paxwood because she grew up here,” her mother replied, shrugging. “I still don’t want soulless corporations to crush the independent spirit of Paxwood, but I don’t think that’s going to happen here, not with Tricia at the helm. And, Hugh definitely has our economic interests in mind.”

Kerry could have sworn she saw her mother’s cheeks flush just a bit when she said the lawyer’s name. This wasn’t right. None of it. If she could casually call or text Alex right then and there, she’d be asking the local resident mage what he knew about vampires and whether vampires could whammy someone’s mind and make them compliant and cooperative. And now something twisted in Kerry’s gut.

What if Tricia had used the excuse she made on Kerry’s behalf as an opportunity to isolate Kerry’s mother and expose her to the vampire, intentionally? And what if Hugh was doing this kind of thing to all the city councilmembers?

Or maybe she was reading too much into this moment, just because she was trying to deal with the existence of magic.

“Well, good news,” Kerry said, circling back even though her mother hadn’t acknowledged it. “That buyer that Mx. Cardoso said they knew might be interested? She’s in town. I actually met her, and she definitely is the kind of person who would have our city’s interest at heart. I’d love to have you meet her. Maybe tomorrow?”

Kerry’s mother waved her hand. “I don’t think we have to worry about that any more. I’m going to put my support behind the Silphium plan at the next city council meeting. If you want to keep helping Ms. Anholts with her research into the history of the old mayor’s house, you’re welcome to, of course, and please be careful when you do. It’s terrible what happened to Cody today.”

“Yeah, it is,” Kerry agreed. “But, wouldn’t you like to at least hear more about the alternate buyer or actually meet her before you make up your mind?”

“I’d hate to set Mx. Cardoso’s friend up to believe that she might have a chance when we both know that Silphium has enough money to outbid any offer she might put on the table.” She stood and took her water glass to the dishwasher. “Well, I’m going to get some sleep. You should probably go rest, as well. You didn’t have an easy day, did you, sweetheart?”

Usually the little hug and kiss to the forehead that her mother gave her would send a spark of comforting reassurance through her, but tonight, Kerry only felt a deepening sense of dread.

~*~*~*~

 If Kerry could have reached out to anyone for comfort and reassurance that Saturday night as she settled into bed with the sure knowledge that something had happened to her mother, and whatever it was that had happened wasn’t good, it would have been Char.

But, each time she started to type up a text message to Char asking if she could call, each time that she contemplated just dialing Char’s number, she had to remind herself that Char had asked for space, and once again, Kerry would jam her phone back into the little nook in her nightstand where she left it on a wireless charging pad while she slept. 

Okay, Kerry, but what if Char only was so upset because Paxwood House affected her aura, too?

Look, I’m not saying that’s entirely impossible, but if that’s what I led with, she’d just think I was making up more stories to try and get her to listen to me.

So, how are you going to figure out if it’s Paxwood House messing with her or if it’s really how she feels?

She has class with Mx. Cardoso on Monday. It’s a school day. They can take a look at her and help her then. And after Mx. Cardoso takes a look at her, if she still doesn’t want to talk to me, that’s how I know.

Fighting with herself wasn’t Kerry’s favorite nighttime pastime, but it felt too weird to get in touch with a teacher this late at night–even if that teacher was a mage. And she didn’t remember to get Rowen’s number. And she couldn’t just text Char, considering it was Char who Kerry felt conflicted about. Nor could she talk with her mother, considering her mother might be under the influence of a vampire lawyer.

Then, when she grabbed for her phone again, looked at her list of text messages, she spotted the little text from Sly, the confirmation that they’d exchanged just to be sure that they both had the right number for each other.

Sly.

If they were friends, could she bother Sly this late? Would that be too weird for a new friendship?

Well, there was one way not to be weird about it.

  • Kerry: Want to hang out tomorrow?
  • Sly: I’ve got the opening shift at the antique shop, but you can come hang out with me there. It’s usually pretty dull Sunday mornings before Memorial Day weekend.

The response came much more quickly than Kerry would have expected. Maybe Sly was up late, too? At least it didn’t seem like Sly was offended by getting texted after midnight.

Kerry tucked her phone back on the charging pad one last time, rolled over, and went to sleep. She had a plan. She could deal with everything else tomorrow.

Episode 20: An Unexpected Concession

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