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Violet Velveteen

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Marco Sullivan, the devil himself, stood there in the doorway with one hand wrapped around a silver pistol, and the other clutching Julia’s petite waist. Frank froze, feeling the weight of his revolver sitting heavy in the pocket of his coat. A bead of sweat ran down his chiseled temple.

 

“And here, it ends,” Marco sneered, shaking Julia in his grasp. “I’ve got your girl, your job, and now, I’m gonna take your life.”

 

“You deserve the life you made for yourself, Sully. I tried to help you, but you wouldn’t listen. I’ve only got one thing left to say to you, now,” Frank says, hands lowering slowly, inching towards the gun against his ribs.

 

Marco barks a laugh and points his gun at Frank. “And what’s that, goodbye?”

 

A shot rings out and Marco chokes on blood, his grip loosening on Julia. She pulls out of his reach and staggers towards Frank, the kitten pistol clutched in her dainty hands is shaking. Marco stares up at her with an empty gaze, barely holding himself from collapsing on the floor.

 

Don’t you ever touch my girl again, you son of a bitch-

 

“Don’t ever underestimate my girl again, you son of a bitch-”

 

“Keep your mitts off my woman, bitc-

 

 

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You sit back, pulling your fingers through your hair. Thinking of dramatic lines was currently not your forte. However, it did keep your mind from going through the horrible possibilities tonight held for you. Holding back a shiver, you grab your mug and head to the kitchen to wash it out. You had designed a full day to keep your mind as busy as possible, but your tiny apartment was already cleaned and you were lacking creativity. You decide it was time to go to the grocery store.

 

You pull your shoes onto your feet and a long tweed coat around your shoulders. When you step outside, the air is crisp and whips around your legs, flaring the hem of your skirt. A short walk past the park leads you to the small grocer you visit for convenience, Charles’ . The shriek of the door hinges mingles with the pleasant chime of the bell overhead and you grab a wire basket from the stack by the door.

 

You begin to wander the short aisles and Charlie appears from the back door, croaking out a greeting and hobbling towards the register to wait on you. You return the greeting and continue to stroll the small grocer. Eggs, milk, basil, discount zucchini, could you afford chicken? Maybe you should’ve counted your tips from yesterday instead of listening to that late night radio show into the early hours of the night. Maybe Edgar and Petey should’ve tipped you.

 

After a quick count of your funds, you are disappointed but unsurprised. It would have to be another week of canned turkey and zucchini soup. If you left the eggs for oatmeal, though-

 

You empty the eggs from your basket and turn, yelping when a big bodied skeleton comes into view. With your hand clutched comically over your heart, Sans gives you a look.

 

“rude. i’m just standin’ here.”

 

“Sans! You scared me half to death, just appearing like that! When did you even come in?” you huff.

 

“a second ago. funny seeing you here.”

 

“Funny like ‘ha-ha’ or funny like ‘you scare people’?”

 

“funny like scary is what i do best and that ain’t the half of it.”

 

“Okay. . . whats up?”

 

“nothin.”

 

“. . . alright. Have fun shopping, then.”

 

“will do.”

 

You pull a face, sidle past him, and make your way to another aisle, brushing off his odd behavior. Hopefully, he was only stopping to pick up some cigarettes or something. You’ve got your hand around a canister of oatmeal when you notice his heavy footsteps closing in. He brushes past, barely making it through the narrow lanes and heads towards the collection of half-priced books at the front counter. Poor old Charlie shakes at Sans’ presence, but the skeleton just reads the titles on the spines.

 

With all you could afford gathered in your little basket, you decide it’s time to check out. Charlie jumps when you set your basket on the counter and you try to give him a comforting smile. He doesn’t return it, instead casting a whale-eyed stare at Sans.

 

“Did you want to check out, s-sir?” he croaks, voice wavering.

 

“nah,” sans says, straightening. Within the moment, he turns and stalks out of the grocer, the little door bell signaling his exit. How strange. It really was a shame Charlie was so afraid of him. Sans was intimidating, that much was clear, but you hadn’t seen him or his family do anything congruent with other bosses. Not that Charlie should smack them on the ass and call them his pals, but he wasn’t going to lose an ear over making eye contact with them. Come to think of it, he did lose his hand over some minor situation with the last boss of the area.

 

Now that the pressure had recoiled, Charlie began ringing up your items, hand shaking against the register. You felt bad.

 

“D-did he take anything?” the old man rasps, looking pointedly at the bookcase. You shake your head, ready to defend the monster but the turn of your eye catches the spine of a familiar title. Your heart stutters and trips a beat, a thrill runs up your spine. Your hand is slow, and gingerly pulls the novel from it’s siblings, almost trembling in disbelief. The cover is ragged around the edges and the face of MewMew’s lover is graffitied but it looks genuine. Misses MewMew Close’s the Bank, and it looked like the next in the series.

 

“Charlie, how much for this?” you ask, hoping he senses your desperation and gives you a discount.

 

“All those books are 3.75$,” he says, and you sulk. That was going to take half your groceries, unless of course you dine on oatmeal for the next few days, but you weren’t going to prioritize a guilty pleasure over essential food.

 

Charlie reads your total and begins to pack your things in a big paper bag behind the counter. You sigh, lifting the cover to catch a glimpse of the first scene. A bright pink slip of paper falls from the 1st page and lays itself against the checkered floor, a waft of stale and artificial strawberry running under your nose. You pick it up and upon reading let out a sharp gasp.

 

Charlie flinches and then begins to curse at you, but you can hardly hear him over the beating of your heart in your ears.

 

WRITING COMPETITION

 

After reading this novel, write your interpretation of how a scene may have gone differently. Send in your 3000 word segment and you have a chance to be featured in the next Misses MewMew novel!

 

You slam the novel against the counter, a glint in your eye. “Just this Charlie,” you say, barely holding back the excitement in your throat. He gets grumpy about having to re-charge you, but after a short exchange of coins, you’re out the door and almost running for your apartment.

 

Your smile beams and your new opportunity is tucked under your arm. This was your big break, this is the very moment of a new beginning. Picturing your future fantasy, you keen with delight. Your new apartment would be lavish, warm, bright. Fans would write to you daily, asking for advice in their love life and praising your poetic tales. Your handsome new suitor would be lounging in the velvet settee by the fire, reading a book of philosophy and growing sleepy. You’d pull his studious glasses from his chiseled nose and place a tender kiss against his weary eyelids, then his bony brow, across his pale knuckles, under his jutting collar bone, until he pulled you into his lap and-

 

You shake your head. It seems you’ve arrived at your apartment. Rushing in, you kick off your shoes and throw your hat into the corner, then settle into the cushions of your dirty old couch. You begin to read, and dive right back into the cheesy world of Misses MewMew and her collection of troubled suitors and distant evil relatives. The distraction is a welcome one, as you’ve completely forgotten about tonight and your probable, inevitable death.

 

 


 

 


Wings had been waiting for the phone all day. Did those humans not care about their daughter? They don’t even answer their own phone and Wings has to give a vague message through some dim-witted butler, then they don’t return his calls until the middle of dinner? The interruption pissed him off and they hadn’t seemed upset in the slightest, making demands and getting uppity.

 

You’re a liar, sir. We have a lead on our daughter within our city, and she is far smarter than to travel to your depraved neighborhood. You’ve made a mistake and I suggest you never call again.”

 

They were bad liars. After Wings had given an accurate description of their lovely girl and his knowledge of their family, they became very quiet, eventually hanging up on him. They’d call back absolutely.

 

After tonight, he’d be very familiar with the lovely thing, if they needed any further proof, he’d mention a hidden birthmark or smatter of freckles. Wings grins coyly, shrugging into a heavy, black trench coat. The restaurant he was taking her to was sure impress and with his charm and her receptibility, he looked forward to laying her down tonight and feeling her soft skin tremble against him. Stepping out of his room and downstairs, he spies Sans waiting dutifully, passed out on the couch. Wings raps his bony knuckles against his brothers skull and the younger skeleton jolts.

 

“Go get her for me,” Wings orders him.


 


 

 

 

 

You’re dreaming. It’s a good one too. Your head lays against his chest and the sea churns around your ankles. The sand is warm and sunset casts an romantic glow over your bodies. Your hearts beat as one as his fingers weave through your hair. You lift your head. Does he love you? He smiles and opens his mouth to answer. Three, hollow knocks fall from his lips.

 

The language of his people, how romantic.

 

Wait, no, that isn’t right. The fae speak in fae latin.

 

Your dream falls from your subconscious and you wake groggily, your cheek wet with drool and the pages of your novel sticking to the moisture. Three more knocks bang against your front door and you groan. Peeling your stiff body from the couch, you wonder what time it is. Your mind is a bit hazy, your stomach dimly growls, and you’re pissed the best part of your dream was interrupted. Whoever it was behind your door was going to receive a piece of your mind. With a grunt, you pull open your door.

 

“Do you have any idea what time it-” your voice dies in your throat.

 

Sans? What was he- Sans . The big brute had never before terrified you so completely, as his order from last night swarmed back into your recollection.

 

“wings wants you to be ready at ten tomorrow night. dress nice.”

 

You are definitely not dressed nicely. And he notices.

 

Sans gives you a once over, then curls his nose bone. “is that what you’re wearin’?”

 

No, you don’t even have shoes on. Your cotton dress is wrinkled from your nap. Your hair probably looks like a rats nest. You had to lie, quickly.

 

“I-I just got out of the shower, actually,” you stutter.

 

A dark look comes over his face and his sockets turn pitch black.

 

what ,” he growls and it sends a tremor through your spine.

 

With no way to reply to that, and your body already going through rigor mortis as it anticipated death, you try to assemble a smart thought.

 

“J-just give me a minute!” you yelp before slamming the door in his face and twisting the bolt.

 

Your instincts aren’t very smart, but you barely allow yourself to dwell on that horrible decision and rush to your room to find a decent dress to wear. You fling open your closet door and push your small collection of day dresses to one side, knowing nothing of those items will fit. Come to think of it, you’re probably going to be buried in whatever you’re wearing tonight, so did it really matter? Either way, you only had one dress that could pass as “nice”. It was something you had saved from your old life, one of the original pieces you had packed with you. The others either fell apart or you had to toss them because of the attention it got you on the street.

 

You don’t have time to decide and pull the silvery, beaded flapper off the hanger. Stripping yourself of your current dress, you slide the garment over your body and notice how luxurious the fabric feels. The silver satin is soft against your hips and the beaded tassels at the hem look like misty raindrops. It surprises you how low the neckline is and the thin beaded straps are absolutely scandalous, but again, no time to complain. Would your jacket look alright with this? You fly into the living room and let out a scream.

 

Sans lays a hand on your shoulder, gripping hard, a dark grin stretching across his face.

 

you ever slam that fuckin’ door in my face again, i’ll fuckin bury you alive . got it ?” he says quietly.

 

You nod your head, certain he can feel just how much you’re quivering. His eyelights return, but he looks no less angry.

 

“you have three . minutes .”

 

“Yes, thank you!” you reply meekly, wondering how he got in without breaking a window. You cower back into your room, closing the door as politely as possible, then begin counting.

 

Shoes. Did you have ones that matched? You ask yourself who you’re kidding, nabbing a pair of black kitten heels from your closet and yanking them on your heels.

 

30 seconds down.

 

You’ll nab your coat as you leave, in the meantime, you run to the bathroom to clean up. You splash water on your face, wipe up smudged mascara, and press your face into a towel. You pull your brush from the drawer and swipe it through your hair.

 

1 minute, 15 seconds down .

 

You pause to look at your face. You could do with a bit of makeup. You’ll do a better job than the coroner anyhow. The thought sends a spike of dread through your chest and you snatch at your few makeup items from the drawer. You swipe your powder over your skin and use your fingers to pat in some blush.

 

1 minute, 52 seconds down. It won’t matter anyways .

 

You swipe mascara onto your lashes and blink owlishly. That looks a bit better.

 

2 minutes and 10 seconds. The coroner is going to call your parents .

 

You pause, but grit your teeth and decide this isn’t the time to think of things like that. You take a red lipstick and gently pat your lips, then buff it in with your finger to create a soft look.

 

2 minutes and 35 seconds down. You’ll be dead soon anyways .

 

You stop. A shaky sigh rides your breath and you look back at the girl in the mirror. Her eyes are wide and frightened, hair unkempt and flat. You look broken already.

 

Broken .

 

It repeats in your ears. You couldn’t stand that look in the mirror. Broken and tired, hopeless. You wouldn’t let yourself be without hope, not again.

 

Straightening, you begin to work again, this time, pulling your hair back into a neat, romantic bun. You wonder if you can find a pretty pin to stick in the top but Sans beats on the door.

 

 

“time’s up, lets go,” he growls, voice muffled by the door.

 

Avoiding another test of his patience, you promptly exit the bathroom then go to look for your coat in the living room. Sans latches a hand around your wrist and you startle.

 

“close your eyes,” he demands, looking down at you grumpily.

 

You find his request strange but do so anyway. Once your eyes screw shut, the floor gives way beneath you, your stomach drops into your feet, and your mind screams out. You gasp at the sensation and your eyes pop open. Your hand reaches out to steady yourself. It finds purchase on a white cloth table and you’re shocked to see you’re in a completely different place.

 

You stand next to a elegant table which is pushed next to a balcony wall. Over the edge, you see a collection of other diners below, all facing a stage where a man sings the sweetest, softest jazz you’ve ever heard. The table next to you, which you assume is yours, is dressed with a single red rose placed in a crystal vase. The other tables are separated from you by pillars holding large arrangements of flowers. Everyone seems to have not noticed your sudden entrance, chatting quietly. Sans is nowhere to be seen.

 

The location is beautiful, but you keep little comfort. You’re alone. Vulnerable. If you took this moment to escape, you couldn’t walk home in this dress and had no money for a cab. You didn’t even know where you’d been taken.

 

You glance around you, flitting your eyes over suited couples in fanciful clothes who were completely uninterested in your presence. Which one of them would be involved tonight? Was this only a temporary meeting place? Were you a pawn, or a distraction? Where was Wings?

 

You make yourself take a deep breath. There wasn’t any point in panicking. Whatever the plan was, you just needed to focus on coming out alive. You needed to be smart. Don’t take any risks, don’t talk if you can avoid it, and don’t piss anyone off.

 

You rub your arms and take another look around. Where was Wings?

 

Softly, you hear your name from behind you, and you turn, already knowing the husky, gravely voice. Walking up to the table is Wings, dressed in a fitted black suit and dress shirt, a comfortable smile cracking his face. He stops just short of you and you catch his gaze flitting up your frame.

 

“My,” he whispers, “you look stunning.”

 

You look down at the dress and mismatched shoes, feeling a bit of heat in your cheeks at the compliment. “Oh. . . Thank you,” you reply, a little struck by his lilted tone. It felt out of place.

 

He steps forward and pulls your hands into his. “How are you this evening?” he asks, running his thumbs over the back of your fingers.

 

You eyeball him, thrown off by the cordialness. You figure responding with ‘ready to do your dirty work’ would violate rule no. 3, so you settle.

 

“I’m fine,” you trill and he pulls a face.

 

“Just fine? We’ll have to fix that, come, sit,” he motions to the table and pulls you to take a seat. He helps you into your chair, pushing it in with an ease you didn’t expect, then takes his own.

 

“Jock Tribiani is singing tonight,” he informs you, hands folding together on the table top, “I hope you like music.”

 

You can’t avoid the lifting of your brows. You’ve heard of him from the radio, and knew that he only sings in a few select clubs uptown. Peeking over the banister and at the stage below, you look over the singer with new interest. He’s good looking, in a boyish way, dressed in a bright red suit with a rose in his front pocket. You wonder if Wings had brung him to attention for a reason, and you side eye him.

 

“I’ve heard of him. It seems he’s very talented,” you say.

 

“I think so, too. His music is very romantic,” Wings smiles.

 

You wonder if the both of you are speaking in code, your mind raging with possibilities, when a waitress approaches the table. She lays down a couple of menus and gives a quiet introduction, pouring each you and Wings a glass of champagne. The menu is a black leather bound folder and you make yourself look busy with it, taking the moment to untangle your thoughts.

 

It seems you are uptown, which you don’t think is in Wings’ territory, which means he’s either brought the both of you here with permission of the territory’s owner or he’s here to cause trouble. None of the patrons or the waitress seemed bothered by him, so he must be expected or “people with his presence ” are expected to be here. If you aren’t causing aggravations betweens gangs… why else did he bring you?

 

You steal a glance from your menu, flushing when you meet his warm gaze. The corner of his mouth tugs and he drops his gaze to his menu. He’d definitely been caught watching you. You drop your eyes back to the safety of the entree list.

 

He was watching you think. Was it funny to him that you were completely clueless as to what was going on? Why did the glimmer in his eye feel like disaster? Your gut twists with uncertainty, and you feel your skin tremble.

 

“Excuse me for staring,” he chuckles, “you’re just so lovely this evening.”

 

Another compliment, and it sounded completely sincere. What was going on? A blush rises from your chest, you feel compelled to accept. “T-thank you,” you stammer. He sends you a smile and takes a slow sip from his glass.

 

The anticipation was suffocating. Why wouldn’t he just tell you what was going on? It wasn’t fair, being toyed with and emotionally manipulated. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was a date. . .

 

. . . A date. . .

 

. . . a date . . .

 

What did people do on dates?! Surely, this didn’t fit the criteria. You had to convince yourself. But, the restaurant was dimly lit, and the roses smelt bittersweet, and the music was quite romantic. Even then, it would be a tragedy if this were anything but platonic, a dinner between friends. How was he even interested in someone like you?

 

Wouldn’t it be better to pursue another monster? Someone he could have children with, and grow old at the same time with. Instincts should point him towards a partner of his own kind, not towards you. People thought about that sort of thing when they went out together. People naturally gravitated towards those of their own kind, right?

 

Peeking under your lashes, you see him engaged with the singer in the pit of the theater, smiling handsomely and supporting his chin with his wrist.

 

Exactly right, you insist to yourself, a perfectly reasonable idea. It was a responsible thing to think about when. . . choosing. . . a mate. Not that you thought of romance in such a primal way, it was just better to think of the future when being pursued! He wasn’t good for you anyhow. You adored his charm, but you had to keep reminding yourself he was dangerous. Perhaps not immediately to you, but certainly to others.

 

It was decided. You weren’t particularly interested, and you’d have to go about keeping this evening as “friendly” and uninteresting as possible. It would be safer to lose his interest rather than denying him flat out.

 

“What have you been up to today?” he asks, pulling you from your thoughts.

 

Keep it uninteresting. “I did a bit of writing and ran some errands,” you state shortly.

 

“Mm, fresh air is good for the mind. What were you writing about?” he presses.

 

You fiddle with the base of your glass. “Nothing interesting, a drama.”

 

He gives you a soft, scolding look. “Don’t be shy, I’d love to hear about it. I find drama to be a fascinating example of human behavior.”

 

You raise a brow. “How so?”

 

“Most of the time, the characters make obviously poor decisions. They pretend to consider the logical, and then pursue what they desire.”

 

You’re almost offended, but try not to take it to heart. “People aren’t like that at all. Bad writing is like that, but not people.”

 

He shrugs. “I’m not trying to aggravate you, I promise. I’ve just found that the predictability of my coworkers has led to my success.”

 

You smirk. “Your coworkers are like a bad drama?”

 

He takes the smile and rolls his eyes, nodding slowly in agreement. “You couldn’t imagine the simplicity. Greedy thugs with twitchy fingers are astoundingly dull.”

 

You smile faintly, but cast your eyes down. “Most people aren’t like that. Predictable.”

 

He folds his hands together. “What makes others different?”

 

“Their situation,” you argue, “life is too complex to label everyone a certain way. There’s a lot of people in this city who are in need, and maybe that makes some of them do bad things, but I have hope that there are good people, too. Stronger people.”

 

Wings hums. When he looks up from the table, his gaze holds an ounce of sweetness. “That’s a very kind way of thinking,” he hushes. You quirk your mouth in a gentle smile, your fingers twining together on top of the tablecloth.

 

“If we haven’t got hope, we haven’t got anything,” you say.

 

He nods. “Then, what about you? I know about your situation. Do I know everything about you?”

 

You shake your head. “You know only a small part of my past. You don’t know all of me.”

 

He grins and lifts his hand to settle it over yours, his thumb running across the back of your wrist. “ I’d like to know all of you .”

 

Your body stills, your face flatlining and your toes cease their curling. You expect your heart to drop into your stomach but it flips in your chest and flies into your throat. How completely unfair, how treacherous the heart was. How did this conversation get out of control? You were meant to keep things light, and now what were you going to do?

 

As gently as you can, you pull your hand out from under his, using it to adjust the stray twist of hair that fell from your updo. “We know each other,” you say, tossing in a short chuckle to soften the statement. It was an indirect denial, something you were trying to avoid altogether, but your plans have a habit of derailing lately.

 

He withdraws his hand, folding it underneath the other one. A smile falls across his face. “Of course,” he replies, seeming unbothered. You take the forgiving reply, a wash of relief running over you.

 

The waitress comes forth with impeccable timing. “May I ask what we’re having tonight?”

 

Wings smoothly gives his order, something you can’t pronunciate, while you try to pick something familiar. She takes the both of your menus and walks off. When you turn back to Wings, he appears to be enjoying the music down below. You decide to watch the performance with him, for a bit.

 

You didn’t want to assume he was fine with the subliminal denial, but you did feel better that he seemed to have taken it really well. Wings was smart enough to know what you had meant. You weren’t interested in him like that. Starting anything with him wouldn’t lead anywhere, and you wouldn’t feel safe ending the relationship if it started to not work out. . .

 

. . .

 

. . . But would it really turn out that way? Hypothetically, of course.

 

It was dangerous to admit it, but it was nice to be treated the way he treated you. It was nice to have him touch you and want you. He treated you with respect, and that was more than most people in this city have done for you. But. . . it was dangerous to admit all of this, so you didn’t.

 

Wings was turning things over in his head, struggling with where to go from here. She wasn’t interested. Why would she come to dinner if she wasn’t interested? Did she think he was too vulgar? Was she just getting a meal out of him? Was she playing games?

 

What made her come here? Surely, she would’ve felt comfortable refusing if-. . .

 

Sans .

 

Wings grit his teeth, his jaw clenching and fingers twisting together. Why did he trust Sans to ask you to dinner in an elegant way? His brother was not the most eloquent of the bunch, Papyrus would’ve been much better suited. Wings was going to dust Sans when he got home. This could easily ruin the rest of his evening plans. Wings would have to be very careful if he was going to take you home tonight.


 


 


After your plates arrived, conversation picked back up easily, but Wings was finding it difficult to smoothly turn the mood back around. He meant to flirt, to rasp his voice and astound you with his knowledge of the different quantic realms, but it just never came around to that. Instead, you talked about whatever pleased the both of you, mostly the city, philosophy, and literature.

 

“I can’t understand your distaste for fiction and fantasy,” you say, picking apart a creamy ravioli, “I figured you could relate to it the most.”

 

“Fantasy irks me because humans associate magic with everything. And then, they use it to fill in the gaps of reality and it’s not well thought out and I find it frustrating,” he explains.

 

“An example?” you request, grinning.

 

“Unicorns,” he provides, bony face scrunching up. “They’re supposedly magical creatures but they can be explained biologically. Magic is much more .”

 

You take a sip from your champagne and lick your lips. “What is magic, if you don’t mind me asking?”

 

He rubs the pad of his finger against his glass. “Magic? Why do you want to know about a thing like that?”

 

You shrug. “Up until now, magic wasn’t real to anyone. Neither were monsters but now you’ve both resurfaced. I don’t know anything about it, so I’m curious. I’m sure you get asked about it a lot.”

 

He shakes his head. “Honestly? Not really. They’re more interested in business deals. I don’t know if I can explain it properly either.” He puts a hand to his chin, you wait patiently.

 

When he’s ready, he begins. “Magic. . .  is measured by the will of a person's soul. It is what monsters are made of. We use it to defend ourselves, to attack, and to sense things. It is tangible and it varies in strength from monster to monster.”

 

“Monsters are made of magic?” you interrupt, “how is that?”

 

He grins at your curiosity. “It’s wonderful and complicated. Our form is determined by our souls.”

 

“Your soul? As in your personality?”

 

“It’s a more tangible thing. It’s the concentrated mass of our will, of our magic. It doesn’t determine our personality, however, it may do so in humans.”

 

You perk up.

 

“I have a soul?”

 

Souls were considered a spiritual thing. You’re mother raised you to believe in the flesh and blood God had made you from. You imagine a bright blue ball of gas within your chest, pulling on your heart strings and whispering to you your destiny.

 

“Oh, I’m sure of it,” he smiles, hands folding under his chin. “I’m sure you have a very bright soul, too.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“From what I know, humans have a range of different souls. Of course, I would have to see yours to tell you about it, but often a brighter soul is better than a dim soul.”

 

“Can I see mine?” you ask, growing excited. But, Wings shrugs, looking apprehensive.

 

“I could show you if you trusted me well enough. Though, I’d rather not, only because you’d be incredibly vulnerable, and I’d hate to make you uncomfortable.”

 

“I could handle it,” you defend, excited at the prospect of seeing your soul .

 

Wings chuckles.

 

“Mm, I’m sure you could. You’re very brave,” he hums. You feel a warmth blossom in your chest.

 

Down below, the crowd begins to clap as the singer finishes his last song of the night. He thanks the audience, and throws the rose in his front pocket to a young woman in the front row. Wings slides his fingers under yours, taking your attention.

 

“It’s getting late, isn’t it?” he says.

 

The night has gotten rather long, though you’d regret ending it here. You nod. “Could we take a walk? I haven’t gotten a chance to see the park, yet,” you ask.

 

“That’s a wonderful idea,” he smiles.

 

He motions for the waitress and instructs her to call the both of you a cab. The majority of people down below are making ways to shuffle out the front, while the band plays a last slow song. The both of you stand and Wings lays his coat over one arm and offers the other to you. You take it easily and he leads you to a small section behind a sway of velvets curtains. An older man in a gray suit sits with a young woman, the two of them going over paperwork. Upon your arrival, he looks up and opens his arms, looking nervous.

 

“Don Gaster, my good man! I apologize for not visiting during your meal,” the old man says, shakily pushing himself to stand.

 

“I preferred it that way, Kleingale, thank you. We were enjoying the evening,” Wings says as the man staggers over, then accepts the handshake given to him.

 

Kleingale looks you over and gives a warm smile. “What a lovely lady, a pleasure to meet you, dear. I am the grand manager of this old place, Timothy Kleingale.”

 

He offers you a handshake and you return it, introducing yourself. “The pleasure is mine, sir. You run a beautiful establishment. Dinner was divine.”

 

He begins to thank you, but Wings cuts him off. “I was wondering if you had those documents ready for me?”

 

“Oh, yes, of course,” Kleingale fumbles, reaching into his jacket to pull out a thick envelope.

 

“Ah, thank you. Prompt as promised, good man,” Wings smiles, tucking the envelope into his own jacket. “I’m so sorry to be so brief, but I’m sure you have other things to do.”

 

Kleingale nods almost a bit too enthusiastically. “Yes, you know me! A busy man, like yourself. Do excuse me. And, miss, it was wonderful to meet you, truly.” He pulls your hand between his own and squeezes it, a strained look in his eye. “Look after yourself.”

 

You’re unsure how to reply, as you feel he means to warn you about Wings. After all, it does look as if you’re a dinner date and not a friend. You settle on a thankful smile, and you and Wings exit the area. Back in the upper dining area, the both of you make for the stairs, marble and oak, and descend to the first floor. Most of the patrons have cleared out through the front and you do the same, heading for the large open doors where a crowd has gathered outside.

 

You step outside and feel the chill wind of the city float around you. Your skin prickles on your bare arms and legs, and you really wish Sans would’ve let you grab a jacket. No sooner do your arms wrap around yourself does Wings notice your chill. Without a word, he unfolds his heavy coat and drapes it over your shoulders, then leads you to a parked long black car. The coat is warmer than you’d imagine, and you wonder why he would need to be warm. You suppose “magic!” is the answer.

 

With his arm poised at the small of your back, wearing his jacket, and leaving a romantic dinner location, you can’t help but feel a dozen pair of eyes on your back.

 

“Is that a monster?”

 

“Shh, that’s Don Gaster.”

 

“What is that monster doing with a woman?

 

Wings holds open the door for you and you almost dive in, moving towards the furthest window. He slides in easily after you and instructs the driver where to go. Meanwhile, you ring your hands as you look out the window.

 

You hadn’t thought about it until just now, but you probably should avoid bringing attention to yourself. If the local paper took interest in the new monster Don, and the woman on his arm, that could spell disaster for your hiding spot in the city. Not to mention, other gangs would associate you with Wings, and you didn’t know if you wanted to take that chance. You pull the collar of Wings’ coat a bit tighter around yourself.

 

Outside, the glamour of uptown shined brighter than the silvery moonlight, with golden neon signs and the bright bulbs of theater fronts, the gorgeous flappers that littered the streets, decorated in pearls and feathers. It was a familiar scene. But, you needed to stay out of the light.

 

You weren’t worried. It would be easy to stay out of trouble, out of the public eye. No one was interested in a diner waitress who lived in a poor, run down apartment.

 

Wings tucked the envelope further into his jacket