Although her blood ran hot and her feet begged her to run, she simply glided through the temple doors. Two hundred years of waiting could not be ignored, but there was still time left, she decided, pressing her arms closer together to ward off the cold.
Besides she had a grand entrance to make.
Maybe it was the voices of her foremothers egging her on, but she reminded herself that she had nothing to prove. It stilled her heart, made her remember her steps were now leading her down the path she had been trained a lifetime to take. She belonged here just as much as any man that walked these halls.
When three monks approached her at the center of the temple, she bowed graciously.
“Who are you?” asked one, stepping forward.
“Shamira,” she said calmly.
The monk shook his head. “I did not ask your name. I asked who you were. Our guards would not have allowed you this far had you no business with us.”
Nodding, she reached into the cloak she wore and pulled out her necklace carefully. How she loved it so – layer upon layer of gold squares laid upon her chest.
“I am the guardian of the land, the sea and the sky,” she said proudly. “And you have something that I need back.”
Bowing just too quickly, the monk spoke. “It is an honor to meet you. But, as you may imagine, returning after nearly two centuries of nonexistence has left us…disorganized. Perhaps we can grant you lodging and seek a better time to discuss this.”
“No,” said Shamira. "This is an urgent matter."
The monk to the right scoffed. “Such rudeness! These years have caused all respect to cease…listen here, girl! You will not be getting your miraculous box! They are here for safekeeping. Perhaps your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother did not tell you.”
“I am no girl,” she said, deigning to turn to the monk. “I am a woman. A woman protecting her country and protecting you from a grave danger.”
“We know of this Hawkmoth. He is being taken care of by the holders of the ladybug and black cat miraculouses,” said the monk to the left.
Shamira shook her head, finding comfort and power in how her necklace chimed with each shake. “I do not speak of Hawkmoth. I speak of circumstances surrounding the new holder of the unicorn miraculous.”
“A baseless rumor!” said the monk to the right. “A tale to put the children to sleep…this brought you all the way here from…”
“America. The United States,” said Shamira.
“A wasted trip indeed.”
“And the video that I have of a young woman using this miraculous,” Shamira grinned. “I suppose that would also be poppycock?”
The two monks turned to the one in the center. He frowned, stroking his beard thoughtfully.
“Show us this ‘vid-e-ah’ you speak of.”
Smirking, Shamira pulled a cellphone from one of the folds of her cloak. “Gladly.”
“It is so tiny…” whispered one monk as the three huddled closer.
She had no trouble finding the video. Begrudgingly taking one hand from her cloak’s warmth, she hit play and tilted the screen for the monks to view.
Immediately, the scene was set. An empty alleyway decorated with trash bins and low light. The camera had apparently been set by some stairway above as the picture was long and just distant enough for the monks to squint.
But the figure that broke onto view from the night could not be mistaken.
“Oh my GOD,” said the woman, clad in a silver suit. The suit was only cut by a white streak in the middle. A horned band stuck out from white braided hair and the fluffy tail to the back of the outfit swished as the woman paced. She awkwardly clutched a long wooden staff barely visible in the dark. “This is CRAZY!”
A loud bang could be heard somewhere off camera and the woman turned suddenly, silver eyes bugged wide before her body simply disappeared into thin air.
In front of Shamira, the monks seemed restless and eager. One placed a wrinkled hand on the phone to further steady the image.
Meanwhile on the video, only a beat passed and the woman’s voice rang out again.
“What was THAT…AHH! My staff is gone…how did I lose it already…but I can still feel it in my hands…wait…wait…WHERE ARE MY HANDS!?!”
A loud clunk could be heard before the woman and the staff (albeit on the ground) glitched back and forth into visibility like television static.
“Spooky,” said the woman, turning her hand to and fro. It slipped once again between invisible and visible and she flexed her fingers curiously.
“WHAT ARE YOU?” cried a voice off screen.
The woman looked up, squinting.
“Huh?” she asked, picking up her staff.
“WHAT. ARE. YOU?”
“Oh! I’m ready for this one!” She leant back, handling her staff with care, and posed her face with hooded eyes. Shamira supposed the woman meant to share a look of intrigue. Instead, she seemed like a drunkard. “I…am Fantasia.”
The gunshot that rang out made the monks jump. Luckily, on video, Fantasia had enough awareness to block the shot with her staff.
A moment of silence passed.
“DID YOU JUST SHOOT AT ME!?!”
“YES! AND I’M GOING TO DO IT AGAIN!”
“UGH!” Her staff was raised above her head and twirled. Though she seemed lost in the moment, she looked more fearsome than before. “ORACLE AWAKEN!”
A blast of light erupted from the staff and Fantasia closed her eyes against it. Bright and overbearing, the light evaporated from existence just as quickly as it had come. When the video was coherent once more, there was a man in a ski mask stumbling toward the heroine.
Fantasia rubbed an eye with her free hand.
“I’m so sorry, miss!” said the would-be attacker. His voice had gone softer, smoother. As if he’d been a child playing bad just moments ago. “I’m scared…I just lost my job and it was just at this hole in the wall diner. I’ve been trying to build up money to buy my girl a ring and…”
“HEY!” said Fantasia, pointing her staff just before the man made to hug her. Her eyes were still narrow slits. “You were about to KILL me. Back off! Just because I can’t see you doesn’t mean I won’t whack you.”
“Look I know that I attacked you - I know! And a few moments ago, nothing could have made me stop. But the crazy thing is that I don’t want to do it anymore. Not any of this,” said the man. “I just want this feeling to stop. Help me! Please!”
As the video drew to a close, Fantasia reached out a hand, her eyes now widened with concern.
The screen went black and for a moment, no one spoke.
Then Shamira slammed the phone onto the brick floor and followed the action by stomping it with her heel. Though she wore only sandals, there was a satisfying crunch beneath her toes.
“The only copy,” she explained, looking up.
“But…how…we have never housed a unicorn miraculous,” said a monk.
Their leader shook his head. “And we never will. Magii, the kwami of revelation, is not obtainable through such means. He has made himself nothing but a whisper in our grimoires. He will not be captured and instead seeks his holder himself from the purest heart.”
“Then there is no need for worry,” said the other monk, giving Shamira a confused glance. “Did Magii’s tales not indicate that he could not be used for evil?”
“This is true,” said Shamira. “And if the woman were alone, I would not be here. But she has the utmost misfortune of being the romantic partner of a Jason Hyde. Mr. Hyde is a man of great intelligence…and great power. I believe he intends to come here, to your temple, and steal a miraculous for his own. Once he was made aware of Magii’s existence, his hunger could not be satiated. And the only thing a man in power desires…is more power.”
One of the monks – the one that had stayed to the right – was not a fan of hers, Shamira decided. He flattened his lips against his face, his voice judging. “And you know this how?”
“I am the guardian for the Americas. It’s my job to know things. And I take that job seriously,” she said. Best to keep it simple. Cryptic.
The leader smiled a tired, gentle smile. “We appreciate your concern, Shamira. But we are quite capable of protecting ourselves. There is no need to release another miraculous box into the world for just the reason you described. But we are grateful for the knowledge of the unicorn miraculous. Such an existence-”
“LORD KHARMA!” screamed a voice. The monks turned and a boy ran to them, looking far too young and far too thin. “LORD KHARMA! THE PRIMAL BOX! IT IS GONE!”
“Rubbish, child,” said one of the monks. “I saw it just this morning.”
The boy made to speak again when a guard jogged behind him, his face an identical look of horror and confusion.
The leader, Lord Kharma, turned to Shamira. “You….did you know of this?”
“I was warning you of this,” said Shamira. Willing her anger down, she breathed heavily. “That man has more resources than you could possibly imagine had you existed from our time. And now? Over one hundred and seventy years out of the game? I could have teleported here and he would have taken them all the same.”
Lord Kharma’s eyes remained steel. “Grab a woman and have her search our new friend Shamira. Go into the land. Search everywhere. Of all the boxes, that one could not haven gotten far. It would take a mammoth to move so many miraculouses at once.”
“And what of my miraculous box? The one rightfully belonging to me from my ancestors?” asked Shamira.
“You prove your innocence to me,” said Lord Kharma, “and you will receive your miraculous box.”
His voice rang out all edges and barbs
“Do I have to do everything around here myself?”
Angie’s breaths came out in huffs as she begged the frosting piper in her hands to stop shaking. How she hated this kitchen, too large and too grand. She would never admit it out loud, but she yearned for the cramped corners and countertops of her childhood. Angie missed the small, colorful patterns on her mother’s kitchen wallpaper. Everything was so far away and so white in the mansion.
“I’m sorry, Jason,” she said, gulping as she finished the rim on the cake. “Getting it right now.”
Setting her utensil down, Angie pressed her glasses back to her face as she padded to the fridge. On a counter looking quite fat sat Magii, her kwami, in a bowl of sugar. He did not bother her with a glance as she struggled to find Jason’s beer. Pulling one out and shutting the door, Angie jumped when Jason’s voice rang out.
“SLAM MY FRIDGE AGAIN!”
Angie stood in the kitchen a moment more. Now the beer bottle shook and it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t when she had to fix his anger before it ballooned further.
Shuffling into the living room, Angie set the beer down on the end table. The bottle sat so still on its coaster. As still as she did now staring at her boyfriend.
“I didn’t mean to slam the door,” she said quickly. Jason was facing the television, his eyes unmoving. But she did not miss the testing stretch of his lower jaw. “I’m sorry. I…I just wanted to shut it.”
“Shut it softer next time,” he grumbled, picking up his beer without looking. “You finished Emile’s cake yet?”
“Yes,” she said, quite glad she had succeeded in something to please him. “Yes, it’s ready.”
Every time she hoped he would compliment her. Even a rough ‘good’ like she had imagined time and time again. A smile would be nice too.
But he simply tasted his beer.
“You make a better door than you do a window,” he said, rough.
“Oh,” she said, hurriedly stepping out of the way to sit on the couch.
More coverage on the strange temple that had appeared in Tibet. Angie frowned. Magii had remained uncharacteristically silent on the matter except to admit his displeasure at Jason watching the coverage nonstop.
To her, of course, she thought with a mixture of frustration and pride. No matter what Jason said or how loud he chose to say it, Magii remained silent, claiming he could only speak to his chosen.
Angie couldn’t get confirmation from the kwami, but she felt strongly that this was a lie.
It was always the quiet that made her too brave. Though both were seated on the couch, Angie felt miles away from Jason, much like she did at the dining table and their bed and their limos.
How she missed the days before Jason’s career had taken off.
“Have they…has anyone from the temple made a statement?” she asked.
“WHAT?” he said snappily. “Speak up, for God’s sake.”
Angie crumbled. “The temple. Has anyone from the inside come out?”
“No,” he said simply.
Waiting for more, Angie was only met with the sound of Jason inhaling sharply. She decided to watch the television – why oh why was it so large and so far away? – but found her mind wandering everywhere and nowhere at once.
The ringtone from Jason’s phone made her jump.
“Are you going to get that.” A statement. Not a question.
She stood, moving as fast as her feet could manage and snapping up the phone from the end table at the other end of the couch.
“It’s an ‘A.B.’”
“ANSWER IT NOW!”
And so she did, pressing the speaker function.
The voice that greeted her made Angie tense. “Who is this? Where is Jason?”
“I’m here, Audrey,” called Jason from the couch. “Bring me the phone, babe.”
The possibilities raced in her mind as Angie walked. Her eyes caught the glimmer of one of Jason’s platinum albums on the wall. An event coordinator for his upcoming tour? No. This woman was far too haughty sounding to hold much of a job at all. A dedicated fan? It would not be the first time Jason had grown too friendly with a ‘superfan,’ Angie thought dejectedly.
It was a moot point anyway. She handed the phone over and immediately Jason shut the speaker off. It bothered her – the small detail. He never bothered to hold the phone when he spoke, selecting instead to use speaker and set the phone where ever he pleased.
This Audrey, whoever she was, was important to him indeed.
Angie stood behind the couch, her left hand clasping her right arm.
“Sorry about that, Audrey,” said Jason, voice now even and calm. “Was the girlfriend. What do you got for me?”
A poke at Angie’s back made her turn to find Magii behind her holding a familiar looking flash drive.
“I thought we were heading out,” he said, his cute British accent picking up hopefully.
Sighing, Angie motioned toward Jason. “I never got the chance to ask him.”
She did not miss Magii’s eye roll.
“How else will your friends read your latest draft?”
Jason’s head turned slightly as he spoke and Angie panicked, making a shooing motion. “Later…later…”
Magii’s grumble made her worry. Had she been cruel to him? It would break her heart if that was so. As hard as life could be, Angie desperately wanted the best for her kwami. Even though she had been his holder for a short month, she adored him. He was pleasant enough company when Jason’s work took him on the road and she was confined to the yawning rooms upon rooms of the mansion. Just because she was unhappy didn’t mean that Magii should be.
She would be sure to buy more sugar soon. How the kwami ate so much and remained so leveled never ceased to astound her.
Angie didn’t realize she was smiling until Jason’s laugh boomed out and caused her to back away.
“That many? While the guys were still there at the temple? HILARIOUS! That is WONDERFUL! Fuck…that’s amazing, Audrey. If it wasn’t for that old man of yours, I’d be in Paris right now in your bedroom.” Jason laughed. Laughed. A painful pause let Angie turn, hiding the fallen look on her face. “Oh, Ang is into all types…we could have a lot of fun, the three of us.”
Angie felt exposed and isolated all at once. It wasn’t unlike Jason to mention Angie’s attraction for women. There had been countless awkward encounters with women whom she had no romantic interest in that Jason shared her identity with anyway. Or as much of her identity as he was able to comprehend, it seemed.
It usually left her discouraged, finding a corner to hide in. Something about this woman being on the phone – Angie knowing nothing about her – made her stomach churn all the more.
He had claimed he had never been unfaithful – not with the groupies or the collaborations with celebrity artists or random women on the streets. But the women’s faces would gather in her mind at night all the same. They made her study him longer at times, wondering if the last vestige of the integrity of their relationship was only a breath away from breaking.
“Pssh,” said Jason behind her. She dared a glance and watched his arm raise a lit cigarette to his lips. “When did the French get so prude? I’ll stop, Aud. By all means…continue.”
The comfort that Angie felt was short-lived when blue eyes filled her peripheral. She blinked, almost losing her glasses in her fright.
“Come on,” whispered Magii, dancing the flash drive to and fro in his paws like a watch to the hypnotized. “While he’s distracted.”
Biting her lower lip, Angie dared a peek at Jason. He did seem terribly engulfed in his conversation. Tugging at the sleeves of her cardigan, she sighed. “My friends can’t see you. I don’t have any pockets with this outfit.”
Magii nodded up, smiling wide. “Your beret.”
Angie placed a hand on her head, quite forgetting the black beret. It was velvety to the touch and her fingers warmed at the pleasure of recalling her outfit. Despite no words from Jason, it was a particularly cute one today. “Oh. That could work.”
Without another word and with a wide grin, Magii shoved the flash drive into her hand and flew upward. Angie jolted when she felt him settle on her head. She felt guilty when worry for her hair overtook her, but it had taken hours to do. She doubted that Jayla would be pleased to find her hard handiwork wasted, no matter how divine the cause.
Well, if she could tell her friend about the kwami, that was.
Jason was busied with his conversation, quite the long one at that, and Angie had grown bold with Magii’s words and the desire to see her friends. As softly as she could manage in her black flats, Angie stepped to the hallway leading to the foyer.
When Jason’s voice rang out again, she did not even have it in her to be shocked.
“Where are you going, Angie?” Agitated. He sounded agitated. As if he knew his Audrey would not abide his usual tone, but had to express his anger in the socially acceptable way.
Angie held up the flash drive. “Gonna let the girls read my novel’s update.”
Jason shook his head. “Send it on the computer. Can’t go out this late…especially dressed like that.”
That was a black polka-dotted shirt with a cute bow at the neck and tucked in at the bottom into a tan skirt hitting just below the knee. Her arms were covered in her green cardigan and her legs in dark hosiery. She frowned, noticing her legs and the misunderstanding that could have occurred.
“But these are hose. Not my legs,” she countered.
He only had to send her a warning glance for her to drop her arm and nod.
On the way by him, she could feel Magii moving restlessly in her beret. Angie merely stared at the floor and walked toward another long hallway, another empty series of white walls.
“Thanks so much for this, Audrey. Like I said…you can count on me and my boys,” said Jason, his voice just fading away with his cigarette light as Angie took slow steps. “Before I let you go, how’s that daughter of yours? The superhero? Hadn’t seen much of Queen Bee on the news lately.”