279: Along For The Ride

on September 5, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Mackenzie Keeps It Under Her Hat

Suzi held out a long black coat and a wide-brimmed hat as Kai opened the door. The bigger cat girl looked at me, tilting her head to the side and gazing owlishly at me.

“What?” I asked.

“Need more hairbrush, please,” she said, then reached out and batted at my head. I jerked back.

“We don’t have time,” Kai said, taking the coat and hat from Suzi and handing them to me. “Put these on.”

I didn’t argue. I could hardly have looked less conspicuous with the hat pulled low over my face, but I wasn’t going to complain about the get-up… it beat the hell out of going out in the cold night air with nothing but Sooni’s handiwork to protect me from the cold. The coat didn’t feel magic… it would probably be a good idea to slap an insulation spell on it, I thought.

“Can you guys give me a second to…”

“No,” Kai said. She and Suzi hurried me downstairs, all the way down to the basement lounge. We came out into the sunken patio, out of sight of the street.

“Ooh, shit, that’s cold,” I said, as freezing air rushed inside the slitted dress. I felt like somebody had slapped an ice pack between my legs. On instinct, I jerked back towards the door, but Suzi grabbed me by the elbow and marched me forward.

She was stronger than I would have expected. Not in a Puddy way… she wasn’t any stronger than she could have been without serious magic, but she was definitely stronger than she might have been. Kai signaled for us to stop at the end of the patio. I pulled the collar of the coat up over my face and tried to use my breath to warm my cheeks while she headed partway up the stairs, then stopped and climbed the cinderblock wall to poke her head above the ground.

“Go, go, go!” she said, ducking back down. Suzi gave me a shove, Kai grabbed my hand and started pulling me up towards the street level while Suzi pushed.

The whole sneaking-out-incognito thing might have been kind of exciting, if it hadn’t all been so surreal.

Also, I probably would have managed to stumble a lot less on the way up the stairs if they hadn’t been “helping” me.

A sleek black carriage with opaqued windows pulled up over the curb and onto the sidewalk as we reached the top of the stairs. Kai hopped up and opened the door and Suzi pushed me inside. The carriage was in motion as soon as my feet were off the ground.

“Why, Miss Mackenzie… I was starting to worry you weren’t coming, after all,” Sooni said while I scrambled into my seat, panting and shivering. The door swung closed and the carriage lurched as it went down off the curb.

“I know you were,” I said, trying to get my chattering teeth under control. “That’s why you put Kai on me, remember?”

“You do say the silliest things, Miss Mackenzie,” she said. She held up a gloved hand in front of her mouth and giggled. “Why don’t you take off that coat and hat?”

The air inside the carriage was warm on my skin, so I did so.

“Um… why don’ t you put the hat back on?” Sooni said.

“Sorry,” I said, slipping it on again. “I just got out of the shower and I didn’t have time to really…”

“Shh,” she said. “Just let me look at you for a moment.”

While she did that, I looked at her. She was wearing a glittering red dress, with a high neck that went around behind like apron strings and a cut-out over her cleavage. I wondered if she had made it herself, too. That was assuming she actually had made the black dress… I wouldn’t put it past her to count her contribution in selecting and handing over the money for a dress to be tantamount to that of actually designing and fabricating it. Her absurd hair was up in a tall beehive, with a single braid hanging down by the side of her face like an overgrown out-of-place hair. Her earrings each had three red beads strung on a black cord. She was… I had to admit… the very picture of elegance, if you could look past the ugly, clunky, oversized sandals she was still wearing.

Her eyes had ended up in the same place as mine.

“Oh. Are those really the nicest shoes you own?” she asked.

“How many shoes do you think I have?” I asked her. If she’d wanted me to have nicer footwear, she should have done something about it. Considering that she’d given me stockings and garters, why hadn’t she thought of it in the first place? “Anyway, you’re one to talk.”

“What do you mean?”

I pointed at her sandals.

“Oh, do you like them?” she asked, swinging her feet like a little kid. “My mother picked them out for me.”

“Well, your mother has some pretty weird tastes,” I said.

Okay, so maybe Dee or Amaranth would have had some words to say about me insulting somebody’s mother… but I didn’t think it was all that, what I’d said. Sooni’s reaction, though, was completely overblown. Her lip started to tremble, and her big black eyes filled up with tears.

“Wah!” she said. And I mean that… she actually said “wah”, like it was a word. The strange part is, she really was crying. “Y-y-you hate my mother’s shoes!”

“I don’t!” I said. “I don’t hate your mother’s shoes!”

Her mother’s shoes? A moment ago, they’d been shoes her mother had picked out. It was amazing how fast she could change things around in order to make things more dramatic.

“You do!” she said, blubbering louder and louder. “You hate them!”

“No, I don’t!” I said. “They… they suit you.” They kind of did, anyway… at least, it was hard to picture her without them.

“Say more nice things!”

“They… show off your feet?” I said, looking at her tiny toes with their red-painted nails that looked like little beads.

“Say you love them!” she yelled. “Say you love my shoes!”

‘I… uh… I’ve had dreams about them,” I said.

“Okay,” she said, drying her eyes. She pulled a tissue out of her handbag and blew her nose, then another one to dab at her eyes. “Oh! I have champagne,” she said. She pulled a cloth napkin off of a bucket beside her seat. “See?”

“Sooni, I’m not a good person to be drinking,” I said. “And we’re underage, and there are reporters all around…”

“They would not dare to intrude upon our moment,” Sooni said. She pulled out two tall, narrow flute glasses and handed them to me, then pulled the bottle out of the ice bucket. She popped the cork off it and tipped it towards one of the glasses in my hands. “Say ‘when’!”

“When,” I said, before the fizzy liquid had even begun to flow. Once the bubbles had gone down a bit, the glass was about half full. “That’s plenty,” I said, and I started to pull the glass back but Sooni topped it off.

“Hold it still!” she said. “I don’t want to waste any.”

She took the other glass from me and filled it about a third of the way up.

“I’m going to go easy,” she said. “I don’t have as much experience as you do, and I don’t want to forget anything about tonight.”

“What, you think I go out every night and get drunk?” I asked.

“Hush, Miss Mackenzie,” Sooni said. “You needn’t talk about your sordid past. We’re putting that behind us. Drink up, before it goes flat.”

I slowly lifted the glass towards my face, looking at it dubiously. I was just about to take a first… and possibly last… experimental sip, when Sooni shrieked, “Wait!

“Fuck!” I said, sloshing wine on my hand and the front of my dress. “What?”

“A toast!” Sooni said. “A toast to… friendship! And the power of love!”

“Um, okay,” I said, holding my glass immobile while Sooni clinked hers against mine.

“I feel so sophisticated,” she said, then she put a finger up to her nostrils. “And my nose burns.” She looked at me. “Does that mean it’s working… hey, you aren’t drinking.”

“You know, we made the toast, so I don’t think I need to actually drink it,” I said.

“But if you don’t drink, it won’t come true,” she said.

“It’s a toast, not a wish,” I said.

“You don’t believe in the power of love?”

Of course I believed in the power of love. How could I have had somebody like Amaranth in my life and not believed in that? I wasn’t going to say that, though. Just to forestall any further arguing, though, I swallowed a mouthful of the stuff.

“There!” Sooni said. “Now the toast is official. I’m so glad we’re friends now, Mackenzie. We were enemies for so long…”

“We only met a month ago, Sooni,” I said.

“Yes, I remember,” she said. “You were so angry, so bitter that night. I told you that you had nothing to prove to me, but you insisted on fighting.”

“You made fun of me and then walked away, snarking with your nekos,” I said.

“You’ve come so far since that night, so long ago!”

“Yes… yes I have,” I agreed, then emptied my glass.

If I’m very lucky, I thought, I won’t remember any of this tomorrow.

Oh, and champagne? Tastes awful, for the record. I didn’t even like grape juice that much to begin with. I couldn’t imagine why anybody ever thought it would a good idea to wait until it went bad and then bottle it.

“Let me pour you another glass,” Sooni said.

“No, that’s fine,” I said. “One’s plenty.”

“Yes, but, you spilled most of that, so you haven’t had one yet,” she said. She filled my glass back up to the top and then poured a bit more for herself.

“Sooni, seriously, I don’t want to get drunk,” I said.

“You can’t get that drunk on champagne,” she said. “It’s mostly bubbles, right? You can’t get drunk from air, or we’d be drunk all the time.”

“Maybe so,” I said. “But, bad things happen when I lose control.”

“You won’t lose control with me here,” she said. “I won’t let you.”

I sighed. I didn’t know why Sooni thought she would have any say in the matter… maybe she thought that I simply wouldn’t dare to lose control against her wishes, or maybe she thought “the power of love” would save me. Whatever… it occurred to me then that she wasn’t human, and didn’t have any human blood inside her. If I did slip into a less-than-restrained mindset, she would be as unappetizing… and as safe… as Mercy had been.

With that in mind, I dutifully choked down a second glass.

“Hey! Do you think our mothers could be friends?” Sooni asked suddenly.


“Your mother and my mother,” Sooni said. “Do you think they might be friends with each other?”

“Sooni… my mother is dead,” I said, trying not to get upset. She might have forgotten, if she’d ever even known that. It was a ridiculous idea in the first place, given the size of the world and the number of people in it, but it was harmless.

“Yes,” Sooni said. “Do you think she could be friends with mine? Think about it… it would explain so much of what’s been happening.”

“What, you mean, if they had met?” I asked. “Yeah, I guess it’s possible they might have been friends.”

I didn’t think it was likely, even allowing for their paths to have crossed in the first place. My mother hadn’t really had a harsh word for anybody, but I couldn’t picture her hobnobbing with Sooni’s family. More to the point, I couldn’t imagine Sooni’s family hobnobbing with her.

“I will ask my mother,” Sooni said, beaming with pride as if this was the best idea in the history of ideas.

“You do that,” I said, holding out my glass. The third glass of champagne was a bit better than the first two had been. “Why was Maliko in the healing center?” I asked.

“She broke several of her limbs and ribs,” Sooni said.

“How did she do that?”

“Arguing,” Sooni said.

I felt a chill going down my spine. When Sooni started talking like she thought she was in a comic book, it was easy to forget just how dangerous she could be to those who were under her power. Of course, if she had been a comic book character, she’d either have to be a harmless kook or a homicidal lunatic. In real life, there wasn’t one type of crazy for the good guys and another for the bad guys… there probably weren’t even really good guys or bad guys, just people who did good and bad things.

“Could I have a bit more?” I asked, holding out my glass. Sooni held up the bottle and patted the seat beside her. I came over, and she poured the last of the champagne into my glass.

“Would you like to scratch my ears?” Sooni asked, leaning in towards me.

“I’d like to lick your breasts,” I said, then giggled and snorted at the same time I unwisely took another sip of champagne. The bubbles did burn your nose. Before I had recovered from that, Sooni’s red beaded handbag slammed into my face.

“No!” she said, swatting me again and again. “No, no, no! That’s gross and wrong!”

“Okay, okay!” I said. “Stop hitting me!”

“It’s too soon,” she said, settling down. “You have to wait until after dinner for that sort of thing, I think.”

“Would this be a good time to mention that I have no clue what we’re doing here?” I asked.

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to find out,” Sooni said, putting her handbag down beside her and smoothing out the front of her dress. “Together.”

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12 Responses to “279: Along For The Ride”

  1. pedestrian says:

    AlexandraErin, i must say that you are unrelenting in putting Mackenzie through the wringer. If she wants to adopt a motto, may i suggest: “May you live in interesting times”

    Current score: 6
  2. MackSffrs says:

    She can eat as much as she wants… and yet she can’t drink?
    Maybe it’s a thing:
    Vegetables are fine, but meat affects her.
    Water is okay, but alcohol affects her?
    Wow… what would church wine do to her?

    Current score: 3
    • Anonymous says:

      Demons are fire-elemental.

      What happens when you pour alcohol into a fire?

      Current score: 6
    • Anonymous says:

      Well didn’t they say that drinking drunk peoples blood doesn’t give her the alcohol but the feeling of intoxication? Alcohol may have a similar effect.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      I think you are looking at this wrong. Meat doesn’t have any special effect on her. Pork, which apparently tastes like people, apparently is delicious to her. Human flesh affects her but that’s because it’s human flesh.

      Alcohol doesn’t affect her in any greater way than it dose anyone else, it lowers inhibitions, but in her case this is more likely to result in her killing someone than it would for most people.

      Church wine would burn her throat and possibly cause internal bleeding since it would be blessed. It would probably be like drinking holy water.

      Current score: 2
  3. Anonymoose says:

    Well, seeing as how church wine is church wine because it’s CONSECRATED…

    Current score: 4
  4. Psi-Ko says:

    Meat affects her because it’s closer to her natural diet, nobody looked at a carrot and said “Yum, human flesh!”

    And how would water affect her? Forgive my ignorance, but even the lightest lightweight doesn’t.get.tipsy off H2O.

    Current score: 2
    • Daezed says:

      I would hope not…. It may be different in the ToMUniverse, but in this plane, humans are made of…. what… 60-70% water? And Mackenzie is at least half human… lol.

      That would certainly make things…. ‘interesting,’ to say the least! =D

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Actually only pork is an issue, and only because it tastes like humans. Though really I don’t think it’s as big a deal as she thinks. The first time involved strong mead, the second time she didn’t go all ‘Grr’, she just ate the bones – this freaked people out, but there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Hell, I kinda hate Amaranth for stopping her from eating them, she really seems to enjoy bones.

      She also ate bacon a number of times, it never seemed to be an issue, though bacon doesn’t really taste like pork.

      Current score: 3
  5. Anonymonus says:

    Alcohol has more to do with losing self control over her impulses imo.

    Besides our dear beloved author AE hates pork and thinks alcohol is made of evil. Puddy, Steff, Leda… Whoever drinks it turns rapey.

    Current score: 3
    • nobody says:

      Barley too.

      Current score: 2
      • PrometheanSky says:

        And Gabe. Especially Gabe. But Ian, Hazel, and Andreas son of Andreas have all been on their best behavior while drinking.

        Current score: 1