Copyright © 2014 by Michael Litzky
Sally heard a scream of despair again but this time it was her own. Her hands grabbed at the steering wheel.
The house magic released Lavinia right then and she fell against Sally. The wheel turned sharply. The old camper skidded to the left with a scream and reared up on two tires.
Sally braced herself as it teetered.
But it flumped back onto all four tires, its green bulk nearly sideways, blocking the entryway. The engine died and Sally heard her pounding heart and Lavinia’s ragged breathing.
“Are you okay?” she cried.
“Yeah, whoosh.” Lavinia was undamaged enough to enunciate “whoosh” as a word. “I’m okay.”
There were no vampires in the back of the camper today. Lavinia had shooed them all out just before they left San Francisco that morning. Sally had a nightmare image of three white splats against the rear doors, squished into bloody sheets by the relentless force. Why had the house magic suddenly repelled Lavinia when it hadn’t for weeks?
“Sorry kid, wasn’t expecting it,” Lavinia said in a shaky voice. With tears in her eyes, Sally wrapped her arms tightly around her. She could barely remember how angry she’d been. Lavinia accepted the comfort, her breath hitching and catching. Without warning, she clutched Sally so tightly and with such desire that Sally’s fears about Lavinia tiring of being human seemed ridiculous.
A good crisis serving as marriage counselling. Not as sweet as an affectionate cat, but effective. Sally remembered that bitter argument with Callista, years ago, which Cinnamon had diffused. They’d been lying in bed facing each other, Sally yearning for touch but filled with the cold hard marble of tears that she refused to shed. Callista’s voice, raspy and petty with anger, raked across Sally’s feelings like claws.
Then paws walked up their sides and Cinnamon’s wise green eyes looked down at them. He settled his body in the V of blanket between them, purring, and did something which made Sally’s eyes go wide. Stretching out his forelegs he put a soft right paw on her cheek and a soft left paw on Callista’s. With his warm rough tongue he licked Sally’s face. And when Callista said, “What, no kiss for Mama?” he leaned his head over and licked her too.
He’d purred against them for a few minutes. Then a bug had flown through the room and he’d launched himself to catch it, leaving them both breathless. Sally and Callista, argument forgotten, had melted into an embrace.
Lavinia started up the camper again. It had easily skidded sideways so that it filled the entry ramp but pointing it in the right direction again involved cranking the wheel (no power steering) all the way to the left, backing up an inch, cranking the wheel all the way to the right, going forward an inch, and repeating these actions innumerable times.
Watching Lavinia capably handle the balky old vehicle with lips set and eyes forward, Sally thought, the fury of a second to get into a mess; hard and delicate work to get out. “I love you,” she said huskily and was relieved to see Lavinia flash her a smile. I trust, then I doubt, then I trust, then I doubt. That’s never going to change. She remembered the endless night when she thought Lavinia gone forever and felt how thin the membrane was that kept her from that pit of lonely sorrow.
At last they were straightened out and Lavinia drove the camper to her old spot and parked. They got out and closed the doors at the same instant, the whump reverberating like thunder in the echoing garage. Sally confidently put out her hand, Lavinia took it without thought and they clumped across the dirty concrete. For a while, they’d lost the sense of “home” together but she felt it stronger than ever now.
Realization slammed her. That was it, wasn’t it? When they drove into the building they’d been arguing. They hadn’t felt at home with each other. And when Sally had flung away her anger, the magic had released Lavinia instantly.
She stared at Lavinia as they pushed through the overly-heavy pneumatic door and climbed the clunking stairway in flickering fluorescent light. If I ordered her to get out right now, she’d be hurled into the cold. Or maybe flung to the walls and crushed!
She felt tired. She didn’t want the power to lose Lavinia forever in a temporary snit.
They entered Lavinia’s old apartment together, Sally still staring. Lavinia turned to face her, put her hands on her hips and raised her eyebrows demandingly.
She had promised never again to keep back anything that could be important. But how could she tell Lavinia this?
Amanda Malreaux, on the rare occasions when she got sick, made a good invalid. She was impatient with herself but kind and full of gratitude to everyone else. Sister Phillipa, who was Welsh and called everyone “luv,” brought her a big bowl of chicken soup made like her Gran used to make it with pearl barley, potatoes and leeks.
“Stop frettin’, luv, you’ll be at your work again in two shakes,” she admonished as she set the bowl down. “Ye’d be so cross, now, if a sister treated a lass the way you treat yourself.”
Sister Amanda accepted the playful scolding with downcast eyes. She was embarrassed at the presumption of what she’d done last night, but eager to do more. And now she was sick through the simple, foolish act of not dressing warmly enough.
As she coughed up a wad of junk, Sister Phillipa looked at her with worry. Sister Amanda smiled reassuringly and ate her soup.
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