Ballad a gathering of f.., p.15

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie, page 15

 part  #2 of  Books of Faerie Series


Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie

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Page 15


  Dee bit her lip. “I just thought—I just wanted to see —if you don’t want to, I mean, I don’t want to ruin, I mean … ”

  This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, and I just didn’t know what to say. I closed my eyes for a second, and then I took her hand. Goose bumps raced along my arms in an instant, and I closed my eyes for another second. I had the completely obsessive desire to find a pen and to write something on my hands. If I could just write kiss or WTF or mouthwash on my skin, I’d be able to sort this out.

  A car alarm went off, far away. I leaned forward and very softly kissed her lips. It wouldn’t change the world. There weren’t any choirs of angels that descended to attend our kiss. But my heart stopped and I didn’t think I’d ever breathe again.

  Dee’s eyes were closed. She said, “Try again. ”

  I cupped my hands around the back of her neck like I’d imagined doing one thousand times. Her skin was warm against my palms, sticky with the heat, smelling of flowers and shampoo. I kissed her again, so careful. There was a long, long pause, and then she kissed me back. I was freezing cold in the hot D. C. day, her mouth on mine and her arms finally coming around my back, holding me tight as I kissed her and kissed her and kissed her. We stumbled into the back corner of the balcony, still kissing, and then I pulled away to rest my face against her hair and try to figure out what the hell was happening.

  We stood in the shadows there, her wrapped up in my arms, for a long time, and then she started to cry. At first I just felt her shaking, and then I stepped back a little to see her face, and found it streaked and wet.

  Dee looked up at me, her face a mess of tears, eyes desperately sad, and bit her lip. “It made me think of Luke. I thought of him kissing me. When you were kissing me. ”

  I didn’t move. I think she thought I was—I think she thought I was a better person than I was. More … selfless. More … something. I dropped her hands and took a step back.

  “James,” she said.

  I was dead inside; her voice didn’t affect me at all. Another step back took me to the door to the balcony; I fumbled with the handle. All around me, I smelled clover and thyme and flowers. My sixth sense was whispering to me, but I just wanted out.

  “James, please. James. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it. ” Dee’s voice broke, but she just kept saying my name. I finally got the damn door open; cold air blasted me. Dee started to cry like I’ve never heard her cry. “Oh, God, James, I’m so sorry. James. ”

  I went straight down the hallway, down the stairs, past the flying-monkey guy, through the door, into the parking lot, and out between the cars to where the bus was parked.

  Nuala was waiting on the curb when I got there, but she didn’t say anything when I sat down beside her. Which was good, because I didn’t have any words inside me. No music either. I was nothing.

  I crossed my arms on my legs and put my head down on my arms.

  Finally, Nuala asked, “Are They here for you or for her?”


  This summer-sweet night is only one minute

  upon another minute upon another

  Beautiful cacophony, sugar upon lips, dancing to exhaustion

  I thought of you, before this minute upon

  another minute upon another

  Until, numb, my lips fell onto the mouth of another,

  and I was undone.

  —from Golden Tongue: The Poems of Steven Slaughter

  I left James alone after the D. C. trip. Well, not entirely. I didn’t talk to him or send him any dreams, but I still followed him. I was waiting for him to play my song again. Waiting for him to play any music again. I spent the evenings outside his dorm, sitting on the back portico where he’d found Dee that first night and listening to the sounds of human life inside. Radio Voyeur.

  A few nights after the D. C. trip, well after the sun had gone down, I heard sounds of a different sort, from outside the dorm instead of inside. The faeries, singing and dancing again on the same hill behind the school. This time I didn’t approach Them, just stood under the back columns of James’ dorm and listened, my arms hugged around myself. It was the daoine sidhe—the faeries that were made of and called by music. They shouldn’t have been able to appear when it wasn’t Solstice, but there They were, unmistakable with their wailing pipes and fiddles. Was this part of what Eleanor spoke of, when she said that we were going to get stronger? The reappearance of the previously weak daoine sidhe ?

  A touch on my shoulder made me start, halfway to invisible before I could figure out what was going on.

  “Shhh. ” The voice was mostly laugh. “Shh, little lovely. ”

  The laugh pissed me off first, then the pet name cinched the deal. I spun and crossed my arms. A faerie, tinted green as all the daoine sidhe when They were in the human world, smiled down at me, his hand held out toward me.

  “What do you want?” I asked crossly.

  His smile didn’t falter and he kept his hand outstretched. He smelled like a faerie, all clover and dusky sunsets and music. Nothing like James’ faint scent of shaving cream and leather from his pipes. “You needn’t be out here all alone. There’s music and we mean to dance until morning. ”

  I looked behind me at the distant glow of the faeries on the hill. I knew the words to describe a faerie dance, because Steven, one of my pupils, had written most of them as I’d whispered them in his ear: cacophony, beautiful, sugar, laughing, exhaustion, breathless, lust, numb. I turned back to the lovely green faerie in front of me. “Don’t you know who I am?”

  “You’re the leanan sidhe,” he said, surprising me because he knew and had asked me to dance anyway. His eyes roved over me. “And you’re beautiful. Dance. We’re stronger all the time and the dancing is better than ever. Come away with me and dance. It’s what we’re here for. ”

  I looked at his outstretched hand without taking it. “It’s what you’re here for,” I told him. “I’m here for something else entirely. ”

  “Don’t be foolish, little thing,” the faerie said, and he took my hand, pulling it from where it hung by my side. “We are all here for pleasure. ”

  I pulled on my hand; he kept it. “Didn’t you hear? I’m dying. No fun dancing with a dying faerie. ”

  He pulled my hand to his lips and kissed it, then turned it over and kissed the delicate skin of my wrist too, equal parts lick and bite. “You’re not dead yet. ”

  I jerked my hand again, but now he held my wrist, and he was strong—much stronger than a daoine sidhe should’ve been, this close to humans and iron and everything modern. “Let the hell go or I won’t be the only faerie dying around here. ”

  “So you’ll only dance with humans, is it?” His voice was gentle, as if he weren’t holding me tight, as if I hadn’t used the word “faerie. ” He used my wrist to pull me closer and he said into my ear, “They say that when the leanan sidhe kisses a man, he will see heaven. ”

  I could kill him if I had his name. I was bad at fighting, but I was good at killing. A faerie wouldn’t give me his name, though, especially one of the fragile daoine sidhe that kept so much of our magic. “Do they?”

  “They do. They also say”—and his lips pressed right against my ear, promising, as all faeries did, eternal life and thoughtless joy—“that if the leanan sidhe lies with a man, it is pleasure like none other found on earth. ” He reached down between us and caught my other wrist in a hot hold.

  So it was to be rape. Only the faeries never called it that. They said “ravished” and “seduced” and “overcome by desire. ” It was a very human thing, to be taken by a faerie against your will. A proper faerie had rights; a proper faerie would never have had this daoine sidhe’s lips on her neck and music humming through her because the queen wouldn’t have allowed it. But I was neither faerie nor human, so no one cared what happened to me but me.

  I thought about all this and I thought about the way his fingers on my wrist felt unpleasant,
like the touch of a milkweed, and I thought about the way the fall moon was brilliantly white as it rose above the columned-dorm like a rack of smiling teeth, while his hand rummaged over the body James had made beautiful.

  One of his hands held the back of my neck, his fingers so long that they came most of the way around it. Just enough force behind the grip to tell me what he could do. He tipped my chin up, like he was a proper lover and I had flown into his grasp willingly. “I would very much like to see heaven. ”

  I spat on him. The spit glistened on his cheek, brighter than his dark eyes in the dim light, and he smiled like I had just given him the best gift in the world. I hated him and I hated every other faerie for their damn condescension. I could have screamed, but it occurred to me then, in a way that it never had before, that there wasn’t a single soul in the world who would hear me and do something about it, no matter where I was on the earth.

  “Tears? You are very human,” the faerie remarked, though he was lying, because I never cried. “Don’t weep, lovely, it ruins your beauty. ” The faerie reached inside my shirt. I jerked violently, struggling, for the second time in my life totally unable to get what I wanted.

  With my free hand, I made a fist—a familiar, easy gesture—and I slammed it into his nose. I’d read somewhere that you could shove the bridge of someone’s nose into their brain and kill them if you hit them just right.

  He was dizzyingly fast; he turned his face so my fist glanced off his jawbone and then grabbed for my arm. I was faster, though, and I raked claws along his forehead and cheek, leaving nail marks, pale white for a second and then full of rising red. It had to have hurt, but he was eternally smiling.

  The faerie still held my wrist in his hand, gripping so tight now that I gasped, twisting against the pressure of his fingertips on my skin, the feel of him crushing my bones together.

  I struggled, kicking, shoving, twisting in his grip, as if it would make any difference, but he was strong. Solstice-strong. Way too strong for a daoine sidhe right next to a human building.

  I wanted my mind to tear away, to disappear into a dream of agonizing beauty, but everything I’d given to others, all the transcendent brilliance and otherworldly dreams, was out of my reach. He was taking it for himself.


  I was awake, skin prickling, eyes peeled wide open. I was awake like I’d never been, so awake that it hurt. The room was black as a butt crack and I knew without looking that the clock glowed 3:04. I knew because my dream was still burnt on my eyes—a dream of waking a second before I actually did.

  I sat up, grabbed a shirt from the end of the bed, jerked on my jeans, and thought about grabbing my shoes. No time. There wasn’t any time.

  Across the small room, Paul groaned, an invisible, dark lump in his bed, turning and grabbing his pillow. He had kicked off his blankets; he must be hot, even though I was shivering.

  I slid out the door and into the hallway, holding my breath, trying to be fast, trying to be silent. I didn’t even know where the hell I was going. Or why I was hurrying.

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