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If you can’t be with the ones you love…


July 31, 2016 by Lyn

This story takes place on Thanksgiving Day of the third year of the Addergoole School.

Ioanna wanted to go home. It was Thanksgiving, and she wanted to be with her father and stepmother and their raucous family of step- and half-brothers and her tiny baby sister, eating turkey and candied yams, and watching football. She wanted to be with her boyfriend Brad, who had been writing far less than he said he would, and even with his horrid mother, who kept asking uncomfortable personal questions.

Instead, she was pacing the halls, wishing for hard concrete so that her shoes would make some noise, instead of being muffled in the sound-swallowing carpet. Some of the older students had been allowed to go home, or gone out to the mysterious and unseen Village, and there were no classes until Monday; the normally-rather-empty halls were vacant and silent, and she had nothing to do.

“Hey.” She’d almost run into him before she noticed the boy standing in front of her – Smitty, he called himself; he was in Trig with her, and his mutations weren’t all that bad. They sort of made him look horsey, with the long, flat nose and mane-like dark red hair, a lot less threatening than some of the other upperclassmen.

Like the demon, Ib, who had done something to her friend Callista, ruined her happy smiling and made her edgy and bitter and secretive.

“Hi,” she answered, backing up a step.

“I found one,” he called behind him, and a hot little girl with waves and waves of chestnut hair hurried around the corner on sharp high heels. She looked Ioanna up and down predatorily, and licked her lips. “She’ll do.”

Remembering Hell Night, remembering the dead look in Callista’s eyes, Ioanna backpedaled hurriedly. Smitty smiled, those big teeth no longer looking non-threatening, and she full-throttled her reversal.

His smile vanished, just as she thudded into something. Someone. Things weren’t that soft, nor did they grab at her (even if the definition of “thing” and “person” seemed blurry here, sometimes).

“Woah,” another voice said, steadying her. “Mea, play nice.”

The girl – Mea, yeah, Ioanna had seen her around – sulked, and opened her mouth to say something, but the hands holding Ioanna turned her around, and Mea fell silent.

“I’m sorry about that.” He was handsome, sleek, half an inch shorter than her, with dark hair and nearly-colorless eyes. Somehow she’d never seen him around, at least not close up. “Mea’s harmless, pay her no mind at all. We’re just out looking for Third Cohorts with no crew to bring home for dinner.”

She backed up again, or tried to, but he was holding her arms still. “No thank you,” she said quickly, “not interested in being the main course, not interested in being a chewtoy or a slave.”

“Oh,” he looked upset, and a little hurt, even as Mea giggled behind him, “no, departed gods, no! My apologies.” He let go of her arms, and offered her a hand. “I’m Finn cy’Luca.”

She shook his hand, still not completely convinced. “Ioanna Taylor… I mean.. Ioanna cy’Valerian. I still don’t want to be dinner.”

He chuckled politely, bent over her hand and kissed it. “As lovely as you are, I don’t think you’d make a very good meal, dear.”

She found herself relaxing, and smiled a little as she reclaimed her hand. “I’m glad you think so. You never know, around here.”

“True enough,” he agreed, smiling widely at her. Even his teeth were human and perfect.

“No-one eats anyone,” Mea scoffed. “I’ve never even seen anyone really seriously chew on anyone. It’s not like they’re monsters.”

Ioanna, who had seen the bruises on all six of Callista’s arms, forbore to answer. She wouldn’t put eating people past some of the upperclassmen here.

It seemed as if Smitty agreed with her, too. “Not all of them,” he muttered. “Ioanna, what Mea and Finn were trying to ask you is, do you want to come to our place for Thanksgiving dinner? We can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving-Day Parade and argue about football. Sarita’s got the turkey and the dressing in the oven, and Holly made pie. It will be… well, not just like home.” He shook his head, his mane vibrating with the movement, “but it will be nice.”

Turkey and football and the parade… “So, random chance, really?”

“Really,” Smitty smiled reassuringly at her. “We do this for all the holidays. It’s how we got Mea.” Mea preened.

“Wait… I don’t really want to be gotten.” Well, maybe a little. They were an awfully good-looking bunch, even Smitty.

He grinned as if he read her mind. Around here, maybe they did. “Come have dinner, then. No strings attached, except the ones holding the turkey together.”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “All right. Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and football.”

“And I made candied yams,” Mea added.

“Candied yams… god, I want to have your children.”

“Would you settle for mine?” Smitty teased.

“No strings,” she reminded him, but the idea wasn’t all that horrible.

“No strings, no ropes, no chains.”


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