A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Bree cupped her mug letting the warmth of the tea seep through the ceramic vessel and warm her hands. She inhaled the scent of the black tea mixed with the blooming flowers of her mother's garden. Perhaps this was what she had missed most, sitting on the back porch watching the sunrise with a cup of tea in hand. She would often reflect on the recent days that had passed and think ahead about the days to come. This morning was no different.
She thought, "the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of chaotic activity: getting all my things from my little apartment in New York, nailing the interview for the position at Besom Boutique, settling in with Mom again - not to mention reconnecting with Duncan." She smiled at the thought of her high school sweetheart. Duncan had become, at least in Bree's eyes, more charming and loving. A ruby throated hummingbird floated near her, examining a hyacinth. She asked it "Is it possible for your first love to be the love of your life?" The bird, of course, did not answer. She smiled anyway and continued to enjoy her tea and the sunrise.
Rodrigo gingerly reached for the elevator call button with his index finger, his arms filled with boxes of his belongings. His dark hair was mussed and he was wearing cut off jeans and a black t-shirt. His friend Aubrey caught up to him, a teak nightstand clutched to her chest. "I cannot believe you have had me up all night moving you out of your apartment." The elevator opened and they both entered. She set down the table. "I mean really Rod, you could have planned this better." She twisted her finger into her pink and black hair which was a sure sign to Rod that she was not really that angry.
"Sorry Aubrey. It just all caught up with me. I do appreciate your help though. I guess I'm lucky we hit off so well. What was it three months ago? It is funny; I normally do not make friends very easily, but with you it was like I had known you all my life." He smiled and she pressed the button for the tenth floor.
"It's just part of my charm," she replied in a sing-song voice. "Are you sure your new roommates won't mind us arriving so early with a truck full of your life?"
"I warned them, besides Mac knows me far to well."
"Is it really a good idea to be moving in with your ex and his new beau?" she asked. She looked concerned which combined with her white powdered face, pink lipstick, and black china eye makeup presented a look almost like a sad a clown. He had to stifle a chuckle as her realized that she was wearing a black velvet top, completing the image of her as sad clown on velvet like his Abuela collects. "You know it is never good to stifle laughter. You should always let it come." That took the laugh right out of him. Was he really that easy for her to read?
"Sorry, uh, no. I mean yes it will be fine. Mac and I haven't been together since I was a sophomore in college; we are just friends now and I could not be happier for him and Adam. Besides, there is no room in your loft." He smile and she smiled back.
"Fine, as long you are…" she was interrupted by the elevator signaling they had reached their destination. He shifted his load, she picked the table back up, and they proceeded down the maroon carpeted hallway to 1023. He juggled the boxed trying to get at his keys and once he did he successful opened the door to his new apartment. There in the spacious living room was Adam with Rod's third roommate Duncan. Hellos were exchanged and Duncan came to relieve Aubrey of her burden. She thanked him and introductions followed.
"So, Mac isn't up I'm guessing." Rodrigo said.
"Actually he's in the shower. His agent will be stopping by with some papers for him to sign" Adam replied.
"It will be nice to see Keisha again."
"Actually Mac switched agents about a month ago. Keisha advised it. She said this new guy is better connected to handle Mac's rising career." The doorbell chimed "That must be him." Adam crossed the room and opened the door. There stood a well groomed Japanese man with short black hair combed forward. He smiled and greeted Adam who ushered him into the apartment. Adam introduced the agent as Diasuke Endo and then introduced each person in turn to Diasuke. While it was unnoticed by the others, Duncan saw that Diasuke and Aubrey exchanged an odd glance. Diasuke placed his brief case on the glass top table in the breakfast nook as Mac wandered into the room toweling his hair clad only in a royal blue bath towel. Everyone turned to the tall blond and his half naked entrance.
"Mornin' everyone!" Mac exclaimed. He placed the smaller towel he was using on his hair across his left shoulder and walked towards his agent. "I trust you all are having a good time. What can I do for you Diasuke?" His agent presented him with some papers.
"I just need your signature." As Mac was signing the papers, Adam announced
"I have to get to work; I have an arraignment this morning. We were planning to have the new roommates celebrate tonight at the Nexus. Daisuke, Aubrey- you should join us."
Aubrey smiled wide and replied in the affirmative with the enthusiasm of a child opening presents. Diasuke gave her a quick glance, almost a disapproving look, and then quickly agreed to join everyone at the popular night club.
"Duncan, you are bringing that pretty girl for us to meet, yes?" Adam queried.
"Of course! I cannot wait for you to meet Bree. It has been so wonderful getting to know her again. We've both grown up a lot while we were at college, but it seems to have made us even more complementary. I really think Bree could be the girl for me."
"Well as much as I was craving a saccharin overload this morning, I need to get dressed and get going. I'll see you all tonight. Aubrey, nice meeting you. Good luck getting Rodrigo moved in," Mac said and then disappeared into the back of the apartment.
"I, too, have to motor" Adam said while grabbing his jacket and briefcase. "See you tonight" and with that he was out the door followed by Diasuke who had waved briefly before he walked out the door. Duncan smiled.
"Would you believe I have plans too?" he asked. "Come on" he said before they could answer, "I can help you with a couple of loads before I have to leave." The three of them started moving Rodrigo's belongings into the high-rise apartment.
Later that night at Club Nexus...
Club Nexus reverberated with music and lights flashed out with the pulse of it. Adam and Mac were carrying the third round of drinks back to the table where everyone had gathered, everyone except Diasuke and Aubrey. Neither had arrived yet. Once the various beverages had been distributed Adam proposed a toast to new friends and the beginning of new adventures. The new roommates plus Bree clinked glasses in agreement and each took a sip of their drinks. They shouted small talk for a bit and then Adam's cellular phone vibrated. He excused himself to take the call and the small talk continued. He returned shortly and announced he had to see a client and apologized for having to leave early. Mac said he would walk him to the car.
"Let's dance" Bree looked at Duncan expectantly.
"You know I don't dance baby" he responded.
"You have so danced with me" she said with a bit of fight rising in her voice.
"That was prom," he countered, "and this sure ain't prom."
"I'd be happy to dance with you" Rodrigo answered. She smiled and stood up.
"Thank you Rodrigo." Turning to Duncan she said "You better be careful, he might just snatch me up!" She kissed Duncan on the cheek and walked out to the dance floor with Rodrigo.
Meanwhile in the alley outside the club Aubrey and Diasuke met.
"You and your kind have no business involving yourselves in these matters" he chided her.
"My kind is it now? Forgive me, I had not realized that worshipping ancestor spirits was a requirement for spending time with the Key," she snapped back.
"Then the Légion de la Magique Fée believe he is the Key?" he said suddenly looking more interested than angry.
"I'm not about to tell you anything" she hissed. Just then the back alley door opened and both verbal combatants turned to see Adam and Mac exiting the club. Adam gave Mac a quick kiss and headed for the car. Mac jogged over to his agent and the girl with striped hair.
"Where have you two been?" Mac asked. Neither answered because they were startled by a robed shadowy figure appearing at the end of the alley in front of Adam.
"Ghost Liege!" She shouted and reached for her purse. The mysterious figure raised his arm and a gaunt alabaster hand emerged from the sleeve of the dark robe. Diasuke took a defensive stance and began speaking in Japanese. Mac whirled around in time to see that Adam was frozen from fear. Then an eerie violet blue flame poured from the outstretched hand of the Ghost Liege. It enveloped Adam, quickly burning him away to bone and charred flesh. The fiend turned to do it again. Mac was so in shock from the horror he just witnessed he did not notice Aubrey spinning dust around them nor did he notice when that dust flared with a pink light creating a circle around the three of them.
The second blast of supernatural fire billowed harmlessly around the barrier the goth girl had created. Mac could not find his voice. He turned to Diasuke praying in his mind he would tell him what was happening, was not.
Inside the dance club nobody appeared to know anything of the plight of those just outside in the alley. The music thumped and Bree and Rodrigo danced; spinning, gyrating and having a good time. After a perfectly synced revolution their eyes caught. He smiled and reached up and out with his hand to meet hers which was already in the air. Rodrigo felt a spark like a shock from static electricity, but instead of the instinctual reaction of pulling away he embraced her hand with his, threading his fingers together with hers. Whatever it was he could tell from the look in her eyes that she felt it too.
It was as if time had slowed for her alone. No, for her and Rodrigo; he seemed to be reacting to it as well. She needed to hold on. She was getting dizzy. She reached out for his other hand. They stood there, fingers interlocked and not noticing anything but the slowed thump-thump from the bass and their own private experience.
It was as if everything of his being, his creativity, his essence – all of it was pouring into her. He felt his knees weaken and his head started to swim. Rodrigo started to panic, fearful that she was devouring his soul, but he could not let go.
She was filling up. With what? Energy? Magic? She thought this insane or perhaps just she was insane, but she could feel this whatever it was pouring into her from Rodrigo and from all around her. She had never felt so good, so fulfilled. Looking back she was certain this is when she fainted. Witnesses would report that Rodrigo collapsed the same time Bree did.
Outside others collapsed. The pink light from the circle winked out and both Aubrey and the mysterious attacker fell to the ground. The robed figure faded away just as he had appeared. Diasuke quickly checked Aubrey. Mac was still not processing well. Something was off about Aubrey, but he could not be certain. The agent turned his attention to his client. After a cursory check he reached into his pocket and removed a small glass jar, wide and flat. He spun the lid off and dipped two fingers into the light green balm inside.
"I'm sorry I have to do this Mac, but it is for the best" and then he swabbed the balm across the blonde's forehead and then made a second pass getting his eyelids. Mac was too stunned to fend Diasuke off. Seconds later Mac was falling. Diasuke caught him and placed him gently on the ground, muttering to himself he hoped this still worked. He then gathered Aubrey into his arms and rushed off with her.
Inside Duncan had raced over to Bree, who was just coming awake. Other dancers stood around the collapsed pair.
"Baby, are you okay? What happened?" he asked worriedly.
"I'm... I guess I am fine" she answered a bit shakily.
"How do you feel?" Bree did not answer right away. She really could not guess at how to describe how she felt. After a moment she decided to attempt to describe it.
"I feel... I feel like things are just beginning," she said softly with a look of confusion on her face. She had not noticed Rodrigo had sat up.
"They are." he said. "They most certainly are."
"What was that sir?" she asked while tucking her dark hair behind her ear.
"That was someone turning the Key," he replied.
"What does that mean for us sir?" the acolyte asked.
"That the rules of Santa Maria have just changed."
"For who sir?"
"For all of us," he answered.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007