TG Universes & Series:
Hi. My name is Ronald Bailey, but everyone calls me Roni. I live in Smoky Corners, Montana. It's a nice, typical small western town, founded by the Sioux, I believe. Nothing unusual ever happens here... at least on the surface. But, if you happen to find yourself on Mulberry Street, 239, standing in front of a quaint little curio shop, ran by an old, bearded Asian man named Kato Chigiri, you may find more than you bargained for. And EXACTLY what you need...
Well, summer was finally upon us, and I was feeling more than a little frisky. Kim had begun teaching at a dojo, and Ginny was finally beginning to get over the residual magical effects brought about by the Hello Kitty locket. For once, life was going my way, and I didn't worry about anyone- or anything- interfering with my freedom. Yep, life was, for once, GOOD. Unfortunately, it wasn't to last...
I don't remember, exactly, when things began to go awry. I just knew that one day things were OK, and the next, they weren't. I believe it all began the day I met Sandy...
We had left Smoky Corners earlier that morning, headed for San Fransisco, and a glorious two-week vacation. Dad, as one of the perks of being appointed special liaison to Tom Ridge, had been invited to attend a conference on the heightened security measures brought about since 9/11. For the rest of us, it meant an all-expense paid trip to the 'City by the Bay.' This was really going to be SWEET!!!
Our first day in town, we were treated to a tour of one of San Fransisco's most famous businesses, the Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. What a treat it was! I found out how each flavor was made, and got a TON of chocolate to boot! Even Ginny was finally relaxed enough to have a good time.
After the tour, Mom decided to take us on a walking tour of the city. Our first stop on this walking tour, naturally, was Lombard Street, dubbed 'The Crookedest Street in the World'. We rode the Powell-Hyde cable car to the Hyde Street stop and disembarked, and began our descent. Trust me on this- when they say five miles per hour, they're not kidding! This trek is STEEP! I guess it could have been worse. She could have chosen Vermont Street instead. Although it only has seven curves in it (instead of eight), it is much steeper than Lombard.
After the walk, we decided to search for another of San Fransisco's treasures - a hot loaf of sourdough bread. Fortunately, there was a nice deli less than a block from our hotel that delivered.
After our lunch of tomato-basil soup and grilled panini, Mom and Ginny decided to take a nap in the hotel room, spent from the day's activities. I, on the other hand, had my new Nikon, and I was just dying to do some serious babe watching down by the hotel's twin pools. That's when I first saw HER...
She was sitting alone in a deck chair, reading a book and sipping a Diet Coke. Her neon green tankini only helped to accentuate her bronze skin and fiery red hair. I quickly fired up the Nikon, determined not to let such a rare beauty get away, and aimed the zoom in her direction. As I went to click the shutter, she vanished!
I blinked- HARD. She was just right there. "Can my eyes be playing tricks on me?" I thought. I decided this required further investigating, so I put my camera away quickly, then turned around to begin my descent down the stairs leading to the pool deck below. It was then that I saw her out of the corner of my eye, still in the same deck chair, smiling up at me.
I took out my camera again- really slowly this time. just as I was about to shoot, she again disappeared.
"What kind of hide-and-seek type game are you playing?" my mind screamed in her general direction. The lilting laughter that I received back, like so many tinkling bells, gave me the answer I needed, but definitely DID NOT want. "C'mon, Roni. Are you REALLY that surprised?" the voice asked.
"Damn!" I thought. "Didn't I leave all the hocus-pocus magick behind with Mr. K.?"
My heart sank as I realized, yet again, that I had been found out. It appears, to my great dissatisfaction, that I attract magick like a candle attracts moths.
"I know what you are!" I shouted, to no one in particular. "So quit with the games already and show yourself!"
"What? And ruin all this fun?" the voice said, mockingly. "Alright, if I MUST..." it sighed.
There was a small tuft of smoke, and when it cleared, SHE was standing just a few inches in front of me. I must admit, I was intoxicated by her emerald eyes and pouting, full lips.
"Don't be swayed by her charms!" my mind screamed, as I felt myself slipping away. Then, a rouge Frisbee smacked me right between the eyes.
"Sorry, dude!" a man's voice called out. "My bad!"
But it was enough. As I averted her gaze, instead focusing on finding the errant Frisbee, the spell was broken.
I picked up the Frisbee and gave it a gentle, overhand toss.
Turning my attention back to the girl, I said simply, "Now that the spell's broken, and I'm immune to your charms, just who in blazes are you, and what do you want with ME of all people?"
"I'm the nymph of this area," she said simply.
"Duh! Tell me something I DON'T already know," I thought angrily.
"The name's Sandy. And I need someone with your... unique talents."
"Sandy, huh? And if I refuse?"
Suddenly, the waters in the twin pools began to rise and coalesce into a massive 10-foot wall that threatened to drown all the poolside guests.
"Fine!" I relented. "I help, or they drown. I get it. Damn, you fae can be so friggin' bitchy at times..." I swore under my breath.
With that she laughed, and the waters returned to normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
"So what, EXACTLY, do you want, Sandy? And why do you need me?"
Sandy's gaze met mine, and I saw a lone, golden tear form in her eye, then quickly run down her cheek.
"Freedom," she said simply. "I want to actually SEE what lies beyond my pools. I want to be JUST LIKE YOU. I want to be able to laugh freely-- to cry-- to feel hunger. Sadness. And Joy. To love, and be loved in return. In short, Roni, I want to be HUMAN!"
"And you think I, of all people, can grant you this wish? I'm just a teen, not a wizard."
"But you have the heart, Roni. And the strength of character, determination, and drive. You just need the magick. And Hegemone's thorn..."
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