I held the steaming mug of coffee in both hands, letting the heat seep through the block of frozen loneliness in my heart. I had to accept that I was alone in this world, that I had always been alone. These people were offering me something I had always wanted – a family, a home where I was loved and appreciated. That was what they offered, but would they deliver? My emotions teeter tottered between giving up everything I had always known, and fleeing out the door, never to return.
The three of us sat in silence for long moments, until Kerry stood up and picked up the carafe of coffee on the table. He crossed the room, and I watched with amazement as the liquid in the carafe changed from deep brown to crimson. He stopped at a table of two very pale people with startling red eyes. They shoved two empty tall glasses toward him. As Kerry filled them, the woman smiled, revealing a set of gleaming white teeth.
There were no fangs, or long eyeteeth or anything, but I realized by the way they guzzled the liquid, that it was probably blood. I shuddered, and began to tremble uncontrollably as the man at that table turned his scarlet gaze on me. Karaleen took one look at my terrified face, and turned around to see what was going on behind her that was causing such a reaction in me. She said something guttural and vehement. Although I couldn't understand the language, there was a distinct note of threat in her voice. The man turned his eyes away from me and resumed his conversation with his companion. She reached across and put both hands on mine, which were clutching my purse like it was a lifeline thrown out into a roiling ocean.
“There there, dear. Not to worry. This café is a safe haven for all species. The lion can lie down with the lamb with no danger to the lamb. You must trust me. I would never let any harm come to you. Whether you decide to come back or not, you will be protected until the window of opportunity closes in one week. Any nonhuman source of danger who doesn't want to get lost in the human world, will leave you alone at that point. Of course if anyone or anything was determined enough to grab you, then I guess they wouldn't care if they miss the window or not. Regardless, I firmly believe that you have a path to follow your destiny, and it lies within the mystical world of magic.”
“Anyone or anything? What sort of thing would want to grab me?”
“There are bad apples and opportunists in any species. Some of them are distinctly nonhuman. If the reward is big enough, there are many who would take the risk of getting lost. They would find a way to drag you back into our world whether you were willing or not. A person who could survive in both worlds would have great value for a nonhuman who would otherwise have no access to the human world. It would be safest for you to return to the magical world voluntarily. We would always be able to protect you here.”
“How would anyone even know that I'm human? I don't look much different than most of your patrons, although my fashion sense is considerably better,” I remarked.
This was true. There was one man wearing striped knee length pants, and a loud plaid tank top with a very hairy torso bursting out from the front, sides and back. Some of the other patrons wore fashion statements that pretty much said that they didn't know how to dress.
“I never said that you were human, only that you could survive in both worlds. The fact that you even found this place proves that you're at least half nonhuman. As to how anyone would know you come from the human world, it's quite obvious. Look out the window.”
I did as she asked, and I could see the modern city street I had just left. This was not unusual to me.
“So, everyone saw you leave the human world and enter the magical world. No human can do that without magical blood. Some nonhumans can enter the human world when the window is open, but it's a risk. You are an anomaly. An attractive anomaly. You have value. That puts you at risk. I implore you to leave your human life and come back here where we can protect you.”
She made a strong argument. I found myself swaying distinctly in that direction.