The girl looked about eighteen, maybe nineteen; had shoulder-length blonde hair, bright blue eyes and a short yet slender figure; and looked ever so slightly ... magic. Maeve caught the way she surreptitiously glanced at Perry and instantly knew that something had gone on between them.
She looked to him as the girl climbed in.
"So you're a cheat?" she asked, folding her arms.
The girl, though neither the subject of the question nor desired to be part of the conversation, looked shocked.
"Perry doesn't have girlfriends," she said indignantly. "He chooses one, gives her a good time and leaves. And I don't know what makes you so special, to claim ownership of him."
Maeve was startled by the content of the girl's response and disgusted by the thought of Perry diverting himself with her as she presumed he had with the other girl.
"Oh, no: he has not done to me whatever he has done to you." She drew out the ‘Oh' to clarify and emphasise the difference between herself and Perry's friend.
"You make it sound so awful," the friend remarked, clearly amused.
"Yeah, Maeve," Perry agreed. He glanced at his friend and winked conspiratorially at her. She grinned, flushing slightly too.
"Would it be disobeying the order you gave me earlier to tell you to get out?" Maeve asked sweetly.
The blonde girl chuckled. "I see why you chose this one, Perry."
Maeve's tone became deadly.
"I will not be anything of the sort that you are."
"She's a funny old thing," Perry's friend told him.
Maeve was extremely irritated by her and not just because the girl had called her ‘funny'.
"I'm sorry," she said, not sorry at all. "I'm not a men's plaything."
"Maeve, don't," Perry warned, though sounding more like he cared about the girl's feelings than for Maeve's safety.
"I beg your pardon?" the girl said, turning to face Maeve.
"I'm not a men's plaything," she repeated calmly.
"Don't insult Chloe," Perry said, his voice quiet with a hint of menace.
"Chloe!" Maeve exclaimed. "I thought her name was Slave-of-Perry. Silly me, eh?"
Chloe raised an eyebrow. "Are you insulting me?"
"Maeve, shut up," Perry said, evidently unimpressed.
Maeve turned to look at him.
"Oh, sorry. I forgot that vampires were superior, and therefore our masters. Perhaps I should get some lessons in servitude from Chloe."
Perry's eyes flashed a warning. Maeve ignored it.
To Chloe, she said "Will you teach me how to kneel?"
Chloe looked at Perry, stunned.
"Is she for real? Like, really for real? Doesn't she know what I can do to her?"
"She doesn't know," Perry answered, "but I'm in no rush to defend her."
"So Chloe's supernatural," Maeve said thoughtfully, ignoring the conversation going on between the two other people in the room. But then she looked directly at Perry and asked, "Is that why I'm not good enough for you? Because I'm not supernatural?"
"No one's good enough for Perry," Chloe said, interfering where Maeve didn't think she should. "And you're really naïve. Your attitude's going to get you in big trouble some day."
"Maybe I want to die," Maeve replied in a sudden burst of resentment towards Perry. She glanced significantly at him before leaving the room.
"Okay, she is beyond weird," Chloe said, as they heard Maeve's footsteps travelling down the stairs.
"Yeah - she wasn't like this before," Perry replied. "Sorry."
"Don't apologise," Chloe said, snorting. "Do yourself a favour and dump her. Find a new woman to pursue."
Perry sighed. "I can't."
Chloe frowned, confused.
"What d'you mean you can't?"
"I have to look after her," he lied. "As a favour for her friend. I die if she gets hurt."
Chloe looked sympathetic. "You poor thing. Well, she'll be trouble till you show her you're her master. Don't let her get to you in the meantime."
Perry wished he could follow Chloe's advice: he envied the inevitability she associated with the overpowering of Maeve. But such an action could land him in serious trouble and his freedom was worth more to him than totally conquering his Fated Lover's will.
"Thank you, Chloe," he murmured, uncharacteristically wistful.
"Okay, you're unnerving me now," she said, laughing. "What shall we do? Are we going to follow your friend?"
Perry gazed thoughtfully at the door.
How dare he bring someone like that into her house?! Did he have no respect for her at all?
‘But then,' she thought angrily, ‘he thinks he's superior to me, doesn't he?'
It annoyed Maeve that Perry could justify wronging humans: her fellow people. And what had Fate been thinking, tying her destiny to his? It seemed likely to Maeve at this moment in time that she was nothing more than a naïve little girl who perhaps had powers but no intelligence, only possessing the title of queen of supernatural creatures through inheritance or the people's awe at her power.
Maeve looked up. She was in her back garden, leaning against the back wall of her house. And standing in front of her, with no sign of how he had arrived, was a tall Caucasian man. He had short black hair that had white streaks travelling along it above his ears, making vaguely resemble some striped creature like a badger and he had curiously dark grey eyes which were at this moment gazing at Maeve in interest.
"And who are you?" she asked, sighing, the knowledge of Perry having opened her mind to the idea of people suddenly appearing out of thin air and too bothered by the fact that Perry was her destiny to pay a lot of attention to other supernatural forces.
"I'm a king, actually," he answered, looking mildly annoyed by her rudeness.
"And why are you here, Your Majesty?" Maeve asked, her tone the same as before. She wished he would go away - she wasn't really in the mood for conversation.
"You insulted my wife," he said casually.
Maeve was startled by the directness and the content of the accusation. She frowned, mystified.
"Did I? And how would you know? I mean, I guessed that you weren't human but that might mean a lot of different things."
"I'm not really obliged to answer you," he told her, shrugging his shoulders. "Suffice it to say that I can do a lot more than one of your typical species of unearthly creature."
"Oh, okay," Maeve said, not really knowing how to respond to that. She wondered why she wasn't scared of the member of royalty. If she had done something wrong, surely she was going to be punished for it. And then a slightly frightening thought struck her. Could she be past caring like she had implied to Perry and the blonde girl? Maeve didn't know how to find out the answer to such a question so she focused on her present situation. "So, ... who is your wife?"
"Fate," the king answered calmly. He seemed a very casual man. Maeve was mildly surprised that he didn't put on airs or talk to her condescendingly. But then, she noticed that he was wearing normal clothing - you would never tell he wasn't human just by looking at him - and figured he was either blending in or fairly laid back.
She gaped at the revelation. "But she's a child!"
"No, no, that's an illusion. She can take whatever form she chooses. She sometimes even dresses up as the Grim Reaper."
"How... interesting," Maeve said, trying to sound polite. She swallowed nervously, finally feeling a little bit of due fear. "So, are you going to punish me?"
"Not at all. I just wanted to see how she'd earned being called naïve and unintelligent." The king grinned like it was a game or a joke between him and anyone else to insult Fate behind her back.
Maeve flushed at having been caught during her mental rant. She relaxed slightly but remained a little tense in case it turned out that the supernatural king was trying to trick her.
"She annoys me too," he said, still casual. "So what was your reason?"
"Um..." Maeve blushed more deeply, embarrassed at telling a king this information. "My Predetermined Preternatural Partner is a jerk."
The king burst into loud laughter. Maeve worried about the neighbours hearing. But no one opened a window or called from a nearby garden so she relaxed and smiled a little too. The king abruptly stopped.
"I can tell you something, Maeve," he said seriously.
"How does everyone know my name?" she exclaimed, in a sudden burst of annoyance, totally shattering the solemn atmosphere the king had created.
"I looked it up before I came," the king replied, looking amused.
Maeve sighed. "I don't even want to know how a supernatural being can ‘look my name up'." Then, feeling like she should apologise, she said "I'm sorry for shouting. What were you going to tell me?"
"Fate never matches up two people who are completely wrong for each other."
And with that, he disappeared.
Maeve was left in a daze. Had that really just happened? Or was she going insane?
After a little while, she thought ‘Well, that was random'. Yes, random was a very good way to describe it. Maeve wondered at the last thing he'd said. His words, which Maeve was sure he'd intended to comfort her, hadn't really done their job because they'd been so mysterious. Was she expected to find some wonderful quality in Perry now? Or was the king foreshadowing her own change in personality? Maeve's speculations were interrupted when the back door of her house was opened and Perry walked out, that awful girl still with him.
"What are you doing, Maeve?" he asked.
Maeve turned to face the pair and smiled.
"I was enjoying some time away from you."
Chloe glared at her but she ignored her.
Perry looked amused. "Oh, Maeve you don't have to lie to protect your pride."
"Tell me, Perry, is it arrogance you get a kick out of or annoying me?"
"I can afford to be arrogant, remember, Maeve, but annoying you is always fun."
Maeve scowled while Chloe grinned.
Perry looked around the garden.
"There doesn't look like there's anything to do out here. Shall we go back inside?"
Maeve shrugged. "Do what you want. Oh, or were you trying to spend the rest of that hour with me?"
Perry flinched. Chloe looked confused.
"Does it even work with a third party?"
"What is she talking about?" Chloe asked Perry.
Perry looked at Maeve threateningly.
"You tell her, I swear I will make your life a misery."
She shrugged. "Fair enough. I assure you your hatred of me is quite mutual."
Chloe frowned at Perry.
"You're not going to tell me?"
"I'm not, sorry. But it's only because I absolutely abhor the arrangement."
She sighed. Maeve thought to herself in a mixture of repulsion and wonder, ‘She's depriving herself of what she wants for his sake'.
"Fine. As long as she's not a permanent girlfriend."
"She's not," Perry said quickly.
Maeve, appalled by the girl's attitude towards relationships, addressed Chloe for the first time since she and Perry had entered the garden, communicating her shock and disapproval in the question "You're encouraging him to stay promiscuous?"
Chloe regarded her, frowning in thought as though trying to figure her out.
"Yeah," she replied after a few minutes. "I am."
Maeve hid her disgust as she said "Well, if you're okay with the fact it meant nothing when he ‘gave you a good time'... You really are a men's plaything. In fact, I can see you going as far as objectifying yourself to suit a situation."
Chloe's eyes flashed silver. Maeve suddenly noticed that she was perfectly capable of reacting strongly to something that she had said.
"You're playing with fire. Stop, or you'll get burnt."
Maeve looked at Perry, unafraid.
"Am I assuming too much if I believe it'll hurt you if I get hurt?"
"Yes," he answered tersely.
She turned back to Chloe.
Chloe's reaction was almost laughable. She looked utterly bewildered and looked at Maeve as if a) questioning her sanity and b) trying to work out the reasons for Maeve's behaviour.
"You ... want me to hurt you?"
"Why not?" Maeve asked, refusing to stand down for what she believed in.
"Well, ... because it will hurt."
"But I deserve it, right?" She sarcastically portrayed Chloe's views as acceptable as she said "Because I'll never understand the appeal of a guy whose kiss means nothing."
Chloe looked uncertain. "You're still insulting me," she stated numbly, sounding either like she was finding it difficult to process what Maeve had just said or like she was too in shock to understand that fact. She had evidently never been faced with this kind of situation before.
"Yes," said Maeve, sighing slightly impatiently.
Chloe's face cleared and hardened. An insult was an insult. She gazed hard at Maeve, a blue, fizzing glow beginning to appear around her outline.
Perry visibly turned pale.
And suddenly, Maeve was thrown against the nearest fence. She landed hard in her mum's potato patch, somehow in a sitting position and looking like a neglected, pathetic doll. She tried not to cry from the pain in her back. She felt long scratches down it, each which stung in a way that told her that her skin had been scratched off and that she was currently bleeding.
Next, blue fire appeared around her, called to existence by some invisible, mysterious force. It seemed not to affect the plants but it crackled loudly with energy. It began to approach her, forming a semicircle around her, touching the fence so that she was trapped. It moved slowly, which only made Maeve feel even more scared.
And then it touched her feet.
Maeve screamed. It felt like a row of daggers was stabbing the skin the fire touched hacking at her feet the way a mad axeman might hack at a tree. It was incredible to her that her skin wasn't splitting or tearing, that her bones weren't cracking from the continuous impact. Her screams echoed around her, bouncing off an invisible wall and ceiling that Chloe must have built to muffle the noise.
The fire advanced and though it passed over her feet and left them clear, she could still feel pain. But now, it felt like her skin was made of ice. Maeve was openly sobbing. Never before had she imagined such agony. She wanted to faint, she wanted to die: she didn't care what happened to her as long as she could escape this torture.
And suddenly, it stopped. The fire was still there but every once of sharp, overwhelming pain disappeared. Just like that.
"Perry?" Maeve heard Chloe question.
"Please stop, Chloe," Perry replied, sounding shaken.
"Well, ... this is hardly protecting her. If my friend knew..."
Maeve was too exhausted to care what Perry was on about. She was relieved by the absence of pain and didn't really care why it had ceased. She closed her eyes desiring nothing more than to sleep.
There was almost a dreamlike quality to the way she was picked up by strong, firm arms.