The little yellow daisy I’d picked out of momma’s bouquet from her boyfriend looked kind of pitiful without all its petals. I twirled the remaining stem between my fingers and scowled at it. Stupid flowers. Stupid candy. Stupid stuffed bunnies with stupid purple fur. Oh and stupid, stupid heart-shaped balloons. It was all just stupid. I flung the stem in my hand into the creek behind my house.
The damaged daisy floated for a moment as the fast stream washed it away until I saw it slowly sink to the shallow muddy floor. Serves it right for being stupid, I thought with a huff. Crossing my now empty arms I glared at the water as it ran by. I didn’t have anything else to do. So I’d just stand here and count all the stupid things about today.
“Not having a good day?” a familiar voice asked from behind me. I spun around and saw a blond boy with friendly blue eyes smiling at me. He seemed like someone I should know but I couldn’t figure out where I’d seen him before. Maybe he played on one of the other teams we‘d played in baseball this year. It’s hard to recognize people when they don’t have on their baseball cap and uniform. Out there they all look the same. I started to respond until I noticed the fluffy white stuffed puppy dog in his hand. The stuffed animal even had a red heart full of chocolate candy in its paws. Even he got a stupid Valentine’s present. I decided I didn’t want to talk to him and turned back around to glare out at the water. Maybe he’d realize I was rude and he’d go away.
“You have something against stuffed animals and chocolate?” he asked in an amused tone. I didn’t think he was funny. Not one bit. Stupid boy with his stupid Valentine’s present. From some stupid girl.
“Yeah, what if I do?,” I replied in a sour tone.
“Well, just seems like that’s a funny thing to have a problem with. I mean there are lots of things to dislike. Snakes, for example, or spiders.” He shuddered making me roll my eyes.
“I can dislike what I want,can’t I? It’s a free country.”
He cleared his throat and it sounded suspiciously like he was covering up a laugh. I had a good mind to slug him one and see if he thought that was funny. Cause I knew for a fact I could throw a right hook better than most boys on my street. Nope, he wouldn’t be laughing at all after I decked him.
“I guess you can. I’m just curious as to why you have a hatred against those items. Most girls like them,” the fact he no longer sounded amused but actually confused saved him from my fist.
“You wanna know why?” I asked, shifting my angry glare his way. “I’ll tell you why.” I frowned, swallowing the knot in my throat. I hated that this actually made me want to cry. Stupid tears were for sissies.
“I’m listening,” the boy coaxed.
“Because that’s all everybody talked about today. They all flashed their chocolate hearts around and teddy bears and even stupid bunny rabbits as they walked down the halls. Balloons were tied on their chairs with those dumb cheesy lines ‘I love you’ on them. I mean, really, we are nine, people. We don’t love anybody yet. At least not THAT way. And to make matters worse, stupid butt Jeff gave Miranda, my best friend, a purple bunny with a big ‘ol balloon attached and a big box of chocolate. And did she share one piece of her candy with me? NOPE! She didn’t. Said it wouldn’t be romantic to give away a piece of her Valentine’s candy. Then when I asked to feel the soft fur on her rabbit she shook her head and cuddled it up against her like I had a disease I could pass on to it. How absurd is that? Huh? Ridiculous right. Then I come home and my mom even has a big bouquet of flowers and a heart shaped box sitting on the table from her boyfriend. I thought for sure I’d get a piece of candy then. BUT NO! The box was already empty. She’d eaten it all. Why keep a stupid empty box?”
I stopped my angry tirade long enough to peek over at the boy through my hair and see if he was looking at me like a whiny baby. But he had that dumb smile on his face again. I guess since he got chocolate today then he thought it was funny I didn’t.
I turned around thinking I could either slug him or tell him off then go back inside. But he held the puppy dog whose fur looked actually softer than that of the purple bunny Miranda had gotten from Jeff and the box of chocolates out toward me. Confused, I lifted my eyes from them to look at him.
“This is for you. You can feel the fur all you want and eat every one of those chocolates all by yourself. I brought it to you... that is if you want it.”
“Me? But, why me? You don’t even know me,” I stammered, wanting desperately to reach out and take the gifts. I really wanted that chocolate.
“It’s Valentine’s Day and well, I’ve been watching you a long time and you’re the only person I want to be my Valentine.”
My eyes opened and the gold on the brooch that lay on the table beside my bed glittered with the early morning streams of light. I remembered that Valentine’s Day. I’d been so hurt that no one wanted me to be their valentine. All the girls at school had been given something from a boy. Even Wyatt had given Julie Thursby something. But I hadn’t got a thing. Wyatt had said boys didn’t see me as a girl because I could run faster than them and hit a ball farther than they could. But it had still upset me.
Leif had known and brought me something. I’d eaten every one of those chocolates before I went to bed that night. Miraculously they hadn’t given me a tummy ache like my mom said they would when I confessed at dinner that I was stuffed from the chocolate. Memories like this one made it very difficult to fear Leif. He really had been good to me all my life. Maybe he didn’t have all bad qualities. The fact remained he wanted to take my soul to hell. Maybe that wasn’t the way he looked at it but that was the way I looked at it. And being near him when he wasn’t in “human” form gave me the creeps. I hated the feeling that crept over me when he was near. The hairs on my arms and neck stood straight up and I instantly recoiled.
Thinking back to that Valentine’s Day I remembered the puppy. It was in the attic somewhere in a box. I hadn’t been willing to get rid of it when I’d discarded all my childhood toys. I never could remember where I’d gotten it but it always seemed special to me. Like I wasn’t supposed to get rid of it. I’d actually had a hard time putting it in the attic. Now the idea that there was a gift from a voodoo spirit in my house was unsettling. I needed to get it out. Sure I’d slept with it for years but that was before. This is now. I wanted it gone.
Sitting up in bed I decided I might need to wait and see if Gee or Dank showed up today. told him I intended to come home last night because I honestly hadn’t. He’d thought I was staying with Miranda again and he said he and Gee would take turns watching the house. I’d left half expecting Gee to pop up out of nowhere but she hadn’t. Then I’d crawled in bed and fell asleep.
My bedroom door swung open and in stalked Gee, “so here’s the thing. I’m hanging outside Miranda’s house not paying attention to anything all night because I’m bored out of my freaking wits. Then I finally realize I don’t feel you in there. So I do a quick check and guess what? No Pagan.” She swung her gaze over my way as she dropped into the chair in the corner and crossed her legs.
“So, I come here to check on you and low and behold you’re here. I wasted an entire night in Miranda’s backyard when I could’ve been eating food in your kitchen and watching the bad ass Chuck Bass on the television screen.” She smiled amused with herself. “I rhymed. Bad ass Chuck Bass.”
Rolling my eyes I stood up and walked over to my closet to grab a sweater. If Gee was here then we could go get that stuffed puppy out of my attic.
“Where ya going? I just got here.” Gee grumbled.
“We’re going to the attic. I have a stuffed puppy up there given to me by Leif I need to get out.”
“Just come on Gee, I’ll explain while we’re looking for it.”
“Dankmar, I need to speak with you.” Dank stopped outside Pagan’s house and turned to see Jasyln. The anxiety on her face was alarming. Transporters typically had no real problems. Gee was an exception because she’d befriended a human. Jasyln was a typical transporter. Her only purpose was to handle souls.
“What is it Jaslyn? I haven’t got much time.”
“I realize that sir, but you need to hear what I have to say or um... explain, actually,” she glanced nervously back at the house. “It has to do with your um... the soul you, uh...”
“It has to do with Pagan, the girl I love,” I finished for her. She hadn’t been sure of the terminology since she’d never felt emotion.
“Yes, Pagan. You see...” the nervous twisting of her hands was beginning to annoy me.
“Spit it out, Jasyln. If this is about Pagan then I need to know now.”
Nodding briskly like a disobedient child who’d just been scolded she stared down at the ground. “You see sir, the boy whose soul I transported. The one that Pagan knew. He, uh, he wasn’t supposed to die. That was not his fate. I didn’t get very far before his soul was taken from me--”
“WHAT do you mean he wasn’t supposed to die? His body was no longer usable. I was drawn there. His soul was barely hanging on to the body awaiting my arrival. And do you mean to tell me you LOST his soul?” I couldn’t help the roar that left my body. This was not making any sense. Had Jasyln gone crazy?
“Yes, I know sir, I was drawn there too. But something happened. Another power took him. The power had the right due to a... a restitution.”
Ice filled my hollow shell as understanding dawned on me. The restitution had taken a soul for a soul. One that would strike close to Pagan’s heart. “No,” I snapped stalking away from the door I’d been going to enter only minutes before. This could not be happening. Wyatt could not have lost his soul to Ghede because of Pagan. She’d never be able to live with herself if she knew. Yet could I keep this from her? I needed to get Wyatt’s soul back. He might not be able to return to this life but his soul belonged to the Creator. Wyatt had done no wrong. He’d never sold himself to Ghede.
“Dankmar, sir, that isn’t all,” Jaslyn’s soft whisper raked over me like razors. This could not get any worse.
“What?” I hissed glaring back at her.
“The Creator. He wants to see you. Now.”