Grimory knocked on the door of the large house, trying to hold back his astonishment over the size. A wiry boy he recognized as being a year ahead of him opened the door. The boy’s odd lavender eyes looked him over, bugged wide, then averted quickly.
“C-can I help you?”
Grimory’s brow furrowed. “Did…I get the right house? I’m looking for Alisbeth.”
“Sh-she’s not here right now.”
A blonde with a shirt that could barely contain her ample cleavage shoved the boy aside and smiled flirtatiously up at Grimory. “You’re more than welcome to wait for her. I could always use the company.”
The boy sneered. “Kel’ori, that’s gross.”
“When will she be back?” Grimory blurted.
“Not for hours,” the boy said. “She spends weekends at her house.” He wrote out the address on a small paper and handed it over.
Grimory raised a curious eyebrow, but was growing uncomfortable under Kel’ori’s gaze. “Thanks, um…”
“Taveth,” he mumbled, then looked quickly away when the football player smiled at him.
“Thank you.” He pursed his lips in a tight smile at the older girl. “And you.” Grimory left before anything more could be said.
He drove across town, double checking that his GPS was taking him to the same address as was on the paper as it led him into the rich district. When he reached the address, he stopped and checked again that it was correct, then circled the block to make sure it was the right street and the right house. Nerves and awe kept him in his beat up pickup parked on the street in front of the three-story mansion. He got out and went to the front door, feeling more underdressed than he ever had in his life. He paused to listen as music blared from the back yard. He rang the bell and the music shut off suddenly.
“Look up,” Alisbeth’s voice came breathlessly through an intercom by the door.
He looked up until he found a small camera pointed down at him.
“What do you want? I told you I’m busy.”
“I wanted to— Can we please talk face-to-face?”
There was a long pause before she replied. “Hang on.” When the door opened minutes later she was in a baggy T-shirt and leggings that left little to the imagination; her feet were bare and her hair was up in its usual tight bun. Her face had been hastily wiped of sweat and she was still catching her breath. “Say it and leave.”
“Parents don’t like boys over?” he smirked down at her, leaning in just enough to see white sheets over all the furniture in the main room.
“How did you get this address?”
“Uhh, that weird library aid at your…other house.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Taveth isn’t weird. Don’t be an assho— Oops, forgot who I’m talking to.” She turned, but left the door open as she walked away.
Grimory followed her into the kitchen and sighed as she poured a glass of filtered water. “Look, I’m sorry. About the project.”
She took a long drink, her eyes shifted to stare at him from the corners. “And?”
“And that’s it. Was there something else I— Are you moving?” He motioned at the white sheets over the furniture.
“No.” She set her glass on the counter and leaned back. “Figured you’d apologize for trying to add me to your tally.”
His gaze snapped to her and he straightened. “First of all, you started that yourself. Secondly, I’m not apologizing for that. Ever. It was…nice.” He looked around again as she stared at her feet and blushed. “So…where do you live?” He went to the sliding glass door to look out at another building the size of a small house; mirrors were the only thing visible through the windows.
“I live with my cousins. For now. Until my birthday.”
“When’s your birthday?”
She cleared her throat and finished her water, then set the glass in the sink. “So, since you’re here did you want to work on the project?”
“You didn’t already do it without me?”
She narrowed her eyes and pulled a box from under the sink. “I was going to in a few minutes, actually.”
“After you got done with your…Crossfit?” He smirked and joined her at the island counter.
“I was cleaning,” she said, not looking at him.
“It’s easier to lie when the tops of your ears don’t turn pink,” he said, setting up the test tubes.
“They do not,” she scoffed, but absently reached up as though she could feel the color of one.
They were busy with their project when Grimory’s phone went off, vibrating on the counter.
Alisbeth glanced over. “Your boyfriend must think you’re cheating, spending all this time around me.”
Instead of responding, he gave her a bored look, then grabbed his phone.
‘Koltira’ >>Odd neighborhood for you to be in.<<
‘Grimory’ >>Fuck off, stalker.<<
‘Koltira’ >>Your truck is across the street from the mayor’s house, dick.<<
‘Grimory’ >>How do you know any of this? You at the mayor’s house getting lucky?<<
‘Koltira’ >>…You could say that.<<
‘Grimory’ >>Wait. What? No! Fuck off.<<
Ten minutes later the bell rang and Grimory gave Alisbeth a nervous grin. “It’s Koltira. He saw my truck. I told him to fuck off…”
She didn’t say anything, just held his gaze.
“I’ll go tell him again.” When he opened the door, he found Koltira next to a short figure covered head-to-toe—including their face—in black cloth, a black lacy parasol was clutched in their gloved hands. “I told you to—”
“I’ve always wanted to see inside this house!” the covered figure squealed.
Grimory stared for a long time. “What is it?” he asked, pointing at the girl under the parasol.
“It…” she repeated blandly.
“Oh, shit,” Alisbeth said from inside the house. “Get her inside, assholes.” She went about shutting the blinds and curtains of the main room. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked.
Anarchaia pulled off her mask and took her glasses out of the front pocket of her sweater. “Ice water is fine.”
“Any beer?” Koltira asked. His eyes widened as Alisbeth glared at him. “It was a joke?”
“Okay, you two can leave, she can stay. Bye.”
Anarchaia smiled shyly up at Koltira. “I’d…rather he stayed…heh.” She took a drink of water and looked at the sheets on the furniture. “Moving?”
Alisbeth’s eyelids lowered and raised slowly in a bland blink. “No.”
“Parents out of town? We should have a party,” Koltira said.
Anarchaia smiled nervously. “I’ve never been to a party before.”
“Aw, come on, you hear that?” Koltira prodded. “Never been to a party! I mean, that’s just sad.”
Grimory smirked and took the cue. “Seriously, can’t let someone graduate without having at least one party.”
“Don’t you fucking—” Alisbeth growled and slapped her palms on the counter. “Ana…do you…want to have a party?”
The boys gave each other triumphant grins over Anarchaia’s white hair.
The girl’s blue eyes went wide. “I’d love to! Heh. I mean. I-if that’s okay…”
Alisbeth clenched her jaw repeatedly as she thought. “I’ve never been to a party, either. I…guess we can have one. Just a small one, okay?”
“Beer?” Koltira asked hopefully.
“I’ll call my cousin.”