Faery in the Attic

October 28, 2009
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Banished…the word curled up like a festering sore in Asrai Rassenwell’s small mouth. Never to return…Punishable by death…Lucky to be living….All of the words rang constantly through her mind, curtained from prying outsiders by a short curtain of shaggy black hair. With her multiple ear piercings and surly expression, all passerbies hurried on past her in a blurry whirlwind.

“There goes another one of those poor souls,” whispered one old lady to her companion. “No future. Nothing to fall back on. Probably just got thrown out of her home, too.” Asrai turned her heart-shaped face towards the capped and furred lady who had whispered a little too loudly. As her lips twisted into a wry, sarcastic expression, the lady, realizing her mistake, raised her lace handkerchief to her mouth quickly hurried off towards some exclusive tea parlor to recuperate.

She’s more correct than she knows. Asrai shook her head. I’m surprised she didn’t cross herself at the sight of me. Hands fumbling from the cold, the tall girl finally found the key to the Rosenwald Building. It was a towering structure, built in the Neo-Gothic style by rich entrepreneur Arthur T. Rosenwald only ten years ago. According to the burnished bronze plaque in the foyer, at least.

Asrai thudded up the stairs one at a time, waving at Willard the doorman on her way up, and then pushed the button that would take her to the eighth floor of the Rosenwald Building. On the way up, she gazed dreamily at the wooden elevator doors. If she had been there…no, she knew that she should not think of there. There was no turning back now. They had abandoned her; Asrai had to return the favor.
With an obnoxious ding, the elevator jolted Asrai back to reality. She picked up her backpack slowly, as if she had arthritis, and headed to No. 81. Once the brass numbering came into view, the door opened at Asrai’s feet as though a butler were waiting for her inside. Far from being scared, Asrai regarded the phenomenon with coolness.
“Hello Grace,” Asrai said with a genuine smile. “How are you?”
“That’s a pointless question,” scoffed the invisible, female voice. A blue-white figure shimmered into view after Asrai closed the door behind her. It was tall and slim. The figure was clearly female, with a fine figure showcased by the low-cut Victorian dress and long flowing hair. It was a Disir, a soul who had died dishonorably and was therefore not worthy of entrance to heaven without ten thousand years’ service to the building where they had died. Grace, the Disir of the Rosenwald Building, had not even done five hundred years yet. She had been the daughter of Arthur Rosenwald who had jumped out of the window of Asrai’s room in order to escape her maniacal husband on their wedding night. “You know that I’m always going to be the same for the next ten thousand years.”
“Yeah,” Asrai grinned humorlessly. “I suppose so.”
“What happened at school today?” Grace sat down upon one of the old red velvet couches with the posture of a well-bred lady. All of her finishing school training had stayed with her even after death. “Bad day?”
“You could say that,” Asrai groaned, dropping the twenty-pound backpack onto the wooden floorboards, who protested loudly. She flopped down onto the other couch. “Ally finally got the promised Porsche. Got my pencil dumped into a water bottle again. Binder spilled all over the floor. Everyone’s buzzing about the new kid tomorrow. Same old, same old.”
“Finishing school was worse,” Grace commented sagely. “Back then, people dipped your hair into inkwells.”
“If you dipped mine – assuming that you could reach my hair – it wouldn’t make a difference.”
“But it’d drip onto your clothes…” Grace fell silent for a second. “Oh yeah! Your grandfather came over this morning.”
“Why?” Asrai frowned. “Shouldn’t he be watching the store?”
“I don’t know, he was kind of breathless so I couldn’t hear everything that he was saying. Although, he did say for you to come over as soon as possible.”
“I’ll go now,” Asrai groaned. “Get it done before I forget.”
Asrai hurried down out the front door and down the street two blocks to reach Rassenwell’s Magic Shop. A bell tinkled when she opened the door to the musty, incense-scented air of her grandfather’s shop.
“Asrai,” an old man’s voice said with relief. “You’re here!”
“Grandfather, why wouldn’t I come?” Asrai frowned with mock-admonishment. “What’s the message? Grace said that you were in a hurry.” She looked carefully at her grandpa. He was as short and tubby as ever, with that same half-plucked-looking beard and overly long eyebrows. But his eyes, normally alert and happy, were harried. Worried. “What’s wrong?”
“I received a message,” he breathed. Asrai didn’t get it.
“What’s so special about that?”
“It was from the Silver City,” the old man whispered. Asrai froze in her tracks.
“Connaught? What? You have got to be kidding me, Grandfather.” Her voice turned bitter now. “They excommunicated me, you, and Grandmother, remember? I was lucky to still have my head thanks to that-“Now her grandfather’s eyes truly looked frightened. He looked like he had seen a demon, or an angel.
“Now what?” Asrai was, internally, going hysterical. She turned around to find a figure in the doorway. The figure looked like Grace, figure-wise. But where Grace’s hair was translucent, this woman’s hair was platinum blonde and quite solid. Her white, lacy satin dress billowed even without wind. Asrai’s eyes picked up the wing-shaped shimmers on the woman’s back. The woman’s full mouth curved up into a snake’s smile.
“Long time no see, sister.”
“Get out,” Asrai spat through her teeth. “Get out, Asparas, and never come back!”
“It’s Cliodhna now. My, my,” Cliodhna wrinkled her nose at her sister. “Aren’t we touchy?”
“You could put it that way,” Asrai sneered. “Another way would be a slimy, lowlife, backstabbing little b-“
“Uh-uh,” Cliodhna said lightly. “Language, big sister.”
“So now you finally acknowledge our relation? I thought that I was excommunicated. Annihilated. As good as dead.” Asrai repeated Cliodhna’s little rant from ten years before.
“You’re right,” Cliodhna shrugged. “I am not a blood relative anymore.”
“Give me one reason to let you stay intact,” Asrai said quietly. Cliodhna glanced at the energy crackling in her sister’s palm and threw her golden head back to laugh. She leaned in, her breath tickling Asrai’s earlobe. So soft that Asrai wasn’t sure if she had heard right, Cliodhna whispered, “I know a way for you to revoke your banishment.”

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