It was nearly 2 PM before I left Collingwood Heights. Days off of work ruined my internal schedule. I had patched my face as best I could, but it was still obvious that I hadn't had a good night. And I wasn't having a good day either. Rain still gushed from the sky. And, to explain the quacking from that, the streets were full of enormous ducks, some pursued down the almost-rivers which were usually roads by children. My eyes caught sight of something across the street. No... Gray and foggy, just like the thing from the night before, its appearance sent my heart pounding and head spinning. A twisting sensation appeared in my gut and I turned and bolted, not caring where I ended up.
As it turned out, my feet lead me to the cemetery, which is not the place to go if you are hoping to avoid ghosts. I span around to go back when something on the crumbling stone wall caught my eye. Faded purple spray paint. I had caught wind of a tagger around town and even seen some of their work on buildings and such. We are never truly alone. My heart jolted into my throat and I leaped back. Over the wall, another gray figure appeared. This time I saw a face, hollow and gray, but still a being that had obviously once been human. Every instinct I had told me to run, scream, hide. Yet something held me there, gazing into empty eyes, empty eyes gazing into who knows what depths of me. Before I could act on any curiosities, however, the specter vanished and I scurried away.
My aunt lived in one of the brownstones near the Green Giant. The door numbers had faded beyond recognition, but a directory stood at the entrance. Octavia Salem, #39. The one closest to the grocery store. My feet could not carry me fast enough. And Tav couldn't open the door quickly enough when I knocked. The first words out of her mouth were "Gods and monsters, Aria, what in the name of all things happened to your face?" I struggled to find an answer that wouldn't reveal the true nature of my escapade by the lake. "I was... um... walking by the lake and... um... I tripped and scratched my face on a broken bottle." My aunt had a sideways smile on her face when I finished that told me she knew exactly what I meant. "Let me make a wild guess," she said through laughter, "This has something to do with Alice?" I felt my face grow hot. Damn it. I should have known she'd figure me out: Tav knew full well I was a witch. I nodded, unease filling my chest. My aunt continued. "You were looking for clues?" "No," I said trying to remain calm. "You were casting a spell to try and find out what happened to the poor kid?" "No." She stared at me in puzzlement and I almost laughed at the thought that I'd stumped her. Suddenly, realization dawned across her face. "You were casting a spell to summon the spirit of the dead girl?" Crap. It was easy to forget that I wasn't the only member of my family involved in magic. "Yeah..." She stared at me hard. "And let me guess, it went horrendously wrong." I nodded. "Pretty much, how did you know?" "You reek of magic and ghosts, Aria," she said, "Tell me what happened." I recounted the entire incident so far, giggling at the ridiculousness of all that had happened. And as with every time I saw my aunt I left feeling better than when I'd arrived.
It was pitch dark as I approached Collingwood Heights, definitely past midnight. The continuous rain plastered my black fringe to my face, forcing it into an intimate relationship with my eyes and completely covering the slapdash bandaging job I'd done. Before I reached Collingwood Heights, I took note of a small building just next door. The flickering sign read "Hot Legs." Curiosity overrode exhaustion and I approached the door. The letters "21 and Over ONLY" were plastered on the door, but were so faded I could hardly tell. It didn't seem as though this rule were being enforced, so I decided to check the place out, curiosity destroying any common sense I might have used in the moment. I glanced around. Two older women, sat at a table, drinks in hand. At the bar, a woman shouted at a guy who looked to be about thirty, telling him to get out. I realized where I was. This was a lesbian bar. The former part of that was all good, but the "bar" part pushed me out of my depth. My heart pounded as I watched the woman leave her post and exit through a back door. I left more quickly than I'd entered. The single remaining couple followed suit.
I ran into the woman who had been working at the bar outside the apartment building. She acknowledged me with a brusque nod, raising a cigarette to her lips. I hurried inside, feeling the exhaustion of the day catching up to me. As I walked down the hallway of the 6th floor, I only just noticed the gray figure turning the corner ahead of me.