Grimoire Girl: Chapter 1 part 1
Everyone Has to Eat
It could always be worse. Cute little line of reality Victoria had told herself many times over the past year since coming into possession of ‘the book’. No matter how bad things got- and they had gotten bad enough to drive her away from her little trailer in PA all the way down to FL, and this run down laundry mat she had taken shelter in. Still, things could always get much worse.
An elderly African-American woman eyed her suspiciously over three baskets of laundry. Victoria sent a charming smile of reassurance, but the unfriendly woman only muttered under her breath and returned to slipping coins into the machines.
The look didn’t bother Victoria. Anyone looking at her wardrobe would probably wonder if she’d stolen it somewhere, or from many different locations, and they would be right. Living on the run tends to wear anyone’s morals thin, shop lifting was one among many new talents Victoria had been lower too. But she drew the line at stealing clothes from old ladies. No, she was just here to wait out another storm.
Whipping winds and slanting rain battered the glass windows at her back. The old woman settled into a chair a safe distance away, but close enough to keep an eye on her clothes.
Victoria pulled a battered ipod from her jacket, one of the few personal possessions that had survived the ‘road trip’. Slipping the ear phones into place, she pressed the play button with genuine care. One Republic’s song Secrets played out like a haunting dream as she settled down into the chair, crossing one leg over the other as she allowed herself to doze off.
The laundry mat’s glass door swung open and an elderly man in sunglasses, and a drenched long coat, entered the laundry mat seemingly from no where. His gaze moved in Victoria’s direction as he shook the rain from his umbrella onto the stained tiled floor. The old woman glanced in his direction with a disapproving look, then dismissed him as harmless and returned to her cooking magazine.
With slow, faltering steps the man moved towards the row of chairs and the oblivious girl who’s foot twitched to the music in her ears. A crocked smile worked its way across his thin lips as he drew steadily closer. The black shoe laces of her sketchers practically within reach of his shaking fingers, his lips parted with a small hiss of barely disguised desire.
Like a crack of lightening Victoria’s foot snapped against the side of his face before hitting the floor as she shot up, green eyes blazing over a confident smile. The old woman didn’t even flinch at such abusive display against the elderly, turning a page she continued to read on oblivious.
The laundry mat seemed to tighten as lights in the corner flickered and died. Sunglasses cracked and lying uselessly on the floor, the old man pushed away from the machine he’d fallen against, and rose unsteadily to his feet. Gold eyes burned in Victoria’s direction, and a forked tongue flicked with annoyance between his lips. A small line of blood dripped from his eyebrow onto his frail cheek bone.
“Give me the book,” he hissed, fingers flexing as old frail bones snapped in odd directions. Victoria tilted her head to the side and with a small shake, freed one of the ear phones.
“What was that Spectulus?” she asked with a mocking smile. The demon screeched howling curses in her direction, his gold eyes alight with malice as the words ripped through the air, but did not touch her. He blinked with confusion, and unleashed another row of ear splitting hexes.
Sighing patiently, Victoria removed her other earphone, stopped the music, and returned the ipod to her jacket. Then with equal care she moved over to the oblivious onlooker, reached into the woman’s purse and pulled out a small black bible.
Dangling it in front of the demon, who abruptly shut up, Victoria explained in a sing song voice, “You can’t touch me.”
Can’t touch me with magic that is. Victoria amended as she leapt deftly to the side to avoid the demons lashing tail. Spectulus was shifting out of his human guise which meant she was running out of time. Bracing herself against one of the larger washing machines, Victoria focused on slowing down her heart rate, the demons movements slowed to a sluggish pace as well. The heel of her foot pressed against the machine she pushed off, ducking under the demons slow defensive tail strike, and pressing her black fingers against the collar she knew rested around his throat.
“I name you Spectulus, return to the book,” Victoria recited as black ink words emerged against of the skin of her face and neck, and along the exposed flesh of her hands. The old man’s body jerked and contorted before fading away from sight all together. Time sped up again as the large washing machine door erupted, throwing the old woman’s soaking wet clothes and laundry detergent all over the floor.
Retreating from the bubbling mess, and the woman’s less then Christian protests, Victoria headed back out into the storm. Time to move again before another demon got a fix on her.
Things could always get much worse.
* * * *
A two hour bus ride later and Victoria was trailing her way through the already drying streets of Orlando. Hunger growled in her stomach, tiredness ached from her toes up through her back. Three words vibrated to her brain with each step.
Food. Shower. Sleep.
Tightening the leather jacket around her, Victoria surveyed the shops for appealing restaurants, food was the easiest thing to obtain after all. Eying the familiar temptations, she focused in on the family restaurant serving ’Delicious Hamburgers’. Mouth watering with adequate appreciation, she took a few steps forward.
Someone jostled into her, but not without the telltale tug on her pocket where Victoria’s stash of cash rested. Like a snake she twisted, hand gripping down on the pickpocket’s arm, stepping against the kid to unbalance him before twisting his arm. Her wallet dropped onto the pavement as the would be thief emitted a startled whelp.
Brown eyes under messy brown hair looked up at her with a mixture of fear and resentment. The boy was barely older than eleven. Victoria released her grip but snatched the wallet up quickly. He rubbed his arm, scowling at her but quickly moving away in the crowd. Sympathy and guilt ate it’s way through her as Victoria stared in the direction he’d gone. Everyone has to eat.
…and she was a thief too.
Wallet firmly zipped and secure, she headed up the wooden stairs to the restaurant. A waiter turned towards her with a friendly smile that quickly faded as he gaze dropped over her outfit.
“Welcome, - er” he raised an attractive eyebrow questioningly.
“Table for one?” Victoria asked raising her own eyebrow, and not bothering to hide the sarcasm. He glanced over his shoulder as if he wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. With a patient sigh she glanced at his name tag that read Greg. “I have money. I’m hungry. I just want a burger,” she explained with strained politeness. Eying her with doubtfulness, Greg nodded, picked up a menu and led her towards the very back of the store to a table tucked out of sight. Victoria took her seat and waved away the offered menu. “Just get me the biggest burger you guys have and a glass of water,” she requested. When he hesitated, again with the doubtful look, she removed two twenties from her wallet and tapped them on the table. “Good enough?” she asked with dripping anger.
Greg cleared his throat and went to make her order. Praying the rest of her meal would move swiftly and with less irritation, Victoria glanced at the white pearl bracelet on her left wrist. The pearls’ milky white reflection helped calm her nerves. No demons around.
The bracelet was a gift from a dead woman. A soothsayer she’d met two months after acquiring ‘the book‘. Victoria had already seen enough of death, demons, and magic by then to take palm readers and magicians a little more seriously then before. The woman, who’s name she’d never gotten, had given her the bracelet before pleading with Victoria to leave her shop as swiftly as possible. Each pearl had been as black as death, and moments later when she looked back to see a bus half crushed into ‘Future Envisioned’ Victoria had learned why.
“Sorry,” that was all she could say before running away again. Each night since had been spent in the horrible fear that her own brother might have met a similar fate, but she was to afraid to call and check. Afraid ‘they’ might be watching.
Tugging the leather jacket over the bracelet, Victoria sank back against the wooden chair, listening to the noisy but calming chatter of families all around enjoying a meal together. One of them was bound to have a nice van she could sleep in for the night, shower was the tricky part of the equation. Maybe if she could find a school near by.
A familiar hum cut through the chatter around her, Victoria didn’t bother to look. Someone was praying over their delicious burger. An old almost archival ritual that would buy her precious minutes of sanctuary. Prayer herself didn’t work, not after receiving the book. Churches tended to be the best places to hide, but no one is noisier than a pastor, except perhaps his wife.
Foot steps headed in her direction, and Greg reappeared with a plate bearing a steaming stack of well cooked meat between buns and the works. He set it down before Victoria’s beaming gaze, followed by a cup of ice water.
“Enjoy your meal,” he said more out of habit then courtesy.
“You have no idea,” Victoria grinned, already debating how to get the massive lump of savory excellence into her stomach. She almost missed the uncertain look of fear on his face before he retreated away. Snorting in annoyance she realized he was probably expecting her to run away without paying for the meal.
Well maybe she should do just that…
But by the time her plate had been emptied, and the cup of water twice refilled, she was filling more generous, forgiving, and tired. The tip she left was small, but was better than no tip at all. Moving sluggishly down the restaurant steps she eyed the street for future pick pockets, and went in search of an hotel with appropriately large parking lot.
Better then sleeping in a car was when someone checked out late at night. Then it was simply a matter of picking the lock, on cheap hotels only of course, and slipping inside unseen. With a shower and full stomach marked off her list, Victoria combed through her tangled hair with fading enthusiasm as the mattress beneath her tired legs beckoned her into a deep sleep. She checked the drawer for a bible, and her bracelet one last time before sinking into the pillows that still carried the sent of the previous occupant.