Cat sat up in bed. She had her knife in her hand, but she couldn’t seem to remember why she was holding it. She heard a buzzing and rubbed her eyes. It must have just been the sound that had woken her. She reached over to check her phone. There were several messages, but the buzzing wasn’t coming from her phone.
“Gran?” she called.
Her door swung open. Gran was already dressed in her overalls and a loose pink shirt. Her white hair was still up in curlers, though.
“I heard it too,” Gran said. “Put the knife away, but keep it close, dear.”
“What’s that sound?” Cat asked, getting out of her bed.
Her knife turned into a headband again, and she slipped it over her bedhead.
“The door,” Gran replied shortly. “No one can get past the barrier, so they’re ringing to be let in.”
“But who is it?”
“We’ll find out,” Gran replied.
She swung her walker in front of her and walked over to the speaker as it buzzed again several times in a row. Someone was getting impatient.
“Who is it?” Gran called into the speaker weakly.
“Hello, Ms. Betty?”
“I’m Ms. Betty,” Gran replied, winking at Cat. “Who are you?”
“Hi, I’m Ross Jenkins, Ms. Alvaro’s campaign manager.”
“Oh, I’m not interested in buying,” Gran said, then covered the voice box. “I don’t recognize him.”
“Maybe he’s just a human?” Cat guessed.
“Doubtful if he’s working for Rosaria.”
“Ms. Alvaro sent me,” Ross Jenkins continued. “Apparently, you tried to contact her. She appreciates the calls but is too busy with the campaign to visit personally.”
Gran rolled her eyes at Cat.
“Do you like tea?” she asked, and there was a pause.
“Uhhh, yes?” he replied.
Gran buzzed him in. Cat pointed to her headband but Gran shook her head. She didn’t seem to think Ross Jenkins was much of a threat just yet. She unlocked the doors and let him step inside.
“Hi, there. Ross Jenkins,” he said, holding his hand out to Gran and then Cat.
Neither of them took his hand, so he wiped it on his pants and gave a nervous chuckle.
“Ms. Alvaro sends her apologies that she couldn’t come here sooner,” he said. “But she takes any problems faced by her constituents seriously, and I’m more than happy to listen to any problems you may be having.”
“Cat, dear, can you show Rob Johnson into the living room?” Gran asked. “I’ll make us some tea.”
“It’s, uh, Ross Jenkins, ma’am.”
Cat gave an apologetic smile and gestured down the hall.
“Sorry,” she said. “Gran’s not too good with names. She’s… a little hard of hearing, too… cause she’s old.”
“Ah, yes, I understand,” he replied with a nod. “My grandmother was a little… out of it in the mornings too before.”
He sat down on the sofa, and Cat sat in an armchair and gave him an awkward smile. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be doing. She couldn’t very well ask him if he was human. Gran didn’t even say if Cat was supposed to be friendly or just keep an eye on him. She looked him over.
He looked old to Cat, which meant he could’ve been anywhere between thirty and fifty. Cat was terrible at guessing ages past late twenties. He had shaggy hair combed back and gelled to the extreme. She could smell body spray even from several feet away. She guessed maybe he was thirty-ish and single. Definitely single. No one would want to stand so close to him when he smelled like a bottle of Axe Spray.
Gran shuffled in a few minutes later, a tray of tea balanced on her walker. She bent down and grabbed a red cup. It shook and spilled a few drops as she held it up for Ross. He took it with thanks, and Cat saw him trying to subtly wipe the tea off his hands onto his pants. Gran shook as she handed Cat a yellow cup and shuffled over to the chair and picked up her green cup.
“Sorry, honey, I forgot your name,” Gran said, squinting at him. “You aren’t one of my grand kids, are you?”
“No, ma’am,” Ross said, taking a polite sip of tea. “I’m Ross Jenkins, Assistant Campaign Manager to Rosaria Alvaro.”
“Should I know her?” Gran asked.
“She’s running for mayor,” he replied. “Twelve points ahead in the latest polls, too. And she says you’ve been calling her?”
“Have I?” Gran asked, taking a sip of her tea.
Cat sniffed her own cup suspiciously before taking a cautious sip. She doubted Gran would give her a poison test now, but she wasn’t about to risk it. Luckily, it just tasted like vanilla chai with a spoonful of honey. Gran made a face at her own cup, though.
“Oh dear,” she said, peering into her cup. “Did I mix up the teas?” She looked over at Ross. “What does yours taste like?”
“Black tea with lemon, ma’am,” Ross replied slowly, taking another sip to confirm. “Or some sort of citrus.”
“Oh, well, I guess I just mixed up my green tea with a black tea,” Gran said with a shrug. “Cat, dear, you don’t have green tea in your cup, do you?”
“Nope,” Cat replied.
Gran was sitting up a little straighter, like she had just gained the upper hand. She smiled at Ross.
“Now, you’re an assistant campaign manager?” she asked. “Not the campaign manager?”
“That’s correct,” he said with a flush. “I’m the campaign manager’s right hand, though, so I’m, like, Ms. Alvaro’s right-right hand man.”
“And she sent her right-right hand to talk to me?” Gran asked. “Did she not take any of my warnings seriously?”
“I know what she’s up to,” Gran said. “And she has only tonight to meet me where it all begins and ends to sort it out. I would hate to rescind my agreement to the Accords.”
“I’m sorry,” Ross said slowly. “I’m not following.”
“I’ll make it simple,” Gran replied. “She has until sunrise to meet me, and she knows where. She knows what’ll happen if she doesn’t come, too.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” he replied.
Gran gave him a searching look then stood up and shuffled out of the room. Cat gave him an awkward smile and shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t know either,” she said.
Gran came back in with an ice tray. She shook a couple ice cubes into Ross’ cup.
“I should’ve given you iced tea,” she said. “It’s summer time. You must be burning up.”
“Oh, I actually don’t mind too much,” Ross replied with a polite smile, taking another sip. “It’s refreshing either way.”
Gran set the ice down on the table and settled back into her chair. Cat was tempted to reach for the ice, but she didn’t see Gran take any ice for herself. Cat suddenly didn’t trust it.
“Now, when you see your Aunt Rosaria,” Gran said. “Tell her my message, and say what has been done can be undone.”
“Ms. Alvaro isn’t my aunt,” Ross replied with furrowed brows.
Gran tilted her head.
“This is the Rosaria Alvaro who used to live on Hollow Road, right?” Gran asked.
“I… can’t answer that, ma’am,” Ross said. “I know her current address, but I don’t know where she’s lived before.”
“Ah, well, pass the message along anyway,” Gran said with a chuckle. “Oh, how embarrassing if she’s a different Rosaria. Then I’d never get my casserole dish back.”
She laughed some more. Cat saw Ross quickly down his tea and stand up. She couldn’t blame him for wanting to get away so quickly.
“Well, I’ll pass along the message,” he said. “I wish I could stay longer, but I have a town hall meeting to prepare for. Thank you for the tea.”
“Of course, dear,” Gran replied, standing up. “Here, let me walk you out.”
Cat waited until they left the room to grab the ice tray and sniff it. It smelled cold, but she couldn’t detect anything.
“It’s odorless,” Gran said, reentering the room without her walker. “It’s a memory fuzzer, so he can’t remember the details of the house or much else except for my message. Of course, if he were mortal he’d chalk this up to me being a batty old lady.”
“Wait, I thought you drugged the teas,” Cat said.
“I have a few teas that do the same,” Gran replied. “But the ice is for smaller doses. Like when I made your memories fuzzy.”
“I thought it was the tea pitchers!”
“No, I was telling the truth that time,” Gran replied with a chuckle. “One tea pitcher is regular. One has Metamucil. Neither are drugged.”
“Why’d you drug the guy then?”
“I don’t like others knowing the inside of my home,” Gran said. “Especially Mythics who aren’t on my side.”
“Can you be sure he’s not a human?” Cat asked.
“I used a special tea on him,” Gran replied. “Mythics taste citrus. Humans usually just taste sugar or honey.”
“So then is he a fairy too?”
“Or something else,” Gran said with a shake of her head. “Most fairies could’ve sensed the ice drug a mile away.” She sighed. “There’s something… off about him.”
“What do you mean?”
“Usually I expect more reactions when I do this kind of routine,” Gran said with a thoughtful look. “So I’ve either met the most polite Mythic, or…”
Her voice trailed off like she couldn’t think of a second option either. Cat admitted to herself that Ross seemed too nice, but honestly he could have been overwhelmed at Gran being Gran. With a resigned sigh, Gran shrugged.
“Well, either way, you’ll be seeing at least one fairy today,” she said.
“Do you think Rosaria will actually come?” Cat asked. “What did you mean by that message to her?”
“I meant to worry her,” Gran replied. “And I’m pretty sure it did the trick. What’d you say to a moonlight picnic with me tonight?”
“Is it safe?”
“I’ll bring along a friend,” she promised. “In case I need backup.”
Cat felt herself slightly offended by this. She’d been training hard, but Gran didn’t seem to think of her as backup. Then again, she was a little relieved that someone else would be there if things got dangerous.
“What should I expect?” Cat asked. “Should I bring along some potions in case you end up fighting again?”
“That won’t be necessary,” Gran said with a smile. “But all the same, with fairies, don’t let your guard down and always assume they might hurt you.”
Cat nodded slowly and took a deep breath. She was going to spend the day researching fairies, she decided.
Cat’s phone buzzed for the twelfth time since she picked up What to Expect when Fairies Visit. With a sigh, she checked her phone.
Are you busy?
Do you have a sec?
Cat rolled her eyes at Naomi’s texts. Usually, she only texted this much and frantically when some drama was about to start. Like when she poured milk in Cat’s backpack and then lost her charm bracelet and thought Cat had stolen it in retribution (and then found it in her shower later but never apologized).
I’m kinda busy… what is it? Cat replied and tried to pick up her book again.
Her phone buzzed several times in a row.
Don’t be mad.
You know how I was keeping tabs on Aiden because you like him?
Well, he asked me out.
And said he likes me a lot.
We kinda went to a movie together last night.
Don’t hate me
Cat scanned the messages.
Her blood should be boiling.
She should be throwing her phone.
Cat sighed and put her phone on the table. It seemed like Naomi was texting her from a different world. Just a couple weeks ago, Cat probably would have flipped out. But suddenly Aiden didn’t seem like more than a distant memory. And Naomi… well, Cat thought, that kinda hurt. But it was typical Naomi.
Maybe Naomi’s a fairy, Cat thought with a chuckle to herself. She certainly liked stirring up trouble and creating drama. She was half-tempted to show Gran the texts. Maybe there was a special tea to make Naomi less awful of a friend. Or to make Cat remember why they were still friends.
Gran definitely wouldn’t put up with this, she thought to herself with a sigh.
After a moment, Cat picked up her phone and replied to Naomi.
No worries. I don’t hate you.
She turned off her phone and returned to her book.