Timeline: Late November, 2007
John walked into the Blood and Brew. He looked tired but when he saw Rey a smile crossed his face. If a smile could be put into words, this one would say, “I’ve just crossed the desert and you are the oasis that I crossed it for.”
“Hey Rey, how are you today? Set me up with the usual.”
“Sure thing, John,” Rey replied with a smile. “Wanna throw caution to the wind and make it a chocolate milk?”
A look of intense concentration crossed John’s face, “Hmmmmmm well only if you think it won’t ruin my waist line”. A smile broke across John’s face again. “Oh heck, caution to the winds, make it chocolate and have one for yourself if you are a mind too.”
“Didn’t you know when I make chocolate milk it has no calories?” Rey replied with a grin.
“Actually the chocolate doesn’t have any calories it’s the sugar they — sorry occupational hazard.” John’s look was slightly abashed. Then he continued. “So can we give this a bar type name… I can come in here all cool like and ask for a brown cow or something?”
“How about… a BC cocktail?” Rey asked with a grin.
“Works for me, One BC cocktail, please. Wait is that a crack about my age??”
“No,” Rey said slowly, and her expression turned mischievous. “I didn’t think they even knew what a calendar was when you were a kid.”
“Ha . Ha . Ha. Remember… shaken not stirred.”
While Rey was mixing the chocolate into the milk, John stared at her intently for a second and then sighed and looked away.
Rey handed him his glass. “I wish you wouldn’t do that, John. If you have a question, just ask me.” She took a long drink of her own chocolate milk.
“Do what?” John looked all innocent, “So other than your foot hurting you how are you doing? Do you need anything? How’s your love life?”
Rey stared at John, her cheeks turned bright pink. “Just fine.” She took another deep drink. “Why do you keep asking me if I need something? I’m making pretty good money here, and I can afford to buy what I want.”
John looked around the bar to make sure that no one could over hear and then gave Rey a hard look, “Little one, you know there are some things money can’t buy: Love, friendship, hope. I keep asking you because I care; you are in a new place, in a town where outsiders aren’t usually welcomed with open arms. I want you to stay and be happy here. I worry about you. Lyla said I shouldn’t tell other people but I told her that I won’t hide what I can do from my friends. I can read minds. When you first came here you were in a dark bad place. Its slowly getting better but I still worry. I think you need to talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be me. I don’t even know if it should be me, but pick someone and talk to them.” With that John took a big drink of milk, leaving a nice milk moustache behind, making him look faintly ridiculous, which he calmly wiped away with a cocktail napkin.
Rey sat there for a while, just looking at him. She took a deep breath, and then spoke. “I have no plans to leave Eldon Well. Lyla, Ironclaw and the others, they’re my family now. I don’t care if the town accepts me as one of their own. In fact, I’d be very surprised if they did, given who and what I am.” Her voice and manner were calm and accepting.
“There are people I talk to about some things, but I have … trust issues.
“But I am happy here. It’s starting to feel like home.” Rey gave him a smile tinged with sadness. “I haven’t felt that since I was six or seven years old. It’s a very nice feeling.” Her melancholy expression lifted, and John saw a genuine smile. She reached out and touched his hand. “Thanks for caring, but you’re right. There are some things I really couldn’t talk to you about. Like talking to you about my sex life. That’d be, I don’t know, kinda squicky. I mean,
you’re old enough to be my dad.” She blushed slightly.
“Rey, I want to be part of your family too or at least a kissing cousin. I know about your trust issues. That’s why I come in here so often and ask you how are you doing and if I can do anything, to give you some stability and let you know that you are cherished and wanted. I want you to have that nice warm home, arms wrapped around you feeling of home and safety and security. And what do you mean given who and what you am?”
“I’m a hedge witch,” Rey said softly. “I can create potions, charms and talismans that actually work. If I give someone the Evil Eye, it’s not just an expression. I see spirits just as clearly as you see me right now. And then there’s Hamilton, and a lot of people think I’m a bit tetched for talking to him once in a while as if he can talk back.” She made a small gesture with her hands. “I’m a human who’s part of a pack.”
Rey gave a little laugh.
“Most people who discover I have powers are either terrified of me, or want to use me, or both. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve learned to accept it. But here in Eldon Well, I think I’ll have a much better chance of being able to be me, and not hide so much. They’re a bit more willing to look the other way or turn a blind eye to the little things I can do. At least that’s what Grey said when he gave me the responsibility and necessity of secrecy lecture.” Rey’s bemused smile
belied the tone of her voice.
“Well maybe that’s because here in Eldon Well 4/5’s of the houses have Hex Signs woven into them, Hex Signs that work, not to mention the pack, the mages and the thing that used to live here.
“So what does s – quicky mean? I also want to point out that ‘Like a fine wine I have gotten better with age’ and as the song says, there might be a little dust on the bottle but don’t let it fool you about what’s inside.”
“Man, you must be old if you don’t know what squicky means,” Rey teased. “It means, well, weird in a yucky kind of way. Like finding out in high school your best friend has the hots for your mom.” She paused for a moment. “You’re, um, not hitting on me, are you? I mean, you’re a nice enough guy, but I don’t think you and me would work. You’re too much like the kind of guy I wish my father could have been, and I just couldn’t…” Rey’s face turned a pale shade of pink. “I’m sorry. I’ll just shut my mouth now.”
“Ok, I admit it, they didn’t have calendars when I was growing up. Rey, you are a beautiful young woman, the kind I would like my daughter to be, if I had a daughter. And you’re right. Long term we wouldn’t work out. Everyone has baggage from the past and our luggage doesn’t match or even coordinate. No I think I would picture you with someone else. Grey maybe. Want me to play Yenta and give him a nudge or are you not quite ready yet?”
“No!” Rey’s cheeks flared bright red. “I mean, thank you, but this is something I want to try to do on my own. But, why Grey? I know why I want it, but what makes you think it’s something he’s considered?”
“As to why Grey, Rey, which part of ‘I can read minds’ didn’t you get? On the surface I think he would be good for you, Why do I think he might consider it, well you are a good looking, smart woman with a steady job. If you are asking do I ‘know’, then the answer is no I haven’t even tried to look. I thought I would tell him that you are interested. You know, ‘hey Grey my friend really likes you, why don’t you ask her out?’ I think that would work don’t you?”
Rey smiled. “It might, but I’d rather you didn’t. Like I said, this is something I need to do for myself. And John,” she looked him in the eye. “Please stay out of my head. I know you care about me, but if you want to know something, just ask next time, okay? Just because I don’t shout to the world what’s bothering me doesn’t mean I’m not dealing with it.”
“OK, I won’t talk to Grey. I’ll stay away and let you deal with it.” John got up, took a bill from his pocket and put it on the counter with a nod to Rey and then said, “See you around Rey, use the change to call if you need anything.”
“See you the day after tomorrow,” she said with a smile. “I don’t want you to stay away, John. Just let me handle stuff myself. I promise to ask for help if I need it.” Rey picked the bill up off the counter. “I’ll have your usual waiting for you.”