Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Fifty-Two.
Luke rapped his knuckles on the door of the spare bedroom and entered when he heard Orson’s voice give a muffled “Come in.” He’d never been in this room of Sally’s house. Orson and Mae sat on a white metal daybed with enough decorative pillows to double as a couch. An old Singer sewing machine and a bookcase with an impressive array of cotton print fabrics and half-finished projects was on one side of the room; a pegboard with enough unfathomable tools to fill a dungeon hung on the adjoining wall. The closet door had a sign written in calligraphy: “Craft Closet: Open at Your Own Risk.” The room was awash in blush pink, lavender, and sunshine yellow. This was, clearly, Sally’s mother’s domain.
Luke’s mental vision of Mae was of a woman of fine taste and an invincible poker face. He’d seen her budget once, when he and Orson had been roommates after college, and it included things like “dry cleaning,” “gym,” “salon,” and “Nordstrom.” He hadn’t seen “feed store” or “beer” anywhere on there and wondered why “therapist” wasn’t present. Then again, that might have been on Orson’s budget.
The Mae before him now reflected none of that. None of Sally’s clothes fit her, given that Sally was both more rounded and six inches shorter than Mae. They’d had to go with an ancient pink nightgown with a faded gray tabby kitten and too-short sweatpants with the drawstring cinched tight. She sat with her legs pulled up to her chest, the sweatpants halfway up her unshaven shins. Her nail and toenail polish was chipped and grown out, her hair pulled back into a frizzy ponytail. She wore no make-up, and no defense. Her pain and fury were written there for the world to see.
Orson wasn’t a whole lot better. Mae leaned against him, his arm around her shoulders. All his centuries seemed to show in the lines and worry of his face. Most telling was that they didn’t shoo Luke off; they let him come in, stand before them, study them. He extended his right hand to Mae, and she took it in her left, just holding on to him, on to anything solid and warm.
Finally she said, “I’m sorry.”
“Of course you are. But it was hardly you who done it all.”
“No, I mean…. Well yes, I’m sorry this whole thing happened. Thing is, they couldn’t have used me if I hadn’t been so damn public about… not getting along.”
“That’s one way to put it.”
“I made us all vulnerable.”
“No use fretting on it now. You know you were already forgiven, right?”
Mae sniffed and wiped her eyes with her wrist. “Goddamnit. Why’ve you got to be so easy about it? Why can’t you have the decency to treat me the way I would’ve treated you?”
“How can I resist, when you’re so charming?” Luke said, his voice dry, bordering on snarky. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “Listen, I have something to offer. You and I, we’re all about control. I give it up happily. I encourage others to give it up. You, you take control, wrest it away from others. There is a part of me that is vengeful, that wants to ask how it felt to have your control taken away.”
She looked away, her brow furrowed, frowning. She wasn’t crying yet. She would, soon. But not yet.
He soldiered on. “But I won’t, because I know very well that it sucks ass, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Especially not someone who once shared love with my closest, oldest friend.” He cast a glance at Orson, who nodded in appreciation. To Mae he continued, “If you’ll let me, I can give you a little of your control back to you. You remember the night Randy went through the Harrowing?”
She nodded. “He didn’t know it was a blood moon, and came back staggering and babbling about deer skeletons and black foxes.” She chewed her lip, thinking. “You did something out on the porch with him, and he came in and slept for two days. And then he turned into this philosophic git who wanted to talk about everything in maddening depth for the next semester.”
Luke nodded. “Uh, yeah, I guess he did. It’s a kind of earth magic similar to grounding. It won’t fix any of the problems, but it’ll give you a good, solid touchstone to come back to. A big chunk of satyr magic to push around.”
Mae was silent for a minute, wrestling with something internally. Finally Luke said, “Do you want me to give you this?”
Luke pursed his lips, wondering how he could possibly manage this with someone who made a regular appearance in his nightmares, now that he was committed. He couldn’t kiss her on the mouth. He just couldn’t. Finally he said, “Sally, help me.” He drew Sally’s arm over his shoulders; she put her other arm over Mae’s. Luke leaned in and kissed Mae on the forehead, her hands in his. He pressed his cheek to hers and drew up as much magic as he could. It was awkward and forced, and the magic clung to him like bits of styrofoam, not wanting to go to her. But slowly, little pieces of magic, like faint gasps of wind, left him and sank into her. He felt her body quiver and knew if he opened his eyes to look at her, he would see tears sliding down her cheeks. When she sat up and the tears stopped, and she let go of his hands, Luke stood–and almost fell over.
“Whoa,” Mae said, her eyes filled with concern. It was a foreign expression on her features. “Are you OK? It didn’t feel like I took that much.”
“You didn’t,” Luke said. “It was just really hard to give it to you.” He pointed at Orson. “You’re next.”
Orson held up his hands. “I’m all right.”
Luke got his balance back and put his hands on Orson’s shoulders. “Bullshit. You put up a good show, but you need to be centered and grounded and given a port in the storm as much as anyone here.” He touched his forehead to Orson’s, feeling the base of his horns touch Orson’s shaved hairline. It was easier to do with Orson than with Mae. He drew up all his emotions for Orson, their many years together, his absolute trust and confidence in the man. He thought of when he’d been afraid for Orson, in battle and in life. He thought of when Orson had been there for him, sometimes when no one else was. He thought of Orson’s walrus mustache, his old but tidy trailer, everything he associated with Orson. His magic liked Orson, even if there was no sexuality between them. The fae was his rock. He gave back to Orson all he had been given.
Luke was beginning to feel weak when he straightened this time. He was surprised to see Orson reach for a tissue and wipe his nose. No tears, not him, but he had gotten close.
“Thank you,” Orson said softly. “Go take care of someone else. We’re all right now.” He put his arms around Mae, and she leaned against him. Just as they had been when Luke came in, but with a great look of relief mirrored between them. Luke nodded good night to them and guided Sally out the door ahead of him. He’d done all he could. The rest was up to them.
Sally hugged him once they were out in the hallway. “My big-hearted billy,” she said, burying her face in his chest.
“If I’m a billy, does that make you a hen?”
“Fuck no.” She looked up at him. “Do you have enough left to do anything for Charlie?”
“I hope so. If you’ll help me.” He let her lead the way toward her bedroom.
* * *
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About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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