Szófia looks at me concerned. She hikes her skirt down. “I am not comfortable with this half dress going up so high in real life. It feels so indecent,” she says, as we examine ourselves in front of my mirror. Her natural beauty is completely lost to her. She looks like Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice, but with Instagram model photogenic-ness. “If you really think this will help us find Őfelsége, I will do it, but there’s a limit to how much I am willing to do, Petra.”
I wink at Szófia and snap a selfie with her while I grin. “Didn’t you do things with ghosts or people in their dreams or something? How is this any different?”
“My mind was separate from my spiritual body. Now, both my mind and spiritual body are one and they’ve been made physical. It’s different in ways that I cannot put into words. When you look at me, this isn’t just my body. This is my soul made flesh. I can feel things. Powerful things. Such burning passions and desires, aside from hunger and the other urges that come with sustaining myself. It’s like the feelings of my soul are tugging at my body constantly,” Szófia says, blushing and shoving her skirt down when the material rolls back up. “It’s like being bewitched.”
“Those are your emotions acting on your body. There’s a lot more stimulation, lots of it calculated by advertisers for money, now than there ever was in your time, Sofi. It makes sense. But, I promise you, those urges you feel are normal. You haven’t been bewitched or anything,” I respond, snapping another selfie. I don’t care if we ever find Őfelsége. Now that she’s gone, I can finally live like a normal person and fuck in my house without trying to have sex like a grounded teenager with a curfew. “It’ll be fine. Really all we have to do is get Brad and his friend to talk about their case. Nothing more. If you feel overwhelmed, just say you have to excuse yourself for a moment. They’re guys. They don’t care. Just be mindful of how short your skirt is. If you have an accident, it might be impossible to hide.” Szófia frowns at her reflection and fiddles with her outfit some more. My phone buzzes when a text comes in. “They’re on their way,” I say. “Just pretend you’re like me and have lived here forever. Just pretend like this whole thing with Őfelsége is another life. It’s just stuff they don’t need to know about. You got it?”
Szófia nods. We go into the living room together and sit on the couch. Szófia squrims uncomfortably and looks concerned. She twirls her hair and starts tapping her foot. “I don’t have to marry anyone, right? Not that I’m not ready for the commitment or anything like that. Truth be told, I have always wanted to be a mother. I just don’t think the timing would work out. You know, since I’m trying to die when we finally find Őfelsége,” she says, self-conscious. “If your friend’s friend is handsome, that might be a consideration. I guess I could die happy if my baby was being raised by a handsome, intelligent man. Some kind of bard, trapper, brewer or a rye farmer. Good with horses. Strong nose. Strong chin. No beard.”
I chuckle. “No beard? After your entire list of demands for this hypothetical guy, you want no beard?”
“Well, yeah. Beards are for lazy or broke men. A farmer has no beard. The field hands do. I will not allow my chastity to be tarnished by a man who can’t keep his face free of food and lice. Nor will I be willing to put up with one of those lady men they always joke about the shows you watch.”
“Lady men?” I ask, absent-minded while tinkering with my banking app. Bills. Bills. Bills. “Not sure I know what you mean.”
Szófia shrugs. “Lady men. You know, men who are very motherly,” she says, not clarifying much. “Anyway, when I was kid, Petra, the town drunk used to keep his hair in a bun to prevent vomit from getting into it. His beard always overpowered the scent in the room. Suffice to say, I do not like men with hair buns. It’s gross. Men with both beards and hair buns are like just absolutely the worst,” she says, frank and very assertive, challenging me to change her opinion. Definitely not doing that. I don’t want to hear her outdated opinion. If Washington was alive, he’d be another old, entitled, overly-conservative Boomer who doesn’t know or understand much about a diverse, global culture. Szófia gets up and walks over to the journals on my shelf. “None of these modern, boss-women you talk about would put up with a vile man. Neither should we.”
“My father is literally Satan, Sofi,” I blurt out, casual and indifferent, still scrolling through my phone..
“Well, that’s different. The enemy of god is an angel. Not a man. An angel with poor grooming and a bad temperament is still cleaner, better smelling and more handsome than a human man on his best day,” Szófia says, resolute in her conviction. We laugh and she appears more relaxed. “Besides, that happened because of a pact that went wrong.”
I stretch and hop off the couch. “I guess so. Anyway, you have nothing to worry about. No bearded men. No manbun men. No hipsters or ultra-conservative types. We’re hanging with normal, attractive guys who drink beer and indulge in marijuana. Nothing absurd or outlandish, except for them being police officers who smoke pot with beautiful, sexy women like us. Now, let’s go, Sofi. They’re here.”
Szófia and I jump into Brad’s car. He was smart enough to give me the front seat while his friend sits in the back with Szófia. A dream catcher hanging on Brad’s rearview mirror catches my eye. “What’s that about?” I ask, hugging and kissing him.
“I sleep in my car sometimes after a long shift. My dreams are… well… vivid. These things help,” Brad says, pulling out of my driveway and sliding on to the road. “So, dine-in movie theater, right?”
I nod. Without eavesdropping, I listen into the silent conversation between Wayne and Szófia. Hopefully, she can manage without me for the remainder of the drive. “About this new case you’re on, can you talk about it? I mean like publicly. Obviously, I don’t wanna get you in trouble or anything,” I whisper, loud enough to be audible to Brad, but low enough that Wayne doesn’t hear me. I look at Brad while he stares at the road. He glances at me and smiles.
“I’d prefer not to talk about work, if I can avoid it, but I suppose it’s going to hit the news eventually. They think there’s some group of kids beating people to death with logs or some crazy shit. I don’t know what to make of it. We have a few eye witnesses that swear it was some kind of tree demon. But, of course, they were unreliable witnesses. Mainly squatters living in the abandoned homes by the woods. It’s going to be a shit show of a case,” Brad reveals, sighing. “What do you think, Wayne, about this woodman killer-kids business?”
Wayne scoffs. “Oh god, please. Don’t get me started, Gunn,” he says, putting his face into his hands.
“We can probably stop by and see the crime scene, no?” Szófia asks, innocently but abruptly enough for it to appear kind of suspicious. “I mean if we see it, who knows what kind of mysteries we might help you piece together. Petra, we could see Őfelsége… maybe,” she says, thinking out loud.
“You mean the, the awful sage we used to pretend was a witch when we were kids, Szófia? I don’t know what other awful sage you could be talking about. Since there isn’t one, right?” I ask, my eyes nearly bulging out of my head as I stare Szófia down. “Right?” I ask again, forceful and direct.
Szófia makes an ugly face. “Sure. Yes, cousin. That awful sage. The most awful-est of sages.” Her large brown eyes roll as she mutters under her breath and leans against the window.
“We can,” Brad says, shrugging. “What do you think, Wayne? You won’t tell, right?”
“Taking two beautiful women in short skirts to an active crime scene for an open investigation? Sure, why not? The Captain bring his life-on-rails kids to crime scenes all the time so they can network with people and get a feel for cop work. I don’t see why we can’t use it as a tool to advance our dating opportunities. I could think of more ridiculous things,” he admits, nonchalant and confident. Wayne brushes the waves in hair with his hand. “Let’s go after the movie though, so we can eat and don’t have to rush to get to the film. Eh, Gunn?”
“Agreed,” Brad says. “Movie, then crime scene. It’s a date.” We chatter among ourselves, cruising through green lights until arriving in the theater. “Alright, so we all agreed to watch Mark Figueroa’s: The Cloak of Nothing. Wayne and I loved the books as teens. Mark’s mind is like a warzone of original creativity.”
“I don’t know about all that, but I like his work. I found him on Twitter randomly. No idea he was Anthony_Abyss,” I say as we park. We make our way through the ticket booth and into the theater. Silencing our phones as the trailers begin.
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