Excerpt from book four of the not*the*same*river series. After Violet escapes her captors, she strives to get back to normal. Note: Leia is Violet’s best friend. Seth (and the other boys spoken about—Ezra, Ben & Archer) are her brothers. Amethyst is Violet’s twin. Sean is the man who brought her up. Cascade is an un/holy organisation protecting humanity from those seeking to destroy it. Asgaut Scarth is a two hundred year-old vaewolf.
“Leia, I need your help,” I said, staring at the horrific costume that Seth was currently assembling on my body.
“She’s exaggerating,” Seth bellowed.
Leia huffed. “I’ve only been back home for two days.”
“I know, and I’m sorry, but I need a costume for the party. Even if I wanted to wear this, which I don’t,” I added for Seth’s benefit, “my dad would freak out.”
“Not as much as Mum did when she found Ezra going through her underwear looking for a corset,” said Seth.
Leia laughed. “What does he want a corset for?”
“Frank … N … Furter,” said Seth.
She snorted down the phone and kept crying out, “oh god.”
Ezra put on his fiercest pout yet when Eden declared her wardrobe off-limits. He threatened to buy a corset of his own, and there was a massive argument about how going through your parents’ clothes was a rite of passage, and how Magnus’ wardrobe was too pedestrian—if pedestrians were giants—and that she wouldn’t have any objection if he was a girl, and she said he was too young regardless of gender to prance about in sexy underwear, and he accused her of not seeing how fitting it was for him to go to the party as a cross-dressing scientist. The whole thing fizzled out with lipstick bribery and Ben using diplomatic skills I didn’t know he had.
Then there’d been an argument about my hair and, for once, Amethyst was completely on my side. Seth was sitting in his empty bath while Kite perched on the edge, buzzing his hair off at the back, when Seth suggested I try to straighten mine, and my mouth was so full of what-the-hell that Amethyst jumped in on my behalf. She told us how she tried to straighten her hair a few years ago, and how everyone told her not to—like she was going to listen to a bunch of old white people. She said it looked like shredded wheat afterwards, and Sean bought her some hair clips with little birds on to put in her nest. And apparently Boxer had laughed so hard he fell off a ladder into a rain barrel and killed it. Then Sean had spent thirty-six hours trying to fix Amethyst’s hair but ended up taking her to one of Tabby’s friends to sort it out because it still looked twiglety. Nobody mentioned straightening my hair again.
“So, what do you need?” said Leia.
“Something that covers my whole butt,” I said, glaring at Seth, “and that won’t give my dad a coronary.”
“The jacket covers your whole butt,” said Seth.
“But I’m melting, and I’ve only been wearing it for five minutes. There’s no way I can keep this on all night.” I sort of liked the tattooed t-shirt and the purple glove, but … “All these chains are heavy. I feel like Mr Harvey.”
“Who’s Mr Harvey?” said Leia.
“Just … you know, never mind. Point is, I feel horrible in this, and I really need you to make me something nice, and not something that makes me look like an extra in GTA.”
“The party’s in three days, Vi, and I haven’t finished my costume yet.” She was silent for a few seconds, then said, “But I’ve still got—”
“What? Still got what?”
“You remember when I made my phoenix costume,” she said, and I could practically feel the heat of her blushes bouncing off the satellite. “And remember I was going to make you one, but you told me not to because you’d look like a black pudding in a catsuit?”
“Yeah,” I said slowly.
“Well, I ignored you and made it anyway,” she said.
“A catsuit?” said Seth, bouncing around my room. “Yes. Yes. That’s perfect.”
“I’m not going to the party dressed as a black pudding.”
“No, I have the goggles already,” he said. “This is perfect. All we’ll need is the headpiece. And best of all, we’ll still match.”
I huffed. “Now say it again in words I can understand.”
“Catwoman,” he said.
“I’ll be even hotter in a catsuit,” I said.
“Yeah, you will,” said Leia, “but not in the way you mean.”
“Your man will love it,” said Seth.
I bit my lip, then against my better judgement, I said, “Sold.”
“I’ll only need to make minor adjustments, I never got around to putting the V on it anyway, and the headpiece shouldn’t take long at all. I’ll make it so you can still wear a ponytail.”
“Thanks, hobbit. You’re the best.”
“Do you know who Archer’s going as?” she said. “He won’t tell me, wouldn’t let me help with the costume, nothing.”
“Not a clue,” I said.
“He won’t tell me either,” said Seth, raising his voice so Leia could hear him from across the room. “He hinted that Violet was his primary motivation though.” He looked at me in an Alberty-x-ray way. “He wants to make you laugh. Someone with a beard, that’s all I know.” He ran his hand across his own chin. “Time to get rid of mine. It’s not really having the intended effect anyway.”
“What intended effect?” I said.
“If we’re done, I need to go,” said Leia.
“Okay, we’ll see you on Saturday.” I hung up and turned to Seth. “What intended effect?”
He chewed his nail until I batted his hand away from his mouth. “I thought it might put off a certain person.”
“The postman?” I said excitedly.
“No, not the postman,” said Seth, frowning at me like I was an idiot. “Though Archer was right about that.”
“You found out who sent the scarf?” I said, trying to pull the chains off without getting any caught in my hair.
He went red, then gathered up the chains so I had two hands to hold my hair out of the way while he slipped them off me. “Yeah, but there’s nothing to tell there, and I’d rather spare them the embarrassment, especially since they’ll probably be at the party, and I’d rather you didn’t flap your mouth.”
“Oh, oh, is it one of the Blackmores? Oh god, is it a woman like you thought? It’s not Sarah Tully, is it?”
“Please drop it,” he said. “I know you want to get back to normal, but this isn’t something I want people gossiping about, okay?”
I nodded. “Sorry. Just … yeah, you’re right. I’m trying too hard to find normal things to get excited about.”
“You’re not excited about the party on its own?”
“I’m not feeling too into people right now,” I said, shrugging off the thick purple coat. “I … haven’t told anyone this yet, but I have to make a drawing of Asgaut Scarth for Cascade.”
If he’d been drinking tea, he would’ve spat it. “Cascade came to you? And Dad let them in the house?”
“No, we were at Tabby’s, and they were subtle. I met Daniel’s sister and one of Uriel’s line and one of Lucifer’s line. They said they were there to check her security, but they didn’t all need to be there for that. And apparently, nobody has ever seen his face. Not even Albert, and he tried to kill him once.”
“Albert tried to kill him?”
“Other way round.”
“How come you saw his face?”
“You can’t tell anyone.”
When he nodded, I told him everything. With each memory revealed, he held me tighter. I let him have my tears, crying until I ran dry, and letting myself believe they’d be the last. Just like I let myself believe the nightmare was over every morning when I woke up soaked in my own sweat with leeches and needles and wolves disintegrating in the light.
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