“Someone’s thong is on too tight. Is it that time of the month?”
A puff of smoke sizzled up from Maizie’s coffee. “I’m a fire elemental! We’re naturally hot tempered! And yes, I’m PMSing. I know, I know, you’ve got herbs for that.”
“I’ve got herbs for lots of things,” Fiona said, unruffled.
“Some of them are even legal,” Maizie smirked. Fiona shrugged. She’d never deal in addictive drugs or poison, but there were certain substances which were not approved by the FDA and which fetched a high price. Sometimes she knew how to grow or find those certain substances. A girl had to pay her rent and keep her protection runes charged up.
“I must say, you seem a little more out of sorts than usual,” Fiona observed, stirring her coffee. “Is it that vampire you’ve been bodyguarding?”
Maizie flashed her a dirty look.
“This bodyguard gig has gone on for an unusually long time,” Fiona continued, unperturbed. “In fact, I heard that you fried the rival vampire who was threatening Stasik’s house, but you’re still working for him. Also, you’ve bought herbs for anemia twice in the past month. Obviously you’re providing him with more than protection. What else is going on there?”
“You know, you’re the only person who could get away with interrogating me and not suffer third degree burns as a consequence,” Maizie muttered, but the expression on her face was more pouty than dangerous.
Fiona snorted. “Then where would you come for treatment when you’ve barely survived a fight?” Then she turned to look at the fashionable women crowding into the Witches Brew. “Good heavens, look at those women. I grew up in that crowd. It’s a wonder I’m still sane. ish.”
She and Maizie surveyed the women in the coffee shop with a critical eye. The fashions among the magical crew this season tended towards the bright and showy, with neon-hued flowers bursting into bloom over and over on the enchanted fabric of their a-line frocks. At the end of the season they’d discard the dresses that cost as much as a year’s salary for people in the Graveyard, and they’d stuff their closets full of the newest lines.
And the clothing never came in extra large. Fiona remembered her mother’s bitter remonstrances every season as she brought in seamstresses to dress Fiona and Fiona’s younger sister Delphine, with muttered words like “tent” and “caftan” nettling the girls like the barbed stingers of bees.
Fiona winced at the memory. She knew Delphine could hardly wait for two more years to pass so she could turn 21, and escape from their mother’s suffocating clutches as Fiona had.
She turned her attention back to the women she’d grown up with, and who she’d been glad to flee. Coming to the edge of the Graveyard district to buy herbs was a major adventure for these women, the ultimate in slumming it. That was part of the appeal of buying herbs from Fiona; the women felt dangerous and naughty.
Of course, they only came in broad daylight, frequently chauffeured by bodyguards who idled in limousines outside the shop as they waited, and they were only on 25th street. None of them would have dared venture so much as another block south, and they were right not to.
Fiona’s neighborhood gave new meaning to the phrase “…and then everything went south.”
But now it was near the end of the day, and the blood red orb of the sun was sinking low, ready to plunge into the lake of fiery orange and yellow clouds that flared up from the horizon. Decaying buildings stood out like black paper cutouts against the flame-hued sky. Their high end clientele was done shopping for the day.