Living between worlds has never been comfortable, but it’s where I’ve always fit: between human and fey, illness and health, magic and reality.
I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.
But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.
Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.
I was supposed to meet him in a park. It was a big park, with lots of tucked-away spots to get lost in, and it was neutral territory. Clever, but most fey were interested in taking care of themselves above all else, so it wasn’t really surprising. Saben told me to go in the afternoon, didn’t even give me a definitive time. That was more annoying than trucking it down to the park to see a fey I didn’t even really want to meet, because I knew how fey worked, how they thought of time as this malleable thing they could play with. I knew there was every chance I’d show up, and the yokai wouldn’t, and my day would be shot.
But on the other hand, it wasn’t as if I had much else to do, either.
Saben had told me to walk to one end of the park, to a tiny pond with an even tinier waterfall. The spot was hidden behind a copse of trees, and it was chilly enough in the early evening that there weren’t too many other people around. The pond had a small clearing around it, a flat stretch of grass between the trees and the water. I stood on the edge of the tree line, a glamour pulled around me to hide myself, and looked for the man I was supposed to meet.
I didn’t see anything at first, and I figured I’d been right that he would be flighty, like all the other fey I knew, that he’d forget he was supposed to meet me, distracted by something more interesting. But then there was a short splash, a spray of water from the pond, and I realized a man was swimming to shore. He rose a little way out of the water, the sun sparkling off the droplets beading on his skin. His hair was black and slicked back, showing off the long planes of his face. He shook his head, brushed his hands down his arms. Then he stepped to the bank of the pond, out of the water. He stooped and picked up a long piece of cloth and draped it around his waist. It was almost like a skirt, but not quite.
I watched him for a second. There was something familiar about him, about the graceful way he moved. He bent forward again, picking up something else off the ground, and I saw a thick line of blue-green scales running down his back. I’d seen those same scales before—not on his back, but on his face and his wrists. In the club, with the lights bouncing off them and making them shine, while he tipped his head back and gave himself over to the music.
I didn’t step out or call to him. I just dropped the minimal glamour I’d been holding, and the minute I did, he turned to where I was standing against the tree. I took a step forward.
Now that I was here, I wasn’t sure what should happen next. I’d been planning to brush him off, to do whatever it’d take to make my father believe I’d completed his task, and leave. But now this man was staring at me, and I knew that he recognized me too, remembered me from that brief, sharp stare we’d shared the night before. He didn’t make a move toward me, though. Didn’t speak. He just stood there, his back straight, his chest bare, water dripping off the ends of his hair, wetting his cheeks and his jaw and the line of his shoulders. He was so regal, so strong and lovely, as lovely as when I first saw him.
I thought of Saben and my father, the icy, excruciatingly polite high-court fey that they were. Sidhe, same as I was. They used formality and manners as weapons, always had them to fall back on, and I could do the same here. I rested my hand, tucked into a fist, against my chest and bowed.
When I rose from it, the man stepped toward me. He faced me, his shoulders back, his hands loose at his sides. He was slender, maybe small by some standards, but standing there, he was like cut glass, like copper wire. It seemed as if he’d draw blood if I touched him. Scales shimmered unevenly over his skin—along his left cheekbone, down the right side of his neck, tapering to nothing over the first two knuckles of his right hand.
He made a small bow, not as deep as mine, in my direction. I waited.
“Did you come from the sidhe court?” His English was so flawless it had to be his first language.
“You’re not Japanese.” I’d expected him to have a foreign accent, to be from somewhere that wasn’t here, but it didn’t sound like he’d come from farther than the next county over.
He shook his head once and clicked his tongue. “You’re not fey.”
“Not completely.” There was a part of me that wanted to jerk my chin up, to face him squarely, to beat him back with what I was. But I couldn’t make myself do it. He was right. I hesitated, then nodded. “I came from the court of the sidhe. My father sent me to see you. He thought . . .” I studied him, this man, tilted my head and ran my eyes from head to toe. He looked like a warrior. Not a healer. But he stayed still and let me stare, let me judge him, and it made me feel . . . better. Safer. “He thought you could help me.”
“But you don’t,” he said, and there wasn’t a question behind the words. It was just a statement.
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About the Author & Links:
Eli Lang is a writer and drummer. She has played in rock bands, worked on horse farms, and has had jobs in libraries, where she spent most of her time reading every book she could get her hands on. She can fold a nearly perfect paper crane and knows how to tune a snare drum. She still buys stuffed animals because she feels bad if they’re left alone in the store, believes cinnamon buns should always be eaten warm, can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the tardigrade, and has a book collection that’s reaching frightening proportions. She lives in Arizona with far too many pets.