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Nanowrimo 2011 part 2

part one





It was the next day at ten in the morning when Cass got a text from Abby which said "im heading home from hospital now"
"they find what was wrong with you?" she sent back, and immediately regretted the use of only one question mark. more were needed to emphasize the fact that she really wanted to know what was wrong.
"no"
Cass swore out loud and rolled over in her large queen size bed. She was kind of lost without Abby. Not only was she her best friend, she was pretty much her only friend at that point in time. All their other friends from high school had gone off to college, including Cass's high school boyfriend who had broken up with her shortly before graduation.
Cass wasn't too heartbroken about it, if he hadn't done it first, she probably would have done it instead. He was too goal oriented compared to what she had become.
A few of her friends (friends isn't exactly the best word to describe them, the better word would be acquaintances) ok so a few of her acquaintances from high school went to Carnegie Mellon there in Pittsburgh, where Cass's father was an economics professor, so from time to time she would see them and say hi, or they'd hang out at a party. But for the most part, Cass relied on Abby for any and all social interaction.

She woke up again at two in the afternoon with the realization that she'd fallen back asleep after Abby's morning text messages. Her phone buzzed with another message from Abby. Cass squinted and rubbed her eyes to try to read what it said. Finally she could make it out, and it said "i have to go to the lawyers for my uncles will. you wanna come along"
"Sure," she mumbled, not even realizing that the method of communication that she had chosen at that moment would not work well enough to let Abby know what her answer was. She yawned and then texted the word she had spoken a moment ago before rolling out of bed and onto the floor.
"Let's get dressed, Cassie," she said to herself, choosing a nickname that she had insisted people could not use to refer to her back in the seventh grade.

An hour later, she was at Abby's house. "You drive," Abby instructed to Cass who was standing on her front door step. "I don't want to risk having another incident while I'm driving."
"Are we going in the city?"
"Yeah."
"Fuck," Cass groaned while heading back to her car in the driveway. "I hate city driving."
"But you're so good at it."
"Yeah, that's not gonna help any."
"It's worth a shot," Abby said with a smile while she hopped into the passenger side front seat.

"Why do you have to go to the lawyer's anyway?"
"Apparently there's something in there for me."
"In the lawyer's?"
"In my uncle's will," Abby explained.
"But he's not dead."
"It's like a living will. Something he wanted me to have in case he's, like, I don't know, in a coma, for example."
"What do you think it--- Fucking-! Learn how to merge, asshole!" Cass burst out in a sudden fit of obscenities at the drivers of mid afternoon Pittsburgh traffic. "I fucking hate this traffic."
"Maybe it's a helicopter that we can use to avoid traffic."
"I doubt your uncle had a helicopter, Abs."
"A girl can dream, right?"

Cass wasn't allowed into the office while the lawyer went over the will with Abby. Some legal technicality, she was sure. She wasn't about to argue, and Abby wasn't arguing either. So instead she sat out in the lobby, all decorated with about four thousand elephant paintings and sculptures. It was almost verging on creepy how many fucking elephants were in that office suite. She wondered if the lawyer's conference room was just as filled with elephants.
After walking around and determining that she couldn't look at one more elephant, she started flipping through a copy of Highlights for Children from circa 1998. Who even has magazines that old still sitting around. This certainly wasn't what she had in mind when she thought of "lawyer's office." It was a bit closer to the office of the Pittsburgh chapter of NAMBLA. The wealth and success that Abby's father had certainly didn't extend to his brother, if this was the lawyer that he was operating through.
Cass was just finishing up flipping through an October 1998 issue of the magazine and was about to pick up a September 2004 issue of Reader's Digest when Abby came back out of the little conference room. She had three large manilla envelopes in her arms, and they almost seemed to want to overtake her small frame.
Cass stood up and asked, "Well?"
"Well what?" Abby said and started walking towards the door.
"Well, what happened?"
"Oh. Um." Abby seemed to be delaying saying what she found out in that office. Once they were outside, she spoke however. "Feel like going to Monroeville?"
"What's in Monroeville? Are we going to kill some zombies?" Cass asked, completely meaning to sound like she was joking.
"I doubt it." Abby, however, seemed to take her question seriously.

Abagail Cutler was small. She stood a little over five feet, four inches tall, and by looking at her, you wouldn't think she could weigh any more than a hundred and ten pounds or so. Her mother was half-Vietnamese, and you could see the slight asian features in her eyes and somewhat pale face, which was often heavily painted with makeup. Her hair, naturally jet black and straight, had sections of it dyed bright pink a few months ago, and the color had started to fade. When her hair was let down, which it usually was, you couldn't see the four piercings in her right ear or the three in her left. You could see the scar on her nose from where she had once had it pierced as well, but after improper upkeep, she just took the stud out and let it heal over. She was a lot to handle in such a small package.
The only person who seemed to know how to handle her was Cassandra Hollingsworth. Cassandra stood a few inches taller, and had a significantly wider frame. She wasn't even what anyone could call heavy or even curvy. She was just not built like a small asian girl. She often felt like she got cheated out of the best part of being a black female, which was the almost stereotypical round butt and larger boobs, since she was decently flat in both of those areas. She seemed to make up for it in the hips though. She kept her hair short, no longer than the bottom of her ear lobes, since she found that to be the easiest way to manage it. She wore contacts through most of high school and the little time she spent in college, but recently she's taken to wearing large, round, wire-frame glasses instead, since those were ironically popular. Unlike her friend, she had no unnatural hair color, no additional holes in her head. If Abby was the Jane, then Cass was the Daria.

"Ok, well if not zombies, then what?"
"Uncle Jonas has a store he owns there. And he wanted me to inherit it if he passed."
"He's not dead yet, though," Cass narrowed her eyes at Abby before they hopped back into her car.
"Yeah. But there's like a clause or some shit. I get it if he's incapacitated too."
"What does that mean."
"It means I have to fucking babysit his store."
"Surely you don't have to." Cass started up the car and cranked the knob on the heat way up so the car would start to get warm.
"No, I don't. I didn't have to sign the papers. But I was just thinking, I don't want that thing to have gone in the shitter when he wakes up."
"What if he doesn't wake up?" she asked quickly before even thinking about what she was asking.
"You know, that's what a living will is supposed to do. It's supposed to say 'pull the plug' or 'don't pull the plug.' Not, I want my niece to babysit my stupid hippie store."
"Stupid hippie store?"
"New age candles and crystals and that kind of stuff. He apparently inherited it too, from some guy he worked for back when he was like our age."
"Are you serious?"
Abby let out a grunt to indicate that she was indeed serious.
"Isn't that the kind of shit you're into?"
"I'm into REAL magic, Cass. Not this... cure cancer by wearing a crystal on your head five hours a day."
"Oh, I see then. REAL magic." Cassandra rolled her eyes at Abby
"Don't roll your eyes at me."
"I wasn't," she lied.
"I wasn't even looking at you and I know what you were doing."
"Anyway, how do you know it's not REAL magic."
"I think I would know if my uncle were Harry freaking Potter."

The shop was near impossible to find. It was a miracle that it was even still open with how off the beaten path it was.
Cassandra had printed out Google maps directions, and Abby had GPS running on her phone. They still missed the turn offs about three times before they finally found it. It was in the middle of a strip mall, in between a comic book store and a bargain basement dollar store. At the end of the little plaza, there was a Subway where they stopped to get lunch first.
Or rather, where Abby wanted to stop for lunch first. Pulling in, Cass said, "Can't we just go and check your place out first?"
"I'm hungry though."
"You're nervous."
"I am not."
"You are. You get hungry when you're nervous, and you've been nervous this entire drive."
Abby slunk down in the passenger seat.
"It's ok if you are."
"I shouldn't have signed those papers. I should have just..."
"Just what, instead?"
"Just not inherited it."
"Maybe it won't be so bad," Cass suggested.
"What if I drive his store into the ground? I don't know the first thing about new age shit."
"You know about ghosts and spirits and Ouija boards."
"Yeah, I know about that stuff. I don't know about new age shit," she repeated.
"Well, I highly doubt your uncle ran the place by himself. Maybe there's some employees?"
"Probably. I didn't really look at the paperwork. It probably says somewhere in here." Abby opened one of the envelopes and peered into it, as if she expected the answers to fly out of it at her.
"Alright then, let's go get a sandwich or something."

Abby ordered her usual bacon, turkey, and provolone, with lettuce, hot pepper rings, tomatoes, onions and italian dressing sandwich. Cass ordered her usual pepperoni and lettuce sandwich.
"Why don't you get veggies on it?"
"Lettuce is a veggie."
"It totally isn't," Abby rolled her eyes as she filled up her plastic cup with orange pop at the machine.
"I'm pretty sure it counts."
"At least get cheese."
"You can barely taste it on there, and all it does is add empty calories."
"Since when do you worry about calories?"
"I saw this thing on Dateline or something."
"Are you shitting me, Cass?"
"My mom was watching it. She made me watch with her because she said she never gets to see me outside of my room."
"You couldn't convince her to watch something else?"
"Nope." Cass began to fill her cup with unsweetened iced tea. "This is my mom we're talking about, Abs."
"Oh, right. I forgot."

They both ate half of their sandwiches, and wrapped the other half up before Abby finally got up the nerve to walk over to the store. By the time they did, it was nearly six in the evening. The sign on the door said it closed at seven.
The name of the store was Blessed Beginnings.
"Well that's the first thing that'll go when he kicks the bucket and it's fully mine."
"It sounds like a hokey church."
The window to the front of the store was kind of run down looking, but maybe once had a nice display in it. From what she gathered of the store, Cass thought it was pretty much just like a new age sort of book store, with incense and whatnot and that kind of stuff. But the window display was like more of a stage magician sort of feel. The backdrop was a deep blue velvet with silver stars stitched in. A crystal ball sat on a little stand, and an assortment of books from authors like Sylvia Browne sat in arrangement. Everything was faded from long term exposure to the sunlight. When was the last time anyone bothered changing that display?
Inside was much of the same. The shop wasn't very large, just as big as it needed to be, it seemed.
The walls were all bookshelves, most of which, on the right side as they entered, were once bright colored covers which bore the portraits of authors who promised how they'd show you the power of positive thinking and allowing spirituality into your life. The books on the left side were ones on astrology and tarot reading and palmistry.
In the center of the room, there was a square table with clear glass jars of sticks of incense. Their smell permeated the shop and Cass had to admit right away, the smokey thick, almost intoxicating smell was greatly appealing to her. Several other tables throughout the shop, some in awkward places that blocked the access to the bookshelves, carried things like boxes of tarot cards, or jars filled with different colored gems. Along the back wall was a wood counter with a cash register and a glass top. Glancing at the glass, she saw lots of different more valuable looking gems and jewelry inside. In the back left corner of the room, behind the counter, was the least cheesy item in the whole store-- a grandfather clock with a deep blue moon for a face.
The dim lighting inside the shop was less than optimal for a normal shopping experience, but it fit with the atmosphere of the store. While this kind of environment really wasn't something Cass would normally want to surround herself with, she found that it was rapidly growing on her.
"Huh," she heard Abby say.
"What is it?" she asked while glancing at the books along the left side wall.
"It's... well, it's pretty much exactly what I expected. I wonder if he did like palm reading in the back room or something like that."
"Hm." Cass's eyes caught sight of a book about werewolves. There was a whole little section on books about creatures like that. Werewolves, vampires, even some about faeries.
She was just in the middle of thinking the thought, "Doesn't anyone work here?" when a rather annoyed male voice called out, "Love potions are by special order only."
Both looked up to see someone standing in front of the curtain behind the counter, one that Cass assumed covered up a doorway to a back stock area. While his words were meant to be informative or helpful, his expression seemed to indicate that he couldn't care less.
“And orders are currently suspended until further notice.”
He was tall and skinny and had pale blonde hair, which was styled short and slicked back. His arms were crossed and he wore an expression of boredom on his somewhat baby-like facial features.
"Do you work here?" Abby asked him.
"No." He blinked a few times. "I volunteer out of the goodness of my heart.”
Cass saw the smirk cross Abby's lips. This was her kind of person. But she didn't seem to be in the mood to play, because she went right into saying "I'm Abby Cutler."
"Oh." His arms uncrossed and the scowl faded from his face.
"My uncle. He, uh... I guess this is his?"
"You guessed correctly." His demeanor didn’t seem to improve any upon finding out that they weren’t just after love potions.
"But he's..."
"Yeah. How's he doing anyway?"
Abby seemed to struggle to find words. "Doctors don't know what's wrong with him," she said eventually. "He's not getting any worse, but he's not any better either."
"Right." The grumpy employee nodded.
"He did, however, want me to make sure this place didn't go under while he was, um, indisposed."
"Um." His eyes narrowed a bit at her saying this. "And how are you to manage that."
"I was supposed to inherit this place when he died anyway. Er, if. If he died."
The grumpy employee crossed his arms again but said nothing. The two seemed to be locked in a staring match.
"I went over all the paperwork with the lawyer. I technically own this place until Uncle Jonas wakes up."
"Really now?"
"I'm in no real hurry to change anything around here. I mean, if you're used to Jonas doing things a certain way, then by all means let's keep them."
"You really don't seem like you would know how to run this place."
"I really don't. I mean, you work here though right? You'd be able to help me out?"
"You think I care about what happens here?" he said with a smirk on his lips.
"Maybe. If you want to keep your job."
"I told you. I volunteer."
"Fine," she groaned. "If you want to keep your volunteer position."
"Very well then." He smiled and it almost creeped Cassandra out to look at. It seemed unnatural on such a grumpy face.
"If you could just fill me in on everything that goes on around here. I have a lot of the paperwork, but there's so much to go through. Are there other employees that could help me out?"
"Not anymore. Just me."
"Well, now you've got the two of us," Abby said while motioning to Cassandra
"Hey!" Cass broke her silence with a near yell. "I never said I'd be working here. It's a freaking long commute to get here every day."
"You wouldn't be working every day. By the way, this is my friend Cassandra," she told him. "And you are?"
"Faust."
"Is that your real name?"
"No," he said simply without any other explanation.
"Uh. Okay then."
“It’s getting close to sunset. You should leave.”
“We just got here.”
“Yeah, well I have to close at sunset.” He started walking towards them. Cass took a few steps back but Abby wasn’t budging.
“The sign says seven,” she sneered at him.
“Seven-ish. Sun sets a little after six tonight, so I’m closing now.”
“I kind of wanted to have a look around tonight.”
“I see this stubbornness is hereditary. Look, go home. Come back tomorrow when we open. Everything should be the same then.”
“Should be?” Cass asked, but Abby didn’t seem to hear her. She instead stood nearly toe to toe with Faust who wasn’t backing down either.
“We’ll be here tomorrow.” Her voice was cold and stern.
“What do you mean ‘we’?” Cass asked as Abby grabbed her by the arm and practically dragged her out of the store.
Glancing back at the store after they were outside, Cass saw Faust switching the sign to closed and reaching for a light switch before he disappeared into the darkness as the lights went out.


--
“What are you?” Cass asked, too confused to try to be polite.





“Alright. Girls. I don’t think your tiny human minds are comprehending what I’m saying. I can’t leave this shop. My existence in this world will unravel if I do.”
“We can’t just keep this thing in here, though!” Abby protested.
“We have to. I can’t think of anyone alive who could protect this thing.”
“You’re awfully sure of yourself.”
“I have to be. If Jonas were here, he’d be the obvious best candidate to take care of it.”
“He’s not though,” Cass spoke quietly.
“Exactly. So I’ll have to be the one instead.”
“Okay then. We just board up the shop and barricade you in here with it,” Abby spoke with a cheerful tone that the conversation hadn’t yet seen.
But the look on Faust’s face didn’t change. “Don’t you think I didn’t consider that?”
“Did you?”
“Of course I fucking thought of it,” he snapped. His child-like face curled into a scowl. “But how long would that last? This place doesn’t pay for itself. There’s a shitload of taxes and fees that go along with having a shop here. Even if the vampires didn’t get in here, eventually your government would. And the stores accounts don’t have enough to cover them indefinitely. I don’t have access to Jonas’s personal accounts. And I’m sure you girls are just rolling in the cash, am I right?”
“Not quite.” Cass’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“There we go then. I have to keep the store open.”
“Does this place even make money?” Abby glanced around at the ill-kept shop.
“Enough to stay open. But it is a good thing you’re here now. There’s only so much I can do from inside here.”
Cass and Abby glanced at each other. It was the closest thing to nice that they had heard from Faust since they met.

==

“Imagine your body’s energy is here.” He reached out and placed a hand flat on her stomach, right over her belly button. Abby flinched at first, but didn‘t pull away.
“Did you teach my uncle this way?”
“I didn’t teach him shit.”
“You didn’t?”
“He knew all this long before we met. Try to picture it kind of swirling around in there.”
“Okay.”
“Close your eyes.”
“Okay.” Abby did as she was told.
“Are you picturing it?”
“I’m trying.”
“Clear your mind.”
Faust went over a half dozen different techniques to get her to be able to call her power. Nothing worked. He instructed her on her breathing, on her concentration, on everything he knew to teach. But still she was no closer.
“You can do this. I’ve felt your innate power before.”
“It’s awful hard when you won’t shut up,” she mumbled.
“I’m trying to help you here,” he snapped at her.
“Well it’s not working!” she opened her eyes and snapped right back.
“There!” he nearly yelled.
Abby’s look of anger twisted into confusion. “Huh?”
“You two are certainly related,” Faust said with a raised eyebrow.
“What the hell are you talking about?” She was starting to get somewhat annoyed with him
“Your power. It feels just like his.” He sighed and stood up.
“We’re not giving up are we?” Abby looked up at him with a pleading look in her eyes. She was frustrated with his technique, but he was the only teacher she had.
“No.” He sighed. “We just need to approach this from another angle. Probably not the best angle, but it will be the best way to get through to you. And you’re in luck, it’s easier too.”
“Yeah?”
“Stand up.”
Abby did as she was told. And as soon as she was standing, Faust punched her.
She stumbled back into a bookshelf and screamed “What the fuck!” She tried to charge at him, but found an invisible wall separating them. He had a smug grin on his little baby face that she had the intense urge to punch him back in. “What the fuck’s wrong with you?” she yelled and pounded at the force field.
“Good luck breaking that,” he chuckled.
The fact that she couldn’t reach him was only serving to piss her off further. She wasn’t thinking. She only could spout off streams of obscenities and insults at him. And when she stopped pounding at the force field, he punched her again.
“You asshole, you can’t just go around punching girls like that!”
Her fists were burning as she hit the magical wall, and she thought they might catch on fire from crossing his magic so much. But she continued. It stopped being brick, and instead became plaster, and then cardboard, eventually saran wrap, and her fiery hands tore right through it and pounded hard into Faust’s upturned nose. He fell to the floor hard, and she pounced on him, but was immediately knocked back by another invisible bubble around him.
“Abby! Calm down!” he instructed. She snarled and looked ready to break through another wall. “That barrier. It can’t be broken just by physical force.”
She stood still for a second and let what he said sink in. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you were channeling something there. You wouldn‘t have got to me if you hadn’t.” Faust wiped blood away from his nose with the back of his hand. “You just need to be able to pull that up on command now. Without me or anyone else punching you first.”
Abby stared at him with doubt in her expression. “I thought my hands might catch on fire from hitting that stupid barrier of yours.”
“That wasn’t from the barrier. That was from your own power.”
“I feel orange,” she sighed and sat back down on the floor.
“That’s… probably not a good thing. But it’s a start.” He sat down across from her. “I’m sorry I hit you.” He spoke flatly without any real remorse in his voice, but just the fact that he had bothered to say it was enough for her. “Jonas is the same way. I mean, was the same way. Or maybe it is is.” He groaned and rubbed his forehead with his thumb and forefinger.
Abby could see there was more sadness in his expression than there was frustration.
“We have to wake him up from this, Abby.”
“Why? I-I mean apart from the obvious.”
“My existence in this world depends on him. The longer he’s gone, the more I fade away.”
“I thought you were tied to this shop?” she asked. She was feeling a bit better. Less orange.
“I’m tied to him. He bound me to this place temporarily, and it’s a poor substitute.”
“What happens if he dies?”
“I go back where I came from.”
“Where’s that?”
“Somewhere I don’t want to go. And I don’t know if there’s anyone alive who could bring me back. Probably not even you could, kid. Doubt anyone would even want me back.”
Abby stared at him. This was the closest to human she’d ever seen him. Or the closest to humane. He was actually fearing for his own existence. And seemed to care about companionship. So there was a decent being under all that snark and grouchiness.
“Get out of my stockroom,” he said quickly before she had a chance to respond. “We’ll work on this more tomorrow.”
Abby didn’t question him, but simply did as he instructed. Heading out of the stockroom and back into the store, she passed Cassandra who was once again re-organizing the books.
“Hey, how’d it go? I heard a lot of yelling but I didn’t want to spy on you guys or anything.”
“I’m headed home,” Abby said before storming out of the shop.
Cass stared through the door and watched her friend stomp out to her car.
“Closing time,” she heard Faust’s voice from the stockroom doorway.
“Is your nose bleeding?” she asked him.
He wiped his nose again, which still had some blood coming from the right nostril. “No. Out.”

part three