Soul Fire(2)

By: Juliette Cross

I flipped down the compact mirror above the passenger seat, checking my hair. I plucked a leaf from the black waves falling past my chest. “Ella, have you actually met my father?” I wiped away a streak of dark liner from below one eye. “Sorcha, where’s your eye shadow?”

“Check the glove compartment.”

I touched-up the tawny shade of color on the outside corners and smeared a glossy cream on the bottom lids, setting off my light brown eyes. Pleased my hair and makeup looked fresh, and not like someone who just crawled down an ivy trellis, I flipped the mirror shut.

“Yes, I’ve met your father. You know I have.” Ella didn’t get the concept of rhetorical questions. Her glazed look, as always, made her pretty features more child-like. “So?”

“So!” Sorcha careened around the next corner, veering deeper into the city. “That man could suffocate a person with a glance.”

I sighed. “Forget about him. Don’t you ladies want to know our destination tonight?”

“Oooo, I do love it when you’re sneaky, Jess. So what’s the big secret? Why am I decked out in my highest-heeled boots and shortest skirt?”

I pulled the glossy flier from my back pocket and handed it over.

“Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about, baby.” Sorcha turned down a side street, heading for the farthest edge of the Gladium Province.

“What is this?” Ella snatched the paper from Sorcha’s hand. “We can’t go there. It’s a Morgon club, Jessen! We’re not allowed.”

“Oh, Ella. Relax.” I snatched the flier back and pointed at the headline. “Do you see who’s playing tonight? We have to go. For moral support.”

“Yeah, for moral support,” agreed Sorcha with a mischievous grin, tossing her dark red locks over one shoulder. “And to play with a little fire.”

I laughed. Ella didn’t.

“You two are crazy. Out-of-your-minds crazy. I don’t care if Jed’s band is playing. He knows we’re not allowed on that end of town, much less in one of their clubs.”

“Calm down.” I twisted in my seat. Ella looked like a wide-eyed doe frozen in the headlights. “First of all, that’s not true. It’s not illegal to go to a Morgon club.”

Ella needed a refresher course on desegregation laws, and how it was illegal for either race to bar anyone from a public place. Of course, my father might let a Morgon come into his place of business, but he’d never let one step foot in his house. Not unless there was money riding on it. Unlawful or not. Ella’s parents also fell into his line of thinking.

“Look. Other humans go all the time. Jed told me. I mean, why the hell would they hire a human band to play if it were against the law? Times are changing.” I wanted to believe it was true, whether or not my father was stuck in the dark ages of bigotry and discrimination.

Ella heaved a small sigh, voice almost a whisper. “But, my mom, she told me never to go to their side of the city.” I glanced over my shoulder. She twisted a blond curl around her index finger, a sure sign of distress for my timid friend. “It’s dangerous, Jessen. Your dad would kill you.”

“Hence, the very reason I snuck out of my apartment rather than let his henchmen tail me all night long, as usual.”

Sorcha zoomed into the Morgon district, the buildings transformed to suit the dragon-hybrid race—sharper, wider, taller, like mountains made of glass and steel.

“I don’t approve,” protested Ella.

Sorcha squeezed her car into a parking spot on a street where glittering clubs lined the block, then popped open her purse and applied a fresh coat of cherry-red lipstick in the rearview mirror.

I gave Ella my reassuring expression while Sorcha primped. “I know. Don’t worry. Jed wouldn’t invite us if he wasn’t sure it was safe. Now, come on. Let’s have some fun.”

“Wait!” Sorcha passed me the lipstick. “You look good in this.”

I applied and handed it back. “Better?”

“Luscious.” She winked. “Look out Morgon men.”

We walked the block in silence, taking in the towering sight of Acropolis at the end. At least ten stories of Gothic stone with wing-like buttresses and spires stabbing into the darkness above. Grotesque gargoyles glared down. The stone creatures drew my eye with their long limbs, sharp claws, wings spread wide, and gaping mouths, tongues lolling. Was this some kind of subliminal warning to beware of winged beasts?

Sorcha glanced up at one particular fiendish gargoyle, seeming as if it would leap off its pedestal at any moment. “Mmm. I’m feeling like a damsel in distress. How about you, Jess?”

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