Clare In Marseille
Fullerton, California - September 2012
“Are you coming to the party tomorrow, Clare?” Liliana asked.
“Come on.” Liliana leaned closer to the mirror to apply her eyeliner. “Why not?”
“Last time I went to a frat party, a drunken creep started to hit on me. I had to threaten him with pepper spray,” Clare informed her roommate.
Liliana groaned. “Are you nuts?”
"Just living up to my nickname," Clare said flippantly. In her freshman year at CSUF, she had used pepper spray against a slightly inebriated and much bigger bonehead. There were no lasting effects on him, but her fame spread. The other pepper spray incident was totally not her fault, either, but Liliana never worried about the actual facts.
"Babe Dragon is not a compliment." Liliana stepped back to check her makeup. "Guys are scared of you. You should go out with Spencer."
"Why would I do that?"
“You need to soften your bitchy image. How do you expect to find a boyfriend with your trigger-happy reputation?” Liliana contemplated her hundred shades of eyeshadows.
“I am not looking for a boyfriend,” Clare explained for the hundredth time. Well, she would not mind, but the guys she has met lately were, to put it kindly, unacceptable.
Liliana, a magnet for all males, did not understand the concept. “That’s exactly the problem, Clare. You keep yourself busy because you are lonely. Spenser has potential--”
“He is too much of a challenging project for someone as obnoxious and impatient as I.” Clare was of an opinion that once a jerk, always a jerk and Sidney was too thick-headed to realize the danger to his body and his ego if he came within arms’ reach. “If he asks about me again, tell him I am busy for the rest of the century. See you later.”
“You just have impossibly high standards!” Liliana shouted after her.
On the way to her car after her last class of the day, Clare reflected on that conversation. “I have reasonable expectations,” she muttered. “I dated Brian for almost two years. We split because we chose different colleges after high school.” She ignored a slightly annoyingly honest voice in her head reminding her that she was quite relieved about that. “It’s just… what is that?” A shimmering, golf ball-sized stone on the ground caught her attention. It contained every color in the world, all glowing, shifting, and reflective off each other; the surface pulsated and seemed to change shape. But that was impossible, wasn’t it?
Feeling slightly ridiculous, Clare held her hand an inch away from its surface, then tentatively poked it with one finger. For some reason, she expected it to be soft and warm to the touch, but it was solid and cool and smooth. She picked it up. Small as it was, it seemed to weigh at least ten pounds. Was it a meteorite? Involuntarily, her fingers closed over it, and the shape yielded like dough. There was a bright explosion of light –
Marseille, France - September 1712
"The skies opened to the lightning without thunder, and there stood a sorceress, staring directly at the iron giant upon the horizon. He was five stories tall." The narrator's voice artfully rose and fell as he told his tale. "She was a young woman, beautiful as any maid, but her dewy skin was the color of spring leaves. Her eyes were large as plums and dark as night. Her bodice clung to her supple breasts. She wore breeches so tight, you could see... every gentle curve." He paused to wait till the whistles in the Sunset Cove Tavern calmed down. "In her hand was an orb shining in competition with the sun. She pointed it at the iron giant, and he crumbled to dust. ‘Give me your horse,’ she ordered me. ‘I must take my magic a hundred miles away, or this monster will come back to life.’”