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the map of Love & War

Want Some Pie? Bakery Marco and Alejandro Lilac and Lakmei's Trinity Offices Trinity Church You Look Nice Salon Gracey, Tiny, and Prime of Darkness Gracey, Tiny, and Prime of Darkness Bibi and Cheehawk Old Leviathan's Pond Marco and Alejandro
June 18th, 2012

Greeks Bearing Gifts

Morning broke sweetly over Love & War, and Gracey, roused from sleep by the smell of coffee, shuffled lazily into the kitchen where she found Tiny sipping a café ole and reading a woman’s magazine.

“According to this,” Tiny said by way of greeting, “curly hair is considered cute, but not sexy. It’s also considered non-threatening and childlike and therefore unprofessional.” Tiny added more sugar to her coffee, stirred it slowly. “What do you think about that?”

Gracey poured herself a tall mug of coffee, took a seat next to her sister. “According to magazines like that, I’m also undateable and sentenced to a life of forever-alone because I’m fifteen pounds overweight. By their definition. Not mine.” Gracey pulled her hair from the elastic holding it off her face, let her wild mane curl around her face and shoulders. “I love my hair,” Gracey said. “Don’t you?”

Tiny grinned. “Not right now. You look a little bit like a rabid lion.”

Gracey smiled, regathered her hair and tied it back. “You know what I mean. Let’s take these coffees outside. I could use some fresh air. Leave the self-hate literature on the table, if you don’t mind.”

They took their steaming mugs through the living room and out onto the porch. But as Tiny took her favorite spot on the porch swing, something unusual caught Gracey’s attention. Sitting at the corner of the porch, brand new and shining, were a beautiful pair of cowboy boots. They appeared to be Gracey’s size.

“What on Earth?” Gracey took her place next to sister, motioned to the boots with her mug. “You get a gander of those boots over there? They’re gorgeous. Look expensive.”

“Where’d they come from?”

Gracey shrugged. “Don’t know. I’ll ask Bettina when I see her. Somebody’s gotta be missing those beauties.”

“You should hijack em,” Tiny put in. “Your old shit kickers need to be retired anyway.”

Gracey laughed, and nudged her sister in the side with her elbow. “My boots have character.”

Tiny rolled her eyes. “That’s just your way of saying you’re too cheap to shell out the dough for something nice.”

Gracey grinned. She couldn’t argue with that.

The next morning, the boots were joined by a porcelain pie plate. “Looks like you’ve got a secret admirer, sis,” Tiny joked.

Things had just gotten interesting.

**

Gracey was sitting on her sofa doing a crossword puzzle when Satsuko burst through the back door with Tiny hot on her heels.

“Where is it?”

Gracey looked up, her brow wrinkled. “Where’s what?”

“They’re on the front porch,” Tiny said. “What are you still doing here, anyway, Gracey? I thought you were going out for groceries.”

Gracey shrugged. “I misplaced my keys. I thought maybe you accidentally stuck them in your bag or something. You don’t have them?”

Tiny frowned. “Gimme a break; you know I wouldn’t take your keys.”

At this, Satsuko turned to Gracey, eyes wide. “You didn’t touch nothing, did you? None of the stuff on your porch?”

Gracey shook her head. “No, the pie plate and the boots are still out there. Why?”

“Good. Don’t,” she warned. Satsuko hurried to the front door, pushing it open. She peered out onto the porch and asked, “Just boots and a pie plate?”

“Yes,” Gracey said.

But Satsuko shook her head. “Nope, you got something else out there now. Be right back.” Satsuko disappeared out the screen door, and when she came back, she looked somber. “Silver teaspoons,” she said. “I think I know what’s going on here. Listen. You got anything missing? Anything shiny or sparkly or important?”

Gracey opened her mouth, looked around in confusion. “Ah, I don’t know…I’ve only noticed my keys. Why…?”

Satsuko cursed in Japanese then, stomping her foot to emphasize her words. “That’s not all. I bet you got more missing than that. Go look. And whatever you do, don’t touch that stuff outside.”

Gracey and Tiny exchanged looks while Satsuko went out onto the porch, folded herself into a cross-legged sitting position, and pulled a deck of Tarot cards from an unseen pocket. She began placing the cards face down in an intricate pattern before her as the Daylittle sisters began searching the house for missing objects.

Gracey scanned her living room. Her art pieces, Lladro figurines, and crystal vases were all in order. She wasn’t missing any silverware or china from the kitchen. And she wasn’t missing any jewelry from her jewelry box, which wasn’t surprising given that Gracey wasn’t much of a bauble wearer. Unless…

Heart caught in her throat, Gracey moved quickly toward her nightstand, fingering the small wooden box she’d kept by her bedside for ten years. Gingerly, she manipulated the clasp and lifted the lid.

The box was empty.

Hot tears immediately sprang to Gracey’s eyes as a lump formed in her throat. “No, no…” she murmured. She flew into the living room and out the front door.

“My engagement ring,” she whispered, tears falling freely down her cheeks. “Satsuko, my engagement ring’s missing. I never take it out of the box, I’ve never — “

“I know,” Satsuko said, her voice steady and even. She was staring down intently at the map of illustrations before her. When she looked up, her face was white as stone, and her eyes just as hard. “They’re trying to trick you. They made you a trade — these gifts for your engagement ring. If you touch those gifts, they’ll think you’re accepting the trade and you’ll never get your ring back.”

Gracey nodded as though she understood, even though she didn’t. But the nodding quickly turned into head shaking as she asked, body shaking, “Who, Satsuko? Who took — “

“Shikigami,” Satsuko whispered. “You got shikigami after you, Gracey. And that means, somewhere out there, you got the attention of a sorcerer.”

“A sorcerer,” Gracey repeated, hardly able to believe the words that were coming out of her mouth. “Satsuko, that’s… I’m sorry, but that’s…I don’t believe….”

In sorcerers.

In angels.

In demons.

Gracey closed her eyes, breathed deeply. Was there anything she didn’t believe in anymore?

“All right,” she said. She sat down next to Satsuko, wrapped her arms around her knees ass he pulled them close to her chest. “What do we do now?”

Satsuko sat back on her palms. “Right now, we wait. And have breakfast. You got any udon? I haven’t eaten in days.”

Gracey smiled. “No udon, but I’m sure we can rustle you up something. What else do you like to eat?”

“Anything but coffee,” Satsuko said, wrinkling her nose. “Foxes do not like coffee.”

Gracey chuckled, stood, and motioned for Satsuko to follow. “I’ll be sure to make of a note of it.”

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