- Author: Bethany Lovejoy
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Copyright © 2021 by Bethany Anne Lovejoy
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Dedicated to My Mother, who has always supported me in all of my foolish endeavors.
The City of Crows
Bethany Anne Lovejoy
1. Out of Towner
2. The Last of Nineteen
4. A Guiding Star
5. Cat’s Out of the Bag
6. The Green Man
7. Love is Blind
9. The Unexpected Visitor
13. The Beginning of Loss
16. For Your Sake, Not Mine
17. Not Who You Think
19. Empty Goodbyes
20. Just Visiting
21. One Last Day
22. Goodnight, Lyra
23. The Crow
25. An Exciting Disappointment
26. Many Faces in the Closet
27. The End
29. One Last Cup of Tea
About the Author
Out of Towner
Hard, stone-like rain pounded against the sidewalk, leaking down the subway entrance and drenching the cement entryway with its cold, unending presence. It wasn’t alone, small balls of hail bounced down the steps as well, rolling nearer and nearer to the toll gates as if they too would be riding the subway. A stray crow, seeking shelter from the ongoing downpour stood near the exit, drying its wings. All around, people tightened their hoods and held on tight to their umbrellas, their eyes trained nervously on the ground as a few unprotected and unbothered people walked by them, sporting cold glares on their faces that were typical on a rainy day in this part of town. You didn’t have to watch too closely to see those people jostle up against their well-protected counterparts, purposefully knocking shoulders and whispering obscenities under their breath.
I stood at the platform just past the gates, hood down, praying that my train would come before any others arrived to dump even more people out onto the platform. I didn’t want trouble, not today or any day. But the platform I stood at made trouble a stronger than usual possibility. Beside me, a small girl shivered, her hand in her mother’s, her pointed red hood up like an arrow for the eyes of passerby. They weren’t from town, you could tell because if they were her mother would at least have the decency to pull it down, and she wouldn’t be walking in a red woolen coat that reeked of her heritage. She would have had the knowledge to dress her child smartly, not broadcast to the world what she was; adults could make the choice, but kids?
If I was a better person and perhaps less of a coward, I would have leaned over and told her as much. I would have been sure that the little girl beside me stayed safe, because only ten years ago I was that same little girl. But doing so risked my identity as well, and I couldn’t let that happen. I’d grown smart and crafted too thick of a web of lies to risk getting torn down by getting beaten up on a subway by some middle-aged man with an anger problem, least of all to do such a thing on a platform in ‘The Stakes’. No, it was better to keep my head down and my mouth shut, hoping that luck favored me. I’d already put myself at risk by agreeing to come here, especially so close to my shift.
My roommate, Yvie, was lucky that I was short on rent that month. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered to try fulfilling such a brazenly stupid favor.
I fingered the baggie of fish scales and foxglove root in my pocket, wondering how so little could be worth so much trouble. Yvie could have gotten it herself, in fact, normally she would. But she took any opportunity to get me back into this part of town, if only to remind me of what I was. Yvie had a problem with hiding it, and a real problem with our overly priced but moderately safe apartment situated just outside of The Stakes. She wasn’t ashamed, she craved this life, she wanted to be around our own kind.
A soft grinding filled the air, the noise of a subway train growing closer. Beside me, the girl’s guardian withdrew a piece of paper from her pocket, unfolding it to look at the directions on it as she murmured a few words in German. The girl tugged at the woman’s coat, a small flash of dirty blonde hair peaking out of the side of her hood as she looked up to her.
I fingered my own hair, once blonde and now chemically lightened to platinum, I just had to see that single wisp, didn’t I? I wondered if I looked the same once, hand tucked into my mother’s velvet skirt as I struggled to keep the purple pointed hood of my childhood upright when we first came to town, too secluded from a life in the countryside to know any better.
The train came to a halt in front of us, its doors still closed. I had five seconds to make a decision, but I didn’t need them. The second I heard the locks unlatch, my hands flew to the back of the girl’s hood, yanking it down before a sea of people could come tumbling out of the car. I dove through the nearest door and I hoped that she’d never know enough to thank me later, her curious eyes blinked up at me as the crowd surrounded her, her mouth slightly agape. Let her stay innocent.
I pushed my way into the car but didn’t stop, moving up a few cars incase her mother was stupid enough to pull the hood back up. My hand wove around one of the straps and my eyes shut, counting down the seconds before the quickly moving train would lunge forward again.
“Magictown to Marlow Heights