Excerpts: Happiness In Numbers
If Wishes Were Fishes, by Meredith Katz
“I’m just a shadow, a memory and spirit clinging onto reality tooth and claw so I don’t become a mindless monster. Hiraeth might like me, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be welcomed into his entire family.” Lucas looked dubious. “Plus, you know how they feel about other things going into the vessels they’ve claimed as their bodies. The fact I possess him sometimes so we can bang you together is gonna… well. If it comes up at all, you know most Others are gonna find that real freaky.”
“Still probably better than being just some kind of human loser,” Keith said dryly. “At least ghosts are literally as close as humans get to being Others. Me, I’m just some guy—”
“With psychic powers that let you experience the world the way they do, yeah—?”
“With PTSD and anxiety—”
“—who is alive—”
“Boys,” Hiraeth’s light, lilting voice said from behind them. “I think you’re both pretty.”
Keith jumped, and they turned as one to see Hiraeth, the Horned Boy, standing behind them with a bag of takeout in his hand.
As always, he was a gorgeous enough sight that Keith’s stomach gave an almost involuntary flop. Hiraeth was pale, with platinum hair that he’d let down from its customary ponytail to fall around his shoulders, his silver eyes reflecting the streetlights like a cat’s—or, well, a deer.
That much alone would be enough to captivate even the humans who couldn’t see the rest: his antlers, which he’d shed for the winter, were regrowing and had already begun to branch to their usual, tree-like shape—if only just begun. They were covered with a soft velvet that Keith hadn’t been able to keep his hands off lately.
Hiraeth huffed a breath of air inelegantly upward to flip some of his hair out of his eyes. “Going to stand on my step arguing all night over which of you is more tragic, sweethearts, or shall we head around back together?”
“Uhhh,” Keith said. “I. Actually. Yeah, don’t think we need to keep arguing.”
“It’s me,” Lucas said.
“Yeah, it’s definitely Lucas,” Keith agreed.
© 2019 Meredith Katz. All Rights Reserved.
Heart and Parcel, by Aveline Reynard
Lucie was completely overwhelmed by the number of people streaming through the gates of the castle on the night of the festival. She’d never seen so many people all in one place, laughing and yelling and elbowing each other with excitement. The air was buzzing with scents and sounds: sizzling meat being hawked from roadside stands, spun sugar being coaxed into towering clouds, the rattle of tambourines and toe-tapping string music.
She clutched Foxglove’s hand tightly as they made their way towards the palace. He was staring straight ahead, mouth pressed in a thin line, but he glanced over as he felt her gaze on him, offering her an immediate, reassuring smile.
Lucie made a face. It was still his smile, crooked and a bit sharp, with a bit of a mocking edge even though the expression was warm—but his face was all wrong.
“Alright, Lu?” he asked, raising his voice to be heard over the crowd.
“You look weird!”
“You look weird!”
Foxglove rolled his eyes, glancing away again. His profile was still the same—a long, thin nose that turned up a little at the end, dark heavy brows, a generously wide mouth. But that mouth was usually filled with sharp teeth, and now they were flat and even; his skin, usually a vibrant shade of turquoise, was a soft brown; his curled horns were missing, and his pointed ears were rounded. His eyes were still a bright golden color, but even that seemed out of place with his sclera colored white instead of black.
“You could have kept the ears,” Lucie said, pressing close to his side. Elves weren’t uncommon, and even as a half-elf, Lucie’s were slightly pointed. “It’s not just a… a you-know-what thing.”
Foxglove shrugged one shoulder, but a moment later, his ears shifted, just a little. “Better?”
“Don’t do that in public!” Lucie hissed.
“Nobody was paying any attention to me, Lu,” Foxglove rolled his eyes, but he glanced around after he said that, as if checking to make sure. Apparently satisfied, he looked back over at her again. “Why are you criticizing me? You’re the one that wanted me to do this.”
“I know,” she said, feeling a small pang of guilt at the thought. She was beyond grateful that she didn’t have to face this alone, but she knew it wasn’t exactly easy on Foxglove, either. “I’m sorry. I just like how you look normally. It’s much better…” Frowning, Lucie reached out to tuck a lock of Foxglove’s dark hair behind one ear with her free hand.
She felt strangely vindicated that it stayed there. Pointed ears really were superior after all.
Strangely, Foxglove abruptly leaned back away from her touch, letting out a huff of breath. She blinked, hand drifting in the air between them for a moment, before she dropped it.
“I like how I look normally better, too,” Foxglove said quickly, almost inaudibly. “Being like this is too vulnerable. Human skin is so fragile.” Seizing her hand, he tugged her along more firmly, until she was practically trotting to keep up with him. “Listen, let’s just get this over with. The sooner we’re out of here, the better, right?”
Lucie wasn’t sure what just happened in Foxglove’s head, but it wasn’t exactly a great place to talk, so she let it go, and followed Foxglove obediently. The crowds began to thin as they passed through the outer gates to the palace. It seemed that invitations were required to actually go inside, and Lucie felt a brief pang of panic that she was somewhere that she didn’t belong. They should turn back, go home—
The invitation. Lucie dropped Foxglove’s hand abruptly and started patting her hands all around her dress, searching for her pockets. She had brought it, hadn’t she? Where could she have—?
Foxglove cleared his throat. Lucie looked up to find him drawing the envelope neatly out of the front breast pocket of his suit.
“Oh,” Lucie said with a sigh of relief. “What would I do without you…?”
“Honestly,” Foxglove said dryly, “I don’t really know.”
© 2019 Aveline Reynard. All Rights Reserved.