this tale can be read as a standalone piece,
but reading “Blood Is the New Gold” first
would certainly add joy to the experience
DeeAnn Bridges stared at the red, sparkly dress with enough concentration to suggest that she was waiting for the garment to speak to her, and perhaps explain why Aurora, a former coworker, had stabbed her in the arm over the piece of clothing.
Laila Flynn and Kassia Van Dyke watched DeeAnn through a two way mirror that divided Laila’s workshop and private office.
“Should I take care of your little problem now?” Kassia said. “I promise no pain.”
“Don’t!” Laila grabbed Kassia by the arm.
“This kind of loose end can be dangerous for everyone, Laila.”
“Let me go see what she knows,” Laila said. “I’ll do what must be done, but not before making sure that there’s no other choice.”
“You better get moving, or her eyes will melt holes through that horribly expensive thing you call a dress.”
“Just leave.” Laila pushed Kassia towards the backdoor. “DeeAnn is my problem. I’ll take care of her.” She rushed away before Kassia could add anything.
Laila walked out of her office and leaned against the door. “DeeAnn, if you don’t go home to get some rest your mother is going to have my head for dinner.”
“Mom thinks I’m at the clinic,” DeeAnn said without looking away from the dress. “I told her the doctors needed to remove my stitches.”
“And do they?” Laila took a few steps across the small room and stood next to the only employee she had ever liked.
DeeAnn shook her head. “There’s nothing to remove.” She turned around and looked down until her eyes landed on Laila’s face. “The stitches vanished five days ago. The same night I got home from the clinic.”
The fear in DeeAnn’s voice shot adrenaline into Laila’s heart. She felt the blood heating up in her veins, desperately wanting to morph into something new, shiny and precious. But she held the taller woman’s gaze as if the fire in those grey eyes didn’t affect her at all. “DeeAnn—”
“What’s special about this dress, Miss Flynn?” DeeAnn brushed the fabric and blinked at the flicker of reddish golden rainbows. “There’s something strange,” she pressed her palm against her forehead, “no, not strange, it’s something creepy, something creepy about everything in Fine Arts Macabre. What is it? I know there’s something.”
Laila wanted to lighten things up with a laugh, but DeeAnn’s tone had snatched the humor out of her gut. “It’s the nature of this business.” She managed a grin. “You know, the macabre is part of our name and our charm.”
DeeAnn shook her head violently, shouting, “You will tell me or I’ll make you.” Before Laila could do anything but watch, DeeAnn reached for something inside her bag.
Kassia was in front of DeeAnn, one hand on the girl’s arm and the other around her neck, before the first scream left Laila’s mouth.
“No, no, no, Kassia! Not that way. Let her go.”
DeeAnn’s eyes were wide, her mouth moving but making no sound.
“Listen, kid,” Kassia’s face was so close to DeeAnn’s that it looked as if she was going to kiss her on the lips. “I will pull your hand out of your bag. I will do it gently. If you don’t want that, I could always rip your arm off.”
“Kassia!” The reverberation of Laila’s voice shook the building and everything in it.
“Miss Flynn, are you okay?”
“Did she turn all green and gloomy?” Kassia said, without removing her eyes from DeeAnn’s and sounding a little bored.
“No, not green.” DeeAnn began to cry. “She’s red and black and hovering on a rainbow.”
“Ah. I see,” Kassia said to DeeAnn. In a louder voice, she said, “Laila, I need—”
“You need to leave my house, Kassia Van Dyke. Now.”
“Now!” Laila shouted.
“What’s in your hand, kid?”
“The bandage that was covering my stitches,” DeeAnn said.
“Okay.” Kassia sighed. “I will wait outside until you come to get me, Laila.” She left the room so fast that it looked as if her body had just vanished.
DeeAnn rubbed her neck, and turned around on the spot, looking for Kassia.
“Her side of the family tends to be really fast,” Laila said. “And kind of crazy.”
“My bandage,” DeeAnn cleared her throat. “The one they put over my stitches, it turned into gold.”
Laila began to descend, slowly, as she spoke. “And my side of the family tends to be good at tinkering with old things and turning emotions or energy into gold.” When her feet touched the floor, the rainbow disappeared. But her skin remained jet black and her hair, clothing and shoes were the red of fresh blood.
DeeAnn stood very still and silent for a long while. Then she said, “Who are you?”
“I am Laila Georgina Claire Flynn, tinker and amateur curator of a sort.”
“What are you?” DeeAnn handed to Laila the chunk of gold that used to be the bandage that protected her wound from infection.
“Not completely sure there,” Laila said. “My Ma was from Kansas and my Pa from Ireland—never met him—and the psychopath who almost strangled you is my cousin. I was born here, in Wildwoods.” She ran an index finger over the piece of gold. “And if someone bleeds for me, their blood turns into gold, my skin darkens, and my shoes and hair get more crimson.”
“And there is the rainbow thing,” DeeAnn said.
“Yes,” Laila nodded, “and there’s the rainbow thing—the most ridiculous mode of travel ever written since someone thought of the broomstick.”
“Written?” DeeAnn blinked.
Laila sighed. “Never mind.”
“Why are you telling me all this, Miss Flynn? Aren’t you afraid I’ll tell people?”
Laila examined her shoes. “My Ma never trusted anyone. She could do powerful magic, was better than all her sisters, but had no one she trusted to stand by her side. They almost crushed her to death and took everything from her. Would have, if she had not been a quick thinker. They even stole her shoes for a time.” She swallowed. “DeeAnn, I want… I need an apprentice; someone who knows the real me; a person who cares enough about Fine Arts Macabre to bleed for it with me if need be… maybe a friend… another girl with whom I could share my glamorous shoes and ridiculous rainbow.”
“But I don’t have any magic, Miss Flynn.”
“Just Laila,” she looked up and smiled. “I’m a decent crafter. I will teach you.”
DeeAnn stared at Laila’s stilettos for a bit. “Uh… I like your shoes, but my style—”
Laila burst into laughter. “I will teach you to work with energy, DeeAnn Bridges, but your magic is your own. Let’s try this: close your eyes, wish for shoes you’ve always dreamed to wear, pick a hue you love, then click your heels three times as you visualize that wonderful pair of shoes.”
DeeAnn closed her eyes, grinned like a lunatic high on noon sun, and clicked her heels three times. When she looked at her feet, she found them clad in ruby red combat boots.
for Oma Linda’s Hues of Oz
Ruby Red Combat Boots by Christie Hubbard
And guess what? Yep, I have a wee giveaway for you:
an Oz notepad blooming with red poppies.
Here is what you need to do to enter the giveaway:
1. Leave a comment telling me about your favorite bit about the story.
For extra entries:
2. Be a participant of Hues of Oz 2014
3. Follow this blog via Google Friends Connect
this is an international giveaway
open until the 27th of March 2014, at 10:13 pm EST
a winner will be chosen using Random.Org
and announced on March 28th
Best of luck, everyone!
Best of luck, everyone!