All I wanted for much of my life was peace and quiet. So naturally, what I got instead was chaos.
Chaos came in the form of three young people. Jace, a witch, was the oldest at 26, which was still quite young compared to me. Elyse the gryphon was second at 21 while Milo, a techno vampire, was the youngest at 16. What had possessed me to take them all in, sometimes I still didn’t know.
“Feet off the table,” I told Milo as I entered the kitchen. “Jace, I got a call from a police lieutenant yesterday about you. Seems you were caught on camera stealing someone’s wallet? The camera shows you put it back, so they’re not pressing charges, but please, be more careful.”
Jace shrugged his shoulders and bent over his phone, no doubt keeping in contact with one of his many online friends that he preferred to talk to instead of, I don’t know, the people he now considered family.
Jace didn’t pickpocket people to steal from them or for the thrill of it or I’d be having words with him about his hobby. Jace had a complicated reason for doing what he did and I didn’t much care that he’d chosen this path, just as long as he didn’t get caught.
Like most witches, Jace had been born female. Once he realized he was trans, though, that presented a problem – because his family, who happened to be leading members of an old, powerful coven in a large city, would never tolerate him transitioning. It was a matter of simple magic science – males didn’t have as much magic as females, so to them, Jace’s choice to transition would mean a loss of magic power that would be unacceptable.
So Jace had hidden who he really was and stuck with his traditional, power-hungry family, pretending to support everything they did until he turned 21 and got a trust fund. It wasn’t a huge trust fund, but was decent and would allow him financial freedom, so it was enough for him to think it was worthwhile to hang out until he was old enough to get it. Then he disappeared from his former life, getting the then 11-year-old Milo’s help to transfer all the trust fund money into several accounts with enough protections in place that no one except another techno vampire would be able to track the money down again.
Jace didn’t actually want to touch his family’s “blood” money, as he called it, other than to transition – just because they’d have hated that. Instead, he carried around some cash and when he saw someone who needed money, he pickpocketed them to put money into their wallet. He figured secretly giving away his family’s money to people who needed it was the only other acceptable use for the money.
That was why I didn’t have an issue with Jace “reverse pickpocketing” people, I just had a problem with him getting caught. Me being the police superintendent made that particularly awkward. Jace technically didn’t need to live with me, but he’d wanted a family after he’d given up on his own and somehow I’d befriended him and ended up inviting him to stay the night once when I felt sorry for him being alone during the holidays. That had been almost five years ago. I was getting the impression he had no plans of leaving for the foreseeable future.
Elyse, meanwhile, was writing poetry, which was fine and all, but she was doing it on the table itself in what appeared to be permanent marker.
“Elyse, use paper,” I reminded her.
Elyse was a tough one. Blind at birth, her parents had decided they didn’t want her – who could expect a blind gryphon to fly? – so she’d been raised in foster homes until she ran away and then nearly got run over because she got lost in the city, overwhelmed by the sounds, and stood in the middle of the street in confusion. She’d ended up in juvenile detention, scared but defiant. She didn’t belong there, but her foster parents didn’t want her back. I’d taken her home instead because I saw something in her and felt like it was only reasonable that a supernatural child live with a foster parent who was also supernatural, anyway.
Elyse loved writing poetry. Sometimes beautiful stuff, sometimes stuff I didn’t understand and sounded more like a bunch of sounds. The problem with her poetry was that once she got caught up in an idea for it, she’d write it on any available surface. Whatever was the closest, so she could write it down ASAP and not forget the burst of inspiration. I’d tried to leave notebooks practically all over the house, whiteboards, chalkboards – really anything that she could use to write with, but inevitably she ended up writing on something that was not really designed to be written on. I’d probably excuse it as a mistake since she couldn’t see, but she could feel the difference between the wooden surface of the table and a piece of papers, and besides, I knew it was really just her desire to get it written down without caring about where she wrote it down.
Maybe eventually she’d remember. I wasn’t holding out high hopes.
Milo, on the other hand, was in the obligatory teenage defiance stage where he just wanted to challenge leadership, wear dark clothes, get as many piercings as he could, etc., etc., etc. I didn’t have a problem with piercings or his clothing choices or whatever, but I didn’t like his feet on the table where we ate. That seemed like minimal decency.
But it was hard to tell Milo to hold back, too. Techno vampires tended not to have families, I’d learned over the years, apparently because witch and vampire unions were rare enough, but if they ended up having a hybrid child from it – a techno vampire – inevitably they didn’t seem to want it. Scared of the exceedingly rare race or guilty over its birth, I wasn’t sure. Either way, techno vampires were born with a death sentence that generally was completed around 50 years. When I’d learned there was an infant techno vampire in the orphanage, I’d taken him in almost instantly, not wanting to let him have even a day of misery when his life was so short to begin with. Milo had been with me the longest, as a result, and I’d watched him grow from a precocious child fascinated with everything to a young teen intent on discovering the secrets of the world and now a moody teen who didn’t want to acknowledge my existence. That was fine, though, I knew it was a phase and would pass. And it was hard to be mad at Milo anyway.
Getting no responses from any of them, I sighed a little and went to the fridge to start pulling out materials to make breakfast sandwiches.
“How is school going, Milo?” I doubted I would get an answer, but I asked anyway.
He grunted, but then burst out an answer anyway. “It’s stupid. I can learn all this stuff in five minutes on the web, why am I supposed to memorize it? What’s the point?”
I couldn’t totally disagree with him. Techno vampires had a wealth of information at their fingertips, so for him, regular learning seemed…archaic.
“It’s simply the traditional curriculum mandated by the government of this country. I realize it’s not practical for you, but the government doesn’t make exceptions for individuals. You have a year left, just stick it out and then you’ll graduate and can do whatever you want.”
Milo groaned. “Pretending to be human sucks. I wish we could just admit we’re different and they’d make adjustments to the curriculum accordingly.”
“Me too,” I agreed quietly. I knew why supernaturals hid and had done so for years upon years, but it didn’t change how inconvenient it was, at best. I’d already had to restart my life once because I was getting too old for my looks to be believable, and I wasn’t even 100 years old yet. A few centuries of this would get really tiring.
I set out the breakfast sandwiches soon after, the kids eagerly diving in even if they forgot to tell me thank you. Honestly, I didn’t mind much that they rarely thanked me – to me, it was thanks enough to see them happily enjoying the food, because that told me that they did like it.
Jace grabbed his messenger bag as soon as he finished scarfing down the sandwich. “Gotta go – Port Fylin City Hall awaits!”
Jace worked for City Hall – another reason not to get caught pickpocketing – in the tax department. He actually enjoyed working on taxes, so it was a good fit for him. It also gave him potential “clients” for his family’s money because sometimes when he came across people who were struggling to pay taxes because of limited resources, he’d find them and sneak them enough money to help deal with at least the tax issue. Sweet of him, but sometimes I was worried he’d get caught using government resources to find individuals’ addresses and get in trouble for it. That was part of the reason I had asked Milo to keep tabs on the information flow at City Hall – basically, just keep an alert out for any mentions of Jace and make sure if anyone mentioned any suspicions, we were among the first to know.
Milo left next to catch his bus, grumbling as he did all the way out the door and likely the entire bus ride, if I knew my son.
That left Elyse, who still seemed to be in a poem fever and was writing frantically – at least on a sheet of paper this time.
I knew better than to interrupt her while she was like this, so when it was time for me to leave to get to work, I slipped out quietly and left her to her poem, hoping that when I came home, I wouldn’t find that she’d started writing all over the floor again. Or the walls. I’d repainted those more than enough times since Elyse moved in.
Ellen greeted me as I got to my office. “Hey, Tony! You look nice this morning. Hot date later?” She tried to smile at me coyly, but it was pretty much a big flop.
I gave her a polite smile that I gave all my subordinates. “Good morning, Ellen. Do you have the reports I asked for? Did the second precinct send in their statistics yet?”
She quickly shuffled around the mass of papers on her desk. “Yes, uh, they’re here somewhere – I’ll bring them in after you get settled, okay?”
I nodded my agreement and went inside my office.
The only reason Ellen got away with calling me Tony was because we’d both been here over 20 years and she’d known me since I started on the police force. Sometimes I wondered why she still bothered to flirt when I never gave her any encouragement, but maybe she just enjoyed flirting and didn’t actually care if I responded or not? Some people were like that, which was fine.
The reason I didn’t encourage her wasn’t that I didn’t like her. She was nice, but – she wasn’t her. The one who’d gotten away.
Technically, she hadn’t gotten away. I’d driven her away, something I regretted deeply and still caused a deep pang in my heart when I thought about it.
I’d met her in high school and we’d become fast friends. She was a little shy and hesitant to trust, but she warmed up to me and we’d become good friends. I liked her. A lot. I just told myself that was all there was to it right up until she asked me out on a date. Then the little world I’d fashioned where we were just friends shattered apart and I couldn’t deny it anymore.
The problem was, she was human. She was a protected human, so she knew about the supernatural world, but that didn’t fix the main issue. Back then, I’d been convinced that dating a human was an awful idea, given that I would literally live centuries and humans, well, they just didn’t. It didn’t seem worth the heartbreak to me to date someone with that short of a lifespan. So I’d told her that, perhaps – no, doubtless – more bluntly than necessary, and then found myself deliberately avoiding her because I was ashamed of what I’d said and too young and stupid to just work up the courage to apologize to her. Next thing I knew, we’d graduated and gone different ways and I’d never seen her again.
I’d told myself at the time that it was fine, I’d get over it, find someone else. The problem was…I didn’t. It had been more than 60 years since then and I had never met anyone I liked half as much as her. Realizing now – far too late – that she’d likely been my soulmate and the only soulmate I’d ever found so far, I also realized that there was a large chance I would never find another relationship that had as much potential as that one. It was far too late for regrets, I knew that, but still, every time I thought of her, a pang hit my heart at my own stupidity and foolishness and I desperately wished I could go back in time and slap myself, then go and beg her to date me.
Because a human lifetime with her would have been worth it. Despite what my stupid teenage self thought, it totally would have been worth the pain of eventually losing her, just to have her for all those years. Instead, I’d spent my life alone until I’d started adopting kids out of sheer loneliness. I did love my kids – crazy as they were sometimes – but even they couldn’t stop the ache in my heart every time I thought of her.