Melville – Girl Talk

“So how come you’re the one who always goes out and scouts the girls for our little clubhouse, here?”
I was currently flipping through channels as Ishmael was cleaning his guns. It was a fairly normal happening for a Thursday morning.
“Those situations required different skills and approaches.”
“Oh, I bet they did.”
I heard him snap shut one of his pistols, and when I noticed he hadn’t moved on to another one, I figured it was because he was trying to get my attention. I turned to look, and thankfully he wasn’t pointing a gun at me. Instead, his blue eyes were focused on me, always so intense, but this wasn’t his usual half-angry half-so-not-funny look. His eyebrows were actually up, and they are never up, and such a small change made him look entirely different. For the first time, I bought all those stories he would tell us at the drop of a hat: about how his family was killed in front of him, about how he was a migrant for several years to keep the AE from finding him, about how he once took out an AE agent with a fistful of coffee mugs he was washing in Columbus, and that was the first time he’d killed someone… right there, when those thin, dark eyebrows went up and those eyes got just a little bit wider, he looked like the young man he really was, a worried, hurt, lonely young man.
“I’m not doing anything inappropriate.”
He said it, and because HE said it, it sounded so… weird. I mean, he was going full Bill Clinton here. It was more uncomfortable watching him try to approach the subject matter than the actual subject matter was.
“Uh… yeah,” I said after a bit of a pause, “Yeah, I know. I mean, it’s you. I don’t even know if you know how to do inappropriate things. Well, not when it comes to killing people, I’ve seen you do that all the time, but inappropriate lady things… with ladies… and…”
He went back to cleaning his guns, so I assume some part of my rambling put him at ease… or at least as close to “at ease” Ishmael gets.
‘Well, there’s nothing on,” I tried to sound inconspicuous, “Mom wanted me to put the dishes away, anyway, so… yeah…”
He didn’t say anything (not that that was something out of the ordinary) but I took it as a sign that I could escape the uncomfortable situation. Upon entering the kitchen two rooms away, however, I saw Titania in the process of putting a few of the plates back.
“Oh!” I said, genuinely shocked, “I was, uh… I was supposed to do that.”
“I had a spare moment,” she said, beaming as she closed the cupboard.
“Well, thanks…”
“I suppose you’ve got a moment to spare now, then?”
“Uh, yeah.”
She suddenly walked over to me silently as always, but with a surprising amount of speed I hadn’t seen her use before. She was close enough to be considered too close, dropping her voice to a lilting whisper.
“You’d best be careful around that new girl.”
“Who, Brigitte?” I whispered back.
“Yes. You can’t trust her very far. Changelings are by their very nature very untrustworthy. They can and will be anything for anyone at any time… be careful.”
Before I had a chance to confront her on this, she quickly made her way past me and out the back door. Within a minute, Brigitte walked into the room, causing my heart to lurch suddenly in my chest due to the information I’ve just been given.
“Hello, John,” she said in a friendly manner, reaching into the refrigerator for the Brita pitcher.
“Uh… hi.”
She got the pitcher out and set it on the counter along with a glass, but before she poured anything she turned to me, causing my chest to constrict again.
“Is everything all right?”
“Yeah! Yeah, sure, everything’s cool.”
I saw her eyes flip quickly to the window over the sink, looking out into the backyard, and then back to me.
“I do not need her abilities to know what you are feeling,” she remarked, filling up a glass of water, “I can read you like a book.”
“Really?”
“Yes, really,” she replied after taking a drink, “It is very human of you.”
Gee, thanks.
“Also, I take it that Ms. Wallace had a few words about me and my kind?”
How did she know?
“How did you know?”
She smiled that tight-lipped smile again and put the pitcher away.
“My kind have not been well looked upon for centuries. There are… striations within the Mythic culture much like your own human world. I am not saying that we Changelings did not do horrible things in the past, and some will continue to do horrible things, but–”
“But not all of you are like that,” I finished her sentence.
“Indeed. Also, there is the small issue of Titania’s… charms not working on one of my kind.”
“Her charms?”
“She is a User, like the legend says,” Brigitte continued, looking out the window again, “She can manipulate, she can quite literally change your mind. She may be able to make you believe all sorts of things if your mind is not strong enough. That is one of the reasons why I am here to train you and the others. In the future, be sure to guard your thoughts around her, OK?”
As I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Why was I suddenly so worried when she came into the kitchen? Why was I so ready to believe Titania? Was it just because she was pretty? It wouldn’t be the first time I’d let a woman lead me around like that, much to my chagrin… but she really did have me believing her… of course, now I’m believing Brigitte, a creature that by her nature is built around changing to fit any situation, and…
Damn. This is going to suck.
I walked back into the living room, where Rat had taken my spot on the couch and was watching some atrocious infomercial.
“Hey! Just in time, Goober. They’re about to show the ‘bad example’ part where the person doesn’t know how to make a goddamn pancake.”
I sat down next to him, my mind still spinning. For a bit there was only the blare from the television and the slick, hard metal of Ishmael cleaning his guns.
“So,” I said suddenly, feeling like I’d violated some kind of monastic experience, “What’s your thoughts on the girls, Rat?”
“Which one?” he said idly, flipping channels now that the pancake demo had passed, “Hooters, Changer, or the Firecrotch?”
Hm. Probably not the best person to be having this conversation with. Ishmael had already proved nearly catatonic on the subject, so I quietly excused myself and went looking for a better conversation partner. Dr. Bill merely gave me that old man chuckle thing and shook his head as if to say “Ah, kids,” before shutting the door to his study on me. Aonghus mentioned something along the lines of appreciating the lines on a Cadillac more than the lines of a woman, so I knew he wouldn’t be much use, so it was in desperation I finally turned to Father Kenneth as a last resort… because I’ll be damned if I’m going to talk to my mother about this halfway through my twenties.
“Ah,” he sighed, leaning back in his chair in the sparse little room he’d made downstairs, “They are quite a trio, aren’t they? It will be interesting to see how they benefit the group once our mission gets underway.”
I’d almost forgotten about all of that. With everyone here, it was only a matter of time, I suppose.
“I find them all very interesting, as they represent many different facets of being. Xandra could be seen as youth: full of ideals and causes, ready to take on the world, even if inexperienced or frankly unprepared. Titania is emerging adulthood, full of power and ambition. I see so much in her, there is so much potential, and yet I worry her skills are not being used correctly. Brigitte, however, speaks of the later life: things have been seen, lives experienced, good and bad and all things inbetween, giving her the most rational, if cold, approach to any and all things. It is my thought that, between the three of them we have found very, very powerful allies.”
I should have known better than to talk to a priest about this. But still, his words made a lot of sense and, for the time being, I’m going to consider it safe to trust Brigitte, and to trust Titania. With the powers they possess, it’s not like I have much of a choice, and until they do wrong by me, I’ve got nothing to worry about.
I hope.

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