Sora’s eyes snapped open as she heard the elevator doors open. She stretched out with a blissful sigh as her tail wiggled under the sheets. Sitting up, she threw out her arms, feeling the burn in her back. Scratching at her ears, she hummed with pleasure as tingles shot to her brain. She frowned while opening her eyes, quickly adjusted to the blackness.
She followed the footsteps of someone walking upstairs and to the door. Rubbing her neck, Sora yawned. I slept through the day.
Knocking sounded down the hall, followed by Ron yelling, “Sora, are you home?”
Twisting side to side, she hopped out of bed and lifted the back of her heels to put weight on her toes. Bending down and up, she did a front flip and landed neatly on her toes.
Smiling, she glanced at the clock. Nine P.M. Monday … There’s a whole day gone again. At least there wasn’t any pain.
Calling back down the hall, Sora yelled, “Yeah, I’m home. Let me get ready, and I’ll come down.”
Her bed shook as she dropped back, staring up at the ceiling, tail swishing above her. I was using my abilities a lot on Saturday; maybe that’s why I slept through the day.
Shrugging, she walked to her bathroom and threw off her nightwear, shooting them across the room into the laundry chute with expert skill. Flipping on Spotify, she switched to Imagine Dragons station.
Going to the mirror, she studied her on-end hair, bobbing her head back and forth. “I guess even Nogitsune get untamed hair in the mornings.”
Sora turned on all the showerheads, watching the water spill in interest; she could distinguish drops of water splashing against the tile in fine detail. Growing bored, she stepped into the hot water and began washing, taking care of her ears and tail. She laughed as her tail flung water around the shower, sending orange-colored lights in circles that reflected off the water and walls.
Finishing, she patted herself dry and began taking care of her skin and hair, leaving out makeup altogether. She completed her daily maintenance, pulling her hair into a high ponytail. Doing a final check, she frowned and lifted her tail over her head, momentarily bobbing her ponytail back and forth with it.
Examining its length with narrowed eyes. “Hmm, I know it was a little shorter when I went to bed.”
She could now touch her ears with the tip. The action sent a tickling sensation through her skull, making her press her ears down with a giggle. Pushing it out of her mind, she swept her tail back and forth, feeling the moist air passing over it. Done, she walked back to her room and looked at the different clothing at her disposal, not bothering to turn on the light.
Letting a rumble escape her throat, Sora sighed in disgust. “Ack, with my new tail, a lot of my attire is completely useless. I need to get them changed to fit me, and I’d probably mutilate them if I tried myself.”
Tapping her lower lip, she smiled. “Then again, I can always get someone else to do it, and the sooner, the better!”
Getting her phone out of her pocket, she hesitated as she caught sight of three voicemails, one from Mary, one from Wendy, and one from an unknown caller. Wait, isn’t dad supposed to be getting home Tuesday morning?
Tapping Wendy’s voicemail first:
“Hey, Sora. I—umm, my mom’s been acting kind of strange since you left. She’s been oddly passive whenever she speaks to me—even if she was laughing before speaking … she hasn’t been asking me to do many things either … I just … did you … my mom mentioned that you told her something before you left … you said she’d go back to normal? I … guess I’ll talk to you later…”
She breathed through her teeth as the message ended. I told her to not punish Wendy … and with how she feels about her, I guess almost everything could be considered spiteful. Did I just make it worse for Wendy overall?
She irritably scratched behind her left ear. If I tell her to be herself, then what will she do? I think that’s what Wendy wants … but … I guess I could see if the magic works over the phone. If it’s still active on her, shouldn’t it just be me wishing it to go away that dispels it? I don’t want to … but I guess Wendy doesn’t want her mom to be a zombie around her … should I … no, no, I can’t tell her.
Lightly biting down on her lower lip, she went to her contacts. I still have Jane’s number on my phone … if it hasn’t changed.
Calling her, she waited, feeling a tad nervous.
“If it isn’t the devil herself…” Jane responded as the call connected.
“I-I’m a little surprised you picked up …”
“Well—I’d rather talk to you over the phone than in person. Who knows what you’ll have me do…”
Swallowing, Sora shifted uncomfortably. “I just—I don’t want you punishing Wendy…”
“I haven’t—can’t—not after whatever you did to me … so, calling to rub it in or something?”
“No—Wendy was concerned about you … so, I—you don’t have to follow whatever I told you before … you’re free.”
The silence stretched for several seconds. “Look at that … I can write down a note for Wendy to clean up the house…” She didn’t sound happy. “You can influence people over the phone, too … What kind of devil are you?”
Sora hung-up. How—it’s cool … I guess, but I feel so dirty giving her permission to walk all over Wendy … but why should she be my slave in the first place…
Sighing, she texted Wendy: I called your mom. I told her to not punish you when I left … sorry if that upsets you. I just wanted you to have a little breather … I freed her completely. She can do whatever she wants, sorry again for all this. I want to be a friend…
She stared at the text for a minute before sending it. Looking at her voicemail list, she sucked on her lips. Maybe I should get dressed first.
Setting her phone down, she dressed in new undergarments and slipped into her lowest riding blue shorts, which just barely fit under her tail. Donning a seafoam green sleeveless shirt, she added ankle-strap sandals to her feet. Listened to Mary’s voicemail, she pursed her lips:
“Sora … you weren’t at school. There are—I think we need to talk about a few things. Including Jenny … call me when you can.”
She huffed. Right, Jenny was blackmailing Mary somehow. Maybe she was threatening to kill her or something? Didn’t Jenny disappear, though? Aiden mentioned it too. Maybe I should see how I can help Mary tomorrow morning? That would be a good thing to do … right?
The thought slipped her mind as she listened to the following voicemail.
“Mo mhuirnin, it’s dad … I know I said I’d be back Tuesday morning, but … things got a little complicated. I’m calling from the Chairman’s phone. I will absolutely be back on Wednesday afternoon! I’ll make it for your birthday, so don’t you fret. Alright, gotta go. I love you so much!”
[i.e. Mo mhuirnin – My dear]
Sora frowned. I could call the Chairman’s number back to get in touch with him, but … why am I hesitating? A few days ago, I’d leap at the opportunity to get him on the phone … why?
A heavy sigh shot through her lips. I have so many questions…
Looking down at the floor, she found the disappointment fading. Vision returning to her closet, she huffed. “Well, I need to get these modified anyway.”
Calling the front desk, Sora said, “Yes, this is Sora. I’d like a few people to come up with a bunch of suitcases. I need to adjust my entire wardrobe.”
She laughed at the man’s response. “I know that’s a huge undertaking. If you can arrange that as quickly as possible, I’d appreciate it. Alright, I’ll wait for them to get up here.”
Hanging up, she concealed her tail and ears while walking into her bathroom. Staring at herself in the mirror with a beaming smile, she formed an illusion around herself. She continued to morph her visual appearance until she was satisfied with her new look. Anyone who saw her would see her as a few years older. Winking at herself in the mirror, she moved to the front room and waited a few more minutes for the sent attendants.
They entered and halted with wide eyes at her appearance, and one asked, “Hello, uh, Miss—are you related to Sora?”
Grinning, Sora said, “Yes, I’m Sora’s cousin, Vivian. She went out already and asked me to oversee her wardrobe readjustments. Thank you all for your assistance.”
They all shook their heads, enchanted by not only her older appearance but the glowing aura around her that she knew she produced. My abilities seem to be getting more powerful every day, and I still have two more days of enhancements.
Winking, she asked, “You can go up to Sora’s room and take all the clothing in the closet … By chance, do any of you know a refitting shop that’s open around this time of night?” Laughing lightly, she added. “I’m not that used to the area.”
“Y-Yeah!” one of the men said with an emphatic nod. “I know one place that might.”
Nodding, Sora made a welcoming gesture for them to continue down the hall. “It’ll be up the stairs and to your left.” She watched them hurry through the penthouse with a few carts filled with suitcases.
Her vision turned to Ron, who was studying her with an unsure frown. He must be wondering when I arrived and how Sora left without him knowing.
Moving to the elevator, she stopped and leaned against the back of a couch. “How are you, Ron?”
Ron’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh—you know my name?”
Smiling warmly, Sora nodded. “I arrived in Miami yesterday. Sora told me a lot about you.” She pushed her persuasive influence over him.
Ron’s expression eased, and he returned her smile. “I see. Where did you come from? Sora’s never told me anything about family members. I’m glad to see so many people coming into her life lately … to be honest, I was starting to worry.”
Sora’s smile faltered slightly. “What do you mean?”
He frowned at the elevator as the doors tried to shut; he pressed the counter button and stepped out to talk to her, removing his key. He must be concerned if he’s leaving his station.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Ron said, “I don’t know how to put this … but Sora’s been a solitary girl since middle school.”
Replacing her smile, Sora continued to act completely innocent about her own life. “Oh—you must have worked here a long time then? I’ve only recently started talking to her, so I don’t know much about her early life.”
Ron shook his head sadly. “She’s a secretive girl and doesn’t want to burden others with her problems. I was hoping that high school might help her break past whatever’s been tormenting her. Which—in my opinion, must be bad girls at school—every once and a while, she’ll come back with cuts, sheared hair, and other odd things, but she always had an excuse. I have my suspicions, but she won’t confide in me, and I can’t seem to get any evidence to bring to her dad.”
Sora swallowed a lump in her throat as her smile faltered again. “Is that right. I … had no idea.”
She felt a pit grow in her stomach at the lie. I never intended to lie to Ron for so long, he’s a really nice guy, and he’s truly cared for me most of my life.
“She’s strong, and I’ve seen her mature very quickly over the last few years, and I heard from other staff that she brought up friends a few days ago. To be honest, I was relieved. I thought she was finding a place where she could belong, but … after talking with a few attendants. How do I say this … She’s been acting, well, very strange lately.”
Sora’s stomach knotted. “Strange, how?”
“She’s skipping school, and I know her dad’s been worried, but he’s also swamped trying to finish up some management meetings and paperwork. He has to work twice as hard to get a few days free to come back to Miami. I don’t know what’s happening lately—she doesn’t really open up about these things to me. I just thought that if she’s getting close to you and—you’re her family—that maybe you can guide her a little bit, give her some advice.”
Sora felt the pressure ease off her chest. “You really care for Sora—don’t you?”
Ron smiled fondly. “Yeah, I’ve seen her almost every day since she was six—so you could say that I think of her as my own daughter. She’s given me pretty helpful advice with my wife too. She’s a good girl, and I don’t want her getting into trouble.”
Sora nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Ron seemed to be holding back tears, but he nodded, clearing his throat. “Thanks, Vivian. I’m glad you’re here. She really needs some family close by.”
Shifting her head to examine his eyes, Sora tentatively asked, “Sora told me your wife’s pregnant. How’s she doing?”
Ron’s smile deepened, and a distant light flicked in his eyes as he wiped back a tear. Sora could feel the love he felt for his wife burst into an aura of adoration that crashed into her like a tsunami. She didn’t even want to link emotions, maybe because of its pure radiance or the slight influence she pushed on him earlier; she seemed to have subconsciously latched a tether onto him.
“She’s my sunrise. Every day I wake up with thankful tears in my eyes as I look over at her and the daughter she carries. Oh—she makes me work, but it’s the kind of work I could die doing. She’s my kingdom, everything that shines in my eyes. I couldn’t live without her.”
Sora swallowed with awe as his resplendent ambiance showered her. “Being in the same room with her is glorious. She’ll always remain in my heart forever young, her beauty never scarred in my memory. Stephanie is something I would conquer the world for. Her kiss is like golden honey from the fingertips of God, and her touch, the caress of a goddess. She lights the darkness in my world and shows me a vision of paradise. She brings me love; she lifts me up, and every time I look into her ocean blue eyes, I tremble with…”
Ron jumped, a deep flush spreading across his face. “Excuse me—I don’t know what came over me.”
Sora jumped as well, almost losing control over her illusion. “N-No, it’s fine. I’ve never felt—heard anything like that—I hope someday, I do.”
Ron chuckled with embarrassment. “Yeah—she’s my world.”
Rubbing the back of her neck, Sora looked down the hall as all the men carefully brought down suitcases filled with her clothes, talking lowly and glancing back her way.
She internally berated herself. I absolutely need to control my abilities! I know I must have drawn out Ron’s feelings, and somehow it felt like they were literally washing into me … like I was draining them. That’s something I don’t want to do to Ron. He really feels that strongly about Stephanie? And he still has enough room to worry about me? Ron truly is amazing.
Ron cleared his throat. “I—should get back to my position—thanks for the talk, Vivian.”
Sora nodded with a smile as she waved him goodbye. “I’ll see you around.”
He waved back as he pressed the button. “Here from nine to nine most nights!” he exclaimed with a laugh as the doors opened, and he entered, the doors shutting soon after.
Sora’s vision faded out as she walked upstairs and watched the men put her clothes in penthouse cases. She could still feel Ron’s emotions within her, embracing her, and could almost hear the sweetest melody her ears had experienced playing in the background.
This is real love … if it were to have a taste, it’s like I’m tasting happiness, pure and true.
Licking her lips while shaking, she moved to sit down in the flex room. So, it exists, and I’ve just caught a glimpse of it.
Tears came to her eyes, and she held them back, clearing her throat. I feel like I just trampled on something sacred … only Stephanie should feel this from Ron.
Taking a deep breath, Sora went into her room to grab her purse and phone, sticking her phone in the appropriate pocket. Returning to the couch, she shook her head, ponytail swinging as she tried to get the feelings out of her chest. Every time I focus on it … I tremble. For Ron, his love is his survival. I … want that, but I can’t take it from Ron.
“Get ahold of yourself!” she whispered as she pressed her hand against her forehead, noticing how hot her skin was.
Rubbing her shoulders as chills ran down her ears to her tail. She sat petrified for several minutes while tremors ran across her body as she digested the emotion. Her mind snapped back into focus as one of the staff walked back in with a cart filled with penthouse cases. “We just finished grabbing everything in the closet.”
Nodding, Sora added a charming smile to her illusion. “Great. I’ll follow you to the shop then.”
She followed them, making slight flirtatious small talk as they made their way to the adjustment shop. Arriving, she found that one of the men had run on ahead and had woken up the shopkeeper by climbing the side of the building and rapping on her window.
Sora brought her palm up to her forehead in exasperation, but as the woman saw the enormous number of bags she had to be resized, she perked up, inviting her in.
Smiling apologetically, Sora said, “Thank you for making an exception for me.”
“My name’s Gina, and don’t worry about it.”
Instructing the staff to drop off the luggage, she had them return to the hotel. She gave explicit directions regarding what to do with each type of clothing. Gina jotted down all her orders. Finished writing all of Sora’s instructions, the manager repeated back her list.
Nodding, Sora apologized again. “That’s correct, and thank you for taking my order this late.”
Gina nodded. “No, thank you for the work! Can you bring Sora soon, so we can get started?”
“Ah,” Sora breathed, “You do need to measure her, don’t you?”
Gina nodded again. “I’d like to be as accurate as possible.”
Sora hesitantly looked around the empty shop. I guess there’s no other way.
Staring into Gina’s eyes, Sora said, “I’d like you to measure me in the back. Figure out how best to modify my clothes to accommodate my tail.”
Sora was relieved to see Gina’s expression pacify. She nodded and guided her to the back room. Releasing her illusion, she took off her clothes and let Gina measure her dimensions for the modification. Once finished, she stood up and watched Sora expectantly. Redressing and applying her illusion again, Sora said, “Thank you, Gina.”
Gina blinked with confusion as she stared down at the paper in her left hand and measuring tape in her right. “What—did you say?”
“Oh,” Sora said with a smile, “I gave you that paper with the appropriate measurements for the modifications.”
Gina nodded, still looking bewildered. “Okay, if this is what you want to be done, then I’ll do it. You want it done with every item, right?”
“That’s right,” Sora said. “I’m willing to pay upfront if that is alright.”
Confusion vanishing, Gina nodded with a bright smile. “If that’s fine with you.” She took a few minutes to calculate the exact cost as she sorted through the clothes before giving Sora the bill.
Smiling, Sora nodded. “Two-thousand eight-hundred and fifteen-fifty, that sounds fine. Do you take debit?”
“Yup, we do, and any problems or changes, once the order is finished, are free … within reason, of course.” Sliding Sora’s card, Gina returned it and shook her hand. “This actually helps a lot. Thank you!”
Sighing as she walked out of the shop, she stared up at the dark revitalizing sky. It’s like I’m eating every time I’m under the open sky … although, there’s probably more to it.
Licking her lips, she looked in the direction of the beach. I’m not tired, so I might as well go listen to the ocean … and I smell Eyia that way.