The college grounds were flooded with students either rushing to class or sitting outside breathing in the crisp fall air. Kitty was one of the latter. She’d secured a spot on one of the benches with a well-worn copy of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and was thoroughly enjoying herself.
“So, who’s your favorite, Holmes or Watson?”
The twenty year old looked up in surprise, “I’m sorry?”
“Who is your favorite, Holmes or Watson?” repeated the man, sitting down on the opposite end of the bench.
“Um, both actually. They each have their strong points and the friendship between them makes things interesting. It’s not possible for me to pick a favorite,” shrugged Kitty, going back to her book. She kept sneaking sidelong glances at him as she read. The feeling that she’d met him before tickled the back of her mind.
“Hey, weren’t you in the coffee shop a couple of days ago? I asked to borrow your chair.”
“I recognized your voice. You have a very…distinctive way of talking. I’m Kitty by the way,” she said, sticking out her hand.
“Seth,” he replied, gripping the offered hand tightly. “And I’m not sure how to take that statement about my voice.”
“I only meant that you sound like you’re extremely irritated about something. It gives you this little growling thing and most people don’t…ah, I’m gonna shut up now.” Kitty bit her lip in embarrassment.
Seth pushed his sunglasses higher on his nose, “You don’t have to. I suppose it’s good to know that I growl. I’ll work on ridding myself of it.”
“No, don’t do that! It’s a good mood indicator. Much more subtle than wearing a big sign saying ‘Beware! I’m pissed today!’”
“But, I like my big sign,” he said absolutely deadpan.
Kitty’s lips twitched for a moment before she burst out laughing. She coughed and shook her head, “Okay, so the Goth has a sense of humor.”
Seth immediately stiffened, “Don’t-call-me-that.”
The icy tone in his voice frightened her a little, “I’m sorry. I just assumed…”
“Yeah, well you know what they say about ‘assume’. Don’t make judgment calls on others before you know anything about them. The happiest looking individuals can be the saddest beings on the planet. They hide their pain behind a smile.” Seth wore an expression of bitter disgust.
“I know,” whispered Kitty, tracing a pattern on the cover of her book.
The man blinked in surprise and lowered his sunglasses for a moment. Had he judged her incorrectly as well? “Are you alright?”
She nodded, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“So,” he cleared his throat pushing his shades back before she could look at him again. “Is Kitty short for anything or is it the name you were christened with?”
“No, ah, my given name is Katherine but most everyone calls me Kitty,” she smiled, putting her book away in her bag.
“And yes, there is a story behind it but it’s a little long for right now,” she continued, answering his unasked question.
“By ‘long’ you mean ‘embarrassing’?”
“We’ll save it for another time then.” His eyes followed her as she stood. “I’m sorry for barking at you earlier. I had problems with labels when I was growing up.”
“It’s alright. I have a habit of speaking before I think sometimes. Being brought up on the carpet for it is good for me. Really.” Kitty worried her lip between her teeth for a second. “I guess I’ll see you around then.”
“Anything is possible,” shrugged Seth. He frowned at her retreating back, “And in your case…highly probable.”
* * * *
The apartment was dark when Kitty returned home later that night.
“Oh man, what a day!” she moaned, turning on the light and dropping her bag by the door. “If my vocal coach made me run the scales one more time, I swear!”
She shuffled into the kitchen after shedding her boots and socks. Her foot slipped in something wet and she rolled her eyes flicking the light switch.
“Great! Something leaked all over…the…floor?” Kitty’s hands flew to her mouth and she squeaked in horror. A red puddle was on the tile and a trail curved around the island. She followed it cautiously, scared of what she might find. Her laughter rang out when the trail ended with an empty can of tomato sauce.
“I’m gonna get that girl when she comes home, leaving this mess behind for me to clean,” she snorted, pulling the cleaning supplies from under the sink. “Scared me half to death!”
In the middle of wiping up the spill Kitty heard the front door open. “Hey Sierra! What gives leaving all this tomato sauce on the floor?”
Silence greeted her from the living area.
“Sierra?” The young woman rose and left the kitchen.
“Oh my God, Sierra!” she yelled, running to her friend.
The redhead’s normally pale complexion was almost snow white. Her hands were clasped over a large wound in her side, which was bleeding profusely. One half of her face had been severely clawed and the eye was swollen shut.
“Now, you are not gonna die on me!” growled Kitty, snatching the phone and dialing 911. “Do you hear me, Sierra James?”
“I hear you,” slurred Sierra, attempting to chuckle and breaking off with a moan.
“911, please state your emergency.”
Kitty took a deep breath before replying, “I need an ambulance right now! My friend’s been attacked!”
* * * *
Kitty sat in her friend’s room at the Ravenswood Memorial Hospital listening to the multitude of noises both inside and out. Sierra was hooked up to so many machines she looked like a cyborg. Her face had pulled itself into an uncharacteristic frown. Well, the half that wasn’t bandaged anyway.
“The scarring will be severe. That’s if she makes it. I’m not going to lie to you. She’s on shaky ground at best.”
A tear rolled down her cheek as Kitty remembered the surgeon’s words. She was Sierra’s only real family. Her adoptive parents had died in a car wreck five years ago and she’d been an only child.
“You can’t leave, kiddo. What would I do without you?” she whispered, leaning her cheek on the bed.
“Go in peace.”
Kitty’s head shot up at the familiar voice. She crept to the door and peeked around the edge. Sure enough the man she’d met earlier that afternoon was standing in the hallway. He had his back to her and his longish ponytail twitched as he jerked his head.
“Hi, Seth right?” she asked softly.
Instead of jumping like any normal person would have he turned slowly and said, “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yeah, are you visiting somebody?” Kitty leaned against the doorjamb.
“You could say that.” He looked past her and into the room. “Your sister?”
“No, but she might as well be. We grew up together so we’re as close as sisters without sharing blood.” She squinted at his sunglasses. “Hangover?”
“Prescription,” he said, tapping the lenses. “So, what happened?”
Kitty sighed, “I don’t know. She was attacked by someone but she wasn’t conscious for long enough to tell me who.”
Seth frowned, acting as if he wasn’t happy with her answer. He looked at the ceiling and rubbed his neck. A silver chain peeked just above his collar and Kitty wondered briefly what was on it.
“I’m scared for her. The doctor said Sierra might not make it,” she murmured, wiping at her eyes.
“You don’t want to be alone.”
“No,” Kitty shook her head.
“Here.” Seth pushed up the sleeve of his coat. A silver rosary was wrapped around his wrist and he unwound it carefully. “I was told when I was given this that the angels would always be with me if I wore it. It’s worked a little too well in my case.”
She watched him wind it around her wrist, “You’re an unusual sort of person, Seth.”
He smiled, “I’ve heard that before. Feel better?”
She paused, “I guess it takes time.”
“On what?” Kitty glanced back into the hospital room where she’d heard something fall.
“On how much faith you have.”
“Well-” She trailed off staring at the space where Seth had been standing. “Huh, that’s funny.”
The twenty year old heard a muffled thump come from behind her. She snuck into the room past Sierra’s bed and quickly ripped back the curtain partition. The only sight that greeted her eyes was an empty bed and a scattering of black feathers.
Kitty fingered the rosary beads on her wrist and bit her lip, “I should be creeped out by him but I can’t bring myself to feel that way.”