What matters



This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

***

Sopping red hair fell in her eyes, but Chelsea couldn’t spare a hand to move it. Alex’s eyes wouldn’t open, and he didn’t seem to be breathing. Not even the pouring rain could wake him. She stared up into Tiggy’s horrified face.

Part of her wanted to scream at him fix Alex. He had stopped the car instead of driving away. He needed to fix Alex.

But she knew she was being irrational. The vampire had thrown Alex into the brick wall. She had heard—

Her heart sped up and she couldn’t catch her breath. Alex. He was sweet and kind.

Everybody loved Alex. She loved Alex.

And Alex was dead.

“No. No.” She heard her voice, but she hadn’t meant to speak. “No. Alex.”

Someone grabbed her arms, and someone else pulled Alex out of her hands.

She found herself on her feet reaching for him. “No. Give him back.”

She was spun around roughly. Scott shook her slightly as his rancid breath warmed her face. “Fucking stop it. We have to get out of here. We didn’t kill either nightling, and we have a dead body to deal with.”

She stared blankly at the man.

He sighed and pushed her towards her car. “There are… do you realize… Look, Boney will make some calls, and this will all get taken care of. Your friend will be found in a wrecked car, and it will look like an accident.”

She shook her head. Nothing made sense.

A warm arm pulled her away from Scott, and Amber’s angry voice rang out. “Shut the fuck up, Scott. She doesn’t care.” Amber turned toward her. “Chelsea, we’ll take care of Alex. I’ll need your car though.”

Chelsea nodded, patting at her pockets. “The keys—”

Amber interrupted her. “Are still in the ignition.” She waved to somebody. “Keegan’s gonna drive you and Tiggy to the haunt. Stay there until I come back. You’re gonna crash at my place tonight.” Warm, strong hands gripped her shoulders as Amber leaned in. “Start drinking, and don’t stop until I get there. I’m so sorry.”

Tears threatened, but Chelsea held them back. Pouring rain had flooded the streets and soaked through her shoes. Her injured knee throbbed. She’d cry for Alex, but not here.

She limped to Tiggy’s white compact and wedged herself in the back. The wind blew cold rain through the open door.

Chelsea curled up on the seat, burying her head in her arms. Alex, Dink, her parents. Everyone she loved died because of her selfishness. Her parents mugged opening the vacation house at her request. Dink killed by a nightling while walking her drunk ass home. And Alex… killed because she had blown him off. If she hadn’t left the show, if she’d stayed with him, drinking and playing pool…

I killed him because I had to hunt demons. He left with Tiggy because I wasn’t there.

After some interminable time, Tiggy and Keegan got in the car. The seat vibrated to life under her, but Chelsea didn’t move.

Once the car stopped, Tiggy all but ran to the bar. Movement seemed too difficult for Chelsea though.

Understanding gentled Keegan’s voice. “C’mon, get up. You need a drink.”

She shook her head.

“I’m not leaving until you get up. And it’s fucking cold out here, so I’ll be billing you for any medicine I need when I get sick.”

She fully intended on staying curled up on the seat, but she had a notion Keegan would stand there, being annoying until Amber showed up. And Amber would not accept anything less than Chelsea in the bar. Sighing, she dragged herself out of the car.

Keegan had a small, sad smile for her. “Good. Let’s go get you drunk.” He put a hand on the small of her back and kept it there, a subtle pressure that kept her moving through the cigarette smoke and quiet chatter of hunters to the bar.

As they approached, Boney’s normal frown dissolved into an expression of horror and sympathy. He walked into the open space and swept Chelsea into his arms. “Thank you for saving my brother. And I am so, so sorry about Alex. He was a good man.”

The thin man’s arms were like sticks clinging to her, and his ribs poked her through her sodden clothes. She stepped away, eyes on the floor. Keegan’s unfamiliar hands guided her to one of the mismatched stools. A shot of amber liquid appeared in front of her. She picked it up and stared at it. The dim light of the bar somehow highlighted a sheen on the liquor. Chelsea lost herself watching the play of light on the liquid.

She had no idea how long she sat there staring at the shot, but eventually, Tiggy settled down beside her, his own shot in his hands.

“Drink, Chelsea.” Tiggy’s voice had no music, no rhythm.

She found herself on her feet, pulling him up by his shirt. “You fucking moron! Why!? Why did you stop the car?” She shook him, continuing her screams until Keegan pulled her off the beat poet. She struggled against the hunter, trying to her hands around Tiggy’s neck. “All you had to do was drive away!”

Tears ran down Tiggy’s round cheeks. “I tried to, but he was… he wouldn’t leave you. He tried to jump out of the car. He would have killed him—” His hitching breath cut off his words. He rubbed at his face with both hands.

Guilt-lace anger welled up in her. Alex was Tiggy’s ex, and one of his best friends.

Had been one of his best friends. Alex isn’t anything but a corpse now.

She went limp against Keegan, and he let her go. She flopped onto her barstool, downed her shot, and held out the empty glass. Boney appeared in front of her to refill her glass. She drank that one down, too, and Boney filled it once more.

She kept it up until Amber and Scott showed up. Amber sat beside her in silence for awhile before ordering her own series of shots. They drank, unspeaking, until alcohol and time rendered Chelsea dizzy. She leaned her head on Amber’s shoulder, closing her eyes, welcoming drunken oblivion.

The hunter put an arm around her. “You need sleep.”

Chelsea nodded. Speech was beyond her. Someone helped her to a car and poured her into the seat. She had no idea who it was, nor where they were taking her. And it didn’t matter. Alex was dead because Chelsea was too selfish to spend an evening with him. Where she went after this didn’t matter.

What mattered was making sure there were no more Alexes. Or Dinks.

What mattered was killing every vampire, demon, and monster she could.

***

Next

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When Kate Whitaker isn’t reading something random on the internet, she’s kicking the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

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