Hair of the Dog

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.
***
Hot, damp air blew across her face, and Chelsea rolled over. Her heart pounded in her temples and the light hurt her eyes.

Amber’s raspy voice reverberated in Chelsea’s skull. “Hair of the dog, hun.”

Chelsea reluctantly sat up, rubbing gingerly at her eyes. She accepted the mason jar of booze in silence. The bright sunshine felt wrong to her. Today should have been as dark and rainy as last night.

Last night, when her selfishness had killed a man who loved her. A man far better than she deserved. She quickly downed the clear, bitter liquid, then held out the jar for a refill.

Amber obliged with a sigh. “You need to eat something.”

Chelsea snorted before chugging whatever Amber had poured. “I’ll eat after I drop out.”

“Drop out?” Amber settled down on the mattress beside Chelsea. “You worked hard to stay in school.”

“Fuck school.” A tendril of guilt wound around her heart, but Chelsea stomped on it. “Fuck school, and fuck the nuns, and fuck common sense. If I had listened to you last winter, Alex…” she swallowed tears. “Alex would still be alive.”

Amber slung an arm around Chelsea’s shoulder. “Maybe. But maybe some other vampire would have gotten him. Maybe he’d have been in a car crash.”

Chelsea forced herself to her feet, pulling the mostly empty bottle of vodka out of her friend’s hand. “Maybe. But he sure as fuck wouldn’t have gotten out of the car to make sure I was safe. He wouldn’t have been killed by a vampire I failed to kill.” She put the bottle to her lips and drained it. Her stomach flipped and threatened to empty. She swallowed the bile, and finally took a good look around.

The urge to puke wormed its way back up her throat as she saw the massive purple tree she had painted on the wall that winter. For a moment, Alex was forgotten. The only person Chelsea could think of was Jackson Hawk. His wild laughter, his bright green eyes, his hands on her bare skin. Vomit threatened tickled the back of her mouth. “You’re staying here?”

Amber sighed. “Boney doesn’t have a plethora of apartments for hunters to rent.”

She glared at her own artwork. “Dammit, where the fuck am I gonna stay?”

“We’ll figure that out.”

“We?”

The taller woman rose to her feet, laughing. “You gave me a place to crash. Let me return the favor. Once you get the whole school thing settled you can stay here. We’ll figure out the sleeping arrangements.”

Chelsea nodded, before storming out of the bedroom and down the black metal staircase. The converted warehouse looked the same. Bright and airy, with it’s rows of high windows and high white walls.

Feeling disorientated and touch more drunk than she’d ever admit, Chelsea spotted her keys on the counter. “I’ll be back later.”

She didn’t wait for Amber to respond. The drive to her off-campus apartment was shorter than she remembered. Of course, the whole place felt disorientating to her. Yesterday, she and Alex had walked arm in arm over the grass, talking about Tiggy’s show.

Tears threatened, but Chelsea didn’t let them fall. She stormed into the brick building. Sister Mary Ignatius sat at the front desk as always, but Chelsea didn’t stop to talk. She pounded up the stairs to her floor.

The lack of a roommate had never been more of a relief. Chelsea jacked up the radio, pulled trash bags out from under the sink, and began sorting through her clothes. As she pulled out her most practical clothes, she started to plan. Money wasn’t an issue at the moment. With no brothers or sisters, she had inherited a more than modest amount of money. Enough to go to college and invest in a gallery afterwards. If she sold the main house, she could live for years without needing to work.

And there isn’t much money in hunting.

She glanced at her living room, guilt rising. Brushes, paints, pencils, canvasses, easels, and inks, all carefully organized and labeled. Thousands of dollars of…

Worthless junk. For a monster hunter.

Her unfinished portrait of Jackson caught her eye. Bag of clothes and plans forgotten, she wandered out of her bedroom. She’d never gotten more than the outline done. A few dabs of paint here and there. She still didn’t think the picture quite looked like him.

As the afternoon sun filtered through the apartment, Chelsea picked up a pencil and advanced on the portrait. She didn’t look at any of the reference photos tacked on the wall, she simply adjusted the picture based on her memories. She lowered his hairline and added a wrinkle to his left eye. Small things, flashes of too many little moments, stored away from the weeks they’d had together.

When she finally stepped away, the sun had passed her window. More importantly, the vague sense of panic that had followed her since Alex died had vanished.

Dammit Jackson, you were right. I should have dropped out last year and stayed with you.

Sighing, she turned back to her clothes. Guilt welled up. Alex was dead, because of her, and she was already mooning over Jackson Hawk. She pushed sweaters into her garbage bags as tears spilled. She had never stopped mooning over Jackson. Alex deserved better.

The afternoon wore on as she sorted through her things. Most were going right to the dumpster. She should take them to the second-hand store, but she just couldn’t being herself to care.

After some undefinable amount of time, there was a knock on her door. She ignored it as she shoved her comforter into a garbage bag. The gentle knock turned into a series of urgent pounds.

Sister Mary Clarence’s voice boomed through the cheap pressed wood. “Chelsea Childling, I know you’re in there. Open the door.”
***
Next
***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

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