2004: Hello Cupcake

2004: Hello Cupcake

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Read after Black Sun 025.

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Point of View: Narrator
Featured Characters: Julian Hollinger, Jeremy Hollinger, Padma
Word Count: 978

Julian encounters a bad lady in the hall.

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“Well, hello there. Aren’t you an adorable cupcake.” The woman in red remarked. With tanned skin, raven black hair, and a dress that definitely wasn’t appropriate for the Berkshire Easter event she was attending, she looked out of place leaning there in the hallway near the guest bathroom.

The little girl she spoke to, who was still fighting to rearrange the fluffy layers of her pastel pink skirt, seemed pleased by this assessment. She instantly looked up and smiled. “A strawberry cupcake! Margrit is lemon.”

“What a tasty theme!” Her voice was soft and friendly, the sort that could put anyone at ease. She knelt down in front of the child and booped her finger to her chin. “You even smell delicious.”

The smile on the little girl’s face faded slowly, and her mouth turned in to a confused twist. “Your soul is broken. All of your shiny good stuff leaked out.”

This made the woman freeze in surprise, but she regained her bearings quickly. “You catch on fast for a baby witch.”

“I’m not a witch, I’m a Julian!” the girl corrected, smoothing her hands over her skirts again as her head tilted. It was the sassiest look a small kid could give. “And you’re a creepy bad lady and I don’t like you. You should go away.”

She laughed, the sound being just as warm and lovely as her speaking voice. When she was done wiping a tear from her eye, she leaned in real close. “Yes, as a matter of fact I am a very bad lady. And oh, you do smell good enough to eat.”

Julian wrinkled up her nose. “No, thank you. You’re not a nice person, you’re not allowed to eat me.”

The woman’s smirk flashed slightest edge of pointy teeth. “Is that so?” She reached out to grab the girl’s shoulders but the sound of footsteps down the hall brought her up short. “A sip from such a tiny little tart is not worth the trouble. But you won’t be little forever will you? One day, when you’re a big witch, I’ll come back to eat you right up.”

“That won’t end well for you.” responded a male’s voice. Julian’s father stepped around the corner to stop behind his daughter, seeming perfectly at ease with his hands stuffed in to the pockets of his blue suit jacket. The only hint that something was wrong was the tightness around the corners of his eyes.

Rising to her feet as her eyes went wide in surprise, she rest a hand on her hip. “If it isn’t the psychic boy from days long past. Is this thing yours?” she asked, both amused and appalled as she pointed a finger down at Julian (who was getting increasingly bristly for a munchkin in pastels). “Look at you with the salt and pepper hair and the golden ring. Did you marry your New England princess? How sweet.”

“Padma, you’re not supposed to be here. We had a deal.”

She laughed. “Don’t worry that pretty face. I’m not here for you, I’m not even here for a snack. …well. I wasn’t. And hmm… now that I think about it, that promise really only applies to you and Miss oh, what was her name? Sara? Sandy? Not a sweet as candy little Julian, that’s for sure.”

Jeremy Hollinger was surprisingly calm considering someone just threatened to eat his kid. He shrugged his shoulders, still not taking his hands out of his pockets. “I’m just saying, Padma. It won’t end well for you.”

Padma cast him a coy fluttering of her eyelashes before she started to make her way past him. She paused, deliberately brushing against his shoulder. “I love it when you get all protective and manly. But like I said. I don’t eat bony little children.” A grin got tossed over her shoulder at the kid. “See you in a few years, cupcake.”

As soon as she was gone Jeremy scooped Julian up in to his arms, all hints of tenseness having melting away. This didn’t seem to fool the girl, though, because she was frowning at him with that ridiculously concerned face she got when she thought she needed to fix something.

“You were scared.” she said.

“Yep. Just because you know something is supposed to happen a certain way doesn’t mean it can’t change in a split second decision.” Jeremy hesitated for a second. “Do you remember that talk we had about monsters? That was a monster.”

Julian nodded. “All her shiny stuff is gone and she makes everything feel bad. Why doesn’t she like Mummy?”

“Eh, that’s a long story, kid. Padma wanted the kind of help I wasn’t willing to give, and she tried to use your Mum to get it. A witch gave me some help but then things got complicated. Sometimes when you get scared you forget to look for better options. I picked a bad one.”

“You made a blood promise. What’s that?” she asked curiously.

He hesitated again, shifting her in his arms. “Blood is powerful stuff, Julian. If you know how, you can use blood to do all kinds of things. And if you have strong blood, you can do bigger things. In this case I made a promise with Padma. I can’t hurt her, and she can’t hurt your mother or me either. At the time it seemed like the only thing to do.”

Julian thought this over, her face getting more and more serious. “Is she going to eat me?”

Jeremy gave her a reassuring smile. “Kid, by the time you see her again you’ll be all grown up and a lot scarier than Padma.”

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