Cupid’s sister (aka Virginia, thank you!)
She could have picked a square in an elegant city, with a carved Cathedral. She could have picked a cute little village, with a wonky spired church and a thatched pub. But in true Virginia style, Virginia picked the most wretched of human constructions – a splat of industrial estates, tarmacked together by carparks and roundabouts.
She beat her wings faster as she swooshed over the lit-up multiplex, and the almost endless carpark. All those drivers and passengers. It would be easy pickings here. She could just glide invisibly into the cinema and shoot some young hopeful who was already coupled up, their sweaty fingers threaded awkwardly with those of their date.
An arrow to the chest and it would seal the deal.
Big, epic, everlasting love. No desire to look for greener grass anywhere else, ever again. They would be golden. Set for life.
On their side of the love equation at least….
She could only shoot one of the pair.
It would be like shooting Bambi with a Glock, at point blank range.
Where was the pride in that?
Virginia curled her shoulders back and braked with her wings, landing squarely on the top of the wall behind Pastaland. This could work. She surveyed her target – a perfectly scrubby little love-trap of land. She sidestepped away from the bins, bare feet gripping the bricks, until she was directly opposite the back door of the premises. Then she lowered herself to sitting, bow tucked under her arm, her bright green eyes intent, waiting for the next worker to venture out on their break, phone or vape pen in hand.
Go fall in love.
After minutes that stretched like hours, the back door opened and a harried looking girl shoved her way out, something round and plastic crooked in her arm, some greenery dangling from it, a remote control in her other hand.
Virginia leapt to her feet and nocked her nightly arrow. She let it fly, aiming right at the girl’s heart….
Just as the girl lowered her head and brought the plastic thing up in front of her chest, fiddling with a tangle of fishing line.
In what seemed like slow motion Virginia watched her arrow strike and lodge in the body of the plastic device, instead of the girl’s soft flesh. Oh hells bells, it had hit with such a resounding clack, the girl must have heard it. The girl peered down now, mouth tight, poking gingerly at the plastic. It had likely cracked.
Virginia watched in toe curling horror as the device lurched and took off, the greenery swinging beneath it. The girl cursed and jabbed at the remote, but to no seeming effect. The device skimmed right past Virginia and over the wall, humming like a love drunk human. Oh Satan’s wrath. It arced up and took off, into the night sky.
No, no, no.
Lovestruck humans had been wandering around for centuries. But who knew how this device would react? She needed to stop it.
Virginia swooped and snatched the remote from the girl’s hands, then turned in pursuit of the lovestruck plastic thing, leaving the girl behind, screaming into her empty hands.
Hell on earth, this was not how tonight was supposed to go down. And wow, this piece-of-shit plastic was fast. Virginia pumped her wings and tried every combination on the remote, with zero effect. Little Lovestruck was on a mission, for sure.
By the time Virginia finally drew level with it, she had cramp in her pectorals, and a ball of frustration in her throat.
As it passed a streetlight, she got a better look at it. Was that mistletoe swinging underneath it?
Off it shot, over the last of the roundabouts. They were over the river now, the park on one side, the closed-down lido on the other bank. It zig-zagged then veered left, in the direction of the park. Virginia followed, like a dog after a rabbit, her skin burning with shame. The rabbit was winning. If her brother, or her mother, or her father could see her right now….they’d choke laughing.
Virginia, the little love fiend, who couldn’t even aim right.
She needed to stop that device before it did lord knows what. She accelerated so hard that her lungs were an inferno in her chest. She grabbed desperately for the fishing line, but Little Lovestruck feinted left and then dropped down, heading for….oh no. The park benches.
Was it going to go get itself a human?
Virginia pushed her curls out of her eyes and plunged after it, braking hard as she saw where it had stopped. It was hovering over a…couple. Virginia held her breath as the flat-capped man looked up at it, and then the grey-haired lady craned her neck too.
“It’s one of them mistletoe drones,” the woman chuckled. The man leaned over and pecked a kiss onto her cheek.
‘Please move on. Please move on.’ Virginia begged under her breath. It would be all fun and games until it flew into one of their faces. It could take a nose off, take an eye out.
The device hummed upwards again, and Virginia released her breath. The old couple waved at it, like they were waving off Santa on his sleigh. Well bully for it. All her work went invisible and unappreciated. And right now her shoulders ached like the bones had been hammered flat.
She was starting to hate this stupid bit of plastic. She sped up after it. She was going to disable it once and for all. Humans you had to leave running, but this thing…If she could catch it, she could drown it in the river, or lock it in a skip, or…. Hell. It was almost out of sight again.
Virginia pushed on, making an early New Year’s Resolution to get in shape.
Over the river. Over the football field. Over another jumble of industrial estates. She hadn’t been here before.
Over a padlocked gate, and into a place that was rammed and stacked with cars, lit up by the moonlight, in all in their various states of disrepair. Piles and heaps of rust and wheel-less monstrosities, with crumpled bonnets and smashed in bumpers.
Little Lovestruck was flying methodically up and down the rows.
“Hey! Hey there!” Virginia called, her throat tight with frustration, her lungs still burning with exertion, like they’d been barbequed for the last hour.
There it was, in front of what looked to be a light blue Fiat.
Bump, bump. It came around the side and gently nosed the passenger door.
Maybe she should contain it in the car, while she got her breath back?
Virginia landed heavily on the oil-stained tarmac and tiptoed carefully towards the pair, Little Lovestruck and the Little Blue Fiat.
“Ok there, ok,” she wheezed.
She carefully opened the door of the Fiat and watched intently as Little Lovestruck hummed its way in and landed softly on the passenger seat. Virginia breathed out and eased the car door shut.
The interior lights of the Fiat came on. And the radio started up, ‘Are you lonesome tonight…’
Little Lovestruck hummed louder.
Virginia took a slow step backwards. And then another. One wingbeat at a time, she raised herself up, to the top of a nearby stack of cars. She rested down on the bonnet of one, overlooking the glowing windscreen of the Fiat. Was it wrong to watch? It wasn’t like they were making moves. An old carol started up, floating out through the Fiat’s windows. ‘The first Noel…’
The car lights flickered.
A hot tear ran down Virginia’s cheek. Her chest ached.
It was so peaceful. It was so beautiful. For now. But what if the Fiat got sold? Or stripped? Or crushed?
She swiped another tear away with the back of her hand. Sure things happened to the humans too. All the time. That’s why you never followed them. Shoot and leave.
She was an idiot.
Of the highest degree.
The car she was perched on creaked in place. She froze.
“It’s just me. Rough night, sis?”
Virginia’s fingers curled into fists. She hadn’t even felt him land, that’s how good he was at his job. Light as a feather. Fast as an arrow. Golden as a…
She looked up at him.
“What happened to your face?”
He groaned and sat down slowly next to her, dabbing his fingertips to his cut cheek.
“You promise not to tell?”
“Let’s just say I walked into a swanky wine bar, and my face picked a fight with a mistletoe drone. Fucking humans.”
He reached over slowly and put an arm around her tired shoulders. “Think they’ll ever do us out of a job?”
Another carol started up. Frosty the snowman. It was ridiculous.
Virginia smiled and nudged her brother with her elbow. “You, maybe. Me?… Not a chance.”
A few years ago, there was an incident at a TGIFs where a mistletoe drone cut the tip off a woman’s nose. It’s stuck in my head ever since.
As I post this it’s Christmas Eve 2022, and I’ve just completed the 24 short story challenge that I started post castle writing retreat.
But I’ve extended it to a whole year…So more to come.