Happy 2018, friends! I hope your year is as exciting as mine. I think it’s time to tell you a little about what to expect from S.E. Anderson in the coming year…
First of all, I have a special STARSTRUCK surprise for you down below. So stick with me, here.
Next, we have TWO Starstruck books slated for release! TRAVELER in the Spring, and CELESTIAL in the fall. Sally’s going to go through a heck of a lot this next year! The only thing I can tell you about book 3 is that it’s going to be like Galaxy Quest meets Murder on the Orient Express.
I’m also entering the world of COMICS this fall with talented artist Lloyd Ladera. You might know him from all the gorgeous character art he made for the past releases. He and I have been accepted in an anthology and we can’t wait to show you our work!
A few other projects might see the light this year: AS WE KNOW IT, a UF novel with an SF twist has just finished its last round of edits and is ready to be queried. YELLOW! and THE SUM OF THINGS WE CANNOT KNOW are in the process of being developed, and A GAME OF BLOOD AND ROSES is still being drafted. Depending on the Interest, I might be willing to share a little bit about them…
I also have my eye on other anthologies, and will potentially be working on graphic novels with Lloyd. I’m really excited to show you worlds beyond Starstruck, and I hope you’re willing to join me for the ride!
And thank you… thank you for making 2017 the best debut year an author could have dreamed of. You’re the best fans I could ever want. I love you all! As a thank you, here’s the surprise: a look into Sally’s life in the years between the power plant explosion and Zander’s return. This short story is EXCLUSIVE and won’t be in print until book 5 hits the shelves! So without further ado, I present… STANDSTILL.
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1…. Happy new year!”
The club erupted into cheer, brimming glasses of colorful drinks held high as they started a warm round of auld lang syne, which quickly dropped the beat and moved on to something with a little more oomph. The DJ was having the time of his life up there, clutching half his headphones to his ear and shouting something I couldn’t hear, and soon could not see, as the balloons fell from the ceiling and a very affectionate drag queen threw confetti in my face.
I sputtered as the small pieces of paper hit my eyes and stuck to my lips, brushing them away with my wrist. I shouldn’t have been looking up like that, I shouldn’t have…
Not everything was an emergency, I told myself, taking a deep breath, this is nothing, why are you beating yourself up about it?
The problem was that I was beating myself up about this. About everything. Maybe I deserved it, because here I was on New Year’s day, and there were two people who hadn’t come into 2018 with me. Zander and Matt were not the only things I would miss from last year, though; having a job, and actually being happy were ranked quite high on the list.
So far, this new year didn’t look any more promising than the last. I had missed celebrating the last one, since I had been in the hospital because of the… Incident. One year and so far, no Zander in sight. Not a trace of him. It was, to say the least, very frustrating. He had promised he would come back, and clinging to the idea, to his promise, was probably the last thing keeping me from completely falling overboard.
I eyed one of the pretty drinks thirstily and shook my head. Snap out of it, Sally Webber. But I wanted it. I needed it. I needed something sweet to fog up my thoughts and push the bad memories under the rug for a little while.
I forced a smile on my face and looked up again. The sweet drag queen with the confetti eyed me sadly, her face growing with recognition as she took me in. I had been getting a lot of looks like that, lately. Perks of having graced the national news after the incident. She gave me an apologetic smile, probably having to do with how unnerved I was looking.
I turned to find Marcy, the only reason I had come out here tonight at all. But her face wasn’t her face anymore: no, instead, latched on to her bright red lips were bright purple lips, belonging to the pirate queen herself, Dany. The woman’s many golden earrings were catching the light from the club and blinding. She had lifted my small friend into the air, holding her up in a passionate embrace.
My face turned hot, burning from the pure awkwardness if it all. My hands were shaking again, though I didn’t know of that came from watching the very PDA make-out session or from forcing back my urge to drink copious amounts of alcohol. I stuffed them into my pockets and tripped as I realized my leggings didn’t have any.
What the hell was I even doing here? What was I doing with makeup caked on my face, a sequined shirt and shoes so high my knees were going to snap? I felt the unease growing in the pit of my stomach, the signals in my head blaring – I was about to break.
“Sally?” Marcy’s hand was suddenly on my shoulder, her voice calm and soothing, but her face was a bright red, even in this blue lighting. I turned to face her, her 2017 glasses slightly askew on her giddy face.
“You alright?” she asked, a hint of worry sneaking into her voice.
“I’m fine,” I lied, smiling back in a way I hoped looked convincing as I shoved everything down as deep as I could into my stomach, “Why?”
“You’re not singing or anything,” she said, “That’s not like you. Have you had too much? Should I be…”
“It’s just a bit crowded in here,” I replied, shaking her off with a wave of my hand. “ I swear I haven’t had anything, Marcy. I’m just going to step outside a few minutes. Or maybe I’ll go home.”
“We can come with you if you want,” said Dany, with that stoic voice of hers. It always sounded like she was making decrees when she spoke.
“Nah, don’t let me bring down your evening,” I said.
“Promise me you’ll call an Uber?” begged Marcy.
“I’m fine, Marcy. Really, I am,” I insisted.
“Ok, if you say so,” She didn’t have time to finish her sentence. Dany scooped her up suddenly, wheeling her off into dance. She laughed, happy, as she flew across the club, people making room for the two of them to waltz past. I watched them go, happy to see her so exuberant, yet my mind flashed back to the months before, when I had flown across that very floor, at the arm of Zander, the most incredible dancer I had ever had the chance of knowing. That night, I had literally been swept off my feet.
I had to get out of here.
I made a run for it, if you could call what I did in those shoes running. I found the back exit and threw myself out the door, breathing heavily as I leaned against the brick wall I found waiting for me. Anxiety attack? Panic attack? One of them was coming for me if I didn’t get myself calm.
Weight on my chest.
Here it came.
I closed my eyes, counted the seconds as I breathed in, held the breath, and let it out again. I lost track of time as I did this, focusing only on the breath, on the calming voice of Dr. Shuman teaching me the technique ages ago.
In. Hold. Out. In. Hold. Out.
I had lost track of time when I finally opened my eyes, realizing then that I was actually cold. I had forgotten my coat, and of course this door was exit only. White fluffy snow covered the ground, my shoes crunching as I made my way down the thin strip of an alley. I shivered, watching my breath rise in front of my eyes. The steam rose in the night air, swirling mist in the dark evening. I watched it dance in a daze, my eyes unable to focus.
Shit. It was freezing out here.
I glanced up and down the alley, trying to remember my way out. But I was assaulted by yet another memory, this time of Matt taking my face in his hands and kissing me softly. My hands reached up and clutched my head. No, No, No. I did not need a replay.
That was the night he had told me to stop being friends with Zander. Why? The thought of our conversation made me feel weird. It hadn’t before. But I didn’t want to remember Matt as being possessive – I wanted to remember him as the sweet, gentle guy he was. I shoved those feelings back where they belonged.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and straightened up. A few feet back into the alley, near the dumpster, a form was crouching. It sounded like he was retching – another casualty of the party.
“Have a bit too much to drink?” I called out, approaching him.
They didn’t answer. Whoever they were, they were dressed better for the weather than I was, with a heavy winter coat obscuring all their features. I couldn’t tell anything about them from this angle.
“You alright?” I crossed my arms over my chest against the cold. It wasn’t helping much.
This time, the person heard me. They snapped upright like a jack in the box. Pop goes the weasel. Now that they were upright, they towered over me, a meter taller than anyone I had ever met before. A bundle lay on the ground before him, where I had expected to find barf.
What the hell?
The realization hit me like a brick in the face: a sharp, sudden thwack that stopped my heart for a beat and forced me back. The form at his feet was oozing, letting out a rotten smell I could not place and didn’t want to.
Because I knew. Even before the form turned to show me way too many teeth. I knew that the coat wasn’t a winter coat but dirty black rags like the reaper would wear. I knew that the smell wasn’t puke.
A shudder went through me. This had to be some cosmic joke: I had just gotten myself through a panic attack and now there were actual dementors? Where was chocolate when you needed it?
Oh. And magic wands. Please universe, if you’re going to send me dementors, send me a magic wand, too.
The creature dropped its hood, and the demeanor resemblance poofed out of existence. Pale, sickly white skin and a mouth completely round, hundreds upon hundreds of razor sharp teeth protruding from the orifice.
Well, that’s not human.
“What did you do to him?” I asked. Shit, I probably should have said something a little more intimidating. Having met more than one alien before, I knew not to jump to conclusions, but the situation was looking grim, to say the least. It was a little hard to misread this.
Could I outrun him? No, not in these shoes – I could barely walk. Could I fight him? What were two fists against a thousand teeth?
Crap. I was trapped.
The creature, of course, gave no answer, except for a sound somewhere between a hiss and a snarl. I wondered if my clutch could be a weapon, then frowned at the idea.
“We’re on earth, learn to speak the language,” I snapped, “my translator doesn’t have a setting for ‘asshole’.”
The creature hissed again as if he had understood the insult. Oops. Or, maybe he was just mad I had interrupted dinner.
Shit! I was dessert!
Oh, hell no. I had just survived an exploding power plant, seen a friend die, and lost another one to interstellar travel and the annoying side effect of time dilation. I wasn’t going to get eaten in a dark alley now!
I gathered up my wits, clutching my hands into fists, and with a shout I lashed my foot forward, kicking where I expected to find a groin. No such luck – my foot went straight through, and I toppled forward into the snow, my face gathered in the putrid fabric.
Ok, so floating alien murder guy. Happy new year, Sally Webber!
The creature swooped back, pulling the fabric out from under me. The snow was cold through my sequined top, and my fingers were starting to get numb, not to mention soaking wet. I pushed myself up on my feet just in time to dodge the thing, as it swooped down low.
Yank. Even though he had missed me, I was now somehow flying backward in the air. The chain of my clutch had gotten tangled in his arm, and now I was soaring backward while the alien was struggling to shake me loose. I dug my feet into the freezing snow and tugged back on my clutch, but the alien was strong, pulling against me the other way.
“Let go, dammit!” I screamed, “it doesn’t go with your outfit!”
He let out a gurgling hiss again, somehow sounding angrier now. He swooped forward, knocking me back on the ground with an oomph. Winded, I tried to push myself up, but he was already on top of me, gliding through the air like it was nothing to him.
Sharp, razor-sharp shark’s teeth. With a long tongue, he licked his upper lip, which I guess could be considered his forehead.
I scrambled back, my hands burning in the fiery cold of the snow, but the creature was following easily, one long slender hand still wrapped in the chain of my purse. I couldn’t pull get up, I couldn’t run. All I could smell was the odor of the beast’s putrid breath, a metallic scent coating it all.
He was ravenous, hungry, fully intent on me. But I had no intention of being its next meal. I grabbed a handful of snow and threw it at the monster’s face, but it did nothing, sliding into his mouth like I had just given them pop rocks.
And then it was over me, on me, its leech-like mouth edging closer to my face –
The creature fell on my chest, dead. I pushed it off me and crawled back, panting heavily. Its body had barely made any sound as it hit the fluffy snow. The hole through his chest was wide, wider than my arm, a clean cut right through its body. I scrambled to my feet in a jolt, trying to calm my breathing, my overwhelming shock. Someone had saved me. Someone had known what to do –
Silhouetted in the alleyway was a man, gun in hand, silent, not uttering a word. My heart skipped a beat: the build, the height, the gun – it was Zander.
He had come back for me.
But as I gathered my breath and my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw that I could not have been more wrong. It wasn’t a man standing there, but nor was it a human. They were less muscular than Zander but still tall, and the hairstyle was so similar it had caught me off guard.
And then, I realized I recognized them.
“Taylor? What are you doing here?”
They smiled as they lowered the gun.
“Saving your ass, of course,” they said, smirking, “now come on, you’re soaking. We need to get you warm. How do you feel about pie?”
Taylor looked exactly the same as the last time I had seen them, except maybe for the beautiful blue trench coat and the lack of terror in their eyes.
They bent over the corpse, patting around the neck and chest, making sure the creature really was dead, before then going through the pockets of its long black robe. Finding nothing, Taylor slung the body over their shoulders with a low grunt, walked it over to the dumpster, and threw it in, slamming the lid shut. Then they were at the side of the victim, checking his pulse. They must have found one because they pulled out his phone and made a few frantic calls while speaking encouragement to the man on the ground. I thought I heard my name thrown in there.
And I, like a dumbass, just stood there shaking in the snow.
“So, pie?” Asked Taylor, slipping the phone back into their pocket. They took my arms and scanned the over, turning my hands up and down a few times until they were content. Their touch was warm, even through the gloves.
“Um, sure, I guess,” I stammered, taking my hands back, “I thought you were never coming back here! Aren’t you supposed to be changing identities? Aren’t you supposed to be in hiding?”
Taylor gave me a knowing smile, a very Zander-like smirk. They leaned down, picking up my clutch and handing it to me. I took it with shaking fingers.
“I’m fine, thanks for asking,” they said, “things have changed lately. You’ll see in a few. I’ve made an ally who’s been really remarkable in all this: they’ll meet us inside. And you? Are you alright? Last I heard, you and that Zander dude blew up a power plant.”
“I didn’t…” I shuddered: that was exactly what we had done. Though I hadn’t exactly been the one to press the self-destruct button.
“You’re not in shock, are you?” they asked, “Near-death encounters can cause you humans to go into shock.”
“I’m fine, really,” I said, shaking my head. “Actually, I just left the hospital a few days ago from that other interview with death. Late night talk show, so I didn’t stay long.”
Taylor chuckled quietly under his breath, before giving me a warm smile.
“So, pie?” they asked, grinning. And before I knew what I was doing, I nodded quickly.
The great thing about small university towns is just how close things are to each other. Across from Scintilliance, or at least a short half block down, was the Jitterbug, my favorite coffee place. And apparently, Taylor’s pie place. And, miracle of miracles, they were open in the middle of the night on New Years.
We sat down in one of the cozy booths as Mona, the only staff here tonight, came over with the menus. Taylor got Apple Pie. I got cherry. Three coffees were ordered. Mona brought us the order then went back to playing candy crush on her cell phone, giving us a little privacy.
“I keep expecting you to start sobbing or something, but you seem fine,” Taylor remarked casually enough, between ravenous bites of pie. “That interview with death, so to speak, must have been pretty bad for you to be so calm right now.”
“It was,” I nodded. “Surviving explosions does that to you. But I think it’s the fact I’m soaking wet and exhausted that makes me realize there’s nothing left to panic about, anymore. I mean, this is my life now. Aliens in alleyways. Aliens coming to my rescue. Everywhere I look, extraterrestrials are trying to screw up my day.”
“Or buy you pie,” Taylor slurped at their coffee.
“Why are you back here, Taylor?” I asked again, “Not that I’m not happy to see you again. I am. But I thought you had left for good.”
“I had,” they replied, putting the mug back on the table, “but I’ve had an interesting few months. And I honestly wanted to check up on you.”
“You did?” my eyes went wide, “why?”
“You made global news, hon,” Taylor insisted, “for not dying. I had to see what was up.”
“That was weeks ago.”
“I have a lot on my plate,” they sighed heavily. They waved Mona over and got a second slice of pie, thing time peach cobbler. “Anyways, lucky escape.”
“It was,” I replied. “I’m not sure how or why I survived, I’m just glad I did.”
I returned to my pie, unable to really taste it, as Taylor tucked into the cobbler. A long awkward silence went by, neither of us wanting to say anything.
Finally, with my pie done, I felt like I had to do something. This was Taylor, for heaven’s sakes. Taylor was back. And aliens were still as real as they were last month.
“You said you have a friend coming,” I said, pointing to the extra mug. Taylor nodded.
“Just stay cool, ok?” they said, a weak smile on their face, “She doesn’t know I’m… not from here. We’ve been helping each other with things. She can help you, too.”
“Help with what?” I asked, but at that moment the door opened, and speak of the devil, in stepped the stranger.
She was beautiful. Tall and slender, she wore a smart navy blue pantsuit that only made her seem taller than she already was. Her hair sprang out in every direction, a burst of magnificent black, perfect curls surrounding her gorgeous face. Her bright brown eyes were alert, on fire even, locking onto mine as a smile grew on her face.
“Ah! Sally Webber, I take it?” she said, marching towards me, her hand already outstretched to shake mine. I stood, feeling quite suddenly like I was at a job interview.
“Sally, this is James Felling,” said Taylor, “Felling, this is Sally.”
“You look quite calm for having just met a Leechin,” said Felling, suspicion crossing the dark features of her face, “are you alright?”
“It’s just shock, Felling,” said Taylor, “sit down, your coffee’s getting cold.”
Felling slid into the booth, taking the spot that had previously been Taylor’s. She picked up the coffee with relish, smiling as she breathed in the scent. As she moved her arm, I caught the bulge of a sidearm holstered under her breast. I shuddered.
“James?” I asked.
“It’s a bit of an… odd name, isn’t it?”
“It’s complicated. Have you given her the talk, yet?” she asked Taylor, who shook their head.
“No, I thought you’d want to do the honors,” Taylor then glanced at me and gave me a quick wink.
“Ok,” Felling put down the coffee and crossed her hands on the table before her. She leaned forward, drawing me in. “I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I think you deserve the truth after what you’ve been through, and Taylor here vouches for you.”
“O… Kay?” I replied, confused as ever. This was starting to become my default setting.
“It’s pretty big,” she warned, “Life changing. Your world will never be the same.”
“You sure you want to do that to me?” I asked, and Taylor rolled their eyes. I hoped this wasn’t going where I thought it was going.
“You deserve it,” Felling insisted. “Anyway… the creature that tried to kill you tonight? We call them Leechins. And they’re – they’re aliens.”
My eyes went wide. Taylor was barely containing their laughter at this point. They grabbed their mug and made a fuss of drinking the coffee.
“Aliens…?” I muttered, feeling my eyebrows ascending my forehead like they were a part of an alien abduction themselves. Or maybe because they wanted to be anywhere but here.
“I’ve seen them myself,” Felling nodded slowly. “I know it sounds preposterous. But after what you’ve seen tonight? You can’t deny that that creature was not of this world.”
“Right, so taking what you’re saying is true,” I said, feigning ignorance, “What did this so-called Leechin want with me?”
“We call them Leechins because they’re so much like leeches,” she explained, “Leechins are pretty common, and are always nasty. They’re scavengers, you see, much like vultures. Wouldn’t go back to their home planet even if they had the chance. Anyways, probably found the victim passed out and went in for an easy meal. You threatened it.”
“It started it!”
“I’m just amazing you lasted long enough for Taylor to show up,” said Felling, “I’m glad you’re alright.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I muttered, and picked up my coffee mug as well. This was really awkward. “So you do… what, exactly? Shoot down aliens from outer space?”
“Leechins are pests,” she said, suddenly solemn, “Incredibly dangerous to the human population, but dumb as heck. No longer any intelligence, no full brain capacity. Of course, we try to keep them under wraps, but the taste of human blood makes them dangerous, almost insane. If they do take a human being as a snack, we have to put them down.”
“Oh, wait, don’t say it!” I wanted to laugh. Holy hell my night was weird. “You and Taylor are part of a shady government conspiracy to keep humans safe from aliens. Am I right? I have to be right, this is just like on TV. The way you’re dressed, it’s too perfect! So who do you work for? FBI? CIA? Secret government task force?”
“Wait, I know you,” said James, “You’re that girl! The one from the Grisham case!”
I groaned internally. Or maybe out loud, judging by the looks I got.
“Yeah,” I said, “sorry.”
“Fuck,” Felling leaned back, taking her arms off the table and angling herself over to Taylor, “you didn’t tell me your friend was her.”
“I wasn’t exactly planning on calling you over here tonight, James,” they said, “I didn’t want you turning her into another one of your cases.”
“But she’s already a case,” Felling insisted, glancing over in my direction. “She became a case when she fully recovered from third-degree burns overnight.”
“Sorry about that,” I muttered. I started planning my escape route – how fast and how far could I run before this agent pulled her gun on me?
“She’s my friend,” said Taylor, blankly, “she saved my life.”
“And you just saved hers.”
“Now we’re even!” I said, “Mazeltov! Felling, are you going to take me in or something?”
“Why would I do that?” she asked, finally turning back to face me.
“You just said that…”
“Look,” Felling rolled her eyes, “right now you’re being hailed as a medical miracle. I’m sure someone has already told you they want to monitor your health to see if the explosion did any lasting damage to your body.”
“Yeah,” I nodded, “and something about subterranean radiation bullcrap.”
“Well that’s the extent of their interest,” she shrugged, “your case landed on my desk. I thought nothing of it. There’s nothing to it, is there?”
“No,” I shook my head, “Nothing to it. How do you know all this? What do you mean by cases?”
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Tell James about your friend?” Taylor asked, making urgent motions with her face, “please?”
“What friend?” asked James.
I shrugged. “Some of my friends are aliens. Well, one of them – both of them are aliens, his sister doesn’t seem to like me very much. So not exactly a friend.”
“You’re kidding,” James whistled, glancing at Taylor nervously, “You’re just making fun of me, aren’t you?”
“I’m serious!” I nodded, and Taylor nodded too. “Though I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Taylor?”
“Trust me,” Taylor said, “the two of you need to be on the same page.”
I swallowed heavily. If Taylor thought the James chick was to be trusted, then I was going to take the chance. Taylor had saved my life, after all.
There was a tap on my foot – Taylor. I look up to meet their gaze, and they gave me a halting look. Now, this was getting confusing. So I was meant to tell Felling about Zander… but not everything.
How much can you really tell from a foot tap?
“Fine, then: he came from outer space, and I promptly ran him over with my car,” I explained. “He lived in my spare room for two months, correcting sci-fi movies and books. He integrated our culture, we worked together. Then his sister came, they blew up the plant, yada yada yada, and now, now he’s gone.”
“You’ve got a serious problem,” she said, leaning back and crossing her arms over her chest. I could only shrug. “Taylor, what’s this shit?”
“Why would I make that up?” I sputtered, “To impress you? To make fun of you? I just met you, I’ve got no reason to lie to you. This is the truth.”
I slammed my hand down hard on the table, making our dishes jump with a loud clang. My hand tingled from the collision – that was not a smart idea.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well, Zander and Blayde were pretty unbelievable in the flesh as well.”
At the sound of their names, she froze, petrified, as if she had turned to stone. She stared at me, eyes wide with shock, unable to speak, glancing at Taylor, who nodded, then back at me again.
“Zander and Blayde?” she urged, her face a dazzling smile, “You did say Zander and Blayde?”
“And you knew them?” she asked, “And Zander lived at your house for two months? This is impossible! I’m actually speaking with someone who has met Zander and Blayde!” She looked uneasy, excited, nervous, all at once, glancing at Taylor for support. Her face ran hot and red, his hands trembling slightly.
Taylor looked quite smug in all this. “You see? Told you.”
I pulled out my phone, scrolling through the camera roll as Felling waited. I picked a good selfie, one Zander had taken accidentally as he was trying to use my phone as a mirror. My heart got tight as I looked at it. I wasn’t ready to see his smile just yet.
Breathe. Just breathe.
“That’s him, right there,” I said, and Felling stared, his eyes somehow becoming wider as he recognized the face.
“It’s him… it’s really him,” she muttered, almost a whisper. Almost a prayer. Taylor shot me a wink. I didn’t think my night could get any weirder than this, and now… now I apparently met one of Zander’s fans.
“So,” I said, clearing some pie from my throat, “How’s this connected to Zander? You know him or something?”
“We’ve noticed him,” said James, leaning in conspiratorially, “As we looked through old frescoes and paintings and such. Always the same man, accompanied by the same woman. Always. There are representations of him scattered throughout human history. We even found a written record of him in the original tale of Sir Arthur.”
“He once mentioned meeting him,” I agreed as if that was the most casual thing in the world. It was odd, the things I had gotten used to with him as my roommate.
“We discovered their names in the journal of Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary – Marie Antoinette’s mother. She called him Zander. Then Blayde showed up in the records of Louis the XIVof France’s court: they called her “Lame” which technically means Blade in French. Totally different meaning in English… but anyway. We’ve been trying for years, calculating out the probabilities of him appearing in certain sports, gathering information from different sightings of him.”
“Wait, you can predict where he’ll jump to?” I found myself sitting up taller in my chair. My heart was pounding, this time from excitement, not fear. “How does it work? And has it worked?”
“Not yet,” she grinned, as if slightly embarrassed, combing her hand through her thick black hair. “Had to teach myself statistical physics to try and interpret the data, but he seems to appear in places at random. It’s like we’re missing something: jumps that weren’t recorded, or a dimension… no matter.”
“So it hasn’t actually worked yet.”
“But you’ve met him!” the woman said, leaning in, “There’s so much you can tell me about him!”
“I don’t know how much I should say…” I glanced at Taylor for support, but this time, they only shrugged. I guess Zander’s identity was up to me. “He is a real person, a friend. He deserves some privacy.”
“Think about it,” she said, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her card. She scribbled a number quickly on the back before handing it to me. “Here’s my number. Call me day or night. I just want to know a little more about him. Why he pops up throughout history. Why he never changes. I just… I just want to know his deal.” She stood now, nodding to both Taylor and I. “I have to go. I have to be in Alexandria in the morning. Taylor, you have her from here?”
“Don’t worry about us,” said Taylor.
“Great,” she said, “Sally, please do think about calling me. Or texting. Whatever. I can be a formidable ally if you want me to be.”
And with that, she turned into a whirlwind and flew out the door. Taylor scooted to take her empty seat, eyeing me through fully.
“Sooo,” they asked, “what do you think?”
“Of her?” I wanted to laugh, “Taylor, what’s going on? You’re helping a human deal with alien cases? It’s adorable!”
“Stop it,” Taylor insisted, “cut it out! I’m not a child.”
I let out a girlish giggle. My evening could not get any more weird, but here I was, in a coffee shop, chatting about crushes with an alien I hadn’t seen since we’d escaped abduction together.
“Sorry I dragged you into this,” they said, “I needed to give Felling something she wanted. Now she owes me.”
“But who is she? What is she?” I asked. “Like… FBI? Are you her lone gunman?”
“Is that an X-files reference?”
“Yeah? Taylor, is she Mulder?”
“I’m not allowed to say,” Taylor replied, grinning conspiratorially.
“Where are you headed?” I asked, getting up, “it’s the middle of the night. You have a place to stay?”
“I was heading for a motel,” she shrugged, “spotted a nice one on the way into town.”
“You could just stay with me,” I said, “I’ve gotten in the habit of inviting aliens into my spare room.”
“Or maybe,” said Taylor, “maybe it doesn’t have to be your spare room.”
And that’s the story of how I took Taylor home on New Year’s day.