Fiction: Sunny Came Home

by Sarah Callaghan

Sunny came home to find a shapely female backside sticking out of his fridge. His frank and interested appraisal of it was soured when its owner emerged, holding in one hand two bottles of beer.

“Alice,” he said. “How did you get in here?”

“Fell down a rabbit hole. Beer?”

She smiled as she offered a bottle to him, but there was nothing of warmth or friendship there.

He didn’t take it. He just looked at her like she was the last person in the world he wanted or expected to see.

She shrugged and pulled out the one of the chairs, spinning it to sit astride it, resting her left arm along its back. She slid one of the beer bottles across the table toward him, twisted the cap off the second and took a long drink.

“Long time no see, Sunny. How you been?”

She was taunting him, playing him. Brusquely he replied:

“Stow the chitchat, Alice and get to the point. Why the hell are you here?”

The smile vanished, all pretense of friendship gone.

“Fine,” she said. “Play the game.”

Sunny resisted the temptation to sigh. Instead, he pulled out the second chair, turned it, and sat in a position mirroring hers. The two beer bottles stood in a row on the table, condensation dripping down their necks, as the two faced off like grand masters in chess.

“Your move,” he said.

She was ready.

“Who is Lethe?”

He took a drink from the bottle in front of him, to give himself the chance to gather his thoughts. It was late. He was tired and really not in the mood.

“Can’t remember.”

She rolled her eyes at him.

“It’ll take more than that to get rid of me,” she said sweetly.

Sunny sighed.

“Member of C13, maybe. Exile, probably. Dangerous, definitely.” But she’d know all that too. “You could find all this out yourself. Why ask me?”

He wasn’t playing by the rules, but he was sick of her and her twisted little games.

“I was in the neighborhood. And I’ve got a message for you.”

She should have looked smug, instead her face showed as much expression as the wall.

“What’s his speciality?” she asked.

He looked at her, into her cold, dead eyes, appreciating the irony.

“Mind games. What’s the message?”

“It’s from Suzanne. Who’s he working for now?”

His heart jumped into his throat. From Suzanne. God, please let her be OK! Damn Alice! Why did she have to be the messenger?

“Unknown. Possibly Monarch, possibly a neg group. Definitely someone with a lot of money, and not enough morals. What’s the message?”

She looked around the kitchen. His hand tightened around the bottle.

“Your best guess?” She sounded bored, like nothing he said was new to her.

“Tell me the target and I’ll tell you who. But first, tell me the message!”

She sat back, stretching her arms out above her head, twisting her neck until it clicked. The noise was unnaturally loud in the late-night silence. She pulled the moment to the breaking point, watching him wait. Watching his fears build up inside.

“Tell me the goddamn message!” he hissed, intent on her beautiful, depraved face.

For a moment he thought he saw her waver, he thought she’d tell him. Then an evil glint appeared in her eye and he knew she was enjoying this too much.

“What’s his weakness?” she asked, and he saw red.

The bottle shattered in his hand, and she didn’t even blink. With one movement, he was across the table, another and his hands were around her throat, her back slammed up against the wall, feet dangling a couple of inches off the ground.

“Tell me the message!” he roared into her face.

Her breathing was shallow and fast as he held her there, pushed hard between his body and the cold concrete wall. A touch on his side made him look away from her slightly flushed face, down to where a stiletto was poised to stab straight through his ribcage and into his lung.

He tightened his grip on her throat, wincing as the knife blade stabbed that little bit deeper into his flesh. Her eyes were fully open now, staring into his. Dark and deep, they held a twisted passion and a challenge. Slowly, she licked her lips and parted them, as if waiting for a kiss.

He dropped her as if he’d been stung, turning away from her in disgust. A trickle of blood ran down his ribs, soaking into his T-shirt. He wouldn’t look at her as he spoke.

“His memory. He doesn’t have one, not since Divergence. And it kills him, not knowing.”

She came up behind him, close, running her hands across the broad width of his shoulders with all the gentleness of a lover. His skin crawled at her touch, but he didn’t pull away. It had been too long since anyone had come that close. Too long since anyone had dared.

“Suzanne says,” she breathed in one ear, moved around to his other side. “Always. And soon. She says, prepare for Convergence and watch for the Tea Party. Four of them, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit. They could be the pivot on which the whole Nearside will turn. Protect them if you can, kill them if you must. They know too much, and not enough.”

He sighed. It was from Suzanne alright. Does she love him? Always. When will they be together? Soon.

Alice stepped past him, took steps toward the door.

“Alice,” he asked. “Do you know those people? This Tea Party?”

She stopped in the doorway, but didn’t turn around.

“Because, if you do, and if they are so important — take them to the Blind Sisters. They won’t give answers, but you still might learn something.”

She stood a moment longer. Almost as if she was weighing up what she would say next.

“There’s a broken room in Marble Arch … to One. ”

And with that she was gone.

Sunny picked up his kitchen chairs one by one and put them upright. He picked Alice’s empty beer bottle up off the floor and looked at it for a long moment. A Broken Room, to Earth1, to Suzanne. It could be soon after all.

A flash of conflicted anger and longing swept through him and he threw the bottle with all his strength at the wall. It didn’t so much shatter as explode into a cloud of glass dust. With his head in his hands, he sank down into a chair. He didn’t move for a long time.

 


 

Dawn was breaking when finally Alice slipped into bed with her lover. He half-woke, mumbled.

“Erin?”

“Hush, Greg, go back to sleep.” Her voice was soft, softer than Sunny would ever have believed her capable of. “I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.”

He murmured again, reaching out to hold her, caressing her back and the tattoo of the white rabbit at the base of her spine. She lay in his arms in the half-light, a curious mixture of tenderness and possessiveness on her face as she watched him fade back into sleep.

“Sleep well, my White Rabbit,” she whispered.