WHAT DO YOU DO
WITH A PROBLEM LIKE TAYLOR?
The Oasis Travel Center and Derailed Diner, Robertsdale, Alabama
AS TAYLOR sat at the counter sipping a Dr. Pepper inside the Derailed Diner, Corentin sat on the stool next to him. Corentin thumbed through his wallet. Taylor smiled, and Corentin caught the expression out of the corner of his eye. He was a cute kid, but if he ran off from his wedding, he wasn’t entirely a kid. Corentin knew the facts and figures that all Enchants married at twenty-five and not a day later. Maybe it was the wretched pink outfit. He was a scrawny thing. Did they not feed princesses? That was a weird enough concept already. Corentin had heard of the male princesses and female princes, but he had never run across any. Not that he remembered, anyway.
Corentin considered his credit cards, trying to remember which one still worked and which one didn’t. His finger settled on the edge of the gold one, and he tried to jog his memory of when he’d last used it. Nothing came to mind, one way or another, so he settled on the platinum one. All of his cards had his name on them, so he was sure they were his, even if the driver’s license photo looked nothing like him. He’d never had a Mohawk, nor was he of Arabic descent.
“Hey? Did I say something wrong?” Taylor asked and apparently never looked away with his big peach-pink eyes. That was a little weird too. Must be a princess thing.
“Um, sorry,” he said, then flashed a smile. “Was just daydreaming. What is it?”
“I asked where you’re from.” Taylor tilted his head in the way an eager puppy would. “I mean, your accent is insane.”
Corentin arched a brow. “What acc—”
Taylor burst into laughter and Corentin narrowed his eyes. “Don’t give me the ‘I don’t have an accent’ thing.”
Corentin clued in quickly that it was the inherent trait in every Enchant to blindly trust. This would make things easier. He tried a smile, and Taylor seemed to go along with it. Corentin turned away and faked a cough, trying to find a way to change the subject. He turned back to Taylor again with a smile, and Taylor nodded obliviously. Corentin flexed his fingers and cracked his knuckles on both hands. He couldn’t get over the pink-eyes thing. It was just far too bizarre. “My plates say Louisiana,” Corentin said and hooked a thumb at his Ford F-150 in the parking lot. “The one next to the Metro.” Taylor followed the gesture, and Corentin noticed the concern on his face. “It doesn’t look like much. But it gets me where I need to go.”
Frustration always made Corentin’s temples throb. He reached into his canvas messenger bag and pulled out his lifeline. A stack of composition notebooks that had been duct-taped together to form one large compendium and was stuffed to the gills with papers, pictures, receipts, Post-Its, and every possible colored tab he could collect. He unhooked the bungee cord that held the monstrous notebook together and flipped to a page in the green-tabbed section. He scanned the pages, then flipped to another green tab that was six tabs later and continued scanning. He frowned and flipped to another green tab somewhere in the middle. He smiled.
“Excellent,” Corentin said to himself and ran his finger over the list of credit cards to find which one was maxed and which one wasn’t. He closed the notebook, which still remained open by ten inches, fished out his gold card, and slid it toward Taylor. “Use this one.”
Meanwhile, Taylor sat still and silent. He stared at Corentin like he had just sprouted three heads.
On Taylor’s shoulder, his fairy godfather was the first to say something. “You know, if you’re a hoarder… it’s cool,” Ringo said cautiously.
“Ringo,” Taylor hissed.
Corentin’s attention darted to his tome and back to the princess and fairy. He glanced at his mishmash of notebooks again. “Oh, yeah. That….” He tried to sound as casual as possible.
“Not to sound rude,” Taylor said and pointed. “But that is a little weird.”
“It’s my curse, you know. Every Enchant has one.” He placed his hand on the steep slope of the cover. “Have to write everything down.”
“Like a Storyteller?” Taylor asked, and Corentin recognized in Taylor’s smile that his trust had returned.
He looked past Taylor to the yellow school bus mounted on the wall behind the counter. The lights still blinked like it was preparing to stop. “Kind of like that,” he lied, then changed the subject. “What’s yours?”
Taylor wilted under the question. “I don’t wanna talk about it,” he said quietly.
Corentin grinned. “Let me guess. When the sun sets, you turn into a mermaid?”
“I don’t really have one.”
Corentin thought he heard Taylor mumble. He leaned closer to hear better. “Don’t have what? A tail?” he asked.
Taylor looked down at his lap, and his fists tightened. “A curse. I don’t have a curse.”
Corentin blinked and recoiled out of Taylor’s space. “You don’t? You’re Curseless?”
Taylor frowned darkly. “Why don’t you announce it to everyone, asshole?”
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