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School Yard Blues (Cult of the Butterfly 6)


By Paul Smith.


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School Yard Blues (Cult of the Butterfly 6)

Paul Smith

Copyright 2017 Paul Smith

Smashwords Edition.


This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to people, places or events is purely coincidental, and bears no malicious intent.


ISBN: 9781370678693


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'For the African fashion student.'


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“And he got ‘changed’ with you...?”

Gods no! Jesus, what do you take me for? I have some standards.”

Raina pursed her lips, one eyebrow creeping up. “Given where you met Devan...”

Okay, okay, I concede you have a point.” He glanced across at Maisey, who was looking just a little too nonchalant as she mined the post-school buzz on the social networks. “Suffice to say not a lot else happened.”

Really?” Raina knelt to deal with the chocolate smeared round Kaid’s mouth before shooing him off to play with his friends again. “I always thought that was the whole point of coven meetings. Users getting together to cast spells and stuff.”

Seb grinned. “Calling the corners? Stirring up a cauldron? Reading each other’s tarot?”

When you say it like that.”

Seb laughed. “To be fair there was a cauldron, but that’s just because they practice the sacre filia.”

Sounds suitably witchy.”

Actually I think we nicked it from the vampires.” He grinned at Raina’s questioning look. “We all add blood to a pot and then everyone drinks from the contents. It’s not…!” he held up a hand, forestalling her obvious disgust “...as bad as all that. We just give a drop, though I gather the nightwalkers go a little further. It’s symbolic more than anything else.”

And magic is all about symbolism, yes, I remember that lecture.”

Seb nodded. “Pleased to see our little talks aren’t completely wasted.”

Raina shielded her eyes, peering across the playground at the school entrance. “Where are they? Seriously, do people not realise some of us have work to get to?”

Seb shook his head. “Probably not at the top of their list of considerations… which of course it should be!” he added hastily, seeing the look brewing in Raina’s eyes. First few nights of the week she cleaned offices and apartments with her Mum’s collective over at Summer Heights. It always left her cranky.

Damn straight it should.” She glanced at her eldest. “Maisey, go see if you can find out what they’re up to?”

Raina’s eldest scowled, but knew better than to sass her Mum when there was an evening of playing Cinderella to the corporates ahead. She shot Seb a look but he gave the minutest shake of his head, praying Raina didn’t catch it. He walked a fine line with Raina’s eldest, doing his best to offer something akin to big brother solidarity without actually undermining her mother’s authority. It could be a tough call sometimes.

Raina had taken the reprieve to bury herself in her screen. Seb smiled, thinking of all the times he would have been on the other end of that connection a few years back. Now, of course, there was no need for them to communicate so much via Woad. And being able to discuss things physically, outside of any of the message boards and various chat spaces, had proven useful on more than one occasion.

Probably hitting up Clave, he thought, seeing a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

He looked about the school yard. St Maria’s was a joint affair, with the infants occupying one half of the building, the juniors the far side. Class sizes were good, despite the lack of affluence that was something of a feature through the inner suburbs. Most people with money either lived right in the centre or (like Devan and Mitchel) on the city’s outskirts, beyond the worst of the swamps fug. The school actually backed onto a small patch of wetland fed by one of the Taipuz’s minor tributaries, which was great for the teacher’s he supposed: the wonders of nature, right on our doorstep and all that. It did mean the local insect population could become a bit of a nightmare in the summer months, and humidity was often pushing the mid-seventies.

Not that there aren’t fringe benefits.

He glanced across at the pack of lithe young men sprawled across one of the grass banks that stood at the playground’s edge. Most were shirtless, displaying enough muscle tone to keep a room full of hen parties happy for a week. The ‘Older Brothers’ posse he’d named them, as the majority seemed to be mid-teen college attenders shackled with picking up their younger sibling whilst their parents were busy. Doing what exactly was something of a loaded question round here, the answer sitting somewhere on the spectrum between working two or three jobs like Raina to sitting at home getting shit-faced. A little of both, he reckoned, judging from the disinterested looks some of them cast around.

Stop staring you idiot.”

He jumped, glancing at Raina who had evidently finished whatever she was doing and decided to pay attention to what he was up to.

Sorry.”

Just try and remember how well connected some of them are.”

She was talking, of course, about the local gang culture that was the mundane side of the city’s underworld. Lines were a little blurry, given this was Shensang, with most of them having a certain amount of contact, and in some cases sharing members with, the various covens that littered the metropolis. The Tiny Skulls were the dominant local flavour, and he spotted surreptitious items of purple on at least two of the lads doing the lounging. He knew for a fact that the Skulls had ties to the witch queen who held the VQ in her be-ringed grasp. What he couldn’t tell Raina was that the reason he knew this was because a previous staring match had resulted in him hooking up with one of boys lounging opposite. He and Tyrone were scrupulous about maintaining the illusion of indifference in public, but if there was one thing you learnt on the streets it was never to waste a resource. So they remained in tentative (albeit clandestine) contact. After all, you never knew when an ally from rival turf might come in handy.

The fact the promise his ebony skin made was most definitely delivered on in the trouser department might have also had something to do with it…

Seb remembered their rainy afternoons in bed together with a certain bittersweet fondness. The guy was studying to go and work in fashion of all things, and had secured himself an internship at one of the big couture houses up in New Bellise. It was part of the reason these little jaunts down to the school yard currently held such a draw for him: after the summer, his (not so) little voodoo Skull would be half a world away.

Fortunately perhaps, this afternoon he was absent, his mother here instead to pick up the little sister that Ty worked so hard to protect from the harsh realities of the world. Seb had actually received a [hey] from him earlier in the week, suggesting the gang kid was having a truly terrible time of it.

Finally.”

Seb glanced up from his musings to see Lucy making a beeline for them across the dusty playground, her older sister following a few paces behind with her nose buried once again in her phone. Lucy was clutching a helium balloon blazoned with a corporate logo, and gushing about the visitors they’d had in class. Seb and Raina exchanged a look, Raina rolling her eyes. They shared similar views on any sort of supposedly altruistic behaviour from big businesses, though he knew better than to voice anything overt in front of Raina’s kids. “They’ll make up their minds in their own time,” was her motto.

So they both listened attentively on the way home as Lucy regaled them with the day’s activities which, Seb had to admit, sounded pretty cool. But then as a kid he’d always liked the sorts of experiments in class that involved blowing shit up. It was part of the reason he’d gotten into magic in the first place. Kaid trotted along obediently at his side, eyes wide as he listened to his sister talk about “thermo-drynamics” and cans that crushed themselves.

Maisey met his eye with a withering look and Seb grinned.

Then it was chores and homework (for Sebastian as well – part of their deal, that he set a good example) when they got in, whilst Raina and her Mum organised dinner.

Afterwards, Seb shooed the older women out the front door, promising the regulation early night for the youngsters and no more than two episodes of Valley High with Maisey after she’d finished her assignment.

And that goes for you too!” Raina admonished. “I’ll be checking your browser history when I get back young man, and don’t think you can pull the wool over my eyes. We both know that cache wouldn’t wipe itself...”

Yes Mame.”

Don’t you ‘Yes Mame’ me, Mr Laikee.”

Seriously! I’ll be good, promise. An hour and a half at least before we sit down and ogle Cillian Davies’ pecs.”

Well, just so we’re clear.” Raina leant in for a kiss. “See you on the battlefield later? Break’s at half eleven.”

He nodded, lofting a hand to Madam J, who was stood waiting at the bottom of the path.

You heard the woman,” Seb said as he closed the door, turning and holding up a forestalling hand at Maisey’s unvoiced protests. “Come on, into the kitchen. I’ll make us a pot of coffee before we start.”

Ok...” Raina’s eldest sloped off ahead. But she flicked the kettle on on her way past, and when he got to the table she was already typing furiously, tinny beat rattling out of the headphones she’d plugged in. He placed her mug down next to her, putting the pot and the milk between them as he settle down to his own assignment.

Babysitting and homework, oh how rock and roll I am.


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