Excerpt for Make Over (Cult of the Butterfly 15) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Make Over (Cult of the Butterfly 15)

By Paul Smith.



Make Over (Cult of the Butterfly 15)

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: 9781370183470

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'Chick flicks and come downs. What better way to spend a Sunday...'


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Thank you.

Come on Seb, you can do this…

He’d been putting off the inevitable for the last week or so. But at the back of his mind some small part of him had already acknowledged the necessity of what was about to happen during the last coven meeting.

Taking a deep breath, he raised a hand to knock on the familiar door before him. The street was quiet, much as you’d expect for this time on a week day. The sun was a radiant disc overhead, the sparse trees that lined this side of the road throwing pools of shadow across the side walk.

The door opened to reveal Maisey’s surprised expression.

Oh, it’s you.” Confusion flickered across her features, the strong jaw she’d inherited from her mother clenching in brief uncertainty. Seb always forgot how young she actually was.

Here.” He held out his phone, which was already dialling Raina. “Proof my visit has parental approval.”

Maisey took the phone, relaxing visibly. Stepped back as the line connected, face lighting up in a way he suspected would melt Raina’s heart as her mother’s voice came down the line. Seb gave them their space, stepping in only when Raina’s daughter gestured him inside, and even then waiting by the front door whilst she wandered at the far end of the hall, speaking to her Mum. Seb took the time to look about at the familiar décor, marvelling as ever at the sense of home Raina and her own mother had somehow managed to instil in the place.

Maisey came back with his phone, her manner easier. “I gather this is a jail break?”

Seb grinned. “Something like that.” Maisey was on study leave, prepping for her pre-summer exams. His expression turned mock serious. “But you have to promise me you won’t breath a word of what I’m about to tell you to your Mum.”

It was just the right tone to take. All sense of her earlier nerves vanished as Maisey raised a questioning eyebrow, the picture of teenage ambivalence. “Oh?”

I have a party to attend.” To his own ears it sounded hopelessly lame as excuses went, but Maisey didn’t seem to notice. “One that requires a certain kind of attire.”

You want me to take you dress shopping!”

Seb’s eyes widened. “Yes. Um, how...”

Mum showed me your pics on Woad.”

Seb rolled his eyes. “Is nothing sacred?”

“‘Not in this life’,” Maisey replied, quoting their favourite line in Sisterhood.

Okay, so that cat’s out of the bag.”

Maisey laughed, sitting on the stairs to lace her sneakers. “To quote Esmerelda: ‘Anyone who thinks the cat was ever in the bag is as deluded as that Schrödinger guy’.”

Seb nodded thoughtfully. “Having shared living space with cats I can agree with that.” He glanced about. “Speaking of which...”

Tiber’s out, but there’s water on the porch.”

Very good. Are we ready?”

Maisey grabbed her bag. “As we’ll ever be.” She ushered them out the door, once again the competent adult now they stood on more familiar ground. Seb waited for her to lock up then they set off for the station, and the train into town.

They took the train into Shizulu, alighting amidst the wash of the college crowd. Seb took care not to appear in any way overbearing (so, ignoring the urge to lead Maisey through the press like a toddler) whilst remaining at all times constantly aware of where she was. This was achieved by the simple expedient of letting her take the lead. He was acutely aware of the trust Raina had placed in him by agreeing to this little jaunt and had absolutely zero intention of messing up. Various nasties simmered waiting in his stash, just in case. He almost never went out with live magic during the day, there was generally far too much danger of being picked up by a random dog team, but he figured for this it was worth the risk. For all its picture postcard beauty and bohemian public face Shensang was definitely not somewhere you let your pubescent daughter wander around unchaperoned. All it would potentially take was a moment of inattention…

The rational part of him realised he was completely overreacting of course. There was every chance Maisey could wander safely through the central shopping district without running into trouble of any kind. Even the VQ arcades were probably safe enough, at this time of day. You only had to look at the ocean of college kids they were currently swimming through to see that children (they were, after all, only a few years older than his charge) could walk the streets unmolested, did indeed do it every day.

Yes, but…

Shut up!

Did you say something?”

Seb shook his head, covering by lifting his sunglasses to peer over heads. “Barrier’s coming up. You got your ticket ready?”

She flashed her phone screen, nestled in her hand. Seb nodded, palming his own and gesturing her through ahead of him. He definitely did not grind his teeth as some kid in ripped jeans and a beanie cut in front of him.

He yelped as he scanned his phone, snatching it back as the barriers parted for him.

Did you…?” Maisey’s lips pursed just the way her mothers did in disapproval.

I have no idea what you’re talking about. Must have been a static charge, probably caused by those ridiculous shoes he had on.”

Her eyes narrowed.

What?! Using offensives in public is a capital offense. You know that!”


He gestured towards the entrance. “Come on, I’m in desperate need of a cigarette after all that.”

I thought you only smoked when you drank.”

Trust me, I’d be suggesting a bar as well if you weren’t under age.”

Charming! I’m that bad company...”

It wasn’t you, it was the guys at the far end of the carriage discussing the finer points of parcour.”

Maisey nodded, twirling one pigtail in a gesture that abruptly made her look about ten. Seb fought down a fresh bout of protective instincts, stepping out into the glorious mid afternoon sun with a sigh of relief. “God I hate that place during the day.”

Just during the day?” Maisey asked, pulling out a compact as he lit up.

Seb nodded. “At night it’s beautiful, like most things man made. Try standing on the deserted concourse sometime with your headphones in and something epic playing. Love Child or Battle Cry are favourites for me.”

You do have a bit of a thing for Kill Schuster, don’t you?”

What can I say? The man’s got skills.”

Maisey rolled her eyes. “You’re such a dork Seb.”

What?!? What’d I do now…?” he cast about, to much tittering from the group of kids passing. Maisey coloured prettily, but she was smiling as she did it. “Come on you, let’s hit the department stores first. I like to have my expectations dashed against the price tag of high fashion before I’m forced to acknowledge the reality of my thrift store budget.”

Albion, then Pevency’s.”

You’re the boss. Unless mortal danger is involved, in which case you do exactly as I tell you.”

Because you’re such an all action hero.”

You think I’m joking...” But he was careful to keep his tone light. No point in terrifying the girl before her time. Maisey was a sensible girl. With any luck she’d make it into her twenties without ever getting mixed up in anything dangerous, terrorist actions notwithstanding.

Albion proved to be a wash out. Apparently they’d just missed a massive clearance event, which had left the place looking like a jumble sale aimed at midgets and giants. Seb stood forlornly fingering a sheer black number by Yvette Tsu.

You’re skinny, but even your waist isn’t that tiny.”

Seb sighed, stepping away from the couture and allowing Maisey to lead him up towards the confections counter for some sugary consolation.

Pevency’s proved to be a similar story, though from the looks of the sales floor they’d been the ones to jump first. Their sale area had been reduced to a few rails at the back, and shiny new high summer lines now loitered artfully across the fixtures, beckoning coyly.

Oh Maisey, it’s calling to me...” he trilled, fingering the bodice of what could only be described as a cocktail dress for a Valkyrie.

Yes, saying ‘come, wear me into battle!’”

If only you knew child. “Come on, I’m feeling brave...” he indicated the price tag “...show me.”

She swung the ticket round and a small strangled noise escaped his throat involuntarily.

Do battle is right. Battle with my bank manager for a loan.” He took her arm. “Come on, let’s go see what Debonaire has to offer.”

Not a lot, as it turned out. Certainly not given his spec list.

I don’t understand what’s wrong with floor length if you’re planning to wear heels,” Maisey said, as they stepped out into the trellised square that the store backed onto.

Because at some point I may need to take those heels off and run.”

Maisey raised an eyebrow questioningly.

What? He might be hideous.”


Well, just saying...”

It was a very strict condition of his continued association with Raina’s children, that they not get even the slightest whiff of his other life. Users were common enough that his talents in that area need not be hidden completely. Raina even approved, for the way it helped demystify what was a very real part of life in Shensang.

How much he practised, and the affiliations he courted as part of that practice were quite another matter.

This, more than anything else, was the reason behind the cloak and dagger around why he needed to go dress shopping. It helped that he worked in the Glades and had (Maisey was at least partially aware, on a sort of naive level) a very active party life. It provided the perfect cover for what was actually going on.

Um, what are we doing up here…?” Seb asked, belatedly catching up with where Maisey had been surreptitiously steering them. They’d drifted into the Belmont Arcade’s upper level, near the bridge where the mall crossed the Taipuz.

Well...” she walked up to the counter of the nail bar that stood at this end of the open air span. “Mum thought it’d be nice for us to have a bit of girl time, seeing as you’ve been helping me out so much recently with my studies.”

I think you’ll find that ‘helping’ consists mostly of me watching you attack your keyboard like a dervish, whilst I stare blankly at my own work...”

Maisey turned to confer with the woman behind the counter, who clearly had the measure of their relationship given the way she treated Maisey like the responsible one. “I think Mum’s words were ‘don’t take any of his crap’…?”

The woman behind the counter at least had the decency to try and cover her laughter as she gestured them through. Seb shook his head, grinning, got his revenge by pulling her into a bear hug as they crossed the salon towards the table at the far side where a white girl with dreads and a black queen in immaculate gold eye make-up stood to usher them into their respective seats.

Seb had never had his nails done professionally before, but after some initial misgivings he found the whole thing really rather enjoyable. It helped, he suspected, that the technicians both seemed keen to ensure that Maisey walked out of there feeling like a Princess. Between the three of them they managed to talk her into something that, whilst not as fun as what she’d initially had in mind, added a maturity to her look that was just enough of a step forward to satisfy her burgeoning sense of womanhood, without putting her mother’s nose out of joint. Seb’s input earned him a nod of approval from Jonas, who was busy prepping the primer for the carbon black effect Maisey had picked out for him. They were, he had to admit, fabulous once they were finished, like little shards of titanium extruded from beneath his cuticles.

You kids up to much for the rest of the afternoon?”

Dress shopping,” Seb offered, with a grin at Maisey, who giggled.

Aah...” Jonas grinned, revealing a set of immaculate pearly whites. He shared a conspiratorial look with his colleague. “Couture?”

We wish.” Seb glanced at Maisey. “If it was this one’s prom it might be a different story, but...”

Jonas nodded, offering Maisey a wink. “Be sure you hold him to that, my dear.” He gave his work a final buff, finishing with a flourish. “There, all done. And Imelda too, darling you really are in danger of putting me to shame those are divine.”

Maisey blushed prettily, allowing her hands to be gently taken.

Here...” the lass with the dreads slipped her a fresh bottle of the colour she’d used “...for touch ups. Just remember what I said about your cuticles when you finally do strip and reapply.”

Maisey nodded gravely, obviously made up.

Seb offered a salute in thanks for that final bit of theatre as they left. He’d slipped the request in while Maisey went to pee. It wasn’t like the bottle was that expensive, and the colour did look good on her.

Try Oberon’s Closet in the VQ!” Jonas offered. “Tell them I sent you.”

Will do,” Seb replied, raising a hand again in thanks. Ah solidarity. Something this world could do with more of, one feels.

The aforementioned Closet proved to be a little off the beaten track, nestled down a tiny cross street at the very far end of Mayuong, placing it technically in the Glades. Which did, Seb supposed, explain the name.

The store itself proved to be surprisingly spacious, given it’s tiny frontage. The initial, low ceilinged space was in fact the upper mezzanine for a larger floor below that must occupy the basement of the building it backed onto.

Eclectic’ might best describe the goods on display. The place sold all sorts, from clothes to kitchen implements to books. He was reminded a little of the curio shops you always saw in old movies, though a drag queen’s closet appeared to have thrown up all over this one.

Which given the reason they were here was not such a bad thing.

Yes,” he decided, looking around and grinning at the slightly bemused look on Maisey’s face, “this will do nicely. Shall we?”

Maisey nodded, inhaling in a visible effort to prepare herself for the task ahead. “...How do we do this?”

Once round each to cherry pick then we make for the fitting rooms...” he stood on tiptoe briefly “...good, they have them. Now remember...”

I know, I know: stylish but not at the expense of comfort. And no lace.”

Seb nodded emphatically. “Can’t abide the stuff. Good luck.” Nodding to the ebony skinned girl behind the counter, who’d been watching them surreptitiously over the top of her book, Seb set off across the floor, heading widdershins given that Maisey had already chosen to go clockwise. They did not have the store to themselves by any means. A group of mothers on the lower floor were picking over the shoe collection on offer whilst their children played with a nearby chest and its cargo of throws. A tiny old guy with a pot belly stood shakily balanced with his walking stick whilst he perused the books, and a middle aged woman in horn rimmed glasses with dreads down to her waist was angrily tidying the jacket stand, which had clearly been recently trashed. Seb eyed the young mothers, but couldn’t spot a coat amongst their prospective purchases so he decided it probably hadn’t been them. He gave the area a wide berth anyway, risking a quick sortie to the far wall where a very fetching selection of scarves were hung, including several that had been printed with outspread wings.

They met at the fitting rooms ten minutes later, he with a handful of items, Maisey with a veritable armful of stock.

Good Lord girl, where did you find that lot?!”

On the bargain rails behind the spiral staircase.”

Seb peered past her in the direction indicated. “...I clearly need to be more observant. Though I ought to point out this...” and he fingered the sleeve of a t-shirt “...is not in the brief.”

It’s for me, silly.” Maisey stuck her tongue out. “It’s not all about you, you know.”

As your mother never tires of reminding me.” He grinned. “Come on then, hand ‘em over. Let’s do this thing.”

It was fortunate, Seb reflected, that he was not a shy boy as the fitting rooms basically consisted of a couple of curtains pulled over narrow cubicles in one corner. Thus the only way to get a second opinion involved showing the entire store what he had on.

Not that one,” the old guy offered, as Seb shimmied out in a little sequin number with diamanté shoulder straps. “It does nothing for your arse.”

Seb turned from his posturing before the mirror, slightly taken aback. “Thank you, I think…?”

You’re welcome.” The old guy winked at Maisey, who was stood to one side doing a very poor job of not laughing.

Okay, so...” they stood before the fitting rooms “...we’re saying yes, and yes…?” he held up the slashed hem number they’d both been a little uncertain on. Maisey nodded, glancing at the old guy who offered a thumbs up from cook wear.

The floor concurs.” Seb offered the old man a slight bow of thanks, which was returned with a nod. “What about this?” and he held up a shift dress in royal blue.

Too informal. You look like you’re off to the gym.” Maisey grinned. “Which we all know would be a lie.”

Hey, I work out…! Those bottle bins at work are bloody heavy.”

Maisey grinned. “Okay, okay! But it’s the wrong colours.”

Seb nodded. “Alright, this?”

Definitely.” Maisey fingered the piece’s ribbed bodice. “It’s perfect for you.”

Excellent. So those three and the scarf.”

Maisey nodded. It was more of a shawl than a scarf. Folded in half along the diagonal and worn as such the wings stretched from shoulder blade to finger tip, opening across the back when your arms were spread.

I might have to steal it sometime.”

Seb grinned. “Over my dead body. So, what did you pick? Is that a book…?”

Some people still read them you know.” She stuck her tongue out. “It’s a classic.”

If you say so.” Seb waved her on to her choices. “So, the shorts?”

Are a must.”

He nodded agreement. “Just tell your Mum not to freak out too much. I value my balls where they are.”

She’ll be fine! She really isn’t the dragon you seem to picture her as.”

Hmm, you’ve clearly not spent time on the battlefield with her.”

Maisey rolled her eyes. Any mention of Woad seemed to have this effect.

And the tops?”

I don’t know...”

The halter’s cute! Look, it goes perfectly with your new nails.”

She groaned. “Okay, okay… but not with the shorts.”

That might be a step too far, yes.”

And the t-shirt obviously.”

Obviously.” Seb gathered their rejects together, turning to find the woman with the dreads stood waiting with folded arms.

I’ll take those.”

Thanks.” He handed them over, not willing to argue with that tone of voice. Together they headed for the stairs.

Was that…?”

Maisey glanced over her shoulder. “Sabine’s Mum? I thought so, but I wasn’t sure.”

Seb glanced down at the top, but the woman in question had disappeared under the mezzanine level, out of sight. There had definitely been something about the nose, and the set of her eyes behind those glasses.

I’ll have a look next time we’re down at the school gates,” Maisey offered, as they approached the till point, the girl slouched behind taking her booted foot down and slipping the book she’d been reading to one side.

Did she behave?”

Seb nodded, smiling at Maisey as she kissed her mother before heading past into the house and her the squealing embrace of her little brother.

Just don’t flip out when you see what she’s brought.”

Raina shook her head, grinning. “I’m not quite the tyrant you imagine.”

Yes, well...” Seb glanced past her to where Kaid was stood pestering his sister, demanding to see what she’d brought.

Where’d you go in the end?”

You mean after the nail bar…?” he held up his freshly manicured hands. “Thank you, by the way.”

Not at all. It was Mum’s idea, actually.”

Well, I’m not sure I deserve it, but I do appreciate it. Tell her thanks – she’s not in is she?”

Raina shook her head. “They’re down town, pulling a late one for a function tomorrow.”

Pass on my gratitude...” Raina nodded “...We did the usual round of department stores, then headed across to the VQ. One of the technicians put us onto this great little place off Mayuong. Oberon’s Closet.”

That Jada King’s place?”

I knew I recognised her!”

Raina nodded. “Her daughter goes to Kaid’s school. We see her at the school gates sometimes, though she usually gets one of her older kids to pick her up.” Seb was careful to keep his expression bland as their eyes met. “Well, I’m glad you guys had a good time. I’ll catch up with you later?”

Seb nodded. “Should be on after dinner, say about nine.”

Raina gave him a hug before stepping back inside to referee. Offered him a last wave through the mesh screen as he headed down the steps.

Now that was a close one. Exhaling gustily, he turned right, setting off up the street towards the junction with the main road. Overhead the sun had begun its slow fall towards the horizon. Whistling softly, Seb headed for the station, as shadows slowly crept out to reclaim the world.

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