"Bren, you're hurt."Brenna hung up, slipped her phone into her skirt's pocket, then walked to the living room. Her sister was curled up on the couch with an ice pack on her head. "Party too much, Gracie?" The blonde having a hangover did explain why there wasn't any music blaring.
"Ma'am, I think you're pushing the lass a little much."
"Matt, about yesterday--"
"Don't you dare squee over the phone."
"And where the hell were you last night?" Grace scowled. "Dad was worried when I got home."
"He was just as worried about you."
"Bren, you're his princess. Always have been, always will be."
Brenna sat down in the chair beside the bookcase. "It doesn't mean he can't worry about you. I've seen it in him. Besides, who else would he watch football with if something happened to you."
"Who would he watch baseball with without you?" Grace countered.
"This is stupid, Grace, arguing who Dad worried about more." She picked up the old German textbook and flipped back to where she left off. After reading a few paragraphs, the young brunette adjusted her reading glasses.
"What are you reading?"
Without looking up, Brenna answered, "One of Grandma's old books."
Grace snorted. "Because of yesterday, right?"
"Duh." Brenna shifted to she wouldn't aggravate her still tender back. "Want to help?"
"No, thanks." Grace stretched out on the couch. "That's all about ghosts and spirits, right?"
"Your point, Gracie?"
Grace sat up. "When was the last time you saw anything like you saw yesterday?"
"So . . .?"
Brenna closed the book, using her thumb to mark her page. "So? So what, Gracie?"
"You don't see it?" Grace got up. "Bren, you're the goddamn ghost expert, not me. If I can see it, it's got to be obvious to you."
"What?" Brenna set the German text down. "I'm not getting it, Grace. I know what I saw and no ghost has ever done that before."
Brenna shook her head in confusion. "What, exactly?"
"Are you deliberately being dense?"
"No." Brenna stood up to be at the same height as her sister. "All I said is that no ghost has . . . " She trailed off. "Not a ghost."
"Finally!" Grace sat back down. "Took you long enough."
"Why didn't you just say so?"
"I thought you knew already. Hey, while you're up, can you grab me a Pepsi?"
Brenna glared at her younger sister. "Brat." Grace's only response was an innocent look. "Fine, a Pepsi. Assuming you haven't drank them all yet." The brunette left the living room, returning to the kitchen. From the fridge, she pulled out a can of Pepsi for Grace and an apple for herself. She made her way back to the living room, still thinking about Grace's line of thought. "Okay," she said when she crossed the threshold into the family room, "if it wasn't a ghost, what was it?" Brenna passed the canned drink to her sister.
Grace accepted the can even as she shrugged. "How should I know?"
"You're studying to become a lawyer. Shouldn't thinking evil come naturally by now?"
Brenna sat down with a smirk across from her sister. "Oh, I got it! The murderer did it!"
"You didn't think of it, either." Brenna to a bite out of her apple. Between munches, she added, "Which mean the murderer had to use magic to wipe the room. Which sounds insane."
"Says the girl who sees and talks to ghosts." Grace opened her drink. "Oh, let's not forget the psychic lightsaber. Because that totally makes sense."
"Mom never mentioned magic to me." Brenna sat back in her chair, curling her legs under her. "Did she say anything to you about it when she trained you?"
Grace shook her head. "Nothing. And I'd like to think I'd remember Mom saying something weird like magic exists."
"So all of Grandma's books are useless." Brenna looked over at the bookcase. "Damn."
"Bren, you deal with ghosts, not flesh and blood killers. Let the cops handle it."
"But they don't know what they're looking for."
"Neither do you, Bren." Grace took a swallow of her Pepsi. "To the police, you're the woman who found the body. In fact, you weren't supposed to be there. I really doubt they want your help."
Brenna sighed. "I suppose. But I don't want Matt or the other cops getting hurt because they don't know what to expect."
"What are you going to do, call Matt and say, 'Hi, sexy, the person you're looking for casts magic that wipes out emotions and, hey, let's have sex?'"
"No." Brenna glowered at her sister. "And I wouldn't say that to anyone."
"You'd just take him?"
Grace had an evil smile. "Too bad. He's not bad looking for one of your class."
"Nothing like that is going to happen tonight." Brenna covered her mouth when she realized what she said.
"Tonight? You're seeing Officer Matt tonight?"
Brenna felt her blush extend from her cheeks to below her t-shirt's collar. "I didn't say that."
"Might as well have, Bren. Have you called Dr. Womack yet?"
"Yes. In fact, I have an appointment this evening, before Matt picks me up for dinner." Brenna got up.
"Bren, where are you going?"
Brenna closed the van door harder than she wanted. She took a deep breath. "Mom, are you here?" she asked the air.
Joni shimmered into view in the passenger's seat. "Yes, sweetie."
"Was being around Dad ever difficult for you?"
"You know, when you first got the Blade?" Brenna laid her head on the steering wheel. "Did you do anything embarrassing or stupid or . . . or . . . oh, hell, you know."
"Did I feel like a dumb teenager when I met your father?"
Joni rubbed a ghostly hand on Brenna's back. "Yes. God, yes. Fortunately, I wasn't inexperienced when I met him."
"I had sex, Bren. I lost my virginity young and discovered that Mom was wrong and sex was fun. Moving to university and living on campus? Hey, best thing that could have happened to my sex life."
Brenna looked over at the woman who looked like her mother. "Okay . . . but what about diseases?"
Joni shrugged. "It was the end of the Seventies and the start of the Eighties. STDs happened to other people. AIDS wasn't even a scare yet."
"Are you sure you're my mother? The one who threatened to ground Gracie for life if she ever got caught at even first base?"
"Yes, Brenna, I am still your mom. Things changed when I had daughters. The world had changed a lot between when I met your father and when you became a teen."
"And yet, here I am with heavy duty birth control just to keep my sex drive from overwhelming me."
"I'm sorry, Brenna. I should have prepared you better for becoming the Bladekeeper. You weren't ready for the side effects."
Brenna smiled. "It's okay, Mom."
"And I apologize about giving you grief over Mr. Stanford. He showed me his building after you went to bed last night. I didn't even know there was a name for us lucky folk who get to carry the Soul Blade. You were right in listening to him."
"So, where are you going?"
"I need something to wear tonight."
Joni cocked an eyebrow. "Big date?"
"Dinner with Matt, and, yes, Mom, I have called Dr. Womack so don't bother asking. She's fitting me in at five."
"Good for you, Brenna. About time you had a date."
"Yeah, like it's my fault that I'm not able to be around a guy I like without wanting to have sex with him right on the spot."
"Your Aunt Dawn has done some research into the Blade. Ask her how many of the keepers had husbands or boyfriends before they got the Blade. She might have gotten further by now. But what she was trying to figure out was if the Blade was supposed to go to women who already had partners and maybe even children."
Brenna started the van. "So, I'm an anomaly."
"Hopefully. I'd hate to see my grandchildren go through the same thing you did."
"Mom, let's not get too far ahead of tonight here, okay? Let's see if I can make it through dinner before you marry me off with 2.3 kids." Brenna put the Savana into gear and pulled away from the curb. "Let me worry about what to wear first."
"Want a second opinion on what to wear?"
"If you don't mind?"
Clothes shopping took the remainder of the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon as Brenna searched for an outfit that she could afford and couldn't take off easily. With her mother's help, she found a royal purple dress in her price range, leaving her some money to buy a pair of black strappy heels to go with it. Brenna made a mental note to get on the costume requests soon before her bank account ran completely dry. A quick check on the time told the young brunette she still had plenty of time to get to her doctor's appointment even with taking into account the rush-hour traffic she was bound to hit as she crossed the city.
Brenna reached the plaza Dr. Womack's office was in with twenty minutes to spare. She found an empty parking space beside a yellow Smart Car. Brenna looked down on the tiny car and found herself wishing that her circumstances allowed her to drive something smaller, something that wouldn't stick out past a parking space if she wasn't careful. Making sure her curtains were closed, Brenna climbed out of her lavender van, locked up, and walked to her doctor's office.
Several women were waiting in the reception when Brenna walked in. One had her young family, a baby and a two year old toddler with her in one corner. In the opposite corner, a woman in her forties read a magazine. In between, two women in their early twenties chatted about their college classes. Brenna walked over to the receptionist, Tina according to her nameplate. "Hi, I called this morning about an emergency. Brenna Halliday."
Tina looked up at the latest visitor with a professional smile. "I'll let Dr. Womack know you're here. Please, have a seat."
"Thanks." Brenna picked up a random magazine to read, then found a free space on one of the couches. She adjusted her skirt, making sure that none of her bare skin touched the piece of furniture. Once comfortable, she started flipping through the magazine without really paying attention to it.
The baby to her left started to fuss. Brenna glanced over and saw its mother try soothing it. She returned to her magazine, flipping back to the cover. Instead of the fashion magazine she expected, Brenna had instead picked up a news magazine, explaining the fewer than expected number of ads inside. The young brunette got up to get something else to read, returning the Time to the stack.
The door to the exam rooms opened. A woman slightly older than Brenna walked out, accompanied by a nurse. Once the nurse passed the patient over to Tina at the reception desk, she called out, "Brenna? Brenna Halliday?"
"Here." Brenna put down the magazine she just picked up. She followed the nurse into back to Dr. Womack's office.
"Dr. Womack will be right with you." The nurse left, leaving the door open.
Brenna sat down in a chair whose seat was covered in red leather. She looked around the office, reading her doctor's diplomas, awards, and posters. Hearing footsteps behind her, she stood back up and turned around. "Hi, Doctor."
Dr. Womack closed her office door behind her. "Hi, Brenna. Please, have a seat." The doctor sat down at her desk as Brenna sat back down. "I had a bit of time to read both your file and your mother's. I did find a way to curb your sex drive."
Brenna leaned forward in her chair. "There is?"
"Have a child."
"Huh?" Brenna blinked. "Have a child? I don't get it."
"That's what seemed to help your mother, having both you and your sister. How is Grace, by the way?"
As confusion tumbled through her head, Brenna answered, "She's fine. Getting ready for her graduation ceremony."
"Good to hear."
"Um, Dr. Womack, I can't have children."
"Actually, Brenna, your body is good and ready for that."
"Doctor, I can't. I'm not ready. I'm not married. I don't even have a job. I still live at home with Dad. He'd have a fit if I got knocked up.
"Brenna, it's okay." Dr. Womack patted her patient's arm soothingly. "But, it might be best if you started thinking about starting a family. I can't keep increasing the concentration of your birth control. It's too dangerous. Are you seeing anyone yet?"
"No. That's the problem, though. I can't meet someone unless I can control myself, and I can't do that."
Dr. Womack opened her desk drawer. "I'm going to give you a sample that came in. It's a new form of Plan B. It's a slightly higher concentration."
Brenna looked dubious. "How is that supposed to help me?"
"Take a dose before you go out if you think your legacy is going to interfere with you. That should let you keep you in control of your urgings."
"Thanks. But, what about tonight? I'm going out to dinner with a guy from my old class in high school."
Dr. Womack smiled. "You have a date?"
Brenna shrugged. "Just dinner."
"Brenna, did your urgings pick up before or after he asked you out?"
"Before." Brenna thought for a moment. "A little worse before he pulled me over, but much worse afterwards."
"Really." Dr. Womack tried to hide her laughter. "Brenna, did it not occur to you that you might want him because of you, not because of your legacy?"
"Maybe it's not the Blade that wants him."
"Me?" Brenna shook her head. "No, can't be."
"Why not? Brenna, you're a young woman. Most young people have already had their first sexual experience. Why can't you want this young man?"
"Because that's not me. Because I don't just jump them where they stand."
"Try this for me, then." Dr. Womack passed several packets of pills to Brenna. "Take two of these before your dinner date tonight. That should keep the Blade's influence out of commission."
"And if it doesn't?"
"Take a third after sex, to be safe."
Brenna picked up the offered medication. "Will it work?"
"I believe it will, Brenna. But, ultimately, what helped your mother was finding your father and having you and Grace."
"Bren, are you okay?"
"And here he comes."
"She's getting away."
"You can't stop me."