I was at a Dairy Queen down at the beach, sitting at one of those outdoor tables, eating an ice cream cone, when she sat down next to me.
"I wasn't aware that the Tall One's steward enjoyed ice cream."
I eyed the girl. She seemed about my age, so 20, plus or minus a few years. She had straight black hair that came down her shoulders, and a pair of glasses sat in the middle of her round, pale face, guarding a pair of green eyes that put me in mind of pine trees. She wore a white tank top and khaki shorts, and she was regarding me with the air of a scientist observing a particularly fascinating animal.
"We all have our weaknesses," I told her. "Lexi, I presume?"
"You presume correctly. Mint chocolate chip?"
She smiled. "I prefer Oreo."
I found myself smiling back. "Oreo is all well and good, but it can hardly stand up to mint chocolate chip's might."
"You must be insane if you think that."
I shrugged. "People tell me that all the time. It has long since ceased to lose meaning."
Lexi laughed. It wasn't a chuckle or a giggle or big belly laugh. Just a laugh. A simple "ha". Her eyes suddenly darted back and forth, examining everyone around else. "Where's the rest of the team?" she asked. "I was told I'd be working with Revenants as well."
I took another lick of ice cream before I answered her. "Knowing them, they're either taking a long walk on the beach, listening to sappy love songs, or boning in their hotel room. They do little else."
She shook her head. "Doesn't that hurt them? Isn't it too much sensation?"
"That's what I've always wondered, but apparently they don't seem to notice their imaginary hypersensitivity." Another lick. "You haven't read my blog then?"
"Oh, no, I have. Both of them. I make it a point to learn a thing or two about everyone I work with."
"So what did you think?"
"I think you are a very delusional person who sees monsters around every corner. I mean, seriously? Undead gas mask wearing serial killers? Living cities? A bunch of rejects from that one Hitchcock movie? I can only assume that the Tall One messed you up pretty badly when you were converted."
I felt my smile broaden. "Glorius and Acedia felt the same way when we started working together. You should have seen their faces when I first took them into the Empty City. Oh wait, I'll just bring a mirror next time we go. Your expression will probably be the same."
She laughed again. "Yeah, bullshit. Your magic city doesn't scare me. Any more than your imaginary creepily sexualized preteen."
"Alas," I said. "I wish I was making Charlotte up. I really do. But she really is that creepy."
Another laugh. "Well, it's not like I haven't worked with madmen before. They're usually not as funny as you though." She held out her hand. I wiped some melted drops of ice cream of my own hand and shook it.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Steward," Lexi told me. "I look forward to working with you."
That happened on Tuesday.
Since then, we've both been enjoying ourselves. Chatting with each other. I introduced her to the dumb-as-a-doorbell duo, and despite their insistence that I have made no Entities up, she still refuses to believe.
Oh well. She'll see soon enough. And I have no doubt that she'll accept it all readily. She seems to be a very bright, witty, charming young woman.