Not again, Chelsea Childling

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. You can start with her origin story or pick any story from the index.

***

Chelsea bit the inside of her cheek, fighting down the laugh. Sonja was a terrible teacher.

She’d given a single, lightning-fast demonstration with her metal staff, told them that nothing she’d shown them had any bearing on what they’d be doing, and then started them to drilling.

Now the beautiful woman prowled the edges of the crowd correcting people’s hand placements and cracking jokes. Nobody seemed resentful though. Chelsea thought Sonja’s height and nearly unearthly good looks might have something to do with it. A certain aura of confidence seemed to radiate off her.

Despite Amber’s warnings about Sonja’s trustworthiness Chelsea liked her. Sonja was blunt, funny, and friendly. She seemed everything good about monster hunters.

And Amber’s not great with people. For all I know she bitched and picked until Sonja just didn’t want to deal, and that’s she took off before the hunt.

Nobody could lean on a soft spot like Amber in a bad mood. Like she was doing today. She’d been in hiding since they’d arrived. After running away when Chelsea had attempted to discuss actual feelings, like a rational adult.

Guilt flowed through her. She had no reason for the bitterness. She knew Amber loved her. Amber’s apparent terror of the word didn’t erase her actions or her devotion.

Chelsea smiled to herself and headed for the overgrown cabin. Amber had to be in there somewhere. Chelsea decided to grab a beer for each of them. They’d work this out over an offering of hops. Once Amber bitched enough, everything would go back to normal.

The basement remained empty, no matter how long Chelsea looked. As did the first floor. And the second. 

Fear seeped through her veins as she fruitless searched among the cars. Maybe Amber was talking to some hunter who had just arrived. It was worth a look.

It was on the second walkthrough, that Chelsea saw the paper on her windshield. 

Heart stuttering and the words “Not again” on repeat in her brain, she lifted the wiper.

There was no salutation or signature, but Chelsea didn’t need one.

“I started to write that it wasn’t you, that I’m the one who’s fucked up, but we both know that’s a lie. We’re hunters. We don’t do relationships. Not me and Jack. Not you and Jack. Not you and me. The sooner we both accept that, the better.

“You can be as pissed at me as you want, but don’t put yourself down. It’s nothing against you, personally. I knew better. I never should have let it get this far.”

The next line had a single pen stroke, as if Amber had had more thoughts, but chose not to share them. Chelsea couldn’t imagine what hadn’t been said. What more could there have been?

She stood there staring at the words, but not reading them. 

What is it about monster hunters that makes letters the preferred way to say goodbye? Is it the lack of emotions? Like if you don’t see me crying that means I didn’t?

Her breath arrived in a great shuddering gasp that she let out in something that streaked between sob and shriek. Frantic calls came from the house as she crushed the paper in her hands.

“Hey, you okay?” Sonja rounded a car, her metal staff in hand.

Chelsea turned to the woman. “I’m fine.” For some reason, Sonja backed up as she nodded. Chelsea couldn’t find it in herself to care.

She found her keys, started her car, and left. The oni fight barely registered. It was an annoyance, something that Amber had wanted to do.

On the other hand, Amber had no car and had to get to the apartment if she wanted her clothes. Chelsea drove with her foot on the carpet, taking turns with her emergency brake.

She left the car running as she pulled up their apartment. She threw open the door. Everything looked the same. The same dishes in the sink. Amber’s sweatpants on the floor. 

Chelsea rushed up the stairs. Nothing had been touched there either. Amber’s backpack still sat in the corner.

A sharp and satisfied smile broke Chelsea’s face. Amber would have to face her. Chelsea headed downstairs to Amber’s booze collection. Shots might not have been the best idea, but they certainly weren’t the worst.

The level of vodka lowered as the day turned to night. Chelsea cracked open the rum. Midnight came and went, but Amber stayed away.

As the sun came up, so did all the booze. Chelsea gave into the inevitable sickness and sorrow. Amber had left.

She awoke sometime in the afternoon. She mouth tasted on vomit and her knees hurt from sleeping on the bathroom floor. Oddly, she felt numb. The devastation that had driven her to alter of the porcelain god had vanished in the morning light.

She bathed in silence, washing mechanically as she stared at the shower curtain. She dressed quickly, eyes passing over Amber’s wardrobe strewn across the floor. Nor did she look at the purple tree she painted all those months ago for Jackson. 

Once downstairs, she finally saw something. The unfinished portrait of Jackson smiled at her. A momentary urge to punch the canvas came over her. She suppressed the need to do violence. Tonight, she’d find a monster and kill the shit out of it.

Today, she had an apartment to pack.

I’m so over this whole fucking town.

***

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