Chapter Three: Sibyl

I woke up feeling like a vampire.

The sunlight streaming through the large windows of my bedroom made my head throb violently, and a wave of nausea took over me as I sat up on the bed. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I sucked in a deep breath and forced my eyelids open.

God, what a hangover.

Groaning, I swung my legs off the bed and walked toward the windows. The sky was of a deep grey, and the courtyard was covered in at least two feet of snow. It was a lovely sight, except the brightness of it all didn’t help the throbbing pain in my head. I drew the curtains, momentarily relishing the shadows that embraced me, and ambled toward my ensuite bathroom.

I stared into the mirror. My skin had a grayish cast to it, and my eyes looked hollow. “I can’t keep doing this.”

But at the moment, I couldn’t figure out what else to do. Coffee first, then a plan.

Two minutes later and a fine mist started taking over the bathroom, and only then did I push my dress down my body and onto the floor. Naked, I stepped inside the shower and threw my head back as the warm water fell against my skin.

There was nothing better than a hot shower after a late night of partying. Now I just needed to munch on some toast, drink a couple or two of coffee, and I’d be good to go. With some luck, I wouldn’t even have to take an aspirin.

“Computer, what’s the time?” I asked, and the AI system that was part of the manor immediately spoke up in a warm feminine voice.

It’s half past seven in the morning.

It was early then. I tended to get up after lunch whenever I spent the whole night drinking, but it seemed like my body was ready to tackle the first day of the new year on a high note.

Not that I had much to do.

My father was always needling me to find something productive to do, but I felt like I was already productive enough. At least when it came to partying.

Feeling better now, I toweled myself off and put on a pair of ripped jeans and a trendy sweater. I applied some light make-up, checked my reflection in the mirror, and then took a deep breath before leaving the room.

A maid was already making the rounds, changing linens in one of the guest rooms, and downstairs came the bright sound of cutlery hitting the porcelain of a plate. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one up this early on New Year’s day.

“Up already?” My father asked me, one eyebrow cocked as he saw me come down the stairs. He sat by the large dining table all by himself, a plate with fried bacon and scrambled eggs in front of him. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine.”

“Fine, huh?” He echoed, a smirk on his lips. “Are you going to tell me you don’t have a hangover?”

“Dad, I already told you,” I sighed. “I had a couple of drinks last night. I mean, it was New Year’s Eve. What’s the harm in it?”

“There’s no harm in a little celebrating, Sibyl. Thing is, I think you’re overdoing it. You’re out partying and drinking almost every day of the week. Don’t you think enough’s enough?”

“Come on, Dad.” Sitting on one of the chairs beside him, I gave the butler a little smile as he quickly placed a plate similar to my father’s in front of me. “I think that’s my cue. Don’t you think last night was enough? Or are you going to lose it again?”

“Last night?” He asked me, furrowing his brow. “What are you talking about, Sibyl?”

“You shouted at me.” I raised an eyebrow. “Blew your stack.”

“I did what?” He shook his head. “I know we’ve talked about this before, but I never lose my temper with you.”

“Apparently last night was the first time, then .” If I sounded annoyed, that’s because I was. Sure, I got home completely drunk, but it seemed like my father had had a few drinks himself. How could he not remember the way he had shouted at me? “Were you drunk last night or something? That would be ironic.”

“I didn’t have anything to drink,” he insisted. “Seriously, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Whatever.” Rolling my eyes, I finished off the food on my plate and pushed my chair back. I was about to march out of the house when I suddenly felt guilty about the way I was acting.

He tried. I knew he did. Sometimes, between running the city and trying to pretend nothing had changed since mom died, he must just get exhausted. Maybe he cracked a little. That didn’t make him a bad guy.

I turned on my heels and walked toward my father. Leaning into him, I kissed his cheek. “I love you, Dad.”

“And I love you, Sibyl,” he replied, sounding more tired than I ever remembered him to be. He looked up at me, managed a weak smile, and then returned his attention to his breakfast. Not knowing what else to do, I headed out of the house and hopped inside the car.

“Take me to Hops,” I told the AI, and soon enough the Mayor’s mansion was nothing but a small dot in the scenery.

A few miles ahead of the car, the tall buildings that occupied most of Kaster’s city centre rose like snow capped mountains. It would have been a beautiful New Year’s day, but it was hard to feel excited about…well, about anything.

I thought of my father, alone in a house big enough for God knows how many families, and I thought of my mother. Life had been so much easier when the three of us were a family. After she passed away, it had been like a permanent fog had settled over my life.

It was hard to get up much energy for anything, much less getting myself out of the rut I’d fallen into.

We’ve arrived at the destination,” the AI droned half an hour later as it settled into a vacant spot on the skyport. The door slid open effortlessly, and I stepped outside, the warmth of the mall immediately making me regret my decision to bring a sweater.

The girls were already there, standing in front of Hop’s, the coffee shop where we usually gathered to gossip and cure our hangovers.

“How are you doing? Brain still foggy?” Aman laughed, and I just gave her a shrug. She had bags under her eyes, and her make up was all wrong. Her hair was slightly dishevelled as well, and she sounded as if she was exhausted.

“At least I got some sleep,” I laughed with her. “You haven’t even gone to bed, have you?”

“Is it that obvious?” She grimaced, and the other three girls just rolled their eyes. Even though they weren’t what I’d call close friends, this small group had been a constant in my life ever since my mother’s passing. Whenever there was a party, they were always there, and they made sure to drag me along for the ride.

Once upon a time, the noise and the never-ending party had been my lifeline. Now, I wasn’t so sure.

Together, we stepped inside the two-story coffee house and settled down on a large table by the corner, one that gave us a panoramic view of the city below. We used the touchscreen on the table to make our order, and soon enough a waiter appeared with five coffees on a tray, our names scribbled on the cups.

“Have I told you that Sibyl ditched an entire group of guys last night?” Aman said in a conspiratorial tone, and the other girls just raised their eyebrows at me. “I’m dead serious. They were buying her shots, crazy with the way she was dancing, and she just blew them off. They were cute too.”

“Oh my God,” Lisandre said, her accent making it obvious to within earshot that she had been born and bred in Nyheim. “What’s up with you, Sibyl? You’re such a tease. You gotta move past the flirting.”

“The fun is in the flirting,” I said with a laugh. I had always been a nice quiet girl and, even though I had grown accustomed to all the partying, I wasn’t as crazy about men as the four of them were.

Sure, I enjoyed all the dancing and flirting, but that was it.

None of the men I came across in the nightclubs or bars seemed to hold my interest for more than a couple of minutes. I wasn’t exactly a prude, but I had my limits.

Maybe I was just picky.

Thankfully, the conversation drifted away from me after a few more laughs. Aman was recounting how she had met a guy in the last club she had gone to, and she had spent the night at his place. After a wild night of drinking and dancing between the sheets, she had rolled out of bed just so she could meet us for coffee.

As the girls talked and laughed, I stared out the window and watched the snowflakes slowly drift past me. I thought back to my conversation with my father and sighed.

I knew I couldn’t go on like this forever, partying every single night and trying to ignore the fact that I was now an adult, but I didn’t really know how to change things.

The drinking, the dancing, and the partying…those things kept me distracted from all the things I didn’t want to face.

I had lost my mother, my relationship with my father had seen better days, and I had absolutely no sense of purpose. It was hard to feel motivated about anything with all those things weighing me down.

I wanted to be a better woman, no doubt about it.

I just didn’t know how to go about it.

“Oh my God,” Lisandre snorted, discreetly pointing to somewhere behind me. “Can you believe that?”

I turned on my chair to see a small girl of five pestering a tall Valorni. He was hunched over a table in the corner, quietly drinking from a tall cup of coffee, and the young girl seemed fascinated by the alien’s size.

She was peppering him with a thousand questions and, even though he was enormous in size, he was patiently answering her, a wide smile on his lips. The kid’s parents watched a table to the side, amused with the situation.

“What about it?” I asked Lisandre, and she just cocked one eyebrow up.

“Are you serious right now? Like, her parents are completely irresponsible, don’t you think? They’re letting a kid talk to one of those monsters. Like, if I had a kid, I would never let her alone with one of them, that much I can tell you.”

The other girls nodded their agreement, and I just looked at them not knowing what to say.

“Please, don’t tell me you’re into that anti-alien stuff as well,” I finally breathed out. “Don’t you have anything more important to think about?”

“This is important,” Lisandre insisted. “My father tells me these things are taking our jobs, and God knows what else they might be planning to do. I mean, they handle a lot of security in the city. Doesn’t it make you feel like you’re a prisoner?”

“That’s so stupid,” I snapped. “Do you really think these guys want to hurt us? Just take a look at them. If they wanted to, they could’ve taken over all our cities already. And have you forgotten they were the ones stopping Kaster from turning into a pile of rubble during the war?”

I shook my head then, more to myself than to them, and found myself going up to my feet. “You know what? I think I’m going home.”

They called my name as I walked out of the coffee shop, but I just ignored them. My headache was slowly returning, and I was in no mood to discuss the sociological implications of having aliens in our cities. If I wanted to be bored out of my mind, I could’ve stayed home with my father.

Besides, why the hell were people so obsessed with the damn aliens?

Sure, they looked scary as hell, but all they seemed to want was a regular life.

That was a curious thought: these aliens wanted the exact same thing I did.

Maybe I had more in common with them than with my group of my friends.

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