I was expecting more. Perhaps a sleek, slim shadow following my steps just out of sight as I move from dimly lit bar to empty store front. I turn into an alley, yearning for some of that magic that is supposed to ride up from the river on waves of pulsing desire.
Too many vampire stories. Too much Lestat.
Instead I find this shop filled with glossy eyes and porcelain skin. I've never seen anything like it. A small bell tinkles as I open the door and move sideways between a little girl with curling blond locks and a prim woman who barely reaches my shoulder watching me with a brightly painted moue.
Children surround me, brown hair, black hair, curling and straight. They wear bonnets and ruffled skirts with tiny velvet slippers. Their faces tight and watchful, I move with hesitant steps among them. I am halfway across the room, trying to look at all of them yet afraid to meet so many curious, angry, sad, hopeful, condemning eyes.
The hand on my shoulder throws me forward in surprise. Stumbling around, my legs tangled in bright peach skirts, I am confronted with this city and I wish I had never asked for more.
Large callouses crest his palms and thick, bulbous fingers press tightly against the stretched column of my throat. I can't breathe right. I'm not breathing right. His face isn't pretty, his shoulders too wide, his stomach bulging as though pressed tightly from the inside.
This isn't magic. This isn't what I asked for.
Things are blurring, disassembling. A straight, solid nose seems suspended by itself, then thin lips with peeling skin replace it. They descend and everything fades again. Odd what stands out in times like this. Odd what you think important.
The buttons on his coat are thick and ragged, they sting my fingers when I slap at him, trying to pretend I am able to fight back.
Do you know what this feels like? Can you imagine? Go ahead, try.
His breath is all I notice now. I think it must be solid, to wipe across my face like this. Cinnamon. That seems wrong, but his breath is strong and sweet. When his lips meet mine, I'm scrunching my eyes, pursing my own lips and trying to move my hands from beneath his. Trapped to his chest, tight against those horrible buttons...
The doll shop. The blank night outside. The musty scent of months old dust sparring with spicy breath. He doesn't bite my neck. He doesn't whisper soft words and take me into eternity, willing, limp. He forces my body to bend, to part, to tear.
I'm tuning out now. You think I'm weak, it's crossed my mind. I am weak. But I'm not going to feel this. This isn't magic. This isn't the city I wanted to see.