Surprise! Early update.
3 Ghost Lips
She's killed it. Her 'paranormal pine' rests at her feet, lights burned out. Her socks are wet from the carpet. Her apartment smells like her apartment. The radio is off. She is decidedly not being groped. Maybe she gave the spirit a concussion. Can they get concussions? Feeling increasingly guilty and stupid as the seconds wear on, she says to the tree, "Hello?"
It's just a tree. It's just a tree with a perverted ghost attached to it that a whole cult of people online adore and go to great lengths to acquire, and she's just an innocent bystander and possible murderer.
"You shouldn't have scared me," she says. "You shouldn't have ripped my shower curtain and peeked while I was in the shower!" Maka berates the tree as she struggles with the branches and haphazardly uprights the pine. The stand it rests in pops and cracks with the abuse. "The internet said you spirit things are really affectionate or whatever, that it's in your nature, but I don't care if- wah! If, if you're Mother Nature! You don't just go around grabbing people's boobs unless they say!"
The tree is determined to lean and fall back on the floor. She needs to find a way to prop it up somehow. She cringes when the stand cracks even further as she lets the tree rest on the wall. A thin layer of shed pine needles covers the immediate area. "I haven't forgotten what you did to Blair, either," she states, though her heart isn't in it. Maka hurries to the kitchen for a broom and uses this to help prop the tree into a standing position.
When she's hunkered under the sagging boughs with a roll of duct tape, she feels the need to defend her actions. "I'm only doing this," she grunts, pulling the roll around the stand and trying to tape the cracks shut, "-because you helped find Patti's present. A-and for letting me in. And because I found out that you can die and, well-" Maka rips off the end of the tape with her teeth, "It would really suck to be a Christmas tree that dies on Christmas. Or the day before, whatever."
It's not the best fix-up job, but it'll have to do. She returns to the kitchen and finds her pitcher that she has become familiar with, lately. Filled with water, she climbs back underneath the tree and pours it, watching for leaks. The stand still seems functional, for the most part. She straightens and replaces the soggy, argyle tree skirt.
Sitting on the floor, she notes the tree is not as perky or fluffy as it had been before. A lone postcard clings lopsidedly in the branches, and ropes of white garland droop with tangles. Her plastic broom handle bends from the pressure of propping up a slouching pine.
"It was a mistake," she says, quietly. "Tsubaki bought me a tree because I'm the Grinch, and I've been a Grinch since Mama moved away, but she's my friend and wanted to cheer me up and was just being nice, like she always is. But you weren't supposed to come here. I wasn't supposed to have a tree, much less a haunted one! I was planning on just waiting it out and getting on with life, not have a ghost keep me up all night and- and- ...turn on my radio when I felt lonely.
"Because I don't need it. I don't need any company, because I already have enough. I mean, I know Mama will probably not come back, but Papa's been waiting for me this whole time. I have him. And I have Tsubaki and Black Star and Patti, and I made some new friends tonight, so I don't need a tree spirit, okay?
"There's a ton of people waiting for- for- guys like you, so tomorrow- or I guess today- I'll call that number again and see if maybe we can put you somewhere... Give you to someone who needs company more than I do on Christmas."
Maka stands, her feet and knees cold and clammy from the water her clothes have absorbed from the wet floor. Surely a tree can't die after an hour with no water. She's not sure. The lack of any kind of response from the Soul Eater leaves her even more unsure. She doesn't know what else she can do, other than get ready for bed.
"Thanks for the cider."
She wonders if she really wants a peaceful night of sleep or not.
"You fight dirty."
Maka sighs into her pillow, fingers twitching.
"You realize books are made of paper, right? Hitting me with that thing is just all sorts of wrong."
Amusement laces the deep voice tickling behind her ears and she lets out a hum of complaint.
"Sorry. About the boob thing. Guess I got kinda carried away."
She rolls over, eyebrows furrowing with irritation. "Yeah y'did," she agrees. A whispery chuckle sighs across her face. Light fingers brush her bangs away from her closed eyes. "Sorry I bashed yer'face."
"Don't worry about it. I don't even have a face."
This only makes her confused, because how could they have kissed if he doesn't have a face? The more she tries to make sense of it, the quieter his voice becomes, so she stops trying. She wants to keep listening.
"Speaking of, even if you decide to... get rid of me, I'm still glad for you, Grinchy. You figured what to do for Christmas."
"Next time you see Star, call him 'Nuts for Brains'. He'll laugh."
She laughs a little herself, but it dissolves into silence. She feels somewhat depressed.
"Hey, uh. Seeing as I'll be leaving soon, could I have a kiss? You know, for goodbye."
Well. One kiss wouldn't hurt, she supposes. At least he's asking this time. She mumbles out, "'Kay," as her eyes hazily slide open, bright light seeping through her lashes. Warm lips peck at her own a moment before pausing and slowly slanting fully over her mouth. Heated fingers trace her cheekbone and jawline, setting her blood ablaze.
He pulls away, his breath puffing against her. "Whoo. Okay. I should, hah, probably go..."
Maka moans into the next kiss this time, and she regrets it, because she feels the pull of wakefulness grasping her and dragging her away at the sound of her own voice. An arm collects her and pulls her closer, her body melding against a ghost for a few thunderous heart beats before letting her down again. She shivers at the chill left behind.
"Ah. I wish I knew y-"
BANG BANG BANG!
She flies upright, gasping for breath. Squinting painfully at the sunlight streaming through her window, she shields her eyes with a hand while the other rests over her galloping heart. What time is it?
That's when it collides into her- the smell of warm cider. The hand on her chest flies to her mouth, which tingles with a residual sensation. She can almost remember her dream. Is the tree still alive?
"Soul Eater?" she calls aloud quietly. "...Soul?"
BANG BANG BANG!
Maka jerks with surprise, then hurries out of bed. Guess that's what woke her up, she muses. The smell of cinnamon permeates her entire apartment, and she feels both relieved and excited. A glance at the microwave as she passes her kitchen tells her it's nearly noon. She's slept in after getting to bed so late.
She's not sure who she's expecting on the other side of the door, but she finds herself somewhat disappointed with the monotone uniform of the postal service. A ...woman? Man? A very androgynous person with hair color similar to cotton candy wheezes at Maka's door, leaning against a large box. The mail carrier smells almost as sweet, giving Maka the impression of freshly baked sugar cookies.
"I wasn't sure if I was gonna make it up all those stairs," the person says, gasping for breath and handing a digital clipboard type device to her for signing.
"Ah- Sorry for making you carry it so far!" Maka exclaims. "Thank you very much."
The mail carrier blushes, taking the clipboard back after she gives her signature. "Y-you're welcome."
It falls out of her mouth before she even realizes it. "Merry Christmas," she says.
Maka watches a small smile grow on the other person's face. "You too," the carrier says, before giving a shy wave and heading back down the stairs. "I really like your tree!" the person calls while still in earshot.
Well, that was kind of nice. If they only knew her tree had a grab-happy spirit living in it.
She has no inkling as to what she's just signed for. Dragging the large box into her living room, she reminded of the story of that one person from the forum (Yuca-something, was it?), trying to drag a large tree into their room on Christmas Eve.
She catches her breath, standing next to her tree. It seems to look a little more lively, and, once more, relief blooms through her chest. She seems to have either forgiven it during her sleep, or has fully embraced the supernatural into her life. Maybe both.
Anyway, had someone sent her a present? She wonders who would send her anything, and why something so large. Picking at the packing tape and pulling it away from the cardboard box, Maka digs through an obscene amount of packing peanuts to reveal googly eyes and tufted ears.
Oh! It's Patti's giraffe. She'd forgotten already. The younger girl will be pleased. "Nice choice, Soul Eater," she says aloud, lightly swatting one of the branches. To her delight, the red lights flicker to life, and she smiles.
Her grin doesn't last long, quickly turning into a frown. Why is she getting so chummy with this tree? Maka's eyes fall upon the still-tilted Christmas card her mother had sent her years ago. That stupid shark grins at her sideways with a cheer that has abruptly left her. This is no time to suddenly be friendly with this... whatever it is! She already has plans to call that number from the forum, and find a new home for her tree spirit. If anything, she should be distancing herself from it, in case it 'bonds' with her like that person talked about!
Maka squints her eyes, trying to picture her living room without the green pine towering in it. It feels very empty, and she looks away. She sighs at the stuffed giraffe staring at her from a sea of styrofoam. She's tempted to focus on wrapping Patti's gift and procrastinate calling that number for just a little bit longer.
Her phone rings from across the apartment. Is she just really popular today? Gut sinking, she wonders if it's that tree place calling back after hearing her message. She's very aware of the pine behind her as she leaves to her bedroom to find her phone.
To her surprise, it's her father.
"H-hello?" He sounds surprised. "I, er, I hope this isn't a bad time."
It's noon on a Saturday and Maka looks down to find herself still wearing pajamas. Crap. She'd answered the front door in this! "No... this is fine," she replies with chagrin that her father misinterprets.
"I don't want to interrupt anything-"
"It's fine, really," she tries to reassure him. It dawns on her why this conversation feels strange- the only times she speaks to Spirit on the phone is when she calls him first. She normally lets the phone ring until her voicemail takes over. Maka shoddily attempts a cheerful demeanor. "Uhh, did you need something?"
"Well, I was wondering if you decided about tomorrow."
Maka blinks, head blank. "Tomorrow?" She hears something that sounds like keys landing on a table, and she instantly pictures her father coming home from work, sitting in his recliner- fueled by repeated memories from her childhood. He makes a small sigh of relief as he relaxes.
"Mph. Christmas, honey," he replies, not sounding surprised any longer.
"OH! Oh. Right." She feels stupid. "Sorry Dad, I've just been... preoccupied." What with the ghost trees and all. And after last night's Christmas party, it already feels like the holiday is over.
Spirit sounds only a fraction disappointed. "I understand, sweetheart. Maybe some other time then."
"Wait, what? No! I mean- no that's not what I meant, Papa-"
"I, um. I'm coming tomorrow."
She feels illogically flustered at the hopefulness in his voice. "Really?"
"W-Well I'm sure Blair wants her presents and, uh, ...yeah."
"Of course," Spirit readily agrees, but she hears his smile and it's practically radioactive through the phone line. Maka ends up screwing her lips together in a pouty fish-face to keep herself from smiling with him. She flops on her bed backwards, legs bouncing.
"So what time should I be there," she asks sourly, even though her father isn't fooled.
"Whenever you feel like it. Ah, erm... and feel free to, uh, invite your friends, if they're interested."
This is new. "What happened to no punk-asses, Papa?"
"I know, I know. Well. Christmas Spiritand all that. Pun intended."
She scoffs. "Noon sounds good."
"Noon it is. I'll even make som- BEEP BEEP."
"Ahg!" Maka winces, pulling the phone away from her ear. She speaks a little louder to cover the distance. "Hang on a sec, someone's calling."
Peering at the screen, her lungs stop. The number has no name, but she recognizes the digits as the ones she had called last night. She frowns at herself and her stupid dread-filled nerves.
"Do you need to hang up? It's alright if-"
"No-" she blurts out, shoving the phone back to her face and wondering why her thumb has already pressed the 'ignore call' button, forcing the caller to voicemail like she normally does for her father. "Don't worry about it. I'll... I'll call them back later."
Will she? She's not sure if she isn't lying.
"Is there anything I should bring? A pie?"
"Whatever makes you happy, darling."
"Oh, Stein says 'hi', by the way."
They actually hang up after having an almost normal conversation. Afterwards, Maka further distracts herself with eating some breakfast (or perhaps lunch) and uses about half of a roll of wrapping paper to painstakingly mummify Patti's giraffe.
No weird things occur during this time, and she wonders if the tree spirit is keeping his distance after hearing her long spiel last night. She supposes if she had heard the person taking care of her say that they were going to get rid of her the next day, she wouldn't say or do much with them either. Maka returns to her room, feeling it would be callous and strange to check her voicemail in front of her Christmas tree. After all, she'd have to call that number back and discuss how to get rid of him. IT. Get rid of it.
She needs to distance herself, too.
The automated system for her voicemail asks for her password, and she plugs this in to it while shutting her bedroom door behind her.
"You have: one!new message. First new message:
"I thought that was your voice."
...Whose voice is this? The woman sounds familiar, but Maka can't place it immediately.
"I told you it was Spirit's girl!"
Maka hears a deep masculine voice in the background, but can't make out his words.
"Anyway, I thought you had our personal number though. It's only one digit off from this one. No need to be so formal about it. Has Soul been a troublemaker? I told him to behave but he's always been a bit of a rebel, you know, just like his brother. Anyway, if you need any help before tonight, don't hesitate to call us back, or even have Black Star get a hold of us for you. Merry Christmas!"
None of the words make sense. They make even less sense when the woman's face pops into her head. Maka's eyes widen and her heart lurches to the moon.
Marsh: I know these last few updates have been pretty short. However, we are nearing the end, and the last chapter will help balance the quantity, if not quality. ...If I can finish writing it, anyway. Wish me luck. Hope you are still enjoying! All reviews are appreciated.