Today I am so pleased to welcome May Peterson to Joyfully Jay. May has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Calyx Charm. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Rosalina, standing beside me in front of her mirror, wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “You look sleek. Like a goddess of the stars.”
My laugh was soft, but a little nervous. “I look very flat chested. I can never decide how I feel about that. Sometimes I want it, sometimes I don’t.”
Rosalina’s nod was wise, nonjudgmental. “How very us. What do you think causes the contradiction?”
I thought about it, fiddled with the locket in my hand. “I want people to look at me and see a girl. But I want that girl to be me, as I am. Not their standing mental image of a girl. And the girl I am has a flat chest.”
I wished for my body to stop being a thing that was wrong. That had to be changed or hidden or justified or excused.
But she kept her calm intensity softly focused on me. “Then for now, stay as you are. We aren’t pale copies of dualistic girls. We don’t have to look like or sound like them. You aren’t a failed version of the son he wanted you to be. There isn’t a soul on this earth, or in all the Deep, that we owe an apology for our existence.”
She pulled me close, my head on her shoulder. Standing side by side, gazing in the mirror, we could have been pieces of a shared future.
Mollyqueens so seldom had futures to claim. We had todays. We had the little time we could claim for ourselves.
My locket hung around my throat, like an homage to what I had once been. I gripped it in my hand as I walked. Toward Father’s villa.
The villa emerged on the horizon like a palace built from city shadows. The district housing the Fragrant Rose was not far from the bay, though the sort to people these events would pay good money to never be seen in a molly’s bar or a card club packed with smoking tomkings. I walked through streets spotted with people like sunlit clouds—a singing mollygirl in a jade gown, waggling her elegant fingers and calling out to me as I passed; a circle of youngish tommyboys wearing overcoats and playing dice, one of which lifted his cigarette in salute; a gaggle of handsome sailors reclining with bottles of liquor, hailing me with pet names. I blew one man a kiss, feeling outrageous and embarrassing and ugly, but allowed to be. It made it all right.
The villa overlooked the bay, dainty and sweet enough to have once been the home of a peasant family fat off the spoils of revolution. Maybe it had been. Father no doubt enjoyed it precisely for that reason, a vessel to climb into from his heights in the palatial former homes of immortal kings. Like all parts of Father’s life, this was an acquisition. Like the loyalty of his honor guard, the grudging fear of the street witches, the silence of dignitaries he’d bled dry of good faith. Like Mother. Like me, and all the circuitous futures he controlled through my glassy cracks.
My thoughts fumed hatred and poison into the sky, polluting the tang of the breeze with bad omens. Any witch with the vaguest touch of telepathy must have scurried away to avoid me.
I stepped past the gate with other guests, hiding my face so I wasn’t noticed. A person who stood out, who had a name to these people, may have garnered attention. But I could be the escort of a rich gentleman with no identity of my own for them to care about. It was its own kind of invisibility.
I was ushered in, and began retracing my internal map of the villa.
It came back to me like a burn scar. Places I’d listened to life whistle past me, taking my breath with it, watched the elite of the thickening postrevolutionary world drink up that life like a twist of lemon. Father had unspooled my life from me, used it to decorate his homes and offices and entertaining places, the soles of his shoes and veneer of his gloves. In my bruised guts he’d found a substance so magical he wanted it on everything he owned, to smell like the futures I was brewing for him. While I died by drops in the scarecrow image of his son, red stained and forbidden and secret.
An urge to vomit climbed up in me. I should leave. Why had I thought I could do this?
No. I had to do this now, or I’d never do it. And if I stopped doing things, stopped moving in my own life, my fear would take over and germinate into a suicide. For Rosalina, for Mother—maybe even for me—I would keep moving.
A servant drifted by with a tray of glasses. He bowed fractionally. “May I help you find your gentleman friend, signorina?”
I snatched a glass of rosé and eyed him. The question was easy to decode: Can I redirect you to your patron? Because there was no other way a mollyqueen would be attending a party like this.
I swallowed deep and gathered what courage I could. “Yes. My gentleman friend this evening is God himself. I dare say you may have some trouble finding him, though, as he’s known to be elusive.”
His brow wrinkled. “I—”
“Haven’t seen him. Isn’t that always the way?” I laughed gaily and snatched another full glass. “Off I go again, it seems. My endless search for the divine.”
The servant gawked as I swirled away, no doubt feeling he’d been trying to be kind and amazed at my flagrance. This was only recently something I was used to being—someone who could take up space, talk like a living person instead of a washed-out ghost. It must have been hard to connect the two people I appeared to be. The depressed, effeminate son of his lordship, hiding behind his mother and not meeting one’s eyes. Then, this elusive, flat-chested, deep-voiced girl, laughing like the world was ending.
It probably was.
Second chances take many forms…
Violetta Benedetti knows how to hide things. She spent years concealing herself behind the persona her father expected of her. Now she hides in the dark corners of Vermagna’s underworld, lying low to keep her father from using her magic in his unending quest for power.
But her biggest secret is her love for her best friend, who only knew her as Mercurio Benedetti, not the woman she is today. Now he’s dead, and she’ll never be able to tell him the truth.
Tibario Gianbellicci was dead. And then…he wasn’t. Reborn as an immortal, he has powers he never imagined. Powers his crime boss mother wants to tap into to destroy their longtime rivals: House Benedetti.
But Tibario is hiding something, too: his best friend is a Benedetti—and the love of his life. With a second chance at life, he’ll have to risk revealing his heart.
The Sacred Dark
Book 1: Lord of the Last Heartbeat
Book 2: The Immortal City
Book 3: The Calyx Charm
Buy Link: Amazon
May Peterson is rumored to be some kind of magical creature, but exactly which kind is still debated by scholars. While they sort that out, May busies herself as a romance and fantasy author and freelance editor. May has always had a deep fondness for books, animation, and comics. She’s drawn toward both writing and reading stories that are magical, hopeful, and distinctive, as well as those that explore identity, queerness, and emotional connection. She believes that bringing a daydream to life with its own tale to tell is always a small miracle.