Mimosa Black cover

Mimosa Black - Eternal Press - December 2011

When nature rules your head, can you follow your heart?

Chapter one

Mimosa’s heavily clad feet hammered into the soft bull dust, leaving clouds of fine grey in her wake. Her mind and sight were locked on a single moving target. She didn’t notice the dramaticscenery as it flashed by; the snake- and spider-infested shrubbery, the old munitions bunkers, the fragile limestone cliffs, the surging blue ocean beyond.
The target, a spritely banshee, hurtled over the increasingly fine limestone ridges. She threw amused glances back at Mimosa as she panted heavily, a mere arm’s breadth away.
“Don’t jump!” a voice cried.
Don’t jump? Mimosa wondered through a haze of adrenaline.
Instantly, the dusty ground was no longer beneath Mimosa’s feet. Air rushed past her. She was falling. Panicking, she flared her black wings, and they caught the air for a brief second. A joyous
bubble of excitement popped into her mind.
They work!
She gave a tentative flap that was her undoing. Unable to take her weight, her muscles screamed, and she flared her feathers.
Oh no!
Mimosa glanced around wildly. The dismayed faces of her team members stared in horror as gravity took control, pulling her from sight and thrusting her onto the craggy rocks below.
The banshee cackled as she sprinted away.
* * * *
Useless bloody wings, was Mimosa’s first thought as she struggled up from the cloying blackness. She inhaled and gasped, pain ricocheting through her chest as the powerful tang of disinfectant
registered in her mind.
“Mimosa? Ms. Black? Can you hear me?” a soft, sibilant voice said to her left.
“Mmm,” Mimosa grunted, her eyes still squeezed shut.
Mimosa Black, a Harpy, was a member of the West Australian Magical Pursuit Team and had been hired by the Department of Magical Beings to hunt down rogue magical beings and bring them to correctional facilities.
“You’re in an ambulance. We’re taking you up to Fremantle Hospital.”
Mimosa remembered the smirk on the banshee’s face, and a hot flush of embarrassment swept through her, adding to the pain in her ribs. Her heart pounded, and her wings twitched. She could
feel a wedge of foam between them, enabling her to lay flat on her back without damage. She tried to relax, but roiling pain-induced nausea swamped her.
“I’ve just got to ask a few questions,” the soft voice said, “before I can administer some pain medication.”
“Okay.” Mimosa groaned. She felt gentle hands on her wrist taking her pulse and heard the paramedic’s soft murmurs to her colleague.
“Can you confirm that you are Mimosa Black, and a Harpy?”
Quarter-Harpy, Mimosa thought. “Mmm,” was all she could reply.
“For the best medical attention the state can provide, do you consent to be treated in the Magical Being ward?”
Harpies are no more magical than ants. “Mmm,” she replied, knowing that at least in the MB ward doctors with specialist qualifications
would treat her.
“Is your current address 24 Harbinger Court, Port Kennedy?”
Mimosa choked on her own spit as her heart contracted painfully. Bitter tears instantly threatened to creep from under her eyelids. She weakly shook her head. She no longer lived there. The
Harbinger Court address was now on the market and temporarily occupied by her estranged husband and his new girlfriend.
“No?” the paramedic asked, her tone curious. “Your colleague said...”
Mimosa shook her head a little more forcefully, and the paramedic dropped the question.
“Records list your next of kin as your husband, Dar-”
“No,” Mimosa wheezed, squeezing her eyes tight shut. “My mother,” she said, battling to control the maelstrom of pain surging through her body.
The paramedic paused and tapped something into a small computer, and Mimosa could feel a fearsome red blush begin to roar up her throat. With the exception of her mother and sister,
nobody knew about her separation, and she wanted to keep it that way.
Mimosa was a member of the Floccus Inviolatus, the largest Harpy flock in the southern hemisphere. All Harpies were female, so breeding with human males was essential. Her marriage
to Darius should have been for the greater good of the flock. However, it had, like most things in her life, ended in failure. No children had been sired, and all she gained from it was a battered
sense of self-esteem and a nasty chip on her shoulder. From a young age, she had known she was a disappointment, both to her mother and their flock. She was born with mostly humanoid
features―the body of an ordinary human, with the addition of long, glossy black wings. A True Harpy, much coveted by the flocks of the world, was a different creature all together. A True Harpy had the head and torso of a woman, but that’s where similarities ended. Instead of arms they had only wings and large, dexterous parrot-like feet. The lower body of a True Harpy was completely avian, with feathered skin tapering into feathered legs, complete with a small tail. Mimosa, with her humanoid form, was a further insult to the flock because her own wings were mostly useless–a fact she sometimes forgot, but the flock never did.
“How about that pain relief now?” the paramedic asked, her voice sympathetic.
Mimosa was torn from her musings. “Mmm.” Pain relief sounded like a wonderful idea. Drearily, she knew that when her mother discovered she had fallen from a cliff whilst pursing a rogue banshee she was in for a tongue lashing. There would be no sympathetic ‘tsks’ or kind words enquiring about her health. Such empathy was not condoned in Harpy culture. Mimosa would be reprimanded, criticized and dismissed from ‘better company’–again. Allowing her head to sink further into the stiff pillow, she listened to the paramedic tear open the packet of the needle. She heard the ‘pop’ as it punctured the phial and could even hear the liquid surge up as the medicine was sucked into the syringe.Dumbly, she waited. The gentle hands held her arm, and Mimosa felt the cool alcohol wipes cleanse the crease on the inside of her elbow. Finally, she felt the sharp, stinging prick as the needle broke her skin. She took a deep breath and relished the forced rush of chemical into her vein. The needle was withdrawn. The paramedic was speaking again, and the ambulance bumped over a dip in the road, but Mimosa was now beyond caring. For the first time she opened her eyes and threw a glazed glance around the ambulance. The two paramedics, one man and one woman, were speaking into their telephones. The female paramedic was a small woman with slightly thinning hair. Mimosa felt absurdly pleased by the woman’s fault. She closed her eyes again as her eyelids felt as if they were attached to six-ounce weights. Exhausted now, but pain free, she could hear words such as “significant bruising,” and “broken ribs” through the roar of blood in her head. Finally, the soft, enveloping blackness took her, and within a moment she was sleeping.
* * * *
When Mimosa awoke, she was being unceremoniously bundled onto an x-ray table. The wedge of foam was again placed underneath her back so that her wings flowed over the edges of the table and the machine could get a clear picture of her chest. She clamped her eyes closed waiting for the rush of pain. It didn’t come, and only a mildly uncomfortable fog sat heavily on her chest. She relaxed.
“You’re going to have to cut off that shirt,” a vaguely familiar voice said. It was deep, smooth and nice. Mimosa could feel someone running a hand over the hem of her black shirt. “It’s standard
issue and contains woven metal fibres to deflect some spells,” the same voice said.
She could feel someone tug at the fabric of her national standard Magical Pursuit Team shirt.
“Seems a shame to cut it, Doctor,” a female voice said from somewhere near Mimosa’s shoulder.
“You’re not going to be able to get it off without causing her undue pain,” the doctor’s familiar voice came again, although he sounded a little hesitant.
Why was that voice so familiar? Mimosa wondered vaguely.
Through her hazy mind she could hear scissors slicing through the strong fabric of her shirt. Soon she could feel the cool kiss of the air conditioner on her stomach.
“Doctor,” the nurse’s voice came again, “we’ll have to remove the bra. It’s under-wire.”
“Err. Yes,” he replied, again sounding unusually hesitant.
Suddenly, several facts jumped through the drugged synaptic gaps in Mimosa’s brain.
She was hurt.
She was in hospital–Fremantle Hospital.
Bo worked in Fremantle Hospital.
Bo was a doctor, and the doctor talking sounded like him.
They were taking off her clothes
Bo was seeing her partially naked!
Recognition caused an eruption of terror to explode in her brain. Instinctively, she lurched upward to stop them undressing her. Unfortunately, just as the nurse snipped through the front of
her bra, Mimosa’s sudden action brought her painfully into a halfseated position, causing the scissors to embed themselves into her sternum. She screeched in shock.
“Mim!” Bo exclaimed.
“Doctor!” the nurse cried, yanking the scissors away from Mimosa’s sternum.
“Lie down immediately!” Bo ordered Mimosa sharply, and with the aid of the radiographic nurse she reclined again on the x-ray bed. The other nurse was looking at the scissors with a shocked
expression. Bo was looking angry, and Mimosa was very nearly ready to faint.
“Doctor Elliot,” the nurse said, “I’ll have to go and get some bandages to stop the bleeding.”
“Yes. Quickly,” Bo replied then turned on her. “Mimosa Black, what the hell do you think you’re playing at?” he asked angrily.
She turned her head to watch him and noticed his shoulder-length brown wavy hair was tied neatly at the back of his neck, around
which a stethoscope hung limply.
She said nothing.
Mimosa and Bo Elliot had been friends since their teens. Both from difficult families, they had always relied upon one another, but never once had there been a flicker of romance between them.
She had always presumed this was because he wasn’t attracted to her–probably because she was part-Harpy. She had always, however, been attracted to Bo. After all, he was incredibly good
Doctor Bo Elliot’s favorite pastime was surfing, so his dark hair was lightened somewhat by the sun and sea. His eyes were a peculiar shade of blue, almost the same color as sandy blue ocean
surf. He was tall, built like Adonis and unutterably charming. The fact that he’d never looked at her twice was yet another heavy bag of disappointment that Mimosa carried around with her.
Bo looked down at her, and his cheeks reddened slightly. “I’llhave to look at that cut,” he said with a cough.
Mimosa felt herself redden as he leaned down towards her. With extreme gentleness and care he pushed the ruined bra away and peered between her breasts at her bloodied sternum.
“It might need a stitch,” he murmured quietly.
She closed her eyes, pretending her best friend wasn’t seeing her topless. Not that she had anything to be ashamed of. Forsomeone who was part-Harpy, she was reasonably endowed with
a safe and still perky C-cup that suited her frame. The radiographic nurse coughed and dragged Bo’s attention thankfully away from Mimosa’s chest.
“Doctor, we have other patients waiting for x-rays.”
“I am aware of that, Petra,” he replied with disinterest and gazed down at Mimosa again, a searching look in his eyes.
“Hey,” Mimosa said, her mouth a little dry.
“Hey,” he replied softly before he furrowed his brows thunderously.
“Mim, what the hell have you been up to?” He reached for a sterile wipe the nurse had returned with. He knocked her left breast with his hand, and Mim gasped, though not from pain.
“Sorry,” he muttered, appearing to forget his previous question. He turned to the radiographic nurse. “I’ll just clean Mimosa up for now, then we can take the x-rays and have her stitched up back
in the ward.” With a few more gentle but hurried strokes of the antiseptic wipes, Bo turned his back on the nurses and Mimosa. “I’ll see her back at the ward in fifteen minutes, thanks.”
Mimosa closed her eyes, feeling the heat rush through her bruised body.
The x-rays took very little time at all. Afterwards they draped a sheet over her exposed body and lifted her, with foam pillows still in place, onto the stretcher so she could continue to lie on her back
without damaging her wings. She felt tired as she was wheeled into her private suite―all Magical Pursuit employees were given free private health cover. She also felt deeply embarrassed, knowing she’d fallen because her Harpy instinct to pursue had over-ridden the knowledge that her humanoid body couldn’t fly. How embarrassing, she thought with a sigh, yet what she found more mortifying was the fact Bo was the doctor looking after her. The last thing she needed was her friend pawing over her in a doctor-ish fashion and asking questions.
“Mim.” Her musings were interrupted by Bo’s slightly curt tone.
She opened her eyes and looked at him blankly.
“What’s been going on? I’ve tried calling you.” A muscle twitched in his jaw. “You’re never home, you’re not answering your cell phone, and then I find you in hospital emergency with
cracked ribs. What have you been doing?”
She frowned. “I hardly see it’s any of your business.”
“Being your oldest friend, I’d say it is my business. Tell me,” he retorted just as irritably.
Mimosa felt herself blush again and chewed her lower lip.
“Well...I haven’t been home because...” she paused painfully. If she said it out loud, it felt more permanent. “It’s Darius,” she continued awkwardly. “He…” she glanced wildly around the room unable
to hold Bo’s concerned expression. “He’s found someone else, so I’ve left him.”
Bo’s eyebrows nearly hit his hairline. “What? He’s found someone else? What do you mean?”
“For fuck’s sake! Do I have to spell it out?” Mimosa cried. “He’s been having an affair. He isn’t in love with me anymore, so I’ve left. I’ve been staying with Mum.”
“With your mother?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes,” she affirmed, embarrassed. “Mum.”
“You could have come to my place,” he said with a touch of hurt in his voice.
“I suppose I could have,” she whispered, “but, no. I just wanted to hide. No one would look for me at Mum’s.”
“That’s true enough.”
Her mother was very much the Harpy. Morrigan Black was spiteful, vindictive and critical, but not intentionally so. She personified the typical Harpy temperament. At fifty-six she was
practically ageless–her face was as flawless now as it had been at eighteen years of age. Much to Morrigan’s own disgust, she herself was not a True Harpy. Like Mimosa, she was mostly humanoid
in form, with long, glossy black wings. Unlike Mimosa, however, hers were fully functional, and she flew on them everywhere. Mimosa had always been unable to cope with her mother’s harsh temperament and had left home at seventeen. She lived in a government-funded shared home for magical beings until she met her soon-to-be ex-husband, Darius. She had been then, and still felt now, unable to deal with her mother’s disappointment. Returning home after so many years had been painful and humiliating. Mimosa’s mother hadn’t been exactly sympathetic about her daughter’s failed marriage either.
There was an awkward pause.
“I’m going to have to suture that little cut closed,” Bo finally said.
“That stupid nurse should have been more careful,” Mimosa spat angrily, and then gasped. She sounded just like her mother. “Sorry,” she whispered.
“It was an accident,” he said, his voice mild. “You know that.”
“I know,” she agreed, and a swathe of pain blossomed in her bosom.
“Umm...” he began awkwardly.
Mimosa bit back a weak, embarrassed laugh. “Isn’t there anyone else available to stitch it?”
“No. I’m the only doctor in the MB Ward this afternoon. Sorry,” he said, the tone of his voice making it distressingly apparent that he didn’t want to be near her naked breasts either.
“Well, just get it over with, and never mention this again.”
“Deal.” He smiled and, pulling over a wheelie table filled with needles, local anaesthetics and paraphernalia, worked blindly at stitching her cut.
Mimosa gritted her teeth against the pain in her ribs and the nauseating pull of the stitches. Bo, however, was quick and proficient and within five minutes she was bandaged and swathed
again in a blanket.
“Okay, well, I’ll call your mother and get her to pick you up,” he murmured as he took a final glance at the x-rays on the viewing glass. “There isn’t much we can do about the ribs. Fine cracks,
but you’re healing extremely quickly, so it doesn’t even warrant a bandage.”
“Oh.” She felt vaguely disappointed she had to go home. She didn’t want to explain anything to her mother.
“Mim?” Bo asked softly as he reached the door.
“You sure you don’t want to crash at my place? It’s big enough.”
All the Gods knew his house was big enough. He owned a rather trendy architecturally built home in White Gum Valley. It wasn’t enormous, but for a single man the four bedrooms and two
bathrooms were huge. She was tempted.
“No, not yet. Ask me again next week and I might have changed my mind. Besides, you don’t really want a Harpy living with you, do you?” she added, sounding bitter.
“You’re not just a Harpy,” he retorted, eyes twinkling. “You’re a friend, a friend who could do with somewhere to stay. Being with your mum and Ocypete isn’t going to be what you need.”
Mimosa closed her eyes. Just what is it that I need, Bo? she wanted to ask, because in her heart she knew exactly what she wanted, and it wasn’t Darius and his infidelities. It was Bo, but not
‘Bo-my-friend’. She wanted ‘Bo-my-something-else.’ Yet as far as he was concerned, he was her friend, and only a friend.
She sighed. The pain in her chest had receded, but the bone weariness was still there.
“No, I’ll stay with Mum for a while. I’ll get sorted out and see what happens. Okay?”
He shrugged with nonchalance. “Okay, but the offer is always there.”
It was at that point that his pager beeped furiously, and he took a swift glance at it.
“I’m going to have to run, I’ll have a nurse ring your mum, and she can come and pick you up. Just keep off your feet for a day or so and don’t do anything strenuous for a couple of weeks. I’ll write
you a note for work and drop it by later,” he said hurriedly before bolting through the door.
Mimosa stared blankly after him, feeling thoroughly miserable.