Astra smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She was much more comfortable like this. “Someone looks chipper today,” Cadence commented. It had been a few days since Astra had had her encounter with the modeling agency, and Thad. She was afraid that he might have contacted her, but she didn’t hear from the black haired male. She let out a sigh of relief, savoring the peace and quiet.
“Alistair bought me some baking supplies from the store he works at,” Astra explained. “I haven’t been able to bake since I left Moonlight Falls.”
“Are you baking us cookies? Ooo! Or cake?” Cadence’s face lit up. “Tell me it’s brownies!”
Astra let out a small laugh. “Is Ada coming over too?”
Cadence nodded, a smile dancing on her lips. “I used to have such a crush on her until she moved.”
“It’s resurfacing?” Astra inquired.
“Well, no one says resurfacing anymore,” Cadence replied. “But, I don’t think the feelings ever left. I don’t think she’s a lesbian though.”
“It doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?” Astra mused.
“You know I can’t do that! Astra!” Cadence hit her arm, and Astra giggled. “You know what? Why don’t you find out for me?”
Cadence moved to sit down. She peered at the reflection in her own mirror. “I mean it. Why don’t you ask her? Like, don’t come out and just say it. Be sneaky.”
“I can barely talk to people!” Astra cried. “You want me to just…no. I can’t.”
“Please?” Cadence begged. “I’d do it for you.”
“Yeah, but you’re so much more peppy than I am. Talking to people is hard for me.” Astra turned around to face Cadence who was applying some foundation to her face.
“All I want to know is if Ada is into girls. Well, into me more importantly. Stalk her facebook if you have to.” Cadence shrugged. “I’ve stopped pressing the model issue, haven’t I?”
“I don’t really ever want to talk about modeling again.” Astra made a face of disgust. “It’s not my playing field. But, baking is. I truly enjoy it, you’ll see how good I am when you taste it.”
“Alright I can see when you’re trying to change the subject. Your transitions are great. I’ll let it slide because you’re making me some food though. Think about it though, for me? I’ll love you forever!”
Astra felt as if no one could touch her when she was in the kitchen. She dreamed of being on stage with greats like Gordon Ramsey, Duff Goldman and Bobby Flay. She wanted to open her own bakery and bake cakes for the most exclusive events. But, Astra saw what it was like being in the limelight. And this was only Lucky Palms. Imagine somewhere like Starlight Shores? Or, her dream town, Monte Vista. She had read about it in a book back in Moonlight Falls. Everyone used to laugh at her for wanting to go to a made up place, but her dad assured her that it was real. In a way, she was thankful to Zodiac for allowing her to come to a human town. She could make her dreams a reality here more than she could in the presence of supernaturals. Not once had she been bullied here. No. She was told she was pretty and she could make some company a lot of money. (She still considered the latter a compliment.) She wasn’t naive though. She knew that this came with a huge cost to her family. What it was, she wasn’t sure. But, she knew that her dad was struggling with the guardians and he wouldn’t have turned to them if he had a chance against them. Apparently, there was someone way worse after her family. Some man named Mason. She’d have to keep her guard up as to not fall into any of the guardian’s traps. She still had her maagic if she needed to use it.
She heard the bell, which meant that Ada was here. Astra couldn’t help but smile at the thought of her cousin in love. It was nice. She wished her own sisters had come to her asking for help like Cadence had. Astra didn’t believe that she had any relevant skills to help Cadence with her romance troubles, but she would try, because Ada was really nice. Astra couldn’t sense a mean bone in that girl’s body. She wasn’t as adept as her vampire sisters in sensing people, but her body told her when danger was near, and Ada passed that test.
“I’m sorry that I’m late,” Ada apologized. “Some guy’s car broke down on the road. A couple of drivers and me pulled over to help the guy out.”
“That was nice of you,” Cadence grinned. She pointed to the plate of bread on the table. “Freshly baked by Astra. They’re delicious, want some?”
“She bakes?” Ada smiled. “I’d love to try it.” She took a huge bite of the bread. Through mouthfuls of baked dough, she called to the kitchen, “Astra, this is delicious!”
“Thanks!” Astra called back. “I’ve got some cookies on the way. Chocolate Chip with peanut butter.”
“I love your family,” Ada said. “If I get fresh food everytime I come here, I must visit more often.” She turned to Alistair who was scowling at her.
“Ignore him,” Cadence assured. “He was supposed to hang out with this girl tonight, Lucie. But she stood him up.”
“She didn’t stand me up,” Alistair grumbled. “She has to work an extra shift. Now, I’m stuck here with you guys.” He rubbed his temple. “I’m the only one with a job, you and Astra are chasing some impossible dreams. Which I’m all for but, focus on helping us so we don’t sink.”
“So you’re stressed then?” Ada asked. “That is a huge burden on Alistair, Cade. You and Astra should get a job to help him out. I can talk to my boss. I work at a clothing store. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop following your dreams, it’s just a small detour.”
“Fine,” Cadence mumbled. She was do it if she got to see Ada more often.
Alistair took the opportunity to stand up when he heard the doorbell ring. “We’re not expecting anyone else, are we?” Cadence asked. Alistair shook his head.
“I’ll see who it is.” He left the living room and headed for the door. “I got it!” He called as he passed the kitchen so Astra wouldn’t have a mini panic attack about answering the door.
Astra let out a sigh of relief, thankful for Alistair’s understanding. He didn’t look it, but he was much older than her. For whatever reason, probably because he was an imaginary friend and human hybrid (unlike Cadence who was full human) he didn’t age anymore. At least, not physically. She wondered if he ever would, and if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to stay in a human town. He’d have to move to Moonlight Falls.
“Can I help you?” Alistair asked, staring at the man. He had to be in his late twenties at least.
“Hi, does Astra live here? My name is Thad Givens.”
Alistair lowered his eyes at the male. “What do you want with my cousin?”Alistair demanded of the man. He was especially protective of Astra because he felt like he owed his uncle Alistair a lot for rescuing him and his family from Imaginationland.
“I’m a model down at Pumbob Pictures. I wanted to ask her if she reconsidered working with us. I’m willing to take her under my wing and show her everything I know about modeling. Your cousin is really pretty, I think she has a real bright future in the industry.”
“You’re just trying to save your ass.” Alistair crossed his arms over his chest. “She told me what your boss said. Unfortunately, I can’t let her model. She isn’t comfortable doing it, and I’m not going to force her to do something that she doesn’t want to so that you can keep your job. She didn’t do anything to you, so with all due respect, fuck off.”
“Woah there buddy.” Thad held his hands up in front of him. “No need for that kind of language. I’m just trying to have a conversation with you. One that I should be having with Astra. You can’t decide what she does with her life.”
“How old do you think she is?” Alistair asked. “You’ve got to be in your twenties at least, right? Nearing thirty?”
“28, but I fail to see how this has anything to do with what I’m here for?” Thad asked, growing impatient.
“Astra is 18 years old.” If looks could kill, Alistair would have just murdered Thad. “I pay the bills, which makes this my house. While she lives in my house rent free, she has to follow my rules. My rule is that she can’t hang out with men ten years older than her.”
“Wait? She’s only 18?” Thad frowned for a moment, but then came back just as fierce. “She’s an adult, she can make up her own mind. You pay the bills, but that doesn’t mean you own her. You’re not her dad.”
“Her dad told me to watch out for her!” Alistair was shouting now.
“I’m not trying to hook up with your cousin,” Thad said calmly. “I just think that she should consider a career in modelling.”
Cadence was standing by the men. “Alistair, you’re being rude. Let this man in. His concerns are with Astra, and you can’t keep babying her. She’s an adult, she can fight her own battles.” She stepped aside and motioned for Thad to come to the living room. “Have a seat, Alistair will get her for you.”
“To hell I will.” He scowled. “She doesn’t want to model!”
“If she tells me that modelling isn’t for her, I will drop it. Things got out of control last week, my boss got a little excited and freaked her out. But, it isn’t always like that. I won’t force her to do anything, just let me talk to her.”
“This isn’t any of my business, but it couldn’t hurt right?” Ada asked. “He just wants to talk to your sister.”
“He’s gonna try some hot shot model thing, and flirt with her and make her feel like she has to go back there with him,” Alistair said.
“I’m not going to,” Thad said. “I swear. You know what? I don’t even have to talk to her alone. You can stay here too.”
“Damn straight I will.” Alistair shot the man a glare.
“I heard everything,” Astra mumbled. “I’m not deaf, you know.” All eyes were on her. “How did you get my address?” She put all of her effort and focus into not stuttering. It was exhausting, but she wanted to sound menacing.
“When you signed up you had to fill out your address,” Thad said. “Remember?”
“Not for this reason, this has to be against the law,” Alistair cut in. “We can sue you.”
“Wait,” Astra said. “I want to hear what he has to say.”
“What?” Alistair asked. “Why? You said so yourself, you don’t want to model.”
She shurgged. “I want to see wh-y he wants me there so badly in the first place.”
“Because he’s some perverted old man.” Alistair tapped his foot impatiently. “Give me a better reason that that.”
“We’ll be in the other room.” Cadence stood up, followed by Ada. “Come on Ad.” Ada nodded and followed her. Alistair immediately took the seat next to Thad, forcing Astra to sit one away from him.
“I started modelling because people told me that I couldn’t do anything else,” Thad answered honestly. “The same thing goes for my best friend, Cerulean. He joined the modelling industry because he didn’t finish school. He felt like there was no other choice.”
“Really making your case here, buddy,” Alistiar mumbled.
Astra hit his arm, and gave Thad a small encouraging smile so that he’d continue. “But, it isn’t a hopeless career that people with a pretty face go to die. There is substance behind it. Everytime I see my picture in a magazine or on a billboard, I get this rush of excitement. I feel confident about who I am, and that fear of rejection is gone. I make people smile.”
“The rejection is intense,” Alistair said. “When you put your image out there, you put your entire self out there for judgement. Astra isn’t the kind of person to handle that.”
Astra had to agree with that. “I prefer to sta-y out of the spo-tlight, unless I’m cooki-ng.”
“We have specialty models,” Thad said. “If you start as a model, doors could really be opened for you in other fields. For example, you could be the poster child for a certain brand of food.”
Astra shook her head. “You’re pushing very hard for this. Why?”
Thad let out a sigh. “I didn’t like seeing you so upset. You looked like a deer in headlights. I think to overcome that, you should face challenges head on. Running doesn’t help. You have to take life by the horns.”
“I…” She bit her lip, embarassed. “I want to own a bakery. I only went to that aud-iti0-n because my cousin m-ade me.”
Thad thought for a moment. “I see. Well, I think I can help you anyway. If you let me. Plumbob Pictures is host to a cooking show. It’s filmed on the premise. I’m sure I can get you tickets to a filming. All you have to do is go there and watch the show. That’s it. No meeting, no pictures taken. Nothing.”
“Really?” Astra’s face lit up. “You’d do that?”
Thad nodded. “My misison coming here was to see you smile, honestly. I thought that maybe modelling was something that you wanted to do but felt like you couldn’t. Now that I know you don’t want to, I won’t force the issue.” He stood up to leave. “I’ll have someone mail you some tickets. Have a great night, Ms. Gray.” He turned to leave and Alistiar was all too willing to let him out and lock the door.
When Thad was gone, Alistair began to yell at Astra. “What the hell!?”
“I didn’t think he’d c-ome h-ere!” Astra tried to defend herself. “I-m sorr-y!”
“Astra,” He tried to calm himself down. He knew that she didn’t respond well to anger and yelling. “I’m not mad about that. You couldn’t control that. I’m upset that you’re going to that cooking show.”
“He said that he wants to help-” Astra said softly. “I believe him.”
“The only person that he wants to help is himself. You’re a young naive 18 year old girl. You’re away from your parents for the first time. He thought he could lure you in with modelling, and when he heard you liked cooking he changed his tune just like that. He doesn’t want to help you.”
“Alistiar, I didn’t get a bad vibe from him. An-d I wan-t to own my own bak-ery. I nee-d the -opportuni-ties. I’d like to see a sh-ow.” She couldn’t calm herself down. Her stuttering and anxiety was at an all time high.
“He wants to shower you with things and sweet words. ‘I just want to see you smile!’ Garbage. Astra, why don’t you see it? He’s 28 years old. The only thing he wants from you is to get in your pants. What else does a man that age want from an 18 year old? He thinks you’re an idiot.”
“Alistiar-” Astra sighed. “I want to lie- down.” She tunred to retire to her room. “I’m sorr-y that you fe-el this way.”
“Just be careful, okay?” He leaned on the counter behind him. “I just want you to be happy and safe. Not only because I owe your dad, but because I care about you like you’re my sister.”