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NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

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Tumbleweed Motel ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Sierra sank onto the couch. She’d been tired before. After she replaced the roof on the Tumbleweed. After she helped Grant sand the floors in the house he’d bought when he first moved to Coldwater. At the finish line of her last marathon. During her pregnancy. For several weeks after Grant’s death, when grief threatened to overtake her, and Morgan and Joey were all that kept her from taking a razor to her wrists.

Sierra knew tired. But this was a different species of exhaustion than anything she’d ever experienced.

Morgan was tucked safely into bed, and Sierra had time now to think about what had happened tonight. She’d nearly panicked when Morgan and Holly stopped screaming, suddenly becoming catatonic, Morgan’s expression frozen in horror, Holly’s in serenity. She shuddered, remembering how terror had washed over her. Sierra had known a girl in high school who had epilepsy. They’d been in history class one afternoon when the girl suddenly went silent and stared off into space. The teacher had tried to get her attention, but she was completely unresponsive, and he quickly realized something was very wrong. The whole thing had lasted less than four minutes, but to Sierra, it had felt like hours.

Tonight, Morgan and Holly had looked exactly like Sierra’s classmate, but Sierra knew their behavior wasn’t caused by any medical condition. One minute, Holly had been hugging Morgan while she sobbed, and the next, there was a great flash of light, and both banshees were just — gone. Their bodies were still in the lobby, but they were just empty shells.

Not sure what else to do, Sierra had called Sandy in to help her lay them on the floor so they wouldn’t fall and injure themselves. Sandy was tucking a blanket around Morgan when they returned.

Holly had been amused by Sierra’s reaction. “You’d make a hell of a teacher, Sierra,” she’d said as she sat up, taking in her surroundings. “Calm in a crisis and ready to mother everybody who crosses your path. You come see me if you ever get sick of the innkeeper life, and we’ll see what we can do about getting you signed up for the state’s alternative-certification program.”

Morgan had been very quiet, but she’d accepted the mug of hot cocoa her grandmother made, and she’d gone to bed a little later with a peaceful expression on her face, much calmer than Sierra had ever seen her after a premonition.

After assuring Sierra that Morgan would be fine and that this was a perfectly ordinary occurrence for the bean sidhe, Holly had gone home, leaving Sierra to her thoughts.

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