A Problem of Possession
Jen stole the bag almost without thinking. The hotel lobby was filled to bursting with fifty tourists, all confused, tired and cranky, clamoring for room keys. Jen spotted the luggage, forgotten and alone, and sized them up. The yellow tote was by a heap of other bags, and looked the most promising, so when Jen walked past the reception desk, nodding to the haggard girl, she stepped up to the pile and plucked it up like belonged to her. She walked away, to the elevator, and when the doors closed behind her without anyone yelling, she knew she had gotten away clean.
The man in the elevator was going to floor eight, and he smiled at her like they were sharing a joke. "Crazy down here, huh?"
Jen agreed, hitching the bag up a little on her shoulder, and smiled back.
In her room, she toed off her shoes and dropped the bag on the bed before going to the bathroom to wash off her makeup.
"Melia?" someone called from the other room, and Jen jumped in surprise. "Melia, I can't see."
Grabbing a hand towel and quickly wiping her face, Jen stomped into the bedroom.
"I don't care who you are," she began, but trailed off as she glanced around and saw absolutely no one. Standing in the middle of an empty room, Jen felt stupid.
"This isn't funny," the voice said, and Jen wondered why the tote bag was whining. "Melia, let me out. I can't see and it smells like cheese in here."
"Hello?" she said, cautiously.
"'Hello'? Oh, brother…" The bag was silent for several moments, so Jen came closer, carefully, and gently righted the bag and opened it. Nestled between a sweater and scarf was a face, and it stared up at Jen as she stared down at it. It smiled, hesitantly. "Hi?"
"Wow," she breathed, and sat down on the bed, slowly. "What…what are you doing in there?"
"Oh, you know, just chillen', keepin' it real, hangin' out." It saw her expression, and rolled its eyes. "We were traveling, and Melia was carrying me in here. What am I doing with you?"
"I guess…I stole you." Its eyes widened in horror, and she hurried to explain. "No, I'm sorry. I stole the bag. I didn't know you were in here—"
"Can you take me back?" it asked.
She shook her head. "If they know I stole the bag…may I take you out?"
Before the head could protest, Jen reached into the tote bag, put her palms on the cold cheeks, wrapped her fingers around the back of the scalp and pulled the head out. It was heavier than she had anticipated, the skin was dry and the dark hair was silky fine between her fingers. It was a long and lean head, like it belonged on a tall, lanky body, and handsome: deep blue eyes, expressive eyebrows, strong jaw, clear skin and a mouth made for smiling. As she set him down on the comforter, Jen decided she could fall in love with a face like that.
"What's your name?" she asked.
"Hunter. Yours?" he replied, with mocking politeness.
"Well, Jen, I don't mean to be rude, but—"
"Why does Melia keep you in a bag?" she asked, interrupting. She had never kidnapped anyone before.
"It was just to travel," Hunter repeated. "She couldn't very well put me in her lap, could she? Normal people…you don't find this at all strange, do you?"
She shrugged, crossing her legs under her on the bed. "My grandma used to tell me stories about witch doctors bringing the dead to life, and how the limbs could survive apart from the body. I never believed her, of course, but now…" She reached out to pet his cheek, tracing a little scar. "How did you die?"
He tolerated the touch, patiently, like humoring a child. "I was strangled in an alley."
"Why?" she asked, and he closed his eyes while she gently stroked his eyebrow.
"A bad deal with worse people," Hunter said. Jen had the feeling he would have moved away from her if he could have, so she let her hand fall into her lap. "As much fun as this has been, Melia will be looking for me—"
"She won't know where to find you." Jen wasn't proud of stealing a person, even if it was just a head, but she didn't give things back. "I'll take care of you," she decided. "You don't eat anything, do you?"
"You don't understand—"
A pounding on the thin door nearly made Jen jump out of her skin. Moving fast, she picked up the objecting head and put in back in the tote bag. After lowering it into the tub and closing the bathroom door, she went to answer the knocking.
"Hello." An angry man and slightly less irritated woman were at the door, wearing coats and holding luggage. "Is there a problem? This is my room."
"A man on floor eight said that you have something of mine," the woman said, elbow firmly pressed against the man's abdomen to keep him from charging into the room. "I'd like it back."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Jen said, at the same time Hunter started to holler.
"Melia! Grahm! This fucking bag smells like cheese, I hate it, I hate this city, it's stuffy in here, I want my goddamn body back! Get me outta here!"
The man shoved past the woman and Jen, who tried to grab his arm and was pushed away, and stormed into the bathroom. Seconds later he emerged again with the bag, pulling out the head with obvious familiarity.
"Wait a minute—!"
Jen was ignored as the woman came into the room and dropped her bags, holding out her hands. The man passed her the head and she took it tenderly, brushing back the hair and examining it for any injury.
"Hello, Melia," Hunter said, and smiled in a way that he hadn't smiled at Jen. He was so handsome.
"Please don't take him." She didn't think before she spoke, and two sets of eyes glared at her while a blue pair stared incredulously. "I'll pay you, or…"
"Hunter needs his body back," the woman, Melia, explained and Jen watched jealously as she cradled the head in the crook of her arm. "You can't keep him."
"No one's 'keeping' me," the head said, indignantly. "Just cuz I'm half a body doesn't mean I'm half a human."
"Less than half." It was the first thing Grahm had said. The head scowled.
"I've called a cab," Melia said. She picked up what luggage she could with one hand, tucking Hunter beneath her coat, and Grahm bent to scoop up the rest of the bags; it wasn't much. "Goodbye."
"Wait for just one second," Jen pleaded, and Melia seemed to hesitate against her will. Grahm shifted impatiently, and Jen flinched before reaching forward timidly to pull back Melia's coat and look into those blue eyes. "Can I come find you after you get your body back?" she asked. "You know, just to…be friends?"
"Sure," he said, cheerfully, obviously more comfortable now that he'd been found.
Melia stepped away and her coat fell back into place, hiding the head again. She left, and Grahm followed her, and the door closed behind the three of them.
Jen stood in the middle of the empty room, makeup half washed off her face, and her fingers began to feel sticky again. She wondered how in the world she would get her hands on another head, one with blue eyes and a mouth made for smiling.
The End...for now