A Muse in Time

(a Magical Midlife Mom flash fiction story, told from Melissa's point of view. This story occurs right before the events of Curse of the Fae Library.)

I knew our last candidate wouldn’t work out when I arrived at the rundown motel-turned-apartment complex in North Hollywood.

Gabriel must have had the same thought because his grip on my hand intensified. “We should leave.” His steel gray eyes scanned the neighborhood, as if expecting an attack at any second.

Buildings had boards nailed to the windows like haphazard bandages. Tarps were strung in the alleys and doorways, sometimes with a pair of legs to indicate an occupant. A woman in dreadlocks sang a song at a dilapidated bus stop while everyone else ignored her, as if she were no more than a whistling bird.

But we couldn’t leave. This muse candidate was our last hope for saving the great Library of Atlantis, the largest collection of magical knowledge in the world.

“It’s no worse than where Starla lived,” I said, referring to the last candidate we’d interviewed.

“The hippie living in the Nevada desert?” Gabriel asked with a raised eyebrow.

“She lived in a yurt.”

“It was a clean yurt.”

“No running water, though.”

“I’d take any outhouse over this place,” Gabriel said, wrinkling his nose as we caught wind of something rotting.

“Okay, maybe you have a point, but you have to admit that Starla was flighty, even for a muse. She could barely keep her eyes off the night sky.”

“That’s because she’s an astronomer muse. The sky calls to her.” Gabriel gestured toward the faded sign of the apartment building. “What drives this particular muse?”

“Talia comes from a family of muses who inspire comedy and lyrical poetry.”

“I don’t see anything funny about this place.”

“Maybe there’s beauty we can’t see.” I pulled away from him toward the apartment’s unlatched gate. “There’s only one way to find out.”

Muses are a fae in a class all of their own. They inspire people to do great things, and just like the Greek legends, they specialize in certain subjects. We needed a muse who could unlock the doors to the Library of Atlantis.

Unfortunately, the only living muse who could manage the library had died recently. Normally, one of her heirs would take over the job, but she didn’t appear to have any.

Which meant we were shooting in the dark, hoping a muse from another family would do the trick.

Talia lived on the second floor. Gabriel and I walked up a staircase missing part of the railing and passed a unit with garbage overflowing onto the outdoor walkway.

“Lovely,” Gabriel said, sidestepping the mess.

“Here we are.” I pointed to Room 232. I knocked on the door.

The first tap flung the door wide open.

“Hey!” a sleepy voice called from inside. “Who turned on the lights?”

“Sorry,” I called, squinting as I peered into the darkness. “The door wasn’t properly closed.”

“Then close it.” The reply came from a lump underneath sheets on the single bed that dominated the room.

Gabriel stepped inside. “Talia Weathers,” he said, his baritone booming in the small space. “I’m Gabriel Alston from Stronghold. The fae has an emergency that requires the aid of a muse and—”

“Bugger off,” the lump said. A hand came out from underneath a pillow to wave him away.

Gabriel frowned. “You realize I’m a representative of the Court.”

“I don’t care if you’re Queen Mab herself. I have a hangover. Come back some other time.”

Gabriel opened his mouth to argue, but I stopped him with a shake of my head. Then I marched over to the bedside to take the lead.

“From everything I’ve been told, coming tomorrow’s not gonna help your hangover much.”

The covers pulled back, revealing a tiny woman with green hair and eyebrow piercings. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Your friends all think you’re a lush,” I said sweetly.

“Friends? What friends?”

“Your mother for starts.”

Talia grunted. “My mother thinks I’m a failure.”

“Are you?”

Talia glared at me. “You two should go away.”

Gabriel actually took two steps toward the door, but I stood firm by the bedside. “Your muse magic doesn’t work on me.”

She grimaced. “Wonderful.”

Gabriel shook his head to wrench himself out of Talia’s magical grasp. Muses could inspire people to do things, but only if they wanted to do them in the first place. Gabriel clearly didn’t want to stay here.

Neither did I, but I had a job to do. And fae magic didn’t work on me unless I wanted it to.

“Look, we’re not here to play games," I said. "We need to know—”

Talia suddenly put her finger to her lips. “Shush. Do you hear that?”

I strained my ears. “There’s nothing except that crazy lady singing outside.”

“Exactly.” Talia threw the covers off and jumped out of bed, wearing nothing but booty shorts and a crop top. She darted so quickly between us that neither Gabriel nor I caught her before she zipped out the door.

So much for the hangover.

We ran onto the walkway after her. “Where are you going?” I yelled.

“To find that voice,” Talia called over her shoulder before disappearing down the staircase.

Gabriel offered to fly after her, but I told him it was a bad idea to go full gargoyle in the middle of a busy neighborhood. Instead, we ran after her as she sprinted for the bus stop.

We caught Talia midsentence as she was talking to the singing woman in dreadlocks. Talia had thrown an arm around her shoulder. “…love your singing,” she was saying.

“Really?” the dreadlocks woman asked.

“Really,” Talia said. “What’s your name?”


“Jasmine. Great name. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“You have?”

Talia brushed past both Gabriel and me as we stared after the odd pair. “Absolutely. I found a guitar the other day. It needs a new owner. I bet you could use one.”

Jasmine’s eyes filled with tears. “Someone stole my guitar. I was going to audition for a gig, but…”

“But nothing,” Talia grinned. “I’ve got you covered.”

Gabriel and I followed, dumbfounded, as Talia led Jasmine up to her second story apartment. We waited outside as the muse gave a top-of-the-line acoustic guitar to a grateful Jasmine. Jasmine squealed in delight and immediately began to strum out a tune. The sound of her voice mingled with the strings, creating a chill that went up my spine.

Talia waited until Jasmine was absorbed in her music before joining Gabriel and me on the walkway. She ingested a few painkillers along with a glass of water.

“Still faking a hangover?” Gabriel asked dryly.

“Who said I was faking?”

“You seemed just fine running out into the street.”

“Shows what you know about muses. When my magic kicks in, it can override other sensations for a little while.” She regarded us warily. “Tell me again why you’re bothering me?”

“We’re looking for a muse to run the Library of Atlantis…” Gabriel began.

“But we can see you’re not going to work out,” I interjected.

Gabriel turned to me. “Shouldn’t Talia at least visit the library?”

I looked past Talia at the self-absorbed Jasmine, lost to the world in her song. “I have a feeling Talia’s got important work here.”

“Too right,” Talia agreed. “If I don’t give at least some people a chance to escape this dump, who will?”

Gabriel sighed. “I suppose you don’t look like the type who enjoys reading books.”

“Don’t stereotype me,” Talia snapped. “I’ll have you know that I’ve inspired poets before, and I always read their works.”

“Does that mean you want to try opening the library?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Hell, no. I don’t do office jobs. I work best out here on the streets.”

“Well, thank you for your time,” I said, motioning for Gabriel to leave with me.

Talia called after us, “I do hope you find a new muse librarian. I used the visit the Library of Atlantis as a kid. It’d be a shame if it shut down for good.”

“We’ll do our best,” I said, although without another muse candidate on our list, I had no idea who else to interview.

Gabriel echoed my sense of defeat as we left the apartment complex. “Now what? That was our last lead.”

“I’ll keep searching,” I said. “There has to be some muse out there that can run the library.”

And even though I worried I might never find that muse, I took a moment to appreciate Jasmine’s beautiful song. The notes cut through the despair and somehow brightened a corner of this unforgiving landscape. Talia was definitely needed here.


To find out what happens to the Library of Atlantis, read Curse of the Fae Library.