Home > The Only Purple House in Town

The Only Purple House in Town
Author: Ann Aguirre






Whoever said it was always darkest before the dawn clearly had never lived like Iris Collins.

Sometimes she felt like a cave creature that never saw sunlight; it was dark at sunrise, sunset, and all the hours in between. She stared at her account balance on her phone with anxiety chewing away at her insides, a behavior she mirrored by gnawing on her cuticle until it bled. Her roommates would be home soon, and she didn’t look forward to that conversation. They’d covered her for the last two months, but she doubted they would be willing to triple down.

I can’t even leave until I pay them back, and I can’t find a new place either.

She had no clue how to earn her back rent or come up with what she needed for this month. Her sisters had money, but Rose would lecture if she bailed Iris out; Lily would refuse to help while talking about how Iris should live within her means; and Olive didn’t have reliable internet since she was currently doctoring without borders. Her three sisters were a how-to guide for success, while Iris was the cautionary tale. Her mother had made life hell the last time she lent financial assistance, so that was out of the question.

Should I sell my car?

In the movies, vampires were essentially immortal and had been accruing wealth for centuries. Unfortunately for Iris, she came from a different line entirely. Her type didn’t feed on blood but human emotions, and Iris had come up shy in that department as well. Unlike the rest of her family, she had no special abilities that sprang from her vampiric nature. At least, nothing had ever manifested. Olive could feed on her patients’ pain and improve their lives as she did so. Lily feasted on grief, and Rose thrived on anger, whereas Iris was basically human. Or so her mother had said more than once; her tone made it clear that wasn’t a compliment. But then, even among the paranormal community, psychic vampires weren’t well liked. They were known as “takers” for obvious reasons. Five years ago—when the witches made their big announcement—others had followed suit.

Now, Iris didn’t have to hide who she was, and there were dating apps devoted to various types of supernatural folk. Iris had been on Shifted for a while, but she kept meeting lone wolf types who just wanted to hit and quit. In this case, they happened to be able to turn into actual wolves. Then she tried Bindr, but witches could be touchy about lineage, apparently. The skeptics and conspiracy theorists amused her the most. There were forums devoted to debunking magic, calling it “the greatest hoax since the moon landing,” and sometimes Iris did a deep dive through the most ridiculous suggestions to distract herself from the reality of how screwed she was.

In fact, she was doing that now. She scrolled on her phone, snickering. “Sure, lizard people have replaced all our nation’s leaders—that’s real. And there are mole people living underneath Capitol Hill.”

Enough of that.

From there, she clicked through to a site offering various magical charms. I could really use one for prosperity, but they’re so expensive. And what if it doesn’t work? Shaking her head, she resisted the urge to max out her card with an impulse purchase. But damn, it was tough. She really wanted to find out if the magical lipstick was permanently kiss-proof. In the news, Congress was trying to pass a new law requiring all paranormal individuals to self-identify and register in some kind of national database. Yeah, that won’t end well. And some douchebag senator in Iowa wanted even sterner sanctions, special housing projects, and tracking devices. Someone else had proposed a tax on supernaturals. How does that even make sense? And good luck enforcing it. She shook her head and went back to window-shopping. So many cool magic items she’d love to get her hands on…

For Iris, life hadn’t changed that much. The paranormal communities were still close-knit, and most didn’t reveal themselves readily, even if a few people had identified themselves for clout and were giving interviews about what it was like growing up “other” among humans. Some were pursuing a fortune or building social media empires, capitalizing on the interest focused their way.

I can’t even do that. Too bad—it would help the shop.

Sighing, she trudged to her room, currently crammed with supplies for her jewelry-making business, but nobody was buying the finished products. She’d invested in the idea, but she hadn’t earned more than twenty bucks on her pieces. She supposed she could register as a driver, but she was scared of letting strangers get in her car. Iris lowered her head. It was ridiculous that she was afraid of…so many things. Pacing back to the dining room, she feverishly tried to think of a solution.

Do I have anything left to sell besides my car?

“You owe me six hundred bucks,” Frederic said.

Iris let out a cry, juggled her phone, and then dropped it. Screen down, because of course. That was how her luck ran. When she picked it up, there was a tiny nick on the corner, exactly what she didn’t need today. I didn’t even hear him come in.

Stifling a squeak, she spun to face Frederic.

She’d been dodging the others—Regina, Frederic, and Candace—for the last week, even though she had nowhere to go. The diner staff was sick of her ordering a cup of coffee and staying for hours, while the dollar cinema didn’t seem to care if she stayed all day. But now, it was too late.

Frederic tapped her shoulder briskly. “Did you hear me? Where’s my money?”

He owned the house and had rented three of the four bedrooms. It was a decent place, decorated in bachelor style, and everyone was nice enough. But like everywhere else Iris had lived, she didn’t quite fit. Frederic hadn’t even wanted to rent to her in the first place since she didn’t have a day job, but Iris had gone to high school with Regina, and she vouched for Iris. Now Regina was mad because Iris was making her look bad, and Candace was tired of the tension.

Everyone quietly wanted Iris gone, but she had to pay them first. She raised her gaze from the polished-oak dining table, trying to figure out what to say. Sorry, I’m broke was only three words, but she couldn’t make herself say them, mainly because she’d said them so often, and she’d burned through any good will the others felt for her.

But before Regina and Candace arrived to exacerbate the situation, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” she said swiftly.

Iris raced past Frederic to the front door where a postman in a blue uniform asked her to sign for a certified letter. That’s never good news. I hope it’s not another bill that I let slide until it went to collections. The way her luck ran, it probably was, and the return address stamp on the envelope only reinforced that impression. Digby, Davis, and Moore sounded like a law firm.

I hope I’m not being sued.

She didn’t want to read it, but the alternative was facing Frederic, so she closed the door with a quiet snick, blocking the early-autumn breeze. Through the window, she watched the leaves skitter on the sidewalk, caught by that same wind. She tore open the packet and found a wealth of legal documents.



Poor Aunt Gertie. I wish I’d gone to her funeral.

Iris skimmed the pages with growing disbelief. Her great-aunt Gertrude had left the bulk of her estate to Iris: a small amount of cash, her collection of ceramic angels, and a house in St. Claire, Illinois, including all contents within. Iris had no clue why Great-Aunt Gertie had done this, but the bequest burned like a spark of hope. Her great-aunt—her paternal grandfather’s sister—had been reckoned rather odd, something of a misanthrope just because she never married.

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