Authors: Bonnie Lamer
The ten minutes turns into twenty as the storm slows us down. Within minutes of starting, the snowfall becomes so thick that we can barely see two feet in front of us. If Xandra did not know these woods by heart, we may not have made it back. Using landmark trees, she guides us to the house as quickly as possible.
We are covered in snow when we arrive at her door. I am tempted to use wiping the snow off from her as another excuse to touch her body, but I am not willing to risk the consequences if we have an audience. I settle for a quick kiss before opening the door.
Once inside, we shake off the snow and cold. I cannot wait to return home. I understand Xandra’s parents wanting to keep her hidden but there are much warmer places to do that. At least dinner smells good which takes my mind away from my frozen toes. My stomach growls as we head into the kitchen.
We only make it as far as the doorway. The one that Grandmother is standing in with her ‘I am going to kill you slowly and painfully’ look on her face. I made the mistake once when I was young of pointing out that the look is not very Grandmotherly. I got smacked in the back of the head by Tabitha for being disrespectful and then grounded for twice as long as I would have been by Grandmother. What could Grandmother have possibly gotten so riled up about while we were gone?
“Kallen, I would like to know how serious things have become between the two of you. Is there to be a hand-fasting?”
All I can do is blink for a moment. Everyone around us has become completely still. In consternation, I do a quick scan of the other faces in the kitchen and to my great relief they seem to be giving dirty looks to Grandmother, not Xandra and me. Xandra does not seem to notice that when she peeks up at me, her face awash in crimson. Seeing her humiliated in front of her family makes my voice jump back into my throat. “Grandmother, I assure you…”
I do not get any farther because Xandra’s father interrupts. He is so angry, his noncorporeal form is almost as red as his daughters. “Their behavior has been appropriate at all times for people their age. Julienne and I have made certain of it.”
Grandmother inclines her head towards him. “Of course, I did not mean to imply that you are not proper chaperones.” Did she honestly believe anyone in the room would buy that? Every word dripped with scorn and disbelief. If she is not careful, she will talk Xandra right out of going to the Fairy realm.
Xandra’s grandmother also comes to our defense. “Isla, I don’t like what you’re insinuating. My granddaughter is smarter than that.”
Xandra lobs her voice into the room, each word getting her that much closer to being purple instead of red. If any more blood goes to her face, her body is going to shrivel like a mummy’s. “I’m a virgin. Always have been and not planning to change that any time soon. And I’m definitely not getting married at seventeen.”
“Of course you’re not getting married,” Xandra’s mother says as she floats over to us and wraps her translucent arm around Xandra’s shoulders. With a death glare in Grandmother’s direction, she says, “I believe Isla simply wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page about this. Right?”
“Yes, of course,” Grandmother says in her tone of voice that clearly says ‘if it will get you to shut up I will say it.’
“We trust our daughter. You may not trust your grandson – even though you should, but I do. He’s been a perfect gentleman,” Xandra’s father says. And to think it was not that long ago that the man hated me. I am grateful the tides changed and he is now on my side.
This conversation is going nowhere good. In an attempt to change the subject, I turn to the Angel, “Athear, your dinner smells delicious.”
“Please, call me Lailah. I believe I’ve left the life of Athear behind me.” Lailah is her Angel name. Athear was the name she took when she decided to Fall.
The tactic works and everyone begins moving about the room again concentrating on dinner instead of whether or not Xandra and I have consummated our relationship. The tension is still running high enough to have us all on edge, but no one is pulling magic. Yet. Given enough time, Grandmother’s somewhat abrupt, or it could even be called abrasive, personality will push most to a breaking point. I guess she will find out soon enough that the threshold for Xandra’s breaking point is rather low as she adjusts to being magical.
Dinner turns out to be uneventful. Everyone is mostly quiet as we enjoy Lailah’s cooking made with somewhat fresh ingredients. I am relieved every time I have something to eat in this realm that did not come from a can or a box. When we have all finished up and cleared the table, Xandra volunteers us for dishes. As much as I do not like doing dishes, it will give me the opportunity to apologize for Grandmother’s behavior. Now all I have to do is find the right words.
Xandra frowns up at me. “Are you okay?”
Straightforward is usually the best approach. “I apologize for what my Grandmother said. I did not realize that I wear my feelings for you so freely.”
“What do you mean?”
I mean I should have been more discreet so that Grandmother could not see the lust in my eyes. “I should not have allowed my feelings to be so obvious.”
Xandra has bewilderment all over her face. “I thought she wanted us to get together?”
I sigh and cock my head to the side. “I believe she still does, but she does not want me to embarrass the family by being forced into a hand-fasting. Fairies are supposed to have more self-control than Witches or Cowans.”
I definitely said something wrong. I hastily go back over my words as Xandra thankfully puts the sharp knife she is holding in the sink and then gives me a death glare. “Are you saying that she would think that
would be the one pushing
into sex? No, don’t answer that. I so don’t want to have this conversation.”
I close my eyes and shake my head. I am still an idiot. I just succeeded in making a bad situation worse. Xandra turns away from me and shoves her hand into the soapy water to get the next thing that needs to be washed.
I expected her to be slamming the dishes around in annoyance, so my attention is instantly captured when she becomes still. Slowly, she raises both hands out of the water. One is holding the handle of the knife she had put in the sink when we began talking. The other is holding the tip of the knife. Literally. It has gone in through her palm and come out the other side. In one of the calmest tones of voice she has ever used, she says, “Will you please ask my dad to come here?”
I am thrown for a moment as I look at her hand again. Yes, the knife is still there. How can she be so calm at the moment?
“Now would be great,” she says a little less calmly.
Waking myself up out of my stupor, I throw the towel I have been using to dry dishes onto the counter. Turning on my heel, I go in search of her father who is now in the living room. “Excuse me Mr. Smith, Xandra has managed to stab her hand all the way through with a sharp knife.”
For the second time today, everyone becomes perfectly still for a moment. “All the way through?” her father asks as he begins floating towards the kitchen. He goes through the wall instead of the doorway. Everyone else in the room goes through the doorway. The whole party has gone to see Xandra’s stabbed hand. I just hope they do not ask what she was thinking at the time she did it. I do not think I want to know but I am betting that she was not thinking of stabbing
with that knife.
“Ow,” Zac says when he sees the knife. “Doesn’t that hurt?”
Through a clenched jaw, Xandra says, “Yes.”
I believe he is considering the safety of his younger child when Xandra’s father sends Zac for some bandages. That gets him away from his sister before her calm façade disappears. Definitely a smart man.
“Can I pull the knife out?” Xandra asks.
“There’s not a lot of bleeding right now, but there may be when you remove the knife. Let’s wait for those gauze pads and Kallen can apply pressure to the wound.”
“Or she could simply use her magic to heal the wound.” Grandmother’s voice rings out loudly in the small space. She has now managed to upset Xandra’s father again. On this one, I am actually on her side but I am going to be wise and keep my mouth shut. Ultimately, I am on the side of harmony with Xandra’s family.
“Modern medicine has been fine for her the past seventeen years; I believe we can take care of this easily enough without magic,” Xandra’s father growls.
“Jim, I think Isla’s right,” her mother says quietly. “Xandra needs to learn to use her magic more. This is an excellent opportunity to practice her healing skills.”
“Funny, I don’t consider a knife through my palm an ‘excellent opportunity,’” Xandra mumbles. Yet another sentence I do not believe she meant to say out loud. She looks up at her mother’s sour expression and says, “Sorry, it just hurts.”
Somewhat appeased, her mother says to Lailah, “Will you get the healing herbs from the closet?”
For the third time, everyone in the room becomes still. At least, everyone who can sense magic becomes still. Xandra has just pulled a lot of it. She is almost at the brink of overflowing. I pull my own magic to be prepared for the worst. Grandmother does the same.
As we watch, Xandra begins to heal her hand without the use of bandages or healing herbs. The knife falls to the floor as the tissue of her hand repairs itself. After several moments, there is no evidence at all that she had any type of injury. She is absolutely amazing.
“I knew you could do it!” her mother says doing some sort of ghostly jig.
Grandmother breaks into the proud moment. “Perhaps now would be a good time to continue our discussion from earlier?” It is obvious that Xandra is now thinking about the conversation we had after we returned from the tree house so Grandmother adds, “The discussion of whether or not you will accompany me back to the Fae realm.”
“Isla,” Xandra’s mother begins but she is cut off.
“Mom, I already said I would go. I do have one condition, though.” She looks up at Grandmother. Literally, as Grandmother is almost as tall as I am.
“Xandra, you are not going.”
Xandra does not respond to her mother. Instead, she keeps her attention on Grandmother. “Kallen has to teach me offensive magic.”
You would think that we had all formed our own circles it is so silent in here. Finally, Grandmother says to me, “You agreed to this?”
I nod slightly. She is not going to be happy with my answer. “Yes.” I admit that was a fairly lukewarm yes.
“Do you realize how dangerous that is?”
I realize it better than anyone else. “Yes.”
Xandra is getting annoyed now. “Why can’t I learn to be proactive instead of reactive?”
Her mother narrows her eyes at her. “Being proactive and going on the offensive are two different things.”