Authors: Bonnie Lamer
I do not believe her mother made the distinction she set out to make. It certainly has not convinced Xandra of anything different. “If I know someone wants to come after me, why should I have to wait until they use their magic first? Why can’t I go to them?”
“Because we didn’t raise you to be a psychopath,” her father says. There is a twinkling in his eye that indicates he is teasing her. Good for him. Comic relief is something this conversation could definitely use.
“I feel helpless waiting around, hoping that I’ll be able to defend myself from whatever someone throws at me next. Maybe if I’m a little more threatening, people will leave me alone.” I do not think she truly believes that but I am impressed by her expressed optimism. To Grandmother, she adds, “I won’t go if you don’t agree to this.”
Xandra looks so cute trying to be tough and stare Grandmother down. Threatening is not a look she can pull off. But Grandmother is not a stupid woman. Xandra may not be threatening but there is a strong thread of stubbornness laced through her words. One strong enough it is easy to see that she is serious. If Grandmother does not agree, Xandra will not go. Trying to smile like she means it, Grandmother says, “That seems reasonable.” Her eyes belie the truth of her words.
“Then we can leave in the morning?” Xandra says. I do not think she meant that as a question, especially when she adds in a firmer voice, “We should probably get an early start.”
“Xandra…” I believe her mother may actually be planning Xandra’s death. At the very least a long internment in this house.
Xandra’s father jumps in, probably saving his daughter’s life. He gives her mother a new target for her anger. “Julienne, we have to let her go. We discussed this at length earlier.”
She turns her angry eyes towards him. “We did not come to an agreement.”
“Mom, I would rather do this with your support than without it.”
Her mother closes her eyes and takes several calming breaths which looks odd since she cannot actually breathe. Eventually, she turns to Grandmother. “If you let anything happen to my daughter, I will kill you.” There is a pretty strong promise in her words. I believe she would actually find a way to do that.
If nothing else, Grandmother knows when to be gracious. “I understand. I would feel the same way.” Turning to Xandra and me, she says, “We should leave bright and early tomorrow, so we will need much rest this evening. Perhaps it is time to turn in.”
Yes, we often go to bed at eight o’clock back home. I just shake my head and keep my mouth shut.
“Okay,” Xandra says and grabs my hand. It takes a moment to register in my mind what she is doing. She is leading me to her bedroom.
We get about three steps when Grandmother stops us with words icier than an arctic freeze. “Kallen. Where do you think you are going?”
Oh how I wish I could put a muzzle on Xandra at times like these. She is completely oblivious to how angry grandmother is. She must be because she says as if Grandmother is dense, “To my room.”
“Why would you do that? Has he left something in there?”
I squeeze Xandra’s hand in an effort to prevent the volcanic eruption that is about to spew from Grandmother’s mouth. With furrowed brows and a distinct ‘are you stupid’ look on her face, Xandra says, “No, because he’s going to sleep in there.” Obviously, I was not successful in communicating through the hand squeeze.
Grandmother’s eyes move slowly to me. I believe they move so slowly because they have become heavy with all the anger and outrage she has managed to pack into them. “You. Will. Not. Sleep. In. Her. Bed.” Each word flies out of her mouth as if they are talons ready to rip my chest open so she can tear my heart from its protective cage. I am seriously tempted to ask Xandra to erect a magical shield between us and Grandmother.
Xandra looks from Grandmother to me. I am not sure whose expression convinces her, Grandmother’s ‘I will murder you if you take one more step in that direction’ or my ‘I believe she would do it.’ “I guess you could sleep on the couch.”
I have to run her words through my mind to make sure she actually said that. I am afraid that my ears heard what they wanted to hear instead of what she actually said. From the somewhat softened look on Grandmother’s face, I must not have imagined it. If a person could die of relief, my funeral would be in the planning stages right now.
Grandmother tilts her head and says through gritted teeth. “I believe that will be for the best.”
Xandra’s parents have been quiet during the exchange. Their faces are blank pages so I have no idea what is running through their spirit minds. “Isla, you are welcome to stay in our room,” Xandra’s mother says evenly. “Xandra can get it ready for you.”
“I would hate to have her go to the trouble for one night. I will sleep in a cot in Xandra’s room.”
In other words, she will hold Xandra hostage so that I do not ravage her in the night. I will admit, there are some things in this realm that I find I like more than in my own. Looser guidelines while courting are something I have acclimated to quite easily. But, we will be back in my realm tomorrow. I suppose I need to abide by Fairy guidelines now.
“The couch will be fine,” I say to Xandra with a smile.
Disappointment flashes in her eyes but she nods. “Do you need anything?” she asks.
I shake my head. “No, I will make what I need.”
“Okay. I guess I’ll go to bed then.” There is a distinct pout in her voice that makes it hard not to smile wider.
“Yes, so will I.” I somehow manage to block my own irritation as it tries to express itself through my eyes. I have never seen Grandmother behave like this before. Then again, I have never loved anyone before so neither of us has ever been in this position. I am going to assume she would be like this with anyone, not just Xandra.
I lean down and give Xandra a kiss on the cheek. “I will see you in the morning.” I am going to have to teach her how to make her expression and eyes blank because she is not hiding her irritation at the situation at all.
“My room’s down here,” she says, her voice almost as cold as Grandmothers. Ignoring her tone, Grandmother follows her down the hall. Xandra’s mother gives me a sympathetic nod and then floats after them.
A cold hand on my shoulder startles me. “Your grandmother is a little intense,” Xandra’s father says with a chuckle. “I see a lot of conflict between her and Xandra in the future.”
I groan and shake my head in. “That is a magical showdown I do not want to see. I am afraid both realms would be destroyed.”
He laughs and gives me a pat on the back. Considering the chill that just went down my spine, I am assuming he underestimated the distance between my shirt and my skin. “I have faith in you. You’ll keep them apart.”
Lucky me that I have been given that responsibility. I weigh that in my mind for a moment and decide that being with Xandra is more than worth it. “I will certainly try.”
He gives me an icicle-like pat on the back again. “Alright, I’m going to check on them right now. I’ll see you in the morning.” He floats down the hall.
It is just me and the couch now. Using my magic, I create a pillow and a warm blanket. Now, I just have to wait until the house is asleep and hope that Xandra finds her way back out here. My body reacts to that thought in a way that makes it hard to wait.
About an hour later as I lay wide awake on the couch, I finally hear soft footsteps in the hall. I do not know that I would have heard them if I was not listening so intently. Xandra comes around the corner and stops in the doorway.
“What took you so long?” I whisper and she lets slip a giggle. She quickly claps a hand over her mouth so no one will hear her. “Come here.” I slide over so my back is against the back of the couch making as much room for her as possible. Finally, this ugly, overstuffed thing has grown on me. It may be a tight fit but there is room for two.
When we’re settled under the blanket, Xandra whispers, “I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. What’s it like there?”
I can only imagine what thoughts are running through her mind. I am sure she is thinking the worst. I admit, I may have misled her here and there when I have spoken of home. She is probably expecting a bunch of sky clad Fairies living in tree houses. That will make her reaction to Grandmother’s house that much better. “I would rather you experience it for yourself. I am curious to see your first reaction.”
“You know I don’t like surprises, don’t you?”
I chuckle. “Yes, my impatient little Witch Fairy, I do. But this time, you are just going to have to wait.”
“How do you think the other Sheehogue Fairies will react to me? Do you think they’ll be mad that I’m making myself such an easy target?”
I hate to admit it but I am surprised she has put this much thought into it. Not that she is not capable of it, she has just had so much thrown at her recently that there has to be a million things going on in her mind these days. I had better keep these thoughts to myself. “No,” I whisper in her ear. “First of all, you are never an easy target. And secondly, I think that you will make a positive impression on everyone you meet. That is what worries me.”
Confusion is thick in her voice. “Why?”
I nibble a bit at her ear and neck until a tiny moan escapes her mouth. “You are beautiful, you are intelligent and you are powerful. That is an irresistible combination.” Something I have taken for granted until now. I have not considered how appealing that will be to others. I find I do not like that idea at all.
After a moment, I can hear the smugness in her voice when she says, “Are you jealous already? I haven’t even met another Fairy yet.”
“No, I am not jealous,” I say but even I can hear the jealousy in my words dripping all the way to the floor. “I am simply anticipating competition.”
She laughs and pulls her arms tighter around me. “Don’t worry, I’m a one Fairy kind of girl.”
Kissing the soft skin of her neck and cheek, I say, “I hope so.” I fall asleep thinking about how I can keep every male Fairy in the realm away from her.
I feel the magic before my conscious mind wakes. So of course I am not able to counter it. My brain becomes completely awake just as my head and back hit the floor. If I keep my eyes closed, perhaps I can pretend the fall has rendered me unconscious. Last night I would have considered that cowardly. Today I see it as a reasonable way to stay alive for another ten minutes because I am sure Grandmother will be out for blood after finding the two of us like this. Fully clothed or not, this is not acceptable behavior back home.
“Good morning,” Grandmother says tersely. “I believe we worked out sleeping arrangements last evening.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Xandra says, and then rushes to add, “Until I came out here. Then I fell right to sleep. Immediately.”
I certainly cannot allow Xandra to be the only one to argue our case. “Grandmother,” I say, standing up and then offering my hand to Xandra, “nothing inappropriate happened.” I find myself getting angry that she is outraged over something so innocent.
“I can assure you he’s telling the truth,” Xandra’s mother says. From the tone of her voice, she does not like what Grandmother is insinuating about her daughter. “Jim and I don’t sleep – which is why we know there has never been inappropriate behavior when the kids have slept together. We check on them regularly.” It is a very good thing then that they cannot read minds.
It looks like Grandmother wants to say something, but after looking at both of Xandra’s parents and then back to us, she decides to bite her tongue. Unbelievable. Instead, she says, “Perhaps we should be on our way.”
Xandra yawns and says, “Um, I haven’t packed anything, yet.” I have to bite my tongue now not to laugh. There are things about Xandra’s magic that Grandmother does not know. Such as her complete inability to perform simple magic like dressing herself.
Grandmother looks confused now. “A few toiletries are all you should need. Anything else, such as clothes, can be created with your magic.”
“Not my magic,” Xandra grumbles.
“That is ridiculous. You could clothe the entire realm with your magic.”
This is quickly turning into a circular conversation. I search my brain to find the most diplomatic way to say this. I do not want Xandra to be mad at me for saying the wrong thing. “Xandra is still working on her…finesse.” She is smiling so I must have succeeded.
“Yeah, I’m still more likely to blow up the house than make a pair of jeans.”
Grandmother’s brows crease. “Interesting.”
“So, I should go pack.”
Xandra starts to walk out of the room but Grandmother’s voice stops her. “No need. I will be happy to supply clothing until you are able to clothe yourself.”
I wonder if Xandra could look less enthusiastic about that idea. Probably not. “Okay, I guess,” she says reluctantly. “Can I at least take a shower first?” Mmm, that is something I definitely want to help her with. If I am not careful, everyone in the room will know that.
“Yes, of course,” Grandmother says briskly. “We will plan to head out in thirty minutes.”
Xandra turns and leaves the room but Grandmother is not done with me. “Kallen, a word please.”
This should be fun. I nod and Grandmother spins on her heels and walks out the front door. As she passes through the threshold, a fur hat and long gray wool coat appear to keep her warm. I suspect that means this will be a long conversation. With a sigh, I follow her out dressing myself accordingly.
Grandmother walks until we are a good thirty feet from the house. Stopping abruptly, she collects her thoughts a moment while staring off into the distance, which consists of trees and snow and then more trees and snow. I wait patiently for her to speak.
Finally, she turns to me. “The customs here have changed since last time I came through a gateway.” I do not know what she wants me to say to that so I choose silence. After a moment, she continues. “That does not relinquish you from the moral code you grew up with.”
She puts up a hand to stop me. “Yes, I know you have not consummated your relationship. That is not the issue at the moment.” She narrows her eyes, “Though I will be ever vigilant for any indication that has changed.”
I am not certain what being vigilant means to her and I probably do not want to know. A peephole in my bedroom wall with Grandmother looking through is disturbing on many levels and I do not see many other options for this particular situation. Again, I choose silence as my best contribution to this conversation.
Grandmother sighs. “Kallen, this girl is your destiny. I would not have sent you to this realm if I did not know that. But, she has a lot to learn. Her mind is filled to the brim with everything that has happened since her world was turned upside down due to magic she did not know she had.”
Does she believe that I have not been paying attention? “Yes, I know.” That may have come out more as a growl than a conversational sentence.
“For this reason, you must wait to act upon these…feelings you have for each other. Do not confuse her mind even more with wild ideas of love and passion.”
Discussing love and passion with Grandmother is like talking about sunny beaches with a fish. She may know what it looks like but I am not sure she has ever experienced it. I see her more in the gasping for air category with that analogy than the lying out and getting a tan category. That makes it harder to take her seriously at the moment. “What are you suggesting – that Xandra and I pretend that we are not in love? Pretend we do not want to be together?” My voice is beginning to rise.
Grandmother sighs again. “I am not suggesting that you pretend anything. I am asking you to look at this situation logically and recognize that focusing too much on each other may alter your view of the big picture.”
I cock my head to the side. “What big picture is that? Does it involve you using Xandra as a puppet and sending her off to fight wars she is not ready for? How, exactly, is that better than the two of us expressing our love for each other.” Funny, I always thought that Grandmother would be happy when I found love. After all, she has told me for as long as I remember that I was destined for a love match, not an arranged marriage.
Grandmother’s eyes turn several shades darker as she glowers at me. I hold her stare giving her my own version of the expression. “I am not using the girl as a puppet. I am trying to save this realm and the lives and souls of our brothers and sisters.”
Yes, altruism is generally high on her list of things to do. “What do you get out of this?” I thought she was angry a moment ago but she is now starting to tip over the edge. I have only seen her like this a few times in my life. Each time, I was glad it was not me she was angry with. Perhaps I need to back off at least slightly. “I apologize, that was out of line. That does not change the fact that love and support is what Xandra needs right now. Not me telling her ‘Grandmother says we should back off so you are on your own for a while.’ I am sure that will not help her focus on the finer points of the coming battle.”
She sighs deeply. “Your sarcasm aside, you do have a point.”
No way. Did she just let me win this argument? “And what point is that?”
“Kallen, the two of you are simply moving too fast. Destiny aside, you are still two young people who are experiencing love for the first time. Love can be blinding and the dangers that surround Xandra are not to be ignored or left unseen because you two want to spend every moment together. She needs to learn to take care of herself.”
I snort. “If there is one thing that Xandra does well, it is take care of herself and protect the ones she loves. If you knew her at all, you would already know that. It is the collateral damage that is the problem, not her power or her ability to wield it when necessary.”
Grandmother nods curtly. “I understand. All I am asking is for you to give her some breathing room. Let her learn to use her own judgment.”
Is she insane? “Are you under the impression that Xandra does not do things her way, when she wants to do them? If so, it will benefit you to spend some time in her company. Even the threat of fire and brimstone could not talk her out of doing something she feels is right.”
She is quiet for a moment. Slowly, a smile forms on her lips. She is full of surprises today. “I suppose I have the same problem.” Looking at me with the softest expression she has used since she got here, she says, “At the very least, you must uphold the moral standards in the Fairy realm in regards to courting.”
My turn to sigh. There is no argument against that. I am not out to change the world, I simply want to be in Xandra’s company. “I will do my best.”
Grandmother’s eyes narrow slightly again. “Your best?”
I shrug. “I do not want to make a promise to you I may not be able to keep.”
Placing her hands on her hips and shaking her head, she says, “There are times I regret teaching you to speak.”
Her teasing is so far out of the blue it takes a second to register. Then I laugh. “A problem that cannot be undone I am afraid.”
She smiles. “I suppose not. I find I am not a fan of the cold, let us go inside and wait.”