CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-SEVEN
Wednesday evening — 7:15 p.m.
“Ugh,” Valerie said.
She threw her phone away from her. It landed in the middle of the carpet. They’d eaten early because the children were tired from their skirmishes in the fairy war.
“What’s up?” Honey asked.
She rolled in carrying two cups of tea. She rolled around the phone and gave a cup to Valerie.
“How are the kids?” Valerie asked.
“Between Jill and Mike, I don’t think that they will get much sleep,” Honey said.
“What do you mean?” Valerie asked.
“When I looked in, they were reading books to all of the kids together,” Honey said. “The little kids were stretched out on the floor and even the teenagers were listening in. Mike and Jill were making all of the voices of the story. It’s like they were enraptured.”
Valerie gave Honey a distracted nod. Honey set her cup on the side table and shifted to sit on the couch next to Valerie. Honey took Valerie’s hand and held it tight.
“What’s up?” Honey asked more gently.
“Oh …” Valerie sighed.
“I saw the controversy on social media,” Honey said.
Valerie nodded. Rather than say anything, Valerie took a drink of her tea. She looked at Honey.
“How did you know?” Valerie asked.
“I didn’t,” Honey said. “Jill said that she thought you were pregnant. I figured I wouldn’t risk it, plus I know that you like this tea.”
“It is delicious,” Valerie said.
Honey waited for a long few minutes.
“So …” Honey said.
Valerie turned to look at Honey.
“Are you pregnant?” Honey asked.
Valerie gave a slow nod.
“Kind of messes up your career?” Honey asked.
“I see crap like that …” Valerie gestured to her phone lying in the middle of the carpet. “I just want to quit. I mean, it’s not a new feeling for me. I’ve been talking to Jake about it since I got back from the last film. He says that it’s just a phase, but … If I take a risk, then … And …”
Valerie shook her head. Honey waited for Valerie to speak. Valerie sighed.
“They are mad that we made the movie …” Valerie said. “And … and … and I have always wanted to play this part, to share the whole experience of this woman and …”
“Why are they coming after you?” Honey asked.
Valerie shook her head.
“Maybe we should ask Delphie,” Honey said.
“Ask me what?” Delphie asked.
“She has better things to do,” Valerie said.
“There is nothing more important to me than helping,” Delphie said.
Delphie bent over to pick up Valerie’s phone. She let out a small grunt when she got back up.
“You okay?” Honey asked.
“Grumpy back sometimes,” Delphie said with a shrug. “Comes and goes with the weather. I’m fine.”
Delphie looked at Valerie. The actress had crossed her arms over her chest and glared off into space.
“I see,” Delphie said.
She sat in a nearby armchair. With a little flourish, Delphie looked at the phone. After a minute, Delphie shook her head.
“How many of these people do you think are paid?” Delphie asked.
Valerie’s head jerked up to look at Delphie.
“Half?” Delphie asked. “Two-thirds?”
“Why would someone pay them to say horrible things about me?” Valerie asked.
“Why wouldn’t they?” Delphie asked. “It makes a small, seemingly inconsequential movie into something pertinent to today’s world.”
“Harrumph,” Valerie said, looking away.
Delphie grinned at Valerie.
“We should strategize your response,” Delphie said.
“I can’t just tell them to f …” Valerie’s head jerked to look at Delphie.
Delphie shook her head.
“Well, I want to,” Valerie said.
Delphie looked at Valerie and then at Honey.
“How far along are you?” Delphie asked.
“Yes, Delphie, I’m a breeding cow,” Valerie said.
Delphie grinned at Valerie. She glanced at Honey, and Honey shrugged.
“Are you mad at being pregnant?” Delphie asked.
Valerie turned her head to look at Delphie for the first time. She shook her head and looked away.
“Just because I haven’t had this experience, doesn’t mean that I cannot understand,” Delphie said, evenly. “It would do you good to talk.”
“I feel like I haven’t had a chance to care for Eddie and …” Valerie said. “Now he’ll be a resentful middle child.”
“Eddie?” Honey laughed.
Valerie turned her head to look at Honey.
“Why did you laugh?” Honey asked.
“Eddie is the most easy going baby in the house,” Honey said. “He’s a delight to be around. Laughs easily. So much so that Maggie loves to tell him her inane jokes. He laughs and laughs.”
“His cousins absolutely adore him,” Delphie said. “Bladen and Tanner won’t go anywhere unless he’s with them. For all of their crazy energy, Eddie is their calm friend.”
“That’s true,” Honey nodded.
“You’re saying that he’s simple,” Valerie said.
“I’m saying …” Honey said.
“Seems like the demons in your head have got you,” Delphie said talking over Honey’s words. “You know that Eddie isn’t simple. Honey was talking about what a great kid he is and how he’s not going to care if there’s another child around.”
Valerie grumbled and looked away from them. Honey reached over to hold Valerie’s hand again.
“Tell us what’s going on,” Honey said, kindly.
Valerie glared at Honey and then shot daggers with her eyes at Delphie. The Oracle simply grinned. Seeing that they were unintimidated by her anger, Valerie shook her head at them.
“I know that you aren’t upset about being pregnant,” Delphie said.
Valerie’s head jerked to look at Delphie.
“I …” Delphie put her hand on her chest, “ … used to tell you that you should be a liberated woman and you used to tell me that you wanted to have a bunch of kids. Do you remember why?”
“So we could have our own baseball team,” Valerie said, grudgingly.
“Now, granted, you probably won’t have that many kids, but it would take a lot for me to believe that you’re upset about being pregnant again,” Delphie said.
“Should we get Mike in here and flog him?” Honey asked. “I assume all of this is his fault.”
To her credit, Valerie actually laughed out loud.
“I’d like to see you try,” Valerie said. “He might enjoy that too much.”
The woman laughed.
“So what is it?” Delphie asked when their laughter subsided.
“I have to go to a premiere,” Valerie said. “The producer said that I have to wear triple layer of that slimming gear so that I don’t look like a ‘breeding cow.’”
“Who said?” Honey asked.
“Producer,” Delphie said.
“Right, but who is it?” Honey asked. “I’ll send him a mean tweet.”
Delphie laughed so hard that Honey and Valerie turned to look at her. Delphie wiped her eyes and laughed again.
“You’re being ridiculous,” Delphie said with a nod to Valerie. “And you know it. You’ve always wanted a big family. You love children. You have a lot of help here. Even if Edie doesn’t come back, there are lots of men and women who love kids here. Your child will grow up around all of these amazing people.”
Valerie scowled at Delphie.
“So what is it?” Honey asked again. “I would love to have another child, but we can’t. I’m just gaining strength. The doctors say that a baby would only set me back. It’s not worth it to M.J.”
“Right but you’re like twelve,” Valerie said.
“We do have time,” Honey said. “That’s true. But so do you. Why did you get pregnant again if this is a big deal?”
“You’d better be there,” Delphie read from the phone. “You’re integral to the movie. I expect you do show up, regardless of your breeding status. Cattle still work when they are pregnant. Why would you be different?”
“Who was that?” Honey asked.
“Producer,” Delphie and Valerie said at the same time.
Honey shook her head.
“Why don’t we all go?” Honey asked.
“What do you mean?” Valerie asked.
“I can go,” Honey said. “I bet Jill and Tanesha would go. Heather, too. Sandy, if she’s well enough.”
“I’d go,” Delphie said.
“We could go as your cattle herd,” Honey said. “I bet even Tink and Noelle would go.”
Valerie looked at Honey for a long moment.
“Isn’t that some of what the movie is about?” Honey asked. “Using women as breeding stock without rights? Marrying ‘good breeding stock’?”
Valerie sucked in a breath.
“Maybe that’s what he meant,” Valerie said.
Her eyes flicked to Delphie, who gave her a doubtful look.
“Why do we care what he meant?” Honey asked. “Let’s do it.”
Valerie looked at Honey and then at Delphie.
“You guys would do this for me?” Valerie asked.
“We’d do it just for fun,” Honey said.
“Stick it to the man,” Delphie said with a laugh.
“What are we doing?” Heather asked, coming from downstairs.
Used to Heather’s comings and goings, no one thought it was strange that she would make an appearance.
“I was sent home,” Heather said. “The fairies are talking amongst themselves.”
“What are we doing?” Heather asked.
“Val’s producer told her that cattle work while pregnant,” Delphie said.
Heather’s eyebrows went up.
“I was thinking that we could go as Val’s breeding herd,” Honey said.
“I’m in,” Heather said. “I’m sure my grandmother and Hera would come too.”
Valerie grinned at Heather.
“I was just talking to Athena,” Heather said. “I bet she’d come just to fuck things up. Have you met her?”
The woman shook their heads in unison.
“She is very striking looking,” Heather said. “Beautiful. Fierce. She’d love this.”
Valerie laughed out loud.
“Then it’s a date,” Honey said. “What shall we wear?”
“It’s period wear,” Valerie said.
“Even better,” Honey said with a laugh.
“Then it’s a deal,” Heather said. “Val?”
“Delphie?” Heather asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Delphie said. “Now how should we respond?”
“I know,” Honey said. “Where’s your phone?”
Delphie gave Honey Valerie’s phone. Honey patted the couch, and Heather sat down. Honey took a selfie that included all of them.
“What are you doing?” Valerie asked. “Wait.”
“It’s done,” Honey said.
“What did you do?” Valerie asked.
Honey gave her the phone. Honey had posted the photo and the note: “My breeding herd” to Twitter. Delphie laughed. Heather and Honey grinned.
Valerie’s phone dinged. The women leaned in to look at the phone.
“We’re in the herd!” #ValsBreedingHerd #BestFriend4Life
There was a photo of Samantha Hargreaves and her little sister, Erin’s grinning faces.
The next ding brought a photo of Tanesha and Sandy.
“Miss T and Sandy are in the herd.” #ValsBreedingHerd
And it continued. Other actresses that Val had worked with chimed in with photos and #ValsBreedingHerd. Within ten minutes, the hashtag was trending on Twitter.
“Boom,” Honey said.
“Is this what ‘going viral’ means?” Delphie asked.
Valerie just laughed.
Edie’s mind raced. She had no idea what would happen next. After years of preparing to lead the fairies into the 21rst Century, she wasn’t willing to give up her well thought out plan; or, if she was completely honest, her position at the head of all of the fairies. She swallowed hard.
Hedone came out of the room.
“It’s been decided that you will speak among yourselves,” Hedone said.
“You won’t be there?” Edie asked.
“Not at first,” Hedone said. “This should give you some time to get to know each other and talk about your ideas.”
“But …” Edie wasn’t sure what to say or ask. She just stared at her friend, Hedone.
“Just try it,” Hedone said. “Give yourself the chance.”
“Myself?” Edie asked.
“Yes,” Hedone said. “You will need support, real support, when you take over. This is a chance to meet some new people, learn a few things, and understand what’s ahead of you.”
Edie gave a slight nod.
“I like this dress,” Hedone said, changing the subject. She picked up a bit of lace from Edie’s shoulder and ran her finger over it. “Hand tied lace. Nothing more beautiful.”
“Mari got it for me,” Edie said. They shared a look. Edie smiled. “You’re right. I do better when I am supported.”
Hedone tugged on the bit of fabric.
“I’m going home,” Hedone said. “But if you need me, just call.”
Edie grinned at Hedone. The Goddess kissed Edie’s cheek.
“You’ve got this,” Hedone said before she disappeared.
Edie looked at the spot where Hedone had stood for longer than she’d admit before sighing one last sigh and pushing the door open. She stood in the doorway to take a moment to look around the room. The room was eight sided and seemed to be made out of some kind of grass.
There were three fairies inside the room. Edie’s eyes fell on a striking fairy. She was tall and thin with brown skin the color of wet desert sand. She had short curly white hair and blue eyes.
“I am a representative of Ember,” the fairy said. “I am a Moor of the lost tribe of Ember. Most people call me ‘Anciens’ but I believe I am younger than you, Princess Edith.”
“Probably,” Edie said.
She grabbed Edie’s shoulders and placed her head next to Edie’s and then moved her head to the other side of Edie’s head. Prim Edie wasn’t sure what to make of this gesture.
“I am charged to find the lost tribes of Ember’s fairies,” the fairy said.
“Oh thank you,” Edie said. She put her hand on her chest. “I have worried about them.”
“Have no fear,” the fairy said. “I will find them.”
“What should I call you?” Edie asked.
“Most call the ‘Anciens’ or ‘le Anciens’,” the fairy said. “You may call me, ‘Asmaa’.”
“Mohammed’s niece?” Edie asked.
“That was me,” the fairy said. “You can understand why I only use that name among trusted friends.”
“It explains the Profit’s escape to Mecca,” Edie said.
“Yes, it does,” Asmaa said with a grin. She gave Edie a slight bow of her head. “It is very nice to be a part of this. Thank you for including me and my queen. Thank you for not forgetting the lost fairies.”
Asmaa moved away from Edie to sit on a bench along the wall of the room. The next fairy that came up had the white skin of Áthas’s tribe.
“Princess Edith,” the fairy said with a curtsey. “I am Athas’s daughter. I am Gudrid. My mother bears an Irish name due to her time as a pirate. Our tribe lives all over Europe. I was born near the modern country of Norway.”
“I’ve been asked to tell you to stop the attacks on those who live in the Castle in Denver,” Edie said.
The other two fairies looked surprised.
“You’ve lost two fairies,” Edie said. “You’re lucky that it was only two.”
“I give you my sincerest apologies,” Gudrid said. “That was an ill-conceived plan of the former envoy from our tribe.”
“She lost her life trying to steal the Sword of Truth,” Edie said evenly.
The fairy who was by her dress was from Queen Shanti’s tribe gasped and said, “They what?”
“She paid the price for her foolishness,” Gudrid said. “I hope that the actions of these foolish fairies won’t disrupt our alliances.”
“Why did your fairies want the Sword of Truth?” Edie asked.
Gudrid looked at Edie. After a moment, the fairy shook her head.
“Is this going to be an on-going issue?” Gudrid asked.
“I think your fairies behavior must be a topic our conversation,” Edie said. “Why does your tribe want the Sword of Truth?”
“It is over,” Gudrid said. “It does not concern us now.”
“It concerns me,” the fairy from Shanti’s tribe. She nodded to Edie, “Princess Edith, we have met before.”
“Princess Rani,” Edie said.
“Just Rani now,” the fairy from Shanti’s tribe said. “Our tribe collapsed. We’ve wanted to become a democracy for a very long time. We have been working on this project since our mother retreated. We have not made the project that Prince Finegal has made, but we will be ready to join the fairy union. As such, we will need full accountability of all of the fairy tribes.”
Rani shot Gudrid a dark look.
“What are your concerns about the Sword of Truth?” Edie asked.
“There is an old prophesy that the Sword of Truth will bring an end to the fairy world,” Rani said. “Whoever wields the sword will be able to stop the destruction, but only if he or she is willing to do it. It has always been assumed that one fairy tribe could use it to destroy the others.”
Edie watched Rani’s face to see if she was lying. As far as Edie could tell, Rani was telling the truth as she knew it.
“The fairy police have issued a report that they believe that is why Áthas’s tribe was interested in the sword — to destroy the other tribes,” Edie said. “Is this true, Gudrid?”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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