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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-ONE
“So, let me get this straight,” Tanesha said as she, Sandy, Heather, and Jill entered Jill’s loft.
They walked to the kitchen area and sat down in chairs at the bar counter. Jill went into to retrieve a tin of Sandy’s chocolate crunch cookies.
“Tea?” Jill asked.
“I’d love some,” Tanesha said.
“I bet you would,” Heather said with a laugh. She nodded to Jill. “Before anything else, I want to hear about what happened when you were with the fairies.”
“What a mess,” Tanesha said. “It was like a drug intervention.”
“Remember when we tried to do that with Sissy?” Sandy asked.
“Fucking horrible,” Jill said. Unaccustomed to Jill swearing, the women looked up at her. “Well, it was!”
“It was like that,” Tanesha said. “Aife was furious with Fin. They argued for what seemed like forever. Then Aife went after me. ‘Why is this creature here?’ Blah, blah. She’s a little unhinged.”
“A little?” Heather asked.
“What do you think is wrong with her?” Sandy asked.
“Remember how crazy Sissy was when she was sick?” Tanesha asked. “She was sure she was seeing reality, but…”
“Her reality was not actually based in fact,” Sandy said with a nod.
“She didn’t recognize that picture we took of her,” Jill said.
“Accused me of doctoring it,” Sandy said.
“Photoshop,” Heather said. She looked at Tanesha. “It was like that?”
“She’s addicted to feeling awful,” Tanesha said. “Addicted to the pain and loss. She can’t seem to let it go.”
“What do you think I can do?” Heather asked. “She’s been broken like this for a thousand years or more.”
“You can teach her to love,” Sandy said.
“How?” Heather asked. “If I cast love for her, she’ll probably fall in love with a stone.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Tanesha said with a shake of her head.
“What if you taught her to love herself?” Jill asked.
The women fell silent.
“I want to know why Eros hates Fand,” Tanesha said.
“She’s pretty dislikeable,” Sandy said.
“I think it’s a good question,” Jill said. “The fairy world has been brutalized. Fand ripped apart. This thing with Aife. Who has it in for them?”
“My father,” Heather said. “I guess.”
“Any idea why?” Jill asked.
Heather shook her head.
“Let’s promise not to ask him,” Tanesha said.
“After what happened with Sissy, I dare not,” Heather said. “Did I tell you…”
She closed her mouth and shook her head. She fell silent before her rage came up.
“He made it so that Sissy and Ivan couldn’t be together in one life,” Heather said finally. “It was a hidden part of the arrow. If they got as close as they are now, they would die. They had to die.”
“Is that what my father did?” Jill asked. “He never said.”
“He forced Eros to tell me what he’d done,” Heather said. “His mother fixed it for them and every other dark arrow.”
“I wonder what special surprise Eros created for the fairies,” Tanesha said.
“Exactly right,” Heather said. “He controlled the most powerful force in the human world and he welded that power with…”
She shook her head. They fell into contemplative silence while they ate their cookies. When the electric pot finished warming the water, Jill made them individual cups of tea. They drank their tea and ate cookies in silence. After a few minutes, Heather sighed.
“Well?” Heather asked.
“You need to fix this,” Sandy said. “For your own sake as well as Aife’s.”
Tanesha nodded. Heather looked at Jill. She was looking down eating her cookie.
“What?” Heather asked.
“I guess I’m just wondering what will happen when Aife has her strength back,” Jill said. “Should we run for cover? Will she destroy Alex and Max? She’s obsessed with Alex’s husband John, and he hates her.”
“Lucky we know an Oracle,” Heather said. “Let’s go ask her.”
The women set their cups to the sink and went downstairs. Abi and Delphie were sitting at the table in grim silence. They looked up when the girlfriends entered the room. Delphie scanned Heather for a moment before giving a nod.
“Aife will return to the mantle of the blue fairy,” Delphie said with a nod. “We can’t expect her to give up her obsession with Alex and Max. They are her heirs.”
“I thought the jerk killed her son,” Jill asked.
“She had a daughter first,” Abi said. “No one mentions her because, let’s face it, she’s just a girl.”
Abi rolled her eyes and shook her head.
“She was a beautiful girl,” Abi said. “She was raised by Manannán’s family after Aife lost her mind. She never had real promise as a fairy, but you have to admit that Alex and Max are magnificent even without specific magic powers.”
Abi gave a sad smile.
“She had the most amazing smile,” Abi said. “It lit up the world. She lived a hundred years or so and had many children.”
“Will Aife exact revenge?” Heather asked. “Start a war with the humans?”
“Not if she doesn’t remember,” Delphie said. “But it would take a spectacular spell cast by a strong fairy to make it happen.”
Abi gave Delphie a sideways look. Delphie grinned at the fairy. Shaking her head at Delphie, Abi nodded.
“We’ll do it together,” Heather said.
“As you wish,” Abi said.
“Can you do this magic on someone so unwilling?” Tanesha asked. “Because when I was in there, that woman didn’t give two craps about what any of her siblings had to say.”
“Fand, Liban, Gil,” Abi said in a low voice.
Queen Fand, her twin sister, Liban, and the gargoyle they knew as Gilfand appeared in the kitchen. Queen Fand’s round belly was a match to Abi’s.
“Hedone has agreed,” Abi said.
“Thank you,” Gilfand said.
Gilfand, Queen Fand, and Liban dropped to one knee in front of Heather. Abi smiled. When Gilfand gestured for her to drop, Abi did so immediately.
“We are in your debt,” Abi said.
“So noted,” Heather said. “If we can bring peace to your realm, we can begin to unite the realms in peace.”
“We can only hope,” Liban said in a sad voice.
“Ready?” Heather asked. The fairies got to their feet. “She’s this way.”
She nodded to her friends before leading the fairies toward the room off the living room. As if she’d forgotten something, Heather returned to the kitchen in a second.
“Did you forget something?” Tanesha asked.
“It’s done,” Heather said.
“What?” Jill asked. If is it were impossible, Sandy gave a quick shake of her head.
“Aife took one look at her mother and caved,” Heather said. “After that, she allowed me to touch her heart. I was able to heal the break and light a spark of self-love. Abi cleared her mind.”
“Pretty straight forward,” Heather said.
“Well done!” Delphie cheered. “You are… amazing.”
She held out her arms and Heather let Delphie hug her. Abi appeared next to Delphie.
“I wanted to thank you personally,” Abi said. “It means a great deal to me that you would chose to help us.”
“Thank you for being honest,” Heather said.
“Why does Eros hate Fand and Liban?” Tanesha asked.
“They are very beautiful,” Abi said. “Alluring to an Olympian God, but completely unaffected by his charms.”
Jill snorted a laugh.
“You mean the trouble had with Olympia were about Eros lusting after Fand and Liban?” Jill asked.
“The word is rape,” Abi said.
“Awful,” Delphie said with a sad nod.
Abi gave the oracle a curt nod.
“Now, we are heading home,” Abi said. “I will have my child. Fin should be back in time for his exams.”
“We’re excited to meet the child,” Jill said.
“Me, too,” Abi said.
With a nod, she disappeared. The girlfriends let out a breath.
“What’s next?” Delphie asked.
“Getting everyone to bed,” Sandy said. “We have a big day tomorrow, too.”
With a nod, she left to get her children from the backyard. Jacob came in the side door and wandered into the kitchen.
“Did I miss everything?” he asked Jill.
“You did,” Jill said.
“Thank God,” Jacob said. “Where’s Katy? Paddie?”
“Outside,” Jill said. “Can you get the sparklers? I promised Katy that we could light some tonight before bed.”
“Good idea,” Jacob said. He jogged off downstairs to get the sparklers.
Delphie watched them go.
“You seem a little too happy,” Tanesha said.
“I guess I am,” Delphie said.
“Why?” Heather asked.
“I guess…” Delphie said and then gave a sigh. “When I was a child, I felt very hopeless. And when I looked at the greater world, everything seems horrible. Fand in pieces. Eros raping and creating chaos. And… well, the realms, as you called them, were in chaos. Little by little, everything is getting worked out. It’s… more than I could have dreamed of.”
Wiping a tear, Delphie gave them a smile.
“I do love sparklers,” shesaid and went out into the backyard.
“I’m heading home,” Heather said.
She hugged Jill and Tanesha before leaving for home. Jill waited for Jacob to return with sparklers. He kissed her and they went out into the warm spring night.
Sunday afternoon — 3:12 p.m.
“This is my favorite party,” Valerie said to no one in particular.
Seth’s wife, Ava, turned to look at her. They were standing on the deck. The grass was filled with people holding beverages. The younger children were either watching a video inside or napping. Jacob and Blane were starting the barbeques. The teenagers were playing Frisbee along the back of the yard.
“It seems like there’s a party here every time I’m here,” Ava said.
“There’s just a lot of people who live here,” Valerie said. “The crowd makes it seem like a lot.”
“I think it’s great,” Ava said. “No dragging yourself to work, shoving something in the microwave, and falling asleep in front of the television.”
Valerie gave Ava a searching look and Ava grinned.
“Not that I’ve ever done that,” Ava chuckled.
“Oh, yes, me either,” Valerie laughed. Shaking her head, she said, “Never.”
“College?” Valerie asked.
“I worked at the FBI for a few months,” Ava said. “It was a forensics training, but you have to join the FBI to take it. And, college, I guess.”
She shrugged and looked at Valerie.
“You?” Ava asked.
“College certainly,” Valerie said. “Oh…”
“Probably every other time I’m away from here,” Valerie said. “There’s just something about being here that makes everything else seem so unimportant.”
“How’s New York?” Valerie asked.
“Okay,” Ava said with a smile. “Weird.”
“Weird?” Valerie asked.
“It was supposed to be our honeymoon,” Ava said with a smile. “Of course, we did see the ballet put on the piece Seth wrote for me, and we did stay in a super romantic swanky hotel.”
“But?” Valerie asked.
“No, but,” Ava said. “Just time with Seth is always a little weird. He’s either exercising or visiting with old friends or looking for the next donut shop or playing the piano or dragging me into a dive restaurant for ‘the best’ whatever or leading sing-a-long…”
“Go, go, go?” Valerie asked.
“More like life on random,” Ava said. “You know like a record changer?”
“I love it, and him. Every day is just a little…”Ava shrugged.
“Weird,” Valerie said.
Ava nodded. She gestured to where Nadia and Nash were sitting.
“What’s the story with them?” Ava asked.
“You’ve heard about the whole ‘dark arrow’ thing,” Valerie said.
“From Alex,” Ava said. “You know, Alex Hargreaves, Samantha’s sister.”
“They should be here soon,” Valerie said with a nod.
“They seem so happy,” Ava said. “In their own little world. I always look for Nash because he’s such a great kid. He was really nice to me when everything went down with Seth. He kind of took care of me, you know? Since then he always hangs out with me at these events. That’s why I was surprised to see him with Nadia together. I don’t think Nash has moved all afternoon.”
“All day,” Valerie said. The women looked at Nash and Nadia. Nadia was talking and Nash was intently watching her face. “I just met Nadia. I guess you met her when you went to see Sissy in the hospital.”
“I was surprised to like her so much,” Valerie said. “Sami, too. She’s really wonderful. Funny, friendly, and incredibly smart. We went shopping yesterday and had a blast.”
“It must be doubly weird to see her with a…” Ava shrugged.
“Kid?” Valerie asked. “Nash is so awesome. I wish I could say that I’m comfortable with it, but…”
“Sissy and Ivan, too,” Valerie said. “Then, I see them together and… they look perfect together.”
“Happy,” Ava said with a nod. “In love.”
Valerie lifted a shoulder in a shrug at her own judgements.
“Wes was about as much older than me as Ivan is to Sissy,” Valerie said. “So I’m a big hypocrite to say anything at all.”
“The difference between Seth and my ages is more,” Ava said.
Valerie squinted at Ava.
“I know,” Ava said. “You and I were adults.”
“I’m sure it’s hell for Ivan and Nadia,” Valerie said. “Can you imagine having a soulmate experience with someone who is fourteen?”
“The nice thing is that everything is out in the open,” Valerie said. “Sandy and Aden talk about it with Nash and Sissy. Everyone is clear about what’s going on.”
“Very you-guys,” Ava said.
“Kinda hard to hide things around here,” Valerie said.
“I bet,” Ava said. “Speaking of hiding things. What happened with the Crucible?”
“We started the film then there were those big snowstorms and I had to go into hiding,” Valerie said. “My part was recast.”
“Sorry,” Ava said.
“It happens,” Valerie said. “So why aren’t you going to New York?”
“Seth got this gig working on Sandy’s mom’s piece,” Ava said. “It’s in five or six movements. He’s working them into film scores for a series.”
“Yeah, I have no idea what that means either,” Ava said with a laugh.
“Move aside, ladies!” Mike said with good natured enthusiasm.
He was on one side of a large aluminum pan filled with all manner of burgers, sausages, bison steaks, and other meaty things for the grill. Seth held the other side. He wiggled his eyebrows at Ava as they passed on their way to the barbeques.
“Never fear,” Mike said. “There’s another tray like this of veg.”
“Maresol’s cooking with Delphie, right?” Ava asked.
“Dionne’s in there too,” Valerie said.
A burst of laughter came from the kitchen.
“They are hard at work,” Seth said.
Mike laughed. Jacob cheered at the approach of the meat.
“Any idea who that is?” Ava gestured to a beautiful woman standing on the grass talking to Heather. She had long dark hair, large blue eyes, and a bright smile. Although short in stature, she looked fit and strong. “She looks like one of those fairies.”
“Aife,” Valerie said. “At least I think her name is Aife. She’s been here about day. Fin and Abi were here but they left to go home to have their baby.”
“She’s very beautiful,” Ava said.
“I guess she’s usually the blue fairy,” Valerie said. “Tanesha said she’ll go back to that after tonight.”
Alex and Max Hargreaves came out onto the patio. They turned in unison and John caught up with them. Aife, the fairy, gave them a sweet smile.
“She seems to like them,” Ava said.
“They’re related to her,” Valerie said and shrugged.
Ava nodded. A few minutes later, Colin Hargreaves and his wife came out onto the deck. They stopped to say “hello” before getting a beer. Seeing Colin, Charlie whistled and Teddy threw the Frisbee to him. Colin caught it and jogged to where the teenagers were playing.
“Like I said,” Valerie said. “This is my favorite party.”
Sunday afternoon — 8:20 p.m.
“You promise?” Noelle begged through her tears.
“I promise,” Sissy said. Trying to be brave, Sissy sniffed to keep from crying. “We’ll video chat every Sunday at the very least.”
“Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, for sure,” Noelle said at the same time Sissy said, “Every day.”
Afraid she’s start sobbing, Sissy nodded. She was four years older than Noelle so she should be strong.
“I wish I was coming with you,” Noelle said.
“There’s no reason for you to hide,” Sissy said. “You can be here.”
Her last word came out with such longing that Noelle began to cry harder.
“And if it’s awful and… everything?” Noelle asked.
“I’ll come home,” Sissy said. “Ivan says we can get work at the Denver Ballet.”
“I will miss you, sister,” Noelle said.
“I will miss you, too,” Sissy said. “I’m sorry I’ll miss you being on the stand.”
“It’s okay,” Noelle said. “You can’t come in with me anyway and…”
“I’ll be okay,” Noelle said.
“You’ll take care of my dog?” Sissy asked.
“I’ll take care of my dog,” Noelle said with a snort. Sissy laughed. “It’s really hard.”
“What is?” Sissy asked.
“Growing up,” Noelle said. “Becoming something.”
“I believe in you, Sissy,” Noelle said.
“I believe in you, Noelle,” Sissy said.
“I’m sorry…” Aden said from the doorway. “It’s time to go.”
Sissy stood up from her embrace with Noelle.
“Love you,” Sissy said.
“Me, too,” Noelle said.
Aden put his arm around Sissy and walked her toward the door of the apartment.
“You have your money?” Aden asked. “Your return ticket? And if things don’t work out?”
“I’ll come right home,” Sissy said.
“And if things go south with Ivan?” Aden asked. “Don’t let him pressure you or…”
“I’ll come right home,” Sissy said.
Aden stopped at the door.
“Thanks,” Sissy said.
“For what?” Aden asked.
“For helping Sandy make home for us,” Sissy said.
She stretched up to kiss his cheek. She hugged him one last time and raced down the stairs to the main level of the Castle where Sandy was waiting. Sandy gave her a hug.
“You’re coming to the airport, right?” Sissy asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it,” Sandy said.
Sissy took a long look around the Castle before heading out the door to the driveway where Ivan and Nadia were waiting.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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