“Okay. But I won’t always be here.” I said.
He nodded. “We aren’t limited to the property. We have cousins in Detroit.”
My eyes widened. “I’ve never seen them.”
“They prefer suburbs. It’s a cultural thing.” He said, face sly.
I narrowed my eyes. “You aren’t talking about little statues, are you?”
“No, I’m serious. They grow dandelions. There are places in the city where they can, but it’s easier out in the ‘burbs.”
“They must be in a perpetual war with those chemically based lawn companies.” I said, mostly joking.
The expression on his face nearly floored me.
“Seriously?” I gasped.
“Yeah. It’s… not a peasant scene,” He admitted.
“So, why doesn’t everybody know about you? Why aren’t I seeing things about it in the Detroit News?” I asked.
Fliggets laughed. “You’re funny. Not everybody remembers us. Also, some other people just refuse to believe their ‘lying eyes’. The culture is against it, so the folks who do see and understand either… well, get other jobs, or join them, or… well, decide that it’s better off if we didn’t exist.” He said simply. “We country gnomes understand that we are the ones that are invaders, so we don’t get harsh. We try to live lightly where none may object to us. Truthfully, even our city cousins pull punches. If this ever got to the Dreaming— it would be brutal. But they just harass, haunt dreams, among other things. No one has died, except by accident. Well, that I know of. But that’s how good it is. They have the shame to hide such an act, rather than gloat over a pint.”
I sighed with relief. “Well, what about…well, the call of duty?”
“We only kill if it’s needed. It isn’t often thus. But I warn you, the drug addled are harder. They either don’t respond at all to magic, or…unpredictably depending on the poison utilized. Some human under the influence of cannabis will be MORE likely to be affected by magic. Still, bullets will kill them, and once they are meat, the usual rules apply.”
“Okay. So tell me why I’m a Lady. I don’t think you mean, “I’m a girl human.” I said.
He grinned. “You are a maid indeed, and a lovely one, if a bit tall.”
“You are the first person ever to say that, you realize?” I said, cocking my head.
He laughed again. His cheeks were charmingly cherry red. “But you are right. Only females of noble blood can be called Lady.”
I swallowed. “So was there some faerie hanky-panky in my family history, then?” I asked.
He laughed again. “Nothing so vulgar. Your aunt insisted. She said that she wasn’t going to accept the Queen’s deal ‘unless she was made a Faire Princess.’ Her words.” I smiled a bit, looking up at the absurd flowerpot lamp dangling from the cross beam, decked out with glowing LED flowers. It was just like something she’d say.
“So, how’d you do it?” I asked.
“Blood magic. The most potent kind. It’s the magic of the royals. Even wizards can’t do it. They comingled blood, thus you are a part of the royal line.”
I nearly fell out of my chair. “Does that affect… me, even though I’m not my aunt?”
“The whole bloodline is affected. It is even possible that it changed your…family’s past.”
I was starting to feel oppressed and ill, despite laughing earlier. I wanted to run away into my little room.
“Would my memories change? How would I know? I mean, it’s not like I’m the queen of recall these days anyway.”
“No. But you might get new ones.” He said softly.
“Does that mean, my father has magic now? My mom?” I asked, mouth dry.
“Everyone is affected differently. Your father showed… a remarkable deadness to magic. Though your people are of the autumn world, he might be…a null soul. They do not… react. They kill all enchantment around them just by being.”
“What about my dad’s sister?” I asked.
The gnome smiled, so adorable. “Family is a mystical thing. Marriage unifies bloodlines. You will know if she has gotten closer. Or become more important.”
I swallowed. My mouth was dry. I shivered, despite still being too hot. It was like my insides were cold but offered no relief from the stickiness without.
“This is too much.” I croaked.
“I know.” He said sadly.
“I need… I need time.”
“Yes,” he said. “Take it.”
He then did that thing, where he shifted into a ball of light and floated away. I watched him go… simultaneously horrified and glad. I couldn’t decide if I wanted him to run, or never leave. I felt alone.
I got up from my seat, and staggered into the house. I trudged with an effort to the sink threw open the cabinet and found some dry powdered pink lemonade. I hated it, but I needed it. I dumped some in a washed out milk jug in the recycle bin. I dumped in some iodized salt, and a container of coconut water I’d brought with me from home. I then filled up 2/4 the way with water, and then shoved some crushed ice to make it full. I chugged a few gulps right from the jug, then grabbed a red cup and headed to the bathroom. I was light headed, sweating again, my mouth was salivating… and my breath was short. I rushed to the toilet.
I threw it up, sour sweetness bitter with bile and even nastier, right back into the toilet. I had to keep fluid down. After my stomach settled I ran and grabbed a six pack of Vernor’s, the only ginger ale that Phil would dain under her roof. As an after thought, I got some saltines, and went poured tepid water into the claw foot bath tub, big enough that even Patrick could lay out full length with a little room to spare. It was big enough I still felt like a child bathing in it.
I poured some cold water over my head, and started to shiver. I drank my Vernor’s out of a sippy cup. Don’t laugh you, I was afraid of dropping it into the tub. To complete the picture, I was nibbling on fist fulls of saltine crackers like a toddler while wiggling my toes in the water. I was this strange combination of flushed and pale. Part of that’s the skin, but it was paler than usual. I alternated between the pink lemonade and the Vernor’s, which I’d made flat by shaking. The bubbles also made me ill, don’t you know. So that’s how I spent my evening until around 9 pm when I fed the animals.
I was an hour late, but I didn’t want to faint, or be sick all over them.`
Despite this, the animals were quiet and compliant. They seemed to know something was up, especially the goats.
Only the fish were restive, but they can’t bark, meow, or scream. Baldy the python didn’t want to eat, but Castor the green snake gulped his fresh-frozen mouse with gusto. I frowned at Baldy, who just blinked at me knowingly. He looked wise and ancient, like a dragon without legs. I dragged myself into doing the second part of the water transfer, then caught the black fish and moved them into the new tanks I’d done yesterday. They swam around to explore. They did not look particularly traumatized, and seemed to like the pirate wreckage and rock formations I picked out. They were petrified sponge skeletons or something. They had lots of hollows and hiding places. I envied them in the safe little habitat.
Phil had left them in the fish armoire. The display shelves were covered with habitats and fake plants, but the specimens were tested and sealed by Phil herself, who collected those, too. I wondered if she did funny things with rocks besides making fish happy. I caught myself dozing, hypnotized by the fish.
Once I was done, Hello Kitty followed me into the bedroom and INSISTED on curling up in my lap. Zanzibar was in a snit about something and went upstairs into Phil’s room. The dogs were protective, but hesitant to invade my space. Hunter wouldn’t even come into the bedroom, but laid out Sphinx-like by the door. Bilbo finally crept across the threshold and hopped up on the bed. He took station at my feet, looking serious and guard like. It was kind of like having a furry little Yoda promising to protect you. I laughed, wondering what color his light-saber would be. Hello Kitty’s tail thrashed, but she did nothing.
That was the last thing I remembered before slipping into a heavy black sleep around 10.
And here I thought I’d have trouble sleeping.
My sleeping brain tried to figure out what a niece of a Fairy Princess was called. The dreams were to silly to recall, and they vanished like a fog in the morning. Something about frogs into fairy princesses, and…yes, a perfectly human Patrick to do the kissing. You didn’t hear it from me, and it’s not my dream. You can’t prove it.
I woke up surrounded by so much fluff that I thought I was in heaven. It was in every color of the rainbow— at least as far as pet hair is concerned. I sneezed, and gasped. My mouth was dry and my skin felt like sunburn. Duh, I wasn’t just traumatized. I’d also had heat stroke. Probably while stupidly firing a shotgun in 90+ degree weather in the middle of a humidity festival.
At least I or nobody I knew had extra holes donated by yours truly. I wondered if the truism about landings applied to range practice.
I tried to move, but I was oppressed by the weight of may bodies. Many WARM furry bodies. I released an arm, and a full sized cream poodle called Cloud Croft yipped and stumbled over a cat to get away. No wonder my hair was drenched in sweat. I wondered how the animals could stand it. Not to mention, there had to be a law against so many cats and dogs curled up in the same pile. I looked over and discovered one of the miniature goats had snuck inside the house when the dogs came in. A little black one was curled up between Zanzibar and Hunter. I hadn’t even known those two could get along, and Zans was half way on top of Hunter’s back. The goat looked up at me with the cutest expression and bleated.
This was about the time I remembered that goats aren’t house broken.
I took in a deep breath. Now, goats aren’t exactly floral scented, Phil says they have a “barnyard sweetness about them”, but it was clear that nobody had crapped in my room. I sighed with relief. My room was one of the few that had a carpet. Granted, it was a short nap area rug, but it was pale cream with pink and purple flowers on it, and my aunt ordered it special for my 7th birthday. There was a reason why she’d spring for a gift that ridiculous, and that was because I was living here. Because my parents were getting separated. Some other folks would say divorced, but my mom still remembers what the priests say about marriage. Dad didn’t really give a damn.
Sam, another aunt, had made a quilt to go with it— it had yellow moons an stars on a cream back, then a crazy quilt pattern based on a floral print that sort of matched the carpet. They weren’t the same, but I loved it more for all that. Sam was actually my dad’s sister, but she wasn’t evil. She actually got closer to us after dad left. She really helped out mom when things were bad. I had taken it off the bed when I was 13, because the memories were too much. It reminded me too much of the bad times. Somehow the carpet was different. That was just about Phil loving me when no one else did. Yeah, I thought that.
These days, I have to admit that even mom loves me. Dad, I don’t think he’s capable of loving anyone. Mom insists that he was different before they got married, that in the first few years he was good so far as she could see. Then around their fourth anniversary— two years after my little sister was born, and when she found she was pregnant with me— she discovered he was having an affair. Then, things got worse once she confronted him with it. She forgave him, and… things got worse. I closed my eyes and covered my head with the sheet. I heard Bilbo yawn in his doggy way and he picked his way across my legs then stood on my chest (which was thankfully vacant) and stuck his nose in my face— where it was peeking out of the sheet so I could breathe– and whined. It was the ‘feed me’ whine.
I harrumphed. “I’m sure you are starving to death after last night.” I told him. He whined again. This time, other animals were getting up and contributing their various opinions about food, which was unanimously affirmative. Soon it was inescapable. I had to feed the animals…again. Eh. I even had to feed myself. I was starving, as fist fulls of saltines aren’t really dinner, whatever the inner toddler inside me thought. I stepped up my pace when I remembered I was supposed to meet Pat at the farm today. I was getting a refresher course on horsy stuff.
So yes. I had coffee cake and eggs, and black coffee modeled after Patricks. His is still better, I’m not sure why. So I put some of that fancy coffee creamer that comes in individual packages and tastes like Starbucks. This was hazelnut fru-fru cream. It wasn’t normally my thing, but bitter wasn’t going down well and I still needed coffee. So I wasn’t ‘back to normal’ yet. I found some leftover ham and fried that up with the eggs. My hands were still gittering. I hoped I could do the horses today. Well, I’d go regardless and if I had to stop early for the day, so be it.
Even if I was starting to develop a crush on the guy. I never thought it would happen with Her Nibbs shoving me in his general direction that way. What was I, a medieval person who needed permission to marry?
I stopped. My ears flushed red. Who was I to think of marriage?
A first relative to a fairy princess. A voice whispered in my head. I snorted loudly to chase the thoughts away and went back to breakfast.
Well, a dutchess, maybe. I snorted, and started making pig noises. Several dogs and the goat decided to investigate. Blast, I’d forgotten to shoo him back outside and go on poo patrol. But dang it, I was going to eat first. I made noises to amuse the dogs and refrained from giving them scraps. They’d just eaten anyway.
Fortunately, I had not paid too much for my efforts. Strangely, something not a dog had used one of the poo pads. I did not feel confident in identifying critters by trademark, so I just went with it, satisfied that I didn’t have too much to clean up. I took the pad out to the compost, after stripping off the plastic backing and tucking it into the burning barrel.
It was still early enough to be cold-ish, but it was going to be another hot one, even though there was no sun this morning. Overcast. Either storms, or even more humidity. Great. Would we get rained out? Well, there was always hanging out in the staff room telling horse stories. I could get around that pretty nicely. I needed a diversion– if I could make it one.
No, not like that. Not that I have experience, but it seems like screwing around makes everything more intense… and intense is NOT what I need. I did not need to fall “in love” on top of everything else. It looked like I was going to have to pull myself apart and put everything back together… again. Best to fall in love when I know what I’m dealing with, within myself, at very least. Besides. The whole being set up thing, particularly by relatives, does not work.
But one other question was swirling around in the back of my head.
Did I build myself… like this?
I was afraid of the answer.