I think the cover is ready! It looks like we’re on track to publish by the end of the week! If you haven’t read The Sunshine Line now is the time to pick it up at Smashwords! 50% off coupon code: KK28G
Meanwhile, here is the fourth chapter of The Mirror’s Image coming soon!
Tuesday July 7, 1992
Kristy and I took a little retreat to a Napa bed-and-breakfast and got back to the City late Tuesday morning. We went straight to the courthouse to get legally married. Kristy hadn’t really wanted to bother, feeling sufficiently married already, but I thought it might be a good idea.
After all, I’d called my parents over the weekend and told them that Kristy and I had eloped to Reno. I would just have to hope there would never be a reason for them to look at the wedding certificate. My parents had been slightly disappointed and a little bit bemused that they had never even met my bride. I told them that they would eventually, but that we were joining the Peace Corps and would be out of touch for a while.
“I can’t believe he swallowed that story,” I said out loud, as we made our way from my – our – apartment to Tom and Molly’s house.
“Who and the what now?” Kristy asked, since I’d spoken out of the blue.
“My dad. I can’t believe he bought my story about the Peace Corps. It’s not like the Army. There’s a little bit more involved in signing up. And don’t you have to have a doctorate or something?”
“I think so,” Kristy giggled.
“Yeah,” I said thoughtfully. “Sooner or later he’s going to think that all the way through.” I sighed. “Oh well. I guess he only really had to buy it for the length of the phone call. I’m disappearing far more thoroughly than the Peace Corps could make me.”
Kristy automatically reached for my hand, but I was using it to drive, so she redirected her movement to my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. It wasn’t quite the same, but it helped.
I parked in Tom and Molly’s driveway around two. We’d stopped at our apartment to pack a suitcase for our training period. Amaleen had told us that the fairies would provide housing for us, though we would often eat on the other side of the portal with Kristy’s parents. We easily found a way to kill a little time before we left the apartment so we could make sure lunch would be over by the time we got to the house.
Once inside, we were greeted with hugs and further congratulations when we announced we were legally married; Kristy showed her parents the ring that she almost didn’t let me buy her.
Once things quieted down, we moved out of the hall into the kitchen. I looked around before I sat down. “Are we alone?”
“Yes,” Molly said. “I think Amaleen is a little pissed off that you two didn’t arrive earlier in the day. She was a thundercloud at lunch.”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” said Kristy. “We just didn’t feel like rushing around after such a lovely relaxing weekend.”
“Oh, I understand, dear. I just thought you should know.”
“When did she say to open the portal to see her again?” I asked.
Tom laughed, “As soon as you arrived.”
I tried not to cringe at the thought of additionally angering Amaleen by making her wait longer. “I suppose we ought to get on with it, then.”
“Only if you’re ready,” Tom said. “I think that it’s a bit late in the day to get started on anything at this point. If you’ll take a word of advice, I’d say you should insist on sleeping here tonight and get started in the morning.”
I nodded, considering it.
Kristy said, “That sounds like a smart idea, Dad.”
I stood up, “Still, I think it’s best not to keep her waiting any longer.”
We went to the den and Molly opened the portal. Amaleen was sitting right in front of it, glowering. Molly gave a little gasp of surprise, and a momentary look of gratification crossed Amaleen’s features.
She jumped down and advanced on Kristy and I. She seemed to move in a cloud of darkness, her eyes nearly black, her skin seeming to be in some personal deep shadow. Though she was only five feet tall, I fought an urge to duck and cover.
“Taking our sweet time, eh?” She growled.
“Yes, Amaleen!” Kristy said sharply, startling me out of my fascinated fear. “We are human beings and have human needs. We may have accepted the task you asked of us and become the employees of fairies, but that doesn’t mean we have abandoned our humanity.”
Amaleen blinked in the face of this firmly delivered speech. The darkness she had gathered around her flickered uncertainly.
Kristy spoke again in a voice that dismissed the possibility of argument, “If you think that we are the only ones with things to learn and changes to make, you had better re-think.”
Amaleen closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. She held the breath for a few moments, then let it out slowly. As she exhaled, the darkness she’d absorbed dissipated gradually. She repeated the process twice more until her coloring was normal again and when she opened her eyes they, too, were back to their normal bark-brown color.
“You’re right,” she said shortly. She didn’t speak for several moments and I wondered if I was supposed to say something. But then she went on, “Well you’re here, and it’s now. It’s late in the day. We’ll get you two started tomorrow. You might as well not even come through today.”
“That’s what we were thinking,” I said. A quick scowl crossed her features. Perhaps I shouldn’t have reminded her that she had needed her thinking readjusted.
“Open the portal at five. You still don’t get to cook for yourselves,” she said abruptly, then clambered back up into the portal and stalked out of the clearing to the north.
That evening, I was surprised to see Bart preceding Molly into the kitchen after she opened the portal. I didn’t even have to look to know that everyone was as astonished as I was.
“To what do we owe the pleasure?” Tom asked in grandiose tones.
Bart grinned. “You must have really pissed Amaleen off.” He seemed rather pleased about it. I still don’t know what exactly is the deal between Amaleen and Bart, but he obviously rubbed her the wrong way just by existing, and for his part, he found that funny. Any opportunity to further annoy her amused him more. Maybe there was some incident in their past, or maybe it was a species thing or maybe it was just bad chemistry. I tried not to let it amuse me too much when Amaleen was around. It did not improve her temper if I started smirking too.
Bart’s style was very different from Amaleen’s, naturally. Watching him, you’d swear he was making a terrible mess. He was chaos in motion. It seemed like it would be a wonder if he could really pull off everything he seemed to be trying to do simultaneously. All the while he hummed a merry tune to himself. We watched in fascination.
Then, when nobody had even seen him take the plates out of the cupboard, he was suddenly putting dinner in front of us. Chicken in a white sauce, braised greens, and rice pilaf. It looked and smelled delicious.
As we were still recovering from the surprise of the abrupt dinner service, Bart was at the table side again, with beers for all of us. “Thank you!” I said, breaking the stunned silence.
“You’re welcome!” he said with a sunny smile. “I’m going to watch some TV until you’re ready to let me back through the portal. No hurry.” And he walked out of the kitchen.
“Well, that was … different,” Molly said. “I hate to think what my kitch– ” She stopped, staring at the counters and stove. “How did he do that?” she said incredulously.
I looked over my shoulder. The kitchen was spotless. Even the sink was clean. There wasn’t even a single dirty pot. I laughed helplessly, “You’re talking about a guy who moves couches with one hand, rearranging whole rooms full of furniture in minutes, silently. If he can stealth clean, too, I don’t think I’m surprised.”
Tom said, “Well his cheery attitude was a pleasant change, even if his loose technique was a bit alarming at close quarters.”
Kristy said, “Don’t get used to it dad, Amaleen considers us her property and Bart’s the last person she’d relinquish us to on any kind of permanent basis.”
Tom and Molly laughed.
Dinner was just as delicious as it appeared, and Molly let Bart through the portal when she was done eating. The four of us spent the evening playing cards, and made an early night of it.