While we all wait for the cover to be ready, here’s another chapter!
Thursday, July 2, 1992
I woke around six, as was my habit on a weekday. I still felt a little stunned, but certainly more clear headed than I had been yesterday. I slipped out of bed and dressed quietly. Kristy appeared to be sleeping through it, but sometimes she faked it. That was her privilege.
I was the first one to the kitchen, so I made coffee. I sat at the kitchen table, staring at the machine as it brewed, in a mindless pre-caffeine daze.
Tom entered the kitchen and took in the scene. Then he laughed at me softly and said, “It’s going to taste good isn’t it?”
“Yes!” I said, fervently.
The pot finished brewing and we poured for ourselves. Tom seasoned his, but I kept mine black. As I was taking my first reverent sips, Kristy shuffled into the room, eyes at half-mast, making a beeline for the coffee pot. I didn’t attempt to engage her in conversation before she took her first sip; there wasn’t any point. My sweetie is not a morning person.
When her eyes started opening a bit further, I said, “Morning, sunshine!”
She gave me a slightly suspicious look, and grunted. Okay, I thought, maybe I jumped the gun a little.
Molly came into the room then, rather more composed than her adopted daughter. She, too, went straight for the coffee, but on the way she said, “Morning, all!” She seasoned her coffee and joined us at the table. She looked critically at Kristy and said “Hm, not quite all present and accounted for yet, eh?”
Kristy ignored this, and took a deep drink from her mug.
“I think I’ll go ahead and let Amaleen through. It will keep her in a better mood,” Molly said. She left the kitchen.
Kristy got up and got herself another cup of coffee. She was so alert now that she even realized she should make another pot. This was encouraging.
Molly and Amaleen came into the kitchen and Amaleen went straight to the business of making breakfast. She didn’t bother to shoo us out of the kitchen.
We sat in silence, but it was a comfortable silence for the most part. We were enjoying the lack of immediate emergencies.
Amaleen fed us a classic breakfast – eggs, bacon, and toast – and kept the coffee coming. Shortly I felt bright eyed and bushy tailed.
When we finished, Amaleen said, “You’d best get going.”
I looked at her quizzically. It was now seven. Where was I supposed to be headed this early?
She rolled her eyes at me, “To the courthouse, to get the marriage license. Remember?”
“Oh,” I said. “Time’s a wasting, is it?”
Kristy giggled and said, “Well, I did say I was in a hurry.”
“Life with you is a whirlwind, sweetie,” I said, smiling. I got up from the table and reached for her hand. She accepted my offer to assist her to her feet, though she certainly didn’t need it.
So we went to the courthouse for the license application. We managed to get there before it opened. We were first in line and thereby in and out fairly quickly. According to the license, we could get married in three days. So Sunday possibly, or Monday if we went back to the courthouse and had a JP perform the ceremony.
On the ride back we discussed housing. My apartment had superior location, size and parking, but Kristy’s décor was leaps and bounds beyond mine. I shyly suggested that we move Kristy’s things into my apartment. I could see that she was a little reluctant to give up the place she had made a part of herself, but she liked my compromise. We decided we would make arrangements for movers when we got back to Tom and Molly’s, and donate Kristy’s mattress set to Goodwill. If she decided she didn’t want to live with a bed raised off the floor, we could get rid of my bed frame later. It wasn’t like we’d be spending a lot of time there anyway. We decided to donate my dining room table as well; Kristy’s low Japanese table with the hole in the center was much more fun, and was an antique on top of that.
We got back to Tom and Molly’s around nine and Kristy volunteered to call moving companies. I poured myself yet more coffee and found Tom in the living room, watching a morning show. I sat down and joined him, without really taking it in.
I was still in a bit of a daze. I had turned my life upside down in one decision. I had gone from a perfectly normal substitute teaching job to working for fairies. Now I was going to be creating and protecting portals in areas where the fairies considered the natural Weak Spots to be threatened. To protect, and to a certain degree control, traffic between the worlds. I don’t know if I would have agreed to do it, if Kristy hadn’t agreed to be my partner, my wife. I didn’t have to find out. I felt closer to her than ever since we made our contract with the fairies.
The news show ended and a game show came on. Tom grunted and started flipping through the channels with the remote control. I wasn’t very optimistic that he would find anything worth watching at this hour of the day.
Kristy came in then, looking satisfied.
“Well, I couldn’t get anyone to do the move before Monday. But after that I pretty much had my pick, so I got exactly what I wanted,” she said smugly.
I didn’t need to know the details right now. I didn’t doubt Kristy’s competence. “That’s good, sweetie,” I said.
Amaleen came into the room and looked quickly at Kristy before turning to me and saying, “It’s time.” She looked me up and down as if she couldn’t decide if I was decent. “I’m taking you to meet your tutor.”
My heart started beating faster at the announcement that we would be going through the portal. I vividly remembered Molly’s response when I asked if humans could go through. “Yes,” she had said, “But we don’t.” She had seemed uncomfortable with the question but firm about the answer. Now I was headed through anyway. I remembered that when I asked why humans didn’t go through I was told we hadn’t been invited. I didn’t get it. In any case, I was being invited now.
I don’t know if I was anxious, exactly. But I did have a slightly unreal feeling. I was going to be leaving the realm of all that I understood.
Kristy reached for my hand and gripped it firmly as we walked into the den. I glanced down at her and she grinned tightly at me.
Amaleen stepped aside when she got to the couch. Kristy hesitated, then climbed up on it and undid the latch, swinging the portal wide open. The clearing was empty, morning light slanting through the tops of the immensely tall trees surrounding it. Kristy hesitated, and Amaleen made an almost amused gesture for Kristy to go ahead and climb up. Kristy put her hand down on the ledge, then turned back to look at me. I gave her what I hoped was an encouraging smile. She turned back and put her other hand down and bounced up into the clearing with effortless grace. I made no attempt to duplicate her feat. I just clambered up and got to my feet from there.
It didn’t feel alien at all. Well, it certainly didn’t feel like San Francisco, but it felt like a normal coastal California forest. All the plant life I could see looked familiar to me, and the air smelled like I would expect it to smell. I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.
Amaleen came in after us, climbing up like I had. She let us be, as we stared at our surroundings.
Something was missing. I realized I wasn’t hearing the typical raucous call of the Steller’s Jay that I associated with such forests. Listening for it I heard someone approaching before I could see them through the trees.
They entered the clearing from the south, two female elves. One of them was rather shorter than the elves I had so far met, but that probably didn’t mean much; I had only met two of them: Ming and Leo. That madness when the fairies invaded on Molly’s birthday didn’t count, I don’t know if I saw other elves that night or not.
The shorter one squealed when she saw Kristy and ran to her and picked her up and spun her around hugging her and laughing. The taller one had arrived by the time Kristy was returned to her feet, very bemused. The taller elf took the other by the arm, which caused her to instantly settle down.
The taller elf spoke, “I am Angelina; I will be your tutor. I have studied for most of my life and am considered wise by my people and many other peoples.” Angelina was very beautiful in an abstract way. Her hair was all the colors of a Sugar Maple in the fall, a riot of reds and oranges and yellows in rippling locks. Her eyes were yellow as well. Her coloring was just too odd to be truly attractive, but she was certainly lovely. I noticed her dress because it seemed so real. Leo and Ming had clothed themselves by a glamor to appear to be wearing modern human clothing, but when I concentrated on it, my eyes tried to slide off of it and I’d get a headache. Angelina’s dress was a simple Emperor-cut long gown in the colors of her hair, but it looked altogether solid; maybe it was real. It seemed a crude thing to ask about.
Angelina introduced her companion, “This is Amanda, my half sister. She came along because she wanted to meet you.”
My face must have shown how puzzled I felt, because Angelina said, “we are both Leo’s daughters, so we know a little about you already. Amanda is very excited about you having a wedding ceremony here.” She smiled gently.
“Yes I am!” said Amanda, practically bubbling with energy. She turned to Kristy, “Will you have a big beautiful dress?”
Kristy blinked a few times, then said, “Why, I don’t think so. I don’t need anything fancy. I just want the ritual of it, not the trappings.”
Amanda looked crushed. “But I thought human women dressed up like princesses to get married!”
Kristy appealed to me with her eyes, but I had no idea what to say.
“Don’t they?” Amanda persisted, “Like this?” She shimmered and her dress changed. She had been wearing – at least apparently – gown somewhat similar to Angelina’s, but the color of yellow summer grass in the sunshine. It went thematically with her eyes – a dusty green color that brought to mind the leaves of the live oak particularly – and her peculiar hair. Her hair didn’t shine. Any human hair that dull would break, crumble into dust, really. But hers was obviously healthy, just not shiny. A dull brown with wild writhing locks that seemed to want to move on their own.
Now she seemed to be wearing a dress much like Princess Di wore to marry Prince Charles. She wasn’t holding the glamor well. My eyes slid off of it and the image seemed to be warring in my memory with something else, but my mind refused to tell me what is was. The contradictions started to give me a headache.
“Okay, we get it!” I said, wincing.
Amanda looked startled, then flickered back into her previous appearance. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m not very good at that.”
“Uh,” I replied intelligently, “That’s okay, I guess. It just hurts my head.”
“That’s actually a good sign, Joe,” Angelina put in. “It suggests some native talent for perceiving and possibly even working with fairy magic.”
Amanda interrupted, “But Kristy! You must want a pretty princess dress!”
Kristy laughed helplessly, “Why? And even if I did, it would be too much of a hassle to get one so quickly. I want to get married this weekend; there just wouldn’t be time!”
Reason apparently wasn’t the right approach with Amanda. “Oh, please let me dress you up!” she begged.
“What?” Kristy said, now totally confused.
“I can sew, I made this dress, see?” Amanda twirled around for us to admire her dress. Now that I examined it – and knew that it was real – I was actually fairly impressed. It had a tremendous amount of fine detail, all of which fed into the image of the sunburned summer grass that went so well with her unique coloring. “Please let me make a princess dress for you for your wedding! Please!”
“Well,” said Kristy unsure if she dared deny the request, “I guess you can make me a dress. But maybe something more like what you’re wearing than like the dress you showed us with your glamor.”
Amanda looked disappointed, then shyly said, “Maybe something in between?”
Kristy capitulated. The dress negotiations would be interesting to watch. It was obvious that Amanda wanted “fancy” with all her heart, but Kristy could be very stubborn. I was very curious how this was going to turn out.
“Yay!” Amanda squealed. “I’ll come back later with some measuring tools and cloth, and we can make some plans.” She smiled happily, turned around then waved over her shoulder as she skipped away.
I have to admit I hadn’t imagined elves as the skipping types.
“Is she related to Ming at all?” I asked. It just popped out, I didn’t mean to say it out loud.
Angelina laughed suddenly. “Yes, as a matter of fact, that’s his mother.”
Again before I could stop my mouth I said, “Ming is Leo’s grandson?” and this set Angelina laughing again.
“You have no idea how often people say that just that way,” she said. “Particularly if they’ve met me first,” she added unselfconsciously.
“You do seem very different,” I said cautiously.
“It’s amazing what a different combination of parents will do for you,” she said plainly. “Amanda’s mother was definitely more on the decorative than brainy side, and things just got worse from there as the generations went on. There was a concurrent predisposition for likewise beautiful yet challenged partners. Amanda is actually married to Ming’s father. It’s widely hoped – though generally not spoken – that Ming will be their only offspring.”
I tried to take all that in. There were a lot of cultural things going on that I was missing, apparently. “I’m not sure what you mean by -” I started, but she interrupted me.
“I’m sorry, Joe, I’m not ready to begin instructing you today. In fact, I would have put off meeting you formally until after the wedding if it weren’t for Amanda’s begging me to the point of madness to come here today.”
“Oh, well,” I said. “How… kind to your sister, I guess.”
“I don’t think there was any harm in it,” Angelina said serenely.
Amaleen spoke up for the first time since the elves had appeared. “I’m going to take them back to their side now, in that case, if that’s all right with you. It’s getting towards lunch.”
Angelina smiled indulgently at Amaleen, which Amaleen didn’t particularly appreciate. She stalked towards the still open portal and jumped into the room beyond, continuing out of the room without looking back.
I said goodbye somewhat awkwardly and Kristy echoed me quietly. Angelina stood and watched us leave, which I found somewhat unnerving. I was glad when Kristy shut and latched the portal.