Our Homes... So Far Away: Bloom
Flora, seeking to break the tension, turns to Bloom and asks, “You grew up on Terra too, Bloom, did you not?”
“Yes, I did,” responds Bloom, “but as you know, I was born on Sparx and sent to Terra by my sister Daphne.”
“Why is your home world sometimes called Sparx and other times Domino,” asks Musa.
“Sparx is the name of the planet,” explains Bloom, “while Domino is the name of the main land mass where the royal palace existed and where I was born. The literal translation of ‘Domino’ into High Alfean is ‘our home’. People from off-world confused the two names and that is why some people call my home world Sparx and others call it Domino.”
“Interesting,” says Musa. “Please, continue.”
“My birthday is approximately March 30, 1988,” says Bloom. It may be out by a few months but that is the Terran date my adoptive father, Mike, found me.”
“But that makes Ishandra one hundred and ninety years older than you, Bloom,” gasps Stella. “Why aren’t you a withered up old lady, Ishandra?”
“It has something to do with time dilation and the method by which I was transported to Alfea,” replies Ishandra. “It is all relativity and quantum physics. I had someone at Cloud Tower explain it to me once but by the time she had finished I was so baffled that all I could do is stand there and say, ‘Huh?’”
Stella turns to Tecna for confirmation. “It is true, Stella,” says Tecna, “and, even though I am predisposed towards understanding higher mathematics, it took several reiterations before I came to grasp it.”
“Let’s just say that it is magic,” says Bloom with a mischievous smile at Stella.
“What I would like to know, Bloom,” asks Ishandra, “is how you managed to live undetected on Terra for all these years. Certainly someone must have suspected that you were not human. Didn’t your adoptive parents suspect something?”
“Well, duh!, Ishandra,” laughs Stella. “Bloom was discovered in a ball of fire in the midst of a burning building by her adoptive father and from nowhere he hears a voice saying to him ‘Her name is Bloom. Take her and protect her’. If you lived on a planet populated by mostly NMBs, what would have been your first clue that there was something a tad different about Bloom?”
“Don’t get snarkey with me, Stella, or I’ll transform you into a toad,” growls Ishandra. “I was not privy to how Bloom arrived on Terra so I had to ask.”
“I’ll put a big, ugly wart on the end of your witchy nose before you can transform me into a toad,” rebuffs Stella, jokingly, but still nearly provoking Ishandra into a have-at-her.
“Peace out, Sisters!” pleas Flora to the two. “Let’s not ruin the atmosphere of friendship we have established here.”
“Sorry, Flora, Ishandra,” says Stella and Ishandra nods her head in acknowledgement.
“Well, that was the first hint,” laughs Bloom, “but the second was when my adoptive mother, Vanessa, nearly had the end of her finger taken off by my ‘buzz saw’ when she stuck it into my mouth to have a look.”
“Both Faeries and Humans give live birth to their offspring and their mothers suckle them for a time,” explains Tecna to Ishandra. “Faeries are born with complete sets of teeth already erupted and ready to eat what an adult can eat. But a Faerie mother still has to suckle her baby for a few weeks because it is from her that an infant Faerie gets the establishing inoculation of micro-organisms that a Faerie needs in her first stomach to break down and digest food. If an infant does not get that initial infusion of these micro-organisms then she can eat until she bursts but still die of starvation.”“If that was a surprise for Vanessa,” says Ishandra, “then it must have been a real shock for her to learn that you have two stomachs and six hearts and also blood that is as thick as molasses.”
“True,” says Bloom, “and they never did figure out what the six knobs down my back are for either. The only thing they figured out for sure is that I am ‘different’.”
“I guess Humans do not have flight muscles down their backs,” grins Stella.
“No they don’t,” says Bloom. “And, luckily for me, when Mike and Vanessa sought professional advice, they went first to Doctor Silverman who is a long standing friend of the family. After Mike told him how I had arrived in a fireball, Doctor Silverman did a thorough examination of me and took several x-rays of my internals which confirmed that I was not of terrestrial origin. The doctor could have made himself a famous and, possibly, a rich man by publishing his findings but he also realized that the whole medical profession and also the military would want to get their hands on me to dissect me. So, he elected to keep it all a secret and urged Mike and Vanessa to keep silent about how exactly I arrived on Terra. And, in doing so, not only did he save me from the clutches of the lab coats and the military but also he avoided painting a big blip on the Witch radar which was probably still searching for me.”
“Yikes! That’s scary!” exclaims Aïsha.
“I can believe it,” says Ishandra. “In my day, they would often cleave open the chest of a girl or woman who was suspected of being a Witch while she was still alive to determine whether she had a heart and whether her heart was red or black. It was all because of a stupid belief that Witches had no hearts or that they were black. And, sadly, not many lived through that ordeal.”
“The biggest problem for my adoptive parents during the first few weeks,” continues Bloom, “was what to feed me. Even if they knew that I was a Faerie, there was no way for them to just run down to the corner store and buy a dozen jars of Gerber’s Baby Faerie Food,” and the others laugh. “So, they ended up trying first what they thought would be the safest food which was Pablum, a very bland plant-based baby food, mixed with water which I downed with no problem but then Vanessa tried Pablum mixed with skimmed milk which I threw up all over her two seconds after the first few spoonfuls. She next tried mixing Pablum and soy milk which I could never seem to get enough of. Next was baby formula which I refused to have anything to do with and ditto for baby stews. She soon realized that I could not tolerate anything containing lactose, animal meat or animal by-products.”
“Poor Vanessa,” says Aïsha. “You were certainly a problem child for her.”
“I just can’t imagine anyone wanting to eat animal flesh at all,” says Tecna, squirming at the very thought of it. “It all seems so gross and unnatural.”
“It depends on what fuels your motor, says Ishandra. “I can’t survive without consuming a good portion of animal protein.”
“Eeeww, Ishandra!” exclaim all the Faeries in unison.
“It is as I once explained it to Tecna,” says Ishandra. “One of the reasons why Witches and Faeries can coexist on the same planet is because we occupy different niches in the ecosystem.”
“The real shocker,” recounts Bloom, “happened a few months later when Vanessa had to take me with her to her flower shop. She sat me down on a counter without paying close enough attention to the plant beside me which was a popular ornamental shrub having leaves and stems that are highly toxic if not deadly to Humans and animals.”
“Oh, no!” exclaim Ishandra and the Faeries.
“Well,” continues Bloom, “Vanessa turns her back on me for just a few seconds and when she turns around here I am holding only the roots and a stub of the main stem in my hand the rest of the shrub having been processed by my ‘buzz saw and grinder’ and swallowed. Vanessa, then realizing what I had just eaten, went into a panic and called Mike and Doctor Silverman. No one knew what to do. All three thought I was going to die. Vanessa was in tears. Doctor Silverman and my adoptive parents spent and all-night vigil expecting me to pass away during the night. But in the morning, I awoke from a restful night’s sleep and started demanding to be fed and for all to play with me all happy and contented as you could please.”
“We are all glad you survived to be with us, Bloom,” says Flora in a voice sounding like Mother Alfea Herself. “You were still very lucky. There are a goodly number of plants that can kill us but usually our instincts tell us which are which. I can empathize with Vanessa and Mike and how distraught and helpless they must have felt when they thought they were about to lose you.”
“So tell me, Bloom,” asks Stella coyly. “Did you have any boyfriends on Terra?” and the others crowd closely around Bloom to catch every word.
“Well duh, Stella!” says Bloom. “What do you think?” and the others regard Stella and begin to giggle and Ishandra smirks. “I am a pretty young woman with flaming red hair, big blue eyes, a cute pixie-face and a curvaceous body that even by Terran standards just won’t quit. I almost had to beat off would be boyfriends and suitors with a stick. The rumour circulating around Gardenia was that while Mitzi had the bling, Bloom had the boys. I never had to worry about having a date for any major event. For the most part, I had a good time.”
“I can imagine that that inborn Faerie charm had a lot to do with it,” grins Stella.
“It may be, Stella,” replies Bloom, “but sometimes it seemed that I could not go down the street without hearing a chorus of wolf whistles and cries of ‘Come to me, Pixie-Face!’, ‘¡ Arriba la pelirosa !’, ‘¡ Hola mamacita !’ and ‘¡ Humana humana !’“
“Whoa-ho, Bloom! You go girl!” exclaims Musa. “You don’t need a translation to understand that!”
“Well,” replies Bloom, “it is flattering in one way but annoying in others. In many ways I don’t want all this constant attention. It is also one of the reasons for the constant animosity between Mitzi and me. Mitzi is so jealous of me because I’m popular with the guys. The sad thing is that Mitzi could have all the boyfriends she wants. She is beautiful, well-to-do, intelligent and well educated but she is so paranoid in believing that the only reason why any boy wants to date her is to get close to her money and family fortune. There are some who are like that but also plenty who would love her even if she were dirt poor and out on the streets. It is her nasty ’tude that drives them away.”
“Got that right!” says Aïsha angrily. “She is so snobbish and rude and I was boiling inside over the way she treated you, Bloom, and that nasty stunt she tried to pull on us during that Halloween party.”
“I don’t know how you can call her intelligent,” says Musa. “It seems to me that most of the time her mind wanders and she just goes along for the ride.”
“Yeah,” says Stella, “and she has no clue on how to dress with style and how to use perfume in moderation. One could smell her four blocks away with a cold in her nose.”
“While I can agree with you, Stella,” replies Bloom, “I have to warn you, Musa, that it is very dangerous to underestimate Mitzi. Mitzi is not even half as dumb as she likes to let on. She is as sly and deceptive as a fox. Take that Halloween prank she tried to pull on us. Can you imagine the time and planning and organization it took to pull it off? And I think that even you, Tec, can appreciate all those clever gadgets she used to do such things as break all those mirrors on cue. She had us really going for quite a while before the smell of her perfume gave her away. So, as they say on Terra: She’s as crazy as a fox and someone with method in her madness.”
“That sounds like Darcy’s stock and trade,” says Ishandra.
“I’m glad that you’re the one saying that first, Ishandra,” says Bloom, “but those were my exact thoughts.”
“I get the ‘method in her madness’ part,” says Musa, “but what is a fox and the bit about being as crazy as one?”
Tecna makes a quick-draw for her palm computer and is soon chanting, “Fox: any of various small, wild Terran canines (especially genera Vulpes or Urocyon) with bushy tails and, commonly, reddish-brown or gray fur: the fox is conventionally thought of as sly and crafty. Unfortunately,” says Tecna with a note of disappointment, “there is no illustration for this entry, I’m afraid.”
“Do any of you know Vulpa of Cloud Tower?” asks Ishandra.
“Sure, I know her,” replies Flora. “She has a gift similar to mine that allows her to see aurae and thereby tell whether or not someone is both physically and mentally healthy.”
“Oh, yes, I remember her,” says Musa. “She’s a sweetheart even if she is a Witch but she seems to be perpetually up-tight and nervous to boot.”
“Vulpa is a Fox-morph Witch,” explains Ishandra. “Try to imagine her on all fours with paws in front instead of hand-paws and only one third her size. Then you have a good idea of what a Terran fox looks like.”
“That sounds really cute,” says Flora. “But I can’t imagine Vulpa being sly and deceptive.”
“I agree,” says Ishandra, “but the fox that Vulpa’s people evolved from is an opportunistic hunter-scavenger with many tricks in its hunting repertoire. On Terra, it is often hunted for its fur or for sport and just as often trapped to be exterminated as vermin because it destroys livestock and is the chief vector of a fatal disease called rabies.”
“That’s really cruel,” protests Flora. “Couldn’t the humans just talk to them and come to some sort of reasonable agreement and even help them to combat that disease?”
“Maybe we’ll give you that job,” replies Bloom, “if we ever get to visit Terra again. You would be the only one there who can speak Fox. We might even get Vulpa to speak on their behalf but a Terran speaking Fox humanoid would freak out the Humans to no end. And I dread to think what they would do to her if they ever found out that she was also a Witch.”
“That brings us to something I have been meaning to ask you, Bloom,” says Ishandra. “Do you speak Italian?”
“No, I don’t,” replies Bloom, “but I have studied Spanish since I was in grade school and would have been taking my third year of Spanish language and literature in high school had I not ended up here on Alfea. I can read Italian and understand it if people speak it slowly enough to me but there is no way that I can speak it.”
Bloom notes the confused looks of her companions and goes on to explain. “The Terran city, Gardenia, is in a state called California which was first settled by peoples from a country called Spain which is near Italy where Ishandra was born and grew up. Spanish and Italian stem from the same parent language which was called Latin. They are as close as what High Alfean is to Alfean Standard. Although the official language of that state is now English, much of the population there speaks Spanish as its first language so it is useful to know it. In fact, I had a lot of help learning it from Abran to Virgilio. They hold something special for a blue-eyed redhead who speaks Spanish.”
“Ah, you are a popular girl in many languages,” laughs Musa.
“I have had much the same experience,” smiles Ishandra, “but it was after I learned to speak, read and write Arabic. Our port did a lot of trade with ships from North Africa which is mostly Arabic speaking. I learned Arabic to help out my father do trade with these people, but still, the captains and men from these countries were so surprised to find a beautiful young girl in Italy who spoke their language as if born knowing it that they could hardly believe it. Also, most of the common sailors were illiterate so I was able to make a small fortune for myself by writing and reading letters for them for which they were willing to pay me in gold and silver coins. Even today Arabic is still my favourite second language.”
« Yes, I have heard you singing in it, » sends Aïsha to Ishandra. « It’s uncanny how similar it is to the language we speak on Andros. Sometimes I think I can actually understand something of what you are singing. »