Gabriel chuckled as Kallima dragged him towards the library. The sylph occasionally bounded off the ground and glided along in excitement and anxiety. His brown plait slapped against his back as they moved.
“Won’t people wonder where we are?” he asked the redhead again.
“Relax,” Kallima told him. “I did this all the time with Iggy. It’ll be fun!”
Gabriel narrowed his eyes.
“You sneak out with Ig?”
Kallima waved it away, saying, “No, no, I used to take him out, just to go to court. Nothing more than that.”
“He doesn’t even sit with us anymore.”
“I guess my usefulness ran its course,” Kallima dismissed.
She placed a hand on the library’s door, but Gabriel grabbed her wrist before she could push it open.
“You’re still dating me,” he asked, “right?”
“Of course! I was just- Iggy was going through a hard time, and I wanted to help him with his dad.”
“Because if you’re not going to be faithful… If you’re going to run around on me,” he growled, grip tightening, “we may as well break up now.”
“Gabriel, you’re hurting me.”
“I won’t have my girl cheating on me with some nerd!”
“I’m not cheating on you, and I’m not going to. Let go of me!”
The fury in Gabriel’s eyes softened to concern, and he released her arm. Kallima rubbed her wrist, more shocked at the boy than hurt, although it did throb.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie,” Gabriel whispered. “I had a bad breakup last year. I caught her kissing someone else.”
Kallima sighed and cupped the upper-classman’s face in her hands. She leaned in and kissed him gently, noting the quivering of his soft lips as she did.
“Poor thing,” she said, pulling back from the boy. “I’m sorry. But I’m not going to do that to you, all right?”
Gabriel grinned and nodded. Kallima smiled back and wound her fingers into his.
“Now, then,” she said, “let’s have a nice dinner, shall we?”
Gabriel conceded with a murmur and a short nod. Kallima pushed the doors to the library open and led the boy to a study room.
“Good evening, Miss Satu,” the librarian rattled.
Kallima said, “Yes, good evening, but I’m still Kali.”
“Apologies, Miss Kali.”
“Perks of looking like your mom, hmm?” Gabriel grinned.
“Sock it,” Kallima said.
She opened the door to one of the private study rooms and pulled Gabriel inside. She gasped as he slid his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder.
“I know you don’t like it, looking like your mom. But I wish I knew why,” he whispered in her ear.
Kallima ground her teeth, trying to focus her energy on transforming the door to the library into a door to Gabriel’s favorite restaurant.
The sylph sighed, “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“Everyone sees me, Gabriel, and they think that I’m like Mum,” Kallima said. “And, to me, that’s mortifying. I want to be Kali, not Satu. I want to be myself.”
“Hey, hey, don’t think like that,” Gabriel said, “Satu was, well, really cool, in her own way.”
Kallima pressed her ear to the door and heard the clinking of forks on plates and the chatter of diners and waiters on the other side. She looked back to Gabriel.
“Agree to disagree, then. Look, it’s Friday, and I’d love to join you for dinner, but I’m not sure I want to anymore,” she said, pouting.
Gabriel frowned, his wings falling slightly.
“I’m sorry, Sweet. I just want to know, so I can understand you better,” he said. “There shouldn’t be secrets between us.”
Kallima sighed, asking, “If I visit you tonight, will you stop bugging me about it?”
Gabriel said, “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“Let’s go then. I am going to get the most bomb dish I can,” the redhead grinned.
“I have a bad feeling about what bomb means...”
Kallima only laughed as she pulled Gabriel into the restaurant.
A young lady with fire for hair danced alone in a marble library that night, lighting floating candles with the snap of her fingers. A scarlet sundress flared out around her knees as she twirled. Her vast halls were quickly filling, different spheres resting over different names. Marian and Reginald each had a black pillar along the far wall. Sometimes the girl poked at those orbs before she visited Blaze, but this night, oh, she was just too giddy to bother. After a month of dating, Kallima had let slip words she’d never uttered to anyone outside of her family.
True, a piece of her cried that she was too young, that it was too fast, but, at her age, who could expect the rest of her to agree? If this would be a mistake, she told that part, let her make it. At least she was not the only one, she remembered with a smile.
After all, when she had covered her mouth with one hand, blushing furiously in the study room where she hid with Gabriel after dinner, the young sylph had smiled and taken her other cold, trembling hand.
“I love you, too,” he had confessed.
Then he had pushed her onto the desk and pressed his mouth to hers, twisting her short, red hair in his thin, deft fingers. Kallima threw her arms around him and held him close until someone had knocked on the door. Then Gabriel pulled back, leaving Kallima struggling to regain her breath as he begged the person on the other side for one more minute. Kallima gave him one last kiss before redirecting the door to her room and making a quick exit. Then she let Gabriel return to confront whoever had been in the library on his own.
How she had ever fallen asleep was beyond her. Her giggling alone should have prevented it.
Yet sleep had found Kallima, and she skipped around her imaginary fortress as though she had never outgrown the movement, stopping only when she reached the boy’s name.
Peering into the orb that contained his dream, Kallima spied a gigantic aster on which Gabriel lounged peacefully if not patiently. His feet tapped out a mute rhythm against the air. The spy chuckled and placed a hand on the ball, focused on joining him.
“Well, aren’t you pretty?” the dreamer said, sitting up with a laugh.
“Why, thank you, sir,” Kallima twittered back. “So, is the flower just massive or are we just small?”
“We’re small. Sometimes I get so tired of being tall, don’t you?”
“Yes, indeed. Although,” the girl said, “Mum was quite short, so at least that sets me apart from her.”
The sylph beckoned her to sit next to him. She obeyed, amused, and he again enveloped her with his limbs.
“Why do you hate her?” he asked.
“I don’t hate her. She’s my mum, and I love her, but I just- I hate when people compare us. As though I must think and act like her since I look like her.”
“So you’re afraid you’re not as... good?”
“Not as celebrated, perhaps,” Kallima said. “She wasn’t really as perfect as everyone keeps saying.”
“Wanna talk about it?” Gabriel whispered, kissing her shoulder softly. Kallima sighed and rose to her feet.
“I’d rather show you.”
She edged towards the outskirts of the flower and plucked a petal almost as large as she. Then she returned to Gabriel’s side, passing her hand over the white surface and replacing it with her mother’s image. In seconds, the image began to move.
Satu pushed her shoulder-length, red hair up and out of her eyes before lifting a long-neck bottle to her lips. Even though she sat at a bright kitchen island in a room filled with light, an unexplained darkness loomed around her, a brewing storm readying its strike. She sucked a long drink from the bottle then laid her head on the counter, tugging at the collar of her black turtleneck. When she finished pulling on the fabric, her hand fell limply on the wood.
“I wanna go home...” she whined.
The woman winced and flipped onto her other cheek with a strained smile. Her tiny clone, a five-year-old Kallima stared up at her with clear concern in her own stormy eyes. The toddler climbed into the seat next to her mother and imitated the way she had laid her head.
“Yes, Princess, what’s wrong?”
“Mummy, you are home.”
“No, no, no, Princess. Mommy comes from a land so far away, you couldn’t find it if you used a map. Sometimes, when home feels that far, it can make people sick.”
“Sick for home?”
“Yes, it’s called ‘homesick.’ Or, I guess that where I’m from, we just called it ‘the Fever.’”
“Will I get the Fever, too, Mummy?”
“No, no, Princess, I- I don’t know. I think you’ll be fine.”
“Daddy says you’re on a bin-der.”
“Bender, Princess. Mommy’s on a bender. It makes the sick go away for a while.”
“But it comes back, right?”
“So smart. Just like your daddy. Yeah, baby, it comes back. Then Mommy is sicker than she was before.”
“Like dodgy medicine?”
“Like bad medicine, Princess. You’re right. But you know what’s a good medicine?”
“What?” The child asked hopefully.
Without any more warning, the adult grabbed the child’s sides and squeezed, tickling the defenseless tot. The young Kallima shrieked and howled in laughter. The teenage Kallima who watched closed her eyes with a painful chuckle, wishing she could relive those days when her laughter eased her mother’s mind. But as her thoughts wandered, so did the images on the petal, and the sunny kitchen fell into night. Dusk, dirt, and filthy dishes became the most outstanding features aside from an aged and withered Satu, who laid atop the counter clutch a fifth of vodka like a baby's bottle and sobbing. Then Kallima, aged thirteen, stuck her head into the edge of the image.
“Mum, it’s bedtime.”
Satu tried to push herself up, but collapsed back onto the counter. She instead slid onto a chair with much effort. Kallima’s young, grey eyes darted from her mother to the bottle, back and forth until Satu sucked down another long gulp. As she set it back down, Kallima lunged for the bottle and snatched it away.
“Give it back, Kali!”
Satu grabbed Kallima’s wrist and tried to reach the bottle in the child’s other hand. Kallima, though, was already a tiny bit taller than her mother and able to hold the drink away from her and above their heads.
“No, Mum! Everyone at school says you’re always on the piss. And when you’re not drinking, you’re stroppy!”
“Kali, please! I need it!”
Kallima started tearing up and shouting, “And they all say that I’ll be just like you! Nobody talks to me, Mum! Mr. White is the only one who defends me! You can’t, because you’re always bloody sloshed!”
“Kallima Aislin Satudotter, you put that bottle down!”
With all the force she could muster, the young teen smashed the bottle on the floor.
Satu screamed and flung her daughter aside to tend to the shattered glass. A familiar face under salted brown hair appeared in a flurry as Havard stumbled, half-asleep, to Satu’s side.
“It’s all right, darling. You’re all right,” he mumbled. “Kali, Princess, get the broom.”
Kallima crossed her arms and said, “It’s her mess. Make her clean it up.”
“Kali...” Havard groaned.
Satu rose to her feet, sobbing, and faced Kallima.
“What is wrong with you?”
“Mum, the drinking is driving me loony!”
“Kali, Satu, please-”
“I need it, Kali!”
“I hate you!”
Satu slipped backwards against the counter as Kallima ran out of the room with tears in her eyes. Havard wrapped his arms around the shaking woman as the image faded from view.
Next to Gabriel, the real dream fae shuddered, trying not to think about the day that followed. As grey fog on the petal became pictures, though, she lost her focus. Kallima let tears fall down her cheeks as her year-younger self shuffled down the sidewalk. Something that she could not see shattered. Kallima looked up and gasped.
Satu leaned over the edge of the roof, thirty feet over the girl’s head, and dropped bottles to the pavement below. Some sprayed alcohol as they shattered. Kallima shrieked again.
“Mum, stop it! Get down from there!”
“Be right there, baby,” the woman called down before she resumed tossing her drinks over the ledge.
Kallima yelped as one bottle exploded less than a meter from her feet, spraying whiskey all over her jeans. The teen rushed inside to change before anyone from school could bump into her. Once she was in a fresh pair of jeans, she went to the kitchen for some milk. She took a gulp from the carton, then hummed. It was too quiet, so she stepped outside again to check on her mother.
Satu had climbed over the edge of the roof and leaned out, one hand clutching the lip until Kallima appeared. Whether Satu let go on her own or Kallima’s shout made her lose her grip, Kallima was certain she would never discover. What she did know was that her mother screamed when she realized that she was falling, though the sound lasted less than a second before a heavy smack ended it.
Freshman Kallima shrieked, covered her face, and leaned into Gabriel. The boy pulled her face to his neck as she sobbed.
“It’s okay,” he whispered in an attempt to calm her. “It’s going to be okay. Just cry it out.”
So she did.