Kallima impatiently tapped a foot as she sat on Sable’s empty bed, headphones over her ears. The gargoyle was already gone, snatched up by her Uncle Gavin. Jasmine’s absence, though, added an eerie note to the silence of the room. The fiery-haired girl was the only student left still waiting to go home for Hallowtide Break.
Not to say that she was the only student on campus, no. Plenty of others wandered around in the courtyard below. Kallima had seen many of them earlier as she had bid her friends farewell. Her traitorous tutor remained hidden away, though he certainly would stay at the academy. After all, Kallima told herself, he had no one to take him in. The notion lingered in her mind longer than she wanted, turning the corners of her mouth up into a bitter smirk. The joy of knowing Ignatius would be alone all week clearly overpowered her guilt at being so elated.
After all, Kallima thought, he had done it to himself.
During her lesson the day after the twins’ stunt, she asked the boy if he had been their informant. Instead of denying it or confessing, he insisted on carrying on the lesson. Kallima, however, had never been one to back down, another trait that Satu had called her father’s, and she continued pressing the golden-haired senior.
“Fine! I did! I told them that your mom jumped of a building to go after a bottle! Are you happy now?” he screamed.
“Library!” the ever-quiet Miss Flores screeched. “Silence!”
The two teens flinched at the sharp voice, but both settled into their seats.
“Homework?” Ignatius said.
“Fuck you,” Kallima spat back, handing him a paper.
How dare he be so angry at her. She had done nothing wrong. Why was he mad?
“Grow up. Read chapter seven and be back Wednesday.”
He nearly threw his chair as he retreated to one of the study rooms. Kallima huffed and rolled her eyes, shooting Miss Flores a flippant goodbye as she left.
Now she sat in an empty room, toes tapping to the music in her ears as she tried to drown out the silence. She glanced at her suitcase and debated whether or not she should have packed the opal butterfly. Two-and-a-half-week-old insect fluttered weakly under the glass on her desk. She shook her head.
“Would you just die already?” she asked the construct as she removed her headphones.
She got up again and circled the room, debating whether or not to take one of her hats with her. After surrendering the beanie to Sable, Kallima still had three in her closet and a dozen or so more at Havard’s house, but she never wore any of them. Every single one was too tight, oddly-shaped, or just uncomfortable. She sighed and lifted the glass off of the butterfly, coaxing it into her hand.
“What do you think, bug? Should we take the hats?”
The iridescent insect lifted off her palm, hovered weakly in place for a moment, then landed again. The creator sighed.
“I think you’re right,” she admitted. “Stay here.”
She eased the fragile ornament back onto the desk and returned to the closet. She reappeared with a bonnet, a ball cap, and a winter hat decorated with stars. She stuffed them halfheartedly into her suitcase and turned back to her bug.
“Do you want to visit my dad?”
The creation crept along the edge of the desk towards the laughing girl. She held out her hand, and the insect took to the air, flying lazily towards it. As Kallima curled her fingers around it, a sudden knock echoed in the room.
“Miss Satudotter?” a feminine voice chimed. “Sunset is close. Are you ready to go?”
“Finally! Yes, I’m ready,” the girl said.
She tucked the butterfly into her pocket, grabbed her suitcase, and hurried to the door. The same elven woman who had greeted her on her first day waited on the other side with pursed lips. Kallima bowed her head to the woman.
“I’m very sorry about what I said,” the tall teenager said. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s alright. You’ve had a hard year,” the woman said. “Follow me.”
Kallima shivered when the woman turned and led her out. She did, however, wave away an imp that attempted to take her bag, saying she could very well handle it herself. The pale, white-haired woman ushered her outside the castle gate to the fairy circle down the drive as shadows lengthened around them.
“You may want to sit down this time,” the elf said. “I hear it eases the shock.”
Kallima laid her suitcase down on the dirt, sat on it, and turned her attention to the falling sun. The red sliver fell rapidly before the girl’s eyes. The instant it vanished behind the horizon, the fairy circle glowed neon. Kallima waved to the white woman then closed her eyes against the swirling combination of muddy earth tones against the bright aurora of the fairy world. She gripped her luggage tightly as she felt her body rotate before jolting to a halt. The redhead yelped as she slid sideways off of the bag.
“Are you okay?”
Kallima nodded and pushed herself up, her insides still lurching. Then she flung herself at Havard and buried her face in his chest.
“I’m fine, Dad. I missed you so much,” she said.
Havard squeezed her close.
“I missed you, too, Princess,” he said.
After a moment, the greying man sighed and pulled back, holding the girl at arms-length.
“How is school? What are you learning about?”
“Oh, I’m learning so much, Dad. I- I met royalty. Twins,” she said.
“Royalty?” Havard said as he grabbed Kallima’s bag. “I hope you behaved.”
Kallima sighed, “No, not well. I’m sorry, Dad. They were telling my roommate to commit suicide. And they said Mum was just trying to get away from me.”
“Oh, Princess, you know that’s not true.”
“I do, but I had to protect Sable, too.”
“Is that the same Sable you keep asking me to send music for?”
“Yes, she’s awfully nice, and so quiet, but I think she probably would’ve done it if we hadn’t been there for her.”
“I’m sure she’s grateful.”
“But we all got into a fight over it, so now I have to take a private class on government,” Kallima finished as she crawled into the car.
“You didn’t say that in your letters.”
Havard started the car, and Kallima yelped, flinching. She hadn’t so much as heard the growl of an engine in two months, but she imagined that it sounded more malicious than it had in the past. Havard put a hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“It’s okay. It’s okay,” he assured her. “Satu said it was an entirely different world on the other side. You’ll be okay.”
“Yes, of course. I just- It startled me.”
Havard sighed. Kallima flicked her eyes nervously his way as he began the long drive back home.
“You’ll be startled more when we get home,” he said. “I’m sorry, Princess. It’s been a long year for both of us, and-”
“What did you do? You didn’t move, did you?” Kallima asked.
“No, no. Nothing like that.”
“Did you break something?”
“Sock it! Of course not.”
“Then what is it?”
Havard bit his lip and said, “I shouldn’t have said anything. She told me not to.”
“She? She who?”
“Evelyn?” Kallima said nervously. “What, you got a girlfriend?”
“A... a fiance, actually.”
“Fi- I’ve been gone two bloody months, and you’re already engaged?” Kallima shrieked.
“Calm down, Kali. It’s not like that.”
“Well, can you spell it all out for me, Dad?” the fiery girl said. “Because right now, I’m bloody pissed.”
Havard slammed the breaks.
“You’re what?” he snapped.
Kallima smacked her face.
“Sorry,” she said. “Angry. I’m angry. Damn fae are putting their terms in my head.”
“You’re not drinking.”
“Not now, not ever,” Kallima swore. “I saw what it did to Mum. And the smell makes me ill enough.”
Havard resumed driving, nodding acceptance of the child’s explanation, on hand on his chest. Kallima pulled at her shirt hem.
“Those twins I was telling you about?” she said. “They sent me a present the other day.”
“I thought so. But I was wrong. It was to torture me.”
“Oh, Princess, what was it?”
She recalled the story as well as she could, purposely including her weak stomach to ease his mind. She told him about the tiny glass fragments and the smell of stale beer, about hiding away in the locker room, about her confrontation with Ignatius. The only thing she left out was that, yes, this was the same boy who tutored her. Havard nodded and pat her hand occasionally, but remained quiet through the tale.
When she finished, the aged man made an odd face.
“Who’s Gabriel?” he asked.
Kallima blushed, “Di- didn’t I mention him before? In letters?”
“I don’t remember a Gabriel.”
“Well... I said I went on some dates, right?”
“His name is Gabriel. He’s great, Dad, and just a beautiful boy, really. He’s-”
“That was all Gabriel?”
“Yes. His hair goes all the way to here. I’m not even kidding!” Kallima said as she pointed the middle of her back. “He braids it, and it’s still that long!”
“Oh, bleeding Christ, you’ve gone ass-over-elbows for a yank,” Havard sighed.
Havard pulled up to their home, turned the car off, then wagged a finger at Kallima.
“Just don’t let me hear about you saying things you don’t mean to each other. I know fae can have... loose morals.”
“Loose knees, you mean?”
“I’m not human, am I?”
Havard bit his lip, and Kallima nodded painfully.
“That’s okay,” she said. “You’re still my dad, right?”
“Always,” Havard said. “And yes, loose knees too. But I’d like to think we raised you up better than that. Just don’t do anything... stupid.”
“Like Mum did?”
Havard sighed again and told the girl, “Kali, Princess, your mum- Yes, it was an accident, but the best kind, not some stupid mistake. She wasn’t a floozy, and she wasn’t expecting to fall in love, but she did. She really did, and that’s all right. But don’t go rushing into something that you think makes you mature, okay? Enjoy being a kid while it lasts. Promise?”
“Good,” Havard said, “because eighteen comes too soon, and you’ll have enough to do without a three-year-old.”
“Right,” Kallima said, exiting the vehicle. “But if she was in love, why did she leave?”
“You do things you don’t want to for your kids sometimes. To protect them.”
Kallima rolled her eyes and grabbed her suitcase before Havard had a chance to take it and started up the steps in front of him.
“Kali, please be nice to Evan and Jack,” the aging man called after her.
Kallima opened the door and stumbled inside.
“Wow,” she breathed.
The room was cleaner than Kallima could remember it having ever been. Her reflection smiled back at her in the glass of the coffee table, the airy scent of vanilla filled the home, and a woman’s perky voice sounded from the kitchen.
“There they are. Boys, put tha turtle away. That’s right gross, that is. Now go have a butchers.”
Kallima watched as a small, honey-skinned boy with brown eyes and hair waddled into the room, clutching a desperate turtle with both hands. The girl crouched down to greet him.
“What have you got there?” she crooned.
“That’s me turtle, Spadey!”
“Speedy the turtle? He’s a cutie,” Kallima chuckled.
“Evan, Mum said put ’im away so ’e won’t buvver da twist,” a second boy hissed, placing a hand on the little one’s shoulder.
The new arrival looked almost like the younger, but with slightly darker skin and hair a tinge lighter.
Kallima shook her head, saying, “Oh, I don’t mind! My school keeps a lot of... pets. And they’re much bigger and scarier.”
“Yar school keeps pets?” the elder boy asked, confused.
“Well...” Kallima hesitated.
The pause ended when Havard, whom Kallima had never known to move so slowly, finally entered the home and promptly tripped on the girl’s bag.
“Oof! I see you’ve been attacked by the boys already?” he laughed, brushing himself off.
Kallima mussed the little one’s hair, making him giggle.
“Evan- It was Evan right?- was showing me Speedy.”
“I fed ’im, Mister Portah!”
Havard shook his head, sighing, “Please, Evan. Havard or Uncle Hav. I’ll even let you call me Dad, but this ‘Mister Porter’ bit has to stop.”
“No offense, Sirrah,” the elder boy confessed, “but I don’ fink we’ll be callin’ you ‘Dad’ anytime soon.”
“None taken, Jack; just putting it on the table.”
“Speakin’ ov puttin’ fins on da Cain!”
All four turned to the kitchen archway, and Kallima saw, for the first time, the source of the feminine, cockney voice.
In the frame, a golden-brown woman in her early or mid-thirties held her hands in front of her, fingers knit together. Chestnut curls bounced lightly around her make-up coated face, and her dark grey eyes glistened, mirroring her smile. Then she held out her hand to Kallima.
“’Allo, Kali! It’s so good ter meet ya!” she cooed.
The redhead smirked and took the offered hand.
“Are you ’ungry?” the woman asked. “I made up biscuits, if ya loik.”
“Oh, thank you, but no. Um, c-carsickness. Besides, I had supper before I left school. You must be Evelyn, then?”
The dark woman nodded and said, “Yup. Sorry ta sprin dis on you. Havard insisted on lettin’ ya know when fins got serious.”
“I understand. It’s not like I didn’t do the same,” Kallima smirked. “I may have forgotten to mention my boyfriend to Dad.”
Evelyn squealed in delight at the mention, and Havard shook his head. He picked up the abandoned suitcase and ushered the young boys to their bedroom. The caramel woman waved Kallima into the kitchen and poured them both tea.
“What kind of tea?” Kallima asked.
“Ah, camomall,” Evelyn drawled. “Havard told me abat yo’ allergies. Honey?”
“Just a smidgen, thanks,” Kallima said softly.
Havard knew about her allergies, too?
“Now,” Evelyn said, hunkering down over the counter, “tell me abat dis Rob.”
The teenager blushed and told her, “Well, he’s- he’s really sweet. He can be a bit rough, but he’s sensitive under it all.”
“Rough, eh? He makin’ excuses for somefin?” the woman asked, her eyes narrowing and her smile vanishing.
“N-no. I mean, he got angry once, but he didn’t mean it.”
“See, love, me boys there? Sweet boys. Their farfer, not so much. I was lucky ter get out befawer they started takin’ afer ’im. And ‘e acted sweet an’ troubled. But, cor, can they act that part. Hear?”
“Um... No, I guess I don’t really,” Kallima said.
“A real man? He won’t touch you ’less you tell ’im to.”
“An’ if ’e does, you nut ’im for me.”
Kallima laughed agreement, earning a wink from the woman. With that dreadful exchange dealt with, Kallima resumed telling her about the different dates Gabriel had taken her on, avoiding details like wings, magic, and fairy circles. She opted instead for motorbike, enchanting time, and America. Evelyn listened patiently, nodding and laughing exactly the way a mother would at a child’s story. Kallima smiled back.
But she knew very well that the churning in her gut was not motion sickness or flu. Agony made her insides heavy and dense with every grin Evelyn sent her way until she could no longer hold her head up. When her eyes grew heavy with pain and exhaustion, the knot of emotion tightened. When Havard returned and wrapped an arm around the dark woman’s waist, a poisonous snarl hid behind the teen’s crossed arms. It took all of her energy not to bat away Evelyn’s hand when it touched her head.
“Tea did it’s job,” the woman said, brushing the girl’s hair.
Havard winced and sent the woman to bed. Then he picked up Kallima and took her to her old room. As he tucked her in like the baby she once was, the teen whined.
“I want Mum back...”
Havard kissed the girl’s temple and stroked her hair until she fell asleep, his words fluttering on the air like wings.“I know, Princess. I know.”