When Kallima stepped through the front door of her human father’s home, three faces turned to her simultaneously.
“Kali, Princess, what are you-?” Havard beamed. “You’re early!”
“They’re letting me make my own doors between the realms now,” she said and shrugged her bag off, “so I came back early. It’s much more comfortable this way.”
Kallima loosed an oof when Evan slammed into her like she was a celebrity and began pulling on her shirt.
“Oi, go easy on me, Ev.”
“Ah missed ya, Kali! Jack’s bein’ a arse.”
“Evan!” Evelyn scolded from her armchair.
“Sorry, Mummy. He is, though. He’s not even here right now.”
Havard mussed the child’s hair and reminded him, “He’s on a date.”
“But Friday is for family!”
“Well, we’ll move family time ta Saturday, den,” Evelyn suggested. “Jack’s grown up, Evan, an’ part a dat is datin’. You know dat. You’re all roit wif Kallima datin’, ain’t cha?”
“Ya, but she’s not here so much. It don’t buvver me.”
Kallima turned Evan back to her and said, “Well, Evan, you might be seeing more of me now. I can come home on Saturdays for family time now.”
“Ya can?” Evan gaped.
“Yes, I made arrangements with the headmaster, and he’s willing to let me take a cab here and back each week.”
“We’d love that, Princess,” Havard said, smiling.
“Now, what’s this, Jack’s on a date bit?”
“He’s having dinner with a boy from school. What’s his name, Evelyn?”
“I thought he liked Skylar,” Kallima breathed.
“Skylar’s gay?” both adults gasped.
“Er, yes. I forgot, he’s still hiding it. Don’t tell his parents, okay? That’s his issue to deal with,” Kallima said.
“Of course, it is. It’s just...”
“Dey didn’t... do nuffin? Did dey?” Evelyn asked.
Kallima shook her head, “No way! I know they’ve kissed, and I heard them talking about snogging, but I’m sure that’s all. He’s a good kid. He’s not going to do anything stupid like that.”
“Stupid like what?” Evan asked.
“Like stayin’ out past curfew,” Evelyn said.
“Evan, is it okay if I talk to Da alone for a bit?” Kallima asked. “I had a rough week of classes, and I’m closest to him.”
Havard thanked Evan and followed Kallima to her bedroom, where the teenager promptly dropped her bag and sprawled over her bed with a sigh.
“How rough?” Havard asked.
“Oh, Princess... what happened?”
“Sable came back from her uncle’s acting strange. She wouldn’t move or eat or talk. I went and asked the nurse to check on her. A few minutes later, Mina came and got me. Told me that... Sable tried... tried t-to...”
“Oh, Kali, she didn’t...”
“Anna got her in time. Her- her uncle took her back home to recover, but... Da, he’s so cruel to her! He curses at her and belittles her. I’ve seen him push her, I’ve seen bruises. Sable’s a gargoyle, Da. She shouldn’t bruise like that. And nobody will do a damned thing!”
“A lot of fae ideology is still from the dark ages, Kali.”
“Something’s got to change, Da. I don’t... I can’t live in a world like that.”
Havard edged Kallima over on the bed and sat next to her.
“What would your mum say, hm?” Havard asked. “She was fae. What would she tell you to do?”
“She’d, er... I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do.”
Kallima sighed, sat up, and said, “She’d tell me that the only way to change anything is to- to fight for it.”
“Is living here going to help you, then?”
“Is it going to help Sable?”
“You know it won’t.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Havard brushed the teen’s hair with one hand and nodded.
“That’s my girl.”
Kallima smiled, then sighed and slumped again.
“What? Something else?” Havard asked.
“Yes. Iggy’s been distant, Acacia’s practically drugging Shay, Matt’s mad at me for no reason, and Amy keeps talking about some presence hanging around me.”
“Goodness, that’s- that’s a lot, Kali.”
“I think Amy sees the Underveil. I think she sees ghosts.”
“You think there’s a ghost following you?”
“Is that bad?”
“I don’t know,” Kallima sighed. “I don’t know what to do about it.”
“Maybe that’s something Amy can help you with, if she really sees a ghost. I know I’d feel uncomfortable about something following me around.”
“Isn’t Matt the boy you brought to my wedding?”
“And you have no idea why he’s mad at you?”
“None. He just keeps making snide remarks about my boyfriend, and it’s-.”
“Oh, heavens. Another one?”
“Sorry. Sorry… What’s his name?”
“Ugh. It’s Blaze.”
“Blaze?” Havard asked, raising a brow. “Really?”
“His name is… Blaze, Master Dragon and Shield of Kallima.”
Havard blinked in shock.
“That’s a… long name.”
“He said that, too. When I gave it to him,” Kallima giggled. “He said it was too long. That just Blaze was fine.”
“So. Dragon. How... How does that work?”
“He can turn himself into a human when he likes. He can’t hold it long, but it’s nice. He’s a really good kisser,” Kallima said, blushing.
Havard shivered, likely at the thought of his adopted daughter with a creature that even mortals considered to be a dangerous beast. He said nothing, though, and Kallima redirected the conversation.
“But Matt’s acting jealous, or something, and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Havard nodded and said, “I think it was Shakespeare who wrote, ’If the eye offendeth, cut it out.”
“I should stop being friends with him?”
“It doesn’t sound like he’s been a very good friend in the first place.”
“You just did the same thing.”
“I’m not your friend. I’m your father,” Havard said. “I’m allowed.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Kallima sighed.
“What was that?”
“You sounded different. You’re getting an accent.”
“I am not.”
“Are so. And don’t think I’m ignoring that tone. Kali, Princess, you are still part of this family, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Da! I just- Mr. Jerome says I’ll probably never find my birth father, anyway. That dream fae just show up, and no one knows why. It’s not that I’m putting him ahead of you, Da. It’s just that... I feel so powerful, and I’ve got no idea where it comes from. I need someone to show me what I’m doing. Mr. Jerome wants me to experiment, but I’m scared.”
“Kali, we’re all scared. It’s part of life.”
“You’re not scared of nothing.”
“I’m terrified! I’m going to be a father soon, and I’m scared she’ll have my nose!”
Kallima laughed at that, so Havard continued.
“I’m scared that Jack’s going to get in trouble with boys. I’m scared that you’ll get in trouble with boys. And the law. You’re dating a dragon, Kali; trust me when I tell you I’m scared. I’m scared that you won’t live to sixteen.”
“Why would- What happens when I’m sixteen?”
“Hm? Nothing, it’s just that I worry about you.”
“No,” Kallima growled, “it’s something specific. Mum didn’t want me in the Fairy Realm until I was sixteen. Shay and Iggy say I need to stay hidden until I’m sixteen. You’re scared I won’t live to see sixteen. What happens when I turn sixteen, Da?”
Havard sighed and ran his fingers through his more-salt-than-pepper hair. Kallima swore he aged five years just from this conversation.
“Your mother wouldn’t want you to know.”
“She was scared, too, Kali,” Havard admitted. “She wanted to ‘raise you good,’ she said. Not afraid or reckless. Not depraved or spoiled. She was afraid of what you would become if you were raised in the Fairy Realm. She worried about you rejecting her values to embrace theirs. She was afraid you wouldn’t make it. And if you did, that you would abuse your power.”
“I’ve- Okay, I made some mistakes! I shouldn’t have hurt Jack like that. But I told you, I’m lost and confused by this whole thing! I’ve got nothing! None of you understand it. You’re mortal! Not like me. Not even halfway.”
“I don’t understand? Kali, were you paying any attention at the wedding? How many people on my side of the family looked like me?”
“And I went through a phase, too,” Havard said. “I wanted to meet my birth parents. My mum didn’t want me to, said it would only hurt me. But I found her. She was so young. Wouldn’t talk to me beyond taking me to our da’s grave. Yes, our da. Then I moved on to a phase where I shut everyone out. Where I was afraid of becoming my father.”
“Like Jack is.”
“Jack’s scared he’ll hurt someone,” Kallima told Havard. “Or he used to be. That’s why he never stood up to Skylar.”
“And I’m scared of being Mum.”
“But you don’t need to be,” Havard said. “That’s what I was getting to. It didn’t matter who my mum was, or my da. And it doesn’t matter who your parents are. You’re still Kali. Not your mum, not your da. Right?”
“I just want-.”
“Who are you?”
“Are you Satu?”
“Are you Havard?”
“Who are you, then?”
“Sorry, I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”
“I am Kallima Aislin Satudotter!”
“Damn right, you are! Are you going to let those brat twins tell you otherwise?”
“Hell, no, you aren’t! And why not?”
“Because Mum didn’t raise a quitter!”
“No, she didn’t!”
“Shore raised a strong twist, dough.”
Kallima turned to the voice, and Evelyn smiled, one hand pressed to her back as she leaned in the door frame.
“Suppertime,” she said, righting herself. “Hav, could you-?”
He was at her side before she could finish. She thanked him, apologizing for the baby and wondering how she made more trouble than the two boys had. Kallima waved them off, saying she would be down in a bit. She recovered a notebook from her bag, ripped out an empty page, and wrote “angry” in rushed pen.
She pressed her body to the closet door and let the words course through her. Satu didn’t want her to know her father. She would have said who it was if she did. The man might hate her, certainly regretted her. Kallima ground her teeth, a growl stirring her her chest, and ripped the door open.
Heat blasted towards her, not the gentle, comforting fire of her tutor or her guardian, but an intense, oppressive furnace. From where she stood, she could see only flames and a cluster of red imps picking at the flesh of a half-dead woman with horns growing out of her face. She rolled over when she saw Kallima, frightening the scavenging creatures away.
“Lempeh… leesap…,” the being breathed.
Kallima yelped and slammed the door. She sank to the floor, exhausted by the effort it had taken to make the door. She brushed her knuckles across the wood to dismiss the magic, but something felt wrong. She peeked behind the door and shut it quickly again. The fire, the imps, and the woman with the horned face were all still on the other side. Thinking quickly, she wedged a chair up under the knob to seal the room off until she figured out what was wrong. She quickly jotted down what she saw, scribbling a small doodle of the woman’s face. Once she made absolutely certain that the door was secure, she shuffled back downstairs and sat at the dinner table next to Evan.
“What took you so long?” Havard laughed. “We were about to eat without you.”
“Um… I think I opened a hell-mouth in my closet,” Kallima said, paling.
“You did what?”
Evan giggled, “Don’ worry, Kali! Ah’m Sain’ Evan, an’ me ’oly water gun will fight da demons off!”
“Ah don’ fink dats a good idea, Ev.”
“No, Evan, your mum’s right,” Kallima said firmly. “You don’t want to play my games. They’re dangerous. I’m sorry.”
Havard asked, “And why, if you don’t mind, did you do that? Kali?”
“Homework. Mr. Jerome wants me to try… opening up to different feelings. I was angry, so I tried to… visualize it.”
“Mad? Because o’ yar mum?”
“At her, yeah.”
“How is school, Evan?” Havard interrupted.
Kallima sighed internally, relieved at the change of subject. Evan rambled about how he and his friends had found a wild goldfish on the edge of a stream and built a mud dam around it to trap it until they could find a fishbowl.
“Do we ’ave a fishbowl?”
“We do not,” Havard said.
“An’ if ya catch ‘im, one o’ yar friends is keepin’ ’im,” Evelyn added. “You already got a tortle ya barely take care of.”
“Yeah,” Kallima joked, “that’s why he keeps hanging about the loo.”
“Wotcha talkin’ ’bout?”
“He needs more water, Evan,” Havard said.
Evelyn nodded and said, “’E’s roit. Ya gotta take bettah care of ’im.”
“Tell you what, Ev. How about tomorrow, we all go shopping,” Kallima offered. “I’ll take you to the pet shop, and we can learn how to take proper care of Speedy. Maybe we can get him a friend, too, and a little tank for the fish.”
“Really? We can git anover turdle?”
“If Mum says it’s okay.”
Evelyn smiled brightly and agreed to the purchase. Kallima bit her lip but smirked back. She had meant to say “your mum.”
Oh, well, she told herself.
At that point, Havard began complimenting Evelyn’s cooking, and Evan quickly joined him. Kallima only nodded. To her, the pork was bland, the potatoes too hard, and the salad dry. She had never heard of dry salad before, let alone eaten it. The best part of dinner was the milk, which felt unusually thick and somewhat sweet on her tongue.
“Did you switch brands?” she inquired, swirling her cup.
“Do ya loik it?”
“It’s good. What is it?”
“Half-and-half,” said Havard.
“Hav an’ I did some research an’ foun’ that people… loik you… tend ta be fond o’- o’ cream. Historically speaking,” Evelyn explained. “So we thought it’d be worf a troi.”
The fiery girl scoffed happily, repeating, “It’s good. Thanks.”
Havard and Evelyn whispered back and forth as Kallima gulped down the creamy substance. Evan furrowed his own brow.
“Are you an elf?”
Kallima snorted, and a bit of milk trickled out of her nose.
“Oh, ow! That hurts,” she whimpered, pinching the bridge. “Er, no, Evan, I’m not… not an elf.”
“I’m an alp.”
Evelyn palmed her face, and Havard returned his attention to his food. Evan tipped his head.
“What’s an alp?”
“It’s a monster that gets in your dreams and gives you nightmares.”
“Because that’s what alps eat. Nightmares. And apparently half-and-half.”
“You don’ look loik a monstah.”
“Why, thank you. Neither do you.”
“Kali-,” Evelyn pleaded.
“Sorry, Ma’am. It’s only fair he knows, though. Everyone else in this family does. And you can’t have trust where you keep your lies,” Kallima said.
“And if you don’t believe me, Evan, finish your supper. I’ll show you something really scary.”
“Da hellmouf?” Evan beamed.
“Kali…” Havard warned.
Kallima waved him off, though, saying, “I won’t let him get hurt. I promise. Can-? Is there more in the fridge?”
Kallima thanked the family and, abandoning her half-finished meal, traipsed into the kitchen to refill her glass with the thick liquid. She caught herself humming an Evendalan tune as she poured. With a confused chuckle, she downed her second glass. She was halfway through a third when Evelyn walked in on her, arms laden with dishes.
“I’ll need ta buy more o’ that tomorrah, won’t I?” she asked.
Kallima laughed and said, “Not to insult your cooking, Ma’am; I’m sure it’s great. But food in this world doesn’t taste the same anymore. But this is... real. It’s good.”
“Did you have to tell Evan, though?”
“I don’t want him to be scared of me,” Kallima said, “or Satina. I’ve always been an only child, and I want to be a good big sister. And things are scarier when you don’t know what they are.”
“Ah, dat’s true ’nuff. But, ter be honest, even after I learned whotcha were, I didn’t want ya near me boys. Not after what I seen ya do ter Jack.”
“I’m sorry for about. I’m trying to use it to teach people lessons now, not just scare them senseless. You have every right to be mad at me.”
“Had. Yar doin’ great now, Kali. I’m real proud o’ ya. I jus’ wish ya hadn’t told Evan. ‘E’s so young still, an’ I dunno how this will affect ‘im, showin’ ’im a hellmouf.”
“I won’t let him get hurt, Ma’am. In fact, I’m hoping the energy from this,” Kallima said, raising her cup, “will let me close it.”
“Out of energy already? Didn’t ya just git ’ome?”
“Yes, but I overexerted myself making the bloody door.”
Evelyn leaned against the counter and sighed.
“It’s gonna be a long break, innut?”
Kallima laughed and finished her drink.
“You have no idea.”