As we pull into Birch Creek, we’re driving right through downtown without turning and only stopping at lights. “Did we miss a street?” I query as we pass the beach and grocery store. “We’re heading out of town.”
“We’re having everyone together for my birthday supper tonight. My parents are hosting it. It’s the only house in the area large enough to fit over thirty people for supper.” Rose smiles.
I gasp. “Oh, today’s your birthday, and I didn’t get you anything!” I say in a worried tone.
“Sunshine, you celebrating with me is the best present I could ask for.” She smiles. “You’ve become part of our family. I’m glad you’re here for it.” Dani turns around and smiles at me. I reach forward and we clasp hands. Yes, she’s more of a sister than a best friend.
It’s about thirty minutes till we reach the manor, and I’m trying to figure out what to get a thirty-one-year-old programmer, who has almost everything, for her birthday. Now I know why Tina wanted to come along for this ride. It was to have a birthday supper with her relationship.
We pull up to the huge three-story mansion, and I’m amazed at its size! The family that built this plantation manor house must have had a lot of money!
We’re a line of cars pulling down the long driveway. I’m glad there’s plenty of room to park. As we tumble out of the van, Tina makes a bee-line for her wives. She kisses both Rose and Cass deeply before letting them go.
“Do you think she followed us?” Tina queries.
“I’m pretty sure she did,” Rose smiles. She greets and nods to everyone as they move toward the house. “Tim, was there a blue van behind you on the way back here?” Rose queries as he and his wife walk by.
“Did she tell you she was going to follow us?” He suddenly grins.
“Nope, but she did this last year.” Rose grins.
Sure enough, there’s a blue van that pulls in last and gives us a small toot. I see by Dani’s exuberance that Nora’s brought all the kids up with her. She bounces over to the van the moment it stops and pulls the door open. The kids pour out, running for Rose, while Dani hugs her sister. It still amazes me that Dani never talks about Esperanza. They’re obviously really close.
“Okay, kids go find your brothers.” Rose encourages. They all cheer and run for the house, allowing Nora to come up and kiss her wife.
“Ola mi querida, me extrañaste?” Nora teases, putting her arms around her shoulders. Nora’s a head shorter.
“Always,” Rose says lovingly, reaches down and pulls her wife up into her arms for a deep, loving kiss.
Nora lets go of Rose long enough for her to turn around and she hops on Rose’s back, hugging her wife close. I’m wondering why, when I notice the others move in. Cass and Tina are on the left. Leilani and Travis are on the right. The six of them make their way to the door, holding each other close.
“That looks like a wonderful idea.” Sala grins happily. I suddenly have my beloved hopping onto my back. I quickly catch her, and she pulls herself close to me. This allows Ruby and Kevin to hold each side of me, pinning Sala’s legs at our waist as our hips touch. “This is cozy,” Sala says lovingly, kisses the back of my neck, and then leans her head against mine.
“We’re getting just as bad as Rose and her relationship.” Kevin chuckles.
“I think this is a good thing,” Ruby grins. “We need to get more relationship ideas from Rose and her circle,” leaving Sala and me to giggle. We make our way to the door. “Who else would we add to this?” she ponders.
“Well, Meadow would love to hold your other side.” I hint, and she blushes.
“Sam wouldn’t work. She only has eyes for our beloved. She wouldn’t hold on to Kevin.” Sala comments.
“At least not yet,” Ruby suggests, and we giggle.
“I don’t like where this is going,” Kevin objects, causing us to giggle more.
“I don’t know how far it’s going to go with Sam,” I remind them.
The butler smiles at us knowingly as we squeeze past him. “The dining hall is to your right,”
“Thank you.” We answer together, causing him to chuckle.
We bend right, walk through what looks like a sitting room, and into an enormous dining hall. It must take up a quarter of this floor, it’s so huge! The younger ones are running around. Dani and Esperanza are chatting about their weekend with Heart. A blonde woman hanging off of an older male twin of Rose turns to us and smiles.
“Well, Rose said she was mentoring a cute, blonde thing. She never said just how much like her you were.” She reaches out. “I’m Beth, Rose’s sister, and this is her older brother, Dave.”
I count the kids running around. There are two more bodies I’d not met yet. The strawberry blond looks much like Beth. The other, a redhead, looks like his father. I’m assuming Dave’s the father, the boy is nearly a spitting image of him. “Wow! Does the Montgomery trait run strong?” I smile.
“It sure does!” Beth leans against Dave affectionately. “That’s Oliver, he’s ten, and his little sister Ginny is seven.” She turns back to me. “We live down in Jackson. Dave’s a robotics specialist for the space program.”
Sala finally lets go of me, but she’s playing shy, mostly hiding behind me and Ruby. “I’m Laurëafanya. These are my loves Ruby, and Kevin, the cute little platinum girl hiding behind me, is my betrothed, Sala.”
“Betrothed? How old are you?” Dave looks down at us.
“Arranged marriage.” The four of us answer together.
Dave’s eyes grow wide. “So my sister didn’t have enough with creating Danielle as her mini-me. She sought a new hive mind the corrupt.” He teases.
We merely grin. I feel Ruby’s arm below mine as we hold Sala between us. We try to open up to push her forward, but she grabs both of our opposite hips and won’t let us move apart.
Beth watches the interaction and looks at Kevin. “I hope you don’t feel like the odd one out in their little love triangle.”
“That just developed this weekend!” Kevin gasps, “how could you tell?”
Beth flashes him a knowing smile. “I’ve watched my sister form a few of those. It’s easy to pick up the signs.”
Ruby and I blush. Meanwhile, Sala sticks her head forward to kiss both of our cheeks. “I like how this weekend developed.” She purrs.
“Beth, are you monopolizing our new guests?” An older woman comes up to us.
“No, Mom, just putting Rose’s new daughter through the usual.” Beth grins.
“Technically, Rose isn’t my mother.” I correct Beth. “While she’s helped me through my transition, and got me where I am, someone else adopted me, and I have my real parents here.”
“That tall, charming blond couple?” The woman queries, and I nod. “You look so much like them. Why were you adopted by someone else if your parents are here?”
“It’s complicated.” The four of us answer together.
“Heavens, still my heart! Rose created a new teenage hive mind!” she gasps.
“I’m pretty sure we did that on our own.” My boyfriend comments. “I’m Kevin.” He puts his hand out.
“Ruby, nice to meet you.” My beloved smiles, and offers a hand next.
“I’m Laurëafanya, and the girl hiding behind us is Sala.” I smile. “I’d offer to shake your hand, but my arms are full.” My loves giggle and lean into me again.
The two women look at each other, then smile. “She is so like having a younger Rose in the house all over again.” Beth giggles. “We just need her to pick up the Bayou accent.”
“Sala and I live up in Hillcrest, Kevin and Ruby live in San Marino while spending a day with Dani can have me pick up a bit of a twang. I doubt my accent will ever get as strong as yours.” I smile.
“I’m Marie.” The older woman smiles. “My Peter is around here somewhere, trying to get all these rug-rats to settle down.” She chuckles. “So, ya’ all don’t live in the same city?” The four of us shake our heads.
“We only spend our weekends together.” Kevin comments. “I didn’t think I’d enjoy a long-distance relationship, but it’s hard to let Laur go.” He smiles at me lovingly, and I return the kiss he leans in for.
“Really like Rose.” Beth smiles. “He didn’t even need to ask, and she knew.” She motions for us to join the others. “Have you met everyone else?”
I nod. “We spent much of the weekend with them here and there,” I comment. “I’m glad to see Nana Forrest is up and about.”
“We were happy and surprised to see Leilani’s mother show up with the boys. Last I heard, she was really sick and having trouble walking.” Marie comments. I smile knowingly. She glances at me, suspiciously. “What do you know, dear?”
“Me? I’m just a teenager. My mother and I know a thing or two about salves and natural medicines. We met her on the way down and she was already looking better when we left.” I fib. I’m not sure if Beth’s family knows about magic, so I won’t admit I’m a Druid in real life. My loves catch on and don’t correct me.
“Like some sort of naturopath?” I nod. “It’s nice to see her up and about.” Beth smiles. “Leilani sounded so worried about her before this weekend.”
“There’s my sunshine saviour.” Nana Forrest smiles at me. My loves let me go so that she can hug me. “I already thanked your mother for what you two did.” She whispers. “I owe you my life, child.”
I lean back enough to look at her face. “You owe me nothing. Seeing the cheerful faces of the kids, that they can enjoy having you in their lives longer, is all the payment I need.”
“A selfless healer.” She cups my face. “You are just like Rose. I didn’t have time to say it then. Welcome to the family.”
“Thanks.” I smile and we hug again.
She moves on to talk to Leilani, who’s excited to tell her mother about the weekend. “Okay, you did something.” Beth comments. I return an innocent smile. “Yeah, I know that look.” She chuckles. “Rose gives me that whenever she does something that she doesn’t want to fess up to.”
“I’m just your average teenage girl that’s dressed up to look like an Elf.” I grin.
“I still don’t get how you folk make those costumes look so real.” Marie shakes her head.
“Average, my ass,” Beth interjects. “I’ve seen your online profile. What average teenage girl has over four million fans in just two months?”
“One that sings, plays the harp, runs a teen high fashion blog, and keeps showing up with celebrities?” I offer.
Beth chuckles, and I don’t flinch when she reaches out to ruffle my hair. I’ve gotten used to adults doing this to me now. “You lay that out so calmly and with so little vanity.”
“Who am I to argue when people think I’m the most attractive teen on the planet?” I venture.
“Aren’t we humble?” She teases. I merely grin as my loves giggle, and she shakes her head. She studies me for a moment. “You said Rose helped you with your transition?” I nod. “So you weren’t always a girl?” I shake my head. “You are even more adorable than my sister ever was. How do you transgender kids do it?”
“The magic of modern medicine?” I offer, causing my loves to cough. Beth catches the reaction and Dave frowns.
“Mom, why don’t you and Beth attend to the other guests, and see what wine everyone wants with supper?” Dave offers. Beth and her mother go to argue. “Please, I want to talk to these four for a moment.”
“More of your family secrets, Dave?” Marie frowns. He lookst at her pleadingly. “Very well, son. You and your kin can be so mysterious.” The two women wander off.
As if on cue, Rose comes up behind her brother. “Thanks for being discreet, kids. The Simmons don’t know our family is magically active.” She says in a low tone. “And no, Dave, she didn’t transition medically. She did it through a magical ritual.”
“It always creeps me out when you seem to read what I’m going to ask next, Rose.” He frowns. “What are they?”
We look at each other, then Rose nods.
“I’m a Winter Fae.” Sala ventures first.
“I’m a human apprentice sorceress,” Ruby adds.
“I’m an Elven bardic Druid,” I reply. “I started as a mundane human boy. My magical ritual awakened my Elven bloodline, my ancestors became my genetic parents -- once I removed my human DNA.”
“So, you’re an actual Elf?” I nod and he looks at my Elven parents. “How does one remove their human DNA?” He gasps, trying to keep his voice down. “And where do they come from if they’re not human, either?”
“Painfully, but it’s what I wanted, what I needed,” I stress. “My life had no meaning as a human. Now I have a purpose, a destiny if want to sound poetic.” I look at the Laitaurë. “My Elven parents don’t come from Earth. It’s a complicated story.”
He glances at Rose questioningly. “Don’t look at me like that. I just helped with all the legal papers in changing her name and getting her emancipated from her birth family.”
“Birth family?” Dave frowns.
“I had human parents. They were cruel, abusive, and wouldn’t have let me transition.” I take a deep breath, holding back the painful memories. I feel Rose suppressing my anguish. “So I ran away from home and discovered there’s an entire magical society that lives beside the mundane world. When it was finally safe, my ancestor reached out to me through the Dream, giving me a magical solution to my gender issues. I became a girl. She renewed the purity of her bloodline, effectively becoming my mother by removing two thousand years of human genetics. The result also allowed my magical abilities to manifest. We’ve all benefited from this experience.”
“Two thousand years!” Dave’s eyes grow wide. “Just how long do Elves live?” I merely grin. “You know what? I don’t think I want to know.” He frowns. “So, unlike my sister’s magically altered form, you are the real deal? This is your true self?” I nod. “Amazing! Does the rest of our family know?” he looks at Rose.
“Irène and Carlo were at the convention. They now know.” Rose comments. “I expect the rest of the Villeneuves to find out soon enough.”
“You can’t tell the Simmons any of this,” Dave stresses. “Unlike Rose, I have no magical abilities. I’m just an influential bard. There’s no magic in our household, though I’m suspecting Oliver has the gift.”
“Have you had him tested yet?” Rose probes. Dave shakes his head. “Don’t wait till he accidentally casts a spell. At least have Cass look him over? She’ll be able to tell if his aura has a hint of magical potential.”
“What if he’s too young to show anything? Didn’t you say that she didn’t show any signs till you two got together?” Dave retorts.
“That is just as likely,” Rose frowns. “Has Mémmère said anything?” he shakes his head. “Not that she would. She rarely warns us half the time.” She grumbles and sighs. “Well, till he reaches puberty, or something triggers a powerful emotion, we just have to wait.” She flashes us a grim smile.
His face matches hers. “Our family’s not like yours Rose, I don’t have a Seer witch for a wife. Your children have grown up surrounded by magic, and knowledge of the arcane. Oliver hasn’t. I’m not sure I’m ready to drag Beth into that lifestyle.” He looks at me and Sala. “These two aren’t even human, and you think nothing of it.”
“Oh, I know just how special these two are.” Rose retorts. “Sala is a Fae that can cast ice spells and fly.” His eyes grow wide. “Laurëa is a powerful Elven spell caster that’s not only a bard but can do stuff with nature that I’ve never thought imaginable! Not a day goes by that I’m not discovering something new with these two.” She smiles down at us. “They are a wonder to behold, Dave. I’m glad that you are here today to meet them.”
“I thought Elves were supposed to be monogamous?” Dave looks down at us, puzzled. “That’s what the mythology books all say. Or is that just a romanticism of the race?”
“Generally, you would be right.” I smile. “Where I wasn’t born an Elf, I’m not like others of my kind.”
“For which I am very grateful,” Sala says lovingly and I turn to give return the kiss she leans in for.
Dave suddenly looks at Kevin, noting he’s being left out of the conversation. “Don’t look at me.” My boyfriend grumbles. “Apparently, I have a void in my aura, and I counter or negate magic!”
I offer my boyfriend a sympathetic smile. “Master Phan is researching your condition, my love. He said something about it feels familiar.”
Kevin takes a deep breath and calms down. “I’m grateful for his help.” He smiles slightly and kisses me.