Despite the metaphorical keys of life now being in my metaphorical pocket, little changed at first. That was alright, though. I was mostly content with what I had at the moment. I called my friends in Twinbrook regularly, I went to school and met my local friends there. I read and wrote and ran and worked for Sabine, who was again her own, closed-off self. I started cooking for her sometimes. Her fingers had got clumsier with knives, even though they could still glide through contrabass and guitar strings and probably piano keys too without a problem. She complimented me on my average-at-best cooking skills and sometimes gave me tips on how to use spices better or how to make the best fried rice ever.
I tried not to ask about her condition, even as the spring went on and she kept looking frail. I knew she didn’t want me to. Heck, she even kept saying that out loud to me.
“It’s not the job of the young ones to fret about the old,” she said for the millionth time.
I didn’t know what I could’ve said to that that wouldn’t just make her irritated. So once I just asked:
“Could you teach me a few words of French?” instead.
She smiled really brightly then. After that, I started to learn French. Mostly because I could see how happy talking about her roots made Sabine. It was interesting too. I liked it.
When the grass was turning green and the leaves slowly started to show signs of budding on trees again despite the air still being rather chilly for Sunset Valley, Sabine seemed to become more energised. She could go for longer walks again, though still only with her walking stick. She didn’t seem to need so many naps, and she was more talkative again.
The change was more than welcome, and for a while I was happy to stop worrying about her and focus on other things. Like studies and life and our family. But there was still a small voice inside my head that kept reminding me that something was indeed wrong with Sabine. The worry popped into my head at random, when I was reading or cooking or being alone, when I was just relaxed enough to let my mind wander. I tried my best to stop it, to find distractions. At least sometimes it was easy. Like whenever Alvar and Kielo visited again.
They wanted Rem to leave with them again, but they were nice enough to stop for tea and a chat. I saw that Patrick was trying his best to be natural, even though I knew he was still bothered by the whole mess our family was in. By what Rem had said to him about the fair folk maybe wanting Rem away from us.
“So, what do you think will be in store for our son this time?” he asked amicably, but I noticed the way he stressed the “our son” -part. If Kielo noticed it too, she didn’t show it.
“I don’t know the specifics,” she said, “Something about more accurate visions, I think. That’s what Lumi said anyway.”
“I’ll go with him this time,” said Patrick. Kielo frowned.
“I uh… I don’t know if that’s…”
“Why not?” Patrick said sharply.
“I mean…” Kielo stammered, “Oh, sure. You can come. Of course you can.”
“Why would it be a problem?” she asked. Kielo shook her head and looked really awkward.
“It’s just… we don’t like outsiders in our place. You know that. But you… I mean, you guys are fine.”
She looked at me.
“How about the rest of you?”
I was about to say no thanks, but then I thought about magic and my lingering worries of Sabine, and about our family, and then I nodded.
Mum hesitated, but then decided not to protest and instead put a slightly forced smile on her face.
“Alright. Looks like Mer and I will keep the house standing. But do come back soon.”
“We’ll return them all again in time.”
Mum nodded. There was unusual hardness in her eyes. The kind that said “you’d better”. Kielo definitely noticed that. Alvar laughed nervously.
“Well, this is nice,” he said, “We should definitely come here more often.”
I glanced at him warningly. He didn’t look back.
We left for Twinbrook in the next bus, and the ride was tenser than it should have been. There wasn’t much small talk, which was usually fine by me, but this time the silence felt uncomfortable.
At least I wasn’t worrying about Sabine now. And as soon as I thought about that, I started to worry about her again. Of course. I turned to Kielo, who was staring out the window.
“Hey?” I said, “Can I ask you something? I was wondering how you guys heal when you get hurt or sick.”
“Sure,” Kielo said, “It’s not that different from you guys. Just less chemicals and more herbs. And we’re usually more resistant to diseases. Usually, but we have our limits, as you know.”
She looked around us, at the sleepy and bored passengers.
“Maybe we should talk about this later, though,” she said.
The silence returned.
It took us a few hours to get to the fairy forest again. At least now I roughly knew where it was, so the way didn’t feel endless.
The place looked the same as before. There was barely any snow, even though it still stubbornly lingered in Twinbrook. The fairy lights kept the place lit up with their airy glow, and the tree trunk/honey comb houses stretched towards the sky. Patrick looked around in wonder, as he had the previous time he had visited. I couldn’t help a feeling of wonder creeping in either. I wasn’t sure if it was my own feeling or if there was something in the air.
The little fairy kids, Kuura and Halla, came to greet us and wanted to show us their new treehouse. Patrick’s tense expression softened, and he said yes.
“Meanwhile, I’ll go take Rem to Lumi,” Kielo said, “Alvar, you can take care of them, right?”
“Sure,” said Alvar, “C’mon, da- I mean, Patrick, and Lynn.”
“Wait,” said Patrick, turning away from the kids, “Can we see Rem’s lessons?”
“I’ll have to ask Lumi. She usually wants no distractions.”
“It’s fine, dad,” Rem said, “It’s mostly boring to watch. I just meditate and sometimes try to do some magic. And even the magic part isn’t that formidable.”
“I still want to be a part of this, son,” Patrick said, and Rem sighed.
“Okay. Kielo, go ask Lumi. I’ll… I’ll wait here with the others.”
Kielo looked at Patrick for a long while, but then she turned and disappeared among the curly trees and the flower bushes.
Kuura grabbed my hand.
“Hey, Lynn! It’s great that you’re here!” she chirped, “You wanna see the treehouse? Alvar built it for us!”
“Okay, okay,” I said, “But we have to wait for Kielo first.”
“Nah, Aunt Kielo will find us,” Alvar shrugged, “It’s fine.”
“Oh… well, if you say so.”
Kuura and Halla led us to a large tree where there indeed sat a pretty treehouse. Patrick looked up at it and I saw pride in his eyes when he glanced at Alvar.
“You built this by yourself?”
Alvar shuffled his feet.
“Yeah. Well, most of it. Kuura and Halla and Marras – she’s at her herbalism lesson right now, I think – helped a bit. And Aunt Kielo too. Hey, check this out! This is the coolest thing here!”
He circled around the tree and showed us a heap of junk that actually looked a lot like…
“Wow,” said Rem, “Is that a real radio station?”
“Yup,” Alvar said, “Aunt Kielo found some antennas and started putting this together. She’s been sneaking around among humans a lot to figure out what to do.”
“Is it going to play any stations?” I asked and gave the dials a few experimental twists.
“Probably not really. It could be risky. We know a little bit about radio waves, and Aunt Kielo is worried that someone could track them here.”
“But it looks nice, and as long as she could get it working, it’s enough. Right?”
“We can even play with it!” said Halla, whose head was poking out of one of the treehouse’s windows, “It’s great!”
“Yeah, it sure looks like it!” said Rem, excitement shining in his eyes.
I fiddled with the buttons for a moment longer, but the radio station stayed quiet. Still, it was excitingly surreal to see such a large piece of our technology here in the depths of the technologically very backwards fairy forest.
“Oh, you already showed that,” said Kielo, startling almost all of us by appearing from some of the bushes. She looked at Patrick and then at Rem, smiling. I saw some sort of relief in her eyes and guessed that she hadn’t got herself into trouble by bringing Patrick here.
“Lumi said you can accompany Rem to his lesson,” she said.
“Thank you,” said Patrick. I could see that he was nervous. His shoulders tensed, something they almost never did.
Kielo glanced at me.
“I have to ask Alvar to take care of you, Lynn,” she said and then turned to Alvar, “She was curious about our healthcare. Maybe you can teach her the basics.”
“Sure! I’m sure we’ll be fine!”
Kielo smiled at him and then escorted Rem and Patrick back towards the village centre. Alvar stretched his arms and then put his hands to his hips.
“So, healing, huh? It’s not all that special, really.”
“I’d still like to see what you guys do,” I said. I didn’t know what use it would be for me or Sabine. Because as much as I liked to pretend that I’d let Sabine take care of her own possible illnesses because she so insisted, I still wanted to do something about it. Alvar shrugged.
“Okay. Well, we’d best get to it, then.”
He circled around the tree where Kuura and Halla were playing and looked up, shading his eyes with his hand.
“Hey, Halla! Kuura! You want to go with me and Lynn to check out our gold fruit trees?”
His only response was a muffled giggle, some whispering, and then…
…a bucket of water that was dumped on him. Alvar shrieked and jumped like he’d been assaulted by a swarm of ants.
I clapped my hand over my mouth, mostly to stifle the mix of a shout and laughter that threatened to escape. Alvar wiped his face and then glared at the treehouse.
“Oh yeah, very funny. Ha ha. Okay, fine, I’ll go with Lynn alone, then! You two play nice while I’m gone!”
“We will!” Kuura and Halla said in unison, and Alvar shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, right. Come on, Lynn.”
He led me along the river and talked like a tour guide at some kind of health museum while we walked:
“The fair folk is naturally resilient to many illnesses, but sometimes some viruses can strike them really badly. We have our own healers – led by a shaman – who take care of the sick and injured. So I guess it’s kind of like what you guys have. Just with less… sterile white rooms.”
He stopped at one of the particularly large trees. He pointed upwards at its magenta leaves and golden fruit.
“That’s gold fruit. It’s a real superfood. It’s used both in our food and as an ingredient in most of our medicine. It’s really effective with healing most of the fair folk’s ailments. The fair folk used to search for sites where this tree grew and usually built their villages around them. Nowadays they’re more focused on hiding, so they carry some saplings to the appropriate site.”
“Does that miracle fruit heal just fairies?” I asked.
“It’s less effective on humans,” Alvar said, “But we also have our own versions of antibiotics and stuff nowadays.”
“How do they treat you?”
“Pretty much like another fairy,” Alvar said and then paused before adding, “Well, I think our scouts have stolen some medical books from humans after I came here.”
I looked up at the tree.
“So it’s not like in the stories,” I said, feeling more than a little disappointed, “There’s no magical cures that can fix everything.”
“At least not around here,” Alvar said. He frowned, “Is someone you know sick? Is it one of you guys? Is that why father seems so sad?”
“Oh, no… that’s not it,” I said, “He and Rem have been a bit on edge because they’re afraid that the fairies are gonna steal Rem from us.”
I chuckled nervously, trying my best to act optimistically dumb. I couldn’t keep my smile up for long, though.
“But that’s just… they wouldn’t really do that, right?”
“Actually, they might,” Alvar said, “Not without Rem or his family’s consent, of course. They’ve learned their lesson.”
He frowned again.
“Well, at least I hope so. I’m sure Kielo won’t allow it, at least.”
“I hope this doesn’t get out of hand, though. This whole thing. I just… I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I like you guys. I’m not asking to butt into your lives or anything, but… It’s nice, spending time with you.”
He crossed his arms over his soaked sweater. His shoulders tensed too, and I could tell he was sad.
“I’d like us to be family… or at least something close to it. So that… so that we could keep being honest instead of hiding from everyone.”
“I’d like that too,” I said.
Alvar stood silent for a moment, tense and nervous. Then he spoke very haltingly:
“Can you… can you keep a secret?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Kielo and I went to see my real mum after the… after the incident.”
“I thought you said it’s better you didn’t. That she’d probably flip out – which I totally agree with, by the way.”
“Um… yeah. Well, we did go, and…” Alvar shifted nervously, “She flipped out.”
“She almost attacked Kielo,” Alvar went on, “I was afraid she was either going to kill her or have some kind of stroke. So we… Kielo wiped her memories of that evening.”
I stared at him.
“Neither of us was happy about it, but it had to be done. To protect us.”
Something cold settled into my stomach. I stared at Alvar’s back and thought about them trying to patch things up with Donna and then just magicking away her memories. Sure, Donna had seem a bit unstable and I could imagine her not listening to reason, but… she was Alvar’s mother and they just mind-wiped her like it was nothing?
“So yeah, I really hope this works out with you guys,” Alvar said.
I shuddered. I wanted to say something, to yell at Alvar and call them out on what they had done, but the words got caught in my lungs.
They were still there when I marched through the village to find Kielo, Patrick and Rem. Lumi was with them, and she looked at me angrily when I stomped into view. Alvar caught up with me, looking very worried.
“Lynn? Wait, I-“
“What did you do to Donna?” I hissed, glaring at Kielo.
Kielo blinked at me and then looked at Alvar with a stern frown on her face. Alvar sighed.
“You said you could keep a secret.”
“Not about this!” I snapped, “You wiped Donna’s memories because your meeting with her didn’t go according to your plan?! I thought you guys had got better than this!”
Kielo shook her head.
“It wasn’t like that, Lynn. It was self-defence. She would have tried to take Alvar away from me. She was this close to attacking me when he said no!”
Patrick stared at me, and then at Kielo with a horrified look on his face. Rem was trying to look everywhere except at the others.
“Kielo… you hurt Donna?” Patrick said very quietly.
“She’s perfectly fine!” Kielo snapped, “She just doesn’t remember me or Alvar visiting her!”
“So you erased her memories of her meeting the son she has been missing all this time?” Patrick raised his voice, “Do you know how hard it was for her? Thinking her son was gone? We thought something had snapped in her, but she…”
His eyes suddenly widened.
“Oh, gods… she was right all this time.”
“Dad…” Rem said in a very small voice, “You couldn’t have known. Even I didn’t know, and I’m supposed to see the future… I’m supposed to be these people.”
“You are not staying here, son,” Patrick said, and then glared at Lumi and Kielo, “Or are you going to erase our memories too?”
“You don’t get it, do you?” Lumi said coldly, her icy eyes darkening, “We have to stay hidden. It’s the only way we can be sure we’re safe. We’ve seen what happens if we go out there. We’re also not going to just let people do whatever they want to us! So we don’t go around mind-wiping people without good reasons. What Kielo did was perfectly acceptable in that situation.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“But we’d prefer not to harm anyone,” Kielo cut in before Lumi could continue, “And we don’t want you gone or… forgetting us. Rem is free to choose whatever he wants regarding all this.”
She sent a sharp glance Lumi’s way. Lumi ignored it and kept looking coldly at us.
“How bad would it really be if some people found out?” I had to ask, “I mean, sure, people can be ignorant and stupid and they do lots of bad things, but…”
“So do we?” Lumi guessed, “Was that what you were going to say?”
I bit my lip. Yeah, that had been pretty much it, but they didn’t need to know that.
“Calm down, everyone,” a serene voice spoke from behind me, “What is the meaning of this argument in the middle of such a lovely day?”
I spun around to face the peace-and-love-preaching voice and saw Matriarch Milia, who managed to look majestic wherever she went. She was wearing a long lace gown that looked like plants had decided to grow around her into the shape of a designer dress. Her eyes were still too green.
“We are not here to make enemies out of you or rip families apart,” said the matriarch as if she had been listening in on our argument. To be fair it wasn’t that hard considering the volume of our voices and the small size of the village, “But we also wish that you wouldn’t presume to know our situation enough to start thinking you could arrange our lives better than us.”
She looked at Patrick and smiled again.
“Hello, Mr… Patrick Monsoon-Farley, was it? I hear your son is shaping up to be quite a promising shaman.”
“I… thank you,” Patrick muttered, all his previous fight gone. I suppose forest queens who wore design plants would make any treehugger quite impressed.
“We appreciate you staying quiet about us,” said the matriarch, “We like this place, and we wouldn’t want to leave.”
She looked at Rem.
“And in return, we’re doing our best to help Taru’s… and your son.”
“Dad, Lynn… could we maybe talk about this later?” Rem said, clearly super uncomfortable about the whole thing, “I mean… I was about to go meditate, so…”
“I don’t think this is the best time for that,” Lumi sighed, “Maybe we should call it a day. Just go. All of you.”
She looked at us with narrowed eyes and then pushed past us towards the matriarch’s palace/gazebo. Matriarch Milia shook her head and smiled like an amused mother watching her kids do something endearingly dumb.
“Well, I’m sorry about all this… perhaps it’s indeed better that you come back later.”
“But I…” Rem started, but then sighed, “I’m sorry too.”
Matriarch Milia nodded.
“I’m looking forward to seeing more of your progress. And you all.”
She smiled too sweetly at us.
“You’re all welcome here in the future as well.”
I realised that I could only breathe freely when we were out of the village. Patrick shook his head.
“Wow. That was… much less pleasant than before.”
Rem was fuming, though. He clenched and unclenched his fists and his eyes seemed to go from honey-yellow to almost dark brown. Kielo walked us to the edge of the swamp and didn’t say a word. Her eyes had darkened too. I idly noticed again how similar Rem and Kielo’s eyes were, even though Kielo was now in her fairy form.
Kielo almost didn’t want to leave us, but Rem kept apologising until she apologised too and disappeared into the bushes. Then Rem turned to us.
“Why would you do that?” he asked.
“They just confessed they attacked Donna,” Patrick said defensively, “I don’t know if-“
“Well, I’m not happy about that either!” Rem snapped, “But… I believe them when they said they had no choice. They don’t want to be found and Donna… she wasn’t all right in the head.”
“And why do you think that is?” I had to ask, “Maybe because her baby was stolen.”
Rem blanched, and I knew I shouldn’t have said it. Sometimes I could be the most tactless person ever.
“I never said it was a good thing!” Rem shouted, “I hate what they did, and I hate myself for making that happen!”
Patrick and I had frozen in shock. Rem sighed.
“I know they might want me to stay, no matter what they say, but that’s normal, isn’t it? I mean, I’m one of them too! I just… I want us to stay together, no matter what happens. I don’t want us and them being mad at each other.”
There was an awkward silence, because none of us knew what to say. Patrick reached out with his hand, but Rem stepped back, away from him. The silence grew so much heavier in that one movement.
Finally Rem put his hand to his head and sighed again.
“Let’s go home. My feet are freezing.”
To say that the evening was tense would be an understatement. Patrick and Rem tried their best to explain everything to mum without starting to yell at each other. And when mum heard what had happened, she almost flipped out too. At some point Patrick even contemplated calling Donna and asking if she was alright. And then Rem really did start yelling at him. I sat on a vacant couch with Merrill trying to crawl over my shoulder and tried my best to not get too involved in the argument. I had a feeling that my voice would just make things more cacophonic.
“You can’t call her! We can’t tell her about-“
“She deserves to know!” Patrick snapped before Rem could even finish his sentence.
“Maybe, but I believe the fair folk when they said they had no choice! The damage had already been done ages ago!”
“What would you even say to Donna, Patrick?” mum asked, trying to sound calmer than she was, “It could just make things worse.”
“I… I know, but I can’t just… and what about the fairies? Can we just let them keep doing this? They’ve always been so ambiguous, and now…” Patrick sighed, “I don’t know anymore.”
“They’re family,” Rem said quietly, and I imagined he kept repeating that phrase so that he’d eventually believe it, “And Alvar’s there too. I don’t like this either, but I don’t want us to start fighting without at least trying to understand.”
“And I hope you understand that we worry about you,” mum said, “This whole arrangement has been tricky from the start, and now-“
“I know it’s tricky!”
“I don’t think we should contact them in a while. Or let you stay there until we get this sorted out,” Patrick said.
“WHAT? But I want to learn…!”
Merrill looked at me questioningly.
“Why fight?” he asked, his voice almost shaky, “They never fight!”
I nodded and stood up, lifting Merrill up with me.
“I know, Merry,” I said, “Maybe we should go upstairs for a while. I’ll read to you.”
“But why they fight?”
“They’re just a bit upset right now because of some things that Alvar’s family said,” I tried my best to make it sound like a convincing explanation, “It’ll be fine.”
Merrill stared at me still, eyes wide. Mum glanced at me and nodded as if in thanks. I took Mer upstairs and we found his favourite book and sat down to read. I tried my best to close my ears off from the sounds coming from downstairs and tried to immerse myself in the world of Jimmy Sprocket.
I read until my voice was about to give out and Merrill was getting sleepy. I helped him out of his clothes and into his pyjamas and carried him to bed. The arguing downstairs had finally quieted somewhat.
“See?” I said and tried to smile convincingly, “They stopped arguing. It’s fine.”
Merrill gripped my hand.
“Is someone trying to take Rem away?”
I cursed the whole situation in my mind.
“No, Merry,” I said, “We’ll stay together.”
I hoped I was right.
“They said about forgetting,” Mer said, “I never forget my family.”
“I know. Me neither,” I said, “Don’t worry. We’re safe here.”
For now, it was still okay to lie because the lies weren’t too bad.
“Good night,” I said.
I walked out of Rem and Mer’s room and saw that mum was waiting for me.
“How was it?” I asked, “I tried to keep Merry occupied.”
“You did great,” mum said and smiled. She looked sad even through the smile, “We agreed to sleep on it and think about it more tomorrow.”
”We can’t really jump to conclusions, but we can’t just let this go either.”
“Yeah,” I said, my voice thick.
Mum spread her arms. I hugged her and could almost feel safe.
“We’ll figure things out,” she said, “And no one’s ever going to break us apart.”
I nodded against her shoulder.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I should have showered and gone to bed hours ago, but I just couldn’t. I knew it would be no use anyway. I didn’t know what to think about any of this. A part of me agreed with Patrick that the fair folk was again doing something too questionable to just let go. And maybe our whole arrangement of trying to keep friendly ties to the people who had ruined several human lives out of selfishness really was stupid to begin with, as I’d sometimes already feared. But I also wanted to let Rem have his biological family, his teachers and the abilities and ties that belonged to him.
So far we had just let the fair folk do as they pleased and keep us on our toes, however. They kept saying that they listened to us and that we were free to do what we wanted, but it didn’t feel that way. If they could just easily wipe our memories with magic whenever they wanted, they could basically take Rem away and make us forget. They were stronger than us if they really wanted to be.
I shuddered at the thought. I thought about all the things we’d been through as a family. To think that all that could be just… wiped away was… I couldn’t even properly think it. It just couldn’t happen.
And I wanted to believe that it wouldn’t. Because a part of me really wanted to trust the fair folk, especially Kielo and Alvar and Kuura and Halla. And yet…
I looked at my computer and thought about all the stories I’d written throughout my life. I thought of the notebooks where I’d written my thoughts and even handled some of the events that had happened to us. They were stories that would never be published; stories hidden in notes and hard drives. If I kept backing them up, they would be there to help my memory for years and years to come. Maybe longer than I lived.
I slowly opened my computer.
I wanted to trust them.
But on the other hand, I wanted to be prepared and feel better about all of this.
So I thought about it for a long while and then started typing:
It all started with the wedding. Or maybe much earlier. Maybe it started when mum met Patrick Monsoon. Or maybe it started when my mum and the dad I have no memory of decided they didn’t want to see each other anymore. Heck, maybe it started when my so-called brother was born – even though I didn’t even know him when that happened and I had no way of knowing he would somehow slink into my life…
It was unpolished and probably not very good. But what did it matter? No one besides me would read it anyway.
Author’s Note: Clumsy meta moment ahoy? Or something like that. Hi guys, it’s been a while. I’ve had a lot of schoolwork and I’ve been working on my other stories. I like to keep this one at a leisurely pace because I feel like I need to digest these chapters in my head a lot before I start writing. So bear with me.
Also did you know I started a new story as well?! It’s an Ambrosia Challenge -story done with The Sims 4 and it’s called Forget-Me-Not! If you haven’t checked it out already, then maybe do that if you’re interested. There will be ghosts and revenge and all sorts of stuff going on there! I’ll try to keep my story updates somewhat balanced between all the three stories I have now.
I hope you enjoy and have a lovely time!