Plotwise this week's post follows snippet #12, not last weeks (which was the revised episode of the curse). I think this might give some answers (as well as new questions- don't want everything answered yet, do we?). I've started writing again (yay) after my two week dry spell, and there's a lot that's going to happen, very soon. I'm hanging cliffs left and right, there are new characters, and we're bringing in "the big boys". Enjoy.
“What’s in the bags?” See, I found something to say after all. Walking down the street, I had suddenly realized that Owen was carrying two extra large canvas totes with dark green handles and bottoms: evidently Bronwyn shared Laura’s fascination with all things L.L. Bean. I reached out to take one, and he handed me what I somehow knew was the lighter of the two.
“This,” he raised his bag with a big grin, “is mum’s two-alarm chili, mum’s chicken and dumplings, and last but not least mum’s comfort casserole. It’s kind of like lasagna, only with skinny noodles and with sour cream and cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. It must be good; Bronwyn had to fight off the whole crew when she packed our bags, including Brychan.”
“What’s in my bag?” I asked, smelling the aroma of fresh baked goods.
“Da’s chocolate chip butterscotch brownies, Da’s Banana Bread, and two loaves of Da’s whole wheat bread. They really do love you, you know?” He looked at me seriously. “This curse has them all shaken, but don’t ever think that they’re going to just forget you and leave you like this.”
“I know.” I smiled wistfully, sighing as I wished on a field of clover. Somewhere in that whole field, there must have been at least one four leaf, don’t you think? “I feel like I’ve known them my whole life.” I paused for thought, trying to ask my next question without insulting the only person I could talk to. I shouldn’t have bothered.
“I don’t know why I wasn’t affected,” he answered, laughing at the look of utter disgust that I must have worn. “Don’t worry, I’m not reading your thoughts. I don’t have to. Just read your expressions as they show up on your face. I’d love to play poker with you; I doubt you could bluff your way out of a canvas sack.”
“I’ll have you know, my inability to play poker has nothing whatsoever to do with my inability to bluff but my inability to give a dam about a card game. I usually stop paying attention somewhere between ‘hit me’ and ‘go fish’.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Owen asked, following me to the top of the double decker bus that would take us back into town. “This part of the trip’s going to take a while. Now is as good a time as any to talk. Any questions?”
“Banishment?” I started with the first thing that popped into my head, “I don’t know why, but for some reason I’m picturing those scenes in movies when someone is banished and everyone around them starts turning their backs on them, literally turning around so all they see are backs.”
“Actually, according to my teacher, banishment is one of the most powerful old magics still alive in the world. And what those scenes in the movie were doing was recreating the ritual that was used to set the magic in motion. Only I gather the effects of the ritual were more like what happened to you.”
“Who taught you about this? Someone in that school they sent you to?” Watching him squirm, as if those questions made him uneasy, I had a flash of understanding, and I knew. “It was Cormac, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. The drive home when he picked me up usually took several hours, and we had plenty of time to talk. He taught me lots of things on those trips, and told me lots of what I thought at the time were just stories, but now I know were so much more: including the story of the Banishment.”
“I wish he’d taught me some of this, told me those stories.” I can admit it now, I whined. I was so jealous, I could have spit.
“I think I know why he didn’t. And I have to say that in his position I might have done the same thing.”
“Alright, Einstein, tell my why he told everything to you, and not to me.”
“You were just a little bit of a thing; you were as open and trusting as a ray of sunshine. You could no more keep a secret than you could fly, which meant that everything you learned you shared with everyone: from tying your shoes to memorizing all the kings and queens of England to going peepee on the pot. And yes, I actually remember when you told me that, it was big news in your world, and you shared it with everybody.”
“And there were people in my life that didn’t need to know he’d been passing on his knowledge?” I was trying hard not to blush, and failing miserably. I’d told him I could go peepee on the pot? Oy.
“Oh yeah, from the very beginning, there were. And these stories would have been just the sort of knowledge you would have been dying to share with everyone.”
I could see that, it just about killed me, but evidently Cormac had known what he was doing. Not that I wasn’t going to give him a smack on the arm the very next time I saw him, but I could understand. I guess.
‘Now you know how I felt all those years.” Owen’s words broke the silence, and knocked me on my ass.
“I’ve always known. I just couldn’t do anything about it.” Leaving my seat, I climbed into his lap, holding him in my arms and cradling the back of his head in my hands. “Letting you go back to those people who never loved you as much as we did, broke my heart. Every damn time. And Cormac taught me that loving you and letting you go wasn’t have as hard as what you went through, but coming to us was what made it bearable for you, so we had to just suck it up and do it: if we truly loved you. And I always have.”
We were quiet the rest of the trip to Dr. John and Laura’s house, but it was a comfortable silence. Sitting side by side on the bus, I held his hand as I tried to think of other things: working on the garden for Laura, working on the projects she had assigned me, how I was going to fall asleep without Caitlin beside me, anything but the reason that she wasn’t here with me now.
Owen, from the look on his face, was thinking about Caerwyn. He had that look, part wonder, part joy, that said that he had felt Caerwyn’s growing affection for him and was amazed by it: like a child who had never had a Christmas suddenly getting everything he’d ever wanted.
“You can go back, if you want,” I offered, hoping he’d refuse but wanting to give him the option anyway. “I know what it feels like to miss someone that much.”
“Thank you, but I kind of have to stay in the city.” He blushed shyly; very happy about something as he explained. “I’ve got to go shopping and then go to work. I’m starting a new job Monday, one that Bronwyn helped me get, in fact. It would take too long for me to get there from the farm Monday morning.”
“Cool, where’s the new job?”
“The Bell and Candle Bookshop, over on…”
“On Cloister Mews, off Leicester Square.” I interrupted, jumping in my seat in excitement. “That is too cool. Laura took me there. That is the coolest bookshop. I could do some serious buying in there.”
“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times when I managed to get away from the hounds, and the owners are both really cool ladies. Would you like to go with me Monday? They might be able to help us out of our current predicament.”
“That would be great.” And for some reason, I felt hopeful. I even managed that bloody lock on the first try.
I managed to hold onto that hopeful feeling as we unpacked our goodies, took our afternoon tea out into the garden, through dinner, and up until the time to go upstairs to bed. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, I turned to Owen, who stared back at me looking as lost as I felt. The thought of spending the night alone was more than I could bear. I just knew the nightmares would come, worse than they’d every been, and with no one to help pull me out of them I would be trapped, reliving over and over the terrors of my life.
Taking a deep breath, I held my hand out to him, and with his hand in mine, I slowly climbed past Dr. John and Laura’s floor, past their guest rooms which neither of us felt like disturbing, up to the top floor and my room.
Opening the door, I let him go in before me. He looked around, a smile growing on his face, and I shared his happiness. They had created this room for me, and even with them no longer here, I felt it. They cared for me and wanted me to be happy. They had made a home here for me, for as long as I wanted it.
Profoundly touched, I turned to look out the window, and froze. Sitting on the ledge, plastered against the closed window, sat two cats: huddled together to stay warm looking up at the rain as if it were a personal insult.
“What are you doing here?” I cried, running to the window and pulling them through the narrow space I could make without endangering either of them.
Gathering Shadow and her twin Smoky (so named, according to Bronwyn, for his childhood penchant for rolling in the fireplace, sometimes without checking to make sure the ashes were cold), I held them both in my arms, carrying them both to the bed and wrapping them in the blanket I kept folded at the foot. Warming them up I realized that Smoky was wearing a collar, something I’d never seen Shadow do.
Looking closer I realized it was a piece of paper, and that they must have written us a note. Carefully unfolding it, I read it aloud to Owen:
Dear Gracie and Owen,
I know we agreed to stay away until we find a way to break the curse, but being apart from you made Caitlin feel like pulled taffy. Saying good bye to you both did let us find one thing out. Seeing you as cats was no problem, but once with you none of us could shift back to human, even mum and da. I guess whoever cursed you didn’t know about us. Something to think about, maybe?
Anyway, I promised to keep an eye on Caitlin and keep her safe, and it felt wrong to be away from you, so here we are. Maybe we can weaken the curse enough that I can shift with you there, Gracie. We just wanted to let you both know that we love you and that you’re not alone.
While I was reading, Owen had joined me on the bed and was holding Smoky like he was the last real thing in the world. Shadow was in my arms, plastered to me like she had Velcro paws, and I held her listening to her purr and felt that maybe there was hope, and thinking so wasn’t a fool’s dream. We slept that night, Owen and I, side by side, each of us with our cat curled up against our legs.
17 hours ago