(Click on the title to read the whole chapter)
“Thing is,” Va began, “I’m really into this,” his large hand gestured vaguely between the two of them, “into you, but . . .” he was thinking hard, trying to call the right words, watching as she twirled the last of the cola in its glass and then took a sip. She didn’t, wouldn’t look at him.
“But?” she smiled still not looking at him.
The waiter, a guy in his late teens who wore a T-shirt with Main Street Grill emblazoned in white across the front, jeans and a white dish towel wrapped around his waist like an apron appeared and set their plates, a spinach omelet for her and a cheeseburger for Va, down in front of them.
“Anything else you need? More Pepsi?” he asked eying Aileen’s near empty glass.
Aileen smiled, shook her head and said, “I think I’ll just drink the water.” The waiter nodded and left.
“There are things,” he began but floundered again when she looked up at him, her eyes curious, but cautious.
“It’s O.K.,” she said after they were silent for a few minutes. “You’re not ready. You said as much the other day. “And really I’m not trying to pressure you or anything, but it’s sort of . . . too late.”
“What?” he said as though he hadn’t understood even though he had. “Too late,” he repeated the words.
“I wasn’t sure then, but now I’m certain,” she said.
He was torn, somewhere between elation and fear.
“We weren’t careful. I wasn’t careful . . . I liked . . . like you,” she said and took a sip of water, still not looking at him.
He took her free hand, the one that had been resting on the table. It was cool and soft. She let him hold it; didn’t say anything as his thumb stroked the smooth back of her hand. He was grateful.
Deena stood in the doorway, the sun at her back illuminating her as though she was someone sacred, someone precious. Cen leaned in and hugged her. She couldn’t help it; she was really happy to see Deena. It had been so long since she’d spoken with another loved one from her world, with the exception of Va, of course. And Deena was teacher, nurturer, one on whom Cen had leaned as she grew to completion. Cen’s body vibrated with the joy of being in her presence even though she knew that Deena was displeased and had come to reprimand her. Tears filled her eyes when Deena hugged her back, tight as though she’d missed her too.
Finally, Deena laughed and patted Cen’s back, “It’s good to see you too.”
Discreetly swiping at her eyes, Cen said, “Come on through to the kitchen,” as she led the way. “I’ve got tea and strawberry scones. You used to like them.”
“Still do,” Deena said as she slid into a chair.
Neither of the women said anything for awhile as Cen bustled around the kitchen placing utensils in their proper places, putting the basket of scones in the center of the table and filling tea cups before she slid into a seat across from Deena.
“Va said it was love between you and this human,” Deena began.
Cen nodded, “Gavin,” she said holding her cup near her lips. She waited for Deena to acknowledge the name and then nod acceptance before she took a sip of tea.
“Licorice root?” Deena asked as she selected a scone from the basket.
Cen smiled, “You are a good teacher. It, in conjunction with Iberium leaves suppresses the desire to change, and I go away twice a year for a couple of weeks. Just to merge, to become one.”
“So, you have a daughter who is becoming and a son who may,” Deena stated when it became apparent that Cen wasn’t going to say anything else.
“I didn’t know where you were,” Cen said by way of apology. “Vesta needed help and I looked for you, but found Stem.”
“So Va said,” Deena confirmed. “I appreciate that you contacted me and invited me into your home, but what you’ve done here has endangered the whole community. It’s not just you and Va or even Stem, it’s all of us. We must contain the breach you have created.”
“I’ve been very discreet and Vesta understands the need for discretion. Besides she’s too embarrassed by the changes in her body to share the experience with anyone, and Stem is helping her to understand and contain her concerns,” Cen offered.
“Stem is young yet himself. There are many things he is still learning to negotiate,” Deena countered.
“That may be, but he has helped Vesta. She trusts him,” Cen said.
“I’m glad that Stem has been of good use, but you know that she is going to need more. She needs to be housed with others who are undergoing a similar transformation, with those who can protect not only her, but all of us,” Deena said.
“I can help her. And Stem is . . .” Cen argued.
“You had no right to involve Stem, but more important than that, it is not something that even with his help you can contain. You have no idea how the change will affect her especially since she is a mixed breed. We can’t risk detection.”
“She can’t just leave. She has a life here. We have a life here,” Cen’s voice rose.
“You’ve created a dangerous situation,” Deena said lowering her voice in contrast to Cen’s, “Now, it’s time to contain it before it becomes even more so.”
“She won’t want to leave her friends, her life. It’s her senior year, an important time to human girls,” Cen said.
“You’ll have to convince her, and you’ll have to find a way to make her leaving appear natural to your husband and any others with whom she has contact. What of the boy? Has there been any sign that he may become Reveler?” Deena asked.
“He’s hasn’t exhibited any evidence of change yet,” Cen said softly.
“Stem says the girl,” Deena stopped and said the name pointedly, “Vesta, is a good student, and that while she was very fearful in the beginning, she now seems excited about the gifts inherent to Revelers. Although he hasn’t discovered her particular talents, he senses her potential.” Deena sought and held Cen’s eyes. “It is important that she submit to a community of those who can train and contain her talents.”
Cen pressed her lips together. What Deena said made sense, but she wasn’t ready to lose what she and Gavin had. However, her actions, falling in love with Gavin and deciding to have a family with him, had put all of them in jeopardy. Now, somehow she had to fix it. She just needed a little more time.