(Click on the title to read the entire story)
Deena didn’t like the idea of being clandestine, but that’s what this felt like. As she was preparing dinner, she had felt like the sneaky, evil stepwitch, stirring a cauldron or stroking a conjuring ball. She should be wearing a long black gown made of webs instead of the knee length Gloria Vanderbilt wrap dress she was actually wearing. Although she’d called this meeting with Va and Stem . . . no it wasn’t really a meeting, it was a meal. She’d asked them over for a meal, dinner, to be specific, because she enjoyed their company and she didn’t get to spend much time with either of them. Although she’d just seen Va a couple of days ago at his office, she hadn’t seen him for eons before that, and Stem, since he’d reached his completion, he was always involved in some project or other. She was lucky if she got a text from him every fortnight and she tried hard not to call him. She didn’t want to seem like one of those parents who couldn’t let go. But this was important; something had to be done about Cen and that girl of hers.
Deena had labored over the nutty brew stew; a favorite of Stem’s, and the salad had been made with fruit, vegetables and herbs fresh from her garden. They had eaten heartily and she had not mentioned the girl or Cen once. She didn’t want to be the one to initiate the subject, but she feared neither Stem nor Va would bring up the subject because they knew it was one that made her bristle. Well then, she thought, she’d broach the subject after the meal when everyone was full and relaxed.
With Stem and Va’s help, clearing the table had taken only a few minutes. Once the empty plates had been placed safely in the sink and serving dishes on the sideboard, she had shooed them out of the kitchen. Deena covered the leftovers and put them away before finding and opening a new bottle of wine.
Va and Stem sat in the circular cove of easy chairs that made up the main room’s seating area. The balcony doors were open at Va’s back and a gentle breeze freshened the room. After they’d gotten comfortable in the living room, she brought each of them glasses of red wine, then went back to get hers from the dining table before she took a the chair next to Stem and across from Va.
“She’s like a cub,” Stem was saying when Deena sat down, “so eager to learn. Sometimes I just want to cuddle her and stroke her fur to soothe her energy.”
Va laughed, “Beware of that kind of behavior,” he warned. “She wasn’t raised Reveler and might mistake your actions.”
“I know,” Stem nodded, “and that’s exactly why I haven’t done either.”
“It’s like I told you,” Deena jumped in, “interacting with her at this stage, and with no supervision is dangerous.”
“I’m careful,” Stem said defensively.
“I didn’t say your weren’t,” Deena soothed, “I just don’t think you should have to be. It was unfair of Cen to ask such a thing of you, especially without running it by me or one of the council members.”
“The girl was frightened,” Stem said, “it would have been more dangerous for her to stumble around without direction. Dangerous for her as well as the community.”
“But it isn’t your responsibility,” Deena said.
“Isn’t it?” Stem turned to his mother, “Isn’t it all of our responsibility to assist one another? She is Reveler, and therefore, a part of our community.”
“And as such, her concerns should be ours, not just yours. Not only are you being asked to teach her, to help her through the transition, but you’re expected to keep it all a secret from the community,” Deena’s spoke very softly, but Stem knew his mother well enough to know that that was when she was most upset.
“It’s a delicate situation,” he said, speaking just as softly as she did.
“Yes, very delicate, and with the possibility of far reaching repercussions.”
“You don’t think I can contain the situation? She’s just a frightened girl. I’m sure that at some point she will be open, even eager to be introduced to the community, but right now she’s just trying to come to terms with that fact that she isn’t human.”
“Va, what do you think?” Deena asked wanting an ally, but based on Va’s earlier responses she didn’t expect much. Yet, she hoped Va had begun to see the scope of this thing, that it had become much more than the schism between him and Cen.
“About?” Va asked sipping his wine.
“Well, how long do you think Cen expects this whole thing to go undetected by the community?” Deena asked. “She has to know that at some point she will have to bring her daughter into the fold. And what of the boy? Have you noticed any signs of a possible change in him?”
“I think the whole matter needs time,” he said slowly as though he was summoning the words and they were coming with difficulty. “I think that both Cen and Vesta have been blindsided by this whole thing. I don’t think she thought that her children could become Reveler since their father is human. Vesta has only recently begun to manifest evidence of change . . . a few months, at best . . . I think we . . . she . . . Cen and Vesta need time to adjust, to get past the newness of this situation.”
“I don’t know if, we, the community can afford to give them time. We don’t know what to expect. Even our own young are secluded and given time and space to explore their possibilities when they are becoming. They are watched and directed. We don’t know what to expect with this half-breed. We have no idea how or when her change will manifest itself, and with limited monitoring and direction, we don’t know how or if she will be able to contain herself,” Deena said, “It’s risky, and I’m afraid exposure is imminent.”
“Limited direction,” Stem repeated, “You have so little faith in how well you trained me to assist.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” Deena inserted, “It’s just that she’s not normal.”
“That’s one of the reasons I find her so fascinating,” he responded. “And what is normal. You’ve always said each of us is unique, and that uniqueness was one of our strengths.”
“True. But with pure blood, and under the guidance of tempered elders, most elements are predictable within a range, but with Cen’s child there are too many untried variables and too little supervision.”
“Her rate of change, while it shows promise, seems to be somewhat slower than what might be termed normal,” Stem said cautiously.
“What do you base this on?” Deena asked, “Have you examined her? Physically?”
“Well, no,” Stem said a little offended by what he perceived as his mother’s accusation. “I was basing it on her ability to comprehend and do mind calisthenics.”
His mother shook her head, “I didn’t mean,” she began and then stopped and took a breath. “The least of is that she must be examined, physically, to determine where she is in the process before one can even predict the rate of change.”
“How do you propose to get that done?” Stem asked unable to conceal some of his anger at his mother’s intrusion.