Uneasy alliance, p.7

Uneasy Alliance, page 7

 

Uneasy Alliance
 


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after that night in the pub. First, Leena had stayed at home and refused to talk to anyone. Then, when she had come back to school, everyone was too freaked out to ask her anything directly.

  So they asked Caitlin.

  “Is your sister really a fairy?”

  “Can she do magic?”

  “The wings are fake, aren’t they?”

  “Can she really fly?”

  “The whole talking Giant thing was a stunt, wasn’t it? Some kind of special effects?”

  That one had baffled her. What kind of special effects could make a ten foot tall wooden head that was over a hundred years old come to life and talk? At least fifty people had been there when the Giant woke up. Sure, the video footage that a few people had taken with their phones had turned out strangely blurry and fake-looking, but you could actually go to the pub and talk to the Giant any time you wanted. Well, if you could get Angus Shanachie, the pub’s owner, to let you in. He wasn’t particularly fond of kids.

  Except Leena, of course. He was one of the five people who Leena claimed had come over from fairyland—which she called the Otherworld—with her a long, long time ago. Actually, a lot more people had come with her, apparently, but they were all dead. Except for the Five, as Leena called them. She said that they were elves and were immortal.

  Fairies and immortal elves and a magic door that no one was supposed to go near.

  Life was getting kind of complicated.

  At least people had calmed down and started talking to Leena again. She wouldn’t answer most of their questions, though, and so they had mostly given up asking. Things were starting to get back to normal.

  “Did you hear there’s a new kid?”

  Jeremy had a habit of forgoing social niceties like saying “hello.” He just pushed his way through the stream of kids trying to make their way down the hall and leaned against the locker next to hers, trying to act as if he thought he were the coolest thing on the face of the planet.

  Caitlin knew him well enough to know that he wasn’t as sure of himself as he pretended to be.

  “Hi, Jeremy,” she said. “Good morning to you, too.”

  He grinned his crooked grin at her and leaned in to kiss her. “Sorry, babe. Got caught up in all the excitement. Everyone’s all upset about this new guy.”

  “Have you seen him?”

  Jeremy shook his head. “Nope. Heard he showed up and then took off with Daphne Reynolds.”

  “Daphne? Really?” Caitlin said, rolling her eyes. “What’s up with her? Does she think she’s the official Seelie High welcoming committee now?”

  “Dunno, but everyone’s starting freak out.”

  “Why?”

  “They think it’s happening again.”

  Caitlin took her history book out of her locker and stuffed it in her backpack. “That’s stupid.” Slamming the locker, she started to walk toward her homeroom.

  “Why? You have to admit, it’s kind of weird getting two new kids in one semester,” Jeremy said as he caught up.

  “Look, I asked Leena and she said there’s no…spell or anything keeping people from moving here. It’s just a small, boring town. That’s the only reason we don’t get a lot of new people. Kira moving here was kind of weird, I guess. I mean, what are the odds that her mom would decide to apply for a teaching job here? But there’s no way something like that is going to happen again. There was only one Lost One and, as far as we know, Kira and her father are his only living descendants.”

  “As far as we know,” Jeremy muttered darkly, but Caitlin ignored him. They had different homerooms, so told him she’d see him later and walked away. She did wonder, momentarily, if she should text Leena to let her know about the new boy, whoever he was, but she shrugged off the thought. Leena had more important things to worry about today.

  Leena

  9 October 2014

  After spending most of the morning watching Soap Operas on the TV in Annie’s hospital room, Leena decided to go down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. A nurse had brought a lunch tray for Annie, but the other girl refused to eat.

  “I’m not hungry,” she said as she pushed the turkey sandwich and green Jell-O away.

  Annie had seemed nervous and jittery all morning. Leena guessed that was normal, since she was in the hospital, worrying that her baby was going to come before he was supposed to. She was a lot closer to her due date now than she had been the first time she went into premature labor, but she still had a few weeks to go. Culhwch said that it would be okay if the baby came now, but it would be better for him if he stayed inside his mother’s womb for a little longer.

  “Every day helps him grow stronger,” Culhwch had told the soon-to-be-mother. He was actually a pediatrician in this world, but back in their world he had been a Healer, which was kind of like a doctor, but with magic. Healers often attended births and since he was the only doctor in the entire world who had ever delivered an elf baby, he was acting as Annie’s obstetrician.

  Leena only wished he could use his powers to sooth her friend’s troubled mind the way he would have been able to do in the Otherworld. What little magic the Five had in this world, they mostly used to keep up the glamors that made them look human. Leena might have chosen not to hide what she was in this lifetime, but they had all decided that New Elphame wasn’t quite ready to see elves walking around town.

  So, it was up to Leena to try and distract Annie from her worries about the baby. Laughing at the Soap Operas had helped for a while, but Leena was starting to think she needed to come up with something else. Annie was getting more restless by the moment.

  Maybe if she just ate something, she would feel better. “I’ll just run down, grab some food, and bring it back up here. We can eat together,” she said cheerfully as she left.

  About twenty minutes later she was on her way back to Annie’s room, juggling some kind of sandwich wrapped in plastic, a bag of chips, a couple of cookies, and a can of soda. Just as she reached the room, her phone started to buzz in her pocket. Hurrying inside, she dumped her lunch on the end of Annie’s bed and pulled out her phone.

  It was a text was from Caitlin.

  I think you’d better get over here. Some new kid just went through the door.

  Kira

  The next day (10 October 2014)

  I have been home for about five minutes when Daphne comes over. When I answer the door, she grabs my arm and starts to drag me out of the house.

  “Daphne!” I snap. “What are you doing? Where are we going?”

  Digging my heels in and pulling back as hard as I can, I manage to keep us on the front porch. She is surprisingly strong for such a small person.

  She stops trying to yank my arm out of its socket and turns around to face me, but she doesn’t let go of my arm.

  “To the school,” she says urgently. “We’ve got to get up there right now!”

  “Why? You told me they canceled school today.”

  Apparently, a kid disappearing through a portal into another world qualified us for a snow day in October.

  “They did, but a bunch of people went up anyway to look at the door or something. Leena’s up there trying to keep them from doing anything stupid. We need to go help her!”

  I have never seen Daphne look so determined. She’s still got a death grip on my arm as well. She means business. I’m not sure why, but she has really taken this Dylan kid’s disappearance to heart.

  “I doubt Leena wants our help,” I point out. “Especially mine. She hates me!”

  “But you have to come! Gideon says you’re the only one who can convince Leena to go in after Dylan.”

  “Gideon?” It takes me a moment to place the name. “You mean that kid that Leena says is really like four hundred years old and married to her pregnant friend? The one who’s always hanging around the door during school?”

  Daphne nods. “He’s supposed to guard it when all of Leena’s adult friends are working.”

  “So…um…Where was
he yesterday?”

  She shrugs. “I don’t know. That’s not important now! He says that Leena will close the door again and not let anyone go in after Dylan unless you stop her.” She starts tugging on my arm again. “Come on!”

  “Ouch!” I twist my arm out of her grasp. “Hold on a sec. Why would Leena listen to me?”

  “Because you’re the descendant of the Lost One!”

  “Yeah, I know. That’s why she hates me.”

  “Gideon says it’s more complicated than that. He says that you can remind her of her duty to protect all of her people, including Dylan.” She stops talking and makes direct eye contact with me. For the first time, I realize how worried she looks. “Please, Kira? You have to try. Dylan probably wouldn’t have gone through the door if Aislin and I had just left him alone. We were trying to keep him away, but I think we just pushed him to do it.

  “When I saw him through the door, he didn’t look good,” she continues. “He was lying on the ground and he was hurt, I think. Then he sort of…passed out or something. There was someone else there with him. A guy, I think because he was so tall, but I can’t be sure. I never saw his face. But he picked Dylan up and carried him off. I could have gone after him then and tried to help, but I didn’t and now Leena won’t let anyone through.”

  She is really upset. There are even tears in her eyes. Sighing, I go back into the house and grab a jacket.

  “Mom, I’m going out with Daphne for a bit. I’ll be back later,” I shout as I pull the jacket on.

  I hear Mom shout back from the kitchen, “Okay!”

  Stepping back out onto the porch, I pull the front door closed behind me. Daphne is looking a little calmer, although she is bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet like she can’t stand still.

  “All right,” I say. “I’ll come, but if Leena starts yelling at me again, I’m blaming you.”

  The school courtyard is crowded when we get there. Almost all kids, I notice, except for a few adults who are up near the door with Leena. I recognize Mr. Shanachie, who owns the local pub, as well as Dr. and Mrs. Berne. They, along with Leena’s sister and some boy I don’t recognize, are standing around the door like some kind of human wall.

  Leena is carrying on a heated argument with a boy.

  “No, you can’t go through the door, Caleb Green,” Leena is saying.

  Daphne and I stop at the edge of the courtyard, keeping back from the crowd. Caleb—I don’t know him, but I’ve seen him around and know he’s a senior and plays on the football team—is standing right in front of Leena. Clearly he’s trying to intimidate her, but Leena is actually a little taller than him and doesn’t seem like the kind of person who is easily intimidated anyway.

  “Why not?” he demands. “That kid, Dylan, made it through.”

  This statement earns a few hearty “yeahs” from the crowd, although I notice that everyone has taken a step or two back, leaving a small space around Caleb and Leena. While they might be up for a little verbal support, I have a feeling that if things go bad for Caleb Green, he’s going to find himself very much alone.

  “So, what do we do?” I ask Daphne.

  “We go up there and talk to her.”

  “Yes,” Leena is saying loudly. “But you’ll notice he hasn’t come back.” She is standing with her back to the door, her hands on her hips, and her wings spread out to their full extent behind her. The wings still make people nervous, which is probably part of the reason no one is doing anything too stupid. Yet.

  “Are you saying Dylan is dead?” Caleb says and the crowd behind him gasps and then erupts into noise.

  “He’s dead?”

  “No one said he was dead!”

  “Can whatever killed him get through the door and come here?”

  “We should close the door!”

  “No, we should bulldoze it!”

  “My dad works construction. He could get a bulldozer up here, no problem!”

  As the shouts grow louder and more panicky, Leena starts to get agitated. Her wings begin to flutter and flap and she rises up in the air. Soon she is hovering a couple of feet off the ground. Unfortunately, people are so upset now that even a flying teenager doesn’t shock them into silence.

  Daphne starts tugging on my arm.

  “Okay, okay,” I say. Clearly things are not going well for Leena. She might not like me, but I guess I should try to help. Whether or not I meant to open that door, I’m kind of mixed up in all of this.

  I follow Daphne and we push our way through the crowd. At first, our angry schoolmates resist our attempts to get past them, but once they see who we are, they let us through. A few people even start yelling at us instead of Leena.

  “Why did you open the door?”

  “Did you tell that kid to go through?”

  “Why don’t you just put it back in the ground where it was before?”

  We ignore the questions and keep pushing until we’re at the front of the crowd. Once we’re out in the open, Daphne hangs back and pushes me forward.

  “Talk to her,” she insists.

  Leena has noticed us and turns our way, still hovering above the ground.

  “Um…Hi Leena,” I say and then try again in a louder voice because everyone in the courtyard is still shouting. “Hi!”

  Leena drops back to the ground and takes a few steps toward me. She doesn’t look particularly happy to see me and I brace myself to be yelled at some more.

  But all she says is, “What are you doing here?”

  “Daphne told me what was happening. She…Well, I came to help.”

  “Help? You?” she sounds incredulous, but at least she’s staying calm. The crowd has started to quiet down now. They probably just want to hear what we’re saying, but at least it means we don’t have to shout.

  “I know I’m not your favorite person, but even if we both hate it, I’m kind of involved in all this. I did open the door.”

  After weeks of denying that any of it was my fault, I’m surprised to find myself saying this. But suddenly I know it’s true. Whether or not I knew what I was doing, I started all of this. And maybe Gideon is right. Maybe the fact that I am a descendant of Aidan Mulloy means that I have some kind of special connection to Leena. Maybe I can convince her to go in after Dylan. Maybe I can help save his life—assuming that he isn’t already dead.

  At least I can try.

  Because I might not know Dylan, but Daphne and Aislin do and right now they are both blaming themselves for his disappearance. I have to try and make things right so that the only people who have been nice to me in this whole town don’t spend their lives feeling guilty for something that was probably more my fault than theirs.

  “Yes you did,” Leena agrees as her face darkens. “So what are you going to do about it?”

  Leena

  Same day

  As much as Leena didn’t want to admit it, Kira’s presence was helping. It distracted the crowd and started to calm them down. They had been getting so riled up that Leena had been thinking about using magic. Possibly just to put them to sleep—the way she had her mother that night in the pub—although she hadn’t entirely ruled out turning them all into something unpleasant. Like cockroaches.

  While the boy’s journey through the door was an absolute disaster in most ways, something pleasing had come out of it. His passage had torn through the seal between the worlds and magic was pouring through the rip more strongly than ever. For the first time in centuries, Leena felt powerful again.

  “I don’t know…” Kira muttered in answer to Leena’s question, “but I want to help. Is it true about Dylan? Do you think he’s dead?”

  The few people who had still been talking in the crowd were hurriedly hushed by their neighbors. No one wanted to miss Leena’s reply.

  She looked around the courtyard, at the faces that had been so angry only moments before, but were now filled with concern. They were only a little worried for the boy, she knew. Mostly they were worried for t
hemselves. Can whatever killed him get through the door and come here, someone had asked. They were scared.

  “I don’t know,” Leena said truthfully. “I haven’t been over there for a long time. It was a scary place when I left, but I hoped that my leaving would make things better. Maybe it has. Maybe it hasn’t. But even if it has, there are still plenty of dangers there. And Daphne said she saw someone carry him off. That’s not a good sign in any world.”

  “But you aren’t sure he’s dead?” Daphne said eagerly, pushing Kira aside as she stepped forward to face Leena. “He might still be alive?”

  Sighing, Leena tucked her wings down against her back. She glanced over her shoulder at the door. It was still open and she could see the forest on the other side, so invitingly close. It was a temptation that she couldn’t afford to give in to. It would be far too dangerous for her to step through the door even for a moment.

  She wanted to slam the door shut and block out the sight of the home that she could never go back to, but she wasn’t sure that was a good idea either. She needed everyone to go away so that she could think and decide what was best.

  Turning back to Kira and Daphne, she said, “He might. I just don’t know. I don’t even know how he got through. My spells should have kept any human on this side. Like it did with Barry. Dylan should have been put to sleep. I don’t understand why he was able to rip through the barrier.”

  “I think I know,” said a soft voice. They all turned to see Aislin Donaghue trying to force her way from the center of the crowd. Aislin didn’t have much success until Fin, following close behind as usual, bellowed, “Move!” Everyone quickly shuffled out of the way then, clearing a path up to the group by the door.

  “Well?” Leena demanded when Aislin and Fin were standing in front of her. “What is it you think you know?”

  Aislin glanced at Daphne, who nodded at her, and then said nervously, “I had a vision. Just a glimpse, really. But I saw that there were two people looking for Dylan. His parents, I think. I know that they cared about him and that they were trying to find him because they wanted to take him home. Back there.” She raised a hand and pointed through the door.

  Everyone, including Leena, turned to look. There was absolute silence for a moment and then the courtyard erupted into excited chatter.

  “Quiet!” Leena roared and she let a little magic out with the word, so that it reverberated like a clap of thunder. The chatter stopped. Leena looked at Aislin. “Did you see anything else? Do you know who his parents are?”

  But Aislin shook her head and looked down at her feet. Behind her, Fin put a protective hand on her shoulder and gave Leena a dark look, as if it were her fault that the girl’s second sight was so spotty.

  Leena whirled around and looked at her friends who had been guarding the door with her. Caitlin was there, along with her boyfriend, Jeremy, and three of the Five. Annie was still in the hospital and Leena had told Gideon to stay away because she was so furious with him for letting someone through the door. He claimed that he had heard someone screaming in one of the buildings and had gone to make sure no one
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