Chapter 2 : A YA fantasy of intriguing fae politics, magic, love and acceptance.
|When I called him to tell him of our situation (parts of it, anyway), I expected a lot of reactions. Indifference, skepticism, shock, fear or maybe even a few kind words. What I never expected was him landing at our house to take us away to his place. But, as fate would have it, that was exactly what happened.
There he was, the morning after I’d phoned him, at the doorstep of our cursed house – an ancient brown leather bag slung carelessly over checker-clothed shoulders, hands expectantly plunged in worn out pockets, and the agonizingly familiar ghost of my mother’s features etched upon his crinkled visage.
“Grandfather,” I breathed in disbelief. Somewhere behind me, I felt my little sister’s fragile fingers find their way to claw into my back in what I assumed was apprehension. The silver stubs prickled with discomfort. “What-“ I started.
He silenced me with a wave of his hand and stepped into the wintry solitude of the house, and very slowly, the little figure crouched behind me emerged from my shadow to face the grandfather she had never known.
“Sasha?” he croaked with uncertainty, and she nodded. He eyed her with the curiosity of a five year old examining a dead insect, and I found my hand instinctively fly to her shoulder in defense.
“She’s seven now,” I chipped in – more out of an irrational wish to ascertain our vast age difference, to convince him our relationship teetered more to the mother-daughter side than to the expected sister-sister one.
He nodded thoughtfully. “Of course she is.” He watched her again, and his eyes seemed to search for something in her naïve features. “Just like her mother,” he added quietly in what was to be a rare moment of vulnerability in his otherwise tough façade.
At this her eyes shone with a gleam which I had thought was long gone. “I am?” she asked keenly. I could only ruffle her hair with a wry smile, feeling more and more like the proud owner of the star cat at the local pet show.
He didn’t reply. Instead he averted his gaze instantly to the sparse paintings on our drawing room’s wall. There was a photo of the four of us- my parents, Sasha and I - taken just a month before Mamma died. I had been all of eleven years, and Sasha a mere one. Our father looked as grand as ever in rich burgundy, his head held high with a haughty expression. And then there was Mamma. She was draped in peach and powder blue – and this was how I had come to remember her all these years – and she smiled into the camera like all that mattered to her right then was to be surrounded with the people she loved. And it was this happy, contented gaze of hers which my grandfather now stared at.
I couldn’t stand it any longer and that prickly stub on my back just got more and more maddening. “Why’re you here?” I burst out.
“To take you with me.” He never took his eyes off the photograph as he replied. “You’re not safe here.”
I had to argue with his logic. “And what makes you think I’ll be safe with you?” Him not making eye contact was infuriating – suspicious, even, had I not known who he was.
However, at this point he tore his eyes off Mamma’s face and directed them at me. Apparently, my counter question had annoyed him. Well he might as well get used to it from now, I thought stubbornly.
“Perizada –“ he started, in an attempt to pacify the increasingly obvious tension between us, and it was this – hearing my own name coming without a trace of spite, of dissatisfaction, from someone from my own lineage, a rarity in my life – which assured me that, even though I had only met him once before, this old man cared about me. “I know you’re in trouble. I knew it the moment you called me. You’re alone; you need someone to take care of you. And I want to. Please trust me.”
And I wanted to. I really wanted to trust him and agree to live in his house and finally lead a normal life, far away from alarming skin growths and fathers walking out on their children and dead mothers and responsibilities. Far away from life in general.
But the rational part in me begged to differ. “Why should I trust you?” I started in a low voice. “You never bothered about us till now, did you? When Mamma died, you didn’t even care to meet us. So why are you suddenly so interested?” I rejoined with all the pent up frustration I’d tolerated for weeks, coming out.
I knew I was being rude but I didn’t care. I had to release my contained fear – ever since I saw what was growing on my back, ever since we started suffering under my father’s dictatorship, ever since he walked out on us the month before. I hadn’t called the police when he left. I knew he was alive and not kidnapped or anything; he just wanted to get rid of us. I had felt his aggravation at having to raise two girls, just weeks after Mamma’s death. He was scared of the ordeal and the responsibility – which was what shaped him into the alcoholic he became. From then started his late night returns, the hollering, the drinking and the subsequent ignorance of our existence. Sometimes I felt I was better off without him. At least Sasha could live a peaceful life with me. But it was when the wings came that I broke completely. It scared me to death and for days I would squeeze my eyes shut in the shower when I caught sight of it in the mirror; it took a whole week before I allowed myself to actually touch them. I was infinitely terrified of what they signified, of what my destiny was, how similar it was to be to my mother’s. And it was all of this which eventually made me give up and call the only living relative of mine, the previous night.
And this relative was right then fuming at my retort. “I did care,” he rebuked fiercely. “I did care, only too much. But your father wouldn’t allow me to care, would he? Now please,” he pleaded, “Please pack your bags.”
I stared hesitantly at him, unsure of my next step. I really wanted to believe him, I so did. I wanted to believe that my life would really get better, that the stupid wings were purely my imagination, that I would lead a healthy, normal young adult’s life, that Sasha would get the childhood she deserved. I wanted to believe in this old man who was ready to take on two left-to-rot girls so bravely on his own.
And believe I did – which became quite clear to him when, half an hour later I stood in front of him, six airbags and suitcases scattered around my ankles and two tiny fingers curled happily around my thumb.