Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The left over girl

"Well, we can't leave her," Dante says.

We could. But he won't. Not now that he's said we can't. It wouldn't be very gallant of us. Even if we aren't gallant and this isn't a comic book and she's not a schoolgirl in distress. The distress has come and gone. She's what remains.

I shrug. "I guess we wake her then."

Pause. Time for him to wait for me to do it and me to let him know I am not touching her. She may not be a ghost, but that doesn't make her safe. He gets the message, but he waits a few extra heartbeats longer just to be stubborn. Dante likes to assert his independence. I've worked out that much about him.

He kneels beside the girl. For all his talk, his hesitation betrays he's as uncertain as I am. We crave the unknown until we're faced with it.

"Hey." Dante touches the mound of fabric where her shoulder should be.

No reaction.

He tries again. "Miss."

A soft moan like the luminos trees sighing. As she stirs, I hear the same slight ringing. It's her, affecting the possibilities. They gather around her like curious fireflies. That ring. So not really like fireflies at all.

Her face is young, but that doesn't mean anything. My face is young, too. So is Avalon's. Faces can lie. You've got to judge the eyes. (You've got to use the mirror.) Her eyes are young as her face. They focus. She sees us. Does what most of your people do when seeing us: She screams. Kind of annoying. We don't scream when we see you.

I've gotten used to this reaction. Girl Val and I have worked through it together. She doesn't scream anymore. Success.

Dante jerks to his feet like the leftover girl might bite him. Like she hurled knives at him instead of sound. He's been told you're all something close to very wild animals, remember. If you should meet him one day, try not to reinforce this belief.

She presses her hands to her mouth and makes little whimpers. "A dream. It's a dream."

Dante and I exchange a look. My attempt to be reassuring for his undiminishing concern I've allowed him to talk me into something he'll regret. This is a good sign. Not that he suspects me. I'd like it better if he didn't. That she suspects this of being a dream. It means she still has memories of her world. Ghosts start forgetting they should find the Twilight Lands strange. It's how you know they’ll become ghosts later.

Maybe she won't. If she's a fragment, she may not. She'll have that link to someone from here. It keeps them intact, but if they stay here too long and exceed the threshold they won't be able to leave. She's Not Right, but she's been here a while. Past the staying point. Whatever she is or isn't, she belongs to this world now.

No waking from this "dream."

Dante, for all his being constantly surrounded by females, seems at a loss for what to do. Maybe he's reconsidering his previous statement about us not leaving her here.

"Hello." I wave. "I'm Ethan. This is Andy."

"No," she says. "It's a dream."

My face is young, but my eyes are old and I've dealt with those who think they're dreaming before. For now, we'll let her believe it.

"If this is a dream, then what's the harming in participating?" I offer my friendliest smile.

It's super friendly. If you saw it, you'd feel compelled to smile, too. It also makes it hard to argue with my logic. Especially handy when my logic isn't really all that logical.

Her hair is brown like Girl Val's, but the left over girl has eyes a suspicious green. Not like any of the greens my eyes can go. A muddy human green. I suppose it's an interesting enough color. We don't see human colors as often on this side of the glass.

"It could be a very fun dream." I shoot a look at Dante. "Right?"

The look is meant to be interpreted as you will agree. I'm not asking his opinion, just making him part of the conversation.

"It's not a dream," he says.

"It has to be," she snaps. "If it isn't… Then what are you supposed to be? Vampires?"

I suppose her unpleasantness shouldn't be a surprise. A nice girl wouldn't have been abandoned out by the Chronograph. A pleasant fragment would have been welcomed into a tribe. It's probably best she's not. Dante knows how to deal with females that don't want him around. His sisters have given him plenty of practice.

He crosses his arms. "What are you supposed to be?"

It's not overly clever, but it gets his point across.

She pulls at the feathers in her hair. "I don't know. It wasn't my idea to be dressed like this. The fairies who left me out here must have thought it was funny."

I'm going to give you some advice for if you should ever meet an Old One. We are not vampires. We are not fairies. We are not aliens. We are not elves. We are those who watch from behind glass. The once and sometimes still gods.

We are Old Ones. Try to remember that. Be polite. Maybe we’ll help you get home. If you insist on giving us one of your ridiculous labels, we may dress you in taffeta and tie feathers in your hair and leave you to be swallowed up by the dream fields.

I'm not saying it was the right thing for someone to do to this left over girl. I'm just saying it's not hard to see why they would.

"Did you eat with them?" Dante asks. "Drink anything?"

Her human green eyes go wide. "So they were fairies. You're fairies, too, aren't you?"

This is another bit of advice to remember: Don't eat or drink anything on our side of the glass. It might be more important than what I said earlier about being polite. In that, don't eat to be polite. Politely refuse.

"No." Dante pushes up his goggles. "Did you eat or drink anything?"

She gasps. Scoots back. After everything she's seen and that's happened, you would think a pair of mismatched eyes wouldn't be worth such a reaction.

"Yes." She looks away. "We partied for a while. Then I guess they got bored of me."

Dante shifts his bi-colored gaze to me. I nod. Bored is a possibility, yeah, but the louder one is that they tried to change this left over girl. Make her a permanent resident. It didn't take as well as it should have because of the broken notes in her song. She's weaker than she should be. Not connecting to our lands properly.

It raises questions, of course, but at least it answers why she's past the staying point.

"Excuse us," Dante says.

We aren't taught to be polite to your people. His parents raised him to be well-mannered in general. His family is big on decorum. Even Avalon is very conscious of how things ought to be done.

"My uncle told me it's illegal to turn fragments," Dante says. "Why would anyone try to keep her here?"

Good question. I tap my fingers against my headphones while I listen for an answer.

"She must have been beyond help when they found her," I say.

The girl gets to her feet. She doesn't have shoes, but black ribbons are wound around her legs from ankles to knees.

"You said you were Ethan and Andy?" She doesn't sound certain. "Can you take me home?"

Home is a word loaded with ambiguity. A place for her that someone ought to find, as Avalon would say. But saying yes binds us with responsibility. Makes us accountable for her well-being. I can't think of many who would willingly chain themselves to a broken, unpleasant stranger.

I was broken once. A stranger helped me. It caused her to become Stellina. Who knows what it'll cause if we help this left over girl.

"No, you can't return," Dante says. "But we can find a place for you here."

She nods. Hesitates. "Thank you."

Someone told me once that these fairies your kind are so fond of don't like to be thanked. It hurts them. That's how you know they can't be real. Nothing real could be hurt by gratitude.

"You're welcome," Dante says. "What should we call you?"

"Maria," she says.

The name harmonizes as it adds itself to my repertoire. Claims her song from the left over girl. Now she is Maria. Or what remains of her. The naming forms a bargain. Binding us as surely as if Dante had sworn an oath. For good or ill, we have to find her a place among us.

And he thinks I'm the one who gets us into trouble.


Sarah K said...

I'm quite enjoying where this is going.

stormywriting said...

HOW have I been missing these? Nice.