‘You never talk about mom, Taïga. Don’t you miss her?’
‘Sure… But you know, she… Well. She already left me once, you know.’
Suddenly Rowan regrets asking Taïga. Of course she misses their mom. He feels guilty about their mother staying with him in Monte Vista… But Rowan has hit a sensitive spot; Taïga is jealous of her brother. Why did Mom leave me to stay in Monte Vista with him? Guilty thoughts swirl in her head. Now he gets to know how I felt when she just left me with Granny… But at the same time she’s worried.
She’s having recurrent nightmares about her mother surrounded by gouls, reaching out while her lips are forming words she can’t hear. And why does she dream about a little silver haired girl, running through fields of flowers trying to catch butterflies and… fairies? And the monster? What about the black, blood covered monster that she can feel looking for her, Taïga?
‘We have to do something!’ Rowan lets go of her hands and starts pacing the room.
Taïga dries her tears. ‘Why don’t you ask your dad?’
‘I already have! He just tells me the same thing, “Mom can’t come to the phone, she’s nursing the baby”. Gods, that baby is feeding all the time – I hope he chokes…’
‘Oh no! Don’t talk like that. It’s not the baby’s fault!’
Rowan opens his mouth to say something but thinks better of it and resumes his pacing. Taïga watches him, thinking about her dream. Suddenly he stops. ‘Let’s try the palantìr.’
‘Are you crazy? What will Granny say?’
‘We don’t have to tell her. C’mon, promise we’ll give it a try.’
They have the opportunity the next afternoon.
Rowan tries to be patient but it’s difficult to just sit there and wait… ‘Tell me what you saw!’
‘But I saw the palantìr swirl and fill with smoke!?!’
‘Yes. But there was nothing but stones surrounded by… by black…’ She doesn’t tell Rowan about the Celtic cross, nor the treasure chest, exactly the same as in her dreams. She has to think about all this first.
But Rowan insists. ‘It must mean something. Describe what you…’
They are interrupted by Missy. ‘What are you two doing? You’re not allowed to play here!’
‘We didn’t play! We just tried to find out what happened to…’
Rowan interrupts Taïga. ‘Sorry, Missy. We just sat here pretending we were powerful witches, just like you and Granny!’
Missy looks disapprovingly at the two children, but Taïga can tell she’s flattered. ‘So… you might become powerful one day also, like me… But you mustn’t touch the palantìr. Now run away and play outside, will you?’
Rowan takes advantage of Missy seeming to be in a good mood. ‘Can we have some pocket money for the park? The carousel is fixed at last!’
They bike into Fairview and use their pocket money to buy carousel tickets. Riding round and round makes them forget their worries about their mother, at least for a while…
Fall comes and goes, Leonardo calls once in a while, telling them they will soon come to visit, maybe for Halloween. But Shasta has trouble recovering after the difficult birth, she’s apparently suffering from baby blues… And then comes Christmas – Leonardo takes his wife on a cruise in the Caribbean Sea, a kind of second honeymoon… Regularly Rowan talks to his father on the phone, but Shasta always seems to be busy.
‘Si, si… Devo andare ora. Tu madre manda il suo amore, figlio. Arrivederci!’
‘What did he say? Is everything all right with mom?’
Rowan stares at the phone. ‘It‘s always the same thing; “Mom is depressed and doesn’t want to see or talk to anyone… She’s down with the flu, going on a shopping spree to Paris, spending time at a secret spa resort…” Blabla… You name it.’
Taïga frowns. She’s been busy lately too, reading up on Celtic customs and treasures and gouls… She’s even tried the palantìr again, but she had to stop when she passed out, nose bleeding from the effort. She has to wait until she gets strong enough to master it…
Easter – Shasta is following her husband on tour in Asia.
‘But Granny. Listen. It’s only 1 §! And if you buy about 10 glasses each day until summer, I’ll give you the money so we can go to Monte Vista and visit Mom!’
Granny smiles. ‘We’ll see. We still have issues with the plumbing, and it would be nice to have central heat next winter…’ But at the sight of her granddaughter trying to hide her tears, she quickly adds: ‘I’ll try to call your mother this afternoon. I think Rowan wants to go home too.’
‘She didn’t have the time to talk to me.’
Missy frowns. ‘Couldn’t or wouldn’t?’
Granny doesn’t look up. ‘To tell you the truth, I don’t know… Maybe I should visit them when they get back from China or wherever they’re touring… What do you think?’
Missy sneers. ‘You know your daughter. She could be rather… “stubborn“. How long was she gone last time? 6 years? 8?’
Granny mumbles: ’10.’
‘See? I don’t think you should worry…’
A late phone call. It’s Leonardo, calling to tell Granny they’ve found out their little son has a very dangerous and rare disease, and Shasta doesn’t want anyone to see him before they find a treatment…
‘But maybe I can help?’
‘No! This is beyond magic, believe me!’
‘Can I speak to Shasta, please?’
‘She’s with Frost at the hospital right now, I’ll have her call you when she gets back.’ Granny listens to Leonardo’s explanations, feeling more and more helpless…
Of course Shasta doesn’t call, Granny has to make do with a text the next morning…
Summer has come again, and Rowan and Taïga spends a lot of time at the lake with their classmates, playing games or just fooling around in the water. Taïga’s nightmares are becoming less frequent and they are happily unaware their mother is dead…*
When the summer festival finally comes to town, they bike there with Linn, Taïga’s best friend who lives with her two dads.
‘Look, Rowan! There’s a fight! It’s Ismael again! We have to stop him from picking on poor Elton all the time!’
‘He has to learn to stand up to bullies. He can’t rely on his big brother Darryl to protect him all his life!’
The kids jump off their bikes and run off to see what’s going on between Elton and Ismael.
A little later the fight is forgotten and all the kids are roller skating. Linn’s dad Jesper has watched the kids for a while. She seems to have got the hang on it… Oh, Jon Lessen is finally on the scene!
‘Linn! If you need anything I’m over there’, he points towards the scene, ‘with Viktor!’
‘I’m OK, dad!’
A new boy approaches Rowan who’s hesitating to get out onto the rink. ‘Hi! I’m Loki. Is that your girlfriend? I saw you came here together.’
Rowan laughs. ‘Girlfriend? Oh no, Taïga is my sister!’
Loki smiles, ‘Great!’, and sets off after Taïga.
‘Have you seen the new boy? He’s watching you?’
‘C’mon… He’s just behind you. NO! Don’t turn around!’ But Taïga has already swiveled around in a gracious pirouette and started to skate backwards. She smiles at the boy and waves.
‘You’re hopeless!’ Linn giggles. ‘I think his dad is the famous author, you know.’ She tugs on Taïga’s arm to make her turn around. ‘Simmingway something.’
‘Yeah. It’s the old guy filming with his cellphone over there. My dad thinks he’s absolutely charming, and that his book probably is an auto biography…’
‘Have you read it?’
‘Are you crazy? I don’t know what it talks about, but dad was either giggling or blushing when he read it!’ The two girls continue gossiping…
Suddenly the new boy accelerates past Taïga, grabbing her hand. What!?!
Tyler doesn’t believe his eyes. What the heck!?! The nerve…
But Tyler is not the only one watching the scene. Rowan stares as Taïga shakes her hand lose.
‘Hey! Let go of me!’
Before Rowan even realizes what he’s doing, Loki is on his back. ‘Don’t you ever touch my sister again!’ Rowan’s fist hurts like hell but he only wants to smash it in Loki’s face again.
‘Yeah,’ Tyler snickers, ‘you better watch out.’
But they both feel stupid when Taïga sneers. ‘Are you crazy! Why did you do that!?!’ She reaches for Loki’s hand to help him on his feet again. ‘Are you OK?’
Rowan tries to catch Taïga’s attention. ‘I only wanted to…’
‘Hey! Young man, can I have a word with you?’ Uhoh… Loki’s father is calling Rowan over to have an explanation…
Back home again, after being punished to spend the evening in the attic, Rowan spills everything that happened at the park to Peaches, who always gives good advice.
‘You shouldn’t have hit him.’
‘But he tried to drag Taïga away against her will!’
‘Are you sure she didn’t want him to?’
‘Well… She told him to let go?’
‘Hmmm…. You never know with girls. Next time, take him out when you’re alone…’
That fall Taïga finally convinces Granny to ask the Mullins if she can officially ride Duke, so now Linn is coming over with her brand new pony, Scarlett, to give Taïga her first riding lesson…
‘Hold still, Duke… I have to clean your hooves first.’ Oh my, how heavy they are! Better not let him walk on my toes… ‘… and then… I will finally… have my first real riding lesson!’
Part I – End of Chapter 55