Taïga is seeing Loki and Linn almost every day during the vacation. They’re just hanging around doing nothing and, of course, regularly going hiking with Duke and Scarlett. Usually they meet at Taïga’s place, to Rowan’s delight. He relentlessly tries to make them play with him, and Linn never says no.
‘Just eff off, Rowan! Can’t you see we’re busy?’ Taïga rolls her eyes.
‘But you’re making a chocolate cake.’
‘That’s no excuse for hanging around, listening and being a general nuisance.’
‘C’mon, Rowan. We’ll call you when it’s ready,’ Linn tries.
But the little boy doesn’t give up so easily. ‘I’ve finished my Lego battleship. Do you want to see it?’
‘No, she doesn’t. Now, go away!’ Taïga dries her hands on a towel, looking grimly at her brother who grumbling leaves. ‘You don’t have to play with him, you know,’ she adds to Linn.
‘It’s not a problem, I like him, and he’s always so cute.’
‘Just try living with him,’ Taïga mutters, making Loki smile.
‘Yeah – you even liked Erin in the beginning,’ he says.
‘Well, Erin is err… special.’
‘Don’t worry, Linn. My little sister is the definition of pain in the ass.’
Taïga acquiesces. ‘Maybe we could ship them both off somewhere…’
‘That’s so selfish. I’ve always wanted a sibling,’ Linn bursts out. ‘You two can’t understand – I don’t even know who my mother is,’ she justifies herself, calling after Rowan she’ll catch up with him.
‘Talking about your mother. Have you learned anything new?’ Taïga checks the chocolate cake in the oven.
‘No… I only know she’s from Iceland, that she was sixteen when I was born and that she probably has a new family by now. I know that I was born at Akranes Primary Care Center, but they refuse to let me get any information about her identity. I’m saving for a trip there, maybe they’ll talk to me if I get there in person.’
‘Don’t you have to be eighteen? I mean, if they are so picky about information I bet they have restrictions about minors,’ Taïga says.
‘Yeah. But I probably won’t have enough to buy a ticket before I’m eighteen anyway,’ Linn says glumly.
‘But why do you care so much? She left you, didn’t she?’
Both Taïga and Linn stare outraged at Loki.
‘I guess you don’t understand. I need to know where I come from! I need to identify with someone. I want to know what she looks like, if she was anything like me when she was my age…’ Linn looks at Taïga for help.
‘But you have two dads who love you,’ Loki insists.
‘Finding my mother won’t make me love Victor and Jesper less.’
‘She’s right.’ Taïga clears her throat. ‘I know how much it hurts to be abandoned, but at least I knew my mom. I think one day you start asking questions and you just need to know where you come from…’ She makes a mental note to ask Granny for help. She’ll ask her if they can use the palantìr to get information about Linn’s mother.
Loki doesn’t seem convinced, but at least he drops the subject. ‘Shall I get Rowan? I bet he’ll throw a real fit if we get started on the cake without him…’
Later that evening Taïga talks to Granny about the best way to proceed if they were to use the palantìr.
‘I understand that you really want to help her,’ Granny says, putting down her book. ‘But our secret is more important, she mustn’t know we’re witches.’
‘I’ve thought of that. Why can’t I just ask now?’
‘You’re not strong enough to go through with this without her. She needs to be present so you can channel her.’
‘Can’t you just remove her memory somehow afterwards?’ Missy says.
‘True… We could use a memory charm. But you must know they can be dangerous if hastily prepared or if badly dosed.’
‘Of course I know.’ Missy pouts. ‘So I guess it’s out of the question, then.’
Taïga’s shoulders slope. She knows her grandmother too well to expect her to change her mind about something.
‘You do want to help her, don’t you?’ Granny asks softly.
‘Of course I do! She’s my best friend and, well, it must be awful to think about her mom all the time without even knowing who she is…’
Granny looks pensive. ‘Listen carefully. This is what we shall do…’
When Linn arrives the next afternoon, Taïga immediately brings her upstairs. She has already told her best friend about the old crystal ball over the phone, and Linn is excited to see it.
‘You are so lucky to have a grandmother who collects old stuff like that, but don’t you think we should wait for Loki? Or at least until it gets dark? We could have a real “séance” and try to contact spirits.’
‘Sure.’ Taïga chuckles. ‘But I prefer doing this while the sun is still up – can you imagine if the dusty thing really works?’ She holds the door for Linn, crossing her fingers.
Linn takes in the wood paneled room with its brocade curtains and thick old carpet on the creaking floorboards. The palantìr is on a Victorian round mahogany table, basking in a dust filled sunray.
‘This room is perfect! Is it an extension of the library?’ She walks over to the railing separating the room and looks down at the book lined walls stretching down beneath her. ‘This is amazing. I never imagined your grandmother had something like this hidden up here.’
‘I think she bought the crystal ball at an auction in Salem,’ Taïga lies. ‘She has always been interested in the supernatural.’
‘I didn’t know she was psychic? Gosh this is exciting!’
‘I didn’t say she was psychic.’ She draws out a chair and sits down, nodding to Linn to do the same opposite her. ‘Sit down and think about something you want to know.’
Linn looks pensive. ‘Anything?’
‘Yeah, sure. Anything…’
‘All right, then.’ Linn squirms on her seat. ‘Why did that motherfucker Jayler dump me?’
‘Gosh, Linn. You’re hopeless. I thought you’d wanted to know about your mother.’
‘I do. But I’d also like to know about Jayler.’
‘Sure… But you should revise your priorities here.’
Linn grimaces and takes a deep breath. ‘OK. I’ll think about my mom. If this thing works, we could always ask about Jayler afterwards, can’t we?’
Five minutes later, the palantìr has delivered its answer and Linn is shell-shocked after seeing the crystal ball swirling in the air. The door downstairs slam shut, making both girls jump with nerves.
‘It must be Granny! We have to get out of here!’ Taïga tugs at Linn’s arm and both girls rush out of the room.
They stop at the top of the stairs, catching their breath and trying to act inconspicuous. Granny looks surprised, but quickly recomposes herself, waving at them. ‘Hello, Linn! Come on down and have a cup of tea, both of you. Loki’s on his way – he couldn’t reach your cells so he called on the house phone. Err…’
The two girls walk downstairs, animatedly whispering. Granny is waiting for them in the kitchen, getting ready to cast the spell on Linn that will make her forget everything that have happened since she got here.
The old lady draws her wand, making Linn startled grab Taïga’s arm. ‘OhMyGod! She’s a witch!’
‘Banish these thoughts from her head
Make her forget what was seen and said
Inmemoratio Obliviscor Amitto Memoriam!’
Linn is soon sitting on a chair, staring ahead in a trance like state.
‘Five minutes! That was fast. I didn’t expect you to finish so soon.’ Granny puts away her wand, steadying herself against the kitchen counter.
‘But it didn’t give me a name.’ Taïga looks surreptitiously at her grandmother’s ashen face. She looks like she’s going to pass out any minute.
‘It never does. You have to learn to read it… Now, what did you see?’ Granny closes her eyes briefly.
‘Nothing special. Just images from Iceland and possibly Norway. Landscapes… Can I get you something, Granny?’
‘Thank you, dear child. I’ll lie down and rest as soon as we’ve drawn Linn back to us again.’ She sighs. ‘Take your time to think about it. The clue is forcibly there somewhere…’
Taïga nods, but she doesn’t think there is any clue. Linn probably just thought about her birth country and that was it. ‘We should wake her up before Loki comes. Are you sure you’ll be all right, Granny?’
‘I’ll help her, don’t worry.’ Missy strides into the kitchen, her arms laden with old magazines. ‘Shouldn’t you answer that?’ She nods to Taïga’s cell vibrating on the counter.
Taïga picks it up but hesitates when she sees who the caller is, but she’s too curious to find out what he could possibly want.
‘Jayler. Hi… No. I don’t think I’m ready to talk to you just yet, Jayler… What? … I don’t think so… Well, last time I went somewhere with you I ended up in a police car! That’s why! … Yes… Loki… And Linn… Well, you dumped her, didn’t you? … No… I don’t want to talk about this… Never… Yes, I’m going to the New Year’s Ball – with Loki… Uh-uh, no chance… Bye.’
Taïga stares at her phone. ‘Phew… I can’t believe his guts. Calling me to ask me out after dumping Linn!?! And while still dating Tess! Incredible…’ She shakes her head.
Jayler draws on his cigarette, contemplating the ceiling. He’s lying with Tess contentedly snuggled up in his arms, her soft breaths tickling his bare chest. She didn’t even stir when he phoned, but his call to Taïga has only made him feel more restless. Maybe he should wake her up…
He draws again on his cigarette and watches the smoke slowly whirl up towards the faulty fire alarm, congratulating himself on taking out the batteries.
He’s slept over at Tess’s place, hiding under her dang bed for forty minutes while her mother whined on and on about what Tess should wear to the New Year’s Ball and who would be her date. He wonders what the uptight woman would say if she knew about her daughter’s secret boyfriend. He snickers. And what her precious daughter is up to when she’s skipping class. But the wretched woman probably doesn’t even know she skips classes.
He blows out more smoke and glances at Tess’s naked body. Yeah, he’ll definitely wake her…
Loki doesn’t even have the time to get inside, before Rowan whooping throws himself in his arms, reminding him of his promise.
‘The igloo, of course!’
‘But that was Linn’s promise…’
‘Would you mind awfully if I stay inside? I feel a little queasy,’ Linn says, downing her third glass of water.
Taïga wonders if dehydration is a bad sign. She throws a furtive glance at Missy, who just shrugs, mouthing “she’ll be all right”.
‘But it won’t be any fun without you,’ Rowan complains.
‘I can watch you from the kitchen window.’
‘You should close the door, we aren’t heating the whole mansion for nothing,’ Granny says, pulling her woolen shawl tighter around her shoulders.
‘Sorry, Mrs. Grey,’ Loki says closing the door after him and Rowan.
Taïga sighs, but takes her jacket and joins her boyfriend and brother outside. They are already waiting for her in the backyard, a beaming Rowan riding piggyback on Loki.
‘Look! I’m Han Solo and Loki is a Tauntaun.’
‘I can see the resemblance.’ She stands on her toes and kisses Loki lightly on the mouth.
He accepts the kiss willingly if a little frustrated with his hands tied holding Rowan steady. ‘You know I will soon freeze to death?’
‘Yes! And I will open him with my laser sword and hide in his stinking bowels!’
‘That was Luke Skywalker and I know how to keep a Tauntaun alive…’ Taïga touches Loki’s face with her gloved hands, drawing him closer and kissing him again, exploring his mouth, tasting his cold lips and feeling them grow warm from her touch.
‘Do you have to do that all the time? We’re supposed to have fun!’
‘We are having fun, Rowan!’ Taïga teases.
‘I mean play-in-the-snow-kind-of-fun!’
Loki sighs, he could go on kissing Taïga forever. But they’ve promised Rowan to build an igloo and a promise is a promise…
New Year’s Eve at Ana Kempinsky’s
The Kempinsky’s is one of the wealthiest families in town. Their enormous mansion, Noble Chestnut Court, is situated on a hill with an unobstructed view over their surrounding estate where their priceless thoroughbreds dispose of acres upon acres surrounded by pristine white fences.
Their pool house is just right for the kind of party their teenage daughter, Ana, had in mind for New Year’s Eve. She has put in a lot of work decorating to get the right festive feeling together with her best friend, Valeria Morales. They have even hired a DJ.
She didn’t count on some students bringing alcohol, though, and is shocked to find a completely wasted girl sleeping it out on one of the couches. It’s Becky, who wasn’t even invited. Ana wants to have her removed, but Valeria argues against it.
‘It’s cold outside – what if she freezes to death somewhere?’
‘As you make your bed… Nobody forced that drink into her,’ Ana says.
‘You’re right. And you didn’t invite her, did you?’
‘Of course not!’ They both start towards the girl on the couch. Suddenly a thought crosses Ana’s mind and she grabs Valeria’s arm. ‘OMG. What if she staggers into the pool?’
‘You said it yourself, that girl is trouble,’ Valeria says, scrunching up her pretty nose.
‘You don’t get the point. Then somewhere is in my garden and my dad won’t like that. He’ll never let me throw another party…’
Valeria’s brown eyes widen in shock. ‘OMG! I would never swim in your pool again…’
Ana nods. ‘I would become a social pariah.’
Both girls ponders the terrible consequences of a drunk Becky dying within the boundaries of the estate.
‘Maybe we should just leave her where she is. At least she won’t go nowhere…’
Darryl is chatting up the new girl in town, Lela Washington. They’ve just moved in from Los Angeles and her dad’s a talent scout. Lela is pretty but Darryl has not only pleasure on his mind. He’d like her dad to listen to a demo.
Jayler is trying to follow the conversation, but with Tess glued to him, he can hardly breathe. It might be time to change girlfriend. Soon, he thinks, looking around for Taïga. If he could just get the raven haired beauty alone, so he could talk to her. He’s persuaded she won’t be able to resist his charming person, but Loki never leaves her side. He’s just as clingy as Tess… He scowls to himself, putting his hands demonstratively in his pockets.
Jarrod Mullins and Bloom Peacemaker are watching the couples on the dancefloor from the comfy couch. They’ve been trying to chat for the last half hour, but the loud music makes it impossible to get a discussion going. Jarrod has been attracted to the pretty blonde girl since the school started in September, and now is the perfect time to make a move but he’s too shy. He looks at Becky who’s passed out next to them. Maybe he could wake her up and ask her where she’d scored the booze…
Loki and Taïga are slow dancing to the steady beat. Oblivious of the others they’re waiting for the countdown. It feels so safe rocking slowly to the beat in Loki’s arms, like nothing bad could ever happen to her. Nor anything exciting… She shakes her head. She doesn’t want exciting. She wants to know where she’s heading and Loki personifies all that. If only she had not given in to her anger at Granny which made her follow Jayler and the others that fateful night…
But then again, she wouldn’t have met Derek again…
Suddenly everybody’s shouting Happy New Year, hugging and kissing. Cells are ringing all around them and there’s a lot of texting and stories being put up on Instagram and Snapchat. Loki and Taïga stops dancing, looking at each other.
‘Happy New Year…’ He bends over and kisses her softly.
‘Happy New Year, Loki.’ She gazes into his loving eyes, reassuring herself she’s doing the right thing.
‘TAAAÏGA! Over here!’ Linn waves frantically, fraying a passage over to Taïga and Loki, hugging them both.
‘C’mon, FaceTime greetings to your friends at APYR!’ She drags Taïga away towards a calm corner. ‘Here, hold the phone. Wait a sec…’ She shakes out her hair a little and pouts. ‘Go ahead, I’m ready.’
‘Cool, Ted’s online! Here we go.’ Taïga holds up the cell and smiles into it. ‘Happy New Year, Ted!’ both girls shout happily in unison.
‘Happy New Year! ’ Ted’s grinning face takes up the whole screen.
‘This is my BFF, Linn.’
‘Hi, Linn. I’ve heard a lot about you,’ Teddy says politely, blushing a little.
Linn nudges Taïga, who bites her lip. ‘Linn wants to know if Derek’s around,’ she singsongs, teasing her best friend who grimaces and tries to take the cell back.
Teddy chuckles. ‘Nope! He’s in the shower. You’re two hours ahead you know… But I’m saving this.’
Loki passes on his way to the bar. When he sees the girls, he stops and throws an arm around them, shouting ‘Happy New Year!’ to the cell, before continuing into the crowd.
‘Who’s that?’ Ted asks.
Taïga can feel her cheeks burn and somehow she can’t bring herself to say ‘my boyfriend’. So she murmurs, ‘Just a friend…’
The image on the screen flickers. ‘We’re having a blizzard coming… Have fun tonight! Both of you.’ Teddy’s voice is crackling.
‘You, too. See you next week.’
‘Yeah, take care.’
The screen goes black and Taïga hands the cell back to a disappointed Linn.
‘Gaah… My luck. Just a few seconds more and he would have been there.’
‘Sure… He and his ripped stomach,’ Taïga teases.
Linn swats her arm. ‘Right. I wonder what he and his ripped body are doing tonight…’
‘You don’t wanna know,’ Taïga says, but she isn’t smiling anymore.
A huge fast-moving arctic storm is barreling in over Appaloosa Plains from the West Coast, making it hard for the Department of Transportation snowplow crews to keep up. The poor visibility makes all travel extremely dangerous and blizzard warnings are issued on television and even sent on cell phones:
“FALLING AND BLOWING SNOW WITH STRONG WINDS AND POOR VISIBILITIES ARE LIKELY. THIS WILL LEAD TO WHITEOUT CONDITIONS…MAKING TRAVEL EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. DO NOT TRAVEL. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL…HAVE A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT WITH YOU. IF YOU GET STRANDED…STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.” *
It goes without saying that Derek and Teddy are stuck at APYR with Chuck and Johnny as only company tonight.
‘Hey, are you all right? Who were you talking to?’ Derek comes out of the bathroom, rubbing his wet hair with a towel.
Teddy raises his head from his arms. ‘Taïga – on FaceTime. But we got disconnected… I guess we’re still lucky to have electricity, Internet is acting up.’ He sighs. ‘But I uploaded it for you to see.’
‘We’re already using the diesel generator. Can’t you hear it?’
Teddy shakes his head. ‘Not over the whining of the wind, I can’t. I hope we’ve got enough fuel to last through the storm. They said it might continue like this for two days more.’
‘We’re stocked, don’t worry. So what are you waiting for?’ Derek pulls on his old worn pajamas, a sure sign it is cold. It was a Christmas present from their mom last year and Teddy’s got the same but it’s outgrown. ‘I thought your new MacBook was super-fast.’
‘Just a sec… the blizzard is making it hard to connect… I’m downloading it to the hard drive now, just in case.’
Derek watches the video of Taïga without a word. She was blushing… so that guy must mean something to her. Gosh, she can’t lie… Violently he kicks the kit he’s just received from College and the content scatter over the floor.
‘Hey! What are you doing, bro?’ Teddy looks at Derek, shocked at his sudden outburst. Derek can be moody and temperamental, but it’s the first time he sees his brother so caught up in a girl. He falls on his knees and starts picking up the Uni paraphernalia.
Derek passes both hands through his hair. ‘Sorry.’ Absentmindedly he picks up a flag and throws it into the bucket.
‘C’mon, Der.’ Teddy throws the last publicity gadget into the green bucket. ‘We’ll miss “The Walking Dead”.’
His brother looks up from the brochure he was perusing. ‘Huh? Miss The Walking Dead? They are DVD’s for God’s sake. Sounds like a lot of fun,’ he adds sarcastically. ‘I think I’ll just stay here. I’ve got some… err… schoolwork to catch up on.’
Teddy just stares at his brother. ‘Schoolwork? You’re doing schoolwork? On New Year’s Eve?’
‘So what? It’s not as if we had a party going.’
‘OK. If you say so…’ Teddy pulls on his sweatpants and a warm hoodie and heads for the door.
When Teddy comes back to their room after a “Walking Dead” marathon with Chuck and Johnny and tons of chips and soda, Derek is still awake. He doesn’t acknowledge his younger brother, absorbed by something on Teddy’s MacBook.
‘What are you doing? Are you on FaceTime? Or watching err… Taïga?’
Derek doesn’t even glance at his brother.
‘Nope… I’m checking something out… I’ll tell you in the morning…’
Teddy knows when his brother is lying, but he doesn’t probe. If Derek wants to spend the evening looping the short video, it’s his problem.
As the snowstorm rages in Utah, the first day of the year is announced by bright sunshine on a pristine world on the East Coast. Linn comes over after lunch and the two girls take their horses for what has become a tradition – the New Year’s first long ride in the woods.
Duke is a little stiff, so the girls let their horses walk on long reins the time for the old horse to warm up. It is eerie silent. The only sound is the crunching of the snow, the snorting of the horses and the creaking of the saddles.
The horses follow their usual trail through the Bayou and after trudging up a long slope they’re finally at the top of the hill. They stop side by side flattering the horses’ warm necks.
‘Shall we?’ The girls look at each other…
Screaming and laughing they spur their horses down the snowclad slope.
Panting they stop at the feet of the slope, the horses stomping and snorting, eager to continue. Taïga leans forward hugging the old horse’s neck and thus warming herself.
‘Shall we try the beach?’
‘Yeah! Just look at Duke, he can’t wait to get going.’
It starts snowing as they ride through the empty town.
When they arrive at the deserted beach, the slate grey sky is filled with swirling snowflakes. It is not a storm, not yet, but they decide they’d better hurry home before the weather gets worse.
As soon as they’ve turned and trotted down to the waterside the two anticipating horses literally explode, racing faster and faster. Duke seems to like stretching his legs again, and he catches easily up with the younger, lighter horse. Taïga holds on to the mane to steady herself, the speed and the rumbling of hooves make her laugh with joy.
The beach is long but the frisky horses thunder on. It’s not easy to slow the racing horses down as long as they’ve got only the horizon to stop them. Taïga pulls hard on her left rein, forcing Duke into a circle and Scarlett follows his lead. Eventually both horses come to a stop. They steam in the freezing air and sheke their head and snorts as they turn towards the road home. Taïga’s cheeks are burning from cold and her fingers are numb, but she grins happily at her friend.
‘Did you see that?’
‘Yeah, I didn’t think he could keep up, but old Duke’s still going strong.’
Valkyria is waiting for them at the crossroads when they come trotting back, exhausted but happy after several hours in the saddle.
Taïga leans down and pats her dog on the head. ‘Have you been waiting the whole afternoon?’ Valkyria whimpers in response, wagging her tail.
‘Don’t forget you’re sleeping over tomorrow.’ Linn pats Scarlett’s neck, sniveling a little from the cold.
‘Yeah. I can’t wait!’
The girls hug one last time, still on horseback before setting off in different directions.
Taïga looks after Linn’s vanishing silhouette, leaning over and hugging Duke, who hangs his head and coughs.
‘I think you’ve overestimated your strength, old boy.’
She lets Duke walk home on lose reins, letting him set the pace.
Once in his paddock, Taïga untacks him and goes to fetch him a blanket. The old horse neighs and Taïga turns around just in time to see him heavily lie down in the snow. Instinctively she senses something is wrong, and lets go off the tack, running back towards Duke. She encourages him to stand up, but the old horse only seems to manage to lift his head.
But the house is too far for someone to hear her cries for help. Taïga fumbles for her phone with numb fingers, but is only getting Linn’s voice mail.
‘Linn! There’s something wrong with Duke, he can’t stand up, I don’t know what to do and can you call your vet. Please…’
She hangs up, tears streaming down her face.
She cradles the old horse’s head in her arms, mumbling softly to him, begging him to hang on…
But there’s nothing she can do. She stays with Duke, caressing his long nose, wetting his cheeks with her tears until she understands that he isn’t there anymore.
Shakily she stands up again, realizing she’s soaking wet and freezing.
She stumbles through the door, scaring the wits out of Granny who was carrying a cup of tea and her Christmas book with her to bed.
‘Aren’t you supposed to sleep over at Linn’s tonight? Oh my God! Are you hurt? Did you fall off your horse?’ The cup falls with a crash to the floor.
‘No…’ Taïga hiccups. ‘I’m all right. It’s Duke… He’s… He’s… He’s dead.’ Crying she resumes what happened, searching comfort in her grandmother’s warm embrace.
‘Luckily he didn’t collapse in the woods!’ Missy tries to comfort her, but her comment only makes Taïga cry harder. ‘I mean, how should we have brought him back?’ she insists.
‘Missy! Weren’t you on your way to feed the cat?’
Missy shrugs. ‘Right. The cat. I’m on my way… Anyway, she shouldn’t have taken that old fleabag out for a ride in this cold,’ she says over her shoulder.
‘Missy’s right. It’s my fault… I shouldn’t have let him gallop so fast…’ Taïga hiccups.
Granny caresses Taïga’s hair and whispers soothingly, ‘Hush… There was nothing you could have done. I think Duke wanted to run again, to feel young and strong… It was his last gift to you…’
Missy stops and tut-tuts. ‘Tsk, tsk. So dying is a gift now? Did you hear that, Minuit?’
Granny shushes. ‘Duke was nearly 28 years old…’ she tries, but Taïga is disconsolate. ‘Make us a cup of tea,’ Granny mouths to Missy.
Her sister picks up their black cat and heads towards the kitchen, mumbling under her breath.
She hugs her granddaughter hard, fighting her own tears. Granny lets Taïga cry for a while on her shoulder, before going upstairs and running her granddaughter a hot bath. She sits on Taïga’s bedside, holding her hand until the devastated girl falls asleep, debating what to do next.
Missy calls out from downstairs. ‘Was it an ice tea you wanted? Because your cup is getting cold!’
‘I’ll be right down!’ Granny stands up, and with a last kiss on her granddaughter’s forehead, she goes into the study to make some calls. First to Linn’s dad to tell him what happened, and they agree on letting Taïga stay for a couple of days at their place. Then she calls the Mullin’s, to let them know about their old horse…
Granny did exactly the right thing, shipping her granddaughter off to spend a couple of days with her best friend. They spend the whole day in Linn’s tower room, eating ice cream and watching sad horse movies like “Black Beauty” and “Sea Biscuit”.
Victor has the dinner ready when Jesper comes home later that evening. The talented photographer is eager to show the girls a slideshow with his latest photos. But even though the pictures are incredible, both girls fall asleep before it’s over. Victor and Jesper decide to let them sleep on the couch, they just fetch a couple of blankets and pillows, before turning off the lights and silently retreat.
Taïga and Linn spend the rest of the weekend just lounging around in their pajamas, discussing boys and school and then boys again. They avoid talking about Duke, as the mention of his name makes Taïga break down in tears.
Linn interrupts her ranting about the pictures of Derek on Taïga’s cell and squints at her friend. ‘Can you stop shaking those darn kittens in my face?’
‘But I love my slippers! Look how cute they are… Meeow.’
‘I should never have bought you those dang things.’ She sighs. ‘Now tell me if he likes-’
‘Call him!’ Taïga interrupts impatiently. ‘Or better yet, text him! I’m not a Derekipedia.’
Linn thinks about it. ‘Yeah, you’re right. I’ll text him… But what should I say?’
Taïga rolls her eyes. ‘I don’t know… Something classy and romantic like, err… “You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I’ve seen your pecs’ and I’m lost”!’
They both start giggling.
‘Or “in lust”! Your choice,’ Taïga adds, snortling.
‘C’mon… You gotta help me out.’
‘Nope… You want Derek? You’re on your own, girl.’
‘That’s a real BFF! I’ll remember that!’ Linn grabs a pillow and throws it at Taïga who laughing throws it back.
Too soon it’s time to return back home again. Her plane is leaving the next day, and she has some packing to do and time she’d like to spend with her family.
‘Another six months… I will miss you so much…’ Linn is fighting the tears.
‘I’ll call you… And text… and I will miss you, too,’ she says between hugs.
‘Don’t forget to talk to Derek about me,’ Linn adds, blowing her nose.
Taïga laughs through her tears. ‘Geez… You got your priorities straight, don’t you? Of course I won’t forget…’ But she crosses her fingers behind her back. She loves Linn dearly, and she has said she doesn’t mind her crushing on Derek – he’s not her boyfriend or anything. She has Loki. So why would it hurt so much if Linn and Derek become an item?
Back at Bayou Oaks she spends the evening packing, then texting Linn and Loki. Granny comes and sits on her bedside until she falls asleep. The old woman holds her hand, a reassuring gesture both of them need and that says more than words would ever do.
The next morning they are waiting for the cab when to their surprise Loki’s dad parks in front of the house. Loki jumps out, rushes up the stairs and gets knocked over by Valkyria and Taïga.
‘I’m so sorry. Are you OK?’ She helps him to his feet, trying not to laugh at his disheveled figure.
‘Yeah.’ He rubs his head, wincing.
Lightly she touches the bump on his forehead. ‘Granny has probably something healing in the pharmacy.’
‘No way. Like this everybody will see that you’ve left me a souvenir.’
She swats at his arm. ‘Can’t you be serious?’
‘I am.’ He looks her in her eyes, then leans in and kisses her.
‘I love you, Taïga. Call me when you get off the plane so I know you’ve arrived safely!’
‘Mmm… Promise.’ She holds on to his arms, not wanting to let go but at the same time she wonders if the sudden rush of butterflies is due to his kiss or the anticipation of seeing Derek again in just a few hours. She hates herself for her thoughts, feeling a rush of guilt. Loki is so sweet and earnest, not like her. She should tell him about her feelings, not lead him on like this.
‘The cab is here!’ Missy shouts gleefully. ‘Could you be of some use and take the suitcase, young man?’
It’s with a big lump in her throat she gets into the waiting car and leaves for APYR.
Part II – End of Chapter 07