Content warning – nude pics
A secret is something that is done or made without the knowledge of others.
A secret is something that should remain hidden from others.
A secret is something not told to other people…
But are all secrets meant to be kept forever? And what happens when you can’t keep a secret?
The weeks pass quickly and September is soon only a faint memory. October doesn’t bring any relief from the heat, and even if the trees start to turn yellow, it’s from the drought, not from the cold.
Ana Kempinsky is even joking about throwing a pool party on the 31st.
Tyler and Darryl were so excited to show Taïga “their” discovery – a brand new music studio financed by Kenye Washington. Taïga couldn’t believe her eyes when she discovered their surprise and honestly couldn’t wait to start rehearsing with IDC again. So every Friday after school, she stays for an hour of Drama, and then sneaks off to the studio, joining Tyler, Darryl and Tess.
Kenye’s son, Simmy C, is mixing, and the sound is awesome. His sister Ghana makes an appearance from time to time, and Linn thinks it’s because she’s into Darryl, IDC’s drummer – but who’s also her BFF’s boyfriend!
Jayler usually drops in on his way home from Uni. He is on to something at the Flying Fenders, but meanwhile they’ve got a steady gig at Merlott’s twice a month. They’ve already played a couple of times, but Taïga keeps it a secret from Granny, saying she’s staying at Linn’s place. Well, technically it’s not a lie, she really sleeps over at Linn’s. But Granny’s not aware of her having taken up the music again, with the very same persons who were the cause of her conviction for vandalism.*
AP courses are supposed to be hard, but Taïga loves English literature which helps a lot. Biology is more difficult, but still interesting. She struggles with calculus, but keeps her grades up thanks to art, music and French.
Taïga quickly understands why Introduction to computer programming and Computer science is full booked. She loves it – even though she knows she won’t continue computer programming in College. This year they will learn to design software and write programs within computer programs, whatever that means… She wants to learn how things work and being able to gain access to “confidential” files could come in handy one day…
She also visits the Darer’s at least once a week – to help out. Missy is a catastrophe in the kitchen – and elsewhere. Taïga wasn’t very experienced neither, but practice makes perfect. She usually cooks for at least six persons, and Missy only has to defrost the separated portions.
‘Are you sure about the salad? I mean, it’s not meant to be frozen and you can’t keep it for long.’
‘Remember you thought you sallyjacked the potato salad the other day? Well, I brought it over to Bayou Oaks and everybody loved it! Even your grandmother… I thought Lucky would lick the bowl!’
‘Yeah, great. So are you inviting people over tonight?’
‘No, we’ll have it for dinner with Juan. You can have some too, if you want?’ Missy takes one of the tomatoes from the chopping board, ‘Uhm, if you don’t need this tomato…’
There was no love lost between Taïga and her great aunt in the beginning. Missy offered her older sister to stay with her in the Transylvanian Mountains after the fire* had ravaged the old Grey witches’ mansion in Moonlight Falls. It had been tough for Taïga to accommodate to the new country, its difficult language (Romanian) and a very bizarre school. But most of all it had been trying to live under the same roof as Old Missy who didn’t really want them there…
After moving back to their home country again, starting anew in Crooked Bayou Swamp in Twin Towns**, Missy and Granny seemed to grow a little closer. Missy even seemed to get used to having Taïga –and Rowan- around. So when Missy asked Taïga for a little assistance, she felt she couldn’t refuse. Missy had helped her and Granny after all. And she is kind of fun to be around. She’s got lots of stories about her time in Midnight Hollow, about zombies and aliens***. Taïga isn’t sure what to believe…
‘A secret laboratory in the basement of the mental hospital? Wow!’
‘Yes. I kind of discovered it. With Granny of course…’
‘Juan is something of a technical genius, but he isn’t able to fix your washing machine?’
Missy bites into her fourth something apple Taïga brought with her from Granny’s garden. ‘Uh-huh. Gosh, these apples are so good. Are you sure you don’t want one? It’s the last.’
Taïga shakes her head and poses the laundry basket on the ground.
‘Your loss… I guess Juan doesn’t have the time. He’s working night and day on that tree sculpture the Mayor ordered.’
‘Great! So he won the contest?’
Taïga starts hanging up the laundry to dry.
‘Err… Not yet. But I’m sure he will!’
Taïga nods. ‘I hope so…’
‘Do you remember what I told you the other day?’
Taïga lovers her voice, ‘About the aliens?’
‘Goodness no! About the social worker.’
Now Missy is “happily” married she wants everything that goes with it, including a child. Taïga told her grandmother about it, but Granny wasn’t worried. ‘Missy is too old to give birth, and the Darer’s would never be allowed to adopt,’ she said. But that was without counting on her sister’s stubbornness… and recklessness!
‘… so I just threw a spell on the social worker handling our case when he came to visit!’
Taïga’s jaw drops. ‘You threw a spell on the social worker…’
‘Uh-hum.’ Missy grins, munching on her apple.
‘… to adopt a child?’
‘Yes! Isn’t it fabulous?’
‘Wow. I don’t know.’
Missy’s face crumbles. ‘Aren’t you happy for us?’
‘Of course I am. But how will you explain it? What will Granny say?’
‘I knew you would bring up your grandmother. You’re becoming a real killjoy, just like her.’ She grabs Taïga’s arm and starts walking her towards her bike. ‘I thought you would like the idea! We’ll make a poor abandoned child happy. We’ll teach it everything we know, Juan and I!’
At least that will be fast. She mentally slaps herself, I mustn’t be that mean… ‘But I do like the idea of saving a child.’
‘Good. You know what? You can come over more often and visit! I guess I’ll need a little more help when we become a real family.’
‘Talking about teaching… Could you bring over some of Granny’s dried Belladonna? And some rat hearts? I’d like to show you something next week… Or earlier… Whatever! And we need to redecorate a little, making the barn look more like a home, if you see what I mean… Curtains and cushions and happy colors. Now off you go.’
She blows Taïga a kiss and waves, ‘Byeeee!’
She looks at her niece’s vanishing silhouette with a frown.
It won’t do to let her follow in my uptight sister’s footsteps… It needs some work, but Taïga would be a perfect zombie master. That would shut my big sister up. Definitely.
‘How was the Darer’s?’
Taïga hesitates. Should she tell Granny about the adoption? No. It’s definitely not her business, and Missy should announce it herself.
‘Err… Juan is working on a sculpture for the City Hall contest. And Missy, she’s having trouble keeping up the household. She wants to redecorate, by the way.’
Granny chuckles, ‘She’s never been practical. Especially if she can’t use her magic to clean and cook it must be troublesome! Maybe I should pop over this weekend to see how they’re doing, maybe help her a little with curtains and things… What do you think?’
‘Sounds great! You should absolutely do that. Oh, and she wanted me to bring some rat hearts and belladonna next time.’
‘Did she say what she needed it for?’
‘Hmm. Sounds like she’s preparing a poison to get rid of rodents…’
Sprinkler is up to something. He spends most of the day in the garden, talking to the late roses and going for the occasional ride on Valkyria. He whispers with the wild animals – the rabbits and squirrels, even the birds.
His secret is safe, as the only one who knows what the little leprechaun is planning is Valkyria, and she can’t speak…
Even though the vegetation in the Grey’s garden seem to be lusher since he started on his regular strolls, the special seeds Granny has planted in the greenhouse grow slowly. Too slowly in his taste.
He checks on the progress every day – mostly getting in the way. Granny enjoys the little leprechaun’s company nevertheless. Her days are so lonely since Missy moved out and Taïga started school again, and talking to the leprechaun is entertaining.
He keeps out of the way of the cowplant, telling Granny it’s not happy with the way he pulled it out of its “birthplace”…
‘They don’t like to move around so much, you see… Lord God prevent me from becoming one of its snacks…’
The door opens on Taïga, carrying a fresh fish wrapped up in paper.
‘Oh, we keep it so well fed I doubt it considers eating you.’ Granny says soothingly.
‘I say, it looks at me with hunger and vice. Ye ken.’ Sprinkler nods to himself.
Taïga opens the wrapped up fish, ‘It doesn’t have any eyes.’
‘Nay. But if it had it would look at me exactly like that.’
Taïga sits back on her heels and looks Sprinkler over, ‘You’re right, you look like a tasty little leprechaun. Maybe the cowplant would like to change its diet a bit. What do you think, Granny?’
Granny laughs, and Sprinkler waddles over to Taïga. He smells the fish on the ground.
‘Yuk. Dead fish. I’m sure it would prefer catching flies than eating dead food.’
‘I eat dead food.’
‘Aye. You should go on a po-ta-to diet! Tadah.’
And he vanishes. Taïga stares disbelievingly at the spot where Sprinkler stood a second ago, ‘Did he just say that I’m fat?’
‘I’m sure he didn’t. I asked him about the cowplant, to see if he had any idea about why it’s withering…’
‘He thinks it’s because of the move.’
Taïga has another theory about the lethargic cowplant. ‘I don’t think the move is the only thing disturbing it, I think it’s bored.’
‘What makes you think it is bored?’
Taïga points at the cowplant licking the roof beam, ‘Because it’s cribbing!’
Granny puts her hands on her hips, ‘I suppose “cribbing” is another strange horse-world-vocabulary-mere-mortals-aren’t supposed-to-understand?’
‘Sorry, Granny. It’s gnawing on the roof beams just like some horses do. I don’t know if it sucks in air though, I can’t hear anything…’
Granny nods. ‘Why didn’t you say so immediately? What do you do when a horse cribs?’
‘Put him out in a pasture, let him have more time in a paddock…’
Granny frowns, ‘Hmm… Can’t apply that to a cowplant, can we?’
‘Maybe we should buy a toy or something? We could hang it from the beam!’
Granny looks thoughtfully at the huge cowplant. ‘I’m not sure it wants a toy…’
A movement outside the window draws Taïga’s attention. It’s Minuit trying to catch one of the summer’s last butterflies. Sprinkler’s words about dead food comes into mind.
‘Remember how Missy fed it? And Rowan?’ Taïga adds enthusiastically and picks up the fish they have bought for the carnivorous plant. ‘It doesn’t like dead food! So we must make it seem alive!’
Hesitant at first, teasing, pulling the fish away at the last second, she’s soon dancing around the cowplant, waking its instinct to hunt for its food. Finally she lets it catch the fish, and beaming she turns toward her grandmother, ‘See! I think it likes to play!’
The cowplant drops its heavy head, and with a low growl that almost sounds like a cat purring, it nudges Taïga’s back. She turns around and cautiously touches the velvety nose.
‘You know you shouldn’t turn your back on it? A cowplant is a predator and-’
‘I’m sorry, Granny. It won’t happen again…’
They walk back to the house, discussing the cowplant’s eating habits.
‘Do you think we can change its diet from fish?’ Taïga smells her hands.
‘No. I think fish is a good idea, it will associate the smell with food, and maybe become more hesitant when it comes to gob other kinds of… meat.’
‘You’re probably right, but my hands smell awful!’
‘Get a shower while I fix dinner.’
But there’s no hot water. In fact, there’s hardly any pressure at all, just enough to wash her hands…
They find the culprit in the downstairs bathroom… Granny tries to fix the leak while Taïga mops up the water on the floor.
‘If you can’t fix that, Granny, why don’t we call the plumber?’
Granny looks at her granddaughter, ‘I hate to say this, Taïga, but finances aren’t good and…’
‘Well, if we don’t get this fixed, we’ll have to change the floorboards as well, and I guess that’s even more expensive. Why don’t you call Arthur?’
Seeing Granny’s expression, she resolutely stomps off to the study and calls him herself.
‘I’m sorry to bother you, Mr. Moon. It’s Taiga Grey and we have a kind of emergency here… No, she’s all right! But our plumbing isn’t… It seems to be more than a leak, the water upstairs is hardly trickling and we’ve got a geyser going in the downstairs’ bathroom… Yeah, she’s trying to mend it herself but she’s not very handy… Good… Great… I’ll go give Granny a hand, you just come right in when you get here!… Right… Thanks!’
She hangs up. Good deed done.
Arthur knocks and pushes the bathroom door open on chaos. Water slushes around his feet and out into the hall.
‘Oh my. Taïga was right about a geyser…’
Granny pushes a wet strand of hair from her forehead, ‘Oh, Arthur! I’m so glad you could come. We didn’t want to bother you, but…’ She gestures helplessly towards the water spraying walls and floor.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get this fixed.’ He rummages around in his toolbox, ‘I told you to call me if you needed any help with the plumbing, remember?’
Granny nods self-consciously.
Arthur looks at her with brown kind eyes, holding out a wench, ‘Now can you hold this for me while I turn off the water?’
He opens the cupboard and reaches under the sink for the handle to shut the water off, ‘There’s sure a lot of water on the floor, but at least we won’t need a water pump…’
It doesn’t take long before the leak is fixed, even though the handle is broken and Arthur has to work with water still sprouting. Both Granny and he are soaked and Taïga giggles at the sight of them.
‘You look just like something out of the 101 Dalmatians, you know when Pongo decided to take things into his own hands and his master fell into the water with-’
Granny silences her with a stern look.
‘OKOK, I’ll go and check if I can have a shower now. Oh, my hands are so smelly, I really should take a shower-’
She can hear Arthur chuckle when she closes the door behind her. She stops and puts her ear to the smooth wood…
Granny fiddles with her hair, waiting for Arthur to take the first step. Her thoughts whirl in her head…
Almost a week after their fishing trip, Arthur called Granny as promised about the show. The magician was good and very funny. She was reluctant when he picked her out to assist him on the scene, but Arthur urged her on.
If someone had told her only a couple of months ago that she would step up on a scene and let a magician make her disappear in a box, she would have snorted haughtily… But with Arthur it was fun, and she laughed as hard as the public, when unscathed but a little dazed, she stepped out of the large box!
They had also spent a whole day at the beach, reading in the shadows of the large parasol he had brought, swimming and even renting pedal boats! It had been so romantic, strolling on the deserted beach, watching the sunset.
She doesn’t know why she dodged his attempt at kissing her, maybe it was her usual armor that suddenly came up again. The fact is that he hasn’t called at all since then. Granny has gone through their date in her head again and again, imagining what would have happened if she only had let him kiss her…
Awkwardly they stand in front of the sink.
Arthur breaks the silence, ‘I really enjoyed the show we went to.’
‘Yes. It was good.’
‘I mean that I enjoyed going with you.’
He turns away from her and leans against the sink, ‘I’m sorry I tried to kiss you. It was totally inappropriate…’ He looks at her in the mirror, ‘Oh, damn it!- sorry for my bad language- but ever since we went to the beach, I… God, I’ve rehearsed this speech… Well, you know that I’m a widower…’ Granny nods. ‘… and this was the first time I’ve ever taken anyone out for a date, except for my wife.’ Granny waits for him to continue. ‘I felt so guilty, like I was cheating on her…’ He turns towards her, anxiously searching her face, ‘But one day you just have to move on, and I’ve realized that going out with you and letting our friendship grow isn’t a treason to my late wife. But it took me some time to come to terms with the thought…’
Taïga steps away from the door, her eyes filled with tears. She shouldn’t have eavesdropped. Quietly she sneaks upstairs, thoughts spinning in her head…
She pours a hot bubble bath and thankfully eases into the luxurious scented foam.
Arthur’s wife is dead and he said that one day you have to move on… How? Doesn’t that mean that he doesn’t love his wife anymore? I really want Granny to be happy, and he seems like a really nice man, but… He said he felt like he was cheating on his wife when he went out with Granny, so that must surely mean he hasn’t forgotten her…
She closes her eyes, holding back the tears that are threatening to burst forward. What about me? Should I move on too? Almost four months since Derek disappeared, but it feels like yesterday, and yet like a lifetime.
‘I wish I could ask someone for advice…’ she mumbles.
‘Just go ahead and ask! I say, I know a lot of useful things – how to make wonderful dancing shoes, tasty po-ta-to candy, but I must say that moving the cowplant is top of my list-’
Outraged, Taïga sinks under the bubbles so they cover her. ‘Sprinkler! What are you doing here! Go away! You can’t just sneak up on people like this – especially not in a bathroom!’
He stands on his toes and reaches for the foam, taking it in his little hand and blowing on it, separating the bubbles and letting them float into the air. ‘Why not in a bathroom?’
‘Because… Because it’s private!’
‘Ay. I’m gunna head on. But hurry up a little. Granny is busy with that fat little man and I’m hungry.’
‘There are leftovers in the fridge.’
‘I can’t open the larder!’
‘You can move a cowplant but you can’t open the lar- the fridge?’
Sprinkles jumps up on the edge of the tub. ‘Maybe I should take a bath?’
‘Nonononono. I’m coming. Just get out of here so I can get dressed.’
He chuckles, ‘If there’s something there I’ve never seen before, I’ll throw a penny at it!’
‘I say, you are a feisty little thing.’
Taïga picks up a bottle with bath salts and throws it at him, but he vanishes into thin air, his merry laughter echoing as the bottle breaks against the tiled walls, spreading shards of glass and fragrant bath salts on the floor.
As the Indian summer draws to an end, Arthur succeeds in luring Granny out more and more. They go for long walks with the dogs, play chess in the Old Olive Tree Park, discuss with his old friends Harley, Marcus and Seth. And where you find Marcus you find the spinster twins – Bridget and Darla Douglas. Surreptitiously Arthur becomes more important to her for each day they meet.
Ever since Shasta was born, Granny has kept to herself. Feeling more at ease at home with a good book, creating new elixirs or poking around in her garden.
But now Arthur Moon is changing her daily routines, and she doesn’t know how she feels about that. The thing is, she’s starting to wait for his phone calls, and she checks her appearance even when she goes out gardening… He takes her places she’s never been before, like going to see the butterflies at the Farfalle Dome in Falls Harbor…
They always have so much to talk about.
Yet their silences are never awkward….
Olivia’s Café remains Granny’s special Sunday brunch place, but she comes with Arthur now, as Taïga is working on weekends…
His visits become more and more frequent, and it doesn’t surprise Taïga anymore to find him at the house when she gets home from school.
But just as often the house is empty, small yellow post-its on the fridge:
“Going to the movies with Arthur.”
“Will be back late!”
“Don’t wait up!”
“You’ve got food to heat in the microwave!” etc. etc.
One night he invites Granny to his place for a romantic dinner he has cooked himself…
‘I know nothing about wine, so I hope you don’t mind having a cold beer?’
‘Oh, no. Not at all. As long as I don’t have to swig directly from the bottle…’
Arthur grins. ‘You really are a lady, you know that?’
Granny doesn’t know why she blushes…
Even if she was a little disappointed that he didn’t even try to kiss her, the evening was delightful. He showed her his collection of old vinyl’s, and surprised her by inviting her to dance.
She silently added dancing to their many things in common – music, cooking, reading…
… but also gardening.
Arthur never shows up unannounced and he’s always well-mannered. Granny is starting to think that she must have dreamed he once tried to kiss her.
‘It’s nice of you to help me, Arthur. The drought has made it impossible to garden, so can you just try to pull out the potato plants and throw them on the compost?’ Sprinkler could have helped me, but he never seems to be around when I need him…
‘Sure. I’ll take the hoe fork to loosen the dirt up a little.’
They work in amiable silence for a while, until Arthur starts jumping around, holding his foot as he lets out a stream of expletives.
‘Ohmygod! Are you all right?’
Arthur gasps for breath, his face red and eyes bulging, ‘Yeah. I think so, just hit my foot with the bloody hoe fork. I guess nothing’s broken, but it hurts like Hell!’
‘Let me have a look.’ Granny eases off his sandal and watches his toe literally turn black and blue while she’s watching. She touches it and Arthur winces. ‘I think it might be best to take you to the hospital.’
Arthur shakes his head. ‘They’ll only keep me for hours on end, just to say it’s only a bad bruise…’
She stands up and puts her gloves back on, then takes them off again. ‘Let’s go inside and put some ice on it… The least I can do is offer you to stay for dinner!’
‘I won’t say no to that.’
‘Here, lean on me.’
He slings his arm over her shoulders and jumps on one foot all the way back to the house.
Granny pulls up an extra chair for Arthur to rest his foot on, and carefully puts a pack of ice in a towel on his foot.
‘Just stay put, I’ll fix dinner and get you some painkillers.’
She hands him the newspaper and vanishes out to the kitchen. Already 6:30. Where’s Taïga? She should be home by now… I got an elixir that can fix his foot, but how can I make him take it…
Grabbing some dog food from the cupboard, she calls for Ruff. ‘You’ll eat alone, poor Ruff. Valkyria is with Taïga at the stables…’
She hurries upstairs to get the painkillers and the elixir. Back in the kitchen she rummages through the cupboard until she finds what she’s looking for – mushroom soup! Perfect! She’ll just pour the elixir in it and hope it doesn’t taste too foul. Then she’ll spice up the salmon Arthur brought with him earlier today to cover the bitter after taste…
Grooming is hard work and Taïga doesn’t make much money at the Kempinsky stables. Sometimes it feels like she’s only there to get the horses ready for other people to ride. The promised extra lessons are sparse, and she would love to not only brush and clean the horses for their wealthy owners. She’s already prepared four horses this morning, six after lunch and now she’s getting Kempinsky Sunshine ready for his uppity owner, Araminta Sempill-Lovatt.
Taïga rummages through Sunny’s grooming box, searching for a hoof pick. Finding what she was looking for, she starts back towards the box, but stops in her tracks at the sight of Ozzie drying sweat from his brow. Apart from the fair hair it could have been Derek, standing there…
The hoof pick clatters to the floor and he turns around with a startled look that changes into a grin.
‘Hey. I think you dropped something.’
Taïga stammers, ‘Err… the hoof pick. It escaped my hands.’
He throws a glance at the hoof pick on the floor and continues to scatter straw in the empty box. Taïga picks up the tool and scurries away.
Geez… He is so… so…Well, he’s got nice muscles – from a distance. Gosh, he must think I’m so into him! And stupid at that. Can’t align three words correctly because he makes me feel so… so… dang guilty!
Taïga is starting on Sunny’s hooves when Ozzie’s voice comes from the other box.
‘Be careful with his back hooves, he likes to pinch when you turn your back…’
Can he see through walls now? ‘I’ve secured him.’ Taïga answers. ‘It’s not like it’s the first time I groom Sunny…’ she mumbles, hating herself for not daring saying it aloud.
Sunny turns his head and looks at her with curiosity as she slides her hand down his back leg. He lifts his hoof, turning his head and tugging at the rope to get a better look at what she’s doing to him. Taïga struggles a little to keep the heavy hoof in her lap. Rapidly she cleans it and gently lets go. She walks over to the other side and finishes cleaning out the hooves.
‘Didn’t get a chunk out you of this time, huh?’
She pulls at the secure knot and pushes the door to the box open, ‘Nope. Disappointed?’
Ozzie chuckles and puts the pitch fork on the wheelbarrow. ‘I gather the Sempill-Lovatt woman is riding him today?’
‘Yeah, I’ll finish brushing and saddling him outside.’
‘Good, like that I can muck out his box without having him prancing around feigning to be scared of the pitchfork!’
She leads the jittery horse outside and ties him with a secure knot to the fence, before starting to get the dust out of his coat.
She secretly hopes Araminta won’t show up, so she might get a chance to ride Sunny herself. But unfortunately she does. She’s five months pregnant, but refuses to give up her private riding lessons.
‘I think we should longe Sunny for a while before you take her out, Mrs. Sempill-Lovatt.’
‘Nonsense. There’s not a horse I can’t handle. Now give me a leg-up!’
Taïga checks the girth and walks around to the horse’s other side. She counterbalances the saddle as Araminta sits up.
Taïga caresses Sunny’s velvety nose and murmurs, ‘I so wish you could teach that snotty bitch a lesson.’
Araminta pulls hard on the reins and clicks her tongue. Without saying thank you she trots off towards the large showjumping area…
Taïga finishes her tasks and walks over to where Linn is warming up.
‘Hey, how’s it going?’
‘He’s a little stiff.’ Linn trots by on a perfect circle.
Ozzie nudges her back, ‘I think you should watch this, Taïga…’
Ozzie draws on his cigarette and gestures with his head towards the showjumping grounds where Ana is expertly negotiating a parallel oxer on her new dapple grey gelding, Prancer.
Taïga sighs wistfully, ‘She’s really good, isn’t she.’
‘Yeah, her dad plans a career in show-jumping for her-’ He blows out smoke with an amused expression on his face, ‘but I was kind of looking at that…’
She follows his gaze and hides a smile.
Nat Kempinsky is giving a private lesson to Araminta Sempill-Lovatt. But the young horse doesn’t understand what Araminta is asking of it and keeps refusing the vertical wall.
‘He’s above the bit! You can’t let him evade your aids like that! Put him on a circle and try again.’
‘You ain’t got enough impulsion! Try the triple bar, and let him chip in!’
Araminta digs her heels into the horse and rides up towards the obstacle…
‘Goddammit, Araminta! You’re tackling it backwards!’
The horse refuses again, but Araminta viciously rises her whip and strikes Sunny over the croup. The horse neighs and leaps forward…
The horse flies over the fence, but the sudden leap throws Araminta off balance.
‘Help me get the horse.’ Ozzie commands, throwing his cigarette away as he jumps over the fence.
Taïga scrambles after him, her heart beating fast. When they finally succeed to corner the frightened animal with Linn and Scarlett’s help, the paramedics are already strapping Araminta onto a stretcher. Taïga strokes the horses head and murmurs soothingly.
Ozzie takes the reins. ‘You look a little pale… I don’t think Mr. Kempinsky would say anything if you left now.’
She nods. Fighting the urge to throw up, she makes her way to Linn’s car on shaky legs. Was all this her fault? She wanted the horse to teach Araminta a lesson after all. But not this. She never wanted this…
The car is locked and she slides down onto the ground with the back to it. She feels nauseous. She doesn’t know for how long she’s been sitting there when a shadow obscures the warm sun and makes her shiver.
‘Hey, are you all right?’ Ozzie is standing in front of her, a concerned frown shading his eyes. She just nods in answer.
‘You’re a paler shade than white,’ he jokes, and she smiles a little. ‘Want a smoke?’
She shakes her head.
‘You’re really talkative…’
She glances up at him, but doesn’t know what to say.
‘Mind if I sit here a while?’ he doesn’t wait for her answer, just sits down in front of her and lights a cigarette.
‘She’ll be OK. The baby too. But she’ll have to stay in bed until it’s time to push the little bugger out.’
Taïga lets out a sigh of relief. She leans her head against the cool metal of the car and closes her eyes.
‘She shouldn’t have hit the horse. Surprised him totally, and to get away from the pain the only way was forward…’ He blows out some smoke, and Taïga’s eyes water. ‘I can see Linn’s on her way.’ He stands up. ‘Don’t let this get to you. Accidents happen, and that snotty bitch had it coming…’
He saunters off, but Taïga calls after him, ‘Ozzie!’ He turns around. ‘Thank you.’
He smiles and salutes her, ‘See you tomorrow. I guess you’ve got a ride now!’
‘Was that moody Ozzie I saw walking away from here? What did he want?’
‘Just telling me Mrs. Sempill-Lovatt will be all right. And the baby too. Is it true?’
‘Yeah, Mr. Kempinsky called Ozzie, so I guess you got the news from a reliable source… She will stay under observation at CYHM for a couple of days, before going home. And of course she won’t be able to ride until after the birth…That was a scary fall…’
Taïga hiccups, and Linn takes her into her arms, ‘Hey. It’s gonna be all right… It was an accident, she shouldn’t have whipped Sunny…’
But Taïga can’t shake the uneasy feeling. What if it was her fault?
Arthur lights up and puts away the paper when Granny comes into the dining room carrying two bowls of steaming soup. She puts a bowl and the painkillers in front of him.
‘You have to eat something when you take them…’
‘Yes, m’am.’ He takes the glass of water she hands him and swallows the two pills.
They discuss the continuing drought and the incredibly warm weather. But Granny knows him enough, he’s not one for small talk. He finishes his soup and Granny sighs with relief. He ate it all and even if he noticed a bizarre taste he’s too polite to mention it. Well let’s get the main course…
She sits down in front of him, ‘Stop beating around the bush, Arthur.’
‘OK. I won at the lottery.’
Granny almost gets a heart attack when Arthur puts some lottery tickets on the table. ‘Ohmygod! What is this? I can see they are lottery tickets, but…’
‘Yeah, I won a weekend in Lucky Palms at the Fairview Heights Soccer lottery. And I’d like you to come with me.’
‘You and me? In Lucky Palms?’
‘Well, actually it’s a week-end for four persons, all expenses paid, and I thought you’d like to bring your sister and her husband, as they didn’t go on a proper honeymoon…’
He pockets the tickets and continues calmly eating. Granny just sits there staring at him. How could he possibly be so calm?
‘Do you mean you want to bring me and the Darer’s to Lucky Palms?’
‘Yep. If you can imagine leaving Taïga for three days…’
‘You are serious!’
‘Who’s serious?’ Taïga and Linn peeks around the corner. ‘Who’s going to Lucky Palms?’
Granny looks from them to Arthur and back again, ‘Arthur has won a long weekend in Lucky Palms for four persons, and he wants to take Missy and Juan too!’
‘But that’s great, Granny! When are you leaving?’
‘Not so fast, young lady. It’s a long weekend of three days, and I haven’t said yes. Not yet.’
‘But you will. You can’t let Arthur go to Lucky Palms with Missy and Juan. He’ll need you to be there, won’t you Mr. Moon?’
‘Err… Yes. I won’t leave without you, Tara.’
‘But I can’t leave Taïga all alone?’
‘She’s almost 16, and it’s only two nights. I think she’ll be fine.’
‘She can always stay at my place…’ Linn adds.
Granny looks at the two girls expectant faces. ‘All right. But only if you can stay over at Linn’s house.’
‘Oh, thank you, Granny!’ Taïga hugs her grandmother and the girls walk back to the kitchen to warm up the dinner, excitedly talking about their weekend together.
‘I don’t understand the excitement, they sleepover every weekend – here or at Linn’s place.’
‘Ah, who can explain how teenage girls function?’ Arthur leans forward and covers her hand with his. ‘Thank you, Tara. It will be a wonderful weekend, I can promise you that!’
Their sleepover weekends have become a habit. When IDC has a gig at Merlott’s, Taïga sleeps at Linn’s place, otherwise, like tonight, Linn stays over at the Grey’s.
‘It will be perfect! They’ll leave Friday morning and come back on Sunday! Monday is Samhain and we’ll be off from school until Wednesday!’
Did I say Samhain? ‘Err… The old Celtic name for Halloween. So we can stay over here after the gig on Friday!’
‘But your grandmother wanted you to stay at my place.’
‘She’ll never find out, unless you tell her.’ Taïga rubs Valkyrias belly, ‘It will be like it’s our place – no one to tell us when to get to bed and we’ll cook our meals ourselves!’
‘I’m not sure I want to eat your burnt version of spaghetti Bolognese…’
‘It happened once!’
‘I was twelve!’ she picks up a pillow and throws it at Linn who catches it and lunges back at Taïga, ‘You asked for it!’
And while Arthur and Granny discuss their upcoming weekend together, and Taïga and Linn have a raging pillow fight, Sprinkler takes advantage of having Ruff in the neighborhood to continue his scheming…
The household animals don’t seem to mind the bossy leprechaun. They do his biddings without questioning, bringing back goodies of all kinds – feathers, lizards and the occasional gem…
‘I say, I have a very important mission for you tonight…’
The stables are deserted when Taïga and Linn arrives early Sunday morning. As usual most horses are away at some showjumping or racing event. Ozzie walks past, carrying some heavy, newly greased tack.
Linn inhales, ‘That smells heavenly!’
‘Thank you, ladies!’
‘She was talking about the smell of saddle soap.’ Taïga adds.
‘Oh. Yeah, that smells good too.’ He continues towards the tack room, ‘You should check the board before starting, Taïga.’
Linn goes to get her grooming box while Taïga checks the board. She has to read it twice before she finally understands. ‘I’m riding Sunny… Every weekend I’m riding Sunny!’
Linn drops the grooming box on the floor and together they dance around.
‘Hey! You’re scaring the hell out of the horses! Just get your act together and get your horses ready, you’re taking them out this morning!!’
It’s so much more amusing to groom a horse when you’re going to ride it yourself. Taïga sings in a low voice, brushing Sunny until he gleams.
‘I didn’t know you could sing.’
Taïga jumps at Ozzie’s voice behind her, she throws a glance over her shoulder. ‘You know you shouldn’t-’
‘-smoke. Yeah. Linn’s already outside, I’m coming with you.’
‘Are you taking Prancer?’
‘Yeah, The Kempinsky’s away and he needs to have some fun, always jumping or running on the beach.’
‘But I thought we would go for a gallop on the beach too?’
‘Not today. I’ll take you to a nice place, you’ll see…’
Ozzie takes them on dirt tracks through the forest. Finally they emerge next to the Mullins’ farm and Ozzie gestures with his head towards the fields, ‘So, what do you think?’
‘Mr. Mullins will go crazy if he catches us…’
‘He won’t. That corn field over there has been harvested so it’s all right…’
The horses start sidestepping as they turn away from the road and the open space is in front of them. With a rebel yell Ozzie sets off, followed by the girls whooping. Sunny bucks with excitement, making Taïga almost fall off…
That evening she talks with Granny for a long while, telling her all about the accident yesterday, and what she had wished for… It’s such a relief to lay in Granny’s arms, having her stroke her hair, reassuring her.
‘You mustn’t feel guilty, the accident would have happened anyway… You told me she hit the poor animal… Now you have to get some sleep, or you’ll be too tired to get up and go to school tomorrow morning…’
‘Thank you, Granny.’
‘For being here when I need you. I love you, Granny. More than I ever loved even my mom…’
Granny kisses her on the forehead, ‘And I love you, my darling child. More than you’ll ever know…’
Silently she closes the door behind her…
‘Aren’t you supposed to do your homework?’
‘I am doing it right now.’
‘I have to say you’re not. What kind of homework has kissy pictures in it?’
‘Sprinkler O’Lyin, I am doing my homework, believe it or not. Could you just be a little quiet so I can concentrate?’ Taïga is the only one who can talk to the little leprechaun as a peer without risking his wrath.
‘Well. Go on reading your boring book. I’ll just tell the poor little captive fairy that you don’t care, that you want silence.’
‘Fairy?’ Taïga throws a glance at Sprinkler.
‘Uh-huh. Right in there.’ He points to the little gilded glass encased cage.
She sighs and closes her book. He won’t let her read anyway, better humor the little bugger.
She leans closer and squints. ‘I can’t see anything except green leaves.’
‘That’s because she’s hiding, she’s so frightened she’s crippled with the fear!’
‘Do I scare her? Tell her not to be afraid… How come you can see her.’
‘I can see her because I’m a fairy too!’
Taïga laughs. ‘I thought you were a leprechaun?’
‘I believe you lost me here…’
‘A leprechaun is related to Tuatha De Danaan. We don’t have pixie wings, but we are a branch of the little people. A kind of fairy, you see. Just like your sister!’
‘Aw, sure look it. Of course she’s only an earthling at the base, but she’s earned her wings now. So beautiful… I guess we could say she’s a full-fledged fairy. An adopted full-fledged fairy…’
Taïga stares at the little gnome who pretends he doesn’t notice. He taps softly on the glass cage.
‘My sister is a fairy? My sister?’
‘Err… What part of “Your sister is a fairy” don’t you understand?’
‘But I don’t have a sister.’
‘Who told you that?’
‘Err… Nobody. I… I just know it. I have two half-brothers but no sister.’
Sprinkler looks at her slyly. ‘Not that you know of, you don’t. Your mother died giving birth to her and her twin brother. Frost I believe he’s called, claimed by the demon in payment for his grand-father’s sins… Yes, an evil one he is. There’s evil in Willow too… But the fairies keep it in check.’
Willow. I have a sister named Willow. Taïga starts pacing the study. ‘Where is she? Can I see her?’
‘Of course you can. She’s a fairy, not invisible!’
‘You know perfectly well what I mean! Does Rowan know about her? I have to tell Granny!’
‘Waitwaitwait… I told you a secret. It’s supposed to stay that way! Frost mustn’t find out, or he will kill her to harvest her powers…’
Taïga sits down at Granny’s desk and burrows her head in her hands. ‘OMG. I have a fairy sister who I can’t talk about or it might get her killed…’
‘Brilliant! I think you’ve got the general idea.’
She stares at Sprinkler. ‘Are you sure you’re not tricking me because I told you to be quiet!?!’
Solemnly he meets her gaze. ‘I wouldn’t do such a thing! Now how can we set this little fairy free? The cage is locked with magic, and that’s where you come into the picture…’
Taïga watches the shadows dance on the ceiling…
“The cage is locked with magic.” Sprinkler didn’t lie about that, I could feel it when I touched it. But I couldn’t see the fairy. What if there isn’t one inside? Leprechauns are tricksters, and maybe I’ll set loose something worse than the cowplant… She rolls over onto her stomach. And what about a sister? Could it be true? I would like to talk to Rowan about it, but Sprinkler told me not to tell anyone. Maybe that’s because he’s lying? What if it wasn’t Leonardo who killed mom? What did Sprinkler say now again… “… claimed by the demon in payment for his grand-father’s sins…” Had Leonardo’s father made a pact with a demon? That changes everything about Leonardo… Or does it? And Frost? I knew he was evil… I just hope he doesn’t make any damage before I’m grown up and can take him on… But maybe I already can, I stopped the Grim Reaper from taking Granny, and I stood up to Hekate… Hmm… But I didn’t kill them. Is it even possible that I could kill them? Guess you can’t kill Death, he’s already dead. And could I kill my halfbrother – even if he’s the spawn of a demon?
She finally falls asleep, her dreams haunted by fairies and the tall grey eyed woman she’s grown accustomed to find in her dreams every night…
After a couple of weeks of interesting graphs, they’ve moved on to limits of function, and Taïga loses interest completely. AP Calculus, which seemed to be a piece of cake in the beginning, is now a hard nut to crack. Linn is good at maths and they do their homework together as often they can, but Taïga is starting to fall back.
‘Although the function (sin x)/x is not defined at zero, as x becomes closer and closer to zero, (sin x)/x becomes arbitrarily close to 1. In other words, the limit of (sin x)/x as x approaches zero equals…? Anyone?’
She can’t concentrate on fundamental concepts in calculus, instead she lets her thoughts wander to what Sprinkler told her yesterday about the little fairy… and about a sister…
‘Taïga? Miss Grey?’
Taïga blinks. ‘Err… I’m sorry, I must have missed that.’
Derek Hawes looks at her, ‘Missed that? Linn whispered the answer loud enough for me to hear.’ The students giggle. ‘I’d like to have a word with you after class, Taïga.’
Taïga just nods, cheeks flaring.
‘Now, can you repeat that, Linn?’
Linn looks apologizing at Taïga, ‘I think the limit of (sin x)/x as x approaches zero equals 1…’
Over at the Darer’s…
‘Isn’t this another advantage to being married?’
Missy chirps, ‘Having access to your model at all times for your wonderful art!’
‘Well, stop moving around, or I reckon the ice will melt before I even get a chance to sculpt something decent out of it.’
‘Or indecent,’ Missy giggles and throws off her clothes. ‘Tadaa! Now do your Michelangelo thing!’
‘Who? Did you pose for him – nekkid?’
Missy opens a heavy eyelid and scrutinizes him. ‘I’m not that old.’
Juan revs up the chainsaw, ‘Because if you did, I’ll have a go at him with my lil’ friend here! Ain’t nobody gonna mess on me and call it apple butter!’
‘You’re so passionate, Juan. I wouldn’t dream of posing for anyone else – even Michelangelo!’
‘Good.’ He starts on the ice sculpture, but stops when he comes to her torso. ‘It ain’t possible! Your arms!’
‘What about my arms?’
‘Just let them hang lose… Like the rest of you.’
‘Can I eat something? Posing makes me so hungry…’
Missy looks at Juan’s oeuvre. ‘I guess my breasts hang because the ice is starting to melt. And I think my waist is a tad too thick…’
‘Well, a sculpture is supposed to make a person look good. Can’t you photoshop it a little? Making my booty a little more like Beyonce’s…’
Juan starts to stack away his tools, ‘Jennifer Lopez has the best butt.’
‘You only say so because she’s Latino.’
‘Well, I reckon Latino’s got the best butts!’
‘Oh, no! Black girls have!’
‘Well, if you ain’t covering yours… Shht! I thought I heard a car.’
A car slows down in front of the house and veers onto the gravel path. Missy squeals and hastily gets her clothes back on while Juan quickly rolls back the tree sculpture, crushing the ice sculpture behind it.
‘Who the hell comes calling at this hour?’
Missy peeks out the window, ‘Tarnation! He wasn’t supposed to come so soon!’
‘Who? Michelangelo? How dare he show his ugly face here?’ Juan starts rummaging through his stone cutting tools, ‘Where’s my hammer, woman! That Michael guy is messin’ with the wrong man, I’ll knock him in the head and tell God he died.’
‘Well, he already is, dear. Calm down, I think it’s Mr. Dawson, the social worker.’
‘I’ll explain to you later, dear. He-’
The doorbell chimes and Missy beats Juan to the door.
‘Mr. Dawson! Such a pleasure to see you! But we didn’t expect to hear from you so soon.’
Mr. Dawson shakes her hand, then Juan’s. ‘Congratulations, Sir.’
He holds out a cot towards Juan who demonstratively crosses his arms.
‘I see, maybe your wife should-’
‘Oh, yes! Just give it to me!’ Missy almost pulls the cot out of the social worker’s hands.
‘Err… I think we should just put him here while I give you the paper work… He’s asleep and too much noise and rocking will wake him up.’
‘Of course. Just show me where to sign…’
Juan’s eyes goes warily from the cot to Missy hastily scribbling her signature on a stack of papers, ‘Why does it feel like I’ been caught between a dog and a fire hydrant?’ He mutters to himself.
‘You’ll love him, Juan! Come on, don’t be so grumpy. Just sign the papers.’
Reluctantly, Juan signs the adoption papers, ‘I could have found you one… Molly Merlott still has a couple she needs to place – and they’re free too!’
The social worker looks aghast, ‘I will have to contact this Molly Merlott. Have you got her number? She can’t go around giving away her children without the proper paperwork.’
‘Children? I was talking about her dawg.’ He turns towards his wife. ‘Don’t tell me it’s not a puppy?’ Juan blemishes and points to the cot, ‘So you mean you’ve got yourself a… a… Well, shut my mouth!’
Missy shoos the social worker out the door, ‘You’ll find Molly at Merlott’s bar at all hours if you want to get yourself a nice puppy… Goodbye Mr. Dawson. And thank you!’
Juan paces the room, ‘You ain’t got the sense that God gave a goose! A kid! You ain’t got no idea how much this will cost us; insurance, toys, sports, clothes, food, driving license, college…’
‘Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation, Juan! Look at him… Aww… He’s cute as a box full of puppies!’
‘Puppies, huh? I could have gotten you a puppy. A real one! Could have trained him to chase water birds… Would have been less trouble than a kid.’ He sits on his heels in front of the cot and peeks inside, ‘It’s like throwin’ our money out the win-’
‘What the H-E-double-hockey-stick!?! That takes the cake…’
Part II – End of Chapter 31