Authors: Amy Reece
“There you are,” Rémy said. “Feeling better?” He was surprisingly understanding about my frustrations, often advising his grandmother not to push me too hard.
“Yeah, I guess.” I blew out a breath. “Where’s Kate?” I asked, looking around.
“She went upstairs to take a nap,” Mina answered.
“Is she okay?” I asked Rémy, worried about Kate’s health; she was an old lady, after all.
“She’s fine, chérie. She’s just feeling her age, although she would never admit to it. Why don’t we take advantage of this extra time and go to Les Andelys for the rest of the day? It’s only 40 or so kilometers from here. We could take a picnic.”
“Really? I would love to get out of here for a while.” I was desperate for a break from all the stress. I looked at Mina hopefully.
“I would love to go,” she said quietly.
“Then it is settled. I’ll get the kitchen staff to pack a lunch while you two go do whatever it is that takes girls so long to get ready.” Rémy said the last part as he exited the room.
We had a wonderful afternoon climbing to the top of a steep hill and exploring the ruins of the Chateau Gaillard, a castle built in the twelfth century by Richard the Lionheart, then eating a delicious lunch while resting in the shade. After we ate, we headed down the hill toward the picturesque town of Les Andelys where Rémy let Mina and me shop to our heart’s content along the Promenade des Pres and admire the half-timbered houses on the Rue de Remparts. I took lots of photos of everything, but for some reason I especially fell in love with the Church of St. Saviour, with its flying buttresses and tall spire. Maybe I loved it because it was a cool, calm respite in the midst of a stressful period in my life. I could have stayed all day. I wandered around looking at the dozens of beautiful statues staged throughout the sanctuary until Rémy and Mina dragged me away, claiming they were dying of thirst. We had cake and cidre (Rémy had a beer) at the Fort de Thé, a lovely teashop we spotted in town.
“Mina, you mentioned you don’t have family or friends to return to in Ireland. What did you mean?” I was curious about this quiet addition to our group and she had been frustratingly tight-lipped about any personal details. “Is it a deep, dark secret or something?”
She smiled softly. “No, of course not. It’s simply not very interesting. My parents died three years ago, as I was finishing secondary school. I didn’t have any relatives to rely on so I had to quit school and get a job. I found work in a small dress shop in Galway, which is where Fionnuala found me. When I accidentally touched her hand she sensed my power and, well, here I am, I guess.” She shrugged and picked up her glass of cidre, but found it empty and set it back on the table awkwardly. Rémy motioned the waiter to bring another round.
“So, are you really okay about coming with us to the U.S.? What about your friends? You don’t have anyone special back home?” I found it hard to believe that someone so beautiful didn’t have a guy in her life.
She shrugged again. “I work a lot. I don’t have much time for friends. What little free time I have I like to spend in my apartment with my cat.” She bit her lip as she said the last part and I got a horrible feeling.
“Mina, what happened to your cat?”
“I gave her away,” she whispered miserably. “I didn’t know when or even if I would be going back.”
“God, Mina, that’s awful!” I clasped her hand and squeezed. I would never give Wicky away for stupid Seer crap! A girl’s bond with her cat should be sacred! Rémy rolled his eyes as he read my thoughts, but when the waiter delivered the new round of drinks he put the beer in front of Mina, taking the cidre for himself, obviously feeling she needed something stronger. “What are you going to do in the U.S.? I mean, are you going to work? Or do you want to go to school? Where are you going to live?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Fionnuala said not to worry, that we would work it all out, but I can’t help it. I guess I will need to find a job, but—”
“But what? What do you really want to do?” I pressed.
She shrugged yet again, as if her desires were not important. “I excelled at computers in school. At the dress shop, I created a website—a simple one, for sure—but I liked it. I had thought maybe I would try to get some computer training. I managed to get my Leaving Cert last year so I thought maybe—”
At my confused look Rémy spoke up. “A Leaving Certificate is similar to a high school diploma or a G.E.D. Mina, I’m sure we can make that happen if that’s what you would like. There should be
beneficial in all this for you.” He forced her to meet his eyes and they stared at each other for a long moment. I started to feel like a third wheel when they finally looked away and Rémy signaled for the check.
We ended our perfect afternoon with a dusk walk along the Seine before heading back to Rouen.
three of them are desperate.
Their great guilt,
Like poison given to work a great time after,
Now ’gins to bite their spirits. I do beseech you
That are of suppler joints, follow them swiftly,
And hinder them from what this ecstasy
May now provoke them to.”
Fionnuala broke the news over dinner: it was expected—no demanded—that we spend several weeks in Ireland with the Seer Council before returning to the U.S. I can’t say I was terribly surprised, so I just sighed and made it clear that I would be home before the beginning of August, when Jack was due back from basic training. Nothing in this world would keep me from being at the airport to welcome him home. Absolutely. Nothing.
Rémy also remained stoic about our upcoming trip. “It is to be expected, chérie. Your Seer Council wants equal time with the chosen ones.”
I saw Mina smile into her water glass, but I took exception to everything he said. “It is not my Seer Council! We are not the chosen ones! And why is it that you never call Mina ‘chérie’?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it bothered you so much.” He held his hands up in surrender. “In the future, I will be sure to not call you anything nice. Perhaps you would prefer if I called you—”
“Rémy! Ally! Stop your infernal bickering!” Kate banged her hands on the table, rattling the china. “You are giving me a headache.” She pinched the bridge of her nose.
“Sorry, Grand-mère,” Rémy said contritely.
“Sorry, Kate,” I echoed.
“Now, Ally, I’m afraid Rémy is correct: the Seer Council does view you three as the chosen ones. So do we, for that matter. The prophecy is clear about that, at least. The three of you have been chosen to usher in this new age of Seers. We are all trying to figure out what this will mean. I’m sorry. I know it is not what you want to hear.”
“I never wanted any of this! Why would the prophecy choose me to be the Oracle? I’m going to be the worst Oracle ever!” I whined.
Rémy got up, came over to my chair and pulled me up into his arms. “Shh, chérie.” We both laughed at his unconscious use of the endearment I despised. “You are going to be a great Oracle. I’m going to make sure of it.” We might fight like cats and dogs, but he was always there for me. I hugged him back and felt slightly better.
We left two days later. We flew from Paris to Shannon, Ireland, approximately 85 kilometers from Galway. We rented a car and Fionnuala kept up a running monologue the entire way, telling us we would be staying with her a short distance from Galway. Long car rides always made me sleepy, so although I tried to stay awake so as not to seem rude, I eventually gave up and fell asleep on Rémy’s shoulder. I didn’t wake up until we were pulling into the circular driveway of a lovely gray stone house surrounded by a wild-looking garden, huge trees, and rocky fields. It wasn’t nearly as large as Rémy’s palatial estate, but it had an untamed charm that appealed to me. “This is your house, Fionnuala? It’s gorgeous!” I enthused.
“Oh, thank you, Ally. My husband and I bought it after the birth of our first son. I hope you young people will enjoy your stay here. I’ve always loved living here.”
I tried to wrap my mind around the fact that there was a Mr. Fionnuala, much less little Fionnualas and didn’t reply. Rémy snickered as he read this last thought, but said, “Thank you. I’m sure we will be very happy for our short visit.”
“I don’t understand why you are in such a hurry to get back to the United States. I really think we deserve the same amount of time you gave to the French Council. It’s only fair,” she said huffily.
“Fionnuala—” I warned. “We have talked about this. Two weeks is plenty of time. Stop bugging us to stay longer!”
“Fine, fine,” she mumbled. I noticed Mina smiling to herself during the exchange. She didn’t say much, but she noticed everything.
We unloaded our luggage and followed Fionnuala into her house. She showed Rémy to a bedroom at the top of the stairs and then took Mina and me to the bedroom across the hall, which we would share. It was different than the luxury I had experienced in Rouen, but I actually felt more comfortable; it was much more like my real life. Fionnuala told us to unpack and make ourselves at home until dinner, so I heaved my giant suitcase on my bed and flopped next to it, not wanting to face the chore of unpacking yet. Mina, of course, had already opened hers and begun unloading piles of clothing. Ugh! Why did she have to be so industrious and perfect?
“Mina! Stop working. Let’s explore!” I begged. “We’ve been cooped up in a plane and a car all day! Come on!”
She smiled slightly. “Give me ten minutes. I want to unpack first.”
I threw myself back on the bed, blowing a breath out. “Whatever.”
Rémy poked his head in the door. “Come on, you two. Let’s get some fresh air while we have a look around the grounds.”
I hopped up eagerly. “I’m ready, but Mina is being a busy little worker bee. Make her stop, Rémy.”
He chuckled at my childishness. “I can’t make her do anything, chérie. Why don’t we let her join us when she is ready? Maybe she needs a few moments to herself without your constant chattering.”
“Hey!” I punched him lightly on his arm. “Don’t be mean. All right, let’s go. Mina, see you at dinner, okay?” She simply nodded. I waited until we were outside to ask, “Is it just me, or is she the most reserved person you’ve ever met? She barely talks!”
“And you never stop, so you should be great friends.”
“Nice, Rémy. Thanks a lot.”
He laughed. “I’m kidding. Mostly. But I agree: she is very reserved. It may be difficult to get to know her well, but we must try, nevertheless. She is bound to us somehow. I don’t understand it any more than you.”
“She’s really pretty—” I let it hang out there, waiting for him to respond.
He rolled his eyes. “We are not having that conversation. I’ve told you before I don’t need your help finding dates. Besides,” he put his arm around my neck and pulled me to him, mussing my hair in a horrible big-brother way, “if you’re the Oracle and I’m the Shield, then that would make her the Heart of the Oracle. You think she’s pretty, so—”
“So, I’m supposed to dump Jack in favor of Mina? Wow, if only I were a lesbian. Sorry, but the prophecy is whacked in that regard. And you may not want to have the conversation, but you can’t deny the chemistry between you and Mina.” I ducked out from under his arm and tried to straighten my hair.
“You are imagining things, chérie. I’m a man.” He shrugged. “I look the same way at any beautiful girl.”
“Aha! So you admit she’s beautiful!” I exclaimed triumphantly.
“I never thought to deny it. Mina is very beautiful. So are you, for that matter. Why did you dislike her when we first met her?”
Crap. It was really inconvenient to have him in my mind whenever he wanted. I still wasn’t very good at keeping him out. “Oh, I don’t know. She shows up all of sudden and I’m supposed to instantly like her?”
“You were jealous, maybe? You have no reason to be jealous of her looks, but perhaps you are jealous of her power?”
“God, it’s hard to be mad at you when you insult and compliment me in the same sentence.” He smirked as I continued. “What is her power, anyway? Fionnuala says she’s as powerful as me, but I haven’t seen anything at all. Have you?”
He shook his head and stared out over the rugged landscape surrounding the house. “No. I sensed great power in her when we touched for the first time, but I still don’t have any idea what it is. Hopefully we can find out while we are here in Ireland.”
I looked around to make sure we were alone. “Do you trust her? Should we trust her?”
He shrugged again. “I don’t know. Time will tell.”
“I hope we can. I feel bad about not liking her in the beginning. She seems so sad sometimes. I guess I would be too, if I’d been through everything she has.”
“You’re too nice sometimes, Ally. You really can’t handle not liking someone, can you?” He put his arm back around my neck and pulled me close.
“No! I was perfectly happy not liking Veronica,” I objected.
“No you weren’t. You forget I’m in your head, chérie. Let’s go back to the house. It’s getting late and I’m starving. Irish food! God help us all.”
“Cheer up. We’ll be back in the U.S. soon and you can have all the cheeseburgers you want. Hey, I haven’t had a chance to ask if you’re okay with babysitting me again. What are you going to do for school? I feel selfish about insisting we go back to the U.S., but—”
“Don’t worry about me. You are the Oracle and therefore must be taken care of. It’s my job and I’m happy to do it. Besides, I finished my undergraduate degree a few weeks ago and Grand-mère is working on getting me into your University of New Mexico for an MBA program. She is rather good at pulling strings, so I should be well occupied this fall.”
“Rémy, you graduated from college? Why didn’t you tell me? That’s great! Why didn’t we go to your graduation ceremony? Why didn’t we have a party at least?”
“Don’t fuss, Ally. It is not the big deal you are making it,” he said dismissively.
“Your accomplishments are a big deal. They are to me, at least. I’m proud of you, Rémy.”
“Thank you, Ally. You are sweet.” He seemed determined to downplay his achievements.
“Hey.” I stopped and turned to face him, looking up into his handsome face. “Don’t let all this Oracle crap totally mess up your future. You are important, too, Rémy. It can’t be all about me. Please,” I begged. “You and Mina can’t put your lives on hold so I can carry on like normal. We have to figure something out! We can’t let the older Seers just push us around!” I started to get worked up.
“Okay, calm down, chérie.” He pulled me into his arms, rubbing my back with his warm hands. “We will figure this out, I promise. Don’t worry about Mina and me right now. For myself, I am happy to return to the U.S. where I have the opportunity to study in an American university. I will make sure Mina has the chance to study computers if that is what she wants. We will be fine. Besides, I liked my friends in Albuquerque. I was happy there. So, don’t worry so much.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” I promised. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”
“Life rarely is.”
“So, are you going to date Veronica when we get back? You two seemed pretty cozy at Tara’s party.”
He smiled and let me go, continuing our walk toward the house. “Always so interested in my love life, chérie. We can’t all be like you and Jack, you know, finding the love of our lives so young. Veronica and I were never serious. Besides, she is going to university in California. Hadn’t you heard?”
“What? God, I’m always the last to hear anything!”
“Yes. She wants to get a fresh start where people don’t know her history. I can’t say I blame her,” he mused.
“Yeah, me neither. I just wish I had known, I guess. Well, good for her. Okay, so you are fine with living in Albuquerque again. I just hope Mina likes it.”
was an enjoyable affair. Fionnuala’s husband, who had prepared the meal, devoted himself to drawing out each of his dinner guests, seeming to take Mina’s lack of involvement as a personal challenge. By the time dessert was served, she was laughing quietly and teasing back. It was nice to see there was a personality there if one cared to dig deep enough to access it.
“Jon, you’ve done it again. This was a wonderful meal. Thank you, darling,” said Fionnuala. He had prepared some sort of smoked salmon dish that the others seemed to enjoy and had thoughtfully presented me with a roasted vegetable tart. Dessert was a decadent lemon mousse that I would probably dream about. We all added our thanks for the delicious meal. “Jon was a chef for many years before retiring. He now writes a foodie blog and has several cookbooks published.”
Jon smiled modestly and said, “I’ve been very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time when New Irish cuisine appeared on the scene. Not what you expected, eh, Monsieur Giles?”
Rémy had the grace to appear somewhat abashed. “No, not at all. I fear I am something of a food snob. I hope it is my worst failing.”
“It’s definitely not. I can think of several others that are much worse,” I piped in. The others chuckled.
“Anyway, my faults aside, it was a delicious meal. And I wholeheartedly approve of this Irish stout,” he said as he raised his glass of dark beer in a toast. “To our hosts, Fionnuala and Jon. My thanks for your splendid hospitality.” We all raised our glasses. I had opted for water instead of beer, not out of prudishness, but because I found beer disgusting. The only beer I had ever had tasted like cat pee. Well, what I imagine cat pee would taste like.
“The rest of the Seer Council will arrive tomorrow,” Fionnuala said. “We will have a busy two weeks, so I suggest you all get rested up tonight.”