Authors: Amy Reece
“But what does it mean?” Bridget asked. “What is the purpose?”
Nobody had an answer for her.
rest of our visit was fairly uneventful; we trained, explored, ate, slept, and trained some more. We managed to keep our direct lines to each other’s minds a secret from the Seer Council and thus felt like we had accomplished something, no matter how small. I tried to get to know Mina and felt like our friendship had progressed to the slightly-better-than-acquaintances stage. We weren’t besties or anything yet, and I still wondered what secrets she kept from us. Or me. I got the distinct feeling Rémy knew what she kept from me, but when I asked him, all I got was “Leave it alone, chérie. Everyone deserves their privacy.”
“But how can we trust her? She just appeared out of nowhere!”
“So did I, if you remember. You trust me, don’t you?” he pointed out.
“Well, yes, but—”
“Just give her time, Ally. I have a feeling she really needs a friend right now.”
Aw, crap. Way to make me feel guilty. Thanks a lot, Rémy! “Fine, fine,” I muttered. “I’ll work on it. No need to pour on more recriminations.”
He laughed and hugged me to his side. “Your vocabulary never ceases to amaze me. Do you read the dictionary for fun?”
“No, but I do read a classic every now and then. You should try it, you know. Broaden your horizons beyond the
Wall Street Journal
, read something with an actual plot.”
“No thank you. I have no need to read about make believe worlds. That’s what movies are for.”
“God, Rémy!” I rolled my eyes. “You are such a Neanderthal! I thought the French were supposed to be cultured and into art and literature.”
“I don’t know where you get your misinformation, chérie. You cannot simply categorize people by their country of origin. If so, I could say that all Americans like football and chicken wings. As far as I know, you like neither.”
“All right, smart ass! Let’s go see if Mina wants to drive into Galway for the evening. I desperately need to get away from the senior citizen reunion for a while.”
“I’m going to remind you of that comment in about sixty years. But I agree: it would be good to get away for a while,” he said.
Although the council tried to get us to stay for a few more weeks, I put my foot down. Two weeks to the day after we had arrived, Fionnuala drove Rémy, Mina, and me to the airport in Dublin. I hugged her and promised to take good care of Mina and then we made our way through security and on to our gate. I was soon relaxing in my first-class seat—Rémy never flew coach—sipping orange juice and planning the epic nap I would take on the overseas flight. In a little over seven hours we would land in New York and it was my fondest dream to sleep through at least six of those. The dream died when Rémy plopped next to me and insisted on discussing our plans for getting Mina set up in Albuquerque and making sure she felt comfortable.
“I have made a few inquiries about web design training programs and feel certain I can get her accepted into a good one. My apartment complex is sure to have an opening soon and she can stay in my guest room until then.”
“Well, that does sound cozy, but I’ve already asked her to stay with me at Gram’s house. If she and Tara get along we might consider getting a three bedroom apartment to share.” Was I imagining the disappointment on his face?
“Oh. Well, yes, that is probably a better idea,” he sputtered a bit, but then regrouped. “I’ll help you all find an apartment, perhaps in my complex.”
“Right!” I said, laughing. “As if we could afford that! No, we will find a cheap place by the university. What?” I asked at his confused look.
“It’s nothing. I just thought you and Jack might—”
“You thought Jack and I were going to move in together? You don’t know him very well. He is not the type to shack up with a girl. Anyway, he’s moving in with Mat as soon as he gets back from boot camp.”
“I didn’t know living with a girl required a type. So, you’ll have two roommates and Jack will have one. Won’t that make…things…awkward?”
“Wow, Rémy. Are you really asking me about my sex life?” Or lack thereof, but that was nobody’s business but my own.
“Just idle curiosity, chérie.”
“I’m sure we’ll manage.” I sniffed and pointedly looked out the window. I swear I could feel him smirking behind my back.
“Hey.” He pulled my shoulder back gently. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”
I turned back around, but stared straight ahead. “You’re right. It’s not.”
He put his hand over mine. “Ally, chérie. It’s okay. There’s no shame in it. It is actually very sweet. It’s not something you should rush into. Jack better not be pushing you,” he warned.
“Ha!” I laughed. “Not at all. He’s the one holding back.” I couldn’t meet his eyes.
“Ally.” He rolled his eyes. “Don’t even think it! Of course he wants you. He’s a man. He will always want you. He apparently has a great amount of respect for you, not to mention restraint.” He chuckled a bit.
“I know. It’s just that—”
“What? Go ahead—ask,” he offered.
I was silent for a long moment. “So, it’s okay? I mean, that we don’t—”
“Of course it’s okay, chérie. You are very young. It will be all the more special for not rushing it. If you and Jack are meant to be together, it will happen when the time is right.”
“But he’s already—” I couldn’t say it.
“Of course he has. But he is in love with you and you’re special. You are worth waiting for. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.”
I gave him a half-hearted smile. “Thanks, Rémy. So, have you—?”
He rolled his eyes again and laughed. “I’m 22, chérie. Yes, of course I have. But there has never been anyone special, anyone worth waiting for.”
“Okay. Let’s change the subject. Or better yet, let me get on with my nap.”
He did, moving back to sit by Mina for the remainder of the flight, leaving me to catch up on some missed sleep. Both he and Mina slept on the connecting flight from New York to Albuquerque, which gave me a chance to read and write a letter to Jack. I started to get antsy about an hour from landing, eager to see Grams, Mom, and Brian, all of whom had said they would be at the airport to meet me.
We finally landed, gathered our belongings, and made our way off the plane, through the deserted airport, past the secure area, and there was my family. I reached Grams first, throwing myself in her arms.
“I missed you so much!” I pulled back. “How long am I grounded?” I knew I wouldn’t be completely off the hook for sneaking away to Paris without telling anyone.
“At least a year. Or maybe a week,” she said through her tears. “I missed you too. The house was too quiet. Wicky has gotten fat.”
“My turn, Mother.” My mom nearly yanked me out of my grandmother’s arms. It was difficult to hug her with her hugely pregnant tummy. “Oh, Ally!” I could feel her tears on my neck; mine were flowing freely, as well. “Don’t ever do that to us again! We were worried sick!”
“I know. I’m really sorry. Rémy and I thought it was best. I’ll explain more later,” I said quietly. “Mom! You are huge!” I rubbed my hand on her swollen belly. “Hello, baby! It’s your big sister, Ally.”
“Thanks a lot! I feel enormous and fat.”
“You are gorgeous, Mom. You’re supposed to be huge. You’re about to have a baby. How are you feeling? Are you getting enough rest?” I held her at arm’s length and looked carefully at her face. She looked tired and her face was swollen with late-term pregnancy, but she glowed with happiness.
“She’s not resting as much as she should. She’s nesting, apparently. It’s good to see you, Ally.” Brian, my new stepfather, gave me a quick hug.
“I’m not nesting!” my mother exclaimed. “It’s too early for that since I’m not due until early September. I won’t start nesting until late August. I’m just trying to get Brian’s former bachelor pad in order.”
“It’s good to see you too, Brian. How was the honeymoon?” I asked as I stepped away.
“Great, very relaxing. You definitely need to go to Hawaii sometime. How was France and Ireland?”
“What little I saw of each was fine. It wasn’t really a sightseeing tour. You all remember Rémy? And this is Mina. She’s from Galway and she’ll be staying with Grams and me for a while.” I pulled both of them forward to greet my family. I had already talked to Grams about Mina staying with us; I didn’t think it would be a good idea to spring a houseguest on her unexpectedly. She had converted my mom’s bedroom into a guest room over the last few weeks so Mina would have her own room for as long as she stayed with us. I wondered how long that would be.
my false brother
Awakened an evil nature, and my trust,
Like a good parent, did beget of him
A falsehood in its contrary as great
As my trust was, which had indeed no limit,
A confidence sans bound…”
We all met at Grams’ house for what I thought was an impromptu welcome home dinner. I was disabused of the impromptu aspect of this notion when we walked in and I smelled ambrosia of the gods, i.e. enchiladas. I had been away from New Mexican food for over six weeks and seriously needed a chile fix. Since neither my mother nor grandmother had ever made enchiladas, it could only mean one thing: Trina was here, a fact substantiated when Megan ran out of the kitchen and threw herself in my arms, squealing, “Ally!”
“Hey, squirt! Oh my gosh, I missed you!” I hugged her tightly as Trina came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. I let go of Megan to hug Jack’s aunt.
“I’m glad you’re back, mija.” She enfolded me in her warm arms and I inhaled the scent of her perfume mixed with cooking smells; it comforted me, almost like I was hugging Jack. Yeah, weird, I know. I hadn’t seen him in so long I was getting loopy.
“Trina, you didn’t have to cook for me. But I’m really glad you did. I haven’t had a decent meal in weeks! They do not know how to cook over there!”
“I provided you with the finest French cuisine, chérie! I do, however, agree with you about the food in Ireland,” Rémy teased.
“Hey!” Mina interjected.
“I don’t mean to be ungrateful,” I said, “but I have missed New Mexican food. Mina, you will see why when you taste Trina’s enchiladas. Rémy, of course, doesn’t appreciate chile. I hope your tastes are more sophisticated.”
We were just settling down to eat when Tara and Mat came in. I abandoned my plate of green chile cheese enchiladas for the moment as I hugged my best friend, rocking back and forth.
“You are not allowed to leave for this long anymore!” she said, sniffing. “I nearly went crazy with only Mat for company!”
I met Mat’s eyes over her shoulder and rolled my eyes. Tara could be a bit melodramatic.
“Okay, babe. Let Ally get back to her food before it gets cold. Let’s get you a plate. I bet you haven’t eaten all day.” He pulled her away and steered her toward a seat. It was sweet to see him taking care of her. It had taken them a long time to start dating, but they were so good together.
Later, we relaxed in the living room with coffee and Trina’s special natillas, a delicious custard made with flour, eggs, milk, and cinnamon. Mina seemed to enjoy the meal, gamely trying some of everything, while Rémy merely tasted enough to not be completely rude. He had never acclimated to New Mexican food.
“Ally, I’m so sorry I wasn’t at the airport,” Tara said. “My boss wouldn’t let me off early, stingy bas—”
“Tara!” I gestured toward Megan.
“Oops! Sorry, Megan. Don’t copy my horrible language, okay?” Tara apologized.
“That’s okay,” Megan said. “Jack says way worse words than that.” We all tried not to laugh.
“How’s the new job going?” I asked Tara. She had begun waiting tables at a local Italian restaurant a few weeks ago and said she could get me a job, as well. I needed to get some cash if we had any prayer of renting an apartment.
“It’s all right, but I now hate lasagna. And spaghetti. And pretty much every other Italian food on the planet.”
“Yeah, but I love the leftovers she brings home. I hardly ever have to cook.” Mat laughed. He had moved out of Trina and Manny’s house several months ago; Jack would be moving in with him soon after he returned from boot camp.
It surprised and pleased me to see Mina and Tara hit it off; I could never be sure what my somewhat volatile best friend would decide from minute to minute, but she and Mina as friends would make everything so much easier. They sat on the couch, getting to know one another, while I helped Grams with the dishes. We absolutely refused to let Trina help since she had slaved all afternoon and it was painful to watch my mom waddle around the kitchen, so we sent her out after a few minutes and ordered her to put her feet up.
Grams washed and I dried, and, as expected, the interrogation started along with the suds. “So, are you going to tell me why you and that French boy in there found it necessary to sneak off to France? I didn’t know we kept secrets from each other,” she said carefully.
“Grams, I’m sorry, but we did think it was necessary. I needed to meet Rémy’s grandmother, and once the Seer Council got hold of me they were unlikely to let me go. The two councils don’t get along. Rémy, Mina, and I have some seriously hard work ahead of us to get them to cooperate.”
“So, you think it is your job to do that?”
“I do,” I said firmly. “Kate’s latest prophecy makes me think that’s the least of what the three of us have to do. I just have no idea how we’re supposed to actually do any of it.” I gave her a rundown of the rest of our stay while we finished the dishes.
She dried her hands and pulled me close. “You’re growing up so fast, Ally. I’m not happy that you disappeared without a word, but I guess I do understand. But please, please don’t do that again. I’ll try to understand, but I need you to tell me where you’re going. Please, Ally? I was so scared when I didn’t know where you were.”
“Yeah, Grams. I promise. I’m so sorry.”
“All right. Enough of this sappy stuff. You’re not grounded. I guess you’re getting too old for that, anyway. So, you and Tara are really going to move into an apartment together?”
“That’s what we’re planning,” I agreed, watching to see how she reacted. “And Mina too, maybe. She and Tara seem to be getting along, so it might be a possibility.”
She sighed and started wiping down the counters. “This all happened so fast. I’m not ready for you to be grown and on your own, I guess. It’s going to be awfully quiet around here without you. First your mother and now you. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself.”
I tried hard not to let myself laugh out loud at the thought of my grandmother sitting around, pining for my mom and me. The chances of her even noticing we weren’t around were fairly slim because of her ever-increasing popularity at the senior center. She rarely spent a weeknight home, much less a Friday or Saturday. “Oh, Grams.” I hugged her from behind. “I’ll come over lots. I’ll need to do laundry and raid the pantry, you know.”
My own bed and pillow had never felt so amazing and I slept like the dead, but woke up at 7:00 a.m., unable to get back to sleep. The smell of coffee lured me to the kitchen, where I found my mom waiting for me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, surprised to see her this early. “Are you already fed up with Brian?” When she didn’t even chuckle, I knew something was up. “Aww, crap. What is it? Who died?”
“Oh, sweetheart. It’s not that bad. But I do need to talk to you alone for a few minutes.” She seemed nervous and unable to meet my eyes.
“O—kay,” I drew out the syllables. “Shoot.”
“Ally, honey, I need to, umm, I want to—shit.” She stood up and began pacing.
I could count on one hand the number of times I had heard my mother use foul language. I wouldn’t even need all my fingers. This was not good. I remained silent, waiting for her to finally tell me what was on her mind.
She took a huge breath and turned around to face me. “Okay. Ally, I need to tell you some things about your father.”
“Excuse me?” Why on earth would she need to tell me about my father? “He didn’t want anything to do with me. He deserted you, so why do I need to know about him?”
She pulled a chair up next to mine and clasped my hands between hers. “Sweetheart, that’s not exactly what happened.”
“Wait, what? What exactly did happen? Why are you just telling me now?”
“Shh, sweetie. Please, just listen, okay? This is really hard for me. I’ve been telling the lie for so long I think I started to believe it.”
What. The. Hell?
, what are you talking about? My father was someone you hooked up with at a frat party your freshman year of college. That’s what you’ve always told me.”
“I know. I’m so sorry. It was easier,” she whispered.
“Easier for who?” My voice escalated to a near yell.
She winced and placed a hand on her burgeoning belly. “Please, Ally. Please calm down. I’ll tell you if you’ll calm down.”
I immediately felt guilty and reached forward to cover her hand. “I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t want to upset you. Okay. I’m listening. I promise to be calm. You just surprised me. That’s all.”
“I know. I never expected this. Ally, I have not been truthful about your father. It wasn’t a drunken hookup at a frat party. It was my college boyfriend. My first boyfriend. We got way too serious way too soon and you were the result. I found out I was pregnant and I got scared and left. I never told him. He never knew about the pregnancy. He never knew he had a daughter.”
“And you are telling me this now because—?” I wondered where on earth this was going.
She sighed. “Because he saw the media coverage of the Ashley Hayes trial. He recognized me. And he recognized you. Apparently you resemble his grandmother to a startling degree. He wants to meet you, Ally.”
Now I stood up to pace. “Let me get this straight. You have been lying to me about my father all these years. You never told your boyfriend that he got you pregnant. What about Grams? Did she know?” Mom shook her head, tears streaming down her face. “Oh, Mom! Why? Why didn’t you tell anyone? Why the crazy frat boy story?”
“I don’t know! I was scared and I just had to get away! I ran home and I never told Josh about the baby. I didn’t want to ruin his life. He had a great future ahead of him and I didn’t want to trap him with a baby.”
Her unreasonable fear of telling Brian about this current baby suddenly made a whole lot more sense. I wanted to be mad at her, and I was—at least I think I was—but I also felt sorry for her. Grams had told me how much my grandfather’s untimely death had messed Mom up, but apparently she had no idea how much. “So, he wants to meet me? What’s he like? His name is Josh? I don’t know if I’m ready to meet him. I think I need a few weeks to think about it.”
“His name is Josh Harrison, and yes, he wants to meet you. He’s a nice guy, Ally. He always was. I just wasn’t ready for him at that point in my life. And you don’t have a few weeks to think about it because he’ll be here in an hour.”
“What? No! I should have a say in this! I can’t believe you expect me to meet him like this! In an hour?”
“I know, sweetie. I’m so sorry, but please do this. He’s been here in Albuquerque for three weeks, waiting for you to get back. He’s desperate to meet you. Please.”
“Shit!” The curse burst out and, for once, my mother let it slide. “I can’t believe this! He’s coming here?” She nodded miserably. “Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll meet him.” I looked at my mother, slumped in her seat, and again felt sorry for her. I knelt in front of her and took her hands. “Mom. Why did you keep this secret for so long? You could have told us. What about him? He never knew he had a daughter all these years. He must be pretty mad at you.”
“Beyond furious. He’s consulted a lawyer about his paternity rights.”
“What? I’m almost 18. He’s going to, what, sue you for custody or something? That seems ridiculous!”
“I know, but he has every right to be angry. I should have told him. I’m so ashamed of myself, Ally. You have every right to be angry too.” She started crying in earnest.
I pulled her up and into my arms. “Shh, Mom. It’ll be okay.” She sobbed harder. “We’ll figure this out, don’t worry. Yeah, I’m mad. And completely shocked. But we’ll figure it out, okay? I’ll meet him and we’ll see where it goes from there. After he meets me he’ll probably be glad he didn’t have to raise me.” She laughed through her tears and pulled away. I gave her a wry smile and handed her several tissues. “All right. Pull yourself together and get out of here. I need to get a shower so I don’t meet my long-lost father looking like a street kid.”
“You don’t want me to stay?”
I shook my head. “Not really. I think I should meet him alone. I mean, you’re not worried about my safety or anything, are you?”
“No, of course not!” she scoffed. “Josh is perfectly safe. He was always sweet and gentle. I can’t imagine he’s changed that much. But I will keep my phone with me in case you need me for emotional support or whatever. I’ll stay close, okay?”
“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.” I ushered her out and then raced upstairs to get cleaned up, only to run smack into Mina and Rémy in the hallway.
“Ally, are you okay?” Rémy grabbed my arms and stared intently into my face.
“Yes, I’m fine. Why are you here? How did you get in? What’s going on?”