It started out small. He’d already developed the habit of speaking to her as if she were there in the flesh, so it made sense that one day he would see her. Not fully, not at first. She was just a hazy figure in the beginning, a shadow or flash of color caught out of the side of his eye.
He would have dreams of her. Mundane things, like her in the kitchen, talking to him about children while presenting him with a wedding cake. He used to be able to tell the difference because everything was dull except her. She was always wearing the wedding dress and she was the brightest thing in the room.
Dre started to think maybe living on the boat was a bad idea. He decided to ignore Tony’s advice and head to Roaring Heights and back to Ariany. It was almost time anyway. Ariany wouldn’t care that he was grieving, she would want him with her for the anniversary of their son’s death.
So he packed his things and said goodbye to Isla Paradiso. He wouldn’t return.
The move did nothing to stop the visions. In fact, they grew worse. He could almost feel her presence by him and some nights he would wake up to soft cries. In those moments between sleep and wakefulness, he would see her, wearing her lilac wedding dress, feet bare, just like in his dreams.
But when he went to check, there would be no one there.
He was being haunted. There was no other way to describe the experience, yet he couldn’t find it within himself to be concerned. If this was her way of staying with him, he would take it.
If he was just going crazy…he didn’t care.
Slowly, without him realizing it, he and Ariany grew – if not close – then comfortable with each other. She tried to show an interest in the things he liked to do, even though he didn’t do the same for her. She asked to be taught to swim. He was so surprised that he agreed before he thought better of it.
So they spent a summer in the water. He caught himself watching her sometimes, when her attention was elsewhere. He’d never fully appreciated how beautiful she was. And given different circumstances, he could have fallen for her.
She was smart and fiercely loyal. But the timing had never been right. First there had been Cinder and then…
A pattern grew. Each summer, they would spend it in the water. Ariany proved a quick study and soon they were snorkeling and scuba diving. She would travel with him when he had diving work to do.
It was a quiet life and he couldn’t complain. They celebrated his 30th birthday with his family. but it was awkward, his family unable to forgive Ariany for tricking him into mating her.
One night, after coming back home from a job with her he knew it was time. A part of him rejected the idea, wanting to hold on but after five years, he had to admit to himself that he could survive without her. She wouldn’t want him to live the way he’d been.
Yes, it was time.
He sat on the couch in his bedroom and looked around. He’d decorated with her in mind. She would love the room with its lilac accents. Sighing he said, “If you can hear me, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me, that I couldn’t be what you needed. That I was too inadequate. But I – I loved you. I will always love you, Maya.”
He started to take off the wedding band that he’d worn for the last eight years, ever since he’d said “I do” on that tiny island to the woman who would change his life forever.
At the last minute, he changed his mind. He belonged to her and if he had to let her go, at least he could keep this small thing. This symbol of their love.
“Yes Emma?” Dre looked down at his niece, still amazed at how much she’d grown. The last time he’d seen her she was only as tall as his knees!
“Can we have some more cake?”
“Sure. But a small slice, okay?”
“Sure, sure.” She gave him a suspicious smile and turned to run out the kitchen. She grabbed her twin by the arm and pulled him – her – behind her.
Dre shook his head at his slip – he needed to remember. Grant had announced the morning he was dropped off that he was to be called Grace. Grace then shuffled through a stack of cards and handed him one with the words, “How to Live with a Transgendered Child.” He’d flipped it over to find an FAQ. Confused, Dre had looked at his brother for clarification.
“It’s a long story but please, it is Grace, okay?” Tony had said, looking both harried and sad.
Dre had nodded. Tony and his husband, Riley, had dropped off their two kids for the week. Franco had passed away and they were headed to the funeral. He’d wanted to say something but it wasn’t any of his business. He could only hope Riley knew what to do.
Of course, his sister had then taken the opportunity to drop off her daughter, Stephanie, as well. She and Matt were going on vacation for her 40th birthday and thought Stephanie would enjoy seeing her cousins.
So his house was a zoo for the next week or so. He didn’t mind it too much. He lived on the East Coast and was hours away from his family, whereas the Falls, Oasis and Beach City were out West.
They were celebrating Halloween a few days early, since the Witch’s Moon fell on the actual day this year. With his nieces just hanging out in the house all day, he thought it would be a great way to relieve the boredom.
After the party started to wind down, he changed back into jeans and a t-shirt to clean up. As he was wiping down the counter, he looked up to see Siobhan standing in the entrance way to the kitchen. She looked pale and drawn.
“Siobhan?” He asked, concerned.
“Andrei,” she said softly. Waving for him to come and help her, they both walked slowly into the living room. He set her down on a couch gently and took a seat on an adjoining sofa.
“What’s going on?” He’d known the Faery all his life. She’d never been too fond of him, probably because he’d been stupid enough to ask her about her missing wings. She’d never forgiven him for bringing that up. He’d been four. Just went to show you…don’t mess with a Fae.
“I have come to…do what I promised,” she rasped.
“Would you like some water?”
“No. I do not have much…time. And I have much…to do.” She coughed and looked at him.
“What do you need, Siobhan?”
“I had to wait…for now. To cast the spell. Witch’s Moon.”
“What spell?” Dre knew about what she’d done for his sister and brother. And a part of him had expected her to do something for him; their late night conversation right after the death of Maya a memory he constantly went back to. But he’d given up hope a long time ago. Now here she was. Could it be?
“You can have…your beloved back. But I need…” She took a deep breath that ended in a hacking cough and Dre was tempted to tell her to stop, to conserve her energy, but that greedy part of him, the part that had never really let go, wanted her to continue. “I need something…from you.”
“You will have to…give up your human soul. You will change at every…full moon, your temper…a constant struggle for you…now. She cannot die…unless she decides but…she will only have…one lifetime. And there will be…no children.” She looked at him askance. “But she will…get to live. Are these…terms acceptable…to you?”
He didn’t even hesitate. “Abso-fucking-lutely!”
Siobhan nodded. “So…be it.”
She held her arm out, asking for help in standing. “Come here…Andrei Heron London.”
Andrei shuffled around until he was standing in front of her. He felt a bit nervous but if this gave him Maya back…
“Wait, what if it’s too late?” He had a sudden moment of panic. Siobhan said nothing. “Sorry, continue.” He would trust her because really, what choice did he have?
“You will feel a slight coldness, as if your lungs are filling with ice. Breathe through it. It will pass.”
He nodded and Siobhan closed her eyes.
She mumbled some words and Dre watched as she began to levitate. He stood there in amazement as she continued her incantation. He suddenly felt cold, from the tips of his fingers to the marrow of his bones and shivered. Symbols appeared in the air between Siobhan and him, snowflake crystals, so clear he could make out each unique pattern.
He breathed out like she told him to and saw his breath fog up. She hadn’t been kidding, he was freezing. Then there was a sharp tug, as if something was being ripped from his body but it was not painful, just uncomfortable. It left an empty feeling behind and he folded his arms, to ward off the chill as well as remind himself that he was still there, still whole.
And then it was over. Siobhan slipped back down to the floor, her hair now covered with much more grey than when they’d started.
“Now it is up to her.” Siobhan whispered before she slid to the floor and passed out.
Two years. It had been two years since Siobhan had visited his home and still, nothing. No Maya, no sightings of her ghost, nothing. If possible, he felt worse than before. At least then he knew there was nothing he could have done to save her. Now, he’d done something and it hadn’t been enough.
Siobhan had slept for three days after her spell and when she’d woken up had lingered for a few more days. She – like him – seemed to be waiting for something to happen. The kids had left, Alistair coming to pick them up and still Siobhan had stayed. When a month passed and Maya didn’t show up, Siobhan left too, telling him to call her if anything out of the ordinary occurred. It hadn’t.
Dre was jogging through town when he heard someone call his name. He slowed down and crossed the street. It was Ariany. She’d moved out about a year ago. They’d had an honest conversation about what this mating was doing to her. He would never love her like she wanted and deserved, no matter how much he tried. His heart was not in it and after Siobhan’s visit, there wasn’t even a remote possibility now. He would wait for Maya until she showed up or he died.
Ariany seemed to accept that and she moved out soon after. They were in a good place and he smiled at her as he stopped at her side. He glanced down and back up, shock dropping the smile from his face.
“Umm, congratulations?” She was pregnant.
Beaming, Ariany said, “Thank you! He’s due in September.”
It wasn’t lost on him the significance of that. Kevin had been born in September too. “Wow, has it been so long that I didn’t even know…?”
She shrugged. “A bit maybe. We’ve both been so busy…”
She was being kind. He hadn’t spoken to her since the morning of her move. Shaking his head, he leaned in to give her a hug. “Well, congrats again. I’m very happy for you.”
She rubbed her belly. “Yes, well, we were caught off guard by this little guy but I am thrilled.”
Dre listened to her talk about her pregnancy for a bit and noticed that she was shifting from foot to foot. “Would you like to grab a bite to eat and maybe get off your feet?” He pointed to the Bistro they were standing in front of.
“That would be fantastic,” she said, chuckling.
As they walked inside, Ariany said, “He moves so much, I think he’s going to be an active baby. Maybe a runner or swimmer, like you.”
Dre laughed. “If that’s the case, send him my way when he gets older. I can always use a First Mate, none of my nieces seem interested.”
He heard a soft gasp and turned his head sharply. It was such a tiny sound he wasn’t sure how he’d even heard it in din of the place.
But he had. And just like that, Ariany, their conversation and the rest of world just fell away.
It was her.
A/N: So this was supposed to be the epilogue but it got so long (10k words) that I just gave up and decided to break it to chapters. There are three more to come. Dre always seems to do this to me. First nothing and its like pulling teeth, then the flood gates open and he won’t quit! I imagine the next chapters will be published rapidly. Expect another tomorrow.