Cathy Tea wanted more room. Not for Brennan: they were happy living in separate houses. Not for a double-bed: the thickets suited their wild times just fine.
But she’d run out of room for hanging paintings. She’d always wanted a rooftop garden. And she thought it might be nice to have a launchpad for the rocket ship on the roof, too.
But mostly, she needed room for this.
She had thought she was too old to conceive, but with so much magick filtering into this new world, the old laws seemed to give way.
The first one she wanted to tell was her neighbor Jaclyn. When she thought about it, she realized that Jaclyn had been along on every step of her engagement and marriage to Brennan.
What kind of enchantment was that? She, who’d never wanted to marry, now found herself with a husband, a wishing well man opposite her in nearly every regard.
Jaclyn had been there at each turn.
When she had arrived at Jaclyn’s cottage, a voice had called out, “Come in, Cathy!”
But Cathy entered to find no one at home. The kitchen was empty. There was no one upstairs.
No one was out by the pool.
No one was on the patio. Who had called her?
She was about to leave when she heard Jaclyn’s voice. “I was expecting you,” Jaclyn said as she came in through the front door. “Do you have news?”
“I do have news!” Cathy said. “But I’m guessing you already know.”
Jaclyn laughed. “There is the knowing that we know. And then there is the knowing that we learn. I want to learn what I already know, and I want you to tell me! Something happens when the words are spoken.”
“Besides,” continued Jaclyn, “Won’t it feel good to tell someone?”
They sat together at the table.
“I’m sure you can tell by looking at me,” Cathy said. “It’s not a flu that turns my stomach.”
“Go on!” said Jaclyn. “Say the words!”
“Brennan and I are expecting,” confided Cathy.
“Carrots, turnips, and rutabagas!” Jaclyn shouted. “Pots in the oven and simmer on the stove!”
Jaclyn laughed. “This is wonderful news. This is what it’s all about.”
“But I’ve never really wanted to be a mom,” Cathy confided.
“Sure,” said Jaclyn, “but what does what we really want have to do with our destiny? Not much, when it comes right down to it.”
“That seems a little backwards,” replied Cathy. “Aren’t we the masters of our own destiny?”
“Maybe fools are!” said Jaclyn. “But once you step into rune, something else happens entirely. Did I ever tell you how I came about?”
“Something about a tree and a wedding ceremony?”
“No, no!” laughed Jaclyn. “I was the result of a long debate.”
“For generations–eons, really–elves and hobbits lived peacefully apart. They hadn’t much to do with each other, and they hadn’t much need to change. As a result, elves became more ethereal, and hobbits became more earthy.”
“I can see how that could happen,” Cathy said, “what with elves dining on pollen and nectar, and hobbits squeezing in elevenses after second breakfast and full suppers after dinner!”
“It was all fine when in woods and meadows we were free to roam, with rune in every mushroom and every piece of honeycomb, but when the trees were felled and the fields were plowed, and the world began to shrink, we had no place to go! Elves were too light for nomdish eyes. Hobbits could scramble under branch and briar, but through the years, they’d lost their touch. They were little more than squat nomdish theirselves! So my grandparents and my great uncles and aunts and all the old ones began to plan. They realized it was time for something new! A kind of kin who could carry rune in a form strong enough for this world here! So that’s how I came about!”
“You mean, like a breeding project or genetic engineering?” Cathy asked. “But how unromantic is that!”
“Oh, there was plenty of romance!” said Jaclyn. “You should have seen my ada and ama! They were so in love. When there’s a need, and something rises to fill that need, it is often love that steps into the space.”
Cathy thought about the wishing well and her inexplicable, undeniable love for Brennan.
“Now you stay here for a little while,” Jaclyn said, “while that story sinks in. When you’re tired, sleep in the garden. When you’re hungry, you’ll find food on the table.”
Cathy let Jaclyn’s words settle into her. She grew sleepy and wandered into the garden for a nap among the primroses and holyhocks. When she woke she came into the kitchen, where a warm sandwich waited for her on the table. It smelled like ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, goat’s cheese, and bee pollen.
“There must be magic in this!” Cathy said. It tasted divine.
But after she’d eaten half of it, something started twisting inside of her. Was it just morning sickness again? Or maybe the sandwich wasn’t right.
“Jaclyn!” she called. “I don’t feel so great.”
“It’s fine, Cathy,” Jaclyn called down. “I added sparkroot and flower petals to the sandwich. It makes you feel a little funny for a bit, but not to worry! It’s an old recipe. For transformation!”
Oh, bother and chrysanthemums! It would all turn out all right, wouldn’t it?