Day One Hundred and Fifty-two: My Summer Vacation
The elves were singing so loud that Treva had to turn up her iPod and pick something metal to listen to. She sat in the shade of a great tree that was thousands of years old, whose branches blocked a sky that was the blue of old sapphires, and she tapped out a text message on her phone. She wouldn’t be able to send it, of course – there was never any reception in this place, but it was the only thing that made her feel even close to normal. She was lucky the thing even worked. The year before she’d just brought a bunch of books and sat under the tree by the stream and read until the pixies left her alone.
That reminded her – she reached back into the hood of her sweatshirt and fished around until she found the one that had decided to huddle in there. She assumed it was yelling something at her – the thing was waving its little arms and its wings were buzzing, but she couldn’t hear a damn thing. Which was the whole point, really. She flung the pixie off into the bushes and went back to her phone. The tree sighed behind her – she could feel its trunk expand slowly, and she was pretty sure it was trying to say something to her in its low, wooden voice. Probably something about respecting all living things, the importance of kindness and compassion and blah blah blah. If there was any kindness and compassion in the world, she wouldn’t have to spend her summers being packed up and dragged to Fairie just so she could meet her mother’s relatives.
When she was a kid it was great. What kid wouldn’t love fairyland? There were hills to climb and strange little creatures everywhere that could do magic just to entertain her. Hell, she even got to ride a unicorn for a few years, although it had led to a really interesting conversation with her father when she turned fifteen last year and all of a sudden that damn unicorn didn’t want a thing to do with her anymore. She wanted to blame Tony Dinkens for that, but it had been just as much her as him. And when it came right down to it, a unicorn was fine when you were a kid, but sex was for a lifetime.
After a while, it all got old. You could only go to the Magic Grove so many times before you’ve heard all the songs those trees are ever going to sing. You can only play so many riddle games before they start repeating themselves, and you can only go so far into the deep, dark woods before your mother’s henchmen decide that you really shouldn’t be out on your own and drag you back.
Her iPod sputtered, skipped and died, and the intricately woven, multi-part harmonies of the elves flooded into her ears again. “Crap,” Treva said. She snapped her phone shut. It would probably be the next to go, and she really didn’t think she could handle that right now. She stood up and brushed blades of perfectly green grass off her jeans, put up her hood and walked back out into the brilliant sunshine.
The estate was gorgeous, and by now Treva was completely bored with every inch of it. The stables, the fractal hedge maze, the pond where frogs jumped out and granted minor wishes if you kissed them. She felt like she’d done it all, and if her parents announced that they were leaving today and never coming back, she couldn’t be happier.
Speak of the devil. Her father was walking towards her across the sheep field, his hands in his pockets and his eyeglasses glinting in the sun. She couldn’t stand the way he looked. He couldn’t just look like a normal dad – overweight, tired from working a job that he hated, wanting nothing more than to sit down, drink a beer and watch TV. He had to be “interesting.” He wrote for literary journals, sometimes spending days holed up in that giant library of his to research whatever dead white person he had decided was important that week. He had graying temples and steel-rimmed eyeglasses and always looked like he had a secret that he was just dying to tell you. Treva sighed and looked down at the grass while she walked. He wouldn’t pass her by, but at least maybe she could convince him that she wasn’t up for another one of his “Isn’t-it-great-to-be-here” chats.
“Treva!” he called. She took a few steps and then looked up like she was surprised to see him. He seemed unsettled, though she wasn’t sure how she could tell, and he was holding something in his arms. It looked like a big blue egg, covered in sparkling gems. It glimmered faintly in the sunshine, and she could smell hot metal wafting from it on the wind.
She stopped, and, with great visible effort, popped the earbuds from her ears. “Dad,” she said, managing to pack an entire vacation’s worth of boredom into one word. “Another dragon’s egg?” She rolled her eyes. “Not like we can actually raise them at home or anything. They just sit there on the coffee table taking up space.” She rolled her eyes. “Lame.” She started walking again, but he stepped in front of her.
“You’re right, Treva.” He held out the egg, but she wouldn’t take it. “And that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” He pushed his glasses up on his nose, and she was slightly unnerved by the expression on his face. “Treva, I’m afraid…” He took a deep breath. “Treva, we can’t go home.”
She stood and stared at him from under her hood. The elves’ song was repeating, and it was really starting to get on her nerves. Her father kept shifting the egg from hand to hand and blinking a lot, and it seemed like forever before she managed to say, “What?”
He chewed his lip and tried to put an arm around her, but she shrugged it off. “What the hell do you mean we can’t go home?” she yelled. The singing stopped abruptly. “We have to go home! Dad, all my friends are at home!” He flung her arms out, encompassing all of fairyland. “Dad, I hate this place, we can’t stay!”
He stood up to her yelling with his usual stoicism. She had become very good at getting her points across at high volume, and while it used to completely disarm him at first, he had become skilled at waiting until she was done and then continuing on as if nothing had happened. When the echoes died away, he reached out for her again, but again, she shrunk back. “Treva,” he finally said, “please understand that this is a very… complicated situation.”
“The hell it is,” she yelled. “How complicated can it be? We do it every summer! Pack our things, get in the minivan and go home!” She mimed the actions as she spoke. “It’s perfectly easy!”
He sighed, and then gently placed the dragon’s egg on the ground. “Treva,” he said, “I can’t think of a good way to say this, so I’m just going to spit it out.”
“Oh, this should be good,” she said. She crossed her arms and turned away from him.
“At sunset tomorrow,” her father said, “you are going to be married to Sundadar, Lord of the Dusk Hour, as the fulfillment of the bargain that was made when your mother and I married.” He stood back, hands on his hips, and waited for the explosion.
It didn’t come. Treva didn’t look at him. She didn’t say anything. Gently, carefully, she put the earbuds back in her ears one at a time and thumbed her iPod on. It didn’t work, but it didn’t matter. She shoved her hands in the front pocket of her hoodie and walked at a steady pace back towards the main manor house.
Her father watched her go and sighed. He picked up the egg and patted it gently. “It’s going to be harder than we thought,” he murmured, and started off to follow his daughter.