Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Daffodil - Gen 8 Ch 4

I stared again at each figure in turn, willing them to give me an answer. Maybe I just wasn't concentrating hard enough. My fingers absently reached for my pendant, and I glanced down at it, then back to the golden trio. Nothing. If there was something special about these three, I sure couldn't make it out. Enough of this, at least I have the books. There must be a treasure trove of information there, if only I can decipher it.

Mom had been amazed when I led her down to the secret hideaway. I noted with relief that Denis had already cleaned up the rock shards, and removed the crumbling skeleton from the center of the room. He was now in the process of carefully going through the ancient crates and cataloging their contents for the museum.
"See?" I pointed out to her. "The serpent figure was right on this table here, along with all these books. I've been wracking my brain and I still haven't a clue what to do with those statuettes though."
"You're trying too hard, dear. I'm sure the answer will come to you when you least expect it. Now, let's have a look at these books, shall we?"

As mom moved closer to the table to examine the dust-covered volumes, Denis interrupted us with a look of concern.
"I'm sorry, love. I used the museum's best archaeological techniques, but the skeleton still fell to dust as soon as I touched it. I wasn't sure what else to do, so I gathered the dust into one of the smaller vases." He gestured slightly at the small urn that he had placed on the rough table.  
"I wanted it off the floor for you and your mom. Poor guy, maybe when things have settled a little more around here we can give him a proper send off."
I gave him an understanding smile.
"I know you did your best, hon. I wonder what he was doing down here all alone?"

Turning back to the table, one particular dusty volume caught my eye. It was bound in plain brown leather, except for a small design painted in the center of the front cover. I carefully blew the dust away to get a better look. My eyes grew wide in amazement, and my hand flew to my pendant. I glanced at the pendant, then back to the painted design - an amber circle, with a tiny flower embedded in the center.

Carefully controlling my excitement, so as not to damage the book, I gingerly cracked it open. It appeared to be in much better shape than the cover had revealed, and the pages turned easily under my shaking fingers. At first I thought it was written in French. My French wasn't the greatest, but I should as least be able to make out the gist of the writing. 
Upon closer examination, however, this was no form of French that I had ever seen. I recognised a word here and there, but that was all. I sighed in frustration. I would need to find an expert in ancient Romance languages, which would undoubtedly require a trip to France. And there was no way I could leave Juniper now. It would be years before I could follow this lead.

It was several weeks later, and once again little Juniper had me up at three in the morning. Denis was at the warehouse, and everyone else was sound asleep. Suddenly I heard the the sharp sound of someone knocking on the front door. Gently lowering Juniper back into his crib, I tiptoed downstairs to investigate.

I paused for a minute in front of the door. Who in the world could be disturbing us in the middle of the night? I shrugged off a vague sense of foreboding. Most likely it was one of my dad's informants. They tended to show up at odd hours.

I was completely unprepared for what I saw when I threw open the door. I tried to scream but, as if in a nightmare, no sound would come out. It was all I could do to slam the door shut again as fast as I could.

My heart was pounding out of my chest in a panic, and I was gasping for breath. What was that...thing.. doing on my front porch? I could still feel his cold eyes boring through to my very soul, and ... his fangs were...  oh no! My babies! I had to protect my children! What should I do?

Suddenly I found my voice again.
"Papaaaaa!!! Help!!!"

Papa was downstairs in an instant.
"What's the matter, Dilly? You look like you've seen ghost!"
"Not a g-ghost, papa. There's a.. v-vampire.. with h-huge fangs.." It was all I could do to point weakly toward the front door.
Papa didn't look nearly as concerned as I thought he would.
"Hm.. shoulder-length reddish brown hair? Red shirt?"
I nodded numbly, and began to panic again as he approached the doorway.

"Mel! Good to see you again. I'm sorry about that. Come in, come in. Any news?" I stared in shock at my dad as he turned back to me.
"Dilly, this is your mom's Great-Uncle Mel. He's been my eyes in Bridgeport, looking for your sister."
Hmph. So this is what my mom means when she talks about our 'Bridgeport relatives'. The panic in my chest was fast becoming replaced with annoyance. They could have warned me, for pete's sake.

Mom had heard all the commotion and had hurried downstairs to investigate. She and my dad gathered close around 'Uncle Mel' to listen to his news. I shuddered a little and hung back, but still close enough that I could hear.
"I have good news. We found your daughter. El is with her out in the car right now. She was afraid to come in, afraid you'd be angry with her."
"Is she.. alright?" My dad hesitated. I knew what he was trying to ask, without asking.
"Come on, see for yourself!"
Mel winked at me and flashed his fangs as we filed out into the front yard. I glared at him, which made him laugh.

"Mom? Papa?" It was Lotus and she was in fact alright, waving at us with an apprehensive little smile.
My dad reached out his arms to her, welcoming her home.
"Baby girl!"

"Papa! Oh papa, I'm so sorry. I was so afraid. I thought you'd be so angry."
"Oh, baby girl, no. We all love you, and we missed you so much. Welcome home!"

It was obvious that Lotus was practically asleep on her feet, so papa took her gently by the shoulders and led her off to bed, a huge grin on his face the whole time. I haven't seen my dad smile like this since... well.. since the night of that fateful prom,

I turned back to our guests, to find Mel giving my mom a rundown on all the details of the past few days.
"So anyway, it was late, and I decided to go out and hu.."
At this point I noticed El giving him a warning glance, and flinging a sharp elbow into his ribs.
"...err, have a drink at the Plasma 501," he continued, rubbing the side of his ribcage.
"And I noticed a girl huddled on the sidewalk next to the building. I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but I caught a glimpse of green hair. At first she didn't want to come with me, but.. ahh... I can be very convincing."
"We're so grateful for your help. If there's anything we can do for you.."
"Well, there is one thing. It's almost dawn. Do you think we could stay here for the day? We'll head back to Bridgeport tonight."
"Of course. You can have the spare bedroom in the basement."
I stared at my mom in disbelief while Mel smirked at my discomfiture. She hadn't really invited these creatures to stay the whole day!

I had been planning to see how Denis was coming with the artifacts he was cataloging, but unfortunately the way to the crypt led through the spare bedroom. I debated waiting, but finally decided no vampires were going to keep me from doing exactly what I wanted in my own house.
"Just like old times, eh El? Remember the last time we were in this room? They've even kept the same decor all these years."
"Excuse me," I interrupted the reminiscing. "I need to get through to the stairs."
"Sure thing," Mel grinned at me. "What's so interesting down there, anyway?"
I guessed there was no harm in telling.
"We discovered some ancient French artifacts and books. But we can't make out the language."
"Books?" Elvira showed some interest at the mention of books.

"Could I see? I'm a bit of an expert on ancient France."
"She's right, Daffodil," Mel cut in. "She was raised there, weren't you dear? And she has a photographic memory - never forgets a language. She helped my brother Ren with some old maps, if I recall."
I reluctantly handed over the ancient tome.

"Hmmm... interesting.. hmmm... yes.. fascinating.."
I barely kept myself from tapping my foot impatiently as El slowly  made her way through the book. Finally she looked up and over at me with those piercing red eyes.
"What you have here, my dear, is a journal. It was written over many generations, and describes the lives and genealogy of a clan of gypsies who lived in Champs Les Sims. I remember those gypsies. My mother wouldn't let me near them. The fascinating part is near the end. It appears they pulled up stakes when their island was taken from them and bestowed upon a man by the name of Delven. They moved here - here, as in the spot where your house stands today."

"My grandfather used to talk about a woman named Hyacinth, I think she was one of those gypsies. My great-grandfather found her grave in the crypt downstairs. Does it say what happened to her?"
El answered by turning to the last few pages. "This is the second to last entry:
'This unknown disease has been slowing taking its toll on the clan. The only ones left here are my grandmother Hyacinth, and my mother and father, and myself. My brother Oakheart has been sent east to seek help from the large settlement there. Mother sent the pendant with him to guide him. If he does not return soon we are lost.'

El paused and glanced up at me again.
"Shall I go on? There is one more entry."
"Yes, yes, of course. How awful! What happened to them?"
'My brother never returned. I assume he is gone, and with him the pendant. Lost forever. Grandmother died first, followed by mother, and then father. I interred them the best I could, but they deserved so much better. Now I am sick, but there will be no one to bury me.'

El gazed up at me again with her piercing stare.
"Obviously the pendant wasn't lost forever. Was it?"
"N-no.." I subconsciously reached for my necklace. 
"I thought as much. It's not that easy to lose something like that."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Daffodil - Gen 8 Ch 3

"Ehehehe.. 'ey there little guy! How's my Buster today?"
I had to giggle at Denis' enthusiasm.
"How do you know it's a guy? It just might be a girl you know!" I grinned at him.
His constant excitement was starting to have a positive effect on me.  Maybe having another baby wouldn't be so bad after all.
"It's not. I can tell." He winked mischievously at me before he went back to his conversation with "Buster".

My forced maternity leave chafed on me, but gradually I started to really unwind and enjoy the extra time I could spend with Cy and Peony. I found myself looking forward to three o'clock each afternoon, when the bus would deposit them in front of the house, and we'd all head out to the backyard play area for a while, before it was homework time.

This didn't mean that I totally divorced myself from my job at the stadium - oh, no. I was constantly at the computer, firing off e-mails and keeping in contact with the coaches. I wanted to be sure to start right up where I had left off when I returned to work, or maybe even a little ahead!

One morning, late in my pregnancy, I awoke to a strange pounding noise, echoing throughout the house. Denis had been a sweetheart, and let me sleep while he saw the kids off to school, before he headed off to the art museum. Mom and Dad were gone on yet another one of their trips to Bridgeport, still trying to find my sister. Even all my dad's espionage expertise had been to no avail in that regard, so far at least. 
I threw on some sweatpants and followed the sound down to the ancient crypt. It appeared to be emanating from the unstable tunnel. Looking at it now, I can't believe I almost crawled in there! No wonder my mom had been so angry. Strange what a few years perspective will give you.

I poked my head inside the opening and peered down the tunnel. The sounds were louder now, and to my amazement, the whole length of the tunnel had been braced with sturdy beams. What was going on? Why had no one told me?
I felt a surge of anger, mixed with apprehension, as I called out sharply, "Who's there? What are you doing?"
Instead of an answer, all I heard was footsteps running toward me.

I held my breath as the footsteps approached. Suddenly from around the corner, a familiar figure emerged.
"Denis!" I yelped. "What the heck are you doing down here? I thought you were at the museum! You scared me half to death!"
"I'm so sorry, love," he replied sheepishly. "I didn't think the sound would carry like that. Did I wake you?"
"Sort of," I answered crossly. "What are you doing down here anyway?"
"Come and see!" He grabbed my hand and tugged.
I frowned at him dubiously. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"Perfectly safe. I installed these support beams myself."

"Look at this!" My sweet husband pointed excitedly to the pile of rocks at the end of the tunnel.
"'s a pile of rocks..." I replied, exasperation creeping into my voice. "I still don't get why you've been so busy down here. What could possibly be the point of all this?"
"Err.. well.. It all started when I was looking for a good place to .. err.. stash... stuff."
I frowned in disappointment. "You promised me and papa you wouldn't shoplift anymore."
No, it's not that, I promise, love. It's just sometimes.. I kinda pick stuff up and the warehouse, and... it's not really stealing if I'm stealing from criminals, is it?"

"Anyway," he continued excitedly, "when I came to the end here, I noticed something. Watch this!"
He retrieved the pick axe that he had obviously dropped when I had yelled at him, and began to hack away at the rocks again.
"See? They're coming loose! I think there's something behind here!"

"Denis! Be careful!"
I watched while he made contact with an especially loose piece of stone, causing a cascade of debris to tumble to the floor.
"Oh! Denis! Look!! You were right!"

He stepped back to admire his handiwork - we saw a small opening near the roof, and beyond that, there was obviously an open space behind the blockage. I paced impatiently as he worked to clear the rest. Finally we made our way forward, me wincing as my bare feet made contact with tiny rock shards littering the ground.

As our eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, the first thing we noticed was a rather large pile of dirt and debris in the center of the room. On closer examination, we discovered a crumbling skeleton half buried in the dust. I about to turn around and hightail it out of there, when I caught sight of something on the far side of the room that almost made my heart stop.

Ignoring the skeleton, I stepped in to have a closer look. I glanced over at Denis, to see if he had noticed it too. From the dumbfounded expression on his face, I guessed that he had, but his next words proved that his attention was on something else entirely.

His eyes were as big as saucers.
"Will you look at this? Wow! I never thought I'd see such a collection of antiques. Even the museum doesn't have pieces as nice as these."

"I think this bowl is solid gold! And these vases... just incredible! This one looks to be French in origin."
I let him continue to gush over the antiques, as I gingerly tip-toed over to the rough-hewn table on the far wall.

The table was piled high with moldy leather-bound books, and the painting hanging above it had long ago faded into an unrecognisable mish-mash of greens and greys. But my eyes were focused like a laser on the tiny serpent figurine perched jauntily at the far side of the table.

Slowly I reached for the small golden figure, almost afraid to examine it, for fear it wasn't 'the' serpent. I turned it over in my hand, and exhaled in a relieved whoosh, when I saw the same strange markings that decorated the dragon and the tiger.

"Yes!" My excited shriek brought Denis running to my side.
"I found it, Denis! Thanks to you! Oh, mom is going to be so thrilled! I can't wait until they get home! Oh! Ow! Ow!"
I tried to reach down and grab my poor foot, which in my excitement had landed on one of those nasty rock shards, but my protruding belly wouldn't allow it.

"Are you alright, love?"
I nodded. "I don't think it broke the skin."
"Let me check anyway."
He made a huge fuss over the tiny scratch, and insisted we head back upstairs.
I took one longing backwards glance at the stacks of ancient books.
"Come on, love. Let's get your foot taken care of, the books will wait."

The books would have to wait quite a while longer. I had no sooner stepped out of the shower after Denis had cleaned out the small cut, when I felt the first labor pains.

"You were right! We have another boy!"
Denis waggled his eyebrows at me suggestively. "Of course. Now let me hold our little Juniper. You've been hogging him way too long."
"We've been home for all of five minutes!"
"Like I said...."
"Oh, you! Okay, okay, here you go."

When mom and dad arrived home, we could see by their long faces, as soon as the walked in the door, that their trip had been unsuccessful yet again.
"No luck?" I ventured apprehensively.
My dad shook his head sadly. Hot anger bubbled up inside me, as it always did when I thought about what my sister had done to our parents. How could she? It just killed me to see the toll it was taking on them. They had seemed to age right in front of my eyes in recent weeks.

The one bright spot in the moment was our little Juniper. Mom's sadness turn to instant delight when she saw her new grandson, while Juniper's proud daddy recounted all the minute details of my labor and delivery, much to my chagrin.

While mom and Denis fussed over Juniper, I tried to comfort papa.
"Did you find any leads at all?"
"Not really. But maybe a hope. We paid a visit to your mom's great uncle Mel, and he claims to have heard rumors. He promised to keep his ear to the ground, and let us know if he hears anything further."
"I'm sure she'll turn up soon, papa," I lied. What hope was there, truthfully, when she had disappeared without a trace into the vast underground vampire network in Bridgeport?

I had waited until mom and dad were settled back in, and Juniper was tucked away in his crib, for my big announcement. I proudly arranged the three figurines on the dining table, and called my mom into the dining room.
"Look what I found while you were gone! The serpent figure!"
"Dilly! How??... Where?? .. This is amazing! Tell me everything!"

"You won't believe what happened! Denis was shoring up that old tunnel - the one you told me you fell into - and he discovered a secret room at the end of it, behind a pile of rubble!"
"It was right here under our feet, all along? I never thought to see it in my lifetime - all three statues, together at last! You did good, Dilly."
"Yes! Isn't it exciting? So, now what? What's next? You've always said we needed to find the third figure, to reunite the trio, but you've never told me why. Now that we have all three, what do we do with them?"

"I'm sure I haven't the foggiest idea."
I stared at my mom in disbelief. "What?"
She just shrugged. "I guess that's up to you to figure out."
Oh great. And how was I supposed to do that? I wondered to myself.
"Don't look so upset, Dilly, you do have the pendant to guide you, after all."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Daffodil - Gen 8 Ch 2

I don't think I can do this anymore. I never realized being a mom would be this hard. I've been up with Cypress since four this morning, and I have to leave for school in less that three hours.

I grimaced as I felt the sting of tears begin again at the corners of my eyes. Of course I love my son dearly, but it crushes me to consider what I've given up. The athletic scholarship I had been on track to receive is now a distant dream. I barely have time to get my schoolwork finished these days, let alone contribute in any meaningful way to my old teammates at the Junior Sports League. Lost in my own private pity party, and almost asleep on my feet, I don't know how long I stood there.
Suddenly Cypress' hungry cries jolted me back to the present. I sighed heavily as I reached for him once again, hot tears now trickling down my cheeks.

Before I could do so, however, Denis was there in front of me, snatching Cypress from his crib, calming him instantly.
"Go back to bed, love. I'll wake you up when it's time to leave for school."
I smiled sleepily at him, and stumbled off for a two hour nap. If there is one bright spot in my new reality, it is my wonderful husband. He absolutely adores our little boy, and it is amazing to me how he took to fatherhood like a duck to water. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, he is right there to share the burden.

And mom has been so supportive, babysitting every day while we are at school. So I guess I should be grateful, but sometimes I can't help but wonder, what might have been.

Now, don't get me wrong, I do love my little family dearly. Denis and Cypress mean the world to me, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I guess what I mean is, I wish I could have it all - beautiful family and epic sports career.  
But that seems an impossible dream. As mom's pregnancy drew to a close, we found it harder and harder to even steal a few hours away from home. Whenever we could, we'd make our way downtown to the park.

Denis would pull out his guitar, and I'd let the pounding beat wash over me, driving away all my cares. Sometimes people complained when he turned up the volume, but for me, the louder, the better. So I never heard my phone that afternoon, Papa calling to tell me I had a baby sister. Mama and baby were doing fine, the message said. Her name is Peony.

Finally! My birthday is here, school is finished - we graduate tomorrow! No more trying to balance bottles and diapers with homework and classes.

Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to balance bottles and diapers with my epic sports career. Yup, I still want to go for it. With no scholarship, I might have to start at the bottom, but hey, I've never been afraid of hard work.

I have never seen anyone so excited about a birthday as Denis was, though. I finally pried it out of him that it wasn't the birthday itself that had him so excited.
"This is so cool! I never had a cake for my birthday before. My mom never made a big deal about birthdays. I don't think she could afford a cake. I kinda just grew up on my own."
I had to laugh when he made a big show of making a wish and blowing out his candles.

That's my guy, still as handsome as ever. I can't wait to see him in his graduation gown tomorrow!

There was no way Denis was going to leave Cypress with a sitter. He insisted on bringing the babies with us to graduation, and Papa was pretty easy to convince.

After the ceremony, we exited the auditorium proudly, ready to toss our diplomas in the air! Well, at least I was ready. True to form, Denis had already stashed his diploma in his back pocket, and was intent on playing with Cypress. I do so adore that man!

"Yes!!! Daffodil! Come quick! Hurry!"
We had only been home for a few hours, when I heard my mom let out a shriek of delight from the back corner of the yard. She's been out there for days messing about with a pile of rocks that she had dug out of the ground near Grandpa Brook's old actor trailer. Knowing mom, she probably found a rare bug or something.

I stared in amazement at what I saw. Water was bubbling merrily out of the middle of mom's pile of rocks, carving a small trench in the earth on it's way to emptying into Sunflower's pond.
"Mom! How did you do this?"
"I didn't! I had some ideas for making a garden for Papa Brook, so I stacked the rocks up next to the wall yesterday before your birthday party. Now a spring has formed under the rocks, and ... and.."
"... and made a ... brook. For Grandpa." I finished the sentence for her, gazing in awe at the magic of it all. Instinctively I reached my hand up to clasp my pendant, and found it warm and glowing.

After graduation, life fell into a routine. I had time now to get myself back into shape. I had hoped that the coach at the stadium would have given me a chance to at least try out for the team, but she refused to even speak with me.  The front office did offer me a job as a snack hawker, so I reluctantly took it. At least I'll get to see them play this way. Maybe if I can get in with the coach, I'll get my big break.

Denis spends his days at the art museum downtown. The curator had been impressed that he was voted 'most artistic' at graduation, and had offered to make him the junior curator. I wondered at the wisdom of that, knowing that Denis' sticky fingers just can't keep themselves off certain valuable pieces of art. So far there hasn't been any trouble, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed anyway.

Especially since I found out that he's been sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night, and not returning until just before dawn.
"Denis? What the..?" I yawned sleepily.
"Shhh... go back to sleep, love."

"No. Tell me." I murmured as he slid into bed beside me. He was lucky I was so exhausted, or I would have let him have it.
"It's not what you think, love." He whispered quietly as he pulled me into his arms. "I'm working undercover for your dad.  He wants me to go to work at the warehouse every night, and report back anything I hear about some guy the call the Emperor of Evil. It's the deal I made with him the last time I got caught shoplifting."
I was relieved and upset at the same time. Surely my dad wouldn't ask him to do anything dangerous, would he?

Time continued to fly by. I snagged a job as toddler coach, which at least gave me access to the rest of the coaching staff, and Denis split his time between the art museum and the warehouse. Cypress and Peony grew into adorable toddlers, who soon became inseparable.

It was so cute to see them babble to each other while they played.

Denis, of course, adored them both.
"Ahaha... I'm gonna get you!"

"Hey there, sweet girl! How's my Peony today?"

"Pleeeeeeaassseee? One more? For me?"
*sigh* Denis wants another baby so bad. But that would mean putting my dreams on hold once again.
"I'll think about it."

In the mean time, Lotus in her teen years is starting to give mom and dad fits. No, she never pranks, or stays out after curfew, or... other things that someone else in this household might have done. No, she spends all her time chatting with her online friend - a girl named Violet, who she's never met in person.

The problem is this: Violet lives in Bridgeport, and she is a vampire. Dad especially is livid, and has threatened to take her computer privileges away. Mom is pretty nonchalant about the whole thing, if you ask me. I overheard her arguing with dad - something about our 'Bridgeport relatives?' What's that supposed to mean?

Anyway, the whole thing boiled over on prom night, when Violet showed up in a limo to take Lotus to the prom. Dad of course forbade her to go, but she defied him and ran out the door and into the limo. And that wasn't the worst of it. Later that night, she sent a text message out to all of us.
"I'm going to Bridgeport with Violet. We are in love." She never came home that night.

But I didn't find any of this out until the next morning, as I spent the whole night hugging the toilet and cursing my weak will. Why had I ever agreed to have another baby?