Check out the previous chapters:
- Chapter 1 – The Secret: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-1-the-secret/
- Chapter 2 – The Ritual: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-2-the-ritual/
- Chapter 3 – The Bargain: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/chapter-3-the-bargain/
- Chapter 4 – The Awareness: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/chapter-4-the-awareness/
Arianna fell right in the middle of her friend’s living-room in Brooklyn, on the middle of a glyph that had been carved into the mortar during the building of the two-story home.
Matilda spilled the mouthful she had just sipped onto herself and jumped to check on her friend. She wasn’t surprised with the sudden appearance, no; she had been expecting her friend to arrive ever since she had heard about the dreadful news, although she had been waiting for her friend to arrive in a more conventional way. She hid the shock that jolted through her at Arianna’s unkempt appearance, the torn and bloodied clothes, the hair wild and loose, knotted and greasy.
Matilda touched a tentative hand to her friend’s shoulder, unsure if the blood on her clothes was her own or something – someone – else’s. She felt the tremors that shook Arianna’s shoulders first, heard the silent sobs next. Her heart went out to her friend, hurt for her, for the horrific loss she had endured this past week. She understood tears didn’t come easily to her, so she crouched beside her, gathered the grieving woman to her chest, let her purge her grief, met her husband’s eyes before he silently stood and left the room to give them privacy.
When Arianna was spent, Matilda helped Arianna to stand, then lead her to the spare bedroom on the second floor. Without a word, she helped Arianna to undress, cataloguing the injured palms, the raw knees before helping her to the bathroom, under the hot spray. It was comfort Matilda offered, not nursing. They both understood so.
When Arianna emerged clean and naked from the bathroom a few minutes later, she found soft, worn pajamas neatly folded atop the single bed, dressed mechanically. She hadn’t cried before, hadn’t shed a tear even when she learned her world was turning upside down, upended in a way that dropped away all she had gathered and nurtured and tucked inside that basket of life. But the hopelessness of today, of realizing she couldn’t take her revenge on her foe, on the murderer of her daughter without dooming the entire universe with it broke something fundamental inside her. She wished for Zantry, the brother of her soul, but he too, had mysteriously disappeared. She believed Remo was responsible for that too, but his lack of gloating over his victory had yet to worry her. She believed Zan would show up soon, as he always came back, that together they would figure something out.
Matilda brought her chamomile tea, sat with her in companionable silence as she drank it all, knowing that the witch had used some soothing spell in the tea, though neither women commented upon it. When she was done, Matilda picked a hair brush from the nightstand, brushed Arianna’s beautiful glossy black hair slowly, gently. Braided it down her back. Tucked her in. Woke her for dinner, watched helplessly as her friend retreated deeper and deeper into herself.
For months Arianna stayed with Matilda and her husband, tucked inside her own world, in a guest room in a town house in Brooklyn. Rarely did she come out to the living room, rarely did she ever speak. She asked only after her friend Zan, but Matilda was sorry that she didn’t hear anything new. He hadn’t returned, the hunter’s were beginning to lose hope. Every now and again Archer would call, ask if Matilda had any news about Arianna or Zantry, hang up the moment he heard the expected negative reply. Matilda informed Arianna about the calls, of course, but her friend seemed not to care that the world believed her dead.
Exactly one year after Arianna had flashed into Matilda’s living room, she came out.
Matilda watched as her friend, now dressed in the jeans and green blouse Matilda had bought her a few months back, moved into the living room, her posture straight, her eyes determined.
She looked well, Matilda thought, though far from recovered. She had offered counseling, meditating, even crafted her a few charms to dull the edge of the grief, though both of them knew it would be temporary. So the charms lay forgotten inside the stand drawer beside the single bed her friend occupied for the past year, and the meditations and counseling only went as far as her friend was willing to let it go. Matilda understood there was more than the death of her daughter bothering her friend, more than her daughter’s mate withdrawal, more than Zantry’s disappearance. Not that these were weak motives for the grief, but there was also a deep fear Matilda could sense, a depth of hopelessness that went far beyond her friend’s loss.
“You are leaving.” Matilda concluded. She worried for her dear friend, for the grief and pain she could see neatly tucked and festering inside her, even If Arianna was making an effort to hide it.
“It is time.” Arianna said simply. She didn’t need to thank her, they both knew no gratitude was required here. “We will talk about all this soon, Matilda.” Arianna told her friend, because Matilda deserved to know what had transgressed between her and Remo that had caused her to retreat so far away.
They ate breakfast in silence, and when Arianna stood to leave, Matilda walked her to the door.
“You will come again, Ari. Choose wise, consider your own sake.”
Arianna held Matilda’s gaze steadily, knowing her friend had known she was up to something. Probably had even seen it in the mirror, she knew her concern would have driven her friend to search. Arianna softened, hugged her friend. “I will do what’s necessary. I will come back before anything is decided.” With that promise given, Arianna left, took a cab to central park, where she knew she could use a direct route to the sidhe land without having to pass through the Low Lands and risk giving Remo any hints.
She was welcomed warmly by the Seelie courtiers, lead to Leon – the enforcer of the Seelie court, who although never looked warmer than coldly aloof, held a deep liking towards Arianna. Leon lead Arianna directly into Queen Titania’s inner sanctum without even announcing her presence first, understanding her queen would want to meet with her at once.
Leon knelt in front of her queen, bowed her head deeply. Arianna, on the other hand, only lowered her head in a deferent bow – for Queen Titania was not her queen– and when she raised her head again, met Titania’s eyes head on without any fear of retribution.
“Arianna Lenard. Where is your other half?” Queen Titania wondered aloud.
“Dead.” The single word had all the heads turning to look at her, all with equal shocked expressions.
Queen Titania straightened, her only sign of surprise, and waved a hand at the royal courtiers gathered around the room. At once everyone began to exit, muttering loudly under their breaths.
Arianna ignored the whispered words, holding instead Queen Titania’s eyes without flinching away. It was time, she told herself. She had waited long enough for Zantry, for the brother of her soul, the only friend who could truly understand her. And he was dead.
Remo had truly found a way to kill one of the three permanently.