She should have been so happy.
Aeryn was the baby of her dreams – beautiful, calm and happy. But Allie was unsettled. Corbin was the best kind of dad. He had taken to the roll with enthusiasm and joy, even when the news was sprung on him unexpectedly. So why was he being so stand offish? It had to be the news of the family curse, but she’d thought – really, really thought – he of all men would be able to handle it.
She wished more than ever that her mother were there.
No more had she thought the thought, when she felt the first tingles of supernatural energy. In a blink, her mother was there.
“My darling Allie,” Bianca said, the ghostly echo playing on her voice. “Look at you, and look at this beautiful baby. Why so sad?”
“Mom, oh Mom,” Allie said. She wanted to throw her arms around Bianca and feel the warmth that was always there. But she knew it wouldn’t be the same. Her arms would meet in the midst of the apparition of her mother, and would only find air. But still, she was here. Sometimes, it’s okay to be a DiPotere, Allie thought.
“It’s Corbin, Mom. I told him everything, and now I’m afraid he’s going to leave. He hasn’t even held Aeryn, not once, and he barely even looks at me. I think I’ve lost him. He just couldn’t handle the truth of what we are.” Allie hung her head and expected a kind word from her mother. There would be no more warm hugs, but there could be at least her mother’s kind heart.
But Bianca’s spirit only drifted by, and as Allie and Aeryn watched, she floated towards the door. “You should have known better dear…a family curse and a child with power beyond reason? Give him time, and purpose…he’ll be there for you both.”
“Mom!” Allie said. “Don’t go!”
“Ghosts must keep moving dear…” her mother said, as she vanished through the door.
“Time and purpose,” Allie said. “Time and purpose.” Well, she thought, there’s no time like now. And with a deep breath, she set baby Aeryn on the floor and walked away.
It didn’t take long for Corbin to appear. He saw his new baby girl on the floor, and Allie was no where to be found. What the hell, he thought, and walked over to where Aeryn lay. She looked so small, so helpless. Not at all like a powerful witch. Just a teeny, tiny baby, who looked at him and smiled as she waggled her feet and hands.
He bent down and gently – so gently – picked her up and held her in his strong arms. “Sweet girl,” he sang, “my sweet baby girl…”
As he sang softly, he felt the lightest breeze. Though he could not see her, he sensed the supernatural presence of Bianca.
She leaned in and whispered in his ears. “You are strong enough, you are brave enough, and you will be the only one to hold your family up when it threatens to fall apart.”
I just don’t know, he thought, but at the same time, he held his baby girl a little bit tighter.
The little one was kicking. Hard. She would come soon, thought Allie.
“You okay?” asked Corbin, embracing her in a gentle hug.
Allie wanted to scream and cry. She wanted to shout, ‘NO!’ and pound her fists into the walls. Her little unborn child would be a girl. She knew it, a deep knowing, an unmistakable knowing. It was good, and it was terrible, and Corbin had no idea. Tonight, she knew she had to tell him the whole truth: without a girl, their legacy would end.
The heir must be a girl, born to a female DiPotere. It was the only way to battle the evil that was cast upon their bloodline so long ago. Without an heir to continue the fight, Bella would be victorious, and one day, all Allie loved and fought for would be destroyed. But with a girl, oh – how had her mother done this? She would be grooming her precious baby to take over the family quest. The Family Curse.
The next morning, without fuss or fanfare, she arrived. Aeryn Bea DiPotere was born on a cool day in September, just as the sun began to peek over the horizon. She was healthy and strong, and fiesty too – as her mother had been before her. And she was born at home – as all DiPoteres were – to keep her safe from the watchful eye of Bella and her minions.
Corbin was still reeling from the shock, the weight of all Allie had shared the night before. He was an Adventure Writer, damn it all. He’d seen everything strange and mystical he thought there was to see. But these women, these DiPotere witches, were unlike any of it. He’d sensed the power that was there – knew it was there – but not to what extent. The power they held in their little finger was more than most he’d encountered, even in the deepest darkest jungles.
And now it was in his daughter.
She didn’t know when it happened.
But happen it did. The feeling started as a warm spark, somewhere deep in her belly, and as the days passed, the feeling grew and grew, developing into friendship…and then something more.
Allie was the happiest she’d ever been. Somehow, through all the tragedy and chaos of her life, she was making it after all – her own little family, her own little nest.
The days passed in a mind numbing blur. Life went on, as it always did, but the whole world was cast in shadow for Allie. She moved through the motions of daily expectation without thinking or feeling. The house on most days seemed so big and empty, and she still expected to see her mother around every corner and just past every door.
The drudgery seemed endless, but somewhere in the darkness of shadow, there was a spark.
Some days she found herself laughing, even, like today. Corbin liked to sit and read her the funniest bits out of the Sim Times as she prepared breakfast.
It was a pleasant routine, and Allie liked it more than she ever could have imagined. Things were so easy with Corbin, where everything with Weldon had seemed so hard.
He would harumph and turn the screen away, but Allie could tell it was only in fun. He was an Adventurer, he said, and though Allie didn’t quite know what to make of that, she knew it was the most interesting way to make money she’d ever heard of.
In fact, everything about him was interesting.
So, when he peeked into her room to see if she was alright, Allie didn’t protest.
And when he sat down, and put one hand on her arm, she didn’t protest again.
And when he leaned in to take her in his arms, Allie leaned in too.
The sun set on a beautiful day in Strangetown as Allie began to speak. The crowd was gathered to say goodbye to their beloved Mother, Grandmother, and friend, Bianca.
“Mother…Bianca…came to this town in search of family,” Allie began. “And she found that, and so much more. She found love, and home. And then she taught the rest of us how to find the same.
She endured so much…we’ve all of us, endured so much…but Bianca always did it with a smile and a hug.”
Allie took a deep breath as the words caught in her throat. “Mom gave the best hugs.”
“Now, if you’d like to come pay your respects, Caprice would like to play one of Mom’s favorite songs, so perfectly named…Home. It won’t be the same without you Mom,” Allie said, looking skyward. “We will all miss you so much.”
The crowd listened as Caprice played a tender rendition of her Mother’s favorite song, and slowly made their way to the grave plot to pay their last respects to the woman who was so loved by all.
As the sun dipped down below the horizon, the first drops of rain began to fall, and one by one, the guests left for the evening. Allie said her goodbyes, and gave many hugs, yet each hug only served to tug on her heartstrings a bit more, to remind her that she would never feel her mother’s warm, strong arms around her, not ever again.
As she turned to go inside, she realized she was not alone in her pain. Red stood, head in hands, crying silent tears. She started to go to him, but stopped short. He cried for more than Bianca, she sensed. He cried for Emmy, and for the fate of the DiPoteres. He cried because he felt so intensely the passage of time – after so long as an immortal Protector, each year felt like a day, and there was so much more to do. He cried for all of that, and more.
Allie went inside and sat in her mother’s newly redecorated kitchen. For her it was much more simple. She cried only for the loss of her mother.
To Allie, it felt like a simple shift in the wind. The world was warm, and then it was cold. She knew, though, what that cold meant. Fighting to keep calm, she turned to face the Reaper.
“We meet again,” it said. The voice was low and husky – not male, or female…not human at all. It was the sound of the end.
Allie stood her ground. “You can’t have her,” she said. “You can’t take her. I fought you off once, I’ll do it again.”
The Reaper stared at her hard, and shook it’s head slowly from side to side. A small, subtle move, but one that rocked Allie to the core.
“She wasn’t mine to take last time,” it said. “Now she is. There is no fighting Time.” In Reaper’s voice there was no emotion, no expression, and Allie knew – this time she couldn’t save her mother.
Leaving a wisp of black fog, the Reaper vanished, only to reappear next to Bianca. Corbin watched too, and Allie wondered what he thought of her conversation with Death. She hung her head and began to sob. For Bianca, there was no pain except that of leaving her family. She had a full and happy life, one that she had extended with magic again and again. It was her time, and she was ready to step into the Other, and to be with Joel again.
Caprice decided to break the news the day after Aniello’s transition. There were so many changes taking place in everyone’s life…
Corbin Gray had agreed to move in for the sake of Aniello. He doted on that little boy. Of course, they all saw the way he looked at Allie too…Well, all except Allie. She was either working her weird hours or had her nose in a book.
Plus, little Aniello wasn’t so little anymore. He was starting school today, and was so excited. Aniello was growing up, and didn’t need a 24/7 babysitter anymore.
Even her own mother was moving on. Bianca had taken up yoga and meditation again and could usually be found doing practice in her room or the front yard. The heavy weight of their father’s death seemed to have left her, and Bianca seemed truly happy once more.
Everyone had their thing but her, and she was starting to feel like a bum. She wasn’t even working on her art anymore, which had been the whole plan in moving back home in the first place. It was time to make some changes of her own. She also knew, if she didn’t try out a little bit of life on her terms now, once she was married to Tank she never would.
“Mom, Allie…there’s something I want to tell you,” she began.
“You and Tank are moving up the wedding date?” Bianca asked, a look of eager anticipation filling her face.
“No, Mom. I told you. Next year, maybe.” Caprice took a deep breath. “I’m taking the job at Graphx. I’m moving to Blackwater. Tank’s not going with me. I’m moving in on my own – not with Phebe – just me.” She took another deep breath and waited for the arguments to come.
“That’s nice dear,” said Bianca.
“You’re going to love it!” said Allie. “There’s so much to do in Blackwater – you’ll have a great time. Good for you.”
“You’re not…you’re not mad?” Caprice stammered.
Bianca tilted her head to one side, a quizzical look on her face. “Why would we be mad, sweetie?”
“Caprice, you’re all grown up now,” said Allie. “This is a good thing. You can’t figure out what you want if you don’t get out there and try some new things. And really, our family’s not exactly traditional, now is it?”
The three women laughed as Aniello looked around, confused. “What’s so funny?” he asked, and the three women only laughed harder.