If one more insincere ‘nicety’ passes through someone’s lips, I’m going to place them all in a magical time out. Noticing my growing agitation, Kallen reaches for my hand under the table and gives it a reassuring squeeze. I’m not reassured. Why did Dagda and I think this was a good idea again?
“Julienne, you look lovely tonight, as usual,” Tana drawls. “How fortunate you are to be young for eternity.”
Mom’s smile is rapidly approaching a sneer. “Yes, and I only had to die to achieve it.”
Clearing his throat, Dagda says, “Has Xandra told you we have been asked to mediate peace talks between the Centaurs and the Sasquatch?” He beams at me.
His jealousy concealed as well as a polar bear standing against a black wall, Dad snipes, “How did you manage before Xandra got here? She seems indispensable to your rule. You can’t make a move without her.” Okay, that was definitely not a nicety. This is not a good sign of things to come over the course of this doomed dinner party.
Dagda and I are trying hard to include those we love in the growing father/daughter bond we’ve established. Unfortunately, the people we love want nothing to do with the idea. Yes, it’s unreasonable to think they could all be friends, but it would be nice if we could all be in the same room together without someone wanting, or attempting, to kill someone. This dinner was supposed to be a first step in that direction. It seems we’ve tripped before we even got that first step in.
On his very best behavior, Dagda smiles tightly. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to help guide Xandra in her destiny.”
“Yes, it is wonderful to have your daughter here with us,” Tana says. She almost sounds like she means it. Almost.
A strange feeling passes over me. I swear, ten spiders are crawling on me. I brush at my arms and legs causing Kallen to glance at me in concern. “Are you okay?” he asks quietly.
Realizing I am not being attacked by spiders, I nod. The skin crawling feeling is starting to subside. “I had an insect or something on my arm,” I whisper back.
Not to be outdone, Mom says, “That you have accepted Xandra into your life is very gracious of you.”
A shiver goes up my spine. Or was that another spider? I try to surreptitiously check it out but Kallen catches on. “What is it?” he asks, leaning around so he can see my back.
“Is there a spider there?” I ask trying to look over my shoulder like I have a chance of twisting my neck far enough to see my own back.
Kallen brushes a hand down my shirt and shakes his head. “Not that I can see.”
“Dipweed probably has fleas,” Taz mutters from under the table where he’s waiting impatiently for scraps to be thrown his way.
“Watch it, Goblin-made,” Felix growls.
It took days to come up with a name for Taz’s new brother. Technically not my Familiar, he belonged to my doppelganger, the Tasmanian devil from another universe has nonetheless sworn his loyalty to me. Not that I needed another Tasmanian devil following me around, but at least Taz now has someone to insult besides me. Felix never had a name before. Therefore, he wanted to make sure he found the perfect one. He finally settled on Felix when he learned that the meaning of the name is lucky. He considers himself lucky to have escaped certain death at the hands of my doppelganger. I’m just glad he picked something easy to pronounce.
My attention is dragged back to the conversation when Tana says, “It is not Xandra’s fault she was conceived in betrayal.” Ouch. Low blow.
Mom narrows her ghostly eyes at the Fairy. “It’s not my fault your husband neglected to mention he was married.”
“If you hadn’t been so easy to seduce, you may have had time to find this out,” Tana counters.
Dad comes to Mom’s defense. “My wife was tricked into bedding your unfaithful husband. It was not her morals that were lacking, it was his.” He jabs a finger in Dagda’s direction.
Well, at least everyone is being honest with their feelings now. Except my biological father who is smart enough to keep his mouth tightly closed while this exchange volleys back and forth across the large table in the Palace’s finest dining room. Like me, he’d rather be anywhere but here at the moment.
“I really wish my great-grandparents were alive so we could spend time discussing how all of you were conceived,” I grumble. Kallen tries to hide his smirk by taking a bite of his potatoes.
Clearing his throat, Dagda finds his courage and says like the diplomatic King he can be, “We all agree that my actions were reprehensible at the time. That being said, I do not regret the daughter who emerged from my poor decisions. Given the choice to do it over, I would act just as reprehensible to bring her into the universe. The only thing I can do at this point is offer my sincerest apologies to those of you I hurt.” He reaches over and places his hand on Tana’s and turns his eyes to Mom, begging her to believe his sincerity. It’s a good sign when Tana doesn’t rip her hand out from under his and storm from the room. Mom and Dad don’t zoom off through the wall. Everyone stays right here.
Unfortunately, the air in the room has become acrid due to a mixture of awkwardness, regret, anger, acceptance and a bunch of hatred that isn’t going to go away because my biological father made a nice speech. I give Kallen a hopeful glance but am disappointed to find him at a loss for words to throw into this abyss of misery. I guess I’ll try even though I’m not very good at this. “So, Kallen and I are pregnant.”
The shockwave that circles around the faces at the table appears to have booted the details of my birth out of all of their minds. The face displaying the greatest amount of shock is my husband’s. I can’t help a small giggle. “Just kidding,” I say, mostly to Kallen. “I just wanted to break the tension.” The relief on Kallen’s face is palpable. We both agree we should wait to have children. Many, many years.
“Xandra, that wasn’t funny.” Mom admonishes.
I shrug. “Just wanted to get your attention. Can we go back to talking about the Sasquatch and the Centaurs now?”
Quick to jump on the ‘find something else to talk about’ train, Dagda says, “Yes, of course. Both the Centaurs and the Sasquatch agree it is time to bring an end to their war. Now, we need to help them figure out the best way to do this. Xandra and I leave for the Centaur realm the day after tomorrow.”
Surprised, Mom says, “So soon?”
I nod. “We don’t want to give them time to change their minds.” Both races are volatile in nature.
“Now that they’re done squabbling, maybe they’ll remember we’re starving to death down here,” Taz grumbles. I nudge him with my foot and Felix laughs. At least someone is enjoying himself.
“What made them decide on a peace treaty?” Dad asks. “I thought both sides were adamant that no compromise could be reached.” Dad is fascinated by the politics and cultures of supernatural beings. He has been doing so much research lately I’m pretty sure he knows more about these other cultures than I do.
A genuine smile appears on Dagda’s face. “I believe our daughter is the reason behind it.” Dad bristles at the ‘our’ part of Dagda’s sentence but he doesn’t say anything. I secretly applaud my biological father for his acknowledgement of Dad’s place in my life. Dagda continues. “After learning of her destiny and experiencing her power first hand, I believe both sides thought it prudent to come up with a compromise before they faced her wrath again.”
This conversation is starting to make me as uncomfortable as the last. “I doubt that.”
Taking pity on me, Kallen says, “Uncle, when is the last time we went fishing?” Kallen fishes? Huh.
Dagda sits back in his chair and rubs his chin. “I can’t remember exactly. You were probably around ten or so.” That’s why I’ve never heard about Kallen’s passion for fish.
“Jim, I believe fishing was a hobby of yours,” Kallen says to Dad. It was by mutual agreement that Kallen call him Jim instead of Dad. Dad may be dead, but he doesn’t want to feel old.
Dad nods. “There was a nice fishing hole just a couple miles from the house. I got out there as often as I could when the weather permitted.”
“The weather will be nice for fishing tomorrow,” Kallen says as an open invitation to both men. I hold my breath to see how they respond. Especially Dad.
Dagda speaks first. “The river has a nice supply of Callop. There is a place just south of the palace that is fairly comfortable.”
Dad ponders this for a minute and then nods. “I would enjoy a morning of fishing. Someone will need to bait my hook for me,” he adds with a wink in Kallen’s direction. Being a ghost, Dad will be doing more observing than fishing. “What, exactly, is a Callop?”
Dagda, Kallen and Dad manage to take up the rest of dinner with fish talk. By the end of the meal, I hope to never hear about another fish my entire life. Still, I give Kallen a hug when we rise from the table. “Thank you,” I whisper in his ear.
He grins and takes my hand, leading me out of the dining room. When we are out of earshot of the others, he says, “I hope I get more of a reward than that.”