Normally, I’m not a violent man. Not at all. Rather, I’m considered to be a lover, by those who know me. A great lover, in fact. But that’s entirely beside the point. At this moment, I’m ready to commit violence, and on no less a personage than my sister Luci. Luckily for her, I remain a gentleman and a brother, despite my urgent need to strangle her and thus collapse her vocal chords before they can utter anything even remotely resembling an end to the carefully laid plans of Reno and myself.
I cast about in my mind for something that will divert the child from her tragic course of action.
“Luci! Why don’t we go outside and… and… play with your dolls?” It’s the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t ask me why. She gives me a strange look. Silly child.
“I haven’t played with dolls for quite some time, Kay. Probably since the last time you were home, before you left to attain your… education.”
Why does she have to snicker when she says that? As if there’s any doubt as to why I traveled off-planet for those four years? I was pursuing my higher education. Anything else I might’ve done in the way of extracurricular activities is simply none of her business.
Why does everyone snicker when they say that? Sometimes I wonder.
But never mind that now. While I was puzzling her words, she’s walked away from me, toward our parents. I hastily pursue her, managing to almost stumble over my own feet. Instantly, Swy’s hand is at my elbow. Good man, Swyddogh. Worth his weight in… well, in something valuable, but I can’t think clearly right now. My mind and heart are too filled with the fear of losing Reno to something as senseless as my sister’s big mouth.
She hugs our parents, first Mother, than Father. Everyone’s smiling much too much for my liking, as I see my short but spectacular life flash before my eyes. For a moment, I actually think about turning and running to my room to escape what’s coming. Until a vision of Reno flashes through my brain, and my body recalls the feel of him, of his arms around me, and I’m powerless to do anything but remain and fight for this man I love.
My eyes widen as the word zings through me. What did I just say? I. Love. Reno.
I LOVE RENO!
The more I think it, the more I know it’s true. And the more determined I am to keep Luci from destroying
my love before I even discover if it’s mutual or not.
What is she saying? Heavens above, what is she saying?
“Mother, Father. About this courtship thing, I want to tell you again how pleased I am with your choice, and I’m sure he’ll make a good husband for me.”
“Just a minute…” I begin to protest, even as her words sink into my head. What did she just say?
They’re all staring at me now, Luci in open annoyance. Or is she smirking at me? Whichever it is, I think I need a drink. No, I know I need a drink. And a good translator. One that speaks sister, ‘cause I sure don’t.
“Kay, my goodness, what in the world is wrong with you?”
Think quickly, or all will be lost, I can’t afford to blurt out that I’m in love with the man we’ve just set up to marry my sister. Pretend to go along with it. And most of all, please breathe.
“I… I…. “ Damn, the words aren’t coming.
Mother turns to my sister, since I’m obviously a lost cause. “Liusaidh, your brother’s going to chaperone your visits, including the one we’ve set up for today.”
Today? Set up? What’s going on here?
“Thank you, Mother, what an excellent suggestion. I’d love to have Kay’s company. I’ll feel safer with him there.”
My parents are beaming at us both, while I’m looking suspiciously at the girl who wears my sister like a spare suit. That can’t be Luci. Can it?
She links her arm with mine. Just before I feel like I might fall to the floor. “Come, brother dearest, let us get you something to eat. I think your blood sugar is too low. Some orange juice should do the trick, don’t you think?”
She’s walking me out of the room, with Swy hastening after us, while I attempt to collect the scattered shreds of my dignity. She commands a passing native to bring some food to my room, which is where we end up. Why my room, I’m tempted to ask, but think better of it, focusing instead on the issues at hand. Like what the hell is going on?
“You sleep too late, brother,” she begins, sitting cross-legged upon my bed, forcing me to sit at the end of the bed, where it’s far less comfortable and… Again I digress.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that even before you dragged your pretty little posterior out of bed, I’d already seen our parents and broached the idea of your handling the courtship as my chaperone. They said yes, of course.”
“But… but… how… I mean… they never let on…” I’m totally unhinged now.
“Because I told them to let you think it was your idea. See? Brilliant, eh?” She looks so very self-satisfied. I’d slap her silly face if she hadn’t accomplished just exactly what I wished her to. Alright, so maybe I’m not as brilliant and convincing as I thought I was. Who cares? The point is that it’s all set. It’s happening. It’s fait accompli.
I feel a grin coming over me like a new strain of the flu, as I contemplate the pretty future which lies ahead of us. Ah, life is so wonderful. Wonderful indeed.
“When are we to receive them, sister dearest?” I ask, visions of Reno floating through my head. Naked Reno, I might add.
“About the twelfth hour, brother dear. I’ll be back well before then, trust me.”
“Back? From where?”
“From dressing, of course. I need to look my best for my intended.”
“For your intended…” I find it hard to get the words out.
“Oh Kay, you know what I mean!” She sounds exasperated. “Don’t make me spell it out. Not yours, mine. Now hush.” She kisses my cheek and climbs off the bed, flouncing toward the door, which Swy opens for her. She turns and blows a kiss through the air at me before disappearing out the door.
Now I have only two things to do—dress myself to please my lovely Reno, to gain his approval. And wait for the time of his arrival.
That’ll be the hardest thing, waiting for him. But I shall. Oh, should I tell him I love him? Or wait until he asks? Or until he makes his intentions known?
What to do? What to do? What to do?
I carry my baby brother, clutched tightly in my arms. Jaou on my heels as we ran for the garden. To say I’m a bit protective of my sibling is an understatement. I truly fear for his life in this moment. His body feels completely limp in my arms; there’s hardly any color in his skin. His hair and complexion are completely gray.
“Come on Dorian, don’t you dare give up. I’m not ready to have my baby brother leave me for the guardian.” I rub my cheek against his, willing every ounce of my energy to flow through my skin and into my baby brother. I don’t care if my hair turns pale— as long as Dorian recovers.
Jaou jogs ahead of me, sliding open the door that leads to the garden. I run as quickly as I can to the center of the garden and drop to my knees, laying Dorian into the center bed of rich soil. Jaou’s instantly at my brother’s feet, mounding the black soil around him. Jaou kneels with Dorian’s feet against his knees. I sit at the other end, Dorian’s head on my thighs.
“He’s gotta be alright.” Jaou’s concerned eyes meet mine, a tear sliding down his cheek.
“He will be.” I reply, ignoring the stinging pressure of tears pressing against my own eyes. I’ve almost lost two brothers to the wastes. When this is over I’ll find out what’s behind this phenomenon and help the earth mother dispose of the hazard. Maybe Kay can help with that. I tip my head back and stretch my arms out toward the rays of the guardian. Jaou sits exactly the same way at Dorian’s feet, both of us pouring forth energy blessed onto us by the guardian into our sick brother.
I vaguely register the footfalls of my baby sister, Alangelainea. I’m surprised mother has allowed Angel into the garden, what with Dorian being so ill.
“Is he going to be alright?” I almost miss Angel’s softly spoken question which comes from over my right shoulder.
“We’re doing everything we can. If the guardian wills, he’ll recover,” Jaou says softly. He’s making no promises because although we’re dumping energy into Dorian, he hasn’t begun to recover any of his color. His system has been poisoned and it’s taking everything we have to purge the toxins.
“Can I help?” Angel kneels down beside Dorian. She looks from me to Jaou and back to our brother.
“Jaou and I are purging his system. But he needs to know we love him, so he’ll fight to stay with us. Why don’t you hold his hand?” I brush a hand down my sister’s hair. Mother wouldn’t be happy but I can see in Angel’s eyes that she wants… no needs… to help her brother too. Angel smiles sadly and picks up Dorian’s hand, clutching it to her chest. Dorian may be our little brother, but his hand looks huge clutched in the tiny hands of our baby sister.
I can hear Angel whispering to Dorian. I can’t make out what she’s saying, but tears are slowly running trails down her cheeks, dripping on his chest as she slowly rocks. As close as Jaou and I are, I can see that Angel and Dorian are just as close. I can feel through the connection that Jaou and I are winning over the toxins. Dorian’s beginning to get his coloring back. It’s faint but still it’s getting there. That little bit encourages me and I pour more of myself into my brother. I glance over and lock eyes with Jaou. I see his little smile—I know he can feel it too.
“He’s getting better Angel.” I mumble as I continue to focus.
I vaguely recognize that the door’s sliding open. Father enters. He takes Dorian’s hands in his, sending Angel away. Hours pass with the three of us pouring energy and healing into Dorian. His breathing becomes easier and the gray pallor, becoming a light green as the black dirt around him becomes gray with the toxins that leech from his body. I can practically feel the color leaving my hair and body to rejuvenating Dorian.
“My sons, you must stop now. You risk yourselves and Dorian would never forgive you for endangering yourself in order to save him.” Father rests a hand on my shoulder. I look down from the guardian hanging in the afternoon sky, the morning is gone, my stomach is rumbling in protest to its malnourishment. I realize as Jaou falls forward on his arms that neither of us have eaten since the party. “You both need to rest and eat. Then come back and soak up the last of the evenings rays before you sleep.”
“Thank you, Father,” I mumble. I brush the hair from Dorian’s face before I rest his head gently into the graying soil under him.
“I’ll change his bedding and feed him more energy. Your mother’ll be in to assist me as soon as she’s finished with her Vid meeting with the Advisor to the Crown.” Father takes up Dorian’s hands and I hear him whisper a blessing as I struggle to my feet, pulling Jaou along with me. He was barely healed from his own escapades in the wastes, so dumping so much into our brother has turned his pallor an alarming gray as well.
“Let’s go. We’ll be back soon, Father.” I see him nod his head in a miniscule motion before we leave and make our way to the kitchen.
Angel’s there. She’s setting out fruits and vegetables on the table for us to devour, but the water’s the first thing I grab. Both Jaou and I are dehydrated to the point where my very skin feels wrinkly from lack of moisture. If I look half as bad as Jaou, I’m certain that Mother’ll be furious. All of the hours of work and preparation for attracting Luci have all been poured into keeping my brother alive. And regardless, I wouldn’t change a thing. My brother still lives. I start putting together nutbutter and fruit sandwiches, slicing the exotic banana fruit imported by the humans into slices and layering it with bread and the nutbutter.
As I devour my sandwich in silence, too exhausted to make conversation, I realize I can hear Mother talking on her vid conference. She sounds very angry and I’m pleased that she has someone other than me to vent her frustrations at. Although I’m sure that nothing will prevent her from giving me a piece of her mind soon enough.
I’m about to suggest to Jaou that we return to the garden when I hear a familiar voice saying something about how do you request entrance to a home that has a paper door. My fear-filled eyes lock with Jaou’s… Kay has arrived. Why is he here?
to be continued
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♥ Julie and Sui