Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Chapter 87: Keeper of Time
Milo's parents wrote to him asking him to come to Monte Vista quickly. They would not say what for, so he was left to assume they badly wanted to see Fairuza or something.
"It's great to see you, Mom, Dad, but your letter made it sound like somebody was going to die," Milo complains.
Ben cuddles Fairuza, delighted to meet his granddaughter. The toddler blinks slowly at him, with eyes the same dark green as his own. He realizes suddenly she is not a werewolf. That's a good thing, he reasons, thinking of all the upholstery he had to replace when his sons were too small to control their destructive urges.
Lucida shoots an annoyed glance Ben's way, one he doesn't notice. She would rather the politician be the one to break such delicate news. "Nobody is dying, Milo. But there's someone you really need to meet. Guadalupe had... a daughter... a while back. I didn't even know about it until she dropped the poor girl off with us. Do you, um. Do you take my meaning?"
"I knew about the out of wedlock child," Ben says, well-versed in all the town gossip, "I just didn't think she'd keep quiet for so long if Orazia were yours."
"Orzaia," Milo repeats. He feels like he's experiencing this moment underwater, blurry, from some other dimension. He wants to be anywhere but here.
"Orazia Giordano," his father says.
"She cried for her mother for days," Lucida says sadly.
"I was only with 'Lupe the once," Milo murmurs. His parents both speak at once to chastise him, because, of course, it only takes once, but Milo is busy mentally calculating how long ago this was, and how old this Orazia must be.
She'd have to be old enough to go to school by now...
Ben leads Milo downstairs, chattering softly about all the nonsense Guadalupe has been up to, in and out of jail. Milo tries not to listen, because the more he listens, the angrier he gets, and the angrier he gets, the more he thinks about clawing his dad's eyes out, and the gory mess it would make. Maybe he could smash Ben's head off the wall, and see how much blood comes out. Why won't he shut up?
Milo shakes his head. His father means well.
As the men descend the stairs, Lucida scurries out to the back porch, where Izalee is talking with the others. Lucida has yet to properly meet with Lela, so is pleased Carlos took the time off work to make this trip with his wife.
"Mm, well, he looks a lot like you," Izalee smiles fondly as she gives her analysis of little Acheron, who aged up on the long voyage across the world.
"He's got a little bit of his father," Ceth says with a shrug. "That's alright... the guy was handsome."
"I sense magic in him. Strong magic," Izalee warns.
"You're going to magically break all the girls' hearts," Ceth coos to her son.
"Promise you will bring him back to me for training when the time comes," Izalee implores.
"Umm... okay... that's a freaky request... what if he doesn't want to become a sorcerer?"
"I think he will," Izalee murmurs, more to herself. "A weak link breaks the chain..."
Ceth rolls her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
"I've learned a lot since you were last home. I'm already training Orazia."
So the new kid is a mini-witch. Ceth processes this information quickly. "Man, Milo cannot catch a break, can he?"
"He is lucky she wasn't born a werewolf..."
"Yeah. Does the magic thing have anything to do with why 'Lupe abandoned her daughter?"
"No, absolutely not." Izalee's expression turns angry. "The woman is stupid and selfish. It must run in the family."
Orazia didn't think she was a bad girl... at least, she didn't mean to be, but when her mother said she couldn't "deal" with her anymore, and left her with grandparents who had until that day been strangers to her, how else was she supposed to interpret it?
Her grandparents are kind to her, and their home is large and beautiful, with so many things to play with and nice food to eat all the time... but Orazia is afraid to upset them, afraid anything she does may make them want to send her away, too, so she mostly keeps quiet, and plays alone in this room full of treasures.
Orazia looks a lot like Milo, leaving everyone in the family wondering why nobody put two and two together before... but of course, Guadalupe did not associate with anyone who would connect the dots. She is estranged from even the Giordano clan, and is rumored to owe most of them money.
Milo's anger melts when he sees her. He didn't know she existed, and that's Guadalupe's fault, not hers, and not his father's. The person hurting most from this is obviously not him.
She knows who Milo is before he even introduces himself. She knows his excuse for not being in her life before he makes it. When he says he wants to be part of her life now, wants to get to know her, she is silent. When he asks what her mother told him about her, she is silent. When he asks if she knows she looks frightened, she is silent.
When he asks if it's because he's a werewolf, she looks away; she knows all about those, now. She doesn't have their powers but she does have their claws, ugly black growths instead of proper fingernails. The doctors never knew what to make of it. Guadalupe kept trying to paint them.
When Milo tries to tell her about where he lives, about Starlight Shores, she looks glum. He sighs. She knows that sigh. It means she's being difficult.
"Your Grandma and Grandpa are getting old," he says. "It's better if you stay with me... I can keep up with you better. You understand, right?"
She tears up. They don't want her. She thinks of her mother's friends, the many houses they stayed at as she grew from infant to child; those people considered her a nuisance. Don't touch this, don't get too close to that. "I didn't touch anything in here," she whimpers.
Funny story, Milo thinks to himself, your mother was arrested for touching something in here.
He winces. "Uh... it's mostly all junk. You can take anything you want with you. Okay?"
She just stares at him. He doesn't understand. She doesn't know how to make him understand. He says more things, asks her more questions, stupid questions like what her favorite color is, and what does she like to eat? She stares at his face as he talks, searching out every sign of familiarity. Lucida showed her pictures and videos, of course, but it's not the same as watching him in person.
Milo is getting nowhere. He runs out of things to say and questions to ask. He only has one left.
"Do you want to see your little sister?"
To his relief, Orazia gives an enthusiastic nod.
Orazia bonds quickly with Fairuza. It helps that Fairuza cannot ask her any questions.
"I think Orazia means Keeper of Time?" Ceth is pretty chill about this news.
"Well I didn't pick the name," Milo grumbles.
"Interesting that your daughters were both named by their mothers... the names end in A and have a Z in them..." Carlos muses.
Milo groans. "How is that interesting?"
"Orazia is not a strange name for our area, it's likely Guadalupe got the idea from a friend or ancestor. Meanwhile Fairuza was a Persian name. It means turquoise. Probably inspired by the color of your eyes?" Carlos speculates on Kirstin's reasoning.
Milo balls his hands into fists. "Would you both knock it off?"
"If I had a hot tub in my home growing up, I don't know that I'd ever leave," Lela remarks.
"Starlight Shores was as close to the actual stars as Carlos could get," Lucida chuckles. "That boy never left the 'want to be an astronaut' phase."
"Still, I think I shall like seeing where he grew up. You can tell a lot about a person, from that."
Lucida tilts her head. "A little late to get to know him. You're married!"
"You have a point, but... people never stop evolving."
Lela and Carlos set out bright and early so he can show her the town. Lela spends most of this vacation in her swimwear.
Ceth seems to think her origins are important, too. She spends some time walking with Acheron, showing him the quiet places she sought out when she was a child. He is too young to converse with her about it, but the new sights and sounds seem to fascinate him.
"The ocean looks different from here, see."
"Ma." It's all he can say.
She smiles anyway. "Yes... that's me."
Milo has only one thing he wants to see in Monte Vista, and finding her takes over a day.
Keeper of time. Orazia's age marks how long it has been since Milo was home, since he has spoken to this woman. How can it feel like it was yesterday? How can childhood memories of playing tag with 'Lupe around his aunt's garden feel so clear?
He had all these ideas about confronting Guadalupe and giving her a piece of his mind, but now that he is in the moment where that is supposed to happen, his bottled up rage doesn't explode like it's supposed to. It just fizzles into apathy. "You look different," he greets her.
She shrugs. "You wanted to see me? Here to yell at me like everybody else?"
"I thought I had something to say to you. But now that I'm here... I don't."
"Good," she says.
Even though she's dressed like a little girl going to a cartoon convention, even though she's staring at him like he's a pile of gross garbage that was just thrown down on the floor in front of her, he can't help but think she's gorgeous. He shakes his head and walks away. What's wrong with me? he thinks. What is wrong with the universe?
Etc.: That's 3 of 4 kids. I can't make an heir decision until #4 arrives.
Both Fairuza and Orazia have traits randomly assigned by the game, since they were born outside the household. I forget what they all are, but I know Orazia has shy and bookworm.
Aaaaand that's a wrap for 2016! Thank you for reading! I'll be back next month with more randomized legacy adventures.