“She is very taken by you,” Bernie said. “In a way that I’ve never seen. But she’s embarrassed because…”
“I’m just a stupid kid,” Nash said.
“Young,” Bernie said. “No one in their right mind would think that you were stupid.”
“She’s not sure what to do about you,” Bernie said. “If you were a woman, and she a man, you’d just move in with her. Like her mother did.”
“But I’m not female,” Nash said. “She is not a man.”
“You’re sixteen?” Bernie asked.
“Two years until you’re legal?” Bernie asked.
“Age of consent in Poland is 15 years old,” Bernie said.
“I don’t live in Poland,” Nash said. He sucked in a breath and Bernie raised his eyebrows. “Plus, it’s not like I just want to screw her and that’s that. I want…”
Nash let out a breath.
“I wanted you to know that’s she’s very serious about you,” Bernie said. “She said that you’ve been pulling away. She said that her last conversation with you was that you were going to take some time away from her until you were old enough.”
Nash dropped his head into his hands.
“You don’t have to do that, Nash,” Bernie said. “In fact, you don’t have to stay away at all.”
Nash shook his head.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Nash said. “I feel like I’m living in two worlds — one when she’s around and the other of a stupid high school kid. I feel crazy. I can’t. I just can’t.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Bernie said with a grin.
“And?” Nash asked.
“I came up with a plan,” Bernie said. “I wanted to speak with you first before I speak with your parents.”
“I can’t move there,” Nash said. “My family needs me here for now.”
“That’s not my plan,” Bernie said with a grin.
“What’s your plan for my life?” Nash asked.
“Why is that funny?” Nash asked.
“I remember being a young man,” Bernie said. “I remember what it was like to wish and want to be older. Now that I’m old, I can tell you that it’s only with great luck that you are able to get older. But that doesn’t help when you want to be grown up.”
Nash dropped his head onto the table. For a moment, they sat there in silence.
“My plan is this,” Bernie said. “Stop the daily calls. That’s too hard.”
Nash nodded his head against the table.
“Set up times you get together,” Bernie said. “Weekends once a month or every other month. That’s doable. It wouldn’t work for you to go to New York. Too many eyes on her. It wouldn’t work for her to come here. Too many eyes on you.”
Nash lifted his head from the table.
“So you pick a place in between,” Bernie said. “Buy a cabin or a house or get someone who loves you …” The elderly man gestured to himself. “ … to buy a house in his name so that it cannot be traced back to either of you.”
“Then what?” Nash asked.
“Then you spend a little quiet time together,” Bernie said. “Talk. Go for walks. Eat great food. Enjoy each other’s company.”
“What about sex?” Nash asked.
“What about it?” Bernie asked. “Love is not just sexual contact. You both need time to evaluate for yourselves what’s going on — inside you. Sex might be a part of that, but it might not. If you were to enter her world, you would do a lot more than just be her bed partner. You’d have to listen to her. Talk to her. Go to functions with her. Be at her side when she needs you. You will be under a lot of pressure. More than one man has felt too overwhelmed to keep up. Now’s a time to see if you want to do that.”
Nash’s head dropped to the table with a thump.
“My parents will never agree,” Nash said into the table.
“First we have to decide if that’s something you want,” Bernie said.
Nash groaned. Outside of the room, they heard Maresol get up to start breakfast.
“You’ll let me know,” Bernie said.
Before Nash could respond, the elderly man was gone. Maresol came in the room to get something from the cabinet.
“Oh, Nash,” Maresol said. “Are you okay?”
Nash nodded and went back to the couch. He had at least another half hour before he had to get up. Staring at the ceiling, he wondered what he should “do” about Nadia.
“Nash,” Bernie whispered over the couch Nash was asleep on.
When Nash didn’t move, Bernie touched the boy’s shoulders. For a very old man, he had a surprisingly tight grip. Nash’s eyes popped open. Nash grabbed Bernie’s hand and put it into a pin. Bernie easily shook it off.
“I need to speak to you,” Bernie said. Looking up to see Noelle and Teddy looking at him, he added, “In private.”
Nash sat up. He rubbed his head and stood up.
“Back to sleep,” Bernie ordered Noelle and Teddy.
They lay back down. Bernie took Nash’s arm and led him toward the large dining room. The light was grey outside the mullioned windows. The dining room table gleamed. The air of the room smelled vaguely like great food and, if at all possible, laughter. Nash pulled out the chair on the end for Bernie and pulled the one out beside it for himself. They sat down.
For a moment, neither said anything. Bernie scanned Nash’s face.
“What can I do for you?” Nash asked. Realizing he might have been impolite, he added, “I’m sorry. It’s early.”
Bernie grinned at Nash.
“Son, I’ve seen a lot of early mornings,” Bernie said. “No offense taken. And you’re right —what is it that I want at this God-forsaken hour?”
Bernie grinned. He leaned forward. Still half-asleep, Nash marveled at how Bernie never smelled like an old man. He didn’t look as old as he was either.
“I wanted to talk to you about Nadia,” Bernie said.
Instantly wide awake, Nash sucked in a breath.
“Whaa…” Nash said.
Bernie put his hand over Nash’s arm. Nash looked up at him.
“I’ve known Nadia for a very long time,” Bernie said. “Since she was a toddler. I knew her father, of course, and her mother. I’m not surprised that she’s a doctor or that she runs the entire show at her Dad’s old business.”
“But me?” Nash asked.
Bernie smiled at the young man.
“You, my boy, make the most sense of all,” Bernie said with a smile. “She and I shared a plane back from Poland.”
“Why was Nadia in Poland?” Nash asked.
“She took an overnight trip to look at the loot from the salt mine,” Bernie said with a nod. “Like her father before her, she is very hands on. She wanted to check everything before most of it is sent back to the heirs.”
Bernie nodded to Nash.
“A good portion of it is coming here,” Bernie said.
“To this house?” Nash asked.
“Why?” Nash asked.
“It belongs to Sandy,” Bernie said.
“That is not why I wanted to talk with you,” Bernie said.
“Okay,” Nash said.
“We talked about you,” Bernie said. “For a long time.”
“Oh?” Nash asked.
“She is very taken by you,” Bernie said. “In a way that I’ve never seen. But she’s embarrassed because…”
Delphie waved her hand to shoo away Abi’s comment. Delphie was not offended.
“It seems that they …” Delphie’s eyes flicked to Abi. “Well …”
“What is it?” Abi asked.
“You would have to give them the choice — stay, participate, keep your powers, or leave,” Delphie said. “Most will make the choice to leave. They will need support and assistance.”
“So we could do a year test?” Abi asked. “We’ll help the tribe settle into the human world and then you have a year out on your own.”
Delphie scowled and shook her head.
“What?” Abi asked.
“My sense is that they wish to destroy all fairies,” Delphie said. “They feel like the other fairies have excluded them because they are less powerful.”
Delphie looked at Abi.
“Were they excluded?” Delphie asked.
“Not that I know of,” Abi said. “We’d have to ask Fin, but I believe that they spurned all of his efforts to include them.”
“Why would they want to destroy all fairies?” Abi asked.
“I …” Delphie’s eyes went vague. After a moment, she cleared her throat. “Sorry.”
“What happened?” Abi asked.
“We need to get Edie and the others out of there,” Delphie said.
“Out of Olympia?” Abi asked. “Where? Where can I place them?”
“Tunnels,” Delphie said. “Below us here. They will be safe there.”
Abi gave Delphie a curt nod. Delphie closed her eyes. Her lips moved in what looked like prayer.
“Rosary?” Abi asked after hearing the whisper.
“Childhood habit,” Delphie said. “When can we go save them?”
“You speak. I act,” Abi said. “The fairy envoys are in the brick coal tunnel under the house.”
“And Áthas’s daughter?” Delphie asked.
“She is with them,” Abi said. “Can they change her mind?”
Delphie shook her head.
“They may still be getting instruction from Áthas,” Delphie said.
“May?” Abi asked.
“They are,” Delphie said. “Áthas wants revenge. Her sisters were more successful than she. Áthas had to suffer greatly while the others thrived. She blames her sister fairies. Áthas wants her fairies to destroy the fairy world so that when the sisters are off retreat, they will feel like Áthas has felt all of this time.”
Abi raised her eyebrows and looked ahead. Abi was quiet for such a long time that Delphie closed her eyes and went into trance.
“No!” Delphie screamed. “No!”
Abi grabbed onto Delphie as she kept screaming. Jill’s door flew open and she ran down from the loft. Heather and Blane came running up. Tanesha and Honey came into the living room at the same time.
“I can’t make any sense of her,” Abi said. “She saw something …”
“Paddie.” Delphie’s lips whispered the name and the Oracle collapsed.
“I will not go to Olympia,” Delphie said. “I’ve spoken with Perses and a few of the other Titans. They believe that Zeus will come after them again if he realizes that so many of them are still alive. Can you think of any way that he might realize that?”
“Áthas’s fairies.” Abi shook her head. “Are the fairies in danger now?”
“From Ares, their host?” Delphie asked.
“No,” Delphie said. “Ares will be in danger once Zeus discovers the fairies are there.”
“This could destroy Olympia,” Abi said in a soft voice.
“Who would benefit from that?” Delphie asked.
“Áthas’s tribe,” Abi said.
“And humans,” Delphie said. “Those who are ruling Áthas’s tribe in her absence want to disband the tribe and live like humans. They want the wealth and glamor of human life. With their limited magical abilities, they can easily fit in with the famous for being famous crowd.”
“They are no threat to Zeus,” Abi said softly.
“Exactly,” Delphie said.
“Is this going on right now?” Abi asked. “Is Edie in danger? Asmaa? Rani?”
“Their futures are not determined,” Delphie said. “I must ask you …”
Abi turned to look at Delphie.
“What is your relationship with Zeus like?” Delphie asked. “The stories are that Kronus got rid of you and Uranus.”
Abi winced and nodded.
“Not all stories are true,” Abi said, mildly. She shook her head. “One reason I love being around the people native to North America is that their stories are not filled with these petty power plays. The misogyny of Greece and Rome manipulated the stories so that one white male god ruled over everyone else. One male god killed off his father and his son then killed him. Just absurd. The fact that anyone believes them? Ridiculous.”
Delphie gave a slight nod. Abi stared at the fire for a few moments.
“So Kronos?” Delphie asked.
Abi shook her head.
“A story for another day,” Abi said. “What shall we do? Advise me Oracle.”
Delphie took a breath. She closed her eyes and cleared her mind. Letting out the breath, she looked at Abi.
“How may I be of assistance?” Delphie asked.
“What should we do?” Abi asked.
“Let Áthas’s fairies go,” Delphie said. “Help them settle in the modern world and continued to make a union of fairies.”
“There are thousands of lost fairies,” Delphie said. “Some of them are going to want to stay independent. Others are going to want to integrate into the human world. That’s a fact that Edie never considered.”
“Who would give up being a fairy to become human?” Abi asked. “Of course, Edie hasn’t thought of it. The very idea is crazy.”
They were standing at the doorway to Delphie’s apartment.
“Like the kids say, ‘Not a chance,’” Delphie said.
“Why?” Abi asked.
“Shh,” Delphie said. “Lower your voice. You’ll wake Ivy. She’s still catching up on sleep.”
Acquiescing, Abi nodded. She gestured out into the hallway. Shaking her head, Delphie grabbed her bathrobe to cover her night dress and followed Abi out of the apartment. Delphie followed Abi down the hallway to the kitchen.
“I would love some tea,” Abi said.
“Of course,” Delphie said.
Abi wasn’t allowed in the kitchen since she shorted out the electricity for the entire area one day. Delphie went to the fill and turn on the electric kettle. Delphie set out two cups and then dug in the cabinet for the special tea that Abi liked. Delphie had hidden it so that Abi could actually get some of it.
“Ah ha!” Delphie exclaimed as she pulled the tea bags from the back of the cabinet.
Abi grinned. The electric kettle clicked off and Delphie made poured the hot water into the mugs.
“You look very nice,” Delphie said.
“I have been in court at Olympia,” Abi said. “Now, Edie has asked for your assistance. It’s not like you to turn anyone down who needs help, especially someone you like so much.”
“I will not go to Olympia,” Delphie said. “That’s final.”
“Why not?” Abi asked.
Shaking her head, Delphie carried the cups out into the Castle living room. Delphie took a spot on the couch. Abi flicked her hand toward the fireplace and a cheery fire blazed, providing cheery warmth and golden light. Delphie smiled in appreciation. Abi took her tea and sat down next to Delphie.
“Princess Edith has asked for your assistance,” Abi said. “It’s hard for me to believe that you won’t help her.”
“I would be happy to help Edie but I will not go to Olympia,” Delphie said.
“Why?” Abi asked.
“Oracles and Olympians do not mix,” Delphie said.
“Why do you say that?” Abi asked.
“Zeus has tried on more than one occasion to obliterate all Oracles,” Delphie said. “He finds out abilities ‘against nature.’ A threat to his power.”
Abi gave Delphie a long assessing look.
“You’ve been looking through history,” Abi said.
“Edie asked me to take a look,” Delphie said. “She doesn’t trust Olympia. She’s unsure why they would want to assist with the fairy world.”
“What did you find?” Abi asked.
“Edie has a right to be concerned,” Delphie said. “Zeus does not like to be threatened. He’s the one who launched the Titan war. He cannot tolerate anyone having more power than he has. He will not tolerate any species that has a different power than his.”