Sandy was drinking a chocolate shake from a straw so she couldn’t answer. Delphie came into the room carrying a tray with Sandy’s actual lunch of soup, soft bread, some chicken, and strawberries. Feeling like they were caught, Jill and Sandy turned to look at Delphie. Sandy kept drinking in case Delphie took the chocolate shake away from her.
“Don’t worry about me,” Delphie said. “If you don’t want this stuff, Jill and I will eat it.”
Laughing, Sandy coughed and stopped drinking.
“Whoa,” Jill said.
Jill took the shake from Sandy’s hand and set it on the table. She held out some water for Sandy but Sandy shook her head. After a moment, she accepted the water.
“Swallowed wrong,” Sandy said.
Jill took back the water.
“Don’t take my milkshake,” Sandy croaked.
Jill and Delphie laughed.
“I heard that you saw something,” Delphie said.
“How …?” Sandy looked at Jill and she shook her head.
“Maresol. She came in to check on you and … well.” Delphie nodded. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Sandy nodded to Jill.
“She’s been upset but she doesn’t like to be upset around other people,” Jill said.
“Too hard,” Sandy’s voice came as a slur of words.
“Oh, it’s going to be okay. Don’t be upset,” Delphie said with a nod. “You mean like that?”
“Sure,” Jill said. “But for Sandy, so many people are invested in her being ‘strong,’ you know? She has to hide being sad.”
“Nash,” Sandy slurred through her wired jaw. “Teddy.”
“She doesn’t want the boys to feel worse than they already do,” Jill said.
“She convinced Aden to leave so that she had some time to herself when things were quiet,” Jill said. “Then she let her feelings out.”
“I’ve done the very same thing,” Delphie said.
Sandy’s eyes flicked to Delphie. The Oracle gave Sandy a confirming nod.
“Well, then you know how it is,” Jill said.
“I do,” Delphie said. “So you were upset and …”
“Crying,” Sandy’s voice slurred. Her hands touched her face. “Upset. All came forward. From … before.”
“When we were kids,” Jill said. “Before she was adopted by Mitch.”
“Mixed together,” Sandy said.
Her eyes flicked to Jill, and Jill nodded.
“You know how it is,” Jill said, “you start to feel something and then all of the sudden you’re feeling everything. You’re not an adult any more but a child and …”
“And really, what challenge worth doing isn’t very hard?” Edie asked. “I’ve spent these years here in Denver learning from Abi. I know how to run a country — even a country as large as ours. I know how to set it up so that things will run smoothly. More than anything, but uniting the Fairy Queendoms we will create a lasting peace which will allow us to raise the quality of life for every fairy, including the ones in my own Queendom. But I …”
Edie abruptly stopped talking. She looked up at Heather.
“I cannot offer,” Heather said. “You must ask me.”
“Oh,” Edie said, sitting back in her chair. “You’ve been waiting for me … You know all about this and I’ve been blathering on. I never would have thought to ask if it hadn’t been for last night with Ivy and everything.”
Edie stopped talking. She and Heather shared a long look.
“I need Olympia behind me,” Edie said.
Heather nodded. With her hand, she encouraged Edie to ask the question.
“Could you help me get approval from Olympia?” Edie asked. Heather blinked at her for a long moment. Before Edie knew what she needed to ask, “Wil you stand with me?”
“Easy enough,” Heather said. “Shall we?”
“What about …?” Edie asked.
“The children are set to go to the Marlowe School today,” Heather said.
“Everyone knows this is going on?” Edie asked.
“Of course,” Heather said. “Will you give me a moment?”
Heather stood. Edie dropped to her knees.
“Thank you,” Edie whispered.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Heather said. “It will take a full council to get this kind off approval from Olympia. You’re going to have to deal with my grandfather, Ares, and Zeus, not to mention Athena and the twins and whoever else has an opinion.”
Edie lifted her chin.
“I can handle it,” Edie said.
“Of course you can,” Heather said with a smile.
Heather nodded to Edie and started back to her apartment just as Jill came down the stairs. The coffee maker went off automatically.
“The heads of the Fairy Armies have been meeting in secret. I … I know them. I would even say that we were friends before all of this … happened. Now things are …” Edie paused. She shook her head. “More complicated. The other Generals want to combine the communities into one nation-state. They want our stability as well as the prosperity that’s come from that stability.”
“How do you feel about that?” Heather asked.
Edie sighed and shook her head.
“I was all for it before …” Edie stumbled on the next words, “…the other communities tore their worlds apart. They have killed each other and …”
Edie shook her head.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in all of my long life,” Edie said. “We’re fairies, not mobsters.”
Edie looked so upset that Heather put her hand over Edie’s to stead and comfort her.
“And our Queendom, my mother and father’s? The one I grew up in?” Edie asked.“They don’t want to give up what we have for other Queendoms in disarray. If we combine, we will tear our world down. If we leave them to rot, their chaos will eventually affect us.”
“What would you like to ask me, Princess Edith?” Heather asked.
“My … well … I …” Edie said.
“Please be frank,” Heather said.
“Abi believes that I can unite the Queendoms,” Edie said. “I am by far the most powerful fairy, in any of the Queendoms. Ever, probably, at least that’s what Abi says.”
“She would know,” Heather said.
Edie looked at Heather for a moment.
“If I made the decision to lead, there would be nothing anyone could do about it.” Edie sighed. “But I …”
Edie shook her head.
“What do you think?” Heather asked.
“Some days I think it would be fun challenge,” Edie said. “I like fairies. I’ve been around Jake enough to know the joy and challenge of cleaning up messes. Mari and Fin would definitely help me, as would Keenan.”
“And your sister, The Blue Fairy?” Heather asked.
“I talked to her,” Edie said. “She is so focused on her own challenge that she can’t fathom all of this other stuff. I don’t think she’d know if the entire fairy world ended.”
“As long as it wasn’t children in grave danger,” Heather said.
“Exactly,” Edie said with a nod. She opened her mouth, but then shook her head. “Other days, I have no desire to leave the nursery and the babies. I want to settle down with James. Have a brood of my own and …””
“I understand,” Heather said.
Edie scowled. Heather opened her mouth to ask how she could help again, but Edie began to speak.
“The other Fairy Generals believe that I could do this thing — combine all three communities,” Edie said. “My mother’s Queendom will follow what I say because Fin will back me. And, I do think it will be a fun challenge, but definitely a worthy challenge. And, if I can’t do this thing, who could?”
Heather took a breath to speak but Edie continued.
“Hello Princess Edith,” Heather said as Edie entered the kitchen.
Blushing at the formal greeting, Edie looked around to see who might have overheard Heather.
“No one else is here at the moment,” Heather said evenly.
The electric kettle turned off and Heather went to pour the water into a pot to brew tea.
“You knew that,” Heather said, looking up at Edie.
“I did,” Edie said.
“How can I be of service to you, Princess?” Heather asked.
“I … uh …” Edie swallowed hard. “Can I talk to you as Hedone?”
“We are one and the same,” Heather said.
“Ah, I’ve never been sure,” Edie said.
Heather nodded. She set the teapot onto the kitchen table and went back to the cabinets for mugs.
“Milk?” Heather asked.
Edie shook her head. Heather poured Edie a cup.
“I know you don’t like it very strong,” Heather said.
“It’s not that I don’t like it strong,” Edie said with a nod. “I’m just not used to it. For most of my life, tea has been a luxury only available at court. Even then it was very weak.”
“Me, as well,” Heather said with a smile.
“Oh.” Edie chuckled. “Right.”
“I am not as old as you, though,” Heather said, her voice lingering over the world “old.”
Edie laughed outright, and Heather grinned.
“We only have a few more minutes alone,” Heather said. “What can I do for you, Princess?”
“You know how there was almost a war between the Fairy Queens?” Edie asked.
“I remember,” Heather said.
“Um, well, the Fairy Queens are still on retreat,” Edie said. “Abi thinks they will never return from retreat. Mari says that she went to see our mother, but Queen Fand didn’t recognize her. Didn’t recognize her!”
Edie shook her head.
“All of that is fine, of course,” Edie said. “The Fairy Queen sisters need time together or maybe they were always supposed to be together or whatever …”
Edie took a breath and lost confidence. She looked down at her hands.
“There are still three entire, separate communities that have built up over the millennia,” Heather said.
“The fairy communities are in chaos,” Edie said. “I mean, in our Queendom, the fairies are coping. Fin spent the summer creating a kind of ‘Board of Directors’ to advise what might be best for our community. But we are lucky. Mother has five capable, adult children. Our father is still there. And Fin is able to keep the community going while going to school here. The other communities aren’t so lucky. There has been a lot of fighting.”