Abeyance didn't want to fight with her mother.
She followed Peter out into the hallway. Which way did he go?
She loved her mother.
Peter wasn't by the hearth. Wasn’t in the kitchen at all.
She was her mother's favorite. Always had been. They had a bond.
Peter wasn't in his books. Wasn’t on the couch. Where was he?
Abey's pain was her mother's pain. Nobody loved Abey like she did.
Peter’s coat was gone from its hook. A long look out the window, palms pressed purple on the sill.
Meeting Peter, stumbling into love, back then that joy also belonged to her mum. Whatever Abey went through, so did her mother. It was always that way. Inseparable.
Abey didn't want to fight.
After the Fritt family’s breakup, Phenyl chose to stay with his mom, but soon discovered that his collection of petrified dragon nostrils would not be going with him. Four days later, he had moved into Finbar's recent find: a cave of mangled tree roots near Uachtarán's castle in the north. Late one night, the boyling whispered thoughts to his mother, fields away: could she just live, unseen, in his curtains? Abey had smilingly refused. Two weeks later, Phenyl thought himself right into his mother's chimney (by mistake) and it took over an hour to extricate his left foot. Not even a faery-thought can budge a wedged stone and Phenyl wasn't always aware which of his problems required brute force.
Her son then stayed put right up until the day Peter spoke that critical word regarding the boy's diet of gum-sugars and baleful borage. Phenyl adopted a new hobby: avoiding Peter’s prose-stained eyes, the ones that caught all his movements over reading glasses. As such, he was now back at his dad's and the daily defeat. His back and forth between parents was a pendulum swing gaining labored momentum, with longer, higher pauses at each end.
Abeyance understood little about her son, as she had grown up quite differently. She'd had a sister. Bedtime giggles. Morning makeup and afternoon tree shaking, dinner-table-footsies and twilight wishings. A constant cascade of sparkle-dust from the poofing, room to room. Flowers and hair dyes and books read aloud and songs by the piano and daisies in the field and boys in the backyard.
And there were fights.
“Abey,” Brighid began on one well-remembered day, “go get me dad's sword.”
“Get it yourself.”
“Go awn, Abey... you know I'm not allowed.”
“Well, I don't want to get in trouble, either.”
Brighid sighed. “I’ll do it myself.”
“Why do you even need it?”
Brighid watched as Abey allowed curiosity to gently escort away her now-lowered guard. “For school,” she said. “The inscription on the blade, it's old, Celtic. I’m quoting it in my essay.”
“You need the sword for poetry class?”
“Yes, little sister, I do.”
Abey went back to reading.
“Don't let me bother you, Abey. I know it's not your fault.”
Abey looked up. “What’s not my fault?”
“That you’re so selfish.”
“And whose fault is it that I’m so selfish?”
“Abey, please, don't start a fight. It’s so puerile.”
“No, you said this to me, Brighid. Whose fault is it that I'm so selfish?”
“I'm not impossible.” Abey’s vocal chords trembled a tiny bit. Eyelashes twitched above her over-clouding iris. “I just want to know who’s been telling you things about me.”
“Don't worry about it.”
Abey threw down her book. “Tell me, you hagheaded wenchwyg!”
“Get out of my face!”
Hearing raised voices, Babda came swishing to her side. “Don't you listen to that, Abey love. You're not self-centered at all. What did she want you to do, honey?” Abey always let mother know when Brighid was stealing from the neighbors or after dad's weaponry. Her mother liked it that way. Brighid was nobody's favorite.
But her sister she understood. It was her father, Heronimus Brimbleford, she didn’t. The mouth of a lion, howling and hissing from the cage of their sitting room. Why did her mother stay? Why did she pin Abey like a brooch to such a man’s lapel? Once her Hero, her mother often said, now just a monster. Abey couldn’t imagine her faeral father a hero. What caused him to change? He snarled at Babda when their daughters fought, but Abey could never make out what his complaints actually were. But she knew he made them; her mother told her so.
Abey didn't want to fight with her mom.
In a miniscule moment of time, a thought took Abey into Nádúrtha's kitchen in the basement of the castle Faodail.
“Ooh, Abey! You fright me, speck!” Nádúrtha flicked the flicker of light from the handle of her soup spoon. Abey scaled up, more visible, and the cook spoke to her soup. “Damn faeries.”
“I don't trust you ones, not when you're that small. I can feel your wings but I can't hear your little whispers.” It was the whispers that the people of Faodail feared most: tiny torrents, burrowing in earth, traveling on air, interpreting sighs, stealing secrets.
The cook saw a worry line in Abey's brow. “What's the matter, tulip?”
“My mother is here,” Abey dipped her finger in the broth. “She arrived last week.”
Nádúrtha grunted. “Tell her hello.”
“It's funny... since she's been here, I've been arguing with Peter. All over Phenyl. My mother actually told me Peter might leave.”
“Was it a lie?”
“No, it wasn’t, but hardly her place.”
“Well, she’s made herself right at home, hasn’t she? Have you heard from your aunt?”
“Well, there’s that then. Apparently you’ve got enough dancers on the floor already.” Nádúrtha tasted the broth, its fenneled fumes escaping to the ceiling.
“Naddy, you talk in riddles.”
“Those Three Sisters are troublesome, Abey. You won’t see it, but they are.”
Abey didn’t want to see, and never fully believed. The story of her mother’s renown, she had first read in a book at school: Babda, Macha, and Morrigan, the war starters, the Mór-Ríoghain. The three furies kindled resentments and augmented arguments. They tossed the coins that sparked armed conflict on the large scale and the small.
“Nádúrtha, I’m well aware that the females in my family fight.”
“But they don’t fight, Abeyance. They needle and drizzle and blow till you're just angry and wet and cold enough to start the fire yourself. Ask the Fomorians. She’s a matchstick, your mother.”
“I don't want to fight, Naddy, not with my mom.”
A murder of crows outside the kitchen window faded their feathers to white and shrieked into the night.
Near the castle, a pipe-puffing Peter, along with his little dog Peter, trudged up the hill, back toward Jabbot's Field. The shrieking of the pale crows was as silence to him. He labored under a momzerian moon, labored back into the moment, back into the mound with his name on the door. Peter was ready to finish the conversation he had ended so quickly the hour before. Once home, he looked from room to room, but found only Babda.
“Abey's gone.” Babda soaked each syllable in a brine of self pity and waited for Peter to react. “I've ruined our relationship, severed our bond.”
“Nonsense.” Peter obliviously unbundled his shoulder pack. Babda would need to try again.
“My own daughter hates me.” Her pupils grew wide and black, evoking trust and fondness in her prey.
Peter waved his hand. “I'm sure she doesn't.”
Her impatient gaze now impaled him. “She's my whole world, Peter!” When she’d finally gained his attention, she softened her tone. “A wonderful daughter, so sensitive. So fragile. It was her father that caused most of her problems. Most of our problems.”
“Well, you're free of him, now.” Peter moved closer and patted her shoulder with a stiff hand.
“Peter?” He knelt down, obediently, eye to eye. “Mr. Praline, please don't be mad at her. She doesn't mean it.”
“I only wish she'd discipline that boyling. That's all.”
“It's not her fault. If you could have met her father--”
Peter stopped her. “No, you were right, Babda. She is a little...”
“She is a little what, Mr. Praline?”
“A little self-centered.”
“Oh, now,” Babda turned her tongue velvet. “I won't hear that kind of talk about my own daughter. She's my whole world.”
The two heard the front door jingle, then jar. Peter stood up and kissed Babda on the top of her head before following Abey to their bedroom. Babda closed her eyes, pleased with her progress, and she creaked to and fro in her rocking chair until she could hear the slightly raised voices down the hall.