Isellta dreamed of straight lines. Perfectly straight lines that filled his heart with joy.
They all made sense.
They were all so beautiful.
But the lines twisted and turned jagged and grew claws that reached and grabbed at him.
They snatched and snagged his clothes and nicked his wings.
He kept running.
A wall appeared before him. There was no way over it or around it.
The lines caught up to him.
He ducked down and hid his face in his arms.
The lines smoothed into fingers that touched and caressed.
Her fingers found the soft spot on his wings and rubbed them.
“stop stop stop.”
She didn’t stop.
It felt good and painful all at the same time. He threw his head back and leaned into her touch. “Please! Stop!”
He opened his eyes.
Jay stood beside the bed, concern plain on his face.
“I’m sorry.” Isellta bristled out his feathers and smoothed them flat. “Bad dream.”
He nodded. “It wasn’t real. Only a dream.”
Jay sat on the edge of the bed.
Isellta crept closer to him and peeked up at his face. “You aren’t happy?”
“Bad dream. Her plane crashed. No survivors. I wasn’t there, but somehow I saw her dead body. I…”
“But it wasn’t real.”
“Doesn’t matter. It could happen. It could become real.”
Isellta sat back on his feet and frowned. “I don’t understand that sort of fear. It doesn’t make sense. If it isn’t real, it isn’t real.”
“Life is so uncertain. So many things can happen. So many things can go wrong.”
Isellta gently touched his arm. “It won’t happen. You will see her again.”
“I want to see her now.” He looked at Isellta. “Can you do that?”
“I can, but Jay. It will confuse you. You will think I am her. You will believe it. When I turn back into my true form, it will hurt you.” He shook his head. “Please don’t ask me.”
Jay got off the bed and returned to the rocking chair.
Isellta looked down at the blanket and tried to divide the wrinkles into even lines.
He’s been so kind to me. He’s helped me. He’s protected me. He hasn’t made any demands of me. Not like Queen Preyuna.
He deserves a kindness in return. Even a simple, small kindness.
He peeked up at the man in the rocker.
Jay needs this kindness.
Isellta climbed off the bed.
As his bare feet touched the floor, he transformed into Maelin.
Her long black hair lay in straight lines down her back and shoulders. A red handkerchief-hemmed halter top and black A-line skirt covered her body. Her feet were bare.
She strolled over to him and gently touched his arm. “Jay?”
He opened his eyes. He gaped. “Mae?”
He stood so quickly he almost knocked the chair over. “It can’t be…It ca…Mae? Maelin?”
“Oh. Oh my…” He hugged her. “Mae. My Mae.”
An involuntary shudder came over the fey as Jay’s hands rubbed her back.
“I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you so much.” Jay closed his eyes and pressed his lips against hers. Over and over.
Isellta frowned. What is he doing? What is this? It isn’t…unpleasant, but I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense.
Jay’s hands moved all the way down to the hem of her shirt and slipped underneath. They slid upwards on her bare skin.
Isellta’s wings flared out in shock. He pushed and shoved himself out of Jay’s embrace. “No!”
Isellta transformed back into himself.
Anger flashed over Jay’s features. Anger that was quickly replaced by hurt and sorrow.
“I’m sorry. I—”
Jay didn’t say a word. He left the room.
Isellta returned to the bed. He sat on the edge and doubled over.
I’m always wrong.
I can’t do one thing right.
Not even one.
He crawled up to the top of the bed and grabbed a pillow.
He hugged it tight.
What’s wrong with me?
Jay strode down the hall with his face burning hot. Anger blended with frustration and embarrassment.
How could he do that to me?
How could he let me act like that?
I wanted to…
Jay walked all the way to the front door and stepped outside. He closed the door behind him.
He pressed his hands against his face.
My hands are too warm.
My face is too warm.
The air out here is too warm.
I should stick my face into the freezer.
He took a deep breath and exhaled.
But is it his fault?
I asked him to do it.
I put the idea in his head.
I don’t think he meant any harm.
But darn it! He had me fooled and fooled good.
Can I forgive him?
Should I forgive him?
He saw Isellta’s face.
He didn’t do it to make fun of me or make me feel stupid.
I think he was every bit as discomfited as I was.
“The poor kid.”
He’s going to hate me now.
My one and only friend. The only person I can count on to care about me. He’s going to hate me.
Isellta bit his lower lip.
He won’t care anymore.
He’ll let Her Majesty have her way with me.
He won’t care.
Isellta closed his eyes and cried himself to sleep.