“Am I dreaming? Is this real? Are you—”
“Jay.” She said that one word with so much love, all of his doubts dried out and died.
“Maelin. Oh, Maelin.” He enveloped her in his arms. “Oh my gosh! Oh my …Mae.” He kissed her face in a delirious frenzy, removed her coat, and kissed her neck and her throat. “I’ve missed you.”
She untucked the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head. “I’ve missed you too.”
“Oh! Wait.” He took her hands. “Wait a minute. We…we aren’t alone.”
She smiled. “Is that really a problem?”
“Yes. I’ll explain why later.” He put his shirt back on and returned to the bed. “Isellta. Look at me.”
Isellta released the pillow and came crawling back to him. “Jay.”
“I…I need to step out of the room for a little bit.”
Isellta shook his head.
“I will return. I promise.”
“She’ll come for me. She’ll…she’ll know I’m alone. She’ll come for me. She’ll hurt me.” His voice cracked. “She’ll hurt me.”
Jay hugged him.
“Please. Please don’t leave me alone. The monsters will find me in here. They’ll—”
“They won’t. I’ll lock the door. You keep it locked. You hear me?”
“I don’t want you to leave me.”
“Isellta, please. You wanted to do something kind for me. Do this for me. Let me go with her. We will return. I will return. I promise I will return.”
“What if Queen Preyuna finds a way in?”
“Magically lasso her out the door.”
Isellta gaped. “I couldn’t do that. She’s my Queen. I can’t use my magic against her. It isn’t allowed.”
“There’s a time and place for exceptions. She tries hurting you again, make that your exception.”
Isellta bowed his head. “How long will you be gone?”
Jay looked back at her. “Maybe a couple of hours. Maybe longer.”
“Can I come with you?”
Jay laughed. “Uhh, no.”
Isellta tilted his head.
“Maelin and I are going to…uhhh…um. I think your term for it is hrrash ka kae.”
Isellta blinked quickly. “That doesn’t make sense. You don’t have wings.”
Jay blushed slightly. “We do our own…uhh…take on it.”
“Are you sure you want to?” He twisted his fingers. “It hurts.”
Jay’s expression softened into sympathy. “Isellta.” he said gently. “It isn’t supposed to hurt.”
Maelin joined their two man party. “It’s been too long since we’ve been together. We need to be together.”
Isellta smiled sadly. “I know the feeling.” He looked up at Jay. “You will come back to me?”
Jay ruffled up the fey’s hair. “Always.”
Isellta’s wings flapped. “Then, go. I’ll be waiting for you.”
They ran down the hallway to Isellta’s rejected room, hand in hand, barely holding in their excited laughter. They hurried on inside and locked the door behind them.
He caressed her face. “Mae, is this really you? You aren’t Preyuna in disguise?”
She kissed his face from lips up to his right ear. “One plus one equals a German-made chapeau.”
Jay laughed. “Mae.” He unfastened the fussy half-moon buttons on her rayon shirt. “I’ve missed you so much.” He pulled her shirt off. “So much.”
“I’ve missed you too.” She removed his t-shirt. “There were so many dark and lonely nights.”
“Without you.” He kissed her shoulders.
“Without my Jay to brighten them.” She worked on unfastening his belt buckle.
He closed his eyes and panted.
She pulled the belt through the loops and dropped it on the floor. “But now I’m back.”
“Yes.” He opened his eyes and smiled. “Oh, yes.”
Dawn arrived in bands of glory.
Elsie walked home, basking in dawn’s colors and in thoughts of Hildreth.
At home waiting for me.
My Hildreth is waiting for me.
She could feel the rising sun glow inside her skin.
And we are one day closer.