Isellta and Maelin entered the kitchen.
Eschia and a small group of other fey sat at the table. They were eating hibiscus leaves and playing a quiet game of Uno.
Jay, however, wasn’t in the room.
Isellta’s wings flattened against his back. “Oh, we must have missed him.”
Maelin gave him a sympathetic look. “Don’t worry. We will see him later.”
He blinked quickly. “You aren’t disappointed?”
“I am very disappointed, but like I said. We’ll see him after he gets off of work.”
“Hm.” He pulled out his jar of pickles from the fridge and carried it to the table.
The other fey looked aghast as he opened the jar.
“You will make yourself ill if you eat that.” said Eschia.
“No, I won’t. Pickles are good.”
A fey with bright pink hair covered her mouth in horror as Isellta pulled out a pickle and took a bite. “I’m going to be violently ill.”
“Mm!” He took another bite and flapped his wings.
A fey with dark brown hair got up and left the room.
“I don’t know what your problem is. Pickles taste wonderful. So crunchy! So juicy! So—”
Another fey fled the room. Her wings streamed behind her in panicked lines.
“Pickles are toxic abominations.” Eschia said firmly.
“No, they’re not. They’re good.” He took another bite.
The fey with the bright pink hair ran to the sink and threw up.
“There is something terribly wrong with you, Isellta Mal Hoven. But then, you were always wrong.” Eschia stood.
Her left over Fey Girl Squad stood as one.
“I’m leaving before I get sick. Come, girls.”
They all trompsed out of the room.
Bright Pink Hair hurried after them.
Isellta lowered the pickle.
“I didn’t realize fey had such delicate constitutions.” said Maelin.
Isellta didn’t reply.
Maelin came over to him. ‘You okay?”
He shook his head. “Eschia is right. There is something wrong with me. Always has been. I have never been right. The things I say. The way I feel. The things I love. The fact that I love at all. I’m too emotional. Too needy. Too easily hurt. I let my feelings show too easily.”
Maelin sat. “Is that all a bad thing?”
He looked up at her.
“So, you aren’t like them.” She smiled. “Just consider this: the opposite is true. They aren’t like you. There is not a single fey out there who is quite like you.”
“You make that sound like a good thing.”
“Because it isn’t a bad thing.”
He shook his head. “It is a bad thing. It’s why they sent me to Olessa. I couldn’t be what they expected of me. Because of that, I can never go home.”
“Isellta. Can I hug you?”
His wings bristled. “Sorry.” His feathers flattened. “It isn’t you. It’s—”
“It’s all right. I understand.”
He put his half-eaten pickle back into the jar. “Do you?” He sucked the juices off his fingers.
“Jay told me about Preyuna.”
The sound of her name filled him with cold-gutted dread. He lowered his hands. “Are you going to ask me about what she did?”
“Not if you don’t want to talk about it.”
“You will do it right this time.”
He glanced away from her. “I don’t.”
“Why aren’t you responding to me? WHY?”
She smiled. “Then, I won’t ask.”
“please. please stop. hurts. hurts! please!”
“But if you need to talk to me about it, I will listen.”
“Thank you. But I don’t want to talk about it.”
The pain made him scream. His wings flapped in a frantic disorder. He tried to get away, but she kept him pinned down. So, all he could do was scream.
He twisted his fingers. “It hurts. Those memories hurt.”
“It’s okay. I won’t ask. You don’t have to talk about it unless you want to.”
He shook his head.
“Okay.” She stood. “I’m going to make myself a sandwich. Do you want one?”
He sucked the pickle juice from around his thumbnail. “What kind were you going to make?”
She smiled. “A very boring peanut butter and jelly.”
“Peanut butter and jelly?” He frowned. “Peanut butter? Butter made from peanuts? I don’t understand that.”
She laughed. “Neither do I, but it’s wonderful. Do you want to try some?”
“Fair warning: It might become your new favorite addiction.”
He licked the juice off his palm. “Not possible.”
She grinned. “We’ll see.”
Preyuna strode down the hall. Her eyes were white with fury and her fingers had turned into claws again.
People coming the other way took one look at her, turned around, and ran for their lives.
Make him a sandwich. If only I weren’t bound to him, I’d make him a sandwich. A sandwich laced with poison.
But if I don’t give him what he wants, I’ll suffer for it later.
I hate him.
I hate him so much.
She pushed the kitchen doors open.
Isellta peeked inside the two pieces of bread. There was a tan concoction and a red jelly spread in between. “Hm.” He took a bite.
The taste of fresh roasted peanuts and tangy raspberries made his mouth shout Halleluiah! and rejoice.
Maelin laughed. “Told you it was good.”
He quickly took another bite.
Maelin started on eating her own sandwich.
The kitchen doors banged open.
Isellta looked over there.
Preyuna entered the room.