Jeff watched their conversation unfold with a bemused smile on his face. He didn’t interrupt or add any of his own thoughts. If he had felt the need to run interference, he would have. But that need never came up.
He tensed up a little when Missy’s hair turned to fire, but that disagreement simmered down quick enough. So, he simply stood by and let them talk.
“And I don’t want to say anything more about it. I’m going to read ‘Little Women’ with Jeff.” LM turned to Jeff. “I am going to read that book with you.” He made it sound like there was no space for argument and hoped that Jeff would understand it that way. “I have questions and I need answers. You’re a human. So. So, maybe you might know.”
“Okay.” Jeff returned to his seat next to Raven. “Go grab another seat.”
LM’s feathers rustled. “Okay!” He ran to the armchair next to the window and dragged it all the way over to Jeff. He sat sideways with his legs bunched up under him. “Start from the beginning. I have a lot of questions.”
Jeff smiled and read out loud.
Missy listened to the sound of her father’s voice and felt peace. “All is right in the world.” she said to herself. “I have my pretty Raven sleeping nearby. My dad is here. LM and dad are on good terms. No one is angry and all is well.”
She stared at the ceiling tiles. “Will it last? Or will something else go wrong? Will Raven decide he wants to permaglue himself to his memories of May Rose Farlington? Will he decide he doesn’t want me? But he ran into the fire for me. He let his clothes get all burned and ruined for me. That means something. That means a lot.”
She sat up and looked over at him as he slept. “That means everything. Every little bit of every little thing. And he’s here with me. My pretty shirtless Raven is here with me.”
Raven’s eyebrows squinched up. “uhhh…no…don’t…please…no…uhhh…no…no…NO!” He shot up into a sit and sat there, wide-eyed and panting. His pupils were so far dilated, his irises were nothing but thin red rims. He glanced around like he was trying to reorient himself.
“Raven?” Missy said.
He locked eyes with her. “Missy.” He staggered up to his feet and stumbled over to her bed. Fortunately, it wasn’t too far from his chair.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, Missy. It was dreadful. Ambrose and Robin. They were in some sort of room. A bakery, perhaps. It was not particularly clear. All I do know is there were pies stacked on a great many shelves. I hardly know the reason why, but they started throwing the pies at each other. And. And. And they were all fruit pies.” He scoffed. “Of course, they would be fruit pies. Why would they be cream pies, I ask you? Ambrose and Robin were dressed in such nice white dress shirts. They were so nice and clean. Then, they were not clean at all! And I had no way to make them clean. And they would not stop throwing the pies!”
“My poor Raven.” She swept the longer strands of his hair over his ear.
“Then, the dream changed. I sat alone in this hospital room. You were still unconscious. I was still waiting for you to awaken.” He took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “Antioch appeared.”
She lowered her hand. “Antioch is dead, Raven.”
“I know. Yet, he appeared. Missy, he appeared and.” His voice came out all constricted sounding. He cleared his throat. “And he shot you.”
Her fingers burst into flames as Missy imagined Raven’s dream a bit too vividly. She shook her head. “No.” The flames flickered. “It wasn’t real. It was just a dream.” She pulled the flames back into her body. Her fingers returned to normal.
Missy stroked Raven’s hair. “It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. I’m real. This moment we’re in right now is real and I’m not unconscious or dead.” She pulled him down into a hug and held him as tight as she could. “Antioch can’t hurt you or me ever again.”