Posting Queen of the Garden of Girls early again! I don’t have anything better and, honestly, am just trying to wrap up posting this one so I don’t have to think about it for awhile. Enjoy!
I liked Elise, but she was old enough to be my grandmother. She hadn’t wanted her granddaughter to come alone to one of Mother’s parties, so had appointed herself chaperone. She had smiled and said how honored and flattered she was, but her husband would definitely disapprove. Her granddaughter, Janice, stayed for a few days before becoming homesick. I planted the ___ for them.
Elaina was tired and she was sure there were bags under her eyes, but at least her mother had a tea pot ready with her favorite herbal tea when she finally rose from bed. Her mother was in the garden and, after a quick kiss, her father had gone back to the morning paper on the patio. Marie was looking stern and alert as always, and Elaina wasn’t quite certain she hadn’t come from the other world. Maybe she was a fairy or something and didn’t need sleep. Ever since Rose had told her and Robert about the other world, she’d started looking at everyone differently. Could her parents have come from the other world? Nah. It was a fun thought, but unlikely. She’d never gotten any fairy tale vibes from them.
What did concern her was what her friends had witnessed. Her hands warming against her porcelain mug, she frowned. It did sound like something Brad would do. But would he follow through?
Of course he would.
The sudden thought almost made her spill her tea.
Of course Brad hated to lose. She was nothing more than a prize. He’d lost her to the wealthiest heir, and it had stuck a bee in his bonnet. He would do anything to make sure he won. Even if it meant swarming Roderick Hall.
If she had been a cursing sort of young woman, she would have experimented with every single one of them as she rushed to find her parents’ landline, which was no where near where it should have been charging.
Elaina knew every member of Rose’s security team. They were very efficient, very dutiful, but could a couple dozen of them really keep who knew how many girls from storming the Hall?
“Elaina?” Poppy’s voice asked as the back door thudded closed. “Are you okay?”
She knew there was a wild look in her eyes and wasn’t sure if it was panic or lack of sleep, but she was desperate for the phone. “The landline, Mom. Where is it?”
Poppy touched a gloved finger to her lips. “Oh, well, I’m not sure, sweetheart. I think your father had it last night. Isn’t it charging?”
“No!”Elaina cried out, turning back to pushing aside papers and potted plants and little stones her father had taken to painting.
“Elaina, sweetheart, calm down. Talk to me. What’s the matter?”
“Brad. If he thinks it’ll eliminate his competition, he will storm Roderick Hall. I need to call Rose.”
Poppy grabbed onto her daughter. “Elaina. Calm down. Roderick Hall is protected by the best security team ever. Rose and Robert will be perfectly safe.”
“How do you know that?” Elaina asked, her voice strangled.
Poppy’s silence finally snapped Elaina out of her panic. “Mom?” she asked slowly. “How do you know that about the security team?”
Poppy sighed. “Of course you would latch onto that. Well. I suppose it’s better than your blind panic. I’m sure that if there really is a problem, Marie will know about it.”
“Sit down, Elaina.”
Elaina’s eyes touched on everything around her. The dining room was in disarray, but her mug of rapidly cooling tea was still untouched. Nodding to herself, she sat and wrapped her hands around her mug. It was much cooler now, but it grounded her.
Poppy sat down across from her, all the while staring intently at her. It was a little unnerving having her mother study her like that, but it also, weirdly, looked like her mother was searching for something.
“Did Rose tell you?” Poppy asked softly.
Elaina blinked. “Tell me what?”
Poppy sighed and pushed away from the table. “You’ve been there for six months, longer than any other girl. If she hasn’t told you by now, she probably won’t ever. So it’s best if you forget it.”
Elaina frowned as her mother moved past her. “Do you mean about the other world?”
Poppy paused and turned back. “She did tell you, then.”
Elaina’s spine straightened and her eyes widened as her mother took her seat again. “Mom?”
“Did she tell you any of the stories, the fairy tales?” Poppy asked, her lips twisting in distaste around the last two words.
“Robert did,” Elaina said softly. “He told me about the mermaid, and Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood.”
Her mother stilled and swallowed hard. “I see. And what did you think of the mermaid’s story?”
“It was sad.” Elaina shook her head. “According to Rose, all the fairy tales we know originated in the other world. So, I guess, the mermaid and the prince must be real.”
A faraway look passed over Poppy’s eyes before she quickly blinked it away and cleared her throat. “Yes,” she said softly. “Yes, they are.” She reached across and gently placed her hands around her daughter’s. “Don’t be alarmed, sweetheart, but you’re basically a mermaid princess.”
Elaina’s hands stilled under her mother’s. Slowly, almost fearfully as her heart threatened to jump out of her mouth, she raised her eyes. “Say that again?”
Poppy’s hands tightened around hers. “I was a mermaid.” She smiled thinly. “Once upon a time. Your father was heir to the Glass Kingdom, but his father disowned him after he decided to marry me, the handmaiden of the mermaid he was betrothed to. You’re part mermaid, but I don’t know if you’ll be able to transform. You’re also a princess by blood, though I doubt your grandfather would acknowledge you.”
The breath escaped Elaina with a whoosh. “I’ve just barely accepted that what Rose told us about the other world is true. Now you’re telling me the story of The Little Mermaid is true? The one Rose told Robert as a bedtime story? And that you’re a mermaid and Dad is a prince? But I’ve never seen you anywhere near water!”
Poppy looked away. “It was Rose and Harrison’s condition when James and I begged to go through the portal. As wanted and denounced people, we couldn’t ever return, so I needed permanent legs. They offered me the legs, but I could never go near a large body of water ever again, otherwise James’s father and the princess I served would be able to exact revenge for our betrayal. The Gate Keeper can offer a great deal of shelter, but it comes with a price.”
“Were you ever going to tell me?”
“No,” Poppy said softly. “Never. We never expected you would become the Gate Keeper’s wife.”
“I’m the daughter of fairy tale characters,” Elaina whispered, not meeting her mother’s eyes.
“Not fairy tale characters,” Poppy said sharply. “And there’s more than just us.” She sighed. “I can’t tell you who, but they’re all around us. Some are stuck, some are here willingly like your father and me.”
“Dad’s really a prince?”
“A disowned and banished prince, but, yes.”
“And there was war after you left?”
“That’s what we heard, yes. Though it’s now been a number of years, so I expect things have changed. But we can’t go back, Elaina.”
“I’m not asking you to. But I could, couldn’t I? I mean, if Rose could with her special key, I’ll have a key, too, when Robert and I marry. So, I could go through the portal and see the Glass Kingdom and meet the mermaids. And…maybe meet my grandfather. I always wondered why I never had grandparents.”
“Well, my parents died when I was a child, which is how I became the princess’s handmaiden.”
Elaina nodded. “So, I just have a king and a queen for grandparents.”
Poppy’s hands tightened almost painfully around hers, bringing her attention back to the present. “But you must not, Elaina. They will not look kindly on the daughter who should never have been born.”
Elaina had been fully prepared to fling herself into the other world, to meet the only grandparents she would ever have right after discovering she did, indeed, have grandparents. There were other people she was related to, something she’d never had before. Only to be doused with cold water.
“Yes,” Poppy said. “Oh. They will not harm you as you will be the Gate Keeper’s wife, but do not go out of your way to make yourself known to them.”
Elaina squeezed her mother’s hands back in understanding. “I won’t, Mom. But I do need the phone. I need to warn Rose.”
Poppy nodded and rose. “I’ll go look for it.”
“Mom. Is Rose a fairy tale character, too?”
“No, sweetheart. She’s from here, the daughter of a librarian who always had her head in the clouds.” A sad look passed over her eyes. “Until she lost the man she loved. But I don’t know much more than that about her.”
Elaina nodded, her hands clenching around her mug, as her mother left to literally move everything around the house to find the landline.