Dawn in San Francisco

Four years on

Wendy curled up in the front seat of the car, carefully examining the half-built violin. She had realised it was gone, but she hadn’t had a chance to ask anyone about it yet. She wasn’t sure why Buddy had taken it when it wasn’t even finished. He had so much stuff in his bag, what use could this have been?

She didn’t really understand Buddy. He had a very loose idea of ownership – maybe it was a cultural thing. On the one hand this meant he was very generous with what he had, on the other it meant he thought everyone else would be too. There were times when he had taken her stuff and she had resolved to cut him off and refuse to hang out with him anymore. But he was so… friendly, and happy and carefree that she found herself forgetting about the questionable stuff he did. He didn’t ever really hurt anyone, right? Sure, he broke a few rules, but some rules were meant to be broken. Hanging out with him reminded her of her year in Europe. Things had been different when she had been over there, more relaxed and open. She’d made more friends in that one year than in most of her childhood. It had been strange to be with so many other people her age, to meet other changelings and do things young adults were supposed to do. Sometimes she forgot how isolated she had made herself back home.

That wasn’t to say that she didn’t love being home again. She had missed Kevin terribly – trans-continental phone calls were expensive and they had to severely limit time together in Arcadia due to the time imbalance. She had learned how to use email for him, but it wasn’t enough. She’d been a bit concerned at first about some of the arty goth chicks at uni that occasionally made flirty eyes at him, but she wasn’t that worried. Kevin would never cheat on her. And she had missed Marco and Hazel, and her family.

Even so, hanging out in the workshops with professionals in Europe, or visiting the all art museums and historical sites had been amazing. And she’d tried a few new… substances, partially thanks to Buddy, although none of them had really stuck. That was just something you did as student, and they could also drink younger over there so it hadn’t all been questionable. She felt Kevin didn’t really approve, but that was OK. She didn’t really approve of him still fiddling with that awful machine, but she wasn’t going to stop him because he needed to do this. Learning to be apart had given them both an opportunity to grow as people, try new things and come back even stronger.

Being back now, it was great. Wendy was living in a small loft the city with Kevin and doing her work during the day at the university and the professional workshops. It didn’t have a lot of space – one large room with almost everything in and a separate bathroom, but they made it work with room dividers and a few arguments about tidying up. They had their own little rust bucket that Kevin had learned to drive and they could go out of the city together at weekends. She was also helping out with Marco’s new school, because she had the time Friday afternoons and Marco had asked. She didn’t especially mind, although teaching had never been something she was interested in. But the kids were alright for the most part, since they were still young enough to believe, and they seemed interested in what she had to say. The professional staff were friendly to her and it made Marco happy. She let Buddy stay on the couch every so often at their flat – after a few heated discussions with Kevin, they came to an agreement and made sure to put everything valuable away. And she spent time with Hazel, offering relief from court politics. Hazel still wanted to talk about Marco an awful lot, but she’d grown up a lot too and they could talk about all sorts of other things now once Wendy steered the conversation away from Marco. It was a comfortable way to live, chasing youthful dreams with the man she loved and her friends.

She watched Kevin as he drove. He was focused on the road, hands carefully placed on the wheel. She liked his concentration face. He got a little brow wrinkle, deeper than when he was confused but not so deep as when he got cross. She liked going for drives with him. She got to just sit and watch the world go by, or watch him. He glanced across at her for a second, briefly smiling at her when he saw her staring before turning his eyes back to the road. Kevin didn’t smile often, but he always smiled for her.

Right now things were good, after the drama of her late teens. It had been years since she’d had any real contact with the queens, beyond polite acknowledgement at formal functions for the court –she only went for Hazel and Marco. She knew it couldn’t last forever, of course. She had a feeling that the upcoming ball was going to change things somehow, although she didn’t know if it was for the better yet. She hoped it would not be for the worse.

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Marlene

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