The Grey Edge: Chapter Twenty-Four

‘Three more.’
‘But my arms are tired.’
‘Come on, Maggie, three more then we can have ice-cream, so long as you don’t tell your dad.’
‘He won’t mind.’
‘Is that why he said “no sweets”? And if he asks, it was a milkshake that somehow got frozen.’
Magnolia grinned up at Katie. ‘…and had sprinkles spilled on it?’
Katie nodded after a moment. ‘I suppose it’s possible I’m that clumsy.’
‘See?’ Katie said. ‘That wasn’t so hard.’
‘But now my arms are ex-tra tired.’
‘Why don’t you go upstairs, and wait on the roof, I’ll bring the ice-cream up. I’ve just got to call my idiot first.’ She paused. ‘I can call him an idiot, because he is, and because he doesn’t mind, I don’t want you-’
‘I know, I know, I know,’ she said, ‘I heard you the first zillion times.’
Kate smiled. ‘Go on, I’ll only be a minute.’
She looked down at her karate uniform. ‘Want me to take this off?’
‘Not unless you want to chance spilling ice-cream on your school clothes.’
She turned and walked up the stairs, opening the door to the roof with a kick, and a small yell, imagining that it was one of the girls that had broken her arm. The sun hit her eyes as she stepped out, making her blink. It was like a giant orange, surrounded by tiny, pink, fluffy clouds. It was pretty, but it was always pretty, unless it was raining, and then it was “too dangerous” to go up to the roof. Not that it really mattered. Broken bones healed easily enough, especially with Addy’s help, or at least his help when he wasn’t too busy talking about science and numbers and things that didn’t sound magical at all.
No one talked about magic. No one. Darren teleported everywhere, even France – but only once, and only to prove he could, and only long enough to buy her a cake and a hat – but even so he didn’t act like it was magic. It was just “shifting”. It was just normal. He didn’t even think it was cool.
Katie was the same. Make a karate uniform appear from nowhere? Nothing special. Make ice-cream appear? Yummy, but not special. It was just so normal to them.
Normal, even a little boring.
Magic was supposed to be-
A magpie landed on the rail in front of her. It squawked, and she squawked back. ‘Sorry if I said something rude, I don’t speak bird.’
The magpie turned its head to the side, then opened its beak. ‘You didn’t say anything, you just opened your mouth and made noise.’
‘You’re a …talking bird? Cooool.’
The magpie fluttered down from the railing and landed on the roof in front of her, then slowly transformed into a woman.
‘…that’s even cooler,’ she said.
The woman knelt, and smiled. ‘You’re very pretty, Magnolia.’
She took a step back. ‘Do I know you?’
The woman smiled. ‘I’m your mother, Magnolia.’
She backed away towards the door. ‘What?’
‘Your mother,’ the woman said.
She heard the door open, and then the sound of two bowls of ice-cream – and hopefully sprinkles – being dropped onto concrete. She felt Katie grab her shoulder and draw her back.
‘Maggie, get behind me.’ Katie stepped in front of her, hand to her ear. ‘You get home this instant.’
‘I have the right to speak to my daughter,’ the woman…her mother, said.
Katie put a hand behind her, and pushed her back further towards the stairs, mostly blocking the view of her mother. ‘She’s in my charge, Magpie Warden, and I don’t give you permission.’
‘I hear nothing but air when the Agency speaks.’
‘You are grey-listed, Warden, don’t overstep your bounds.’
‘Shut your mouth, you glass-eyed bitch.’
‘I like her glass eye,’ Darren said as he stepped into view. ‘I think it’s sexy.’
She looked up at the agent, watched him squeeze Katie’s hand before turning to her mother. ‘You are trespassing. I would suggest you leave before-’
‘You think I care about your laws or your boundaries? You are nothing to me.’
Darren turned, and looked down at her, his large body blocking out the sun. ‘This might hurt you a little, so just close your eyes, ok?’
She closed her eyes and-
Daddy’s voice.
She opened her eyes, blinked and saw her dad sitting beside…well, it wasn’t her bed, it was too big, and it wasn’t her room – there weren’t any stuffed unicorns.
‘You alright, sweetheart?’
She shook her head. ‘Headache.’
He passed her a glass of water.
She drank the water. ‘What…what hap-’
‘Darren explained it to me,’ he said, ‘but I didn’t understand most of it. Suffice to say that it gave that woman a headache and made her go away.’
‘My mother.’
He nodded. ‘Your mother.’
‘Why couldn’t I-?’
‘She’s dangerous Maggie, very dangerous. I don’t want you talking to her.’
‘Talk to her Donald, explain what you can to her. You can’t just say not to touch a flame, you have to explain that it’s hot.’ Darren walked around the far side of the big bed and laid down a teddy that was nearly as big as she was. ‘Sorry for hurting you, but I didn’t want to take the chance of getting into a fight.’
‘It’s just a headache.’
‘Like how your arm was just a little broken?’ he asked with a wink.
‘I wanted to talk to her,’ she said quietly, I mean, she’s my mother-’
‘I’ll tell you everything, Maggie, then you’ll know.’
‘Katie’s outside,’ Darren said. ‘She’s set out plates and stuff, and dinner, she thought this might go down better with food.’
Her dad offered his hands, and she grabbed them, pulling herself out of the big bed.
‘Oh,’ Darren said, as he saw her karate uniform, ‘you’re still in those. Here, let me fix it,’ he said as he snapped his fingers. A blue t-shirt and matching shorts appeared as her uniform disappeared.
‘Ooh, cool,’ she said.
‘That…still amazes me,’ here dad said.
Her dad took her hand and they went through to what was the rec room during the day – a dining table was covered in food, and four settings were laid out, waiting.
‘Addy isn’t coming,’ Darren said. ‘You may have picked up by now that he prefers to eat alone. Probably listening to some reconstructed lecture. Geek.’
She sat opposite Katie, and her dad slid into the seat beside her.
‘Dig in,’ Darren said as he picked up a big knife and began to cut into the roast. ‘And pre-emptive compliments to the chef.’
‘Just remember,’ Katie said as she held up her plate. ‘To tell me if you don’t like something like last time, no more-’
‘Yes ma’am,’ Darren said, ‘I’ll ask you for the salt this time.’
‘Good,’ Katie said as she poured him a drink.
Darren lifted a hand. ‘Don, I think the floor is yours.’
‘Maggie,’ her dad said, ‘your mother, she’s…let’s just call her the queen, she probably calls herself that on occasion. She came into the store one day, and bought shoes. Not good shoes, not even pretty shoes, but she seemed to like them. She was nice, and polite, and pretty. I thought she was wonderful. She came in the next day and bought another, then another, then another, then another. On the Friday, she came in just before closing, and I asked her out. It was like I was Prince Charming or something, she said yes.’
‘So if she’s so great then…’
‘You’ve got to listen to the whole story,’ Katie said, ‘you can’t know anything until you know the whole story.’
‘I fell in love with her,’ her dad said, ‘I felt like I’d found the woman I was going to spend the rest of my life with, and that was after one date. The second time we went out, she started to show me magic. Little things at first. Sparkles, singing nymphs, fairies dancing on a pond. I mean, I read books when I was younger, but I never thought magic was real.’
She looked up at him. ‘But it is.’
‘Yes, it is, of course it is. I was still new to it though, so I was a little scared, mostly excited, but still a little scared. I kept going out with her though, and I thought it was sweet when she would come into the store and buy another pair of horrible shoes just so she could talk to me.’
‘She doesn’t sound so bad,’ she said.
‘Then she left. I never saw her again. She just…disappeared, and I had no way of contacting her.’
‘I started to think that it was just a dream, that I’d just imagined her or something. Then…then one day, there was a knock at my door, and an egg.’
‘Me?’ she asked.
He nodded. ‘Yes, Maggie, you.’
‘You didn’t want me?’
‘Oh, Maggie,’ he said, taking a hold of her hand. ‘You were unexpected, but you weren’t unwanted. You were a surprise, but my life is better for having you in it.’
‘Freaks can make things better?’
‘Freaks can definitely do that,’ Darren said with a grin, before blowing on a spoon and pressing it to his nose.
‘Ok, she left, what else is bad about her?’
‘That’s the part of the story,’ her dad said, ‘that I don’t know.’
‘I can take it from here,’ Katie said. ‘Your mother – Magpie is the only name she’s known by – is, like your dad said, basically the queen.’
‘So I’m a princess?’
‘In a manner of speaking.’ Katie gave her a sad smile. ‘But so are a dozen other girls, and a dozen boys are princes.’
She sat for a moment, Katie’s words running around and around in her head. ‘I’ve got sisters?’ she grinned, but it slid into a frown. ‘And I’ve got brothers. Ew. Boys are smelly.’
‘Yes,’ Darren said, ‘we are, it’s our lot in life.’
‘Half-brothers,’ Katie said, ‘and half-sisters.’
‘Where are they?’
‘I don’t know, Maggie,’ Katie said, ‘all over the world, probably.’
‘You still didn’t-’
‘She gets into fights, Maggie, lots of them. And she hurts people. Sometimes she… kills them.’
She squirmed in her seat. ‘Oh.’
‘That’s why I had to make her go away quickly,’ Darren said, ‘I didn’t want the chance of anyone getting hurt. You might know who she is, but all that stranger danger stuff still applies, ok?’
‘She said I was pretty.’
‘Well, your dad will just have to say it more to make up for it.’
‘Is she going to come back?’
Her dad sighed. ‘I don’t know honey, I just don’t know. She’s never come to see you before, so I’m not even sure what she wanted.’
‘Hopefully,’ Katie said, ‘it was just an idle curiosity. Best to be safe though, we’ll have our snacks inside for the next few weeks.’
‘Or you could just go to Paris,’ Darren said.
‘No,’ Katie said firmly. ‘I’ve got enough to deal with, with Ryan complaining every time you decide to submit an incomplete report instead of letting me go over it first. The last thing I need is thirty Agents calling me up and wondering why you’re invading their territory on a regular basis.’
‘I could probably make a joke about Agents and invading, but given there’s a K-I-D in the room, I’ll abstain from double-entendres.’ He stared down at his plate. ‘Not that I care who they invade, so long as it isn’t you, and you never leave me, and you keep washing my underwear, and you never die.’
Katie kissed him. ‘You are an idiot, and I love you, and I might just have to marry you.’
‘And mother the seventeen Chesters,’ he said.
‘When you grow up a little, darling.’
She heard her dad sniffle, and she looked away from the others. ‘Daddy?’
‘Don?’ Darren asked.
‘I’m fine,’ he said, ‘just a cold, or-’
‘I’m not Addy,’ Darren said, ‘but you don’t have a cold, what’s wrong?’
‘It’s nothing more than arrogance and presumption, but it’s- This is- We’re-’ he swallowed. ‘I’m starting to feel like we’re family.’
Darren raised his glass. ‘Then I guess we’re family.’