I sat down in Gilbert’s living room. The deep red couch and ottoman stood out against the black and white striped walls. He’d insisted the color scheme was his girlfriend’s - fiancée’s, but it looked so much like him I still suspected Sheila was a prank he was pulling on me. Of course, why wouldn’t he prank me? I’d not visited in over a year and was here only for the afternoon and evening. Barely a visit. Some of the time I’d spent in England. But some of it, I had to admit, I’d spent avoiding him. Mum and Dad wouldn’t be candid, and I didn’t know enough until recently. At least that’s what I told myself.
“Sheila will be here in a while. She’s going to grab Korean take-out on her way home from work.” He draped himself over the couch. I was reminded of years of growing up together. We’d always been close, even with five years between us.
I smiled and shook my head. “You found a woman who loves this décor, Korean take-out, soccer and puzzles? I thought you’d just met last fall.”
“Nola, you’ll love her. I know you’re not supposed to say things like that, but it’s true. I wanted you to meet her last Christmas, but you had to stay in England.”
I hoped my internal cringe stayed internal. “It was less complicated for what I was studying, and I knew I’d be coming by this spring. I just didn’t think you’d be getting married to her before the next fall.”
“Yeah, me either. How’s the studying going anyway?”
“That’s part of why I wanted to talk with you.” I knew the tension came through my voice, but he didn’t change. Even the speed of his foot bouncing off the edge of the couch stayed the same. I swallowed. “You remember when I disappeared? When I first went to England?”
“Yeah. It’s when my passport went missing. The red tape was annoying especially just as I was moving back to Canada.”
I nodded and took a deep breath. “Mum and Dad ever tell you why?”
He shook his head once.
“I didn’t think so. Mum only told Dad what she did because of me. And Dad would respect her request to not tell you.”
“So why are you telling me whatever you’re going to tell me?”
“Because it matters. To you. To me. To Sheila.” His eyes narrowed slightly, but then he gave his short nod. I continued. “Okay, so I know Mum asked you if you’d been having hallucinations.”
“I’ve had a few odd experiences, but I wouldn’t call them hallucinations. More precognitions.”
I studied him. Would he accept what I said next? Could I tell him that the stories of fairies, leprechauns, and other magical beings had a basis in reality? That we were part of it? I reminded myself of a rule for maintaining humanity in a world of fae: keep it personal. They didn’t understand it, but it’s what had kept me human. I finally spoke. “My hallucinations have to do with people dying.”
I could see the wheels turning in his head. He slowly put his feet on the floor, rested his elbows on his knees. His stare was intense. I kept my gaze steady.
“You knew about Grandpa and Grandma O’Connor. And Gran and Gramps Paige. And our cousin and his mum. Holy crap.”
I blinked back tears, the memories of my inconsolable weeping flooding my mind as he listed the deaths in the family. “There were others, but yeah. Those were the toughest.”
“You’re a banshee!” He grinned.
I laughed a pained laugh. “I knew you’d probably love this.”
“What’s not to love? I mean, it’s gotta be rough seeing people die, but you can give them warning, right? Time to say goodbye?”
“It’s really complicated. But the thing is, why I’m talking to you, it’s not just me. We’re both fae. Mum is too.”
He still had his grin plastered on his face while he processed what I’d told him. He stood up and walked to the window overlooking his backyard. “Wow. This is amazing. All the stories about the fairy folk - are they all true? And the stories we’d tell each other? That we dreamed were true? What about them?”
I could feel the wonderment radiating off him. I followed him to the window and took in the backyard. My heart clenched. I wondered if they’d bought this house so their kids, if they had any, would have a safe place to play. I knew there may never be such a thing as a safe place for a fae-human child to romp in the grass. I tried to answer his question. “There’s a whole world of fae out there. I’m trying to understand what is folklore and what is reality. Sometimes it’s easier to just let people think the story is true than to correct them.” I bit my lip.
“Let’s go personal then. What do you do now that you’re a banshee?”
I shook my head. “It’s not a ‘now’ thing. We were born part fae. Mum was born part fae. Even Grandma O’Connor and Great Grandma were fae.”
“Right, okay. Well, does it change anything for me?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what. I don’t know how. I just thought you should know before you got married.”
“Why would that matter?”
“There are rules. I don’t know what they are or how they work yet. I know some of them. And they can be problematic for humans. We think differently than the fae do. They are on the extreme side of practical and they love a good deal.”
He laughed. “I got promoted this week. I’m VP of Sales. Best deal maker they’ve ever had.”
My chest constricted. “Gil, I know this is funny to you, but it’s very serious.”
“I’m living the life I dreamed of since that first business class in high school.” He leaned against the wall - this one a deep turquoise. He glanced around the house. “Look at this place. It’s ideal. The yard is what I wanted. And best of all, Sheila’s amazing. She’s got her own quirks, and we’re trying to figure out what she can do at home once—” He almost jumped from the wall, grabbed my hand and pulled me down the hall. He opened a doorway and motioned me forward “—once we have our baby.”
I gasped. The nursery was beautiful, no doubt about that. Hours had been spent painting the far wall. The other walls were solid colors grounding the room, a peaceful blue, pale yellow, and light lavender. The deep green carpet blended into the green of the far wall. Bushes and trees seemingly grew from the floor into a forest. They’d painted sunlight breaking through the leaves, highlighting places where the fairy folk played on the branches and in the flowers. Woodland creatures peaked out of the burrows and sat on perches. It was beautiful and terrifying. I shoved my fears to the back of my mind. This was not the time. I would learn and then share, if needed. I buried the thought asking myself if this had been Mum’s thinking. I just needed time to process everything.
“Gil, this is absolutely amazing. It’s beautiful. The love in this room is overwhelming.” I stepped inside, next to a box that looked like it held shelves designed for baby things. My older brother joined me in the room he’d made for his own child. I forced myself to keep breathing.
“We’d just started talking about getting married. Actually, I’d bought her ring before I brought up the topic. I saw it and knew it was what I would propose to her with. We both wanted a special weekend, so we went to Montreal. I proposed and she told me she was pregnant. We’ve never been happier. I feel like I’m living in a fairy tale, Nola. And now you tell me I may be. It’s mind boggling.”
I smiled and gave him a hug. “I’m really happy for you.”
“And you’ve not even met Sheila yet.”
We heard the door open and he radiated more joy as he headed toward the woman he loved, the woman carrying their child. I didn’t know that much joy was possible. I looked around the room again, hoping the fun side of fairies would be all that this family experienced. I pushed the darker thoughts aside, focusing on the love my brother had for his soon-to-be-wife and child.
I would revel in that for today.