Is it possible to be friends with former lovers? For all that I have had an adventurous life, I cannot claim many lovers. Alex is dead, Katharina is missing, Elizabeth returned to America, and then there was Giada. Friends before we became lovers, and then torn apart by an unexpected voyage to her home in Italy. And on her return, we were as strangers; some dastardly trick of her brother’s, erasing her memory of me. Her memory eventually returned, but things were never the same. We were friendly enough, but saw each other rarely. When London was swallowed by the Nexus, I thought her lost. Yet, now, here she is, again, cast upon this shore by the vagaries of the interconnecting realities of this strange multiverse, yet I had not seen her since that meeting on the way out of the castle.
Gwyn, Aoibheann and I were sitting in the sithen, with little to do but drink the mead and chat. As usual, I had complimented the ladies when I arrived, and, as usual, Aoibheann was complaining about being complimented. Gwyn then started talking about being an idiot for blurting out her full name to the Unseelie King, and much as I tried to convince her otherwise – that she was merely inexperienced, she would not have it. After a while, she decided to seek out Valene, as the only fae being she knows well enough to talk to, and Aoibheann, possibly fearing for her going out on her own, went after her. On the way out, they almost ran into Giada, who had been exploring the area and had come this way after hearing voices.
Naturally, I invited her in and made her welcome, offering a seat and some mead if she wanted it, and quickly explained how we came to be guests of the Unseelie Court. She looked well enough, so I commented that I was glad that she had survived the destruction of the castle and asked her to tell me a story. She smiled, commenting that mead was an unusual drink for me, and asked what story I would like. I explained that I had not yet retrieved my stash of rum from its hiding place near the castle, and since mead was what they had here, that is what I was drinking. I thought to offer her the other hospitality from some of the lesser fae servants, but I wasn’t sure if the Queen’s hospitality extended that far. As to the story, I thought I would tell her mine.
I told of my aborted journey to Bremerhaven in search of Katharina, about he shipwreck and finding myself in Jasper Cove. I told her that was where I had met Gwyn and Aoibheann, and worked at the tavern. And then I told how Jasper Cove had burned, and how we had fled to here. I let out the bits about Greyson and Dee, as that would have complicated matters. As I write, it occurs to me that she would possibly have known Greyson in London, in which case, bringing him into it would make my story even more complicated.
Her story was much vaguer. She had been a drifter, spent some time on an island, and an awful lot of time in a box, until William came along. She did not explain what kind of box, but I guessed she meant a coffin, that which tradition would have it we are supposed to sleep in. I asked how the marriage to William had come about. I had only met him briefly, and he had come across as somewhat of a pompous ass and far from the sort of person I might have imagined her with. It was a marriage of convenience, she told me, looking a little downcast. It was a marriage that came about because she had been alone for far too long.
I sympathised with that, thinking of the times I had been lonely, even while in Jasper Cove. I told her how I had seen Brigitte in Jasper Cove, but did not know where she had gone. I told her about those faces she might remember that were here in Ashmourne – Vedis, Galyanna, Patch and Valene, adding that the latter was somewhat changed from the person we knew. She said that she had changed, the most obvious being her hair. I had noticed that, but hadn’t commented, because even in my day, there were women who would change their hair colour. Then she asked if we did much ruling here, by which, I assumed she meant the position of kindred.
I told her that we did not hold much power. This was fae land, I told her, telling her that we were in the sithen of the Unseelie Court, and were guests of the Queen. I told her that the castle had been ruled by Cristof, and that I had not seen him in some time, and the only other vampire was a Ravnos by the name of Nadya. I explained that I was mostly welcomed here because of my long friendship with Valene, who was now a fae queen.
Giada was less than impressed, telling me that she was not a fan of the fae, or their magic, having burned by it before. She did not trust them, save for Astrid, and even there, that trust was thin. While I could not agree with her dislike of the fae, I agreed that it was wise to not trust them, or at least, trust without reservations. I told her I had gotten along well enough with them, but even so, I knew the limits of that relationship. She told me that she did not get along well with the forest, preferring a city environment. That, I could not provide for her, but I told her of the village that was being constructed in the place of the old castle and suggested that might be more to her liking. She sighed and changed the subject, saying that was enough bellyaching about her situation and asking how I was.
I assured her that bellyaching was ok; after all, that was what friends are for. I then told her about discovering my own fae heritage, about not being able to avoid politics, even here in the woods, and then told her about the writing. She seemed to find that amusing, thinking that the fae blood had something to do with it. I said that I had started before I knew about the blood, though I now realise that meant nothing, as I still had the blood in me, whether or not I knew about it. I told her about Serendipity Island and a little about Black Friars. The latter took a little time to clarify, as I had to explain that the setting was not the London we had both known, where vampires walked openly among other beings, but the London I had known as a student, back in the days when I considered vampires and such like to be myths and legends. My story was set in a London that did not know about vampires, because the protagonist did his best to make sure of that.
She left soon after, apologising for interrupting me earlier. I assured her that there was nothing to interrupt and that she was always welcome. As she left, she said it was good to see me again, but somehow, there was a great sadness to that. She was gone before I could ask her more. Was her marriage to William that unhappy? Did she miss me that much? I don’t know how much she heard before I noticed her at the cave entrance, so perhaps she heard enough to be sad that I had found somebody else. I do not know. Seeing her again brought back pangs, but I don’t know if we could be more than friends again, not after all this time, even if I did not now have Gwyn in my life. I have room in my heart to love her, as I do all my friends, but beyond that I cannot say. Perhaps I will see her again soon and I can find out what ails her heart so.
As I sat there after she had gone, I mused on other lost loves. Though I loved her dearly, Helene and I were never lovers, for all that she had wanted us to be, as I now realise. I have not seen her, nor heard any word since that night we found her by the sithen. I should perhaps visit the village and make a part-time home there, for she is more likely to be seen there than elsewhere. Giada also mentioned Astrid, which brings a wry smile as I write. Again, we were never lovers, although in this case I was the one carrying a torch for the longest time. I hope she and Sebastion made it safely out of London. And then, of course, there is Catt. O Captain, My Captain. Lost in some other reality, possibly some other island of existence in the sea of realities that seem to be connected by that damned Nexus. Her I have not seen since that chaste night she spent in my bed at the hotel, after she came through a portal into the club. I find myself thinking of her a lot, now that I have been taking oaths to fae queens. My scar tingles a lot of late, which suggests there is still some connection between us, but how to access that connection is beyond my skill now. Some day, I shall ask Valene. Maybe her Roads go to wherever Catt is. But what would I do then? That is a much bigger question.