With Bella occupied and The Littlest Edward squared away with fresh sparklepire chow, I went downstairs to get a fresh glass of tea, and that's when I finally came across Serafina on the back of the Good Couch. I'd already seen Kaisa upstairs with Lyra and Iorek; Serafina had a lot to think about, and she wanted to think about it alone.
I sat down a good few inches away. It was a moment before she even noticed me. "What's going on?" I asked neutrally.
She remained quiet for another long moment. "It's one thing to be told that something is impossible; another to understand it," she said finally. "To know that you can do nothing, despite all desire. And that is an ache that eats your bones. A fire that burns cold."
"What are you going to do?" I asked, because I couldn't think of anything else to say (other than I TOLD YOU HE DOESN'T LIKE GIRLS. I think I may be out of my depth here). But also because I was genuinely curious, even beyond the obvious concern for Faramir's safety--witches have been known to take terrible vengeance on those who refuse them. And I could see the kind of depth of feeling in her that might prompt that kind of reaction, and yet... she seemed more measured, more reflective, even as she struggled with rampaging emotion. She is a queen of witches, after all.
"I don't know," she said.
So... that was... useful.
While I was in the kitchen getting my tea (and considering making off with a glass of something harder, after that little conversation), my mother strolled by. "Hey, you left a couple of dolls downstairs," she said. She knows enough--vaguely, but enough--not to even bother asking why I'm sneaking around the house with a camera anymore.
"Oh... really," I said. "Where? I mean... I must have forgot."
"The dining room. On one of the chairs? I saw some hair hanging out."
I nearly asked "Did they notice that you saw them?" before I caught myself--time was of the essence if I was to catch them before they moved again, so I slipped downstairs--and finally caught my elusive runaways.
"You guys ready to come home yet?"
I don't know if they were afraid I was going to punish them, but a certain tension did seem to evaporate from their faces after I said that. In fact, going back upstairs, they started chattering away about their many adventures (remind me to tell you about the cat and the cedar closet sometime). They also seemed to have used their time away from The Shelf for some relaxation and self-improvement:
"I got my nails did!"
"And your hair!" I said approvingly. Well, it seemed to have been combed out and loosened a bit--it was probably an inch longer than when they'd left. (You know, I've seriously considered having Anna rerooted with a more pliable fiber than the polypropylene frizz she's currently sporting--say, with some Chocolate Fudge nylon--so that maybe she could finally have long luscious curls like her prototype. The only problem is, it would involve cutting off all her hair and pulling it out at the root, and if rerooting then went badly... well, I guess she could rock a turban? I don't know--it scares me. But what would her personality be like if her hair was a bit more glam? I wonder sometimes.)
"And yours too," I said to Elizabeth.
"We got bored, and I found cool stuff in the drawers downstairs," she said, grinning. "Hey, now I feel more piratical."
And then Bella came out to announce that the apple tarts were ready.
"Um, you could have TOLD ME we'd have two more for dinner."
(And then she fell over.)
Anna's face kind of went Blue Screen of Death, if you get what I'm saying. After a long, long pause, her brain seemed to reboot. Her mouth creaked open: "Bella Swan. BELLA SWAN. BELLA SWAN. BELLA MOTHERFUCKING SWAN. BELLA--"
Lizzie very quietly sneaked up behind her and grabbed both wrists. "Anna, you're gonna mess up your nails."
I swear, her hair was bristling of its own accord. But to my surprise, Anna actually seemed to care more about her manicure than vengeance at the moment. She did clench her fists and vibrate with fury, but she didn't actually jump Bella and try to beat her to death, which was a step forward, in my opinion. Maybe a vacation had been good for her?
"I AM NOT SHARING A SHELF WITH HER."
"You don't have to--she sleeps in the sock drawer." I could see The Littlest Edward shaking--well, everything at me: DON'T TELL HER THAT! Tonner Edward, meanwhile, crouched menacingly in the doorway--even though The Littlest Bella didn't know it, she had two champions willing to put aside their differences to fight for her life. Well, actually, they would probably get distracted and whale on each other while Anna throttled her, but they say it's the thought that counts.
Legolas shook his head. "I thought you guys were cool! This is definitely not mellow."
"I DON'T CARE. THIS--THIS CANNOT STAND. I WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS--" And she drew her sword.
"Well, you're going to have to go through me first," said Purple Arwen. Anna gaped as if Arwen had just slapped her in the face, but Arwen stood fast. "Yeah, that's right, PIE STEALER. How could you? Not so much as a crumb left! So excuse me if I'm on the side of the girl who is our only hope of pie now."
Anna looked back and forth across the Shelfian crowd, stunned. "You're shitting me. You are. SHITTING. ME."
"She really is a very good cook," said Galadriel.
"I like her meringue."
"Well, the pie under the meringue ain't too shabby either."
"And she makes great cinnamon rolls."
She turned in horror to her last anti-Bella hope--the longtime friend she had neglected for a new BFF, unfortunately. Eowyn stepped back and held up her hands.
Purple Arwen sidled up to her then with a plateful of tart. I guess she'd put a tiny dollop of tiny whipped cream on it herself, though, because Bella had not moved from the printer the whole time. Maybe Bella was beginning to develop some self-esteem, because she stood her ground the entire time, folding her arms and saying nothing as Anna scowled--glared at Arwen--gave in and tasted it. Anna's eyes narrowed, and then, like burning coals, blazed with pure hate. "Today... you live," she said through gritted teeth, and I can only imagine how much it cost her pride to finish the rest of that slice and ask for seconds.
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