However, Faramir One got was getting a bit concerned for his twinself, so he and Eowyn (who have been doing quite well, actually) decided to take Windfola out "for exercise" in our little backyard so that they could keep an eye on things. Faramir One reported back to me that Serafina seemed a bit too interested in the pokeweed that's taken root in the gully, and seems to be roaming the woods with some purpose in mind--searching for something, he isn't sure what--so he and Eowyn are going to spend some time out there as well. I wasn't terribly happy about half a dozen dolls armed to the teeth and running around behind my house, but what're you gonna do.
Meanwhile, both Faramir Two's undecided fate and the return of the runaways had set Galadriel to worrying again--clearly she had not forgotten the strange (and oh-so-helpfully vague) foretellings of the Mirror. Something was going to happen to someone, she feared, so her interest in divination took on new urgency. I promised to rummage the closet for anything helpful, and meanwhile, she could poke around in my dresser drawers if she thought it would help.
"You shouldn't let them play outside," she fretted. "You never used to let them do that--"
"Well, but I didn't have umpteen dozenty of them then! There's no room for them to all stay inside! Besides, it's easier to keep the grudgy ones separated if they've got more room to roam."
She conceded this reluctantly. "But it's just not safe outside--there's that squirrel, for one. Not to mention the Shaggy Cat. And what about the rooster?"
"Oh, I haven't heard the rooster in years. The rooster is but a creature of myth and legend now. Also, I think the assholes in the house behind us called Animal Control on it."
(I bit my lip to keep from laughing at the idea of the neighbors calling to complain about a small toy horse romping through the woods as well.)
"They would." She sighed. "I just don't like it--"
"Well, but the Mirror seemed to indicate that something bad would happen in a dark room, which is, by definition, indoors."
"None can say how the fates will play out," she said--you know, in that doominous way of hers that always makes me feel so much better, thanks.
The Littlest Edward, of course, was almost beside himself with anxiety now that Anna was back--and of course he was still trying to fight off his size-advantaged rival without actually approaching Bella himself, EDWARD. ("You can't call dibs if you're not going to use them!" Tonner Edward complained, and I have to say, I can see his side of it on that one.) His current fixation: a growing conviction that he should--wait for it--stand watch over The Littlest Bella at night while she slept in her beddrawer.
"Here's a novel idea: how about you go watch Other Edward not sleep?"
"But--I don't want to watch him."
"Yeah, but if you watch him, you'll know if he's going to do anything without having to watch her. And I think we'd all be more comfortable with that."
"But--well--I mean--WHAT IF THE GYPSY COMES AFTER HER? In the middle of the night, while she is asleep and vulnerable!"
Oh, snap, he got me on that one.
"What if--WHAT IF THE CAT EATS HER?"
"Okay, the cat is not going to eat her."
"YOU DON'T KNOW THAT! And I can't watch everyone at once! But I can watch--Her."
"Look, I am just really not okay with this. Maybe--maybe she can sleep on the bed with me. I mean, in her sock, but it's like I'll be watching her--"
"But you won't! You'll be SLEEPING! And what if you roll over and crush her!"
"OKAY, LOOK, I WOULDN'T CRUSH HER, OKAY?"
And y'all know how appalling I find the whole sleep-watching thing... and yet he was wearing me down, because all of his points were solid. (Well, except the one about the cat, and I'm not even entirely sure about that one.) Obviously Anna hated Bella from the word go--from several words before go, actually--and nothing in Bella's cranky, cranky demeanor reversed that any; Anna tolerated her only for her cooking, and barely at that. She vented her anti-Bella fury by pitching cap erasers and plastic clips at Bella's kitchen--and was quite dismayed to discover the Girdle of Galadriel encircling it (the erasers bounced beautifully), until she realized that that annoyed Bella plenty as it was (again: the erasers).
"STOP IT! YOU ARE RUINING MY SOUFFLÉ!"
"Anna, if she can't cook it, you can't eat it," I finally pointed out, which gave her pause--just enough pause to go sit on top of my nightstand lamp and plot anew.
(Lizzie was off talking braid techniques with the Arwens, so she was no help.)
And of course this just confirmed The Littlest Edward's anxieties. I finally broke down and gave him the Emergency Crayons and told him to go art or something.
Meanwhile-meanwhile, Tonner Edward's obsession was increasing daily in weirdness. I'd wanted to hold off on getting a Tonner Bella until he'd proven himself the way The Littlest Edward had, but I was seriously considering getting him one anyway just to let him to be creepy around someone his own size. If nothing else, it was time for some tough love. "You realize," I said, "and I apologize in advance for speaking so bluntly, but--you realize that you and Little Bella could never do it, right?"
He gave a shuddery little grimace. "So much the better, then. I could easily kill a woman my own size with my immense strength, without meaning to--I would inevitably kill her. But this way--she would understand from the start how impossible intimacy would be, and never attempt it. Our love would be completely pure and unsullied. My tiny angel--if she could forgive my enormous monstrosity--my monstrous enormity--she could be my tiny Fay Wray."
I was standing there with my mouth open, trying to conceive what you could possibly say to that, when Anna came by lugging a bundle of twine and a travel-size tube of toothpaste on her back (I don't even know), and she and Tonner Edward had an impromptu glare-off.
So... yeah. I was getting kinda stressed about the Littlest Bella situation (among other things), and this was before I got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water and realized she was fretting in her sleep:
"Nnnnngrhhhhh... not enough eggs... gotta get more eggs... more butter... unsalted... margarine, are you kidding me... shhhhngnghhfff... hula hoop... pineapple... oughtta make a cake... possum wants cake..."
Yeah. We both needed a break from The Shelf, in my opinion. Sadly, laundry was the best vacation I could think of, so I took her downstairs to the kitchen (the tiny laundry room is just outside), meaning to set her up with some cookbooks to read while I... uh... laundered? (Yeah, you know what the twine was for? To climb up to Bella's drawer. And the toothpaste? To put in Bella's socking bag. Anna got sentenced to three hours in the Cabinet of Shame for that.) But then I saw something in the laundry room and laughed, I couldn't help it--you know how you can see something every day and not think anything of it, and then suddenly one day you see it in a new context?
Yeah. We've got a Christmas cactus in the laundry room. No, my hand to God, we do. It's been there for two or three years now, at least.
"A little piece of home for you," I said, setting her down. "Hang out in here for a while. I'ma go sort."
"Hey, cactus..." she said, half-awkwardly, and fully aware of how dumb she sounded. "So they keep you in here, huh? I guess the other plants don't like you, either."
I went back into the kitchen to sort the pile in the laundry basket out into "delicates" and "who gives a fuck, it's socks and t-shirts full of holes anyway." Then I returned to check on the load in the washer, but it still had a few minutes left.
"I don't know why they'd put you in here, though. You'd think they'd put you outside where it's warm."
I pulled my towels out of the dryer and took them into the kitchen to fold. (And scrubbed toothpaste out of my sock, while I was there.) A few minutes later, the load in the washer was done--at the door, I stopped. Bella was pouring her heart out to the cactus (and I'll give it to you at regular size lest that much tinyfont render you entirely blind):
"It's so weird here, have you ever been upstairs? It's, like... all these really tall princess types who are, like, all ethereal and crap and they've got all these long flowy gowns and hair down to their knees and these big guys with freakin' swords who are totally mated for life to them or whatever, and I'm over here in, like... pants. Corduroy pants. And marshmallow in my hair. And all they do is fight and shoot and... warrior stuff, I guess. I can't do anything like that. I'd probably cut my own head off. And the blonde one, Evelyn or whatever, I don't even know what I did to piss her off, she's been a total hosebeast since I got here. Erin's okay, I guess. She's BFF [eyeroll] with Blondie but she got better after I started cooking. They all did. So, you know, it's nice to know that they only put up with me because of what I can do for them. And then there's that gypsy girl, she's freakin' crazy and I don't know what I did to her either--I don't know if Evelyn's been talking behind my back or what, not that I'd be surprised, because she already knew my name the first time she saw me. So, you know, it's also good to know that there was like this hate conspiracy going on before I even showed up. Awesome. I don't even want to deal with any of the really tall ones. Like, Izzie or Lizzie or whatever her name is, the pirate chick, she seems kinda cool but she's also way into the gypsy girl so she's probably part of the hate thing, who knows. Laura's just a brat. Holy crow, I hate little kids. And this one's a really big little kid. And her mom's like--Sabrina, or something? Man, I can't believe someone's mom is running around with hardly any clothes on. I would die. If Renee did that, I would run away and change my name and die. I mean, I'm glad she was there when I fell and everything--although that was so completely embarrassing--but then someone catches you and you look up and she's, like, naked, holy freaking crow. Put on some real clothes, giant lady. So everybody here's, like, either tall or REALLY TALL, except for that one regular-size guy and he is a total WEIRDO. And he's got that hair like he thinks he's such a big deal, I'm pretty sure it moves on its own sometimes, and he's always creeping around all hunched over being twitchy. I bet his hands are sweaty, too. Ew. And then he's always fighting with that giant guy who looks just like him--don't even get me started on what a freak show that is--and they're always rolling around beating the crap out of each other. Way be mature, guys. And they never, ever smile. Like, I'm not saying they need to bounce around like cheerleaders or something, but dang, turn off the Dashboard Confessional and get a freakin' grip. And stop STARING at me. Gah, I'm so glad Cleo let me come down here with her. Even doing laundry is like a vacation after being trapped upstairs with those losers."
Finally, she heaved a sigh. Probably because she had run out of air. And I was reminded more than ever of someone--me, when I was a teenager. That's what Galadriel had said, you know, that time I got so indignant. "You know, she reminds me a bit of you. Think about it. Fourteen?" So yeah, I was a bit younger than Bella when I went through my I Hate Everyone And Everyone Hates Me phase, but--quite honestly, I don't know how anyone put up with me. All I did was gripe and snipe and glower and roll my eyes and sit in my room hating the world and everything in it and writing really, really angry poetry. "Purple seas of rage," that's all I can remember now. The purple was important because I also illustrated my poems with Very Dramatic Abstract Artwork (medium: Crayola). The thing is, though--I was so angry at the time, but looking back, I remember it more as fear now, so I have a hard time faulting The Littlest Bella for armoring herself in bitchface.
"Hey," I said, pretending I hadn't heard anything. "I found my sister's pastry books, if you wanna take a look at some of those. Here's one--"
"Cupcakes? A whole book about cupcakes? Cupcakes are so played out now."
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