“You sure you don’t want to come with us?” Hereward asked as he threw on his cloak.
“We’re sure.” David laughed.
“Oh, but I was looking forward to an evening of dancing, feasting, and fighting for our lives,” said Suzerra, looking up from the portraits on the mantelpiece.
“That does sound like your kind of party,” said David.
“I only wish we didn’t have to go,” said Jennifer, fondly adjusting her husband’s askew cloak. “But Donella always gets suspicious if we miss events.”
“Go and have fun,” said David. “We’ll be alright here.”
Hereward and Jennifer went off to their cotillion, leaving David and Suzerra alone. With Brian.
“Do you think your parents left your brother here to chaperone us?” Suzerra wondered, moving to David’s side.
David looked over at the sleeping form on the couch. “If so, he’s not doing a very good job.”
They took good advantage of this realization. David’s parents had probably already reached the palace before David changed the subject.
“I thought maybe we could fix something nice for my parents,” he said, heading into the kitchen and adjusting his shirt. “Would you help me with your baking expertise?”
“Sure,” said Suzerra, leaning against the counter and smoothing down her hair. “An ‘I’m Sorry I Thought You Were Traitors and Cursed Your Names for the Past Three Years’ present?”
“Something like that.”
“I make a divine spiced almond cake.”
“Sounds… different. Let’s do it.”
Suzerra spiced the almonds while David started preparations on the cake. They fell into a steady rhythm, though got distracted when David dumped flour on Suzerra and she reciprocated by getting cumin in his hair. Eventually, the cake made it into the oven, and they sat and chatted while it baked.
“The wizard had books and books of strange recipes,” Suzerra told David. “And I learned to make up my own.”
“And everything’s always spicy?”
“That’s how I like it.”
When the cake was done, David got it out of the oven to cool. For the first time, Brian sat up.
“Is that cake?” he asked, blinking over at them.
“It’s for Mom and Dad. You can have some after they get home.” David drizzled an almond glaze over the top of the cake. “There’re some nice dishes in there,” he said, gesturing to a tall wooden cabinet. “Could you get one for the cake?”
Wandering over, Suzerra opened the cabinet. There were many dishes, but the most prominent were a beautiful set of white porcelain china. Around the rim of each piece were painted delicate, dancing fairies. She stared at them.
“What did I tell you about touching things?!”
The long-forgotten voice echoed through her mind.
“What are you screeching about now, woman?”
“Suzerra? Are you alright?”
She looked over to see David watching her in concern.
“Yeah.” She took down a large serving platter. The fairies were painted so masterfully they seemed almost to move.
“I just wanted to have a picnic.”
She winced, almost dropping the plate. Her hand drifted up to her cheek. For a moment, it had seemed to smart again.
“With whom, exactly? You haven’t any friends.”
“With the fairies.”
“The fairies? See? I told you there was something wrong with this child!”
Placing his hand on Suzerra’s arm, David guided her gently into a chair. “You’re looking strange,” he said.
“I ran,” Suzerra whispered.
“I told you she was a mistake.”
“I ran away.”
Her heart thudded in her ears. Drums were pounding in time. Where were the drums coming from?
“What do you mean? What did you run away from?”
She burst through the door and fell, face-down in the mud. The drumming was louder, and she was drowning.
“Them.” She blinked and smiled at him. “I didn’t run away from home.”
A hand found hers and pulled her out of the mud. The small, green woman helped her find a dry path. And there, at the end, was a little wooden house, empty, waiting for her.
“I ran away to home.”
“David, your girlfriend’s weirding me out.”
Suzerra laughed. “Sorry,” she said. “It’s just… my mother had these same dishes.” She ran her finger around the rim, watching the fairies dance.