OF :: A Much-Needed Excuse

Title: A Much-Needed Excuse
Arc: Faerie
Rating: PG
Written: Summer 2003
Summary: An excerpt from the newest version of The Fairie’s Daughter in which Jeanne learns the truth about her mother.
Author’s Note: This re-introduction to Jeanne’s mother is actually much different from the original. Although I like this version quite a bit, I do lament the loss of one detail. The original piece included reference to a nightmare Jeanne has immediately before meeting her mother. This was, in fact, a tribute to the nightmare I had that originally inspired the Faerie stories.

These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.

Jeanne opened her door slowly, listening for sounds of her uncle in the kitchen before she slipped into the hall and padded toward her father’s room. Her black dress was gone, replaced by her favorite jeans and an old t-shirt from a school field day several years back. She fumbled with the key a moment, afraid that the old lock might alert Marcus to her whereabouts, but then it gave and she opened the door without even a creak. After closing the door, she turned, taking in the familiar—and strangely empty room.

The old wooden bedposts stood like silent sentinels over the snowy white of the coverlet. Two pillows were tucked underneath the cover, and there was no decoration to either. Twin nightstands were beside those; one was empty, and the other still had a candle and matches, along with her father’s reading glasses sitting on his Bible. On the other side of the bed was the old chest of drawers, with the lion’s claw feet that Jeanne had played with when she was little. Her favorite thing in the room was the old desk with its mahogany finish and intricately carved figures, including a dragon with flashing gold eyes that curved up from behind; a little bulb was hidden in its open mouth.

But this time Jeanne was concerned with something else. A chest sat at the foot of her father’s bed, the same place it had sat for as long as she could remember. Unlike the cedar chest in the guest room, this chest was not very fine. It looked like a seafaring chest, the sort that might have held a family’s belongings on a trip to the New World centuries ago. An old padlock hung on the front.

Jeanne knelt by it, her brow furrowed. The lock was rusty, and she wasn’t sure that she could open it. She pulled on it twice, frowning when it didn’t give. If there was a key, she didn’t know where it might be. She checked the drawers of the nightstands and the desk drawer, but she found no key. Again, she knelt in front of the chest, wrapping her fingers around the lock. I have to see what’s in here. There has to be some way to open this. Pursing her lips with determination, she took hold of the lock with both hands, but her efforts at pulling it apart earned her nothing.

With a sigh, she dropped the lock. “Talé má,” she muttered. Whenever she was frustrated, Jeanne liked to mumble made-up words. She’d never written any out or made any language out of them, but they came unbidden at times. She decided to try once more, and as she reached for the lock, she heard a click. A soft tug broke the padlock, and with a grunt, Jeanne opened the chest.

Inside the chest were two piles of clothing, a woman’s clothes, Jeanne realized as she lifted a dress out. Turning it over, she saw that there was a strange rip on the back of the dress, right between where someone’s shoulder blades would be. The dress was white, undecorated, with a low collar and unusual swallow-tailed sleeves. It seemed familiar somehow, though Jeanne could not say where she had ever seen it. She refolded it and began to look through the clothes again. Beneath two more dresses she found the first journal. It was leather-bound, smelled rather old, and had flowers pressed into the corners of the cover. Opening it, she found the name Adryana Lésane written in fine cursive.

“My mother,” Jeanne whispered as her fingers traced the letters. She hadn’t seen her mother for years; Adryana had left them when she was only a baby, and Jeanne really couldn’t remember seeing her since she’d started school. Even the images in her mind had faded; Jeanne could not say whether the face she imagined was her mother’s or only a figment of her imagination. There had certainly been much time to spend imagining what her mother might be like.

She turned the page, skimming over entries from early in 1984, the year of her birth. She saw little of note there, though she did pause to read the entry from February 15th:

I have decided that my daughter will be named Jeanne, after Saint Jeassinae. For some reason I feel it necessary, though few name their children for her. It does not strike me because Jeassinae dealt with men more—in fact, I should probably avoid such associations—but I cannot help but feel that there is some safety to be had in the name. It seems to fit; I haven’t felt this well in weeks.

Even with several years at a Catholic school, Jeanne couldn’t remember a Saint Jeassinae. Uncle Marc once told her that her mother was from Eastern Europe; perhaps Jeassinae was a native name or local saint. It seemed like an odd name, though. Jeanne continued to flip through, stopping when the script suddenly switched from cursive to a strange runic alphabet.

Jeanne frowned at the page. What was this? It didn’t look like any alphabet she’d seen in school or in any book. “Not Cyrillic or Hebrew or Greek or Arabic or Chinese. What is this?” She turned it upside down, but that just looked wrong to her. She ran her fingers over the letters, whispering to herself, “Jeara, echô, achar, da-naesha, echô. J-E-A-N-N-E. It’s my name.” She glanced up, wondering how she knew this. She closed her eyes, suddenly aware that her heart was pounding and her head ached. When she opened them again, her finger had settled on a short word, one that spelled talé, if the strange voice in her head was to be trusted. “Open. I told the lock to open,” she murmured.

R’ulyro mai’ atamyns, mellim?” [Reading my journal, darling?]

Jeanne whirled toward the voice, but no one was in the room. She was alone, but she didn’t feel as though she was alone. Hands trembling, she turned back to the chest, closing the journal and stuffing it back inside.

R’amrulo é salá, Jeanne?” [Leaving so soon, Jeanne?]

This time the voice came from her right, just behind her, and Jeanne spun around so fast that she lost her balance and fell onto the chest. Her wide eyes saw nothing but dust motes swirling in the sunshine, but those swiftly took a shape and a woman’s form because visible, solidifying before her until a tall, dark-headed woman looked down at Jeanne.

It was only when the woman reached down to help her up that Jeanne realized that she’d been holding her breath. She gasped and scrambled to her feet, backing away from the woman who hadn’t been there a moment ago.

Chervari,” the woman said, reaching for her again.

“Who—what are you?” Her blood pounded in her temples, and Jeanne realized that the more the strange woman spoke, the worse her headache grew. She was fairly near chattering now, still coming toward Jeanne, whose back was pressed to the door. With a moan, Jeanne slid to the ground, hands pressed against her head. “Stop,” she moaned. “Stop!”

The woman paused for a moment, kneeling in front of Jeanne and reached tentatively to touch Jeanne’s cheek. “R’ylaro netari mechras?” she asked.

Surprisingly, Jeanne realized that she understood, and the headache was a little lessened. “No, I’m not alright. My head—what did you—what are you?”

Forsé maiara.

“My—my mother? You—you just appeared out of nowhere!” Jeanne worked her way to her feet, forcing the strange woman to take a step back. “I’ve got to be imagining this,” Jeanne told herself, turning to face the door. “If I turn around, it’ll be gone.”

“I left once before. I don’t want to leave again.”

Jeanne turned around again, and slowly reached to touch the woman’s shoulder. “You’re real? And you—you speak English?”

The woman—who, Jeanne noted, looked very much like her—smiled a bit. “You were reading my journal in English, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, but—you were speaking something else a second ago.”

“Yes, I was, and so were you.”

Jeanne shook her head. “I only speak English—English and some German and a little French.”

Ynsor Faerie ynsor Fairie.

The girl shook her head again. “I don’t speak some silly fairy language. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She started to open the door, but the woman was faster, and both closed it and grabbed Jeanne by the shoulder. Her grip was strong and Jeanne winced beneath it.

“Look at me.” Jeanne opened her eyes to see that the playfulness and smile were gone. “If you ever say ‘fairy’ to me again, I will strike you. You are not a fairy; you are a Fairie or a Faerie,” she said, carefully stressing the differences in pronunciation. “I will not have my daughter confusing her people for a set of English wives’ tales.”

The fire in the woman’s dark eyes scared Jeanne, and she nodded, but the woman didn’t let go. “I—I’m sorry. I won’t say it again.”

Fanrie Faerie má,” the woman ordered in a low voice.

Unsure of what she was saying, Jeanne answered, “J’dianmai. J—J’fanruni xaea vé.

The woman let go. “That’s better,” she said softly before embracing Jeanne. Jeanne stood stiff and still, though she noted that the woman smelled like springtime—like forests and the lakes and—her mind was swimming with thoughts of a place that she could only just remember, but that she knew she wished for. When the woman let go of her, Jeanne was crying; so many emotions were overwhelming her and she didn’t understand “My poor baby,” she whispered, “you’re so confused.” She brushed Jeanne’s hair back, wiping at the tears maternally.

“You—you really are my mother,” Jeanne murmured.

“Of course I am. Why should I lie about something like that?” the woman answered as she studied the girl. “Oh, you’ve grown so much. I can hardly wait to see you properly.” She smiled ruefully. “Your wings won’t be so disproportionate now.”

“My…” Jeanne caught the woman’s hand before she touched her arm again. “What are you talking about? For that matter, where have you been the last twelve years? And—and why aren’t you human?”

The woman smiled, freeing her hand with little effort and patting Jeanne’s cheek before she reached to open the door. “You’ll remember a little more soon, chervari.” With that, she stepped past Jeanne into the corridor.

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2 Responses to “OF :: A Much-Needed Excuse”

  • Gosh, I think I remember reading this (whether it was this precise version or not, I honestly can’t remember) but I have to admit that the excitement is still there. It’s well written and, while it was a shame to omit the nightmare that led to this whole world, it flowed very nicely.

  • Somehow, some way, I am determined to get that nightmare mentioned in the story somewhere. It’s just not quite right without it.

    Excitement is excellent. Thank you!

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