My fanfiction and other random ramblings

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Splinters 19: Just around the riverbend

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Emma sat with her head in her hands, trying to work out the way to rationalise the very idea of going to Maine and searching for undefined spot full of supposedly lost fairytale characters, including their supposed parents.

They had good life in Boston.

They had their apartment and Henry had his school and friends.

They had each other, which had been quite enough of a family until now.

They had the stability of knowing what was what and who was who.

And suddenly, there was that guy, very honest and very sure of what he was saying, telling them to uproot everything and go chase fairies.

He was also promising them – at least two of them – their parents.

It seemed too good to be true.

It seemed way too complicated to be a hoax.

It seemed unfair to Elsa.

It also seemed like the only chance they’d ever have to understand what had happened to them.

They knew what August could tell them, true. But on the other hand, when he was sent away with them – if they believed him at all – he had been not much older than Henry was now, so he wasn’t exactly an expert on the delicate details of Enchanted Forest, or whatever the place was called.

They had to check it out.

She banged her forehead softly on the tabletop.

She was supposed to just pick up their lives, unroot them, move everything to another state and find a town that doesn’t want to be found.

She was supposed to then save said fairytale characters and make them remember who they were again. With no knowledge of magic, rules of the magical world, people they would be meeting or basically anything helpful. And the only person who could in fact help them was barely able to stand their presence due to an overwhelming itch in his wooden leg.

Henry.

Henry was the only one of them who actually saw the leg. Henry was the actual reason why she hadn’t thrown August out that night. Her son saw something in August, he saw the leg and treated it as an obvious, real thing. He was apparently also slightly magical, or at least that was her guess.

She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to calm her thoughts.

She couldn’t just order her sisters around, anyway. If she had that great destiny, maybe she should go on her own, leaving them and Henry back in safety and face the challenges of the strange world alone? The very thought of leaving Henry for any stretch of time made her heart constrict painfully and somehow she had that feeling that freeing a whole town of fairytale characters was not a thing she could just do during one weekend trip and then come back home and continue her life just as it was before.

She shivered at the thought.

Elena has just as much right to go there as I have. These would be her parents, too, after all. And then we can’t just leave Henry with Elsa, because she has to go to work and he has school… Also, it would look like we are abandoning Elsa, because it’s not her family that’s in danger…

That was all so wrong. How she wished August had never found them. They could have been living normal lives, just like they did until he showed up. They could have continued on that good, well-worn path of being parents, employees, sisters. That was stable. That was known. That was sure and safe.

But the thought about Storybrooke seemed so enticing. To find out where they came from. To be the hero. Save her parents and everyone. Be not only a mother and never-exactly-best programmer in the team. To be a Saviour. To win something more significant than a library reading contest.

She wanted to go. And she wanted to stay.

The surface of the tabletop was so shiny and brown. She traced one line of woodgrain softly with her fingers. It didn’t really help, but it did calm down her slightly.

Maybe it will work out. We’ll be able to go to Maine and see what exactly August meant. Then we can leave before they get used to us, if the situation seems unsolvable.

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Written by Srebrna

2017/03/13 at 22:46

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 18: Journey to the past

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In the end, they didn’t really tell Henry all that much. They explained that August was a friend of his grandparents and he would help them all find the family. They left the details about fairies and magic for some later occasion, when he would be able to understand the nuances better and keep the secret.

They also didn’t tell him about Elsa’s being no longer a relative, as Emma felt it was not relevant at all and would only serve to upset him. Elsa felt some weird relief, as Henry was her favourite thing in the world and she didn’t want to lose the connection she had to him – being his guard and protector from crazy nurses and overzealous teachers – because of the things they had learnt about their past.

The change that occurred was on Elena’s initiative, as she dragged home a thick tome of Nursery Stories and Fairy Tales.

“Is it Andersen?” Elsa asked innocently, peeking inside the covers.

“No way. Andersen is way too depressing. The girl with matches, dying in the snow, brraugh. I’m not going into these. No, this is a baby-level standard of slightly-optimistic, mostly-happy-ending stories from different corners of Europe. There may be some Andersen remakes here, but not his own stories directly.”

So they put Henry on a steady diet of fairytales and provoked discussions about them, usually between themselves, to see what would be his reaction to questions like “What would Cinderella use to get home from the ball in US in XXI century” or “How do you think Red Riding Hood would dress?”

Sometimes Henry joined the fun, suggesting Prince Charming riding a bike – like August’s – or saying seriously that Sleeping Beauty would be better off as a patient in a modern hospital, not asleep in a castle overgrown by brambles. Sometimes he just laughed when they made their crazy suggestions or corrected them when they tried to make wild changes to the known tales.

Based on what August had told them, they tried matching the “facts” to the tales they knew and quickly understood that even the best research into available material was not going to prepare them for the actual meeting with the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest. The tales they knew – or read for the first time now – were all very contained and unlinked from each other, and of course none of them mentioned anything but a Happily Ever After, without details, and they already knew that this was what the Evil Queen took away from everyone.

So apart from delving into theoretical past as re-written by Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, they decided a little delving into their own much more recent past was in order.

“I was wondering when you three would show up” Annabella Hanners peered at them from over her glasses. “And who is that young gentleman?”

“That’s Henry” Emma hugged him tightly as he pressed himself into her side.

“I see. And you two, nothing…?”

Elsa reached for Henry and ruffled his hair.

“Henry is quite enough for the three of us, I think.”

“Ah. So, what brings you here today?”

They looked silently at each other and finally Elsa spoke up.

“Why did you do this?” she gestured to the three of them. “Why did you make us sisters?”

Annabella Hanners sighed.

“I’m guessing either one of you needed some medical procedure and you found incompatibility or the boy managed to find you” she stated calmly. “Well, in any case, I did it because you already were sisters by the time we shuffled the papers. I couldn’t separate you from them anymore than I could separate them” she gestured towards Emma and Elena. “You probably don’t remember it, but you twisted an ankle when you were three. Both Emma and Elena cried from the moment it happened, showing all the typical reactions of the so-called twin syndrome. Which is not taken very seriously by psychologists, but I’m not a psychologist. And my great-grandmother was a Scottish witch, or so they said. They say my family line always inherited a bit of a shine – or a touch, or a sight, whatever you want to call it. I just knew you three belonged together, and everything that happened seemed to confirm it.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Henry still holding tight to Emma and Elsa working very hard on breathing deeply and evenly.

Even then there was something at work she thought and dared a look at Elena, who was biting her lip in concentration.

“It wasn’t only that” Emma suddenly stated. “What aren’t you telling us?”

They looked intently as the older woman bit her lip and considered the question.

“There were people adopting little girls” she finally said. “And killing them. Because it happened all over the country, there was no reason for single state to see more than one or two cases and so the authorities in the system…” she snorted. “Well, they didn’t see any reason to block adoptions, even temporarily and even ones matching only certain characteristics. Specifically, blond girls born around the same time as the three of you. It ended when one girl survived and was able to tell her story – as much as an almost-four-year-old can. There was investigation, but the actual culprits fled long before police located them.”

“So, why…?”

“Because it took more than half a year in total” she explained darkly. “And there were people trying to get one of you all the time. They were getting confused seeing three girls, and never asked too much, but someone was going to notice that one of you is available. So I asked my hacker friend to deal with it, and she did. She changed Elsa’s entry to match yours, and so she disappeared from the potential list of victims. I never knew what it was that these people were after – just any random blond girl or if they were looking for some specific girl and if so…”

Elsa looked at her sisters with one brow raised. Emma nodded shortly.

“You think they were looking for a specific girl and that specific girl was, in fact, Elsa?”

“I know it sounds awful, but that was my feeling. Remember, witch for a great-grandma, I get these flashes of knowing from time to time. And every time I read about one of the cases, I saw you three in my mind’s eye.”

Elsa shuddered and Elena covered her hand with hers.

“It’s good that you’re here” their host added. “There was that other thing I wanted to show you, and I’ve had the worst of luck with it.”

She raised and took a big cardboard box from one of the shelves.

“This was stuck in a bank vault for ages and by someone’s idiotic… Well, they removed the deposit box from the list of ones we’re allowed to access, even though we did have the key. Later I was ill, and so, time passed and nobody could get the box. Only two weeks ago I managed to remove it from the bank and kept it here ever since. I kind of guessed you’d be coming around sometime soon.”

She raised the cover and unwrapped first layer of paper.

“When you were found in these baskets, you were not just lying there naked on the wicker, you know” she smirked. “You had these on” she shook out tiny, baby-sized dresses. “If a child comes to the home with something more than standard romper set, I try to keep it – maybe someday they will be able to find their family with it? Or at least keep it as a souvenir? Well, here you have it. This one is Emma’s, this is Elena’s and this is Elsa’s” she pointed one by one. “You were also wrapped in blankets…” she sighed. “I kept them, despite some people’s ideas to put them to daily use, and then wanted to give you when you left, but you were pushed out before I came back from that PT month, so…” she shrugged. “Now, the funny thing about these blankets, you see, is, well. This one is Elsa’s” she handed her a thick piece of woven wool with “ELSA” painted in fading blue in one corner “This one is Emma’s” and the second blanket was knitted, with purple “EMMA” embroidered across one side “…and this one is Elena’s”.

What Elena actually was handed was not a blanket. It was, in fact, a big ball of white yarn with a tiny piece of paper stuck into it.

Her name is Elena. Make sure she gets this and knows that we didn’t expect her, but we still love her.

Elena’s voice broke on the last word.

“One of the reasons I hid them was that they were so… different” Annabella said. “Someone would have picked up on it and there would be no way to disprove that Elsa is not your sister. Also, it seemed unfair for Emma and Elsa to have theirs when we couldn’t provide one for Elena. I’m a terrible knitter, I’m afraid.”

Emma nodded slowly.

“They also would have gotten dirty and torn” she added. “I’d much rather have them now, when we can try to use them to – maybe – track down our families, than at the time. It’s not that we had no link to our parents at all – we had each other, so it’s not like with these kids whose only link are the clothes they were wearing.”

Elena turned her wool ball a few times and sniffed it carefully.

“I think I will keep it like this” she decided finally. “I can knit, but I’d much rather have it as it came with me” she stuck the piece of paper where it was very carefully and hugged the whole non-blanket to herself.

“But…” Elsa started, looking at her. “If this paper says you were not expected, then maybe these people who were looking for little girls were not looking for me?!”

Emma blinked in surprise.

“Right. Because if our parents weren’t expecting Elena, then whoever else knew about the coming child would only be looking for me. Not for twins.”

“And they must have lived in some pretty rural area if the first moment they knew there are twins was when you two were born” Annabella added. “At the beginning I thought you were born in some weird religious community and maybe out of wedlock – or they thought twins are brought by demons, or whatever else. But now that I see this all together…” she shook her head. “I’m positive, and I’m saying this as a descendant of a girl who escaped burning, point one, your parents – both sets – left you in that forest because that was safer, somehow. And point two, these people were looking for one of you. Maybe Elsa. Maybe Emma. Logically, it couldn’t have been Elena, but still… They were only looking for a single girl. So once you became a set, they lost your trail. Even when you were modelling, nobody came asking for you.”

“You muddied the trail” Elena provided quietly. “Thank you.”

“Well” Annabella shrugged. “Did what I could. Now, this is the last part, and if blankets can’t tell you much – I wouldn’t really expect them to – this may have more value. Both monetary and information-wise.”

With this she pulled out three ziplock bags full of glittering trinkets.


They spent some time sifting through the jewelry in utter silence, as Annabella looked at them curiously and Henry stole a tiny figurine of a unicorn from Emma’s stash and played with it on the table quietly.

“I must say” the older woman said slowly “You seem – I don’t want to presume or to be patronising – uncommonly well-adjusted. We have a lot of children coming in much later than you did, already socialised, and then leaving unable to take care of themselves. We try as much as we can – and as we’re allowed but the law – but most cases we just can’t help at all. You three not only managed to stay on the right side of the law, get education and graduate, but you have actual jobs… and you have an actual family, with Henry. I must admit I am a little surprised.”

Emma smiled, looking at Henry’s dark head.

“The education part was your doing, so it’s not so much of a challenge. Most kids don’t have money for college, and you managed to get it for us.”

Annabella snorted.

“If you hadn’t had proper grades in the school, no amount of money would have helped you. Most other kids have been submitted for financial aid and scholarships, but even the ones who managed to get them mostly dropped off a year or two after leaving the home. I have a feeling we’re not preparing you all too well for the realities of life, but…” she sighed. “We’re not really allowed to. The System doesn’t care, as long as you’re clean and fed until 18th birthday and out of the list the day after.”

“I think that’s because there are three of us” Emma suggested. “If I was here alone, I would never have had good grades… I see myself running away, or doing stupid things, like other kids. Like the ones that got shipped back from their ‘families’ after the first offence. There were so many of them, leaving and coming back. If I got sent back like a faulty package, I would have been a bit resentful, too.”

“And I only function socially thanks to these two” Elsa added. “Otherwise I’d have ended up on some couch – or as a drug addict – simply because I can’t really work well with people.”

“And they two balance me” Elena pointed out. “I know I’m volatile, because I can compare myself to them. Also, Emma has excellent aim and a well-thrown bottlecap is a great reality reminder if I get too involved in something.”

“So, I suppose you could say that we’re sane, stable and in a reasonable situation in life because you put the three of us together” Elsa smiled slightly. “Who knows what might have happened to us if had grown up separated.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/20 at 22:42

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 17: At last I see the light

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“I was thinking” Elsa paused and seemed to be very carefully stirring her coffee.

“Dangerous habit for a lawyer.”

“Yeah. Funny. But. You remember how August said that the magic thinks? Or at least that it makes things happen in a certain way?”

“Yes, that it will help us find Storybrooke if we let it. So what?”

“I was kind of thinking of another thing. How, if we look at all our lives, there were things happening to us that were so damn random and overblown. Like, when a normal person goes to school, there is no weirdo teacher trying to run experiments on them. But we had to come across the only idiot in the county who did. Like, when you don’t have documents, police normally agrees to let you find some, even if you have a gun – and they let you show the gun permit! And we got arrested and Elena was suspected of being illegal. How, actually, the very fact they called Immigration is a bit too much, considering Boston is a sanctuary city! Normally if they have someone with doubtful immigration status, they let them pass, unless there was a crime committed – and Elena was not being accused of any crime, so they should have let her go.”

“So you think that the crap that happened to us…”

“Including that crazy nurse in the hospital?” Emma suddenly looked much more awake.

Elsa nodded.

“I think it’s all because of magic. Even if none of us is actually using it, it may be affecting us. August said that this world was supposed to be without magic, but if we assume he’s telling the truth – and Emma, you said he was – then there is actually some of it everywhere…” she trailed off.

“Elsa?” Elena prodded her with her spoon.

Elsa only stared ahead, raising her coffee cup slowly to her lips and her eyes were rounder than ever.

“Emma. Emma knows when someone is lying” she stated slowly. “She didn’t have it before, only when Henry was born. And all fantasy books say people with magic gain more skills during some breaking points in their life.”

Elena frowned, looking at their third sister.

“Emmy, when was the first thing you remember that your lie detector worked?”

She shrugged, grimacing.

“Not sure, but it might have been that crazy nurse, actually. I remember feeling the wrongness when she handed me these papers and tried to make me sign Henry away. I’m almost sure I’ve never had this feeling before, so… Are you saying the labour caused me to get magical powers?”

Elsa made a face.

“I’m grasping at straws here, but I’m guessing it might have. It was an important event, you were at risk, Henry was at risk, maybe your powers waited for this kind of spark to wake up. No idea. And that is all assuming August was right.”

“Well, he was telling the truth. The question of right and wrong is something separate. He might have been lied to and someone managed to convince him to sell the lie to us – innocently.”

Elena sipped her coffee.

“I’m…” she started and though for a moment. “Elsa, August said you were also using some magic, right?”

Elsa nodded and made a vague gesture.

“But you didn’t notice anything happening? Emma knows she can tell who’s lying, but you can’t, so it’s not the same kind of magic. But… did you notice something? Anything? Maybe you have more luck than others in the office? Get stuff done better?”

“The only thing I see is that I don’t get freaked out by Judge Perry. He loves to see the things done quickly, so he opens all windows before the session and has the AC turned down. Most people get so chilled they want to get out of there as soon as possible, but I’m OK, so I usually get my guys out or at least, well, not worse off than they came in. Celia actually assigns me every time we have a first hearing with Perry, because she said my statistics are way better than others… What?”

“Elsie, what are you drinking?” Emma asked very calmly.

“A coffee?”

“No. You’re drinking an iced coffee. What are we drinking?”

“…coffee?”

“Yes, lattes with hot milk. Do you see some trend here?”

Elsa eyed her glass silently.

“You hate hot chocolate so you drink ice tea. Even in winter.”

“But you like chocolate, just like us. But only the candy, not drinking it.”

“You prefer salads to warm dishes.”

“You usually dress in one or two layers less than us – remember when Henry tried to make us not put a scarf on him, because he argued you aren’t wearing one?”

Elsa put the cup on the table and stared intently at her hands, which were shaking slightly.

“Yes” she whispered slowly and a tear slid down her cheek. “I’m a cold freak.”

In an eye blink Emma was behind her, enveloping her in a hug.

“If you are, you are our cold freak. What I meant – and what Elena meant, I think – is that maybe, just maybe, your magic is represented by your cold resistance. Maybe it’s what you don’t do, because it’s just inside you. That is why you don’t actively see it, like I see the lies being told – because it’s always been with you.”

“Even when we were small” Elena added. “You remember, you were always way overheated in summer, when we were quite OK. And you always tried to run away when they dressed us for outings in winter.”

Elsa swallowed visibly.

“So you think I’ve always had it?”

“At least far longer than I can remember differently.”

“So why didn’t August feel it then?”

Elena shrugged.

“Maybe he didn’t know it was it? In the forest he must have been dead on his feet, and in the orphanage they didn’t mix the age groups a lot.”

Emma swallowed the rest of her cup contents.

“Also, he started turning into wood only recently” she reminded her sisters. “And he feels that thing only in his wooden leg.”

“Yeah. That too.”

“Now… I assume we’re all accepting finally that August was, in fact, right and we’re not from this world and we are – at least Elsa and me- magical, yes?” Emma grimaced and looked at her sisters nodding slowly. “Now, help me to work out how to explain it all to Henry.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/19 at 22:41

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 16: On the brink

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“You look like hell.”

“Love you too.”

Elsa did look like hell. Her normally spotless professional makeup was absent, her hair looked like a bird’s nest and her eyes were bloodshot.

“You planning to go to the office like this?”

Elsa stared absently at the wall and shrugged.

“Called in sick. Never needed to do this before, so my sick days accumulated nicely. Celia was actually concerned for me, but she said I’m more use to her healthy on Monday than sick on Thursday, so I have my boss’s order to stay at home, hydrate and get some rest.”

Emma sat vis-a-vis her at the kitchen table and sighed.

“You know that nothing changed, right?”

Elsa rolled her eyes expressively.

“Everything changed” she mumbled. “We no more…”

“Oh, do shut up” Elena joined them with her own cup. “You’re being dense. Yes. We have more knowledge about our origins. But you’re still our sister and that doesn’t change and never will. Whatever that guy says – and I’m still not sure it’s all true, because half of it sounded a lot like fever dreams of a lonely kid in need of some explanations – we are sisters and we’ll not allow you to isolate yourself because you feel you’re somehow different. You’re not.”

“You’re Elsa Swan and that’s it” Emma said forcefully, gripping Elsa’s hand. “Whatever he says, you are Elsa Swan and all fairies from all worlds won’t change this.”

Elsa didn’t sniff, because it was not in her nature, but she did sigh with that kind of broken, stuttering breath that meant she was almost crying.

“Even if all he said is actually true and he has no idea where you came from, we already know some things – assuming we believe what he says.”

Elsa managed do catch her breath and looked at Emma quizzically.

“Making that big assumption – and I’m telling you, he’s utterly convinced of what he told us – we know you’re from some place that uses magic. If our parents used the magical tree or wardrobe or whatever, then yours had to use something like this, too. Maybe a box, or some other tunnel to this world. We know you’re like a month older, so whatever happened, they managed to take care of you for a while and only then they had to send you away. It can even be from the same world as we came from, actually. It has to be a planet, wherever it is, so it would have to be Earth size, to support compatible life. Even with magic. So it’s big. Continents and oceans and everything. If we’re from some storyland, than maybe you’re also a piece of a fairytale, too. August says we’re Snow White’s kids…” Emma coughed “And he felt it very deeply. Like it was a basic thing for him. Sky is blue, grass is green and we two are Snow’s and Prince’s HEA. We’re the sequel to the nursery tale.”

“The x-rated sequel” Elena snorted.

Elsa pressed her lips into a thin line to stop an emerging smile.

“Why x-rated? We’re not doing anything nasty! At least, not now.”

Elena tapped the side of her nose.

“But they had to. You know, at least once…”

Emma rolled her eyes.

“That’s our supposed parents you’re talking of!”

“Yea, and they fact they became parents means…”

“Mum?”

All three looked towards the door guiltily, trying to recall the exact wording of the conversation in the previous seconds.

“My throat is scratchy” Henry mumbled, pressing his face into Emma’s hip. “Can I have some water? I don’t feel so good.”

“Come here” she pulled him up and tested his forehead with a kiss. “You don’t feel warm, but if I send you to school like this, I’ll be picking you up with a fever. I think we’ll be all skipping school and work today then. I have home office days from last month, so I can do my coding on the laptop, Henry can stay in bed and read, Elsa will sleep off the night…” she looked at Elena questioningly.

“I’ll actually go to my office and work like a normal person” snorted her more awake sister. “You make sure the kid doesn’t incubate something more deadly than a case of sniffles and she doesn’t do something idiotic” Elsa gave an undignified snort “like trying to leave.”

“I’ll sit on her, don’t worry.”

“I’m right here, you morons.”

“We love you too, Elsie.”

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/18 at 22:39

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 15: A whole new world

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“You were four when they moved me to that country house. Apparently if a kid almost coughs out his lungs, there are people in the social care system that pay attention and only after four years of observation they decided that either the pollution or something local is getting to me and so I was transferred out. Anyway, it didn’t help. It all happened only after my second bout of pneumonia, so I’m kind of blaming this, not any actual allergen in the group home. Anyway, I spend eight years stuck in a country house with a bunch of other sick kids and that was probably for the best, considering the foster homes everyone had stories about.”

Elsa leaned back, Henry fast asleep in her arms. Emma had covered them with a blanket and Elena provided two fat cushions to surround and support her. As Emma prepared tea, they sat in silence, both sisters watching August and August watching Henry with perplexity. Then, visibly having forced himself to relax, he started talking, telling them of the life in the “home” as he remembered it from their early childhood.

“The lady who runs the place entered you in the computers as triplets. She explained to me that some men from the system – probably her higher ups in social services – would be quite ready to get Elsa adopted and separated from you and so she had someone fix up the records and make it look as if you were sisters. Elsa is like a month older than you two, they said. You two were newborns, so they counted the day I ‘found’ you as your birthday – correctly, even though our calendar doesn’t match the one here at all – but Elsa was harder to pinpoint – when a kid is a month old, it’s impossible to be specific about a day. So they first wrote exactly a month earlier, and then corrected to the same as yours.”

Emma slipped into the empty space beside Elsa and caught her hands. “You will still have birthday with us.”

“Or she can have two” Elena provided. “She could grab some gifts for the first go and then get a second round with us. I’m sure Henry would love two cakes and we could have a chocolate one for Elsa’s day and the lemon tarte for the shared one.”

Elsa smirked weakly at Elena’s suggestion, but only silently hugged Henry closer to herself.

“Can you tell us about that whole curse? Why is this crap even happening? I mean, didn’t the wicked stepmother get properly killed in the story?”

“Ah” August sipped his tea “That’s the part where the cartoons and our actual world are a bit different. The cartoons – and the stories, and the legends – tell you the perfect story. They have a moral, evil gets punished, good gets rewarded, prince gets a princess as a prize and then they live happily ever after. We rarely see a princess’ mother or any other details. In our actual world, well. Let’s say that not every villain gets their due – or, rather, most of them don’t. Just remember, I was only a kid when they dumped me here with you – even if I’d been a kid for a long time by then – so all I remember is what Father and Blue Fairy managed to cram in my head just days before the whole thing went down.”

Emma nodded and poured some more tea into his mug.

“The way I remember this…” he pursed his lips in thought “It all started sometime when Snow White was a kid. She did something – no idea what, I’m afraid – that made Regina very angry at her. Regina then became her stepmother, by marrying the old King. Then the King died and so Regina became the actual Queen of our land, which made everyone scared, because she was a strong dark magician. Then Snow White turned out to be a bandit – there were posters with a price for her head everywhere. Somehow, she managed to get herself a man – that would be prince James, from next kingdom over – and a veritable army of creatures despised by Regina. And they managed to win the war. Don’t ask me for details, I was stuck at 6 years of age and Father didn’t share a lot with me. He himself was more into building stuff than politics. So then Snow and James were getting married – beautiful wedding, that much I remember – and Regina showed up, even though she was banned from the kingdom. She just crashed the actual wedding, cursed everyone and promised them doom, and left. Disappeared in smoke, just as your father threw a sword at her.”

“Threw a sword?” Elsa asked dazedly. “What kind of a world do you guys come from?”

August shrugged.

“Comparing to the works of contemporary literature – hard fantasy. Dragons, swords, lots of logical magic, lots of swordfighting, lots of death. Crappy healthcare, unless you are a noble. Maybe closer to Norton’s “Witchworld” than Pratchett’s “Discworld”, if you get my meaning. Small towns, lots of villages in the middle of nowhere. And lots of forest. And lots of magic-born creatures” he pointed at his own chest. “Continuing. The wedding done, all peaceful, Rumpelstiltskin in a cell, everyone as happy as can be. Your mother gets pregnant. Everyone is even happier. And then it turns out – and I have no idea why, remember, six years old – that the kid will be able to save everyone in the kingdom from the curse, but only if they manage to get her out before the curse hits. So my Father built that fabulous wardrobe out of a very magical tree. And it was supposed to transport two people out – so they thought they could put Snow and James in it and make sure the little one gets all care she needs. But my father negotiated for more magic, as a payment for his help, and the fairies made that three, so that I could get out, too. He was afraid I would die the moment the curse came, because I would have turned into wood then. So once the wardrobe was finished, he pushed me in and then they were supposed to get queen Snow, but…” he sighed. “Something must have gone wrong. I’m guessing she was already in labour and then it turned out there are two of you! So, I’m guessing, they put both into the prepared basket and so used up all the magic to transport both of you out. And then… You were here. And, i suppose, the curse hit the kingdom and took everyone here, too. But under Regina’s control”

They drank tea silently for a moment.

“So… what are we supposed to do – or what is Emma supposed to do?” Elena leaned forward and looked at him intently. “We don’t know a thing about magic, and even if you feel these two have been using it, I’m betting my salary they can’t say what it was they did and how they did it. So, how do we break the curse?”

August shrugged helplessly.

“That they didn’t tell me. The Queen and King were supposed to be here, with you! They just told me to be there in case something happened. And that something obviously happened. But they didn’t teach me whole history of the kingdom, or anything even near it” he raked his hair with both hands. “I only know that magic is, well, a bit sentient, and if you show up at the right place, at the right time, it may actually lead you where you need to go.”

Elsa finally sat up and looked a bit more focused.

“You say right place, but I still don’t know how we’re supposed to find that place. You’ve never been there, right? You have no idea where they ended up?”

“No. Although I’ve been making some research, and with my stupid leg serving as a compass I can give you the general direction. As I said, it itches like hell when someone uses magic, and that place is apparently running on magic, or Regina is using it, a lot. Either way, it’s in Maine.”

Elena snorted.

“Maine is a big place, you know. We can’t just ride down each country road and try finding a magicked place.”

August squirmed in his seat.

“I’ve had someone scry for more details” he finally admitted. “There are magicians in this world, just like in ours, they are simply a bit more subtle than Regina or Rumpelstiltskin. They said the name of the town I’m looking for is Storybrooke and the only way to find it is to already know where it is. But they do know it’s at least twenty miles from anything else, which makes it a bit easier to eliminate some areas.”

“Very amusing” Elena rolled her eyes and leaned back on the couch. “So we can’t get there until we know it’s there…?”

August shrugged and looked down.

“I know it’s not much. But, as I said, I learned enough about magic to know it has its own mind and will most probably try to lead you there. Things will happen to get you on the right track. Do you know how I managed to find you? Not through the orphanage, no. My leg hurt so I was trying to buy some painkillers – they dull it a bit, but not much – and in the clinic there was a lady telling someone that she’d seen three identical women talking to each other in a cafe and she had a problem understanding who was who because they all had names starting with E. I followed her a bit, discreetly, and identified the cafe. On the day I went inside because of a freak rain, you all showed up, too.”

Elsa frowned.

“That was a week ago” she said slowly. “Why are you here only now?”

“I couldn’t just approach you there” he explained honestly “And I really didn’t want to be arrested for stalking you, so it took me a week to track you back home. Sorry.”

Emma just shook her head and yawned.

“I’m very sorry, August” she smiled weakly. “It’s a bit much to take in. Can we… Can we just have some time to discuss this? I can’t promise anything until we’re all in agreement.”

He rose stiffly.

“Sure. This is my cell number” he handed Emma the card. “If you think you need something else and if it’s something I understood properly, I’ll be glad to talk. Please, do consider finding that place. If not for the sake of the whole kingdom, just for your own – and mine. Our parents are stuck there. Also…” he turned to Elsa “there are probably some magicians there who could help to trace your origins. And there are many ways to travel between worlds, not only magical cupboards. So you could, probably, find your family too.”

Elsa’s lips were pressed into a thin line, but she nodded.

“I will leave you, ladies. I’m staying in Boston for the foreseeable future, so we’ll meet again, I suppose.”

Only when the door closed and Henry was safely transported to his bed, Emma’s brain caught up with the fact that August had mentioned many names he never explained. One of them stuck in her mind and she was mulling over it as she fished out the laptop from her bag and sat down to googling fairy tales.

Written by Srebrna

2017/02/04 at 22:24

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 14: Now they know

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The guy seemed harmless enough, so Elena finally let him inside. All three looked at him expectantly, as he sat there, looking very uncomfortable. He played with his leather jacket cuffs and they perched on the sofa, waiting.

“Well?” Elsa decided to break the silence.

“Ah. Well” he coughed. “My name is August and…” he paused to take big gulp of air. “I was sent to watch over you.”

Elsa snickered and Emma smacked her shoulder to silence her.

Elena finally found her voice.

“What are you, a guardian angel?”

“If he is, the angels are rather…”

“…scruffy.”

He sighed again.

“You parents sent me with you, OK? And I really tried to stay in the same place, to make sure I don’t lose you, but some idiots in Social Services decided it will be better to separate us and sent me to some stupid country house for boys. I never knew before these actually existed. They supposedly thought it was better for my health” he coughed and grimaced. “My asthma and my allergies disagree.”

“Our… parents?” Elena asked in a weak voice.

“Yes. I’m sorry I couldn’t be here earlier” he made a face. “I was looking… well, anyway. The thing is, you know you were found in baskets, in a forest, by some kid, right?”

They nodded mutely.

“I’m the kid who supposedly ‘found’ you all. Actually, I only found one, the other two were sent with me. I can tell you exactly where, when, what we were all wearing and even who was in which basket. I suppose they wouldn’t have told you that. This one” he pointed to the sturdy wicker basket – filled with various cables and cell chargers – by the window “was Emma’s and Elena’s. And that one” white construction of thin wooden ribbons now held yarn “was Elsa’s. I know you will be suspicious, but listen, please” he paused and coughed again.

Elsa shuddered with sudden understanding.


August explained the events from twenty seven years earlier as well as he could, still skirting around the question of their actual origin.

“So” Elsa sighed again, by now sandwiched between her sisters, both holding her in a tight hug. “As I know you came with them, I’m guessing you have no idea who my parents might be. But what about theirs?”

“Yeah, that…” August stared at the dark window for a moment. “Your parents – now, hear me out and don’t hit me and don’t laugh – are best known as the Bandit Princess and the Dragon Killer. Or, Snow White and Prince James.”

“Bull” Elsa’s natural calm had already been rattled by the news they received just a moment before and now her normally measured, cultured voice broke just a little.

Elena pursed her lips and waited for Emma’s reaction. Emma’s ‘lie detector’ evolved soon after Henry was born (she was complaining a bit that it could have shown earlier and spared them all the court case hassle) and they relied on it in dealings with suspicious outsiders.

“He’s not lying.”

They were silent for a moment, looking at August, as he fidgeted in the soft chair.

“Actually, I’m telling perfect truth, for once.”

His feelings and stress were, in fact, shouting “TRUTH” for Emma, so she nodded to her sisters.

“So, we’re what, fairies?”

He snorted.

“No, perfectly normal humans. Just, well, a tiny bit magical. Actually, not that tiny a bit, sorry” he moved a bit, trying to find a better position. “At least one of you has already been using magic, a lot.”

Emma looked at him appraisingly.

“You are still telling the truth, but that doesn’t mean it is a fact. I mean, you could believe that magic exists, but still it would not make it any more true. Same with our parents. Someone might have messed with you, you were just a kid after all.”

His shoulders slumped a bit.

“One of you is using magic. And I mean it. She can even do it unknowingly, but I guarantee you, she is. I could probably work out which one, if you weren’t sitting all in one place” he smiled crookedly.

“What?” Elsa blinked. “How?”

He pursed his lips.

“I… Magic pains me, OK? I mean, it’s like an itch that goes painful, the closer I get to a magician. Especially if they are actively, daily, working it. I can detect magicked items and places, sometimes old curses.”

Emma leaned forward and looked at him in silence, lips pressed into a thin line.

“How?” she asked quietly. “Why are you so sensitive to magic? And, if it’s so painful, why did you even come here?”

He sighed.

“I didn’t feel it from outside, only once I was in here. So whatever one of you is doing, is not big, like a huge curse. Maybe it’s just… I don’t know. It’s like in that Chinese restaurant I visited, the cook was ‘helping’ the dishes to stay unburned. Nothing more. So my knee itched like crazy, but only if I sat too close to the counter. By the door it was quiet.”

“That doesn’t answer the first question” Elena pointed out helpfully.

“Because I was created by magic, ok? And it’s failing me and any time I’m close to any magician, the broken parts hurt! Will you stop asking?” he huffed and covered his face with his hands. “Yes, I’m a magical creature and I can detect it. Now will you please all move to different places so I can work out which one is making my wooden leg itch? May I add, that as it’s wooden, I can’t even scratch it effectively? Thank you?”

“Ok, so if we stand in different corners, or just come closer to you one by one…?”

‘Wooden?’ Elena’s mental alarms started blaring and blinking red on that word.

“Yeah. Two can stand by the kitchen door, and one closer to me, that should work” he sighed.

Emma and Elsa rose and moved to the doorway, as Elena made a few steps towards August. He nodded slowly.

“Not you.”

Elsa exchanged places with Elena and he hissed in pain.

“Ah” Elsa looked at her hands in doubt. “So it’s me? But you said I’m not from the same place…?”

Emma sprinted to her and caught her hands in hers.

“You are still our sister, no matter what. And even if…”

August made a moaning sound and curled himself up in the armchair.

“Ah.”

“So it seems I’m the only one without magic” Elena sounded a bit miffed. “I feel cheated, but I’m not sure of what.”


They spent the next hour interrogating August – at least that was what it felt like for him. He answered to the best of his knowledge, as honestly as he could, until they finally got to “whys” of the whole thing.

“A Savior?” Emma choked a bit on that word. “Me, a Savior. Of a bunch of fairyland characters?”

“It’s a big bunch” August sighed. “If everything went as it was predicted, then it’s the entire population of Enchanted Forest, sent over here, to the Land Without Magic. Considering this universe does have magic, I’m a bit curious as to how the Queen is feeling right now.”

“And these guys, all of them, can’t just fight their way back? I’m quite sure they know more about all this magic and curse stuff than we do” Elena sounded a little doubtful. “Because if Emma is supposed to learn all of this by herself – no teacher, no help – then I’m almost sure we’re not going to get there before our 28th birthday. To tell the truth, I’m still not really convinced it’s not some kind of elaborate trick. What if someone lied to you? If you were sick, like you say, your memories might have gotten mixed up.”

“And the wooden leg is just a joke?” August asked bitterly. “You can see for yourself.”

He reached down and unlaced his shoe, taking off the sock and rolling up his trouser leg. His polished wooden leg shone in the lamplight.

“I’m sorry, August” Elsa patted his arm. “But if that was supposed to convince us, it’s too pink to be wood.”

“WHAT?” he moaned. “It’s wooden, look. Hear!” he knocked it, the wood giving the slight door-knocking noise.

“Uh-uh” Emma shrugged in disappointment. “I see you’re sure it’s wooden, but we see flesh. I’m very sorry, August. I like you. You seem a rather nice guy. Really. And I see you’re convinced you’re telling the truth. But I think you should go now. It was fun when it lasted, but we’re not taking part in whatever they told you to fool us into.”

August breathed jerkily and curled onto himself where he was sitting, trying obviously to say something and failing.

“Why is your leg wood?” a tiny, clear voice asked from his side and everyone jumped.

Henry’s mussed hair and his Captain America pyjamas were a bit of a contrast to his worried, concerned face.

“Does this hurt?” he prodded the wood carefully. “I thought prosthesis were plastic, one of the kids in the school has a plastic foot…” he trailed off, looking at the grownups staring at him. “What?”

“Henry, do you actually see his wooden leg?” Elsa asked slowly.

“Sure. It’s kind of dark wood, a bit like that box you have in your room, on the shelf? The one with the green top? And it’s shiny, like the kitchen counter.”

“Henry, ale you sure? Can you tell me how… how does his ankle work? Is it also made of wood?”

Henry sat down cross-legged by August’s foot and, completely unconcerned by the weirdness of the situation, surveyed the joint in question with attention.

“It’s like a big wooden ball attached to both the foot and the rest of the leg. I don’t see how it’s attached, but…” he went very quiet and still for a moment.


August was watching the boy with alternating dread and wonder. If they had a kid, it would be all that much harder to convince them to move. But if the kid could convince them he was telling the truth…!

Henry slowly picked himself up and went to the bookcase.

“Mum?” he called finally “it looks like this.”

He was holding up a book and August knew with painful certainty which exact book it was. He breathed deeply as Emma looked at the page and then back at him.

“I suppose you’ve grown a bit since” she finally said in a very flat voice.

“I suppose so” he coughed again, the whole situation making his asthma kick up. “It’s been twenty seven years after all. I was stuck in my six-year-old body for a long time in the Enchanted Forest, but once we were sent here, I’ve started to grow up.”

“And it’s really you? I mean, you’re really him?” she weaved Collodi’s novel around for emphasis. “And your father…?”

“He’s in there, with the others. If he survived” he added hastily. “Which is not guaranteed for any of them, except for your own family and the Queen. Her whole plan was to make their life hell, so she would have kept them alive, if only to see them suffer.”

“What a delightful thought” Elena grimaced and plucked the book from Emma’s hand. “Really, that’s you? And the donkey and all?”

“No, Collodi added some stuff. I mean, basically what he wrote almost matches. Like all the fairy tales in this world, you know. Dwarfs do not wear slouchy hats and are much taller, your mother doesn’t run around the forest in a fancy dress and the Wolf doesn’t… well. You’ll meet that one, too.”

Elena pressed her hand to her breast in a theatrical way.

“My childhood is gone! I was sure the tiny guys were so adorable! I was in love with Grumpy for a long time!”

August shrugged.

“He’s a rather nasty character, but I can tell you he likes your mother. After I got here and I started watching cartoons and reading books, I tried to match what is said here to what I knew about our actual world. I’m quite sure there must have been people moving between worlds before us, to get so many details right, but they had to either observe from a distance, or they wanted to obscure some facts, as they wrote an enormous amount of it wrong. Also, the timelines are shot, and I’m really trying not to think about it too much, as it means Collodi wrote my story way before I feel I was born, even if I count in all the years I was living as a six year old.”

Henry looked from the book up at August.

“Mom?”

Emma wordlessly hugged his shoulders with one hand.

“He’s really Pinocchio?”

August shrugged and nodded.

“I am. Or at least, I was when I was back home. Here, my name is August Booth and I’m a writer” he smiled sadly. “Not very successful, mind you, but still, it’s a job.”

Henry blinked a few times, trying to work out the meaning of all that was said.

“And… which way are you turning?”

It was August’s time to think for a longer moment.

“What do you mean? Left and right, I suppose.”

“No. Are you wood and turning real, or real and turning into wood?”

All four residents watched August as he quietly squirmed in the stuffed armchair.

“Ah. That is the question of the day, my boy. I’m afraid I am turning into wood. That’s why I’d very much prefer if you believed in what I’m saying. Because I really don’t want to see what happens when the change gets much higher.”

Written by Srebrna

2016/11/27 at 22:30

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 13: Like the day before

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“I’m getting suspicious” Elena gulped her coffee and poked the stack of mail in front of her. “No crap happened since last weekend, so it’s ten days with absolutely nothing interesting going on around us. I feel like just before the storm.”

“I hope there is no storm” Henry applied to his scrambled eggs. “We have a trip today and we are going to spend all day in the park.”

“Not this kind of storm, kiddo” Emma fixed his collar and tried to make his hair lay flat. As soon as she finished, he combed them back with his left hand – right still shovelling the eggs into his mouth.

“One day, Henry, you’re going to mix up which hand goes where and you’re going to end up with the fork stuck into your hair” Elsa remarked from over her tablet. “And then I’ll drive you to school like this.”

“Mum! Aunt Elsa is being mean!” he stuck a tongue at the offender and then swallowed the last of his eggs and chased them up with a gulp of juice.

“Actually, if she did, you’d look like Ariel.”

The juice sprayed from the five-year-old’s mouth and nose as he choked in outrage.

By liberal approach to the driving regulations Emma got him to school on time – freshly washed, shirt and jumper changed at the very last second.


“I’m afraid Henry’s not going to submit this project” Elsa said very, very calmly, as she looked the teacher in the eye. “I know it’s a graded one, but I think I should advise you to rethink the idea of handing this kind of a task to children every again.”

The young – younger than Elsa, probably – teacher waved her hands and shuffled the papers in front of her.

“Then Henry’s total grade will be much lower than it could be” she started, in slightly condescending tone. “I don’t understand, what is so complicated with such a simple assignment. All the children are doing it.”

Elsa counted to five in her thoughts.

“And how many of these children are, in fact, coming from partial families? Do all of them even know their grandparents?”

“How can you not know your grandparents?”

The girl was so naively honest. Or honestly naive. Whichever that was, it did not bode well for her future in the education area.

Such a pity Elsa thought. She seemed rather reasonable in September.

“Very easily. If your parents are orphans and came from a group home, never staying in a foster home, then they don’t have any traditional family – or foster family – meetings to tell stories about. If your parents are orphans, then there is no family heirloom to hand down the generations. In Henry’s case, the family history is “I have a mother and two aunts and they were raised in an orphanage. And then I was born. The end.”” Elsa smiled thinly. “Are you sure you want him to read this out loud, in front of everyone?”

“But, but…” the teacher froze up for a moment. “What about the father? He must have some family?”

Elsa rolled her eyes, which she was usually very careful not to do.

“Also, not everyone has a father worth mentioning in a public place. Really, you sure you have only students from full, proper, multi-generational families who retain all relationships? Or maybe half of them lie when writing this stuff and cry quietly because of the way this is asked. Let’s hit them a few more times, what do you say? Let’s punish the children who won’t bring a Daddy for the Father’s Day play, hm? Or maybe make them prepare a show and tell with something that belonged to their grandparents? Why don’t you throw in some genealogical research and drawing a tree of minimum three generations?” Elsa sniffed and straightened. “I hope, i really hope, you will consider not humiliating a big part of your students any more. Henry will most definitely not be writing any of those, or taking part in them. I’ll go to department of education, or whatever that is called, if this affects Henry’s grade too much, too.”


Henry sighed as he sat in front of his supper and prodded the grilled cheese sandwich with his finger without much interest.

Emma reached to touch his forehead but he ducked his head and frowned.

“‘M not sick” he mumbled.

“Why aren’t you eating then?”

He shrugged. A five-year-old shrug is an expressive movement, especially if said five-year-old is usually a very talkative fellow.

“Sooo… something at the school?”

He shrugged and nodded, pulling the juice glass closer to himself.

“Sooo… problems with other kids?”

Shrug. Henry sipped some juice and made a great performance of swallowing it.

“So?”

“Not with kids” he finally uttered.

Emma strode around the table and sat next to him.

What happened?” she asked, rubbing his back. “I’m sure I don’t like how this sounds…”

He frowned again, looking angrily at his sandwich.

“It’s Miss Tallard. She said…” he thought for a moment. “She said she doesn’t know how to talk to me now. She was standing in the corridor and talking to some other teacher and said she’s so weirded out she doesn’t know what to do with me now, and how to talk, because she’s afraid she’s going to say something wrong.”

“Oh, dear. Elsa must have scared her a bit too much” Emma sighed, closing her eyes and pressing the bridge of her nose for a moment. “OK, next time I’m the one doing the talking. Sorry, Henry. Elsa went to explain to your teacher that some homework you got was not a very good idea, and she probably went all lawyer on her. You know Elsa is a bit scary like this, right?”

He nodded, but still frowned.

“Can we…” he hesitated a bit. “Could aunt Elsa not scare any more of my teachers? I mean, I don’t like doing stupid homework, but I think Miss Tallard doesn’t like me now very much.”


It wasn’t as if they had a lot of privacy in their tiny apartment, but at least every personal nook was separated with a curtain to allow each of them some “me time”.

Elsa used the fact that her bed was by a large, deep-set window and furnished the sill with a mattress and some pillows. Now she curled in on herself, hugging one of them.

Her stomach hurt. It didn’t happen very often, but always after a confrontation in which she let her inner lawyer come to the surface. Which, surprisingly, didn’t happen at the office at all. Only when dealing with stressful social situations. And then usually in the cases where she found later she went overboard. Getting Emma out of the hospital and taking the money for the staff’s behaviour? Piffle, not even a twinge. Bossing her way into a police station when their car was mixed up for someone else’s and impounded? Perfectly ok. Talking to a teacher and apparently scaring her out of her wits? This she paid for. Painfully.

The world seemed to be pressing on her, as if her skin was gone and every movement of the air scraped against her bare nerves. The hairs on her hands seemed to vibrate on their own, Even the hair on her head hurt a bit.

She combed through it furiously, trying to get rid of the feeling that there was electricity gathering around her head.

The blue-and-silver striped curtain moved.

“WHAT?” Elsa blurted, feeling the air movement on her overheated face like a slap.

Emma slipped by the edge of the curtain and silently sat next to her on the window seat. Carefully reaching out she enfolded Elsa in a hug.

Suddenly all the electricity and the tenderness and the rawness feeling was gone. And when the second pair of arms went around her and the third blonde head joined her sisters, the general feel of wrongness in the room dissipated with something like a snap, and Elsa’s knotted stomach relaxed enough for her to unravel herself from the pillow.

Unnoticed, the tiny bleeding ulcer she managed to work herself into quietly healed, leaving no sign of ever having been there.


The pirate movie was not exactly targeted at children Henry’s age, but Elena’s idea to make it a family thing turned out to be a big success. Henry was delighted with the animation, while the sisters left the cinema sniggering about the dodo, the Suspiciously Curvaceous Pirate and discussing the pros and cons of having an animation done with the voices of Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman and David Tennant.

“I do admire the level of performance they gave, as their accents did add a certain something to the movie, but I’m not really getting…” she shrugged “…this. I mean, nice voices, yes. So what?”

“Oh, come on, Elsa. It’s like the Puss in Boots done by Banderas. You just love the furry guy some more because of this.”

“And that rat in “Flushed Away”. The movie itself was fine, but Jackman!”

Elsa rolled her eyes and strode ahead of them, towing Henry along.

“Come on, kid. Let’s go and get some ice cream and let them drool over some animated pirates alone. I’m so not taking part in this discussion!”


Emma’s days were rather long as she declined – even though they repeatedly offered – to let her sisters wake up early and prepare Henry for school. She knew that Elsa was a night owl and waking at 6:30, although quite possible, was a very very bad thing for her. Even half an hour made a difference. Elena, quite capable of being up and about even at 6, if needed, had absolutely no memory regarding school packing, lunch, proper school dress code and special requirements of specific days, so she could happily get Henry to school with nothing to drink, no sandwich and no pencil case.

At 6:30, in March, it was cold. Not as cold as in January, of course, but still the ceramic floor of their kitchen bit into her soles painfully and she hopped from one foot to the other waiting for the microwave to ping as the milk was getting heated.

Elena drifted by, snagging the orange juice from the fridge and drinking it straight from the bottle, ignoring Emma’s sounds of disgust.

“You now drink the whole thing and buy a new bottle for Henry for the afternoon, do you hear me, miss?”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, Mommy.”

Emma was very good at throwing small things, so Elena soon found herself pelted with bottlecaps from one of the drawers.

“Mom? Can I have the cocoa now?”

“BLAST IT!” Emma ran to the microwave and opened it only to have the foamy milk splash from the oven onto the counter and her bare feet.

“You’re having tea today, I’m afraid” Elena drawled from her spot on the sofa.


Henry was done with his homework and had to make a tough choice between bothering mom and getting something more to do and sitting quietly in the window by himself and finding something to do.

He counted items on the street carefully.

Five sedan cars.

Six vans.

One trash truck.

Seven kids on bicycles.

One motorcycle.

He yawned. Nothing interesting. Even the motorcycle guy looked like absolutely nobody exciting.

Written by Srebrna

2016/11/27 at 22:15

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 12: Sensitive and sweet

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“How many mothers do you have?”

Henry blinked.

“Just one” he shrugged. “How many mothers can you have?”

“Suzy has two. But she has two different mothers” Thomas explained matter-of-factly. “And my mum says your mum shows in more than one place at once.”

“Well, I have one mother, but I have two aunts” Henry replied. “It’s just that they look a lot like Mum, so some people are confused.”

“Weird. How can the look the same?”

Henry shrugged. They always looked like this and he never understood the sensation they created when they went out together. He always had his mother, his aunt Elsa and his aunt Elena. They definitely weren’t identical, even though everyone said they were. He just knew which one was which – by the way they moved, by the shapes of their faces, by their voices. He never understood how people can claim they are unable to tell them apart.

He added a piece of roof to his castle and sat there, looking at it, as deep in thought as a four-year-old may be.


“Mum…”

Henry looked very serious, in his dinosaur pyjamas and under a star-printed comforter.

“Anything wrong, kid?”

He shrugged and grimaced.

“Are we weird?”

Emma’s face paled a bit as she sat next to him on the bed.

“Why are you asking?”

Henry squirmed a little.

“There is a boy, at daycare. He asks all sorts of questions about you and I…”

She sighed.

“What kind of questions?”

“Like, why are there three of you. And he meant you, as in, why do I have three mums. I tried to explain to them that you are actual, like, separate people, and the you are not actually identical, but he doesn’t believe me. He says there must be something wrong with me, because I have three identical mothers.”

“Oh my” Emma leaned to him and patted his cheek. “Henry, kids are stupid like this sometimes. They see something they don’t get – like us being triplets – and they make up an explanation that works for them. Then they work with that explanation and try to fit the world to it. He thinks that there is something weird about me and so in his head he makes you also weird. There aren’t so many triplet sets in the world, so most people wouldn’t have seen one. Also, we all live together and that makes people even more confused.”

“So… Thomas just doesn’t know what triplets are?”

“And so he thinks our family is somehow wrong. But nothing is wrong about us and if someone comes and says it to you, you can tell them to” Emma heroically swallowed ‘stuff it’ and finished with “talk to me, and I will explain it to them” ‘slowly’ she added silently.

Henry’s eyes slowly closed and he burrowed under his covers, a bit deeper. He frowned and yawned deeply.

“And…” he trailed off, falling asleep in the middle of the sentence.

“Yes, and. Always an and for us, kiddo” Emma sighed and closed the tiny book she didn’t get to read to him that evening.

She was rather proud of him for the way he reported the whole situation, but in the long run they had to plan for dealing with such situations themselves, before it became a problem for Henry.

Written by Srebrna

2016/11/21 at 22:12

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 11: Usual morning lineup

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At some point they gave up trying to understand. The world was obviously ready only for “traditional” families, and that didn’t cover them in any possible way. The best they could do to describe their situation was “single mother with one child, supported by her closest relatives”. Which only meant that every document, every power of attorney, and even signing up for Henry’s daycare was a challenge of explaining to general public the whys and hows of their daily life.


“Please list who is also authorised to pick Henry up. We have a very strict list of carers, and if someone is not on it, the child doesn’t leave”

Emma nodded and started filling in the form.

“Also, please provide telephone contacts to all possible family members we could contact in case of emergency.”

“What kind of emergency can there be in a daycare center?”

The headmistress shrugged.

“Anything from a bloody nose to a problem with water mains. I suppose all parents would prefer to pick up the kids in case we have a problem with water supply…”

Emma nodded noncommittally and added Elsa and Elena in the provided spaces.

“Please fill this in correctly” the headmistress returned the form. “You need to also provide your partner’s information.”

Emma sighed.

“I have no partner. It’s me and my sisters. Is that a problem?”

Raised eyebrows.

“Not as such, but I need to know if you and the father of the child are sharing custody or… I mean, if we suddenly get a man, claiming he’s Henry’s father, we need to know what is the situation.”

Emma shivered at the thought.

“You won’t, I assure you. Henry has no other family but us.”


“Really, what are they thinking? I understand that a single parent is not the norm, but there are so many families that don’t match the social norm… and so many reasons, from domestic abuse to death! And why would I mention some guy on the form just to make sure he will not be treated as a parent?”

Emma held her tiny, dark-haired son to her shoulder. After the day she had, the simple therapeutic action of hugging the toddler seemed to be the best thing to do. The way Henry curled up against her and fell asleep felt like a balm for her soul. His head pressed into the crook of her neck, his breathing slow and even, his small fists curled tightly, he was a living medicine. Just his smell – maybe slightly mixed with the smell of soap and crayon wax – made her relax.

She sighed, as Elsa sat next to her and slowly peeled Henry off of her.

“Probably they assume that their daycare is fancy enough to only bring in proper high-quality customers, and not vagabonds and weirdos like us. Considering the percentage of non-full-families in the middle class, I’d say they are in for a disappointment…”

Henry nestled in her hold, pressing his face into her sweater and mumbling something.

“I’m putting this one to bed. You try to relax, these people are just not worth your nerves.”

Elsa loved watching Henry sleep. He was so… stable. Unlike most things in their lives, he was – more or less – unchangeable. Or rather, predictable. He grew, he learned new things, he progressed, but it was the proper kind of change, the natural one. Not something that happened in leaps and turned the reality around them into an unknown.

She watched as he stretched, yawned and turned on the other side, making small, cat-like noises.


“Elsie! I think we need something hot! Could you heat up the milk? It’s freezing outside and Henry’s nose is getting blue.”

“And I catched some snow on my tongue! Is it going to turn blue too, Mum?” he looked at Emma with sudden anxiety.

“It should not, kid, but only if aunt Elsa makes that hot chocolate for us a-s-a-p! Come on, out of that jacket. It’s wet all the way through!”

Elsa appeared in the kitchen door and watched them in surprise.

“How did he manage to get that wet?”

“Well, he found the biggest pile of slightly-melted-but-not-quite snow and rolled in it before I caught him. So, basically, I think his underwear may be, but just may be dry. Come on, kiddo, strip and put on these” she handed him a pair of soft pyjama bottoms. “And wash your hands.”

They sat at the kitchen counter – “wide enough for three and a half” as Elena called it – and sipped their chocolate, as Elsa joined them, holding a tall glass of iced tea.

“Aunt Elsa? Why are you drinking that cold stuff?”

She blinked and thought for a moment.

“I don’t really like hot drinks, dear. I think I might have burned my tongue on something long ago and now I can’t really eat anything very warm.”

“Ah” Henry though for a moment, his lips on the rim of the cup. “That’s not good” he finally pronounced. “Chocolate is the very bestest thing to drink. It’s very bad you can’t drink it.”

“The important part is that I can still make it for you” she hugged him, messing up his hair. “You can always drink some in my name.”

Written by Srebrna

2016/11/11 at 22:02

Posted in Splinters

Splinters 10: Togetherness

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Emma’s pregnancy did mess up their plans rather thoroughly. In fact, there were only a few points they agreed on – starting with the most basic one, that they were going to keep the child.

After a big discussion they decide to call “it” Henry, or Irene, depending on the outcome. Elena was suggesting “Harry”, but Elsa pointed out that kids with “book names” are often picked on at school. Henry was close enough and a good, short name with no fuss. Elsa secretly wished for a girl, but Elena was more partial to a nephew. Emma just wanted to stop puking at some point.


“Have you considered your options?”

Emma blinked at the nurse behind the desk.

“Yes, we’ve already chosen the name.”

It was nurse’s turn to blink.

“I meant, have you considered – termination, adoption? There are secure ways to give a child away for adoption, and there are agencies that facilitate this. You could even get some money…”

The door behind Emma didn’t slam, as she had to energy to slam things any more.


Elsa wrapped the blanket around her and handed her a steaming cup of cocoa.

“They are…” Emma inhaled shakily. “They are just nasty.”

“They are following a script, really” Elsa sighed and sat across from her sister. “I suppose they get a ton of women our age, trying to get out of the situation. They are supposed to accept the first answer though, so she should have shut up the moment you said you chose the name. Also, she should not have mentioned the money.”

Elena leaned on the kitchen door frame.

“We’ll go with you tomorrow. Hopefully that will make them more restrained.”


Emma had to give up volunteering at the support centre and had trouble finding an appropriate job, but Elena managed to get a position on her first interview, to the envy of her sisters. Proofreading of historical journals was perfectly suited to her preferred mode of working from home.

Elsa’s job hunt took slightly longer, but companies needing a paralegal were abundant, she just had to pick the right one.

Emma’s spirits were so low she could barely make it out of bed and into the kitchen in the morning.


“Here” Elena dumped a stack of paper in front of her pregnant sister.

“What is that?”

Emma struggled to sit upright.

“Money. You read this, you mark errors, they pay. I know you hate picking on people’s errors, but these are sociological articles and I hope you can focus better on them than you would on some of mine.”

Emma picked the first sheet up and pushed her glasses up her nose.

“Why did you pick up these? I know you hate proofreading on paper…”

“But your laptop is half-dead and these had been delivered printed out anyway. I asked in the office if they had any backlog and picked some of these, by the topic. If you don’t like them, I can find some zoological ones and I’m almost sure I saw some about childbirth…” she smirked. “Now, you remember the correct notation?”

Emma shrugged.

“Hope so. Thanks, sis” she smiled slightly at Elena.


With the due date a month in the future, they never expected Emma’s waters to break in the middle of a shopping mall. Fortunately the car was just at the front of the mall – Elena had an uncanny knack of finding good parking spots. They half-carried Emma into it and earned Elsa several tickets on the way to the hospital. At least they didn’t try parking in the ambulance bay, like some parents they’ve seen, as Elena supported Emma in her march to the door and Elsa could park the car safely and correctly. She barely made it inside with her sisters.


Despite three or four attempts at separating them or removing at least one from the birthing room, they managed to stay with Emma for the whole 20-hour ordeal. Elsa was alert for every manoeuvre of the staff and Elena never let her nephew out of her sight, once he was washed and wrapped in a blanket. She was having a slightly bad feeling about all around them, but putting a finger on it seemed to be a challenge.


“We’re not leaving him in the hospital” Elsa felt that if she had to repeat that sentence one more time, she’d kill someone with her bare hands. “Some people… I just can’t. Just can’t.”

Elena pressed her hand briefly.

“We’ll get there.”

Elsa sighed.

“I hope so. I’m just a bit… why does everyone assume that three women can’t raise a kid?”


Henry was just adorable – if one could ignore his unfortunate resemblance to Neal. Emma was more than happy to do so. She sat on her bed, exhausted, sweaty and hoarse from screaming and her son was the very sweetest kid ever. The fact that his father failed at his basic task of being a decent human being did not affect her love for him one bit.

“So, dear, it’s the time to sign the papers” the nurse smiled in a way that unsettled her. “the quicker you do this, the sooner you can be on your way.”

Emma blinked, pulled brutally out of her reverie.

“What papers?” she coughed. “The doctor said we need at least one more day in the hospital. I didn’t…”

“Yes, you did” the nurse frowned. “You must sign these papers right now.”

“What is this…” Emma’s voice trailed off as she scanned the document. “I’m not giving Henry up for adoption! Are you crazy? Elsa already told that stinky lawyer to stay away from me! You’re not getting my son!”

Her tirade gained in volume as she pushed the pad of documents away and down from the bed, trying to get up.

“You will be a good girl and sign the blasted papers or you will learn how badly I can hurt you with just the stuff I can inject into your IV.”

Emma gestured with both her free hands.

“I have no IV!”

Big hands immobilized one of hers.

“Now you will, no worries.”

“And this is my clue to ask you to step away from that bed, write down your name and get you reported to the chief.”

“Elsa!”

“I kind of had a feeling they won’t give up that easily.”


The chief of the maternity ward squirmed in his seat as Elsa watched him with cool interest. Finally, having re-stacked the papers, organised the pencils and opened and closed the windows twice, he managed to look at her.

“We were asked to provide a boy, of certain characteristics” he uttered. “Your nephew fits the description. I’m so very sorry for my staff’s behaviour, but the possibility of a hefty bonus must have clouded some minds.”

“I don’t really care. You can now work out where you are going to find all the money I’m going to sue you for. I’m quite sure your insurance doesn’t cover ’employees being stupid craps’.”

It was, indeed, rather satisfying to be finally able to defend themselves against the world. Elsa found it refreshing to be the one in charge and in control, so she happily pushed the case until a healthy sum was deposited to Henry’s “school account”.

Proper lawyer-y detachment be damned, that was family.

Written by Srebrna

2016/10/30 at 21:59

Posted in Splinters