Ruzi waited. His mom would be there soon. He’d waited so long to see her again. He’d come so close to giving up hope of that. He’d lived in the shadows for years. He felt like he was becoming a shadow. No one saw him. The only way anyone suspected someone had been there was food might be missing.
That was the only thing he had ever stolen. His clothes he’d gotten from people’s trash. Some of his food had come from there too. Most of the nicer houses near the palace threw away food that was still good. That’s how he’d met Chormi. The older boy was out in the yard, near a trash pile. Ruzi would have avoided the place, but he hadn’t eaten in days and was feeling ill. He was desperate.
So, he approached Chormi, assuming he was looking through the trash too. Why else would he be out so late? He asked if there was anything good and if he’d be willing to share a little. Chormi told him he could get better and to wait there. Had he not been so sick, he would’ve left, but he wasn’t thinking clearly, so he waited.
Chormi returned with more food than Ruzi had seen in a month. He ate some of it and stuffed some of it in his pockets for later. Then Chormi told him he could live there and invited Ruzi in. Ruzi didn’t dare. Chormi invited him to come back the next night, promising more food. Ruzi returned again, and again, Chormi had invited him in. He explained what the place was and that he could stay there while they looked for his parents. Ruzi was tempted. He wanted to see his mom. The next day, he watched the house and saw that two elves lived there. He still went to talk with Chormi and get more food but he refused to stay even though Chormi insisted there were no elves and no one would hurt him. Chormi continued to bring him food until one night they were caught. He was fed, healed, clothed, given a place to stay, educated, and even adopted. Plus, as Chormi had said, they helped him find his mom.
He looked around again. Thailyn had said she would have difficulty walking so he was making sure there was nothing for her to trip on. Sapphire had sent over several kids to help him clean the room Pisha was going to use and make sure it was ready. Ti had even hung a hammock though Thailyn said she couldn’t use it yet.
He’d clean the rest of the house well enough to pass an inspection by Mishtali. Andy had brought over something called a casserole. It smelled good and there was some lemon juice for his mom to add if she wanted.
He talked to his teachers and got his assignments for a couple of days so he could spend time with her.
He was glad she’d be living at the house with them. It solved the problem of him having to choose whom to live with. Everyone assumed he’d want to live with her. In truth, he was torn. He loved them both equally. Thailyn might not be his birth father, but he was his father.
Now he didn’t have to choose. He’d have them both. At least, until her citizenship was finalized and they found a place to stay. But he’d seen how they’d looked at each other in her mind. He’d seen that look before.
He saw a flash of light outside. It was too green to be lightning. He hurried to the door.
Thailyn and Ann were helping his mother up the stairs. Thailyn was scolding Ann for transporting them outside.
“It was an accident. I missed,” Ann insisted.
“Are you pregnant?”
“I haven’t seen Andy for weeks. How can I be pregnant?”
“You’re the most powerful mage on the planet. How can you have such bad aim?”
“Please,” Pisha interrupted. “It’s okay. I’m going to have to do steps eventually.”
“Dad, you’re starting to sound like Grandfather,” Ruzi said.
Thailyn looked stricken at the thought. Mishtali was unreasonably hard on Thailyn. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Ann nodded. “It’s okay. I’ve heard worse.”
“But it shouldn’t come from family. We’ll talk later,” he assured her.
“I need to go,” she said. “Uncle Pt’this tells me I have people waiting.”
Ruzi moved to take her place supporting his mom. He’d helped his dad with patients before.
“I missed you mom,” he said.
“I missed you too, baby.”
They sat her down.
“Let me get a proper look at you,” she requested.
He stood before her.
“You’re so grown up.”
“It was with your help. You taught me what to do.”
“You shouldn’t have needed to.”
“That’s Grandpa’s fault. He’s in prison,” He assured her.
“They should all be in prison. They all did it.”
“Mom, they are all in prison. Grandpa for hurting you, Uncle Dvin and Uncle Trok for beating Sinta and…”
“Sinta? They hurt Sinta?”
“She’s fine,” Thailyn assured her. “She transported away before they could do any serious damage. Shunati healed her.”
Pisha nodded. “That’s right. You told me that. And Drepal helped with Howip. I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“It’s okay. It can be confusing,” Thailyn said.
“Don’t worry, Mom. It’ll give us more to talk about.” Ruzi smiled.
Pisha smiled. “You always find the positive, don’t you? I’m so glad.”
“Ruzi, don’t you need to get back to class?” Thailyn asked.
Ruzi shook his head. “I talked to all my teachers and got assignments for today and tomorrow so I could spend time with my mom. I still have a test tomorrow evening. Master Thorgrey couldn’t reschedule that.”
Then he grinned. “Or do you two want to be alone?”
His mother blushed and Thailyn growled. Ruzi thought he saw a slight blush on him too, but he knew Thailyn usually blocked that.
“You watch your manners,” Thailyn warned.
“You’re not too big to be put on the ceiling.”
“Shunati said being upside down isn’t good for my eyes. I’ll be good. I’m sorry.”
“Your sister is a bad influence on you.”
“Ann, Pt’this, Andy, Shun, Dae,” Ruzi agreed.
“Dae?” Thailyn frowned.
“Only a little. She tries to be discreet.”
Thailyn stood. “I should get dinner going.”
“Andy brought something by. We just have to heat it. One hour, in a medium oven.”
“What is it?”
“He called it a casserole.”
The three sat talking until it was time to eat. After dinner, Pisha wanted to lay down and was soon asleep.
“You know, Dad, if you want, you could court her. I won’t mind.”
“Why do you think I want to?”
“The way you two look at each other.”
“Ruzi, we are not looking at each other that way. She’s your mother for pity’s sake.”
“And you’re my dad. Most moms and dads are already together. Unless I was told wrong, that’s how they became moms and dads.”
“If I’m wrong, fine. You were the one talking about how lonely staying single is. If you don’t want to court her, that’s your choice. But if you do, I’m okay with it.”
Thailyn smiled. “Thanks, but she’s just a friend. I’m okay single. I believe I told you that too.”
“Yeah what would a half-dragon half-elf kid look like anyhow?”
“I’ve never seen one. Besides, if we were to get together, who said we’d have kids? I’m almost 1300 years old.”
“That’s not so old.”
“For me, it is. With my heart, I may not live more than a few centuries.”
“Nah, Lamdi will come up with something. She’ll find some potion or something to help you while she does emergency healing.”
“That would be nice, but I won’t hold my breath. Dragons have been looking to heal that for millennia. No one’s found a way.”
“I didn’t think it would be so simple, but I’m not giving up hope,” Ruzi insisted.
Ann returned to the palace to the people waiting for her.
“Mommy!” Cari came running.
“Cari.” Ann scooped up the girl and hugged her.
“Hi, sweetie.” Andy hugged her too.
“I missed you.” She kissed him. “I hate being away from you two.”
“It was only a short time, and Ruzi’s eyes are doing much better.”
“Mommy, you and Aunt Drepal are like superheroes,” Cari told her.
Ann raised an eyebrow. “Did she visit your folks again?”
“Jo’s family sent gifts. Jared gave her a few comic books.”
“He knows she’s three, doesn’t he?”
“I check them. They’re fine and she loves them.”
“Mommy, you have presents too. Come open them,” Cari insisted. Ann nodded and they went up to their room.
“John and Carry are engaged. He proposed at the Thompson’s after dinner.”
“Why were they at the Thompson’s?”
“Amelia has everyone invite a friend for Christmas dinner. She invited John for Jo and Nim.
“Oh, and Jo’s brother, Kevin, is engaged to Sarah.”
“Sarah? Your Sarah?”
“What’s a Sarah?” Cari asked.
“Sarah is a person. Daddy was courting her before he met Mommy,” Andy explained.
“Does he know what she’s like? Ann asked.
“Jo had a little talk with him. She’s matured some. She had told him what happened.”
“Now, let’s get those gifts open. Cari’s come close to opening them without you. They’re driving her rocky.”