(Mermaid Note: If you haven’t already, please read Garden of Knight (Part One) first.)
The train rocked gently as Gemma flipped through a stack of photos from their last visit, pausing at a shot of her, Gran and Aunt Margaret. Gran and Margaret looked almost the same as they always had; the same dark eyes, olive skin and stubborn chins, but Gran’s hair was grayer, and they each carried a few more wrinkles. Studying the photo carefully Gemma saw strained lines around Gran’s mouth. She’d been so preoccupied she hadn’t noticed before.
Gran and Aunt Margaret had kept their word and visited her every month. They’d planned special vacations for her holidays and breaks from school, and been there for all of the important moments of her life. But Gemma had let her resentment of being sent away build into frustration, anger and then open rebellion. By the time she was seventeen she’d refused to go home at all, even for the annual family reunion. She remembered Gran begging her to come, and stressing the importance of knowing her family, but Gemma hadn’t listened. She hadn’t even bothered to return Gran and Aunt Margaret’s recent barrage of phone calls.
It had been more than three years since she’d seen them in person, and now she’d give anything for just one chance to go back, to say she was sorry. She wiped a stray tear from her cheek and stuffed the photos back in her red striped tote.
According to the authorities, they had been attacked by some kind of animal.
It was like someone had picked her up and dropped her on another planet. This planet smelled like cookies and came with a house so big she could get lost. She dodged Grandma Emily’s favorite chair, a big fancy one with flowers on it, and passed the curio that held Great Aunt Margaret’s spoon collection. Floor to ceiling bookshelves flanked a stone fireplace so big she could stand inside it if she’d wanted to, and she was almost the tallest six year old in her class. She decided Grandma Emily might not like that and moved on, her attention drawn by the gold framed portrait of her mother above it. In the painting Mama looked younger, her black hair longer and dark eyes shining with mischief. She looked like a movie star with her red dress and olive skin. Daddy had called her his gypsy queen. She was as beautiful as a queen, Gemma thought, wishing she looked more like her. She had Mama’s eyes, but Daddy’s blond hair and pale skin. Mama always said Gran didn’t care about them, but why did she have so many pictures of Mama if she didn’t love her?
Still lost in her thoughts, Gemma wandered outside into a huge garden full of trees, flowers and statues. The air was chilly, not as stuffy as in the house. Red, yellow and orange leaves decorated the trees as if they were preparing for a party. It would be Halloween soon. Was Gran too old to celebrate Halloween? Stretching out her hand, Gemma plucked a leaf from a nearby bush. She traced the veins softly but the leaf crumbled at her touch. Just like her parents had in the accident. She swallowed hard as the familiar ache filled her chest. She let everyone think that she didn’t remember, but she did. Every time she closed her eyes she was back in the car. She could hear Daddy’s deep resonating laugh, see Mama’s dark hair blowing in the wind, and then the deer sprang from the woods and into the road a split second before Mama screamed.
Being sad won’t bring them back.
Gemma whipped around. “Gran?” But it was a man’s voice. “Who said that?” Her head swiveled in every direction, but the only one here was a statue of a man with sad eyes wearing strange clothes. He knelt on one knee, holding a giant sword, like a knight. She felt weird, reaching out and touching his cold hand, like someone was watching her. Rather than being creepy, it was kind of nice not being sad all alone.