"There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other."
We walk to the privacy of the billiards room. I find that I have no trouble summoning the door of light, perhaps because of the magical surge I had when making Ann fluent in French.
I open the door. My heart swells when I see the garden restored to its former glory. Felicity shrieks with happiness and holds Ann's hands. They dance in a wild circle, Felicity's white-blonde hair seeming to glow in the light of the gardens.
Not wanting to be left out, I grab Felicity's slender wrist and join in on their crazy jig. Soon, we all fall down in a heap.
Ann laughs so hard that tears stream down her face. Felicity holds her hand over her heart, struggling for breath. She tips my head toward hers and kisses me on the cheek.
"Gemma," she smiles, "Thank you for restoring beauty to my life."
I smile back. "Your welcome."
We sit up, our dizziness gone. "Fee," I say gently, "the realms are part of your life. But they aren't part of your London life. You can't get the two confused."
Felicity laughs. "Dear, dear, Gemma. Once you have entered the realms, they are part of not just your life, but your being. You, of all people, should know that."
A blooming white flower falls from bright blue sky in slow motion. Felicity tucks it behind her ear as I say, "What I mean is that just because you are satisfied with the realms, that doesn't mean you should be satisfied with your normal life.
Felicity frowns. "I know. And that's where the problem lies, isn't it?"
Before I can answer, she has waltzed off to join Ann by the river. Exasperated with her short attention span, I follow her over.
Felicity shushes me. "Ann is singing," she chides.
Ann's voice flows as freely as the river, and it seems to take flight into the sky. When she is in the realms, she looks as if she is Ann as Ann would be without her troubles; long, honey-colored hair, sparkling blue eyes and a bright smile. Recently, she seems to look just like that in the real world.
When Ann is finished, Felicity and I applaud.
"Bravo, Ann!" Felicity shouts.
Ann blushes. "Was it really that good?"
"Better than ever!" I say.
"If you would excuse me," Felicity says, "I think I shall go hunting now."
"Fee," Ann complains, "we've only just gotten here. I wish that you would stay to talk."
"And I wish to practice my archery. I haven't done so for a year. Go talk to Gemma, she seems rather chatty. You know, Ann, just because you've made some money in the past year, you don't have to get all high and mighty." And with that, Felicity changes into a Valkyrie costume and dashes off into the woods.
That's all it takes to set her off. One little comment. She's so touchy sometimes. And other times, she's as easygoing as you could possibly imagine. Those other times, however, are far and few.
I sit down with Ann on the waving grass. She sighs. "Is Felicity mad with me?"
I shake my head. "No. She's mad at her mother. It's not you, Ann."
"Why does she have to be so nasty?" Ann asks.
I pick up a piece of grass and blow on it, making it turn into a butterfly. "Because that's her way of dealing with something unpleasant."
"What's so awful about her mother, anyways?"
I press my lips together, forcing the secret in. "She ran away to Paris, that's what. I don't think you'd like it very much, either."
Ann shrugs. "I've never had a mother. Besides, that was years and years ago."
"Felicity likes to hold grudges. They make her think that the person she's mad at got what they deserved, when it's really her who is suffering the most."
"Do I, then?" Felicity's voice says from behind me.
"Yes, you do," I snip.
"You can say that so easily, Gemma. That's because you've never been cast off as the only daughter of Admiral Worthington. What a shame he never had a son," she says bitterly.
"Your mother sent you the loveliest gifts when we were at Spence," Ann murmurs.
"I suppose I'm rather lucky," Felicity sighs. "For the gifts, at least."
But not the mother. The sentence hangs in the air like the heavy fog that lies over the east end of London.
"I apologize, Ann," Felicity says quietly. "I shouldn't have said that. It was rather inconsiderate of me."
"It's only what you thought," Ann says.
"And I thought wrong."
Ann smiles. "Truce?"
Felicity raises an eyebrow. "I wouldn't go that far."
Laughing, she takes off a Valkyrie boot and dips her foot in the water.
"Felicity!" Ann cries, "You mustn't do that! It's indecent!"
Felicity winks. "You're talking to Felicity Worthington, here. She happens to be the epitome of indecency."
Giggling and shrieking at the same time, Ann jumps head first into the water.
"Come, Gemma!" Felicity says enthusiastically, entering the cool river herself.
"And I was so warm," I mutter.
As I slip into the watery abyss, I find it surprisingly pleasant.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Ann splutters.
"And therein is the dilemma," Felicity says almost inaudibly. "Things don't always bend to your will in the real world."
"No, they don't," I agree.
But it is comforting to know that sometimes, we can leave the troubles of London behind, even for a few hours. We can come to a place where we see a world that accepts us. A world that loves us. A world where there is a father who doesn't cast us off; a world where it doesn't matter who our parents are. A world where dreams can become a reality.
And that is precisely why that world isn't real.
Review, my little darlings! Come on, you can do it!