[This is the final chapter.]
III. World Enough
The Fowls have always known how to throw a party. Artemis' funeral made the Irish Times, and Juliet suspects this will be no different.
It's a strange thing, to know that her brother's body is older than his brain. Butler tried so hard not to let it slow him during Opal's final attempt at world domination that it was almost a joke his heart nearly gave out a year later.
It's a Sunday in the summer. Butler technically retired in the spring, but the odds of an Irish spring without rain are abysmally low, so they have the party in the summer.
Irish hot is not American hot, something Juliet has always remembered, but it is warm and slightly cloudy, but no rain in sight.
She is not nervous about making a speech. She's a talker, always has been.
She is not nervous about seeing Minerva again, although the prospect of explaining their not-quite-a-relationship to Artemis, should he notice anything between them, is unpleasant.
But she is nervous because very soon she will steal Butler's spotlight.
She will leave. She will not only leave the care of the twins to someone else, someone who is not a Butler, someone the Fowls will have to hand-pick, but she will leave Ireland. She will leave Artemis. She will leave her brother.
Asking Minerva to come with her is too much to hope for, but she will do so anyway. Or not. She has not decided.
She does not see the tears in Artemis' eyes, but she realizes he has been crying when he surreptitiously wipes his eyes on the back of his sleeve. It's an awfully casual move for him, but Artemis has attempted to loosen up recently, for the twins' sakes, he says.
But Juliet knows that, like any of his self-improvement kicks, it's ultimately for Holly. It's always Holly. Artemis is painfully romantic, even if he would sooner face another world-ending catastrophe than admit it.
The twins are babbling about kindergarten to anyone who will listen (which is everyone, even the stuffiest of old men at this function wouldn't dare insult a Fowl). Beckett has made several delightful finger paintings that he is eager to show off, and Myles swears he is going to solve global warming before Artemis gets the chance. He might, too.
Butler is everywhere and nowhere, by turns soothing Angeline and catching up with his old colleagues and staring wordlessly into the depths of his martini glass. Juliet knows better than to ask him how he's feeling.
She is waiting for Minerva, who is probably going to arrive fashionably late, as usual.
For all the world they are two incredibly successful young women catching up, or perhaps gossiping or sharing some private joke that only young women seem to know.
They are all of these things and more.
"I'm not going to ask you to come with me," says Juliet, meeting Minerva's steely gaze. "You could meet me someday. Or not."
Minerva says, "I am seventeen."
Juliet gives her a crooked smile. "We have our whole lives ahead of us, if you want to spend some of it together. But you could also…say goodbye. Now. Or….for good. For…whatever."
"I'm not your whatever," says Minerva.
Juliet rolls her eyes.
"You haven't even said it," Minerva pouts.
"Well, I do. Love you. Or whatever," Juliet affirms, and she's suddenly aware that perhaps she should have planned for more than one speech tonight. "But…I can't ask you to come."
"What if I want to?" Minerva asks, and the silence between them blossoms into something altogether different.
Paris is first. They have their whole lives to whatever.