Sorry it took me so long to get his up; I've been in and out of town since early June, the longest "in" being three full days.
Everyone wave grandly to Brasenia, who beta read for this. If I can get past myself and start taking her advice, rather than getting defensive about my "baby", her input should improve this story wonders. Big thanks, Brasenia!
Disclaimer: I didn't have one of these in my last story. Oops. I think it's clear that Nita, Ronan, Kit, Dairine, Harry, the Lone Power, the Powers (though their personifications came from the sleep-deprived mind of yours truly) and any one you recognize don't belong to me, but the brilliant Diane Duane. Lexi, Angie, and Peter are my creations (pity them). Any poetry is mine, and if you want to use it for anything, e-mail me and we'll talk about it.
— — — — —
I am your father.
The stranger's words echoed in Lexi's mind as the bus bumped along. Her fingers twined in her shoulder-length dirty-blonde hair, as they always did when she was upset or confused.
I am your father.
Could he be? She had never known her father or her mother. She did know that her mother had died in some type of accident thirteen years ago, shortly after her birth. But, she rarely heard anything about her father.
I am your father.
Why did that line keep running through her head? If she was to ever ask about her father, a shadow would pass over whoever's face and no one would answer. With much insistence, Nita finally told her that "he was a no-good, who had left her mother as soon as he had made her pregnant, and had never been heard from since."
I am your father.
Until now, maybe. Could this man who approached her as she walked to the bus stop from her home really be her father? He was probably lying. Maybe he was a freak looking for thrills. Maybe it was a cruel joke. But maybe....
I am your father.
... Maybe he was telling the truth. What then? What would she do?
Lexi had grown up with Nita Callahan. Lexi knew that she was in no way related to Nita, but that Nita had been good friends with her mother, and had convinced her father to allow her to raise Lexi.
Lexi always wondered why Nita would take her in, and raise her, especially when she was just a teenager herself. Overnight, Nita had became a teen mother at no fault of her own. Lexi imagined it hadn't been easy for Nita, to take on the burden of a baby while in high school, go on to college and earn a degree in botany, and get the good job she currently had at the Botanical Gardens.
Nita had never married, though she had a steady relationship with a man from Ireland, who was often in America on business. Christopher Rodreigez, who would nearly strangle anyone who called him anything but "Kit", was an engineer that lived nearby and spent much time with Nita.
Even while thinking about Kit, Nita, and Ronan, a little voice in the back of her mind still bugged her with the stranger's voice,
I am your father.
What she needed right now was some good solid advice. But who could she turn to? Not Nita, Kit, or Ronan; Lexi had asked all of them about her father and all seemed to hate him with a passion. Her Grandpa Harry or Aunt Dairine? (While they were not actually her grandpa and aunt, but Nita's family, Lexi still referred to them as thus.) She decided against it. She had a feeling that her grandpa wouldn't know much, and that Dairine had a similar opinion to Nita about Lexi's father.
Certainly not her real grandfather, her mother's father. He was even more of a stranger than her own father. Nita had eventually told her the truth about him, that he wanted nothing to do with her, and had once, immediately following her mother's, his daughter's, death, actually threw Nita out of the house when she had visited him with Lexi in tow. It hurt a little, but Lexi was mostly past that disappointment.
I am your father, he had said.
She was walking to the bus stop, to get on and go to school. A man she had never seen before was walking behind her, which was no so unusual; he could very well have simply been heading in the same direction. She'd though nothing of him, until he had caught up and was nearly walking side by side to her.
"Hello, Lexi," he had said.
"What?" she had responded, rather than acknowledge her identity immediately to a complete stranger.
"Hello. A measure of greeting," he had replied.
"Can I help you?" Lexi had snapped.
"Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?" he had asked. It alarmed Lexi slightly; what was this man after? She refused to show her alarm and instead had said calmly.
"Do I know you?"
"I doubt anyone has told you much about me, but I know you." Lexi's amount of alarm jumped at that.
"Who are you?" Her voice then betrayed a slight bit of her worry.
"I am your father." He had spoken the sentence that now had her in turmoil with such ease; he might have been remarking on the weather.
At this, he had departed immediately in the other direction, as Lexi arrived at her bus stop. It was a few minutes until she could get over her initial shock and form a complete thought. It was at that time that the bus had arrived.
"Lexi Zeen!" her science teacher said sharply for the third or fourth time.
"Yes, ma'am?" Lexi asked. She had spaced out again, think of the stranger on the sidewalk.
"Do you mind telling me who came up with our present taxonomic system?" The teacher asked. Several in the class snickered.
"Carl Linne." Lexi responded.
The teacher nodded, and turned another student to continue her questioning.
"Anything wrong?" asked Peter, as she left class.
Lexi had never really had a lot of friends, though she'd always had a close friend or two growing up. However, one of her friends had moved away and the other was sick today.
"Why would you say that?" Lexi asked, doing her best to cover her mood.
"Oh, come on, Lexi. You have a no poker face. Your emotions show through your eyes as if they were a pair of blue recently Windex-ed windows." Lexi raised her eyebrows. "Mind if I sit?" They had arrived on the bus, and Lexi had chosen a seat.
"No, go ahead." Lexi answered. Peter was a bit of a loner. He was on the quiet side, and wrote poetry. This fed the flames of teasing, even though he was actually quite good. He wasn't incredibly handsome, and was a few pounds overweight. However, he had thick black hair and strikingly green eyes that left him not entirely unattractive. At any rate, it was better than sitting alone with her thoughts.
"What is wrong?" he asked. "You've seemed upset all day, and have been zoned out during all your classes. Anything you want to talk about?"
Sometimes it's easier talking to someone who you don't know very well, someone who doesn't know about your problems.Lexi thought. They don't have preconceived opinions about who you are or how you should act, so they aren't surprised and upset if you do something a bit out of character. Even so...
"I'm just a little distracted." she settled on.
He looked doubtful, and for a moment looked like he would press the issue. Finally he said, "Well, if you ever do want to talk, I have two ears." He added, feeling along his hairline, causing Lexi to laugh, "I think."
"Laughter is the best way to distract you from life's 'distractions'." he lectured.
"Now, that's a cliché if I've ever heard one!" Lexi said.
"Like it so far?" Peter asked, gesturing to the library's copy of The Chocolate War that lay atop Lexi's books.
"It's.. interesting." Lexi said, before adding sarcastically, "It's very uplifting."
"It's an excellent book." said Peter, "But you're right. The entire book is infelicitous. Wait until you get to the ending."
"Don't tell me!" Lexi insisted.
Peter laughed, "Wasn't planning on it."
The bus pulled up to Lexi's bus stop.
"Mind if I walk you home?" asked Peter. "I live a few blocks that way-" he pointed, "roughly halfway between this bus stop and the next, though I usually use the other one."
Lexi decided she would appreciate the company— it would keep her from her thoughts. "Sure, thanks. It will 'distract me from my distractions.'"
He laughed as they exited. Lexi noticed, but chose to ignore, the few side looks and comments from the other kids who got off at the bus stop, when Peter got off and started walking with her.
Peter rambled on as Lexi's thoughts wandered to the stranger she had met this morning, her eyes wandering right along with it, looking for the man who claimed to be her father. Half of her hoped that she had imagined the whole episode, or he was, as she thought earlier, just a weirdo looking for kicks, and that she'd never see him again. The other half, however, was curious and hoped he's reappear. She had so many questions.
"I glad I'm that interesting." Peter voice finally broke into her thoughts.
"Wah.. What?" she asked. Then she looked at his mock-pout and laughed. "Sorry, told you I was distracted today."
Peter joined her laughter. "Just a little."
"Hey," Lexi pointed as they neared her house. "Nita's home early. Come meet her." Lexi quickened her pace.
The house was not elaborate, but it was nice. It was fairly small, one story, with cream siding, and countless flowers. A rather young-looking woman with long brown hair had just stood up from kneeling next to one group of flowers and turned towards the house.
"Is she your sister?" asked Peter, as they hurried along.
Lexi laughed. "No. She's my...." Lexi pondered for the word and finally settled on, "Guardian."
Peter looked surprised. Then he asked, "How old is she?"
Lexi thought for a moment. "Twenty-seven."
"How long have you been living with her?"
"Since I was born."
His eyebrows were knitted together. "She's not you mother? She would have just been, like 14, then..."
"It's kind of a long story." Lexi said in explanation as they turned into the driveway, "Maybe later. I'll— hey, Ronan's here, too!" She grabbed his arm and began dragging him the last few yards up to the house.
"Who?" Lexi couldn't blame Peter for being confused.
"Ronan— they guy Nita's been seeing since before I remember. They have the ultimate long distance relationship. He lives in Ireland. Despite that, he's in the States all the time though, on business, and is here often."
"Come, meet them!" Lexi repeated, Peter stumbling after her.
"Hey, Nita, Ronan!" Lexi called.
"Hey, Lexi." Ronan greeted as she and Peter arrived at the house.
"This is Peter Morlan. Peter, this is Nita and Ronan." Nita's eyes widened, and she and Ronan exchanged a look upon meeting Peter. Ronan nodded slightly, before he and Nita turned and greeted Peter as well.
What wasthat look about? wondered Lexi. She dismissed it to her imagination, thinking, I must be getting paranoid with what happened today.
"Ronan's staying for dinner tonight, Lexi, but you have time to go for a walk or something, if you want to." Nita said. Lexi wondered if she wanted some alone time with Ronan. It didn't really matter, though. Lexi didn't mind spending time with Peter. She look over to him, and he shrugged.
"Sure." he agreed.
"Why don't you run your stuff upstairs?" Nita suggested, "Peter can wait down here. You can stick your bag in the hallway."
"Uh, okay. Be right back." Lexi dashed upstairs.
Nita and Ronan watched her go, and the moment she was gone, both turned to Peter and said, "Dai stitó."
Peter nearly fell over. "Ex...Excuse me?" he stuttered.
"Dai," Nita repeated.
"You're a... Both of you guys are... Does.. is... Lexi?" He was shocked. He had never met another wizard.
"Did Lexi tell you my last name?" Nita asked. "I'm Nita Callahan."
"The Nita Callahan?" he asked incredulously.
She laughed. "Unfortunately at times, yes. And to your sort-of question earlier, no. Lexi is not a wizard, nor does she know about wizardry. However..." Nita paused.
Peter looked at her with questions and confusion written on his face.
Nita sighed. "She doesn't know for a reason. I'd love to tell her, but... Well, there are special circumstances surrounding her."
"What?" Peter asked, confused.
"She's coming," Ronan, who had taken a post by stairs, said.
"Just... watch out, okay?" Nita asked, "If anything suspicious happens, tell us. We aren't trying to spy on her, but for her protection.. well it's vital if anything or anyone out of the ordinary appears in her life because-"
"Ready?" asked Lexi.
Shooting one more curious look at the pair of older wizards, Peter headed out the door with Lexi.