“Missy, look who I found while fetching the mail.”
I looked up from my laptop, curious why Dragon was calling me Missy, the name my characters called me in public. I soon saw the reason and smiled. Dragon, in her assumed identity of the delicate lass, Dray, walked over to the gazebo where I sat working. Skipping behind her was a young child.
“Well!” I closed my laptop and walked down the gazebo steps. I bent down, putting myself at eye level with the child, and smiled at her. “Who is this?”
The little girl giggled. “It’s me, Marisol.”
“Marisol?” I feigned shock. “No, it can’t be! Marisol is a little girl.” I held my hand down to indicate someone much shorter than the child in front of me.
Marisol giggled again. “I’ve grown since you saw me. Last week, Mommy measured me, and I’ve grown two whole inches this year!”
“Two whole inches? Imagine that! You’ll soon be as tall as your mother!”
Marisol giggled and rolled her eyes at me.
“Speaking of your mother, is she with you?” I stood and glanced over at the side yard, expecting to see our neighbor, Bastina.
Marisol bowed her head and scuffed her foot back and forth in the grass. Her voice was small when she finally answered. “No.”
Dray frowned. “Does she at least know where you are, child?”
Again, Marisol scuffed her foot back and forth. “No.” Her voice was even softer this time. When she finally raised her head and looked at Dray, the little girl’s brow was furrowed, and she was chewing her lower lip. “I have to talk to you, Dray, and I didn’t want Mommy to hear.”
“Oh?” Dray lifted a delicate eyebrow and tilted her head, studying Marisol closely. “And prithee, what do you need to discuss with me that your mother cannot hear?”
Marisol hesitated. “My birthday is Sunday. I’ll be seven years old. I’d really like to see the horses for my birthday. Maybe even pet them? I mean, it doesn’t have to be on my birthday, just for my birthday. Any day around my birthday would be fine.”
Dray wrinkled her brow, seemingly confused by the child’s request. “You know we do not have horses here.”
Marisol scoffed. “I know you did. I think you still do.”
“Hmmm.” Dray narrowed her eyes. “But you do not believe your mother would want you to be around horses?” Again, Dray tilted her head and carefully studied the child.
Marisol folded her arms in front of her and sighed deeply. “I don’t think Mommy wants me to see the horses.”
When we first met Marisol and her mother last year, we discovered Marisol had the unique power to see past Dragon’s spell of concealment. She was able to see the illusory horses and stable. She was also able to see through Dragon’s shape-shifting ability. She saw not the exotic maiden everyone else saw, but the beast’s true form. While her mother did not understand Marisol’s power, she was uncomfortably aware of it, since another part of the child’s power was to cause those around her to see what she saw.
Marisol dropped her arms to her side and looked beseechingly at Dray. “But horses are my favorite animals, Dray! I mean, except for dragons, of course.” She giggled, then gave Dray another sad look. “I really, really, really want to see the horses. It’s my birthday wish! Please?”
Dray pursed her lips and rubbed the back of her neck.
Perhaps sensing Dray was about to refuse, Marisol tired a different tack, turning to address me as well as Dray. “You know Talia has been working with me, teaching me how to control my . . . problem.”
Dray and I nodded. We knew that Talia, one half of the team who operated the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, had taken Marisol under her wing. She was providing guidance and direction to the young conduit of magic.
“Well, I’m doing really well with the exercises she taught me. I promise no one else will see the horses.” Marisol raised her hand as if taking an oath.
Dray sighed. “Suppose I speak with Talia. If she feels you have achieved a sufficient level of control, then I will approach your mother. Mayhap I can convince her to allow you to be our guest one day this week, without revealing the true purpose of your visit.”
“Oh, that would be perfect, Dray! Thank you!” The little girl ran to Dray and threw her arms around the woman, hugging her tightly.
That afternoon, after Dray checked with Talia, I dialed Bastina’s number and handed the phone to Dray to make arrangements.
“How fortuitous!” Bastina was so thrilled with Dray’s offer to have Marisol visit on Saturday, I could hear her enthusiastic reply even though I was standing a good ten feet from Dray. “I have to work the mid-shift at the herb shop Saturday, from eleven to six. I usually take Marisol with me, but after work I need to pick up her birthday cake and make some last-minute arrangements for her party on Sunday. I couldn’t do that if she were with me.”
Dray responded warmly. “It is our pleasure! Is it permissible for us to throw a small celebration for Marisol when she visits Saturday? Perhaps have a cake? Seven is quite the milestone in a young lady’s life, and we would be remiss if we ignored this occasion.”
With Bastina’s blessing, Dray and I began the plans for the party. We called the rest of my characters together, along with my husband, and explained our idea.
“I am going to allow Marisol to see me in my true form, and to see the illusory horses.” Seeing the shocked looks on the faces of her companions, Dragon waved dismissively. “I believe Marisol is sufficiently mature that she will not go off blathering about it to all and sundry. Also, Talia assures me the child has achieved a level of control over her powers that will prevent unexpected guests – anyone who crashes the party, so to speak – from seeing what Marisol sees.”
“I think it would be a good idea for us to have a little party for Marisol, leading up to the grand event of the day.” I looked around at the lack of enthusiasm among my characters and sighed. “We can have cake and ice cream and give her some small, token gifts. We can make it a real birthday celebration.”
My Old Dwarf’’s eyes lit up at the mention of refreshments. “Be ye tinkin’ o some chock-lit cake?”
Cleric shook her head. “Marisol does not like chocolate. I will make an orange chiffon cake. It is her favorite”
Seeing the dejected look on the dwarf’s face, cleric reached out and patted his hand. “I know! Instead of one big cake, I will make individual cakes for each person. Yours will be chocolate, my friend. And we can have several flavors of ice cream. Master Miles has shown me how to use the machine that makes it.”
“What sort of gifts can we give Marisol?” My Young Hero frowned and scratched his head.
We spent some time discussing ideas. Dragon decided granting Marisol her birthday wish would be her gift. Cleric felt the party and the cakes could be her contribution, and my Old Dwarf decided to handcraft a present. I offered to do the shopping for everyone else and made a list of what to get.