Karaleen's voice was soft and kind, almost endearing, but not five minutes ago she had offered to kill my boyfriend for me because I wouldn't do it! I didn't know what to believe anymore.
“I already have a home,” I muttered, with both hands on my purse, ready to bolt as soon as I got a chance.
“You have an apartment just outside town. You went through the foster care system, and aged out of it two years ago at the age of eighteen. You went through a lot of foster families, didn't you? You never really fit in, did you? Strange things kept happening around you that you couldn't explain. You have never really felt loved, have you? That's why you hooked up with that loser Steve – he was handsome, bright and charming, so you chose to see him as your knight in shining armour to rescue you from a life of loneliness. The only problem is that he's made you lonelier and unhappier than ever. Is that about right?”
I nodded and looked down at the table, my shoulders slumped, face blazing with embarrassment. Hot tears tumbled over my lower lashes, and traced runnels of misery down both cheeks. I couldn't look at her. Everything she said was true. Mary was the only real friend I had. I had lots of casual acquaintances, but she was the only one who didn't seem to mind my quirks. She had happily set off to find this café with me, and didn't get mad when we couldn't find it. I was glad that I had offered to show her rather than tell her about this place. It was better that we didn't find it after all. I have no idea what she would have made of all this.
I slowly became aware of a pair of strong hands rubbing my shoulders gently. I looked up to see that Karaleen was still sitting across from me, looking very concerned. If not her, who? I twisted around to look up into a pair of amazing green eyes, with a thatch of wild red hair above them. They belonged to the tall leprechaun that Karaleen had called Kerry.
“Uh ... hi,” I blushed brighter than ever. Very good looking men had that effect on me, particularly if they were touching me.
“Feeling better?” he asked.
I ... guess,” I said.
“Good. We can help you find your real family, you know.”
“You can?” I looked across the table at Karaleen, who smiled and nodded in confirmation.
“How?” I craned my head to look back up at Kerry, since he was the first one to make an offer. Karaleen had just told me that I needed to be brought home, but she hadn't said how.
“Well, we can start off with what we know about your birth and subsequent abduction.”
“I was abducted? By who?”
“No one knew at the time, but obviously humans must have been involved, since you ended up in the human world.”
“Where was I abducted from?”
“From a large group of rovers during the annual migration from Here to There, and Back Again.”
“Yes, I suppose you would call them nomads, of sorts. They move around a lot.”
“Oh I don't know, greener pastures, I suppose. Also, they had to move often when they were discovered by humans who would exploit them by misusing their various powers, for their own ill-gotten gain.”
“What powers? What kind of nomads?”
I rolled my shoulders. My neck was getting very sore from twisting my head around to look up at the leprechaun. Kerry backed away and sat at the table between Karaleen and I. He picked up the carafe of coffee that he had put on the table when he went around behind me to rub my shoulders. My mouth opened in horror as he began to pour the piping hot liquid out onto the bare table. Except that it wasn't bare anymore. I blinked, and there was a thick white mug sitting on the table's surface, waiting to receive the coffee as though it had always been there.
“Different powers, depending on who or what they were,” Kerry continued, as if mugs popping up out of nowhere was a normal occurrence, although in this strange café, it probably was.
“I'm not following. Who or what?”
“Well, elves and faeries can fly of course, but faeries deal with elementals, while elves deal with different things, depending on whether they live in the forest, in the mountains, by the sea, etc. Centaurs usually go along as security forces. They're fine archers, you know. Witches and wizards sometimes are part of the migration as well. You might find shapeshifters too, but they're kind of hard to pin down. They could be a man one day, and a wagon wheel the next. They're flighty creatures. They're sort of the jesters of the group – they cheer people up if they're good ones, but bad news if they aren't.”
“I'm a nomad?”
“Perhaps. You were among that group when seventeen children were stolen fifteen years ago. It was terrible. A few of them were ransomed back to their families at the expense of giving up some of their powers, but some infants were never recovered – like you.”
“So I could be a magical nomad?”
“What sort am I?”
“Do you have wings? Do you dream about flying?”
“No, but I do dream about flying. Everyone does at one time or another.”
“Do they? I didn't know that about humans. Anyway, it's possible you haven't reached an age of maturity for your clan member's wings to show up yet. Since you don't have four feet and a horse's body, it's obvious you're not a centaur. You could be a shapeshifter, which means you could be a centaur if you wanted to be. Or you could be ...”
“Enough, Kerry,” Karaleen said. “Sorry about that, Annabelle. Kerry does tend to ramble if left unchecked. The truth is, we don't know what you are. The one thing we do know is that you're good. You had all kinds of chances to kill your cheating boyfriend, or have him killed, and you refused every time.”
“You were testing me? You're not a murderer?”
“Yes I was, and no I'm not – usually. We have a lot to discuss. Would you like another cookie?” she asked.