I nodded in silence. It was easier to be compliant with such strong willed people. I watched Karaleen walk off to the kitchen. She couldn't see my tears welling up, just moments from falling if I couldn't get a grip. I hadn't even heard of half of the creatures Kerry had mentioned, and to think I could be one of them.
Kerry politely kept quiet while I gathered my thoughts. I may not be human, but I was not ready to give up being human. I needed to plead my case.
"Here you are dear. This cookie is different from the last. It will give you courage to deal with things. I decided that ought to do the trick."
The damn cookie did look as irrisitable as the last. This one had a pool of chocolate sauce marbled with caramel. But I held my resolve.
"I can see that you mean well, and I'm not dismissing any of what you have told me, but until only an hour ago, I knew who I was, even if I was one messed up heart broken girl. I was comfortable with that. And I need to just be me for a little longer."
Karaleen looked dissapointed.
"Just give me some time, I reasoned, then we can talk again."
Karaleen almost nodded, then looked straight at me. Her face seemed to suddenly age, and she looked sadder than a dying autumn leaf.
"One of those missing children was mine. My baby used to love playing down by the ravine despite how many times I told her not too. When nomads sweep through, they take everything in their path. My baby was gone before I could get to her. I felt her panic and confusion, she was only five years old at the time."
"Oh that's awful" I offered. But you said I could be a nomad? Are they thieves?"
"No, they are harmless, they collectively harbour a innocent but destructive power. They magnetise in large numbers, and draw children into their family. They are actually very harmless, and they would have looked after my little girl when they realised she wasn't meant to be there. Everyone knows when the nomads are coming through. I should have taken better precautions. When I did catch up to them, they told me about the abductions. It was the saddest day of my life."
I could see the sadness etched on her face like an invisible tattoo. She had clearly felt pain like nothing I had experienced.
"When you walked in the other day, no one was more shocked than me. Humans can't enter this cafe, but you most certainly looked and felt human. No strangers have come through that door for over 30 years now. Your face was a memory I will never forget. I hoped you were my daughter, but deep down I knew you weren't."
"I understand this is overwhelming for you, but you are a big deal. No one from our realm can stay in the human world for that long without getting lost. Somehow you found us, and that's pretty significant. Your special Annabelle."
Without realising I had polished off the decadent cookie, and I did feel remarkably fresh!
"If you must leave I need you to take a watcher with you. They will be by your side, invisible to the human eye, but will be your bridge back to us incase something changes. You need to tie up your loose ends and come back here, and you need to do it quickly. Every 30 years the portal closes for maintenance for a whole year, and the next one is only one week from now."
"You expect me to just up sticks and leave my life. Just like that." I spat out with venom. I remebered those lessons in school. Never go with strangers, even if they offer you candy. I may be twenty years old now, but I wasn't that dumb.
"No Annabelle, I don't expect you to. I know you will. Your future was written when you ran in that day. Your future is here, and I will help you navigate it as best I can."
I tried to hold onto everything I loved about my life, my mind was grasping at things, that didn't seem to fit. I was dissapointed to acknowledge that Mary was the only thing I would miss. She was the only family I knew and she had always been there for me.
I sat up sharply, mustering up the authoritarian I had inside of me.
"I need this last week. I need to do this willingly if I decide to entertain what you are telling me, and that means I have to leave."
Karaleen's smile was so satisfying, and genuine. I thought for a second that my logic may have given her some insight as to what I could be. But I knew she wouldn't tell, and I wouldn't ask. For now, my only focus was on how to dismantle the only life I knew.