Caylis slipped back into the apartment as the sun lazily climbed into the sky behind her, painting the night sky with soft pinks and lavenders.
“I cannot sense your mind, Caylis,” Gwen said, sitting in the black leather armchair, a steaming green mug of tea wrapped in her hands. “Any reason for that?”
“I do not like having people in my mind,” she said nonchalantly, closing the window behind her. “It is my last sanctuary and I have learned how to keep people out of it.”
Gwen nodded thoughtfully and took a sip of her tea. “Where were you last night?”
“The beach,” she replied, crossing the room and sinking onto the couch. “It is unlike any others I have ever seen. Here, it leads directly to the water, while in other realms, there are cliffs and the water is unreachable. It is different.”
“How did you find us?” Gwen asked, finally breaching the subject on her mind.
Caylis sighed and began playing with the pendant around her neck. “It took years. I began having dreams of Acadia on a blue and green planet, and an Asgardian told me about Earth. I traveled the entire realm searching for the two of you,” she said softly, shaking her head slowly, her eyes wide as she remembered. “I finally found Acadia yesterday at her school, but I was not sure it was truly her until I saw the tattoo on her wrist.”
Gwen smiled. “That tattoo that I didn’t want her to get.”
Caylis raised an eyebrow in question. Tattoos and other markings were normal on Vanaheim.
“Most humans do not have markings as we do on Vanaheim,” she explained. “I told her she could have it as long as she could hide it so others would not scorn her for it.”
Caylis nodded and turned to look out the window.
“Good morning, Acadia,” Gwen called after taking another sip of tea. “Why don’t you come on out and let us continue last night’s conversation?”
After a second, they heard the bedroom door open reluctantly and the near silent footsteps heralding Acadia’s approach.
“I like the new hairstyle, sister,” Caylis said jokingly. “How many hours did you take to get it that way?”
Acadia stuck out her tongue and pulled her hair into a messy bun with a ponytail holder on her wrist. “How long are you going to stay here?”
Caylis shrugged. “Either until you decide to return with me or until I am summoned back home.”
“What if I don’t want to come back?” Acadia asked, looking through the cabinets for something to eat.
Her sister sighed. “Cadie, we need you back home. Everyone misses you,” she replied, rising from the couch. “I miss you. Come home with me.”
She pulled a blue bowl and a box of cereal from the cabinet and set it on the counter before answering. “Why don’t you stay here with me?”
“I will not stay in a place where I have to hide,” Caylis responded, her tone even, though a dark light shone in her eyes. “At least at home we are not ashamed of what we are.”
“We are not ashamed here, either,” Gwen jumped in, sensing the tension in the room. “We are cautious and do not wish to upset our lives here. Caylis, I have lost two homes, I do not wish to raise that number to three.”
Caylis’ eyes remained locked on her sister’s. “Father wishes for both of you to return home. He misses his other wife and daughter.”
“Why else do you want us to go back?” Acadia asked harshly, holding her sister’s stare.
Caylis sighed and looked down. “I am betrothed to one of those traitors that created a way for the dark elves to attack Vanaheim. I wanted my family to be home so that I would not be alone after the marriage.”
“That’s selfish,” Acadia hissed. “You want us to uproot the life we have here just so that you won’t be alone?”
“You’re engaged, too,” Caylis said loudly, cutting her sister off.
Acadia’s jaw dropped. “I’m what?”
“The king’s other son,” Caylis said softly. “After the war, the army and the royal family were at odds with each other. This is a permanent alliance between the two most powerful families on Vanaheim, to keep our families from tearing the realm apart.”
“There is no possible way you can get me to go to Vanaheim,” Acadia replied quickly. “I am not going back to the home I barely remember just to marry some stupid prince!” She turned and stormed back to her room, slamming the door hard enough to make the family crest rattle loudly against the wall.
Gwen took another sip from her mug. “That went better than I thought it would.”