Car Journeys

After all that stuff about him being ancient - well, he hadn't said so explicitly, but I wasn't exactly an idiot - I hadn't thought Mathew would drive, especially since he would probably have collected me himself, instead of sending Jon. But he did, and although I got in quickly enough I was soon regretting it. He drove fast, and by fast I meant that I have grown up with my grandmother, who drives at eighty down forty-mile limits, and I found it terrifying.

After a few minutes I managed to speak without it coming out as a terrified squeak. "Um, Mathew, won't people notice if you drive this fast? It's a thirty mile limit." I pointed to the sign, hoping that wouldn't distract him and make us crash. After all, I was already risking my life, wasn't I?

"Humans don't see anything," he replied, without even looking at me. "But if it makes you happy, I'll slow down." The speedometer went down to seventy. I gulped; just looking at it made me feel queasy, and I decided that it probably wasn't a good idea. Mathew glanced at me in the mirror and looked worried. "You don't look brilliant," he said. "You're a little green. Are you having trouble?"

"I get travel sickness," I told him faintly, hating the fact that it made me feel like some pathetic kid. The truth was that I was convinced I was about to puke and didn't want to do it all over the spotless dashboard - Mathew might not take kindly to that. "That's why I was asking you to slow down." Okay, so it wasn't the only reason, but if it kept me safe who really cared?

And he did. With the needle nudging thirty-five, I began to relax and actually enjoy myself. If I had been there for four days, it was my first glimpse of sunlight in half a week, too. My parents would be missing me, I guessed, but they wouldn't have known me if they saw me now.

And they're not really your parents.

The thought made me sit bolt upright. "Are you all right?" said Mathew, seeming very concerned.

"Fine. I just - thought of something, that's all." Left in peace, I mulled over the realisation that the family I had always known wasn't actually my family at all. I'd stolen a child's life! They hadn't watched her grow up: instead, they'd had me, an imposter. And where was she now? "Mathew, what happens to changelings?"

"Oh, they all return to us in the end. It can take ten years or fifty, but they get back eventually."

"I meant the human babies. The ones they're - we're - swapped for. What do they do with them?" As soon as I asked, I wished I hadn't. I didn't want to know ... I didn't want to know ... I didn't want to know - could he see it in my face? Could he see the fear in my eyes?

"Usually? They drown them. But for you - her - to be important enough to be swapped for you, I'm not sure. Probably somewhere in the sidhe. I couldn't really say." Drowned. She might have been drowned. Because of me.

"I'm not important," I said, confused.

"You're different." That was true. He said he'd never seen anything like me before, but although he hadn't said what I actually was I knew that meant I was unusual, even rare. "You'll find out soon enough," Mathew added, seeing my eyes on him.

It wasn't fair. I wanted to know now. 

The End

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