46: The Reclusive Writer
Shuck paced in front of her and narrowed his eyes. “Ye feeling all right, Shell?”
Shelley blushed. “Sorry,” she said, “I’m just a wee bit stressed.”
“You’re telling me! If it’s getting tae ye that bad, ye’d best bring that boy Dante over here so I can have a word or two with him. I’ll put him straight, dinnae worry ‘boot that.”
Burying her face into her knees, Shelley said, “I dinnae know if I’m up tae that.”
“Sure ye are,” said Shuck, placing a paw on her arm. “I believe in ye.”
But it wasn’t about belief. It wasn’t even about her skill—or, indeed, her lack of it—in astral projection.
It was about Dante. It was about reaching out for that boy who turned his back on her six years ago. The boy who crushed her heart and left her a shadow of her former self.
Clutching the loose pages of her latest story to her chest, Shelley Eoghan hurried down the corridor. Dante had been miserable ever since the night of the fires and she wanted to cheer him up. She was so focused on cheering him up, in fact, that she almost ran into a dark figure draped in white, turning the corner at the same time as her. With a yelp of surprise, the pages of her story slipped from her grasp and scattered across the carpet like autumn leaves. Shelley hurried to pick them up.
“I—I’m sorry!” she said. Then she looked up and realised who she was talking to.
It was Dante, wrapped in his mother’s cloak.
Shelley found the first page of her story and thrust it into his hands. “It’s about ye mam!” she said. “People said she fought off a whole army of those Sophist bastarts, so I wrote a story about it. That way, nobody will ever forget what she did!”
If Shelley herself could grow up to be half the hero Ophelia Orpheus was, she would be the happiest girl alive. She watched Dante’s dark eyes scan the paper. “I figured I oughta show it tae ye before I went showing it tae anyone else,” she added. “Maybe ye can even show it tae ye mam, too?”
Ophelia Orpheus had always enjoyed reading her stories. That was why she asked her son to help Shelley by illustrating them. Dante, more than anyone else, understood her. He knew what it was like to be the child of a hero. And, in a way, he was her hero—her own, personal champion.
He glanced at the story, then tossed it aside. “Forget it,” he said, and stomped past her.
Shelley clutched the loose pages she had gathered together to her chest. “W—what do ye mean, ‘forget it’? What would ye mam say if she heard you—”
“My mother’s dead!”
“D—dead? But—but she cannae be dead. She’s a hero!”
Dante glanced over his shoulder. “What would you know?”
“I know because me mam is one too! And—and we’re gonna become heroes ourselves one day, right? When we join Seelie!” She was babbling, and she knew it. “’Cause that’s what we’re gonna do! ‘Cause ye’ve gotta protect ye mam, right? She—she can’t…”
The pages of her story slipped from her grasp and scattered across the corridor.
Shelley was pacing around the kitchen when Hermia Adelheid made her boisterous return (did Malkuthians ever run out of energy?).
“Ah, Shelley!” she said. “Just the person I was looking for!”
Standing behind her, ragged silhouette framed in the doorway and carrying what looked like Denny Odette’s tea set, was Dante Orpheus, eyes fixed on the floor, mouth locked in a frown that said he wanted to be someplace—anyplace—else.
“He has been standing outside for ten minutes now,” said Hermia, “so I thought I should really let him in!”
Chapter 46 End
You may remember a similar flashback from Chapter 24. Similar, but not identical…