Henna Diebin nodded her head. "Of course I will. Are you going out with Crystal Crimson again?"
"Where are you going?" Henna asked, desperate to be included somehow.
"You know I can't tell you."
"But I can help you!" Henna argued.
"I need you here," Rebecca said as she got up from the table. "Until your father returns, the most important thing you can do is protect your siblings."
Henna frowned as Rebecca walked off to prepare for her night-time escapade.
Orb's Year 934
Birch shook his head. "You know the rules!"
Ash stuck her tongue out at her scaredy-cat brother and raced back to his side. "You're such a baby, Birch!"
Ash and Birch exchanged a look and smiled back at Henna.
Finally, Henna tucked the children in and told them stories about their father. It wasn't fair that he'd been imprisoned that awful night! Henna missed him so much! It had been four long years since she had seen him. He hadn't been there the day his children were born or to watch them grow. It just wasn't fair, she thought as she closed the book in her lap.
Orb's Year 935
"But Mama sent us out here!" Birch said, swinging around with his arms outstretched. "Look! I'm pretending this is a bird!"
Ash looked up from the book she was reading quietly, "You know we're not allowed out by ourselves!"
Henna sighed. They drove her crazy sometimes. "Then I will go outside to finish sleeping! You stay in here and be quiet!" she snapped as she stormed outside.
Sighing, Stuart's shoulders slumped. Might as well go home, he thought dejectedly. "Maybe it was a figment of my imagination. Fairy, indeed!" he scoffed to himself.
He hurried to her, surprised to find her sleeping soundly on a rock.
"Don't go! Please!" Stuart begged as he neared.
Henna looked at him, frightened that she'd been caught. "What do you want?" she asked.
Henna breathed deeply, trying to think of a reply. She'd never spoken to a boy before! "Well, now you've seen me. You may go!" she said, dismissing him.
Stuart laughed. "No one believed me when I told them I'd seen a fairy in the woods. But, you're not a fairy. You're just a girl!"
Henna gasped. "You told people about me!"
"Of course! You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen!"
Henna grabbed his hands. "You cannot tell anyone about me?"
Stuart's brows knit together, "Why not?" he asked, suspicious.
Henna searched for any excuse other than the truth. "I... I don't want my father to find me," she said, hoping that would be the end of the questions. "If you tell people about me, he might try to find me."
Stuart placed his hand over his heart. "I won't breathe a word about you," he said stoically.
Henna breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you. And now you must go, too!"
"Wait!" Stuart said, worried that she would disappear again. "Will I see you again?"
Henna hesitated. "Maybe," she said, trying to decide what to do. "But you must go now!"
Henna glanced at the slowly fading sun and knew that she needed to return home... and soon. "Fine!" she said, leaning to place a chaste kiss against his lips.
Leaning back, Stuart smiled widely and sketched a bow to her. "Until next time, my fairy!"
Henna kept her gaze on the food in front of her. "I was just outside."
Rebecca thought something felt off. "I looked around outside and did not see you," she said suspiciously.
Henna slammed the plate on the table and looked up at Rebecca. "You are not my mother! I said I was outside!"
She felt bad immediately for her outburst. Ash glanced up at her with her bottom lip quivering and Rebecca looked even more suspicious.
Rebecca could tell that Henna was keeping a secret, but didn't want to push. The girl had been through much already. "I know I am not your mother, which is a good thing." Rebecca didn't need to say out loud what she thought of Henna's self-serving mother. "But, your father placed your care in my charge when he was arrested."
Orb's Year 936
"Daddy?" she whispered. "Daddy!"
Rebecca launched herself into his arms, running her hands over his face. "I worried I would never see you again! Crystal and I tried, but we were never able to breech the castle's defenses!"
"I have fond memories of this couch," Alibaba said, pulling his wife close to him.
"As do I," Rebecca grinned.
"As if I could stay away!" Stuart grinned.
She just had to make sure no one ever found out...
"She's been keeping something secret, but hasn't confided in me," Rebecca added. "She sneaks out for several hours and comes home when the sun has faded. Every Sunday."
"Rebecca!" Henna shouted, hurt that Rebecca would tattle on her.
Rebecca herded Ash and Birch into the room to give father and daughter privacy.
Henna narrowed her eyes, "So what if it is true! I can take care of myself!"
Alibaba shook his head. "We are a family! We do not leave others to fend for themselves. We do not go off on our own!"
Henna stamped her foot. "Like you did not go off on your own when you turned yourself into King Barron!" She wiped angrily at the tears dripping for her eyes. "You left me!"
"No!" Henna said, pulling away from him. "I understand it fine! I'm not a child anymore! I'm almost a grown woman and I can make my own decisions! I don't need you to tell me what to do."
Alibaba frowned. "You are not a grown woman yet and you will obey the rules of the house. Whatever mischief you have gotten into will stop, immediately."
Not waiting to see if she agreed, Alibaba stormed into his room and shut the door, leaving Henna alone.