Fantastical Page 63

“Prince… Prince… what the hell!” he boomed. “It’s you that’s insane and you’re with my daughter!”

“Sir, I am far from insane,” Tor gritted between his teeth.

“Dad, he’s not insane,” I rushed to put in. “I know this sounds…” my mind searched for a word, my eyes found Tor’s and then it came to me, “fantastical.” I heard and saw Tor draw in an annoyed breath and my eyes shot to my father. “But it’s true.”

“Um, maybe… uh, Tor,” Mom cut in, “I don’t wish to be rude but considering things are, uh… intense and we haven’t seen Cora in awhile, perhaps you could go so we could have some time alone with our daughter?”

“I’ll not do that,” Tor replied immediately.

“And why the hell not?” my father returned just as immediately.

“Because, sir,” Tor stated slowly, visibly fighting for control, “as Cora explained to you, we are at the mercy of magic and I do not want to be far from her should it start to take her… or me.”

Dad glared at him then he turned his glare to my mother. “The mercy of magic. This is insane,” he breathed with disgust.

“I would thank you to stop saying that,” Tor said softly and Dad’s eyes cut back to him then he leaned into him, hand on the table and everything.

“And I would thank you to get up from my table and get the hell out of my house but especially, while you’re doing that, out of my daughter’s life!”

Tor’s face turned to stone, he rose out of his seat, tossing his napkin to the table and I knew it was time to intervene.

So I shot out of my chair and rushed around the table to put my hand on my father’s arm.

“Dad, listen to me,” I begged.

He didn’t even look at me, just glowered up at Tor. “I’m busy, sweetheart. I’m about to escort this man out.”

“Dad,” I squeezed his arm, “listen. Please, listen. It’s true. All of it. I woke up in a parallel universe. A fairytale land. A fantasyland. Where they ride horses and birds talk to you and the air shimmers like it has glitter in it. But there is a me there like there is a Tor here. All the same people are in both worlds, I reckon, and I was switched with the Cora of their world.”

Dad slowly swung his head to face me and the look in his eyes made my heart clench. He genuinely thought I’d gone around the bend and this thought pained him. So I got closer and pulled him around to face me, lifting my other hand to take his other arm.

“I know it sounds crazy, trust me, I know. But it isn’t. I woke up and all the furniture in my room was wonky, like out of an animated kid’s movie. And it wasn’t my room. And then my sister came dancing in and she was so beautiful, so graceful, it was unreal. Her name was Rosa and…”

I stopped because the minute I said the name “Rosa” Dad’s body got still under my hands, his eyes shot to my mother and the air in the room grew heavy.

“Rosa?” my mother whispered and I turned my head to look at her. “In this parallel universe, you had a sister named Rosa?”

“Uh… yes,” I replied, looking at my Mom who was even paler and when I did her eyes moved swiftly to my father and she put a hand out flat on the table.

“Mom?” I called and released my Dad in order to go to her because she looked like she was about ready either to burst into tears or pass out.

“Rosa,” my Mom whispered again when I got to her, crouched down, her eyes were tipped up to my Dad and I covered her hand on the table with mine and squeezed. When I did, her head slowly turned to me. “Rosa was alive in that world?”

Oh. My. God.

“By the gods,” Tor murmured, I looked to him to see he was gazing at my mother, his face contemplative but his body had lost its angry energy.

I looked back to my Mom and whispered, “Is there something I don’t know?”

Tears trembled in my Mom’s eyes before she replied, “We had a little girl.” Oh my God. “She died at birth.” Oh my God! “We named her Rosa.”

I closed my eyes then opened them.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

“I… I couldn’t. I couldn’t talk about it. It was bad, sweetie. The birth was bad. For me too. After that, I couldn’t have any more kids. Your Dad and me, we wanted a whole houseful and we lost that and we lost Rosa and I…”

“Stop,” I whispered when her tears spilled over. “Stop, Mama. I understand.”

“It wasn’t like I was trying to keep anything from you, it was just –”

I cut her off again. “Stop, Mom. I understand.”

She blinked and more tears fell then she turned to Tor. “Rosa is alive in your world?”

I tensed, for Rosa was alive but she was also the hostage of a cruel witch-god but Tor simply said, “Alive and beloved. The only beauty in the land more exquisite than hers is Cora’s. The only qualities in the land more dear are those of my Cora, the Cora of this world.”

I felt my body start at his words and I whispered, “That last part isn’t true,” and Tor’s gaze came to me.

“It is, my sweet.”

“It isn’t, most everyone hates me,” I reminded him.

“No, Cora, everyone hates the Cora of that world.”

I rose, telling him, “But they think she’s me.”

“Indeed, they do but it has been you gracing my castle for the past weeks and it was you, and your rabid, not befitting a princess behavior that you displayed in towns and villages for miles that people have been experiencing. Word travels. They used to call you Cora, the Exquisite due to your beauty. Now, you’re becoming known as Cora, the Gracious.”

Cora, the Gracious?

Wow. I liked that.

“Really?” I asked.

Tor’s eyes grew warm. “You read to blind women, love, and rescue wild, wounded birds and make them your pet. You smile at every child you see and touch their cheeks or ruffle their hair, which, by the way, you must stop doing.” Even if his words were melting my heart, my eyes still narrowed and he smiled at me. “You are friendly, you are polite, you are kind and you are merciful. You are Cora, the Gracious.”

Oh my. I was Cora, the Gracious.

How freaking cool!

“How freaking cool!” I cried, grinning at him, he shook his head and looked at my mother.

“This language and her stubborn bent at being uncommonly friendly to everyone she encounters is not behavior befitting a princess. I persist in telling her this but she doesn’t listen. I assume I have you to thank for that.”

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