Ten

Alicia's father wasn't Harold. To top it all off, her real father wasn't even human. That little tidbit right there made Alicia herself only half human. Which meant half not human.

Somehow, Mal was not surprised to hear this.

"My real father is a… well, this really rare kind of immortal, let's just say. Really rare. He doesn't even live in this world. I don't think that means another planet; I think it's like another dimension. But anyway, he's kind of… special, so he's allowed to pass into this world once every year, during the three days of the dark Green Moon. On one of his visits, um, about nine and a half years ago, he met my mom. He fell instantly in love with her."

Sarah had had trouble getting pregnant. Alicia's father told her that if she bore his child, he would fix her infertility problem. "She didn't know how that would work, but Dad's, like I said, really special. He's very powerful."

"Did Harold ever know about any of this?"

"Nope. He was in town for the weekend. Mom was home alone. The new moon went from Goldsday to Sunsday that year. I'm sure Harold knew I wasn't really his kid, since I don't really look like any of them… but he loved me anyway. Mom never did."

"When was the last time you saw your father?"

"Last Green Moon. He visits every year."

"Huh." Mal leaned back and looked up at the crisp, starry sky. She could see her breath when she exhaled. "I guess that means I get to meet him, eh?" She smiled.

"Yep."

She looked over at Alicia, who had her chin on her knees and her arms wrapped around her legs. She was staring down at the front yard. Only then did Mal think about how cold she must be. She removed the blanket from herself and draped it across the girl's shoulders.

"I'm going to go back and talk to Melina for a little bit, and then I'm going to bed," she told Alicia as she scooted over to the brick ladder. "You should probably go to bed too."

There was silence, and then came: "Mal?"

She paused and turned her head to look at Alicia. "Yeah?"

"Farol and my dad weren't really as good of friends as it might have seemed."

Mal nodded slowly, remembering how uncaring Farol had been upon hearing of Harold's death. Even Farol wasn't that cold. And he knew and cared about Alicia. Or at least, he was very interested in her.

How much about her does he know? Mal wondered.

"We can talk about this later," she promised, heading down the ladder and leaving the girl alone. She had a feeling that Alicia was done talking for the night. And there were some things that Mal needed to think about, too.

"For you, my love," said the elf, warmth in his eyes and a smile on his face as he handed her a sunflower. Her favorite.

She eyed him contemptuously, and plucked the flower from his hand, twirling it between her fingers. "You idiot," she said haughtily. They spoke in Elfen. "You give me a flower that pretends to be the sun, but is clearly a poor imitation? If you truly loved me, you'd get me the sun itself!" She whacked him lightly on the chest with the flower, careful not to hurt its precious petals.

His smile grew. "I can't give you what you already embody," he told her, leaning down to kiss her.

But she was not through playing with him yet. She ducked away from his kiss and put the flower under her nose, smelling its sweet, subtle, grassy aroma. The wind picked up and tossed around her long, cotton-white hair. She resisted the urge to laugh.

Her denim jeans held snug against her figure and her yellow blouse nicely accentuated her pink eyes. She wore around her neck on a string the silver ring that he had given her, which she never took off. She was young; a day shy of one hundred thirty-four years.

"What are you going to get me for my birthday?" she demanded, feigning seriousness. "It better be more impressive than some flower."

"What do you want?" He was handsome in black slacks and a pale green button-up dress shirt with thin, vertical stripes that cuffed at the elbow. There was no indication that revealed the fashion disaster he would become in his later years. His brown hair was cropped short against his head, and his ice-blue eyes were gentle and loving.

"Surprise me."

He moved over to her and wrapped her in his arms, her head pressed against his warm chest.

"You may kiss me now," she announced, acting indifferent. But she melted inside when his lips met hers.

"I love you so much," Farol whispered in Mal's ear.

"I love you too."

The arthi'al let the memory slowly drift away, and sighed loudly. Though she could deny it all she liked to everyone else, she couldn't hide the truth from herself. She walked over to the drawers and found one of the tiny pouches that she would wear around her neck when she traveled. She opened it and found the hidden flap pressed against the inside. She reached in and pulled out its secret contents: the silver ring, still on its string. She rubbed it between her thumb and fingers, gazing at it carefully.

All these years, and still she kept it. I really ought to just sell this, she thought, not for the first time, but she knew the idea held no true depth. She could no more sell the ring than she could abandon her roc.

Yes, I loved him… but that's just it. Loved. The past. Not anymore. She regretfully tore her eyes away from the ring and tucked it back in its hiding place, then closed and returned the pouch to its drawer. It's just… a memento. Keeping this doesn't mean I still care about him at all. I don't; he's disgusting, and I hate him. But he was a big part of my life for a long time… I can't just throw the memories away.

She shook her head. She'd wasted too much thought on someone unimportant. She pushed Farol and his face from her mind and refocused her thoughts on Alicia.

Mal was curious as to what kind of immortal Alicia's father was. Hybrids weren't exactly unheard of, but they were definitely a minority. Good thing for her that she at least looks human, she thought. She wasn't going to pry or demand an answer, though. Like with the topic of the girl's father, Mal felt it best to wait quietly until Alicia was comfortable enough and ready to give an answer.

She had just gotten into bed when Alicia slid silently into the room. She didn't even bother to get undressed, and got under the covers with a quiet sigh. Mal rolled over to face her and patted her pillow gently. Alicia hesitated, then moved closer to Mal, who put her arms around her and kissed the top of her brown hair.

Mal expected the weight of Alicia on her arm to bother her after awhile, from cutting off the circulation, but she remembered how light the girl was. Like a feather.

Poor girl. She really couldn't empathize, since she had never known her mother. She wasn't even sure when the last time she saw her mother was; at the very oldest, she was maybe five years. Arthi'al stayed with their own generation for the most part, especially after they no longer needed mentors. She could barely remember her mentor, either, it had been so long.

She listened to the soft, slow breathing of the child in her arms, and to her surprise, she felt pity for her kind. How sad it was that none of them got to hold their own child to sleep; how sad it was that none of them thought anything of it. Though she would never admit it, Mal felt sorry that her kind didn't get to experience the privilege that she had been given. For simply lying there with the cold desert breeze on her cheeks and the warmth of the being she held gave her a feeling of contentment she'd never known. She had never cared for someone the way she cared about Alicia. And how easy it had been to fall in love with the girl…

What would it be like, she wondered, to have been born human?