In the beginning the wedding had been planned to take place in the pavilion across the street from the mansion. It had taken both of them months to carefully calculate the time, the distance, the maximum energy they could expect and how long it would stay strong enough for them to use they way they needed to use it. Holding a ceremony in an open pavilion would have given them no way to escape in time since everyone would see the actual escape. They’d insisted on a night ceremony behind the house instead. They’d gotten it. Of course they had. The bride should have what she wanted after all, particularly since she was marrying the town cad.
As planned, the wedding had blown up, exploded, collapsed, sunk into a hole in the ground and steamed. Bad Don had left the helpless hopeless useless (except for her money) would-be bride staggeringly alone. Dumped her. Ran off down the yard – okay walked fast. She hadn’t visibly cried but probably would. Later. In private. That was going to be the story – broken hearted she ran off to console herself so don’t go looking for her because. It was a great performance. She would criticize it later because she did that, but she’d outdone herself.
He waited in the shadows behind the trees and bushes as he tried to hide, to watch for her, and to run interference if it became absolutely necessary. The streak of light in the sky was a great sign. Power was at its highest. It was taking longer than he’d hoped though. The caterer, the event staff, the waiters and cleaners had rustled around in confusion for a while. The last of the guests had finally marched away discussing the catastrophe. Well most of them had. The two with the most to gain or lose hung around.
What he could hear was funny at first. He knew what they were going to say and could have quoted them before he heard them say it. It wasn’t good though, and it stopped being amusing. It was total bullshit in fact. Some of it was his fault for being who he was, or had been he told himself firmly, and some of it was simply inexcusable bitchery.
“Well that was ridiculous. I don’t understand why he even showed up or why she didn’t cancel. She has to know what he’s been doing. And the catering? The chef alone must have cost a fortune. What do you think they paid for all of this?”
“I don’t know probably a lot. You know, maybe she doesn’t care. She didn’t seem surprised, and she’s a pitiful actress. She spent most of her time for the last year up at the lake doing something while he ran around here. She doesn’t care, or she’s stupid, or insane, and probably not insane.”
The topic changed from the cost of the event to recent mysteries. “What do you suppose she’s been doing up at the lake? Nobody we know lives up there. Tony has that training camp where he does some kind of target practice or something. His wife isn’t up there with him from what I hear. That whole thing is weird though considering the other woman who’s supposed to be her friend but might be her sister. Anyway, what has she been doing up there?”
“Maybe he’s been giving her practice taking down Don.”
“Oh I can just see that. I hear he trains people how to use bows and arrows and axes. Can you imagine her with an axe? She couldn’t even lift an axe. She’d cut off her own foot!”
He watched. He waited. He kept his mouth shut.
Behind him, a familiar voice said, “They’re right about the axe.”
She’d been running out of time and he’d begun to worry. Relieved, he turned and smiled at her. “We all have our weaknesses. They wouldn’t be laughing if you drew your sword.”
“I wouldn’t bother, but I won’t lie, I won’t be sorry to see the end of them.”
“I hope you don’t land in the middle of something worse but I doubt it.” They laughed together.
They knew each other well, knew what hurt, knew what didn’t, and knew when to laugh or leave it alone. They’d kept a lot hidden – the nature of their relationship, the training at the lake, the research on family and genetics, and the long nights at the Gate Rock after they discovered what it was and decided what to do about it. Whatever she was going to face, she’d gained power and skill in more than weapons in the last year. She could take down most of what they believed was there. He knew she could.
“Everything in order?” she asked.
“It’s all there. The swords, the bows, the clothes, the ropes, everything. You should be able to push or pull it all through the gate. The power almost dragged me in this morning.” He paused then said, “You know I’m willing to go with you. I may be able to get you back again and that doesn’t appear to be possible otherwise. We don’t know why but it is what it is. Again, I’m offering.”
She shook her head. “We’ve been over this, Don. You’re not a neutral presence. I don’t want to make decisions based on you, what you think or what you need or how someone reacts to you. I’m going alone.”
Don said, “You know what you’re doing.” Then, because it was irresistible, he added lightly, “Speaking of how people react to me, you know you’ve destroyed what’s left of my reputation.”
She stepped closer, took his hand and said solemnly, “I’ve burnished it, not destroyed it.”
He smiled at her. It made no difference now either way.
She turned and headed toward the bike. “I’ll have to drive like a bat out of hell to get to the Gate before the power drops.”
“An appropriate metaphor,” he said. She caught that, the bat from hell herself, and they laughed again.
She started to mount the big bike then paused, one hand on the fender, contemplating something, her expression uneasy.
She straightened, faced him and in a clear and serious voice said, “Don, my life has changed a lot in the past two years and much of that change is due to the help you gave me, the training you pushed me to take with Tony, the time spent learning something completely different about myself. I never dreamed I’d pick up a sword for example. Look at you though. You’re reaching the end of your game and you know it. The axe women are using you now, not the other way around, and it doesn’t end there with them. You have to deal with it.”
He wasn’t in total denial but he thought he had more time than she believed. “Don’t give up on me yet. I can still walk and talk.”
She paused, then with more force changed the subject entirely. “Don, I’ve wanted to say this, to warn you, and this is my last chance. Beware of the Westovers. There’s something there I never did completely discover. Remember this was the last thing I said to you, it’s that important.”
Whatever happened in his future, he’d handle it when it happened, if it ever did, whatever ‘it’ turned out to be. He honestly didn’t understand what she was talking about although of course he knew the Westover women. One of them was a monster. Discussing an inexplicable warning was not going to be what they shared for the last time no matter how important she thought it was. “Don’t worry about me. Take care of yourself. Rip a hole through that thing and whatever lies on the other side and think of me when you’re doing it – once in a while anyway.”
She turned the big machine out onto the road and, as quietly as she could manage given what it was, burned her path away, going south, going toward the ferry and the last island in the archipelago and the thing beyond it – the Gate Rock.
He knew he’d never see her again. He would miss her.