Darcy swiped through the messages on her phone for the fifth time that day, stopping when she reached the one titled “Hi”. It was from Beibhinn. She and her older sister hadn’t spoken since Beibhinn had moved to England. Supposedly it was because Newcastle had a good music program but Darcy knew better. If anything, Beibhinn had used the distance to escape her family. To escape the whole Airlie clan. After 8 boyfriends (and probably more no one knew about since she was in a different country), rumors ran rampant. Everyone knew the woman was a slut. Darcy knew it too. Her mum and da had often berated the elder of their two daughters about how she had brought nothing but shame to their household. And Darcy had stood behind them, straight blonde hair bouncing as she nodded in disapproval at her sister’s behavior.
Finally graduated from university. I’ll be moving on to grad school pretty quick here and will be changing to a nicer apartment. Need a little help throwing stuff out and boxing stuff up. I know it’s a long way to come but do you think you could come help me out? I could even give you a tour of the campus out here. I know Mum and Da want you to stay in Bremen but where’s the fun in not rocking the boat a little? ; P
And so she had found herself on the next train to Hamburg. After the Second Fae War there wasn’t much left of England. Or Ireland. Or any of the UK really. A good portion of Spain and France had been devastated too, forcing large numbers of refugees up into Germany. Rebuilding had begun back in Ireland but the Airlie leprechaun clan had yet to head back. Which put Darcy a lot closer to her sister. Truth be told, she wasn’t even sure why they hadn’t at least visited each other once now that they were living in the same country again. It wasn’t like she didn’t want to see her sister but they’d grown farther apart with every passing year. Maybe that was why. The text had come out of the blue. Or maybe it was because she had survived a near apocalypse and just needed to see the cocky red-head again. Yeah. That was much more likely.
The leprechaun gathered her bags in her arms before stepping off the train and heading straight for the reinforced glass tunnels that ringed the station. One of the nice things about living in Germany was that they already had their own population of small folk. Heinzelmannchen. Which meant the infrastructure catering to the smaller races was already in place.
It wasn’t hard to pick out the shock of red racing towards her through the throng in the tunnels. The force of the embrace nearly knocked Darcy’s glasses clear off her face.
“Lemme lookit yew!”
Beibhinn held her little sister at arm’s length as her deep blue eyes darted over the worn jeans and faded t-shirt. “Yew’ve gotten so tall since I last saw ye. An’ what’s with th’ frumpy get-up?” The woman still had that odd quirk where her accent became thicker the more excited she got.
“You said you needed help packing. I brought what I thought would be the most appropriate attire,” she responded. It was the first thing she’d said to her sister in nearly 8 years. Her own green eyes drifted up from her sister’s high-heeled boots to her tight-fitting trousers and presumably imitation designer blouse.
“Yeah. I guess I did. Shall we?”
Her sister was off like a shot, barely giving Darcy time to grab her luggage and follow after.
They didn’t talk much on the way over. Not really. Not truly. It was like being with that acquaintance whose face you remembered but whose name you couldn’t recall for the life of you. What should she have said? How was surviving a crazy fae bent on wiping out magic users and anything and anyone who got in her way? How was living without magic for the next few years as the world tried to rebuild itself? How was surviving all that on your own? By yourself.
Darcy watched the towering human architecture go by as they passed. Germany was so different from Ireland. Everything seemed to be made of angles. Brown trim framed perfectly white houses with perfectly square windows and perfectly tended flowerboxes. She wondered how Beibhinn had managed to land herself next to such a nice neighborhood when even after almost 4 years so many refugees were still living in the slums. Even after the massive buildings down-sized to something much less grand but much more manageable, Darcy couldn’t help but notice how nice it all still was. Especially when they arrived at the 11th floor of Beibhinn’s current apartment which gave an envious view of the small folk neighborhood.
“We’re here!” Beibhinn announced, throwing the door to the apartment open. It was such a haphazard mess of boxes and stuff that Darcy wasn’t sure what to think. Beibhinn had always been the type to put more work into her personal appearance than her living area but even this seemed uncharacteristically sloppy for the 26 year old. Messy or not, moving or not, she couldn’t see her sister tolerating a pigsty this bad. And the whole mess was ringed by a circle of old-fashioned, and rather clunky, CD and tape-players.
Letting her purse slide down her shoulder and her bags drop to the floor, Darcy stepped into the room and watched her sister clamber over the sofa to pop an old jazz tape into one of the stereos. The smooth tones of an alto saxophone drifted through the array of cardboard.
“Beibhinn…” Darcy started to say, uncertain where to begin.
Then her sister popped a different CD into one of the other stereos. This time is was a baritone sax.
Then another one. And another. And another. Until all 10 of them were blaring in a mélange of instrumental discord to make the ears bleed.
The ginger stopped crawling over the obstructions in the room to cock her head at her younger sister with a shrug of her shoulders and a slight confused shake of her head that sent her braid bouncing from shoulder to shoulder.
“BEIBHINN! TURN THEM OFF! IT’S TOO LOUD!”
Again the other woman shrugged before beginning to toss odds and ends over her shoulder and into one of the previously assembled cardboard boxes.
“BEIBHINN!” Darcy tried again.
“BEIBHINN!!!” She was starting to lose her temper. After almost a decade, she’d made this trip just to see the woman and now that she was here all pretenses of hospitality had been dropped.
Darcy grabbed the nearest cacophony-producing machine and yanked it from its plug in the wall. The cord snapped like an angry viper, hissing in protest, as Darcy raised it overhead, emerald eyes spotting an empty trashcan across the room as she threw the so-called music-maker. Bull’s eye.
Silence settled between the two women, juxtaposing harshly with the dissonant saxophone tunes in the background.
As Beibhinn’s eyes settled on the tiny dustbin she slowly sank to her knees and into the lowest depths of misery. She’d lost everything that mattered to her. Tears stained the glassy blue windows of her eyes as she stared distantly at the small metal can. “That was my greatest achievement. Emptying that. And now it’s full again.”
The songs came to an abrupt end, as if on cue, their mismatched music synced perfectly with the quiet. Darcy stared. “Beibhinn…?”
“Ye know, I hate that thin’ more than anythin’ in th’ world…”
“Beibhinn, you’re not making sense.” Sometime during the silence, Darcy had made her way over to her sister’s side and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Of course I’m making sense. Stop being stupid.” Beibhinn rose to a shaky stand with an even shakier laugh.
“You say that way too much. Everything’s stupid with you.”
“That’s stupid! I do not!” The older of the two snorted through her tears. “No, ye’re right. Everything is stupid.”
“You know,” Darcy began uncertainly, still not entirely sure what was going on, “if you don’t like that dustbin, we can always get rid of it while we’re packing and throwing stuff out.”
“Yew know what’s even more stupid?” Beibhinn asked, not giving her sister a chance to answer, “I can’t. As much as I hate it, I can’t. It’s my most treasured possession. Isn’t that stupid?” She laughed weakly.
“Yeah… that is pretty stupid,” Darcy agreed sympathetically. “Listen, do you want some tea or something? Yew tell me where it is an’ I’ll get a pot goin’.”
“Tea?” Beibhinn stnorted. “Darcy, I’m gonna get so feckin’ inebriated tonight I won’t even remember m’ own name.”
Darcy rubbed her sister’s shoulder. “Care to tell me what this is all about?”
The hastily done braid Beibhinn had thrown her hair up into that morning began to frizz out in little wisps of fiery red as Beibhinn shook her head and buried her face in her hands. “God, I am such a loser. Yew’ve not even been here a full day an’ lookit me! God, I hate myself.” She scrubbed both her hands up through her hair, further disrupting the woven strands and inciting rebellion amongst the mass of red. “Why do I always have to be such an angry mess? Yew know… I tried so hard to fix that. To change it. But I failed at that too. Just like everything fecking else.” She turned and headed for one of the walls, breaking away from her sister’s comforting hand to rest her head against the plaster. Seeking solace from a faceless friend. “Why am I so feckin’ useless?!?” The question was punctuated with a SMACK as she slammed a hand against the wall in an angry fist.
“Beibhinn…,” Darcy’s voice had softened considerably. The younger of the two wasn’t used to seeing her sister like this. Was this what the last 8 years on her own had done to the ginger? Beibhinn was always self-assured, independent, strong, capable, and she never took shit from anyone. It was foreign to see her so utterly defeated, and shocking to realize just how little self-esteem the woman actually had. “…What happened?”
Tears once again threatened to flood Beibhinn’s eyes. Her voice cracked as she turned to face her sister. “I fell in love.”
Darcy didn’t get a chance to speak.
“I know what ye’re gonna say. After 10 boyfriends the slutty bitch-queen finally found someone?” Beibhinn laughed bitterly as she sunk to her knees and wrapped her arms around them. “He asked me to marry him…” Her eyes became unfocused. “An’ I said yes.” Her voice softened as she stared at nothing. “But this is me we’re talking about. I should’ve known better.”
In all the years that Darcy had seen everyone berate Beibhinn for her decisions, she had never seen Beibhinn be the one to beat herself up over them. This was different. After all that time believing she was unlovable, Beibhinn had finally found the person who was supposed to be the One. Darcy’s breath hitched in her throat. Her sister was afraid of being abandoned, of being unloved, more than anything in the world. And for the first time in all the time she’d known her sister, Darcy understood that.
Suddenly, she was across the room with her arms wrapped around her sister in a tight embrace. “I’ll bloody kill the bastard, Beibhinn. You jus’ tell me where tha’ sonovabitch is.”
A dry laugh cracked its way past Beibhinn’s lips. “He was an elf, Darcy. I don’t think yew’d so much as put a dent in ‘im. …But thanks.”
“What did he do?”
“He didn’t do anything… He jus’ left. Not a word. Jus’ disappeared. His mum told a friend a’ mine tha’ he was afraid of me. He didn’t even have th’ courage t’ say good-bye.”
“It’s my fault. If only I’d kept my temper in check, I-“
“No.” Darcy spoke firmly. After all these years, she would finally be there for her sister. “Temperamental bitch-queen or not, he should’ve at least told yew.”
Beibhinn laughed. “Ye’re takin’ my side? But I’m a slut, remember?”
“You are not a slut.”
The look of shock and surprise on Beibhinn’s face caught Darcy off-guard. And left her feeling more than a little guilty. Years of growing up with the woman and it never once occurred to her that her sister believed any of those things everyone said. That she had said.
“Who are yew an’ what have ya done with m’ baby sister?” the older of the two laughed.
“I’ve replaced her with glamours and illusions,” Darcy responded, rising to her feet and pulling her sister up alongside her. “Did yew still want help packing?”
“What do yew wanna do with this then?” she asked, holding up the little tin dustbin from before.
Darcy placed it inside one of the boxes, covering it with packing material. She still didn’t quite understand the significance of it but it didn’t feel right to throw it away somehow. “We’ll pack it for now. Yew can take it out of storage again when ye’re good an’ ready.”
For now her sister deserved a little piece of perfect happiness. She deserved love from the family who had never been there for her.