Her foot touched the ground and for a moment she was surprised that the ground was there, then a bit embarrassed that she had been so surprised.
The atmosphere changed, and Jacob noticed right away. He thought it was about the right time in the… real world. But it was centuries ago when she had grown weak. Or that morning. He wasn’t sure, but he knew that he wasn’t the right one to greet her.
He reached out and carefully touched Calcifer’s shoulder. Calcifer, spending time with his wife in the other world, came back with a frown.
“D… Dad…?” Luna’s voice was tiny though her eyes were big.
“Luna!” Calcifer exclaimed. He was momentarily happy, then suddenly very angry. “No.” He turned to his father. “No.”
“It’s been decades in the land of the living,” Jacob said, trying to keep his son calm.
“No! No–she–no. No!” It was the same reaction he had when he learned his sons had died, and the same reaction he would have when his fourth child followed. “Luna… no… you–you’re not…”
“Dad?” Luna blinked and looked around the room in confusion. “Where–you’re young.” She couldn’t comprehend this, the last thing she remembered was being in bed with her daughter holding her hand. She closed her eyes tightly, trying to wake up. If she didn’t wake up, Viola would worry.
She looked up again at her father and the other man just beyond him. His name was on the tip of her tongue. A picture, that’s where she had seen him before. But before she said anything, her father spoke. Explaining to her, his voice full of anger but trying to keep calm. He was blinking back tears.
“Death,” she said after he was done. “I’m dead. This is the–this is death. This room? This is it? Just… the three of us…?” She looked around, her eyes getting even bigger with fear. “No, but… Kellen! And Mom…? And Kyle? And Orion–“
Now Calcifer explained to her the other side of the afterlife. Jacob hovered near the wall, keeping an eye on the lines which had blurred then sharpened when Luna came in. There were more of them–or less of them. But there was something there, something tangible. Then it was gone.
“And you’re Jacob…” Luna stared at the grandfather she never met. Jacob turned away from the wall and smiled.
“Luna, how sad it is you are here but I am glad to meet you. Finally. I’m sorry I never got to when you were alive.”
“Dad, don’t be morbid!” Calcifer snapped, putting a protective arm around his daughter.
“Dad, it’s fine. I understand.” She did understand and then suddenly her face lit up with pure joy. “Kellen! I can see him! Like you said you could with Mom, here’s there.”
She closed her eyes tightly and Kellen put his arms around her, his lips finding every inch of her face. They were standing in a library room, the smell of books filling her nostrils, the feel of wood very real under her feet. And Kellen, he was young again. He was there. He was as real as she was, and she sank into his arms with the same relief as someone coming home after a long time.
Calcifer stepped away, knowing the look on her face was the same he got when he was with Penny. “Dad, it’s not fair,” he whispered, turning to face Jacob again. “She shouldn’t be here. None of them should. Kyle and Orion, they’re not here. Why is Luna here and not my sons? Will Tempest be here when she…?”
Jacob shook his head. “No. She will be in the other place, where everyone else is. Nobody else will be joining us until…” He wasn’t sure whether to say it or not.
“Till one of my grandchildren die,” Calcifer said stiffly. “Which one? It’s not right. It’s not right for them to be forced to be here, for Luna–for my Luna!” He threw himself at the wall with the lines and began hitting it.
Jacob watched with a wrinkle of concern creasing his forehead. Calcifer could have been a toddler again with the way he was acting. But the lines on the wall did not react to his anger, they kept being the same, or different, or whichever they were.
“Cal,” Jacob finally said after a few years. “Please calm down.”
“It’s not fair, Dad. Nobody should be in here. My baby girl shouldn’t be in here.” He slumped on the ground and put his head into his arms so he could cry. Jacob knelt down, his hands against Calcifer’s arms. “I don’t want her to suffer this.”
“It’s not suffering, she can be with those she loves just as you can,” Jacob said patiently.
“My grandchildren don’t belong here either.” Calcifer raised his head, the tears glistening against his cheeks. “None of them do.” Suddenly he let out a garbled sound and looked at Luna. He figured it out. “It will be one of hers, won’t it? It will be one of Luna’s children. Viola, or Sebastian, or Cesario.”
“Yes, I believe so,” Jacob said, not wanting to lie. “But we won’t be sure until…”
“Until one of my grandbabies die,” Calcifer growled. “What do we tell her, huh? What do we tell Luna? That she has to look forward to an eternity spent in this room and then one of her babies coming in here?”
“Or one of her nieces or nephews,” Jacob said. “I don’t know which, Cal. I don’t know how this works. I think–I think it will be one of the ones you said but I just don’t know. And I don’t know when it will end.”
“A Danevbie in this room for always?” Calcifer cocked his head to one side, eyes narrowing. “There’s not enough room for that, we’ll be full eventually.”
“No. Until the right one…” Jacob stood up sharply. He almost said… And it was there… The right one? Would there be a right one? The right Danevbie? Is that what the room was waiting for?
Jacob turned to stare at the lines again. Was that what was going on? Was the room… waiting? He stared at the lines, trying to figure out what they meant but it was never there. Would a Danevbie one day come here and understand them?
“Please bring Luna back,” Jacob whispered, sitting down on the floor. He looked at his son, and Calcifer was gone. Not physically, but he was with Penny and they were possibly with Luna, and the others.
Luna is smart, Jacob thought, his voice echoing in the room as if he spoke out loud. He waited some time–a few minutes (or a few days) and then crept over. He would rather Calcifer bring her back as she knew him, but Calcifer was not in the most pleasant of moods right now.
Luna was pulled from the library and she stared up at Jacob. She knew what he wanted. She had heard everything, her father’s crying, Jacob’s answers. But she did not want to leave that library. Her brothers were there too. It had been so long since she had seen them. And Milla, who had passed on before Orion; and Kenyatta, and George. Both of Kyles’ husbands. It should have been awkward, but it was not.
And her mother. She had been in her mother’s arms, and now she was back in this room. Her grandfather wanted her to look at the lines which she did, but they were not lines. Not squiggly lines like Jacob said they were.
“It’s coding,” Luna said as she went over to touch the wall. It had looked as if the lines were raised up off the wall but the wall was smooth. She could almost feel the lines moving under her fingers and she quickly pulled her hand back, frightened. “What is it?”
“You said it was coding?” Jacob asked, biting his lip.
“No… I was wrong.” She stared at the wall and it was just squiggly lines. She had just imagined it was anything else. Right?
“What do you see?” Jacob asked.
“Squiggly lines,” she said, sitting down on the ground. Jacob sat down next to her, hugging his knees to his chest. They looked to be the same age, fresh-faced out of school. Luna knew this should make her uncomfortable, but it didn’t. “The Reddings…”
“What?” Calcifer came back very fast at that. “What?“
“That’s why it doesn’t make me feel weird to see my dad and granddad the same age as me,” Luna explained. “Because the Reddings took youth potion.”
Suddenly Calcifer looked shocked and angry. “You worked for them. You worked for them!”
“That’s where you worked in Riverview. I didn’t know, I didn’t think about it but now I can see it and it happened. You worked for the Reddings.” But he sounded flat, deflated.
Luna hugged him tight. “Dad, I’m sorry I never told you before. I didn’t think you’d be happy. I was worried you’d make me quit…”
Calcifer sighed. “I would have! I didn’t want that for you, sweetie.”
“They aren’t so bad,” Jacob said.
“Shut up.” Calcifer glared at his father who just shrugged, knowing his son had more issues with the twins than he did.
“Dad, it’s in the past,” Luna said. “A long time in the past.” She looked at him and wondered if he knew how much the Reddings had been involved with the family. She thought about her granddaughter and then wondered if she could look down to make sure everything was going well. “Can we–are we guardian angels?”
“No, we stay here, as hard as it can be sometimes,” Jacob said. “All we can really do is see what’s going on. But not interfere. I will warn you time, doesn’t work the same here.”
Luna knew by now this was true, as it had been so many decades since she first came here, yet when she focused on her living family they were still grieving over their recent loss of her. It was far too confusing. And those lines were giving her a headache. It had to be a code, but it wasn’t–except when it was. She rubbed her eyes.
“Did you see something?” Jacob asked.
“No. I thought I did, but no.”
After a year they all sat down, and she focused on the wall with almost the same intensity Jacob did. Calcifer wasn’t quite as interested in the wall as his father and daughter, but he stayed with them for some time before going back to Penny.
Luna was half with Kellen, curled up on a small sofa with him, listening to his voice as he read one of their favorite books. They were alone again, relishing in the company they had been denied for so long.
Jacob remained completely in the room. If his suspicions were right, it would be one of Luna’s children who joined them next and not a child of Cal’s sons. He just wasn’t sure which one, but whoever it was would hold the next piece of the puzzle. They had to.