Get Your Act Together
Cassie had been standing beside the old desk, the clock on the far side of the office ticking quietly, as she tried to make sense of the undeniable truth she held in her hands. It still didn’t make any sense to her. It was so far out of the possibility of being reality that she couldn’t understand how it was possible.
The silver frame was real, she couldn’t deny that. This wasn’t a dream. The photo looked like it was very old, the edges turning colour slightly from time passing. It was Keith, no horns or tail, appearing very much a human. Beside him, holding his hand, resting her head on his shoulder was … Cassie. Her silver tail and horns not being there, his red tail and horns not being visible, looked odd.
Cassie picked up the red frame and saw Keith and Tera together, on the same park bench, in the same pose, no horns or tails. Cassie recognized Tera’s long red jacket, the ensemble that was her friend’s trademark. There was no question it was Tera: she’d know her anywhere.
Keith looked the same in both photos. The thought that she had when she first saw him haunted her again. He looked … right. The silver-tailed temptress just managed a smile; still, none of this made sense. She couldn’t remember meeting him in such a place, nor did she have a memory of something like this happening.
Setting the red frame on the desk, she waved the silver one at Simone: “Explain this.”
Cassie had never seen the older red-tail being lost, and her answer only troubled the silver-tail more: “I can’t.” It was clear that wasn’t good enough: “Keith can.” She started to walk past the Receptionist, but came to an abrupt stop when her tail twined with Cassie’s own: “I didn’t show you that so you’d go off and attack Keith. Don’t do that, Cassiopeia. You’ll never forgive yourself if you lose him.”
Clutching the frame to her chest, the silver-tail’s eyes narrowed: “What did you expect I’d do? I want to know … everything. I want to know how this could have happened, I want to know why, exactly, we’re together in that picture and why … why …” The tears came, unbidden from the hurt inside: “… I want to know why he didn’t tell me.”
As their tails untwined, Simone held Cassie as she cried, bemoaning losing Keith, him not telling her about this. Why would he do this? Her heart sank as she realized that she couldn’t go on like this. This was the end of their relationship, or whatever it was.
Her eyes returned to the frame, taking in the moment, committing it to her memories. The lipstick she wore, the silver bracelet on her wrist, her blonde hair …
The bracelet? Her hair? “Goddess!”
Cassie realized she’d overlooked something: she had long blonde hair in the picture! She’d had short blue hair before she met Keith! The bracelet was the one that Keith had given her on the day he became King; she hadn’t had it before. The realization hit her like a brick. Those of the Realm could travel through time and space, such things were mere illusions to them in other worlds. While the photo was old, it held an image of Cassie in the here and now, but present with Keith in the past.
The moment in the frame had happened for Keith. It hadn’t happened for her …
It explained why he was so happy when she’d accepted the bracelet from him. It explained the shock in his eyes when she changed her hair colour and style on the day he first appeared as King. It explained why he seemed to know so much about her long before they’d been intimate together. It explained why he never told her about this: because he couldn’t.
Cassie wasn’t stupid. She understood the concept of time, understood how things happened in a certain way to make something else be. The two frames made it perfectly clear to her: she had loved Keith before … she would again.
Tera would love him in the past and the here and now.
She’d find out what came next when it was time to know.
Simone was surprised at the smile that appeared, more so when Cassie giggled in delight and hugged her tightly. “Oh Simone. I understand now. He’s amazing.”
The Receptionist’s voice was concerned nonetheless: “Are you okay?”
Rushing out the door, Cassie called out: “Better than you know.”
Tera made it very clear to everyone in the Realm that she had an open door to any and all that wanted to visit her or her Eternal. But she also made it clear that it would be nice if they knocked before barging in.
You never knew what Tera might be up to, after all.
She’d been reading by the fireplace, rather engrossed in a tale that bemused her, when the knocking came. Whoever it was seemed to be in a rush. The knocking didn’t stop until she opened the door to invite them in.
The royal red-tail was surprised at who had been knocking on the door: “Cassie?”
Her silver-tailed best friend sheepishly handed a photo frame to her Queen: “We need to talk.”
The confusion that Cassie had felt before was mirrored in her friend’s expression as she looked at the picture she’d been given. “What? How?”
Cassie felt relief in that moment: he hadn’t told Tera. Her next words would be fateful: “I want you to tell me every single thing you remember when you first met Keith.”
“What’s going on, Cassie?”
The silver-tail hugged her dearest friend tightly: “Taking a left turn at Albuquerque.”
Cassie left the home of the Royal Eternals several hours later, having learned everything she could and making Tera promise she would not say a word to Keith about what they’d figured out together. She’d been responsible for Tera leaving the Realm after confronting her. Cassie knew that much. Now understanding just what had happened on Earth, the blonde seductress had put many of the pieces together.
She returned to Keith’s office, returning the silver frame to its place of honour. She’d made up her mind: she had to go, and what would be, or was, would be. There was nothing else for it. Outside of the office, she heard footsteps, and then the outer office door opening. There was no time left. She was sure he’d never hear: “Love you.”
She remembered the date Tera told her, the day when she’d met Keith. A flick of her left hand, the silver bracelet flashing in the light of the portal that opened to the past as she passed through leaving only the scent of chocolate and cherry in the air as the portal vanished. Keith opened the door, calling her name as it did.
To be continued …