The Plus One ~ A Short Short Story

An explanation. A simple explanation is all that was needed. She wouldn’t get one.

The table was never as empty as it would be this evening. Edith slumped in the high back chair in a most indignant manner, looking into the vague reflection that returned her dreary glare. Of course she would have to be angry and outspoken when they returned, because it was expected of her. It was expected of her when they received their invitations. The expectation was why she did not receive hers.

“My Lady! My Lady!”

Edith sighed.

The young man who had come to the house as a boy, ran into the dining room waving a piece of paper in the air like it was a noise maker. His exuberance was almost infectious, but it wasn’t what succeeded in forcing the faintest of smiles from Edith’s limited supply.

Living here his whole life, the boy was either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid. For though her sisters cared for his wellbeing, Edith had been quite vocal in regards to having a mortal under their roof. She could not harm him so long as they protected him, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Yet either as a result of a strong heart or a weakened brain, he treated Edith like a beloved aunt.

“My Lady, I have been invited!” the boy cried. “Everyone in the kingdom is being invited to the christening. My invite came by messenger this morning!”

He came to her end of the table, holding out his invitation for her to see. If there was any trace of resentment for the way she dismissed him all these years, she could find it neither in his bright smile nor his aura, which reminded her of a field of sweet lavender.

The paper stock was of the highest quality, the scribe well paid for his skill with calligraphy. Edith could know all there was to know about every soul that had touched this invite, including that of the boy who now invaded her solitude.

“Didn’t you get your invitation, Lady Edith?”

“Stop calling me that,” Edith replied. “And no. It seemed the messenger forgot I existed.”

“Well that’s not true,” the boy said, ever unfazed. “Everyone in the kingdom was invited. The kingdom doesn’t even know I exist and here is mine plain as day.”

How true. The boy had been the sole survivor of merchants, who had met their end in a distant forest overrun with bandits. Though it was Edith who meted out justice to those who had violated the sanctuary they were given with the shedding of innocent blood, it was her sisters who had taken the boy in their charge.

“He is a mortal child,” Edith protested. “Leave him on someone’s doorstep; a childless couple if you’re feeling charitable. “

“His future is uncertain,” Diana said.

“Fate brought his parents down this path,” Cloe added.

“We are his guardians now. No human could protect him as we can,” Thera declared.

And the boy lived with them since his infancy. Never hungry, never dirty or wet, never alone a moment in his life, the sisters were as constant as the hours of the clock. And the boy returned their love without hesitation. He learned what they taught him, did whatever they asked, and though they swore they had no influence over his mind or his heart, Edith found it all very strange that this boy had never once questioned the peculiar nature of his adoptive family.

Now on the cusp of manhood, the boy stood in the dining hall where his sisters had taken their meals since before the earliest tribe of warriors had first laid the groundwork for the vast kingdom that now surrounded them, and he looked upon Edith with a resolve that puzzled her.

“You’ll be my guest,” he said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“A plus one,” the boy explained. “There’s nothing in the invitation that says I can’t bring someone. Surely the king did not mean for you to be excluded, or it would have been worded so. So I invite you as my guest.”

Edith was rarely impressed. The girls had been teaching him the delicate nature of Faerie Law, which valued the word over the interpretation, and he had demonstrated it perfectly. That he invoked it so that she would not be excluded from the event was almost sweet. She was, however, just as capable of invoking Faerie Law, and by his invitation, she now had power to exact revenge on the family that had so cruelly snubbed her.

The house shook, slightly. She contained her excitement and the house settled down. The boy was waiting for her reply.

“Thank you,” she said. “I believe I will take you up on your offer.”

“You won’t regret it, Aunty Edith.” With that, the boy ran out of the hall, no doubt to prepare himself for the party and obliviously using the other pet name that annoyed her so.

Edith rose from her chair. Her clothes transformed with a thought, from casual dinnerware to the most beautiful party dress she could imagine. As she walked from the dining room to the garden, she drew plans.

Her only concern was that harm might come to the boy, who had shown her kindness. Foolish in the mind or in the heart, he and the babe for whom the christening was planned were innocent. The universe would surely conspire to protect them, and it was with this in mind, that Edith swore no harm would come to them.

“A century or two.” She approached a bush of roses and thorns that grew in the center of the garden. “A century or two of the deepest sleep will do them all some good. And when they awaken, he and the girl will have a kingdom to call their own.”

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