Thursday, November 29, 2012

There Conclusions Were

Giles: Yes, let's not jump to any conclusions.

Buffy: I didn't jump. I took a tiny step, and there conclusions were.

-Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Phases"

So, when last we spoke, we'd just found out that Summer had been poisoned, and then Marigold had left for reasons unknown.

Summer is doing a lot better now. Doctor M says she can probably go home Thursday or Friday unless she takes an unexpected turn for the worse.

Marigold is still gone. It's late now, and was snowing. We're worried about her. And frankly, we don't know what to think. We don't think she had anything to do with the poisoning - she loves Summer and wouldn't hurt her - but we're afraid she'll think we blame her for it. Maybe that's why she ran. It's dangerous out there, though, and we miss her.

When Doctor M had relayed the news about Summer and then left to continue her rounds, we all took a moment to absorb it. Then Gia quietly spoke up. "I don't mean to leap to conclusions," she said.

We all looked over at her. Although we weren't planning to leap, we were interested to see what conclusions she might think could potentially be leaped to.

"The doctor said it was Nerium poisoning," Gia went on hesitantly. "What people usually refer to as oleander."

"I don't think that grows in Upstate New York," Felicity said.

Gia nodded that Felicity was right. "It requires a warmer climate. I learned about it as a child; in my home country we used the flowers at funerals, and in the past it was sometimes used to poison rats. But my childhood memories aren't what I meant about leaping to conclusions. What I meant was... it was the favourite poison used by The Elders, when they needed to get rid of someone in a way that didn't scream that they were vampires."

We exchanged another look, this time of the concerned and uncomfortable variety.

The Elders were our enemies for months, and they seriously made us worry for our lives. Eventually we had to confront them, and we won with the help of an army of fairy folk. Only three Elders are left, and they agreed to make peace with us under terms we set. They weren't too happy about it, and we assume still aren't. (Gia's on our side now, but she knows stuff about them because she used to work for them.)

"There's one thing I don't understand," Inna finally said. "I wouldn't put it past them from a moral standpoint. If it was really them, though, what do they hope to gain by it? I don't see a logical motive."

"To kill Summer," Molly replied immediately.

"Alright," Inna said doubtfully. "But how does killing Summer actually benefit them? She's only one person in an exceptionally strong family. There are only three Elders left. Killing Summer wouldn't even the odds significantly, and attacking any of us would break their truce with us. They'd trigger another battle that they're in no position to win. Why would they do that?"

Why indeed? The Elders have an understandable grudge against all of us, but as far as I know they had nothing against Summer in particular. Why would they risk reigniting a conflict that they agreed to end because they knew they would inevitably lose? The remaining Elders joined our vampire council, so we know pretty well what they're doing and how strong they are - their current position isn't noticeably better than when we defeated them. So how does this make sense?

It's too early for accusations. We need to think this through more, and try to get more information. In the meantime, we're taking turns staying with Summer and going out to look for Marigold.

Marigold, if you're reading this, we don't think you did it. Please come home! It is your home now, if you want it to be, no matter what secrets you're hiding.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And then came the really bizarre part(s)...

Hi, this is Bree again. Summer is still in the hospital, but she's doing a lot better. The doctors figured out what was wrong, but that's not where the story of today really started, so I'm going to begin at the beginning.

As I mentioned yesterday, Summer had to stay overnight in the hospital while the doctors ran tests. Early this morning, her adoption records and birth certificate were delivered, so we could start tracking down her genetic family's medical history. When Maia opened the packet, the first thing on top was Summer's birth certificate.

That was when the first weird thing of the day happened... although it would seem minor compared to what came later. Evelyn said she was hungry, and Marigold offered to take her to the cafeteria to get a snack. Now, the weird part was not that Ev needed to eat - her school normally has a morning snack time, so that's part of her routine - or that Marigold did something helpful. What was weird was that Marigold didn't seem at all interested in the documents and volunteered to go somewhere else without seeing them first.

I mean, yeah, it was Summer's birth certificate, not her own - but they're twins, so most of the information would be the same. Marigold could find out a lot about her birth and her biological family just from asking to see the papers that came today, and the adults would have let her. If it had been me, I would have been dying of curiosity. Marigold didn't even seem to want a look at the records. I guess everyone is different, though, and I figured maybe she just wasn't ready to find out those things yet, so I let it go without saying anything.

Tabitha glanced over Maia's shoulder, and said, "This has been changed."

Maia frowned. "It's supposed to be the original," she said doubtfully, but followed where Tabitha was pointing. It was only one line, carefully covered with a tiny section of the same kind of paper and typed over, barely noticeable. It blended in so well that I think it took Tabitha's vampire eyesight to spot it.

"That's strange," Maia said. "Why would they alter that part?"

Where the birth certificate had been changed wasn't Summer's name, or the names of her parents, or where and when she'd been born. It was where the type of birth was recorded, the part that said it was twins. Maia carefully scraped off the extra with her fingernail, and underneath, it said "single live birth" - not twins.

"Strange," Maia said again. "I wonder if they made a mistake and had to correct it?"

That didn't explain why they wouldn't just print out a new one when they first caught the error, though, instead of changing it. (When Blakeney's cousin was born, the birth certificate had accidentally reversed the mother's name and the baby's name; a replacement was issued with the correct names. That seems more standard than trying to fix it by gluing on more paper.) It also didn't explain why the unedited version of Summer's birth certificate said she didn't have a twin. It seemed like a weird mistake to make. 

Marigold came back with Ev then, and we all looked a little guilty, like we'd been doing something wrong. In a strange way, it felt like we were spying on Marigold, even if that didn't make sense.

Before we had a chance to say anything - whether it would have been a true explanation or an excuse, I'm still not sure - the doctor came back.

"I see you got those records I asked for," Doctor M said. "It turns out we aren't going to need them, though. What Summer is suffering from isn't hereditary. We got back the screens for some of the more unusual toxins, and it turns out she's suffering from poisoning."

Doctor M went on to explain that this didn't necessarily mean someone had poisoned Summer deliberately; it might have been an accident. She told us that Summer would recover and be fine as long as there wasn't a repeat exposure. We were all relieved - except Summer herself, because she'd slept through the whole thing. The doctor went on about what Summer had been poisoned with and the treatments they were doing... but I admit I was only half paying attention, because I noticed something else at that moment.

At some point during the conversation, Marigold had slipped away. She was gone.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bad, Scary Day

Hi, this is Bree. Something scary happened today. I was at school, in my second class of the day - English, and I'd already read the book, so I was kind of daydreaming - when the school secretary knocked on the door and said the principal needed to talk to me. Everyone started laughing about Bree being in trouble, but then the secretary said it was a family emergency; the other kids got quiet, and I was suddenly really terrified. My legs felt like lead as I walked to the principal's office.

The principal told me that Summer had collapsed at school. The ambulance took her to the hospital. When the paramedics got there, she was still unconscious. They didn't know what was wrong - they still don't - and they were worried because she didn't wake up right away. Marigold was with Summer when she collapsed, and was upset, to put it mildly. She was beside herself.

I'm posting this from the hospital. Summer is awake now, but she's still pretty groggy. She has to stay overnight while they run some tests, because the doctors still don't know what's wrong. Earlier in the afternoon, she started getting short of breath and her heartbeat was irregular. She's better now, but they need to figure out what this is before they let her go home.

The doctor asked us about family medical history, but because Summer is adopted, we didn't know very many of the answers. We don't know what diseases run in her genetic family. The doctor said that if possible, we needed to find out.

Summer was born in a province where adopted people can get their adoption records and original birth certificates when they turn eighteen. (Believe it or not, in some places those records are sealed forever, and adopted people can never know their genetic history, so Summer is lucky about that.) Because of the situation, we applied for a medical exception to get that paperwork right away. Even though she's only twelve, this information might save her life. The exception was granted, and we're waiting for the information to get couriered here. Hopefully it'll help.

It also may shed light on the Marigold situation. At the moment, though, we're mostly worried about Summer.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

What Hasn't Happened

Hi, this is Summer. Sorry it’s been so long since we’ve written. We had some problems with our internet, and then things got really busy for our family, especially Blakeney. Life has been going pretty well for us in the meantime. We’ve settled into our new school, and we’re making new friends. It didn’t take long before we were back into our activities, either.

Here’s what hasn’t happened, though. Marigold hasn’t gone home. In a way, that’s a good thing. No… I shouldn’t even say “in a way.” It’s been wonderful having her here and getting to know her. She gets along really well with all of us, and she fits right in. It seems like she belongs here. Sometimes it’s hard to remember she’s a guest.

And that’s the weird part. We thought she was just coming for a visit, but she’s been here for three months. No explanation, no estimated time of departure, and apparently her parents aren’t concerned.

When she first got here, she didn’t bother about calling home. Finally, the adults insisted she had to give them a phone number so they could talk to her parents; we’re all happy to have her here, but Inna pointed out that we could get in major trouble if we kept her here and her parents didn’t know where she was. Marigold procrastinated as long as she could get away with it, but finally she gave Blakeney a number.

Every time one of the adults tried calling, the phone on the other end would just ring and ring. No one ever picked up, and it never went to voicemail. For a few days, they thought they were just calling at inconvenient times, but as more time went by and there was never an answer, the adults started to get worried again. Marigold just shrugged and said that clearly her folks weren’t stressed about the situation. But obviously, Blakeney, Inna, Maia, and Gia weren’t convinced.

School started. We knew Marigold was supposed to be homeschooled this year, and she said her parents would be fine with her just going to school with me. The grownups just exchanged a look. Homeschooling is one thing – several of the kids in our family are homeschooled – but generally the parents would want to have some input in terms of what their kid was learning. Homeschooling is very different from the kid just going to some random school, know what I mean?

Finally, the adults decided that they just weren’t going to get anything out of Marigold, and they were going to have to get some answers themselves. It was awkward going behind her back, but how else were we ever going to figure out what’s going on?

While the rest of the girls in our family were in school, Blakeney, Inna, Kirsten, and Bree – they had the day off – drove up to Ontario. They figured that if they couldn’t get Marigold’s parents on the phone, they would have to go to the address and talk to them in person. When they got to Toronto, they had no problem finding where Marigold had told us she lived… but there was no house there.

It wasn’t like that time we went to visit Cécile and Marie-Grace, and found the house they’d been living in had just been burned down. This was a vacant lot. There had been nothing standing there for a long time. There were just a few foundation stones overgrown with waist-high weeds. There was no way Marigold and her parents had been living in a house here as of August.

Bree wondered if maybe they were homeless, and they’d been living in the lot but Marigold was too embarrassed to say anything about that part. There was no sign of anyone camping there, either, but we figured maybe they’d already moved on. We asked around, but everyone in the neighbourhood told us that no one had been staying in the vacant lot for years, homeless or otherwise. So that didn’t turn out to be it, either.

After that trip to Ontario, we’re even more confused than we were before. We’re not quite sure what to do. If this were a normal situation, we would have called the police a long time ago and let them sort it out… but as you recall, we aren’t normal. Marigold is one of the fairy folk. She still hasn’t admitted that, but we can tell. Involving the human police isn’t likely to help.

We’re not sure if we should confront Marigold – she’ll probably just make more excuses if we tell her what we found. I’m not sure how to find out more if she won’t tell us. I hate having to be suspicious of my own twin. The truth is, though, I don’t really know her all that well, even though we’re biological sisters.

We’re happy to have her here. As long as she wants to stay, she can. We’re worried about her, though. We need to figure out what’s going on.