This is Part 2 of my free Freyda and Dóma short story. For more information go to Part 1.
Warning, this story contains a romantic F/F couple. It is told with love and happiness, but if this is not something you are comfortable with, then I would recommend you don’t read it.
Part 2 is approximately 4,000 words long. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, I’d love to hear about it. Also, if you find any mistakes or errors, feel free to tell me about them too.
Sweetness and Shadows
Freyda backed hurriedly out of the kitchen, barely making it to the safety of the dark hallway before the door slammed in her face. “Thank you!” she shouted, and was answered by crashing cupboards and annoyed mutters.
While things hadn’t gone quite as well as Freyda might have liked, Emin had agreed to bake her a cake and some special muffins. But only if she left the kitchen straight away and promised not to return for a month. Then he’d chased her out, because he was Emin and he had a reputation to uphold. Or something. Surely he couldn’t really be that miserable and grumpy underneath?
“Found the treasure yet?”
Freyda frowned at the cheerful voice and tilted her head. Ollie held up a hand, his fingers glowing with a wisp of pale white light, cutting through the gloom of the corridor so that they could see each other more clearly. He raised his eyebrows. “You were staring so hard at the door, I thought you were reading a coded map. Found the X yet?”
Shaking her head, Freyda sighed glumly. “No. I was just wondering how good an actor Emin is.”
“Awful,” Ollie assured her cheerfully. “Couldn’t act his way out of an open door. He really is that mean and bad-tempered. Thank goodness he’s such a good cook.”
Freyda smiled a little at his words, but inside she just felt sad. She’d been like Emin once; determined not to let anyone in. It had made her absolutely miserable too. “Do you – ?”
“No.” Ollie shook his head firmly.
“But I didn’t even finish –”
“I’ve seen that look before. On Fara’s face, and Nel’s. Even Ally got it once, but a long time ago. Dóma’s tried too, and even Drae had a shot. Emin won’t even speak to Mero after he made an attempt to humanise him. He doesn’t want to be friends with people, Freyda, and every time any of us try he just gets worse.” Ollie sighed and rested a hand on her shoulder. “Everyone gets hurt too. I think he really is happier this way. Or if he isn’t, it’s not something we can help him with. Not yet, anyway. He has a lot of things to deal with. Things he can’t share with the rest of us. I know you see a lot of yourself in him, Freyda, but you’ve made such good progress since you arrived. I’d hate to see you get hurt.”
“He hurt Dóma?”
Ollie gave a solemn nod.
“Did he make her cry?”
“No. He saved that for Fara. Though to be fair, I think she was crying more because of his lack of hope, than because of what he said.”
“And he won’t even speak to Demero?”
“Not a word.”
Freyda narrowed her eyes and tugged thoughtfully on her lip. Then she shrugged, because if that was the way he wanted it, far be it for her to change his mind. “He’s an idiot.”
Ollie grinned. “I knew you were smart.”
She smiled. “You’d think that if he really wanted us all to stay away, he’d stop baking such delicious treats. It’s not like he can eat them all himself.”
“Shhhhhhh!” Ollie frantically flapped a hand. “Don’t even whisper such a thing. He might hear and agree with you. Then where would we be?”
“A whole lot lighter?” Freyda suggested, eyeing him critically.
Small, lean and supremely confident about himself, Ollie just smiled. “I’m dead. No amount of sugar can kill me now. And on that thought, I think you’d better run. I’m going on a raid and I’d hate for you to get caught in the crossfire.”
“If you wreck the cake he’s making, or steal any of the muffins, I will hunt you down and put you out.”
“Put me out?” Ollie echoed, his mouth turning downwards, eyes turning tragic as he stared at his glowing hand. “You – you’re – You fight dirty.”
“And don’t you forget it,” Freyda told him, unaffected by his kicked-puppy expression.
He gave a heavy sigh, full of sorrow. “No cake, no muffins,” he agreed.
“Then good luck and happy snacking,” she called, sprinting as fast as she could away from the kitchen. Ollie’s laugh followed her up the stairs.
Carroll met her at the top with a cheerful whistle. Reaching out a hand for him to hop onto, she put her blackbird on her shoulder. “Cake and muffins done. Next up, flowers and candles.”
Heading for the door, she smiled as she heard a familiar a pair of voices coming down the stairs. Time for a little forward-planning before she headed in search of Nel.
* * *
After a long chase through the woods, Suain finally grew bored and let Symphony go. The song thrush darted off to preen in private, leaving Dóma alone to slump against a tree and try to catch her breath. It was tricky, even without the corsets she’d grown up in. Bending over as far as the tight stitching of her dress would allow, Dóma took deep breaths and waited for the dizziness to pass. Running really wasn’t one of her favourite pastimes. Was it any wonder she hated it when Freyda tried to help her fly?
Reminded of her original purpose, Dóma straightened up and pressed against the ache in her ribs. It was unpleasant, but manageable, so she started walking again, assessing her outfit as she went. The lace flounce on the bottom hem of her dress was sadly tattered now, while mud spots splattered up to her knees. More damage had been done to her sleeves, the cuffs frayed from batting branches out of the way, and she’d torn a hole under her right arm when she’d tried to reach up too far.
Her parasol was long gone, abandoned to a starberry bush that had taken a fancy to it and won the short tug-of-war that ensued. She didn’t even want to think about how her hair looked now, since her hat had also been torn off somewhere along the way, loosening her pins and sending most of the brown mass tumbling around her shoulders.
“If Freyda sees me now, she’ll count herself lucky for leaving home this morning when she had the chance,” Dóma grumbled, grabbing a hank of hair and trying to pile it back up onto her head. Since most of her pins had followed her hat into the forest, it was a futile endeavour. She dropped it with a heavy sigh. “Why do I even bother?”
Looking down again, she flapped her filthy skirt and hummed a happy, bright, cheerful tune, thinking about clean material and beautiful, unspoilt lace. She snapped the material straight again, smiling when it looked as good as new. Feeling better, Dóma turned her attention to her sleeves and slowly repaired the ruin the forest had wrought.
There was little she could do about the lost parasol and missing hat, though, and no matter how many ditties she whistled she couldn’t make her hair stay up without support. So she took it down and finger-combed it straight. It hung almost to her waist in a plain brown curtain and Dóma sighed. Her hair would never be beautiful – it was too thick, too heavy, too boring a shade – but when she put it up it sometimes looked nice.
She briefly considered returning home to fully repair the damage, then shook her head. “Too late for that now.” She wanted to find Freyda, before something else happened.
With that in mind she set her boots back on the path and marched determinedly through the trees. She wasn’t far from the manor now, and surely someone there would know where her beloved had gone.
As she finally left the deep shadows of the forest, however, it was Freyda herself Dóma spotted, walking swiftly in the opposite direction, around the far side of the manor. “Freyda, wait!” she shouted, but her sweetheart didn’t hear.
Sighing, Dóma hitched up her skirt to run again, and almost fell over Eddie and Drae as they jogged out of the front door.
“Dóma!” the two men cried in unison.
“Just who we need,” Eddie chuckled in delight, while Drae helped her regain her balance.
“I’m not talking to you,” she told Drae with a sniff. “And can it wait until later, Eddie? I wanted to catch Freyda.”
“No, it certainly can’t wait,” Eddie told her firmly, spinning her around and linking his arm through hers as he marched her in the opposite direction from where Freyda had gone. “This is important.”
“So is catching Freyda.”
“You can speak to her anytime.” Drae blithely waved off her protest. “But why aren’t you talking to me? What have I done?”
“Not you. Suain. Can’t you control that red menace of yours?”
“What’s she done now?” Eddie chuckled. “She didn’t get into your house and eat all your flowers again, did she? Or did she smear treacle over your piano keys again?”
“No.” Dóma scowled at the reminders, while Drae suddenly found his own shoes incredibly fascinating. “She grabbed Symphony and wouldn’t let her go.”
“Suain wouldn’t hurt her,” Drae protested in defence of his immortal partner. Where most Aekhartain got a bird and wings, Drae had somehow ended up with a cheeky, mischievous lemur. “Her hands are very soft and gentle.”
Dóma glared at him. “I told her to drop her. She ignored me, and I had to chase her all over the forest before she got bored enough to let go!”
Eddie laughed, no doubt picturing her doing just that. “Poor Pop Star. All that exercise. How ever did you cope?”
Unamused, Dóma ignored him and kept her sights on Drae. “She could have really hurt Symphony.”
“But she didn’t,” Drae rushed to say. “She wouldn’t. Not on purpose. She was just playing.”
“Well, Symphony didn’t look too thrilled about it.”
“Symphony is okay, though, isn’t she?” Drae asked worriedly.
He looked so downcast and upset that Dóma sighed and took pity on him. “I think so. She flew off in a huff to straighten her feathers, but I think she’s just a little ruffled, that’s all.”
“Good,” Drae sighed himself, but with relief. “I’m sorry Suain was naughty, but she doesn’t mean any harm.”
“That’s what you always say,” Dóma grumbled.
“Because it’s true.” Drae’s earnest assurances were cut short as the lemur in question dropped onto his shoulder from an upstairs window, giving a happy chortle and snuffling at his ear.
All three of them looked up at the curtain flapping in the breeze.
Drae closed his eyes. “Please tell me that’s not Emin’s bedroom.”
Eddie and Dóma exchanged glances. “It’s not,” Eddie said.
Drae opened his eyes again and raised his eyebrows sceptically, making Dóma chuckle. “Well, it is, but you said not to tell you.”
Groaning, Drae picked the lemur up off his shoulder and held her in front of him. She hung there, attempting to look cute and innocent. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Hide her,” Eddie recommended. “At least until after we know whether or not Emin wants to make slippers out of her. Again.”
Suain squirmed and curled her tail, prising at Drae’s fingers with her own soft, clever ones.
“You almost deserve to be caught by him,” Drae told her sternly, giving her a gentle shake.
The lemur blinked her pale, round eyes, the picture of fluffy innocence.
“Go hide,” Drae ordered, trying to sound stern and failing by a mile. Kissing Suain on the head, he put her down and shooed her into the forest. “And don’t wreck or grab anything else!”
Chortling, Suain scampered away, no doubt already planning her next act of mischief.
“She didn’t listen to a word, did she?” Drae muttered.
“Nope,” Eddie and Dóma agreed.
Sighing and scrubbing a hand over his short hair, Drae closed his eyes. “I apologise in advance for anything she might be about to do.”
“Does that ever work?” Eddie wondered.
“No.” Drae’s shoulders slumped. “But one day it might, so I keep trying.”
Feeling sorry for him, Dóma let go of Eddie and linked arms with Drae instead. “Since we can’t stop her, why don’t you walk with me and the pair of you can tell me what was so important that you stopped me going after Freyda?”
Drae’s unusual blue eyes suddenly lit up and he grinned. “Ah, yes, you can settle an argument for us.”
“For me,” Eddie corrected, linking his arm back through Dóma’s again, so she was walking between the two of them. “You’re bound to agree with me, because I’m right.”
“You’re not, and you know it,” Drae retorted.
“Why don’t you explain it to me?” Dóma suggested. “Then we can settle this once and for all.”
“There you go again, being all logical. Freyda’s such a bad influence,” Eddie sighed, but when she glared at him he held up a hand. “But you do have a point. You tell her, Drae.”
“It’s a very important question, so don’t feel you have to answer straight away. You can think it over, because it is difficult. But I know you’ll come up with the right answer.”
“And see things my way,” Eddie added.
While the two men glared at each other, Dóma raised her eyes to the twilight sky. “Will one of you just tell me?”
“All right,” Drae said. “Which is the sillier poet – Lear or Carroll?”
“What?” Dóma stopped dead, forcing both men to pause too.
“Who wrote the sillier poems?” Eddie asked, slowly, as if she was being stupid. “Edward Lear or Lewis Carroll?”
“This is the important question you stopped me for?” she demanded. “You stopped me going after Freyda for this?”
The two men exchanged glances again. “But it is important,” Drae assured her earnestly.
“Vitally so,” Eddie added with a straight face.
Dóma stared at them, searching for the slightest crack in their demeanour, waiting for one of them to laugh and admit they were joking. She knew poetry was important to them, but a question like this?
Except they didn’t crack, and they didn’t laugh. They were serious. Or brilliant actors. Growling wordlessly, she pulled her arms free and took a step back. “I think you’re both insane.” Spinning on her heel she marched off, knowing it was likely too late to catch up with Freyda now, but willing to try anyway.
“So you’ll get back to us on that later then?” Eddie called.
Ignoring him, Dóma turned the corner of the manor and stomped along the path. Not even the return of Symphony to her shoulder could cheer her up. “This is not my day,” she grumbled at the song thrush. “I knew I should have stayed in bed.”
Symphony made a squashed sound of agreement and they trudged on through the Garden.
* * *
“Thanks, Nel!” Freyda called a cheery goodbye as she left the comfortable little cottage in the wood, latching the gate behind her. Carroll met her with a merry chirrup and she smiled. “Candles done. Next up, flowers and a picnic.” The flowers she could gather along the way, but the picnic would be a trickier endeavour. Luckily Fara had agreed to help.
Yet as she knelt down and started adding flowers to the basket holding the candles, it wasn’t Fara who found her, but Maskai.
“Your preparations are going well?” the Entity asked, caught between her forms today, with shadow-dusted skin but flaming red hair. It should have looked strange, but such was the power of Maskai that it looked right.
Freyda smiled at the other woman, one who so many Aekhartain were in awe of, yet she had come to regard as a close friend over the last twenty-odd months. “Almost done. I keep expecting Dóma to track me down at any moment, though.”
Maskai raised her head as if able to see past the trees. “She’s just left Drae and Eddie, but I think Alamé is about to meet up with her. If not, Ollie is standing by.”
“Oh dear.” Freyda gave a low chuckle. “I hope they won’t all wind her up too much.”
“I rather fear she’s having a bad day,” the Entity admitted.
Freyda hummed sadly. “I hope she won’t be too annoyed. I want her to enjoy all of this.”
“She will,” Maskai assured her. “She’ll be with you.”
The words and smile were both warm, but not nearly so lovely as the prospect of being with Dóma again. Of being alone together, doing nothing but wasting time. Freyda smiled. “Then I’d better hurry up and finish, so she can join me, hadn’t I?”
“What do you need?” the Entity asked, raising her hand so that shadows flowed into her palm, ever-eager to do her bidding.
“Just the picnic now, and then I’ll need to collect the cake and muffins from Emin, before setting everything up.”
“Consider them done. Now go get things ready. I think Dóma needs a break.”
Feeling lucky to have such a useful, if unusual, bunch of friends, Freyda picked a last couple of flowers and imagined up a few small vases for them to go in. Then she stood up and took a deep breath. “Wish me luck?”
Maskai smiled and brushed a shadow-tinged hand gently across her cheek. “You don’t need it. Just enjoy yourselves.”
“I intend us to,” Freyda chuckled and called her wings. They flowed down her back as smoothly as the shadows surrounding the Entity. Then, with Carroll on her shoulder and the basket tucked into the crook of her arm, Freyda wrapped herself in her black feathers and faded away from the Garden.
* * *
“I do believe we’re going in circles,” Dóma grumbled, slumping onto a tree stump to rest her aching feet. These boots had seemed so smart this morning, and so practical when she’d been chasing Suain, but they were really starting to pinch now. “I think I should have stayed at home. If not in bed, then at least by my piano.”
Symphony trilled sympathetically, hopping onto Dóma’s knee and twitching her wings.
Dóma smiled down at her feathered-friend and sighed. “Am I wrong to suspect a conspiracy may be at work?”
After escaping from Drae and Eddie, she’d stumbled into Alamé and spent rather a long time discussing the merits of silk over linen, and vice versa. Which had been lovely, but not the usual sort of thing she and Alamé talked about. Then Nel and Ollie had invited her in for some delicious tea and biscuits, plying her with more and more treats as if they desperately didn’t want her to leave. Flattering, but also a little frightening. After she finally escaped, she stumbled into Karri, who asked for help in tracking down an illusive plant that may or may not even exist in the Garden. (After an hour of searching, they’d decided it didn’t.)
Now, at last, she was alone and able to sit, but she suspected it wouldn’t stay that way for long. “All I want is to find Freyda and shut everyone else out. Is that wrong?”
Symphony cocked her head and flicked her wings. Birds really were the most hopeless of confidantes. Or at least hers was.
“Did I hear you mention Freyda?”
Right on cue, another Aekhartain arrived. Dóma tried to muster up a smile for Shaiel, but was too fed-up and weary to manage. “Don’t tell me, you just saw her jogging off in that direction?” She nodded back the way she’d just come.
Raising his eyebrows, Shaiel sat down on a nearby log – freshly grown out of the Garden just for that purpose. “No. I think she’s running errands for Maskai.”
Well, that would explain why Dóma hadn’t been able to track her down. It didn’t explain the strange behaviour of the others, though. She sighed. “What do you want to talk about then? Got a strange type of fungus you need to identify? Perhaps there’s a particular beetle we need to find? Or maybe you need my opinion on something useless?”
At each fresh question Shaiel’s smile grew broader. “Having that good of a day, are you?”
“You have no idea,” she groaned, resting her head on her knees. Symphony flitted aside at the last moment and landed on her back instead.
“Everyone is against me.”
“Poor Dóma,” Shaiel soothed. “Although…”
“No, no, hear me out, it’ll be fun. I promise.”
“No, it won’t.” She shook her head. “They all said that, but they all lied. It’ll be tedious and pointless, and probably frustrating too. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care why, I don’t care if I sound like a heartless beast, but no, Shaiel. The answer is no.”
“What if I promise to take you to Freyda afterwards?” he cajoled.
She lifted her head a little. “You promise?”
“And it won’t take all day? Or even several?”
“Not even a whole afternoon, I promise.”
“Cross your heart, hope to die?”
“Stick a feather-quill in my eye,” he agreed solemnly.
Dóma wrinkled her nose suspiciously, then sat up slowly, allowing Symphony time to shift onto her shoulder without getting tangled in her hair. “What do you want me to do?”
Shaiel grinned and stood up, offering his hand. “Nothing too taxing.”
She reached for his hand, then hesitated. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“I hate surprises.”
He just arched a pale eyebrow, and she growled again, unable to deny her curiosity now. “Oh, go on then.”
Their hands connected and Shaiel tugged her close, his black and white wings wrapping around them both. Dóma gave a startled jolt as the Shadow Garden vanished to be replaced by a bright blue sky, a fresh breeze and clean mountain air.
Lowering his wings, Shaiel turned her around and gave her a gentle nudge. “Surprise,” he whispered in her ear, stepping back and fading away.
Dóma barely even noticed him leaving. All she saw was the familiar green glory ahead of her, as the alpine meadow dropped steadily away, revealing the glorious valley below and the blue-grey peaks above. The sky was dotted with wispy clouds and the sun burned brightly overhead.
She’d been here before, many times. Happy memories rose up to embrace her, as Symphony flittered up into the sky, trilling happily as she met a familiar blackbird. But all her memories paled beside the neat little picnic laid out on the grass, scattered with vases of pretty flowers and unlit candles. And the sight of Freyda, standing nervously off to one side.
Dóma took one step closer and stopped. She stared at Freyda, pleased and confused. What was going on?
The moment Dóma’s eyes met hers, all of Freyda’s nerves and uncertainties faded away. Seeing that Dóma was lost for words, Freyda relaxed and stepped over the picnic to take hold of her hands, linking their fingers together. “Happy anniversary.”
Dóma’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Freyda smiled. “Really. A year today. I’ve been keeping track on my visits back here. It’s hard to count in the Garden, but out here it’s easy.”
“A whole year?” Dóma whispered.
“A whole year.”
Beaming, Dóma jumped up, throwing her arms around Freyda’s neck. “Happy anniversary!”
Not expecting such an enthusiastic attack, Freyda stumbled backwards, caught her leg on the picnic basket and crashed down amongst the delicate snacks and treats she’d so carefully gathered. Flowers and candles snapped and crunched beneath her back, and she winced, quickly imagining the glass into sand before it could do any damage.
All that hard work, wasted.
“Oops,” Dóma giggled, rubbing her nose against Freyda’s, and suddenly she didn’t care if the picnic was squished or not. She could always imagine them something better anyway.
“I’m sorry I ruined your lovely celebrations,” Dóma sighed, lifting up slightly and looking around at the wreckage they’d created. “And I didn’t get you a present.”
“Yes, you did.” Running her fingers into Dóma’s lustrous hair – delighted that she was wearing it down for once – Freyda tucked her hand behind her girlfriend’s head and pulled her back down for a kiss. It was the best and only present she wanted. Well, that and a hundred shared years.
And then a thousand more.
“Thank you,” Dóma whispered between kisses. “For getting out of bed this morning.”
Pulling her close again, Freyda chuckled. “It was tough, but you’re welcome.”
Never met these characters before, but want to know more?
Try Sing to Me.
Already read that, but want to know more about Freyda’s life before Dóma and the Shadow Garden?
Try Orion’s Kiss.
If you’ve also already read that… well, be patient, because I’ll be returning to these two and all their friends soon.
Thank you for reading!