Maeve fidgeted in her chair as she tucked and then untucked her hair from behind her ears and glanced around the room. It was bright and sunny and slightly noisy as other patients met with their families.
Every Saturday was family day, though her mother's doctor told Maeve she could come by during the week if she made an appointment in advance. So far, she hadn't been by, saying it was so her mother had time to adjust without any distractions. But really it was more so Maeve could adjust to her new life before she allowed her mother to play a more active role than she had over the past few years.
Her mother's doctor had still given Maeve updates, assuring her that things were progressing well. Her mother was settling in, talking in group sessions, making friends with some of the other patients. While Maeve was happy to hear her doing so well, she wasn't holding her breath.
She had heard it all before. Every doctor had their own diagnosis for her mother and assured Maeve that she would be functional and able to live on her own in due time. And each time the meds would work for a bit. And then they stopped, and Marianne Byrne was right back where she started.
"Here we are, Ms. Byrne."
Maeve looked over, holding her breath as her mother was led over to the table where she was sitting by a nurse.
Marianne had always been beautiful. Loved beautiful things and old Hollywood. Before she got pregnant with Maeve, she had been studying dance and theater and was destined to take the stage by storm, at least according to herself. She would regale Maeve with stories when she was a little girl about all the plays and musicals she had done in school. How agents were looking into her already even when she was just a fresh-faced freshman at university.
It was strange to Maeve; she had had such big dreams. And then they all disappeared after that week Marianne spent with her father. She had gone from chasing down auditions to chasing down his specter.
Regardless, Marianne never left the house without a full face of makeup and her hair perfectly styled - even during her bad spells. It was how they often fooled the social workers and others. Maeve got most of her looks from her mother - her dark, wavy hair; clear, pale skin; lithe figure. Even if she never made it as a Broadway star, Marianne did her best to look the part, often walking around as though she were already famous. She always managed to get food on the table, but whatever extra money she got her hands on, Maeve was certain Marianne spent on shoes and dresses.
Which is why it was a shock for Maeve to see her now. She was dressed in cotton pajamas and a cotton robe, something she would never wear in the past. Her dark hair was now streaked with gray and pulled into a loose braid that fell over her shoulder and there was no makeup to be seen on her face, causing her to look closer to her actual age of 43. Maeve didn't remember her mother having nearly so many wrinkles.
But her deep blue eyes still held a youthful glint to them. And her lips - void of her signature red lipstick - were stretched into a brilliant smile.
"Hey, Mom," Maeve said, smiling at her as she stood. Marianne pulled her into a hug, holding her daughter tightly. She then let her go and waved off the nurse without taking her eyes off Maeve. The two sat and she reached over, enveloping Maeve's hands with her own as she squeezed them hard.
"It's so good to see you, my darling," she said breathlessly. "I wish they'd let me call more often in this damn place. Hearing your voice is like a balm to my soul."
She was definitely having a good day, Maeve thought to herself. The doctor was trying her on a new regime of medicine, and it seemed to be working so far. Marianne's eyes were clearer than Maeve had seen in a while, her voice strong and lilting.
"How have you been doing?" Maeve asked. Marianne sighed and looked around the room, wrinkling her nose slightly.
"It's a bit… not to my usual taste, but it has its perks, I suppose," she said, looking back at Maeve. "They do karaoke every Thursday night."
"I'm sure you love that," Maeve said, genuinely smiling this time. Marianne waved her hand in the air, chuckling softly.
"Well, you know me. If the audience demands me to keep singing, then who am I to deny them?" she asked. "I'm slowly teaching the wonders of Gershwin."
"Sure that's interesting," Maeve said, glancing around to the others in the room. She wasn't so sure if they were the type that appreciated musical theater.
"Regardless, I'm good. I feel good," Marianne said. "I feel like this time, the doc's got it right." She gripped Maeve's hands again. "And soon enough, I can get out of here and come home to take care of my darling girl." Marianne reached out and lightly brushed Maeve's cheek with her thumb.
Maeve looked down at her hands, not responding. She still hadn't decided what to do but didn't want to ruin her mother's good mood. Mentioning the possibility that she might be placed in an assisted living center for the mentally ill would most certainly do that. And Maeve preferred her mother happy if they were going to talk about her father.
"Yea… sure," she said.
"I'm serious this time, Maeve," Marianne said vehemently. "I should have been there for you after the accident. And I wasn't. I'll never forgive myself for that." Maeve looked up at her, seeing her mother's eyes brimming with tears. "I mean it."
"It's okay," she said softly. "As you can see, I'm okay. I came out on the other side."
"But it doesn't excuse me for being an absentee mother," Marianne said. Maeve bit her tongue before she made a comment on that. Instead she swallowed and smiled.
"Well, suppose this'll be a fresh start," she said. Marianne nodded, smiling though a tear fell down her cheek.
"So, tell me, how is your new place? Are you settled? Find a good job?" Marianne asked.
"Yea, things are… good," Maeve replied, unsure of just how much she wanted to tell her mother. "I'm teaching advanced ballet at a top studio."
"That's fantastic!" Marianne nearly shouted. "Now, have you found a beau?" Maeve blushed and cleared her throat, looking away. She most certainly was not going to mention Niall. "You're seeing someone, aren't you?"
"I mean… we've just met. It's nothing serious," Maeve said quickly and intentionally keeping things vague. "But… there's… there's actually something I wanted to ask you about."
"Ask away, darling," Marianne said. "We have no secrets."
"Mom… what do you remember about my father?" Maeve asked. Marianne's eyebrows flew up in momentary shock, but then she laughed.
"Darling, I've told you all that. What more is there to know?" Marianne asked, though she began to toy around with her necklace nervously, wrapping her other arm around her middle.
"I'm looking for him," Maeve said. Marianne was silent as her eyes widened and she leaned towards her daughter.
"What?" she asked softly, now tightly gripping her necklace. "Why would you do that?"
"I need to know who I am," Maeve said, frowning slightly.
"Take my advice - don't," Marianne said sternly. The response stunned Maeve. "I'm serious. He'll only be found when he wants to be and I'm quite sure after years of searching, if I haven't found him then he doesn't want to see either of us again."
"Please, Maeve," her mother pleaded. "Don't torture yourself like I did." Maeve was silent a few moments, then looked down at her hands.
"What if I've found some people who can help?" she asked softly. Marianne sucked in a quick breath, causing Maeve to look up at her again.
"What court?" Marianne hissed, her face turning stormy. "And for god's sake, tell me that you didn't tell them. I always told you that you were to keep it secret!"
"The Dark Court," Maeve said softly. "The… new Dark King, actually. He's taken me under their protection." Marianne considered this and then nodded, her body relaxing slightly, though she continued to play with her necklace.
"I suppose... that's fine. It was the court your father belonged to," she said, crossing her legs properly at the ankle as she straightened out the wrinkles in her cotton pants. "What exactly do you want to know?"
"Maybe… start from the beginning. Maybe there are some details that you forgot to mention before," Maeve replied.
"Well… let's see… I was out at a bar one night with some of my girlfriends in the theater department. I hadn't ever really been out that much before, you see, and they wanted to show me a good time. I had gone to the bar to order another martini and… there he was." A far-off look came over Marianne's face as a fond smile appeared.
"He was tall… so handsome. In a dark, classic way, mind you. And he knew straight away what I was drinking. Had a fresh martini waiting for me - just the way I liked it," she continued. "My god, he was… divine. We had the most amazing week together…"
"Mom, tell me more about how he told you what he was," Maeve said, interrupting her before she went off on a long-winded story about his biceps or knowledge of classic musicals. Or worse, talked about what had gone on during that week, which was something Maeve would rather not know the intimate details of.
"Oh… well. I think you were no more than three or four weeks old. We were in that dumpy little place, remember? Where we lived until you were five or six?" she said. "After our week together, he said I'd never see him again and I was so tired after carrying and delivering you that I hadn't thought about all that much." She was playing with her necklace again. "And then one day, there he was. At our door. And well, I was thrilled, of course. He had somehow heard about you and wanted to see you."
"Do you know how he heard?" Maeve asked. Marianne just shrugged.
"I didn't know what he was at the time, so figured we must have had a mutual friend, or he saw the birth announcement," she said. "Of course, once I found out what he was, I suppose he must have been watching us." She paused, smiling at that thought a moment. "Anyway, I took him to see you and he was… enraptured with you, darling. I thought he would hold you for hours. And for a moment… I thought perhaps we would be a family together. Just the three of us." A sad look came over her face. "It was foolish of me… But then he told me what he was. I was a bit shocked, to say the least. Faeries, my god. But he proved it and then put that charm on you. Said you would need to wear it always." Maeve opened her mouth to ask how, but her mother just continued on speaking.
"He said that it was important that others like him never know what you are or that you're his. Especially Summer faeries. They most definitely should never be trusted. He was some high-level this or that with the Dark Court and because of that, someone could come after you to get to him… It was all rather mysterious, but I trusted him. He then said that he would do his best to take care of us, but… he could never come back," Marianne said.
"What do you mean take care of us?" Maeve asked. Marianne chuckled.
"Darling, where do you think the money came from?" she asked, her eyebrows raised as her movements became a bit more frantic. "Of course, once you turned 18, it stopped. But before then, every month on your birthday like clockwork, there would be a deposit. I wanted to use it for your university, but you wouldn't take a penny from me-"
"Mom. You never said anything about money," Maeve said, frowning. Her father had been giving her mother money for years to take care of her. And yet, she had to work several part-time jobs once she was old enough to cover her dance lessons and make sure their bills were paid. Only got through the dance academy by scholarships.
Where had the money gone?
Marianne blinked a few times as she furrowed her brow, jerking her necklace back and forth rather quickly. Maeve could tell she was starting to get agitated, but she needed to know about this.
"I assume it must still be there. In the account he opened," she finally said lightly. Maeve just stared at her in shock. But then she remembered that she had power of attorney. Meaning she could access all her mother's accounts.
And perhaps find out where the money came from and trace it back to her father.
"Mom… why didn't you say anything? I was working two jobs to take care of us and you… there was money just… sitting there? Or did you spend it all on clothes and makeup? Going out to bars and drinking yourself into oblivion?" Maeve nearly spat.
"I well… I don't know why… I thought I did," Marianne said. "I must have…"
"You didn't," Maeve said. "You said nothing."
"Oh," Marianne replied. She looked down at her lap, a confused look coming over her face. "I'm sure I… but… why…" She looked up at Maeve, starting to wring her hands. "If you find him… will you tell him I still love him. Maybe send him here? No, no… we can wait until I'm out. I don't want him to see me like this." She looked down at her pajamas. "Dear god, I look a mess." She looked over towards the nurses. "They've stolen my clothes and my makeup."
"Mom, no one has-"
"Yes, they have! Why is it not in my room?!" Marianne shouted shrilly. "They've stolen it and I want it back!" In just that second, her eyes started taking on a crazed look. "I MUST have them all back!"
"Do not touch me!" Marianne shouted, scowling at the nurse that had walked up, yanking her arm out of her reach. Maeve remained silent, suddenly feeling guilty that she had set off her mother. She hadn't intended to. Fuck, she shouldn't have gone on about the money. "Tell me this instant where you have put my things!"
"They're safely in your room, Ms. Byrne," the nurse said soothingly.
"NO, THEY ARE NOT!" her mother shrieked. Another nurse walked over and the two started trying to coax her out of her chair and from the room. Already she was starting to set off others around her. "UNHAND ME!"
Maeve didn't move, just sat silent as she watched them drag her mother out, still shrieking about her dresses and makeup and how she needed to look good for her lover.
Once she was gone, Maeve dropped her head onto the table. Even though she had gotten some information out of her mother, and possibly a lead on finding her father, she knew that she had just set her mother back. For a moment there, she thought perhaps she would be okay this time. That whatever medication they gave her would work.
But part of Maeve knew that it wouldn't. That it never would. Her mother didn't have some illness that the doctors could diagnose and treat.
Finally, she stood, wiping her cheeks as she grabbed her purse and walked out of the room, her cheeks blazing with the looks others were giving her. She walked out to her car and once safely inside, she allowed the tears to fall.
Her mother was never going to get better.
Maeve sighed as she made her way up the stairs to her apartment, feeling dejected. Her mother's doctor had called on the drive back and asked that she not come for a while. That they had to sedate her. That it would be more beneficial if Marianne was allowed time to adjust and get better before she came again. Maeve had agreed, but she couldn't help the lump in her throat.
For everything she had been through with her mother, she did still love her and wish that she could get better.
She stopped in front of her door and fished out her keys from her purse and then unlocked it. As soon as she walked in, she froze, her eyes wide.
Aislinn jumped up from the sofa, a hopeful smile on her face.
"Hey," she said softly.
"Hey," Maeve replied, shutting the door behind her. She walked over and put her purse down on the island. "You're here."
"Yea… I… I'm sorry. I should have come sooner," Aislinn said. "I was just… a bit in shock and…"
"I get it," Maeve said, cutting her off. "Pretty sure there's nothing that will throw you off more than finding out your cousin is half-faery." She offered her cousin a small smile. Aislinn returned it and nodded. Maeve walked over and the two sat down on the sofa. "So… questions?"
"You've known your whole life?" Aislinn asked. Maeve nodded.
"Mom told me I wasn't to tell anyone," she said. "Even you and Aunt Elena."
"So… everything with your mom…"
"Yea, because of… him…" Maeve said, frowning. "Apparently he's something called Gancanagh." Aislinn's eyes widened.
"Yes, I know. They get humans addicted and then they either die or go mad when they leave," she said with a sigh. "Suppose mom was one of the latter." She pulled out her charm from under her shirt. "This is why I always wear this. Apparently not only does it hide who I am, but it protects humans from me. Or at least that's what I've been told." She looked down at it as Aislinn reached out for it, studying it closely.
"I've heard of charms protecting humans from faeries, but never something like this," she murmured. "The last time I saw something like it was-" She stopped speaking as a look of pain came over her face. She then shook her head and smiled at Maeve, dropping the necklace. "So… you have any idea who your father is?"
"No. Just that he was with the Dark Court," Maeve replied. "I actually went to see Mom today… see if she had anything she could tell me that I hadn't heard before… today she mentioned he was someone high up in the Dark Court…" Aislinn's eyes widened.
"Is that why you've been meeting with Niall?" she asked. Maeve nodded.
"He said that he'd help me find him. And that I've got the protection of the Dark Court," she replied. "Not sure why I need protection in the first place…"
"He hasn't told you?" Aislinn asked. Maeve frowned and shook her head.
"Told me what?" she asked.
"We're on the verge of war," Aislinn said bluntly.
"Wait, Summer and Dark?" Maeve asked, her head starting to spin.
"No, well… there's always tension there, but no, not that. There's a faery - Bananach - and well, things are really fucked up right now," Aislinn said. "It's all a bit crazy. But she's why you need to be protected. You're my cousin. And connected to the Dark Court. There's a chance she could use that to her advantage. Try and… turn us against each other or something."
Maeve just sat there with her mouth open. She really had picked the worst time to move back to Huntsdale. Why hadn't Niall told her anything about this? Or Seth? Or anyone? Seemed like pretty big news to her.
"I would feel better if you joined the Summer Court. Let me keep a guard detail on you at all times," Aislinn continued.
"I'm, hold on," Maeve said. "There's a faery trying to start a war between the courts?"
"Well… just war in general. We're trying to get along because honestly, it's going to take us working together to defeat her," Aislinn said. "But like I said, it's really complicated, and I don't want to worry you too much-"
"Yea, you kind of fucked that up from the get-go," Maeve said with a sigh.
"Okay, just… don't worry too much about it. If you got my guards with you, then you should be fine," Aislinn said quickly. Maeve just nodded. "And well… you need to be careful with Niall." Maeve looked over at her, her brow furrowed.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"It's different now, and really you're only half human, but I don't want to chance-"
"Stop beating around the bush," Maeve said. Aislinn froze but saw that Maeve was more frustrated than angry, so nodded.
"He almost really hurt my friend Leslie," she said softly. "She's human. And well, Keenan was at fault there too, and it was mostly Irial-"
"Seriously, Ash. You've only gotten worse with the verbal vomit," Maeve said with a slight chuckle. Aislinn took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
"The Dark Court is dangerous. And sly. It gets… violent. Some of the things they do…" she trailed off. "I'm not sure if you fully grasp just how dangerous it can be to be a part of it."
"And that includes Niall?" Maeve asked, thinking of all her interactions with him so far. She hadn't ever felt truly afraid of him. But then again, she barely knew him. Had never even been to the Dark Court. A chill went down her spine.
Maybe Aislinn was right.
"Just… be careful around him. Don't trust him completely," Aislinn said, reaching out and taking Maeve's hand. Maeve nodded.
"Okay. I'll be careful," she said. Aislinn smiled and then pulled Maeve into a hug. With the day she had, Maeve found that she seriously needed it. "Do you have to be anywhere?"
"Not really, why?" Aislinn asked, pulling away from her. Maeve smiled.
"Up for that girls' night?" she asked. Aislinn grinned and nodded.
"Let's do it."