Dragons next Door has a landing page here.
Audrey watched the woman’s expression, her hands, the way one long curl of her hair was trembling like a seismometer. She waited for a count of three, and then, because she wasn’t sure she trusted her own voice, she counted to three again.
“You seem to be under the impression that Juniper is completely human.” She used “completely” not for clarity, but because it clouded the issue. There were many human-hybrids out there, not many by percentages, perhaps, but enough that 20/20 had done specials on them, enough that most people had heard of someone who had met one.
In her line of work, Audrey had met more than one. Possibly more than a hundred; there were some she wasn’t sure of. Whatever the tv shows liked to suggest, one couldn’t always tell that someone was non-human by looking at them.
“And how would you have come to that impression, mmm?” Sage asked, seeming to, as he often did, read Audrey’s mind.
“She looks human,” Miss Milligan whispered. She stared at her tea in concern. “She looked like a normal little girl.”
“Except the overactive imagination,” Audrey pointed out sweetly. “Now, Juniper is a very imaginative young lady. She enjoys flights of fantasy and make-believe as much as the next child. But, Miss Milligan, there is a difference between that and making up stories.“
The teacher looked up at them with a bit of steel. “Are you telling me, then, that your daughter has actually had dinner with ogres? That she babysits a dragon?”
“Yes, and yes.” Audrey raised an eyebrow. “Did she tell you about the time she slept over with the Harpy hatchlings? Smokey Knoll is a diverse neighborhood, Miss Milligan, as you clearly already know.”
“Yes, yes,” the teacher frowned, leaning forward. “I do have students here from some of the more… easily integrated races.”
Audrey smirked, reading “easily integrated” as “fits in a student-sized desk.” “I’m aware. So why the surprise? We’ve told you we live in Smokey Knoll.”
“You let your daughter spend time with ogres!” the woman exploded. “They are one of the most dangerous races around, and you willingly brought your daughter within their grasp! If Juniper was human – and I don’t entirely believe you that she’s not – I’d be calling child protective services on you! Babysitting dragons, indeed. Are you trying to get her killed?”
“There are plenty,” Sage answered quietly, “that would willingly do that. And plenty who protect her. The Smiths – those would be the dragons – as well as the tribe of ogres, the Euton, who used to be our neighbors, and, more than once, the harpies down the road, have each stopped or put off a hunter who was seeking to harm one of our three children.”
Audrey picked up the thread. “I can’t think of a safer place for our children to be than in the protection of the dragons next door.”
The woman shook her head, clearly out of her league. “It doesn’t seem right. But then again, none of this does.”
Audrey raised an eyebrow. This might prove interesting. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I used to know,” Miss Milligan sighed, “what was real, and what wasn’t. Now I don’t have a clue.”
“Well, then,” Sage smirked. “Ignorance is a good first step.”
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