After Part I
Arranging a trip to New York City was neither a quick endeavor nor one done simply. Eva had to get time off of the job that her family still thought she ought to quit. She had to talk Hadelai into letting Beryl come with her — which, in the long run, meant telling her sister what was going on.
Telling Hadelai came with risk, of course. If Haddy told their mother, then she was likely to tell everyone. The same problem if anyone told their sister Fallon.
In the end, Hadelai, Beryl, and Eva ended up going on a “family trip” to NYC, with a promise to the rest of Haddy’s children that they, too, would get a later trip and a blithe answer to the grannies and cousins who wanted to complain that “Even an Aunt needs a vacation once in a while.”
They could not actually tell her no — after all, no matter what they liked to pretend, the Aunt was supposed to be in control, not the grannies and great-aunts and so on — and so eventually, the fuss stopped. By then, Haddy and Eva had their time off, Beryl had been excused from school for a long weekend, and they’d booked their train tickets.
On the train ride to NYC, they perused scans of the oldest extant Aunt diaries, including hand-copied versions of even-older books that had since fallen into dust despite careful packaging. Haddy raised eyebrows at Aunt Sarah’s most racy interludes, and then made her daughter and sister both raise their eyebrows with some of her own stories. The young businessman sitting in the next seat moved once in Utica, and then again an hour later.
“What are you going to do?” Haddy asked, her voice soft. She shot an uncomfortable look at Beryl before looking back at Eva. “I mean, are you going to tell him? What are you going to tell him? How are you going to get in to see him?”
“I… good question. Good questions.” Eva wrinkled her nose. “I brought the diary. I think I’ll show him the part where she wrote about him, and see if anything sparks — poor choice of words — brings up a memory. I should have brought — well, no, I shouldn’t have.” Eva frowned. “I thought about it, but I didn’t want to risk some sort of imprinting.”
“Both you and Beryl would count, wouldn’t you?” Hadelai looked even more uncomfortable. “Women — well, female people — within a marriageable-age?”
“Technically, yes.” Eva pursed her lips. “Even though no, miss Beryl, you know better than to be aiming in that direction for quite a few years. No, I put together a charm that essentially says ‘nope, not me’ for both of us. I want to scout this round, not end up coming home with a Captain America baby.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what Asta was thinking…”
“I think,” Beryl offered, “she was thinking ‘man, he’s brave, handsome, and strong. I wouldn’t mind spending a little time disqualifying myself with him, but, oh, darn, there’s a war on, and that won’t do. Well, I’ll put him aside for later like a can of peaches.’”
Hadelai stared at her daughter in horror, but Eva stifled a laugh. “That does sound like our family. It even sounds like Aunt Asta, I have to admit. All right. So she stored him for later, and it worked better than it ought. The question is — he’s not some trinket someone shoved up in the attic or between the walls — don’t ask, Hadelai, I can just say that the Aunt House does not have a problem with mice or insects — but we can’t just leave him on the shelf and hope the next Aunt knows how to deal with him, or sell him at a yard sale. We have to do something about the Florence Charm.”
“We have to meet him, first,” Hadelai pointed out. “From the pictures, I have to say I might agree with Asta here. But he could have horrible BO or a curse on him, you know. We could want to remove the charm and flee as soon as possible.”
“We’ll find out soon,” Beryl pointed out. “We’re here.”
It was Beryl’s first time in New York City, but she didn’t rubber-neck. It was only her mother’s second time, but she didn’t, either. Eva, who had been there many more times, was both amused and pleased by the determined set of mother-and-daughter jaws, and the way they very intentionally didn’t look around.
“There’ll be time for seeing the sights later,” she reassured them. She had put herself between them, mostly so she could keep an eye on both while navigating them through the packed sidewalks. She didn’t like the city, but there were many things to draw a young archivist here. “Now, let’s see.” She held up her cell phone as if checking a text and floated her small will-o-wisp spell behind it. “Interesting. Definitely not in Avengers tower right now, let’s see. Hrrm. This way.”
“That’s a neat little spell.” Beryl bounced up next to her Aunt. “I mean, I can see — Mom, don’t make that face.”
“You’re not the Aunt, Beryl.”
“And? The power runs through the family. The Aunt just holds the weight and bulk of it, not every little sparkle and ember. That would be silly.”
“He’s in this coffee shop just down the road,” Eva interjected. They were going to go on all day otherwise. “Now… are we ready?”
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