The meme is here: Give me the names of two characters and I will tell you why character A loves character B.
Here is kelkyag‘s second prompt. Rosaria and Willard are from the Aunt Family, as per the tree below.
Rosaria and Willard
Rosaria had brothers. She had sons, she had a father. She had had, for a while, a husband, although that seemed like a very long time ago.
So when she tried on “I love him like this,” like a father, like a brother, like a son, she knew of what she was speaking. And none of them quite fit.
She had other nephews, too, and she could not say that she felt for any of them what she felt for Willard. Willard was – he was different, and not just because of the spark. He was important, and not just because the family had severed him from their embrace and their power. He was her friend, and that… that was what had saved them.
“He should be gone from you,” Elenora had complained. Elenora was the sort that would complain about that. “He is gone from the family, and yet I can see you’re still writing to him. You’re still pining over him.”
“He’s gone as my nephew.” She lifted her chin and glared at Elenora, glared at her Aunt, at the Aunt and dared her to challenge that. My nephew sounded strange when she was still so young, but that was what he had been, and in their family, that was a special bond. “You severed that. But he was my friend. And he is still my friend. He will always be that, no matter how far away he is.”
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A Bear In Winter
Rosaria is known in the family for her fairy tales, in all of which you can find a thread – or sometimes a hole tapestry – of truth. On occasion, Rosaria deigns to write down one of her tales. This is one, and I won’t say that it’s true or that it’s not, simply that this is how she chose to write it.
The bear had been coming around for quite some time before he vanished.
Nieves and Rosa called him that – at first it had been their private joke, but as time went on, they liked to tease him with it. It wasn’t that he was so very hairy, but he’d been wearing a dark brown coat when they first found him wandering in the snow, and his hair and his beard were long and tangled.
They lived alone with their widowed mother…
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Rosaria and Willard kept journals when he left the family. This story covers the beginnings of those journals: anger, fear, and loss.
I told Rosie I’d write down my experiences, but it’s been three days since I left the family formally, and this is the first time I’ve been able to stand putting pen to paper.
It is still unpleasant to think about, much less to analyze, but the knowledge is rare, even if the situation is unpleasant. When people leave the family – which happens so rarely Rosie and I could think of only two – they do not normally leave behind notes on their departure….
For just $1, you can read all the Patreon stories!
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To a number of prompts, starting with Ã. Set in the Aunt Family universe.
“Once upon a time.”
“And long, long ago.”
“And long, long ago.” Rosaria smiled at the children around her. The smile was as much a part of the story as the beginning, as their responses, and the pictures she could see forming in her head.
“How long ago, Aunt Rosa?”
“Long enough ago that the histories have faded into dust. That the stories have been retold until their shapes are lost. That the retellings have been repainted and made into movies.”
“Really long ago, then.”
“So very long ago. Once upon a time, or so we’re told, there lived two brothers. Not just any brothers, no.” Rosaria felt the shape of the story and was intrigued. It wasn’t so often that her tales were of boys. “These brothers were giants. Ãurs, thorn-giants. And they loved each other more than anything in the world.”
One of her nephews started to say “eww,” almost as a knee-jerk. But before he could say anything, he caught a look from two of his cousins. Ahh. Aaah, that’s where they were going.
“And they loved each other,” Rosaria repeated, “the way that the best of friends love each other. They trusted each other more than any other at their backs. And they listened to the other when they needed advice.”
“Besties.” One of Rosaria’s nieces smiled, and squeezed her friend’s hand.
“Besties.” It wasn’t a bad word, as such things went. She waited for the children to finish their giggling, and then continued on. “And so it was all meet and good, until the brothers reached their time of adulthood.”
“Grown-ups ruin everything.” That from one of Rosaria’s favorite nephews, and one that would need watching.
“There are times when growing up can ruin many things.” Rosaria smiled at that nephew in particular, as if sharing a private joke. And perhaps they were. “I myself have found that the trick is to not, quite grow up.”
“But you’re old, Aunt Rosa.”
So she was. She continued with the story, instead. “And certainly do not grow up too fast. Which was the problem, you see, with these brothers, the Ãurs. They were growing up, I’m afraid, faster than they could. They were growing out of their childhood before they were ready to fit into adulthood.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s like being too big for your size six pants, but not yet big enough for the ones your mom bought for the next year.” That niece ought to know. She was growing like a weed.
“Oh. Hunh.” And that nephew wasn’t growing much at all. Rosaria continued. “The brothers reached the time of adulthood, as we all must do. They were still best of friends, still the closest love two brothers could find, until they were tested.”
“Tested. Because, in this land, all must be tested to become adults.”
“Like the standardized exams?”
“Something like that. But, because they were thorn-giants, the testing was to be of their mettle, not of their spelling ability or their skill at matching tiny shapes to one another.” She waited for the giggling to subside.
“Their metal?” One of her nephews frowned. His sister whispered something in his ear. “Oh! Like what they’re made out of.”
“Exactly. They were going to have to prove what they were made of. And to do that…”
The children chorused together. “There would have to be a quest.”
“Exactly. A quest. So, as they were about to reach adulthood, these two thorn-giants, best of friends and best of brothers, began their quest. The one went north, the other south.” Rosaria pointed without error in those cardinal directions.
“What were they looking for?”
The children were so good at cues. “They were searching for a symbol.”
“A symbol? Who sent them after that?”
“Why, their village, of course. For the village are the ones who live with the children, who raise them, and who will work with them when they’re adults.
“Like picking an Auntie.”
That was interesting indeed. “Like growing up in our family, yes.” She folded her hands back into her lap. “They were told ‘go find the thing that most represents you,’ and so they began walking.”
“One to the north and one to the south.” The children pointed.
“Indeed. And the northern brother, he walked up the mountains and down the mountains. He walked around the lake and swam through it. He walked through the snow, and through the rain. And what do you think he found?”
“Nothing indeed. And yet…”
“He found mountains.”
“He found lakes!”
“He found rain!“
“And muddy boots.”
“Very much so.” Rosaria was proud of her students. “He found many things, did he not. But none of them were, he thought, the thing that represented him.
“Meanwhile, the southern brother walked down the beach. He walked through the swamp and around the bay. He walked through the rain, and the storms, and the sunshine that beat down upon his shoulders. And what do you think he found?”
“He found the ocean and the storms!”
“Indeed. He found all of this, and yet…”
“Nothing that was his symbol.”
“Very true. And what do you think they did next?”
“They kept walking!”
“Indeed. They kept walking, the one north, and the other south. When they had to, they swam. When they must, they took boats. When they could, they road trains. They found the warmth and the cold, the wet and the dry…”
“But nowhere their symbols!”
“Exactly.” Rosaria made a circle in the air. “And the one brother kept going, North and North and North, and the other, South and South, and South, unerringly, always the same way, until…” Her fingers met in a loop around the other side.
“They ran into each other!?” The children bounced.
“They did. And they looked at one another. They had been walking for years, by now. Walking forever, it felt like. And what did they find?”
It was one brother who spoke, quietly. “They found their symbols.”
“Very good.” Rosaria loved all of her nieces and nephews, grandchildren and borrowed-kin, but these particular ones, today, she loved more than most.
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For jjhunter‘s commissioned Prompt.
The princess had been the first painting Estebana, Adam, and Anselma had shown Rosaria, first because many young girls dreamed of being princesses, first because, as Anselma had said, in her dry, always-amused voice, “this can be the most dangerous of the stories, for everyone involved. Remember that, Rosaria.”
She had, of course. She’d remembered it when Aunt Estebana had told her the story of her Hero, and gone instead for the Farmer, for her Ned. Ned had been a steady man, a serious man, a reliable man.
Roasaria was careful to never tell her own children, he own grandchildren, not to go after the Hero or the Prince or the Knight. Let them learn on their own, not live their whole lives wishing for something they hadn’t had, the flash of blue eyes and a charming smile.
The Hero. That painting had been stacked sideways against two others, the Prince and the Knight. “These can come after this one, or be part of him, or be completely aside from it,” Estebana had explained to a baffled young Rosa. “We start with the Hero. Many boys start here, as many girls start with her.” Her dismissive gesture had taken in the pretty girl with her tiara as if she was a speck of dust or a bad idea.
“The Hero.” Grandma Anselma’s voice was steady, always steady, always smiling. “He’s a nice one. See him like this, his sturdy chestplate and his long sword. See him when you see a fireman on TV, a soldier coming home from war. This is the one who will protect you. That’s his goal and his shining quest, to protect, to rescue.”
Adam never spoke, but he spoke now, his finger hovering over the painting. “That’s the ding in his armor, the crack there, the dent there. That’s what he takes for the protection. That’s the strength he needs to protect, there in his muscles, there in his sword.”
“There’s a hole in his armor,” young Rosa had pointed out.
There’s a place you can hurt him, a much older Rosaria understood.
“There is,” Adam agreed. “Every Hero has that. Never forget that, Rosa.”
“And him?” At the time, a hole hadn’t seemed all that interesting, nor had the way her aunt and grandma weren’t saying anything seemed significant. The man in the back corner of the drawing, the second face of the Hero.
Aunt Essie smiled. “Ah, him. That’s the Father. Like your father, Rosa, he’s a hero, protecting his family, keeping them safe and warm and fed.”
“Why isn’t there a girl Hero?” The young Rosa had found that very unfair. Princesses were pretty and nice, but she wanted to be a hero, with a sword. She wanted to protect her younger sisters and stab bad guys and her armor would be shiny.
“Aaah.” Essie shook her head. “There are, of course, women who protect, girls who fight and rescue. But they are not Heroes, or Knights, any more than boys are Princesses. That is not how the story goes.”
Rosaria smiled through the decades at her long-gone aunt, and shared a memory of a knowing look with her cousin Adam. Stories, she knew, changed. People changed. And if she wanted to, she could be her own Hero, even now.
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Rosaria sipped her tea and stared out the window at the tiny back yard. She’d moved here when she couldn’t take care of the big house anymore, leaving that to her oldest daughter and her brood. The family did that, passing houses around – this one had belonged to an elderly aunt of Rosaria’s, Estebana – much the way they passed charms, and trinkets, and power. Nothing was ever lost.
It had been Estebana, actually, Aunt Essie, and her grandmother Anselma, who had taught Rosaria about the stories. She could still remember sitting at the kitchen table – now her table, just with a new coat of varnish – learning about the archetypes.
Her cousin Adam, Estebana’s son, had been there, too. It had been his watercolors that she’d learned from, bright, brilliant paintings illustrating the forms the story-characters might take.
“This is the princess,” Aunt Essie had begun. The painting was of a girl in a flowing yellow dress with a white pinafore. Rosaria had wanted that dress so badly, and the little yellow-gold tiara, and the bouquet of flowers. “She represents a certain type of girl. She is pretty, and regal, and she will need rescuing at some point. Unless…” She pointed to one of the smaller women in the background of the picture. “If she is holding this,” this princess wore fringed buckskin, and carried a fierce-looking club, “it will be she that does the rescuing.”
That hadn’t, at the time, seemed that romantic to a young Rosaria. Now, staring out at the daffodils, she saw her granddaughter Lily, wearing a white pinafore and gold tiara, and carrying a giant war-club. It bore reflection.
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Rosaria was not surprised to see Cady coming around more and more often. When Lily’s mother dropped off her handful of children to “visit Grandma,” there were often a few neighborhood kids in the van as well.
This particular day, it was Cady, Lily, her two brothers, and another friend, a shy boy with old shoes that she hadn’t met before, and yet felt she already knew.
“Gather round, children,” she said, as she did when the group was right, “it’s time for a story.” She had been asking around the neighborhood, trying to discover what Cady’s demon was. She had some clues, but nothing definite yet. Perhaps a story would tell her more.
“Once upon a time,” she began, reaching for the story as Lily whispered an explanation to her brother’s shy friend. Once upon a time, indeed. The threads were recalcitrant today, not wanting to give her a story. Rosaria coughed. “Some water for Grandma, dears?”
Chamus hurried to get her a glass of water, and Rosaria relaxed, letting the story take her where it would.
Not Cady, and not the new boy, no, today it would be Lily. Rosaria drank deeply from the plastic cup her grandson offered, and let the story take control.
“Once upon a time, there was a…”
“A knight?” they asked eagerly. “A Queen? A dragon?”
“A princess.” She smiled a bit as she said it. “There was a young princess, youngest of many princesses but no less beautiful. And this princess had come to fall in love with the huntsman’s son.”
She saw it hit home, and wondered if this tale was supposed to be cautionary. She liked those the least.
“She had fallen for the son of the huntsman, who himself would be hunstman in his turn, a skinny lad who hadn’t yet come into his full growth….”
“Is there a quest?” Cady asked eagerly.
“Hrrm, it seems there is. But we will get there when we get there, dear. The Princess’ parents didn’t disapprove of the match, because they didn’t, yet, know about the Princess’ infatuation. Thinking the Princess was too young, they were blind to the consequences.”
Interesting. Lily was squirming.
“But the young noblewoman herself was not so blind, and neither was the boy she loved, not the Hunstman, his father. They would have, she knew, many hurdles to cross before they could be anything more than distant friends. ” Oh, dear. I thought we had a few more years…
“And so, it seems, the Princess and the Huntsman agreed on a quest.” Rosaria smiled benignly, hiding the worry she felt. “To prove themselves worthy for each other, and for the world.”
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From the poll for continuation story from December’s Giraffe Call; a bonus because the main story ran short.
Long after her friend and her brothers had run off to play another game, Lily slunk back into the room. Rosaria, who had been expecting something of the sort, crocheted patiently on her seventh afghan this year. They had, after all, a very large family; this one was going to Florida. Even Florida, she’d been told, eventually had cold days, and any grand-niece or nephew could use a little piece of handcrafted love.
Speaking of needing love… “What is it, Lily?” she asked gently.
“I liked the story you made for Cady,” she started hesitantly. Lily was not normally a shy child, which made Rosaria a little worried.
“I’ve made stories for you as well, honey. It was her turn,” she said, hoping that was all it was.
“I know! I’m patient and wait my turn.” She had two brothers; it was a skill she’d probably gotten very good at. “And I know Cady’s demon. I mean, I’ve seen it. Andmaybetheprincesstoo,” she added, all in a rush. “Does every knight get a princess?”
Interesting. And not a conversation Rosaria had thought she’d be having with Lily, and certainly not that young.
“Well,” she started slowly, teasing out a strand of Lily’s hair and beginning to braid it, “not all knights get princesses, no. Not all knights want princesses, of course. Some want princes, or dairy maids, or a really good book.”
“But some knights want princesses? Jennifer said girls didn’t have to be princesses anymore…”
Even more interesting. “But some knights – and some princess, and other princesses, and even huntsman want princesses. And some princesses want them.”
“Okay.” Lily smiled, tracing the swirling pattern of the afghan. “Tell Jordan I said hi?” She jumped down from Rosaria’s lap and darted out, leaving her grandmother to smile in a bit of bemusement.
That one… is going to be a handful. And a wonder
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