Sharon stared at the phone as it rang again. The shipping container banged as the truck went over a bump in the road, startling Sharon and her two companions.
"Well? Answer it!" Diana yelled, looking angry.
Sharon pressed the button and held the phone to her ear, her heart pounding so hard she didn't realize she'd set it on speakerphone.
"Diana? Are you there?"
"I'm here, mama!" Diana shouted.
"Mama?" Sharon asked, then covered her mouth as the thought sank in. I'm talking to my mother for the first time. She started to blink, her eyes burning with a sudden pressure.
"Who is this? Who am I talking to?"
"It's me," Sharon said, her voice sounding small. She cleared her throat. "It's Sharon Mary Elizabeth. I won't say the rest, because, well, you know."
There was silence on the other end of the line for what seemed like an eternity. Sharon could feel her heart beating in her throat even as the big truck bounced on the road, the sound of the rattling container trailer drowning out whatever was going on at the other end.
The phone made a rustling noise and then a man came on the line. "Sharon?"
Sharon sucked in a breath. "Yes?"
"My name is Eddie Vaughn. The woman you were just speaking to was Caroline Vaughn, my wife. We've been hoping to find you for a very long time. Can you tell us where you and Diana are?"
"We're in the back of a truck, headed south," Sharon said, wiping tears from her face. She wasn't even sure why she was crying. She looked at the other girls and their eyes welled as they watched. "I think we're stuck until the driver stops, though."
"Can you describe the truck?" Eddie asked.
"It has a big red shipping container for a trailer," Sharon said, watching the door move open a little.
The phone made a noise. "Sharon? It's Caroline. I think I know the truck you're in. We can see a truck ahead of us with the back open. We'll pick you up when it stops. We'll be in an old Jaguar. You don't have anything to fear from us. We won't let any harm come to you."
Sharon nodded, wanting to believe everything he said, and realized they wouldn't see her reaction. "Okay."
"I'm so very pleased that we'll be able to see each other again. We thought you were lost to us forever."
Sharon didn't know what to say.
"See you soon, Mama!" Diana yelled.
Mama. Sharon looked to the human girl, and then chewed her lip. Diana wasn't a slave or a prisoner. These Fae were her family. Sharon mumbled goodbye to the phone and clicked it off. "I am such an idiot."
Heather extended a hand full of witch-made cookies. "Here, take one. It'll make you feel better."
Sharon grabbed a cookie and chomped it. Heather offered them to Diana, and Diana took one as well. They sat in silence, eating cookies and feeling better. The truck swerved around a corner in the road, then swerved again the other way. The momentum from the cornering caused the back door the swing open. Sharon looked out the door at the road, watching the spray from the truck's tires making a trail. The rain had lessened to a light sprinkling here, but a the road still shimmered with a light coat of water. The Jaguar from the house followed four cars back. The car directly behind them flashed his bright lights, blinding Sharon for a second. She held up her hand to block the light as the driver put the brights on and kept them on.
Then he started honking.
The truck slowed, and pulled over onto the side of the road. The car that had been honking stopped also.
Sharon and Heather grabbed their backpacks and hopped out. They turned together and helped Diana down, Diana's long peasant dress flowing as she hopped off the container.
"Hey! You're not supposed to ride in the back of lorries," the man in the car yelled as he got out, pointing at the girls and wagging an accusing finger. His lumbering gait and grey hair might have been charming if he'd been smiling.
The truck driver joined them, his hands stuffed in jacket pockets. "What's all this, then?"
"These lasses were stowed in your trailer there, like it was some sort of caravan. Are you smuggling them?"
The driver looked at the girls. "I should say not! What are you girls up to? How did you get in there?"
The Jaguar pulled up behind them, and Diana spoke as Eddie and Caroline Vaughn got out of their car. "We were just having a bit of harmless fun. You were stopped by the side of the road, and we hitched a ride. Look! Our parents are here now."
Everyone turned to watch the couple approach.
"Are these your girls?" The driver of the truck called.
"Aye" Eddie said, playing the part of a long-suffering parent to perfection. "Were they causing trouble again?"
Sharon stared at the Vaughns, her heart racing. They were beautiful; the most handsome man and the most radiant woman she had ever met. The light drizzle didn't even touch them. She sensed that Caroline's magic was shielding them.
"How did you even get in there?" The grumpy man from the car asked, looking to Sharon.
Sharon snapped out of her trance, feeling the threat in his voice. She shrugged "We saw you stopped by the side of the road, and... well, the back was unlocked..."
"Visiting my family," Sharon said, gesturing to the Vaughns. Her heart lurched as she took them in. They stared at her with palpable affection, a tear streaming down Caroline's face.
The men groused and grumbled, carrying on about how the police should be notified, and how the Vaughns were bad parents to allow the girls out of their sight. Eddie and Caroline handled their bluster with a calm kindness that infected the men. The discussion might have taken minutes, but it seemed like hours to Sharon as she watched her parents – her real parents - handle the men and send them on their way. When the men finally departed, a silence fell over the group.
Sharon watched the elder Fae as light drizzle stopped. Birds chirped, the breeze moving the sparse trees and the lush grasses in the fields by the road. The sun peeked from between the clouds. A rainbow arched across the hills behind them.
Diana hugged Eddie and Caroline, then she gestured to Sharon. "Mama, Da, this is Sharon."
A spike of jealousy pierced Sharon's heart at the way Diana claimed the Vaughns. She stood there, taking in the the looks in the eyes of the Fae. Her biological parents were nothing like she had imagined. She felt numb. They watched her as they greeted her; the words sounding familiar and carrying sixteen years of pain, longing and regret with them.
Sharon braced herself as Caroline enveloped her in a warm hug and held tight. Sharon tried to detach herself from what was happening, to stay on her guard in case these people were somehow horrible monsters. She felt a lump in her throat and pressure in her eyes as tears burned to be let free. This Fae creature had given her life.
And then given her up.
Caroline stepped back, her smile radiant, and Eddie took her place. He held Sharon in a gentle hug, his chin resting on her head. He whispered something in a language Sharon didn't recognize, but his voice broke. He took a ragged breath and kissed the top of her head.
Sharon couldn't hold back the traitorous tears as her resolve broke. She wiped away the evidence. "Why?"
"Why what?" Eddie asked.
Sharon swallowed and wiped her nose. She looked Caroline in the eyes. "Why did you give me away?"
"Come and visit with us for a while," Eddie said. "This isn't a discussion to be had by the side of the road. What you need to know foremost, was that we had no choice in the matter."
The Fae walked to their Jaguar, and Sharon followed as they piled in. The parents sat in the front and the girls in the back. Heather took the middle seat in the back, smiling and humming with excitement.
"So where did you travel from?" Diana asked.
Sharon sat in shock, her brain numb from the adjustment to this new reality, and let Heather answer.
"How did you know to come here?"
Heather smiled. "We used magic."
"Your location was hidden from us by magic on this end, else we would have sought you out," Caroline said, looking back at Sharon.
Diana and Heather continued to chat, mostly about California.
As they made their way through the tiny town, Sharon noticed that Diana never once mentioned her human parents. Her true parents. Did she not know they were alive and well? As the car stopped, Sharon looked out to see the bridge they had crossed earlier, complete with the shimmering magic wall.
Eddie opened the driver's door. "I'll be right back. Just have to pay the troll."
Sharon thought she'd heard wrong. "There's a toll here?"
"Troll," Caroline said. She turned in her seat. "He put up a barrier to stop Diana and her kidnappers from leaving. That was before we knew it was you, and that you could fly. Can you see the barrier?"
Sharon nodded, and just then the barrier sank. Eddie returned to the car, and they made their way across the bridge. The car rumbled along the country road as though everything was right in the world.
Sharon watched as they approached the Fae home, fear making her wonder if this was some sort of trap. Had they just brainwashed Diana? Was it possible that someone else had taken Sharon as a baby to protect her from the Fae? What would they do once they passed through the veil of the Glamour and were within their realm?
The car turned into the unmarked drive. Sharon watched them all for some signs of treachery, wondering what she'd see if they were truly evil. The stories about Fairies eating people had to have come from someplace.
The car approached the barrier. The veil of glamour washed over them and they drove up to the house.
Sharon watched as everyone got out of the car, and walked with them to the front door of the mystical little cottage. She heard folk music and thought about the tales of music that entrapped people forever. She looked to Heather, and saw nothing but a rapturous face devoid of doubt. Diana wore a similar expression.
Sharon narrowed her eyes as Eddie opened the door to the cottage and light bathed the group. The music grew louder, and Sharon could feel it tugging at her. The song was full of joy and hope, happiness and revelry. She covered her ears. "Can you turn off that music please?"
Caroline and Eddie shared a look, and nodded to each other. Eddie entered the house, and the music stopped.
Sharon watched as Heather and Diana lost their blissed-out expressions and blinked. "I knew it! You were brainwashing Diana. This is a trap!"
(continue to Ch. 17)
(continue to Ch. 17)