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Chapter 1: Rigel

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CHAPTER 1
    
Rigel (RY-jel): a star in the constellation Orion
    
     "Here, boy, hang this up." Allister Adair tosses his cashmere coat at me and continues talking on his cell while my parents just stand politely by.
     My expression has to show what I think of the jerk, but since he's not looking, it doesn't much matter. Still, my mom gives me a tiny frown and shake of her head. I turn away and take the stupid coat to the hall closet.
     This is Allister's third visit since September, when he found out about M--Princess Emileia to Allister and his cronies, Marsha Truitt to all the regular humans in town.
     Of course, I'm the one who found her in the first place, but Allister never gives me any credit for that. No, it's clear he'd rather anyone but me had met her first. Like that would have kept M and me from forming our soul-deep bond. The bond Allister claims he doesn't believe in . . . but still blames me for.
     "--better not to, just yet. We don't want to bias anything," he's saying into his phone when I come back. "Yes. Later, then." He hangs up and finally turns to greet my parents, who are just, you know, letting him stay in our house. For free. Whenever he wants.
     "Council business," he tells them without apologizing. "I hope I haven't kept dinner waiting?"
     "Not at all." My mom sounds perfectly pleasant, though I can tell by the way she holds her mouth that she's a little pissed. "Why don't you and Van go into the dining room and I'll have it on the table in a couple of minutes." Then, to me, "Rigel, suppose you help me in the kitchen?"
     I follow her, just as glad not to spend any extra time around Allister.
     "Why do you let him--?" I whisper as soon as he seems out of earshot, but she immediately shushes me.
     "Not now, Rigel. Here. Take these into the dining room." She hands me a basket of dinner rolls and the butter dish.
     I manage not to grumble as I do what she asks. Allister glances up when I come in, the first time today he's looked directly at me.
     "I presume the Princess is well, or you would have told me immediately. Have you seen her recently?"
     "M--er, the Princess is fine. I saw her in school yesterday." And this afternoon, after her Saturday Taekwondo class, but Allister doesn't need to know that. He's already glowering because of my slip.
     "I've told you before, boy, not to use that vulgar nickname. It's disrespectful."
     My dad opens his mouth and for a second I think he's going to defend me, but then he closes it again.
     "Sorry," I say. "It's what everyone calls her at school. Since, y'know, nobody there knows she's a Princess."
     Allister keeps frowning at me for a second, like he doesn't believe me or something-which is just nuts, since he has to know what I said is true. Then Dad finally speaks up.
     "It's true, Allister, that all of her friends call her that. It's not a pet name of Rigel's, as you seem to think."
     "Hm. Well." Allister pulls his gaze away from me and looks a little more cheerful. "Soon it won't matter anyway."
     "What do you mean?" I demand. "What won't matter?"
     "This little infatuation of yours," he says, "which I've warned you all along is ill-fated."
     "Why? If you're going to try sending her away again--"
     He looks almost genuinely startled. "No, no, of course not. She made her wishes on that point quite clear. Never mind, boy. Forget I said anything."
     "Go see if your mother needs more help in the kitchen," Dad tells me before I can ask more questions. "She won't want these rolls to get cold before everything else is ready."
     I leave them, but not before catching the smug expression on Allister's face. An expression I suspect doesn't bode well for me--or for M.

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