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Ch. 31 - A Grave Tale

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Gretch strained under the dead weight of her friend's arm over her shoulder. Rhianna was having similar trouble. Raisen was conscious but her feet dragged and her body hung limply between them, as though grief had drained the soul from her.

Rhianna's grandmother came partway down the porch steps. "What happened?" she asked, but her eyes seemed to plead them not to answer. She smoothed the hair back from Raisen's tear soaked cheeks and took Rhianna's position.

Rhianna cast her eyes down at the porch.

"We were in the forest," Gretch answered, fed up with secrets.

Rhianna shot her a frown, but there was a touch of relief in her eyes. "I'm sorry Gran. We..." She trailed off.

"We were in Fairy. Tell us what you know. It's a matter of life and death." For two of us now, Gretch thought, casting a glance at Rhianna, who stared at the porch again. There was no sign of the fairy mask on her face, but she had her own kind of mask and had retreated behind it again.

Her grandmother moaned. "Rhianna, I told you. Didn't I tell you. There are consequences for going there—more than a simple tick sucking away your life blood."

"I know," Rhianna mumbled, shuffling up to open the door as they carried Raisen inside. It was much easier now that Gran had the other side, she was closer to Gretch's height than Rhianna. Gretch was taller than all her friends—a bean pole Mom called her.

"You know, but you did it anyway? You had to learn the hard way—you and your mother..." Gran gave up with an exasperated sigh, as they eased Raisen into a chair in the kitchen. She didn't say anything more as she rubbed Raisen's hands vigorously between her own.

"She's in shock," Gretch said, foregoing guest etiquette and helping herself to a canister on the counter to find the tea. She filled the kettle and turned on the stove. She'd heard her mom describe shock enough, talking about her shift in the ER.

Gran nodded, dragging the other kitchen chair over and propping Raisen's feet up. She tsked and gingerly took off the stunned girl's left shoe. Her left ankle was much more swollen than the other and Gretch wondered if there was ice in the freezer.

Rhianna's eyes were wide like a timid creature about to retreat under a rock, but she took a deep breath and caught Gretch's eye. "What can I do?"

"A warm blanket."

Rhianna hurried out of the room and Gretch turned to her grandmother, who had the same thought about the ice and was cracking an ice tray into a ziplock bag. "What's done is done. Rules were broken, but that is something to worry about later. Jenny has been taken."

The old woman pursed her lips, and for a moment she looked so much like her granddaughter. She folded the bag of ice into a tea towel and placed it on Raisen's ankle. Her movements were slow and deliberate. Gretch was beginning to think that she would keep her stubborn silence when she finally spoke.

"The stone is a grave marker for my granddaughter."

Everything suddenly made sense to Gretch. Rhianna was the fetch, her human doppelganger died as a baby. "You buried her there."

The door creaked and Rhianna came through, hugging the blanket to her chest. Gretch could tell she'd heard.

Her grandmother looked up, and realizing the same thing, she said, "Rhianna...I didn't mean it like that. You are my granddaughter as much as she was."

Gretch took the blanket and spread it over Raisen and tucked it in around her.

"That isn't what you said to Barton," Rhianna said with an edge to her voice.

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