A Fragile Immortality
Emily was a good student, and a quiet child. The daughter of a librarian mother, Rachel, and computer programmer father, John, she lived a quiet life out in some of the outer suburbs of the DC area. Neither parent made it home before 6:30pm on most days, so Emily spent several hours alone every day after school. She spent that time generally roaming the woods out behind the house by herself, though sometimes she’d spend that time with her one and only close friend, Amy. When she felt like it, she’d do some work around the house to keep it clean and tidy, though usually she just kept her own room neat and left the rest of the house to her parents since she didn’t spend much time out of her room anyway. At least she’d always take her turn doing the dishes.
In early spring, at the start of a break just after midterms, Rachel called Emily into the study for a discussion. It appears that Emily was going to be a big sister – Rachel was 6 months pregnant, but had hidden the fact from her daughter for those months so as not to upset her with how hard the school year had hit her. But she knew she wouldn’t be able to hide it any longer, as she was starting to show more, so it was time to tell her daughter. Surprisingly, Emily did not have the fit over the pregnancy that her mother expected. What she did have a fit over was the fact that she was going to be required to help turn one of the spare guest rooms into the baby’s room. With her father out of town for a business project, Rachel couldn’t do the renovations by herself and with Emily on a school break it was a good time to get started on it. When Emily stomped out of the house to go cool down by taking a walk in the woods, Rachel let her go, knowing that her daughter needed the alone time to come to grips with the changes that would soon be coming to the household. It was only just past noon, so she figured it was possible Emily would be gone until dinnertime, which she often did if she was upset.
Emily’s walk through the woods was relatively short, but it gave her plenty of time to think. She was upset that her mother was having another baby just when she herself was coming to realize that she needed her mother more than she thought she did, and a new baby would upset the time she could spend with her mother. But after she got used to the idea, and realized it was silly to argue about the renovations, she decided to head home. That was when she heard the sound of an animal in pain. Knowing that some people used traps in the area, she realized someone had brought out a non-humane trap, so she set out to help the animal. To her horror, it was not an animal, and going to provide assistance was all that was needed to steal her away into the hedge, away from the world she knew.
The fetch that replaced Emily walked through the darkening woods back to the house. It was late for dinner, but Rachel didn’t scold her daughter when she arrived late. During the hours that had passed, she’d also come to grips with the fact that if she tried punishing her daughter for her feelings about the baby, she would never get any help at all, and would cause ill feelings between siblings even before the new baby was born. Dinner was served late and they ate together, and Rachel was astounded at flood of suggestions Emily started to make for how she could help with the baby, and ideas of how to fix up the baby’s room.
Emily’s thirteenth birthday passed in a cloud for mother and daughter, and a big party was thrown to celebrate. John was still away for work, so he sent home presents. Both parents wanted to make this birthday extra special for Emily, since it was the last birthday she’d have as an only child. There were some things that happened over the next few months that confused both parents, as Emily became much more helpful around the house, and seemed almost the exact opposite of a normal teenage girl. She almost never argued, and she even became more popular with the kids at school – though there did seem to be some falling out with Amy, as the two girls never spent any time together after that fateful day in the woods. She did a lot to help especially after the baby was born, giving her a little baby sister, Catriona. Catriona was perhaps the most coddled child on the planet, as Emily was always there. But somehow she managed to avoid spoiling the baby, so that by time the baby was 2 years old, she was a fluent talker (if with a still-limited vocabulary) and she was even beginning to read. The two siblings appeared much closer than most, especially given the age gap.