I wanted to run to her. My bare feet stuck to the ground, a pebble digging into my heel.
I didn’t move away to dislodge the pebble. Its round hardness against my weight reminded me that I was not dreaming, that I was not tucked away in bed. Danny was really gone, and in front of me stood…my mother.
My mother who was many years dead.
The words that had cluttered my heart since her death tripped over one another on the way to my lips until when I opened my mouth, no sound came out.
“Aideen,” she said. Her glowing form moved toward me. Fireflies winked behind her as if drawn to her radiance.
Beneath the glow, I saw the gentle curve of her arms. Her eyes stood out, green and bright as they ever were in life. Instead of the twinkle they used to hold, though, their depth was shrouded in darkness.
I took a step back. The pebble stuck to my heel. “How are you here?”
The words left my lips at only a sliver above a whisper and disappeared into the air before I could be sure I’d really spoken.
“I don’t have much time,” she said. Her gaze flickered up the hill where the bonfire burned like a hungry star. For a moment, I thought I saw a shadow of wistful longing.
I waited for her answer, a thousand questions lining up behind my silence. Not much time — what was that supposed to mean? How was she here? No matter how thin the veil or how holy the day, the dead couldn’t just pop in without great need.
My thoughts shifted to Danny. “Why did you come?”
That she would come now, now when Danny had vanished into the Solstice night after warning me about the very fae who would spirit him away — it bemused and discomfited where years ago I would have felt only relief. My voice grew stronger in her silence. “Why did you come?”
She reached out one still-glowing hand, almost incandescent in the darkness of the night. My mother’s fingertips trailed on empty air, the distance between us more than two feet of open space.
“I needed to tell you…” she trailed off, eyes on a firefly that guttered green-gold in front of her face. She frowned, turned her head as if distracted by something I couldn’t hear.
“What did you need to tell me?” I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at her. This confused spirit, so different than the effulgent woman who had floated on air itself on a Solstice night so long ago.
Opening my eyes once more, I half-expected for her to be gone, blown away on the breeze, leaving only a wake of fireflies to remind me that she’d ever existed.
“I needed to tell you…” My mother’s gaze focused in on my face, the darkness heavy as the depths of a cavern behind the green. “You can’t save Danny, Aideen. You’ll never save him.”
The night swallowed her glow.
You can see the earlier parts of this story here: