“Jillian.” The woman spoke first in a rather haughty voice. “Can’t say as I’m surprised.”
“He had me declared dead!” Jillian shot the accusation as sharply as any weapon ever thrown or fired.
The woman’s eyes turned just as sharp. “Your son.” She started to speak, but Jill interrupted.
“I’m not talking about my son. This is about Barf-on,” she said.
“Jillian! You should not talk about the Tyrant in that manner, especially now that he is a poor widower.”
“He is nothing of the sort! We were formally divorced!” Jill’s anger reached a peak. Ethan wanted to hold her, to help her calm down, but he feared for his life.
The blond woman shrugged. “You know people. Most people believe what they are told and reality rarely interferes with that. Who remembers your divorce? That’s ancient history.”
“But it hasn’t been a hundred years.” Jill’s approach turned from anger to clever. “I can’t be declared dead until I am missing at least a hundred years.”
The woman shrugged again. “The Senate went along with it. I suppose you could take it to court.”
Jill picked up a vase and threw it at the woman. It went through and shattered against the floor and far wall while the woman merely shrugged. “Still the same old Jillian. You were always one for physical violence.”
“And don’t you forget it or I’ll find where you are and come and knock your brains out.” Jill waved her fist at the woman and Ethan finally felt it was time to move. He caught her in his arms, and she turned into his chest and cried a little.
“And you are?” The woman looked at him, and Ethan was not about to be nice to her even if he figured out who she was.
“Ethan Hill. Jill’s husband for real and forever,” Ethan said. “And that makes you my little sister, doesn’t it Viviane?”
The woman was almost fazed by that. It took her a second to regain her haughty composure. “I suppose, if marriage to a non-person can be counted as valid.”
Jill swung around again, a lioness defending the pride. “He is one of us by every chit of adoption and inclusion. That case was decided by the courts ages ago, and if I choose to marry him, what is it to you?”
The woman shrugged a third time as if to say it meant nothing to her. Then there was another shimmering image, and a younger woman, dark haired like Jill but with bright green eyes came into focus, and this one took on some substance, ran to Jill to hug her, and cried as she ran. “Jillian. I knew you would come. I never quit hoping. Oh Jillian.” The poor young woman wept.
After a minute of Viviane rolling her eyes at the domestic scene, Jill introduced her youngest sister, Diana. Ethan said hello and he was going to shake hands after his fashion, but he decided a hug was better. As he hugged this little sister, she whispered in his ear. “Don’t let Viviane bother you. She is really a witch in disguise, you know.”
Ethan nodded. “I figured that out.” He returned her whisper.
Diana turned, then and took both of Jill’s hands. “I am so happy for you. He seems very nice.” She hugged her sister and cried some more until Viviane had enough.
“Is there anything else?” Viviane interrupted. “I mean anything important?”
Jill set Diana in Ethan’s hands and stepped up to confront her sister. “Yes,” she said. “I have restored my presence in the house banks and sent my presence to a large number of friends with instructions to catalogue the truth so no amount of cleaning the house banks will change things. You go back and tell Ass-on that he has ninety days to have me declared undead or I will take his throne and give it to Ethan. And you know me, Viviane. I don’t make idle threats and I don’t kid about things like that.”
Viviane drew herself up to her haughtiest height and vanished. She left only a smoky image for a second before she was gone altogether. Ethan swore he could smell the sulfur in that smoke.
Jill reached back for Ethan’s hand, which he gave, even though he was going to have something to say later about this throne business. Diana faced her sister again and spoke first.
“Did you really mean that? Do you really love him?”
“Yes,” Jill said. “To both questions.” She came close to Ethan and touched his cheek.
“Maybe someday.” Diana sighed, and looked longingly at Ethan.
“But where are you?” Jill asked her sister.
“Ah, I left the house bugged for your return. Right now I’m on another world.” She rattled off the information like a machine gun in operation. “And you were right. You were very, very right. There is so much going on in the worlds, and some of it is very bad and needs to be stopped. I am almost finished with my trip line, but I am going to go back for more. So far, you should be proud of me. I have only had to remove two guardians who turned the wrong way. That’s not bad at all.”
“I am proud of you,” Jill said without comment on the removed guardians. “But I worry about you, too. It is dangerous out in the worlds.”
Diana nodded and looked serious for all of a second before her perfect smile popped out again. She was just too happy to contain herself. “I have to go, but I’ll be here in ninety days. Did you really mean it?” She asked again.
“Yes, sweet. I really meant it.”
“God! I can’t wait,” Diana said, and she vanished too, though Ethan imagined the smell of rose petals in her mist.
“Bundle of energy.” Ethan described the woman as Jill turned into his arms. With that, all thoughts of the sisters vanished.
“You said you were my husband already,” Jill softly reminded him.
“I will be, as soon as football season is over, if you will have me,” he responded.
“Football season?” She looked up into his eyes.
Ethan nodded. “I thought you might let my dad give you away, unless you have a favorite uncle or something.”
“Oh, Ethan.” She spoke in a rather foolish voice, and the two became lost in each other’s arms while Manomar looked quietly out the parlor doors and studied the gardens.