220 Chapter 217 Traitorous Warmth
Stella watched her mother as she wiped a child's face off. The child smiled and laughed at something her mother said, before skipping off to play. Her mother then turned to clear the table where a group of children had just been sitting a few minutes before, finishing their lunch.
Anger at the injustice of her past welled up inside of her, and she fought to keep the emotions from Joseph. This was something she had to deal with, nothing for Joseph to be bothered with. He had enough on his plate, informing his parents of the coming wedding. That thought brought butterflies to her stomach, and she placed a hand on it, suddenly thinking about the child that might grow there some day.
With a shake of her head, she turned back to the problem she was facing at the moment. This woman who was her mother, should be told of the impending wedding, and given an opportunity to be invited, even if she didn't remember who she was, or the horrible life she had provided for Stella so long ago. While she was tempted to just forget the whole mess, she was stuck with a problem. She had told Joseph that she wanted an authentic fey wedding, and that required her mother to help her with her hair. It was custom. But her mother wasn't aware of that custom, or how to help her.
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There wasn't anyone still living, as far as she knew, that knew the traditions of her past life, so if she wanted to change something, now was the time.
"Stella?" said her mother in surprise, spotting her in the doorway.
"Good afternoon, mom, how are you doing today?" she asked, stepping into the room. She still wasn't sure about going forward, but she really didn't want to break tradition if she didn't have to. This woman seemed to be so good with children…why couldn't she have had that?
"Oh, my day has been good. Little Timothy scraped his knee while playing hide-and-seek, but other than that, it's been good."
Stella's eyes darted over to the children, as if searching for the one with a bandaged knee, but she knew magic would have been used to heal the scrape.
"I came to tell you that I am getting married," blurted out Stella.
"Oh! Congratulations! To our king, Joseph, right?" she asked, picking up the stack of dishes off the table, and taking them over to the sink.
"Of course," nodded Stella, wondering how she could ask this person to help her do her hair.
"That's wonderful! I know a lot of people have been wondering when you two would tie the knot. Is it going to be a big affair, or just something small? You know all of us subjects want to celebrate, too!" Her smile and soft laugh caused daggers to jab at Stella's heart, and she smiled in response.
"I don't know what Joseph has planned for the kingdom, but I'm sure he has something. The wedding is going to be small, because I don't think I could handle a large one."
"Oh, I imagine you'll look fantastic in your dress! Do I get to come? I know that I wasn't there much," she said, with a furrow to her brow. "But all my friends will be so jealous!"
Stella had been about to mention her need for help with her hair, when her mother threw in that last bit, and she closed her mouth again. This woman had no relationship with her. She was her mother, but that was it. She gave birth to her, and then left her for all intents and purposes.
"It would be nice if you attended. Do you mind? I can have Joseph pick you up," she said, making her mind up. There were some things that she could do, that would still stay in tradition.
"Oh, that would be fantastic! I'll need to get a dress! What color should I pick out?" she asked, turning in delight.
Stella sighed inwardly, as she glanced around the small classroom, where her mother spent most of her days. It was clean and neatly organized, a far cry from the filthy hovel they had lived in during her young childhood. Looking back at her mother, she saw the faint traces of lines forming along her eyes from all of the smiles she had to give out to the children around her now. She was glowing and happy.
"Tradition states that the mother of the bride should wear red, to show that she would kill any who tried to prevent the marriage," explained Stella, watching the delight drain out of her mother's face. Should she have left off that last bit?
"Oh, dear! What tradition is that from? I'm afraid I don't remember it," stuttered her mother, turning back to start washing the dishes with a bit of a rush.
"It's an ancient tradition that dates from before the time of corruption that plagues the world tree. If you don't want to wear red, that's fine, but Joseph will still come to pick you up," said Stella, turning to leave.
Her mother was quiet as she made her way to the door, but then spoke up before she could leave.
"Stella? Do you need anything? Perhaps help getting dressed or maybe your hair?"
She didn't want to turn around and see the look on her mother's face, because the tone of her voice was so warm, and she just didn't want that warmth she shared with the little kids directed at her. It should have been hers from the beginning.
Swallowing the roiling emotions, she turned and smiled. "Maybe you could help me with my hair?"
"I'm not very good, but I would love to help you out! There's not going to be any magic involved, is there? For some reason I just haven't been able to understand any of it. Everyone has tried and tried to explain it to me, but I just don't get it."
Paused in shock, she shook her head no.
"I don't get magic either," she said in a soft voice.
"Fancy that! We have something in common after all! I've wondered and wondered about that, since we never really spend much time together."
Her mother smiled sweetly at her, and Stella felt a warmth. She wanted to fight it, and hold on to that anger and frustration, but that would be childish. She was supposed to grow up and get over her issues, not hold on to them and form grudges, right?