• Published 2nd Dec 2017
  • 4,962 Views, 313 Comments

Twilight In Plain Sight - Mitch H



Twilight and her orphaned niece are starting a new life in a new town, as far from Flurry Heart's monster of a grandfather as they can get. But as far as you might run, you can't run away from you. Especially when magic's involved.

  • ...
14
 313
 4,962

Making Ourselves At Home

Twilight's nightly night terrors were blissfully interrupted by the screams of a terrified child.

Oh, thank God. Wait, no…

Dusk Shine got up from yet another unfamiliar bed, and fumbled in the dark, bumping against a doorframe far, far too close to the bedframe. The light was still on in the TV room, which she left on because if she'd left the hallway light on, Flurry – Skyla would never have gotten to sleep.

Not that either of them had gotten all that much rest so far this first night.

It was only a few steps from Twilight's painfully tiny bedroom to the doorway into Skyla's slightly larger room, further towards the back of the crowded little converted apartment. Twilight's little niece was awake, and sniffing pitifully into her cheap Walmart-purchased comforter, trying to keep from waking her aunt.

"Too late, kiddo. I'm up, come on out of there and we'll get some of that milk, try again in a bit, OK?"

"M' still mad at you, Mom. Don' want any milk."

Dusk Shine was regretting telling Skyla about that little change in their paperwork more and more, especially after she got a good look at the cheap digital clock on the little set of dressers wedged between the inner wall of Skyla's cramped bedroom, and her bed, a twin to the one crammed in Dusk's own bedroom.

I'm going to be dead on my feet tomorrow morning, that'll look good to the principal when I show up to my interview.

Dusk Shine sat on her- on Skyla's bed, just far enough away from her that she wouldn't feel crowded.

"Look, kiddo, I can't help what the marshals put on our paperwork. Neither can you. We can only try and make this work, and not let it affect us too much in here, where you're just you, and I'm just me. We have to take the names, and make them us, but we don't have to take the roles that seriously. There's plenty of 'mothers' who let their brats stomp all over them, and call them by their given names. I can be a terrible hipster 'best friend' mom for you, if you want me to be."

Twilight continued to banter with Skyla until the little girl's eyes flagged, and she drifted back asleep beneath her comforter and her sheets. She had long since learned to not ask Flurry Heart about her nightmares, she'd done some experimenting after a few months, and had discovered that talking about the details only set them further in stone as far as Flurry was concerned.

PTSD was poorly understood when it came to very small children, and Twilight had had to pick and choose among the available literature on the subject. She'd chosen to downplay Flurry's symptoms, and to never, ever rehearse or remind the little girl about her experiences and memories.

The more you think about memories, as far as Twilight was concerned, the more deeply you burnt them into your recollection. Better to encourage Skyla to form new memories and new associations, and to get her to think about those as much as possible. All those months of horrible, grey motel rooms in flat, dull north Texas had not helped the project in the least, though.

Twilight tried not to think of her own nightmares that Skyla had interrupted. About what had once been a beloved family home, broken windows, broken furniture, blood splatters everywhere, blood pools everywhere… and terrified pale blue eyes looking out of a grate protecting the crawl-space within which Flurry Heart had hidden from the cultists.

The crawl-space with a clear view of the living room coffee table upon which they had ritually murdered Cadance and the elder Sparkles.

Skyla wasn't the only inhabitant of this stupid little apartment that didn't need to dwell on horrible memories.

After that, Twilight sat for hours at the tiny table in their tiny, weirdly shaped kitchen under merciless fluorescent lighting, bent over her crafting kit, weaving little charms and cantrips out of Crystal Fireline Jewelry Thread and other repurposed materials she kept on hand. She hadn't been able to bring much with them when they left their last motel-nest, and she exhausted some key portions of her supplies during that late-night session.

'Dusk Shine' would need to find an arts-and-crafts store. One that wouldn't ask uncomfortable questions.

It was only after Twilight ran out of bamboo and 4" pheasant feathers, that she gave in to her mounting exhaustion and went back to bed.

***

"OK, the thing to keep in mind, sweetie, is that our family situation is nobody's business but our own. We don't have to talk about it, we don't have to call each other anything in particular while we're in public, and you most certainly don't have to talk to the other kids about your mother or what happened to your daddy. Now, what are you going to say if someone asks about your mommy?"

"Uh, hey, where's the ice cream shops around here?"

"Deflection, good. But don't use ice cream, it's going to be getting cold soon. Or, you know what, that's good actually, let them say something about it being not summer anymore. But you'll have to be ready to be made fun of, if you use that one."

"M' tough. Like Daddy was. I'm gonna talk about Daddy if the other kids ask about you. Wasn't he some kinda soldier, 'Mommy'?"

"Yeah, yeah he was. Two tours in the Sandbox. I didn't think you remembered that, you were really little. And then a year and a half with the Crystal – with the Santa Monica Police Department, before the car accident."

"Car accident? Aw, really? That's lame. Can't he have died doin' something cool, like foiling a bank robbery?"

"It's in the paperwork they gave us, Skyla. Radio car smashed in by a runaway tractor-trailer on his lunch break."

"Radio car?"

"Police car, Flur- damnit!" Dusk Shine handed Skyla a dollar bill.

The little menace laughed triumphantly at Dusk's flub. "I'm going to have enough for that sundae at this rate, Mommy!"

Dusk smiled, and gave Skyla a half-hearted noogie. They were sitting on a bench outside of the local elementary school. There was a day-care across the street from the school, and Dusk had been sitting with Skyla for the last half-hour, watching the traffic along the road, and in and out of the various houses and shops along the way. They'd spent the morning introducing themselves to their landlord, checking on the utilities at the municipal offices, and researching pediatric options for Skyla.

She was overdue for some of her vaccinations – fruit of the way that their nomadic existence had disrupted both of their lives.

There was nothing suspicious-looking along the quiet road beside the elementary school. There had been very little off-schedule traffic into the converted two-story that her notes from the marshals had identified as a suitable day-care. Not that Dusk didn't trust the deputy-marshals' judgment, it was just that she preferred to look before she leaped.

And she'd looked long enough. "Come on, kiddo. Time to say hi. I need to show up twenty minutes early to my interview, and you need to go play nice with the little kids."

"You know I'm too old for this, right?" sniffed Skyla.

"You'll be too old for this when I say so, Skyla. And you need practice being sociable. I've let you slack off too much recently, what with all of the excitement. Time to be friendly, little girl."

"'kay."

Dusk Shine walked her 'daughter' into the day-care, and talked things over with the caretaker. They had a full house, and Dusk was a little worried about just how crowded it was.

"Oh, don't worry, honey, it's a couple days before classes start, half the neighborhood is over at the school for PTA stuff right now. We're not usually this crowded. You're putting your little girl into Griffinherst?" Bubble Berry was a middle-aged, heavy-set woman with an amazing shock of bright-red hair. She stood at the center of a swirl of wild-injun-screeching children, only barely kept in check by a number of sheep-dog-desperate assistants running here and there to keep them from crashing too heavily into each other and the battered furniture. Skyla quickly disappeared into the herd.

"Applying for a job, actually. I'm new in town, have to put my degree to work somewhere. But yeah, Skyla should be going there, if I get the job. Kind of want to keep her close, if you know what you mean."

"Of course you're new in town, honey. It's ahem, Dashville – I don't know you by sight, that means by default you're new in town. Course, everybody we didn't go to high school is 'new in town', ifn' you listen to some of the old sticks over there in the auditorium making each others' lives hell. Want to have a happy career here in Dashville? Stay out of the PTA's way. They play rough." The henna-haired woman paused, looking thoughtful.

"I'd offer to take you on, but we're getting into the school year any day now, and I won't have any spare full-time shifts to offer, just the occasional after-school and pre-school half-shifts. We only really go into overdrive during the summer and holidays, when the parents can't warehouse their darlings in class. But if you need extra income, let me know – you look reliable, and I can tell you're the sort that the kids love."

Dusk Shine left Skyla in the gregarious and oddly generous care of Bubble Berry. Time to go enter the lion's den.

Twilight had envisioned a dragon like the old horror who had made her high school days such a misery, icy, haughty and cold. What she found was a frazzled old man strangely self-defeated by his own paperwork. Two Talons seemed nice enough, and he barely looked at her paperwork, before stamping the top of the pile and tossing the lot into a manila folder, scribbling her name across the tag and shoving the whole into a handy filing-cabinet.

"Willing to teach third-grade, credentialed, and Hawk Flight vouches for you? Sold. I am down six teachers, Miss Shine. Don't drink in front of the kids, don't do anything illegal where I have to acknowledge your misbehavior. Talk to Missus Grass about your supplies and getting scheduled with Missus Lark to go over your instruction plans, and please don't come to my attention again if you can possibly avoid it. Good day, get out."

So Dusk Shine got out, brushing a blessing-charm against the doorframe of the clearly hag-ridden Two Talons' catastrophically disorganized office.

The school's front-office secretary was an elderly lady with an imposingly thick accent, and Dusk barely could understand what Blue Grass said. Concentrating intensely, and silently pleading her new co-worker to enunciate more clearly, Dusk eventually figured out what the secretary needed from her, and quickly agreed to a meeting scheduled for the next morning with the missing Ruby Lark, who was 'wirkin from holm, and wernt be heer t'day'.

"I have a daughter who I need to get registered here, as well. I have the paperwork?" Dusk Shine pulled the thick sheaf of meticulously curated materials from her rucksack, looking hopefully up at the office secretary.

"Aw, naw, y'all ain't likely to have all y'all's papers just yet, y'all just moved heah, right? Ah, ah guess nawt? Huh. Huh. Huh?" Missus Grass looked up at Dusk Shine over the lenses of her reading glasses. "I didn' think anybody lived on tha' block but the Waxes and Gawd. There's apartments up that way?"

"Yess'm," Dusk Shine said, unconsciously mimicking her accent, just a bit. "A brick two-story, ground-level apartment 'round the back."

"Tha place? I thought that was part of the fyuneral hawm. Nawt exactly th' place to rawse a chile, is it now? Always folk comin an' gawin'. Especially tha' fyuneral hawm. Th' outlaw clubs, they use tha' place for they-all's viewin's."

Dusk Shine frowned a bit, vaguely remembering a big, rambling Victorian house on the far side of their place, over on the street corner. They were living next door to a busy funeral home? She'd have to pay more attention when they went back to the apartment.

"Tha y'all go, honey. I most nearly nevah see payrents wit' their paypers so nice ahn neat. Thank yew. Shame th' principal has ta be hidin' in there from tha PTA laidies. Ah, well, y'all have a nice afternewn, and welcom' to Griffinherst!"

Despite all the paperwork she'd just waded through, Dusk Shine still found herself with extra time, standing outside of her new place of employment. It had all happened – far too easily. She found herself looking for the trap. She thought of collecting Skyla so that the two of them could explore the town, but it hadn't even been three hours – Skyla should be left to make some friends without her… mother constantly hovering over her shoulder.

Dusk went walking. Dashville was a fair-sized town, especially if you counted College Heights and the enclaves around the university as part of said town, coming close to Twilight's personal idea of what constituted a 'city'.

Dusk Shine's path led her through a number of mixed-use blocks, until she found herself standing at a rusted low fence keeping passers-by from plunging over a steep cliff. The cliff plunged down over a small river which bisected the town, separating the neighborhoods in which her elementary school and their little apartment was located, from the richer half clustered around the feet of the large state school rising up from the bluffs across the river. Trees were everywhere, growing from every crack and bit of soil, and in the near distance, the wooded slopes like walls rose around them all.

Dashville sat in front of a steep gap through Griffin Mountain, and was only really notable as being a terminus of the Wilderness Road. Not the one that Daniel Boone built, but rather a more easterly extension which had been part of a settlement wave a half-generation before the great pioneer came through the district. Hundreds of thousands of settlers had poured through Buzzard's Gap on their westward way to the more famous Moccasin and Cumberland Gaps celebrated in song and tradition.

Those gaps had gotten all the songs and the stories, but Dashville got the saltworks, and the people, and whatever limited prosperity that could be carved from the isolated soil of southwestern Virginia. Dashville had been important enough for the Union to burn it to the ground in the fall of 1864, and barely important enough for the locals to rebuild after the war.

The postwar rebuilding effort gifted old-town Dashville with beautiful Victorian architecture, all gingerbread and peaked gables and bright-colored shingles and mansard roofing. And above the lovely folk Gothic and Queen Anne rooflines? Mountain ridgelines rising high to the south and northeast.

These were hills enough to ease Flurry Heart's borderline agoraphobia, Twilight was fairly certain of that. Too bad that the apartment was so deep in town, they'd have to walk blocks and blocks to get to the nearest woodlots or parks.

By the time Twilight – no, Dusk Shine had found her way back to the day care center, the sun was starting to make its way down into the west, gliding for an almost perfect alignment with the gap. It was a strange, perfect alignment, and Dusk Shine basked in that Stonehenge-like propinquity. A few weeks later, the sun would have set over the ridge to the south, a few weeks earlier, the ridge to the north-east. It was like the town was offering a greeting expressly for Twilight Sparkle and Flurry Heart.

Celebrating the existence of Dusk Shine and Skyla.

Dusk Shine rushed to collect Skyla from Bubble Berry, before her daughter could miss the beautiful sunset.

Author's Note:

Special thanks to TheStratovarian for regional cultural and dialect sanity-checks. Any off-tone elements are my fault alone, of course.

And, as usual, thanks for editing and pre-reading help to Oliver, Shrink Laureate and the general Company.