March 13, 2012, roughly six months after Rachel leaves Zork forever
I sit, curled up next to John. We were sitting on the floor, with our backs to the couch at one of our friend’s apartments. John and I had not returned to our little village that semester break. I had not wanted to, and John had not wanted to be anywhere far away from my side.
There were five of us there, lounging around, celebrating our semester break in the way that only university students know how to: We were wasting time. Anything that was completely useless was worth our complete attention.
There at the door there is knock. Another one of our friends has just arrived.
“Guys! Check this out! Someone took a video of an illegal fight club and posted it on some unknown site that is only accessible with a proxy!”
Yep. Definitely worth our attention.
Even more so when we watch the short clip and I recognize the tall, dark and handsome man with the green eyes who so skilfully takes down his larger, slower, and uglier component with his razor sharp stiletto knife.
John and I burst out laughing. Our friends aren’t laughing. The fight we are watching resembles one that I once watched. It involved the same young man and a troll. Except that I am not there in this fight to put the poor man our of his misery.
John and I stop watching. But we can’t stop grinning a bit.
My friend Johanna scowls at us, “How can you two laugh after seeing a sight like that? That guy is bloodthirsty!”
The scar on my left hand tingles, and without meaning to, I defend that guy, “Oh, he’s harmless.” John just snorts.
My other friend Hans protests, “Did you just see that?” He goes into a long description of everything that Alan did to the poor man at the fight club. I grimace. He’s right. Alan is many things, but harmless is not one of them.
I shrug, and run my finger over the scar on my left hand.
Then I can’t help myself. I raise my two palms, showing my friends the two long scars crossing my palms. “He gave me these,” I say, “So you’re right. He’s probably not harmless.”
My friends gasp.
Then John can’t help jumping in. “And she got this,” he says, touching the rather more pronounced scar on my right hand, “by pulling that knife” gesturing toward the computer screen, “away from my neck.” Now he pulls down the neck of one of the turtleneck sweaters that he has taken to wearing and shows us all the long scar crossing his neck lengthwise.
Now my friends are all really dumbfounded. And they don’t let us rest until we tell the whole story. It has been our little secret for so long. But now we let it all out. And it feels good. We remove the whole part about how I was trapped in a computer game for some days and say instead that Alan came from somewhere in the south of Italy (he looks a bit Italian) to come visit us, but other than that, our tale is completely accurate. Our friends think, of course, that we are either making it up or exaggerating the whole thing, but we know better.
That night I fall asleep easily, knowing that Alan is somewhere in the world doing well.
August 24, 2014, roughly two years after Rachel leaves Zork forever
I stand in the registry office, dressed in white. Beside me, a gorgeous man with dazzling blue eyes dons a fancy suit. His parent’s are here. My little brother is here. We had invited my entire family, but my elder sister made up some other event of crucial importance to ensure that they wouldn’t be able to make it.
I don’t really hold it against her. I know that my sister will never forgive me for what I am going to do right now. With a slightly shaking hand, I reach out and sign the paper, making my marriage to the man of my dreams official.
December 21, 2017, roughly five years after Rachel leaves Zork forever
George called today. He told me some great news. He’s finally convinced my parents to let him go live with Uncle George in Stuttgart and go to public school there. He says he wants to go to school there so that he can learn “interesting stuff”, but he also admits that the only reason he is being allowed to go is that he’s already better at magic than all of the teachers at his current school. Yep. Even the one’s in the upper levels or whatever. So my parents have become convinced (due, no doubt, to some well placed seemingly innocent comments by George) that he will be able to learn more about magic from my Uncle George than any of the other teachers at the school. And, he told me, the knowledge that he is actually going to be going to public school instead of being tutored privately by his uncle is completely classified.
I reach down and touch the soft outward curve of my belly. I have some great news to tell him as well.
May 13, 2018, roughly five and a half years after Rachel leaves Zork forever
After hours of pain and agony, the process is over. The nurse places a blanket in my arms. Inside of the blanket is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen in my life. I smile down on him. Then he opens his eyes. They are a most beautiful shade of green.
“Oh, John!” I sigh to my husband, who is sitting next to me holding my hand, “look at those gorgeous green eyes! We have to name him Alan!”
My husband just throws back his head and laughs, and then pats me affectionately on the head as though I’ve just lost my marbles. “That’s never going to happen.”
June 26, 2022, roughly ten years after Rachel leaves Zork forever
I sit in the very back row. My lovely husband sits next to me, along with our children, George Alan and Suzanne. I smile up at him, and he puts his arm around me and squeezes my shoulders. We are forgotten, here in the back row, but we’ve long gotten use to being forgotten.
Kathy never forgave me for getting married before her. I knew she never would. But now, almost eight years later, she sent me an invitation to her own wedding. It took her eight years to find a man stupid enough to marry her. The invitation was not an invitation that said “You are my sister and I desperately want you to be here to share this wonderful day with me.” Although not written on the fancily made stationary, the invitation had clearly said, “Look Rachel. I can get married too!” I wanted to tell her. I wanted to somehow let her know that I hadn’t married John out of spite. I hadn’t married him because I desperately wanted to be better than my older sister and stand out when compared to her. I had married him because I couldn’t imagine living my life without him. And I had never regretted it for one day.
But Kathy didn’t understand that, and she probably never would. The days she had spent stranded in the woods really had had an influence on her. Physically she had been able to fend for herself, but it hadn’t taken me long to suspect that her newfound animosity towards me sprung from something deeper than just jealousy and spite. I suggested a thousand times that my parents take her to see a psychologist, but my parents never had been able to see any fault in their little girl and had also never had any trust in medical doctors, so they encouraged her new self-obsession instead of trying to focus her on the things that were important in life.
I sigh and look up the aisle. The groom stands there, staring nervously down the aisle. I wonder if he is nervous that his bride won’t show up, or if he is nervous that she will. But that is mean of me. He seems to be honestly in love with her. And he seems like a good man. I hope that he is good for her.
And now my handsome younger brother is strolling over to me, and I am not quite so forgotten any more. At nineteen, my brother just finished high school with excellent marks. “But not the best marks,” he had told me solemnly on the phone last week, “Public school has really made me appreciate you non-magical folk. You guys are smart.” I protested that he was one of the most talented young men that I knew, but he hushed me up, “Talented maybe. With magic. But not with book learning. I always have to work three times harder than everyone else to understand the things that everyone accepts as common knowledge.” But this doesn’t discourage me at all. I’m glad that George has found humility at public school. I have always harbored a secret fear that unknowingly, his excellence at everything might make him become arrogant and take his ability for granted.
He greets me now with a smile on his face and his arms wide open for a hug. Then he reaches over an gives John a hug too. “I wouldn’t have given Rachel away to any other man,” he had solemnly told John at our wedding, when he was just fourteen. And John had been so touched that he had to turn a bit to the side to try to hide the tears of gratitude welling up in his eyes. Then George goes on to give his namesake and his favorite niece the candy that I was almost certain hadn’t been in his pocket the moment before. He shows them a magic “trick”, and pretends it isn’t real magic at all, but just a parlor trick meant for the non-magical folk of this world. But my children aren’t stupid. They know that magic is real (although neither of them show any talent for it, thank goodness), and they also know that their Uncle George is extremely talented at it. But they pretend to look shocked and then bat their eyes angelically up at their Uncle George as if they are the most perfect children in the world. He sits down right between them, and they start up a whispered conversation. They are all still pretending to be innocent, but since my children have never developed the skill of being able to whisper quietly, it soon becomes apparent that the three of them are planning some sort of mischief for later on in the night.
The guests continue to file in. Then the music starts to play, and a gorgeous bride walks down the aisle. But she’s rather too gorgeous, and I can’t help but shed a few tears with the other teary eyed old ladies. But my tears are not of happiness, but of pain. Kathy was always excellent at doing her make up, and she had always managed to accentuate the beauty that was already there. But this woman moving down the aisle was only a caricature of the beautiful and confident sister that I had once known. I shook my head, and hoped with all my might that this marriage might be something. That she might finally get the help that she needed.
The vows were exchanged. Then the rings. And then the kisses. And then the ceremony was over. I was no longer weeping.
Kathy pulls her new husband out onto the dance floor and, for a minute, she looks happy, whirling around in his hands. I smile as I see them there, and think for a minute that everything is going to be ok.
But then we hear a whirling above our heads. We all look up to see a very fancy helicopter descending down toward us. A couple of the bridesmaids scream and run away with their hands over their heads. The helicopter lands in the middle of the dance floor. The bride looks livid. But then the door opens, and, when she see who is standing in the helicopter, she turns white and promptly faints away, only to be comforted by her new husband.
Alan jumps down from the helicopter and flashes me a wicked smile. Then he turns and helps a gorgeous Italian woman down from the seat next to him. I groan and roll my eyes, but can’t help flashing him a grin myself. He comes toward me, and all of a sudden, I’m not forgotten any more. My parents panic and try to figure out what to do with him, but I’m not worried. If he was confident enough to land in the middle of such a public place, then I’m sure he knows just what kind of security he is dealing with here.
John moves closer to my side and mumbles softly in my ear, “Still don’t like him.”
But I can’t help moving toward Alan as well, and welcoming him with a big friendly hug.
“You look pretty well,” I say, and when he just shrugs, I can’t help but laugh. Some things never change.
“This is my angel, Vanessa,” he says. I cringe at the name, remembering another girl with the same name and a very vicious personality, but I politely shake her hand.
“So,” I ask teasingly, “Do you help keep him out of trouble or get into it?”
She laughs. “I like her,” she says to Alan, in a thick Italian accent.
“So do I,” he responds.
I lead him over to my little family and introduce him to my children. “This is George Alan,” I say proudly, “We named him after you!”
My husband mumbled behind my back, “Not my choice…” but Alan either doesn’t hear him, or decides to pretend not to hear him.
But then I come back to my senses and realize that everybody is staring at us. And then I look over at Kathy, who is sitting on the floor, weeping as if her heart would break. And all of a sudden it all makes sense.
“Why did you come?” I ask Alan, “Why now? Why today?”
“I thought it would be fun,” he shrugs.
I shake my head with amazement. “You really are sadistic.” Then I look back at my sister an make a decision.
“Look Alan,” I say, “As much as it pleases my left hand to see you again, I think I am going to have to ask you to leave. And never come back.”
He looks at me for a minute. I see the anger flash in his eyes for a second, but then it is replaced by a look of understanding. He smiles at me once more, and then turns and walks back to the helicopter.
“I have never seen him obey anyone before,” Vanessa says with astonishment before she follows after him.
I finger the long scar on my left hand and whisper silently after they have gone, “His obedience has a price.”
But I can’t remain in reverie for very long. Because Kathy is still there weeping on the floor, and for the first time I understand. She doesn’t hate me because I fell in love and married. She hates me because she fell in love. And then when that man chose me over her, I discarded him without so much as a second glance. And I was so in love with John at that time, that I completely didn’t notice or understand the pain that she was going through. And she never could understand that.
“Kath,” I say, as I move near her. I haven’t used that nickname for ten years, but now she looks up at me through her tears, and I see the sister that I have missed all these years but haven’t known it. “Kath,” I repeat, and then I move in and hug her. “Don’t worry. He’s gone. He’s never coming back. It’s time to move on,” I murmur, and then I’m weeping as well. “I’m so sorry Kath. I didn’t know.” I can’t say more than that, but when she hugs me back, I know that she forgives me, and for the first time all day, I can say that I am truly happy. I have a sister again.