Terri had no idea her best friends were secretly plotting behind her back. None of them were acting strangely while she was around, no one stopped talking when she entered a room and she never caught any furtive glances between them. In short she was completely clueless for the first time in her life. She had been so busy catching up on things since the trial that she hadn’t paid much attention to the day of the week much less the actual date itself. She was upstairs in her studio trying to go through stacks of invoices when she heard a crash and a thump from downstairs followed by Bob’s yell of “Terri!” She rushed down the stairs as fast as she could hobble and as soon as she went through the doorway at the bottom she was met with “SURPRISE!!” that almost stopped her mid-step. She thought to herself ‘Oh, is it April 1st already?’ as she saw all of her friends arrayed around a 3-tiered sheet cake in the center of the gallery. Bob was kneeling down next to a box of broken pottery grinning like the Cheshire Cat and Fluffy was sitting next to him with his tail thumping on the floor like a bass drum, thereby explaining the ruse that brought her down. Mickie and Markie signaled and all her friends yelled out a chorus of “Got You!”
“What, none of you thought to simply call up and ask me to come down a minute? I almost killed myself coming down those stairs that fast” Terri growled as she tried to catch her breath.
“And give you the opportunity to figure out something was up?” Mickie said almost the same time as Markie’s “And miss seeing that look of pure panic on your face?” as they both finished with “Not a chance!” in perfect duet.
“Oh, Terri, I had something I really needed to ask you but it escapes me at the moment. Guess it wasn’t all that important after all. While you’re down though, some friends stopped by to say Happy Birthday” Bob said with an innocent expression on his face.
“Remind me again why exactly I keep any of you around?” Terri said while trying, without success, to look angry.
“That’s an easy one” Cameron said as she linked arms with Terri and walked her to the center table “You’re afraid your life would be dull and boring without us.”
Drucillia flew around the assembled group and sat on Terri’s shoulder opposite Cameron. “Terri, Terri, do you see that cake? Cameron made it out of beans, Terri. BEANS! Can you imagine?”
“Well, it’s layers of red bean and black bean paste actually. I got the idea from that fusion restaurant VS took me to last week. Those buns were really good” Cameron said. “I hope you like it. If not, I’m sure Drucillia will be happy to take any leftovers home.”
Terri looked around the table at the people gathered to celebrate with her. Not so long ago many of them would never have even considered being in the same room let alone be happy and smiling together. Dragonfly talked with Andromeda and Siobhan while VS was laughing at a joke that Robert Howe had apparently told. Charles cut squares of cake onto plates that Saundra handed around. Terri just stood there thinking of all that had happened to bring these people together when someone touched her arm.
“Earth to Terri, are you in there?” Karl (Chuck) asked. Apparently he and Izzy had come up to wish her well while she was lost in thought.
“Sorry, just lost in the past for a bit I guess. So how have you two been? I haven’t had the chance to catch up lately. Keeping our boy from prowling around parks at night I trust?” Terri asked while winking at Izzy.
“Ha ha ha, I saw a young woman being followed under the overpass so I yelled a warning. How was I to know the UCU was running a sting operation?”
“Maybe if you had responded to my text saying that I had to work but we could meet up once I was done in the park …” Izzy said with a grin.
“Yes, dear” sighed Karl as Terri said “Trained him already, hmm? Fast learner, good boy. I thought most guys took years to learn that one.”
Izzy looked at the writing on the cake & said “That reminds me, I asked Cameron already but she said it’s all true and that I’d best ask you for the details. The cake reads ‘Happy (twenty) 9th Birthday??? Terri’ and I was wondering if that was an inside joke or something?”
Terri gave a small laugh and led them to a bench against the wall. “This will take a bit so let’s sit first. You’ve heard I’m sure that I was adopted? Truth is my mother is a noble of the Winter Court. I was born nine years ago as far as your calendar goes, I have my original birth certificate around somewhere if you don’t believe me. On my 3rd birthday I went to stay with my mother in the Nevernever where time is more of a suggestion at the whim of the ruler of that domain. WINTER had plans for me and neither The Leanansidhe nor Queen Mab are exactly what we would call patient. I spent a few years learning & training in the ways of the Fae before I was allowed to visit the mortal realm and stay with my father & stepmother. At the end of each summer, I’d go back to WINTER for more training and repeat the cycle. Dragonfly figures that I probably spent roughly seven years there for every one you spent here. The math gets a little fuzzy if you try to chart it but it’s as good a guesstimate as anything. Ted probably had a heck of a time hiding things from the neighbors, I’ll have to ask him sometime.”
“Wow, and I thought my family was complicated” Izzy said after a pause. “Wait a minute, how did you get a job in the District Attorney’s Office without valid papers?”
“I have valid papers, I was born here after all” Terri said with a smirk.
“No, I mean, your birth certificate would have your date of birth on it. How did a six-year old get a job at the courthouse?”
“I know what you meant, I just couldn’t resist. Ted had some special associates that had very high level clearance access to government officials who issue these things. After the whole Y2K shakeup the records bureau implemented a few ‘edit’ options that were very helpful to my situation. They couldn’t create a brand new record but correcting an existing one was simple. Let’s just say that there is now a slight typo on all legal documents that makes it look like I was born in the late eighties and since that’s what people expect to find when they see me ….”
“Got it, no false papers, just false assumptions reading a date” Izzy said after a pause. “So you trained to fight monsters since you were three?”
“Of course not, I’d learned to TRACK them since I was three. I was probably around eight or nine when the fighting started, it was a little after I returned from my first summer vacation with Ted and Michelle. And they weren’t all monsters, at least as you mean it. Truthfully the truly monstrous ones were the least monster like, if you know what I mean. Think of it as playing tag with Grimm’s fairytales.”
“Wow, I wish I could have sparred with you before … Oh no, I’m sorry, I meant while you … No, I mean … Not that you can’t … Karl, quit laughing. I …” Izzy looked like a deer in the headlights.
“I’d love to help you, love, but I left my shovel at home today” Karl said between laughs at Izzy’s floundering attempts to dig herself out of the perceived pit she was digging.
“Izzy, calm down, it’s okay, really. If you’d like, I’d be happy to spar with you. Just because I can’t run doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to fight. In fact, it may be a really good idea considering your recent transfer. We can use the grounds here at The Brown Forrest, better than fighting in the Park. Tai Chi they’re fine with, physical contact not so much.” Terri said with a smile.
“Hey, maybe we could set it up to use the facilities the UCU has, maybe get a group going. I’m sure some of the others could benefit from it too and you could keep your hand in, as it were.” Izzy seemed to recover from her former embarrassment with an enthusiasm shared by the very young and the very pious.
“That might work, I still have occasional contact with the NYPD as a sketch artist and as far as I know most of them are still on good terms. I really don’t want to get back into the battle though, I’ll leave that to you youngsters.” Terri said with a grin.