The young trio celebrated in Va’il’s house that night. Mai’ou had prepared a rack of lamb for them, for which Pete especially showed appreciation.
“So boys, that went better than you were expecting. Compliments of Fidel, the king himself,” Mai’ou said.
“It was fun. I liked my part. I got to be complicated and mean,” Kelin said while laughing.
“I wrote it with some class members in mind. The major parts went to those I was expecting,” Va’il said while picking something out of his teeth.
“Including Rowlf? How did you decide to make that bakery-obsessed bear the star? I’ve really been wondering how you knew he would fit that role,” Pete asked.
“Because the lead had to be someone with a long lasting and deep voice. You can tell from his normal speech that his voice doesn’t change when singing,” Va’il replied.
“Huh, I should have noticed. Well, I guess you have to look for a particular quality to notice it,” Kelin said. He was slightly annoyed that he didn’t know about Rowlf’s voice beforehand, but his tone didn’t betray his thoughts. He thought his ears were better than Va’il’s were, but he still had to concede that he could not hear what he was not listening for.
“A few more minutes and the blueberry pie will be done,” Mai’ou said.
“Thanks Mum. Say Mum, what do you think of how Kelin stood up for me. Brave, wasn’t it?” Va’il was teasing Kelin, who had started growling at him to be quiet.
“And shouldn’t he get a reward for it? It was the king, yet my friend here stood tall and spoke direct,” Pete said while playing along. The threats Kelin muttered went ignored, but the boys knew he was happy. Mai’ou said nothing, and checked the oven to see how close the pie was to done. It was close, so she didn’t add any more wood to the fire. Amongst the jeering of the two boys, she simply walked over to the trio and gave Kelin a kiss on the cheek.
The jeers stopped, as there were now three shocked faces in the room. Her reward given, Mai’ou smiled, walked back to the oven, and pulled out the blueberry dessert.
“Va’il, if your mouth hangs open any longer, your food will fall out. Haven’t I told you to always keep your mouth closed when eating?” The boys all looked at her, still astounded. “Come on boys, it’s not such a bit deal. I’m not a kid; these kinds of things aren’t that shocking.” With that, the boys regained composure. Kelin silently swore to himself he wouldn’t wash the side of his face for the next week, while Va’il started asking himself if he could really bear to have his friend as a stepfather. Pete smelled the pie, which occupied his thoughts for the next few days.
When Kelin and Pete finally left, it was quite late into the night. They had spent the time discussing their plans in the coming weeks, now that school was dismissed. They decided to go with the rest of their class after all, on a trip to the lake a few of the other students had been planning. They had gotten the idea from the return of the king, since he was returning from the water kingdom. In a celebration of sorts, they decided to visit the lake north of the city, Lake Tershi.
The moon had risen far above the castle already. Va’il and Mai’ou were still awake, sitting together in a large chair, discussing life.
“Va’il, did you enjoy yourself?” Mai’ou asked.
“Yeah,” Va’il replied.
“How do you feel?”
“Stuffed. Are you sure that was a lamb, and not a fully grown sheep?”
“Silly,” she said, “you are too funny at times.”
“I’m still learning. You’re a good teacher for that kind of stuff. Good at making me worry too,” he said. He looked up and saw Mai’ou’s golden eyes staring back at his silver ones.
“Are you still going on about that? Trust me, silly little boy, that there is a very large difference between love and a crush. I think of him like I think of you, a son who just needs to be teased from time to time. Silly boy, I can’t believe you’re so serious about that.”
“Who’s the one worrying now?” Va’il asked slyly. Mai’ou laughed and kissed him on the cheek as well.
“I admit you’re crafty for someone your age. Say Va’il, what you said earlier, was it true?”
“Which part? When?”
“About your father.”
“Every word. He left you, didn’t he?”
“Well… he has his problems. I don’t think you should condemn him though.”
“Why? Who was he? You don’t ever talk about him.” Va’il looked to Mai’ou for an answer, but she remained silent for a few minutes. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything before her though.
“He is a happy person. He’s optimistic, but he has more worries than optimism can account for. He is hard to change. He doesn’t always speak his mind either. But it is easy to get to know him. A day with him is like ten years. You know everything about him quickly just from how he behaves. But he isn’t easy to settle, in any circumstance. He didn’t leave because of pride or fear either. It might be his worst trait. I always have feared that he never seriously cared for me. I might have just been something for the moment, for that time. I might have loved him then, but he… why am I telling you this?” Mai’ou questioned herself, her reasons for telling Va’il, but in her heart she knew she would have to talk about her husband with Va’il sooner or later. She decided to talk a little now, and more at a later time.
“So, he seemed good, but really he was bad?” Va’il asked.
“No, he is genuine, that is not an act. But for him, it might have only been temporary. I doubt I will ever really know.”
“You talk kind of like he is still around.” Va’il noticed that his mother was speaking in the present-tense.
“You’re astute, just like King Fidel said. I don’t think I can talk about him anymore.”
“Can I ask you another thing Mum?”
“Okay, what is it?”
“Do you know what he thinks of me?” Va’il asked, but again Mai’ou didn’t respond. She hesitated, but she resolved to tell Va’il anyways.
“He… I never told him. I didn’t have the chance. I’m sure that if he knew, he’d be proud to have such a smart and brave son. Just remember that it was not your fault he left, no matter what others may say or taunt you with. You have to make your father proud by being happy and optimistic, just like him. If so, then you might just make his blood proud.”
Va’il heard this, but couldn’t keep awake any longer. He felt a bit of the weight that his ambiguous parent had left on him be lifted and dispelled. Mai’ou carried him to his room and laid him on the bed. She stroked his hair in the moonlight before leaving. The blue light was reflected by his silver hair, which looked almost white.