An & Mattan, Part 3

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Part 1
Part 2

* * *

An woke in the morning, and lay there for a time, eyes closed, trying to decide to get up. “I think that was the best night sleep I’ve had in years,” she said aloud.

“Glad to hear it,” Jelana said.

An sat up and looked around. “What am I doing out here?”

“Apparently you fell asleep here. Don’t you remember?”

An turned to put her feet down on the floor. “Maybe I should sleep on the couch more often.”

Jelana laughed. “I don’t think that did it, An.”

She looked around again. “Wasn’t Mattan here?”

“He had to go back home. He wanted to have a good night’s sleep before he played the organ this morning.”

“Mattan plays the organ?”

Jelana laughed again. “What did the two of you talk about all those years?”

“Everything, nothing. At this point in time, what does it matter?”

“It probably doesn’t. I just keep getting amused when one of you doesn’t know something.” She turned serious. “An, what happened when you went out with Mattan last night? Did you have a good time?”

An sat up and stretched. “What? Oh, we went out to Sandy Beach and had dinner. Mattan apparently has the same sort of deal out there he does with Jasin, he does maintenance work from time to time, and gets to eat for free. Though that building is much newer than this one of course.”

Jelana laughed. “I knew he had the same deal with two other restaurants in town, but not anywhere else.”

“Anyway, I bet that he had chosen some other restaurant, any other other restaurant to go to. They hailed him as soon as he walked in the door, with a bunch of stuff that they said they would were going to call him on Monday about. Nothing urgent, but since he was there . . .” She laughed. “They barely noticed me at all. Which is what I wanted, but still, I don’t want to be invisible. At least the food was good.” She smiled fondly. “Even if I ate it in the basement, watching Mattan tinker with pipes. I’m still not sure what he was doing, entirely, though he did try to explain it to me.”

“Did you have a good time?”

“Actually, yes. Took me by surprise, I expected to be miserable. Mattan might have been, though. Miserable, I mean.” She shook her head. “I never realized . . . I knew Mattan was good at what he did, of course. And he’s given me some wonderful gadgets over the years. Before he sold them. Some of them are everywhere now. Cheap knock-offs and everything.” She sighed. “I don’t know if she’s sold any more gadgets like that in years, once he didn’t need excuses to come to Haranbeth anymore.”

“As far as I know, he’s done a lot of things on commission, like the cabinetry for Tolly’s new house . . .”

“He told me about that. He’s refusing to do any more.”

“Some moving sculptures. Some stuff he’s done, just for fun.”

“Yes, he’s kept busy, I know.” An smiled in memory. “But somehow, seeing him crawling along those pipes, coming up all dusty . . . They told me that when he fixes something, it stays fixed.”

“Jasin says much the same thing.”

“He was in his element. I think, if I hadn’t been there, he actually would have been having fun. But he was too busy trying to watch out for me to get into it like I think he normally would have.”

“I doubt that was the way he was thinking to impress you,” Jelana said, with a laugh. Then she turned serious. “An, did the Other show up last night?”

“After we went out? No. All was calm. He finally finished fixing everything, and ate his dinner. I had long before finished with mine. He was starving by that point, of course. Gulped it all down without tasting it. Which was a waste of that good food. Then we came back. I asked if he could stay for just a few minutes, told him about my nightmares. Then I must have fallen asleep.” She shot Jelana a baleful glare. “Which is much better than being made to sleep, I’m telling you.”

“Sounds like a satisfactory evening all told,” Jelana said, ignoring An’s last line. “An, may I see your hands?”

“My hands? Of course,” An said, holding them out to her. Jelana took them, and concentrated while her own hands turned to water surrounding An’s.

After a minute or two, An said, “Well?” and tried unsuccessfully to pull her hands away.

“Interesting,” Jelana said, finally releasing An’s hands, while her own turned back into ordinary hands. “You have less magic in you now than you did yesterday afternoon, when Daved drained it.”

“I didn’t think that was possible,” An said.

“It isn’t. That’s what makes it interesting.” Jelana smiled. “I have an idea. I’m still thinking about it.” She paused. “Daved also has an idea. Would you be willing to come up to his woods this afternoon. He thinks he might be able to help you more.”

“With which problem? Though by now, I’m willing to try anything.”

“We’ll discuss that later. Will you come?”

“Should I come alone, or bring someone with me?”

Jelana considered. “I’d say, bring Jasin, if you want. It’d probably be better. Someone else, if you’d rather.”

An nodded. “We’ll be there.” She stood and stretched. “I’m going to go wash up and change.”

* * *

An sat with Jasin and Belinda at the Gathering. She didn’t listen particularly well to the lecture, which was all stuff she’d heard before, but paid close attention to the organ music. After the Gathering was over, An stood around, chatting with her friends, and people she knew in town.

“Yes, yes,” she told Tolly and Glorina. “Much better, thank you.” But her attention was fully on the door to the organ loft. Mattan was not coming out. She could hear the organ running through multiple scales, then a few blasts, then nothing.

“I wonder what he’s up to,” An muttered, not realizing she was speaking aloud.

“Why don’t you go see, Sis?” Jasin said. “I doubt he’d mind. Much.”

She flashed him a smile. “Right, I’ll do it.”

Jasin watched her walked through the door. Tolly followed his glance.

“An . . . and Mattan?” Tolly said. How long has that been going on?”

“Rather obvious, once you see it, isn’t it?” Jasin said. “But, not long.” He sighed. “Not long at all. Nothing still might come of it.”

* * *

There was no one visible in the organ loft. An frowned. There was no other way out. “Mattan?”

“Here, An,” came his voice.

She looked around. “Where are . . . are you inside the organ? How’d you get there?”

“There’s an access panel on the right,” he said. “It’s open.”

She found it, and peered through to where he was seated on the floor behind the pipes.

“What are you doing in there?”

“Thinking.”

“Couldn’t you find a more comfortable spot to think?”

He laughed, and looked at her. “I was trying to figure out what to do. It should be easy, I’m sure I’ve come up with a solution before.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked squeezing into the small area to sit beside him.

“That pipe over there has a stuck valve, and I can’t figure out how to reach it. It’s an easy fix, if I can just get to it.”

She looked around. “Which pipe?”

He laughed again. “Exactly. The idiot who designed and built this organ was so pleased with himself for coming up with a better way to arrange the pipes, that he didn’t remember that someone might need to get to one to fix it.” He gestured to the row of pipes in front of them. “To reach that pipe, I’d have to dismantle two rows of these other pipes. I’m rather loath to do so just for a stuck valve. Too much else can go wrong.”

“When did it happen?” An asked.

“Couldn’t have been too long. None of the other organists have complained to me about it.”

“Speaking of which, I didn’t know you were musical.”

He laughed again. “I’m not. I’m about the least musical person you’ll meet. In fact, Tolly is more musical than I am.”

“Really?” She considered. “Mattan, I’ve heard Tolly sing.”

“Have you ever heard me sing?”

“I don’t think so.”

“There you go then.” He smiled at her. “What did you think of the music?”

“Well . . .”

“Go ahead. Say it.”

“It seemed . . . proficient enough.” She paused. “I’m no musician myself, but well, it seemed to me there was something . . . missing in it. I’m sorry, Mattan.”

He nodded. “Don’t be. That ‘something missing’ is the reason I’m third substitute organist, and only get to play once or twice a year. If that. I’ve been practicing ever since this organ was built. Took lessons and everything. But I still haven’t figured out what’s missing, or how to fake it. Perhaps in another century or two . . .”

“Mattan,” An said, as another thought struck her. “Who was the idiot who designed and built this?”

He looked down at her with a smile. “I’m afraid that would be me.”

She nodded. “I wondered.”

“They’d only been building organs in Tel for about fifty years at that point. I travelled all over Tel, and even went over to the continent, studying how they were made, before I came back to design ours. If I’d known that it’d still be in use a hundred and fifty years later, I’d have planned things differently.” He laughed. “Especially if I knew that I’d be the one fixing it. Though some of the changes I made to the design are still being used.”

“I thought that when you fixed something, it stayed fixed.”

He smiled. “Jasin tell you that? It’s an exaggeration. I try, but you’ve got to work with the limitation of the materials. It isn’t always best to use the most durable of materials, and sometimes you need to use something more fragile to get the effect you want. And, let’s face it, sometimes the materials and equipment gets stubborn, and refuses to do what you want, and you have to find a way to sneak around it.” He smiled again. “I’ve gotten good at sneaking.”

An looked around the tiny area they were in. “So, you’ve been sitting here trying to figure out a way to be sneaky?”

“Exactly,” he said. He looked her over critically. “Let me see your hand.”

She held it up, and he held up his hand next to hers. “No,” he said after a moment. “Your hand and mine are too close in size for you to reach through there.” He shook his head. “And you wouldn’t have the feel for it anyway. I’ll think of something.”

“Why not ask Jelana? She can reach around things when she chooses.”

“Jelana? That’s an idea.” He considered. “If I can’t think of anything else in the next day or two, maybe. But Jelana often doesn’t know her own strength. She’s just as likely to break the pipe as loosen the valve. And that would be a major job to fix.”

An rubbed the back of her neck, where the necklace chain was rubbing her. “Mattan,” she said, turning to look at him, “I–” The world was swallowed by darkness, and static filled her ears.

When she could see again, she was sitting on the floor outside the organ access panel.”

“And you must leave! Now! Quickly!” Mattan was yelling, his face flushed, as he closed the panel behind him.

“Wait! What? What happened?” An said, struggling to her feet. “Tell me! What happened? Tell me what I did?”

There was no answer, just some banging and sound of movement on the other side of the panel.

An stood there uncertainly for a long moment, then took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and walked out of there.

Jasin saw her, and left Tolly, and came over. “An, what’s the matter?” he asked in concern. “Are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” she said. “Just need a little time . . . to think. I’ll walk home, I mean back. I’ll be fine, Jasin.”

“Would you like some company?” Jasin said. “Belinda or I could–“

An smiled at him, her smile a bit strained and wobbly. “No, really. I need to think. But thank you for asking, Jasin.”

He nodded, then hugged her. “Please, tell me if there’s anything I can do, Sis. Really. I want to help.”

“It’s all right, Jasin,” An said, as he released her.

She left, and Jasin watched her go, shaking his head, then went back to talk to Tolly.

* * *

The banging and movement continued for several minutes inside the organ, then Mattan stepped out, carefully closed and locked the access panel behind him, and leaned against the organ’s side, wearily. He took a deep breath. Then his eyes opened wide. “Anilyne!” he said. “I need to find her, to tell her.” He strode out of the organ loft, locking the door behind him.

Jasin blocked his path, as he attempted to stride out of the building. “I told you, Mattan,” he said. “I told you if you hurt An again, you’d–“

“Not now, Jasin,” Mattan said, attempting to step around him. “Where is she? I need to explain.”

“Wait a minute.” Jasin grabbed his arm as Mattan tried to walk on. “Do you think I’m just going to let you–“

Mattan turned to face him, and said through gritted teeth, “Let. Go. Of. Me. Now. Jasin.”

Jasin dropped Mattan’s arm and stepped back. “She’s walking home, Mattan,” he said. “But I won’t let you hurt–“

Mattan strode off again, not waiting to hear the rest of it. Jasin shook his head, and started following him.

Mattan reached the street, and looked around, spotting An off in the distance. He began to run, and put on a burst of speed, and was there by her side.

“Anilyne! An!” he said as he reached her.

She looked around in confusion. “Mattan? I thought–“

He wrapped his arms around her and held her close.

“I’m sorry, An . . . I didn’t think . . . You must have thought . . . I had to be quick . . . and you were yourself again . . .”

“Mattan,” An said, her voice muffled and uncertain, “stop burbling and finish a sentence.” A deep breath. “And let go of me, before I start crying.”

“Sorry, An,” Mattan said, loosening his hold, and stepping back a little. He peered down into her face. “Are you laughing?”

“It could go either way,” she said, her voice ragged. “Just give me a couple minutes. I need to breathe. I thought . . . Mattan, what happened?”

Jasin came up to the two of them. “Later,” he said. “Let’s get the two of you somewhere a little more private.” He looked at the two of them pointedly.

An laughed a little, and disentangled herself from Mattan’s arms.

Mattan said to Jasin, “You aren’t still angry at me, are you?”

Jasin looked from one to the other. “If the lady is satisfied, I’m satisfied,” he said, falling into step beside them as they started walking. “Are you satisfied, Sis?”

“Were you trying to defend me, Jasin?”

“Hey, you’re my sister. I do what I can.”

She smiled at him. “Thank you, Jasin. I–it wasn’t necessary, but thank you.”

“So, An, are you satisfied?”

“I need to know what happened,” she said.

“Well,” Mattan began.

“Not now,” Jasin said. “Both of you come back to our place, and have a good meal. Then we’ll discuss it. If that’s all right with you, Sis?”

“It’ll do,” An said.

“I’m sorry for my reaction, Mattan,” Jasin said, “Since you were coming to apologize.”

“I understand, Jasin,” Mattan said. “I don’t know what An told you, but I know things must have looked bad.”

“I didn’t tell him anything, Mattan,” An said.

“No, you only looked completely stricken,” Jasin said. “And, Mattan, you looked worse.”

They continued talking the last couple minutes until they reached the restaurant.

“I’ll let Belinda know we’re here,” Jasin said. “Let me know what you’d like to have, and we’ll eat upstairs. Our apartment. You have the key, right?”

An and Mattan said what they wanted, and Jasin nodded and strode off.

“Mattan?” An said, as the two of them were left looking at each other uncertainly.

“Yes, Ani- Yes, An?” Mattan said, smiling at her.

“Jasin’s already going, but would you be willing to go up with me this this afternoon to see Jelana and Daved? I understand Daved has a big idea about something.”

“I’d be honored, An. But, are you sure you want me?”

“Stop asking that, Mattan. Of course I’m sure.”

“Then I’ll be there.”

“Good. Let’s go on upstairs.”

* * *

They sat around the table, the food being too good, like usual, to spend much time talking.

“Mattan, what did happen earlier?” An asked after they’d nearly finished.

Mattan hesitated, looking between An and Jasin.

“Don’t mind me,” Jasin said, getting up to collect the plates.

“No, stay,” An said. “I’d like you to.”

“If you say so,” Jasin said, and sat back down.

Mattan nodded, and asked An, “What do you remember?”

“We were talking, and you were complaining about the idiot who designed the organ,” An and Mattan exchanged smiles at that, “and I turned to say something to you. I don’t remember what. Then . . . everything blanked out. I found myself outside the organ, on the floor, and you were yelling at me to leave.”

“Was I yelling? An, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just needed you out of there. Quickly.”

“You couldn’t have been yelling too loudly,” Jasin put in. “No one on my side of the door heard anything. At least, no one was reacting.”

“So, what happened?” An asked again.

“We were having a good conversation, and you looked at me, and suddenly your face turned furious. You said something like “How dare you! I’d rather destroy my organ than have a no-talent skill-less hack like you pretending to play it.”

“Wait a minute,” An said, “‘My organ’?”

“That’s what you said. Then you picked up the largest wrench of the ones I store there, and started swinging it around. I was afraid you’d go after the pipes.”

“I wouldn’t think there’d be enough room in there,” An said.

“You mean, the two of you were inside the organ?” Jasin said.

“Well, yes,” Mattan said. “Is that a problem?”

Jasin gave a short bark of laughter, then began muttering under his breath, half humorously, about certain people, who really ought to know better, needing chaperones, at their age.

“You’d have to be careful about picking your angles,” Mattan told An. “And you weren’t.” He paused, considering. “Or maybe you knew exactly what you were doing. Anyway, you swung that wrench, and hit one of the main supports of the organ, and swung it again before I could react, and hit another one, knocking them both slightly askew. You might not have noticed it, but I knew if I didn’t get them strengthened, and quickly, the whole organ would have collapsed.”

“With you inside of it?” An said, horrified.

“What?” Mattan had to stop to think. “I didn’t consider that. But it wouldn’t have been that fast. I would have had plenty of time to get out, if it were really necessary. But the longer I waited to strengthen the supports, the harder it would be to fix, and the more damage to all the parts . . . I might not have been able to do it. So, I got the wrench away from you, shoved you out the door, so you’d be safe and out of my way, and shut the door behind me. I saw your face change again, but didn’t think, until later, what it must have sounded like to you.”

“And did you fix what you needed to?” Jasin asked.

“No, I’ll have to do that this week sometime. I need to get the materials. Maybe prop it up a bit more first. Get some craftsmen to help. But I’ve got it supported enough that it won’t take any more damage in those next few days. I think.” He frowned. “I should look at it again. And make sure to put up a note that no one is allowed to play it until I’ve gotten it fixed.”

“Mattan, I’m so sorry,” An said, holding out her hand to him.

“Hmm? What for?”

“You just had a stuck valve,” she said. “And now this, this major repair job. And I did it.”

“It wasn’t you,” Mattan said.

“And I don’t think you’re a no talent hack, either.”

“Never said you did.” Then Mattan smiled at her. “Though it is true.”

“I admire all the work you must have put in to play as well as you do. As well as you do everything else you do.”

He smiled at her. “Anything else?”

“No, just . . . thank you. For coming to find me, and explain. For not leaving me hanging.”

“Anilyne, I mean, An . . .”

“Mattan, stop doing that.”

“What?”

“Correcting yourself every time you say, or miss-say, my name.”

“You don’t mind me calling you Anilyne?”

“I didn’t say that. Just . . . stop.”

“It’s a lovely name. It suits you.”

“All right, you two,” Jasin said. “I’m still here.” He looked over at An. “I’ll finish clearing things up here, then take you up to see Jelana and Daved, if you’re ready.”

“I can drive us,” An said. “And Mattan’s coming with us.”

“Oh.” The two men looked at each other. “Are you sure you still want me to come?”

“Jasin, don’t be silly! You’re as bad as he is.” An said. “You’re my brother, of course I want you around.”

“And Mattan?”

“Well, he . . . isn’t,” An said. “Really, both of you stop this. I love . . . I mean, you’re both important to me.”

The two men exchanged glances again.

“Really, both of you,” An said. “I’m going to go down to my room for a minute, then I’ll ready to go.” She left the room.

“I really only want what’s best for her, Jasin,” Mattan said.

“And if what’s best for her turns out to be you?”

“Then I’ll rejoice,” Mattan said, simply.

Jasin grinned. “So will I, actually. I can’t tell you how many times in the past few years that I wanted to just pick up both of you and shake you. It’s just . . . “

“It’s just, why should you trust me?”

“Exactly. Why should I trust you where An is concerned?” He sighed. “Trust you in everything else, yes, easily. An trusts you though. Don’t know why.”

“An is in such deep trouble now,” Mattan said. “She may be grasping at straws.”

“I doubt you’re just a straw,” Jasin said. “Come on, let’s go.”

* * *

An walked ahead of the others into Daved’s woods. “Hello?” she called out.

Jelana stepped out, and gave An a hug. “You came!” She looked back at the other two. “Jasin, Mattan. Welcome!” She led them into the clearing, where three stumps shaped as chairs were waiting.

“Will Daved be joining us?” Jasin asked.

“Of course. This was his idea. He’ll be along in a moment,” Jelana said. She turned and faced where a man was stepping out from the trees. “There he is now.”

Daved came over to them in his slow way. “Hello. An. Welcome.” He held out his hands.

“Daved thinks he knows how to keep the Other from surfacing,” Jelana said.

“Jelana disagrees,” Daved said, looking at her.

“The two of you not in agreement?” Jasin said. “That’s a first.”

“Jasin, be serious,” Jelana said. “I understand what Daved’s trying to do. I just think it won’t work. Or at least not for long.”

“What do you mean, Jelana?” An asked.

“We know the Other is there, and she’s growing,” Jelana said. “That won’t stop. It’ll  just be suppressed. But, eventually, she’ll break out. And be worse than ever, especially if you’re not expecting it.”

“How eventually?” An asked. “A few days? Months? Longer? If it’s a year, or two, that might be all the time I need.”

“Anilyne . . .” Mattan said.

“Quiet, Mattan,” An said. “I want to hear.”

“That’s just it, An,” Jelana said. “We don’t know. None of this is anything we’ve had any dealings with. Nor anyone else. We’ve asked around. Even those who were around the least time the magic was this strong, a thousand or more years ago, don’t know how to deal with this. They’ve never heard of something like this, that isn’t obvious, that can’t be found.”

“And what is your idea, Jelana?” Jasin asked.

“Go the other way entirely,” Jelana said, straight forwardly. “Give the Other all the strength she needs to take over utterly, for a long enough period of time that we can find her, and chase her out.”

“Oh,” An said, her face turning pale. “Let the Other just take over?” She buried her face in her hands. “It would mean the loss of me, though.”

“Just a little while,” Jelana said, coming and putting her arms around An’s shoulders. “As small a time as we could manage. And in circumstances that we control.”

“But you don’t know anything about all this,” An said. “And stop trying to make me feel better!” She pulled away from Jelana’s arm. “You don’t know. You give the Other strength, and it may not let me back out again. I could be stuck as the Other forever!”

“I’m sorry, An,” Jelana said, backing up a little. “But we won’t let her take you over forever.”

“Even if you have to kill me,” An muttered.

“An . . .”

“An, what do you wish?” Daved asked.

“What do I wish? To be free. Even for a little while,” An said. “To know that I won’t hurt my . . . family. My friends. Do you think your plan can do that?”

“I do not know, An,” Daved said. “I hope so. For a little while, anyway. The Other wouldn’t be able to take you over completely. Not even to look out through your eyes. Though it might still be able to see, to hear, to know what’s going on.”

An didn’t lift her face. “That’s right, it does know everything that goes on, doesn’t it? That’s how it knows exactly when to surface, to make everything worse.” She raised her face. “Mattan.”

“Yes, An?” He came over, and put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m here.”

“What do you think?”

“Anilyne . . . Seems to me that you’ve already made up your mind.”

“Letting the Other take over . . . I can’t. That’s been my worst fear for . . . for ever. For years. Even when all it did was glare at people occasionally. Even when no one else believed there was anything there.”

“I’ve always believed there was something there, An,” Jasin said.

“You were the only one, then,” An said.

“Daved and I didn’t know you until later, An,” Jelana said. “And it was years before she surfaced in either of our presences. Probably on purpose. But when she did . . . well, it was obviously some other personality, not you. She . . . felt entirely different.”

“Anilyne . . . An,” Mattan said. “I’m sorry. I should have known.”

“When all I . . . it . . . ever did previously was glare at you? No, don’t be silly.” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Jelana. I don’t think I could handle letting the Other take control. Even for a little while. A little relief from that worry, that the Other might take over. I’d like that.”

“I understand,” Jelana said. “Perhaps later. You might change your mind. Or not, if Daved’s plan works better than I think it will.”

“What do I have to do?” An asked.

“Just relax, An,” Daved said. “Lie down, take a nap. Like you do other times.” He indicated a reclining couch behind him.

“All right.” An went over to it, and laid down. “I’d prefer it if you two didn’t stand around watching me,” she said to Mattan and Jasin.

“Come on,” Jelana said to them. “Let’s walk down by the waterside. We don’t want Daved to be distracted.”

“Can Daved be distracted?” Jasin asked, following her.

“He can sometimes become confused,” Jelana said. “You humans are all so much alike to him, you know.”

The two men looked at each other, and laughed.

“I didn’t say you were all alike to me,” Jelana said, with some annoyance. “Then again, I was raised among you. He wasn’t raised at all.”

* * *

An lay there, in the middle of the clearing. She could hear Jelana and the others talking off in the distance, but the quiet of the woods pressed in around her, the gentle rustling of the breeze in the trees. Daved had left the clearing, and she appeared to be all alone.

“An . . .” She felt rather than heard Daved’s voice come up through the wood of her couch. “Rest. Be still. No one will harm you.” More of a feeling than words, but still definitely Daved. “Do not fear.”

She took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She was so often exhausted these days. So much more than she let them believe. Though perhaps Jelana and Daved knew. If she could get rested. Really rested, down to her bones. Then perhaps she could face . . . but not yet. Not soon.

She opened her eyes and sat up. Something had changed. Daved stood beside her again, another necklace dangling from his fingers.

“It is done, An,” he said. “I think. The Other won’t be able to control you, to shunt you aside, while you wear this.”

“Are you sure?” she said.

“Nothing is certain, An,” he said. “Jelana still has her doubts.”

An nodded, and took the necklace from him.

“Not yet,” he told her. “Jelana wants to be here when you put it on, so she can see if it works.”

“I’m here, Daved,” Jelana’s voice came from the edge of the clearing. She stepped into it, Jasin and Mattan following close behind her.

“So, you’re all going to watch, then?” An said.

“Apparently,” Jasin said.

“There ought not be that much to see,” Daved said. “But Jelana wanted to be here to be sure.”

“All right,” An said. “Here goes.” She took a deep breath, and dropped the necklace over her head, and sat blinking for a moment.

“Does it feel any different, Anilyne?” Mattan asked.

“No. Yes. Whoa, this is weird.” She raised her right hand to rub her temple with her fingers, and after a moment, the left hand followed. “It feels like half my brain is asleep.” A surprised look crossed her face and vanished. Her left hand reached down, touched the bench beside her, and then went back up to rub her temple again.

“Are you all right, An?” Jasin asked.

She looked up at him and giggled. “I’m better than all right, Jasin,” she said. She bounced down off the couch, then started dancing around the clearing. Jasin and Mattan watched her, perplexed. She danced back and grabbed Mattan’s hands. “Dance with me!” she said, and tried to pull him for a couple of steps. He resisted her pull. “So solemn,” she mocked, “Is not the world a joy?” she dropped his hands, and danced off again.

“That is not Anilyne,” Mattan said, still watching her.

“That’s not the Other, either,” Jasin said. “Who was that? What was that?”

“It’s me.” Jelana said, standing stock still for once. “Daved, what have you done?”

“No, that is not you,” Daved said. “That is An. How long has it been since An was free? It is just the relief. She will settle down again, as she grows accustomed to it. I think.”

“If you say so,” Jelana said, dubiously. “Are you certain?”

“No. But I am certain that that is An,” Daved said.

Jelana pulled Jasin aside. “Watch her,” she told him, softly, but urgently. “I do not understand this. The next few days will tell us what is happening.”

“We will,” Jasin promised her. He looked at An again. “As glad as I am to see An happy, that just is not what I’d expect.”

An danced back, and tried taking Mattan’s hands again. This time he allowed himself to be drawn off, sparing a glance back helplessly at the others.

“Daved may have to adjust the necklace again,” Jelana said. “If she doesn’t settle down to being An again soon. But he’s too tired to, now.”

Jasin glanced at Daved, standing unperturbed beside them. “How can you tell?”

“Jasin!” she said, giving his arm a little punch. “Don’t be silly!”

“We’ll take her back now, if she’s willing,” Jasin said. “Will that be all right?”

“See what she’s like in her own place,” Jelana agreed. “She may be more herself there.”

“Come on, you two!” Jasin called out. “Time to head back in.”

Mattan drew back from An in evident relief, as she skipped in front of them to the car.

“What’s the verdict?” he said quietly to Jasin.

“Watch her,” Jasin replied. “Until they figure out what’s going on. Daved says she’s fine, Jelana’s concerned.”

“Wish we knew what to watch for,” Mattan muttered.

Unseen by either man, An’s left hand made a fist, then relaxed open again.

* * *

“So, we need to watch her,” Jasin told Belinda later that night.

“Every moment?” Belinda said. “Can’t we grant her a little privacy?”

“You’ve seen her. Is that An?” Jasin said.

“Nooo,” Belinda said, hesitantly. “Not like I’ve ever seen her. Even way back. But . . . who is it then? Not the Other. And at least she’s happy.”

“That’s part of the problem,” Mattan said, as they watched An, perched on a stool, reading, her feet swinging beneath her. She looked up at them and smiled.

“An’s afraid to be happy,” Mattan continued. “Bad things always happen when she’s happy.”

“And she’s happy now, without worry,” Belinda said. “Ecstatic even. Something’s not right.”

“I don’t think Daved knew as much as he thought he did,” Jasin said.

“She wanted to be free of the fear of the Other,” Mattan said. “And now she is.”

“So, now, we watch her,” Belinda said. “If Daved’s right, she’ll get back to being herself soon.”

“And if he’s wrong,” Jasin said.

“We could just gave her take off the necklace again,” Mattan said.

“Yeeess,” Jasin said reluctantly. “But that would open her up to the Other again.”

“I’ll take her out tomorrow morning,” Belinda said. “Probably do us both good to get out somewhere else for a bit.”

Jasin nodded. “Where will you go?”

“Probably Sandy Beach. We can go to the new bookstore at the mall, and a few other places. I’d like to look at some supplies. And out to lunch. I’d still be back in plenty of time for the afternoon shift.”

“Checking out the competition again, love?” Jasin said, with a small laugh. “Sound’s good.” Then he looked around. “Where did An go?”

She giggled from behind him. “I’m here, Jasin.” She spun. “Can’t watch me if you can’t find me, can you?” She giggled again.

“An, how do you feel?” Mattan asked.

“The world is dancing, and taking me with it,” An said. “I’m headed back up to my room. Catch me if you can!” She danced off.

“If it weren’t An we’re talking about here,” Belinda said, getting up to follow her. “I’d say she was on something.”

“She is on something,” Jasin said. “If she’s still like this tomorrow afternoon, I’ll take her back up to see Daved, and tell him this isn’t working.”

Mattan said, “If you can get her to go. I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon, also. See what’s happening.” He thought a moment. “I’ll spend the morning bracing up the organ properly.” He sighed. “I was planning on spending the next month getting it into the best shape possible, anyway. But I thought I’d be starting from a better point.”

Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Epilogue

3 thoughts on “An & Mattan, Part 3

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