Zahara’s birthday has arrived. She’ll miss playing with her cousins.
Casey arrives early in the morning once again, but this time Topaz is already up and waiting for him.
Being greeted with a kiss is more than Casey was hoping for, even after their fantastic date the night prior. But he’s just going to take this as good news.
“There’s a nice way to say hello.” He smiles. “How’s the birthday girl doing?”
“Good! She’s just downstairs playing with my brother’s triplets. Give me a minute to get her washed up and we’ll get the cake set up.”
He finds Winter sitting in the dining room and joins her. “So when’re the triplets having their birthday?”
“Soon.” She responds, not sure if she really wants to talk to him. There’s some kind of aura around him lately that’s had her feeling uncomfortable and distracted. A bad omen, perhaps.
“How have you been settling into the Plains?” She continues, fishing for information. “Have the locals been friendly?”
“Everyone’s been great!” He assures her. “My agent was pissed at me for coming out here again but - and I’m swearing you to secrecy here - I’ve been offered a position at the theatre. It’ll give me a real job and opportunity to live here in the Plains, and I can have all my recording equipment sent over here to my new place. I don’t mind giving up the rockstar life for Topaz. I want to be here for our family.”
Before Winter can speak further, Topaz comes through the archway with Zahara on her hip. Time for her little girl to become a slightly older little girl.
Even if Topaz knew any locals well enough to invite them over, they’d have no room for any guests. So a family party it is.
Topaz helps her daughter blow out the candles.
Zahara becomes a child.
Topaz points out that cake is technically more like candy than breakfast anyway once she has him alone.
“Damn- uh, dangit.” Casey sighs, smiling slightly. “I was so hoping you wouldn’t notice that.”
Zahara was going to ask her parents to join her in the pool but they’re busy so she decides not to bother them. Her uncle and aunts are all downstairs with the triplets so they probably won’t want to swim with her either. The babies aren’t allowed near the pool incase they fall in.
With their daughter out of the room, Casey gets right to the news he’d promised Topaz the night before. “I’m moving to Appaloosa Plains permanently. Everything’s just been finalized through my agent. I’ve already bought the house across the street, my recording equipment will be sent over within a few days and I’ve got a job lined up with the local theatre to bring in extra cash in between royalty cheques. I’m not going anywhere this time.”
Topaz’s smile is genuine. “Seriously? You’ve really moved here for good? But what about tours and concerts?”
“I can live without tours for a few years.” He promises. “It’s not necessary for my career right now, and I’d much rather stay here with you and Z.”
That means the world to her.
Zahara has wanted to go swimming ever since she first saw the pool from inside the house. Just the idea of being able to “float” inside of a pool and imagine you’re flying must be amazing!
Yeah... its pretty cool. But a little bit scary too. She didn’t realize it would be so hard to stay afloat. Maybe kids shouldn’t go swimming by them selves.
Back inside the house, Casey and Topaz are busy enjoying each other’s company. Right now, life is good.
Topaz breaks away slightly to ask Casey if he’ll spend the night this time but then they hear the frantic splashing.
Casey gets outside first. For a moment, he can’t see what was causing the splashing, but then he spots his daughter struggling to swim back up from the bottom of the pool.
He has her in his arms within seconds, but she’s already gone still. He won’t think about what this means, at least not until they’re both safely on dry land again.
Topaz feels her heart breaking when Casey pulls their daughter out of the water. Zahara isn’t moving, she isn’t breathing.
Casey’s talking, something about an ambulance but Topaz knows its already too late. her daughter’s soul is still in her body, but not because she’s alive. It’s because the Reaper isn’t coming for it himself.
Hearing the commotion, Nalin rushes outside. Stopping dead in his tracks when he sees Casey cradling Zahara.
“Sh-should I call an ambulance?”
Topaz shakes her head, pointing back at the house. “I need you to grab Winter and the triplets and stay in the house as hidden as you can. Epsilon will be here soon and I don’t want her anywhere near Winter just in case.”
“Epsilon?” Nalin asks, not recognizing the name. “And just in case what?”
She gives him an exasperated look. “Please, Nalin! Just go!”
He goes, and Casey comes up to her. “What’s going on, Topaz?”
She can’t meet his eyes as he hugs her. Telling him what she’s done would only break his heart, but she has a plan.
“I need you to grab Zahara and get out of here.” She orders.
She shakes her head, fighting back her tears. “I need to do something that I should have done a long time ago, and I don’t know if I’m going to get out of it okay. You need to take Zahara and promise me you’ll take care of her no matter what.”
“I promise.” He assures her. “But please tell me what you’re going to do.”
It’s too late for an explanation, and its too late for a plan.
Topaz tries anyway. “You can’t do this, Epsilon. Zahara is my daughter, she’s just a child! I’ve watched over her her entire life!”
Epsilon sighs. “That was a figure of speech, and you know that. I promised to leave the family you had at the time of our arrangement untouched, but Zahara is free game. Don’t tell me you’re going back on your agreement of a soul for a soul, my dear.”
With Topaz at a loss for words, Casey puts together just how Topaz could have brought someone back from death. He makes up his mind before the strange woman can push past them and take Zahara.
“I want you to take me instead of her.” The announcement leaves both women silent. “I’ve lived a good life, I’ll be missed by my fans if you want the emotional attachment. And Topaz hasn’t watched over me in any way if you want to get past that loophole too.”
“Interesting.” Epsilon says with a smug smile. “Dear Winter sacrificed her soul for the one she loves, so it would make the most sense to take a soul who is willing to make the same sacrifice. I accept your plea, and will give you a moment to say your goodbyes.”
Topaz does not take the news well.
“Please don’t do this.” She begs, holding Casey close. “There’s another way, there has to be. I won’t let her take you from me. I don’t want to lose you again.”
“The only other way would be for us to lose our daughter.” He points out, not wanting to let her go. “I love you both so much, Topaz. I have to do this, to keep you both safe and happy. I’m sorry that this means I’ll be leaving you alone again, but I hope one day you’ll be able to forgive me.”
With his goodbyes said, he lets Epsilon take him away.
Prim arrives outside just as Epsilon has faded away, seeing her sister holding Casey’s still body in her arms.
But soon enough, his body fades as well.
And Topaz is left alone again.
At least, until Zahara’s eyes open.
Topaz has her daughter in her arms instantly, trying to hold back her tears.
It takes Zahara a few moments to remember what happened before she fell unconscious. “Where’s dad? He saved me, didn’t he?”
“He did save you.” Topaz says. “But he had to go away again.”
“Will he come back?”
This time, Topaz can’t hold back the tears at all.
Dammit Colleen. Stop guessing my stories.
Anyway, next chapter won't be for a while. I'm going to remove all my CC, update, start a fresh folder, and then play my legacy with minimal CC in an attempt to figure out what's causing my crashing and errors.