Jan. 3rd, 2007

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It's one of my favourite memories that aren't. I think it must have happened, because why would Vail make up something like that? Or maybe it didn't. At this point, I don't care.

But what I remember is this: Mom and Dad - Colleen and Lawrence Riley, if it needs to be clearer - went through a bad time when I was ten and Mere was six. They tried to keep it from us, but you notice stuff. At least when you're ten you do, and when most of the other parents of the guys you go to school with are divorced. This was when I started to have this idea of running away to the circus, or something. Anyway, Christmas came, and a visit from my grandmother - Dad's mother - and of course she picked up on something being wrong, too, and made these comments to Mom where she was saying one thing but you could hear in her voice she meant something else. And after a while, Mom just about exploded, said "it's none of your freakin' business", took the car, and drove away. She didn't come back for hours, and there was supposed to be a party for Dad's collegues at our house - every year, someone else hosted the Christmas office party, and this year it was Dad's turn. Nobody was telling Mere and me anything, still, except Dad saying I should keep Mere busy, would I do that? So I tried. And I kept imagining Mom going away, or whatever was wrong turning out to be that either her or Dad was deathly ill or something, and felt more rotten by the minute.

Mere wanted some more of the cookies, though we weren't supposed to eat any more before Christmas dinner, but I didn't care about that anymore and went down to get some. The party had already started, and nobody would notice. So I went down the stairs, and there she was. Mom. Back. And she was kissing Dad. Not a peck on the cheek kiss or a good morning darling how are you kiss or something like that - it was the kind where you feel embarassed watching when these are your parents. Except I didn't, not this time. I was just so relieved. She was glowing, and so was Dad when he came up for air, and I knew whatever the bad thing had been, it was over now. They'd stay together. Nobody was sick. Best Christmas present ever.

You can't keep track of seasons or a calendar at Quototh. My father was always frustrated about this, because he wanted to obey the holidays and teach me how to. When I first came here, Fred tried to work out how many years had passed and how old exactly I was and what happened when, but math genius or not, she could only come up with estimations. But I think I can guess what happened in Quortoth when I was ten. I nearly lost him. He was aging, you see; he hadn't been a young man when we arrived there, and now he was starting to be old. Too old to be just fast enough, strong enough to beat every creature there on his own. They nearly got his leg that one time. It had been one of our tracking exercises, that's why I wasn't with him, and when I showed up, he was already bleeding, couldn't run anymore because of the leg would, and the smell attracted even more enemies. It took me nearly two hours to kill them all. Later, I realized I was now strong enough to carry him, and we got to a cave where we could rest for the night. He was furious. Not with me, with himself, because he knew it wouldn't be the last time his body betrayed him.

"I don't need any more tracking games," I told him, which was my way of promising I'd take care of him, just as he had of me when I had been too weak to kill for myself, and that I wouldn't leave him. That he'd be safe.

"No, I don't think you do," he agreed. I was happy then. There is no kiss involved, but it's my other favourite memory of that year.


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