I was Born the Unloved Twin
When I next awoke it was to a curtain drawn room and a comfortable nest of a little makeshift bed.
I must have been put into a spare converted room after I passed out. From the low light that seems though I can guess it must still be the same day, early evening at the latest.
Out in the hall, I can see it's the same downstairs hall as the kitchen and washroom from earlier. I don't dare open the doors to the other rooms, out of respect more than anything else.
My host is strange but kind, kinder than anyone's ever been to me for two lifetimes. I won't take that for granted, ever.
Since there are no signs here, Gable must be upstairs.
The hall and stairway aren't entirely dark, little lights glow from geometrical shapes hang on the walls. They're like an improved version of glow in the dark star stickers I had in my bedroom as a kid.
God, this house is cool.
I don't really know what I was expecting Gable to be doing.
Diligently looking over his research?
Elegantly reading a book?
Brewing some cool potions?
Summoning unholy forced from a realm beyond over a blood sacrifice?
Whatever I was expecting, it was not him curled up by the fire crocheting like a little old lady.
Well, I suppose he's is an old man. It's a very cozy looking scene, hot cup of something by an open fire on a comfortable looking chair. If it weren't for all macabre bird bones and somewhat witchy looking materials it would be very holiday postcard-worthy.
Unless you're into that sort of thing.
"Awake I see, it's still early, now's a good a time as any to be up. Won't lose any sleep before bedtime, damn what even is bedtime for kids like you? How are you feeling now?"
Without looking up Gable seem to always know where I am and somehow I don't think that has anything to do with magic.
"Much better, my throat feels scratchy but my nose is much better."
"Hmm, sounds about right. Another milk before bed then. Now stop hovering by the doorway and come try these on."
I was only trying to be polite by not intruding but since I've been given permission I'll gladly make myself more comfortable. There's no other chair but plenty of cushions to pile up, all with a hand-knitted pattern cover.
The items Gable pulls out for me to try were a poofy pair of crochet high waist shorts and matching long wool socks in the same soft walnut color. There were all of course near infant size and looked adorable.
"Waaah you made these? Amazing!"
"Yes yes yes, best I could do. Your old clothes were...not fit....for anything. These were the quickest things to whip together"
"I understand completely if they're not salvageable, thank you so much Sir Gable."
"Just Gable is fine."
AH, it seems he's not one for such formalities. But it makes sense, given how he prefers to live away from most of society. Or that he even stays friends with the crazy old man that is my grampa, even after all these years. Better safe than sorry though, who gets kicked out for being too polite?
"I'm serious, they're so well made! You can do so much and crochet too, it's amazing."
"Great then put them on already."
"....is this magic?"
"The socks, are they magic?
"Well, no but I did enchant my tools?"
I don't think sir Gable understands how difficult it is to crochet socks normally. I'll just stick to knitting. Cozy as they are, they are a bit stiff and baggy but they could be rolled down to fit.
The shorts are very roomy but warm. I for one am glad to finally have something to cover down there.
I just need some shoes and a cute hat for this adorable countryside outfit to be complete. A hat....a hat really would be helpful,...
"You don't seem too pleased but bear with it for now."
"Oh no I love them, they're very comfortable! I was just thinking about how nice a hat or something to cover my hair would be....it wasn't like this before you know. Tree sap accident."
I explain as I awkwardly gesture to my messy hair. It's much less of a bird's nest after a clean bath but it does look something quite pitiful.
"Ah yes a hat, that I can do, but how about we try to neaten that feral child look of yours first?"
"Yes please, if you could be so kind."
"I don't know if there's much I can do with it so I hope you don't mind it short."
"Short hair doesn't bother me, it's okay even if I look like a boy/"
"Relax and try not to flinch much."
I'm lightly lifted and seated to the corner of a table before Gable covers my shoulders with a rag. He wets my hair with a comb and instead of pulling out a pair of scissors, he brings forth a green flame between his fingers. It follows his steady hand, wisping across my forehead, over my ears as it burns away the choppy uneven strands left dangling.
It dances in warm spots at the back of my head and I try very hard not to clap in astonishment and applause.
Why can't this magician be my grampa instead? Hey, can I request a trade-in?!
When he finishes I see my reflection for the first time in this life.
Not in the moving water of a pond or river, nor in the face of my twin but clearly in an actual polished mirror. None of the funny reflective bronze stuff either, an actual clear mirror.
Large sharp hazel brown eyes, bordering on gold, stares back at me. The round face of a small child, one who should be familiar, but isn't. It's the same baby heart-shaped face as Lilyanne's but fuller, tanner, with cheeks that are too warm and flushed. Decently dark if not a bit judgmental eyebrows, a little button nose, and a perpetual pout, all these things make up my face.
So this is the face of a villain?
Indeed I make a good looking little boy, hair cropped short all around. However, my bangs and the sides were left to frame my round little face rather favoringly. My hair looks darker, straighter when it's this short, none of Lillyanne's fairytale curls except the barest of edges.
I don't look like Lilyanne like this. I don't look like her at all, identical face or not. It's an entirely different aura, a clearly different child.
I think I like it.
"It will grow back in time. "
I assume Gable responded to my silence with the assumption I'm disappointed and am quick to shower him in praise once again. After all I am a little girl and thus a little vain, besides he's on team long hair himself. If anything, it would be difficult to pull off some of my future plots looking like this. What good is being twins if you can't switch around for your own gain? But that's an issue for further along in the future.
"So what now? Do I just wait around for grampa to pick me up? As much as I'm glad to be here, and I really am grateful, I wouldn't want to impose too much on you. "
"For everyone's peace of mind yes, I'd prefer if you stayed where I can keep an eye on you. I'm sure your parents would prefer it that way as well. Honestly, what was Ronald thinking?"
"Did grampa send me out here to find you maybe?"
"Absolutely not, he doesn't even know I'm out here."
"Didn't he leave to visit you in the North but a few months ago?"
"Never said I was there though, heh. Might have missed me this year."
It's like hide and seek then. What a strange friendship.
"Anyways there's plenty of room and you're welcome to stay Rosalia. I assume you're mentally old enough to not have to be babysat but given your current physical state, well I'm sure you understand."
"Yes, thank you very much for opening your home to me. Please don't mind me, I wouldn't want to get in the way of your daily routine."
"No worries, Ronald does enough of that already. Compared to that trouble magmet, a smart behaved child like you is no bother. "
Truly a strange friendship between these two but that's a given.
"Then, please take care of me until then."
Just like Gable said, grampa is known for being late.
My cold came and gone but that one night in the hobbit house turned to two then three and now going on near two weeks already.
Gramps definitely overshot that '3 day's' pick up date. While it's exasperating of him, I'm secretly glad about it. Every day here has been enjoyably fascinating with the seemingly endless amount of research, books and pleasant company in this cottage.
Even if I do get assigned some daily household chores. Gable has no qualms with putting me to work and keeping me busy. It's really no big deal to me, who used to be a normal commoner, but wouldn't it be simpler to just use magic?
But hey what do I know?
If I'm told to sweep, organize some shelves and feed some strange giant 'farm' animals each morning well that's not too unreasonable. Those mutant eggs are great, even if the huge mother birds are very dinosaur-like terrifying. I always believed the T-rex had feathers and this may be what they looked like if shrunk down to the size of a goose.
I don't mean to outstay my welcome but again, better under someone's supervision than off on my own getting eaten by a wild something. The worst thing that could happen to me here is maybe getting kicked by the old 'goat' during milking.
I'm actually having a very nice time playing farm house, it's very refreshing as it is a workout.
Well, Gable has to keep self sufficiently feeding himself somehow. Of course, there would be a vegetable garden and some usable 'farm' animals in addition to all his strange herb plots. Though the more valuable and dangerous plants are kept in a nursery underground.
Relying on the bounty of nature is fine and all but inconveniently time-consuming, though we've gone out for a foraging 'walk' twice already. Only then am I allowed to walk past the illusioned gates of the compound, beyond the firewood stacks and common vegetable patches.
By now I've been here long enough to accumulate a tiny pair of scrapped fur-lined leather boots and an enchanted weather resistant hooded cloak for when I go outside. The cloak was a dark brown, child sized and of course hand crochet. Upon my request and recalling a simple pattern from my other world, I asked for Gable to attach cute bear ears on the hood.
Cuteness must always prevail.
The foraging trips were quite educational as I was introduced to many other plants and creatures I previously did not notice or knew the useful properties of. If I'm ever caught stranded in the woods again I'll have a much easier time.
But we ended up with much more wild mushrooms and common spring fruits since those are the things I can best identify.
The rest of the time Gable is often working. He seems to have multiple projects going on all at once and even if he was only working on one thing I wouldn't be able to keep up with understanding it.
He's like a busy stay at home author or freelancer back in my world.
Very self disciplined with his work and very likely to forget all sense of time. There is no clock here but Gable doesn't seem to need it anyways. The hobbit house is so full of skylights and bits and pieces of scattered natural windows that it's easy to judge the time of day.
I don't know if it's my added pretense but he seems insistent on taking time out for three solid meals a day.
We had just popped an herb mushroom quiche into the kitchen oven when he mentioned it to me one afternoon.
"You weren't a fighter were you."
Sudden but it wasn't a question, the slightly sad tone of voice told me he wasn't talking about the present. While he often treats me like a small child in need of assistance, which I am, Gable always speaks to me with an adult sense of respect.
I appreciate that and in return never play games with him in the way I do others
"No...I mean I'll put up a fight if need be but, the people in my world didn't need to fight so much."
"You cook, you know a lot of recipes from what I've seen. You read a lot even without aid, somewhat education. Even without me you could forage the woods. You even know how to craft some...creative things."
He gestures to the flower headband on my head that I crochet a few evenings ago, curled in front of the fireplace as he made by the little cloak. They're simple to make and I crocheted two other plain ones as a thank you token for Gable, to keep his hair out the way if he needs it.
What he meant though was that my behavior showed that I was a normal civilian. Softer, a support player, not a frontline warrior. That's how this world operates thought peace has finally come, the battles too fresh for most of the older generations.
It's true though, I was living in a 1st world technologically advanced country. Where would I need to fight? Outside gym sessions or women's self defense classes where would I get the opportunity to? No, I was just a normal young woman who never even held a real weapon. Unless pepper spray counts?
"Ronald was, ...a soldier I mean. In his life before. Sometimes he forgets not everyone is one, too caught up in his world view. "
"It can't be just that....grampa treats my mother very gently, and my little sister too."
"Either too gentle or too rough, no in-between with that idiot."
I think I can understand what Gable is trying to defend here. He won't tell me grampa's origin story but in between the safe retelling of stories I would hear anyways, he slips up. He tells me bits and pieces about grampa that paints a very human picture. Not a god or an infallible hero, just a person, very possibly with PTSD, with a lot of goof ups, mistakes and good all mixed up.
I want to say it's a biased picture but Gable isn't the type of view anyone but with the truth, especially his best friend. It partly clashes and greatly fills out the image of the grampa in my head. Of course, I won't admit to sympathizing with him, can't make it that easy.
"So he's either a brute of muscle head or a useless family dog?"
The dishes float to the sink to wash themselves and I undo the little apron over my new handmade overalls. I'm not a cartoon character, one outfit the entire time wasn't going to cut it and Gable is a very neat tailor.
He was already crocheting more clothing for me anyways. If I drew out the clothes or a pattern I remembered from Home EC, it could be shortly produced. It was rather nice not having to make excuses for just knowing things.
Our peaceful craft time in the evenings are more enjoyable than my downtime back home.
I'm learning a lot out here, not just foraging and farm work.
Potion brewing was never one of my strong points but Gable makes a splendid tutor, it being one of his specialties. I can already make my own cold droughts and work at enchanting simple things. My most glorious work, however, has to be making some much better tasting internal healing potions, low grade as they are. They're a little fizzy, like soda pop!
At first, I was concerned about falling behind on weapons training and such but as Gable reminds me, I was never much of a physical fighter.
"By all means, if you have something keep at it. Can't have too many cards up your sleeve."
There's plenty of time as Gable rises early and I try to follow him, though I do still need my afternoon naps. So I run my daily exercises as I see fit, just to physically keep up. The farm and housework eliminated any need for a weight routine though.
As much as I'm learning here, even through just observations, the best part is how I can just be. I may be small but I don;t have to play a part other than a polite house guest. I can speak freely without fearing giving out suspicious information because it's only Gable and the woods here and he already knows. No pressure and certainly no spying eyes on me, it's quite nice to live so freely.
I understand why Gable keeps to himself so away from the rest of society now.
While I can't live like he does, I still have a lot of growing up in this world to do, I really hope this peaceful time stretches out even for a little bit more.
As all good things though it must come to an end.
A tremor runs through the ground.
I think it's an earthquake before Gable draws a circle into the air, a portal with camera vision of the surface showing through it. An airheaded man, far too familiar to me to be called handsome, appears wandering across the screen like a lost dog.
"Rosa! Here girl, where are yooooouuu?"
Grampa's familiar voice vibrated through the ground from wherever he is on the surface and instead of joy or even relief at his late arrival I can't help but feel like cursing. Ah what an irritating sort of man.
Why am I being called out like the common pet dog?!?!
"Rooooosa! Grampapa' is here! I know you're somewhere around here~ Well, at least the bag is....huh funny, swore I passed that tree before."
"...He's caught in your illusion isn't he?"
"Works every time, oh well better late than never. Just be glad it didn't take him 5 years this time kid."
You know what, I actually wouldn't mind that.