“James, dear!” exclaimed mother as she moved to embrace me.
“Don’t forget our new daughter-in-law.” stated father. He looked surprised as Alma stepped up and hugged him, but he still hugged her back.
“Of course not.” replied mother, letting go of me to hug Alma too. “How was the honeymoon? Did you two have fun?”
“Quite eventful. You’d be amazed how much we can accomplish in two weeks.” I told them.
Father laughed and said, “Not really, not with how incredibly fast you two are.”
“I’m pregnant.” stated Alma, stepping toward me.
My parents stared at her incredulously for a moment.
“Isn’t it a bit too soon to tell?” suggested mother.
“Alma’s not quite human, so things work a bit differently. I assure you that she is.” I told her.
Father hesitated a bit longer before saying, “Well, I always did want to be a grandfather.”
“Congratulations to you both!” exclaimed mother. “Do the others know yet?”
“Sorry, but your son couldn’t keep it a surprise till you got here.” claimed Alma, smiling up at me.
I shrugged and told my parents “Sorry. I’m a bit excited.” Waving them onward, I said, “Come in, please. We have something to show you.”
“Another surprise?” asked father.
“I’m sure it’s not as surprising as this.” claimed mother, smiling at me. “Any idea when the baby will be due with the umm… differences?”
“December, we think.” replied Alma, before winking up at me.
“Are you planning on finding out if it’s a boy or a girl? That seems pretty common these days.” suggested father.
“Probably.” I told him. “We figure that’ll give us more time to come up with a name.”
“If you have a boy, are you going to carry on the tradition?” inquired father, following us toward the ballroom.
“That seems quite likely. I like how easily the name would pass in my country too.” explained Alma.
“What if you have a girl?” questioned mother. “I’ll gladly help with names.”
“We already decided on Dani for our first girl.” teased Alma as she loudly emphasized the name.
“Oh? Is there a story behind this?” inquired mother, her eyes opening wide as Dani came running into the room.
“Mom, are these them!?” exclaimed Dani, putting her hands together and grinning like she just got the most exciting present.
“Dani, meet my parents.” I told her. Then to my parents I said, “This is our adopted daughter, Dani Lyshaa Somerset.”
“Uh… b-but…” started father, stopping as he stared at me.
I caught Cosette grinning from the ballroom doorway as Dani ran up and hugged both of my parents at the same time. Father, still looking shocked, patted her back as he looked down at mother.
Switching to her native tongue, Dani let go of them and asked “Why aren’t they happy?”
“English in front of your grandparents.” ordered Alma.
“What uh language is that?” asked father.
“Oh, that’s from Dani’s home. The circumstances were a bit unusual, but she’s part of the family now.” I told him.
“Dani, I love your hair and umm skin.” stated mother, reaching to touch Dani’s head but hesitating.
Dani pressed her head into mother’s hand as she exclaimed “It’s all natural, except the tips!”
“Is she… uh… similar to the ones in your forest?” asked father.
“No, she’s not a fey, but she does sense the emotions of those around her.” I explained.
“The fey! I forgot about them. When can I meet them!?” exclaimed Dani, staring up at me.
“Let’s plan on tonight for most of them. You’ll meet one sooner.” I promised, creating a burst of light above the forest with a spell. “Just don’t let her know how long we’ve been back, since she’ll be disappointed that I didn’t come see her first thing. For now, let’s head to the dining room. Marco’s probably done preparing dinner by now.”
“Almost, master. We’re putting the finishing touches on at the moment.” announced Mila over the speakers.
“Perfect.” I replied as I started walking to the dining room.
Alma looped her arm around mine and said, “I have missed his cooking. This will be a treat.”
“Marco’s cooking is always a treat.” agreed father as he and mother followed with Dani between them. “Dani, how old are you?” he asked.
“Almost fifteen.” she told him with a grin.
“When’s your birthday?” asked mother.
“Uh…” she mumbled, looking thoughtful.
Alma glanced back and said, “April nineteenth.”
“That’s the one!” exclaimed Dani.
“How long have you been studying English? You’re doing quite well.” stated mother.
“I’m not too sure.” she replied with a shrug.
When my little fairy friend came flying toward us, I glanced back to watch my daughter’s reaction. Her look of wonder was priceless, especially when my little friend started showing us all of her adventures in the forest.
“Daddy, she’s adorable! I want to ride on the umm… the squirrel!” she exclaimed. “I want to ride on a squirrel. I guess they’re pretty small for her to ride them like that, but wasn’t that awesome!?”
I pursed my lips as my little friend started paying more attention to my daughter. Dani was getting more and more excited as the fey talked to her. I had expected her to get a double dose of their emotions, since she’d be feeling it with her own abilities as well as in the fairy’s projections, but I hoped the forest wouldn’t overwhelm her when we visited there.
“I’m still not accustomed to feeling that. What did you think, Dani?” asked mother.
“Oh, mom’s shown me things like that before, so I’m used to it.” she replied, sounding much calmer than I would have expected.
Perhaps Alma was intervening for Dani, projecting her own calm into Dani’s mind.
“Will the others be joining us?” asked mother.
“You can count on it, the ones who are here at least.” I assured her. “A couple are out on jobs. Jemal and Kayla should return soon. He’s probably picking her up from her friend’s or on his way back with her already. The ones here are just giving us a few minutes privacy while you get to know Dani a little.”
Mila had given me a rundown of everyone’s schedule on the way here from the airport. We had flown home in Alma’s plane just to give Dani the experience of how flight is here. Given how advanced her home planet is compared to ours, most things on this planet were going to seem pretty low tech.
“Isn’t it amazing how pretty all of daddy and mom’s friends are!?” exclaimed Dani.
Father laughed and said, “I couldn’t agree more. My wife and I would feel remiss in our apparel were we to leave home in anything too casual for a visit here.”
“You’re quite beautiful too, Dani.” insisted mother.
“Thank you, grandmother!” replied Dani with another grin.
Pursing her lips for a moment, mother said, “That will take some acclimation. I wasn’t expecting to be a grandmother this morning.”
“Son, why does she call you ‘daddy’ while calling Alma ‘mom’ and now my wife ‘grandmother’?” inquired father.
“I blame Aaliyah. She insisted that Dani go with ‘daddy’ for me. Alma wasn’t about to be called ‘mommy’ but she didn’t want to have things sound too formal when I’m ‘daddy’.” I explained.
Piping in, Dani said, “And they thought ‘grandfather’ and ‘grandmother’ seemed right for you two.”
Father nodded and said, “I suppose.”
“You three already seem so casual together. If you’ll pardon my asking, Dani, but wasn’t being adopted by someone as young as… as these two… a bit odd?” inquired mother.
Dani grinned and told her “I feel like I’ve been with them for years.”
“But they’re really not too much older than you.” stated father.
I gave Dani a warning glance and shook my head when she looked like she was going to reply.
Taking father’s hand in both of hers, Alma said, “Getting used to the idea of me dating your son took a while too, but families can come about in the strangest of ways. Please trust us on this.”
He looked surprised by her, but he nodded. “Life in this household will never be normal. I have come to terms with it. I think marriage suits you.”
She smiled and told him “It really does.”
“Let’s all take this end again.” I suggested, walking to the northern end of the table as I explained to my little friend that we were eating soon.
She excitedly projected all of her favorite foods into my head, complete with aromas, taste, textures, and her feelings on them.
Dani wistfully announced “I want some of everything.”
“She really is remarkable. I should show you some of the paintings she’s inspired if you ever visit.” suggested mother.
“Daddy’s told me that you paint! I’d love to see your work.” insisted Dani.
“You should paint together.” suggested Alma. “Dani has talent and has been well trained in the arts.”
“Really? I’d love to paint with her.” replied mother.
“Please forgive her if she cheats at times.” I warned.
“What do you mean, dear?” asked mother.
“Daddy, it’s not cheating!” insisted Dani.
“Dani has a gift for magic and uses it when painting.” explained Alma.
I smiled, feeling my wife’s explanation was a bit of an understatement, but mother would see soon enough. That conversation ended there when my friends started coming into the room, since greetings were exchanged. Still, I felt things were progressing nicely.