“What?” The word slipped breathlessly from Roe’s mouth, as she stared at Bell across the kitchen table.
Bell looked at her granddaughter with a swelling affection before reiterating, “I think you should go with Ari.”
Roe scoffed and shook her head, “I don’t--all this--it can’t be me, Grandma--I--”
“And how do you know that?” Bell asked.
“I--just… I don’t know,” Roe sighed.
“I know you don’t like to hear it, but you are capable of extraordinary things, Zero. Don’t ever forget that.”
Roe rubbed the back of her neck, uncomfortable at the words. “That’s just--tinkering, it’s--this prophesy--thing is...”
Bell gave her a small, understanding smile. “I don’t know about that prophesy stuff either, but what I do know is that, whatever it is, it sounds important. And Ari, she’s a good person. I believe her when she says it is.”
Roe sighed and shifted in her chair.
Bell lovingly considered Roe for a moment. “You look so much like your mother,” she said with a tenderness in her voice.
The look of skepticism momentarily wavered on Roe’s face.
“When she left for school and met your father,” Bell continued, “She was just as restless and unsure as you are now.”
Roe scoffed, “That was completely different. This is some crazy magic--alien crap, not some freaking university road trip.”
“I know--” Bell started before being cut off.
“--Besides, I’m not just going to abandon you here. There’s too much to do,” Roe said with a false sense of finality.
“‘Abandon me here?’” Bell said with a chuckle.
“I mean--I won’t...” Roe looked away and paused. “Be like him.”
An empathy and understanding set in Bell’s kind eyes. “Zero, it was my choice to leave him too.” Roe’s eyes returned to her’s, as she continued. “We loved each other very much. And part of me still does. Just... after your parents... we realized that his place was out there with his discoveries, and mine was here, with my two proudest achievements.” She looked to the ever-churning terra-mid in the distance outside the kitchen window then back to Roe.
A reluctant smile cracked the side of Roe’s mouth, and Bell reached out and grabbed her hand.
“Just give your grandfather a chance,” Bell continued. “You have more of his adventurous spirit than you’d like to admit, and he might not be the same person you remember. Time changes people. Maybe he can help make sense of this prophesy thing.”
Roe sighed heavily.
Bell leaned in towards her. “You are the most talented young woman I have ever met. You shouldn’t be in the garage fixing pumps and pH systems. You should out in the world, putting your gifts to use. And, from the sound of it, these people can use all the help they can get.” Bell raised her eyebrows, “I don’t know how magic works, but maybe some mechanical thinking could be useful?”
A snort escaped Roe’s resistant stare, before she responded, “But with harvesting--”
But Bell quickly cut in, “Sweetie, I’ve lived in this house for 71 years and ran the farm by myself for at least 30 of those, so I don’t need my 20-something granddaughter who outgrew it years ago to help me run it. I’ll be fine. I promise.”
Relenting, Roe laughed and shook her head, “I’m 25, you know. Just in case you forgot.”
“And I’m about to be four times that, so you’d better listen to me then, huh?” Bell said with a sense of stern silliness.
Roe’s face suddenly sunk at this, as Bell realized she’d said something she shouldn’t have.
“If I go...” Roe said, a weighted sadness in her voice, “Then I’ll miss your birthday.”
Bell sighed, then quickly deflected, “It’s fine, sweetie,” as she stood and started cleaning up the aftermath of Roe’s feeding frenzy. “100 isn’t a big deal these days, anyway. You can just call in during the party, and we’ll do the usual present unwrapping and everything. You won’t miss a thing.”
Roe nodded uncertainly, as she helped gather up the mess.
“Look,” Bell said, placing her hands on Roe’s solemn cheeks after clearing the table. “You’ll find your way. I know you will. And, at the end of wherever this journey takes you, if you want to come home, come home. I’ll be here.”
Roe looked to her, the uncertain reluctance slowly fading from her eyes. “Okay.”
Bell gave her a proud smile and kissed her on the forehead.
“Hey,” a voice sounded behind them. “You’re awake.”
It was Ari standing in the doorway, a book under her arm and a smile on her face. The chirping W0RM on her shoulder glided over to Roe’s and happily nuzzled her neck. “Hey buddy,” Roe said affectionately before turning to Ari.
“Are you feeling better?” Ari asked.
Roe looked to Bell with a guarded smile and then back to Ari.
“Good,” she said with a masked melancholy behind her kind eyes and slanting grin. “I, umm, I was just going to--”
But Roe cut her off, holding up a hand.
“Ari, I’m, uh… I’m coming with you.”