Rosetta: A MORFS Universe Story

By Joreymay


Part 4

Rose wasn't given much time to brood on her feeling that she was being set up. While she was making the calls, her father and sister were breaking out the supplies for the other part of their Black Friday tradition - putting up the Christmas decorations. Before she knew it, she was anchoring and testing the animated yard display, while her father was stringing the DanceGlows along the roof and around the windows and her mother, sister, and Gram handled the indoor decorations.

While the trio worked away inside, they kept the Christmas music playing through the speakers nearest the front of the house. When Rose tried eavesdropping on them, all she could make out was the music.

Even if she could have heard them talking, it wouldn't have helped much. The nefarious plans she suspected them of making were indeed underway. But between the shorthand conversations and the occasional telepathic relay (courtesy of Lena), there just wasn't that much to hear.

When she was finished outside, she went in to help with the decorating there. By then, the only discussions taking place concerned the decorations and dinner plans. And the occasional "do you remember..." story.

Shortly before dinner, Rose got a call from Angel. After reminding her about her job with the theater chain, she asked whether Rose would like to see a movie the next afternoon, as her guest. Rose checked with her mother, who absently agreed while doing something with the dinner preparations, and then accepted. Her mother said that she could probably drop her off, or have her father do so.

With those arrangements made, it was time to set the table for dinner. In another nod to long time tradition, it was hot turkey sandwiches, with leftover sides and fixings.

Knowing that she would be leaving all too soon, Rose made it a point to spend as much time with her Gran as she could. She learned a lot about Gaelic stories, songs and poetry, as well as bits and pieces about Irish culture. But mostly, she enjoyed spending the time with her.

Not that she was selfish about it. Tara got her share of Gran time as well. But Rose just did her best to make the most of the time she had with her. She even skipped her usual Saturday morning shows for more together time.

They started working on Rose's experiments, with the recordings that Lena had done for her. Tara asked what they were doing, and when they explained the "game", she wanted to try, too. It made sense to Rose when her Gram described Tara's participation as a "control", a baseline set of responses that she could compare her own impressions to.

She would have even considered skipping the movie, if her Gran had not truthfully said that she had things to do. In fact, everyone seemed to have things to do. Rose suspected that at least some of it had to do with her upcoming party.

She had no idea how right - and how wrong - she was.

When her father drove her to the theater, he dropped her off and told her (honestly) that he had some errands to run. As he drove away, Angel came out to meet her and took her inside.

The movie was full of action, adventure, and emotion - the perfect thing to hold her attention completely. When she walked into the lobby, blinking at the relative brightness, she had forgotten about her plans and suspicions. Angel met her there, and asked how she liked the movie. As they talked, Angel was making some notes on her tablet. After writing a few things, she shut it down and took Rose to a small room at the side while she used the scanner to sign out.

She told Rose that her Gran would be picking her up, and she appeared at the door almost on cue. Angel waved goodbye to them, and declined an offered lift. On the way home, she again was asked about the movie. The movie discussion lead into other topics, and they were still talking as they walked up to the door.

Rose stepped inside to find the room full of women. Her mother, sister, and aunt were there, as were Lena, Robin, and - surprisingly - Angel.

"Surprise!" They chorused, in a ragged unison.

"Welcome to one of the secret traditions of our family!" Her mother started, smiling. "There are three special parties which welcome the most important parts of your life. At these parties, you are among your own kind - women - and you will talk freely about things you could never begin to discuss in mixed company. They are the most profoundly embarrassing, but most important celebrations, of your life. In, hopefully, reverse order, they are your first baby shower, your first bridal shower, and this: your period party."

"You have now crossed a line into full womanhood. We are here to celebrate that and, more importantly, to share our experiences and answer the embarrassing questions that you try to even hide from yourself."

"There are a few rules. We are talking woman to woman here. After the party, things go back to normal - or as close to normal as it ever was. What is asked or said here today stays here. There will be no repercussions for anything that is asked or said. That being said, if you later want to ask any of us for more advice on any of the things we discuss here, you may do so privately."

"It's like a cross between Truth or Dare and Las Vegas" Lena grinned.

"The usual rules about language do not apply. It is much better to get a point across with crude slang than to stumble around trying to figure out a polite way to say or ask something. I know it is not so much of an issue for you, with your special abilities, but it applies to us as well."

Throughout the speech, Rose was mildly amused to notice that every word was believed to be true, and the intentions were close to the statements. But when the real fun started, she was still surprised when the language turned frank and to the point.

She was also startled at the ease with which she matched it. It was still strange and kinda embarrassing, but not overwhelmingly so.

They started with a more personalized review of information she had half slept through in health and sex education classes, and went on to take turns with descriptions. They were not formal, serious, or clinical, as she had half expected. They were frank, to the point of being course and gross, and frequently lightened the mood with jokes.

When they took turns describing the way their periods affected them, she was surprised at how varied they were. They even disagreed on what helped, with a single exception. Forget diamonds; a girl's best friend at such times was chocolate.

They also went around with cautionary - and often funny - stories of their most embarrassing period related mishaps.

After that, it got more interactive. Rose asked some questions, and got individual answers. Then she inadvertently got into unexpected territory.

It started innocently enough, with Rose asking about their first periods. Angel's answer was clear enough on the surface, but she read some serious evasion. Then her next question nailed it down some more.

She asked about their own period parties. Her family's descriptions were fairly similar, to no one's surprise. Tara's description helped make a connection, and Rose finally realized the reason for an unexpected father/daughter day a few years earlier. It had been fun, but she had always suspected there was something more involved.

Robin didn't have such a party, and just shrugged it off as a difference in family tradition. Lena had one, and hinted that she had provided an element from them for later in the party. Rose found a frustrating hole in her abilities, when she realized that all she could read from Lena's words was that the surprise would be a good one. Lena smirked at that realization, and Rose responded by sticking her tongue out at her, then grinning.

As each person answered, Angel seemed to get more and more conflicted. When it was her turn, she looked squarely at Lena and apparently asked a mental question. Lena, in turn, looked around the room for a moment, then nodded slightly as she apparently answered.

"I didn't have one, per se," Angel began, somewhat nervously, "but I did have something similar." She took a breath, looked around, and continued. "What I said before, about my first one catching me by surprise after I morfed, was true. What I didn't say was that there was a reason for that surprise. Before last Summer, when I morfed into the stunning beauty before you," she chuckled at the irony she had laced that description with, "I was as Latino as my parents. And male."

After allowing a moment for that to sink in, she described her "girl boot camp", particularly the relevant parts.

Rose was surprised at her own reaction. She had come a long way since the "little girl" in the clinic waiting room, but somehow she would have expected such an announcement to be a big deal to her. And it wasn't. Whatever Angel had been before, she was all girl now and a proven friend.

If she had turned her head, she might have caught the brief flash of a satisfied smile on Lena's face.

Rose and her family seemed to recognize the compliment Angel was paying them by revealing that little known aspect of her life. Her trust in them, and the rules of the party, touched them deeply.

With that done, Rose's mother suggested a break for refreshments. Lena produced what appeared to be a chocolate cake. When it was cut, it was revealed to be a Red Velvet cake. Nobody missed the chocolate and the symbolism of the color of the cake.

While they ate, they resumed the conversation. Rose asked them what had been the hardest question for them to ask at their own parties. They laughed, and answered. Robin answered in terms of her dialog with her mother and grandmother, while Angel dredged up a story from her boot camp.

After the cake came the presents. Lena was careful not to damp Rose's embarrassment too much, since it would give away what she had been doing up to then. The special little purses would not have raised much of a reaction outside of the party, but brought a blush to Rose's cheeks when she realized their purpose. The SatuLarm puzzled her at first, but the others were delighted to explain that it buzzed when its disposable sensor indicated it was time to change a saturated tampon. Once she realized where it sat, so she would be sure to notice the alarm, her face started to match her name. It was almost a relief to open the next one, a BludErase kit.

Of course, with each present came stories of times they would have come in handy.

The rest of the party flowed more easily, with frequent outbursts of laughter and occasional agreements about the ick factor. It made Rose feel special, in a way she never had before.

All too soon, it was over. Her mother formally reminded everyone of their pledged confidentiality, and declared the party to be at an end. Then she added a final declaration. "Welcome to the Secret Female Conspiracy, Rose. You are now a full member. The males in our lives will joke about it, but their poor little minds just couldn't handle it." Everyone laughed about that, but nodded in agreement.

As the non-family girls left, Rose reminded them about her other, more public party. They laughed and repeated their pledges to appear. Each took one of the final pieces of the cake home to share with their mothers, per another of Lena's traditions.

Her aunt left as well, saying she would see them at the party. She also confided that she might change her mind and let the boys come, if only to meet Rose's exceptional friends.

Rose's mother made a phone call, which was uncharacteristically short. Just four words: "It's safe", and "Sounds good." She announced that her loving husband would be bringing home dinner soon.

They all got busy clearing up the last signs of the special party which, of course, should never be seem by a mere male. Rose could not remember any time when housework was done with so much laughter.

After dinner, Rose, Tara, and their Gram spent some more time with the recordings from Lena. Rose was impressed with Tara's accuracy. She only got it completely right about a quarter of the time, but she was reasonably close more often than not. It made a good baseline, since both girls were about equally intelligent before the change.

Rose was either dead on or very close every time. She was getting used to the muted impressions the recordings provided, and was starting to get good at getting the subtleties of her responses.

They were so involved with their project, the girls didn't notice their father's thoughtful look as he watched them.

After an hour or so of that, they decided to watch a vid. Their father was in the kitchen when they were choosing, and returned to find himself faced with a very feminine romantic comedy. He retired to his study, to spend some quality time with the net.

The next morning, after their usual Sunday morning activities and a shorter than usual service, Rose was spending some more quality time with her great grandmother. They both realized she was being a little possessive about the limited time available, but she rationalized it as wanting to get more information about their now-shared language and the culture that went with it. Deep down, she knew that she was just feeling bad about the impending end of her visit.

While they were talking, her Gram raised a point about Lena's recordings - one which Rose didn't know the answer to. Naturally, she chose to go to the source.


*NOT NOW!* Rose was startled by the vehemence of the reply.

A moment later, they heard a loud, resounding boom from the direction of the reservoir or the nearby State Park. Rose's first thought was another attack on Pope Hill... one more successful than the two others she had heard about.

That notion died when Robin appeared in front of her, holding a very wet - and apparently unconscious - wolf hybrid in her arms. He looked to be somewhere between Rose's age and Robin's, but it was hard to tell.

"We need you! Be ready to travel when I get back!" With that, they vanished again.

Even without her new abilities, Rose could have read the urgency and seriousness of that pronouncement. Rose quickly slipped on her shoes, and shouted a quick goodbye to her family.

Robin appeared. Rose was startled to notice that she was wearing different clothes, and looked a little less urgent (and a lot drier) than she had before. She turned to Rose's Gram and said "We'll be at the hospital - same one as before."

With that, she wrapped Rose in a hug, looked her briefly in the eye, and then the two of them vanished.

Rose recognized the room they appeared in as the one the almost-kidnapped boy had been in. In addition to a familiar doctor and nurse, there was an unfamiliar girl in the room. She looked to be between one and two years older than Rose, and was dripping wet.

Robin introduced the girl as Flo, and said that she could fill Rose in on the situation. Then she vanished again.

Flo said "Hi," and went to shake Rose's hand. She suddenly seemed to notice how wet she was. She stood still for a moment, and the water on and around her seemed to move by itself. It collected in a ball, then flew to a sink and vanished down the drain. "That's better."

Noticing Rose's expression, she explained. "I'm a water elemental. We were down at the reservoir, with some visitors from the EastBlock Confederation, when we were attacked. I'm not sure what it was all about, but my folks thought I would be safer here, with Sergei."

"They told me about you, somewhat. Sergei mostly speaks Russian, but he hasn't learned to speak clearly since his morf. From what they told me, you should be able to translate despite those problems."

As Sergei started to stir, and tried to speak, Rose noticed the familiar stirrings of newfound recognition. While she waited a few seconds to be sure she could understand him, she reflected on the extent to which Flo's comments seemed to be leaving out some important information.

As soon as she was confident with the new language, she noticed streams of thought flowing in and out through her mind. She recognized Lena's touch, and the more nebulous caress she associated with Cassandra. Despite a brief flashback to the scene in the basement, she allowed them her full trust. She put her attention on Sergei and the others in the room.

Rose had only been half right about the details Flo seemed to leave out. In fact, she didn't fully know what was going on, either.

Flo's parents, who were important people in business and politics, were entertaining counterparts of theirs from the EastBlock. Their son, Sergei, had morfed a few months before, and this was his first trip away from home since then. In addition to his new hybrid form, and the physical attributes that came with it, he had become a combination elemental - cold and air.

Despite the language and speech problems, Flo and Sergei hit it off immediately. They talked their parents into a Sunday afternoon outing to the reservoir (most of which was nominally closed for the winter), where they coordinated their abilities to create ice sculptures and the like.

Flo noticed a person swimming in the water, and started to be alarmed. Then she recognized her as a girl she had met over the summer - a hybrid known as Otter. She started to wave at her, when her eye caught some other motion.

A man, standing on the road at the top of the dam, had something on his shoulder. There was a brief flash, and something was coming toward them. Instinctively, Flo threw up a wall of water in front of it, causing it to detonate prematurely. Sergei was stunned, and knocked into the water. Flo was also stunned for a moment, and when she came back to herself a lot of things were happening at once.

Otter was there, pulling Sergei from the water. She had managed to avoid any harmful effect from the explosion, due to the angle and distance between them. The girl who called herself Flit (but who Flo also knew as Robin) seemed to be all over the place at once. David, a winged morf with illusion powers was there, so she assumed that most of the Flits were his illusions.

Radar came into her mind, and assured her they would take care of things. Flit appeared next to Sergei, pulled him up into her arms, and vanished. A moment later, she was in front of Flo, saying she would take her to him. No sooner had she said that, when she wrapped her arms around Flo and the shore vanished. They were standing in the hospital room.

Flo didn't know the half of it.

There had been some warning. There were enough Russian speakers in the area that Cassandra had been able to get some hint about what was about to happen, and pass it on to her friends. Angel had been at work, and couldn't leave right away, but the others responded to the call.

The original problem had been nasty, but relatively simple. A hit squad from an EastBlock organized crime group planned to kidnap the girls, and use them as leverage to force Sergei's parents into helping some plot of theirs. They would fire a flashbang rocket grenade in among the families. When the family members and their security shadows were disoriented, a couple of their people would 'port in, grab the kids, and 'port out again. To further confuse things, they had spread explosive charges across the face of the dam, to be detonated while they escaped.

The plan quickly went to hell. First, the grenade (which should have been relatively harmless) hit a wall of water and detonated prematurely, with additional force from the unused propellant. One of the men tried to grab the wrong girl - the swimmer - and quickly learned that she was much stronger than she appeared, and very agile. Then they found themselves faced with what appeared to be an army of nearly identical teleporters in the form of teenage girls. Before they had fully registered that impression, they were losing consciousness.

When they woke up, they were in a security enclosure complete with suppression field.

Robin lost five days of her life. And even with the time she had taken off to eat and sleep, she felt every minute of it. She was two days into the back and forthing before she had time to pick up Rose and take her to where she was needed. Most of her time had been spent either getting people into place or finding and moving all the bombs. And many of the bombs had been well camouflaged.

With Lena coordinating, David had first knocked out the conspirators, and then disarmed the charges. In order to get them all in time, Robin had needed to flit him back and forth in time as well more than a few times.

Lena had been very busy as well. In addition to coordinating the rescue, she was filling in the parents, the security people, the police, and the doctor. As a practical matter, she could not use Robin to multiply herself. Her telepathy would have interfered with that of her earlier or later selves. The only real time advantage was that she had been warned by a time flitting Robin enough ahead of time that she could give the doctor an early heads up, so the hospital room would be ready.

She regretted snapping at Rose the way she had, but there was no help for it. She would have to make amends later. And while thinking about that, she noticed that she needed to feed her some information.

Sergei was awake, and asking about his parents. Actually, asking doesn't begin to cover it. He was in a strange place, after a strange and frightening set of events, and he had every reason to believe his parents had been hurt. Or worse.

Lena "told" Rose that Sergei's mother was on the way to join him, by way of more conventional transportation. His father was dealing with the authorities. Everyone but the "bad guys" was all right. And the bad guys were all taken care of.

Rose calmed Sergei a little, telling him what Lena had told her, and helping him communicate with the doctor and nurse. Flo helped, although she only spoke a few words of Russian.

"Hey, Step. Cto?" she asked. Rose translated the last as "What?", and the intention as a shorthand for a general inquiry about his well being. But Step, other than obviously being a name of sorts, didn't translate.

When Rose asked him about it, he explained that he was trying to adopt a use name of Steppenwolf, from mythology. That, despite the fact that he was a city boy born and raised, and no sort of warrior. Rose recognized the exaggerated self importance in the name, and his own recognition of it. It was, she thought, typical of a boy.

The three youngsters were locked in a conversation about popular music when his mother, and Flo's, arrived. The doctor assured them that Sergei did not appear to be significantly injured, but indicated he would like to keep him overnight for observation. The concussion seemed mild, but it would be prudent to make sure.

About that time, Rose's mother arrived. Lena had given her a brief description of the situation, and told her that Robin would not be able to get Rose home.

After getting assurances that Sergei was in good hands, and that his communication problems were handled, Rose and her mother turned to leave. On an impulse, Rose turned back and invited Flo and Sergei to her birthday party. Both answered noncommittally, but there was no rejection in their tone.

As they stepped out the door, they were joined by his mother. She thanked Rose for her help, with a depth of feeling that startled Rose. When she thought about all the woman had been through that day, it made more sense. She assured her it had been her pleasure to help, and wished their family well.

She didn't realize how much the whole thing had taken out of her until she was settled in the car and on the way home. She was asleep so quickly that she might as well have been flitted home for all the impression the trip left on her.

A good lunch and another short nap later, she was feeling much more human. Well enough to engage in another tradition - baking birthday cookies with her Gram and mother. She would be taking some of them to school with her the next day, to be shared with her friends and selected teachers and staff in celebration of her birthday. And since it would have been unfair to fill the house with the smells of baking otherwise, the family would get some as well.

The best part was sharing the time and talking. Somehow, the kinds of talking shared while baking was different than any other. She would learn about her mother's childhood, and sometimes about her Gram's. Stories of baking triumphs and disasters, of seriousness and silliness.

After dinner, the girls went to their rooms to make sure their homework was ready for the next day. With an entire four day weekend to prepare, Rose had left most of it for the last minute. Luckily, most of her teachers had given little or no homework.

Unluckily, the major exception was her new, least favorite teacher. But even her english homework was not all that bad. She knew that she would have to work twice as hard as the non-morf students to get a good grade. And even then, the teacher would probably pick out invented "flaws" to mark her down for. But she would do the best she could, and that would be that.

One thing was certain - no cookie for that teacher.

The next day, things went better and worse than usual. She had forgotten that one of her usual tormentors, a girl named Sally who had been a friend for a few months in elementary school, knew when her birthday was. And that she made it a point to try to spoil things for Rose every year.

Rose never quite understood what had turned Sally against her. One day, they were doing things together and everything seemed fine. Rose even invited her to her upcoming birthday party. The next day, Sally was not at school. And the rest of the week. When she got back the next Monday, she had fading bruises, and wanted to have nothing to do with Rose. When Rose tried to get back together with her, Sally started going out of her way to be mean to her.

Finally, Rose had given up, and the attacks tapered off. But they never stopped entirely, and one always happened on the school day when Rose celebrated her birthday. Today was no exception.

While Rose was at lunch with her friends, passing out the birthday cookies and making sure they knew when and where the party was, Sally came over to the table. Rose's first indication of her approach was when she saw some of her friends look up and stiffen.

Sally leaned around Rose, and started wishing her an extremely insincere happy birthday. As he moved around, she put her hand down - supposedly to brace herself - and ended up putting all her weight on the cookie bag. After a moment, she seemed to notice where her hand was and offered an equally insincere apology.

At first, Rose felt the usual sting of her deliberate cruelty. But then she realized that it was not much of a loss. All that was left in the bag was a few spare cookies. The others for her lunchtime crew were already distributed, and the cookies for after lunch teachers and others were still in her locker.

She realized that this was an opening, that she might be able to find out why Sally kept doing such things. As she drew a breath to ask the necessary question, she felt and "heard" a familiar touch.

*Don't!* Lena advised, sharply.

*But I can find out why...*

*You don't want to know. And finding out could only make things worse. Trust me.*


*Please, trust me on this. It is something you don't need.*

*Ok...* Rose turned to Sally with an assumed look of shock and dismay, which seemed to satisfy her. After she turned and left, Rose composed herself.

"Anybody want some ice cream topping?" she asked, shaking the bag to help cover the way she really felt.

The laugh broke the tension that had built around the table, and they all went back to eating.

*Are you still coming to my party?* she "asked" Lena.

*Of course. David will be there, too. And Angel.*

*What about Robin?*

*That's more complicated. She won't have time for much more than eating and sleeping for the next few days, because of yesterday.*

Rose noticed that Lena was leaving something out - something significant.

*It's not mine to tell.* Lena responded, having picked up Rose's conclusion.

It was not very satisfying, but it was all she was likely to get. More mysteries. *What about the others?*

*Sergei and Flo can't come, for security reasons. They are sending presents, though.*

*They don't have to...*

*Don't knock it. They're happy to do so, and I think you'll like what they're sending.* Rose could "hear" the grin behind that comment. *And speaking of absentee presents, there will be one from a certain royal lady - both thanks and apology for what she put you through.*

As she was saying that, Lena carefully monitored Rose's reactions, and damped much of the reaction to the horrific memories. In time, she wouldn't have to do even that.

After she recovered the remaining cookies from her locker, she headed for her next class. She had forgotten that Sally shared History with her, so she was a little surprised to see her scowl when she pulled out an intact cookie to give to their teacher. She would have to be careful to save the cookies for Algebra and PE.

It turned out not to matter all that much. Sally wasn't anywhere near her for the rest of the school day, and Rose easily shielded the bag from the normal press of corridor crowds. The cookies were delivered intact, and the usual wishes exchanged.

When school was over, she hurried home. She found herself wishing for a useful visit from Robin, then shook her head at the way she was starting to take her new friends for granted.

Her new friends. It still amazed her that such women (and man) paid much attention to her, much less treated her like a friend and equal. Maybe she wasn't the nobody she had thought.

At home, she quickly changed and then helped her Gram finish getting the house ready for the party. When Tara got home, she joined in the preparations. After decorating for a while, their Gram reminded them that they still had homework, party or no party. After a token effort at grumbling, they rushed through their assignments.

Dinner was early and quick, to allow time to clear up before the party. Rose really liked it better when her birthday parties were on the weekend. They would party in the afternoon, and later she would have her choice (within reason) of restaurant for a family birthday dinner.

Promptly at 6:30. the doorbell rang to announce the arrival of the first wave of her guests. Three of her long time friends shared the porch with Lena and David. They all wished her a happy birthday and then took their gifts to the designated table. Over the next few minutes, her other school friends, her Aunt Cathy (with the cousins in tow), and Angel arrived.

After greeting Rose, Angel went and spoke quietly with her mother. She handed her a bundle of small papers, then returned to the festivities. There was music, talk, and the usual birthday silliness. Lena noticed that David and the cousins were starting to get involved in a conversation while moving apart from the rest of the partygoers. She brought them back into the group with a suggestion that David entertain the partygoers with some of his illusions.

Angel gave some of the guests "tan tattoos" and otherwise just joined in the fun.

The cake and ice cream were well received, and then it was present time.

Rose made it a point to open the presents from her younger, longer-time friends first. They were all fun things, clearly chosen by the givers rather than their parents. Then she moved on to the presents from her older friends and her family.

The terrible twosome and some of her school friends were a little confused by her reaction to a few of the presents. She clearly liked the purses, but seemed embarrassed by them. Her aunt's comment about matching coin purses only deepened the confusion.

The present from Sergei was a little puzzling at first. It was in the shape of a largish egg, beautifully decorated in enamel, with golden filigree and simulated gems. At least, she thought they were simulated. Her mother mentioned the name of a makeup manufacturer, which confused Rose a little. It was one of those references that even her abilities would not resolve.

 It came with a small stand, and an instruction book. Unfortunately, the book was written in Russian and she hadn't learned to read that yet. It seemed to indicate that one of the jewels was a button of some sort, so she pushed it. The egg hinged open, revealing a more familiar display and controls.

The ePlay was preloaded with some Russian stories, and a selection of Russpop music vids. But it was clear that it would take the standard chips. It had connectors for external displays, earphones or speakers, audio/video/hol input and output, and computer hookups, and there was plenty of room for more vids. Rose sighed about the fact that it lacked the communications aspects of a full eCom, but otherwise it was a fairly high end unit.

The present from Flo was also welcome. It was a selection of movie and vid chips. And they were all in English. Somewhat suspiciously, they were all chips she had wanted.

While she was impressed with the generosity of some of the presents, they seemed to have the opposite effect on most of her school friends. It was not so much that they were jealous of the largesse, as that they seemed to feel that their own presents to her looked so cheap beside them. It seemed to emphasize how different she'd become, and how far away from them she was growing.

As their reaction quietly grew, Rose failed to see the look of distaste Lena shot toward Rose’s
Mother. If she had seen it, even her powers would not have been able to tell her what was happening.

Rose made it a point to thank her long time friends for their presents, in ways that would communicate the idea that she treasured their gifts because they were the ones who had given them, and that they were wonderful presents in their own right.

But everything that she did to try and impress them, a standard part of the protocol at any of their parties, just seemed to make matters worse. And some little touches by her mother, with help from some of her new friends, made it worse still.

When they were given the traditional party bags, they found movie passes in addition to the usual trinkets and candy. The passes alone put the usual party bag fare to shame. The fact that some of the other contents were a little higher quality than usual did not go unnoticed, either.

It being a school night, the party broke up all too soon. Rose consoled herself with the fact that it gave her a little more family time with her Gram before she had to get to bed. She balanced that against the sad thought that she would be leaving the next day, while Rose was at school.

At Lena's suggestion, one of the gifts had been left to be opened in the privacy of the family. The queen had sent a set of beautiful jewelry, set with Topaz - Rose's birthstone. Rose's mother pronounced them a little old for her, and declared she would keep them safe until Rose grew into them. In the meantime, Rose could look at them. She just couldn't wear them outside of the house. Rose bridled at the claim that she was too young for the jewelry, but in the end she accepted her mother's decision.

With all the conflicting emotions, Rose had a hard time getting to sleep that night. And when she did, it was anything but dreamless.

 End part 4


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