Oboe Woodwind paced the confines of her new bedroom, ready to have a breakdown. In less than an hour she would be seeing her family again after fifteen nameless years. What would she say? What would they say? She had wanted this moment to come for so long and now it was happening and her heart was pounding and she was terrified and what if she did something wrong and what if they didn’t like her?
She threw open the wardrobe and laid out all the different silk mantles she had been given. There was a mustard colored one, a canary yellow, a gentle saffron, and one in a sandy lemon. Which one was she supposed to wear? How angry would her family be if she showed up wearing the wrong one? She didn’t want to get kicked out of the Circle again after just one day.
Hopping up and down, Oboe Woodwind put them all on at the same time. It was so weird having family clothes again. She spun in front of the mirror and tugged at their seams. Oboe Woodwind could not believe that any of this was real and was so excited that she screamed into a cushion.
Before she realized what happened, the grandfather clock chimed and Oboe Woodwind was running late. She burst out the front door of her new apartment and stumbled into the street. Sprinting the whole way against the setting sun, she did her best not to collide with any of other fairies and almost managed it.
After numerous apologies, getting lost, and having to double back the direction she came, Oboe found her way to the Mag Mell Tavern. Grandmother had reserved the placed for Oboe’s family to meet to celebrate her return. There was a warm glow in the windows, the smell of roasting fish and apples, and she could hear the sound of conversation and laughter.
Her hand hovered over the doorknob. They were right there on the other side. She couldn’t open the door. This was a mistake. There was no way they could want her, not after all this time. They wouldn’t even remember her.
Before she could run away, the door opened and the noise of merrymaking washed over her. A lanky faun stepped out, fumbling to fill a smoking pipe. Oboe recognized him. His horns were curled now, and he’d grown a scruffy narrow beard, but it was him. He looked up.
“Is that…” Tobacco slipped through Fife’s fingers. “Yes! It really is you!”
Oboe held up a shaky hand. “H-hi.”
“Mother’s mercy,” he said. “You probably don’t remember me. I’m your brother Fife.” His voice was so deep now. “I thought I saw you in the city! All of dad’s kids have got a nose like ours. I would’ve said hello but… Well, y’know.” His smile turned awkward. “Anyway! You’re back now! This is unprecedented! Hurry, we need to get you inside.”
The urge to run got stronger. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t be shy!” He pulled her inside by the arm, where a whole host of fauns filled two levels of the tavern, all drinking, feasting and chatting. “Everyone!” He had to shout to be heard. “The guest of honor is here!”
The whole building erupted into cheers and crowded closer. Before Oboe had any idea what was going on, she was assaulted by greetings and reintroductions. Her sisters Ocarina, Clare and Melodica were here, and also her brothers Pommer, Piccolo and Caval.
“Darling,” Clare said. “Why are you wearing four different mantles?”
“Oh, um.” Oboe blushed. Before she could explain, a goblet of apple wine was thrust into her hand by big Uncle Alto.
“Drink up!” He insisted.
Oboe did not feel worthy. “I shouldn’t!”
“I bought a whole cask for the occasion, you’re having some!”
Before she had a chance to argue, a whole gaggle of kids pushed their way through the crowd, roughhousing and screaming. They gathered around her and started climbing all over her and tugged at her fur. One of the girls marched up to Oboe with a sneer and stared her down.
“You’re not Oboe!” She said. “I’m Oboe! You can’t be Oboe too!!”
“Sweetling, be nice to your aunt!” Fife said. “This is a special day for her.”
“You have kids?” Oboe was in shock. “You named one after me??”
“I’m not named after anyone!” The other Oboe shrieked. “I will destroy you!!”
Fife chased his daughter off to scold her, and the other children followed to watch. Other relatives rushed to fill the void. Oboe did her best keep up as she was briefed on more than a decade of life and gossip. Sleepy eyed Ocarina worked as a fisherman. She had no kids because she’d married a gnome of all things. Her cousin Sipsi was one of the Spriggan captains who guarded the court. Caval was like Fife, and worked as an envoy, only Caval went to neighboring fairy circles to maintain relations. Piccolo was a concubine for a high ranking countess, and spent all his time raising children for his mistress. Alto had a problem with gambling, but he made so much money doing enchanting work for the sylph guild that it hadn’t caught up with him yet. Great aunt Zurna had her horns ripped out by a—
“Wait,” Clare said. “Has she talked to her dad yet?”
Without delay, Oboe was led to the fireplace where an old buck with graying hair was seated.
Oboe covered her mouth. “Dad?”
Bansuri took great effort to lift himself onto shaky legs, and hobble closer on his cane. Somehow, he seemed so much older than grandmother. He pressed a hand to Oboe’s cheek.
“It’s true.” His eyes watered. “They’re all here. All my children are here. I never thought I would live to see it. This is a miracle.”
Her father pulled her into a soft embrace. She held him tight and hoped he would never let go.