the door out of the fairy-tale stands wide open

Rory sighed softly as he shut the door to his youngest daughter’s bedroom. Finally, she was asleep. He knew that the change had been hard for all the children, but she seemed to be having the worst time. He turned and headed back towards his own room.

He froze when he heard the front door open and then close again. He scowled. Ed and Al weren’t due back until the next day. He padded down the corridor, to the entryway. “Al?” he whispered, as he stepped into the foyer. “Ed?”

He gasped when he saw who it was. “Carmine?” he breathed. His heart was pounding in his chest. She turned to face him. The familiar glare – the one she’d given him whenever he’d done something that displeased her – was on her features.

“Rory,” she growled. She stalked towards him. “Give me back my children. If you don’t give them back, I’ll take them back.”

“No,” Rory gasped, stumbling back. He fell on the steps and tensed. Without even thinking about it, he brought his arms up, protecting his head. He felt the breeze of her hand and dodged.

The familiar growl of anger cut off and then, he heard a step on the stairs behind him. Gasping, he whirled around. Emily, his older daughter, was standing there, her eyes wide with shock. He spun back to where Carmine had been, but she was gone.

“Daddy?” Emily breathed. She hurried down the steps and hugged his shoulders. “Did she hurt you? Are you all right?”

“I – I’m fine,” he rasped. He swallowed thickly and then looked at Emily again. “Did you see… where did she go?”

Emily shook her head. “She just… vanished,” he said. “Just when I saw her, she vanished entirely.”