"Sunny, we're so proud of you."
Both my parents were standing on the top of a grassy hill. I ran up to them. My father caught me and swung me around, just like he used to when I was little.
"I'm sorry," I said.
"For what, darling?"
"I shouldn't have let you die. I could have saved you, if I'd known how, but I didn't. I'm sorry for that."
"Sweetling, you have to realize," my father said, "we knew the risks. We both ran into the house after you, knowing full well that we might not make it out alive. But you were worth it. You get your affinity for fire from both of us. We knew it would be strong in you. And because of that, we are with you always."
"Are you sad that I have another family?"
My mother shook her head firmly. "We're happy that you found someone to love and someone who loves you. I'm so sorry about your other father. There was nothing we could do. Our abilities are limited."
They smiled. "We are light," my father said. "Whenever you feel the sun, you feel our love for you. We are heat, and we are energy. We're within you. All you ever had to do was look."
"And when you remember those you lose, remember them with joy. Don't grieve for them. Celebrate the life they had, and enjoy the rest of your life. Don't hold onto your sorrow. It's not what any of them want, and it's not what we want. Don't feel guilty for what was done to us, Sunny. Live your life to its fullest. Make a scandal with that young Dominic. He is a handsome fellow, and a wonderful person."
I blushed, even in my dream. "I really do like him."
"Good. See that you keep it that way. Don't throw a relationship like that away."
I smiled, feeling unburdened for the first time in my life. "Thank you."
"We're you're parents. It's what we're here for. We have one final gift for you." They beckoned me closer and embraced me in a three-way-hug. They kissed me on the forehead at the same time, and my vision was suddenly filled with light. It didn't hurt. It was a warm, happy feeling.
"Don't forget to remember," they said, and then were gone. I was on the hill alone but I didn't feel alone. I could feel my parent's presence like they were right behind me, and I could feel Dominic somewhere. When I looked around at the peace, I realized where I was. My own heart.
"Sunny." I stirred at the whisper and smiled. It was Dominic. I stretched and wrapped my arms around him before opening my eyes. He gave me a quick kiss. Then I glanced around and realized that I had an audience.
"Uh," I said intelligently. Dominic had an amused sparkle in his eyes. Did he ever get embarrassed?
My mom was smiling at me. Trent was there. When had he gotten home? He looked like he was trying hard not to laugh. Máire was jumping up and down and clapping, and Searlas and Peigí were grinning broadly. And behind Mom Erik was laughing.
"Erik!" I jumped up and ran to him, forgetting I was supposed to be week and unable to walk. He wrinkled his nose and endured my hug. It was then that I remembered my foot hurt. "Ow," I said, lifting it up and looking at it.
It was still swollen and purple, but no longer a sickly green color. I wondered at my energy. Glancing at Dominic, I saw he was just as confused as I was. Then I remembered my dream. "Oh," I said aloud, realizing just what it was that they had given me.
I hugged Erik again and ruffled his hair. "You gave me quite the scare, Kid," I told him. I'm glad you're okay."
"Yeah, me too."
I went to my mom. "Mom, I think we should have a party."
She started. "A party? Now?"
"Yes. For dad. To celebrate his life. Invite everybody. It'll be fun. We'll have his favorite cakes and his favorite color will be the dress theme. Let's have that, for him."
There were tears in her eyes, but I think they were happy tears. "Okay, sweetie. I think that's a great idea."
Trent joined our hug. "Sunny, you were always full of bright ideas."
"Was that supposed to be sarcasm? Because it wasn't funny."
Everyone laughed but me. I honestly didn't get the joke.
I stayed home from school again. We had a sort of miniature celebration for Erik. Joanne came over right after school to give him a tearful hug. He returned it awkwardly, and we all ate cake and ice cream leftover from my birthday last week. It was a wonderfully happy day, especially after so much stress and pain.
That night, I was able to make it up the stairs with no trouble. Dominic was sleeping on the floor in Trent's room, but when he saw me in the hallway he left without a second thought. We snuck out to the backyard, where the grass was cool and dry and we could lean against the trees in the apple orchard behind our house. I leaned against his broad chest while he fiddled with one of my frizzy curls.
"You're staying in Riverside, right?" I asked eventually.
His shrug moved my entire torso. "I don't really know. I hope so. I've made good friends here."
"And me!" I said indignantly.
He laughed. "And you," he agreed. "But either way, if I do move out of town, we'll be in the same place next year."
I had forgotten all about that, but when he reminded me I relaxed. "Okay then. You can probably just stay with us. We have a big enough house, and no one minds the company."
"My parents couldn't be a burden on your mother for very long. They won't allow it."
"Well, it was an idea. You can't hurt a girl for dreaming."
His smile was evident in his voice. "Is that what you really want? Me around all the time."
My breathing came quick as he shifted me around to kiss me, looking into my eyes closely. "Yes."
"You've only known me for a few days."
"But it feels like forever."
He smiled. "Good. Because I feel the same way." He kissed me again and I practically swooned. I could feel my body heating up like an oven, but he didn't let go. I smiled and raised the temperature slightly.
"Okay, that's not fair," he said.
"I'm done. Just wanted to see how much you could stand."
I laughed. "Yes, I know, thank you."
"Oh, ha ha. And you think I'm arrogant. Mr. and Mrs. Arrogant we are."
I laughed again. I'd been doing that all day. It seemed like I'd been laughing more in one day than I had in my entire life.
Don't forget to remember.
I wouldn't forget. No matter what. I'd remember my parents, and my foster father. I'd even remember Dr. Rubinsky, because no matter what he'd done, he was a person, and he deserved to be remembered as a person.
And I remembered as I fell asleep there cuddled with Dominic under the apple trees. When we woke up, it was to the rays of my own personal sunshine. I smiled. Happiness was my new norm.
And if there was ever another firestorm, I was ready for it.