Loci

When a genius loci and a man love each other a lot, it’s very sweet. Their courtship puzzles a few of the village folk, but everyone agrees that the poem he wrote for them is lovely. Some of them privately think that he’ll probably settle down with a nice girl (or boy, maybe? Surely not . . .) sooner or later. They are wrong.

After a few years, their relationship seems steady enough that he brings up wanting a child - even though they aren’t married (the priest thinks it would be “too pagan”) or cohabiting (the genius loci is outdoors, and about a 15 minute walk from his back door) he thinks that having a child would be lovely.

The genius loci thinks it over for a while (and sends a few messages to other genii loci, asking how they think this will impact the Long War), and agrees. They decide to adopt. The adoption agency gives them a little trouble over an (apparently) single man wanting to take a child to live out in the woods, but they are so swamped with extra babies that he comes home with a lovely little girl named Jasmine. The genius loci finds it privately amusing that their child should be named after shrubbery, and refuses to let him change it.

They get used to raising a child together. Most of the time, Jasmine stays in her father’s house, because it is baby-proofed (no one, not even a nature spirit, can baby-proof the woods) and full of things that babies need (milk, bottles, toys, warm clothing, fewer swamps), but Jasmine’s father still brings her out to visit her other parent as often as he is able. Jasmine grows up bi-lingual, speaking English and Tree, although her accent in Tree is terrible (a lot like her namesake, actually), because she has too few limbs, and doesn’t sway in the wind well.

When Jasmine is a little older, her other parent is capable of taking on a little more child-care. She learns to play tag with deer, and she learns her numbers with rabbits. She likes to bring paper and crayons, and tack (gently) the resulting scribbles onto her parent’s trunks. Her parent wears them for a few days, until the wind and the animals bring them down, and the smaller branches deftly remove the tacks.

When Jasmine finally enters the first grade, she even brings her homework out. Her parent is quite good at Geometry and Fractions, even though they can’t help her with Handwriting at all. Her father teaches her human handwriting, as well as lessons in the Runic representation of Tree - which no tree has ever used, because they can’t hold a pen.

Parent teacher conferences are a little awkward, because everyone asks her father where her mother is. (If they ask her, she just says that she doesn’t have one. That shuts most of them up.) Some stories go around the village about her father stealing her, or her mother dying in childbirth. No-one remembers that he never stopped courting those trees.

For a second grade project where she has to make a family tree (and isn’t that funny, because her trees are family), the teacher doesn’t quite believe about her other parent, even though Jasmine brought in a leaf that her parent donated as proof. The teacher lets it slide, because these are children, and it’s just second grade.

In fourth grade, some of Jasmine’s classmates start talking about a house on the outskirts of town that’s supposed to be haunted. She thinks it isn’t very nice to call it “spooky” and “creepy”. Maybe it likes being like that. She asks her father to drive her there, and ends up making a new friend - the house. Her father hires a carpenter to help the house with its old support columns - it turns out that houses cannot speak, and so they end up making “creepy” groans when they’re complaining about their support columns. Jasmine takes her other friends around to meet the house. They think her a little odd.

By the time she’s finishing 8th grade, she’s top of her class (her classmates still think she’s weird - too bookish), and has an invitation to a private boarding school up north. She takes it (Saint Berkal’s School for the Gifted is very prestigious). She says tearful goodbyes to her parents, and makes sure to stop by the house on the way out of town. She and the house have become good friends over the years, and she is going to miss it.

She comes back for the summers, but the next four years (and then another four, when she’s accepted to MIT) are lonely for the little village she grew up in. She moves back after college anyway, trying to find a place to apply her dual Horticulture and Psychology degrees (horticulture because she’s always loved the plants that her other parent showed her, psychology because people keep trying to tell her that she’s crazy, and now she can tell them at great length that she isn’t).

She starts a small psychology practice, serving the near-by region (including some of her other parent’s closer friends), and grows a beautiful garden in her off hours. When her father asks her to move out of his house (he says it’s traditional to cast the nestlings out), she moves into her childhood friend. They have a lot of fun reconnecting. When she turns 27, the house asks her to marry it. She tearfully accepts. Even though she can’t take the house to meet one of her parents, she brings her father to formally give her hand to the house. Her father cries a bit too, even if he denies it.

It’s only a few years later that Jasmine meets Eric. She talks about it with the house, and ends up bringing Eric into their relationship. They live peacefully for almost 15 years, gaining 2 kids, before Eric starts becoming jealous of the house and starts screaming at Jasmine. The house doesn’t want any part of that, and kicks Eric out of a third-floor window. Eric doesn’t take the hint, but is never able to enter the property or the woods near the town again. Eventually, he leaves. The house comforts Jasmine, and she’s glad that she still has it. She continues raising their children, who are still young enough that they get used to calling the house “dad”.

When her children start Kindergarten they are surprised to learn that most of their classmates don’t talk to their houses at all. Her children secretly think that their peers are a little weird.

Jasmine turns 50 during the same week that the house turns 150. They have a huge party, inviting most of the town. After everyone leaves, Jasmine keeps dancing around the patio. Only her children seem to notice that one of the trellises from the garden is dancing with her. Soon after, her children graduate 8th grade and 6th grade, respectively. She gets them each a new lunchbox as a present, and takes them into the woods to visit their grandparent.

Jasmine’s other parent is always delighted to see her kids, and they visit almost every week.

Jasmine’s children grow up so fast, and before she knows it, they’ve graduated college. Her eldest becomes a marine biologist and occasionally passes her contact information along to various reefs in need of counseling. Her youngest becomes a professional race car driver - she still doesn’t know how that happened - and comes very close to winning some important competitions.

Jasmine is 62 when her scuba gear malfunctions coming up from a counseling session for a reef off of the California coast. She drowns, and her children hold her a quiet funeral in the forest near their hometown. The sharp wind blowing through the trees sounds like crying.