Interlude: SparklyI was Papa's sparkly baby. The others could shift into dragon forms too, just the same color, of course, and they had their own nicknames. "Glittery" was Vernn. "Shimmery" was Elernin. "Twinkly" was Linnde. Papa never mixed us up, and even after Vernn got tired of being called by a silly nickname and Elernin followed suit, even after Linnde decided that she was really too old and wasn't her real name good enough for Papa? - I was still my papa's sparkly baby. Even after I wasn't really a baby anymore.
Papa used to sparkle in his own way. His eyes would light up when he was happy. They looked almost like Dad's when they did that - not quite so colorful, but blue and shining. When I was only a hatchling it would happen all the time. By the time I learned to shift Papa was getting older. He slowed down a little. He was still strong and he could still scoop me up and whisper silly things in my ear.
Papa got old so quickly. By the time I was forty he couldn't carry me in dragon form any more, and winced if he tried to carry me when I was being a human. Part of that was because I grew. Part of it wasn't. I turned into a marmot and he could carry me anywhere I liked, scratching me behind the ears and complimenting me on my sparkly fur. When I was fifty I started turning into a fairy instead, even lighter and able to fly up to meet him instead of making him bend to pick me up. I could stand on his hand, balancing on one foot on one of his fingers and twirling like a butterfly-winged doll in a music box. Or I could sit on his shoulder, light as a feather, not hurting him any more than his old bones already did.
I was sixty-eight when Papa died. It wasn't sudden. A light came in and pressed her sparkly white light to his chest and he was still old and sick and dying. The light left muttering apologies. And everybody gathered around Papa and waited.
Vernn and Elernin and Linnde were old by then too. Even my nieces and nephews were starting to get on. My grand-nieces and nephews were all grown, or at least mostly. Some of them had their own kids. Dad, of course, looked as young as he had the day he married Papa. He was sitting next to Grandpa looking just exactly like him, sparkling blue eyes and all. It was easy to remember Dad looking just exactly like that, laughing with Papa when he was young and healthy and happy too. It was hard to look at Papa lying there dying and rasping.
Papa held my hand. Everybody alive in the world who'd ever loved him was there and he picked my hand to hold - and Dad's with his other hand, but he was looking at me.
"Sparkle," he says. "You're my sparkly girl. You keep on sparkling."
"I will," I said to the emptiness he left behind him.
My sparkles will do that whether I want them to or not. They can't tell what's happening.