Scattering Ashes

(A Magical Midlife Librarian prequel story, told from Rosalind's point of view.)

My brother Jason and I carried two weights with us on that. One of them was our father’s ashes.

But his death dragged us down so much more than his physical remains.

We should have felt light and carefree hiking along Oregon’s coast. We’d often walked these woods as children: glimpsing the Pacific Ocean through breaks in the cliffside trees, tasting the salty sea air, dashing after my nimble fathers’ footsteps as he trudged on ahead of us.

Now he was gone, just like Mom.

I’d barely graduated high school when our mother had died from an undiagnosed heart condition. Remembering her didn’t stab me the same way now like it did two decades ago. I could look at myself in the mirror with the same cascading black locks and slightly tan skin as her and no longer tear up. I could give my reflection a sad smile and wish I’d inherited some of her effortless grace to go along with her face.

But I didn’t feel the same way catching a glimpse of Jason. Age had weathered my brother into looking more like Dad, giving his tan skin a tougher sheen and streaking his short black hair with bits of gray. But it was his goofy smile that would make my heart sink, knowing I would never see it on my father’s face again.

Jason caught me looking at him. “You okay?”


It was a lie, but what else could I say? Nothing could fix my father’s sudden death a few weeks ago. He’d simply fallen asleep one day and never woke up. Jason had gone to the house to check on him when he didn’t show up for work at the garage they co-owned. The doctor who declared him dead said he died peacefully, that it was a blessing.

I would never in a million years consider my father’s sudden passing “a blessing.”

“How far to the spot where he wants his ashes spread?” Jason asked, cutting the heavy silence.

“Just another mile up ahead. We’ll have to look out for landmarks.”

The forest trail disappeared and reappeared under our feet several times. Dad had always enjoyed going off the beaten path. With no cell service this far into the woods, we had to rely on a map my father had drawn in his will to indicate we were still going in the right direction. The first landmark appeared almost out of nowhere, a wooden plank hanging from a string tied to a cedar, a crude swing.

Jason paused. “This seems familiar.”

“Does it?”

“Didn’t we use to swing on that as kids?”

I dismissed it, moving forward. “Maybe. We used to do a lot of stuff while hiking in the woods with Dad.”

It wasn’t until we hit the second landmark that a sense of déjà vu came over me. A grove of shaking aspen rose next to a bubbling stream. Instinctively, I glanced upward and found a faded purple kite shaped like a butterfly stuck high in their branches.

“That's my kite!”

Jason grinned. “Dad was so irritated. He told you to keep it away from the trees.”

My heart fluttered at the memory. It had been my favorite kite, the one I’d saved up a summer’s allowance to buy. In true Dad fashion, he’d special ordered me another butterfly kite for the next Christmas, this one with yellow and pink polka dots.

Jason surveyed the slope of the hill below us. “This must have been a special place to Dad.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It looks like every other hike we went on as kids.”

“Then why’d he chose this particular path?”

“He had to pick a spot somewhere.”

“Maybe,” Jason said, although he didn’t sound convinced.

We kept going on the faded path until we came to the last landmark: a break in the Douglas firs that gave a breathtaking, if distant, view of the expansive Pacific Ocean.

I took a deep breath as I pulled the scattering tube with Dad’s ashes out of my messenger bag. “Well, I guess this is it.”

But before I could open the lid, Jason stayed me with a hand on my shoulder. “Wait.”


“This isn’t the right spot.”

I frowned, showing him the map. “This is the final landmark. The view here is gorgeous. Why wouldn’t this be the place?”

“Because there’s something else, I just know it.”

He backtracked down to the trail before I could argue further.

“Jason,” I called chasing after him. “I’m tired and it’s getting late.”

“But we have to find the right spot.” He picked up his pace, going off trail so I had to wade into thigh-high grass to follow him.

“That was the right spot!” I yelled as he forged his way toward another stream. Anger threatened to burst inside me. The shock of being told over the phone that the man who’d raised me no longer walked this earth threatened to tear me apart. I wanted to lash out, scream up at the sky. He’d only been in his 60s. He’d just started restoring a Corvette he wanted to drive. We’d discussed taking a trip to the East Coast together, just the three of us, like we used to after Mom died.

It just wasn’t fair that he was gone.

But the sharp four-note cry of a familiar bird stopped any outburst I might have made. I recognized the trill of the red-winged blackbird. It was one of the first bird calls Dad had taught me while hiking. I turned around and found the little fellow perched on a low branch nearby, cocking his ebony head at me.

Another distant memory scratched the surface of my brain. This place was familiar too.

As if on cue, Jason called out, “Here it is! I told you so.”

The blackbird flew toward Jason’s voice. I followed too as if in a dream, into a clearing next to the stream.

A wide field of blooming camas stretched out between the towering trees. The heads of the native flowers dotted the sharp green with softer lilac petals. They swayed in the breeze as if waving gently at us.

The memory burst free. I’d stumbled on this very field with Jason and Dad, long ago. We'd been young children, me only in kindergarten, Jason still in elementary school. The flowers were my favorite shade of purple, and I’d wanted to pick one so badly, but my father insisted that people shouldn’t disturb the wildflowers. He’d forbidden me from snapping off a stalk to take home to Mom. I’d been heartbroken.

My breath hitched in my throat.

Jason glanced at me. “Do you remember, then?”

“Yes,” I breathed, and without his prompting, I marched over to the stream. We couldn’t take a camas flower home, but Dad had done the next best thing. Standing next to the nearby stream, I followed its gentle curve until we came to a spot several yards away from the bubbling water.

A stacked pile of five flat gray rocks, maybe a foot tall, stood where we’d erected it together, several decades ago. A flower tower, Dad had called it. A way to mark the path along the stream that led around the field so that others would know not to disturb the camas too.

Jason put his arm around me. “I think he’d want us to scatter his ashes here.”

I nodded, fighting back tears.

I removed the lid from the scattering tube, but it was Jason who gave it the shake that set my Dad free. His ashes spread like dusty snow, some of it falling over the flowers, but most of it catching the breeze toward the stream, toward the forest, and maybe eventually reaching the ocean, all the places that Linus Baldwin loved most.

The blackbird called down to us. Behind his whistling song, I swear I heard Dad say, “I love you."

Jason must have heard it too because we both said “I love you too” at the same time.


Read Curse of the Fae Library to read more about Rosalind's and Jason's relationship.