My Self Published Struggle
Drowned out in a sea of self published terminology,
Outspoken by those that market themselves better,
Overwhelmed by a nine to five,
Underwhelmed by sales,
Too afraid to promote myself- so not to come across as pushy,
My novel suffering for my own misjudgements,
Years of "I can't wait to read your book when you publish it" dead and forgotten,
Tucked away on a high and dusty shelf,
Pushed back and to the side.
My problems are miniscule to the planet on fucking fire,
To the blistery winter winds and storms,
To the global pandemic and all of its havoc,
But my own wasted potential is more alarming to me than anything else.
“The Night They Happened”
Bloated by poison,
Cold, crystalline, sugary alcohol dripping down my chest,
Confusion nestled in,
Spun around and ordered outside,
Stripped naked before my friends,
Car windows fogged up,
Excuses made and brought back inside,
Dreams of sleep on the horizon,
No sleep for the weary and drunk...
Only orders given,
Whispered between tightly clenched legs,
Panties removed despite protest,
Purity stolen and never to be given back,
Love wasted for months all for naught,
Love given to two who didn’t deserve,
Body no longer my own,
Body I no longer controlled,
Flesh leash chained to my purity,
On the night it happened.
Wolves without Teeth - Chapter 7
I am woken up in the middle of the night, this time not by Wila and her nightmarish dreams but rather by Griffin. My sleep had already been interrupted once but now? Again? He shakes me awake and looks down on me, smiling at me.
"It's time for initiation." He tells me ominously and I raise an eyebrow to him.
I groggily inquire, "Initiation into what?"
"The Ferns." He informs me, "We here at the Wayward House-"
I interrupt him, "The what?"
"Wayward House. It's what we children call the house." He explains, trying to continue on as I ask another question.
"Does Grams know what you call her home?" He nods in response.
"We say it in front of her. It's fitting actually, she likes the term. You and Eredith are the only blood related children that she's taken in since the War on Magic."
"Why Wayward House?" I ask and he chuckles.
"Because we're all unusual children put in an unusual situation." He explains quickly, "Now get up and get dressed."
I do as he says, moving slowly out from underneath my covers while covering my legs which are exposed. Tonight was the wrong night to not wear pants to bed. However, it helped me to sleep and I needed sleep after visiting Wila earlier in the night. No specific nightmare like usual, but I'd heard her crying and I stayed with her until she fell asleep around eleven. Glancing at the clock I discover I'd only gotten about an hour of sleep. Couldn't Griffin have chosen a different night to do this?
I mutter, "Prim and proper, dressed neat, from head to toe, and face to feet."
Rather than finding myself dressed in a robe and a nice sweater, I find myself in a pair of joggers and a t-shirt from a band I liked back home. I needed to ask Eredith how the spell dressed me, I enjoyed its style. I throw on Griffins hand me down robe and dig my hands into my pocket, nodding to Griffin who leads me quietly out of the house.
Rather than mounting his broom like usual, we started to walk in the direction of FernWood. A knot forms solidly at the bottom of my stomach. Where was he leading me at this hour?
I glance up just slightly, it feels like it's daytime from how brightly the huge and full moon shines down on us. There's a cool breeze swaying on the Autumnal air that rustles the leaves near us on the path we travel.
"Do you know anything about initiation? Have any of the others mentioned this to you?" He asks me and I nod my head.
"I don't talk much to the others." I explain and he nods in understanding.
"Besides Wila and Richard." He decides and I agree.
"They're different, though." I tell him, "I met them as friends of a friend, not as roommates."
"So I'm a friend?" He raises an eyebrow, a slight smile playing on his smug face.
"Definitely." I confirm with a matching smile.
He laughs and stops dead in his tracks. "We'll see how you feel after initiation."
I stop, too, startled as he presses both hands against my shoulders and shoves me, hard. I stumble backwards, feeling woozy as I cross over something and discover a cobblestone wall where Griffin was. "Griffin!" I scream, my heart beginning to race.
"Don't panic!" He shouts, "The test of a Fern is to use magic! I'll explain the symbolism after you make it back over!"
My eyes widen as I hear crunching and a low growl from behind me. I turn, seeing exactly why there's a wall where it is. I back up, finding that the wall is solid on this side of things. It would've been a comforting thought if I was still on the other side.
Looking at what stares me down, it reminded me of a wolf but twice my size and it's bones were ripping through its fur like a Halloween costume. Halloween was just a few weeks away, I think I knew what I'd be dressing as. My heart races as it exposes its maw, sharp rotting teeth right at my eye level. I feel like I want to cry.
"Abracadabra!" I shout, thrusting my wand forward as an explosion teems from the end of the wand, the wolf recoiling just slightly.
Glancing down at my wand that I'd been smart enough to bring along with me, I wished with all my heart that it would become a sword. And, the funniest thing happened, my hand begun to tingle and my arm started to droop as my once lightweight wand was now a terribly tough and heavy sword. I vaguely remembered discussing something of this nature during my History of Magic class, but I wasn't paying attention the entire class.
"What the..." I mutter aloud, obscenities may have slipped. The one thing that they never show in the movies or even explain is how difficult it is to use a proper sword. I mean seriously, some kind of chosen one picks it up and can suddenly one hand it?
I stare down at it, knowing full well I would not be able to harm the beast before me. Nor did I want to. It was never in my nature to harm anything.
Praying for a miracle, I return to sword to being my wand. The creature cocks its head, the glint of its teeth in the moonlight disappearing as it shuts its jaw with a gentle fury. I raise an eyebrow as it begins to recede, bowing slightly before doing so. Had it just bowed to me? I pondered as I imagined myself growing lighter.
Wings sprout only somewhat painfully from my back as I rotate my shoulders, alternating to adjust to the weight of my new additions.
With surprising grace, I flap my wings and fly right over the ridiculously tall wall between Griffin and I, folding my wings as I make gentle impact with the ground.
Griffin grins, "Not a tactic I've seen before. You're a lover, Parks, not a fighter."
I hunch over, tears welling in my eyes as I wrap my arms around myself. I sniffle a bit while rolling those words over and over in my brain, You're a lover, Parks, not a fighter.
"Can we go home now?" I request and he nods, smiling and wrapping me in a blanket that he materialized from who knows where. The ever forming morning dew rests on my skin in the moonlight. There's a dainty fog clouding the air as we walk in the direction of Grams.
He holds me close with one arm wrapped around my shoulder, "I'm happy you consider the Wayward house your home. We call ourselves wayward and we do initiation because we're children of circumstance."
I nod as he explains this, going on to say, "We're strong. We had to be sure you're strong too. FernWood is a rough and tough place sometimes."
"I'm sure." I agree and the rest of our quiet walk is a blur. I fall back asleep with no troubles at all.
I woke up early enough that I wouldn't cross paths with Matilda and I threw on the t-shirt from the night before and jeans, leaving my hair messy. Rushing off to school was the smartest tactic after what had happened the night before.
Everything about the previous day comes flooding back and I try to think of how to solve the mistakes of yesterday. It's lunchtime by the time I finally stop reflecting and I realize how absentmindedly I'd been stumbling through the day. Astryd chatters away with Dylan excitedly and everyone else is enriched in some conversation or other. I sigh as I bite into a grilled cheese that I'd taken from the center of the table and then grab a bowl of tomato soup to dunk it in.
The period goes by quickly and as does every class up until self-defense class. I knew who I wanted to fight right away as I raised my hand when the Professor asks who wanted to go first. I train my eye on Argos who gulps loudly.
"Drathen." I say when I'm asked who my opponent will be.
He removes his robe and shirt, glaring back, "I'm so scared, the girl who Matilda beat to a pulp."
My mind returns to last night as I lie awake and the night before then when I sat up with Wila and listened to her sobs. And of course I was particularly sleep deprived. My encounter with the wolf like creature, however, is partially responsible for the courage instilled in me. I return my rage to Argos, hating his smug face. How dare he mock me. What gave him the right to mock my friends and how scared they were?
Things were about to change as I stepped into the ring and tossed my robe aside.
"You don't have to fight me to prove anything, Jane." He tells me, "I didn't know she was your friend but my opinion still stands."
You're a lover, Parks, not a fighter.
I grit my teeth and as the Professor calls for the match to begin I charge on Argos, my body low crouched in a fighting position as I violently charge at him, the entire class erupting in cheers as my head connects with his gut.
"Where was that fire yesterday, Parks!" Matilda shouts, her nose swollen from a hit I'd gotten in yesterday.
I growl in response and throw an elbow at Argos, which he knocks away with two hands. He's dropped low in a defensive stance as I throw a punch and a jab, both blocked by him. He sweeps my leg and drops me beneath him, pinning me and looking down on me.
"Give it up," He mumbles, "You've chosen your friends here. Now leave me alone and I'll pretend this never happened."
I spit at him as the class counts down, my heart hurting from the time we'd spent together and now he pretended as though I was at fault.
"You can go home, Jane." Argos says to me, "I'm not sure why Griffin brought you here."
Tears cloud my vision as I run from the room swiftly, everyone staring as I go. Richard chases after me, running behind me. Strong arms wrap around my waist as he pulls me against a wall, stopping me dead in my tracks and then pulling me close to his chest.
"It's okay," He rubs my hair and my back, holding me close and comforting me, "He's wrong. Griffin brought you here for... reasons."
I sob a little harder and he clutches me tighter.
He tells me gruffly, "Sorry, I'm bad at emotions."
"Thank you." I say, my voice muffled by his chest but he nods and I feel his chin against the top of my head as he does so. His words weren't exactly comforting, but his warm embrace and soft cotton robes felt like a nest of protection.
"You're one of us now," He tells me and lifts my chin to face him at eye level so I can see his smile, "You don't need to thank me for being a decent being."
I force a smile that would've been genuine if I wasn't so wrecked over the situation. Internally I note the fact that he didn't refer to himself as a human being.
Richard lets go of me and backs up a bit. "I'll be heading back to class, are you gonna be okay?"
I nod my head, "I'll be fine. Thank you again."
"Don't thank me." He says before meandering back to class.
I walk down a few winding corridors, stopping near the staircase that leads to Mafalda's office where I see Eredith sitting on the staircase. She stands up, her face red and blotchy. I couldn't tell if she'd been crying or if she was seriously mad. Either way I had a feeling I was about to hear all about it.
"How dare you!" She shouts, her legs spread defensively and her fists balled up at her sides. She was wound up tightly into a position that made her feel like an explosive ready to blow. I knew exactly what she was referring to right away. My little fight class incident was hot news buzzing around the campus as we yelled at each other.
"How dare I?" I growl, "How dare he! Why does Drathen get to flaunt around his last name and treat my friends like garbage?"
"Maybe because he's a skilled enchanter who doesn't embarrass himself by sleeping in class!" She shouts and I know she's referring to Wila. Had he even told her the whole story?
I scoff, "Don't pretend like you know her."
"Like you do?" Eredith scoffs back and I ball up my own fists, thinking of any reason not to use it.
"She's been here for me. We've been through..." My defensive wall falls just slightly, "A lot."
Eredith shakes her head and turns to walk away. Then she turns to the brick wall beside the staircase, throwing a punch straight to it. If it hurt, she didn't show it. She mumbles, "Pathetic."
I'm shocked as I hear a scream coming from Mafalda's office and I know Eredith hears it too. We both turn and in unison we bound up the stairs, me throwing open the beautifully engraved door and her running inside.
As we run in and stand by the door and I see a look of fear plastered on Mafalda's face, I recall something she'd told me about. Something she'd told me when I was much younger. A bedtime story, was it?
"Can you tell me a story, mom?" I remember saying and my stomach churns as I recall it now. When did Mafalda earn the term mom?
"Of course, PJ." She told me as she tucks the covers snug around my younger body. How old must I have been? Maybe only seven at the time, possibly older.
I smiled as she sat beside me, her body causing the covers to constrict around my legs. It was a comforting feeling, I loved to be nestled tightly. She starts, "There once was a little girl born with extraordinary gifts.
"At the age of five, this little Enchantress could already do transfigurations and divination. She was extremely gifted, attending a magic school at an age younger than all the other kids. They claimed her power was limitless, like those of the deities. But as word got out about the gifted girl, some were frightful about what she could do; about who she would be." I smiled at her as my eyelids grew heavy.
"But then one day she met two lovely Enchanters who loved her for her and not for her magic-"
I recall that night as some of the best sleep of my young life. Bedtime stories truly were magic. As Mafalda tenses up and sparks of electricity flare from off of her I realize who that little girl may have been. As she struggles against captors, her magic makes a pair of magic handcuffs visible. Had those always been there?
There was only two of them, a woman with raven hair and the brightest green irises that I'd ever seen. She had a forked tongue and an inky, violet aura that shimmered around her. Holding a knife to Mafalda's throat, of course. Because why not make my life easy?
The other was a man with hair of fire. He illuminated the room and cast a dim orange glow upon us all. His irises were black like charcoal, it was rather fitting.
"Take another step and she dies." The woman hisses.
Eredith steps forward, "You wouldn't kill her if you need her for something," She reasons, "And you wouldn't be kidnapping her if you didn't need her for something."
I take a step forward to be in line with Eredith.
The snake woman purrs, "Clever girl."
She spins Mafalda towards her partner, "Heath!"
As he grabs onto her and makes a flying leap out of the window, I look to Eredith. "Divide and conquer?'
"We're gonna have to." She confirms and transforms her wand into a sword. Eredith knew how to use a sword, mind you, as she lunges back into a fighting stance with the blade raised high before her opponent. "Go!"
I rush towards the window and, without thinking, plunge myself out of it. Glass shatters all around me, none of it cutting me as I fly out and picture wings sprouting from my back once more. They emerge and I powerfully fly towards the man that the snake had called Heath.
I drop down like a bird of prey and sprint towards him, drawing my wand and firing off small bolts of magic.
He turns, only agitated slightly. He drops Mafalda and she begins to crawl away, her eyes seeming to grow heavy.
Heath turns his full attention to me, his eyes animalistic. A fire begins to swirl around both hands, converging and then launching at me. I held my hands up, hoping some magical force would deflect the blue and red spiraling blast but to no avail. The flames take me in, singeing and searing. The feeling is overwhelming, my body can't quite get a sense for what's happening to it. I hear laughter in the background above all the crackling and the hissing of the flames as they ravage my body.
How had I allowed this to happen? How had I learned so little that I didn't even know how to save myself? Maybe it was the fact that I'd only been a student for two days with a hardly functioning Alec muscle- just maybe- but at that moment nothing else mattered but the sting of my flesh. The smoke seeps into my nose and corrupts my lungs.
I hear screaming and commotion in the background, both of the screams that I hear are masculine as I writhe on the ground in pain, rolling in the dirt to attempt to extinguish the flames.
"Put her out!" Shouts a voice that's undeniably Griffin as a large amount of water surges over me.
Richard shouts, "I'm sorry!"
I scream in pain as the water hits my skin, stopping the cooking process of my aching, raw body. My mind wanders back to a Chemistry class the year prior and how we discussed the differences between chemical burns.
A chemical burn, I recall as Griffin picks me up, will practically digest and break down your skin. He carries me away as I recall the symptoms, the rash you'll get or the treatment needed.
He sets me back down as I scream in anguish. Gently he removes my robes which have stuck to the ooze and slime of my charred skin. It felt like tearing off a bandage as chunks of my skin go with it. Griffin throws it aside and Richard kneels above me.
Flame induced burns are caused by the heat destroying my bodily tissue. It was hard to realize what would become of me, what I would look like. The burns hadn't hit my collarbones, the flames hadn't worked their way up my entire body. I'd say only up to my chest was burnt to a crisp and from there the skin was wrinkled and only slightly burned, tapering away in my soft skin that I used to apply lotion to daily.
I sizzle like a salt dipped snail, writhing on the gravel road in pain.
"What do we do?" Griffin panics and I feel strong hands attending to me.
Someone, I would assume Richard, rips my robes wide open and pulls them off my body, my charred flesh burning even more as the air hits it.
The pain was the kind that caused me to convulse and foam at the mouth. It was one kind of pain to actually be the girl on fire, but another altogether as the oxygen bounced on my skin. A breeze blows and I scream in pain, tears in my eyes clouding the sight of the sun going down.
I scream and look down at myself, my skin looked like wax as it secreted something pus like; my body was trying to save itself.
In a moment of realization beyond the pain I was feeling, I choke out, "Eredith... She's still inside, in the office."
My eyes flutter shut, no longer able to contain their own weight as Griffin rushes away from me to Eredith's aid. Richard stays by my side, combing through my hair with his fingers.
"Stay awake, Parker. Stay alive." He softly urges. I nod, trying to stay strong. "We'll get you to the infirmary soon."
I cough out, "You can't take me there. Those goons took Mafalda, we can't let any of the school administration know about her absence."
He frowns and lifts me into the air. It seems like only minutes later I'm lying on Grams kitchen table. Bright lights swing in my face and above me stand all of my roommates and Grams, who's taking care of me.
"Where's Eredith?" I choke and she frowns.
With a sigh she tells me, "Resting upstairs. She has a nasty head injury."
My worries are put to ease. Tonight had been too close of a call, and even still they had taken Mafalda. How were we going to operate without her?
"Parker..." Grams looks down at me, her frown lines set deep. "We're gonna put you to sleep for a few days while you heal, okay?"
My heart rate accelerates as I try to sit up, "You can't! There's so much to be done. So much to deal with."
She tsks and then gives me a sweet smile, soothing my worries before her features turn hard.
Grams presses me back down forcefully and whispers, "Sleep."
Moments later, I'm gone. I'm coasting through the cosmos and all my earthly pains drift away. I'm at peace.
Getting Acquainted with the Sky - Chapter 6
A light knocking that gradually grows louder, a rapping upon the door, is what wakes me up. I'm surprised to find myself in my own bed, wondering who had put me here. Grams voice rings through the room as she opens the door, letting the light from the hallway stream in, "Time for school, Parker!"
I grunt and get up, running fingers through my hair. Without even standing up, I mutter, "Prim and proper, dressed neat, from head to toe, and face to feet."
I'm transformed and dressed for school in a flash. Today's outfit was a pair of jeans and a lacy tank top, covered by a silky robe that was maroon. I smile with satisfaction and jog downstairs, grabbing breakfast to go and then meeting up with Griffin outside, who thankfully hadn't left yet. He pulls down his flight goggles just as I stroll up.
"Need a ride?" He asks and I smile jovially.
I tell him, "As always," while climbing on the back of the broomstick. He takes off and I leave my eyes closed, opening them as we descend which I regret immediately. The churning sensation in my guts told me I wasn't yet ready to fly with my eyes open.
We head into the dining hall, which I now notice is called "Evergreen Hall", and take our seats. I look over to Fawn who's laughing with Richard, sharing a plate of pancakes.
"You've never told me your full name is Fawntasia!" He cries out and I raise an eyebrow. She laughs some more, her face growing red and her laugh like a light snort. It was an adorable and uncontainable kind of snort.
She claims, "It's never come up!"
He stops laughing for a moment and looks her in the eyes, telling her, "You're beautiful."
She smiles and cups his face, telling him, "You are too."
I'm distracted by the beauty of their relationship as Astryd comes up beside me, tapping me on the shoulder to get my attention.
I turn and face her, she gives me a weird look. "Can you come to the bathroom with me?"
Nodding, I tell her, "Sure, but why?"
She raises an eyebrow. Back in our old school, such a thing was never questioned. It was just odd for me to revert to my old ways after everything we'd been through already in the week we'd been here. And even still, Astryd had technically been here a bit longer than I had considering how long I slept for upon arrival.
We speed walk to the nearest lavatory and duck in, immediately I know something is off as she checks underneath the stalls.
Looking me dead in the eyes, Astryd grows pale as she says, "You can't speak of this to anyone."
"I won't," I promise and she nods before nervously opening her palm to reveal a growing flame.
She explains, "Ever since I got here, I've been able to do things I couldn't before."
I gasp as I stare, she was doing what Griffin had done before! A tiny flame was growing in the palm of her hand just as the look of fear in her eyes grew with it.
Her voice quivers as she tells me, "This place has changed me. I've been up every night with chest pains and yesterday I almost set my room on fire!"
My eyes widen as I try to think of what to say, how could I comfort her?
"We shouldn't be discussing this here, someone could come in and s-" I stop dead in my sentence as the door opens and Mafalda Winters steps in. Astryd extinguishes the flame immediately and we both go silent. Mafalda's face is stoic as she steps up beside me before turning to the sinks I was leaning against. She calmly washes her hands and then looks over to me, her facial expression giving nothing away.
Her eyes are vacant along with the rest of her face as she makes direct eye contact. I look away as she tells me, "Parker, I'll need to see you in my office after you're done eating."
I nod in response as she turns over to Astryd, "Ashlynn," She says and I raise an eyebrow, they were on full name basis? "I'll need to see you right away, come with me."
Astryd looks to me and says, "Bye, Parker. We'll chat later, okay girly?""
I nod, "Catch ya later, Ash."
They leave as quickly as Mafalda had come in and a chill runs down my spine. Something about that exchange felt off, I wondered if she'd seen.
I meander back to the lunch table and sit beside Ethan, feeling a need to check in on him. As far as I knew, Astryd and Ethan were the first few Magicless to be in this world for so long. And Astryd had complained of heart pain, I assumed it had something to do with the Alec muscle that Griffin had told me about.
"Hey Ethan," I sit down beside him and he turns to look at me, "Have you been feeling alright?"
He nods with a goofy smile plastered on his face, "I've been great! Magic school is awesome."
His enthusiasm was appreciated, it lightened my mood as I worried about Astryd.
After breakfast was dismissed, I headed up the grand marble staircase to Mafalda's office and knock on the door, alarmed as it swings open by itself and Astryd is nowhere to be seen.
"Have a seat, Parker." She instructs and I follow her directions, careful not to upset her.
I stare straight ahead at Mafalda as she opens her hand, a long, slender box appearing in her hand. My eyes open wide as she places it before me.
"What's this?" I ask, inspecting it.
"Open it." She demands and I nod, gripping the top and pulling it open. Inside it's lined with burgundy velvet that compliments the dark stained wood. Within is a wand that looks to be made of mahogany. I gasp as I touch it and electricity rumbles through my veins. I remove it from the box and hold it up, feeling a power surge through me.
Her eyes widen from across the desk as she mutters to herself, "Interesting."
Voice like a low pur, she tells me, "Do you know what you're holding?"
I shake my head no as she reaches out yearningly to touch it. I recoil slightly, feeling it in my bones that she didn't deserve to hold it.
"Your mothers' wand." She gets teary as she tells me this and I huff, internally.
I frown for a moment and look at her, "Why're you giving me this?"
"Eredith has your fathers' wand," She explains, "It's only fair you get a piece of their greatness."
I nod along as she says this before she hands me a scroll.
"Let me walk you to class." She offers and I agree, partially because I was lost but mostly because I wanted to warm up to Mafalda. I didn't want to hate her, not as much as Eredith does.
She smiles at me and leads me to her office door, taking me out of the classroom.
"Your first class is Transfiguration, then Divination, Beast Care, History of Magic, and you finish off the day with a mandatory Self-Defense class and flight class." She tells me as we start towards a long and winding staircase that descended into a darker hole of the castle. My stomach aches and something feels off, immediately.
I brush it off and ask, "When will I start flight class?" She chuckles in response.
"I've got you pencilled in for the end of the day with Professor Finnegan," She tells me and as I grow tense with fear she places a hand on my shoulder, "Relax, flight class isn't too bad."
We descend deeper and the staircase eventually leads off into a cobblestone archway. My breath is taken away as I look on either sides of me to see that there's water surrounding us, yet no glass sits in the windows of the archway.
"Magic is a powerful thing," She explains, "This schools magic is tied to me. I keep this the way it is."
She beams with pride as a MerFolk swims over to the side, poking a hand out of the water and reaching out towards us, it's skin growing scaly and beginning to burn the second her arm hits the air.
Recoiling, it hisses and I can hear it despite the waters crashing all around being nearly deafening. Mafalda says something to the Mer in sign language and she swims away, having obviously learned her lesson.
"She must be young, freshly hatched. They usually know by now not to expose themselves to the air in here." Mafalda shrugs and we continue on, the archway closing off eventually and leading into an underwater part of the castle that was filled with classrooms and further down the hall, more dorms.
We come to a classroom where I see Dante sitting inside alongside Griffin. They wave to me and I give a shy wave in return. I clutch my hand from it's holster in my robes, finding comfort in it's twinges of lightning that course through my veins.
On the desk sits a bearded dragon lizard, I'd had one as a kid at one point until the Jane's had to get rid of her. I'm surprised to not see a teacher, only until the lizard morphes to full size into a greying and short man who sits on the desk now instead.
"Your reason for being late?" He asks in an aggravated manner until Mafalda steps into the light before me. Her eyes glisten in the dim classroom lights and she smiles.
"Hello Professor Drango, my apologies. Parker is new and we had to chit-chat a bit." She smiles, "Better late than never."
His eyes widen and I step into the class, taking my seat at a desk by Griffin and Dante.
"It's alright, Miss. Have a lovely day." He brown noses to Mafalda, who shortly after stalks away.
Professor Drango returns his attention to the class and his lesson begins again, Dante and Griffin catching me up.
A half an hour later and the bell rings, we're released into the now busy, bustling hallway.
Griffin and Dante gang up on either side of me, holding me tight like a sandwich holds its fillings. "What class do you have next?" Dante asks and I try to remember.
"Divination." I tell him after pulling out and glancing at my schedule.
It's Griffin who nods and says, "You'll have that with me and Wila."
I smile at the mention of her name, wondering how she's doing.
As I walk into Divination, I take my seat beside her and she smiles, laying her head down on the shared table. I look at her with worry as the professor starts their lesson, not even taking notice to their new arrival. I was pleasantly surprised that I wouldn't have to introduce myself to the class.
The lesson droned on as the teacher discussed the use of crystal balls in magicless movies, something that set her off on a tangent. It was about halfway through class that water started to creep across the desk and on the floor, soaking my shoes and my socks. The water was freezing cold, I knew it had to be coming from Wila. I nudge her lighty, trying to stop the damage as suddenly a fire started and spread across the table towards me.
I screamed and jumped back, pulling Wila away from the table. As I rolled her head back towards me I saw that her eyes were wide open and covered with lavender cataracts. She breathes raspily and a thick black smoke comes out of her nostrils.
"Don't wake her!" Our professor shouts as Griffin beside me tries to whack the fire out. How had a fire started on top of water?
"How do I stop it?" I shout back and the professor speeds towards us, tapping Wila on the forehead with her wand.
"Cease!" She shouts and the cataracts slowly deteriorate as tears begin to fall from her now free eyes.
She mutters to me, smoke billowing from her mouth as she does so, "Did it happen again?"
I nod in response, going silent.
Professor Chelius waggles a finger at Wila, leading her out into the hallway.
My ears perk up as I hear someone laughing on the other side of the classroom. The laugh sounds familiar and as I turn to find the source, my heart sinks. None other than Argos laughs with his friends on the other side of the room and a rage bubbles to the surface.
"What a weirdo." He remarks and I storm over to his desk.
"Weirdo, huh?" I ask accusingly, my words seething with a poison like quality, "That's my friend you're talking about."
"Jane-" He remarks as I storm back over to Griffin. Argos follows and I sigh. Why'd he have to follow?
"I'm so sorry," He tells me, "I didn't know you were friends with any of them."
"It seems they're my only friends." I remark as Professor Chelius pokes her head back in.
She says sorrowfully, "Class, you're dismissed early, have a nice day."
My stomach feels rancid and wishes to empty all of its contents. I needed to know if Wila was alright, she meant so much to me especially after these past few days and nights of us bonding.
"We'd better just head to lunch," Griffin says solemnly, "It won't help if we draw a crowd."
Everyone in the class watches what's going on between Griffin, Argos, and I. We're the main event as we leave the class, heading to the dining hall. Griffin stands close to me, protectively, as Argos storms past with his shoulders hunched and his hands dug into his pockets. It seemed as though he was trying to pin me as the bad guy.
We walk into the dining hall and take our seats, waiting for the others to enter just under a half hour later when the rest of the classes were dismissed. Alarms go off in my head as Astryd walks in with some guy. They're chatting and laughing and I can't help but feel like I recognize him. He looked a bit like Astryd's brother who'd gone missing a few years prior, Dylan, but he had a five o' clock shadow and a head full of much longer hair than when I'd last seen him.
My suspicions are confirmed, however, when Astryd walks up and gets teary trying to introduce him.
"Dylan?" I ask, "Man it's been forever."
I stand and pull him into a tight embrace and he smiles, rubbing the small of my back as we share a very long hug. When he pulls away he gives me a smirk.
"My heart led me here, the second one that is." He jokes and I smile.
I remark, "My heart literally almost failed before I got here, Enchanters really don't belong in a Magicless world."
Astryd smiles, "That's the thing, Ms. Winters told me I'm at least half Enchanter which is why I was able to live in the Magicless world for so long."
Ethan struts over, barging in on the conversation. He'd been chatting with Daisy when he overheard the conversation and he tells us, "So I guess this makes me special since I'm the only Magicless here?"
"I guess so." I say with a chuckle. The air is light and bright and I'm almost able to forget the Wila incident, only until she comes in about ten minutes later in dry clothes that were about two sizes too big on her. She frowns when she sees me and immediately rushes over to apologize.
Tension settles into the air as she throws her arms around me and pulls me into a hug. She still smells heavily of smoke.
"I don't know what happened." She wails, "It's only getting worse."
I lead her over to our table and sit beside her, lowering my head slightly.
I tell her, "Show me," I add, "I'll put my head down so no one sees what's going on."
She nods and taps me with her wand and again my mind is overtaken.
I begin to float to the surface, away from the red hair and up to the surface; someone with small, soft hands is dragging me. We emerge from the water and I gasp, screaming out in pain and anguish as I look over to the crumbling stone structure before me and the burning remains of what must've been the island.
Smoke is thick in the air and waves desecrate whatever remains after the cleansing flames that drown it. The smoke invades my nostrils and my lungs burn.
I gasp and lift my head from the table, my pupils burning from the image of the flames lapping at where we sat. I had to ponder if what I was seeing was a premonition or just a series of bad, never-ending dreams.
"They're getting worse." She tells me, her voice shaky.
I gulp loudly and look towards the food in the center of the table, I decided I was no longer hungry.
The rest of lunch flew by uneventfully, Wila silent and Astryd taking center stage and talking about her Alec muscle growing in. It was pretty interesting but I was relieved to head to beast care.
Truthfully, I don't remember a thing from Beast care or History of Magic, but the memory of my first self defense class at FernWood wasn't something I'd forget anytime soon.
I would be the last to enter what they called "The Ring" as though this was a boxing match, truthfully it was a magically caged in pit that was hexagonally shaped and clearly smeared with dried blood, left there to intimidate all who would be forced to enter its premises.
Richard grinned at me before he chose to fight Argos and I have to say, the match was riveting. I can't say who won but in my opinion neither of them lost. They left the match covered in bruises and wounds, high fiving each other afterwards.
I remember the resounding gasp as Richard chose Argos, because this meant I'd be left to enter the ring with Matilda. Matilda was a half orc and I'd seen the inside of her room only once, littered with gym equipment. I'd watched her eat raw eggs as breakfast before. Matilda was at least six foot two and pure hard muscle, did Richard hate me or something?
Entering the ring was what I thought would be the most difficult, she'd take it easy on me, right?
As soon as Professor Caldwell told her, "Don't put this one in the infirmary." I realized she wasn't going to take it easy on me.
Caldwell shouts for the match to begin and she lunges on me.
"Time!" I shout nervously, "I need to prepare."
Several students chuckle as I remove my robes to reveal a cardigan. Matilda removes her gown to reveal a put together battle ensemble, grey and silver workout clothes that tightly adhered to her body. I slowly peeled off my cardigan and threw it on top of my robes, fighting now only in a bra- sadly a bright pink one at that- and jeans. I felt mortified, my classmates staring at my mostly exposed chest. Even worse, my impressively flat chest; I'm hardly an A cup. I still was not prepared but maybe partial nudity will startle Matilda and mildly catch her off guard?
"Alright, stripper, can we continue?" Matilda said, suppressing a snort of laughter. I nodded, humiliated. Fighting in a bra was embarrassing enough, I just prayed they'd have the decency to cover me up when Matilda knocked me out cold.
The match is restarted and my blood courses like a racehorse through my veins as my heart pumps so loudly that I hear it. It pounds in my ears rhythmically.
Matilda and I circle each other, her taking a less aggressive approach as the match is restarted. Outside of the ring, people slap their thighs to make almost a drum beat.
As soon as I believe I'm ready, I lunge at Matilda. She shoots up a knee as I do so, knocking me straight in the nose. I feel my cartilage bounce and throb on my face as my head is jerked backwards. Everything hurts as my head grows woozy and I fall backwards, my head slamming the ground.
"One hit KO!" Murmurs through the crowd repeatedly. I'm still conscious as Matilda stands over me, straddling me and staring down at me.
"Pathetic," She mumbles, not expecting it as I ram my head upwards, my forehead connecting with what I believe was her groin but I was hoping was just her stomach.
The class screams, some outraged that I had the nerve to keep fighting.
I pull myself up as quickly as I can, Matilda only derailed for a second as she grabs my ponytail with her meaty hands and slams my head against her thigh. The clap that my skin makes connecting with hers is like thunder.
My body goes limp once more.
"And stay down!" She shouts, placing a foot on top of my abdomen. I was defeated and my spirit was certainly broken.
I lost consciousness then, I believe, and Richard kindly carried me to the infirmary as I was later told by my peers who would never shut up about it all.
When I awoke in the infirmary, the bad news kept coming. My last class of the day would be flight class and I unfortunately would still have to attend.
"Where would I buy a broomstick?" I asked, fully prepared to drop quite a lot of money. I immediately got myself ready and out of the infirmary bed, leaving quickly after the nurses checked me one more time.
"I'd say out at the harbor, most likely." Richard told me as we walked in the direction of the harbor as it was, "But broomsticks cost an awful lot."
"Thank you." I said, deciding to run down the hallway to my dorm. I ducked in and grabbed one of my most important possessions, Magicless money. They may have been pennies in the Magicless world, but everyone knew that at FernWood- in the Enchanted world in general actually- an average penny was worth five golden coins. And I had a whole jar saved up!
I strolled quickly out to the harbor as fast as I could and hoped I wouldn't be late for my first flying class. When I saw a large stand with hovering sticks above it, I could tell right away that was where they made broomsticks and then I noticed the display in front of the stand. It was amazing! All different brooms of all different lengths and made from all different kinds of wood. There was even a broomstick made from bamboo. I doubt it would be sturdy, but it was very beautiful especially with the added touch of eucalyptus leaves on the end rather than twigs or hay.
When I began to touch some of the brooms a clerk came out from the back, looking very excited when he saw my jar of coins despite having them hidden by my robes.
"I see you have quite the collection of coins..." The clerk said, trailing off and raising his eyebrows.
I decided then to pull out the collection of pennies which caused the clerk to stumble backwards.
"Now I've heard that it's five golden coins per penny, correct?" I asked. The shady clerk immediately attempted to bargain and make it seem as though it was only worth one gold coin every five pennies!
"Well little miss, I'm not sure who gave you such information, but they were sadly mistaken." The clerk clicks his tongue before I return with a zinger.
"The person who gave me such information was Headmistress Mafalda Winters herself, and I expect five gold coins for every penny I own, otherwise I'll take my business elsewhere." I said and looked over to see a lovely broom, and fairly cheap too, that I had decided I would buy if the clerk gave me the correct amount of gold coins.
The broom was made of cherrywood with a coconut besom head, wrapped with a leather cord. At the end of the leather cord were beads and gizmos of all sorts, adding to the aesthetic of it. Some would find it tacky or just plain ugly, I thought it was unique and I wanted it right away.
The clerks face, unlike that broom, was priceless.
The clerk seemed to grow very pale.
With a smirk that day, I walked off towards the field that was next to the forest where flight training was held and I held my breath when I saw something I thought I'd never see; people flying everywhere.
It was absolutely astonishing. With my new broom in hand, I looked for the teacher of the class. I immediately found out that I deeply disliked this teacher.
"Finally decided to show up, eh Mrs. Jan?" The professor said, scrutinizing me deeply. I wasn't even going to address that he somehow messed up my last name.
While he may have been quite the rude man, he was quite good looking. It was all that typical Enchanter charm. For his age, possibly mid thirties, he was surprisingly good looking. He had glowing skin and perfectly white teeth. His hair was a dark brown, long and wavy while his eyes complimented that with a lovely blue.
One thing I did like about this guy was his tattoos. From his Capri pants- Capri pants in this weather, he must've been crazy- I saw he had one that was a broomstick buzzing around his calf and on his right forearm he had a tattoo of his wand. However, I later realized that since it was Enchanted Ink, that tattoo was not of his wand but rather it was his wand. I saw this when he pulled it from his forearm and used it to keep my peers from blowing off their broomsticks.
"Yes, so sorry Professor." I said, deeply apologizing, "I had to go buy this in order to-"
"So you skipped my class to buy a fancy broomstick, is that what you're saying?" He asked.
"Sorry Professor..." I said, trailing off, realizing I never got his name.
"Finnegan. Professor Finnegan and I advise you not to be late to my class again." He strongly said. He had quite the booming voice. A cliche, yes, but it seems that all physical education teachers tend to have booming voices.
I was deeply agitated by him cutting me off earlier and thankfully at that moment Griffin came gliding down from the sky, making a swift dismount to the point where he was flying one moment and walking with the broom in his right hand the next.
"I'll teach her what she missed, Professor." Griffin offered and the Professor walked off. Griffin glared at his turned back then returned his attention to me, first noticing the broom, "Wow, what a nice one." He pointed at it, his eyes never leaving the broom. I was glad Griffin shared my tastes, not everyone would find the broom to be appealing to the eye.
Griffin was a racer here at FernWood, kind of like track but it's in the sky and there are obstacles. And obviously everyone uses the same broomstick so that the competition is fair and based on skills.
"Yea, quite a nice broom." I said and Griffin glared at me intensely.
"It's a broomstick; we do not fly on cleaning equipment." Griffin said.
"Witches also fly on brooms." I pointed out and Griffins glare deepened.
"Well we are Enchanters not witches and we fly on broomsticks not brooms." Griffin said, clearly upset over my small comment. It was so fun to see him riled up over terminology.
"Everyone here is so politically correct." I said, mounting my broomstick, prepared for my first time flying, somewhat.
"So," I began with a slight smile, "How do I fly this thing?"
Griffin gave a smirk and then lightly kicked my broom, sending it into action as I was flung forward into the sky, still on the broomstick of course. The speed was so intense my cheeks were wiggling and my hair felt like it was being ripped off my head.
I screamed his name the entire way up, kind of angry about him not warning me but mostly terrified. I noticed right away that the broom I had bought was quite the speed demon.
From down below, Griffin was staring at how high I was rocketing in quite a short amount of time. Clearly feeling bad about sending me off without any knowledge, Griffin hopped onto his broom and used his feet to powerfully push off the ground, racing towards me.
Without any idea of what I was doing and no way to control the broom, I was startled when I started falling back to the ground at a blindingly fast speed. I zoomed past Griffin who was watching as I struggled to get the hang of flying.
"Oh dear!" I heard Griffin shout as I fell past.
"You have to kick the broom to get it to go!" He shouted and, in a split second before hitting the ground, I did as he said and gave the broom a light kick which sent it sputtering back to life. I shot off towards the direction I had been leaning in when I fell, which went towards the water.
As I did this, I grabbed the broom firmly with both hands, and somehow from there on everything was so much better. Maybe it was because I finally got a grip. I soared above everyone else, looking at the castle from the view that a bird sees.
"Whoa." I said to no one in particular besides probably myself.
High up above the school with a wonderful view, I started thinking about how I'd be leaving. I would be going back to where I had left. It seemed like it had only been days, but two weeks had passed for me at FernWood. It was almost winter. Of course, Halloween still hadn't passed, but the brisk weather made it feel as though it was going to snow any day now.
I was so wrapped up in staring at the grounds around me that I hadn't realized everyone already went inside. And, just as predicted with the freezing temperature, it began to snow lightly.
The snow that fell was light and fluffy. It was like tiny tufts of clouds were falling from the sky. I shivered and pulled my robes closer around me before racing back to the ground, finally having most control of my broom. It was funny how I thought flying would be hard, but I was just fine up there in the clouds. It was as though I belonged there. Being sky high made the events of self-defense class feel like days ago, weeks even.
When I made it back down, I gathered my things from the ground and shook them off, holding my broom firmly in my right hand and my books and other class materials were divided equally among my left hand and my satchel.
Later that night as we sat around the dinner table, tensions were high and I was exhausted. I'd only had classes for a day and already I wished I was back in the Magicless world where my problems were mundane.
I'd take boy problems and acne back in a heartbeat if I didn't have to deal with Matilda's penetrating glare. She was clutching a bag of frozen peas to her abdomen as an attempt to subdue the pain that my headbutt had caused.
"Can you pass the mashed potatoes?" She grunts as I grab them from beside me and pour the remaining starchy goodness onto my plate. My flight class experience hadn't completely erased all the ill feelings from the events of earlier.
"There's no more." I gruffly remark, "Pass the salt."
Matilda hands me the salt and moments later as I begin to shake some out, she undoes the cap of the salt shaker with magic under her breath. I groan as all the salt pours onto my plate.
"That's almost as salty as you two are acting," Daisy remarks, "Get over it. Fight class sucks, let's be real."
Richard grins and dabs a little blood away from his nose, "I find fight class to be exhilarating. Skin to skin contact is a wonderful thing."
I sigh and excuse myself, retreating to my room and immediately falling into a deep sleep. FernWood would be the death of me, I could feel it.
The New and The Old - Chapter 5
I woke up at least a half an hour later than I should have in order to make it there on time.
So, I stood in front of my full length mirror and I struggled to remember Eredith's spell. I had taken a drawer full of wands from Grams side table downstairs as I tried to figure out which wand to use. After using the first few that turned on TV's and turned off lights I was already thinking about my christmas gift to Grams, a universal wand.
At the very bottom of the drawer was a labelled wand that had apparently been Eredith's first wand. It was fitting as I tried to use this one. It's slender, mahogany bodice fit nicely in my petite palm as I grasped it like a chef would a knife and attempted to let the words of the spell come to me.
Whiskers rubs against my legs, his scaly patches feeling strange against my bare skin. How did Grams not realize that she had a literal tiny dragon in her home?
"Prim and proper, dressed neat, from head to toe, and face to feet." I said, finally remembering it after saying different variants of it. The spell transformed me, giving me a high ponytail, a navy blue cardigan, and a pair of comfy cotton jeans. My hair was tied with ribbon that matched the cardigan. I throw on a pair of flats and Griffin's robe before running downstairs to catch a ride with Griffin.
I hop on and close my eyes and he takes off quickly, we're at the school in minutes.
Rushing into the dining hall I look around and see the table where Eredith's table is, her not there yet thankfully. I sit down beside the dark-haired boy with the stoic face that I'd seen before, now noticing his baby blue eyes. He plays with a brown ferret at the table.
Unsanitary, I think, Even for a magic school.
"Hey, Erie," He says to me with a smile and I realize he definitely thought I was Eredith.
I grimace a little, not knowing how to make it clear that I wasn't Eredith up until he goes silent and pale faced seeing Eredith behind me.
She's wearing an outfit similar to mine except her cardigan is blush colored and her hair is in a tight bun. The look on her face is pretty annoyed, was it the fact that he'd mistaken us? We did look alike besides my curly hair that was currently in a tight ponytail. And I could definitely see the resemblance given how the spell decided to dress me.
"I'm so sorry, Parker." He says, "Eredith never used to shut up about you, I should've realized who you are."
"It's fine. Who are you?" I ask awkwardly, distracted by his good looks to a degree where I don't even remember to properly ask his name.
"Argos Drathen," He grandly announces with a grin, "And you should stick around me to learn a thing or two about magic."
I raise an eyebrow. Unsanitary and presumptuous, I think, I'm sure we'll be the best of friends.
It was a particularly bad thing when even my thoughts were sarcastic.
He smiles at me but all I can focus on is his adorable pet ferret who stared right at me with his beady black eyes. The ferret was cute, as was the boy, but the ferret had better manners.
"What's the ferrets name?" I ask with a coy smile and Argos puts on an embarrassed expression.
"Bear." He answers shyly and I smile.
I tell him, "That's a really cute name."
I can practically see the tension lift from his shoulders.
"Thank you." He beams, his genuine smile so much kinder than his smirking or grinning. A little bit of the metaphorical ice between us seems to melt.
Maybe he isn't so awful. I think as Eredith shoves a book in front of me.
"I think this book'll help us out with what happened yesterday." She explains and I read the title aloud.
"Unexplained phenomenons of the Magic world?" I half-ask, half-tell. I also gawk at the sheer size of the thing.
She nods her head with an almost annoyed expression plastered on her face.
Argos leans over, close enough that I can smell the way his body reeks of basil. It's almost suffocating. His long locks tickle my arm which I pull away, wanting to avoid contact as much as possible. These enchanter guys really had something about them, I'd been pining over the wrong guys my whole life. It was as though their male qualities were enhanced in some fashion, like they were some kind of supreme breed of man.
His smile almost makes my skin itch like something was beneath it, he was infectious.
Eredith pushes the book closer towards Argos so he can read the page she's flipped it to, also. He raises an eyebrow when he skims it, reading the heading out loud. "Twin magic?"
She nods. "You should see what happens when we make contact."
"Well there go all my fantasies." A boy across the table remarks. It turned out Eredith's other friends had all been listening in.
Eredith sighs. "Meet us by the falls after breakfast and I'll show you what I mean."
I pull her close to me by the fabric of her robe, careful not to make contact, and feel a brush of electricity when lips brush her ear. "Can't we discuss this first? I'm not a circus animal."
Eredith confirms aloud to her friends, "By the falls."
I roll my eyes and make an audible grunt of frustration.
"Something wrong, Jane?" Argos asks and I look over at him.
"Jane?" I question and he nods.
"I think it's a nice name for you. Being your secondary name and all." He explains and I nod, still not quite getting it but going along with it anyways.
The bell for the signal to get to class is dainty and rings throughout the room, it was time to head towards the falls.
We exit the hall, running out almost. A friend of Eredith's complains, I believe her name was Finlen. She exclaims that we'll be late. However, no one else seems to care, and I certainly didn't. My classes wouldn't start until the following week.
We walk towards the falls where I remove my robes and she does the same. Standing opposite of each other, she reaches out an arm. She takes a deep breath. The most we'd done is brush against each other, my stomach was wrenching in knots.
Her friends all watch with anticipation as we quickly and unceremoniously link hands, weaving our fingers together. Immediately my arm muscles begin to pulsate and it spreads throughout my body. It is the feeling of being struck by lightning, based upon what I've read. After the event, all I could do was read up on what had happened to my body.
There was a jolting, excruciating pain that passed through each contracting muscle of my body. And then it all stopped, my body stopped completely and a weight was lifted from me.
This time it wasn't just my hair that floated, this time we both lifted from the ground together. She stared me in the eyes, hers wide with fear. Was it strange that all I could think about was how she and I can literally never hug each other? Or have a secret handshake between sisters?
And then it all became clear as the adrenaline coursing through my veins slowed. Everything seemed to slow down just slightly as we floated there together, the world stopping as we were engulfed in a bright, white light. It felt almost like a bubble and when it popped we floated back down.
Words rung in my ears, a soft voice that said, "You're home where you belong. She's your home."
Chills ran down my spine as she gave me a sideways glance. Had she heard the same?
The ground approached quicker than I'd expected given how high up we'd been. Her friends stared at us and my face grew hot. Finlen stands with a smirk, I notice her above all the others due to her freakishly bright blue locks and her sharp teeth that were noticeable when her smirk turned to a grin. She sarcastically claps as we touch down, my heart racing and my breathing feeling like static; frazzled. Just like my brain felt, confused and racing with fried bits at the edges.
Finlen jogs over to Eredith as she collapses to her knees beside me.
"How about you don't touch your freaky sister again, okay?" Finlen says as she helps Eredith to her feet. I stand somewhat strong beside her. What had happened? Why did I get stronger while Eredith felt weak?
A fall breeze sizzled over my aching skin. Embarrassed by her friends sharp tongue and tired from the days work, I slipped away, unnoticed. Grams house was only a short distance away if I tried hard enough to teleport.
I'd found that in wishful thinking I'd found my best escapes. If I thought hard enough, my body fizzled away to nothing and I'd reappear before my new homes doorstep.
Luckily for me, it worked once more like a charm as my heart soared before my body did. Arriving at home, my stomach churned once my vision returned. I wondered what it looked like as I materialized out of thin air. I decided it was a painful feeling, I'd have to get a broomstick of my own soon. Especially since I had flight class as one of my first few in the semester.
I crouched down on the doorstep, trying to regain my balance. It was odd how having my Alec muscle pump away in my chest for only a few days had made me better at magic already. I found myself wishing for things and having them happen. Like when I wished that Argos would follow behind, and he did.
He appeared before me, standing strong despite having just teleported. Would I truly ever get used to the feeling of interdimensional travel?
"You've gotta work on your teleporting, you left a trail for me to follow." He tells me as he invites himself to sit beside me.
I admit, "I'm new to all this."
"I know, Jane." He says with reassurance and then adds, "Do you have any idea at all what happened back there?"
I nod my head no solemnly and add, "I don't think even Eredith knows and she's been studying this stuff for years."
"She's one of the strongest in our class." He confirms before adding, "But from the outsiders perspective it looked as though you drained some of the magic from her."
"But how?" I ask and he shrugs.
"Don't expect me to know," He sighs, "This is new territory."
"For everyone I suppose," I say with a sigh.
He leans closer and I notice the basil smell once more. It was fresh and soothing. Argos looks at me with twinkling eyes.
"You're a lot like your sister," He tells me, "Different."
"It's good to be different." I begin to argue as he smiles from ear to ear.
He confirms, "I know it is, that's why I said it."
Just as he learns slightly closer to me, the front door opens with a creak and is followed by a surprised gasp. Grams closes the door behind us, moving forward on the porch to just behind us.
"I didn't realize you brought company, Parker." Grams says warmly, "How about you two head inside and I'll make cocoa when I get back from the market?"
"That sounds awesome, Grams." I say with a smile as Argos and I move on opposite directions so that Grams can get through. She pushes up her floppy sun hat and looks behind at me with a smile.
"Head inside, it's starting to get cold around here." I nod and open the front door again, gesturing for Argos to move inside. He obliges, looking around the house.
He comments, "I haven't been here in a while. I used to be here everyday, actually, but ever since Eredith started taking advanced classes and moved into a dorm I haven't seen Grams."
"She's wonderful, isn't she?" I say with a proud grin and he nods.
"Your whole family is, actually, based on who I've met." He remarks and I raise an eyebrow.
"Who have you met?" I inquire and he grows sheepish, shuffling back and forth. He pulls up a nearby chair and takes a seat, pulling out one for me as well. I sit and look to him for a response.
"Well, you, Eredith, and Grams." Argos tells me, "Based on you three alone I think your family is wonderful."
"You've only just met me!" I exclaim and he chuckles.
He smiles, "That's the beauty of it, I've got so much to learn."
Argos sure was a charmer, sitting in my home and flattering away with words smooth as silk. What was his goal from all this?
I'd literally just met him this morning, and now he was in my home. His pocket jiggles from Bear, who seems to be having a good time in there. He carried Bear with him everywhere, it seems.
"Is there more to this?" I ask with a twinge of fear in my voice.
He chuckles, "What's your favorite color?"
"Blue." I tell him, looking at his baby blues and confirming my favorite color.
He smiles, "Same as Erie's."
I try not to roll my eyes. He seemed a little obsessed with my sister. I wondered if in return he could tell me more about her. She seemed like an interesting woman to hear about, it was strange that I knew nothing about the girl with my face.
"How long have you known my sister?" I ask and he instantly scrunches up his eyebrows, trying to remember.
"I believe only three years now, but we're pretty close." He admits and I decide whether or not to probe deeper. Carefully, I interrogate him just slightly.
"But you two are so close?" I ask and he nods.
"Your sister cares about me in a way that no one did for quite a while." He stands up to stretch and as his head nearly bumps the ceiling I realize how tall he is. At least six foot, it was an attractive quality.
I think carefully before asking, "But you have so many friends from what I saw?"
"Those people aren't good friends," He sits back down as he tells me this and the chair creaks, struggling beneath him, "They're almost like acquaintances, they don't care about me. I met the one Finlen through Erie, she's a nasty elf. And the rest only cling to me because of my magic."
"What a bunch of losers," I tell him with a sympathetic smile, "You seem like a cool guy."
"I am a cool guy." He confirms with a beaming smile. He giggles a bit as the ferret crawls out of his robe sleeve. "Looks like Bear wanted to say hi."
I smile and look at Argos, "Do you mind if I pick him up?"
"Go ahead." He tells me as I scoop him up and hold him close to my chest. Bear cuddles close, seemingly enjoying the scratchy material of Griffin's robe. I didn't like the scratchiness but Griffin was right, the scent of him was reassuring.
"I think he likes me!" My voice nearly a shout with excitement.
Argos nods. "I don't see that often, he's a grumpy little guy. He likes to protect me."
I look Bear in his bead like eyes and then up at Argos, "How can such a cuddly little guy protect you?"
"He's reassuring." Argos admits, "He's been with me for a while."
I nod as I listen, stroking Bear's back with my pointer and index fingers. He makes a funny little sound as I pet him.
"So what room of the house are you in?" He asks and I shrug.
"It's probably Eredith's old room," I stand and hand Bear back to Argos, "Do you wanna see?"
Argos nods and we plod towards the stairs together.
"Tell me about you." I broadly suggest, "You're in my house, I might as well learn about you."
"Only if I get more insight into you." He smirks, I can tell from behind him with the way his ears perk up and wiggle. It's an odd trick of mine, I'm good at recognizing expressions from all angles.
"Do you wanna play twenty questions?" I suggest and he nods.
"Awesome idea, I'll start?" He asks and I smile.
I take the lead when we get to the stairs which we jog up and then I lead him into my room. He nods, looking around.
"I like what they did with the place. Erie had the walls black." He chuckles, "I've seen that girl go through a few phases."
"Makes sense." I tell him as he flops down on my bed and pats a spot beside him. How kind of him to invite me to my own bed.
I plop down next to him. "Your turn," I say while fussing with a strand of my hair. I hadn't bothered to fix my ponytail after the incident at the falls.
"Favorite book?" He asks and I grin.
"Hamlet, Shakespeare. Have you read it?" I ask and he nods as I say it.
"It's one of my favorites too." He smiles as there's a knock at the door. I jog downstairs quickly and Argos follows, standing at the top of the steps as I open the door to see Finlen and Eredith, both fuming.
"You left to do what? Lie about?" Eredith interrogates, storming into the house. Out of the corner of my eye I see Argos dash downward, hopefully returning to my room and hiding in my closet.
"I just needed some thinking time." I explain and Eredith glares with a fury as I do so.
Finlen smirks from beside her, looking up at me in a way that felt like she was looking down on me, her gaze was particularly condescending. Elves have particularly expressive faces, making this so much worse. Her gaze was like fire in her eyes.
"Well your thinking time scared everyone off. Do you have any idea what happened out there?" She asks and I nod my head no.
"Something that I hope never happens again." I tell her and she nods surprisingly in agreement.
Grams walks through the door, giving Eredith and Finlen a surprised gaze. "More company, Parker? My, you sure are popular today." She tells me and I realize I'm a goner. Or, Argos was a goner. Most likely she'd kill us both.
"More company?" Eredith raises an eyebrow and I look nervously to Grams, who doesn't get the hint.
"Your friend Argos stopped by!" She explains and Eredith's face goes red. It would've been funny if I wasn't utterly terrified of her and what she was about to say.
Argos comes walking down the stairs and sighs. "You caught me, I wanted to get to know your sister."
She seethes, "I know how you are with pretty girls."
Argos sighs. "I wouldn't do that to Parker," His voice is hushed and insistent, "She's special."
It was almost funny how they thought I couldn't hear them.
"I have classes tomorrow that I've gotta get ready for," I tell them both, looking at Argos in particular, "Could you all please leave?"
Grams chuckles. "That's no way to speak to guests, they're all invited for dinner!"
She picks up a wand and extends our table to make room for three extra guests.
My night was shaping up to be an impressively awful one and it was only noon. Finlen stares at me with hungry eyes and a grinning maw full of sharp teeth. I begun to wonder if elves always have sharp teeth.
"How about you hang upstairs until dinnertime, okay gang?" Grams asks and I suppress any number of attitude filled facial expressions. I loved her dearly but she didn't understand social cues.
Eredith bounds upstairs and opens what used to be her old room, stepping in and commenting, "How did I know they'd give you my old room?"
"We shared a womb and we share a face, why not give me your old room?" I say and Eredith nods.
"A fair point," She flops down on my bed, "We don't have to stay if you don't want us to."
I think, Could you please leave?
Everything had been tense between Eredith and I since the discovery of what happened if we made contact. Would it always be that way?
Argos and Finlen stand in the doorway and Eredith looks at them, "Could you two wait out in the hall?"
They look to each other and then back at Eredith, nodding yes right before she uses her wand to close the door. She crosses her legs as I join her on the bed.
"I assume you wanna talk about today?" I guess and she nods. My mouth is taut as I make an uncomfortable expression.
"Judging by what I know," She tells me while holding out her hand, "Maybe it'll stop after such a large explosion of power. Something can only be a powder keg for so long."
I shrug and hold out a hand, touching mine lightly to hers as a spark of electricity jolts off our skin and slams into the wall, leaving scorch marks in the shape of what looked like a tree. It was a nice addition to the blue walls, but definitely a sign that Eredith and I wouldn't be high fiving any time soon unless we wanted to kill an innocent bystander.
Argos opens the door and pokes his head in, "Do I smell burning?"
Eredith nods, "We tried contact again."
"You're obsessed," He comments, fully opening the door and strolling in, plopping down beside me. The aroma of fresh herbs assaults my nose. Why did he always smell like herbs?
Finlen walks in after him, her petite frame dwarfed by the size of my door. All the doorframes in the house were tall, as though Grams expected to be accomodating giants or orcs. She opts to turn her wand into a wooden stool and sit on that instead of up on the bed with us. She then removes a deck of cards from the inside pocket of her robes and begins shuffling them with one hand.
"Don't you have night guard duties tonight, Finlen?" Argos asks, clearly hoping she'll leave.
She scoffs, "And miss a home cooked meal? Hala can handle it herself tonight, it's not a full moon." She comments and then adds, "But tomorrow is so I'll have to tomorrow for sure."
Argos nods and then sighs, probably envisioning punting Finlen far away. Based on what I knew, I was aware that the two had a bit of a past. And it was a constant power struggle for Eredith's attention.
At some point during a stimulating conversation about Magicless things, I ended up falling asleep and awakening just in time for dinner.
The smell of mac and cheese casserole woke me from a great nap and when I woke up I found that only Argos was still there, also passed out beside me. I shook him awake and headed downstairs to find everyone already at the table and two spots across from each other open. We took our spots across from each other at the table and Grams said grace again.
Everything was fine up until the dinner conversation shifted my way.
"Excited to start classes tomorrow, Parker?" Daisy asks and I shift around in my seat.
I force out a, "Yea totally," before resuming my meal.
"Did you get your schedule yet?" Grams asks and I shake my head no.
After such stimulating conversation, the night is finally over. Eredith and Finlen wait outside as I say my goodbyes to Argos. He gives me a smile and admits, "It's been nice spending time with you, Jane. We should do this again."
I shudder, would Eredith tag along every time?
"Definitely." I lie and he smiles. His smiles were so genuine and frequent.
"I'd best be leaving before Eredith puts a broomstick up my bum," He winks at me, "Catch ya later, Jane."
I give him a grin and a wave goodbye before heading inside and straight upstairs to get a full night's rest.
And just as I was sound asleep, I was jolted awake by the sound of a bloodcurdling scream. Chills ran down my spine as I recognized the shrill outburst to be one of Wila's. I jolted out of bed, springing to the door and down the hall, opening her door with force. The room was bright. Wila refused to sleep in the dark, as I came to find out.
She was curled up in a ball, with her nose tucked in between her knees and her back against the edge of the bed. Her body was quivering and her pupils nearly consumed her irises.
I sat down lightly beside her and she immediately rested her head against my shoulder, her dainty hand wrapped around my other shoulder. Her sobs were loud and raspy, every sound emanating from her seemingly pained.
Her nails dig into my shoulder and I wince slightly.
"Was it the dream again?" I ask and she nods, her forehead rubbing against my right shoulder as her nails probed the muscle beneath my skin. No doubt it would be red and sore the next day.
I glance at a clock to see it was two in the morning. I had my doubts about getting any more sleep after that.
"It was closer..." She says through sobs. I only then notice that she's drenched, her wet and matted hair against my pajama top was soaking through cold to my bones.
I reached up and over to feel that her mattress felt like a sponge picked fresh out of water prior to being squeezed.
"Show me." I say, feeling brave. Was it normal to need courage for things such as this? These days I felt like I needed courage every day to do anything here.
She clutches me tighter and my mind is overtaken.
The cold chills my bones once more, this time I'm beneath its waters which slam my cold and burning skin. How was I freezing but on fire at the same time?
It was the pain of running ice water over a burn or to take a too hot shower after playing in the snow all day. Chills run down my body as I try to warm myself, going to rub my arms and looking down to see my fingers were webbed. Who was I?
I try to look around, the air escaping my burning lungs as I look straight ahead and I notice again that bright red seaweed swaying in the aggressive tide. It was right beneath a piece of a building, with a proper roof and all just slightly detached and only barely holding on. It hadn't been there long, the only sea life growing upon it was the swaying red seaweed.
Dare I go closer? I couldn't. I was trapped against the other side of something, a wall of sorts. Bubbles floated out from under the piece of the building and I notice that in the darkness, figures swim towards the seaweed. Only a single ray of light illuminates the festive greenery, and I can see better and I realize it wasn't seaweed at all; it was long, ginger hair swaying in the ocean tide.
I gasp as my vision is no longer clouded by the overwhelming sights of Wila's dreams.
"Wila," I say, "Please tell me you know other redheads."
She pulls away from me, glaring accusingly, "That's all you have to say? Parker, something is seriously wrong."
I nod in agreement. "Do you want me to stay here with you?"
She looks at me, her eyes softening slightly, "Would you?"
"Of course." I tell her and we drag down her soaking wet blanket. She taps it with her wand and it dries instantly. To which I smile as we get comfy together on the floor, me still holding her tight for reassurance.
Rosemary and Oranges - Chapter 4
Light streams in, burning my eyes that I've opened only seconds ago. An incense that burns in the room smells of rosemary and oranges. My head feels clear and my heart feels strong. Sitting up slowly I hear a voice to my right.
"Don't move too fast." Griffin instructs and I nod. My throat is dry and sore and my lips are cracking from how chapped they feel.
Timidly, I ask in a raspy voice, "May I have some water?"
He nods and brings over a glass. I take a sip and start to feel a little better.
"You're quite the sleeper." He chuckles and I raise an eyebrow.
"Not usually. How long was I asleep?" I question, fearing the answer.
"Four days. Today is day five since you've been here." Griffin tells me and I throw the blanket off, hopping out of bed only to crumple onto the floor.
"Ouch." I remark, rubbing my now sore knees as Griffin extends a hand.
He reassures me, "No need to rush. You haven't even gotten your supplies yet, or your schedule even. This morning I'll be taking you to the dining hall at FernWood to meet my friends. They quite like Ethan and Astryd!"
"Ethan and Astryd are still here?" I ask him and he nods, helping me back onto the bed.
"Ms. Winters can't exactly send them back after all that they've seen." Griffin explains and I nod. It made sense, after all. This was a secret magic school, even if I knew Ethan and Astryd would keep this secret there was no way she could know or believe that. She had to protect her school.
"What time is it?" I ask and he checks his watch.
"8:23, I told my friends we'd be there by nine. Does that give you enough time to get ready?" I nod in response.
"Yea I should be fine. Where are my clothes?" I ask and he points to the dresser.
Sheepishly, he tells me, "I hope you don't mind, I put all your stuff away for you. From what I hear you'll be staying here for a while."
I look around the room, enjoying it's baby blue walls and dark wood furniture. There's a corner desk, a dresser, and a nightstand beside my bed. The floors are also a dark wood, just a bit lighter than the furniture. I take note of the fairy lights strung all around the room, just like at home. There's also a dreamcatcher that hangs above my bed and a few other magical doo-dads that I was looking forward to touching and playing around with as soon as Griffin was gone.
"Not at all." I smile, my expression turning sour for a moment as I think about my medical requirements. Going out on a limb, I ask Griffin, "Do you know where the nearest medical practitioner is around here? I'll be needing to visit them for my heart problems."
Griffin grins from ear to ear. "Remember how I needed to get you back here so urgently?"
I nod, wondering what relevance that had to do with my question.
He explains, "That all, most likely, had to do with your Alec muscle. I'll get you checked out but the short answer is that your medical issues may have been magic related."
"Really?" I ask with wide eyes, "But, how?"
He sighs and asks, "Do you need me to explain now or can I explain some other time when I'm not trying to get you somewhere?"
"Can you at least give me a shortened version?" I beg and he nods with a huff.
"Basically, Enchanters have two hearts," My eyes widen as he says this and I clutch my chest, shocked to find out something new about myself. Two hearts? It seemed ridiculous. "The second heart is called the Alec muscle and it pumps magic around the body instead of blood. It regulates it."
"So," I ask, trying to get my facts straight, "I have two hearts?"
He nods and says, "We all do."
"Wow." I comment and he smiles.
"I'm sure I was just as shocked the first time I found out in health class." He admits and I grin.
"Awesome," I say and add, "Well you can leave now and I'll be down in a few so we can head to breakfast."
Griffin leaves and as quickly as he goes I toss on a navy blue, button down cardigan and a pair of jeans with a pair of black flats. I pull my long locks a bit before using them to frame my face and then quickly pulling my hair into a high ponytail. Then I move thunderously down the stairs, hoping to have time to explore the house a little later on that day. I wouldn't be starting up classes right away so I was sure I'd have plenty of free time.
At the bottom of the steps Griffin hands me something black that has scratchy fabric. I scrunch up my face with distaste. "What's this?" I ask and he grins.
"A hand me down robe. It even smells like me, I know you girls like that." I raise an eyebrow before tossing it on. The thing was huge on me given that it had once catered to such a broad shouldered man.
I hold both arms out, gesturing to the sag of the sleeves. "It's huge on me, do I have to wear it?"
"You look beautiful. And yes, you do because you need to blend in. We'll get you several pairs of your own robes once we get the chance." He tells me and adds, "Probably today when I get home from school."
"Living with you is so convenient." I say sarcastically and roll my eyes for effect. He grins from ear to ear before opening the front door and gesturing for me to exit.
"Bye, Grams!" He calls and I smile a little. I loved the fact that my grandmother seemed to be the grandmother of anyone who needed one.
"We've got the same grandmother, you're a little like my cousin in a way." I tell him as we walk out front of the house and then to the side. His face falls as I say this.
He grabs a broom off a rack of them from outside and I raise both eyebrows in surprise.
"Don't tell me the stereotypes are true." I say, almost shocked as he mounts the broom.
"Hop on." He tells me and I do as he says, wrapping my arms around him to stay on and resting my head on his back.
"You ride on brooms?" I ask and he makes a tsk sound.
He obnoxiously says, "It's a broomstick, not cleaning supplies. Hold on tight."
Kicking off, we immediately gain both speed and height as he takes off, chasing into the sky and dusting through a few patches of clouds. In what feels like seconds we're above all the clouds and my throat is sore from the screams I'd been letting out. I almost would rather teleport than ride on a broom. The entire ride my eyes are clenched shut until we land safely on the ground. And even then I keep my arms wrapped tight around him.
"You can let go now." He says before removing the ground from under us. I collapse onto the ground, my knees wobbling too hard for me to walk. I didn't even like airplanes, I liked brooms even less. I'd never look at cleaning equipment the same.
FernWood towered above me as I sat there on the hard ground that was moistened from morning dew. Griffin extends his free hand to me which I take. After helping me up he blows on his broomstick and it sizzles down into a fine dust that swirls around him for a moment before coming together as a necklace that assembles itself. I stare at it for a moment, a wooden pendant in the shape of a broom. Clever. He pulls on the necklace.
Griffin starts towards the school, a sort of swagger to his stride as he hops up the cobblestone staircase with ease, leaving me behind. I pay no mind to this fact as I take just a moment to collect my thoughts. What if his friends didn't like me?
I, too, bound up the cobblestone steps and rip open the front door of the school, relieved to walk its marble floors once more. Griffin stands just inside, waiting up for me after all.
"I couldn't expect you to know where to go." He explains as I begin to lead the way to the dining hall. I knew where the hall was, yes, but I didn't know where his friends sat.
He takes the lead, guiding me to a table full of interesting looking individuals whom all turn my way as we approach.
One chuckles and says, "So this is the great Parker. We've had to hear all about you."
A girl with fiery locks, who I would assume was his girlfriend, elbows him timidly as he jokingly says ow.
"We're excited to meet you!" She exclaims and I feel the pit in my stomach grow. Social situations always made me uneasy.
Griffin pulls out a chair for me beside him. He sits in between me and Astryd while Ethan sits across the table next to a boy with freakishly bright red hair. I assumed he'd found a kindred spirit up until I noticed the boys lilac eyes and realized it was most likely natural. At least in some way Ethan fits in. And Astryd naturally fit in wherever she went, everyone always seemed to love her.
"Would you guys mind introducing yourselves for Parkers benefit?" Griffin asks and the ginger girl speaks up right away.
"My name is Fawn and it's so lovely to meet you!" She gushes, her golden eyes lending such warmth. The same warmth that seemed to radiate off of her. She was like the sun, lending warmth but almost difficult to look at because of how bright she was.
Beside her was the boy who'd teased me, in what I think was a friendly manner, and right off the bat his features were scary. Reptilian, almost. His eyes were the brightest blue I'd ever seen, like the waters of the Caribbean but his pupils were like slits. They reminded me of a cats eye. He had symmetrical scars on either side of his neck, three of them. They looked like lashes or lacerations but as he breathed heavily they rose just slightly. Gills, if I wasn't mistaken. His hair was normal enough, an inky shade of black that reflected blue in bright lights. And his skin was tanned from days out in the sun.
"Richard." He mumbles and Fawn rolls her eyes.
She teases, "Is that all? Where are your manners, mister?"
He smiles at her, cupping her cheek in his large hand and he says, "I use up all my manners interacting with you and that's all that matters."
She smiles and blushes slightly, her cheeks rosy making her millions of freckles pop.
I grin and look around the table, waiting for others to introduce themselves. There were only two others who I didn't know.
The one reminds me of Richard as she says, "Wila."
Her eyes share the same lilac hue as the boy next to Ethan although far more pigmented and unnatural. I'm startled as this fades away, giving way to colorless irises that went nicely with her long and wavy grey hair. Not grey like lack of pigment, more of a rich and ashen grey. It had depth and substance, something her eyes lacked. I ignored the changing of her eyes but found myself staring as she twirled a wisp of lilac magic through her fingers, weaving it absentmindedly.
The boy beside her smiles at me and says, "Nice to meet you, my name's Dante."
I shyly smile as I look around. They were all so nice and welcoming, for the most part. There was lots to learn about them all and I hoped I would with time.
Reaching over to grab a pre-poured bowl of cereal, I'm startled when Griffin grabs my arm.
"You're being summoned." He says in an almost eerie manner and look at him with sheer confusion plastered on my face.
I ask him, "What do you mean by that?"
He gestures to the door where Headmistress Mafalda stands. Today she wears a loose flowing white robe. My heart sinks as I look at her, recalling a time when we were close. Her hair is down for once and it flows to her waist. She looks me in the eyes and nods. Looking around I see that everyone is staring at her as though she is some ethereal being and I suppose I could see the confusion.
I stand slowly and walk towards her, physically feeling the eyes shift my way. It wasn't often that I was the complete center of attention and I certainly didn't like it. Behind me I hear footsteps echoing and I'm confused, I'd assumed I was who she wanted to see but maybe I was wrong?
Up until I feel a tap on my shoulder and I turn cautiously, seeing a girl whose face was unmistakably mine. Her hair was straightened and tied in a tight bun but even still the face gave it all away. She was leaner than I with paler skin, she must not have gotten out as often as I do.
"They hadn't warned me you'd be coming." She awkwardly remarks, even her voice is my own. I look back at Mafalda for reassurance, wishing the entire dining hall wasn't watching as I began to tear up.
The girl whose name I didn't know but possessed my face wraps an arm around me as we meandered out of the dining hall, my sobs filling the room.
Six feet pounding on marble echo through the school as we travel towards Mafalda's office. At some point she lets go of me and I feel repulsed. Absolutely enraged. Who was she? Did Enchanters have clones of themselves?
"My name is Eredith, by the way." She tells me and holds out a hand for me to shake.
I shake the hand cautiously of Eredith, who peers back at me with the eyes that belonged in my head rather than hers.
Entering Mafalda's office I don't even take the time to look around, instead I flop down into the chair at the desk and cry my heart out.
"Did no one think they should warn her before she found out this way?" Eredith berates Mafalda.
She hisses in response, "What did you think I intended to do before you blew that plan up?"
"I had assumed she knew!" Eredith shouts and my tears start to slow. As I cry into my palms, the mix of sweat, tears, and snot builds up in my hands. I wipe them on Griffin's robe before smelling the sleeve, finding comfort in the scent that belonged to him.
I stop crying long enough to choke out, "Can someone please explain to me what's going on?"
"Certainly." Eredith says as she looked me in the eyes and tells me frankly, "I'm your twin sister, Eredith Jane Fern and I have lived here in the magic world while you were sent to be brought up by Magicless." She gives an icy side glare to Mafalda who rolls her eyes.
"Here we go again." Mafalda laments and then explains, for what must be the fiftieth time, "It wasn't safe for you two to be brought up together. Especially given Parker's premonition. And in my defense, I'd assumed her memories of you had returned. It seems her memories of people are next-to nonexistent."
My head swims from the information before me. This all felt like diving head first into a frozen lake.
"Is now a bad time?" I hear from the corner of the room, yet I see no one there. The voice is deep but scared and most importantly it's clearly masculine, giving me a hint of their identity.
"Yes, Sean." Mafalda sighs before adding, "But you've already interrupted so you may as well show yourself."
I turned around and looked at by the door, seeing nothing. Then I looked slightly to the right in a dark corner where a strange inky substance falls off a boy, splatting onto the ground. He was my age if not older. His jet black hair matched the ink that fell off of him as well as the color of what Mafalda's hair once was. His expression was one of pain and immense suffering, did it hurt for him to reveal himself? Or was it merely painful to be seen?
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Auntie," He says before covering his mouth quickly and adding, "I mean Ms. Winters."
"Drop the formalities, Sean," She squints at him, "Do you remember Parker?"
Sean nods, "Vaguely."
"We were playmates," I pull my lips taut into something that yearned to be a frown but shook too much, "Right?"
Mafalda Winters was wrong, for once. I did remember people but only vaguely. And I suppose I remembered Eredith but the sight of her definitely startled me. It startled me so much, in fact, that for the walk here I forgot I had a sister.
Was it normal to forget you have a twin sister? Hardly.
Mafalda nods. "I'm glad you remember some of your time here."
"I can't remember anything from before my time here." I admit and Mafalda winces just slightly.
"It's better that way." She admits and Eredith rolls her eyes from beside me.
"May I go now?" Eredith asks before adding, "I can't deal with this any longer."
Eredith quickly leaves, taking no time to say goodbye to me. As she leaves I hear her sniffling and she slams the door with furocity. I had to wonder what had gotten into her, she'd been so kind at first but it seems her and Mafalda had been at war over this matter for quite a long time.
Mafalda sighs and tells me, "You'll find her at the edge of FernWoods' campus, she likes to look at the waterfalls."
"Thanks," I tell her while standing, "But I don't think she wants anything to do with me."
I wipe my tears on Griffin's scratchy robes and turn to leave as Mafalda pipes up. "The exact opposite actually, all she's ever wanted is to share her world with you."
The same rage that flowed through Eredith bubbled in my veins as I turned towards her, my nose scrunched up so far it nearly blocks my line of vision. I spew, "Then how could you deprive her of that? Deprive us of that? All his time I had family here... And I thought I was just a sad orphan."
"There's a reason your last name is Fern." She calmly tells me, setting fire to my soul as I recall Fern being a last name for orphans of the War on Magic.
"Goodbye, Ms. Winters." I say with finality as I, too, slam the door to her office, finding myself drawn towards the waterfalls despite myself.
As I was told, there she was. Her bun had come undone and her stick straight locks fell into the wind. The sun was high up in the sky, a sign of noon. My stomach grumbles, accustomed to three meals a day. Eredith's sobbing breaks my train of thought as I stand there, trying not to move so I don't disturb her.
I run a hand through my curls that border on wavy from lack of maintenance and wonder why Eredith straightens her hair, only realizing that it may have been to look less like me. If anything ever happened to her I already know I'd shave my head bald and cover myself with tattoos, a loss where you still see the person in the mirror each day is the most painful kind.
"Did you miss me?" I ask her and she doesn't look up. She's silent as I sit beside her. A few moments later, she looks up just slightly with her hair hanging in her face.
"Of course I did." She tells me and I feel a pang of anger with myself for not being able to remember her all those years. Forgetting her was like forgetting a part of myself.
A fall breeze ruffles the air and cuts through the silence, drifting over leaves that have yet to fall but soon will as mid-October hits.
I purse my lips, almost afraid to know the answer as I ask, "But why did she keep us apart? What about us is so dangerous that we can't be together?"
Eredith sighs a little. She tells me through a clenched jaw, "I've heard the rumours, but I've always had my doubts."
I hold out my pointer finger, daring to experiment. "Does contact do anything?"
She holds out her own, not giving an answer. She starts at a distance, moving closer and I notice a bolt of electricity running between our fingertips. Eredith pulls away slightly, her shoulders heaving up and down.
Instead, I cup my hand around her cheek and I feel the rush of electricity that I'd felt tingling between the tips throughout my entire arm. My muscles contract and convulse rapidly and she clearly feels the same in her face as she tries to pull away but finds herself unable.
A fear strikes us both and flashes of her past enter my brain like intruders.
When I finally pry my air away from her face, meant to comfort her but instead invading her I can only feel alarmed and ashamed.
"Maybe that's why," Eredith shifts uncomfortably, "But at least now we know."
The possibilities coarse through my mind, was that something we could control? A power we could harness?
"We should do more research on it." I suggest. Eredith looks over at me and points at my hair. When I look up I see tufts of platinum blonde curly cues floating in the air above me. Her hair begins to float as well, spiraling off into the sky and regaining the curls she'd tried to conceal away from the world.
"Definitely concerning." Eredith observes, "I'll go to the library tonight and pick up some books, will you join my friends and I for breakfast?"
"Yea, totally." I tell her, fidgeting with the sleeves of my robes awkwardly. "What time?"
"8:30, sharp." She tells me and I groan.
"I may be a little late," I admit, "I'm not good at getting dressed quick."
She smirks and says, "Not a problem, let me teach you a spell I've been writing."
"Spell?" I ask, feeling new to the concept.
She grins and takes out her wand, pointing at me and uttering with passion, "Prim and proper, dressed neat, ready to go, from head to toe, face to feet."
Moments later I'm dressed in a shiny new robe and a more comfortable blush colored cardigan with soft cotton skinny jeans. My old clothes, Griffin's robe included, sit on the ground beside me folded and apparently ironed. They smell of lavender.
"That's amazing!" I tell her and she grins.
"I'm pretty good at what I do." She flaunts, "Just remember the spell and I'll expect to see you on time. Or wear that, it looks good on you."
"Alright," I fidget in the new clothes, "I'll see you tomorrow."
She skips back to the school, clearly now feeling much better than she had before. I notice her walk up to a boy outside of the school and they walk in together. A boyfriend? He has dark brown, nearly black locks and a stern face that only brightens in her presence.
I feel a pang of jealousy as I walk back towards Grams' house, hoping I can find the way. Walking through the area between the school itself and the town is like drifting from a dream to reality. FernWood feels like the magical dream- so light and airy- while gradually you see the more human side of enchanters.
I'm disappointed to see trash strewn across the woodsy paths, poor enchanters begging on the streets, and some human pleasures like a few bars and even a brothel. Weren't enchanters supposed to be better somehow, to be different from the species they derived from? Isn't improvement what evolution is all about?
As I cross into a marketplace I see things I know I'll need for school, like a textbook cart and a parchment store and the inevitable broom stand.
A man pushes his products in my face, I think they were candles? I kindly refuse as I journey deeper into the marketplace, more aggressive shopkeepers just like him. They all so desperately wanted me to buy their crystals, incense, or candles, isn't that all fake "new age" magicless magic stuff?
I begin the get overwhelmed as I find myself within a spiral of shopkeepers, all pushing their products in my face and begging me to buy.
"Leave her alone." Says someone from behind me as the swarm of desperate, hungry shopkeepers part. I recognize the girl who saved me as Wila, a starry eyed young lady who hardly smiles. She brushes lilac locks out of her face and asks, "Headed back to Grams'?"
I'm distracted for a moment, wasn't her hair grey before? Just as I think this, the unnerving shade of purple fades away before my eyes. I wanted to know about why her eyes and hair did that.
"How'd you know?" I ask and a grin creeps upon her face. Perhaps she shouldn't smile, it was downright terrifying when she even tried to.
"We live in the same house," She informs me with a playful eyeroll to accompany, "But I know you haven't really looked around yet."
"I can't even remember the outside of the house." I chuckle a little and Wila grins again, not showing teeth this time which makes it less unnerving.
"Typical Griffin, literally swooping a woman off her feet." She laughs with me and I look at her, almost wondering what she meant. Wila, in the meantime removes her robes to reveal a purple and black ensemble beneath with a startlingly large crystal necklace that hung in between her breasts. I tried not to stare but the crystal was pulsating, calling out to me.
We continue to walk through the marketplace and I feel calmer with Wila at my side. The shopkeepers turn the other way as she walks past, something about her repelling them. She had a very strong energy around her, it scared me just the slightest bit.
"So how come you walk rather than fly?" I ask and she gives me a side glance as she responds.
"It's not fitting for someone like me to fly so close to the sun." She tells me, explaining nothing at all. I had a feeling about Wila that I couldn't shake. She talked somewhat in riddle.
For the rest of the walk I chose not to talk, instead preferring to enjoy the scenery.
When we arrive back at Grams I finally get to take notice of the elegant brickwork, similar to FernWood in the way it's all different colored stones. On the side of the house is a menace of a garden with weeds growing sky high and out front I notice a muck colored bird bath that had washed too many birds. I knew right away that I could repay Grams for taking me in by cleaning up the house a little. Wila enters the house as I stay outside, taking a look around for just a little longer.
A huge apple tree grows in the front yard with a swing coming down from one of the branches. And besides the swing that I was looking forward to making use out of there had to be at least a hundred bird feeders sprawled all throughout the tree.
The only thing out front that wasn't unsightly was the grass, which Griffin cuts for Grams every first Tuesday of the month.
I enter the front door, noticing that the doormat out on the porch says "All are welcome" in lovely cursive if you look at it going in but says "Please leave" if you're going out. It was fun to watch it shift which I did for a few moments before finally entering the house to look around.
Lovely wood floors, stone walls like the outside, and a lot of places to sit down are three running things throughout the house. There are incense burners in every room and healing crystals located beside them. Canvases with inspirational sayings litter the walls such as "Only let the good in your heart". The house was fit for a blossoming teen or for an elderly woman. Grams was running a safe haven.
As I enter the family room, taking notice of a marble arch that lies above it, I'm immediately caught off guard to see a beast who is both furry and scaly curled up on Grams' chair, sound asleep.
"Wila!" I shout in a hoarse whisper, hardly shouting, more like whispering in volumes.
Wila comes rushing in only to see what I'm pointing at with worry.
"Really?" She asks, "You called me in here over Whiskers?"
"Whiskers!" I shout, this time praying I don't wake it, "That thing is a beast!"
"It's a dragocat, she thought it was a cat and now he's spoiled and usually sleeps in her lap." Wila explains, "Grams is a little blind so we all just pretend he's a normal kitty."
"Does she not notice the scales or the fire breathing?" I ask with alarm and Wila giggles.
She explains, "Whiskers is domesticated, he doesn't breathe fire anymore."
I try not to burst out laughing as I picture the first few weeks of them owning Whiskers, all of the Fern children trying to keep him from setting the curtains or their caretaker on fire.
As I look closer at Whiskers, I notice he is a grey tabby cat with greenish blue scales in patches around his mouth and eyes. His whiskers are long, furry, and flowing and his eyes are a deep shade of fiery amber. His little toe beans are black like charcoal and honestly I very much wanted to cuddle him.
"There's more to see." Wila says with a giggle in her voice. She seems to be warming up to me, was she always nice and I just didn't know because she'd kept her guard up?
"Such as?" I ask and she smiles.
She smiles mysteriously and then says, "The kitchen."
I smile enthusiastically, the idea of Grams' kitchen sounded fantastic. She leads me away from the cat, whom I silently promise to come back to pet, and then follow Wila towards the kitchen where I smell someone baking. I assume it's Gram's using magic to hopefully make treats for us to enjoy.
"So why weren't you in class?" I asked, wondering why she'd left FernWood.
She fibs, "I wasn't feeling well."
We walk into the kitchen and light streams in brightly onto Grams' smiling face as she kneads what looks like bread dough. Fresh bread for dinner? I looked forward to the idea and I loved the scents that filled the kitchen. Grams gives me a warm smile that I wished I'd had a whole childhood full of.
"Afternoon, dearies," Grams says and I notice an almost British lilt to her voice, "Why aren't you at school Wila?"
"I wasn't feeling well," She fibs again, "But thankfully I ran into Parker here. Saved her from the shopkeepers."
Grams chuckles, "A lesson well learned I'm sure. Those shopkeepers are nasty folk, and they'll take your money and give you crap. Pardon my foul language."
She turns beet red from her "foul language" as I internally make a note not to use any of my vulgar magicless vocabulary around her.
Wila silently shuffles and I wonder, what had gotten into her? There were deep bags beneath her eyes which were sunken in like a crypt within her face. Her hair lacked luster and her pale eyes missed their sparkle and wonder.
"Go somewhere else, girls," Grams says with a smile, "Can't have you two distracting me from making dinner."
"Okay, Grams!" Wila says enthusiastically before leading me out of the kitchen and then to the right to ascend up creaky wooden stairs.
She leads me down t the very end of the hall and opens the door, gesturing for me to enter. The room is dark, the only light streaming in coming from a curtain covered window. The room smells of nutmeg, cinnamon, and rosemary incense as a thick smoke crowds the room from all the different incenses that she burns.
In the corner a collection of glowing Himalayan salt lamps help to brighten the room as well as clear out my sinuses. The energy of her room felt safe but she started shaking.
"Wila?" I ask and she nods. I can only slightly make out her features as well as the tears that glisten on her face. "It's time you tell me what's wrong," I beg and she looks at me in the darkness, her eyes moist and glistening from the minimal lighting.
"If I tell you," Her tone is menacing and dark, "You're sworn to absolute secrecy."
"Understood," I tell her with a nod.
Without warning she places her palm against my forehead and instantly my mind is taken over, transported to another place. My mind is flown to another realm, another place in time. It turns out Wila's definition of telling was in fact showing.
The air smells thick with smoke and I can't breath, I'm choking and sitting upon a swaying boat. The surrounding waves pound mercilessly as two titans battle on, everything spinning around me.
I realize my vision is blurry, I can't see what's going on clearly but I do know that I'm not myself as I look at my hands that are pale and my body feels frigid. I comb through ashen locks that aren't my own and listen to the melody of sobs that surround me.
As I look down into the dark seas and icy rain pours down on me, I stare into the water and see what looks to be bright red seaweed swaying in the destruction and I see it's crushed beneath a stone structure. Bubbles escape it and Merfolk swarm it.
"That's the dream I had last night," Wila explains minutes later after fetching me a blanket, "And I'm sorry for showing it to you."
"Does that happen often?" I ask, my voice shaking from the freezing cold that penetrated each pore on my body.
She nods, "Unfortunately I have the gift of divination, I can read futures but only when my mind is clear and the fates decide to invade."
"So that's why you left school?" I ask, understanding completely given the trauma she must be feeling.
"No," She gestures to her book bag which sits in an illuminated corner of her room, soaking wet and sitting on an air vent, "I left because I dozed off in Magic History class and woke up soaking wet with my mascara running down my face and all my books practically destroyed."
My eyes widen to the size of dinner plates, "Everything? Soaked?"
"Drenched," She sighs.
"Is this the first time this has happened?" I ask cautiously and she frowns.
"The last time I recall was before my parents were murdered in the Battle, The War on Magic. I was only three at the time but I remember it vividly; I woke up covered in soot and ash." She explains, "My parents claimed it was all fake. And then a few months later they were gone."
I sigh. "I wonder what it means."
"You and me both." She tells me.
Then we hear the front door open and the chatter of all our roommates. There were more, many more. There were eight of us living in that house, which I discovered when we all sat down at the dinner table.
I knew Wila, Richard, and of course, Griffin, but I didn't know the four others living in the house. It felt like breakfast at FernWood all over again when Grams had everyone go around the table and introduce themselves.
There was Merdock, a member of the Fae. He was one of two Fae in the house, both being Faeries. He raised a shy hand and waved before saying, "Merdock, and looking forward to living with you."
Merdock's skin was an olive green which complimented his soft, long brunette locks and his piercing silver eyes. The Fae were all beautiful, some of heart and soul and others of physique. Merdock seemed like a kind lad but I'm sure time would tell.
Next was Adreanna who sat beside him brushing her skeletal fingers through golden locks. She was the other Fae of the house, her magic clearly giving her some kind of super beauty. "Adreanna." She pompously informed me.
Beside Adreanna was a hulking woman, an Amazonian who hardly fit in her seat at the dinner table. I believe she was part giant with her beefy build, even her forearms were like meat clubs. "It's Matilda." She tells me and I feel a not so warm and fuzzy feeling from her.
"Hi, my names Daisy!" The girl beside Matilda happily introduces and I see she's standing rather than sitting, this being because of her two extra furry legs. She was a centaur with her bottom half being a gorgeous white mare and her top half a sun dress loving brunette with sunny eyes and a face full of freckles. Grams drags over a bench of sorts that Daisy leans down on. I'd never really thought about the fact that sitting down as a centaur must be particularly difficult.
"Well," I stammer, "My name is Parker and Grams is my mothers' mother, as I'm told."
"Eredith's twin, we've heard of you." Adreanna admits, "We just weren't sure we should say anything."
"Bring Eredith around for dinner tomorrow," Grams politely requests, "And tell her I'll make her favorite."
"Mac and cheese casserole?" I guess and Grams nods.
"Twins really must be two halves of a whole." She says with a smile and then we all go silent as Grams puts her hands together and looks down, beginning saying Grace.
"Dearest Goddess," I raise an eyebrow as Grams speaks, "We thank you for the harvest that allowed for this meal and we thank you for delivering Parker back to me. It's like having the other half of my daughter back home, thank you."
"Amen." We all say in unison before digging in to what Grams had prepared. Breaded chicken, mashed potatoes, a fresh loaf of bread with butter to accompany and roasted vegetables. Everything looked, and tasted, absolutely delicious.
During the meal, Whiskers paces beneath the table, rubbing up against legs until he's given chicken.
It felt amazing to be a part of a real family again, to be wanted and cared for. Although, I did miss the Janes so much. I wondered how Lily was and if Ms. Jane had her baby yet.
Griffin notices me deep in thought and excuses himself from the table. A few minutes later he returns with a gift for me, wrapped in "happy birthday" wrapping paper.
"Sorry about the paper," He apologizes, "With all of us under one roof Grams goes through a lot of happy birthday wrapping paper."
I smile and unwrap it, surprised to find a crystal snowball concealed within. I shake it and instead of the expected flurry of glitter, the image of the Janes appears within it. I see Lily cooing over a new baby, proud to finally be the big sister. At first my heart swells with joy until my view pans around the room. Tears well in my eyes as in a corner, Mr. Jane works on a "have you seen my daughter?" poster instead of fussing over the baby.
Ms. Jane sits beside Lily, trying to smile it seems but not finding the right muscles to do so. She's holding the baby, yet hardly paying any attention to her bundle of joy.
Griffins gift should have made me smile but instead it made my heart ache.
"May I be excused?" I ask and Grams nods with a sigh.
Immediately I bolt away from the table and up to my room, running into my room and slamming the door as the tears begin to flow. I have to get back to them, I think, I have to let them know I'm alright.
I stare at the images in the snowglobe, my head beginning to spin and my tears starting to float. What's happening? I think and my head spins harder and faster.
Moments later, I'm standing outside of a familiar creaky door, my knees wobbling and my body weak. I knew immediately where I was even without looking away from the door, I could feel it in my heart where I was. A light fog hangs over the surrounding forest and I knock on the door gently. I realize I'm still wearing my new robe which I leave on as it may make more sense when I explain where I went. Would they believe it? Probably not. Can I prove it? Also probably not.
I knock on the door and a weary Mr. Jane answers the door. His eyes illuminate when he sees me and my heart continues to ache more.
"Parker!" He wails as he pulls me into a bear hug. I hear Ms. Jane come running to the door and I feel more hands wrap around me. Her post pregnancy belly presses against my back as she pulls me close and all I can smell is their familiar laundry detergent.
"We were so worried." Ms. Jane says in a hushed voice as they both pull away, gesturing me to come inside. I frown, preferring to stay on the porch.
"I'd rather stay here, I don't want to make this difficult." I tell them and they give me a puzzled expression.
"Make what difficult?" Mr. Jane asks almost accusingly, a shift in his expression taking place. His kind eyes were replaced with rage.
"I can't come back home," I shift awkwardly, "I'm attending a school that's far away and-"
Ms. Jane interrupts me, "What do you mean?"
"I'm attending a magic school." I tell them, knowing they won't believe me.
"We'll get you help, Parker." One of them tells me, I'm not entirely sure who at this point. It all blends together and nothing makes sense anymore.
"Goodbye." I whisper, my vision turning to static as I begin to glow. Moments later, I'm not there any longer. It's like it never happened as I'm back in my room at Grams.
I grab for the snowglobe and my heart sinks as I watch them return inside the house, a residual glow of where I was standing still there. They return into the house, Mr. Jane throwing out the signs he was making, wasting all the blue construction paper he'd been using since he knew blue was my favorite color.
Ms. Jane smiles at the baby and Lily looks at Ms. Jane with confusion. I read their lips as Lily asks, Did you say Parker?
And Ms. Janes response is something along the lines of, Who's Parker?
I return to the dinner table skulking just slightly but I cradle the snowglobe in my hands, showing Griffin appreciation. I was happy I'd remembered how to do a memory spell. Had they noticed I was gone? Even if they had, all of them had left the dinner table, their plates left for us to clean up.
"Parker," Grams looks at me strangely and points, "Your hair..."
It floats above my head, something it had done for the second or possibly third time now.
"It happens." I shrug, putting butter on the bread and eating in silence. Everyone else had left the dinner table already so it was just Grams and I. "Were you waiting for me?" I ask and she nods.
"I don't leave the table until all my babies are done eating." She tells me and I beam.
"I'm lucky to be related to you." I tell her and she smiles back at me.
"I'm lucky to have you back." She admits and I think of all the holidays and dinners we'd missed together.
After I finish eating I help Grams to clear the table, keeping an eye on her since her vision was clouded with cataracts and her bones were riddled with arthritis. I'd found out from Griffin later on that Grams was ninety-seven years old. She'd lived a long, full life and she'd always lived it here in the magic world.
She'd seen magical genocides and wars like the ones my parents had died in. She'd seen it all.
I finish eating and pick up my plate and silverware, helping Grams gather the rest of the dishes up. We wander over to the sink and I turn on the hot water, getting to work.
Reflecting back, I wonder about the day it happened. The day I lost my parents. What had even started the War on Magic? What had ignited such a war?
"Tell me about the day it happened?" I ask and she frowns deeply, her wrinkles defining the expression.
"It was an awful day, the sky was dark and the battle was long." She tells me, "And that's all you need to know."
I grimace a little bit, wishing she'd tell me more.
"Can you at least tell me what started it?" I said and she rolled her eyes quite visibly.
She tells me, "It was all a deities fault, damn deities. They do no good for anyone, they're only involved in themselves. Tritania? Lilith? Noctren? The deities left us the day that that cursed lost deity-" She stops her rant and looks over at me, "There's much you don't know about our world, Parker."
I nod in understanding, letting the conversation die organically.
I crane my neck forward to look out the window above the sink and see the sky is dark and the stars above twinkling. Some of the stars here were bigger and differently colored, like blue or purple. One star I notice in particular is a deep crimson and it seems to glare at me like a devil's eye.
"Some of those are planets." She tells me and I'm immediately fascinated, "That bright red one is Valtoria. It's the planet where all magic originates from."
I then notice one that's bright, peacock blue.
Grams smiles and, almost knowing which one I was looking at, "And that's Thiea, the planet lost in time. We can't get to it, it's a gas giant." She leans close and grins, "But I have a theory that there's life there."
I nod my head, taking in all the information.
"Where can I learn more about where we are?" I ask and she chuckles.
"You can ask me for starters," She bursts out laughing, "I'm old enough to be an encyclopedia."
I laugh with her as we wash the dishes. I'm washing, she's drying and putting away.
"You've got a great sense of humor," I observe, "I see where I get mine from."
"Both your mother and father had a great sense of humor. It's part of what attracted her to him. Your father wasn't a looker, but she told me she loved him because he made her laugh." She explains and I smile, wondering what else she'll tell me.
"What was my mother like?" I ask, really focused on her rather than my father.
"You remind me of my Jupiter," Grams tells me, "Strong, confident," She wraps a hand around my face, "Beautiful."
I smile humbly, "Thank you."
"How about you head to bed, hun? You've got some big days coming up." I nod in response and head upstairs, taking one look back at our pile of clean dishes.
Return to FernWood - Chapter 3
The crisp air burns my nose as I jog again this morning. I had to run to meet up with Ethan as always. The bright fall light of the forest streams through, burning my eyes as I run a little quicker, giving a cursory glance at my watch to see that I was running a little late. Ethan would wait, I hoped.
As I jogged up and huffed in greeting he gives me a warm smile, taking my backpack from me as my chest heaves up and down. I take two puffs of my emergency inhaler, something I'd had to do more of lately. My body had begun to feel weak all the time as of lately, and it wasn't just the asthma. I'd been having heart and lung problems ever since I was young, some doctors I've gone to even suggested the two were related.
My medical issues were yet another taxing expense that the Jane's had to pay attention to, and even quite possibly another reason they fostered me instead of adopting me. They needed the tax checks to get by. Adopting me would only be money out of their pockets.
In some ways I felt like a stray cat that they'd taken in.
"Everything alright?" Ethan asks, his mouth taut with worry. "You've had to use that a lot lately."
I nod. "I think everything's fine."
"Parker." Ethan rolls his eyes at me. "I'll take you to a clinic if you need me to. I know you're only worried about the cost."
"I couldn't ask you to do that." I inform him and he begins to protest as the bus rumbles along.
"And I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to you." Ethan tells me before adding, "Consider it. Papa and dad would be happy to cover the bill, you're like a daughter to them."
"Man they just love adopting kids." I joke with him and he smirks.
We meander onto the bus and I practically collapse into my seat, slamming my head against the back. Ethan shakes his head at me and Astryd stands up, helping me into her solo two seater and then sitting beside me to give support. This was the second time that Ethan and Astryd had to help me like this. The last time was last year before I underwent a series of experimental surgeries to fix my symptoms, one of which going so far as to replace a valve of my heart. I still bear the scar on my chest, frequently covering it with makeup.
Being a freshman in high school and undergoing open heart surgery is certainly a difficult thing.
We pull up at the school and Astryd stands slowly, pulling her shoulder away from underneath my head. "Are you gonna be alright to walk to class?"
I nod and part ways with them both to head to class. Obviously they're reluctant to let me go but I assure them that someone would help me if I collapsed. Griffin watches as I stumble to my seat and then lower myself weakly into my desk, laying my head onto my desk.
"Parker?" He asks and leans over, going so far as to open one of my eyes with his thumb. "Your lips, they're blue." He observes with shock in his voice. His lips quiver as he says this. He mutters, almost so low that I can't hear it, "I've gotta get you back there... For more reasons than one."
"What?" I ask, lifting my head slowly. I touch my lips and find they're cold.
Griffin shakes his head while standing and then does something unexpected; he wraps his arms around me and pulls me into a hug. My head rushes and a warmth flows through me once more. I raise an eyebrow in confusion.
He sits back down at his seat and gulps loudly. "See me after class. I need to talk to you."
"About?" I ask, thinking, what just happened?
"A lot, actually," He tells me, "But I think I'll only have enough time for the footnotes version."
Sitting back down at his desk he clutches his chest almost dramatically. He removes what looks to be ibuprofen from his book bag and takes a few, dry swallowing. I can only wonder what he was feeling, perhaps confused at his own actions. I would be.
As we sit through class together I can hardly think. My heart beats rapidly in my chest although it feels like it's struggling. My mind drifts to all the conversations with doctors that called me a medical miracle and warned me that us miracles didn't always live long. I had to reflect on my life and take a good look at whether or not I was proud of the life I'd lived to this point.
A cough rips through my abdomen, burning my throat as it comes out. My hand is ever so slightly red speckled and my chest feels like a weight was pressing down on it, cracking my ribs.
The class bell finally rings and I stand carefully before rushing towards the nurses office.
"Parker wait up!" Griffin shouts but I continue to persevere to the nurses office. He was the one who noticed my blue lips, he should understand of all people.
"Sorry! Nurses await!" I shout back as he catches up to a point where he wraps his arms around my waist, dragging me into the janitors closet that lies just a few feet from the nurses office.
I remove my inhaler frantically from my pocket, taking another two puffs and feeling my heart rate quicken even more.
Griffin places his hands against my cheeks and a flood of calm flushes through me.
"I need you to trust me." He tells me before placing a finger to his lips and turning the light off in the storage closet. My heart continues to speed up, feeling as though it may beat out of my chest.
I squint at him in the dark, praying for an answer as to what was going on.
My heart beats faster, I'm afraid that he may try to hurt me or touch me and I knew I'd be powerless to stop him if he did.
The answer I got was a light that emanated from his palm. At first it was practically nothing, almost the flame of a tea candle swaying there before me. But as time grew as did it. His hand was eventually engulfed in what looked like fire, illuminating the entire room.
My memories flicker like the flame, a distant memory burning in someplace far that my mind can't reach.
"But, how..." I cough out, my knees beginning the buckle.
"Do you remember a place called FernWood?" He asks and my right ear pops and crackles like the feeling you get as you're launched skyward in an airplane. It rings and burns, almost more than the sensation in my chest.
"No." I tell him firmly, but knowing somewhere in my heart that I did. That I must've.
"Pain in your ear?" He asks and I nod, still staring at the flame between us.
I finally look him in his pale eyes that glow yellowish red in the light and I try to remember. "Does this FernWood place have anything to do with how I'm feeling?"
"I need to get you back there." He tells me, "It happens to the best of us."
I feel a little better to know these things even if I didn't know what he was talking about. He extinguishes the flame before wrapping his arms around my weak and tired body. A sensation of being here in this world one moment and drifting away into a void the next washes over my body like a wave. It feels like sudden paralysis or getting hit by a wave of water. He screams something to me in the darkness that I can't quite comprehend and it feels just like being held underwater.
I can't breathe. My lungs fill with a void that I can't come out of. And then, all at once I'm ushered from the void, pulled out and flung onto the forest floor. I breathe shallowly and it rattles in my lungs.
"Never let go again," He almost reprimands me, "Teleporting is tricky stuff."
I raise an eyebrow as I look around the familiar forest that surrounds me. The crisp autumn air fills my fatigue riddled body. I could recognize a few of the trees, the most noticeable one being a huge oak tree that I carved my name into three years ago.I felt the sensation of death creeping into my veins.
I cough again, tears welling in my eyes as I explain breathlessly, "I didn't know I let go."
Griffin crouches beside me, gazing deep into my eyes.
"You have ten minutes," Griffin tells me, "Pack your life up."
I look at him with a gasp to accompany the shock plastered upon my face, "You expect me to leave my life behind?"
"You aren't gonna have a life if I don't get your heart beating again." Griffin says before gesturing for me to leave. I can't even fathom what he said enough to question.
Nausea comes in waves as the after effect of the teleportation. Only now does that bit of information sink in.
I enter the decrepit house that I'd spent a better part of my life in. No one is home, not Lily from school, not the Jane's from work, and I shouldn't have been there. I should've been sitting in second, possibly third, period thinking about being here. At home. I should've been longing for this place, not standing in it.
Ten minutes? How was that enough time to say goodbye?
Glancing around the downstairs I shuffled across carpet for the feeling. I looked around, my heart swelling in my chest from the emotion that this place overwhelmed me with. I wasn't always so emotional, but the idea of leaving definitely had that effect.
Entering my room, the familiar scent of Georgia peach body mist and a familiar must assaulted my nostrils. The calming dim lights and baby pink walls reminded me how they were always there for me. The open window with it's view of my forest- I'd once called it PJ Forest when I was younger- welcomed me to stay longer. I had to go, I bargain.
I threw things haphazardly into an old, blue suitcase covered in patches that I found lying around my room. I was no longer as ready to leave as I was before. In fact, I was terrified and hesitant to leave because I knew my family would miss me.
I looked around my room with a bittersweet smile and as I surveyed my belongings. My room was a mess with clothing strewn everywhere and all about, but my bookshelves were organized neatly. I owned a small library that I was quite proud of and I decide to take my three favorite books with me. I hoped that someone would feed my fish while I was gone. I had three distinctively different fish named George, Charles, and Swimmy. Needless to say one of those names was not like the others.
I pack up a few good shirts and some nice pants to wear. I also brought a skirt, a teddy bear that I'd owned as long as I could remember, and a jar of coins that I had collected over the years. When I finally felt like I was ready to go, I laced up my shoes, pulled up the handle on my suitcase, and walked out of the door. My suitcase screeched and lurched behind me as I rolled it over sticks and stones. Thankfully my house wasn't too far from where I need to be, where Griffin awaited.
Along with two others?
I didn't realize who was facing off against Griffin until the one figure pulled down their hood and blue locks spilled out into the open. I'd forgotten that Ethan worked up at the front office during his first three periods as a co-op position, he must've seen me get dragged into the janitors closet on the security cameras. How would I explain to them what was going on? Did I need to? I didn't think I should. Of course there was no time to reason that as Griffin took out a wand with flourish and pointed it at Ethan.
"It'll be a shame to erase your memories of Parker, but I assure you it's for your own good!" Griffin shouts and Ethan's body relaxes. I see his shoulders go down when he realizes it isn't a knife.
When we were younger we'd done karate together, Ethan and I. This of course is relevant as I quit at green belt and Ethan now possesses a black belt. Doing an in to out kick, Ethan swiftly snaps the wand right in half and my heart drops into my stomach. That could be a problem.
Griffin stares at his once beautiful mahogany wand which now is held together limply at its center by just a few splinters.
He sighs. "You're buying me a new one when we get to FernWood, Parker doesn't have time for your feelings to get in the way."
"Get to where?" Ethan asks as I walk up and Griffin grabs my hands. He uses me to tie a human knot around both Astryd and Ethan who're scream out in alarm as we teleport again. The void welcomes me back and my stomach drops into my shoes.
This time wind rushes through my scalp and displaces every hair on my head, throwing a chill straight down my spine. It feels like a million needles prick at every inch of skin on my body.
As we land- or appear- I drop to my knees and my luggage falls on top of me. Astryd and Ethan cry out as they hit the ground too. My stomach feels like it stretches between worlds, like an artisan bread maker kneads it.
"What just happened?" Ethan asks and as I look over to him his eyes are rolling forward from the back of his skull.
"Teleportation." Griffin informs him before adding, "And no, you never get used to it, but you do build up a tolerance."
A train screams in the background far away and chugs along beside us. Looking out in the distance I see nothing more than a lake still covered in morning fog that rolls over its gentle waves.
"A lake?" I ask and Griffin nods. He puts two fingers together and into his mouth, letting out a high pitched whistle that rings through my head.
"Come on, Erigor doesn't like to wait." Griffin informs as as he all attempt to get up and move along. I find that I feel stronger by this lake, somehow.
We walk down to the small dock that the lake has and then one by one file into the canoe that bobs on its waters. Griffin helps us each into the boat before entering himself.
"And what exactly is an Erigor?" Astryd asks and Griffin chuckles.
"It's just his name." He says with a laugh.
I look over the boats side and into the murky lake waters as I see a shadow beneath the water. The water glows in its presence, lightening so much that I can see it's features. The skin grey and speckled, the fins that covers it's monstrous body, and of course an eye that peers at me as it rolls sideways in the water to grab ahold of a rope with it's mouth. Erigor was a beautiful monster, his eyes that appeared to hold the galaxy itself.
We near the edge of the lake and my body tenses. It's a miracle as the forest and the lake and everything else fade away into a clear and open ocean before our very eyes.
"So that's an Erigor." I comment from the back of the boat, my mouth staying ajar long after the words left my lips.
He wastes no time gaining speed, dragging the boat across the waters after what I had to say. We approach a mist and as we dive beneath it there are sparkles left clinging to my skin. A smile works its way onto my face despite how impossibly weak everything felt. It was like a stroke on both sides.
And then I really felt as though I was having a stroke as we approached the island. On the West side of the island there was all towns and marketplaces as far as the eyes could see. To the East was the school itself, perched high above all else that there was on this island. My eyes feasted on every part of the island, taking in the sights and the sounds, the scaly seagulls up above and the salty sea water smell that invaded my nostrils from below.
The sun setting glimmered on the water as my heart soared with the sights of what he'd called FernWood. Looking at it then my mind couldn't quite retain the image of much, it felt as though a tapeworm in my brain guzzled up the images each time I remembered any details.
I felt the warmth return to my face and the weight lift from off my chest.
"Parker?" Griffin asks, looking back at me. My eyes are gradually opening up wider, my eyelids no longer heavy.
"Yes?" I ask and he grins.
"How're you feeling?" He asks and I nod.
I tell him confidently, "Better than I've ever felt."
Erigor pulls up beside a lengthy and ornate dock that extended far into the sea, giving him plenty of stopping time. Griffin hops out quickly and gracefully, extending a hand to Ethan. He pulls Ethan onto the dock aggressively while using a more gently approach with assisting Astryd out. When he helps me out, he uses both arms and instructs Ethan to grab my suitcase.
"We'll visit Ms. Winters first to lift the memory spell and then I'll take you home." Griffin instructs and I nod happily.
"I think I can walk on my own." I tell him, feeling so much stronger than I had even just minutes prior. Griffin nods in understanding and walks on ahead with Ethan and Astryd, discussing their rooming situation. Both of them would be given dorms in the school, assuming their presence was accepted.
I watch all that is around me closely, noticing a few other boats that pull in beside Erigor and on the other side of the dock. Magical creatures hop out and head towards the town. I wondered if there were others who would be showing up late for the semester.
Up ahead I started to see more mythical beings, like a small crowd of giggling faeries that flew past us, all of which were about a foot tall. For reference, faeries are typically larger than the average pixie but a half a foot smaller than a dwarf. When I looked back into the water I was shocked and somewhat delighted to see mermaids- or what I thought to be mermaids- jumping up and down giddily in the water. Their tails propelled them out of the clear blue waters and then splashed around happily wriggling in the air for moments at a time before plunging back down again. And repeat. It reminded me of videos I'd seen of pods of dolphins.
Griffin turned to see me not following them and his eyes grew wide as he saw me next to the water. One of the mermaids stopped as her pod continued on and she got extremely close to me. I gave her a smile and a playful wave which she returned. I wondered if mermaids could speak with humans.
She was stunning with her teal locks flowing down her back and her tail flicked back and forth in the water as she held onto the dock beside where I crouched.
The mermaid held out her hand for me and I slowly reached over my own, only to be nearly tackled by Griffin. The mermaid was startled and gave a hiss to reveal she had incredibly sharp teeth almost like a piranhas teeth.
"Ew!" I shouted in shock, amazed I'd nearly touched that. Her beauty rotted away instantly once Griffin scared her. "What's wrong with these mermaids?"
"Well, for starters, that was not a mermaid. The water between here and the main land is polluted by them, Smiling MerFolks, nasty creatures. They're mermaids of a sort, but they should be called Mercannibals for crying out loud! They draw you underwater with their beauty and charm and then their whole mouth widens and sucks the blood and other nasty innards from your body." Griffin said as though the name of them left a foul taste in his mouth. He obviously hated them.
"Mermaids are also quite vicious, but in more of a rude and snobbish way." Griffin says. "I've got a friend who's half mermaid, you'll see. They can be rude."
"Half mermaid?" I ask, wondering what part of the fish is left over once you have a half mermaid. Mermaids are half fish, so therefore a half mermaid would only be a quarter fish.
Griffin nods and says, "You'd never know until you saw the gills. That or his abilities during swim team practice."
I follow beside Griffin as we step off the gigantic dock and onto a rustic cobblestone path that winds and weaves through a marketplace and then a town. To our right is a gondola with a sign instructing us how to use it to get to FernWood. We all climb aboard, Griffin operating the gondola.
It lurches forward quickly, clinging to it's ropes and dragging itself up to a clifftop where the castle is surrounded by forest on one side and a plunging cliff with a waterfall that ended into the sea on the other. My memories of the dock are already fleeting and so I look forward to Ms. Winters removing the memory spell that plagues my mind. I already forget the name of where we were. Fern, I think, unable to remember the second part.
Griffin hops out first again and helps us all out, giving a cautionary, "Watch your step," to each of us. He claps Ethan on the back when he steps out. I think, and this is just a theory, that there was some resentment being harbored over him breaking Griffins wand.
From where the gondola drops us off it's another ten minute hike through scenic flowery trails that one of which happens to travel directly- and narrowly- over one of the three waterfalls that cascaded from FernWoods hill top.
And as we finally arrive on sight it takes all my willpower not to touch the ornate brickwork, clearly done by hand, on the outside of the castle. Each shrub was skillfully and thoughtfully placed along the perimeter, as was each brick in the wall and every stained glass window. The building itself was art.
"A fun fact about the architecture," Griffin tells us, "There's at least fifty miles more of the school beneath the cliff, descending far down into the waters that the cliff is high above. Some of the classrooms are even underwater, protected by magic."
I raise an eyebrow at the fact and Griffin nods.
"I'll go find Winters." Griffin tells me as the image of the castle before me becomes blurry. I can't even look at this place, how was this a part of my past? "Don't touch the building, by the way, the memory spell will only get worse with contact."
Spell? I think, already beginning to forget.
Just moments later the door comes slamming open, a stoic faced woman with flowing locks, white from old age, and piercing amber eyes stares me down. She's fuming obviously despite the emotionless front she attempts to keep. Griffin comes running out before her, almost grovelling at her feet as he attempts to stop her from coming closer to me. Did she mean me harm?
"How could you bring her here?" Mafalda Winters hisses and Griffin attempts to explain himself. I wince, it seemed I may have come here for nothing.
Griffin bears his teeth and says, "Because you refused to."
"And her Magicless friends?" She gestures to Astryd and Ethan behind me, "You're lucky I don't expel you!"
Griffin raises his broken wand that was limp in the center, held together by splinters. "I didn't have much of a choice. The blue one broke my wand."
Ethan steps forward in front of me, Astryd following.
"My apologies, ma'am," Ethan chokes out, looking up at the castle in amazement, "I thought he was trying to kidnap my friend for impure reasons."
Mafalda rolls her eyes.
"To be fair," Astryd argues, "His story was kind of unbelievable." She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and I remain behind the two of them, silent in the affair.
"Silence." Mafalda tells the two of them, "Parker, come forward please."
My steps crunch against the leaves that litter the ground, the sound of the gulls gliding over the sea ringing in my ear. Wind rushes over my scalp while Mafalda steps towards me, too. We meet in the middle and she taps my breastbone with her wand, a warmth filling me as she does so.
"Remember." She commands and the memories flood back. Not everything, unfortunately, but I remember this place. I remember it's halls and it's dorms. I remember the classes and the smell of must that filled the lecture halls. I vaguely recall her speech, only one part standing out to me. It rings in my ears, "Let them burn."
A craving for knowledge wells inside me. The years of learning I'd missed, every opportunity slipped away with my age. I was angry, at myself and at her for not letting me continue here. And most of all, I was angry that she let me go. I was angry that I ended up in the foster care system because of her. I remembered it all.
Griffin looks at me expectantly and I nod, refusing to say a word to Mafalda.
"Take her home, Griffin." Mafalda instructs as darkness begins to fall faster around us. The two torches out front on either side of the doors light up on their own. "You two," She gestures to Astryd and Ethan, "Come with me. I'll find a dorm for you."
I look to Griffin as my knees buckle beneath me, feeling what felt like the weight of the world slipping onto me. I stare off into the distance at the water, the waterfalls rushing reaching my ears. All I can think of is how much I'd missed out on.
"You think a lot." Griffin observes, snapping me out of my thoughts.
"It's a habit." I inform him and he nods, not quite understanding, though.
He asks me, "Why do you do that?"
My only response being, "When you grow up in the foster care system, thinking is your best friend. You are your best friend."
Griffin nods, the understanding finally there. He wraps an arm around me, I wrap one around his neck and in one fluid motion he swoops me up into a bridal style carry. I lay my head against his chest, listening to his heart beating like a drum. It beats rhythmically and gently, sounding as though it could stop at any moment which was a horrifying thought.
He carries me for what feels like forever over cobblestones walkways and gravelled ground. His footsteps grow shakier as he walks through an area of dirt that's just a cup of water away of from being mud.
We finally arrive at a quaint cottage, secluded from all the other houses and nestled away in a patch of woods that extends from a great forest.
My eyelids grow heavy and weary, tired of staying open. I hear a door creak wide open and a raspy voice drum up a conversation. "Griffin, dear," It starts, "I heard you went to the Magicless world from Sal next door. Bring me back anything?" Then a gasp resounds. I try to open my eyes but I'm far too tired to do such.
"No, but I did bring you this." He raises me slightly and I try again to open my eyes. I open them just a crack and stare at the woman before me. She was short and on the heavier side with grey locks and kind brown eyes that looked like warm chocolate. My eyes fluttered shut again.
"Put her in the spare bedroom, it'll be hers." The woman instructs and then adds, "And be sure to find my healing crystals for me."
"Yes, Grams." Griffin says with a slight jolly lilt to his voice. He moves quickly through the house before setting me down on a cushy bed. My body sinks into it, the exhaustion of the day finally catching up and resting upon my chest. I sink into a dreamless sleep what felt like only moments later.
Jim Thorpe’s Interrogation - Chapter 2
"Why is he here at our table?" I ask indignantly, gesturing in the direction of my usual lunch table where a familiar face sits next to where he knew I'd be sitting.
Astryd rolls her eyes, "I walked in and he was here, there wasn't much I could do."
"You could tell him to leave!" I urged in a hushed shout as I hear a fake cough from nearby. As I turn to look, he's giving me his usual cocky grin.
Damien brushes a hand through his soft and tousled brown- almost black- locks. He stares dead into my soul with his amber eyes and I take notice of the flecks of green in them that I used to love so much. Damien and I had been in a relationship for seven committed months and things only ended when he found out I was going to therapy to talk about the grief of losing my parents. And of course the grief of losing my memories.
I'd been going to therapy for free- paid for by the state- for almost as long as I can remember, something that Damien was ashamed of. I still find solace in my sessions and all of my real friends understand that it's nothing unusual.
But Damien didn't understand that and the sight of him disgusted me.
"So, do you plan on talking about me or coming over and telling me to leave yourself?" Damien asks smugly and I suppress something that feels like a growl.
"Leave." I tell him, my fists balled and shaking.
"Talk to me." He reasons, "I came here for you."
"Leave," I repeat, "Please."
"I've changed," He begs, "I get it now. I understand."
Astryd looks to me and I look to her and then to Ethan who's approaching the table. I'm hoping something, anything, will happen and help me to avoid this situation.
Just as Griffin saunters over and wraps an arm around my waist.
"Everything alright?" Griffin asks, his voice low and husky.
Damien raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware you were seeing someone, Parker."
I take a gulp and I tell him confidently, "Yes I am, and you're sitting in his seat actually."
With that Damien got up rather quickly, scurrying away which fills me with relief. I look to Griffin who removes his arm from my waist. He smiles shyly at me and I return it.
"Thank you so much." I tell him and he nods.
"Of course, it's the least I could do." Griffin holds out a hand, I'm assuming for me to shake, "Friends?"
I take the hand and dramatically shake it. "Friends," I confirm.
He smiles again as I take my seat and he sits down beside me. Only half of the table is occupied all with people who I associate with, some of whom I consider friends. There was Leah who was something of an artist who preferred to break rules rather than pencil points. Then we had Arty who was a bit of a stiff kind of guy who hung out with us purely so he wouldn't have to alone. I don't actually know much about Arty, his favorite conversation to have with us is the "stop talking about that it's grossing me out" which always ends in him pouting. And finally of course there was me, Astryd, and Ethan.
All of us were a little odd and strange, all except Astryd. I'm pretty sure she was the exception.
And now we had Griffin, the new kid who everyone seemed to do a drive-by stare during that lunch period. Half of these obligatory stares included giggling and hushed whispers.
"So," I pop a baby carrot in my mouth, giving Griffin an amused stare, "How'd you end up in our little town of Thorpe?"
He gives a quizzical look before responding, sarcastically, "I'd hoped I'd lose myself in the mountains here. And isn't the towns name Jim Thorpe?"
"None of the locals say Jim Thorpe. Thorpe sounds prettier." I chuckle and he nods.
"It does," He agrees and gives me a little smile. In the background my friends voices fade away as I look at Griffin, trying to analyze him. I'd done that since I was younger, I'd stare at someone until the world fell away and I could see clear into their soul. It was like a gift of mine that I could get such a powerful feel off of people.
Griffin seemed like the extroverted type, so I suppose I was confused that he was clinging around me and my friends in his first days here. But something in the deep of his eyes also told a different tale, clung to himself in a new environment?
The way he wrung his hands together when we spoke made it extremely clear how nervous he was around anyone he didn't know, social interaction maybe wasn't his forte. Perhaps I'd misjudged? I squint and take him in, his essence, and then continue bombarding him.
"Where are you from?" I ask and he raises an eyebrow. It was such a simple question, really. Not a trick question and certainly not meant to confuse him so I'm not sure why he stammered with his answer.
"New Jersey." He blurts out and his face grows red. Was it really that difficult to answer?
"What part?" I ask and he stands up quickly.
Nervously he explains, "I need to use the restroom."
And I don't recall seeing him the rest of that day. Of course, I'd looked around everywhere and hoped I'd see him but sometimes asking too many questions can scare a man away. I choked it up to that, he didn't seem like the open book type anyways.
After he ran off, I looked at my friends with a quizzical expression and ask, "So, anyone up for a D&D discussion? Don't forget we have a session this Friday! Ethan's house, am I right to assume Pops is making his famous taco dip?"
Ethan nods with a smile. "Brave warriors can't adventure on empty stomachs!"
"Funny, coming from the person whose character died from starvation." Astryd laughs. She'd been the one to give Arty the idea to kill Ethan's character, it was a whole big thing. Those two began to somewhat playfully, somewhat seriously argue.
My friends and I had just recently started a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign and I was pretty excited about my new character. Her name was Faunalynn, an elf paladin, and she was everything I wanted to be. I'd given her all my dream characteristics and due to some loopholes found by the DM, Arty, she was incredibly wise.
So I made it through the rest of my day without paying much attention to any of my schoolwork, more so paying attention to replaying the details of my conversations with Griffin over and over in my head. Something about him isn't adding up or making any sense. I got lost in my head, tapping my pencil against my desk in each class as a nervous tick.
As the final bell rang out loud and clear, cutting through my thoughts, I was shocked to discover a board full of notes I hadn't taken and two busy work assignments sitting before me that I hadn't completed.
I'd always told myself I wouldn't let a boy get between me and my goals in life. I wanted to be a doctor or a nurse at the very least. I enjoyed helping people a lot. For a while I considered being a social worker albeit such a job would've hit close to home given my situation.
I walked home alone, Ethan had an afterschool art program to attend to. He'd begged me to join but I can barely draw a stick figure.
The autumn leaves crunched beneath my beat up sneakers. I felt every rock and branch beneath the worn down sole of my shoes as I trudged through the forest to home. There was a chill starting to fall in the air and winter most certainly was coming.
At that moment all I had in my brain was Griffin. His name, his eyes, his body, his smile... Everything about him intrigued me. I can't say I was interested in him but I was definitely curious. As I've mentioned before, I'm good at reading people and he was like a confusing book transcribed into too many languages and a million different fonts.
I arrive home at promptly four and help Ms. Jane set the table for dinner, despite the fact that we don't eat until five. Why so early? Mr. Jane works night shifts and likes to eat with his family before leaving. I was thankful that I had a day off for the first time in what felt like weeks, when really I always got at least one day off a week. Tonight we'd be having spaghetti and meatballs, a staple in our household. The Jane's weren't exactly wealthy, even with the money they received for fostering me. They still had bills to pay and Lily to take care of.
Lily is my adoptive younger sister and at age ten- and a half- she tends to absorb a good amount of their funds. They adopted Lily when she was six and I was nine. I thought it unfair at the time since Lily was officially their child but this was also around the time that the Janes still were actively looking for a family for me. These days it was as though I was their child, no sense in anyone adopting me and dealing with the three- soon to be two when I turned sixteen in November- years of my childhood they have left.
I think if anyone were to adopt me that the Jane's would be devastated. I assume I'll age out of foster care and then live under the Jane's roof and pay rent, put myself through med school, and then live an average life. My dream was to be a surgeon.
Never have I ever had high hopes for myself. Something about my living situation made me feel as though I shouldn't, and maybe even couldn't, have high expectations for the life I'd live.
At exactly five we sat down at the table and went around talking about our days. I was still distracted. How could I get Griffin out of my head? Lily chatters excitedly about her day while I stir around my mashed potatoes. I loved mashed potatoes but after having them almost every night since potatoes were inexpensive, I started to crave more. Instant grits for breakfast and mashed potatoes with dinner. And then Ms. Jane brought out the full course, spaghetti and meatballs. An odd thing to serve with mashed potatoes.
I suppressed a sigh, choked down my dinner, and then sat at the table waiting to be excused. I stare at Lily without meaning to, wondering again why they adopted her but only chose to foster me. With her perfect porcelain skin and raven locks, she was a cutie. And she was only eight, they had plenty of years with her.
My childhood was technically over in three years.
Ms. Jane gives me a smile as she takes her seat across the way. We were an interesting family to gawk at, Ms. Jane was a mousy woman with ashen brown locks and bright green eyes. Mr. Jane was Haitian and broad shouldered, perfect for when Ms. Jane had been standing all day and needed someone to carry her. Lily was adopted from somewhere in China when she was only three and I was of Polish descent, I'm sure. Fair skin, light blue eyes, and blonde- almost white- hair.
I return the smile awkwardly. My thoughts were out of control.
"If you're done, you're excused, Parker." Ms. Jane tells me and I nod. I clear my plate, retreat to my bedroom, and flop down on my bed. I had the pleasure of having my own room for now.
Staring at the baby pink walls that once brought me comfort from nightmares I fell asleep soundly at just five after six.
A Boy in my Seat - Chapter 1
The door succumbs with a creak and screech while I try my best to close it as quietly as I can. The weather was appropriate for the date, a day in the middle of October. It was brisk and gloomy, a morning fog settling over my exposed shoulders. A cold-shoulder top may not have been the best idea I suppose but it was too late to rethink my outfit now, I didn't want to wake Ms. Jane. The Jane family was expecting and at half past six in the early morning I didn't want to be responsible for waking a pregnant woman.
At least the top looked nice with my dark blue jeans. After all, it was burgundy and hugged nicely to my features. I'd just have to accept being cold.
A shiver runs through me as I glanced up at the early morning sun that was climbing its way up through clouds and flocks of chirping birds. Lily had off from school today for a teacher inservice so there was nobody to chat my ear off as I walked to my bus stop. It gave me time to think, as well, about my dream. All I remembered was a college lecture hall, actually, which made me suspect maybe I needed to start filling out more applications for scholarships and the like. Yes, I was only a sophomore, but being a sophomore in my financial position meant that I needed to start preparing now. I wasn't even sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was passionate about the idea of being a cardiac surgeon, I'd wanted to be a doctor for as long as I could remember. But becoming a surgeon was years of schooling, tons of money, and time in medical school that I couldn't afford.
I hike my backpack up and start out with a walk over the crackling fallen leaves and admiring the sunrise cutting through the dense fog. That is, up until I looked at my watch and realized I'd be late for meeting up with Ethan if I didn't hurry.
Briskly jogging through the forest in the early morning was a calming experience, almost a humbling one given why I was running. With the wind generated by my body's movement running through my scalp and the scent of rain lingering in the treetops, my skin felt dewy and fresh from the morning mist that clung to it. A brisk chill ran over my skin and goosebumps raised on the surface as I broke through the more dense area of forest, with trees that were closer together and muddy trails.
As I went out towards the road I saw Ethan standing a little ways from our bus stop and my eyes grew wide as my eyes settled upon the image of his royal blue locks. It contrasted sharply with his blue eyes and I tried not to stare at his red scalp. I wasn't shocked by his red scalp or blue hair, it was the life of a dye freak. Quite often he'd have allergic breakouts from the dye he used and spend up to a week picking flakes of dead skin out of his freshly colored and still bleeding hair. I wasn't sure why he did it, it didn't even look good all the time. I somewhat suspected it was all for the shock value.
"So you decided blue was your new color?" I ask him with a suppressed chuckle trying to force its way out. He nods in response.
"Any color is my color, you just gotta know how to work it." Ethan says while jokingly making duck lips at me. At any rate the blue matched his complexion and wimpy build. I couldn't say I agreed with the bleaching it must've taken to turn his formerly black hair into that.
I sigh and ask, "Weren't you just bragging the other day about how your hair was growing in so natural and soft?"
"It needed a little reality check." He laughs as we walk along closer towards the bus stop and then stood at the curb.
"How long did it take you to bleach the black light enough for that shade?" I ask, picturing what his black bowl like cut looked like the day before.
He smirks and says, "I only had the bleach in a few hours longer than it recommended."
After a few more minutes of waiting and no bus still I began to get a little worried. "Did we miss it?"
Ethan frowns and remarks, "I sure hope not. Papa won't let me borrow the car and dad won't even give me a ride. They might still be mad about last weeks incident."
"To be fair," I chuckle, "You did dent up pops' car pretty bad."
As if to answer my question the bus came rumbling up and stopped in front of us with a groan. "It nearly missed us." Ethan responds as we get on, both saying a polite hello to the bus driver and then taking our usual three seater across from Astryd sitting in a two seater by herself as always. She takes her headphones off and gives Ethan the most appalled look.
"Honey, what were you thinking?" Astryd asks with a very true and real look of horror smeared across her face.
"I was feeling blue." Ethan tells her and makes a mocking sad face. To which she raises her arm as though she's about to hit him.
The bus lurches forward before Ethan and I have even sat down. I slam into his back and my hand touches where I didn't want it to. "Ay, at least buy me dinner first."
"Sorry!" I say and after that the bus ride is relatively mellow, silent even. Astryd and Ethan both put in headphones and I do the same, listening to cover bands that I enjoy.
As we roll up to the school I groan a little. I can't say I hate school because I enjoy the learning and seeing my friends but I didn't enjoy the actual task of being there. Every day as I look out a classroom window I can think of a thousand more productive things to be doing. Ethan nudges me as he always does and I follow him off the bus, leaving my headphones in my ears and stuffing my phone into my pocket.
This year was our sophomore year at Athens Regional High School and while I can't say we had quite as much entitlement as the seniors we still weren't as helpless as the freshman. I watch as one drops all their books and the first bell rings out, releasing the kids from breakfast to their classrooms. Poor kid.
I head to my first period class after saying my goodbyes to Ethan and Astryd, both of them heading off to gym class. I watch them as they leave for a moment, seeing them standing closer and her bumping him with her hip.
For a few years now I'd hoped they'd get together.
Striding into first period, an English Honors class, I'm caught off-guard by a new face sitting right in my assigned seat. New students hardly happened, and even more rarely were they gorgeous with shaggy brown locks and a toned figure. His eyes were piercing grey which I only discovered as we locked eyes for a few moments.
He smiles at me for just a moment and I see his white teeth and pink gums, he must brush and floss. Now that's rare.
I take a seat beside him and stare up to the board, seeing my first assignment of the day listed which I begin to work on. As the bell for homeroom rings, Ms. Machinsky stands up in front of the class. Her welcoming eyes and robust pear figure are displayed before us as she gestures beside me to the new kid. He looks down at his desk as she does so, seemingly studying the graffiti there.
"We have a new student joining us today," She announces and then asks, "Could you please introduce yourself to the class."
"My name's Griffin," He tells us and then adds, "And I'm happy to be here."
And suddenly all the heart eyes went away. What kind of an introduction was that? Everyone around starts whispering about him and what he's said as Ms. Machinsky returns to her desk, leaving us to do independent work for the rest of the period I'm sure. Despite this being an English Honors class she wasn't a fan of teaching very much.
I do my work for a little while, nothing but a writing prompt, before hearing something to my right. It's Griffin, trying to talk to me. "Excuse me?"
I ignore it for a moment and then hear it again, he asks, "Excuse me? What's your name?"
"Parker." I mumble without taking my head up from my work. This causes me to lose my train of thought several times. His voice is smooth and sweet, rather gentle. It's hard for me not to talk to him but I just didn't want to take my head up from my work. My grade in this class wasn't very good and I wasn't going to let some new guy come into my life and make that grade drop even lower.
"Not a talker?" He asks and laughs a little. I take this in stride and continue scribbling some more. There's a brief and awkward silence before he goes on, "I could use some help navigating this place."
I finally look up and over at him, putting on an icy facade so I'm not swept up in his good looks. "Did me taking my assigned seat naturally make me your welcoming crew?"
"I hope so," He says and adds, "It would be nice to look at you while pretending I'm admiring one of the schools murals."
My face grows hot as the bell rings, how had class gone by so quickly? I grab my bags and leave quickly, getting away from Griffin as soon as possible. As I'm walking to second period that I have with Astryd I'm trying to recall a more awkward conversation than that one and I can't. His words were smooth, my responses were awful and it felt like I was stumbling through our chat.
I wished I'd stayed cold and quiet.
Flouncing into my elective theatre class I take my seat beside Astryd and take a moment to admire the stage up ahead. They'd just started setting up for the winter concert so the set was relatively plain. I looked forward to whatever the spring musical was, though.
"Did you hear about the new guy in school?" Astryd starts gushing, "All the girls in the locker room wouldn't shut up about this guy. It's like he was a god! They described him like he was magic and-"
I cut her off, saying, "Yea, about him. He was next to me in first period and wow he's a weirdo."
"Is he as cute as they were saying?" She pouts, "If he's cute it's still worth it."
I cringe and tell her, "Trust me, it's not worth it. He's peanut butter and pickles sandwich kind of crazy."
"What a combination." Astryd admires and then says with a smirk, "I guess his good looks are the peanut butter and I still wanna see his pickle."
"Astryd!" I shout and she keels on to her desk laughing, exclaiming minutes later that she can't breathe. However, class starts which delays our conversation.
I open my notebook and it feels like only moments later that I was closing it again and packing it up to leave class.
Out in the hallway Astryd continues asking me about Griffin.
"So he was saying some weird stuff?" She asks, pulling at one of her curls unconsciously. It was a habit of hers, one I'd known her to have since we met in the fourth grade when I moved here. Back then her afro like hairstyle was much shorter, now she had a voluptuous and untameable main of kinky, black curls. I started school when I was ten after I was out of foster care. I'd only been in the foster system for a year but nonetheless it was horrible. And before that I don't remember a thing. My records say I was placed into care with severe amnesia.
"Not super weird, but definitely flirty." I tell her and Astryd rolls her eyes.
"You freaked out because he hit on you? Parker, you're hot. The whole blonde hair, blue eyes thing really helps with that." Astryd tells me and I scoff as I look at her. She was far more gorgeous than I could ever be with smooth umber skin and natural curls. Her amber eyes looked like a pool of honey and were set ablaze in the sun. Not to mention they were always wide and expressive. Her body was curved and exceptionally fit. Astryd was a cheerleader here which kept her in shape and skyrocketed her popularity. Of course, being friends with people like me and Ethan probably hurt that just a little bit.
"I freaked out because he tried to lure me into giving him a personal tour around the school." I say confidently, positive this wasn't nothing and then adding, "He was practically undressing me with his eyes!"
Astryd rolls her own and then stops outside of her next class. "We'll talk more about this at lunch, alright?"
"Agreed." I nod and then head in the direction of my science class, thankful that the rest of the time until lunch passes quickly.
The Beginning - Prologue
More and more recently, I'd begun to feel like a woman on fire.
Not in a sense that I'm shouting in victory, winning several games of something in a row and exclaiming that I'm on fire. I mean on fire. In the scalding hot pan as someone tips me forward, drowning me in spirits and setting me ablaze.
My skin scalds as I make my way through life, trying just to put out the flames before they consume me.
The last few nights I'd had weird dreams. These were dreams of a place I thought maybe I recognized, or perhaps just somewhere I'd dreamt up from a book I read long ago.
In either case, I wasn't the sort of girl to dream about fairytales. I was the girl who had to work hard every night after school. I was the sort of girl who busted her butt cleaning up around the house so that the Janes would consider helping me with college tuition money. I was the girl who helped her pregnant foster mom get her young foster sister off to school before running to her own bus stop which was just a little further down the road. I was a hard worker, not a princess in a fairytale or a damsel in distress.
My body began to compress into the mattress and my spine straightened out. My back was so sore from the shift I'd just worked. It was one in the morning and I had to be up at six for school, and then do it all over the next day. Maybe tonight I'd welcome the dreams about the castle, every now and then I needed an escape.
Nonetheless, the moment my eyes shut and my brain stopped racing the dream came to me again.
I'd spent the better part of my childhood sitting in this very same college lecture hall where the lights were dim and the air smelled of must no matter who came to sit here. And believe me when I say many have come to sit here, I should know. I've watched the Fae flounce into the room and take their seats and I've watched orcs stumble in. I'd watched elves with their elven cohorts take a secluded seat and I'd seen centaurs with other misfit species, giggling and giddy for the first day. I came into this lecture hall every semester to hear the opening speech of this class. The opening speech was the same time after time, consistency was key. The class was "Intro to Magics" and it was nothing more than a basic skills seminar, the first of many.
Dust billowed through the lights that streamed in onto center stage where she'd soon take her place. I followed her around and listened to her opening speech more times than I can or could ever count but today felt like hearing it fall upon virgin ears because it was directed to me amongst others who would be my classmates.
Elegantly, Mafalda Winters levitated from somewhere unseen up above with very little effort. That was how she'd always done it, a show of power as she floated down from the rafters. My childish joy was impossible to contain, I smiled with glee as she began her spiel.
"Good morning and hello." She began politely and the class repeated it, myself included with no pronouns tacked onto the end. Her lilted voice soothes my ears, my heart starting to slow down. I hadn't even noticed it pounding away in my chest.
"Hello." I muttered under my breath as though she was new to me.
She straightens up and looks directly at me in the front row before beginning her pace, "Today is the start of something you'll never hold or sell or touch," She licks her lips mid sentence, pausing as though she's nervous and I fear she might be, "You'll never encounter it with any of your senses but it is a gift beyond any other. Today I give you knowledge."
Flaring out her hand and rolling her wrist so that her palm faces upward her hand sparks with a slowly glowing brighter flame that nestles itself between her fingers as she wields it.
"Knowledge is a fickle beast," She tells us all and I nod, this being the part that I've committed to memory, "It is fed on the daily by every sentence you speak or hear. And, of course, it grows."
Exaggerating, the flame in her palm grows larger, "Here you will learn a special breed of knowledge, you will learn magical knowledge. Here you will learn to take your gifts and let them flourish. Let them burn."
My heart swells as she says this and she smiles right at me, "Welcome to FernWood, School for the Magically Gifted."
There are deafening cheers all around as the energy of the room pulsates and glows. The college hall grows bright the way it always does at this time and I clap just like I had every time up until today, up until my eighth birthday when I could finally be a student. I'd dreamed of the moment when I'd learn how to utilize my powers for so long. Everyone who knew me knew that fact.
And now came my favorite part as she rolled out the blackboard.
"Class, please form a line. You all get to glimpse into your future." A smile tugs at the corners of her lips and she allows it to form, watching as we each step up to tell her our fate.
"I see myself," A girl with hair the color of fresh ginger says, "And I'm graduating top of my class!"
We all smile and clap for her as she grows red, realizing how loudly she'd informed us all of that fact. Nonetheless, she's celebrated for what she sees.
"I look forward to that day." Mafalda bows to the girl and she takes her seat once more.
From my spot at the back of the line, I see everyone cycle through, nervous beforehand and then relieved and smiling after they've seen a little taste. Although I've had this advantage of growing up here in this lecture hall I'd never been given the chance to look in the mirror. That's what it was, after all, it was a fun glamour disguising a gazing mirror as a blackboard.
The boy in front of me obnoxiously shouts, "I'm gonna win the lottery!"
"Congratulations." Mafalda says with a polite smile and finally it was my turn. My palms grow sweaty as I step up to look. I'd waited for this moment, too, for as long as I could remember.
But instantly my brows are knitted together and my lips are downturned as I gaze upon the board. I look to Mafalda, seeking guidance as always.
"I see you." I say with a frown and it's difficult to hide my disappointment.
"Doing what?" She inquires and my heartbeat quickens until I feel it in my throat.
"Nevermind," I say, "It isn't you."
"How do you know?" She urges and the entire class leans in to listen and whisper about the heated exchange in front of them. Sweat drenched my robes and my palms are clammy. I feel the distinct burn of tears welling in my eyes.
I finally stammer out, "Because you'd never hurt me."
Her eyes widen and fear is plastered on her delicate features. She waves someone over and whispers something to them before taking my head and leading me out of the room. I take one last glance, stalling, and trying to figure out what I'd just seen.
There's metal and rage in the eyes I see as I look at the other her in the blackboard. What had I done wrong? Why was I kneeling before her? And why did she have a sword? I didn't understand any of what I'd seen.
The click of her heels joined with the plodding of my flats on the marble flooring resonates down the lengthy hall. All the way down I see it lit by lanterns and the mahogany wood shines in the dull glow of early morning streaming in through nearby windows. It was early, as every first class had to be. It was the magic of morning becoming day that always made it more special.
We walked down a long hallway and passed by classes filled with children of all ages doing different activities. I peeked into a few classrooms and was fascinated by what they were learning and attempting to do. This would occupy my mind for the moment.
When I looked into the first classroom they were all gathered around something and when they parted just slightly, backing up from what it was, I saw that it was a hatching dragon egg. The dragon crawled out slowly, whipped its head back, and let out a small roar. My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my skull from how large they got.
In the second classroom they were learning about potions. I still feel a little bad seeing how one girl looked over at me and got distracted, pouring in too much of some smelly substance into her potion which then in turn exploded. The Headmistress tugged on my arm so that I would not distract any more classrooms and then led me up a very large marble staircase.
"Parker, dear..." She smiled sweetly at me and I smiled up at her. My stomach twisted and turned in on itself, though. I felt ill.
We finally ascend the grand staircase which leads up to her office doors. I know them well, I'd played in that office since I was very young. Some of my earliest memories were here, in this school.
Which is why I did start to cry and scream when she walked me into her office, sat me down, and materialized a suitcase full of my belongings with a delicate snap; I didn't own much. I had a few robes that I assumed I'd leave behind, a sundress, a few spare pieces of change that I had collected over the years, a stuffed bear, and a locket that had a picture of a woman that I assumed was my mother in it. The woman in the locket had a million dollar smile that sparkled like dragons bounty, like a gleaming mountain of gold.
Whereas Mafalda's expression was forlorn, tired even.
"Parker," She explains, "FernWood just isn't safe any longer for you."
The dull ache of my heart starts to grow and fester, burning within.
"You'll be safer in the Magicless world, until I figure out what that vision meant. And then, I'll send for you," She holds out a well manicured pinky finger, "I pinky promise."
I take the pinky and tell her, "I know you'll keep your promise."
"I certainly will," She tells me and then adds, almost against her better judgement it would seem, "I made a promise to your mother a while ago that I would keep you safe and this is how. This is also why I have to send you away."
"So you did know my mom?" I ask, having not realized that for many years. Mafalda had never made a lot clear to me. Like Eredith, whom she never let me play with. And Grams, who she never let me go see despite her being my grandmother. Mafalda usually kept me all to herself. I even lived with Mafalda.
But Mafalda never let me call her mom.
"I did." She nods and looks at me with a tender expression, "And she was great just like you will be someday. But that's a story for another day, when you come back."
"Okay." Was all I had to say just as someone came to get my suitcase.
Mafalda pulls me into one second-to-last tender hug and gives me a bittersweet smile. "You'll be alright, my child. I'll make sure you're taken care of."
I'm silent as they walk me out of the front door, I'm silent as she hugs me goodbye, and I'm silent as they walk me to the car that will take me to the docks.
I remember thinking, But what about Eredith? And Grams? Will they be alright without me here?
"You're officially expelled, Parker Fern." Headmistress Mafalda tells me as I give her the last hug for a while, my memories already beginning to fade and crumble. I couldn't remember my room anymore, or the color of its walls.
I'd started to forget the information I'd learned during the lectures I sat in on.
I forgot completely what the flowers in the back garden looked like, and especially what they smelled like.
I wanted to leave before it was all gone.
So I stared back at Mafalda Winters one last time, admiring her beauty, and I vaguely remember telling her my goodbyes before fleeing. I forget the words I said, all that was left of them was the memory of my lips moving once they're said.
The moment I left the grounds, I forgot what the school looked like altogether. My beautiful memories of this place flew away like ashes in the wind.