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.