Authors: Bonnie Lamer
A little while later, Mom comes into my room. She’s in pajamas now and I can’t help but think how cool it is that she and Dad can appear how they want to appear. They don’t sleep any more but they still appear in pajamas every night. She sits down next to me on my bed where I’m reading. She and Dad have gotten much better at hovering and appearing to sit on things. They used to look like they were sitting inside of them or a foot above them.
“Good book?” she asks.
I shrug. “It’s okay.”
“I can’t believe you’re seventeen already,” she says as she presses a cold translucent hand to my cheek. “There’s so much that I still have to teach you.”
“From the amount of homework you and Dad give me, it seems like my brain is already going to burst,” I grumble and she smiles.
“I wasn’t talking about schoolwork. I mean about life. About mistakes. About destiny.”
My brows furrow as I consider what she’s saying. “Mom, is this the birds and the bees talk because I figured all that stuff out a long time ago and since there aren’t any boys around here for me to make any mistakes with, you really don’t have anything to worry about.”
“Not your mistakes, mine” she says quietly and I swear by the way she is looking at me that if ghosts could have tears in their eyes, she would have them now. She gestures to my necklace and bracelet. “Promise me you will wear these always.”
“Mom, you’re making me nervous.”
With a cheap imitation of a smile, she rises from my bed. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to. I’m just a mother who is having a hard time with the fact that my daughter is all grown up now and I realized that I haven’t truly prepared you for the world. I always thought I had plenty of time but now you’ve reached a magical age and you’re unbound and falling into adulthood without any practical guidance.”
Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better. “What are you talking about?”
“Nothing we need to discuss tonight. We’ll talk more tomorrow.” With that, she touches my face one more time and then floats out of my room leaving me perplexed and a little bit frightened. It’s now impossible for me to concentrate on my book as I ponder yet another cryptic conversation with my mother.
Later as the light of the full moon streams in over my dark blue comforter from the large window that faces out into the woods, I think of the verse in the lullaby that Mom sang to Zac which says when the moon is riding at her peak, then your heart’s desire seek. What is my heart’s desire? There are so many things that I want. I would love to have my parents be corporeal again. I would love to live some where that has summer all year long instead of being almost constantly surrounded by snow or rain. I would love for Zac to have other little boys to play with instead of being stuck in this house most of the time with very little to do. And I would like to have friends of my own to do things with like go to the mall or the movies instead of being stuck in this house too with very little to do. That last thought tugs at my conscience as I think of the loving household that my parents have provided for us. They love Zac and me so much that they have forsaken an afterlife which promises to be glorious and instead anchor themselves here to be sure that we are safe and well taken care of. If we moved off this mountain and around more people, there’s a good chance that they would be discovered and our family would suffer. Zac and I might even be put in foster homes. It seems ungrateful of me to want more than they have already given us but maybe Mom’s right, maybe I haven’t experienced enough of the world at large and I’m missing out on some important life lessons. That’s the thought that lingers in my mind as I fall asleep on the night of my seventeenth birthday.
The next day I wake up antsy and I blame it on my conversation with Mom last night. It doesn’t help that she keeps looking at me as if something bad is about to happen. Even after becoming a ghost, Mom has always been happy and full of life but today she looks closer to being dead than she ever has. I can’t help but wonder if she and Dad have been waiting for me to be old enough to care for Zac so that they could finally move on. With that thought in mind, I push away my plate of frozen waffles and slump back into my chair.
“Everything all right?” Dad asks looking at me with concern. Even he has seemed nervous this morning and Dad has always been the most laid back person I have ever met. Granted, I haven’t met that many people but still, he never looks nervous.
“Yes,” I lie. My parents exchange a look that I can’t quite figure out.
“Xandra, honey, why don’t we take a break from school today and spend some time together?” Mom says trying to sound cheerful but failing. “After you finish dishes, come find me in the living room. I’ll be reading.”
My feeling of dread is getting worse by the minute. Zac and I take as long as possible with the dishes but since there are no pans to wash, we have them done way too soon. Not being able to put it off any longer, I walk into the living room and have a seat on the overstuffed red couch.
Mom drifts over and sits down with a transparent leg underneath her so she’s facing me. “Do you remember the Fairy tale you used to love when you were a little girl?”
I shake my head. “Not really.”
“Would you mind if I told it to you again?”
“Mom, I’m a little old for Fairy tales.”
“Please, just humor me,” she says with a small smile and I nod reluctantly as my feeling that something bad is going to happen soon increases.
After a moment, she begins to talk again. “Once upon a time, there was a lovely princess who lived in a beautiful white house that was as big as a castle. She had a wonderful life. There was a stable behind the house full of horses that she loved to ride and she was given everything her heart desired. Her parents, the King and Queen, loved her very much and she could do no wrong in their eyes.
“She had a charming childhood filled with magic. Her mother was a powerful Witch and after the princess’s seventeenth birthday, her mother began to teach her the secrets of the earth and taught her to be responsible as she honed her skills for magic is only to be used for good, never evil. The princess found she had wonderful abilities such as performing difficult spells and she could even move things with her mind. For three years, she worked hard to become the woman her parents meant for her to be as she would be queen someday.
“But even as she worked and trained, the princess grew sadder and sadder. She didn’t want the responsibility of a kingdom of Witches for there was always bickering and challenges of magical abilities and her parents were constantly under the threat of being overthrown by someone more powerful than they were. The princess longed to escape the world she had been born into even as she felt guilty for wanting to leave her parents. She knew her destiny was already set in stone, or so she thought.
“On the night of her twenty-first birthday, the princess was wandering the woods behind her home enjoying the almost full moon of the Equinox that would usher in spring. As she stopped to pick a lovely purple flower, she noticed a shadow in the trees. She stood and continued her walk for she was never afraid of shadows in the night; she had her magic to protect her. After several minutes, it became obvious that the shadow was following her. Being the brave princess she was, she moved toward the shadow to discover what animal was so curiously coming along for her walk. To her amazement, she found a horse as black as the new moon with obsidian eyes and a gleaming mane. She had never seen a horse as beautiful as this one.
“Reaching out a tentative hand, she stroked the horse’s nose. He snorted softly in pleasure and she moved closer to him. He was a powerful stallion with wild eyes and a hard muscular body. As she continued petting him, he began to nudge her with his nose. The princess finally realized that the horse was trying to encourage her to ride him. Charmed with the idea, the princess wrapped a handful of his mane in her hand and used it to pull herself up. She sat on his bare back enjoying the freedom of riding without a saddle. When she was in place, the horse began to gallop.
“The princess laughed as she enjoyed the feeling of the wind against her face and her long blonde hair streamed out behind her. They rode like this for a long time, the beautiful black steed and her. When they reached a clearing in the center of the woods, the steed slowed and finally stopped. The princess climbed off his back and picked spring flowers for him to eat as she stroked his neck and back. She couldn’t stop staring at his eyes that danced with intelligence and something else she couldn’t name. She knew that she could love this horse more than all others and she hoped that she could convince him to follow her home. She knew that her father would purchase him from whoever owned him for he loved for her to be happy.
“After a while, it was time to return home. She mounted the horse again and they ran with the wind back to where she had found him. There he stopped and nudged her legs with his nose. The princess took the hint and dismounted. With a final rub of his nose, the stallion rode off into the night and the princess feared she would never see him again.
“The next day, the princess returned to the woods and waited as the moon of the spring Equinox rose in the sky. She was sure that her beautiful black horse would come to her that night and just as darkness took its hold, she heard him. She smiled as he trotted to her and laughed when he rubbed his nose against her face. She needed no encouragement this time to climb upon his back and they spent the night together under the full moon and stars in the clearing in the woods once again. The princess was sad when he nudged her and wanted her to climb on his back so he could bring her home. It was much harder to leave him that night than it had been the night before.
“On the third night, the princess waited once again and when she saw him coming toward her, her heart filled with joy and love. He carried her through the dark woods and back to the clearing. When she climbed down from his back, she wrapped her arms around his neck and whispered to him how much she loved him and wished that he would stay with her forever.
“The horse began to shimmer and shake and the princess stepped away in fright as she watched his long nose recede and his body grow smaller and his skin lightened and his obsidian eyes became a vibrant green. Within moments, the most beautiful man she had ever seen stood before her. The princess didn’t know what to do as she watched this transformation for nothing her parents had taught her about magic could explain what had just happened.
“The man smiled gently at her and asked her in a velvety voice not to be frightened. He explained that he had been transformed by an evil Witch and only the love of a beautiful woman such as herself would break the curse. The princess’s heart filled again with joy and she rushed into the arms of this dark haired man and felt love blossom inside of her for the man instead of the beast. He kissed her deeply and held her to him as he murmured words of love in her ears.”
Mom had stopped looking at me as she spoke. She was staring out the window and she looked sadder than I had ever seen her look before. Bringing her attention back to me, she said, “That is where I always stopped the story when you were little, but there was more. The princess loved this man so much that she laid with him that evening in the clearing and she shared her love and her body with him. When it was time to return, the man explained that he had to return to his home and he wouldn’t be able to take her with him but he promised to come back for her soon. The princess returned to her own home and waited anxiously for his return.
“As the days turned into weeks and then into months, it became apparent that a baby had resulted from that one night in the clearing. With great nervousness and shame, the princess spoke with the Queen and explained what had happened. The princess had expected her mother to be angry but when she saw terror in her eyes she knew that something much darker had happened than a silly young princess falling in love. ‘What have you done?’ her mother said as she backed away from her daughter and then she hurried from the room and came back moments later with the king who looked angrier than the princess had ever seen him.
“’You have brought ruin to this world!’ the King shouted as he gripped his daughter by the shoulders and shook her. ‘Do you understand the ramifications of your actions?’ The princess shook her head as tears began to fall down her cheeks. As her father sensed how ignorant his daughter was of what she had done, he pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. ‘It’s our fault,’ he said. ‘We didn’t teach you of the old laws. Our mistake has become your ruin.’
“The princess thought that her parents were upset simply because she was pregnant but she soon discovered there was something much more sinister that had occurred. The king told her of the Pooka, or the Fairy people, who had once spread mischief and evil through the lands. Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, they would attack humans and ruin crops if offerings were not made to them. They grew more and more powerful and over time they began to demand blood sacrifices. That was when the Witch king of the time felt something had to be done to stop them. He called to his Derwydd, his most powerful advisor, and they made a plan to force the Fae back into their own realm for they weren’t from our lands.
“This ancient king tracked the Fairy king with magic when he was transformed into his animal shape, which was a black steed. The Witch king was able to bind him long enough to climb on his back and when the Fairy king finally fought off the binding spell, he bucked and reared and tried everything to get the Witch king off his back. For three days and nights, the Witch king held on as the Fairy king became weaker and weaker and finally admitted defeat. It was then that the two kings forged a blood oath; an oath that could never be broken for whoever broke it would die instantly.
“The oath stated that the Fairy king would round up all the Fairies within three nights time and bring them back into their own realm and they would never return unless the Fairy king, who could return in his animal form for three nights every year, could convince a true blooded princess to fall in love with him and agree to lay with him to produce a child. The child born from this union would have the power to break the bindings holding the Fae in their own realm letting them once again join this one and wreak havoc on humans.
“For many generations, no females were born in the royal lineage. Kings married commoners and magic was used to insure that only sons were born to make it impossible for the binding to be lifted. The princess was the first daughter born to a king and queen for hundreds of years and the Fairy king had seized his chance to finally break the bonds.
“When the princess’s father explained what had happened to the Derwydd of the time, the royal council, or Witan, was called together to determine what to do. By every vote except the king’s, it was determined that the baby must die before the Fairy king came back to claim it. With a heavy heart, the King explained this to the princess. She screamed and cried and begged, but it was no use. The decision had been made and the most powerful Witch of the Witan was brewing a potion that would cause her to miscarry the baby she had already grown to love with all her heart. The ceremony would be the next morning. The princess was locked in her room that night with two guards at her door.
“The princess was determined to save her baby. She built up her courage and she magically opened the door. The guards were ready for her and they came towards her ready to repel her magic with amulets given to them by the Witan. But the princess wasn’t going to use magic. She let the guards get close to her and then she pulled her athame from the folds of her nightgown. She used this sacred knife that was never supposed to be used to draw blood to stab the guards giving her the chance to escape. That single action crossed her over from being a white Witch to a black one. Once it was discovered what she had done, she would be hunted by members of the Witan and sentenced to death. There was no possibility that the princess would ever be able to return to her home ever again.