Authors: Bonnie Lamer
“No, I threw a Fae dart at them which will keep them in a weakened state for the next twenty-four hours.”
“Why not just kill them?” I ask facetiously.
“It is not the way of the Sheehogue to kill another,” he says as if that is universally understood. Then he adds almost under his breath, “Unless it is for the greater good.”
“And I suppose you get to decide what the greater good is?” The sarcasm just keeps dripping from my mouth. I’m hoping he’ll get the hint soon that I don’t believe a word of what he’s saying.
“Well, good for you. You obviously aren’t going to kill me or you would have already so go away.”
“I have not decided that yet.”
I steal a glance at his face and he looks perfectly serious. Maybe he really is deciding whether or not he’s going to kill me. Great, the first boy I meet in years who’s my age and he’s a naked sociopath. I need to get out of here and if I make it home I will never, ever, take a walk in the woods again. And I’m not letting Zac out of my sight either. Picking up my pace, I’m relieved when I can finally see my house. “Okay, seriously, my parents are not going to be pleased if they see me walking with a naked boy so you really have to go away, like now.”
“I am duty bound to protect you from the Pooka. Whether I like it or not,” he adds with a sideways glance towards me.
“That doesn’t sound reassuring,” I remark. Ten more yards and I’m home.
“It was not meant to be. I am not here of my own will and this is not the course of action I would have chosen if it was for me to decide.”
“What would you have decided?”
“I believe keeping you alive is too much of a risk.”
Great, I think I may actually need to get Dad’s shotgun out. I’m about to make a cutting remark when Kallen falls to his knees with a grimace on his face. “What’s wrong with you?”
“It seems your mother is more intelligent than I originally thought. I am not able to move forward or back.”
Could he get any stranger? “What, like you’re stuck?”
With a glower he says, “You are very astute.”
“Well, how do you get unstuck so you can go away?”
“He can only move if I set him free,” Mom says from behind me scaring the crap out of me. How long had she been watching us?
I turn to face her and I have never seen her so angry. She looks at Kallen and says, “I will never give my daughter to the Pooka king and allow your kind to roam free in our world.” Okay, I’m pretty sure I am having an awful nightmare or I just stepped into a bad sci-fi movie. Allow your kind to roam free? Who says stuff like that? My mother, apparently. I think I prefer her fortune cookie one liners.
Kallen looks up at her with anger flashing in his green eyes. “I am not Pooka, I am Sheehogue. I am here to protect the daughter you have apparently kept ignorant.”
“She doesn’t need your protection, she has mine,” Mom says in a voice that I know means don’t mess with her.
Kallen looks really pissed now. Whatever is keeping him from moving forward must be pretty painful if the grimace on his face is any indication. “It is only a matter of time before your trifling Witch magic fails you. You are no match for Pooka warriors.”
Looking back and forth between the two of them I am strangely curious to see who wins this argument but then another thought hits me. I turn to Kallen. “You don’t seem surprised that my mom is a ghost.”
Tearing his eyes from my mother, he says, “She is not the first Witch spirit I have seen nor is she the strongest.”
Even in pain he can’t resist insulting my mother. “You are such a jerk. Mom, can we go inside now?” So I can pinch myself and wake up from this insane dream world I’ve fallen in to. My head is killing me and I really need some Tylenol.
“Yes,” she says not taking her eyes from Kallen. When we are at the back door, she says to him, “I will free you this one time but if you try to cross this threshold again, I will not be as kind. Earth, water and air combine, protect my home, protect what’s mine. Allow this foe so evilly charmed, who sought us out, to leave unharmed.” Kallen falls backwards into the snow as if pushed by a strong wind. I turn around quickly not wanting to see more of him than I already have, though in a different situation I don’t think I’d mind. Great, now I’m having lustful thoughts about the naked sociopath. I steal one more peek at him before I hurry into the house. Out of the corner of my eye as I close the door, I’m sure I see a raven fly away.
“Jim!” my mother calls as soon as we are safe in the house.
My father comes through the wall into the living room. “What is it?” he asks having picked up on the emotion in my mom’s voice.
“They’re here,” she says simply.
My father turns towards me and there’s genuine fear there. “No, they couldn’t have found us. Not so soon after her birthday.”
Frustrated that I’m not waking up from this stupid nightmare, I decide to play along. “Who couldn’t find me and why would they want to?”
My mom’s face is full of guilt. “It’s as I explained to you before you left. I should have prevented you from being able to leave the house alone, especially not after your father found those tracks but I just couldn’t let myself believe that they were near. But you have to promise not to do it again.”
I throw myself down on the couch. This is getting beyond ridiculous now. “You’re all crazy,” I say as I cross my arms over my chest.
“I’m afraid not,” Mom says gently as she hovers next to me. “Xandra, you are half Witch and half Fairy and the Fairies want to take you to the Fae realm so you can open the passage between their world and ours.”
Standing up, I glare at her. “Are you listening to yourself? Do you know how insane you sound? Oh, and you just had to wait until my seventeenth birthday to tell me all this and by a huge coincidence that’s also when the Fairies come looking for me because they want to kidnap me. Well, you know what? I’m sick of this stupid conversation! My head hurts because some crazy ‘Fairy’ threw me into a tree, I’ve been forced to talk to insane naked people in the cold snow covered woods that I hate and my ghost mother is telling me she’s a Witch and oh, by the way, so am I. I don’t know why you all are conspiring to make me think I’m the crazy one but I’m not going to listen to any of it anymore. I’m going to take a Tylenol and go back to bed so I can wake up from this nightmare and forget all about this!”
I stomp out of the room and go into the bathroom. I grab the bottle of Tylenol from the medicine cabinet and swallow two down with a cup of water. I go into my bedroom and slam the door closed. I kick off my boots and shrug out of my jacket throwing it towards my closet. I climb into bed and pull the covers up over my head to block out the light.
It takes me a while but I do eventually fall asleep. Probably not the best idea since I might have a concussion from hitting that tree so hard but I don’t care. I need an escape from the craziness and sleep is the only one I can think of. I assume Mom and Dad would wake me if they were concerned about my head injury.
When I wake up, it’s dark outside and my stomach is growling because I missed lunch. I force myself to get up even though my head is still killing me and I go into the bathroom and splash some cold water on my face. My face is sore and there are scratches on the left side and a nice bruise starting to form on my cheek. I definitely look like I was hit by a tree.
When I reach the kitchen, Aunt Barb is already cooking dinner. When she looks up from the stew she’s stirring, she gasps. “Xandra, are you alright?!” She puts down the spoon she was stirring with on the stove making a huge mess that I’ll have to scrub off later. Okay, I’m just a tad bit grumpy.
Aunt Barb puts her hand on my chin and turns my face so she can examine my left cheek. She touches it in various spots which hurts like heck. “Ow!” I complain when she pushes on my cheekbone.
“I don’t think it’s broken but you’re going to have a nasty bruise. What happened?”
“I got into a fight with a tree and it won.” I don’t know if Aunt Barb is privy to all the strangeness that occurred earlier and I’m not going to be the one to fill her in if not. I still don’t know if all of it was real or just a huge figment of my imagination. Until proven otherwise, I’m going to go on the theory that the entire morning was the result of a concussion induced delusion.
“You have to be more careful, if you had been knocked unconscious you could have frozen to death,” Aunt Barb says as she picks the spoon up from the stove and goes back to stirring the stew. So, I guess Mom and Dad haven’t filled her in. More proof that it didn’t really happen.
“Do you need some help?” I ask her. “I could start the biscuits.”
“That would be great.” She lifts up a spoonful of stew and tastes it. She grimaces and puts the spoon back in the pot and then adds more bay leafs. Looks like dinner is going to be mostly biscuits for me if the face Aunt Barb made is any indication of how the stew is going to taste.
“Where’s Zac?” I ask as I take the frozen biscuits from the large freezer in the pantry. We have to keep it as full as possible because we don’t know when the next good weather will come so we can make it down the mountain to go grocery shopping.
“He’s in his room playing video games, I believe.” She tastes the stew again and seems a little more pleased with the taste.
I take the biscuits out of the package and spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven Aunt Barb had already preheated. “Where are Mom and Dad?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t seen them since this morning.” That’s not unusual since Aunt Barb spends most of the day in her lab.
“Is it dinnertime yet?” Zac asks coming into the room with his DSI in his hands. He doesn’t look up from his game as he plops down into a chair.
“Soon,” Aunt Barb says. “Why don’t you go wash up.”
Zac looks at his hands. “I’m not dirty,” he whines.
Aunt Barb gives him a stern look. “When you have the ability to see germs without the use of a microscope, then you can decide if you’re dirty or not. Until then, humor me and go wash up.”
“Fine,” Zac grumbles as he gets up and heads off to the bathroom. Aunt Barb smiles after him. He is pretty cute as far as little brothers go.
Twenty minutes later, the three of us are seated at the dinner table ready to eat and still no sign of Mom and Dad yet. That’s strange, they never miss dinner. They consider it family time. It’s not until halfway through the barely edible stew that they finally show up and they both look worried.
“Everything okay?” Aunt Barb asks.
Dad steals a glance at me before he answers. “Everything’s fine right now,” he says. Did he take a lesson from Mom in cryptic speak?
Aunt Barb doesn’t look convinced but she lets it drop. “I’m going to need to head into Denver as soon as the roads clear. I believe I’ve had a breakthrough but I need the equipment in my lab there to confirm my findings.”
“I believe the forecast said we’re supposed to have a warming spell in a day or two which should make the roads passable,” Dad says. “Maybe Zac could go with you. He’s been cooped up here for too long.”
My Aunt Barb looks surprised but Zac gets excited immediately. “Can I go, Aunt Barb? Please!”
Aunt Barb looks at my father who is trying hard not to let any emotion show on his face. “Um, yes, I suppose so.” She turns her attention back to Zac. “I’m not sure how much fun you’ll have at my lab but maybe we can spend the night at my apartment in the city and do a little ice skating or something.”
Zac’s eyes light up. “Yeah, that would be great!”
I catch my dad mouthing ‘thank you’ to Aunt Barb and she gives him a slight nod. She obviously knows something is up but she’s going to ask him about in private, not in front of us. I’m always amazed when they do things like that like I’m not going to pick up on what they’re doing. I’m not blind or an imbecile.
I decide to make some waves. Turning to Aunt Barb, I say, “I would love to go into Denver and do some shopping. Can I go, too?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Dad shaking his head. “Um, maybe I can take you on the next trip,” Aunt Barb says hesitantly and she’s starting to look frazzled. She knows she’s in the middle of some sort of family issue but she’s not sure what it is or who’s side she should be on.
Mom finally floats into the room and she looks almost haggard. Aunt Barb gives her a questioning look and Mom shakes her head and looks pointedly at Zac. So, I guess we’re keeping the craziness from him. That’s probably a good idea. No sense in sharing the family psychosis with the eight year old.
Dinner seems to take forever. When Zac has finally scraped his bowl clean and shoved the last of his third biscuit in his mouth, he asks, “Can I be excused?”
“Yes,” Mom says with a smile. As soon as he leaves the room, though, the smile disappears. Turning to me, she asks, “Xandra, how are you feeling?”
“My head hurts,” I answer around a spoon full of stew.
Mom nods. “I’m sure it does. You should take some more Tylenol. How are you feeling about everything else?”
I look at her blankly. “You mean the crazy nightmare I had this morning? I’m choosing to ignore it.”
“Xandra, honey, it wasn’t a nightmare.”
Pushing my chair back from the table, I stand up. “I have a lot of studying to do and I have to finish that Physics paper Dad assigned me. I’ll do dishes later.” I leave the room before any of them have a chance to say anything else.
In my room, I boot up my computer. While I’m waiting for everything to load, I walk over to the window to look out at the snowy trees under the full moon. It really is pretty here. And peaceful. Well, until today that is.
On a tree about twenty feet from the house, I see a raven sitting on a low branch and it seems to be staring back at me. Narrowing my eyes, I open my bedroom window. “Shoo!” I yell at it but it just keeps staring at me. I look around my room for something to throw at it. I find an old tennis ball I like to bounce against the wall when I’m really bored. I throw it at the raven missing it by a foot and it still doesn’t move. It only continues to stare as if daring me to throw something else.
Searching my room again, I decide to throw a dart from my dart board. The tips are plastic, not metal, so even if it was to hit the raven it probably wouldn’t hurt it but he doesn’t know that. Taking careful aim, I throw the dart. The raven is forced to fly out of its way or it would have been a perfect bulls eye. I smile smugly at it when it finds a perch several branches up.
Satisfied with myself, I close the blinds and sit down in front of my computer. I go to Facebook instead of working on my physics paper and chat with some of my cyber friends trying to block out the insanity that has become my life. I bet none of them have a raven staring at them through their bedroom window. Especially not one that can turn into a gorgeous naked Fairy.
At the thought of seeing Kallen naked, a blush creeps into my cheeks. That wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined meeting a boy my own age and even despite his rudeness and sociopathic traits, he was still the best looking boy I have ever seen. How sad does that make my life?
After about an hour, I’m curious enough to see if he’s still there. I lift up a slat in the white blinds and peek out. Sure enough, the raven’s still sitting in the tree watching me. Can’t it take a hint? I let go of the slat and find my boots and coat that I had taken off earlier. When I have them on, I open the window and slide out.