Whatever you do, don't look up.
The words were weighted in caution. It was good advice. I should listen to it. My gaze lifted.
Hey, the voice in my head shouted. What did I just say? What's the point of having a subconscious if you're not going to listen to me?
My shoulders slumped as I sucked my bottom lip into my mouth, eyes on the guy sitting at the table across from mine in the busy coffee shop. The hiss of steam and scent of fresh pastries permeated the wide-open space. Not fair, I told the voice, I can’t control where my gaze goes all the time. It has a mind of its own.
Pfft. Come on. Seriously? That's what you're going with? At least have the guts to admit to yourself you like him.
I looked at my hands that were shredding a napkin into tiny pieces. Flakes of sugar from my doughnut coated my fingers with its sticky substance. Another peek at the dark-haired guy sent nerves to twist my stomach. I licked the sugar off my thumb with a sigh.
It wasn't the first time I had seen him in the coffee shop. He was a regular fixture on Saturday mornings, always reading a book while sipping a cup of coffee. Always unaware of everything around him. A baby once threw her mom’s iced cap on the floor, and nothing. Not even a flinch. He turned a page and kept reading. I tried to see what the book was, what held him so captivated, but he had the cover bent backwards so I couldn’t make out the title. Must have been some story not to hear the wail of distress the baby let out when the mom cursed.
I chanced another glance in his direction. He turned towards me. My heart stalled. Shit. Pretending to drop something, I leaned down and picked up someone’s used tissue. Well, that was gross, I thought and wiped my hand on my jeans. Real smooth move there. I rolled my eyes, then checked to make sure his attention was where it should be, on the book and not me.
Stop being creepy and staring at the poor guy like he's the last pieces of chocolate fudge cake.
My face warmed. Stupid voice in my head. My own voice, and that made it more pathetic.
Shut up. I scowled at the table.
Talk to him and I will.
Snakes of unease slithered in the pit of my stomach. Talk to him? I pressed a hand against the anxious rumble. Me?
Yes. I swear the voice let out a sigh of exasperation. Be like a normal person and talk to the boy you like. That’s what people do.
That was crazy talk. I studied him behind the safety of my bangs. He flipped a page. A sudden grin spread across his face, making the dimple on his left cheek pop out. What could I possibly say to him? My mouth dried at the thought of forming words while he looked at me expectantly.
Nope. I brushed the napkin debris into a pile. Not going to happen.
Ridiculous. He’s just a boy.
Better than making a fool of myself. I should go. That was the best thing for me to do. Leave before—
—oh crap. He’s looking at me.
Thump. Thump. My heart rocked against its cage of bones. Look away, I told myself. Pretend you don’t see him. I tried to will my gaze to drop but his eyes had locked on mine, and he was holding them hostage.
What do I do? I swallowed a lump of panic but it lodged itself in my throat.
Oh man. He’s smiling. At me. Do I smile back? My mouth quivered, trying to lift upwards but my lips weren’t cooperating. Great. I probably look insane.
Will you relax?
Sweat beaded my upper lip. What’s he doing? I watched with growing horror as he closed his book and stood.
Why’s he standing? No. Look away. Just look—
—he’s walking towards me. Anxiety flipped my insides upside down. The urge to bolt for the door was strong but my legs had gone numb. My butt was glued to the chair.
He was getting closer.
Relax. You’re looking like a rabid dog.
What should I do, I pleaded and rolled my shoulders forward… like it would make me invisible.
I don’t know normal!
Oops too late.
“Hi.” The guy cupped the back of the chair in front of me with a hand. His other hand clutched the book. I blinked at him. I should do something, right? Say something.
My mouth opened. Closed.
Anytime would be good.
I let out a shaky breath. I can do this. He’s just a guy. Be brave.
I swallowed. “Um, hello.”
See. Hard part’s over.
Lavender saturated the air with its alluring scent and promise. The purple flowers were a splash of color against the green of the surrounding grass. Caillen Reoch felt its perfume attach itself to her flowing black dress, seep into her skin with a hungry touch.
It was a smell she would soon abhor.
For the moment though, she took in a deep breath, letting the lavender's sweet smell coat her lungs and work its calming magic on her tense muscles. She was in desperate need of serenity, but it remained teasingly out of reach. No number of pretty flowers, or their magical properties, could erase the ache in her heart or the sharp needle of betrayal pressing further into her spine.
Caillen raised her head toward the sky. The sun still shared the darkening spread of blue and gray with the moon. Soon the sun would have to set and give the moon its time to watch over those who worship it, but the sun was greedy. It would not give up its spot until the last moment, only then would it seem to skim the land's surface before disappearing from view.
The sun cast a faint spotlight on the couple dancing in a small clearing ten feet from where Caillen stood in the field. Its mocking beam dragged her gaze unwillingly to the dancers. Wrapped inside the blinding haze of new love, they were unaware of her presence. Or of the volcanic thoughts struggling their way to the surface inside her.
A crackle of electricity hummed along her flesh, like a finger slowly tracing each vertebrae of her spine, it spread throughout her body from the soles of her bare feet to the roots of her red hair. The air sparked back when her eyes narrowed on the man. Her heart tripled its beats.
Brodrick Reid. The name was a caress on her lips, a strum of heat in her blood. Tall with wide shoulders strong enough to protect his love and hair the color of a raven's feathers, he had the women in the village vying for his attention. Caillen included.
She had been his for a brief moment. The one who was his world. His love. His future. She brought one hand her to stomach, curving around the small bump hiding beneath the loose material of her dress.
For a brief moment, she had everything.
The couple swayed to the cooing of the owls cuddled in a tree's hollowed trunk and the crickets playing violin music. The flames of the fire nearby danced along with them. It's light casting a golden sheen to the woman's blond hair, tumbling down Brodrick's arm from where she rested her head on his shoulder, lips to his neck. The woman's sigh of content had a gentle smile curving the corner of his mouth.
Caillen frowned. Her gaze dropped to the man's arm wrapped around the woman's waist. It left the taste of ash on her tongue as a cavernous hole of agony sucked her heart into its depths.
The man tugged his partner closer until every part of him touched hers. Caillen's blood chilled.
Another soft sigh rose in the air. It reached her ears as if the sound came from her. Her hands fisted. The sharp tip of the needle sunk deeper into her back.
The word crashed through her brain. I will not let her win. Caillen straightened to her full height and jutted her chin in challenge. The hand on her stomach returned to her side. She was not weak. He was not lost to her. Not yet.
The woman might be in his arms now, might have him spelled with her charms but Caillen had love on her side. The spell's chains would unlock soon enough. She'd see to it.
And once he was free, he would be back where he belonged, in her arms.
She swallowed the growl surging up her throat not wanting to give away her presence. She wanted to observe how far into the woman's spell her lover had fallen. If she was to free him of the witch's charms, she first needed to collect information. Breaking another witch's work was not easy, few would even attempt it. But Caillen was no ordinary witch.
Her nails sunk into the flesh of her palms, almost piercing through the skin but she gave no notice. She was stuck on the wrongness of the scene before her. Her eyes strayed from the man to the other half of the couple.
She should not be with him.
Caillen took in a breath, the smoke from the fire filling her lungs. The burn felt right. It went with the dark rage freezing her insides with its frostbite touch.
Witch. She glared at the blond. Although the woman's face was hidden, Caillen knew it was well as her own features, from the jeweled green of her eyes to the sun-shaped birthmark the woman had on the lower right side of her back. Caillen absentmindedly rubbed the moon-shaped mark located high on her left shoulder.
Sisters. Not just in the craft but in blood as well.
The blond who had stolen Caillen's soul-match, who spelled away her lover, was her sister. Moira.
And she would pay.
Caillen stepped back. She would leave her sister to dance with Brodrick under the moon's watch. By tomorrow's end he would be Caillen's. She turned to walk away but couldn't resist looking back at the man she loved one more time.
He threaded his fingers through Moira's hair, pulling her in for a long kiss.
Caillen seethed as the sun bowed to the moon, surrendering to its power. The rage numbed her from the winds brushing against the bared skin of her forearms and muted their warnings.
Moira would regret stealing Brodrick. No one took from Caillen. No one.
She marched through the lavender field, consumed by the emotions whirring inside her. It poured out of her in waves of red and grey.
The Moon sister was lost in anger. The air around her electrified. Her rage left a trail of death in her wake.
The house was somber, quiet, when Caillen entered. The walk home did little to calm the boiling rage in her blood. Her knuckles had grown white beneath the strain of being fisted so long. She managed to relax her hands, the bones cracking as she stretched her fingers. Pausing just inside the entrance, she closed her eyes and cast out her senses to make sure her uncle Moray wasn't hiding in one of the backrooms. He liked to make himself scarce when she or her sister were home for he was uneasy in their company. The sisters' powers unsettled him despite being a witch himself.
Caillen shut the door once certain she was alone. The house smelled of sage and candle wax. Home. It should have been a comfort but her heart had been crushed beneath her sister's betrayal. Her sister's presence was everywhere in the house and it mocked her. Taunted. She reigned in her senses before the scent of roses, her sister's favorite flower, had a chance to settle in her lungs. She turned her attention to what she had thought of as home. Where she had grown up, learned her craft in secret. Her jaw clenched. Where she taught her sister all she knew... only to have Moira use their gifts against her.
Enough, she thought. She would not let her sister's betrayal cut any deeper into her skin. This was still her home. If anyone was to leave it would be Moira. Satisfied with her decision, she was the elder sister after all, Caillen gazed about her home.
The house was small. Sparsely furnished, it held only two bedrooms forcing the sisters to share since they came to live with their uncle, and often carried the whispers of the dead if one listened closely. The ghosts were soothing to Caillen, but her sister hated the voices who intruded during moments of meditation.
Moira hated the house, and the house knew it.
A tabby cat with an ear missing jumped off the chair it had been dozing on to weave around Caillen's ankles. She scooped it up, cradling the warm body to her chest. "Davina, I am in great need of your friendship this night," she told the cat.
Yellow eyes met the dark pine color of Caillen's. Unblinking, the cat studied her mistress' face. You followed them, the cat tsked gently.
"Aye." Caillen felt Davina's disapproval. The cat had cautioned her against tracking Moira and Brodrick. Only disaster will follow the lonely who hides in the shadows and watches the happy live in the sunlight. The words had slipped into her mind, a message from Davina when Moira snuck out of the house and Caillen watched from the front window. Davina had hissed, scratching at Caillen's legs in an effort to stop her from leaving but curiosity and apprehension deafened her to the cat's warnings. She had to know the truth.
Against their uncle's decree that the sister must remain indoors when the sun settled in for the night, Moira left to meet her secret lover. A man she refused to name whenever Caillen asked after his identity. The guilt lit Moira in shades of amber. Caillen did not buy her sister's story that the man was merely visiting their village. She would not have hidden the identity of a stranger. Not from her sister. They confessed their worst secrets to each other and never judged. Until now.
So she followed her sister into the woods. Watched as Moira ran into Brodrick's waiting arms. Watched her kiss the man she loved.
Moira betrayed their sister oath. Family first. Sisters, in blood and craft, came first. Never a man.
But the sun had been jealous of the moon and wanted the sky to itself.
Davina butted her head against Caillen's chin. Do not go where you cannot return from.
Caillen blinked as she slipped back into the present. "It must be done."
You must let him go, Davina insisted. Do not let a man ruin you, your family.
Caillen glared at the cat. "It is not the man who did wrong."
Davina hissed, eyes bright and imploring. Family, she urged, her voice thundering in Caillen's brain. Do not let lust and need sever your sister-bond. The consequences...
"Lust?" Outrage flashed across the witch's face. "You think this is about lust? She took my love from me. Spelled him to abandon me and what we created." The cat jumped from her arms when her hold tightened. "I love him. He loves me. If anyone broke the bond between us it was her."
Davina arched her spine as her fur stood on end. What of your uncle? Do you not think of what will happen to him? Think of your parents. They would be heartbroken.
Caillen glanced at the painted portrait hanging above the stone fireplace. Her family stared back. Whole. Happy.
Her father's hair was red like his eldest daughter while Moira's blond came from their mother. In the painting, Alasdair's face was angled towards his wife, Elspeth, whom he stared at with such longing that Caillen felt their love through the paint and canvas.
Love at first sight, he told Caillen when she was two. Their mother was pregnant with Moira at the time, and Alasdair couldn't bear being separated from his family. To give Elspeth time to rest, he had gathered Caillen in his arms and told her the tale of a man who fell in love with a witch.
The painting came months after Moira was born. In it, Moira was nestled in their mother's arms while Caillen sat on her father's lap leaning over to peer into the face of her little sister. Elspeth beamed at the painter. That smile had anyone who looked at her grinning in return.
Elspeth was beautiful. Like her daughters. The three women shared the same green eyes and full mouths.
Caillen stepped towards the painting. The fireplace was bare. Charred wood, turned cold, sat waiting to be cleared out. Her uncle had not been home for some time. Gone drinking most likely. Since the death of his sister and her husband, leaving him the guardian of a three and one year old, Moray had found solace in drink. It helped him forget what he was and aided the fantasy world he preferred to live in.
Caillen hated his weakness.
He was a witch. His blood-gift came from a long line of great witches, and he chose to shun who he was. She would never understand him. From the whispers of the dead and the gossip in the village, Caillen knew he turned his back on his gifts and refused to practice the craft at ten years old, though not the circumstances that lead to that decision. No one knew what happened to make a boy fear his own abilities. He refused to speak of it, not even to his beloved little sister Elspeth whom he treasured since the day she was born. The craft became a curse, and his nieces a burden he did not wish to shelter.
But Reoch's did not shun their blood. Their name demanded loyalty. Even wedded, Elspeth Reoch kept her maiden name and passed it down to her daughters. Caillen touched her womb. As will you carry the name, my child. You will know nothing but acceptance, love. Magic. I will make it so.
Parental love had been a heavy absence for the sisters. An uncle who had no choice but to tolerate their presence did not provide the warmth needed to guide a witch's blooming. Caillen's memories of her mother's laughter and the music her father played grew dimmer with each passing year. Soon the voice of her mother singing her to sleep and the security of her father's hug would vanish. Naive, she thought she would have her sister to ease the pain when that moment appeared, but no more.
Then do as they asked of you, Davina butted in. Your mother's last words were to watch over your little sister. She is still young. She does not know what she has done. Forgive.
Caillen wrenched her gaze from her mother to snarl at the cat sitting a foot away. "Forgive? She is seventeen. Old enough to know better. And a witch. She knew who she was betraying when she went to him. Spelled him."
You made a promise.
"A three year old swore to care for her sister because her father was dead and her mother was minutes from joining him." Caillen's hand tightened on her stomach. A fluttering inside tried to mend the splinters in her heart but darkness had threaded through her veins and it did not want to leave. "A sister does not steal from another and find forgiveness. A witch does not use her power to charm a man belonging to another."
The cat padded towards Caillen. I beg of you. Do not go through with your plans.
"I do not do this for me," she rubbed her belly and the life growing within. "I do it for my child. Brodrick's child."
Refusing to listen to Davina, Caillen went to the bedroom she shared with her sister and slammed the door on the cat. Nothing Davina said would change her mind.
Moira had betrayed her sister. Stole her lover. Used forbidden magic to trap an innocent man.
Caillen went to the mat on the floor where her sister slept and plucked a few strands of blond hair from the bedding. She held the hair up. The moon's beams fell across the strands through the small window. Caillen's looked to where the moon sat in the ink sky, felt its vibrations. A rush of energy filled her. It made her nerves tingle and skin glow.
The moon was angry with the sun. It would help Caillen get her revenge.
Moira would learn how cold the moon could make the night when the sun's greed stole the stars from the sky.
Moira sang softly as she moved with Brodrick. The lyrics were old, the language unknown to her. It was a song the ghosts whispered to her at night. She liked to think her mother was singing to her. It only seemed right to share it with the man she loved.
Love is an odd thing.
The thought struck her when Brodrick sent her spinning out of his hold. She let out a gale of laughter, arms loose in his hold. He would keep her safe.
Love could bloom in an instant or takes years to mature. It started wars and healed broken hearts. For Moira, it breathed light into the darkness that had been surrounding her forever. It found the holes riddling her insides and filled them with hope and a promise that a future could be beautiful.
Love was the faint rainbow she had been searching for ever since the first roar of thunder sent her hiding beneath her bedding.
"Promise me," she whispered to Brodrick, when he tugged her back into his arms, "promise me this is not a dream. You are here." He felt solid to her touch, but Moira knew all too well how quickly that could change.
"Forever, my love," he replied. His voice was a low grumble vibrating through his chest. It sent a wave of pleasure through her. The pleasure was short lived when an icy chill took its place. Her body stilled.
Brodrick felt the change in her. He stepped back to scan her face. His eyes were pools of warm brown. Usually the sight of them cured whatever shadows threatened to sink her deep into a well of depression but her senses were ringing in alarm.
Something was wrong.
Moira pushed Brodrick away. The skirt of her dress brushed close to the fire but she did not notice. Her nostrils flared, eyes narrowing as she gazed into the creeping darkness. Sweet lavender battled against the scent of the fire's smoke. It clogged her sense of smell and had her eyes smarting.
"What's wrong?" Hands dropped on her shoulders. She shrugged them off.
"Hush," she whispered. "We are not alone."
The air crackled with disturbance. Earth's balance was off.
A warm breeze ruffled through her hair, whispers of dread soon to come. Moira shivered. She did not like hearing the wind, feeling it. Like invisible imps, the wind played games. It stole and hid her toys as a child, made it so she felt as though she was never alone, and murmured words she could never understand.
Brodrick asked her a question, but Moira's senses blocked him. She closed her eyes to give her third eye reign, hoping to find the watcher. However, the frighten child she kept locked inside her chest did not want to find monsters. She wanted to dance with her prince under the diamond splattered sky.
Evil could not touch her when love was near.
But that is a lie to soothe, she told the frightened child inside her. A mask to blind. I have to see. We must not let fear win.
The child pleaded with Moira, but this time she did not give in. Too long she let dreams weave their false joy, gave them power to mute the grief that had been living inside her since her parents died. Even at the age of one, her senses had been magnified and her awareness of the world powerful enough to make it impossible for her to not feel the crushing hand of fate tearing her family apart.
Hush, she cooed. Moira's will was a blanket across the weeping girl’s shoulders, calming her until she retreated back into a corner and slept.
Moira took a breath, releasing fear to focus on what the earth was trying to tell her. Speak to me, mother. What has the winds whirring so?
Another breeze carrying lavender with it, filled Moira's nostrils. Her eyes snapped open. She turned to face the sea of purple flowers behind her.
No one was there but it did not mean there hadn't been someone there moments before. An angry presence hovered above the purple flowers.
Her heart sent her walking towards it before her mind caught up.
She sensed Brodrick following. It would do no good to ask him to stay. He wanted to protect her. Despite knowing what she was, his instincts were to keep her safe. A warrior. Her fierce warrior.
A smile spread across her lips only to die on a harsh gasp when she reached the border of the lavender.
Death. Its smell seized her throat and squeezed. Moira's hand went to her chest. Her heart burned. Pain. So much pain. The power emptied the flowers of their souls and felt a trail of black sludge and decay in its wake.
Moira knelt by the lifeless flowers, her hand skimming over them. They were cold. Her stomach roiled.
"How?" The coarse sound of Brodrick's voice magnified the wrongness of the scene before her. He crouched by her side. When he reached out a hand to touch what was once a sprig of lavender, Moira snatched his hand away.
"No. Do not."
The earth was crying. Such destruction could only come from a dark witch, one who let shadows feast on her soul and ice freeze her heart. To allow such...
"You're crying, my love." Brodrick cupped her head in his roughened hands, gently turning it so she would look at him. "Talk to me, heart. What is wrong?"
"Evil. Hate. Rage." She pressed her cheek to his palm letting the warmth of his skin take away the cold that tried to chill her blood. "I can feel it."
"I can't," she paused. Covering his hands with hers, she withdrew them from her face. "Distance, please." she said with regret. "Your aura overwhelms me. Douse the fire. Give me space to unravel the answers I seek."
She held her breath until he was gone from her side, then released a long sigh pushing his scent from her nose, his touch from her skin. She pictured it sliding off her clothes and dissolving into the air. Though she heard Brodrick moving in the background, heard the hiss of the flames dying under sand, she straightened her spine and began building a wall between them.
To keep him safe.
He accepted her as she was, the witch who often turned inwards when the magic became too much. Not once did he think to demand she use her gifts for him. He could have. Her love for him would have made it simple. She would have gladly bent the witch's rule to keep him happy, but all he claimed to need was her.
Focus Moira, she scolded herself. She would not get answers by allowing their relationship to fill her thoughts.
There were more important concerns at hand. The earth was dying.
She carefully plucked a lavender, still a-bloom with hope, then with a shaky breath of disquiet scooped up the black decay. It felt colder than the frost that covered the earth in the deep of winter.
The ice snaked up her fingers, following the vein to her heart and pieced it with an icicle tip.
Moira gasped. Her body bent forward, heart fighting to keep beating under the ice-assault. Agony, grief, and rage shoved her shoulders down. Dark magic fuelled by dark emotions had snuffed the life from the plants. They were too strong for her. She tried to keep them from breaching her protective charms but felt herself sinking.
It wanted to feed on her, consume her life force so it could spread further, infect its anger-disease on the unaware traveler thinking to cut through the field of purple.
Moira gave in. It was easier than to fight. She was tired. It was stronger. Her vision grayed.
Someone shook her. Their firm grip on her shoulders jostled her from anger's hold. She felt her senses being pulled from the deep pit rage tried to smother her in. When she came to, she opened her eyes to find her lover gazing down at her. His brown eyes looked black with fear and concern.
Moira gave him a tremulous smile. "I am well, Brodrick."
"Well?" he scoffed. "You would not wake! That is not well." He had her head resting on his lap. She struggled to sit up but required his help to manage it. Brodrick kept her close. "I have not spoken of what you are. Not once have I asked you to stop."
Moira pulled back. Was this the moment, she wondered, that he leaves me? The thought hurt. She notched her chin up.
Brodrick gave a weighted sigh. "My love. My life. I worry. These magics you toy with," he shook his head. "What if one day they take you from me?"
"Is that all?" she asked.
His eyes widened. "All? Is that not enough? Death, Moira. What if this," he waved a hand, "thing you worship, ends your life?"
"Oh, my heart." Leaning forward, she let him tug her into his arms. Moira rested her head on his shoulders. So strong he was, yet he was frightened for her. How could she not love such a man? "I am careful. I do not venture far into my power that the spirits would need to warn me. I am not my sister." There was subtle twitch of his shoulders. She felt the motion on her cheek and patted the hand he had on her arm. "Do not fret. My sister is the strong one. You have not met her yet, but she is the greatest witch I know. She taught me how to stay safe. She would never allow harm to fall on me."
Brodrick tightened his hold on her. "This does little to soothe me. Can you not simply stop?"
Stop. As if she had not tried that many times over.
But, how can one stop what they are, what lived inside their blood and screamed to be heard?
"Do you not love me?" he asked, his breath causing her hair to tickle her neck.
Turning so she could look into his face, she said, "How can you ask me such a thing? Of course I love you."
He studied her face, shook his head. "But you will not stop. Will you?"
Moira's eyes went to her hands where she was playing with the skirt of her dress. Her senses, heightened from the magic she used to read the decay clinging to the lavenders, made his question harrowing. This was not how she envisioned their night passing.
"Will you not answer me?" he pushed, then paused. "Or, is that answer enough."
"What you ask..." she stalled. How did she put to words the feelings that lived within her? "I have fought against my nature since I learned what I was. Uncle Moray preferred it that way. Caillen though, the magic is a song in her blood. She flowered, and wanted me to as well."
"I care not about her," he cut in. Moira blinked at the abruptness of his tone.
"She taught me not to fear the gift," she kept her voice level but her hands fisted. "To embrace it, and in turn it would reveal the beauty kept hidden. I cannot love myself, if I shun the witch. You ask if I love you. I have given you all that I am." Moira sat straight. "You claim to love me. How can that be the truth, if you cannot love the witch?"
It was his turn to startle. He had not expected her to challenge him. He was used to the docile side, the tender heart that kept submissive to his need to lead. But every woman has a soldier waiting inside. She floundered with magic enough, she would not shoulder his uncertainties as well. If he loved her, he would love all sides of her, not just the soft ones.
There was a pregnant pause as the two studied each other. Neither willing to back down. For once, Moira was determined to be heard. For all his importance placed on honor, where would he stand when it came to love.
The minutes paused. Moira was still while he could not prevent the twitching of an eye. The sight worried her. What would she do if he...
"Yes." His voice, after such quiet succeeding in making her flinch. "Yes, I can love the witch."
Relief drooped her shoulder. She fell easily into his embrace. The two kissed until he told her it was growing late and it was time for her to return home.
Moira clutched his hands, the dead lavenders forgotten. Finally, she was ready to share the wonderful news with her older sister. She had kept Brodrick from Caillen out of fear the pressure of meeting Caillen would cause strife in their relationship. However, with his final acceptance, she was ready.
Oh how happy Caillen would be for her. Too long the sisters had lived without knowing love's touch. Moira saw how their uncle's disregard grayed Caillen's view of family and affection through the years. The older Caillen grew, the less she trusted in anyone but Moira. Being the sole family to such a powerfully independent witch was not an easy title to carry. With Brodrick by her side, Moira could finally show her sister what true love was.
The couple strolled into the darkness. Moira, lost in her thoughts never thought to look to the sky where a red film covered the moon.
Caillen's body bent backward as a wave of power left her exhilarated. The moon glowed red outside the bedroom window. She fed off of it, consuming the gift it gave her.
Davina scratched at the closed door. Her cries were loud as she fought to change Caillen's mind. Caillen honed her senses to the moon. It was on her side. It too hated the jealousy of the sun and its desire to have the sky to itself. Perhaps it she was successful then the moon would have its chance to linger longer in the morning instead of being forced to cower down to the heat of the sun's rays.
"Moon mother, guide me. My heart has been shattered by my sister. She has forsaken the bond of witch, the call of our blood, and allowed a man to wedge his way between us." Arms stretched outward, Caillen closed her eyes as another crash of power struck her chest. "Provide me with the tools to teach her what happens when sister and witch dares to turn on the heart that protected her since infancy."
A wail came from the other side of the door. Bang! The orange tabby felt the building spell, knew what it meant. She clawed, scratched, and slammed her body against the barrier preventing her from being with her mistress. To keep Davina out, it was a worrisome sign. If Caillen went through with her plan, her soul would be in control of vengeful spirits. Her magic, her heart, it would be destroyed.
Please, she begged. The rustling sounds of wind crashed through the closed room. Davina sniffed. Her nose wrinkled against the scent of charred wood and flame. Too late. Her little heart twisted. Caillen was within the heart of the magic now. There would be little chance separating her from the call of the moon.
Davina's ears twitched. Whispers. Soft, low. Two voices doing their best to be unheard. Her heart leapt. She recognized the woman. It was Moira. Perhaps there was still time.
The man's voice rose. No, Davina meowed. Not him. Moira, send him off. Do not let her sense him.
Davina sped across the main room to the front door. She pawed it, hoping Moira would hear her desperate pleas where her sister had not. But Moira was laughing with the man. They walked away from the door. Davina titled her head, straining to hear where they were headed.
No! She jumped to the window sill to look out. Moira and the man turned toward the back of the house. Towards the sisters' bedroom. To Caillen.
I cannot let her see them. If she does... the cat did not finish the thought. She jumped down through the opened window. Her landing was soundless. The second her paw hit the dampening grass and earth, she was running for the youngest of her mistress. It's up to me. I have to end this before Caillen gives herself up to the moon and is lost to us forever.
"Shh," Moira chuckled and pressed her finger to Brodrick's lips. "We mustn't wake the house."
He playfully nipped at the tip of her finger. His eyes danced as he gazed down at her. "You mean wake your sister. Your uncle will be gone in drink by now. It will be hours before he is kicked from the tavern to stumble his way home."
Moira stopped. "Please, do not talk so," her tone was stern. "Drunkard or not, he is my blood. It disheartens me to see him so. I wish you would not turn him into sport. He is sick."
"Sick," Brodrick scoffed, expression growing grave. "He is not sick. He would be healthy if not for his need to slide under the false peace drink provides." He let out a sigh. "I am sorry. I know how tender your heart is. Tis why I love you. However, I cannot stand by and allow him to send his family into the streets because of the hold rum has on him."
Placing a hand on his arm, Moira tried explain. "He cannot help it. His grief is consuming. He lost his sister, his family."
"Nay. He still has his nieces though he has forgotten."
Shaking her head, Moira changed the subject. Her uncle would not be allowed to dampen the joy in her heart. "When will we tell my sister?"
Brodrick stepped from her arms. "Tell your sister what?"
"Of us." Moira lifted her head, rising to her tiptoes to meet his straying gaze. "We will wed soon, will we not?"
"Wed?" The baffled look on his face brought her feet flat on the ground. The expression was gone a blink later. "Yes, yes. We will wed, love. I do not see the need to rush though. Are you not happy with what we have?"
Moira hesitated before she began to reply. The cry of a cat halted her. A streak of orange and white darted towards them. "Davina?" She gasped.
The cat started climbing Moira's skirt, only to be picked up. Moira held the cat to her chest. "You feel anxious. What's wrong?" Yellow eyes shown bright in night. Moira heart skipped in her chest.
Why do you bring that man here? The cat's question was not filled with curiosity but dismay. Moira ran a soothing hand across the cat's back but it did not calm her. He cannot be here. He must leave. At once.
"Davina," Moira admonished.
Brodrick gazed at her before staring at the cat. "What is going on? I swear it sounds like she speaking to you."
"She is." Moira's eyes remained on the cat's. "Something is not right. She wants you to leave."
Brodrick made a sound of protest
Quickly, child. Send him off.
"I don't understand."
Davina put her paws on Moira's chest to lean against her mistress. She used the support to bring her face close to Moira. She had to make her listen. You must send him from here. Before-
The small doors to the bedroom window opened with so much force one broke from its hinges to clatter to the floor.
The cat let out a hiss. Moira's lungs were robbed of all breath as an icy gust of wind whirled around her. She spun towards the bedroom window.
A woman stood inside. Milk skin was ghastly pale against the fire-flames of hair that crackled with electricity. The hair looked alive as it danced and snarled from the wind spinning around her.
"Caillen?" Moira whispered, but it could not be her sister. Caillen had green eyes of the same shade as Moira. This woman's eyes were black like the decay that left a tar coating on the lavender flowers. Blue veins were pronounced along the inside of her arms, and her face... Moira could not look at the woman's face long. The rage there stabbed its way into Moira's heart, cutting it in half.
The woman was not surprised to see Moira with Brodrick. She did not ask his name or what he was doing with her sister. Instead, she let out a bellow that rattled the house and shook Moira to the center of her being. Her soul cried.
"Sister, what is wrong," Moira spoke shakily. She stepped towards the window. An arm snared around her waist and yanked her back. The wide chest against her back told her it was Brodrick. "Let me go," she wiggled against his hold but it only had his other arm joining the first. "Something is wrong with my sister. She is in distress. You must let me go to her."
Brodrick said nothing. His hold was so tight around her, her ribcage threatened to snap beneath it.
"You!" The word boomed like thunder. Moira froze. Her sister was glaring at her.
A loud meow brought her gaze to Davina. The cat was between the sisters, hair standing up, eyes teeth flashing.
Stop this at once, she cried to Caillen before turning to Moira. Get rid of him!
"What does Brodrick have to do with this?" Moira asked the cat but it was not Davina who answered.
"Thief!" Her sister bellowed. Power lit her from the inside. Too much power, Moira realized. More than any witch should possess. Another gust of wind came at her. This time it was filled with whispers and warning but Moira wasn't paying attention. Her sister was in pain. Terrible pain.
"Thief?" she repeated, sending a gaze behind her. "No. Brodrick stole nothing I did not willingly give him. We are in love and to be wed." Moira thought her words would help but they seemed to have infuriated Caillen.
Her sister flung her head back with a scream. The sound chilled Moira. If not for the heat of Brodrick's chest against her back, his arms secure around her middle, the sound would have sent Moira to her knees.
Davina clawed at her skirt. When Moira just stared ahead, the cat moved to the man. He kicked her away. Davina's wail caused the fire in Caillen's eyes to burn hotter.
"Sister," Moira pleaded. "Tell me, what is wrong?"
The two women locked eyes. Caillen's were deadened. "I have no sister."
Agony struck Moira. The words finished severing her heart in two. Her sister had never looked at her with such disgust before. Her breathing quickened and a wall of tears broke in her eyes, sending rivers to trail down her cheeks.
"You don't mean that." She tried to move toward her sister. Brodrick would not let her go. "Please. Speak to me."
"I have no words for a bitch who betrays. For a witch who uses magic to steal. For a woman choose man over sister."
What? The bands of Brodrick's arms squeezed her. She could feel the beats of his heart hitting against her back. What was she missing? "I have not betrayed you."
Caillen let out a hiss. With feline grace she climbed out the window to stand before them. A red haze fell over the white of her skin. Moira gazed at the sky and gasped. The moon was red. Blood on the moon.
"Look at me witch," Caillen's demand forced Moira's attention to her. "Do you dare to stand and lie. With his arms around you?"
"Do. Not. Speak. His. Name."
Power slammed into Moira. Dark magic. It sent her stumbling. Brodrick kept her upright, but suddenly his touch felt wrong. She struggled against him.
"How do you know him?" the words were whispered. Moira did not want the answer.
"Do not play the innocent with me," her sister rasped. She seemed to glide across the grass towards Moira. Brodrick dragged her a few feet back.
"Stay where you are," he spoke at last. The words rumbled through Moira. The feeling once brought serenity, now it came with awful forebodings.
Caillen laughed. It was a perverse sound, dry and empty. "Ever the protect, aren't you lover."
"Lover?" Moira gasped. Her fight to break free from Brodrick was in vain but she did not stop. She wretched side to side, kicked at his legs. No. It could not be true.
"We are not lovers." He told Caillen. He sounded as cold as she did. Moira heard a faint sound and looked around. Davina was glaring at Brodrick, her teeth bared.
She met the cat's eyes. Help, she mentally pleaded. The cat nodded and began shifted back. With one last look in her mistress' direction, she pounced. Aim true, Davina dug her nails deep into Brodrick's forearms. He let out bellow and tried to throw the cat free but she was not letting him go. Moira was finally free.
She moved towards Caillen. "Sister, please. Talk to me. What is going on? I don't understand."
"Silence!" Energy shot up from Caillen's hands. The sparks flared bright. Her eyes narrowed on Moira, who felt the strength and hate behind it. "You will not speak. Not ever again," her sister snarled. "No longer will you use your voice to spell men from the ones they love. No more shall you crook your finger and take what is not yours."
Winter winds spun around Moira, beginning at her ankles and quickly rising until the rushing sounds of them deafened her. Her sister was chanting, hands held above her head and eyes to the moon, but Moira could not hear the words.
Her skin grew numb as her heart bashed against her chest. Then the water came. It filled her lungs until she could not focus from the desperation to breath. Her heart clenched, burned trying to keep beating. Water rose up her throat and into her mouth. She was drowning on the inside.
Brodrick was yelling. Her sister had not stopped chanting, and the winds spun faster and faster.
Moira dug her nails into her throat. Her mouth wouldn't open but it didn't prevent the scream from blaring in her brain. She was going to die!
Her sister was killing her.
Water seeped from her eyes, her nose, poured from her pores. And it was cold. Not cold, she realized with a burst of terror. It was freezing. The water was turning to ice. The frost touch seared her throat and lungs. Her nails ripped at the skin of her throat in increasing desperation. Her vision, blurred from the tornado she stood in the center of, was blackening.
Mother, she cried out. Mother help me. Help your daughters. I know not what is wrong, but sister is hurting.
Mother, please, I beg you, was the last thought before the ice solidified inside her. She dropped to the floor and gave into the cold.
When her sister fell, a body slammed Caillen to the ground. The jolt broke her concentration. A man's weight pressed down on her. A familiar weight. One she had missed. She breathed in the smell of him as a gentle smile curved her lips. The scents and feel of him caused the ripple of rage to cease. This, she thought, this was peace. At last. She began to release the moon's energy when Brodrick shifted. He lifted himself off her.
"What have you done?" He yelled at her, face hovering above hers, his hands on either side of her head. Spit hit her cheek.
Caillen's smile widened. "Saved you," she told him, settling into the grass. The damp earth beneath her smelled of new beginnings. Like the bud within her. "You are free of her now."
When would he wish to wed her? Before their child was born, she hoped but would do as he thought best.
"Free?" Brodrick sat back, aghast. "Free? I love her."
She must have heard him wrong. Blinking at him, she waited for him to take it back. Say he loved her. How happy he was now they were reunited at last. Instead, with a withered look, he got to his feet and hurried to Moira's side. Caillen sat up slowly, watching after him.
He should be thanking me. I broke the spell my sister had on him.
Brodrick placed ahead over Moira's chest. Merely a second passed before he growled at Caillen, "You killed her!" The words struck her hard as she watched him gently place her sister's head on his lap. He picked loose grass from the blond strands, smoothing the hair. Her mouth opened. Closed.
Was he crying?
"I saved you!" She shouted in outrage. How dare he cry for her sister! For the woman who spelled him to care. She sucked in a breath. The red on the moon darkened.
Caillen rose to her feet.
Davina, freed from the shrub Brodrick threw her in, shook her head and limped to Moira's side. Brodrick tried to shush the cat off, but Davina evaded him. She began licking the tears drying on Moira's face.
No. Why do they go to her? Caillen was the one betrayed by her blood.
She walked to her fallen sister. Moira was beautiful, even in death.
"You love me," she told Brodrick, her hand going to where their baby rested.
Brodrick barely spared her a glance. "I loathe you."
Caillen stared at the man she loved. He loathed her? Her?
Something swatted her bare feet. Davina. The cat did it again.
Caillen pulled her foot back. "Stop. Leave me be."
She's alive. It is not too late. Help her.
Moira wanted to open her eyes but they wouldn't obey. Her body felt weightless and heavy at the same time. Voices rose and fell in the distance. A man. A woman. She knew them.
Something rough and wet lapped at her cheeks. It made her nose wrinkle.
Davina? Was she licking her face? The tabby was not one to show affection, at least not to Moira. She was more Caillen's friend...
Caillen. Moira’s heart gave a dull bump in her chest. She was angry with her. Why? Moira's brain was slush. It was hard to concentrate. It was important though. She had to remember. Something to do with their sister-bond.
No. That had to be wrong. She would never betray Caillen.
But her sister believed she had.
If only Moira could open her eyes, maybe she'd see her sister's face and remember.
Her stomach, filled with slimy frogs, became queasy at the thought. Her sister's eyes had been black in fury.
Black like the dead lavenders.
The lavenders. Moira struggled to focus. Something killed the purple flowers. Magic. Dark magic birthed in agony. Like the expression on Caillen's face when she saw Moira with...
Moira's chest burst. The pain opened her eyes to see Brodrick send a fuming look at her sister. She opened her mouth to call his name but icicles stabbed at her throat. The feeling made her body spasm but not a sound emerged from her.
"Moira!" Brodrick cried. "You're alive."
Overwhelmed by the cold inside her throat and the inability to speak, Moira trembled. She stared wide eyed into the chocolate of Brodrick's eyes, mouth opening and closing.
"Are you all right?" he asked, guiding her into a sitting position. "Speak to me, love."
Moira's hand went to her throat. It was wet. Her fingers came away red. Blood.
Wind. Water. It filled her insides. Stole her breathe and choked her. Then the water froze.
Moira looked to her sister. Standing before the couple, Caillen reminded Moira of a Goddess. An angry Goddess. Power flowed from her in waves of black and gray, swirling like smoke around her body. Hate contorted her facial features into a frightening mask. Hate, that was direct at Moira.
"You," she snarled at Moira. "Your fault."
"Talk to me," Brodrick's hands cupped her face to force her to look at him.
Moira shook her head. Her gaze darted to her sister. Eyes searching, she tapped her fingers to her throat, mindful of the gouges her nails made, then covered her mouth with her hands.
Brodrick choked, "You cannot." His hands fell from her face. "She did this to you." Certain she could sit on her own, he got to his feet. Moira tried to follow but her legs were too weak.
"You," he bellowed at Caillen. "You did this." With a thunderous cry, he charged at her before either sister could react.
Moira tried to scream but no sound came. She reached towards them, her heart burning. Again, she tried to walk but her legs were as numb as her throat. Tears ran trails down her face. Brodrick had Caillen trapped on the ground, his knees locked her legs together. Her sister didn't fight against him. Not with words. She was chanting, voice low, the words guttural and harsh. Moira didn't recognize the language her sister chanted in but the words scared her.
Desperate to stop them, separate them before they hurt each other, Moira began to drag herself across the lawn using her arms. Rocks sliced her forearms, and the dead weight of her legs made her progress slow but she would not stop.
I have to help them. So much anger. Where was it coming from?
There is much you don't yet know, my young one, Davina said as she walked by her side, head-butting her now and again in encouragement. You must find a way to end this. It has gone too far.
Meeting the tabby cat's eyes, Moira wiped sweat from her brow. I shall do my best. The urgency in the cat's words had Moira calling out to her mother for help. Winds came whistling towards her. This time they carried warmth not ice in their touch. Moira sobbed in silence. Her eyes closed as she let the winds hug her. She caught the faint hint of honey and candle wax. Mother.
Hurry, daughter, the wind rustled her hair.
Moira dug her nails into the grass and dirt to pull herself forward. Caillen continued to chant while Brodrick cursed her with a hard shake of her shoulders.
She was so close. Just a bit further. Moira's muscles throbbed and ached. She pulled herself again, dragging her useless legs behind her. The winds helped propel her when her strength began to wane. She could smell the rage-smoke clinging to her sister, the familiar scent of Brodrick.
A horrendous wail ripped through the air. Moira's heart burst. The pain made her arms buckle. When she managed to lift herself up, a silent scream lit hellfire in her chest. It flooded her body.
Brodrick knelt over Caillen, his hands were cupped over the handle of a dagger. A dagger that protruded from her sister's chest.
No. No, no no! Moira scrambled to them. She punched Brodrick, pushed and shoved him until he moved off Caillen. He tried to speak to her but her eyes were for her sister only. Nothing mattered. Her sister's attempt at killing her, robbing her of her voice. Moira cared naught. The grief that guided her sister's actions were what made her do it. Grief and fury, Moira still did not know where they came from.
Live, sister. Please! Tears dripped from her eyes while saliva pooled in her mouth.
Moira's hands hovered over the dagger's handle.
Hands grabbed hers. Soft, long fingered hands. Caillen. She blinked tears away to clear her vision.
Please, she mouthed. Her eyes met Caillen's.
"I am sorry," Caillen whispered. Moira shook her head until her sister stopped her. Caillen's hands were cold on her face as she thumbed a tear from her cheek. "Loved. Him."
"Get back," Brodrick grabbed Moira's shoulder.
She glared at him. "What have you done?"
Her sister took her hands again. Moira narrowed her eyes on Brodrick but a second later turned to her sister. When their eyes met, Caillen gave a weak smile and brought their hands down, passed the dagger, to her stomach.
Caillen released Moira's hands. Their gaze still holding, she traced the pronounced curve of her sister's abdomen. Felt the life within.
Pregnant? How? Who?
The question on her face was answered by her sister with one slow glance at the man who stood behind Moira.
No. It cannot be. She looked to Brodrick. He refused to meet her gaze, instead he continued to glower at Caillen.
Brodrick was the father. She gaped at him. How long had he been with her sister? Had they been together while he wooed Moira? How could he?
"Didn't. Know," Caillen chocked. Blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth. "Did you?"
No. No. I would never... I could never... Oh, my sister.
"Sorry." A cough caused Caillen to spasm. Moira wrenched her shoulder from Brodrick.
Ancestors, save my sister. Protect the child growing within.
Caillen needed to be okay. Moira shut her eyes and began to rock. I call upon our family. I call upon the sun and moon. Heal my sister.
Witch to woman, sister to sister. Guide my hands, give me the power to mend her wounds.
A crack of lighting seared through the sky. The red on the moon brightened. Moira sensed the moon's rage. Its connection to her sister was powerful. It wanted to make the man pay. The moon would help. It had to.
"No, sister." Caillen's words crashed in Moira's brain.
I have to help you. Her hand rubbed Caillen's stomach. Both of you.
"We," Caillen tried to continue but coughed again. Blood splattered on her chest. Her breathes were slowing. Moira had to concentrate but her focus was broken by her sister's urging. Sister, stop.
How could she? You cannot ask me to let you go.
The smile on her sister's face gutted her. I am already gone. You lost me the moment I blamed you. Hurt you.
You cannot leave me alone, Moira begged.
You will never be alone. The wind. The whispers. They are family. They are blood. They... we will always stand at your side. I am sorry little sister. Caillen took a shaky breath. Live. For both of us. She put her hands on her belly. For the three of us.
No. Moira tried to take her sister's hands but they were already moving.
Caillen clutched the dagger's handle and yanked it from her chest.
Moira’s silent scream tore the tissues of her throat. She pressed her hands over Caillen's heart, pushing down as hard as she could but the thick blood would not stop. Caillen's arms slid down her sides.
Fight! Don't leave me, Moira wept. Red covered her hands. I need you with me. But her sister did not answer. Face serene, Caillen stared sightlessly towards the sky where the moon wept. She felt empty. Cored out until there was nothing inside her but heartbreak.
"Come away," Brodrick said. The feel of his hands made her skin crawl.
She flung his hand off her and shot to her feet. Her body grew hot. Rounding on him, her eyes narrowed. You.
"You're safe now." He told her, holding out a hand.
Moira's jaw cracked from clenching her teeth. She wished she had her voice to curse him. Instead, she aggressively pointed to where her sister rested.
"She can't hurt you again." He stepped toward her. She moved back.
Moira scowled and shook her head. Pointing to the swell of her sister's stomach, she straightened her spine. The baby is yours.
Brodrick's gaze followed where she was pointing. He blanched. "That is not... she bewitched me."
Moira seethed. He dared to blame her sister. After what he had done? Her hands fisted.
Her sister was gone. Her niece or nephew gone before they lived. The man she loved... thought she loved, she corrected. He did it.
He will pay, the moon whispered in her ear.
Yes. He would. Moira looked to the moon and began to call it to her.
The sun had been hers, the moon her sister's. However, her sister had been betrayed. Only the cold of the moon would help where her sister had been wronged.
What are you doing? Davina swatted her leg.
He must answer for what he's done.
"Moira, what's wrong?" Brodrick asked. "She means nothing to us. We are free to be together."
Nothing? She is my sister. And you stole her from me. Moira ignored both cat and man.
It was time to be the witch her sister was. She opened her senses to the whispers the wind carried, and began to pull power from nature. She would need all the power she could take within her to make the man suffer. And suffer he would.
The fire of the sun that burned in her veins began to cool as the moon fed her its power. She did not need her voice for what she was about to do, only the turbulent emotions clamoring inside the empty place her heart once sat.
Aid me, moon and night. Share your power. My blood has been wronged, my sister's life gone. See the man before me, who played with heart? Help me to show him the pain he has brought. Make him feel what his actions wrought.
"What are you doing? Moira?"
Give me the power to bring his end, she called to the moon with her mind. She felt the sun's attempt to burn bright and keep the cold away. It was not the sun's heat she required.
Mother moon, I ask of you, guide my body to bring him pain.
The moon answered. The sun-force inside Moira became eclipsed, the fire doused by a frostbite touch.
Moira threw her arms to the sky as another streak of lighting crackled. Her eyes went to the man.
"My God. Moira, your eyes." He inched back, almost tripping on Caillen.
Death to the man who played with hearts. She thrust her arms forward, palms towards him. The earth beneath her feet trembled. Power, so much power strummed through her.
This was what she had turned from for so long? The rush of euphoria, of invincibility?
Fool. Naive girl.
The man rubbed a hand over his heart. "My love, please stop this!"
Death to all men who cause a woman to suffer. Death to the heartless whose selfish needs crushes the spirit of the witch.
Eternal pain to the man who breaks the sister-bond.
Ice-fury rose inside her. It began in the grass beneath her feet before it snaked around her legs, numbing everything in its wake. She welcomed the ice. Emotions, love, they were led to her sister's demise. It was better not to feel.
Davina let out a loud meow. Do not do this. End his life and you end yours as well.
My life ended with my sister's last breath. I do this for her. For us. For all women betrayed by love. Moira muted the cat's response. Head back, she welcomed the moon inside her.
The moon slipped into her chest to wrap around her heart, now blackened by the ice within her. It smiled. A twisted grin stretched across Moira's face.
Are you ready, daughter? The moon asked.
There will be consequences.
Moira didn't care. I am ready.
So be it.
When the man dropped to the floor, his life leeched from him, the darkness inside Moira laughed. It had been years since it last consumed a soul.
The young woman would be the perfect vessel, brimming with loss and storm-emotions. If only her voice had not been taken from her.
A minor concern, the darkness decided. There are always around such things. The vessel just needed to find a broken-hearted woman with a willing voice. Such are never hard to find.
Moira turned from the bodies of her sister and the man she killed. Her face was without expression, eyes blank.
There would be others hurt as she was. They would need her help.
She just had to find them.
Hmmm, let’s see. I’ll need some balloons and ribbons to decorate the living room; I can probably get that at the mall. Maybe some cheap candles and candle holders from there, too. Napkins…definitely! Dad can be such a messy eater sometimes. Then, there are the groceries for the supper, all that I can get at the supermarket. Uhh...what else is there? Oh, I know! I can buy a small bouquet of roses…or lilies. Roses may be too expensive. Mom just loves flowers. But, I’ll have to get that last because I’m not sure how much money I’m going to have left over. If I can buy some, it would make a perfect centerpiece for the table though. Wow…I think that’s it. It didn’t take me as long as I thought. I’m really good at this! Oh this is going to be perfect!! I can’t wait.
When will this class end? Why is it English teachers always forget that we learn about Shakespeare every year? Sure, he was a great writer, but enough already. Who cares, like he’s more important than my parents’ wedding anniversary? Oh, please make the bell ring? I think He’s making time go by slower just to torture me.
Fifteen minutes to go, that means fifteen more minutes of having to listen to the teacher yak on and on about some old, great dead guy.
Oh, I can’t wait ‘till I see my parents’ reactions. I can already picture them so clearly in my mind: my mom and dad walking into the house, exhausted from a hard day at work. Neither of them wanting to make supper, they slowly make their way to the kitchen, dropping their coats and work stuff on the den table. When they enter, they’ll see me all dressed up with a towel draped on my arm like a waiter. Their
eyes will grow wide in surprise…
“Kathy, is there anything you’d like to add?”
In a clear and no-nonsense voice I’ll tell them to follow me. I will then lead them into the dining, room where I will seat them at the table.
I’ll then hand each of them the menus I made, and ask them what they would like to eat for supper. I’ll hint that they should choose the house special…
“Katharine Walker, will you please stop whatever you’re doing and pay attention!”
Oops! I thought as my eyes snapped open. My teacher stood with his hands on his hips, his annoyance clearly visible on his face. I gulped, nervously. He doesn’t look very happy with me. I wonder how long he’s been calling my name.
“Well, I’m glad to see I’ve finally gotten your attention. We’ve all been waiting to hear if there was anything you wanted to add.”
Damn, it doesn’t look like he’ll leave me alone until I come up with some kind of answer. Why couldn’t I have paid a little more attention in class? Oh, I hope I don’t get a detention!
Everyone’s eyes were on me, filled with expectations; was I going to make a joke, humiliate myself, or say something really insightful and surprise everyone? Suddenly I knew what it felt like to be an animal trapped behind a glass wall in a zoo; the only thing that was missing was the popcorn in each of the spectators’ hands and the mocking gestures. I could feel drops of sweat form on my upper lip under their watchful gaze. I turned my gaze to where one of my friends was sitting, and sent a silent plea to her, asking for some sort of help. The only reply I was given was a helpless shrug and a look of sympathy. I swung my gaze back to where my teacher stood, waiting impatiently.
I could hear the impatient tapping of his foot against the ground. I felt my palms being to sweat, as I bit my lower lip and watched him, staring at me with bleary eyes that hid behind an ugly pair of thick glasses.
“Um…no?” I replied hesitantly, my voice breaking. I tried again, my voice stronger. “No, I think you’ve covered everything, sir.” Oh please let him accept that. Don’t make him ask me what we were just talking about. Please! I silently begged.
“Are you sure?” he asked, his voice sounded oddly disappointed. I nodded, unable to find my voice. He sighed heavily, and then turned his attention back to the rest of the class.
I’d better pay attention; I don’t want him calling on me again. I just hope he doesn’t bore me to death. I don’t think I’ll be able to contain myself much longer. Oh thank heavens, there’s the bell!
I jumped up quickly from my seat, nearly knocking the chair off the ground. After I gathered my stuff, I hurried over to my friend and the two of us made our way to our lockers.
“That sure was a close call.” She remarked, trying to open her locker, unsuccessfully. She growled in anger. “This lock is going to be the death of me!”
“Stop complaining and get it fixed then.” I rolled my eyes, used to her antics. She’s been complaining about it for two years now, and she still won’t exchange it for a new one.
“Can’t, I’m partial to this one. So, what did you think about the teach grilling you like that?”
“I was so scared he was going to give
me a detention or something.”
“What were you thinking about, anyways?”
“Oh, the dinner I’m planning for my parents’ anniversary. I told you about it, remember?”
“Oh yeah! I forgot that was tonight. You know, you have to be the only person I know who actually gets along with their parents. Normally teenagers are only nice when they want something. You actually talk to your parents, about everything!!” she said dramatically. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I know, so you keep telling me.” I kinda feel bad for Sally, her dad left when she was only little. I know she sort of blames her mom for her dad’s disappearance. She probably can’t help but envy me a little bit. I thought sadly to myself. It must be hard for some people to live knowing their parents don’t love each other anymore.
“Hey, where’d you drift off to? You had this really sad expression on your face?”
“Oh, nothing. Before I forget, can you do me a huge favor?”
“Can you give this letter to the teacher?” Wait; is that really a good idea? What if the teacher notices it’s not my mother’s writing? Will I get into trouble? I need the extra time, though, if I want everything finished before they get home. I’ll just have to chance it. They are definitely worth it! “I’m not
going to be in our next class. I wanna get a head a start on the decorating. Plus, I have to buy everything.” I pulled the letter I had written during my science class, and handed it out to her.
“Who wrote it?” She asked me, suspicious.
“I did.” There’s no point in lying to her, I know she’s going to read it when I leave.
“Okay, but if she asks me about it, I’m telling her I don’t know a thing.”
“Now that’s laughable. You know just about everything that happens to me, just like I know everything that goes on in your life. We are practically inseparable!” I stated, my eyes twinkling.
“Yeah well….I’ll tell her that this time I really didn’t know anything about it.”
Sally sure is funny. I can’t help feeling bad for her, though, or my other friend. It must be really hard seeing your parents go through a divorce. Nancy almost lost it, having to be pulled from one house to the other before her parents decided she should stay with her mom. She’s not the same person anymore. She’s so quiet now. These thoughts clung to me, like a spider’s web does to the unsuspecting fly it trapped. I gathered all my stuff and headed out the school's double doors, after signing myself out.
I’m so lucky my parents still love each other, even after all these years. I can’t imagine what I’d do if my parents decided to get a divorce. It’s just too horrible to think about.
Oh, shoot! It’s almost 1:20. I’d better get a move on it if I want to get everything ready on time. Pushing aside my thoughts, I quickened my pace. I wanted to get to the stores and have enough time to get everything I needed, without having to rush through it.
An hour later, I was walking home. My school bag filled with, not only my books, but decorations and a few food supplies as well. In my hands I held a small but pretty bouquet of flowers. I couldn’t exactly buy a really nice one because they cost so much money. Plus, if I had gotten a bigger one, mom and dad wouldn’t be able to see each other from across the table. So, it’s just as well that I couldn’t afford a nicer one.
When I arrived home something strange caught my eye. This large silver thing was placed in front of my house. It took me a while to realize it was a car, a very expensive one by the looks of it. I studied it for a few minutes, noticing small details like a small scratch on the passenger side door and wondering why it seemed so familiar. Why do I feel as if I’ve seen this car before? I know it doesn’t belong to any of the neighbors, but what’s it doing here? No one's home, so why would there be a car in front of our house? Oh, it’s probably the people from across the street; they're always having friends over. I guess they didn’t want them to park in their driveway, because one of them will be coming home from work soon and will need the driveway. I probably recognize the car because they've been over here before.
Reassured that was the reason, I dug out my key and went to unlock the door.
Now that’s weird. Mom and dad always make sure the door's locked. I know mom was the last one to leave today, and she’s always paranoid someone will come and rob us. She never leaves without making sure the door's locked. I stopped, and stood still, my hand on the open door. Unless of course she was in a hurry this morning; maybe someone called in from the hospital and needed her help. Maybe there was some sort of an emergency and Dr. Walton needed her assistance. He’s always calling here, needing her for something. And she always looked flustered after talking to him, and hurried around getting ready. Plus, at those times she always seemed a million miles away. That’s it!! He needed her and she left without remembering to lock the door because she was in a hurry. I sighed in relief, and pushed the door wider so I could enter.
Once I got in house, though, I was greeted with a strange smell. It smells like a man’s cologne, but also something else. But, what? I smelled again, breathing in deeply, trying to put a name to it. Suddenly it came to me. It smells like a hospital! I thought, surprised. It smells like that antibacterial stuff my mom always has to put on her hands. Why on earth does it smell like that here? Maybe mom came home from the hospital for lunch and got called back.
Slowly, I made my way to the kitchen and found used dishes, two cups and two plates, on the table. In one mug there was cold coffee, and a half eaten sandwich sat on the plate beside it. Wow, mom must have been hungry, that or she had company. Maybe one of the nurses came back with her. She said she’s done that before, when my dad asked why there was a set of car keys on the table that didn’t belong to either of them. She said it must have belonged to the nurse who came back with her for a few minutes to relax. My dad said he believed her, but seemed a bit suspicious of her for a few days.
I’ll put all my stuff on the table for now. The dishes can wait. After pulling out all the groceries, I began to get the dinner started. I decided to make small lasagna because I know both my parents like it, and it was the first dish my mom taught me to make when I started showing an interest in food. After I had the sauce cooking, I decided to decorate. It didn’t take me too long.
Wow, who would have thought that the place would look so nice with a little streamer and some balloons? The flowers do look great as a centerpiece. The colors of the flowers go perfect with the colors in the room. But, something still seems missing. Oh yeah, I forgot about the candles! That’s what’s missing! A candle on either side of the flowers! Damn, I should have bought two candle holders; I knew I’d forget something! Wait! Mom always has candles in her room. Maybe I could take two of the holders and use those. I’m sure she won’t mind! Smart thinking!!! Well, you know what they say, “like mother, like daughter” Mom’s always coming up with great ideas.
I guess I should take the candles with me. I don’t want get them only to find out the holders are too big or something.
Hey, what’s that noise? It sounds like someone is groaning, almost like they’re in pain. It sounds like it’s coming from mom and dad’s room. Could my mom have left the radio on? Why do I get the feeling that something bad is going to happen? Like I shouldn’t continue, but stop and turn away? I can’t turn back though, what if someone needs my help…
Was I wrong about the front door? Could someone have broken into our house and got hurt? Was the groaning coming from a robber? With a sweaty hand and a pounding heart, I opened the door to my parents’ bedroom. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. My mom was in bed with Dr. Walton. I might be only fourteen, but I know enough to realize what they were doing. I felt the candles fall from my hands as my jaw dropped to the floor. I felt like I was going to be sick.
“Mom.” A lump had grown in my throat and it was suddenly hard to speak, to swallow.
I don’t know how long I was standing there, watching, until they spotted me. But when they did, I heard Dr. Walton swear and my mom stare at me wide eyed.
“Honey, what are you doing home so early?” she asked, trying to cover herself with her blankets. Suddenly I had to get out. I turned and ran down the stairs; tears streaming down my cheeks and I felt my heart break. I barely heard my mom screaming after me. Running blindly, I reached for the front door, but before I could open it, my dad walked in. I looked at him, and my heart hurt even more.
“Daddy.” I sobbed weakly. He looked at me, then towards the stairs where my mom stood, wrapped in one of the blankets. Dr. Walton stood behind her, tying his belt.
“Darling, this isn’t what it look like…well, I mean it is, but I can explain.” My mom began.
“I don’t want to hear it.” my dad’s usual loving voice was hard and emotionless. He took me in his arms and gently pushed me out the door. They were right, my friends were right. I wasn’t seeing the truth. How could she do this to us!! I thought she loved me, loved daddy. Oh god! It hurts so much!! What’s going to happen to us now? Oh, mommy, why’d you have to do that!!!
“Come on, we’re getting away from here.” My dad told me, helping me into his car. Whatever happens, daddy needs me. I have to stay strong for daddy. He needs me to be strong. I’m not blind anymore, I know the truth.
“Don’t worry," he said, "everything will work out.”
I knew that wasn’t the truth, that it was only said to make me feel better. I breathed in deeply, and looked at my dad. I have to be brave.
“I know daddy, I know.”