Authors: Jess Bowen
“No, dear,” he said, “we’re not kicking you out, not out on the street at least. Where you’re going you’ll be well taken care of. It’s just time.”
The sadness. It made sense now, sort of. Her father spoke as if these had been long-standing plans, something her parents had been dreading.
“Time? Time for what? Mom?” Phoebe asked, turning to her.
Sadness radiated from every pore of Elizabeth’s small figure. She walked over to Phoebe and put her arms tightly around her. “I can’t explain everything to you now; there isn’t time. You will be leaving soon, six o’clock to be precise. We probably won’t see you again for a very long time. Dorian and Cassius will explain everything to you. I am so proud of you.” Her voice was a whisper by the time she finished talking.
“Mom…I…” Phoebe’s brain froze for the second time that day. She knew she had questions, but her mind was completely blank. She couldn’t even hug her mother back correctly because she was so lost.
Her father’s stern voice took over where her mother’s and hers had failed. “Phoebe, there’s no time now. We’ll explain what we can when the others arrive shortly.”
Mom seemed to regain her voice. “Now, you have your charm?”
Phoebe pointed to it numbly.
“And the stories, you remember the stories?” her mother continued.
Childhood bedtime stories?
Phoebe wondered. “Yes, Mom, but I…”
“I’ve written them all down and put them in your sack anyway, just in case you forgot some of the details. They’ll be important soon, I expect,” her mother said while picking invisible specks of dust off of Phoebe’s shirt.
Phoebe’s brain was still focusing on her father’s comment. “Others?” she asked weakly.
As if in answer to her question, there was loud knocking at the front door. Her father rose from his chair and headed to the door. Phoebe couldn’t move.
“Who’s there?” she heard her father ask.
A deep, gravelly voice sounded from the other side of the door, but Phoebe couldn’t decipher what was being said.
She couldn’t believe that this could be real. But judging from the depth and sincerity of the emotions swirling around her, she couldn't believe it wasn't real, either. The door opened slowly. A rustle of fabric. Happiness.
“My dear brother, Richard, it’s good to see you again,” her father said.
“And you, my brother. It has been a long wait,” the deep voice answered.
“Helena, again, it has been too long. You’re still looking as elegant as you ever have,” Phoebe’s father added as she heard light pats indicating that the adults were embracing one another.
Shuffling footsteps. Squeals of delight. The reappearance of the sadness. Phoebe’s brain was functioning in small bursts, just enough to take in necessary information and nothing more. Four figures strode into the room. One was her father, and she recognized the boy from the beach—Ethan. He was as bewildered as she was. His expression was blank, but his confusion was strong. A slight blond woman accompanied Phoebe’s mother. Her mother was small, but this woman had to be no more than five feet tall and was thinner than any woman Phoebe had ever seen.
Then Phoebe turned to Richard. He was tall and powerfully built, much like her father. Both men’s hair was the exact same shade of brown, and they had the same square jaw line and deep-set eyes. Despite their imposing physique, the laugh lines on their faces gave an impression of gentleness and patience.
Phoebe’s gaze landed on Ethan, and as her eyes met his, the charm around his neck flashed. There was no mistake this time. She had seen it, and judging by the look on his face, hers had done exactly the same thing. Phoebe realized the room had been quiet as all four adults waited for Ethan or Phoebe to speak. Phoebe was waiting for someone to yell “April fools” even though it was long past the first of April.
Slowly, as the minutes ticked on, her brain finally unbound from its protective shell, and she was able to formulate thoughts again.
“What is going on?” she asked as politely as possible. She had thought about adding some expletives to strengthen her question, but it probably would have just slowed things down as she’d then receive a lecture on manners, propriety, and proper behavior in front of guests.
“The time has come,” Phoebe’s father said kindly. “Some of this information you may recognize, but probably not most. We don’t have much time left. We will give all the information we can, and you may ask questions until it’s time for you to leave. First of all, Phoebe, this is Richard and Helena Smith and their son, Ethan.”
Phoebe nodded. His emotion was serious, businesslike. This was important and in no way a joke. He waved his hand to Richard, and her attention turned toward him.
Richard took a deep breath and thought over what he was going to say before speaking. “I know this won’t be easy to hear, and for that you must know we are truly sorry. It seemed the best way was to tell you now, immediately before you have to leave.” Richard glanced around at the three other adults before continuing. “There are several Realms of Existence; we are in what is known as the Realm of Non-Magic. There is also the Realm of Magic, along with several others, some known, and still more we believe have yet to be discovered. We are originally from the Realm of Magic. We crossed over to this realm to protect you from the dangers there until you were old enough to return and begin your training. This day and time were agreed upon for your return to the Realm of Magic.”
Richard paused briefly, his eyes looking down in sadness. “Unfortunately, we will not be able to accompany you there; we cannot return yet. However, you must understand that you have to go. The king and queen in power there have destroyed too much of our world already.” He shook his head slowly. “If there was another way…” He sighed. “We wouldn’t want to place this burden on anyone, let alone our own children, but you’re the last hope that they have.”
Richard was apparently done with his story. Phoebe desperately hoped that his emotions would betray him, that he would give some sign of humor or sarcasm, but he was serious, sad, his emotions betraying nothing. She could argue with words, but not with emotion, not when it was that powerful.
Even if she would have known that people truly believed things like this, they would have been last on her list of what had been bringing sadness into her house for over a week now.
Then she had a crazy moment of her own, and she gave in to this way of thinking. She wondered if it was really so hard to believe. Had she not spent all this time wondering how she was able to read others’ emotions? Was this the answer?
“Why do we have to go?” Ethan beat her to the question.
Helena spoke up this time, placing her tiny, china-doll-like arms around her son. “My son, you both have the power to master a certain Element. Yours is Earth, and Phoebe’s is Water. Dorian is Master of Wind, and the king and queen are Masters of Metal and Fire. They have taken over the Realm of Magic and enslaved all the people there, and you two are the key to bringing them down.”
go back?” He beat Phoebe again; his brain must have been working better than hers, although his emotions vibrated with angry disbelief.
“Because we’ll die. We were cursed before we left, and remaining here where the magic can’t affect us keeps us alive. Only the destruction of those who cursed us removes their magic,” Helena explained.
Phoebe had to get a question in. “No one thought some advance warning was in order here?”
Richard’s expression softened. “You have to understand, the less you knew until it was time, the better. Even here, you never know who could be watching. If you knew and let even the slightest thing slip, everything we’ve done to protect you here would have been wasted.”
“We wanted you to live a normal life and be happy for as long as you could. We didn’t want you to have to bear this burden until it was necessary,” Elizabeth added, her voice breaking. Phoebe could feel a hint of despair from her.
Her mother was silently pleading with her eyes for Phoebe to understand. But how could she? An hour, really? An hour? That’s all the warning they thought was necessary? A day, maybe, or a week. Possibly a month would have been a good timeline, Phoebe thought. That was assuming she was even going along with this story. She couldn’t accept that everything she’d worked for her whole life was going on hold.
Phoebe thought about whether or not she would go back and change her life if she could, and the answer was no. Her mother had given her a great blessing, an unburdened, carefree existence for as long as possible, and she had filled it with every bit of life, love, and happiness that she could. Her father had given her knowledge, the knowledge to appreciate these blessings, the knowledge that would keep her strong and give her hope. They
been preparing her; she just hadn’t seen it, not that anyone could have. This was all pure speculation, anyway.
Her father glanced at the mantle clock and hoisted the book bag into his arms. Phoebe didn’t look at the clock. She would not count down the last minutes that she would have with her family. But she would see them again; whatever lay ahead of her, she was determined of that. Because she wasn’t really going anywhere. Once this was over, she would take her mother and father to the nearest hospital to make sure they hadn’t eaten something funny this morning.
Still, the pressure of the sadness that filled her from all four parents in the room hurt her heart and battled with her logic. Where had this gift come from? Another realm was crazy, but the overwhelming sadness had to come from somewhere.
Phoebe’s mother and father stepped closer. Her mother couldn’t speak; she only hugged her tightly.
“School? My friends?” Phoebe asked quickly, feeling a pang at each one.
She had worked so hard to get into Harvard; now all that would be wasted. Would she ever see her friends again? Shaking her head just slightly, she cleared her head. Yes, of course she would see them again, because
she wasn’t going anywhere
“We’ll take care of it,” her mother whispered.
Phoebe nodded, wondering if they were going to use alien abduction or something else equally as strange. How else would you explain that your daughter who’d never been away for more than an overnight stay had suddenly disappeared?
“And my gift?” Phoebe wasn’t going to give in to their game, but if this whole made-up mumbo jumbo somehow played into this gift of hers, she wanted to at least hear their take on it.
“It’s going to be a lot…stronger,” her father said softly, he too losing his voice.
Phoebe nodded. She would figure out what that meant later. “I love you, but Mom, Dad,” she said, exchanging glances with both of them, “you can’t possibly believe…”
Her mother dissolved into tears, and sadness radiated from her father.
“It’s time,” Helena whispered.
Phoebe turned to see a silver mist swirling in the middle of the room. It wasn’t solid, but it wasn’t just fog either. It was something else entirely. It was a smoke and mirrors trick; that’s what it was. She lived in a world where magic didn’t exist and science proved it impossible.
But then something shifted inside her, like the faintest click of recognition. She’d generally characterized such twinges as déjà vu, but this felt like more than a forgotten dream. Something was waiting for her in that mist, or on the other side of it, at least. It was as if something was calling her home. Phoebe absentmindedly squeezed her mother’s hand one last time and focused instead on the pull of distant memories. She hugged her father and took the sack from his hand, still dazed and lost in thought. Slinging the book bag over her shoulder, Phoebe stepped forward to the mist to wait for Ethan. She knew he would come; he was resigned to his fate now, and a moment later he joined her.
“You should hold hands when you go through, just in case,” Richard said in a ghost of the deep tone with which he had spoken earlier.
Phoebe held out her hand, and Ethan took it lightly; his hands were sweating. Phoebe took one last fleeting look behind her, feeling her mother’s and father’s sadness and love one last time, and then she closed her eyes and stepped forward. She didn’t even need prodding—something was pulling her forward. It felt like half of her heart was beating on the other side of the mist, and she was going to meet up with her long forgotten past. Either that or she’d open her eyes and find she’d simply walked to the other side of the room.
Phoebe couldn’t tell how far or how fast she and Ethan had traveled through the silvery mist. She didn’t even know if they had moved beyond their first step. Her eyes were still closed, so she couldn’t see anything; her head felt detached from the rest of her body, so if her legs were moving, she couldn’t tell. She didn’t know if she had gone numb or if it was just that all her attention was focused on something else. She was leaning toward option number two, although she was sure it was a mixture of both.
Her brain—which had been iced over from the shock only moments before—was now moving at lightning speed. Phoebe connected pieces of the conversation that her previously sluggish brain had stored away until she was ready to process them. Several things seemed to connect fairly quickly. First was the fact that her father and Richard had referred to each other as “brother.” Phoebe could only think of two reasons for such a term: either they were actually bothers, or it was simply a term of endearment.
If the two men were indeed brothers, by blood, then that meant that Ethan—whose hand was still gripping hers rather tightly—was her cousin. Phoebe wondered if that was why he had seemed so familiar and why she could feel his emotions so strongly. As they fell through the mist, his emotions ranged from shock to disbelief, mirroring her own.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as she stopped abruptly.
It was now clear that she had been moving, because something solid had just stopped her. That was it, end of story; she had hit the wall on the opposite side of the room, and it was time to end this game and get her parents to the nearest psych ward. Taking a deep breath, she slowly opened her eyes.