The bouquet I bought on my way had a few dozen flowers of varying colors and types, all of them beautiful; once at the graveyard they were carefully laid out over the grass. Once they looked right, I rearranged the artificial flowers and plucked at some of the weeds that had sprouted around the headstone. I should visit more often, I can’t let his grave become all… overrun. I pretty much only visited on his birthday and deathday–which was what today was. Five years since he had been killed.
I knelt down, running my fingers over his name. “Miss you so much…” The sun glinted off my wedding ring and I felt a minor stab of guilty, as if I cheated on him or something. A feeling I often wrestled with that Noah kept promising me he understood. How could I have such a great husband? Oh man, how could I be thinking of my husband while at the grave of my late lover?
“Reeny looks more and more like you every day,” I said nervously. “Oh man, when she pouts it’s so…” I laughed a bit, shaking my head. “She loves Arty so much. Reeny makes an amazing older sister. Artemis is…” Was it wrong to talk about my other kid like this? “It can be difficult. Reeny really enjoys being outside, I think it’s part of her elf nature.” I hesitated. “I wish she knew more about her heritage. Your parents send birthday cards and I send photos and stuff but… they told me they can’t really get away from the elf community. Because things are so bad.” I bit my bottom lip. “I’m so afraid for Reeny. Her pointy ears. I know Midnight Hollow is fairly safe, but more and more on the news–the anti-supernatural stuff. It’s bad. Your mother wrote that soon the community your parents live in will just magically seal itself off–no one coming, no one going. Not that anyone’s going anymore.” I knew Mrs. Baroque felt awful about never seeing her grandchild but considered how suspicious the elves were I knew it would take a lot for them to be all right with her and Mr. Baroque leaving to visit Reeny.
I leaned back, looking up at the grey sky. I hated being here. No, not exactly. I hated being in the graveyard and every single time I felt that I didn’t even need to come to visit. Goose’s shell lay six feet under but him… his soul… wasn’t here. I could talk to him anytime. “You’ve probably seen her,” I laughed. “You’ve seen Reeny. You probably saw her this morning. Oh gosh, I don’t know what to do about her. She’s been a bit demanding of toys and things lately. I think it’s because of Arty, that Reeny feels like she needs to fight for attention but I do my best, Goose, I–“
It sounded like the worst lightning ever. Everything shook, pitching me headfirst against Goose’s gravestone. Stars exploded in my eyes and the world spun though probably more from me hitting my head than anything that was going on. The world seemed a bit red too, actually. Everything had a red… hue to… it…
“NO!” I screamed, standing up. I immediately swung around to look in the direction of the warehouse. Where Goose had died. Where this happened before.
I fell back down and pressed back against the gravestone, my body quivering. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not again, not this, not–no. NO! Why? WHY? I couldn’t breathe for a split-second then with another shake of the earth, the red faded. It lasted barely a quarter of the time it did before. But it happened.
I shifted my weight to look at Goose’s gravestone. The first red beam had something to do with his death, I knew it did. But all the supernaturals were dead… Akua, Emilian, Simba, and I had all killed them… dead… Goose… they…
“Noah,” I gasped as paranoia punched into my head.
I scrambled to my feet and ran to my car, pulling my phone out as I did. TEXT OR CALL NOW I sent to Noah then drove as fast as I could back home, not caring about speed limits. No one else seemed to be caring about road rules either and the one policeman I passed was too busy trying to help a bunch of families at the park. I barely got in the driveway at home when I slammed on my breaks. Noah hadn’t messaged me yet.
“Zaid!” Gladdy held Arty in her arms and for a split-second I panicked that Reeny wasn’t with her until I saw Reeny farther back in the house, sitting in the doorway that led into the hall.
“I saw it,” she said, moving so I could go in and hug Reeny too. I just held onto both of them until my phone bleeped.
im ok what happened? I breathed out, glad to know Noah was–for the moment–safe. I texted back about the red sky then showed Reeny the phone since she wanted to know if Uncle Noah was okay. She took the phone from me and typed something out a lot faster than I could when texting. When she gave me my phone back I saw she had asked Noah to come home. Good. Then I didn’t need to ask him myself.
“I don’t know what it’s to do with,” I said. After I moment I put Arty in Glados’s arms so I could fetch the baby swing from Arty’s room. I set it up in the living room and let Reeny turn on a movie and the two of them watched the intro to one of those princess cartoon films, Reeny on the couch and Arty in her swing. Then I called the spa to tell them I couldn’t come in. I lied, saying both my girls were very sick. I couldn’t tell if they believed me or not and frankly I didn’t care.
Why today? Why today? I sat down on the couch, digging my nails into the armrest. My chest hurt as if someone were jamming a knife in over and over. My body still quivered, my eyes hurt from trying not to cry. This had something to do with Goose’s death and now it’s happening again, and Arty is close to the same age as Reeny was the first time what if something happens, what if in four months something happens to Noah. I got up, going into the bathroom so I could splash cold water on my face.
An hour after my text Noah came home and ran right into my arms. Or rather, wrapped his arms around me. I buried my face in his chest, ready to break down. In the house between my text and his arrival half the people involved in my–whatever it was, came to visit. Grams and Malik. Max and Royce. Even Akua phoned in to say that she didn’t think anything had really changed–that despite that ‘hiccup’ things seemed just the same. They had all just made me more and more nervous to the point of me wanting to scream. Especially when Grams filled Royce in with what happened the first time, at least from the perspective of someone who knew more about what really went on.
“I just don’t understand, we killed them…” I took a swig of the beer, needing the alcohol but not proud of needing it. “They’re gone, they’re supposed to be gone.”
“You don’t know it’s them,” Noah said, rubbing my back.
“Yes I do!” I looked up, feeling a bit stung that he had said that. “It’s them. Max and them, they were all right. They–they were right and I should have… listened…”
Noah pulled me close and I shifted a bit, half in his lap. “Hey, you’ve been keeping up with your training,” he murmured. “You’re strong. You and the others got rid of how many of the bad guys the first time?” He put his knuckles under my chin, pushing my head up. “You’re strong.”
“What if they come after you?” The words tumbled out in a whimpering sort of squeak. I didn’t mean to say them though, they just happened.
Noah frowned. He carefully took my beer away and pulled me completely in his lap; I should have felt like a little kid but instead I felt safe. “Darling,” he said, staring into my eyes. “I know you’ve been through a lot of terrible things and I understand why you’re afraid of that, but if you just worry about it then it will eat at you and destroy you.” He kissed me gently then passionately, sending ripples of pleasure everywhere.
“That’s a toughie to answer, bro.” His fingers left a trail of warmth along the outside of my thigh. “Yes but no. I mean, you have every right to be freaked out, y’know? I think… I’d be worried if you weren’t worried. However, I just don’t want this destroying you. If you need to take some time out every day to have a little panic, maybe breathe in a paper bag… nothing wrong with that.” His fingers went up my side and onto my cheek. “I just don’t want you checking out again. I love you, Zaid, and it scares me to think of you breaking down again.”
I leaned my face into his hand. I couldn’t check out… While he was right I also felt a bit angry that he’d say something like that. It’s not as if I purposely checked out. My lover had died. Wasn’t it natural that the fear of losing Noah would affect me? On the other hand, I had to be strong for my kids. Reeny barely remembered my time after Goose’s death. I couldn’t just worry myself into a panic and have a meltdown. I couldn’t be that sort of person and besides I… I was a warrior. Yes.
Why couldn’t life be simple? I thought back to my teen years, practicing with Max… thinking I knew everything… thinking I could fight off the enemy. How could I fight off an enemy that–that worked like this? One I thought I had killed. One that could cause monstrous laser beams shoot down from (or up to) the sky and cause miles of landscape to be tinted red as well as shake violently… and organize all those people at the warehouse and pull the strings without anyone knowing… and…
Oh. Oh Watcher.
“Dede. Dede. Dede. Nooooo.” Arty sat unhappily, watching as I kicked and hit the training dummy. She had been under an umbrella but decided to crawl closer to me in order to get my attention. “Noooooo wooaah iiihhh!”
“She wants to go inside,” Reeny translated as she bobbled back and forth on the spring rider. “Daddy, put her inside cause she won’t stop crying.”
“NOOOO!” Arty cried. “Wah Dede.”
I landed a violent kick and then stumbled back, breathing hard, sweat soaking my body. I hadn’t stopped working out since June. I rarely stopped. I pushed my body to its limits. I carried daggers with me again. I made Noah carry a dagger with him and trained with him a bit so he could use it well enough. I made him carry a vial of potion with him that would make the person experience disorientation. Long enough for him to get away if they tried to kidnap him. I also made Grams and Malik put as many protection spells around Noah and Reeny and Arty as they could.
And I might have started texting Noah about twelve times a day while he worked. He seemed very patient about it but I suspected he grew weary of having to constantly reassure me that he was at work and not kidnapped-to-be-bait-then-murdered.
Also I tried to quit my job. Noah talked me out of it, getting very angry that night I mentioned it. We fought rather nastily over it to the point of me sleeping on the living room couch that night (and telling Reeny I had just drifted off watching TV). Luckily we made up that day and he convinced me to keep working.
“DEEEDEEE!” Arty squalled and I knew I couldn’t make her stay outside any longer. I wiped my brow off and picked her up. Her nose crinkled up. “Dede smee,” she said.
“But Daaaaad! It’s not fair!” Reeny said, stopping but remaining on the rider. “How come I can’t play outside by myself anymore? The yard is fenced innnn!” She folded her arms, getting a very stubborn look on her face. “Daddy, I am seven years old! I’m not a little kid. The yard is fenced.” Then she went back to bobbling back and forth.
“I’m sorry, but you need to go inside too,” I said, shifting Arty a bit. “Come on.”
“No. It’s not fair. I’m not a baby.”
“Reeny, listen to me.” I made sure not to let the anger I felt creep into my voice. “We’re going inside. You can watch a movie and have some popcorn.”
“Eirene, come inside right now.”
“EIRENE ANNE DANVEBIE YOU GET INSIDE RIGHT NOW!”
She stared at me, mouth open. Arty did too. Both of them had huge eyes and slowly, very slowly, Reeny slid off her rider. Her tiny shoulders were stiff as she breezed past me. I sighed, following her inside. “Reeny,” I said, shutting the door behind me but Reens just ran off. I heard her go upstairs and slam the door shut.
I let out a groan as his final text came through. Tell Reeny. Something he gently suggested after the red light but I insisted that she was far too young. I wanted to protect her from everything including possible panic. Except now…
youre right, I texted back, knowing he’d be doing a bit of a victory dance when he got home. ill tell her.
“Come on, baby girl.” I carried Arty upstairs and got her set up in her room with some toys, then went to get changed into something not sweat-soaked. After a few minutes I forced myself to go to Reeny’s room. I tapped at her door, flinching when she snapped at me to go away. “I need to talk to you, sweetie, it’s important. Let me in.” I knew the door was unlocked and I could just go in but I didn’t want to invade her privacy. I waited until she opened the door herself. “Hey.” I went in and jammed my hands in my pockets. Reeny just flopped onto her bed and glowered.
I sighed. “Look, I am sorry for raising my voice the way I did but I am not sorry for being so insistent you go inside. Reeny, I am your father and you need to listen to me.” Her face twisted up and I thought she might run off but she remained on the bed. “You don’t remember Daddy Goose much, do you?” She raised her eyebrows and pressed her lips tightly together, shrugging. “It’s ok. You were very young. But… you see…” I rubbed the back of my neck feeling awkward. “When I was a teenager… I talked to this woman who said there was… uh, well… okay… have you heard about the people saying that magic is gonna be destroyed?”
Reeny nodded, sitting cross-legged now. “Ayep. I know you’re trying to stop it from happening and are trying to make the world a better place for supernaturals.” She hesitated then added, “My social studies teacher told me that if I ever acted up about supernaturals I’d be in trouble. She said that she wasn’t gonna have a… a…” Reeny screwed her face up, trying to think. “A insta-gator.”
“Wh–why didn’t you tell me this?” I felt rage boiling my blood.
“Iunno. I haven’t gotten in trouble. But she said you were like, trying to, uh, force your beliefs on the world. Something like that. What’s this got to do with Daddy Goose? Or you yelling at me? And me not playing outside?”
Okay, focus, I told myself. “Apparently some supernaturals think that I will be the one who will destroy magic, or have something to do with this. It had made some supernaturals very upset and they want to hurt me.” Reeny just gave me a blank stare. “A while ago some of them were really trying to hurt me. They sent people to try and take me away from some reason. They took Daddy Goose, and when I went to get him from them…” I took in a deep breath. “They killed him.”
“What?” Reeny’s eyes got ginormous. “Daddy Goose was killed??”
“Didja kill them, Daddy?” she asked as-matter-of-factly.
My hands tightened around hers. I considered lying or just changing the subject. “Yes.” Reeny nodded minutely. “We thought the bad guys were all gone but they might be back. That’s why I don’t like you being outside by yourself. I know you’re seven and should be allowed to do things like that, but it scares me.”
“Any bad guy tries to get me I’ll kick’em,” Reeny said and gave a karate chop in the air. “Or like that. BAM! Right across their neck!”
I smiled, feeling a bit proud of her for that. “I know, and I think you’d do a good job. But there might be more than one. Or they might have magic to hurt you without getting near. I don’t want you to be afraid of everything but I do want you to understand we need to be careful. You know not to go near strangers…”
“Daaaaddy!” She rolled her eyes so much I thought she might roll right into being a teenager, with that attitude. “I know not to talk-go near-follow-get in cars with-ANYTHING with strangers.”
I thought of some books I read and, like, the Harry Potter series and wondered if magic-users had some way of disguising themselves as someone. “Also, even if someone looks right… like someone you know, don’t go with them or let them inside,” I said suddenly. “Without a password. You’ll have to keep the password secret though. I’ll tell Uncle Noah, and Grandpa and Granddad and everything who should know.” Was I being too paranoid? Frankly, I didn’t care. I’d do anything possible to protect Reeny and Arty.
“No. I won’t let them. They might not even be back, I don’t know.”
“Is it cause of the red light?” Reeny scootched closer to me. “You’ve been all twitchy since the red light thing happened. Mr. Cawthorne–the Language Arts teacher–told us that, that the red light thing happened before but nobody was sure what it was…”
“It did happen before and it did have to do with… these bad people, which is why I think they’re back because it happened again.” I squeezed her hands tightly. “How about this though… you can play outside by yourself sometimes. But when I tell you to come inside you need to come inside.”
Reeny nodded. “Okay. What if I got a friend over like, can we play outside together? Like when Aqila comes to visit?”
“Yes… though, if anyone feels weird or you get the sense of being watched you need to come in immediately. Unless it’s me watching, of course…” I didn’t add that I’d probably be in the dining room watching, or up in my room watching out the window if they were in the treehouse. “I just want to keep you safe, okay?”
Then listen to me when I tell you to do something, I thought, biting back the response. “I think we’ll both try to do better with… listening to one another, okay?” I asked and she just rolled her eyes again. I left the room and checked on Arty, feeling a bit better but also slightly more paranoid at the thought of someone being able to look like someone else. I really needed to talk to Grams to see if that was possible…
Grams informed me that such a thing was possible but very difficult to do and she highly doubted anyone would ever try that to get to me, they’d resort to easier methods. Like ramming into a car and kidnapping the person inside.
As July progressed I continued working out. Almost every night I lay in bed exhausted, and most the nights Noah gave me massages, asking me to please stop pushing myself into such a fatigued state. I promised him I would, and never fulfilled that promise. How could I not push myself? How could I sit back and do nothing while some unseen forces circled me? Nope, not gonna happen.
“You’re gonna keel over,” Noah whispered one night as his fingers dug into my sore muscles. “Bro, you gotta cut back on working out. You’re already ripped enough.” He tickled along my muscles and I squirmed happily. “It’s not fair, you’re not as ripped as me but you’re without a doubt stronger.”
I rolled onto my back and looked up at him. “Bro, do you even l–“
“Don’t you DARE!” he yelped and I laughed. He pushed me back until he lay on top of me, kissing. I wrapped my arms around him, kissing back, pressing up against him. We hadn’t been as active because of my pains so despite the aches my body cried out for him, especially when he began tugging at my hair. I only recently started discovering my desire for hair tugging… and Noah definitely liked pulling and oh it felt amazing. Unfortunately just as I tried pulling his shirt off my cell phone rang. I ignored it, just kissing Noah, enjoying the sensation of our skin touching where our clothes ended. My cell phone stopped ringing then the house phone rang. It rang three times then stopped. Either they gave up or Reeny answered it. A minute later…
I sighed, slumping back. “I better go see what this is about.”
“Mm, hurry back.”
Reeny waited in the hall with the upstairs landline receiver in her hand. I took it from her and pointed at her door, since it was after her bed time. “Zaid?” Pa’s voice sounded anxious. “You need to see the news. Now. I don’t know, uh, um, what it’s about but, uh, I think it’s something you need to… errr, see.”
I went into the bedroom and turned on the TV, flipping the channel to the news station. “…statement but got no response on what this could possibly be about,” the anchor said. There were two pictures behind them. One of what looked to be a werewolf, judging by the glowing eyes, and the other looked to be members of the P.A.S. Oh shit, what now?! “Locals in Winter Hills point the blame towards nearby towns of Moonlight Falls and Midnight Hollow, and their general consensus of pro-supernatural attitudes and especially towards the advocates of supernaturals including Thomas Gunnarsson, Teresa Benitez, Zaid Danevbie, and Finola MacDougall who all live in the nearby cities…”
My shoulders stiffened at my name and Noah sat up on the bed, looking as confused as I felt. “Pa, what’s this about?” I asked.
Pa sniffled and then said, “Someone is making werewolves.”
Author’s note: thank you so much pixelswirl for making me the poses of Reeny and Zaid on the bed talking/hugging!