It was about halfway through August when Uncle Max showed up, all excited. He swooped in and gave us kids each a smack on the shoulder then he licked Grandpa’s cheek. Grandpa beamed and scratched Uncle Max behind the ear. Uncle Max began purring gently. “Hey kiddos,” he said cheerfully. “How’s it going?”
Then before any of us could even really answer, he turned to me. “Ey Shortie, I got some news!” I scowled a bit. Shortie indeed, I was rapidly closing in on his height and would definitely shoot up past him! “Look at this!”
He brandished a piece of paper under my nose until I took it and began reading out loud. “Dear Clifford Fluff, my name is Guy Hunter and I have a proposition you and your family may be interested in. A school for supernaturals and those with magical ability?!” I looked up in shock. Uncle Max nodded. “I understand that you have lycanthropy and shapeshifting abilities, and therefor I wish to extend an invitation to attend Hunter’s Academy for Supernaturals this coming school year. Arrival begins on August 28th-30th, and classes will begin August 31st (Mon). Please reply by August 16th whether you would like to come to this school.”
“All the kittens got it,” Uncle Max said, practically bouncing now. “And we’ve sent in their letters. BUT! I realized, I thought–heeyyy, wouldn’t this be good for Shortie? I know the 16th isn’t too far off but maybe you could write to this Hunter guy and see if you could go!”
I just stared in disbelief at the possibility. A school for supernaturals? Then I deflated. “I’m not a supernatural. I’m just… I just have stupid dreams.”
“Pffft.” Uncle Max flapped his hand. “I’m sure they have psychics there too. You never know until you write to them and see.”
I clutched the letter, feeling exhilarated now. I almost didn’t dare hope! It probably wouldn’t happen, they probably wouldn’t accept me. Plus… “It says students start attending when they are thirteen. I’m fourteen.”
Arty slung an arm around me. “You don’t know that they’ll say no. If they do, they do. But you should try. I know you’re unhappy here.”
I turned a guilty face towards her, surprised she had picked up on how I felt. Hopefully Dad didn’t realize… “I’ll see. I mean, it’s more of Dad’s decision and not mine.” But hope still pounded away in my temples with each heartbeat.
When Dad got home from work I managed not to bombard him immediately; instead I waited till he got his shoes off and relaxed for a minute or two in his favorite chair, bouncing Angel in his lap. Then I finally crept forward and told him about the letter and showing it to him, speaking rapidly about how they might accept me as a student.
“–I don’t mind being homeschooled,” I lied, “but I’d love to go to this school and learn more about my visions and stuff. And be around other kids who go through things. All the kittens are going, too, so I’ll know them.”
Dad looked rather wearily at the letter. “I’ll look into it, all right?”
I swallowed and nodded, knowing I couldn’t push him more. That night he did some research online and found absolutely nothing about the academy. He told me at breakfast the next day that he worried it was a joke, or something really bad. When I told him Uncle Max and Royce had thought it legit he shrugged and promised to keep doing some snooping. Disheartened I went behind his back and turned to Grandpa as soon as it was the three of us (Angel included). Well four, including Granddad…
“Grandpa, please do something to help me,” I begged. “I want to go!”
“Your granddad says the name is familiar,” Grandpa said as he squinted at the letter. “I think it is too, but I guess there might be loads of people with that name. A whole school. I wonder if ghosts can go there… hey!” He turned red. “I would too have gone! Well. Maybe. I do not slack off with schoolwork, thank you very much!” Grandpa began to look annoyed. “Tell your grandfather I am so educated!”
I smiled. “Will you write a letter for me?”
“Oh, Poliwag, I dunno. That’d be your father’s job.”
No! “Would Dad Zaid have wanted me to go?” Okay so a major low blow tactic but I had to do something before I lost the battle.
Grandpa frowned now. “I don’t know. Maybe. All right, I’ll write a letter but it’ll be your father’s timely decision–ultimate decision, okay?”
I threw my arms around him in a tight hug. “Thanks, Grandpa!”
Two days passed–one day Grandpa sent a letter and the day after that my dad told me he decided to at least contact the school. Guiltily I told him Grandpa had already done that. Dad looked at me then rubbed his temple, shaking his head. He didn’t really say anything about it and didn’t blame Grandpa at all, thankfully. Ugh. I had almost caused some family drama… not my intention. I just wanted to try and get in that school.
We heard back after a couple more days. The seventeenth, the day after the acceptance was due or whatever. A letter came addressed to me from Hunter Academy. Eagerly I ripped it open and read to Grandpa.
“Dear Apollo Danevbie, we’ve been informed about you from your grandfather Chance Danevbie-Greyson. We are very sorry–” I hesitated, feeling anger choke up my throat until the lump dissipated at the next words, “–that we didn’t know about you last year. You are more than welcome to come to our school. I do not know if your grandfather remembers me, but I have met Chance before. A very long time ago. I have never met your father–Zaid Danevbie–but of course I know of him. It would be more than an honor to have his son at our school. I know there is not much time so I am unsure if you would be able to take a trip to see us before school starts. Included is a list of things you will need. Schoolbooks are provided by our school.”
I dropped the letter and let out a whoop of joy, jumping around. I tackled Grandpa, hugging him tightly. Then I called Dad and left a message on his voicemail, super excited to let him know the amazing news. A school, a school where I wouldn’t be a freak–a school where I could make friends! A school where everyone around me had some sort of ability so me falling asleep and shouting out bloody murder wouldn’t (shouldn’t?) be an issue. A school…!
We celebrated that night. Dad brought home four pizzas (since I could eat almost an entire one by myself and Grandpa always loved having leftover pizza in the fridge). Reeny came in too of course, and the seven of us celebrated. Errrr, to an extent; it wasn’t easy for Angel to celebrate too much but she squealed happily and bounced in her seat. Dad seemed pretty quiet during the whole thing though. But Suzanne, Reeny, Arty, and Grandpa were all very happy for me. They all knew how much I wanted to go no matter how hard I had tried to hide it since Uncle Max brought Cliff’s letter.
After dinner and dessert I helped clean up and after doing some of the dishes I hesitated in the kitchen since Dad and Suzanne were in the hallway. “–good for him,” Suzanne was saying. “He needs this.”
“I know. I just don’t like it very much,” Dad mumbled.
“Oh honey…” The sound of kissing. “It’s no different than Reeny being away for college.”
“Yes it is! He’s only fourteen!” My heart sank down and my fingers curled into clenched fists. So. That’s why Dad had been quiet. “It’s hard. He’s my little boy. Stop looking–I know he’s going to be an adult soon. But he’ll be gone. And then Arty will be gone. My kids are leaving. It’s not easy.”
“I know it’s not. I’m sorry, hun. Angel will be around for–“
“I know, I know. But it’s not… Angel is our baby. Arty and Apollo are…”
Suzanne sighed. “Your babies with Zaid.”
“No! No, don’t ever be sorry. We’ve talked about this before. I came into our marriage knowing everything, and nothing had changed. Noah, I love you so much and Angel is special. But so is Reeny, and Arty, and Apollo. Don’t apologize for that, all right?”
Now Dad sighed. “I love you too, Suzie.”
More kissing sounds. I made a big show of leaving the kitchen, pretending like I hadn’t overheard all of that. Dad smacked my shoulder as he smiled, acting like he was completely happy. I didn’t call him out on it. I just smiled back and acted like I assumed he was happy.
Over the next ten days we prepared for me going to the school. It was located in Dragon Valley which meant a plane trip. Dad and I would go with Uncle Max, Uncle Royce, and the kittens and stay overnight in a hotel (thankfully I’d be sharing a room with Dad and not Clifford and Zaid–well, Clifford.), and the morning of the 28th we’d be taken by bus to the school. Mr. Hunter had informed us that no cabs ran to the school and the only way and in and out were by one of the teachers driving. So there’d be other students too. I wondered what they’d be like…
I’d be going into the second year there, with other fourteen year olds. What classes would there be? Would it be like Hogwarts? I couldn’t do magic. I was just psychic. Oh, maybe this would end up badly. What if they kicked me out for not being able to do anything? What if my grades weren’t up to par?
“If that happens,” Arty said when I shared my fears, “you’ll come back here and be no worse for wear.”
I shifted, not wanting to tell her how much I desired to be there. To be able to be around teens my own age. Have a best friend. Maybe a girlfriend. My grandpa told me he had been the same as a teen–that because he had grown up a ghost he had to be locked away for years and that nobody deserved that. Sure I could go out. I could make friends. But despite all the progression in many places the unhappiness with all things supernatural lingered. If I made friends and told the truth, how many would still be my friends? Over and over again? I didn’t want to do that. And I didn’t want to lie either.
The 27th came and I said goodbye to everyone. Hugging Arty goodbye and shaking Piotr’s hand and scrunching my face up when Suzanne kissed my cheek and of course cooing over Angel. She really wasn’t all that bad and I’d miss her. “Be a good girl for everyone,” I told her solemnly. She reached up and grabbed my nose. “I’ll see you soon, sweetie,” I promised, kissing her head.
Reeny drove me and dad to the airport. I hugged Reeny goodbye and she messed my hair up, telling me to be a good boy. “I’m fourteen, I am not a child!” I protested but secretly didn’t mind. I loved Suzanne but Reeny was more of a mother figure to me.
Uncle Max and Royce and their kittens showed up. We all got onto the airplane and I rested back, feeling super excited and still very nervous. Anxious that perhaps they wouldn’t want me there. That I wasn’t… supernatural enough. I only had visions. I couldn’t turn into a cat or had werewolf genes like my cousins. I wouldn’t be able to stay.
The plane trip felt like it took much longer than it actually did but eventually we were in Dragon Valley. An extremely luscious looking place with mountains around. We took a rent-a-van thing to the hotel and I gladly flopped down on the single bed.
Dad set his bag on the dresser and looked my way. “Doing all right?”
‘Mmm, I guess.” I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling. “It feels like it’s just happened so fast.”
“Oh yeah. It does for me as well.” Dad came over and moved my legs so he could sit down. “If you’re not happy there then send the message and I’ll get you immediately.”
“Yeah, a’right.” Happy? I’d certainly be happy. It was more of whether or not they’d be okay with me.
The bus ran once every four hours. We missed the first run at eight am since it took ages for Clifford and Anni to wake up. And Uncle Max. He curled up as a cat under the covers and scratched Uncle Royce whenever Uncle Royce tried to extract his husband from the bed.
Finally at eleven we were ready and waiting at the stop. There were a few others there too but they all looked a bit scared and new–the other thirteen year olds, I assumed. Anni and Paris struck up conversations quickly and even Zaid was suckered into chatting with a very round, very terrified looking boy. Clifford stayed by my side. Unfortunately.
“Excited?” he asked as we watched the bus come towards us. Before I could answer he leaned in and licked my cheek. “Me too!”
I wiped my cheek off as he bounded onto the bus. Dad and I grabbed my suitcases and climbed up, finding seats in the middle area. It took about fifteen more minutes for everyone else to get on board and settled (with one person and her mother showing up last minute). The driver–a blue and red… faerie?–bounded up to the front and clapped his hands. “Gooood morning everyone! My name is Artemis Webb, one of the teachers at Hunter’s school. Welcome everyone, so good to see you. So many new faces!” He beamed enthusiastically at all of us. “Looks like this time I’ve got a bus-full of new kids. Now, we’re in for a long drive and if anyone needs any motion sickness medicine I have some. We’ll be going through some super twisty roads and lots of hilly bits. If you need to stop for a bathroom break let me know, but it’s nothing but bushes between here and there–and it’ll take about an hour and a half. So… let’s go!”
The trip indeed took an hour and a half. It felt like we were driving through green tunnels with all the trees drooping down over the roads. I looked out the window and sometimes felt a bit dizzy at the sight of a sheer drop right there by the road. A couple times I did think about asking for the medicine but finally we were there.
There were gasps from several people and I admit, I almost gasped too. A huge mansion sprawled before us surrounded by lush green land and backed by bright blue sky. I wasn’t sure what I had expected, but this certainly wasn’t it. Even Dad let out a low whistle.
“Pretty fancy,” I said as we got off the bus. There was another faerie waiting outside the doors and she gave us all a smile after all the luggage was unloaded. “Hello everyone, I hope the trip wasn’t too taxing. I know Professor Webb can drive like a lunatic.”
“Aw, Bree, I’m not that bad!” Professor Webb pouted and the woman rolled her eyes which sent a nervous giggle through the group of 13 year olds.
“Now then, as you all have survived… I’m Professor Aubrey Marshash but please call me Bree or Aubrey. I’ll be giving you and your parents a tour through the school and answer any questions. Except for…” She glanced at a clipboard. “Mr. Danevbie?” she asked and it might have been my imagination but it seemed her voice tightened a bit, as if she didn’t want to read my name. Probably my imagination.
“H-here,” I mumbled as a couple of the other students began whispering.
“You and your father will be meeting with Mr. Hunter.” She gave me a short glance and I realized that I had been correct about her tone a moment ago.
Professor Webb stepped forward. “Yep, come with me.”
Dad and I went inside and I glanced back, realizing some of the whispering kids were now staring intently at me. Shrugging, I turned back around and realized we were going up a grand staircase. At the top Dad froze before hesitantly following the teacher to the left. When I saw what had stopped him I froze too.
Dad–Zaid Dad–stared at me from an obviously important portrait. There was a plaque below the picture but I didn’t want to get lost so instead of reading it I hurried off to the left, and I saw two people playing fooseball while a third cheered them on. Otherwise the floor seemed empty. All three stopped what they were doing to look our way as we headed towards a door. Professor Webb knocked at the door and a deep voice called that we could come in.
“I brought the Danevbies,” Webb said as he led us inside.
A very dark man glanced up from his desk. Immediately his eyes locked with mine. “Interesting,” he murmured. “The color is identical to…”
“Mmm?” Webb asked.
“Nothing. Thank you, Artemis. You can go.” The man gave Webb a smile and the teacher shut the door behind him. “Hello. My name is Guy Hunter.” He stood up and came over to offer his hand. He shook Dad’s hand then mine, pressing firmly. “You must be Apollo Danevbie. And you are his father, Noah Singer?”
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you,” Dad said a bit nervously.
Mr. Hunter grinned, pearly white teeth contrasting with the darkness of his skin. “Have a seat. It’s an honor to meet both of you. I must admit, I never considered the idea that any of Zaid’s children inherited any… supernatural prowess.”
“You knew my father?” I asked.
“No. I never met him personally. I have met your grandfathers, though. Chance and… Specter?” Mr. Hunter raised his eyebrows. “It was a very long time ago. Chance and I weren’t even twenty, I don’t think. How is he?”
“He’s, uh, fine…” I mumbled, feeling a bit confused. “Granddad–I mean Specter–he died.”
“Yes, I am very sorry for your loss. Now…” He had sat back down behind his desk and now leaned forward, fixing his eyes on me. “I believe we are all here to come to a decision about whether or not you’ll be attending my school?”
“Yes,” Dad said. “I mean, we appreciate the offer and all but it’s a very big decision.”
“I understand.” Mr. Hunter smiled. “Well. Hunter has been an operational school for about ten years. For a long time I wished there to be a place similar to the environment I was in around the time I met Chance. A Research and Guidance facility that I believe Specter eventually took over after the Reddings left.”
The name sparked a bit of a memory in my head. More relatives-that-weren’t-really-relatives or something like that. I had never met them but I knew Grandpa was always e-mailing someone he called Kay Redding.
“However, we did not… have a proper education. It is something we all lacked, though we were able to live in a community where we could be ourselves. During the dark days that decades later came to a climax as the unfortunate demise of your father…” he met my eyes again, “I always wished to be able to provide young ones with that. A community and an education. I applied to an online college and eventually became certified as a teacher, though I did not teach at any schools. Instead I moved in with a family of vampires who could not send their children to the school. I was a private tutor and helped raise the heir, giving him an education that he otherwise would not have been given. Oh, the family certainly educated him well enough but not to the same extend I was able.”
Mr. Hunter stood up and began pacing, hands clasped behind his back. “William Kingsley was very grateful for everything I did for him. After he took over… he rewarded me with this place. An old, decrepit mansion that belonged in their family for years. I spent many years fixing this place up. Furnishing it. Adding walls, tearing walls down. During this time a few other joined me and we finally got this place finished about twelve years ago. For two years we sent out messages to everyone letting them know that their children could come here… but nobody replied for quite some time.
“Eventually one family replied back asking if their teenaged daughter could be given and education. We realized that perhaps it would be better if we altered the age to older teens only.” Mr. Hunter gave a small shake of the head. “And ten years ago, we got our first group. Small… only about six students in all. But the following year we had even more, and the year after even more. As this happened we had to put a limit on the amount of students accepted and one of my friends that had helped found this school moved across country to form a sister school there which helped.
“We accept students from thirteen to seventeen. Five years of education, the best we can give our students. Most of our teachers had some form of degree from online colleges, with two of our magic-users graduating from physical universities. I can show you copies of diplomas/certificates for eight of our ten teachers. The two who have not teach more magical classes. But you will get a full education here. Arithmetic, algebra, calculus–etc. History, biology, chemistry, literature… pretty most almost anything you’d find at a regular school. We have P.E. either outside or in our gym or pool. We have food, entertainment, and trips into town once or twice a month–which you will need to sign for, Mr. Singer. Most of our students who have graduated have been satisfied with what we gave them. We will be able to help you get a high school diploma similar to a homeschooled one. Online, though. But it will be a high school diploma. Or you may go for a GED if you wish, you will be fully prepared for that.
“All of our human-looking students have gone on to either universities or careers. Several of our non-human-looking students have gone for degrees over online colleges. What you choose to do with what we provide you with is your choice, but it will be as good as any you’d get at a public or other private school. Also…”
Now his eyes practically bore holes into mine. “I will personally aid you in helping develop and learn about your psychic ability. I have two other psychic students here and we have a private class once a week, which you will be attending as well.”
I felt a shiver go down my spine and no matter what Dad said I knew I had to attend Hunter’s Academy. To my utmost relief Dad said, “I think it sounds like a good place for Apollo to be right now if he wa–“
“YES!” I shrieked, cutting Dad off. Mr. Hunter chuckled while Dad gave me a smile. “I mean, uh, yes. Yes. I’d love to be here.”
“Wonderful.” Mr. Hunter looked very elated. “Why don’t you get a tour of the school while your father and I talk.” We went to the door of his office and he looked out into the open area. “Samuel!” he called out and a rather familiar-looking boy ran over but I couldn’t quite place where I’d seen him before.
“I didn’t do it, Mr. Hunter, I swear!”
Mr. Hunter began laughing again. “It’s fine, Samuel. I just need someone to give Apollo here a quick tour. He’s a new student and will be your new roommate. Make it fairly quick, and have him back here in about fifteen minutes.”
“Yes sir.” The boy turned to look at me and poked his hand out. “Hey. I’m Sam. Sam Sparks. New student, eh? Well, welcome to Hunter’s!”
I beamed back and felt at peace for the first time since my thirteenth birthday.