November seemed so empty. I couldn’t function very well to the point of constantly bumping into furniture in the home I grew up in. Everyone attributed it to what I had gone though–the kidnapping and torture–and I just let them believe that. I didn’t even tell Sam what had happened between me and Romance. Oh, he was curious but when I told him that it had been painful and final he didn’t pry.
The newspapers and news sites hashed over what happened over and over. Some accused us of deserving what happened but many were on our side. The leader of our country was on our side. We were children, he kept repeating, just children. The leader of Justificus–Matthew Briggs–was put on trial and sent to jail for crimes against humanity. On his way to prison he disappeared. Literally. Apparently he was a magic-user and nobody knew. The members of Justificus freaked out when they were told and they gave away as much as they could about Briggs, not that it helped much.
I thought a lot about the things he told me, about his family and my dad. I knew he had to be lying. My father never did anything like that. I knew he had killed others… bad guys. To save the supernatural world. He never killed a teenager for no reason… right? I filed these thoughts away for another time. I didn’t want to think about them, about anythings involving Briggs.
I continued to have visions but I let them go. I didn’t focus on them. I didn’t write anything down. They drifted out of my memory and I just didn’t care.
In December we received letters from Mr. Hunter. He had found a new location for the school. Different, very different. He intended to restart in Moonlight Falls, near the Rag.
It will not be one large building. Merely several small buildings. Those who live at the Research and Guidance Facility will continue to do so. Those who don’t will be split up between the homes I am purchasing. Classes will take place in these houses. Please send your response as soon as possible so we can assign houses and rooms. Classes will start on January tenth.
“No.” Dad read the letter with a scowl. “You’re not going. And Sam, I repeat that you’re welcome to stay here. I’d prefer it if you didn’t go back either.”
“I…” Sam bowed his head. “I would prefer to stay with Apollo, wherever that is. If that’s all right with you?” he added with a sideways glance to me.
“Of course, and where we will be is Moonlight Falls,” I stated.
“What about Moonlight Falls?” Grandpa came tottering out of his bedroom, one arm slightly askew as grandfather helped him walk. Grandpa apparently needed a cane but two minutes with one showed he walked worse with one than without. He tripped over his own two feet all the time he didn’t need a third. So grandfather pretty much stayed by his side every second that he had to move.
Dad folded his arms. “The school is starting over again, this time in Moonlight Falls. I’m not letting Apollo go. I don’t feel comfortable sending him there.”
Grandpa looked at me and I pleaded with my eyes. “Why not? If you fall off a bike and, uh, all that. Right?”
“Falling off a bike and what happened to Apollo are extremely different.”
“Zaid grew up in Moonlight Falls.”
Dad jerked as if he had been slapped. “That’s not–that’s nothing to do with this.”
Grandpa hobbled over. He peered up into Noah’s face looking very serious. “Noah. Zaid was in danger so much of his life. I know how it feels. I worried about him every night, sometimes I cried myself to sleep worried about him. But A, it’s not really very good to, um, hold your kid back and 2, Moonlight Falls is a very safe place.”
“Chance, I–I understand that. I do. But Apollo was kidnapped. I–“
“Dad, they’re gonna be more hyper aware of our safety now!” I broke in. “I want to be with my friends. Please.”
It went back and forth. Dad seemed to be close to giving in and he finally did the next day when he found out Uncle Max and Uncle Royce were moving to Moonlight Falls to be close to their kids and promised, naturally, to watch over me and Sam. Sam and I exchanged high fives feeling super happy to be able to go back to school, albeit a very odd one.
Very odd, I decided when we went to Moonlight Falls. There were multiple homes scattered across the town where we would be living. Sam and I had one address, Anni and Paris another, and Zaid yet another. Clifford declined returning to his education and would be living with his dads.
Instead of going right to the addresses, Uncle Max directed Dad a little ways out of town. We pulled up in front of a log house with a shed off to one side. I knew without Uncle Max saying anything that this was where my dad grew up. After a few minutes of silence, Uncle Max pointed up at a window.
“He and Vilkas shared that room. And the shed there, ol’ Beardy Face built it so Zaid could practice his martial arts and also train.” A sad look passed over Uncle Max’s face. “We spent a lot of time in–in there…” Uncle Royce reached over and rubbed Uncle Max’s back. “Ultimately everyone moved to Midnight Hollow to help protect him.”
Another few minutes passed and Dad turned around in the little bit of road and we headed to the first address, dropping all the Fluffs off, as the girls’ house was only half a block away. Dad agreed to meet Uncle Max and Uncle Royce at a specific location before he drove us to our new place.
“I’m still not happy about this,” Dad said as we turned down the correct street. “Anytime you want to come home, just say the world and I’ll come get you.”
He parked across from a large blue house. Professor Webb stood outside and he gave us an enthusiastic wave. Sam leaned in and whispered, “Least we won’t have to deal with his driving.” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Hey you two!” Professor Webb came over and helped pull our bags out of the trunk. “Did you have a nice trip? Hello, Mr. Singer, good to see you.”
“Are there protection spells up?” Dad asked. I covered my face in embarrassment.
Professor Webb just beamed. “Sure thing! Even more than at the castle. We didn’t have much there, assuming the out-of-the-way-ness would help. Mr. Hunter’s made sure that all the houses are smothered in protection spells. Moonlight Falls is very pro-supernatural, so that helps too.”
Dad just nodded. “Yeah. I knew that. I just…”
He rested a hand against Dad’s arm. “Apollo went through so much, and it put you through so much. It’s a big deal to entrust your son back in our care. I understand that the Fluff family is living here now? That must help reassure you too.”
“Yeah, it does, I just…”
“I understand completely.” Webb hoisted a couple of bags up over his shoulders, letting them bump against his wings. “Shall we go in? Your roommates are already here.”
Dad, Sam, and I gathered the rest of the bags and followed him inside. In the entrance area I stopped short and Dad ran into me. I heard his breath catch at the sight of my father’s portrait. The same one from the school. Saved? Or another copy? Webb went up the spiral staircase and slowly we followed. I would definitely be haunted by my father here, more than ever.
The stairs continued up another flight but Webb stopped on the second floor, guiding us down the hall. He knocked at the door then swung it open. Sam and I peered in and our faces broke into huge grins.
Eli and Blake were playing cards and when they saw us they dropped the cards and hurried over so we could all greet each other with one-armed hugs and punches.Then it struck me that this was the room from the vision where we were concerned about Eli. It couldn’t happen too far in the future since Eli looked about the same. Pale with dark circles under his eyes. He’d lost some weight, too.
I shook these thoughts from my head and returned to the happy reunion. Dad and Professor Webb helped get our things in the room and then Webb gave us a quick tour of the place. Two rooms for students on the second floor, a classroom, and one room for a teacher–Professor Webb. The upper floor held another classroom and storage. The main floor held a small kitchen, dining area, and two rooms to relax in. Down the stairs into the basement where we found a classroom, Professor Valadez, and a room for vampires. Including Booker.
More punches and hugs. The last I had seen Booker was at the memorial service. At the time he still had some remaining traces of biting me but now it seemed to be all gone. He gave a gaping yawn and looked ready to fall asleep any second, though he did glance towards my wrist. The faint bumps were gone. Finally. It took them nearly two weeks to disappear completely. Blood pounded through my body, though, remembering the absolute ecstasy from the bite.
Booker brought his eyes back up to my face. “Good to see you guys. I’m gonna go back to sleep.” He winked and returned to his room.
Professor V sighed. “Laziest vampire I’ve ever met.” He gave us both a big smile. “It is good to see you. I’m so glad to have so many students return.”
“How many students are gonna be living here?” I asked, since the second bedroom had been empty and very small with only two beds.
“Eight. You two, Eli, Blake, Eidan, Tahra, Booker, and Delano.” Delano was a vampire our age that we never really interacted with. Unlike Booker he pretty much just stayed with the vampires. I had no idea who Tahra was, I’d never heard that name before. “So, ten people here total. However we will have some of the students from the Research and Guidance Facility attend classes here.” He hesitated then eyed Sam. “I’m surprised you’re staying here and not at the facility?”
Before Sam could answer my dad put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m not his legal guardian but Sam’s part of our family. He’s not staying at the facility anymore.”
I swear Sam’s face was going to explode from how much he now beamed.
“What about Chase?” I asked, curious about the final boy from our year.
“We followed the requests of our students, such as pairing you two up with Eli and Blake,” Professor V explained. “Both Chase Thomson and Zaid Fluff requested to room together. Since neither Eidan nor Tahra made any requests they’ll be rooming together.”
We made a little chitchat then Webb took us back upstairs. A question burned in my mouth and I had to ask. “Uh, Professor, um, some of the girls that have returned… do you know if… Romance Frostfall has come back?”
Webb lifted his eyebrows. “Ummm as far as I know she hasn’t.”
“Oh, okay, thank you.” While I knew she probably wouldn’t be back, I had held onto a little sliver of hope.
Soon it came time to part with Dad. We hugged tightly and I promised over and over to call often. I also promised not to sneak off. I guess he still thought about the whole haunted house ordeal. I watched him drive off then hurried back into the house, up the stairs to my room–to my friends.
When Eidan arrived and we passed in the hall he gave me a shy smile and hesitantly said something about how glad he was that I was safe. I replied that I was glad he was safe too, especially since he had been one of the injured students. Nothing major. If he didn’t have magical aid he would have needed stitches.
After a moment of kinda awkward talking (I mean I liked Eidan and all, he just had so much difficult talking) he seemed intent on bringing up a subject. He tried multiple times and then finally said, “I wanted to ask you something…”
But before he could a new kid came bounding up the stairs. Tahra, I presumed. He looked at us and then smiled, offering his hand and introducing himself as Tahra Willow, the wood nymph. “Oh, you’re my new roommate!” he said cheerfully when Eidan managed to get his name out. “Really nice to meet you.” Eidan just frowned, remaining silent. Even after Tahra excused himself to go get the rest of his stuff Eidan just kept frowning. I tried to get him to say whatever he needed to say but he just retreated back to his room.
Our first dinner in the house seemed kinda sad compared to the meals at the castle. With just a handful of us to sit around the table, and a small meal made by Webb who turned out not to be the best of chefs. Still, it could have been a lot worse. Blake, Tahla, and Webb carried most the conversation with Sam, Eli, and I talking now and again. Eidan just picked at his food and remained absolutely silent. The vampires weren’t there though Webb had thoughtfully put out a chair in case Booker did want to come sit with us.
Breakfast went pretty much the same way and afterwards Webb clapped his hands and told us we’d have our first class. He and Professor V would be our teachers for almost everything except the occasional class at another house, and hopefully Mr. Hunter would want to keep working with me and my visions. I hadn’t heard anything from him yet so I wasn’t really sure.
The first class felt so different with just the six of us but for the second class some others came in. Namely girls. Lilah zoomed over and gave us her usual greeting with lots of hugs. Kiley, Varuna, Ginny all came in as well as a few other girls. There were lots of greetings and Varuna hugged Eli for quite a long time then started yelling at him that he looked sickly and needed more sleep. Eli yelled right back that he slept fine, thank you, and he felt fine, and the two just kept arguing like old times until Webb managed to get them to sit down and shut up.
Kiley sat next to me. “So good to see you again,” she said without any trace of seduction in her voice.
“Good to see you too,” I replied honestly.
The girls stayed for lunch, a much more informal meal as we were able to eat wherever. Webb had fixed sloppy looking sandwiches and slightly burnt fries. Sam, Lilah, Kiley and I made a sort of picnic in the bigger lounge. The girls talked about their own house, where they were under the charge of Professors Summers and Marshash. And after lunch we guys went back with them to their house where Marshash gave us classes. She still seemed to have a bitter spot for me. And in the late evening Professor V taught an extra long class with the vampires joining us.
That was most our week. Webb, Marshash, Summers, and V all taught us and the girls, with one class where some other guys (including Zaid and Chase) came in for a class with us and Professor V. It really felt so strange. Not bad. Just strange.
The first weekend we were allowed to go out into town for the afternoon. I was surprised but Webb assured us that it would be safe. Not gonna mention this to Dad, I decided as Sam and I left. We texted Lilah and the three of us went to the bowling alley. Dragon Valley had a couple of supernaturals hanging around but nothing compared to Moonlight Falls! One other thing Moonlight Falls had was a lot of ‘Zaid Danevbie was here’ crap that made me feel super awkward. In the bowling alley was a photo of my father and some blond guy as teenagers, making faces as they indicated their scoring sheets. Another photo showed Dad, the same blond guy, and a couple of girls, all sitting in a booth looking like they were laughing and having fun. Dad had his head tipped back, his mouth wide open, pointing a fry towards the dark-skinned girl. He wore a really weird outfit, like a trench coat sort of thing. Zaid Danevbie, 2192.
Thirty-three years ago. I slid into a seat at the table the photo hung over, as it was the same booth. I sat in the same spot my dad sat in. We were the same age, fifteen. Thirty-three years. I slid my hands over the table and wondered what he had been laughing at, who the other teenagers were. Fifteen. I knew a little bit about his teenager years from Uncle Max. Not much, but I did know when he was fifteen his girlfriend and her parents tried to kill him because of some prophecy. Watcher. I looked up at the picture and wondered how soon before the incident this happened.
We were both almost killed at fifteen, I realized with a sickening lurch. Watcher.
“Apollo?” I jumped as Lilah came fluttering over. “Our lane is open! Oh,” she added as she saw the picture above me. “Like, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”
I slid out of the booth with a smile plastered on my face. “Nah, I’m good. Come on, I’m gonna whip you both.”
“Ohhh yeah right, you’re more likely to throw the ball in another lane.”
“Am not!” I swiped at her and she fluttered away, giggling. I began laughing too and Sam joined in. Thirty-three years ago my father was here, laughing with his friends too. We were both almost killed at fifteen. It seemed like history was starting to repeat itself.
I just hoped it didn’t completely repeat itself.
My father was thirty-one when he died.
And in the vision with the rain and the screaming and the lightning striking the fence I climbed on… I kinda looked to be around the same age…