Observation: I’M STUCK!!! I’ve been trying to come up with this awesome climax for hours, you know how you do. You go around doing other mundane things like search for the bottom part of the Christmas tree that has somehow disappeared from the box where it should be. Gremlins done it! They can be my climax! But no, I really can’t have gremlins.
Total word count: 46,917
You can read previous sections here.
I’m home two days early. Quietly. I had no intention of letting anyone in my family know I was back. I didn’t even call Nikki knowing that she really doesn’t have a censor on what she tells other people and the word would get out that I was back.
While the short vacation with Cousin Phoebe was relaxing and edifying, I could never quite let go of the fact that I had so much unfinished business waiting for me, not to mention finding out about Anton—whether he was alive or dead.
When we get out of the car, Moira does a lap around the cottage and then a quick investigation in the surrounding woods before bounding back her tongue dangling out of the side of her mouth. She looks happy and satisfied.
“All quiet,” she says.
I nod. Phoebe instructed me to always take fifteen seconds before responding to Moira so that I would be aware of whether I was thinking it or speaking it and not just speaking out of habit.
“It’s going to snow tonight,” Moira says.
“Did you gaze into your crystal ball?”
“Haha. I’ll leave the crystal balls to you. No. I can smell it in the air.” Her wet nose flares to emphasize the point.
When I unlock the door, Moira runs in ahead. “Your Aunt Lea has been inside.”
I flick on the light and the go to the kitchen. Sure enough there’s a handwritten note on the counter letting me know that she’s stocked the refrigerator and that she’s available if I need to talk. There’s nothing from my mother. In all the time that I’ve been gone, the only communications from my mother regarded Isla. I never considered that my mother played favorites with her daughters, but she’s certainly been more concerned about Isla. Of course, Isla may be in serious trouble. Although, honestly, Isla’s always been more wayward and less directed than me and my other sisters.
After putting on the kettle, I place some of Phoebe’s tea recipe in a teaball, inhaling the rich fragrance of bergamot and cinnamon as well as other herbs I can’t place.
Pulling Anton’s card from my clutch bag, I hold it between the index finger and thumb of both hands and concentrate the way Phoebe showed me: visualize and focus. At first there’s nothing, which makes my stomach drop, but then there’s this warming sensation, the feeling of life that surges through my fingers and into my brain, with a vibrant green aura. He’s alive. My relief is palpable.
He’s alive. Then my mind seizes the next inevitable thought: then what happened to the baby, unless there never was a baby. That can’t be true. The Eastern Shore witches knew. They also knew when the light left my body. Everyone knew the instant they saw my hair. No, this was not some elaborate figment of my imagination.
I look out the window and just as Moira had predicted, fat flakes of snow are drifting to the ground as if they had all the time in the world. I’ve always loved the snow, have so many fond memories of my Dad helping me to build a snow fort and us building snowmen and making snow angels. My heart skitters to my throat to know that because of this whole mess I missed my Dad at Thanksgiving.
Just as I’m adding a teaspoon of clover honey to my tea, there’s a knock at my door. Well, that didn’t take long.
“Who did you call?” I ask Moira, patting her head as I move to the door.
She rolls her eyes. “I like peace and quiet, which makes me question the intellect of the individual who decided I should be your familiar. Since I met you there hasn’t been a time for me to meditate or repose.”
“Repose, eh?” There’s another knock. “Who is it?” I ask her.
“Open and find out.”
I do. Anton stands there his brow furrowed, white flakes of snow melt in his golden blond hair. He looks worried and yet disappointed, which makes me feel disappointed. Was he hoping that I was dead?
“You’re here,” he says.
“Master of the obvious,” Moira says.
He slips by me as I turn sideways and then stands in the foyer looking around. Moira, traitor as always goes to him and leans in, rolling her eyes back as he scratches her.
“I’m glad to see you’re okay,” I tell him.
“Are you? Why?”
Okay. That’s a strange response.
“I was sent to San Francisco by your mother on a wild goose chase, only to be informed by your Aunt Lea that you were just a few hours away at the shore. A little bit of research tells me why you were there.”
Raising an eyebrow at him, I shake my head and then go into the kitchen to get my tea.
“Want a cup?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “Definitely not strong enough.”
He nods. I pour a finger and then figure another finger couldn’t hurt with the mood he’s in. He nods “thanks” as I hand it to him and then throws back half of it.
“Okay then,” I say. I can tell that this is going to be an interesting conversation.
“You went to your relative witches to get rid of our baby.”
“I did not.”
“But the baby is gone.”
“Yes,” I say, feeling that same stymieing sadness again. “I had nothing to do with it. I thought something had happened to you.”
“Who then—” He stops talking and then throws back the rest of the bourbon. If that had been me, I would have fallen over. I guess when you’re a big upset guy, your tolerance is higher.
I sit on the loveseat, pulling my legs underneath me while he goes to the kitchen and pours himself another shot of bourbon or two from the looks of the glass when he returns. I’m glad for the warmth of the cup of tea in my hands. He sits next to me, extending his long legs out while staring into the darkness towards the woods. His mind is elsewhere, puzzling over events as I have been doing.
“My Easter Shore aunts said my mother should have immediately performed a protection spell over us to secure our safety and that of the baby. They said those protection spells—”
“Sometimes don’t help.”
“There hasn’t been a Light Union in the past 200 years. Ours would have been the first. Did your aunts convey to you just how miraculous this would have been?”
Thinking back to Aunt Aurora’s anger, I nod. “Somewhat.”
He takes a sip of bourbon and then sets the glass on the coffee table. “There’s something else going on that I’m not seeing. Someone cared very much that you and I should not create the union. Someone not evil.”
“My Eastern Shore relatives thought my mother might have other plans.”
“Maybe Isla is her chosen one?”
I sip my tea as he considers this. Moira goes to the door and looks out into the yard. The wind has picked up, coursing through the trees in a throbbing hum.
Anton reaches out, his index finger twisting around one of my auburn curls. “When the silver left my hair, I thought you’d chosen to get rid of the baby.” His voice sounds unexpectedly raw.
My cell phone chirps with a text and I’m about to turn the cell off when I see it’s from Phoebe written in caps: DON’T OPEN YOUR DOOR!
Anton glances at my phone.
Someone pounds on the door. Anton and I look at each other.
He shrugs. “What the worst—”
“Are you kidding?” I ask in a whisper. Just asking is like tempting fate.
“You may have noticed I’m not the type to sit around if someone’s threatening me.”
“We don’t know that that’s what it is,” I whisper.
end of day 28(a?)