I have to admit, parents aren’t as frightening as I expected. I’m not really sure what I expected. More yelling, maybe? Kaede’s parents are just as welcoming. They listen calmly as he explains, though they don’t seem to understand why he’s been with us if he doesn’t have magic. He tells them we need him to help keep us grounded. I try very hard not to roll my eyes.
Finally, it’s Andrei’s turn. His mood has only grown darker as the afternoon progresses. I start to wonder if we should quit while we’re ahead. Two out of three is good enough, right? Caroline urges us on ahead, so I doubt she’d let us leave. Andrei’s mood makes me nervous…
My feet crunch in the snow and I leave a trail of watery footsteps as I jog to catch up to Andrei. He leads the way to the bus stop where we’ll need to get on to travel to get to his parent’s on the other side of town. He’s lost in thought when I come up beside him, so I bump into his shoulder lightly.
“Hey,” I speak quietly, so the others won’t hear. “Do you think it’s really going to be that bad?”
He scratches at his coat absently. “It’s hard to say. I didn’t leave on good terms, so I’m more nervous about how they’ll take me just showing up now. It’s been nearly four years.”
I wrap my arm around his and smile. “I think it will be okay. If it goes bad… we can just run away!” I try to joke, hoping he’ll laugh.
He laughs nervously. “I don’t know if I’d want to run away again. I haven’t spoken to them since I moved in with Kaede. I have a feeling they’ll be very emotional.”
I hum. “Well, you put up with me all the time, so it should be a breeze,” he grins but doesn’t look convinced.
On the bus ride, Andrei insists I take any available seat. I’m tempted to argue, but I don’t want to upset him anymore. He stands in front of me like a wall while Caroline and Kaede hold onto nearby poles. It’s relatively busy since it’s late afternoon. Most people are leaving work. I wonder what day it is? I never usually keep track.
When we arrive at the stop, Andrei walks slowly. Caroline matches his pace, hands stuffed in her coat pockets. “I’m actually really excited to meet your family, Andrei. I’ve never met your sisters before. I wonder what they’re like.”
Sisters… right. It’s not just parents I’ll need to be wary of.
When Andrei doesn’t answer, Kaede pipes up. “Andrei says they’re like polar opposites. Night and day.”
Andrei looks over his shoulder. “Yeah, they are. Kira and Ylenia are very different but they’re very close.”
I stare ahead at the street. The houses are really fancy in this area. They must be pretty well-off. “It’s a nice area. What do your parents do?” I ask, trying to make casual conversation.
“My dad is a lawyer, my mom’s a manager of a business in downtown Toronto,” Andrei answers as he turns right at the corner.
The house he stops in front of is immaculate. White brick exterior, two car garage with a semi-circular driveway. Two shiny cars are parked out front. It has two stories with a sizeable lawn and probably a garden, though it’s hidden under a blanket of snow. Andrei hesitates at the foot of the path leading to the door.
“I guess I can’t put it off forever,” he mutters under his breath. I tug on his arm before he moves. He looks down at me puzzled. I place my palm on his cheek – his skin is icy cold and pink. Then I hop up on my tiptoes to plant a kiss on his lips. I don’t really know any other way to try to cheer him up a bit.
“Thanks, I needed that,” he chuckles.
“Common, let’s not wait for Christmas to come again!” Caroline calls from behind, rubbing her hands together to stay warm.
I frown. “What does that mean? What’s a Christmas?” Is that some kind of human thing? I don’t think we have that on the island…
Everyone’s eyes turn to me, a shocked look on each of their faces. Andrei’s jaw works soundlessly.
“Christmas is the holiday in December. Christians celebrate it, Santa Claus comes and gives everyone gifts… You can’t tell me you don’t know about Christmas!” Kaede retorts.
I shrug. “If it’s a Christian thing, that’s probably why. We don’t have those sort of things. Everyone practices their religions in private at the Guild.”
“It’s not just a Christian Holiday, not anymore. People usually exchange gifts and eat dinners and deserts together. A lot of different people celebrate the holiday,” Caroline adds. I just stare at her. What am I supposed to say? I mean, she knows I wasn’t really invited to group gatherings before, right?
“Uh… I dunno. You’d have to ask Cliff or someone when we get back. Maybe they do have something,” I turn back to the house. “Anyway…”
Andrei steps up the porch and presses a button on the wall next to the door. I hear a chime from inside the house and a short while later the door opens inward to reveal a stern looking man with dark brown hair and a mustache. Andrei stands there silently as the rest of us watch from behind.
The man’s eyes light up, a deep brown that reminds me of Nik for some reason. He pulls Andrei by the arm into a hug in the doorway. He looks at us over Andrei’s shoulder and he gives us a wink. Well, that explains a lot… I wonder, absently, how many traits I would have shared with my parents if any.
When he finally releases Andrei, he pats him on the shoulder and motions to us. “Why don’t you bring your friends in?” the man asks in a deep voice.
The interior of the house is just as spectacular as the outside, if not more so. Caroline is the first one through the door, with Kaede close behind. Andrei waves for me to go ahead. I bite the inside of my lip. We leave our shoes at the door on a black mat. His father gestures for us to move into an adjacent room, with white couches and a dormant fireplace.
Two little girls appear in the archway on the other side of the room. One hugs the doorframe, her striking hazel eyes scan over the room. They look just like Andrei’s, set in her round porcelain face. Her dark hair is braided down the back of her head. The other one, who looks maybe a year or two younger, bounds into the room. Her pigtail braids bounce as her dark eyes, like her father’s, settle on her brother.
“Andi!” she squeals. She barrels into his legs, hugging tightly. He stares down at her in shock, not sure what to do. Her energy is impressive as she rips away from him and starts hugging everyone. Soon, she stands in front of me, arms wide, waiting for me to bend to her level. I study her innocent face; chubby little cheeks, glowing with… magic?
“What’s your name? I like your hair!” The girl’s voice snaps me back to reality.
I kneel and smile. “Thank you. I’m Kaitlyn,” she reaches and takes a handful of my hair in her hands, her eyes sparkling with awe. In the corner of my eye, I notice the other girl glance behind her. A woman appears in the doorway, short brown hair and bright hazel eyes. Obviously where they get it from. She’s stunningly beautiful, but her expression is anything but friendly, and I stand up slowly, weary. The little girl slips behind me.
The woman storms across the dark hardwood floor headed right for Andrei. His eyes grow wide and he takes a step back, but it’s not enough. The sound of her palm hitting his cheek echoes through the house. I flinch, squeezing my eyes shut. The image of Logan’s sadistic grin jumps to the front of my mind, and my breath hitches. I know that pain all too well…
“You leave without a word for three years and you think you can just come back without any warning? Who the hell do you think we are?” the woman shouts.
Andrei bows his head, resisting the urge to rub his cheek. “Four… years.” He mumbles.
She continues as if she didn’t hear him. “You maybe be twenty years old but you’re still our son and we care about you. Where do you get off thinking it’s okay for you to just skip out without a word, hmm?”
The fire reacts, flaring to life in my chest. It knows my fear – it feeds on it. It rages against my ribcage, ready to eliminate the threat. I hear a chorus of gasps, and I open my eyes to see what happened. Their gazes are fixed on the fireplace across the room, dormant a moment ago, now rages with bright orange flames. All around the room, decorative candles jump to life. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the candles in the house lit.
This is bad. Stop it. Stop. You can’t do this. This is his home, his family. I clench my hands into fists, my nails dig into my palms. The pain brings perspective to my racing mind. I push back against the fire, trying to swallow it.
I freeze. Did it just… It spoke. For the first time in more than two decades, it used a word. I take a deep breath and look to Andrei. His head still bowed, his wide eyes are fixed on me. There’s a pleading there. I feel it like a knife in my chest.
I want to protect him too, but this isn’t the way. We’ll only hurt him. You have to stop.
The fire grumbles in the back of my mind, but one by one, the candles fizzle out. The fireplace continues to burn, as though an unspoken warning. I let out a ragged breath.
“She’s got fire!” Kira yells from the doorway, pointing at Kaitlyn. Everyone turns to look at me with shock.
“So, you’ve found others who have magic,” his mother says, crossing her arms over her chest. “Is this why you dropped out of high school? To find people like you?” Andrei remains silent, looking at the floor.
“I found them,” I blurt out. The tension is killing me. “There were students being kidnapped at the University, ones with magic potential. I found them being attacked, and I took them somewhere safe. It’s not his fault. Please don’t blame him.”
Andrei’s head snaps up, gawking at me. His mother’s eyes narrow. “What was he doing at a University?” she asks with calculated precision, slowly shifting her gaze back to Andrei.
“He was at the library,” I answer quickly. Amazing how clear my memory can be under pressure.
Kaede jumps in. “He was living with me, studying on his own time to get his high school diploma.”
“Stop it, guys,” Andrei snaps. “I’ll tell her.” He finally meets her gaze and with a nervous swallow. “I couldn’t complete high school with the time magic… It was too hard. So I dropped out. I moved in with Kaede because I was too embarrassed to tell you. When he got into University for computer science, I moved with him, studying high school courses online and trying to complete it on my own. It wasn’t until after I met Kaitlyn at the library that I learned how to control when I jump. Since then, well, we’ve been somewhere that’s safe because people were looking for us because of our magic. Caroline also has magic. She’s Kaede’s girlfriend, from University… and Kaitlyn, she’s my girlfriend.”
I hold my breath, watching his mother as she processes the information. The little girl behind me, her little hands clutching my sweater, peeks out. “Mum?” she calls out, unsure. The woman covers her mouth with her hand, her eyes glisten. Suddenly she throws her arms around Andrei, holding him close as she sobs quietly.
I relax my clenched fists. The air stings my palms. I think the worst is over now. The tension in the room dissipates as his father pats his wife on the back.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Andrei mumbles, voice muffled in her shirt. “I’m sorry.”
The little girl tugs on my sweater, drawing my gaze away from the heartwarming reunion. “So, you’re Andi’s girlfriend?”
I blink, my cheeks flush pink. “Um… Yes.” Does she know what that means? How old is she, I wonder…
“My names Ylenia! And that’s my sister Kira. We have magic too! Wanna see?” she says excitedly.
So I was right. I nod. “I would love to.”
“Why don’t we all take a seat?” their father speaks up. “Is anyone hungry? Thirsty?”
Ylenia pouts. “But I wanna show Andi’s girlfriend my magic.”
“Later, dear,” her father smiles, looking at me for an answer to his question. I shake my head as I glance at the others. Caroline asks if we can all have tea, and no one argues. She sits on the loveseat with Kaede. Andrei’s mother sits on a large armchair by the fireplace, and the other little girl, Kira, moves to stand next to her, leaning on the armrest. When his father returns, he brings a padded stool and sits on the other side of the coffee table.
“You’re sitting with me!” Ylenia announces as she pulls me over to the couch. She points for me to sit, and then climbs onto my lap. I hold my arms out to the sides, eyes wide. What is she doing? Is this normal? Andrei takes a seat next to me on the couch, much to my relief. I shoot him a questioning look, hoping he’ll explain what’s happening.
“Ylenia likes guests. Don’t worry,” Andrei assures me with a smile.
Ylenia adjusts herself to look at him. “Nuh uh! She’s gonna be my big sister, right? So she has to play with me!”
He rolls his eyes. “She’s always been the sociable one.”
Kira frowns. “Ylenia, you’re too noisy.”
Ylenia makes a noise, and I think she’s sticking her tongue out but I can’t see it. I resign myself to being a chair, and I wrap my arms around her little waist so she doesn’t slide off. She nestles against my chest, quite content.
“So,” Andrei’s mother pipes up, a steaming cup of tea in her hands. “How long have you been seeing each other for?”
Andrei looks at me before he answers. “About five months now. We only met in October,” has it really only been five months? It feels like so much longer.
“I see. And you’ve been studying? Magic and high school credits?” she asks, her voice thick with worry, rather than judgment now. It’s a striking contrast. “Andrei might not have told you, but we tried everything with the schools to help him, even a lawsuit. They stopped believing us, so there was nothing else we could do. I didn’t want Andrei to struggle as he did. As his jumps got longer and longer, I even considered homeschooling him, but before I could say anything to him, he’d run off.”
I purse my lips at her question. “Schools don’t really exist in the same way at the Guild. We don’t really have money or society. We just sort of… work together,” I explain, though it probably sounds ridiculous.
Her brows crease. “The Guild? What is this place? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Well, yeah, that’s sort of the point,” I giggle despite myself. I clear my throat, hoping she’s not offended.
“The point of what?” she asks.
“It’s hidden from the rest of the world on an island. It’s a safe haven for mages and their families who were persecuted over the past few centuries,” I try to explain. “The only way to know about it is to meet someone who’s been there.”
“So, you’re saying there’s an island out there with a bunch of magic families and anyone can live there, as long as they have magic, or is a relative of someone with magic? How can a society like this hold up without an economy or any connections to the outside world?” she raises a skeptical eyebrow.
I blink at her. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, how close-minded humans can be. “We coexist peacefully. If someone needs something, they ask the community. If we need something from the outside, it can be ordered from outside, but that’s usually just for electronics and modern things.”
“But how can you afford such things without any trade agreements? Where does the money come from? Surely you’re not making your own money,” She scoffs.
“She’s got a point,” Kaede says. “Where do we get the money from?”
“Oh… I guess I didn’t tell you,” I hum, and scratch my cheek. “Since I brought you to the Guild, you’re set up to withdraw from my account for orders. I barely use it, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
Andrei’s eyes grow wide. “We’re all under your account?”
“Yea,” I shrug. It’s not that big a deal. “I guess Gwen, Hitomi, Selene, and Nik will be too now. If they have funds of their own, they can have it changed over, but I don’t mind. ”
Caroline nearly shrieks. “Kat, if you have enough funds to support all of us, and the Guild… you must be a freakin’ monarch! What the heck! How do you not know that?!!”
“And still, how do you not know Christmas?” Kaede adds Caroline elbows him. “What? She could afford to get us all gifts!” he snickers.
I glance around the room. Okay, maybe it is a big deal? “Um… Well… According to Ambrosse, I inherited the money when my parents died. I never went back to where I was born, so I don’t really think about it,” I shift, lifting myself up slightly to pull my phone out of my back pocket. Ylenia giggles with the movement. “It’s just been sitting there for twenty-odd years…” I mumble as I tap on the screen with my thumb.
I have an app for my international bank account. “I think the currency is in Euros…” I say as I hand Andrei the phone. “I’m not sure how much that is, but the numbers don’t change much when Kaede orders things.”
Ylenia cranes her neck to look back at me. “So, are you a princess?” she asks with a sparkle in her eyes. “Will I become a princess too if Andi marries you?”
I laugh. She’s adorable. “I don’t think so, sorry sweetie. I’m just a regular girl like you.”
“I’m not so sure of that anymore,” Andrei mumbles beside me.
“Huh?” I glance over. His face has gone pale.
“No regular person has that kind of money, Kat,” he clarifies, his tone serious.
Kaede jumps up and leans over his shoulder. “Holy… You could put your great great grandkids through University with that, and still have some leftover!” he whistles. I blush. The thought sounds nice…
“Yay!” Ylenia screams. “I’m gonna be a princess!”
His parents exchange a strange, knowing look. “Grandkids, huh?” his father smoothes his mustache. “So you’re pregnant?”
I squeak involuntarily. “W-what? N-no…” I stutter. Andrei stares at the phone, pretending he didn’t hear.
His mother glares at him. “Now I understand why you’ve come home out of the blue. You’re a bit young for kids now, aren’t you?”
“It’s not like that at all! I didn’t come home for that. I… I felt bad for not telling you why I left and my friends convinced me it was a good idea to get that off my chest. Besides, it’s not like I need your approval. Kaitlyn and I are going to have our baby and we’re going to be good parents,” he says, gaining confidence with each word he speaks. I’m relieved, and a little impressed.
“That’s not to say we wouldn’t love for you to be involved,” I add quietly. I hope he agrees.
His parents study him and I then turn to each other, speaking with their eyes. His mother relaxes and his father turns to us. “We’re happy to hear you are dedicated to taking responsibility for your actions. We will support you in any way we can, as long as… perhaps we could come with you and join you on this island place of yours. It’s true, your sisters both seem to have traces of magic, much like yourself. We aren’t sure why, but it might be best if we could help them, as we couldn’t help you. This place, this Guild, you’ve described. It seems to have taught you a lot and we’d like to know more. Would it be possible for us to return with you?” he asks.
“Permanently?” I gawk. Now, that was unexpected.
“Well, I can easily work with my company via online communications. And Petre here, he could maybe travel for work. Travel is permitted is it not? ” his mother asks.
I gulp. “Well, yes, of course,” I glance at Andrei, who is frozen in his seat. “We’ll have to talk to Am- er, the Headmistress, to find out the exact details, and to have a house set up for you.”
“Yippee! We get to live in a castle too!” Ylenia shouts.
I can’t help but laugh. “Well, you’ll be living with your parents until you’re a little older, but then you can visit as much as you like,” Kira smiles, looking up at her mother.
“Well, it’s getting later. We’ll look forward to your communications and then we can prepare to move. Will you be heading back there now? Will you be flying? Perhaps we can drive you to the airport,” his father suggests.
“We travel by portal,” I answer, though I think I sound a little snooty for some reason. I cough to clear my throat again. “If you’d like, you could come back with us tonight, before you make any decisions, and speak to the Headmistress.”
“Tonight? Well, we’d need to pack our things no?” his mother adds.
I glance at the others. “Just to see the place, I mean, it wouldn’t take that long. We have most of what you might need already there for a night or two. It’s just a suggestion…”
“Hmm, I supposed then, we could. It’d be nice to see the place first,” his mother hums.
Ylenia jumps out of my lap, and I lurch with the force of her ripping out of my arms. “Yay! Field trip! I gotta pack! Come on!” she grabs my hand, pulling hard. I stand up, confused. Why do I have to go with her? She drags me toward the stairs, and I hear the others snickering back in the other room.
I guess I should get used to this if they’re moving to the island… Maybe I can consider it a form of training. I’ve never been around kids before. It could be helpful.
By Krystyna Yates