Standing in the kitchen drinking coffee with Kaitlyn, away from the others is a welcome relief. It’s not that I don’t like them. They seem nice and all, I just don’t like large crowds of people and this lunch has become just that.
I hold the bottom of my cup in one hand gripping the handle with the other. The porcelain is lukewarm to my own hands, maybe scalding to the others. I take another sip as Kaitlyn leans back against the counter opposite me. I’ve suggested staying here a while to enjoy our coffee and our own little conversation. Besides, Elias said I should get to know the whole story, so I think I might do just that.
“So, what should we talk about?” I ask as she sips her coffee, a peaceful expression on her face. She just shrugs. “Fine, I’ll start. How long have you been in this place for?” I want to know more, not just about the Guild, but about her. Maybe then I can make sense of things.
“My whole life. I don’t remember much from before,” she answers simply. “I used to sneak out from time to time, but I don’t really know a lot about how the outside world works.”
“Sneak out, like through one of those doors?” I ask, remembering how Steve brought me here. I never thought I could sneak away in the night with no one noticing.
“Yea,” she nods slowly, a faraway look in her eyes. “It wasn’t usually my idea, but I went. It’s not like I was in danger, at least I didn’t think so. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I could leave on my own when I got the Guild mark.”
“Oh?” I say curiously. “Who’s idea was it then?” I wonder what she means by Guild mark, but my curiosity about who snuck her out is greater.
“Logan, the one we mentioned earlier,” she pointedly stares at the opposite wall, “He liked to break rules like that.”
“I see where you get it from then, breaking the rules,” I smirk over my coffee cup. “Bet that annoyed Andrei, didn’t it?”
She glances over, eyes slightly wide, “Andrei wasn’t here then. He didn’t know Logan like that.”
“Oh, I didn’t realise,” I think a moment, taking another sip of my black coffee. Nik mentioned Logan was abusive and it seems he liked to break the rules. Kaitlyn mentioned Caroline erasing her scars, so… What did Eli want me to find out? Something still isn’t adding up. “So, before you met Andrei, what did you do around here? For fun, I mean.”
“I used to read a lot,” she hums. “And I spent a lot of time training. Other than that, whatever Logan felt like doing. I guess it just depended on his mood.”
“Which was?” I frown. I lower my coffee cup as a small knot of concern in my stomach grows. It’s beginning to sound like she was heavily influenced by this guy, and not in a good way.
She chews her bottom lip, staring into her mug. “I dunno… Everybody has moods, don’t they? He usually liked to pretend to be happy around other people, but he didn’t hide his real feelings from me. I thought that he just trusted me, or something.”
“Sounds like a dangerous sort of guy. The kinda person who keeps secrets,” I muse, not really sure what to think. Maybe it was pointless trying to fish for information. I should just leave well enough alone. And yet… I’m curious now… just who was this Logan? What did he do to her that Eli seemed adamant about me knowing? “What feelings did he show you that he could show others?” I ask next.
“He was…” she hesitates, choosing her words carefully. “Curious. He loved to experiment, and find new ways to use his magic, different techniques.”
“Well, that doesn’t seem so horrible. What kind of magic did he have?” I’m now slightly confused. I mean, wouldn’t anyone want to know more about how their magic works? Why would it be such a secret?
Her nails tap on her mug quietly and her eyes flutter up to look at me as she responds. “He was a necromancer. Even in a place like this, dark magic has a bad reputation.”
“A necromancer? So those really do exist. Sorry, I’m still processing the whole ‘magic is real’ thing. So he could raise the dead or something?” I might sound dumb, but there’s no point in hiding my ignorance.
“Or something,” she grimaces. “Raising humans is forbidden, so he would experiment on animals. He was also gifted in creating toxins and poisons. He liked to see how they affected things and try different delivery methods.”
“Ahh, I can see how people might be touchy about that. Even in the real world, there are those who advocate for animal rights,” I interrupt.
“Eventually, he got bored of animals,” she sighs, sipping her coffee, letting the statement hang in the air.
It dawns on me then, what scars and things Caroline might have erased. “He experimented on you.” I don’t phrase it like a question. I know what she meant. Somehow, saying it aloud though, makes it seem more real. “I see why that would make Andrei uncomfortable now.”
“Yea,” she fidgets. “When we were caught by Logan, he made Andrei watch… and it wasn’t even a fraction of what Logan really enjoyed before Andrei totally lost it.”
I sip my coffee, trying to settle the burning sensation in my gut. I can’t believe what I’m hearing, my mind spinning with the details she’s shared, and not shared. I’m surprisingly calm, hearing this from her. Is it because I know he’s not around any longer, or is it just less emotional for me? I don’t really know. This Logan sounds like a really sick person, but, can you really blame him when his magic was Necromancy? Sounds like a moral dilemma.
I look up again to see her rubbing the rim of her mug. “I guess you can’t blame someone when they have that kind of magic, still… how did you feel about what he liked to do? That’s what’s more important, I think,” my throat feels tight from worrying. I patiently await her reply.
“I don’t know,” she mutters. “I didn’t know anything else, until recently.”
“Until Andrei, that is. So you were indifferent to how he treated you?” I raise my cup. I peer inside, noticing it’s already half empty. Damn.
She shrugs. “I didn’t have any other options. The only other person that didn’t avoid me was my mentor. Logan was my only friend, in a loose sense of the word.”
“I guess you could say that. I grew up with no friends, once I got my magic. Everyone I tried to talk to either got hurt or ran away once they saw something out of the ordinary, or they bullied me. That’s why I hate people in general, or rather, having to talk to people,” I confess, wiggling my blackened fingers beside my cup.
“I wish I could hate him,” she whispers quietly, eyes downcast. “Everyone seems to think I should. I don’t know how. Even after everything, when he was shot down in front of me, I still felt sad.”
I can’t really relate. I still hate the one I blame for giving me this magic, but in her case, it was someone she loved and trusted, to an extent. When I think about my brother now, I feel hate… more than sadness. “Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? You knew him as a friend too, where the others didn’t. Doesn’t mean how he treated you was right, but I can see why you’d be sad. It’s ok to feel that,” I say, despite the feeling of worms in my gut. I think I’m going to need more coffee after this is done.
“You’re the only person who seems to think so,” she hums, raising her gaze with a slight smile.
“Really?” Oh, but that smile is so cute. She’s so pretty when she smiles. “Well, maybe the others don’t know enough to say otherwise then.” I down the rest of my coffee with a feeling of wanting more. “Did you want more coffee? I feel like that went a little quickly,” I offer her.
“Oh, um…” she glances into her mug. “Sure. I’ll show you how to use the machine if you want to have more later too.”
“Thanks, that’d be great,” I feel my lip twitch at the corner. I put my cup down and follow her instructions regarding the mode of the machine. I find my attention fixated on her and her actions as she speaks. I certainly can’t think of anything else.
When she’s done I put my cup in the machine and wait for the black liquid to fill it up. “Can I make you one?” I ask.
Her cheeks flush light pink and her smile widens. “If you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” I take her cup, switching the machine settings as she showed me. When I think I’ve got it right, I ask her to check, just to make sure. She nods encouragingly. I press the start button and wait, turning around to lean against the counter. I accidentally brush her hand as she leans forward, watching the machine and I feel sparks where our skin meets.
“Sorry,” she flinches. “Um… Sugar, and cream. I should grab those while we wait.”
I look at my hand, feeling heat in my cheeks and in my chest. Suddenly, I feel very guilty for having these feelings. “Right,” I say, as an afterthought. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but that just makes this all the more difficult. I turn back to the machine, waiting for the thing to finish. Waiting for the feeling to pass.
“So, anything else you want to ask me about before someone comes looking for us?” she asks, leaning into the fridge.
My heart skips at the question. There are a million things I find I want to ask, but would any of them be appropriate? Likely not. “This seems to have been me playing twenty questions by myself. Don’t you have any for me?” I ask, trying not to sound dismissive while at the same time, sounding interested in participating. I’m really no good at conversation.
“Sure, I guess,” she frowns, closing the fridge door. “But it looked like there was something else you wanted to ask. I guess I’m still learning your expressions.”
“I’m not an expressive person. I wouldn’t base anything on my face. I’ve learned to hide my feelings over the years. Prevents people from getting too close… you know,” I mutter.
“Yea, but there’s enough to read if you know what to look for. I mean, I learned to read Logan’s mood a long time ago. Yours is not so hard,” she smirks.
“Is that so?” I find it hard to keep my mouth flat as I glance at her from the side.
“Don’t feel bad,” she snickers, returning to the spot next to me. “Most people don’t realise how expressive they really are.”
“I don’t normally have a lot of expressions to begin with,” I insist. I don’t usually. That’s a fact. Not since high school.
“What’s different now then?” she asks, tilting her head as she looks up at me.
“What’s d-different?” I stutter. She always has a way to bring it back to this… I can’t avoid it. “I’m not sure… maybe it’s you,” I glance away, trying not to make eye contact. “You make it easy to talk,” I add quickly, so she won’t get the wrong idea. It’s more like she makes me feel things I’ve never felt before, desires, longings.
She turns her focus on the machine. “Oh, well that’s good. I’m glad,” she pauses. “I hope, maybe soon, you might even consider me your first real friend. I’d like that.”
I look up, startled by her comment. “First… real…” I trail off, losing my words to the thought. I haven’t had friends in years. I’ve not considered anyone a friend since… since I was nine. Is it even possible for someone like me to have friends? I realise my silence is drawing discomfort and I scramble to fill the silence. “If you could consider a loser like me a friend, then I guess it might happen.” Dumb… that was dumb… now you sound full of self-pity.
But you are full of self-pity. The voice rings in my head. I feel my jaw tighten at the remark. Thank you, stupid voice in my head. Like I needed you to point out the obvious.
It seemed like you did.
I reach for the coffee, just as it beeps. I take it in my hand and pass it to Kaitlyn. “Here, it’s ready.”
“Thanks,” she smiles again, making my heart flutter. “You’re not a loser, you know. I’m not even sure what that means, but I don’t think you’re it.”
I find myself chuckling at her remark. “It’s nice of you to think so, but if you knew how I’ve lived my life, I think you’d say otherwise,” I cup my hot coffee, breathing in the bitter aroma. It… relaxes me, slightly.
“Do you really think I’m in any place to judge you?” she raises an eyebrow. “At least you can function on your own. Apparently, I’m utterly useless at everything,” she grumbles.
I laugh, lightly. “Useless? You make good coffee, and you’re an amazing boss. I guess…” my tone gets more serious as I think on it. “Everyone I’ve ever met judges me, so I’m used to it. I don’t have much of a social life, and outside in the real world, if you don’t have one of those you’re considered a loser. I got a job and I work, so I get by.”
She hums. “I don’t know what I would do if I had to work. The longest I’ve been on my own was those few weeks when I took off and met Nik. I don’t think I’d have survived without being a Guardian, even without the wounds. According to Andrei, normal people can’t live off bar snacks and alcohol,” she giggles to herself.
“Well, he’s right. If you manage that, then I’d claim you are a god. That stuff is considered unhealthy,” I muse. “So, you’ve never really been on the outside much, have you. How’d you meet Andrei and them then?” I ask.
She purses her lips in thought. “Logan took off, so I went looking for him. It turned out, he was kidnapping students with magic potential for the Master. I intercepted when he attacked Andrei and Caroline, but I was hurt in the process. Logan got away, and they took me home with them.”
“Wow, sounds intense. And did they have their magic then?” I’m curious, how did others with magic get by on the outside? Am I the only one that struggled?
“Andrei did,” she replies. “He wasn’t awakened as a Guardian, and he didn’t have control of the time jumps, but he knew it was magic. Caroline was in complete denial.”
I chuckle again. “She seems the sort who might deny it. So, others had it, out there, and turned out normal, huh?” I think aloud. “Guess it’s just my dumb luck then.” I look around the corner of the kitchen doorway at the group, laughing and eating together. I spy Caroline whacking Kaede for something he’s likely said and Andrei nearly crying with laughter. Hitomi just looks downright confused. That’s cute. Selene, she’s got that same bored look on her face. They all look like a happy group of friends to me. I doubt I’d fit in at all. Large groups just aren’t my thing…
“I don’t know if I’d call them normal,” Kaitlyn muses from behind me. “Andrei had a lot of problems explaining long absences when he’d be thrown back in time for weeks or months. It depends on the power. It’s just our luck that fire magic is destructive and volatile by nature.”
“Yea, bad luck,” I repeat. “I guess being missing for weeks on end would be cause for worry. Must have impacted school life quite a bit, what with the teachers always on your back about attendance.” I sigh, turning back to my coffee. “Why are you so fascinated by the outside anyway? Don’t you have the same things here? Considering everyone comes from the outside, don’t they?” I ask.
“Kaede says we’re way behind. He’s been updating the technology around the place since he got here. He keeps talking about all of these movies and shows and I’ve never seen any of them. I don’t know if I’ve actually ever watched a movie at all,” she lifts the mug to her lips, taking a large gulp.
“You’ve never seen a movie? Now that’s a crime,” I tease. “If Kaede’s set up a theatre, why don’t we watch one, together?” I suggest.
She looks up with wide eyes. “When? I mean, I don’t know how to make it work, so you’d have to ask Kaede, and then he’ll want to watch too, and Caroline, and… I don’t know if you want that.”
“I mean, sure I’m not Mr, social butterfly, but… going to a movie means you don’t have to talk. I’m ok with that. Why don’t we ask the others if they want to join us, and maybe we can watch something… after lunch. Before I get started on work. Does that sound ok? Or…” Dare I ask? “Would you rather watch one, just the two of us?” I feel the heat again, rising. Bad idea to suggest that…
Hardly a bad idea. The best you’ve had since yesterday.
“We can ask the others, and if we get Kaede to show us how to play movies, maybe you can help me catch up on what I’ve missed,” she grins, her eyes lit up by the idea.
My lip twitches again, definitely an invitation for later. “Alright. Sounds good,” I look back out at the group. “Should we go join them then?” I ask her. She nods reluctantly.
I shrug, then turn to leave the kitchen. Kaitlyn follows behind me and a few eyes look up as we return to our seats. I sit there, stiffly, under their gaze.
“And what took you guys so long? Forget how the coffee machine works?” Kaede jests, leaning across the table with a wicked grin on his face.
“No, just enjoying the peace and quiet. Some of us need breaks in between your rants,” Kaitlyn replies with a thin smile, pulling her knees up to her chest. She cradles the mug in her hands, resting on her knees. Sometimes her comebacks surprise me.
“I see, my awesomeness is just too much to take in all at once, You need to observe from afar. I get it. No offense taken,” Kaede grins. I watch silently as Caroline shoots him a glare and Andrei snickers again.
“She showed me how the machine works, so I can use it next time,” I add, just for safe measures.
“Right, and we were talking about the Guild, and we had this idea…” Kaitlyn glances around. “Maybe we can all watch a movie together? Since Kaede set up the little theater in the library, and you guys keep telling me about all these films I haven’t seen…” she trails off, looking for a response.
Kaede’s eyes light up, his hands clapping together. “A movie!?” he squeaks.
Andrei turns to her with a smile. “You’re right, we haven’t seen a movie before, together at least. It’s been ages since I last saw one. That sounds like a nice idea.”
“Oh, I’d love to see a movie!” Caroline jumps in.
“I’m in,” Nik chimes with a grin.
Selene exhales slowly. “Oh, I suppose, for you.”
“A… movie? Eiga?” Hitomi whispers beside me.
“I don’t think I have seen a movie before. None of the tribes I visit in the Namib desert had electricity and the like. I would like to see a movie, whatever it is,” Gwen smiles.
“I want to watch,” Hitomi speaks up a little.
“Kaede will set up Japanese subtitles for you. Won’t you, Kaede?” Selene smiles sweetly, looking at him.
“Of course!” he grins back. “Easy peasy, when you’re a tech Guardian.”
“I honestly don’t know how you’ve survived this long…” Kaitlyn mutters under her breath.
“Kaede is like a cat, I swear he’s got nine lives,” Andrei responds quietly.
I find it difficult to hold back a laugh at that one. These guys, they’re pretty funny. They’re so light-hearted, considering all the things I’ve heard happened. How do they do that? I wish I could be light-hearted. I wish… I wish I had friends like them when I was their age…
Kaede leads us to the library once we’ve finished lunch. I’m impressed with the setup Kaede’s got down here. It completely stands out from the rest of the Guild I’ve seen so far. A drop-down screen descends from the ceiling in front of a cluster of sofas and chairs. As he works on setting up the specifics, I take a seat near the back, away from the crowd.
Andrei grabs a big armchair and beckons Kat to join him. I see her blush as she climbs into his lap. Caroline interrupts my thoughts as she holds a bundle of fuzzy blankets. “Anyone want one?” she asks.
“Who needs a blanket when you’ve got your own heater,” Andrei grins. Oh man… they are… they are too much.
I wave a hand when she looks at me. “I’m hot enough thanks.”
“Humph, that’s what they all say,” she smirks, raising an eyebrow. I gawk after her as she passes on to Gwen and Hitomi. What? Who’s they? W-what?
“So, did you have a movie in mind, or am I going to have to run through the list of classics and latest reels of the 21st century?” Kaede grins from the DVD player.
Kaitlyn grimaces and turns to Andrei. “Pick something for me, before he starts,” she whispers loudly.
“Hey!” Kaede pouts.
“Alright. How about… Time Traveler’s Wife?” he suggests.
“Ohh, come on. That’s a sappy love story!” Kaede complains boisterously.
“Not to mention we already watch that every day,” Selene scoffs, gesturing at the pair of them. She sits on one of the two-seaters with Nik taking up the other two-thirds of it.
“Kimi no Nawa?” Hitomi whispers softly. I doubt anyone hears her so I repeat it for her.
“Hitomi suggests Kimi no Nawa, whatever that is,” I say.
“Oh, that’s the new anime one, Your Name, about a shooting star and two high schoolers who switch bodies or something like that. I heard it was good,” Caroline adds.
“No, no, no. I got it. The perfect movie… hold on,” Kaede scrolls through a list on his phone, keeping us on the edge of our seats as he looks for the movie. When he finally stops he flips his phone around and juts it out toward us to see. “Mean Girls!” he shouts.
The library erupts in boos and sighs.
“How about one of those billion superhero movies going around?” Nik pipes up. “I think we can all kind of relate to those. Like X-Men, or… Deadpool,” he grins. “I think Kat would appreciate the fight scenes, at least.”
“Deadpool was pretty funny,” I admit, leaning toward that, though X-men, in my opinion, is just as good.
“You mean the Marvel stuff? Like Avengers?” Caroline asks. “But it’s so predictable,” she frowns.
“It’s hardly predictable when you haven’t seen it,” Kaede sighs.
“I’m pretty sure Deadpool isn’t predictable, especially to a girl like you,” Nik teases. “You’ll probably be mortified.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?” Caroline puts a hand on her hip, glaring at Nik hard.
“It’s supposed to mean you’re a girl. Like a girly girl,” he shrugs with a smirk. “Can’t handle a little action.”
Her glare intensifies and I see Kaede watching Nik, shaking his hands as if to say ‘no, don’t go there, don’t go there.’
“I’ll have you know,” Caroline starts with an acid tone to her voice. “I am not a girly girl. Have you ever seen me in a skirt? Have you ever heard me talk about girly things? No. And if you-” she’s suddenly interrupted by Kaede, who’s quickly set up the player and pressed play at full volume, causing Hitomi to clap her hands to her ears.
“Oh, look at that, the movies about to start! Everyone, grab a seat! Popcorn?” he asks, pulling up an app on his phone.
Hands go up for nearly everyone, so I join in. Popcorn is always good with a movie. I watch as Caroline reluctantly takes a seat, eyes still glaring holes in Nik. That’s a touchy subject I guess.
“Come on, Caroline. I saved this seat for us. It’s got one of the best views. And Hitomi, don’t worry. I got the subtitles,” Kaede winks at her. She nods with a slight blush.
Looks like we’re watching Deadpool.
By Kayla West