The atmosphere in our house was very tense after Grampy’s death. Father had come home as soon as Momma’s message got through to him. Momma spent most of her time crying but tried (and failed) to hide it from Edward and I. Edward was more morose. All the servants went about their business more quietly than usual absorbing the tension in the air amongst our family and respecting that we needed to mourn.
I was the only one who acted normal, despite Father being home. I’d done all my grieving the day Grampy had died. I had no energy left to weep any more. I’d tried to be cheerful and deflect the sorrow but when Father actually started sending me looks of open disapproval and disgust, I stopped realizing that I should respect my family’s sadness. Eventually I couldn’t tolerate being with them and the depression that surrounded them (so thick you could cut it with a blunt knife) so I would come out only for meals. The rest of the time I shut myself in my room. Sophia (I suspected on Momma’s orders) would stay up in my room with me and followed me everywhere. After about a week of my routine she couldn’t stand my normality and confronted me in her usual gentle manner she reserved for me.
“Pixie,” Soph began. I glanced up from my book and stopped my humming
“Please, my little Pixie, I beg you explain to me why, how, can you act so normal and calm as if nothing has happened?” Soph asked worry etched on her face, “even today, when your Grandpa’s luggage wasn’t there this morning, Edward deliberately wouldn’t look and your Momma burst into tears but you, you just took one glance, shrugged and continued walking as if it didn’t affect you. Why did you do that? How are you handling this so well?” I waited for her to finish watching her calmly while she babbled in her anxiety. I raised a hand to tell her to stop and she fell silent
“Soph, I am acting normal because I see no reason to let my Grandfather’s death eat me up, even though I have more reason than any to mourn,” I answered quietly, “I have to move on in life, if I can only hold on to the past how can I live in the present and embrace the future? I have mourned. I have wept. And now, I have moved on. My Grandfather never wanted me to hate myself because he died; he never wanted me to blame myself in order to stop that happening and to stop myself hating him, I have accepted he is dead and nothing will change that.” Sophia absorbed that thinking it through. Sophia is very intelligent for someone who never went to school and cannot read or write.
“I think I understand, little Pixie, and I think it is wise of you to do that, so long as you are not bottling it up inside but also are not letting rule your life then you will be fine. You are mature for your years, Willow Fairy” she kissed my forehead and left me alone, for the first time in days; I was alone.
* * *
The funeral took place at the local church, around three weeks after Grampy’s death about mid-August. I had dressed in a black skirt and grey long sleeved blouse. I had a black ribbon in my hair and my hair was up in an elaborate style. I wore my comfortable outdoor boots, knowing Grampy wouldn’t have minded. The service was a simple one. We went back to our house afterwards it was a cloudy day, no sun out at all, but not raining so we decided to stay outside because the garden was a better space for all the guests than inside the house. So many people were there, including the Brigants. I’d spotted Violet during the ceremony. She’d been trying to catch my eye during the service, but it was only nearer the end I glanced her way. Sorry she mouthed at me for everything. I nodded at her showing my appreciation and forgiveness. In all honesty I’d forgiven when Grampy had died, why carry on hating and raging when there’s enough misery in the world? I’d asked myself.
Back at the house, Edward and I stuck close together never leaving the others side for more than ten seconds. Violet came up to me awkwardly while we were in the garden. As she approached, Edward’s hands curled into tight fists. I put my hand on his arm and he looked at me, I shook my head and after a moment he nodded before turning to look ahead again but not looking at Violet. It was a moment longer before his hands uncurled so they were just loose fists. I took one of his hands and squeezed it.
Violet stood, uneasily, a few feet away, hesitating. Then she stepped forward and hugged me gently I hugged her back with my free arm (the one not holding Edward’s hand)
“I’m so sorry, I was out of order,” she whispered
“So was I,” was all I said before letting go, “I’m sorry, too.” Violet smiled at me before it faltered uncertainly
“So we’re alright?” she asked
“I think so” Violet smiled again in happiness we were friends again before the smile turned sad
“I’m sorry about your grandfather,” she addressed us both, Edward and I, “I know you were very close to him”
“Thank you,” I smiled at her. Edward just nodded stiffly, I squeezed his hand again in reassurance. Violet glanced at Edward before lowering her voice again to talk to me confidentially
“I know it may seem a bit mean to ask,” She began, “considering recent events,” she shifted in discomfort, “but I don’t know when, or if, you’ll have another chance to see him. It’s that William person, he came about a week ago and Papa brought him with us today. Do you… Is it ok if you do that favor I asked you for before I… you know,” she shifted again, this time guiltily but there was a hope in her eyes that I couldn’t just ignore, plus I had promised and I keep my word
“I don’t need to look, Violet,” I murmured. Edward glanced at me again this time sharply at the tension in me suddenly, “I think you should stay as far away from him as possible. You too, Edward, so I hope you’re listening to me,” they both looked slightly shell-shocked at this, “he’s dangerous, don’t ever be alone with him. Don’t ask me why I am saying this; just listen to me because it’s in your own interest to. And Violet, the chances are he wouldn’t ask for your hand even if you didn’t listen to my warning, not because you’re not pretty or smart or anything, but because his… kind don’t do that often with us ordinary folk.” Violet was looking at me with wide eyes. Edward was scrutinizing me
“You’re serious aren’t you?” Violet stated but still inquiringly
“Yes, very serious”
“Then I’ll take your advice, to whatever extent I can” she said simply after a pause she smiled, “Thank you,” she added hugged me and walked away. As soon as she was out of earshot Edward looked at me and asked “Which one am I looking out for, or rather, not looking for preferably?” Just then the, ah, ‘person’ in question was in front of us. Edward and I were startled before composing our smooth expressions. His eyes were nearly black, with a hint of dull red. I only saw the red because I was looking for it
“So sorry for your loss,” William said his voice like velvet, it was beautiful but I knew better. Edward opened his mouth to reply but then caught the look on my face after I squeezed his hand for a third time, however this time hard; in caution and warning. He eyes widen slightly before resuming his blank expression again. He understood this was whom I was speaking of with Violet just a moment before
“Thank you for your condolences Mr…?”
“Liades,” he pronounced it lee-ah-deez
“Well, thank you, Mr. Liades. I am Willow Masen”
“Aren’t you Violet Brigant’s friend?” he inquired politely
“Yes, sir, I am. You are working for the Brigants I hear, and your first name is William?”
“Yes, young Mistress,” he glanced over his shoulder, “I must go now, sorry again,” he turned and slithered away as quickly and suddenly as he appeared. Edward looked at me and I nodded. Simultaneously, we slipped away from the crowd and headed to the end of the garden to our own Willow tree at the end. We parted the leaves and got behind them, the best cover we could have, but I continued around the other side of the tree, anyway, hoping it would be better. I sat down and Edward followed suit. He said nothing as I thought through what to say. I didn’t know what to say, though, I just watched the little stream as it trickled by, loving the sound of gentle running water and enjoying the feel of the grass tickling my hands as I ran them over it. Edward seemed to understand my distraction and difficulty to form the right word and so began questioning me
“He’s not… normal, is he? That William Liades, there’s something not right”
“There’s more to him than people think that’s for sure,” I answered cautiously, “it’s safer for us if we act like we don’t know anything,” I hesitated, “or we may find ourselves in big trouble… the kind that ends with our death.” Edward remained calm completely unsurprised and just continued to look at me. I turned away. I hadn’t realize that a tear had escaped, I just wanted my old life back, when I was so blissful in my mind because I was ignorant to the secrets and dangers of the world, when my Grampy was alive and would share the reality of the normal world, when William Liades had never been brought to my attention, when I didn’t worry about the dreams because I didn’t understand them, when I’d never known Sylvia and so many other things that were right but despite all these things I knew there was more to come, more… revelations, that would change me forever. I wiped away the tear; I couldn’t weep when I knew that I needed to be strong.
“This isn’t the world I thought it was,” I muttered to myself
“How so?” Edward asked making me jump, I’d all but forgotten he was there
“I can’t explain it clearly,” I said shaking my head, “the world is filled with so many secrets, another world even, and that world isn’t exactly happy and bright. In fact it’s generally dark and dangerous. Then there is me, myself. I am torn between these two world, I am not normal and I know all about the other world. I feel I am balancing on a knife edge between these worlds and I must fall one way or the other,” I turned my gaze to Edward he looked slightly startled at my intense expression, “I don’t know when or how or why, Edward, but sometime in the near future; a change is coming, we aren’t going to like it but we can’t prevent it so we’re just going to have to accept it.” I rose and after a moment’s pause, Edward rose too. We slid back in to the crowd, very few people had noticed our absence and right now they frowned slightly before shrugging it off. I noticed Mr. Liades scrutinizing me from a distance; I met his stare steadily and raised my eyebrows in an inquiring manner before giving his a confused little smile. I must have succeeded in playing the innocent little girl for he had an apologetic look for his rudeness from staring. I inclined my head and turned away to accept more condolences, however other than Mr. Brigant; I was the only one to notice him leave.
The… gathering went on for hours; the sun had set for a long time by the time all had left save the Brigants left. Edward was playing chess silently by the crackling fire. He was playing against Felix, with little Thomas watching them. Mrs. Brigant and Momma were sitting in chairs, also, near the fire with Violet sitting on the floor leaning against her mother’s legs. Violet was doing some sowing and was totally absorbed in what she was doing. Momma and Mrs. Brigant were discussing the expected Brigant baby and plans for the future. Father and Mr. Brigant were talking about Mr. Liades so quietly that I didn’t try to summon the energy to listen in. No one was paying any attention to me, so I took advantage of that to make my escape. I met no servants as I walked to the stairs as I touched the banister I glanced at the front door through the entrance hall. I glanced around but there was no one around. Very quietly I slipped my boots onto my feet and grabbed my shawl wrapping it tightly around myself. Double checking no one was watching I opened the door without making a sound and stepped outside closing the door behind me.
I moved through the shadows almost as if I became a part of them. We live near the edge of town and there are woods nearby, very thick and very large so if you didn’t know them well then it was very easy to get lost. It’s foolish to walk through them during the night because you never know what’s lurking there for example wild animals, however; it was the woods I headed for now. They were about ten minutes away but I made it to them in five. I don’t know why I walked so quickly, or urgently, but I did. I hesitated only briefly at the edge of the trees, peering into the darkness. Then, before my mind could catch up, my body stepped into the shadows of the woods. And again and again, I walked deeper into the darkness. Time ceased to mean anything, so I don’t know how long I wove my way through the trees.
I stopped. I heard voices singing… no they were chanting, in Latin from the sound of it. The magic in the air was becoming more intense by the second, it was overwhelming. The darkness of the shadows that surrounded me seemed to seep into my skin and my eyes seemed to burn momentarily. It was a familiar burning; my eyes had burned like this before when I had woken up from my vision-dreams. When my eyes had burned before I momentarily saw the evil of everything in the whole world before they burned again and everything was normal. I’d never thought of it much until I entered those woods. I saw the evil again, I saw the evil of all the people I knew, and I saw the trees even contained some evil. I saw their souls, and it was the evil of their souls that overpowered the good. This time though, it didn’t go away, my eyes didn’t burn.
Vaguely I’d noticed the chanting had stopped and then I heard a movement behind me. Moving faster than lighting (literally) I spun around and I saw the face of William Liades he looked hungry and startled as he took me in but the hunger overpowered his astonishment and he leapt at me faster than any human could and to a human eye he would have become invisible in his speed. He should have been invisible to me but he wasn’t. Moving faster than even he, I absently raised my hand and flicked my fingers. I felt the power tingle through my fingers and shoot through their tips aiming for Liades. He flew backwards. He landed heavily and the tree he hit shook violently before snapping from the impact. It fell as gracefully as only a tree could. Fortunately, it was a small tree and had little effect on us. Liades rose and snarled at me before turning and fleeing. I was beginning to have a headache.
“Willow Masen?” inquired a wise and familiar voice. Spinning around yet again faster than possible; I faced Sylvia. Behind her was a circle of women all had magic around them, and their souls, not all these people were more good than bad, in fact some were very bad indeed. There were about thirty, more than I would’ve ever thought. They were looking at me, all of them, some with awe, some with respect, some with doubt, some with curiosity and some with a mixture of all four. I turned back to Sylvia. She took me in, lingering on my eyes, and smiled at me
“I was right about your power,” she said simply
“You made the shadows move,” I replied, “they entered me because of your chanting” I didn’t say it as a question but she answered me anyway
“Yes, most likely we did but then again, maybe a part of you did”
“You’re Wiccans, or witches, or both”
“We are. We contain magic so I suppose we are witches and we follow the Wicca faith. People say we’re damned because we do not attend church and follow blasphemous ways,” Sylvia laughed, “they wouldn’t say such things to your family, even though you don’t attend church, you are socially superior to most. And more liked than us”
“People are fools when it comes to matters of magic and the Church,” I agreed and several other women nodded some of those looking at me skeptically or with doubt changed to respect, “my head hurts,” I added
“I’m sure it does,” said another woman stepping behind Sylvia. She smiled at me when she saw my startled look. She was Frances Marksons, she was only eighteen and training to become a nurse. She was three inches taller than my five foot (I’m tall for my age) she had hair as black as midnight and green eyes like me. I would never have guessed she was a Wiccan (apparently her father didn’t suspect anything, otherwise he probably would’ve disowned her and consequently her career as a nurse would fly out the window), “We really should close the circle, Sylvia; look at her she’s weakening before our eyes. Most people can’t use their magic fully until they turn sixteen. It tires them out. Their heads burn up,” Frances concluded
“You’re right, Fran, we need to close this circle before this young one suffers from our practices,” Sylvia smiled at me and directed me to the center of the newly formed circle. On all sides the voices began chanting again but before they finished I fainted for the first time in my life.