Sunday 18th April
Today will be the day of tears. Who can blame me? I still love Jack. Love isn't easily forgotten.
I felt totally detached as I walked to Mystic Wonders, the cottage which was a shop where Jack's grandparents lived and where Jack worked when there was no school. It's lucky it's the weekend, I thought grimly, as I opened the door and stepped into the shop which looked exactly the same but totally different.
Instead of being curious as to the nature of all the gemstones and herbs and flowers, I realised they must all have magical purposes. This was no longer a place of mystery and wonder, it was a reminder that my parents had lied to me about something which had a significant impact on my perspective.
Jack saw me and walked towards me, smiling widely.
"Hey Rosa." He gave me a hug and kissed my hair. I was unresponsive but I enjoyed the feeling of being in his arms. It almost made me feel like the relationship was secure.
Jack noticed my stillness and let go of me to look at me in concern.
Might as well get it over and done with quickly, I thought.
"Um, can we talk?"
I followed him to the store room. Before we got there, though, Ross appeared.
"Um, Jack, do you mind if I talk to her a minute?"
Jack frowned. "Well, she sort of wanted to talk to me, and no offence, but you're not exactly in her good books."
"Um, actually it might be an idea if I did talk to him," I told Jack.
He looked even more confused, but stepped aside to let me and Ross walk in to the store room.
"So," he said. "You've made your decision."
"Are you sure it's the right one?"
"What? Yes, of course I'm sure. I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't."
"I'm sorry you had to make this decision."
"It's not your fault."
"Do you still love Jack?"
"Yes, of course I do! What is wrong with you?"
"I'm really no good with the emotional stuff."
"You were good yesterday!"
"Yesterday was a crazy day."
"Oh, great (!)" I said sarcastically. "On the day I need the most support, I don't get any."
"Maybe this is the wrong decision."
"Why would you say that? Aren't you happy?"
"Well, I am a bit, but Jack loves you. I don't want to see him upset."
"This isn't helping, Ross. The main thing is: do you love me? Because otherwise, this is the wrong decision."
"I do love you Rosa. I just needed to make sure you weren't making a big mistake."
"Well, you have done now. I'll come and see you when I'm finished."
Ross nodded as he left. Jack walked in looking extremely puzzled.
"What was that about?"
I sighed. "I ... I lied to you yesterday, Jack."
Jack's brow furrowed. "When?"
"When you asked if Ross was my kingfisher."
Jack opened his mouth and then closed it. No sound came out. He tried again.
"He is?" he whispered, sounding afraid of the answer I knew I had to give him.
I nodded, cringing.
"But that means... You let me kiss you and acted as if you were in love with me when you knew you'd found your kingfisher?"
His response was not what I'd been expecting.
"Jack, what?! You're annoyed because I let you kiss me?"
Now, he looked confused. "Of course. You're Ross's rose-dove. It's like cheating if anyone else kisses you."
"But Jack," I spluttered, "I'm going out with you! I only found out that I was Ross's rose-dove yesterday! I was hardly going to start a relationship with him that second!"
"Oh. But aren't you kind of destined for each other?"
I nodded. "Which is why I'm ending what we have. I'm really sorry..."
"Don't apologise!" Jack looked startled. "You've found your kingfisher. I'm glad for you."
"You're glad I'm dumping you?"
"If it's for something that will be stronger and will make you happy..."
"You make me happy! This is really difficult for me, Jack. I still love you!"
Jack looked confused again. "But... I'm not meant to mean anything to you..."
"Don't you love me, Jack?!" I shouted.
"Of course I do, but..."
"Then why are you nonchalant about the end of our relationship?!"
"I'm not, but..."
"But nothing, Jack! I dreamt about you last night and woke up crying because of what I was going to do today! And you... you're annoyed because I let you kiss me! Of course I was going to let you kiss me - I wanted you to kiss me. I'm your girlfriend, Jack, and I'm in love with you!"
Jack looked as if he suddenly understood something. "Rosa," he said gently, "you don't have to say that."
Comprehension dawned on me. "No, Jack! I am not just saying those things to spare your feelings! I'm genuinely upset! I love you." I began to cry.
Jack hugged me tightly. "It's okay, Rosa. You're going to be all right. Ross will be a great boyfriend."
I cried harder. "Please don't say that. It sounds like you regret this. This has been the best thing in my life, and I will miss you so much that it doesn't bear thinking about."
"I'll miss you too. But, Rosa, darling, you mustn't think about me when you're with Ross, okay? It's not fair on him."
"I won't be able to help myself, Jack. I thought we would get married."
Jack started laughing, but I realised he was crying too. "Oh, Rosa, so did I. But it doesn't matter. I'll always cherish the memories I have of you."
"I'm only sorry I'm not your rose-dove."
Something in Jack's tone changed. "Really?" he asked, in hushed, respectful tones. "You think I'd be good enough to be your kingfisher?"
"More so than I'd ever thought Ross could be," I admitted.
Jack let go and gently held me away from him to look searchingly in my eyes.
"Would you like to forget Ross? And continue to be mine, even though it's so unbelievably wrong?"
"I would. But I can't. I can't run away from this."
"You could. No one would blame you if you weren't ready."
"But Ross loves me..."
"This isn't about Ross. This is about you. What you want. It must be so hard to be going out with someone you truly feel for when you find your kingfisher. Would you like to forget he's yours?"
I sighed and looked away from his anxious gaze. "I really shouldn't."
"It would be so easy," Jack murmured to himself. "I'd just use my amber, and then all the problems would be solved. I could continue to love her, knowing it was her choice. 'Cause the main thing is to make Rosa happy. Everything else is irrelevant as long as she's smiling. I can't live without my sunshine."
"Please stop. Your words are poison and I don't think I can resist them."
"Well, it's your choice, Rosa."
"I ... don't think I will. I'm really sorry, but it's no use running away. I'll end up with Ross someday, so it's pointless to delay it."
"That's fine. You're doing the right thing. I always knew you would."
He hugged me again; fiercely protective of me and knowing all too well that this was probably the last time he'd be able to hug me like this. I leant up and kissed him. One last sweet, tender kiss for the sake of love. One kiss to convey gratitude for his acceptance of my decision and for all the wonderful times we'd had together, appreciation of his arms around me, my apology for having to end this beautiful relationship and my continuing love for him. By the end of it, I was crying.
Jack broke away. "Hey, there, don't cry. We'll still be friends. We're going to see each other again."
"But it will never be the same," I pointed out. "We'll never be able to share this sort of moment, or let each other know how we feel. This is the last time we'll kiss. Just hold me for a few moments."
For a few moments, it felt like everything was okay. I was in Jack's arms, I was safe, and most importantly, I was content. I almost fooled myself into thinking we were still together.
Gently Jack pushed me away. "Goodbye Rosa."
I was overcome by a fresh wave of tears. "Bye Jack."
I stayed alone in the store room for a few minutes, trying to calm myself down enough to go and see Ross.
When Ross saw me, he looked shocked by the state I was in, even though I'd stopped crying.
"You've made the wrong decision! Oh, Rosa, you shouldn't have felt forced into that situation!"
"Shut up!" I cried. "That doesn't help! Did you think I was heartless enough to be totally unaffected by dumping my boyfriend?! I did this so I can be with you and you treat me like I only did it out of its inevitability!"
Ross frowned. "Are you sure you've done the right thing?" he asked quietly.
"Yes! If you're going to be like this, I'll go straight back to Jack. I've chosen you so just deal with it."
Ross murmured, "Okay," and came over to me to give me an awkward hug. I half wondered if I had done the wrong thing. I certainly felt little satisfaction from being in his arms. But, upon clearing my thoughts, I found that the deeper part of me was overjoyed - I just wasn't feeling it myself.
He broke away and looked as if he didn't know what to do next.
"Um, do you want to know more about witches?" he asked.
"Oh, okay," I replied, not really thrilled by the prospect but at the same time, not really knowing what else there was to do.
"Come upstairs and I'll show you a book." He didn't sound very enthusiastic either but I followed him to the next storey of the house.
The stairs led directly to a bare room with rails of clothing. I stopped and gasped at the beautiful dresses and skirts.
A girl who had been reading a book in the corner, jumped up when she saw us. She was pretty - she had long, curly brown hair and friendly brown eyes. She looked about my age.
"Hey! Are you buying something?" she asked, sounding excited.
"I don't have any money," I replied sheepishly.
The girl's face fell. "Oh, that's a shame."
"Do you not get many customers then?" I asked.
"Not really, no. Except for before Phase-Change ceremonies."
The girl looked puzzled. "But I thought you'd know if your friends are witches." She looked towards Ross.
"Oh, um, I only found out yesterday."
"But... Jack told me you've known them for ages."
"I have. My parents made them promise not to tell me though. It's kind of annoying. What's your name, by the way?"
"Oh, I'm Anna. I just started working here."
Ross coughed behind me. He sounded impatient.
"Um, I probably should go, then," I said. "Bye."
"Bye. Don't let Ross annoy you. He's always like that so it's best just to get used to it."
I followed an annoyed-looking Ross through a door into a small library with comfy chairs and a table.
"D'you have a low attention span or something?" I asked as we sat down.
He glared. "I just don't find girls' chatter interesting."
"I bet you find little interesting," I muttered, remembering why I'd hated him before yesterday.
"If you resent me so much, why did you dump Jack?"
I shrugged. "I obviously made the wrong choice," I replied to annoy him.
He raised an eyebrow. "You really want to make me angry?"
"Well, it would be better than you just being totally emotionless. I feel like I've decided to go out with a winter gale."
Something about what I said made him smile. "The irony," he sighed.
"What?" I asked, confused.
"I was born in the Fire Phase and you just compared me to something icy."
"What's the Fire Phase?"
"Well, it's just a group of days in the year. A bit like a season. There are five phases in a year: Air, Earth, Nature, Fire and Water."
"Oh, I see. So, you were born in autumn, but it was during the Fire Phase?"
"Which Phase was I born in?"
"You were born in November, so... Water."
"Is the whole of November in the Water Phase?"
Ross nodded. "Water's the last Phase, so it lasts until the end of December. It starts in October - the 20th, I think."
"Which Phase are we in now?"
"Earth. I find it sort of surprising that you weren't born in the Earth Phase."
"Well, you're so simple, and Earth witches are usually simple people (Jack's a great example of that), and I certainly see human personalities affected by the Phases they were born in."
"Wait, are you saying you're not human?"
Ross looked exasperated. "You know I'm a witch, Rosa."
"Oh, so you're a different race?"
Ross nodded. "Humans don't have magical powers like witches do. I suppose you could say that witches are a subspecies. I suppose if its only one gene that makes us different, we're technically human, but we're so different that we see ourselves as separate from them."
"I don't think you're that different."
"No? Have you forgotten that I'm 5 years older than you, even though you look the same age? Do you remember that I cast a spell on you yesterday? And one night, I'll show you the difference in looks."
"I suppose those are quite big differences, but you still look human. You walk on two legs; have two eyes, a nose and a mouth on your face. You just have extra qualities too."
"Yes, like being psychic. I'd say that's quite a difference. Don't you think it's a bit like comparing monkeys though? Would you really say a squirrel monkey isn't too different from a gorilla? They all have fur, facial features in the same place, two arms and two legs."
I shrugged. "I suppose they're quite different. I'd say it's more like comparing a vampire and a werewolf though. Do they exist?"
Ross shook his head. "Luckily, no; although a witch can turn into a wolf. We don't need a full moon, though, and we can transform into other animals. Lily told me that your dad once approached your mum as a cat..." He trailed off, frowning.
"What is it? Are you okay?"
"Apparently, he was in cat form one time my mum was round yours' house."
"Your mum? I don't know much about her. I think it was awfully cruel that she gave you to someone else."
"Don't let your mum hear you talk about her best friend like that."
"Her best friend? But... how can my mum be best friends with a horrible woman? That makes me look bad. And that must be hard for you too... Knowing your rose-dove is your mother's best friend's daughter... Oh Ross."
I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him tightly. "You poor thing."
Ross shoved me away. "Don't you dare feel sorry for me! I'm not some weak little disowned puppy or something, Rosa."
"But you're my kingfisher and I'm here for you. You can open up to me," I pointed out.
"I don't want to open up to you," he snarled. "Yesterday, I felt so ... vulnerable. And to be weak is to line oneself up for a bad life, Rosa."
I frowned. "You don't really feel that way, do you? Everyone has one weakness. The weakness is there so people can help you out. And I don't think being vulnerable is the same as being weak. It would be nice to be able to reveal yourself to someone."
"Just leave it alone, Rosa."
"Don't be cold, Ross."
"Don't be warm, Rosa."
I crossed my arms and leant back against the sofa. "I thought you needed warmth to be in love."
"I'm not too sure."
"Look, Ross, I'm not really fazed about knowing a lot about witches. I'd prefer it if we just talked about... us. If we're going to be lovers, we need to be close. I don't even feel like your girlfriend right now."
"I don't want you to. Judging by the relationship you had with Jack, you'd drive me up the wall."
"Do you honestly believe that?"
Ross nodded. "I may be a Fire witch, but I'm full of cold fire. That fire can still burn though, so it won't be good for me to lose my temper."
"What sort of personality do Fire witches have?" I asked, remembering what he said earlier about Phases and personality traits.
Something made Ross laugh humourlessly. "Fiery tempers and an ability to love intensely." He laughed again. "I think there should be an Ice Phase. It'd be much more appropriate for me to be an Ice witch."
"Are we opposites?" I wondered. "If I'm meant to be someone of the Water Phase, should I be everything you're not?"
Ross shrugged. "Perhaps. I think Water witches are less inhibited, and people who are able to cool people down when they're angry. I think they're also quite emotional."
"Well, perhaps I'll help you with your temper."
Ross snorted. "Good luck on that one."
"I think my dad's a Fire witch. Mum seems to have made him calm."
"Your father used to be quite heartless, I think. I suppose that means your mother changed him a lot."
"Well, that means I have a chance."
Ross turned to look at me intently. "But, don't forget, that means I could also change you."
I was scared by the intensity of his gaze. I had a wild, fleeting thought that he could turn my heart to ice with that stare.
"Are you scared?" he asked.
"That's very sensible." He stopped looking so fierce and surprised me by standing up. I wondered what he was doing.
"Did you want to go out? You said we need to be close."
"But, I thought you just said you didn't want us to be."
Ross shrugged. "I changed my mind. I reckon alienating you would be unfair on Jack, because that would mean he got dumped for nothing."
"Lunch at a restaurant?"
"Sounds good to me."
"I doubt much doesn't sound good to you."
I shrugged. "Perhaps Water Phase people are quite tolerant."