Chapter 14

27th November

            Today was very dramatic. I feel really sorry for Ross. He doesn't deserve the way life has fared him; no one would deserve it. And yet, this is the way things are. I was almost tempted by the offer he made that evening...

***

Ross and I were helping out at Mystic Wonders. He was showing me all the different birthstones that, for witches, aided in the casting of a spell. We were sorting them into the baskets on the shelves.

"So, this orange one is cornelian," Ross said, showing me a round translucent gemstone. "It's the birthstone for February witches. I think your mum has one."

"Oh, yeah. I've seen it on the pendant around her neck! And beryl's November, isn't it? That's why my parents gave me one for my birthday." I frowned. "But, how would I use a beryl? I'm a human."

"I don't think they got it for you so you could cast a spell. You theoretically could use it if you had foxglove on you, but you wouldn't need the stone because the power's in the foxglove."

"Oh, well, it's pretty, so it was probably just jewellery."

"Or they might have put wards on it so you'll always be safe when you're wearing it."

"Oh, that would be nice of them if they did."

Ross snorted. "They're your parents: they're meant to keep you safe."

I looked up into Ross's eyes. There was a mask of amusement in them but behind that and his casual words was pain and sadness.

I hugged him, and he slowly put his arms around me.

"Um, excuse me," came a small voice from behind us.

I turned. Standing at the entrance to the store was a young girl of maybe about twelve with waist-length blonde hair and friendly green eyes.

"Hey," I said, letting go of Ross. "Can we help you?"

"Well, I'm a bit lost and was wondering if you'd seen my ... mother around."

I wondered at the hesitation before the word mother but smiled warmly and asked "What does she look like?"

"Well, she's got long blonde hair and blue eyes."

"Well, no one has come in here this morning, but we can look out for her. Do you want to wait here? It's always best to stay put when you're lost - it makes you easier to find."

"Thanks."

The girl wandered further into the shop.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Hannah," she replied. "Yours?"

"Rosa."

"My... mum has a friend whose daughter has that name." Again, there was that odd hesitation.

"Who's your mum?"

"Leanne Eagle."

Ross went rigid.

"Oh dear," I murmured quietly. I reached behind me to take Ross's hand and squeeze it.

"She's not really my mum, though. I'm adopted."

Ross bent down and murmured in my ear "Do you reckon I'm still an adoptive brother, even though I was abandoned?"

I shrugged to him.

"What did your friend say?" Hannah asked, sounding politely curious.

Ross stepped forwards. "I was wondering if you were still an adoptive sibling if you were abandoned." Behind the act of indifference was simmering anger. I stepped up behind him and stroked his arm to soothe him.

Hannah frowned. "Um, I don't know if my parents adopted... Sorry."

"That's not what I meant. See, me, I'm Ross Eagle."

Hannah's brow furrowed. "But... Surely that means... you're my adoptive mother's son?"

Ross nodded. "Yup. I figure so. So, does that make me your adoptive brother?"

"If you're telling the truth," Hannah said warily.

"Well, let's just say I am. If I'm your adoptive brother, we should get to know each other better, right?"

"I suppose so... But, I don't get it. If you're my adoptive brother, why've I never met you before?"

"I was abandoned," Ross said. Again he was acting indifferent, but was really quite furious.

"There must be a mistake, then. Leanne's lovely. She wouldn't abandon a child."

‘Ross, be careful,' I thought. ‘You don't know why she was adopted. She could have had a really bad life. You need to watch what you say.'

Ross ignored me. "But you don't know that," he said to Hannah who was slowly backing towards the door.

"I think my mum will see me better if I wait outside..."

"It's cold outside. It might snow. Wouldn't want my adopted sister to be frozen now, would I?"

"Ross," I hissed. "Be nice! It's not her fault your mum abandoned you."

Ross turned to me. There was such heart-wrenching pain in his eyes that I nearly gave in and allowed him to let out his anger on the little girl.

"I know...," he said, looking agonised.

Suddenly, Leanne burst in looking worried.

"Has anyone seen my -... Hannah!"

She saw Ross and froze. "Ross..."

"Hi, Mum," he said, turning to face her. "Were you going to introduce me to my adopted sister?"

Leanne looked pained. "I'm really sorry, Ross. It's not that I was trying to replace you..."

"What is it then?" Ross interrupted. "You wanted to forget you ever had a son?"

"I-it's true?" Hannah stammered, looking as if she was about to cry.

"Hannah, dear, Alex is outside," Leanne said.

"Will we talk about this?" Hannah asked. I felt incredibly sorry for this girl whose world we'd probably just torn apart.

"Yes, dear," Leanne said quickly. "Now, just go and wait with Alex."

Hannah walked out, looking lost and uncertain about her surroundings. My heart went out to the innocent child who didn't deserve to suffer for her adoptive mother's crimes.

Leanne walked towards Ross. "I am really, really sorry, Ross. I just couldn't cope."

"You make me sound like I was a difficult child. Like I had anger management problems or something! All I ever did was be what I am! How could I help that?"

I could see Ross was close to explosion or tears. I stepped in front of him, turned and hugged him.

"It's okay," I whispered. "You've got me now."

Ross stroked my hair and continued talking to Leanne. "See, Rosa can cope. And she's what? A seventeen year old girl. And you're telling me a middle-aged adult couldn't cope?"

"Does she know?" Leanne asked.

"Yes. She does. She knows I'm 22 - I wonder if even you knew that actually -, she knows I'm psychic and she knows I look different at night. In fact, she thinks I look attractive and mysterious at night, not scary and repulsive. She's the best thing in my life."

"Well then, I'd like to thank her. She has my gratitude and respect."

"She doesn't want it! Neither of us want anything to do with you, Mother; so just get out of our lives!"

"I'm sorry," Leanne murmured as she left.

Ross was silent the rest of that morning.

***

"A broken heart is so painful," Ross murmured.

I snuggled up closer to him. We were on his bed at Jack's house. It was the evening now. Thankfully, the day had been uneventful after the morning. It was nice for us just to be alone in private, though.

"I'm so sorry you have a witch for a mother."

"I sort of wish she was a witch, to be honest. She'd have accepted me then."

"You don't need her."

Ross smiled faintly in appreciation, but I could tell he was preoccupied. He gazed down into my eyes.

"I don't want you to ever feel this sort of pain," Ross said.

"I won't with you beside me."

"I don't think I'm enough, though. You need something more. A shield to block these feelings of pain."

"It's a sweet idea, but I don't like the idea of walls. How would you even go about doing something like that?"

Ross looked suddenly inspired.

"The telepathic link! We could use that." He looked excited. "You could be cold too. Then we'd understand each other."

"Pardon?"

"I could use the link between us to add a little coldness to your thoughts so you wouldn't be so affected by things!"

I was worried by his delight at such an, in my opinion, undesirable prospect.

"I don't want to be cold. I like being warm because it means I can love you and care for you."

"I'm cold and I still love you. Just think: we'll be so much closer than before. And the things we'll be able to do together! Like getting revenge on my parents."

"I'm not vengeful."

"You could be."

"I don't want to be, though. Why are you saying these things?"

"Because I love you, Rosa, and I don't want you to be vulnerable. I want to make you stronger. Don't you want to be stronger?"

"Not if it means my heart goes cold."

"Your heart won't go cold. It'll just be surrounded by an icy layer of protection that can melt whenever you're near me."

‘I don't like it, Ross."

Ross looked at me with implore in his eyes. He was pleading with me to turn cold?

"I truly believe this would be good for us."

"Well, I don't."

"Just think about it, darling. Consider it. For me."

I sighed. "Okay, then. But I don't expect I will say yes."

***

28th November

I was thinking last night about Ross's pain and the giant wall protecting him from it. I feel I should be trying to help with deal with it.

I have an idea. Ross might not like it, but I hate anything that comes between us. I can feel it's not supposed to be that way. I'm sure people destined to be with each other should be totally open and prepared to do difficult things for the sake of the relationship. I'll try this anyway, and if it doesn't work, well then no one can say we didn't try.

***

            Towards mid-afternoon, Jack and Ross came over for tea. The meal was great because I felt I hadn't talked to Jack for ages (although, in reality, it had only been a week).

After the meal, Ross and I walked up to my room while Jack remained downstairs. It was odd to think that only a week ago, it had been the other way around, with Jack and I going to share beautiful and expressive moments upstairs while Ross waited patiently downstairs.

I stayed standing while Ross lay on my bed. He looked amused.

"Is this a new game? Guess why Rosa's standing up before she'll kiss you?"

I smiled. "No, I was just thinking."

"Well, you don't need to stand to do it. Come and sit down."

"Ah, but then I won't be able to think because you'll be distracting me."

"Oo, this must be important, then." Ross sat up. "What's on your mind, darling?"

"I was ... thinking..."

"About?" Ross pushed me gently.

"You."

"Well, you'll have more to think about if you sit down."

I grinned. "No, I was thinking about your wall."

"My wall? My stupid big wall? That's not important, Rosa. Come and sit down."

"No, it is important. Every time I kiss you, it's a massive barrier between me and your deeper emotions."

"Well, that's your contemplating done. Come sit now."

He patted the space beside him. When I didn't move, his brow furrowed.

"Was there something else?"

"I ... I want to bring it down."

The End

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