23.3: The Masks We Wear

“I can’t believe this,” Celeste muttered to herself. “Why is he even here? Why did she have to have a kid? After all of these years, and now he’s back.”

As much as I wanted to deny it, I knew who she was talking about.

“But, he said his parent’s aren’t dead. That can’t be true. That day…” Celeste froze for a moment, hanging her head down. Although her face was hidden from view, I could tell she was on the verge of tears.

That moment of weakness was immediately replaced by ferocity. “No! I have to stay strong! Dad wouldn’t want to see me sad! Stay strong, Celeste...you have to stay strong!”

Essence sped from her hand and into the targets. Some were even reduced to rubble before they fully rose from the ground. Celeste’s breathing grew heavy, and her arms shook more and more from fatigue. Her intense regimen was wearing her out, bit by bit.

Celeste still did not notice me peeking into the tent. As much as I wanted to leave her be, she mentioned something about me. I was back? In eighteen years, I definitely would have remember the castle’s grandeur, or anything regarding the Order. I also would have remembered whatever it was that built the wall between Celeste and me.

While I pondered what she said, Celeste’s arms collapsed to her sides. She fell on her knees and wiped her face with the back of her hands.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I can only be strong for so long,” she was sobbing uncontrollably.

I kept my eye in the crack of the tent entrance, waiting for some new revelation to escape her lips. She spiraled into depression, and yet, all I could do was wait for more information. Every fiber in my being wanted to leave her to her anguish, but my legs were planted still, like the roots of a tree.

Please Celeste. Tell me what you know about me.

My eavesdropping was promptly ended by an annoyed Solana tugging on my shirt collar. Part of me was grateful that she isolated me from Celeste, but the questions that I was hoping could be answered still simmered in the air around me.

“What are you doing out here?” Solana scolded me with folded arms, similar to Mrs. Sands. “Why are you spying on Celeste?”

“I was, well, I—”

“Go get lunch, Elijah. Otherwise, I’ll have Keith deliver it to you in your hospital bed.”

Solana tugged my arm, pulling me towards the back door of the Castle. Her cobalt Essence resonated as she squeezed my wrist. It didn’t feel like the time we first shook hands. Back then, her Essence was warm and welcoming. This time, it lacked the refreshing fervor that had been branded in my memory, that sympathetic warmth that would reflect from her sapphire eyes. It made no sense.

Much like how her reaction to me spying on Celeste made no sense.

“Solana, wait,” I released my hand from her grip with assertion, spilling a trace of my Essence out of my hand.

Solana turned to me with a confused frown, “No, I’m not letting you spy on people while they train. It’s rude.”

“How far did you get before you realized I wasn’t behind you?”

“What kind of question is th—?”

“Answer me, Solana.”

“Fine,” she folded her arms. “I was nearly to the mess hall. Why?”

“Just wondering. I mean, any normal person would notice a giant set of doors close behind them, without their friend entering. Especially a Guardian, someone who has the ability to locate people wherever they may be, and sense them when they are close by.”

“What are you implying, Elijah?”

“I think you wanted me to hear what Celeste was saying.”

The End

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