Lara jumped up. She grabbed her little suitcase and filled it with a clean change of clothes, and threw in whatever money she had. She brushed her hair and tied it back, pulled on her boots, cloak and bonnet as fast as she could. She sprinted down the stairs so almost tripped on her shoelace. She ran out into their garden, where they always used to play, and he was there.
Felix was sixteen now, clearly older, but even then looked barely the same. The first taken over his face. His reddish brown hair was cut very close to his scalp and he was dressed in plain and colourless clothes making his hair seem garishly bright. His eyes, a dark grey colour, were cold and determined.
‘Come on.’ Felix said. ‘We need to go.’
Lara suddenly felt a lot less excited and suddenly uncomfortable. Felix had not said or done anything unkind to her, and yet she felt unwelcome. This wasn’t what she had expected. What she expected was, well, some warmth from him. Some kindness. Here they were, finally doing what they had wanted to, and he seemed so reluctant…no. He wasn’t reluctant. After all these years, he somehow remembered the way. He walked as though he wanted to harm the bare ground (despite the cold, not one snowflake had fallen in Esford.) But he kept his head up and looked straight ahead. He clearly wanted to get there.
‘Felix,’ Lara sped up a little to catch up with him. ‘Aren’t you going to talk? I haven’t seen in at least six months so what’s happened? Are you ok?’
‘That’s ok. You just seem a bit…angry?’
‘I don’t mean to.’
‘Oh. I’m sorry.’
‘Don’t apologize, Lara.’
‘What did I just say?’ Felix’s voice switched from cold to aggressive. He paused for a while, then finally smiled. ‘I’m sorry.’
The two went on with the odd casual chatter, unlike six years ago they walked calmly, as opposed to running before. This time, when they got to the mud covered patch on the outskirts of Esford, Lara had shoes, although now ruined. Now it was so much colder, but the heavy velvet cloak kept her warm enough. All she had last time was her mother’s winter coat with some loose change in the pockets. When the conversation dulled to silence, Lara realised how much she had relied on Felix as a child.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours, the familiar little cottage lit by blazing yellow light. There with a now much more battered sign – The Singing Cat.
Both felt a little guilty bringing muddy footprints into the room, but it’s not the sort of thing you can do anything about. Once again they ordered two teas, sat in the same spot, and were served by the same woman, only now with a lined face and grey in her immaculate bun. Felix referred to her as Mrs Steam.
‘I’m surprised you remembered her name after all this time. Wait- did she even tell you her name?’ Lara said after burning her tongue on tea.
‘I’ve been here a few times now,’ Felix replied.
There was a brief silence, then once again, Lara once again noticed Felix hadn’t touched his tea.
‘Aren’t you going to drink that? It’s so cold out,’ Lara stroked the fabric of her cloak which lay under her bonnet on the chair beside her, wishing it was acceptable to wear outdoor clothing inside. This place didn’t do a good job at keeping warm.
‘Sorry if it’s cold.’ Mrs Steam spoke up. ‘I can’t get my fireplace to light.’
‘Don’t worry,’ Lara tried to reassure her.
‘I’m not.’ Mrs Steam turned away into the kitchen.
Lara and Felix were alone except for one girl in the corner. She looked to be in her mid-teens and dressed in a thick light peach dress that surely cost a lot of money. She was instantly recognizable as the daughter of Mrs Steam although her face was softer and freckled slightly. She stared at them, though not with bitterness, more fear. After a while she got her coat and left to go outside. She never said a word.
‘Lara.’ Felix said. ‘We’re alone now.’
‘I can ask you now.’
‘Ask me what?’
‘You know, the magic stuff?’
‘Oh, oh of course.’ Lara didn’t want to admit it hadn’t been her priority for a while.
‘Well, surely you could light the fire? Just a suggestion… I mean, it is cold. And I can’t do the same thing as well.’ That was true. Felix had been a more destructive witch, putting out the fire but never saving the singed grass. That wasn’t all they could do, however, but it was their favourite.
Lara made her way to the pile of logs sitting in the fireplace and sat down in front of it. Ok, it had been a long time since she had done this. She closed her eyes, and tried to returning the power. It was a lot easier than she thought. Warmth glided through her arms out to her fingertips. They began to glow white, and little sparks were flying off her hands. When the first golden flame formed, she pressed her hands to the logs. She felt a warm tickling, but Lara was always immune to whatever she could create. When the flames started to peek through in between her fingers, she drew her hands away, and ordered them to stop.
But they didn’t.
Lara realised what she had done- repressed her abilities for years purely out of no need for them, and now they had become too powerful. She shook her hands, only sending white sparks everywhere. The fire wrapped itself around her hands, and it wasn’t warm anymore, it was hot.
‘FELIX!’ Lara screamed. ‘GET OUT OF HERE!’
Lara stumbled to her feet. She took a few steps back and the fire only followed her. Her footprints left glowing hot embers. The fire was now burning away at the cuffs of her dress and the hem of her skirts. She sprinted to the door, pushing it open and therefore sending it up in flames. Outside she could no longer feel the cold, but just intense raging heat. The fire was spreading to her shoulders and the smoke was getting in her eyes but she saw water- a few metres from the Singing Cat. She ran wildly to the edge and let herself fall in to the ice cold liquid.