His last questions seemed to fill the small clearing until the ancient trees were listening just as intently as he was. He wasn't even standing close to me, but there was something about how intense his eyes were that made me keep looking. A gust of wind ran through the meadow and the trees rustled, I could imagine them gossiping about the drama that had ended up happening here.
"I, um.." My brain exploded, I couldn't do it, at all. The words didn't even register. "Gah, I can't say it!"
Ezell rolled his eyes, how he had come to like someone as emotionally retarded as I am is a mystery. "Why not? If you like someone you should say it, not be all backwards and contrary about it."
Wait a minute, why do I have to say it he knows already? That seems like a spectacular new brand of torture if you ask me.
"Why? Because I like you, and I want to hear you say that you like me. Doesn't everyone? Hearing someone think it just isn't the same." Well ok then that answered my question about his possible mind reading powers. No wonder he always knew just how to throw me off.
"I can't just blurt it out. I mean, I may like you, but.." I tugged on my ponytail nervously, this was the first time I had to deal with guy drama, sheesh was it tiring. Hell, it had only been a two days and I was in way over my head. I hated putting myself out like this, it felt too unsafe, and since dad left, that's all I had been about, safety. I was beginning to get the feeling that the reason I had never had a boyfriend up until then wasn't because I was ugly, or too tall, it was because I didn't trust guys. What a weird revelation. "I can't just jump into this, for all I know you could be a seriously bad guy, even though you don't seem like it.."
His face was unreadable for a moment, and then he relaxed visibly. His whole body had been pulled tight as a guitar string.
"So you're asking for time? I can do that, if there's a chance that you can be mine, I'll wait as long as I need to." I barely knew him, and he was possibly one of the pushiest people I had ever met, but I believed him, it felt as if he legitimately liked me as much as he claimed to. Making another bold move (bold for me, anyways) I decided to declare a definite time on when I would give him an answer.
"A week," I mumbled, starting at my shoes.
"A week." I looked up at his tone and was nearly blind-sided by his smile. It was a authentic grin , no smirking, or wicked joke to it. I had just made him a very, very happy guy by simply saying two words. I wanted to see that smile again.
"Let's take you home."
The blizzard had mysteriously decided to pass over Bedford, so all we had gotten was a bit of snowfall. A bunch of kids were out playing in the streets, screaming with laughter, having snowball wars and so on. Unfortunately, that plus the snow made our progress pretty slow. One of them must have thought it would be funny to pelt us with snowballs. But Ezell being the badass that he is, caught several of them with his bare hands and threw them right back.
We pulled up in front of my house and I clumsily dismounted the bike. I looked at Ezell, and he looked at me. I'm not sure what he was thinking, but I really was at a loss for words. I remembered I still had his jacket over my shoulders, so I shrugged it off and tried to give it back but he shook his head.
"Keep it," He said, grinning madly. "This way, you won't forget about me for the week I'm away."
"Like I could ever forget you," I rolled my eyes, put the jacket back on, and turned to leave but he looped his arm around my waist and pulled me back. He brushed aside my bangs and laid a kiss on my forehead. Even though I'd been kissed on the by countless old aunts and my grandma, this felt different, sort of intimate. I felt my skin tingle where his lips had been.
"I know, I know. "He let me loose and kicked his bike into gear. "Don't fall in love with one of those hick Bedford boys while I'm gone. Here's a hint: Check under your carpet in the furthest corner from your bed." Only until his bike was a mere smudge of black on the horizon did I realize what he'd said. He was leaving town
I cursed under my breath when I realized I had no excuse for being gone so long, and Nick would definitely want to know. I mean, I couldn't just say "Oh yeah, this guy I've known for two days drove me to a secluded spot on his motorcycle. All we did was talk, I swear!" I felt my ears go red as I thought about it, especially the part where we'd been too busy sucking face to talk, and my hand flew up to my mouth to cover a squeak. What the heck was I doing? I didn't know anything about him, he wasn't even human, but I was going to actually consider going out with him.
I went to mom's office, but she wasn't there. Usually, if she had somewhere to go and we're not home before she came home she left a note on the refrigerator. Like always. I grabbed the hurriedly scribbled not a long with some fruit salad, and looked it over.
Hey kids, left for the writers' convention today, be back in a week! There's 200 bucks in the freezer for groceries and I made sure to leave some already cooked things for tonight that you guys can nuke. Don't spend that money on anything other than food, by the way!
Perfect, just perfect. I sighed in exasperation; she must have forgotten to tell us she was going away AGAIN. At least she had left food this time. Last time, we might have starved if not for the fact she had left her bank card. I went upstairs to go face Nick, but when I stopped at his door, I didn't hear the usual screech of guitars and throaty growls. I opened his door and peeked in. He'd wasted no time in decorating his room with his metal posters and action figures, but the owner was nowhere to be found. I shrugged, maybe he had decided to drive around Bedford and enjoy the snow? From downstairs, I heard the door close and shut and the clomp of heavy boots. I went out onto the landing and looked down.
Nick stomped the snow off his shoes and looked up at me. "How'd you beat me home, Ad?"
"What?" It felt as if I had been gone an hour or more, I couldn't have possibly beat him back. "What time is it?"
He checked his watch. "It's 20 after 1, why?"
Only 20 minutes had passed since we'd gotten out of school? Something is rotten in the city of Bedford, and I had no idea where to start.
I made a quick meal out of the green bean casserole and meatloaf mom had left in the refrigerator for us. Nick was unusually introspective, so we munched in silence. I was deep in thought over what could possibly cause such a weird time lapse (or lack thereof) when Nick said thoughtfully.
"This town is a bit weird, isn't it?"
"Yeah, there's something. Off about it." I gnawed on my fork and watched his expression intently. Had he been getting any of the weirdness around here? Sure, Nanig had said that he couldn't see him, but that didn't mean anything. Nick has always been a pretty sensitive guy. If anything, he would have a better idea of what going on than I ever would. "Have you seen anything...Weird?"
"Yeah." He gnawed on his pinky nail. "Not to freak you out or anything, but there's something in the house. It did the dishes for me, so it can't be too bad."
"Oh?" I leaned forward excitedly. "Did you see it at all?"
"Eh, I saw a brown blur, that was it. It can clean dishes something fierce. Maybe it was a brownie?" That's when I realized that Nick was just as interested in my answers as I was in his. Was it safe to tell him, especially about the fact that our dad could still be alive somewhere?
Later, in my room, I called Nanig. He appeared with a quiet rustle and dropped a slight bow, which was pretty near impossible since he was carting two books way too big for a brownie in his arms. Today, he was wearing a smart old-fashioned suit made out of what appeared to be sackcloth that fit better than the last one. I winced as the books hit the floor with a muted thunk. I hope Nick didn't hear that. I went and peaked out of my bedroom door, but his metal music was still blaring, so I think I was safe. I turned back to Nanig and picked up one of the books.
"Wow, good job, Nanig. Where'd you find these?" The brownie shifted nervously from foot to foot, back when we were kids, shifty feet had been nick's nervous reaction to lying. It seemed to be that way for a lot of people actually, so why not a brownie?
"Oh miss, just some old library."
"In the house?" I stared him down and he shuddered as if something inside of him was about to snap in two.
"Please don't ask, Miss. I'm not allowed to tell."
"Who says?" I was really starting to think that it was the old owner of this house who was making this entire move such hell for me. I mean, first we end up moving into his house, I end up becoming ‘master' of said house, asking questions about the guy got me into a week ultimatum with he-whose-name-we-do-not-speak-of, and now the brownie who is supposedly my Bitch won't answer me straight.
I am going to find this man's grave and river stomp on it.
"I can't say..." His shuddering got even worse, he let loose a mewl of pain, which made me feel like the worse human being ever.
"Alright, alright, sorry Nanig. What sort of things do Brownies like to eat?"
"Fresh cream, miss," he started to drool and his eyes lit up. Apparently, mention cream and he'll forget everything. I made a note to buy some cream when we went to get groceries tomorrow. I asked Nanig to help me pull up the carpet , but he did that shifty foot thing and claimed to have work to do in the kitchen. I sighed in annoyance, and realized I had all but forgotten about the books the Brownie had bought. It was a tough call, but I decided that the books would be first. I plopped down onto the floor next to the pile and picked up the first one. It was made out of old leather that smelled as if it had been in a closed room for a long time. On the front, there was a series of concentric rings with some of the trippiest writing I have ever seen. It was written in some weird loop curl that resembled Aramaic, but at the same time was completely unlike it. I checked the spine for a title, but there was none. So I opened the book. Guess who the Author was?
Principals of Casting Vol.1
I sighed in exasperation and reached for the next, once again, Alexander Caraway was the author.
Bedford, the town and its mysteries
Well, guess I'd start with the second.
Bedford is built upon the bones of a past so steeped in occultism, that its' now highly religious citizens sought to burn every book and Other who remained. From its' humble beginnings as little more than an outpost between our world and the Shadow Realms, the small valley grew drastically when the health benefits of the place were discovered. Long-time human occupants of the place lived to truly staggering ages. One man, who lived in the forest proper as a hermit, was rumored to be 300 years old and looked by far more tree than man.
But why is it that Bedford no longer plays host to such a staggering sea of ether? It is surmised that the area's power was cut off from the public due to an abuse so heinous, that it has taken the life energies of the small valley years to reach not even a quarter of its' former strength. No one is sure of what might have transgressed, but it is agreed that it was not one abuse that created the great scar, but many. The last act, and most likely the most perverse, would have been the slaughtering of the Other citizens of Bedford in late 1730, before that, the burning of the archives of writing on anything that involved Casting or mentions of spiritualism. It is an odd fact. I have lately moved into Bedford on the year of 1840, and it appears as if the town has entirely forgotten its' sordid past There are a few reminders for those of us who know how to look. The ruins of the once-famous Half-moon inn, the small pond, whose surface remains still as glass, regardless of the weather, and of course, the forest itself.
The town is surrounded on all sides by a curious breed of oak. It appears on the outside to be like any other tree of it's' species, but if one were to cut it, the inside tells an entirely different tale. The wood has been so infused with ether that it gives off a curious resonance. When in certain areas of this forest, one enters a state of timelessness. It may appear as if an hour has passed, but outside of the forest, only a few minutes have inched by. Unfortunately for us, this weird phenomenon will, and often does, work in the reverse. A man by the name of William Fletcher once went into the forest to gather broken branches. When he exited, 5 years had passed and his family had long since moved away. Not only does the forest seem to stand outside of time, it plays host to a truly staggering amount of Other Creatures. One of the most mysterious, in my opinion, would be the Phooka. I came across him in one of my many surveying trips.
He is as tall as man and in his original form, bears the head of a goat. When I came upon him, he bade me greetings in the form of a small child. Had it not been for its' eyes, which always remain golden and bear the pupil of a goat, I would have been in trouble indeed! As my colleague had taught me, I was extremely polite to the creature, shared my lunch of fried potatoes with it, and was awarded with a rather odd hunk of metal. The Phooka told me with it, I would be able to find him at all times, and off he went. I then decided to fashion the metal into a weathervane bearing the creature's resemblance. It now sits upon my roof and lets loose the occasional creak to alert me to the wise thing's location.
As if the passage had made it happen, the weathervane let loose a low groan as it labored to move. I shuddered at the thought of meeting such an odd creature, out in the woods no less, and decided to call it a night. I closed the book and brought both it and its' companion to my bedside table. With a sigh, I crawled into bed and turned out the light. Another day, and even more secrets.