“I talked to him... I told him that I didn’t want to hurt anybody, that although I loved him, this was something I felt I needed to do.” Susanna took a deep breath, trying not to cry. “He was so insistent that it wasn’t us who had caused this earthquake. But I told him you’d found out it was the day we went to Oxford, I told him there had only been his kind of Guardian around at the time...
“‘So you think love is destructive?’ he asked me.
“It was terrible, Jennifer: really awful. I said no, no, I didn’t, but that we couldn’t keep on if bad things were going to happen to innocent people. I said I loved him, I hugged him, but he didn’t hug me back. He said ‘I’ll walk you home’. I consented. He didn’t hold my hand and I just knew ... I knew it was over.”
I hugged my sister tightly.
“I’m so sorry, Susanna.”
“I don’t even feel better knowing people won’t get hurt, Jen. Does that make me a wicked person?”
“No, Susie, it doesn’t; it really doesn’t.”
“I just want to run back and tell him I’m sorry, ask him to take me back.”
“I know, Susie, but you can’t,” I told her imploringly. “Please... Please be strong. For me.”
Susanna hugged me tightly.
“I still love him, Jennifer.”
“I know,” I said softly. “I’m sorry. I know.”
The doorbell rang.
Susanna and I both looked in the direction of the door, listening out, wondering who it could be.
“Jennifer, it’s for you,” said Uncle Mack. “Someone called Kenny?”
“Kenny?” I said aloud, startled.
Susanna looked surprised too. We let go of each other and she followed me as I walked to the porch.
“Hey, Jennifer,” said Kenny, looking like a huge weight had been taken off his chest. “My mission-giver wants to talk to you.”
“Oh... er... okay,” I said.
Susanna was frowning.
“What d’you mean your ‘mission-giver’?”
“The one who gave me this mission - to break you and Joel up.”
“Oh. Because it was what Jennifer said to me that made it happen?”
I winced internally, wishing he’d be a little more sensitive around my distressed sister.
“Uncle Mack, can I go out for a couple of minutes?”
“Um... all right,” he called from the living room. “But ... be careful, and er ... be good.”
“He’s just a friend,” I called, blushing, stepping out of the house.
“I’ll be back soon, right?” I checked with Kenny.
“I’ll see you later, Susanna,” I told my sister. “I love you. Remember: be strong.”
“Love you too, Jen.” She closed the front door.
I looked at Kenny, sighing slightly.
“I know you’re happy that Chaos has been averted, but my sister is upset, you know.”
Kenny looked sheepish.
“Did I look too happy?”
“Just a tad.”
“Sorry about that. Hey... you know, Jen, it wasn’t just that I was happy that the mission objective was fulfilled: I’m proud of you as well. Really, really proud. You did what Svetlana and I were going to use magic to do, and you’re not even a Guardian.”
“I’m glad I’m not,” Jennifer confessed. “I couldn’t do that more than once.”
“And no one’s asking you to,” Kenny said gently. “If everything goes to plan, you can lead a Guardian-free life.”
“Will... will you have to leave?” I asked softly.
“I won’t have to, unless I get another mission... but Jennifer, I do kind of want to. And, even if I stayed, I couldn’t let you see me. It’s too risky.”
“But ... why?” I asked, confused.
“I’ll tell you when we come back from talking to Frey - he’s my mission-giver.” He held out a hand and I took it. The world turned black like a sudden power cut and suddenly I found myself standing in a grand office, at the back of which sat a man in a chair behind a table. Upon our arrival, he stood up, beaming.
“You must be Jennifer! It’s a great pleasure to meet you; please, come to the table.”
I walked up and sat down in the chair on the other side of the desk. Kenny came with me and stood beside me, smiling at me to show there was nothing to be worried about.
“So I hear you took on Kenner’s mission. I’d just like to know how you did it - for the report - and then you’ll be free to leave.”
The man - Frey, I supposed - took out a notepad and, pen poised, looked at me, smiling, expectant.
“I ... I just talked to her, really. Said that that earthquake happened on the day we went to Oxford...”
“I’m sorry?” Frey asked, looking up, frowning. “How d’you know about that?”
“Oh, Kenny said on the day I was going to be mind-wiped that there was an earthquake that the Order thought Joel and Susanna had caused,” I said, remembering that Kenny had told me not to say anything about the report.
“Ah, all right. But ... how did you know it happened on the day you went to Oxford?”
“Me again,” Kenny said, looking sheepish.
Frey rolled his eyes.
“Kenner, please don’t tell me you gave her the report.”
“Okay, I won’t,” said Kenny, trying to be light-hearted.
“Kenner, wipe her mind of the contents. Now, before I have to tell any of my superiors.”
I gave my hand over to Kenny before he had even asked.
“Sorry,” he said apologetically, taking it.
“Don’t be,” I said. I felt dazed for a moment and then suddenly any words I had remembered from the report became fuzzy and unmemorable.
“So, you just talked to Susanna about this earthquake?”
Strangely, I remembered that it had taken place on the day we went to Oxford. I supposed that this was a harmless detail.
“Well, I also said that I believed Kenny about her relationship being dangerous. And then ... well, we had a chat about the right thing to do. I have to say, I didn’t think she’d end it with Joel when the conversation finished. She was caught up in him being the best thing that had ever happened to her.”
“But he wasn’t,” Frey sighed. “It’s his fault she was in this situation in the first place. I feel sorry for her: she was severely unfortunate.”
“T for the tears, I guess,” I murmured, quoting Kenny’s chants without fully realising it again.
Frey looked at me, stunned.
“Kenner, why does she know the Duty chant?”
“Um... you know I told you I sang some songs in her mind to distract her to do the mind-wipe? The act which caused an almost risky Chaos level? It was the Order and Duty chants... I couldn’t think of anything else.”
“Kenner, the poor girl must be depressed!”
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“Risky Chaos level?” I asked, confused. “What d’you mean?”
“Oh, I think it was because I felt guilty,” Kenny replied hesitantly. “Becoming too emotionally involved can be an issue.”
“Oh, is this what you were going to tell me later? About why it’s too risky for you to see me again after this?” I looked at the table. “That’s a shame. Emotions are hardly something you can keep a cap on.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” Kenny sighed.
“Well, um, that’s all, Miss Towner,” Frey said. “Hopefully this is finished business now.”
Kenny coughed but distinctly said “Reward.”
“Oh, Kenner, I don’t ask for a reward,” I said, flattered nonetheless.
Frey smiled wryly.
“I’m afraid it’s only on the very rare occasion that the Council gives out rewards to humans, Jennifer. Don’t take it personally: we are very grateful for what you have done for us. I’ll tell my niece to keep in touch with you: you can see how a Guardian Angel makes people happy if you like.”
“Your niece?” I said, confused.
I stood up.
“Thank you very much, Mr ... Kenny only said your name was Frey.”
“Frey is fine, Jennifer.”
“Thank you, Frey,” I said, smiling. I proffered my hand and he shook it, smiling back.
“Frey, could I give her a reward?” Kenny asked.
“Oh, of course, Kenner. As long as it’s non-magical.”
“I’ll do that then. I’ll come back tomorrow with my full report.”
“Brilliant. Until then, Kenner.”
Kenny took my hand again and next thing I knew we were in his apartment.