They continued to walk, taking many twists and turns through streets and alleyways and neighborhoods. Nothing seemed real tonight, and Willow found an odd sort of comfort in clinging to the hope that some of her questions may be answered, even if by this strange person. Maybe, the spiraling thoughts in her mind would slow down, take a rest, and let her become rational once again.
Of course, there was one part of this all that Willow refused to even try to begin thinking about just yet. Every time the thought began to crawl out from one of those deep dark corners of her mind that she had placed it in, she pushed it right back in again, afraid of what such a puzzle would look like solved.
The puzzle was Clara. Her own sister! Clara, practically the only other young girl Willow could ever call a friend, had been in on it. Clara had known! And for whatever reason, Clara had followed in her mother’s suit and hidden Willow from her true identity.
And, of course, Clara did know. How could she not when it was Clara’s own journal that Willow had found out about her heritage in? She thought back, and realized it was chilling how well this all fit together.
Only hours before running away, Willow had been walking into her bedroom to change after a nice hot shower, just as the thunder and pitter-pattering sound of the rain beating steadily against the roof of her house began to fade.
While drying her hair off with a towel, she began maneuvering her way towards her closet, trying to avoid the mountains of cardboard boxes that were beginning to pile up in her room. There were all filled with old junk; all stuff that Willow’s mother kept saying that she, “needed to get around to taking to the dumpster one of these days before the next move.”
Half way to her closet, Willow had lost her footing and stumbled over one certain beat-up old box; this one filled with a lots of Clara’s old toys. And, of course, out of the box fell the journal. It was a colorful little thing, with fake gems, balloons, and lots of scribbles on it. When Willow opened it, a diary entry Clara had written, (she couldn’t have been more than seven years old) had said in big slopping handwriting, “Today, Mommy brought home the baby. She was gone for a very long time when she was getting the baby, and Mommy named her Willow. Mommy looks very happy now. I’m glad because she has not looked happy for a very long time since Daddy didn’t come back after fighting with the people from the Underworld. But now she looks very happy. She spends a lot of time with the new baby.” At this point Willow had felt a strange sort of satisfaction, knowing that she had brought her mother some sort of newfound obsessive happiness. Obsessive because of how insanely overprotective she always was of Willow, but, at least she had changed her mother’s life for the better. As Willow read further, though, the satisfaction faded.
“Just like Mommy said she would be, Willow is very different from us. When I am sad, she knows, and she gets sad too! I like Willow a lot, but I wish we didn’t have to move away. I like my school and my friends that I have right now. But Mommy says we won’t always be moving. She says that the people looking for Willow won’t always look for her, that they will give up some time. I think it’s sad that Willow can’t be with her real mommy and daddy, but when I told Mommy that she just said that if Willow’s real mommy and daddy ever found her, they would do bad things to her. She said that the president couldn’t let people know that Willow was his daughter. I don’t really get it all, but Willow is just so cute and pretty! Mommy says she has the powers because she has underworld blood in her, but I’m not scared. “
The moment Willow had read the last words written by her sister, she had frozen. She had suspected something like this, but she was still frozen. She had felt such a rush of sadness, such a heavy weight on her heart that she hadn’t even dared to think up questions. She hadn’t even dared to dream if it was true. She hadn’t even dared to dream that her mother had been lying to her for seventeen years, and she hadn’t even dared to dream about why this all was. She hadn’t even dared to imagine anything at all. She was frozen. She had been utterly frozen from the mind to the heart as she had put on her heavy coat, climbed the stairs off the deck and into the backyard, and left.
Willow had been following the boy for some time now, and they were starting to enter parts of the city which Willow didn’t recognize. She tried to push the thoughts about Clara and her mother and her so-called-home out of her mind. Willow shook her head, to clear the thoughts. She had to focus on the present. She would get her answers, she had to.
However, upon looking at this boy walking too calmly in front of her, hands in pockets, footsteps light as the breeze, Willow couldn’t help but fold her arms in annoyance. Does he have to look nonchalant? Willow thought, fidgeting in her helplessness. She only wished that the answers would come sooner. This walking and waiting was making Willow antsy beyond reason.
Willow wished that she had more experience in starting conversations. Of course, she did have a little experience simply from years and years of trying to make friends at so many different schools. If only that would come in handy when walking through the streets following an unknown underworlder boy in order to try and find out who she was. Willow sighed, and opened her mouth, ready to say something along the lines of, “where are we going?” or, “When are you going to answer my questions?” However, before she could even get the whole, “Excuse me…” out, the boy spoke.
“We’re almost there.” He assured her, “just a few more blocks. Stop worrying so much, that emotion buzzing around all over the place is incredibly annoying.”
Willow’s cheeks burned. She hadn’t been that worried, or so she’d thought.
Then, a different thought occurred to her. Her mind flashed back to the journal. Clara had written a line that had said that Willow was different from Clara and her mother. She pictured the line where it had said that, even as a baby, Willow could read emotions.
“Hold on a minute. You can read emotions, can’t you?”
“Of course I can”.
“Well, I can too. Is it something only Underworlders can do?” The boy spun around on his feet to face Willow. It was the first time Willow had been able to get a good look at him. He was very tall, but couldn’t have been more than a few years older than her, from the look of him. He had reddish-blonde hair that looked like it was growing out, and grey eyes. His eyes were much darker grey than her sister’s or her mother’s, though. But that wasn’t the only difference.
They looked scornful, in a tired, almost weary way. Those eyes looked as though they had experienced an infinite amount of chaos, and had gained the wisdom that one could go around the world and back again searching for and never find. But his eyes looked as though they didn’t want any of it; they looked as though they just wanted to rest, in their own safe, bitter little peace.
Willow held her breath as the boy said, “I don’t know why you can read emotions. You don’t seem to be from the Under World. But, then again, there are too many similarities between you and her for me to overlook this. Listen, Over Worlder. I don’t know if you can be trusted, but I’m just going to have to trust that you can be.” He smirked. “And yes, all underworlders can read emotions. It’s the one power that we all share. There’s just different, erm, degrees we can all do it to.”
Willow must have looked completely taken aback at the boy’s sudden outburst, because, to her further surprise, he followed his short speech with a slight smile at her. Not a mocking one, for the first time, but more of an almost warm, apologetic smile. “Anyway,” He said, “You look like you’ve had a rough night. We’ll get things figured out at the base, of course, but I suppose you should know that my name is Devlin. Oh, and I go by Dread. And, if you are who I suspect you might be, it’s nice to meet you.” His smile faded, and they kept walking down road.
They turned swiftly onto yet another, slightly busier street. It was more brightly lit, and had buildings several stories high that were packed tightly against one another. Neon signs littered the sky and alleyways, and the air was packed with high strung emotions, coming from every which angle. Never had Willow experienced such a rush from her new found “power” before. Everything about everywhere at every angle she turned to was tense. This was exactly the opposite of what she had been hoping for – being overwhelmed to the point that her mind fogged and she couldn’t think clearly. Sadness coming from one direction, grief and fear from another, worry from the left, and absolute joy from the right.
There was something strange about the way Willow felt, walking down this road. Was it that she had experienced so much in one night that she was going insane? Was it this sweet, almost giddy feeling she felt at the rush of all these different emotions pouring into her all at once?
Willow didn’t know, but she liked it. She became lighter on her feet. Spinning around and breathing in the night air, she half bumped into Devlin, whom, to Willow’s surprise; she had almost forgotten she was following.
Devlin turned to face Willow once again, and became wide eyed.
“What’s wrong?” inquired a giggly version of Willow.
Devlin looked like he was in deep thought for all of a split second, then let out a sigh and scratched his head. "Crap. Girl, is this the first time you've been in this district, with this many clubs?"
Willow just gave him a blank, wondering look. "Clubs? We're going to a club? I thought we were going to your top-secret base!" She then continued to giggle, eyes shining.
"Listen to me girl, you need to try to control your-"
"It's not 'girl'. It's Willow." Willow snarled, her mood suddenly spilling over with rage.
"Alright, Alright!" Devlin had both hands up, and this time it has his turn to take a step back. "Calm down a second, er. . .Willow. And watch where you're friggin' going". He put his hands back in his pockets and spun back around to walk towards another busy street. Willow followed, confused by her own sudden mood swings, why she felt so off, and why her eyes we're brimming with tears. He could have at least bothered to learn her name. On a night when everything seemed so questionable, couldn't just one part of her past be secured to her? I am still Willow, anyway, she thought.