I’ve thought about blogging as a whole lately, particularly as an educator. The ability to write something and have it out in the world no longer takes the same style of courage it once did, my own students now have to write all of their things on the internet. It’s just the style these days, that being said here’s something I’ve been working on. Just for fun. I have 28 pages so far, so I’ll only put down the first chapter.
“Click, clack, click, clack, click, clack…” The wooden bench-swing continued, empty, in the wind. The white-gray sky cast a matte bleakness over everything it touched; as if it were being drained of all its color, being left as a memory of its former self. Rain began to dot the window from where I was looking out onto the swing. The glass was so old that it was slightly thicker at the bottom, warping how I saw the world. But wasn’t that always the way, our viewpoint was always warped by something, beliefs, our upbringing, society, the world at large. We could never truly see things for what they really were. The “click, clack, click, clack” continued as the swing swung slowly in the wind and the rain droplets began to form larger ones on the windowpane before beginning to run. The tree that stood just in front of the bench was cold and dark, its leaves long forgotten in the autumn breeze. The branches formed spider-like legs reaching down towards the earth, towards me.
I shuddered, hugging my black jacket tighter around me, I turned to see my little dog, Tumnus, sniffing about my shoes. I clicked my tongue and he looked up eagerly at me, “who’s my good little boy? Hmm? Is it you?” I mused, reaching down to pet him. He was a small beige terrier, probably mixed with something else keeping his hair rather short, but still enough to tousle. -“Elijah! Eliiiijah! Come to the kitchen darling!” -Mother “Elijah, I meant right now!” I sighed, “Yes, Mother.” As I begrudgingly stood up, dusted off my dark denim pants, straightened my royal blue silken button up, and jacket to make my way towards the distantly illuminated kitchen.
The house was dark, granted it was October, but Mother had a small vendetta against the electric company. Ever since Father died they had been threatening to shut-off our power whenever we were even a few days late on the bill. Her theory then was to use as little electricity as possible, as if that would somehow make them realize how valuable she was as a customer. My shoes clicked harshly against the hardwood floor, a deep cherry-wood, how I loved to hear that click. Mother had always taught us that a click-in-step indicated power. If they can hear you coming, they have time to fear you. That was how Mother always chose to operate, from a place of authority.
“You called, Mother?” I asked as I rounded the corner into our low-ceiling kitchen. It was reminiscent of something Victorian, much like the rest of the house, but had an uncanny yellow hue all over from the old light bulbs that garnished the brass candelabra on the ceiling. “Yes dear, could you please open that for me?” She motioned to a large jar. The contents looked mysterious, something I had not seen before, it looked disgusting, like small rotten eggs. The label had been worn and had become illegible.
“Before I even touch that, I want to know what’s inside it!” I demanded.
“Oh Elijah, calm yourself! It’s nothing malefic, just an old jar of olives; they’re from Spain, the Andalusian region. They’re known for marvelous olives, if even the jar is a bit dusty. Just open it, please?” She asked exasperatedly.
I reached over to the jar, it certainly was dusty, and the cold light coming from the small kitchen window didn’t help. Mixed with the yellow hue of the kitchen, and the bleaching from outside, the olives had taken on a dark brown pale. They looked something akin to wet dear droppings, only larger. I gagged a bit while gripping the jar, for dramatic flare. The familiar hiss and pop indicated I had succeeded. I set the jar back down on the counter and turned around to face Mother. I took the lid off and popped an olive in my mouth, too salty for my taste, “what are you planning to make?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know? You are always so nosy, just like your father.” She paused and took a short breath before continuing, “you know, you could actually help me prepare for the dinner this evening, it wouldn’t kill you.”
She still hesitated whenever she mentioned Father. As if the topic were somehow taboo, but in actuality, it had only been a year. I replied, brushing off her hesitation, “It probably wouldn’t kill me, you’re right, but someone else could get terribly sick at my hands.” I made a sly smile. Mother knew I was a horrible cook, after having made her, Father, and the Twins ill a few times while trying my hand at poultry.
She snickered, “Oh Elijah, get out of here, go see what the twins are up to in the parlor. Surely they’ve gotten up to no good.” – She was probably right, Moira and Samuel had a sort of knack of getting themselves into a pickle. Particularly now that they had come of age and could come and go as they pleased. I couldn’t wait to come of age; getting to leave the Manor was already something I day-dreamed of regularly. The cold dark furnishings of the Manor could only bring mild solace to a seventeen year old boy, especially one who is on the brink of turning eighteen. That all so special age for someone like us, someone born of the Arcanus.
I left Mother in the kitchen to make my way down the hall towards the parlor. As I turned right out of the kitchen I could see the slender hallway lined in deep red wood paneling and dark cloths over the lamp lights. Tumnus was at my feet, wagging his little tale and smile. “Shall we go pay a visit to Samuel and Moira?” He jerked excitedly and started off down the hallway. I smiled, clicking my Italian leather shoes down the hall as I walked, I ran my fingers along the wooden panels. The walls were decorated with odd pictures and paintings from generations past. I ran my hand over one photograph in particular; pausing, I looked, it was our last family photo together.
Mother, in her shin-length black suede trench coat, small top hat, and blistering red scarf, her dark honey hair flowing over her shoulders while her stark pale features stuck out like marble. Father, classically handsome, strong jaw line, black hair with a whip in the front, and bold shoulders; his smile was infectious. I could feel a smile creep over my face just seeing him. Then there we were, the children, a right mess. Moira had her arms crossed over her sunken chest, her monochrome sweater stretched tight over body, showing just how thin and frail her arms really were. Her lighter sandy hair was pulled into a tight braid on one side and her gaze was unwelcoming. Samuel had his short brown hair pulled to a 50’s greaser look while wearing his leather jacket. It was true they were twins, he was just as thin as she was, and they shared that sullen and sallow face.
I looked rather good, if I say so myself. I scrutinized my appearance, I had on the finest black leather shoes and tight jeans, I clicked my heel on the floor and smiled again. My coat was long, black and kicked out with a flair at the end. I too, was wearing a monochromatic sweater, but at least my figure was more filled out, somewhat strong, but still thin. After all, I couldn’t have my clothes looking like they were hanging on a wire when I wore them, but also I didn’t want them to appear as though they were pulled tight over a bulging mass. My sandy hair was pulled up and over to the side, much like a high-fashion English model. How I longed to go to London, at least beyond our family’s looking glass.
I stepped back away from the photo and lingered a glance once more on Father’s face. He was truly a remarkable man, one to whom I looked up and revered above all others. He was a good man, and he used his Arcana to help others. If only the Twins and I could live up to his image and legacy. After all, Mother had already given up, the pills, the drinking, and the elixirs were not providing her the help nor grace she so desperately sought. I was startled from my trance when from the end of the hall sounded a loud crack!
I looked towards the parlor. The warm firelight was filling the end of the hallway. As I walked into the entryway, I could hear Moira and Samuel fussing over something. Entering, Moira was standing in front of the large Gothic fireplace, studded with Visigoth carvings of blackened stone of what appeared to be demonic imps.
“Samuel, you will stop this instant and listen to me!” Moira hissed from between clenched teeth, her voice shrill and unforgiving. “You will give me back Father’s watch, right now!”
Samuel was gazing, unfazed, at his wrist and spoke, “But Moira, it looks just awful on you, it’s really meant for a man’s wrist, see how well it fits!”
“Samuel, you know very well, that we are the same exact size. Don’t be an asshole, give it back before we have to get nasty.” Her eyes began to flicker with a slight violet tinge. I leaned against the door frame to look on, this was about to get good. Moira was a master of her craft, her ability to speak to the dead made her just as deadly as those with whom she spoke.
“Do I need to call Father and see what he has to say about this matter?” She smiled. “You can’t! And you know it!” Samuel retorted, “Father has never answered your calls, you should know by now that he’s never coming back and he doesn’t even care about us! Least of all this stupid watch!” Samuel threw it back at Moira, she caught it just above the open flame of the fireplace.
I cleared my throat from the doorway.
“Ahem, good afternoon all, were you two aware that Mother is preparing the dinner for Maman’s arrival tonight?”
The twins shuddered.
“You mean that Dolores is coming for dinner, tonight?” Samuel said our grandmother’s name with such disdain you’d think she had killed Father right in front of him.
“Bah oui petit Samuel.” I snickered back, “you know she has to come visit Mother once or twice a year to make sure our lessons are being conducted ‘parfaitement’, perfectly!” I snapped my fingers on the last word for extra emphasis and smiled.
The Twins merely rolled their over-sized eyes in their sullen sockets.
“Well, is she going to be staying very long this time?” Moira asked with trepidation in her voice.
Moira had the greatest fear of Maman, with good reason. Maman’s Aracana allowed her to get into your head and read, alter, and control your thoughts. For someone like Moira, who had to have a constant mantra going in her mind to keep the dead at bay, someone looking in and halting her thoughts could be deadly. Furthermore, Maman did not favor the Twins all that much, she did not care for their attitude, and how strongly they clung to one another.
“I’m really not sure, sugar.” I replied, shrugging slightly.
Samuel raised his hand and twisted it in the firelight, an apple twisted into reality with it. Green this time, perhaps Granny Smith, he was getting better at distinguishing variations.
“Well I don’t care if she stays or not, I don’t plan on talking much to her.” He said curtly while snapping a bite of his apple and plopping down onto the large Davenport sofa.
Moira joined him on the armrest. I moved towards the tall-backed armchair with Corinthian leather, the leather was still cool to the touch, and sat down. I hated the sofa they sat on, it was dark red (very outdated velvet at that), but Mother insisted it was some sort of heirloom from her great-great-grandmother who was some sort of countess or something. She was named Marie Antoi— something I couldn’t recall. But she was beheaded for her crimes, she could bend people to her will, no doubt the beginning of Maman’s Arcana.
Moira looked woefully at Samuel and his apple.
“Samuel, given these grave circumstances,” she feigned as though she was going to faint by putting the back of her hand dramatically on her forehead, “could you bear to conjure me a smoothie?” She blinked her eyes nice and big while eyeing him with her hand up and pouting.
He rolled his eyes and started, “Moira, you know I can’t conjure a smoothie, that has far too many ingredients and components, besides even if I could, it would be too exhausting. How about a nice glass of jus d’orange”
She nodded reluctantly.
Samuel put his hand on the coffee table that separated us, its surface reflecting in the firelight. He placed his hand palm-down and breathed out, while raising his hand slowly. A small swirl of orange and black began forming from between his palm and the table. A glass of orange juice quickly swirled into existence. Samuel fell back into the couch and took a deep breath, a bead of sweat forming on his brow.
“There, happy now?”
Moira smiled while giggling and took it to take a sip.
“Mmm, delicious, are those Cara Cara oranges? My oh my, you have gotten good, haven’t you! Elijah, you must try this!” She extended her arm as I reached over and took a sip, it was remarkable. She was right, he had the flavor just right.
“Samuel, have you even had orange juice with Cara Cara oranges?” I asked, surprised.
“Oh yeah, loads of times, I had to squeeze them myself when I did that stint abroad in Spain, I loved them,” he replied, adding, “they aren’t too sweet or too bitter, just the right balance.”
Samuel’s Arcana allowed him to conjure objects that he had already encountered, particularly things with which he was already very familiar. For example, he couldn’t simply conjure a pen if he had never encountered said pen before, or maybe had only seen it and not handled it. He must get to know the object or substance before it can be conjured. Additionally, it would cost him his stamina, meaning the more complex or larger the object in question, the more he would have to expel and get tired. One time when we were younger he tried to conjure a full burger, with all the fixings and he nearly passed out before he had managed it. This gave him a cute moniker, burger boy, for quite some time.
Moira’s eyes flashed their signature purple; she shot straight up.
“Princess says someone is approaching the manor, it’s a car she doesn’t recognize, something ‘white and brown’. Though given that she’s a dog, I wouldn’t assume she sees color the same way we do.”
I sighed, I missed Princess, she was a Burmese Mountain Dog and lived with us for the better part of my life. Tumnus was wonderful, but Princess just had that extra comfort of feeling like you were cuddling a bear when you were sad. I stood up.
“Well, I shall go see who it is, shall I?”
The twins didn’t move, so I took that as a yes. Walking back up the hall I could see the kitchen on the left and the grand entrée directly in front of me with our great double French doors. The fogged glass was beginning to reflect the change to evening and had already darkened greatly. The rain had not stopped either, if anything, it had intensified and was decidedly coming down quite hard. A figure was approaching the door and getting larger in the window. It was tall, or appeared tall, perhaps they had an umbrella. I heard a distinct knock-knock. Though this knocking didn’t come from the door. It came from me. It came from within. From the kitchen you could hear Mother yell, “Elijah, Maman is here, can you get the door please?”