Chapter Eighteen

The carriage let Natalie off just outside Lake Sunflower’s hospital, on one of the smaller streets. Natalie had asked butler Thomas to take her there rather than home. She wanted to see Cecily – she wanted to know that she was still alive – before returning home. Still, as she waved the carriage off, Natalie took her cell phone out of her pocket. Surprisingly, it had survived the last twenty-four hours – the battery blinked on ‘low’ but other than that, it worked perfectly.

She dialed her home number.

“Hello,” said Richard, picking up after only a signal.

“Hi,” Natalie said softly. “It’s me.”

“Natalie!” Richard exclaimed, his voice filled with relief. “I was so worried!”

Natalie choked. “I’m sorry. I just—some things have happened but I—”

“Are you all right?” asked Richard worriedly. “Do you need me to pick you up? Where are you?”

Natalie shook her head. “I’ll be home in a little while. Don’t worry. I’m—okay.”

She could not bring herself to say ‘fine’. She did not feel fine. She did not even feel okay. She felt tired and grief hung in the air around her like a heavy blanket. She did not know whether she would ever be all right again.

“I have to go,” Natalie said thickly. Her eyes traveled to the building of Lake Sunflower Hospital. “I’ll see you soon.”

She hung up before he had time to answer. She held the cell phone in a tight grip in her hand and had to take a deep, steadying breath before entering the hospital building. It loomed before her, grey and impersonal.

She stood in the reception, feeling disconnected to the world. What would she do if the clerk said that Cecily had died? What would she say? Natalie did not know, did not want to know – but she also could not stand not knowing and in the end, she caught the attention of the clerk.

“I’m here to see Cecily Cordell,” she said, only just managing to keep her voice from breaking.

The clerk looked at the computer screen, then back up at Natalie. “She’s been moved to room number three on the second floor.”

Natalie’s legs shook and she had to fight to stay standing. Cecily was still alive! Natalie dimly listened to the clerk’s directions on how to get to the second floor and then her legs took her there on their own accord. She opted for the stairs instead of the populated elevators and she moved mechanically down the hallway.

Number three.


Natalie could not believe her eyes. Before her lay Cecily on the bed – looking so much better that she could hardly believe it was the same person as the comatose a day earlier. Not only was she alive, but also awake. Her brown eyes danced with life, glittering in the light that spilled through the window. The shimmer Natalie had noted the first time she met Cecily had returned, almost taking the shape of—

Natalie’s legs gave out, finally. She sank to the floor, once more sobbing but this time at least some of the tears were happy ones.

Cecily got out of bed and padded barefoot to Natalie’s side, wrapping her arms around Natalie. Natalie clung to her like a lifeline.

“I thought you were dead,” she said between sobs. “I’m sorry about what I said before, when I snapped at you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry too,” Cecily said gently, stroking Natalie’s hair. “And how could I be dead? You saved me.”

Natalie fell silent, pulling back. Then, after several long moments, she said, “What?”

“You were in my dream,” Cecily said softly. “I dreamed that you were there and that you pulled me back from—well, the other side. You would not let me die.”

Natalie could not tell if Cecily knew she had actually been there, or if she just thought it was part of the dream. It did not matter. All that mattered was that she was still here, still alive, still breathing. Natalie did not care how.

“Could we move up on the bed, perhaps?” asked Cecily with a slight smile. “It’s kind of cold down here.”

Natalie nodded, blushing. “Of course.”

They supported each other as they returned to the bed. Despite looking better, Cecily obviously still felt far from healthy and strong. She should probably stay in bed for a while longer.

Settling on the bed, Cecily gave Natalie a long, searching look.

“Natalie,” she said, “where is Ava?”

Something in her voice told Natalie that Cecily already knew what had happened. But how could Cecily know? No one but her, Ramon and her grandmother knew.

“Ramon—” began Natalie softly but could not bring herself to say the words. They still felt foreign to her, so completely wrong. In her imagination, Ava could still walk through the door this very minute, still alive and healthy. Ava was young – she shouldn’t have—

“Oh god,” whispered Cecily, watching Natalie closely.

“I—I couldn’t do anything,” Natalie said. “I don’t think I could—it all happened so fast—he just—and she—I didn’t mean—I didn’t want—”

She had already cried so many tears but though she tried, she could not keep new ones from falling. It did not feel like it had only been yesterday everything had happened – the dream, the fight with Ramon and Ava’s death. Natalie held Cecily close, feeling the wetness on her shirt as the dark haired girl cried as well.

Eventually, the tears subsided, but the dull ache that had settled in Natalie’s stomach even before she had really woken up at her grandmother’s house, stayed with her. Natalie suspected it would remain for a long time.

“I don’t know what to do,” Natalie said. “I can’t tell anyone she’s dead – they’ll wonder how I know. But what will her parents think? Her siblings? Everyone in school? That she ran away? That she got kidnapped? Murdered— she was murdered.”

Cecily watched her gravely, eyes red-rimmed.

“Perhaps you should tell me what happened,” Cecily said. “I don’t know anything that happened since yesterday noon, when I fainted. Next thing I knew, there was you and then this blinding light and I was awake and dad was sitting next to me.”

Natalie allowed herself a small smile over the ‘blinding light’ Cecily described. The dream had really happened – Natalie had been in Cecily’s dream.

Then, with a soft sigh and a lump in her throat, Natalie began to tell Cecily of the events of the day before.

By the end of it, tears trickled down Cecily’s cheeks. Natalie felt distant to the story – it sounded too strange, as though it could not really have happened to her. It must have been a dream. Ava had not died, she could not have.

“You saved Ramon,” Cecily said softly, “even after what he did.”

“I don’t know why. I just—I couldn’t leave him there.”

“I—understand. He needed your help.”

Something about Cecily’s words made Natalie frown. They reminded her of something. Thinking back, she tried to grasp what it was, but it seemed just out of reach. The words – something about the words she had said.

“You need to break him out. He needs your help.”

She gasped as she remembered – Cecily had told her, in her dream. But how had Cecily known? And what had she meant, ‘break him out’? Natalie pushed the thoughts aside, she could not deal with that now. She sighed.

“He’s gone now, anyway. He left my mother’s necklace with me and disappeared before my grandmother found me in her Mithridates.” Her eyes darkened. “If he tries anything again, I won’t hesitate to kill him.”

A slight crease appeared between Cecily’s brows. She looked thoughtful. “I don’t know why, but I don’t think you’ll have to.”

Natalie shook her head. “I—I don’t think so either. He was changed – there was something different about him.”

After a moment, Natalie remembered something. “He burned your book.”

“My Script Magia?” asked Cecily and a crease of pain appeared between her brows.

Natalie nodded. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t—he had me bound with magic at the time. He just—burned it.”

Cecily took a steadying breath. Natalie suspected that the reason why she had felt attached to the book had not been because of the book itself or it content, though she had been given it to keep safe – no, the reason was that it had belonged to her mother.

“It’s not your fault,” Cecily said softly and she looked as though she meant it. “I’ll tell you about it later. There are things you need to know.”

The two girls fell silent. Each fell deep into thought though they still held onto each other, drawing strength and understanding.

Natalie thought of Ramon. He confused her. There was something in his eyes that made her think he did not recognize her. Had she hit him so hard while in the tumult that she had given him amnesia? She supposed it could be possible, considering the sheer amount of magic she had controlled at the time. His amulet had been like a shining target which she had struck hard and fast. She shuddered at the memory of the darkness she had been in.

“What do we do about Ava?”

Cecily’s soft voice broke through Natalie’s reverie.

Natalie sighed heavily. “I don’t know.”

“Like you said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people that she’s dead,” Cecily said and her voice did not sound quite as matter-of-factly as she probably hoped it would. “There will be no body. Mithridates are impossible to find for non-Wielders – they are almost always in the second universe, not here. She won’t be found.”

Natalie squeezed her eyes shut. “It just seems horrible – she won’t get a funeral and the proper respect and her family will think she’s just left them.”

“I know,” Cecily said. “There isn’t much we can do.”

“I know.”

They agreed, in the end, to not say anything at all. There was nothing they could say. Ava’s body would not be found and they should not know anything about her disappearance.

“That’s not an eternal resting place,” Natalie said softly. “She deserved more.”

Cecily looked up at her, eyes warm and cheeks wet.

“Of course she did. She deserved life.”

Natalie could not bring herself to go to school on Friday morning. Richard, who had been horrified by her exhausted appearance when she had finally arrived home late on Thursday afternoon, was more than willing to call her in sick. Worried, he fussed over her and had she not been so emotionally and physically drained, Natalie would have enjoyed the brief period of Richard’s attention and the jealous looks from Emmanuella. As it was, she simply slept through all of Friday, barely eating or drinking.

On Saturday, she still did not feel rested but did get out of bed.

Cecily would be all right, for now, she was told. Apparently, Mr. Cordell had called while Natalie slept and he had told Richard that Cecily had been discharged. She was not fine – whatever had been wrong with her since Natalie met her, and long before that, still remained – but she was no longer in any immediate danger. Natalie felt happy to hear this – it  was the only thing that made her smile at all.

All other thoughts hung around Ava and they all made her cry or want to scream at the unfairness. Ava should not even have been there! Natalie should have gone alone! The only reason Ramon had gotten a chance to strike had been that Natalie had lost her grip. Her fury had dropped momentarily – and that had cost Ava her life. Again and again, Natalie saw Ava sailing through the air and she could do nothing to stop her – and then came the sickening crack that resounded through her head.

Thoughts of Ramon came and went, but those were mostly just questions. Who was he? Why did he want to raise Chaos? How had  he known about Chaos to begin with? Why had Natalie’s blood, and no one else’s, been needed? Why had he looked so utterly confused when Natalie had moved to help him?

She sat down by her desk and began to write down her feelings, unable to keep them bottled up inside anymore. Cecily was the only one she could talk to but at the moment, she wanted to be alone.

She had not gotten far when she zoned out and suddenly, the ghost writer returned.

‘Your sadness can be felt for miles.’

Natalie was not in the mood for cryptic sentences.

‘What do you want?’

It did not take long for an answer to appear on the paper.

‘I know about your friend.’

‘I don’t care. Leave me alone,’ Natalie spat back angrily, sudden rage welling up inside of her. It had all started with this: strange messages written by someone other than her, but with her hand. It had led her to her first meeting with Ava – without the ghost writer, Natalie would not have known Ava and Ava would not have died.

Three weeks after the first line, she still had no idea who the ghost writer was. And how did the person know everything about her? Why was it able to tell her that she was powerful, long before she had started learning of magic?

Words appeared on the paper before her again, several minutes after the last one. Natalie had almost believed the ghost writer to have gone again.

The ghost writer wrote:

‘You know now that you are powerful.’

She saw the truth in those words now – she was powerful. More so than she could have ever dreamed of when the words first appeared on the paper. Something had awoken within her, something mighty and not yet explored. Something different.

Perhaps it had all been meant to be. Perhaps she had been meant to meet Ava and make friends with her – that in turn had lead her to Cecily, who had brought out the first bout of magic out of her. It had lead to the second meeting with Ramon and the first experience of living magic, which she had quickly learned to control to get them out of the situation.

Without Ava, where would she have been? Where would she turn now that she was gone?

She hoped there was a reason for her death as well. She could not see one – it was a needless waste.

‘Yes, I do.’

She knew. She had even felt what she imagined to be the strongest of all magic forces within her. Chaos.

‘Good. Then you are worthy.’

With those words, the ghost writer disappeared once more. Natalie echoed her words back to her – ‘Worthy?’ – but received no answer. She stared at the last line – what did that mean? What could she possibly have been deemed worthy of now?

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