Flicker blue 1 plain jan.., p.3
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       Flicker Blue 1: Plain Jane, p.3
 

           Brea Nicole Bond
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Chapter III

  Accursed

  “You have lost your mind,” Jane said as she joined Cris in the backseat of the car that came to take them home from school that afternoon.

  Gregory peeked at them in the rearview mirror. “What happened?”

  Jane laughed. “Nothing, really. Cris made a joke that pissed off one of my new friends, but she deserved it. Now she’s never going to forgive him,” her expression changed abruptly as she turned back to Cris. “I haven’t forgiven you, either. Not about lunch, though—for not giving me any head’s up about Dr. Sylfaen getting my schedule changed. I’m gonna have to work twice as hard in the advanced class!”

  “So what? You’ve probably read half the books we’re going to cover already.” It was more like three-quarters of them, but Jane wasn’t about to admit as much and blow her claim to sympathy. “You’re a smart girl, and he thought that it was time for you to start acting like it.”

  Jane blushed. “You think I’m smart?”

  “Dr. Sylfaen does. He could have changed all of your classes, you know. You should be grateful he’s only making you switch your English class. That’ll be no sweat for you.”

  “We’ll see.” Jane was somewhat placated by Cris’s flattery, but she still felt that Dr. Sylfaen had overstepped a rigid boundary by not asking her first. “I’m going straight up to the library when we get home.”

  Gregory’s eyes met Cris’s in the rearview, and they shared a chuckle. Okay, so I know he won’t change my schedule back, but I can at least let him know he crossed a line.

  Upon their arrival Gregory issued Jane a sarcastic “Good luck with the Doc” before retreating back to the garage. Jane and Cris were welcomed home to the robust aromas of corn flour and cumin. Angelita had already manned her battle station in the kitchen and was flattening balls of pale yellow dough into tortillas.

  “Hey, kids. How was your first day back?”

  Jane started to answer, but Cris beat her to it. “Great, Mamí. Jane made some really funny friends. What are you cooking?”

  “Enchiladas. From scratch, and I’m running a little behind. Want to help out?”

  “Yeah, in just a minute though. Jane’s dying to tell Dr. Sylfaen all about her day.”

  “Of course.” Jane was sure she recognized a glint of amusement in Angelita’s eyes as she returned to the tray of dough balls. Did everybody know about this but me?

  “Come on, Jane. We’ll be back to help soon.” He swept behind the island to give his mother a kiss on her cheek before grabbing Jane’s hand and hauling her up the staircase. Jane hesitated at the second-floor landing, but Cris knocked on the double doors that led into the library, opened one of them widely, and dragged her into the room behind him.

  Dr. Sylfaen looked up from an ancient-looking tome as they approached. “Ah, Cristobel. And Jane, dear. How was your day?”

  “Go ahead, Jane. Tell him all about your day.”

  Stupid Cris. Why is he doing this to me? “I, um…I didn’t know you had changed my classes, Dr. Sylfaen.” She had suddenly lost her nerve, and she could sense heat rising into her face. And why did she feel like she was about to start crying? “I really, I mean, I wish you had talked to me first.”

  Dr. Sylfaen’s face grew soft, and his green eyes peered into hers. “I am sorry, Jane. I felt that you needed the challenge, but I knew that you would never agree to it.”

  “Why did everyone else know? I feel like I’m the butt of a joke or something.” She could feel the warm tears welling, threatening to fall. Any second now, and she would be crying. It seemed unjust, after being unable to summon any tears over losing her parents, that she was about to embarrass herself now.

  “Hmmm. I knew that Cristobel had overheard part of the phone conversation that I held with the registrar at your school, but I was not aware that the news had circulated. Cristobel, what have you to say about this?”

  Cris shifted. It was his turn to be uncomfortable now, Jane noticed to her satisfaction. “I only told Mamí and Gregory. I didn’t know that it should be kept a secret.”

  Jane wheeled on him. “Except from me!”

  “Peace, Jane,” Dr. Sylfaen interjected. “It is done now. I am certain that you will do exceedingly well in your new class. It will be Cris’s responsibility to help you if you do have difficulty. I believe he owes you that.”

  “Great.” Jane’s sarcasm caused Cris to scowl.

  Dr. Sylfaen seemed contented, though, and began to settle himself into the task that Cris and Jane had interrupted. As he sat down, he looked back to Jane with a smile. “Jane?”

  “Yes?”

  “Can you forgive me?”

  Jane focused on the old man’s face before she spoke. “Yes, Dr. Sylfaen.”

  “Good. And another thing…none of this Dr. Sylfaen business anymore. Please call me Uncle Mederick instead. After all, we are family now.” His words were soft, but as he finished them, he suddenly doubled over in his chair.

  Jane jumped toward him, but Cris pushed in front of her and landed beside the old man in time to catch him before he fell from the chair.

  “Dr. Sylfaen?! Are you alright?”

  “I—yes, I am fine,” Dr. Sylfaen panted through labored breaths. He appeared to be recovering from his sudden attack, but slowly. “I had a—a pain for a moment. I….” He stopped speaking and looked up at Jane in horror. “NO!” he shouted as he pointed toward her, his green eyes abruptly becoming more brilliant than the moment before. He lowered his voice, but his tone remained urgent. “No, this cannot be possible!”

  “What?! Dr.—er, Uncle Mederick, did I do something wrong?” Jane sounded as panicked as her godfather, but only because she was utterly bewildered at his strange behavior. Cris volleyed his black-glass stare between her and the old man, his whole face narrowed as he, too, grasped for a reason behind what he was witnessing..

  “No,” Dr. Sylfaen answered after several long seconds, “but you are both excused.” He took another slow breath and sat himself erect in the chair once more. “Cristobel, tell your mother that I will eat my meal here in the library. I must…please, just go.” He collapsed back against his chair and raked his hand through the silver wisps of hair along one side of his head. Cris grabbed Jane’s hand once more and obediently pulled her out of the library.

  When the door was closed, Jane pulled away from him. “What the hell just happened in there, Cris?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Is he having a heart attack? Or a stroke or something? We should call a doctor!”

  “No.” Cris seemed as confused as she was, but Jane could tell that he at least understood enough to begin hypothesizing what Dr. Sylfaen’s strange attack had meant. “Jane, I think you should stay away from Dr. Sylfaen until he finds out what he needs to know. He’ll come to you when he’s ready.”

  “What? Why?” Cris was only confusing her more.

  “I’m not sure what’s wrong—I would tell you if I did, I swear. But I do know how he works when he gets frantic like that, and he will not appreciate being disturbed.”

  “Frantic? I don’t get it! Is he okay? What just happened in there?”

  “Come on, we promised to help make enchiladas. Try not to think about him now. It won’t do you any good.”

  They walked back to the kitchen and were immediately assigned duties. But, as Jane rolled the chicken and sautéed onions into the tortillas, she couldn’t help wondering about what she had witnessed in the library. What could be wrong with him? And what the hell was Cris babbling about? Jane sighed as she worked. And they think I’m so smart…well, I guess this proves that theory wrong.

  Upstairs in the library, Mederick Sylfaen remained in his chair, his elbows propped on the desk and his fingers strewn through his silver-white hair. A thousand thoughts ricocheted through his brain, each one more distressing than the last. Jane Thomas is family now. She must be, or the Curse would not have touched me when I said so. That means that she is one of us. But how? How i
s that possible?

  He suspected that the connection must have been made when he accepted her parents’ request to become her godfather, yet that did not make sense, either. It is unprecedented, and even if that is the case, why is this only beginning now? The ceremony took place many months ago, and there has been no indication that she is Accursed until now. He banged his fists down on the desk; the wooden thud echoed across the library. I would never have agreed to it if I had known! I would never have bestowed this on Peter and Helen’s daughter…. Tears fell over his cheeks as he recalled the faces of his fallen friends. I promised to care for her, and what have I done instead?

  The old man stood and walked toward one of the many bookcases. He ran his long fingers against the spines of his old friends, loosening the dust that had settled upon them since the last time they had been lifted from their lofty places on the shelves. He had never been able to part with any of them—the books that had given him the answers he sought so many years ago. Not that any of them contained any real information. Just shadows of truth that had eventually guided him toward enough understanding that he could survive the burden of the Curse. Only one book contained the answers.

  And I will have to find it again. For Jane. She will have to find it if she is to understand anything…if she is to survive the transition.

 
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