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       Fairest, p.14

           Chanda Hahn
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In an instant, the contrite and sorry Ever was replaced by a very loud and angry Pixie. Her voice rose in anger, and her eyes darkened in power. Mina could feel a cold breeze set in, and the wind picked up leaves from the ground and they swirled around Ever angrily. It took a moment for Mina to realize the girl was beating her invisible wings in anger.

  “You Gimp! You lost it, didn’t you? How could you do something so stupid, so careless?”

  “What are you talking about?” Mina called out, but Ever had turned her back on her and pulled something out of her pocket that looked like a silver lipstick tube.

  Ever opened the tube and began to draw a large human-sized oval in the sky. The silver tube sparked and zapped, and a shimmering line appeared where Ever drew. Seconds later, the oval began to glow, and the school lawn disappeared to be replaced by a door of light.

  “Ever, what is that? What are you doing?” Mina held up her hand to block the blinding light that poured through the door. She could vaguely see outlines of silver and white trees on the other side.

  “You lost the Grimoire, stupid! Someone needs to tell the Queen before all hell breaks loose and something bad happens.” She moved toward the door of light and turned before stepping through to shoot one last remark at Mina.

  “I always knew that of all the Grimms, you would cause the most trouble. I told him you didn’t deserve the Grimoire. I knew you were a mistake right from the beginning, and I was right.”

  She stepped through the gate of light, and both Ever and the doorway to the Fae plane disappeared leaving Mina to wonder what she meant by something bad happening.

  Chapter 16

  The car ride to Nan’s party was boring and uneventful. Sara continually tried to console Mina about the loss of the Grimoire, but it didn’t help. Sara turned off the highway and drove their green four door Subaru wagon onto a barely visible dirt road.

  “Are you sure these are the right directions?” she asked Mina.

  Mina pulled out the wadded up notebook paper and checked it again for the eighth time. “Yes, we take the interstate southbound for thirty miles. Hang a right at Carl’s Junction and left at Anawatchie Road. Drive for four miles and take the first dirt path on your right. Cabin’s on the left.”

  The dirt road narrowed even further down the hill, and they came to a sharp left turn followed by a metal bridge. One look told Mina that this road was barely wide enough for two cars side by side or a small Subaru. Sara wisely slowed their car, opened the window, and listened for the sound of oncoming cars before pushing on the gas and crossing the bridge at a faster pace than she would normally drive.

  “Boy, I would not want to be driving this route during the winter,” Sara chuckled nervously.

  “Well, you won’t have to because the cabin is closed during the winter.” Mina wasn’t in the most congenial of moods. In fact, she was downright sour. Haunted by Ever’s parting words, Mina found little rest or comfort without the Grimoire. Panicking, she had run back to the hospital, spoke to numerous nurses, doctors, staff, and dug through their lost and found; nothing. No one had seen her notebook.

  Sara had tried to be comforting about the loss, but she was just as worried as her daughter. She made daily trips to the hospital looking for it. Finally, they both decided it must have been lost in the woods. There was no other explanation. Mina tried to remember the last time she had it, and all she could recall was that it was somewhere between the bear attack and the hospital. The signs were not good of her ever finding it.

  The only solace she could remind herself of was that her Uncle Jack had never had the Grimoire and he had been successful at completing some of the Fae tales. So she would just have to be smarter and more resourceful than her Uncle Jack, who was dead. Yeah, Mina knew she was in serious trouble.

  “I know you have a lot on your mind, sweetie,” Sara spoke softly to Mina. “But everything will be okay. It has to be.” She reached over carefully, keeping her eyes on the road, to brush her daughter’s soft brown hair.

  What Sara didn’t understand was the real cause for Mina’s attitude. Even though they were in the car, being surrounded by woods on all sides, was really messing with Mina’s mind. She had a hard time breathing and focusing without having flashbacks to being abandoned in the woods. Luckily, the road widened again, and they could see a beautiful, crystal blue lake in the distance and a very large three story cedar house.

  This wasn’t a small wooden cabin like Mina had pictured. It was a huge rustic hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere. Mina could see as they drove closer that they weren’t the first to arrive to the party. In fact, it looked like they were the last, as at least twenty cars could be seen parked along the driveway in the grass. Lots of her classmates already in swimsuits were diving off of a small wooden dock on the lake. Many were hanging out by a very classy stone fire pit; others played sand volleyball.

  They passed a very familiar black SUV, and Mina felt her heart flutter in nervousness. Brody was already here. Mina did her best to compose herself and felt a little embarrassed to be dropped off at the party by her mom and little brother.

  “I’ll pick you up tomorrow evening. Be sure to have fun,” Sara called out as Mina closed the car door. She gripped her duffle bag with her extra clothes for the weekend thankful that no one else was spending the night. Her embarrassment became monumentally worse when Sara turned the car around and did their family tradition of saying goodbye by doing a double horn beep and wave.

  When Mina’s family drove away and she could no longer see the taillights of her mom’s car, she finally gathered enough courage to make her way toward the nearest cluster of laughing students. Unfortunately, the closest groups of girls happened to include Savannah White and Priscilla Rose. Mina felt her hackles rise in annoyance when Savannah verbally made fun of her.

  “Aw, how sweet, Grimey, that your mommy drove you here. Does she still make your bed and pack your lunch for you too?” Savannah laughed obnoxiously at her own joke. The queen of white blonde curls, though horrible, still looked amazing in red shorts and a white-striped distressed t-shirt and sandals.

  “Uh, no, Savannah, she only drives me when the chauffeur has the day off,” Mina snapped back feeling surprised at her own outburst. But it wasn’t long before the group began firing other comments back. She gritted her teeth and kept walking, ignoring both Savannah and her groupies. But where else should she go? She saw Steve and Frank down by the lake trying to push each other in; the mock fight ended when both boys ended up in the lake. She supposed Nan had to be at the house, so she decided to start her search there.

  The path to the house was marked with stone steps and lined with gardenias. A beautiful porch wrapped around the whole house offering rockers, benches, and the occasional swing. She decided to follow the porch around to the back of the house, where she found another outdoor seating area with blankets and an expensive outdoor fireplace. Mina was secretly envious, and she hadn’t even been inside yet. Entering through the back led Mina right to the heart of the house, the kitchen.

  The kitchen had the latest state of the art appliances, granite marble countertops, three separate ovens, an indoor grill, and a huge island. Mina found Nan sitting on the island, talking animatedly to two students.

  “Mina, good, you’re finally here. Look who came,” Nan motioned towards her company, and Mina stopped when she immediately recognized one of them. It was Brody with a girl. No, wait, that wasn’t a girl with short blonde hair. It was Valdemar, Brody’s cousin.

  Both Brody and Valdemar turned to greet her. Brody quickly looked away, barely making eye contact. Valdemar walked over and gave Mina a warm welcome like they were long lost friends.

  “Good to see you, Nina.” He opened his arms wide and pulled her into a quick and awkward hug.

  “Good to see you again, Valdemar, and it’s Mina,” she corrected.

  “That’s what I said, lass. You mustn’t have heard me right. And tonight, just call me Peter.” He backed up a step and leane
d against the island pressing a shoulder accidentally against Nan. Her cheeks burned red, and her eyes flickered toward Valdemar/Peter and quickly away.

  Brody nodded his head in greeting, meeting her eyes with the barest hint of question burning behind them. She knew without a doubt that he was going to approach her tonight and talk to her. She turned and looked over the table full of snacks and drinks; she had seen another table just like this filled with food outside as well. Nan’s mom and Dr. Martin really knew how to throw a party. Mina wondered briefly where they were until the roar of a boat engine revving to life drew her attention out the window toward the lake.

  There Dr. Martin and Veronica could be seen taking a group of kids out onto the lake in his speed boat. She watched in fascination as the four teens, wearing bright orange life jackets, screamed in excitement when he steered to the middle of the lake and hit the throttle. They quickly became little bouncing balls of orange as they skittered across the lake at breakneck speed.

  Briefly, Mina wondered why Nan wasn’t out there enjoying the boat ride, until she remembered her famous company. Nan was hiding out in the kitchen trying to keep Peter all to herself. She knew that once everyone else saw him the party would quickly congregate to wherever he was, which also meant that she was probably going to hide him from most of her guests for as long as possible. She had no idea how Nan was going to accomplish keeping his anonymity; she was just glad that she didn’t have to do it.

  Brody followed Mina to the snack table and began to fill up a paper plate with small, rectangular sandwich bites. Mina grabbed a two liter bottle of Coke and began to fill her own blue plastic cup with the bubbly goodness when Nan caught her off guard.

  “Mina, have you seen Jared lately? I invited him, but I haven’t seen him at school.” Nan spoke innocently enough, but the question spooked Mina and she lost control of the two liter bottle, dropping it into her cup and flipping both onto the floor. The two liter rolled under the table spilling pop in its wake.

  “Stink!” Mina dropped to her knees and raced under the table to upright the bottle. With a pile of napkins, she haphazardly began to mop up the spilled mess. It wasn’t even close to enough napkins.

  Brody ducked under the table and handed her another stack of napkins. With his own stack, he began to help clean up the quickly spreading puddle. Her hands shook in embarrassment; she could feel her cheeks and neck burning. She stopped mopping to glance at him. He wore a blue shirt, which complemented his eyes, and in this close of quarters she could smell his cologne. He must have sensed her staring at him because he looked right at her and smiled out of the corner of his mouth.

  Mortified at being caught staring, Mina jumped up but bashed her head on the underside of the table making it move three inches to the right.

  It didn’t matter how much of a gentleman he was, no one could see that and not laugh.

  He chuckled at her clumsiness when she plopped right back down into her soppy napkin and pop mess. “Are you all right?” he asked trying to mask his own laughter.

  Mina clutched her head and shot dagger filled looks of hate at the table. “No, I doubt I will ever be classified as all right.”

  The table moved above her as Nan and Peter shifted the heavy oak table away. Nan had found a mop, and Peter had retrieved a large roll of paper towels. Between the two of them, they cleaned up Mina’s mess in record time.

  There were no words to describe her humiliation at having Brody, and his rock star cousin cleaning up her mess. What was worse was that Mina was now soaked in brown pop. It had spilled all over her shirt and shorts. She was on the verge of crying when Nan came to the rescue again.

  “Hey,” she whispered, grabbing Mina’s hand and pulling her to the side. “Go upstairs, and the first door on the right is the guest room. It’s where you will be sleeping tonight. You brought extra clothes right? Then just go change and throw your clothes in the upstairs washer.” She patted Mina encouragingly on the shoulder and nudged her toward the stairs.

  Slowly she trudged up the stairs. Her feet felt like lead as her own worries and anxiety weighed her down emotionally. She found the bedroom and opened her backpack to grab the first pair of shorts and shirts she found. Not even caring if they matched, she slowly walked into the bathroom to rinse out her clothes and change. Her movements became sluggish as she tried to delay her return to the kitchen.

  In a house filled with people, she felt completely alone. When she had cleaned her clothes as much as possible, Mina wiped her hands on a soft hand towel, gathering the courage to look into the bathroom mirror and inspect her eye makeup. Only it wasn’t her soft brown eyes looking back at her in the mirror. They were someone else’s, and they were angry.

  Chapter 17

  Mina screamed. She leapt away from the bathroom sink and crashed into the wall, her mouth open wide in terror as she tried to process what she was seeing. She could barely see her reflection in the bathroom mirror because it was faded in comparison to the other reflection coming through the mirror. She recognized those grey eyes. They were Jared’s. Once again, she was seeing his reflection.

  He was angry and yelling at her. She couldn’t hear him, but she only needed to read his facial expressions and lips. He ran his hands through his dark hair in frustration, turned and pointed at her again, and continued yelling.

  Mina shrugged her shoulders in response and pointed to her ears, symbolizing she couldn’t hear him. Jared cursed, or at least she thought he did. Clenching his fist, he slammed it against the mirror over and over in frustration and desperation. She saw the mirror twitch a little each time he hit it, or maybe she just imagined it. But either way, it looked like Jared was trapped in the mirror.

  Jared became still and walked toward the glass. He leaned forward bringing his mouth close to the other side of the mirror. Taking a deep breath, he slowly breathed warm air onto the invisible barrier leaving a large circle of condensation. Quickly, he reached out one finger and began to write furiously backwards.

  The words appeared on Mina’s side, simple, and short: HELP ME!

  She reached her hand out to touch the words and felt the coolness of the condensation on her side of the mirror. How was that possible? She touched the mirror and left a small fingerprint in the disappearing condensation. Whatever he was doing was moving through the mirror and having an effect on her side. Mina imitated Jared’s actions and breathed on the mirror. She watched as his eyes widened in hope.

  She took her finger and drew three letters. HOW ? But she forgot to write them backward so it looked like, WOH to Jared. He quickly read the letters, and his shoulders dropped in disappointment. Obviously, he didn’t know the answer and was hoping she did. He took a step away from the mirror into the darkness that was surrounding him. He was leaving!

  “NO!” Mina yelled. “Don’t give up!” Desperately she grabbed the first thing her hand rested on, a bronze vase. She climbed onto the countertop and raised the vase over her head to bring it down.

  Jared saw her actions and began to violently shake his head no and wave his arms, but it was too late. The vase connected with the mirror, shattering it. The force of the blow brought the frame down with it.

  Mina stared at where the mirror had hung and was confused by the plain blank wall behind it. She looked around at the shards of mirror on the floor and didn’t see a single reflection of Jared in any of them. She put the vase back down on the counter and stepped back to the floor. Letting her back slide against the cupboards, she sank into the mess of glass. Not caring about her scratched and bleeding hands, she picked up a piece of the mirror and called Jared’s name. Nothing. He didn’t appear. He was gone.

  Footsteps sounded loudly on the stairs, and the bathroom door flew open. Dr. Martin came into the bathroom and wrestled the piece of glass out of her hands. Mina argued with him and tried to get it back.

  “Stop it!” he commanded angrily. “I will not let you harm yourself. Do you understand? I don’t care what happened; it is no reaso
n to take your own life.” He reached for a towel and pressed it against the cut across her palm.

  Mina stilled at his words. He thought she had broken the mirror and was trying to commit suicide. It was completely absurd, but she couldn’t argue when the evidence spoke against her.

  “No, it’s not what it looks like! I wasn’t trying to- I don’t know how to explain- I wasn’t…” She bit her lip when he pulled open a drawer and poured peroxide on the cut. He began to wrap the wound with bandages from the same drawer. She had to hand it to him; the good doctor sure did keep his supplies stocked.

  He paused and looked at her carefully. “Then try and explain what happened here. Otherwise, I’m calling your mom and you are going home. I don’t care if you are Nan’s best friend. I don’t want her hanging out with someone that is a bad influence.” On the word influence, he pulled the bandage a little too tight and her leg flinched and she thumped her head against the bathroom cabinet in sudden surprise from the pain.

  “Ow!” she mumbled, rubbing her head carefully. “Would you believe that I am just that clumsy?”

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