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       Fairest, p.15

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Then what was with the glass?” He held the piece of mirror that he had taken from her; it still had a few specks of blood on it. But it gave Mina the proof she needed.

  “It’s only spots of blood. I was washing my hands when the mirror detached from the wall and fell on me. I used my hands to protect my head when it fell. Look around. Other than a few scratches from the glass on the outside of my arms, I have no injuries. I cut the inside of my palm when I tried to clean up the mess. That’s when you came in.”

  She held out her arms, exposing her wrists and flipping them to show the back of her hands. “All the damage is on the back of my hands. Proof I wasn’t trying to hurt myself. You have to believe me when I say I am extremely clumsy and have inherent bad luck.”

  “Hmm,” he intoned, before slowly regarding the bathroom and broken mirror thoughtfully.

  “Where’s Nan?” Mina asked quickly before he accused her of anything else.

  Dr. Martin didn’t look at her; he continued to scrutinize the wall where the mirror had hung earlier. She could tell he was weighing the possibilities, still deciding if he was going to believe her. “Out on the dock with Veronica--they are getting ready for a boat ride.”

  “Oh,” Mina moaned sadly. She was surprised that her best friend had left the house without telling her. It was obvious Nan had forgotten about her; she was preoccupied.

  “Come on,” he mumbled and pulled her up to her feet. “She wouldn’t let Veronica take off without you. It’s getting dark soon, and then we have to light the bonfire.”

  Her spirits lifted instantly.

  He held stubbornly onto her shoulder when she tried to move away. She looked at him, and he spoke quietly, barely above a whisper. “I don’t believe you are telling me the whole truth, but I want you to know that I love Veronica and her daughter like my own. If you do anything to influence Nan or cause her harm, there will be serious consequences.”

  “I understand, but let me--” Mina started.

  Dr. Martin held up his hand, cutting her off. “This conversation is over.” He held the door open and waited for Mina to pass through it first. She couldn’t help but pick up her pace and practically ran down the stairs out of the house, feeling duly chastised and ashamed.

  She ran past the students gathering by the bonfire and felt the sting of tears. She would not cry. It was stupid to cry.

  Veronica waved at Mina when she made it to the dock. “There you are, sweetie. We were worried about you,” Veronica called out kindly; her long blonde hair was braided into a single plait over her shoulder. With the excitement of being on the speedboat making her cheeks flushed, she looked very much like Nan at the moment. Nan, on the other hand, was sitting on the bench wearing a red polka dot swimsuit and engaged with every word that Peter spoke.

  But it was just the two young people with Veronica; Brody wasn’t on the boat. She wasn’t sure why, but she had assumed he would take the boat ride with them. She turned and scanned the dock and saw Brody by the unlit bonfire with Savannah and Pri. Dr. Martin had just joined them by the bonfire and was arranging the kindling to get it started.

  Mina was about to change her mind and get off the boat, but Veronica started the engine and backed away from the dock. It was too late. Great, Mina thought wryly to herself. Now she was going to be stuck on a boat ride with two love birds. How awkward. She desperately wished she was back on dry land. The ride would be beautiful; the sun was setting and was the perfect backdrop to a magically romantic evening for Nan and Peter. Mina could see how awestruck Nan was by Peter, and he seemed to be equally entranced with Nan.

  The two of them were holding hands, and he was whispering into her ear, neither one of them paying any attention to the inspiring sunset. When they had pulled far enough away from land, Veronica took the boat as fast as it could. Circling back around the lake, riding the crests of their previous waves, the boat would lift off of the water over and over.

  Nan and Peter screamed in excitement holding their hands above their heads in triumph, similar to riding a roller coaster. Mina held onto the seat and hated every minute of it. She hated her circumstances, her lot in life, and was even beginning to hate Nan’s absolute luck with finding a boyfriend. Mina thought the second time around would be easier for her and Brody to start over, but it was proving more difficult. She felt her fingernails dig into the leather seat angrily.

  It wasn’t fair. What was different this time? Was it because she wasn’t rich? Or maybe it was because she wasn’t pretty enough. Why couldn’t she have been born rich or with Nan’s good looks? She heard Nan laugh out loud, and it made her cringe in annoyance. The boat ride was becoming torture. She couldn’t even look at her best friend without feeling anger, regret for even coming, and a twinge of jealousy. Nan had it so easy; she just happened to sit next to a rock star and get accidentally kissed in a spur-of-the-moment incident and now she had a boyfriend. She was free to live her life without the threat of a family curse over her head. Free to argue with her parents over what college to attend when Mina didn’t even know if she would live long enough to go to college. Free to date anyone without fear of being attacked by the Fae.

  The feelings of dissatisfaction and jealousy hit her like a painful stab in the stomach, and Mina felt like she was going to be sick. She motioned to Veronica who saw how green Mina had become and turned the boat toward the dock.

  “Why are we going in?” Nan asked confused.

  Veronica called back over her shoulder, “Mina is going to be sick. I think we’ve had enough for the night. It’s time to get back for the s’mores anyway.” She managed to bring the boat around, cut the motor easily and glide in the rest of the way to the dock.

  Nan was visibly upset and kept casting Mina accusing glances. Mina didn’t need to wonder what those looks meant. Since they had been best friends for years, she knew that Nan blamed Mina for robbing her of her alone time with Peter. What could she say except that Mina didn’t really care? As soon as Dr. Martin ran down the dock to help tie up the boat, Mina was off the boat and up the dock in a split second.

  She wanted to get away, to go home. This was not how she pictured the night turning out. But when Mina passed the bonfire, it was impossible to miss the three new latecomers that had arrived. Especially, when one had spiked skunk like hair and they made enough noise to raise the dead. The rest of the members of the Dead Prince Society were there, and the party really seemed to be getting underway.

  Music was blasting. Magnus was once again eating his way through the food on the picnic table. Naga had found extension cords, had run them from the house and hooked up their amplifiers to their guitars. Constantine had brought out his bass for an impromptu music jam. The students were screaming and crowding the band; Naga and Constantine were standing on a table shredding and making a lot of noise that to them was music.

  Mina stood off in the distance watching with mixed emotions. Nan and Peter ran up the dock to greet them excitedly. Dr. Martin pulled Nan aside and waved his hands angrily, obviously upset at the party crashers. Mina could see Nan throw her hands on her hips and yell back. Veronica came to her daughter’s rescue, and the argument came to a close. Dr. Martin shook his head, in annoyance, and stormed off into the house. Veronica and her daughter rushed over to the tables and watched as Peter joined his band mates in the impromptu concert. Instantly, his persona changed and he was once again Valdemar.

  Brody was right up front, jumping and singing along with Nan. Mina felt utterly alone and forgotten. What happened to this night? It was supposed to be fun, and now she felt like an outcast. She hated it here. Anger stirred in her, and Mina grabbed a bunch of grapes off of the nearest table and pulled one off to chuck at a tree. No one noticed except for Magnus, who mumbled something about wasting food. He didn’t seem inclined to join his band mates in the merrymaking. Everyone else was distracted by the concert. Feeling only slightly appeased at the sudden release of energy gained by throwing the food, she grabbed another item and
tossed it again. Angrily, she began to throw grape after grape aiming for a tree, imagining it was Savannah White. It felt good to throw food at her imaginary enemy. But soon her target had Nan’s smiling face on it.

  Not feeling at all surprised by the direction her mind was taking, Mina reached for something bigger to throw. She gripped the large projectile, took aim, and was about to release it when a hand reached out and stopped her wrist mid-throw, the red apple still clutched in her palm.

  Magnus grabbed her wrist and pulled the apple from her hand. Although he was strong, he didn’t hurt her. “Don’t let your jealousy and anger rule your emotions,” he said in a soft voice. “Nothing good will ever come of it.” He raised the apple to his own mouth and took a bite. The soft crunch of apple between his teeth made Mina reflect on what she was doing. It didn’t have the intended effect. Instead of feeling ashamed, she felt more anger.

  “You know nothing about what I’m feeling or thinking. No one knows what I’m going through. So don’t go all Dalai Lama on me.” She stormed off toward the house, breathing hard from her resentment.

  She felt the tingle of power begin to gather around her when she reached the front porch. Normally, feeling the power of the Story would make her scared. This time she was too angry to care. She turned toward the bonfire. The light from the fire illuminated the happy, smiling faces of the students as they partied, danced, and sang. She could see them all: Brody, Savannah, T.J., Frank, Steve, Pri and the others, but her focus drifted toward Nan and stayed there. How could her friend be so oblivious? She was so enraptured in her new guy that she was ignoring her best friend. At that moment, Mina was filled with resentment toward them all and jealousy toward her friend.

  “I wish it would rain.” Mina mumbled under her breath, “then they would all leave and I could have my best friend back.”

  Instantly, static raced through her fingers and she felt it through every inch of her body. It made the hair on the back of her arms stand on end. Clouds formed out of nothing, covering the stars and the moon. The breeze shifted on the lake, bringing a cold northern wind. The smell that precedes a thunderstorm perforated the air followed by a crack of thunder.

  Students screamed in fright. They looked up as another crack of lightning arced across the sky. Immediately, the band unplugged their instruments as the first droplets of water began to pour down on the crowd. In seconds, everyone was drenched. Mina watched, feeling somewhat smug as Savannah raced for cover and reached the porch looking like a sopping mess. Most of the students raced for the covered porch: others, for their cars. When the storm didn’t let up, the majority of the students went home. Not even being in the welcoming lodge appeased the teenagers wearing, water-logged shoes and clothes.

  Mina stayed away from everyone, scared and exhilarated at what had happened. Had she just manipulated the power of the Story into creating a storm? It sure felt like it, but why? Why would she have the power to control the weather, especially when she didn’t have the Grimoire? It gave her plenty to think about. She smiled somewhat slyly and headed up to her guest room. She didn’t want to spend any more time with Nan and her boyfriend, and Brody hadn’t made a single move to speak to her.

  She locked the door and sat on the edge of the bed, looking out the window. Her window overlooked the front yard of the house and had a fantastic view of Imperial Lake. An hour later, she heard a car pull up, and Mina stood up and walked solemnly over to the window. She wasn’t sure why, but something deep down inside of her spoke to her, told her to look. To look at what was happening underneath her very nose.

  She pressed close to the glass and saw Brody’s SUV pull up to the porch, windshield wipers on high battling the torrential rain that was still falling. Music poured out of the car, and she could see the overhead light inside as he opened the passenger door for someone who dashed into the front seat. He spoke a few words to the passenger and then closed the door. The car went dark for a second as Brody raced around to the driver’s side door. When he opened up his door, the car was illuminated once again, and Mina could see who his passenger was. It was Nan.

  Mina didn’t see anything else as she stepped back away from the window. Her hand reached for her heart as it exploded with the pain of betrayal. How could she? How could she go off with Brody, at night and alone? She knew that Mina liked him. Only hours ago she was all snuggled up with Peter. How could her best friend do this?

  In her irrational state of mind, the only conclusion she could reach was that Nan never cared about Mina at all. It was all an act. She only cared about using her to get to Brody. Images of them singing in the car, laughing together, texting each other about her birthday played in her mind. It made sense.

  She heard gravel kick up as the SUV pulled away. Mina raced back to the window and watched as they pulled away down the road. Mina cried silently, her tears mingling with the rain as it washed down the glass window. She moved from the window and collapsed on the bed.

  “Please, make it stop,” she cried to no one in particular. “Make the pain stop. I don’t want to feel this way. Make it stop!” She was too focused on her own pain, to see Jared’s form appear faintly in the window, trying to warn her, he was shaking his head violently.

  “I just want this feeling to go away. I don’t want to hurt any more. Make it stop.” Mina never meant for anyone to hear her pain, but someone heard, someone listened. Mina finally cried herself to sleep, unaware of the rustle of wind that picked up in her room, moving her hair slightly by some unseen force.

  She was awakened later by the sirens of a police car. Her room was awash in the rotating colors of blue and red. She raced to the window to see two police cars pulled up outside. It had quit raining, and Dr. Martin and Veronica were on the gravel driveway speaking to two officers in uniform.

  Mina couldn’t hear what was going on but could tell something bad had happened. The police officer was pointing down the road to where Brody and Nan had driven earlier. Veronica screamed, crumpled to the ground, and began sobbing loudly. Dr. Martin held his fiancée and whispered softly to her, rocking her. He held Veronica close to him, and he looked up at the sky, silent tears flowing down his face. She stepped back in horror; her heart raced as she stared out the glass. Slowly smog began to form on the window pane creating a vision in slow motion, and she could see it all.

  It came rushing forward, images flashing in front of her on the glass, as if she were there in the car. The downpour had washed away most of the road on the dangerous curve, and Brody not knowing it was gone took the curve too fast. The car slipped down the embankment and rolled over and over. She could hear Nan screaming and Brody trying to reach over and protect Nan. The car came to a sudden collision with a tree at the bottom of the ditch. She could see them clear as day.

  Brody groaned, blood pouring out of a gash on his forehead from hitting the steering wheel. He reached over to Nan, but she didn’t respond. He shook her arm slightly but nothing. He began to yell loudly, although Mina couldn’t hear what he said through the glass vision. He pulled his seatbelt off and reached for her neck to check for a pulse. She saw him look through the wreckage of his car to find his cell phone. He dialed 911. He spoke quickly and urgently to the operator, and Mina watched his lips carefully. She fell to the floor in shock and couldn’t breathe.

  It couldn’t be true! She looked back up to the fogged window pane, and in slow motion it played Brody’s last words to the operator, over and over. She could easily make them out.

  “She’s dead.”

  Chapter 18

  Mina flew down the stairs, knocking over a table lamp at the bottom in her rush to leave the house. The door crashed open, and Mina ran past a sobbing Veronica and a stunned Dr. Martin. The police officers yelled something unintelligible after her, but she didn’t stop to listen. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her shoes slid in the mud as she ran down the road. It wasn’t far before she saw the lights of more police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks about a quarter mile away.
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  This was all her fault! She knew it deep down. Somehow the Story must have heard her thoughts and wishes, but this wasn’t the outcome she wanted. She never wanted to hurt anyone, especially the two people she cared about most.

  She was crying hysterically and had problems seeing in the dark. If she cut straight through the woods downhill, she could cut her distance in half instead of following the curving road. Not caring about how many scratches or cuts she got, Mina fell, tumbled, and slid on her bottom down the long hill. The forest took on an eerie appearance since it was illuminated by the red, blue, and white lights of the emergency vehicles. A loud whirring sound echoed through the night, and sparks illuminated the forest. The firefighters were cutting Nan out of the car, so the paramedics hadn’t been able to reach her yet. Maybe her vision was wrong, and she was still alive.

  “Nan! Brody!” Mina screamed and continued her descent. “I’m sorry.” She chanted over and over as she stepped over a fallen tree. “I’ll save you!” She pushed a tree limb out of the way and continued, praying the whole way.

  A rush of tingling sensations overwhelmed Mina, and she saw a large electric oval of sparks appear. She had seen a circle like this appear once before, and that was when Ever created a doorway to the Fae plane. Now something on the Fae plane was coming through here.

 
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