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       Fairest, p.17

           Chanda Hahn
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  The second bell rang signaling the start of class and Mina’s obvious tardiness. She didn’t care. Mina stared at Ever as the door closed and the pixie went and took her seat in class. Mina slipped down the hallway silently and entered her homeroom class. Mrs. Colbert was subbing and gave Mina a very pointed look as she humbly took her seat.

  It was hard to listen to announcements when they came from someone other than the grey haired teacher. Mrs. Porter’s absence was a reminder of Mina’s failings and her current bargain. New rumors began to creep up about their missing teacher and how it wasn’t an early retirement, but a possible kidnapping. No one knew what was going on and only Mina knew that she wasn’t coming back.

  Brody didn’t come to school, and actually in most of Mina’s classes the attendance was low. There was a vigil going on at the hospital, and under any other circumstance, Mina would’ve been there. But she knew, deep down that her presence at a vigil wasn’t going to help Nan.

  Once the last bell rang, Mina left her books in her locker and sprinted outside and toward the football field. She knew that there was a good possibility that Ever would evade her and run away. She knew that the Pixie hated her. When Ever actually showed up, Mina was surprised.

  “Yeah, yeah, don’t get your panties in a bunch. I’m here,” Ever snarled at Mina, brushing past her to sit on the cold steel bleachers. “So I’m sure you’ve got tons of questions, ask away.” She did a little flourish with her hand to add to her sarcasm.

  “Maeve promised me that she could save my friend Nan. And if she did, then I would find the Fae that stole the Grimoire. Well, she lied. She didn’t save Nan. Nan is in a coma in the hospital!” Mina was pacing back and forth in front of the bored Ever.

  “Hold it, hold it.” Ever held up her hands, and Mina stopped to look at her. “What were the Fates’ actual words?”

  Mina’s face scrunched up in thought and repeated her conversation to Ever.

  Ever held up her fingertips to her temples and closed her eyes as if contemplating. “Anything else, oh, mortal one?”

  “Oh, and she said ‘I cannot save her fully, but I can give you a fighting chance to save her’.” Mina rushed out.

  Ever opened one eye in disbelief at Mina. “That’s it?”

  Mina looked at Ever hopefully. “Yeah, that was it. So can you tell me what happened?”

  Ever jumped down off of the bleacher and started walking away. “Yeah, stupid, you didn’t finish your end of the bargain. Get back the Grimoire and finish your quest. By the way, that will be fourteen ninety five; I take cash or check.”

  Mina shook her head confused. “But Maeve said I failed my quest. So what is there to finish? I thought she would bring my friend back.” Mina began following Ever down the stairs to the field.

  “Do I have to spell it out for you? We have rules. We like to bend those rules, um, usually to benefit us. But her Highness didn’t bring your friend back to life because she wouldn’t. It’s because she couldn’t. We aren’t all powerful, as some people think we are. But we are pretty good at manipulating things.”

  Mina stopped walking and stood there dumbfounded waiting for an answer.

  Ever turned back and walked up to Mina and began tapping her on the head. “Hello, Mina! She revamped your quest. Instead of your buddy being dead, she put her to sleep, like the old sleeping princess tales, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. You get another chance to finish this tale, the right way. I’m sure once you complete it, your friend will wake up good as new. Just so long as you find the Grimoire and stop whoever is trying to kidnap us.”

  A light went on in Mina’s head. She had just assumed that she had failed the quest and that was it. She wouldn’t get a second chance to save Nan. But that didn’t help her in trying to find out who took the Grimoire.

  “So how do I find the person who stole the Grimoire? I don’t even know how to tell if someone is Fae or not. I mean, it could be anybody.”

  “Gimp!” Ever dropped her backpack and began to fumble with a keychain that was attached to a zipper. “Here, it’s not that powerful and you don’t want to go flashing it around at just anybody. You can really tick off the wrong kind of Fae and get in a lot of trouble. But this will help.” She tossed Mina a small blue cylinder attached to a keychain.

  She looked at it in disbelief. “A laser pointer? How in the world is that supposed to help?” She clicked it on and flashed it at Ever and nothing happened until Mina waved it over Ever’s back; the air began to waver, and her purple and blue wings appeared. “Hey, I can see your wings.”

  “Yeah, we try to blend in as much as we can, but sometimes a strong laser can cut through both planes and ruin our disguises. It won’t work on any of the Royals though.”

  “Royals, are they like the Fates?” Mina asked timidly.

  “They are those that are blood relation to the Fates. Because of that, they are shifters and are powerful enough to withstand a laser pointer.” She snorted in laughter.

  Mina nodded her head, thinking. “Hey, Ever,” Mina spoke quietly, trying not to offend the girl. “Do you think Jared’s disappearance is linked to the person who is imprisoning your kind in the Grimoire?”

  Ever snorted and rolled her eyes. “You don’t even know the half of what’s going on. But I can tell you that wherever the Grimoire is, Jared is sure to be close by.”

  “You don’t think he is the one behind the kidnappings…”

  “NO! He is not.” Ever became angry and turned on Mina. “If you knew him, you would know that isn’t possible.”

  Mina felt her anger rise to match Ever’s. “Hey, I know it could be possible. He did kidnap me and abandon me in the woods. I’m just asking because I have to.” They had walked out of the football field and were next to the bike rack. Mina pulled her red Schwinn out and put up the kickstand. She paused to look at Ever, trying to look beyond her tough exterior. Beneath the heavy eye makeup, gelled hair, and black and purple clothes, she saw a young and scared girl.

  “Why are you still here? I mean, why don’t you just go back to the Fae world where it’s safer?” Mina asked.

  Ever’s head dropped to her chest, her dark bangs fell over her eyes, hiding her face. “Who said anything about the Fae world being safer? We all have things we are running from; besides who says a girl can’t attend school? Even a human school, for that matter. It’s not like there is a law forbidding it,” she snapped back testily.

  “I didn’t mean anything,” Mina tried to apologize.

  “Sure you did. You think we don’t belong here, that we should go home to the Fae world. Well, let me tell you something, Mina Grime. I am home. This is my home. So excuse me if I’m not super excited about helping you finish your quests so we are forced to go back to the Fae world. Not all of us want to go back. Sure, we may have jobs that require us to go back, but a lot of us prefer to live here.”

  “I’m sorry, I didn’t think,” Mina started.

  “You never think. No; no one does.” Ever shrugged her shoulders and stuffed her hands into her jacket. She waved off Mina before putting in her ear buds, making a big deal about turning on her iPod and walking away.

  Chapter 20

  It was a long shot, but the only one she could think of in her current circumstances. She had waited, somewhat impatiently, until her overly protective mother and her younger brother had gone to sleep before slipping into the bathroom and stealing the mirror. It wasn’t stealing exactly; she planned on putting their bathroom mirror back, as long as she didn’t break it like she did the other one. It was big, but thankfully it had a thick metal frame around it, which made it easier to carry up the fire escape to her retreat.

  She had decided to try her idea on the roof instead of talking to the mirror in the bathroom and freaking out her mother and brother. Yeah, it was better on the roof. If she didn’t break her neck trying to maneuver it up there.

  Finally, Mina got the mirror safely to the rooftop and placed it on the ledge next to her salvaged gn
ome statue, Sir Nomer. She took a few steps back and frowned thoughtfully at her own reflection, biting the inside of her cheek in thought. What should she do? Normally, he just appeared to her out of the blue at the most inconvenient times, but now she needed him at the moment.

  Jared was the only clue she had in finding out who had the Grimoire. If he was trapped like the others, then maybe he could give her a clue as to his whereabouts or who had kidnapped him. That is, if he ever decided to show his face.

  “Hello?” Mina called warily to the mirror. She waved her hand in front of it awkwardly. “Psst, Jared. Hey, I’m here now. You can come out whenever you want. I need your help!”

  Nothing. The mirror only reflected her image back at her.

  “I knew this would happen; I shouldn’t have expected anything different from the likes of you!” She turned her back on the mirror and mimed storming away, peeking over her shoulder to see if there was any change in the mirror. Nada.

  “This is ridiculous!” Mina hissed out loud. She came back to the mirror and touched the frame and thought long and hard about what she wanted. It was not like she had any power over the mirror or anything, and or could turn it on whenever she wanted like a TV, or did she?

  Her own mother’s words came back to haunt her, and she could hear Sara, clear as day, saying, “You don’t always get to choose the part you play in the quests.”

  That was it; she had thought she was going to be the protector or the hunter who saved the princess from the evil queen. But it was her own bitter jealousy that had turned the tale on her. Mina was the villain! It was the Story using her own emotions against her and trying to harm her best friend. It was probably all set up to entrap Savannah White, who by all means would make the perfect princess, but at the time, it had been Nan with whom she was the most jealous of.

  If that was true, then Mina did have power over the mirror. There was only one true way to test it to see if she was the jealous queen in the Snow White tale. Mina slowly walked back to the mirror and stared at her own pale reflection. Her voice quivered with nervousness as she tried to remember what the words were.

  “M-m-mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the f-fairest of them all?” She closed her eyes tightly and felt her heartbeat speed up. A small hum began to emanate from the mirror, and a swirling vortex appeared. She dropped her head in shame, and tears of regret poured from her eyes, but she knew she had to open her eyes to see what the mirror was going to show her.

  It came as no surprise when a hospital room appeared in the mirror, although the view was skewed as if the mirror could only reflect to her from another reflective surface in the room. It took a minute for Mina to recognize the angle she was viewing from, it was the dark TV screen. She knew the room, had been there the first night, and recognized the sleeping blonde form in the hospital bed. It was Nan.

  So the tale was playing out truthfully: Nan was the fairest, and Mina was the jealous Queen. She was about to close the view from the mirror when the hospital door opened and a young, handsome blonde haired boy walked into view. He kept his back to the TV screen and went to sit by the bed, facing Nan and hiding his identity.

  He spoke softly, and Mina was surprised when she actually heard his voice through the mirror. Apparently, the sound worked if the mirror was used right. The young man reached out and grasped Nan’s hand, holding it in his own. He whispered the same two words over and over, and finally they reached Mina’s ears.

  Mina’s back stiffened in surprise, hurt, and anger. She recognized that voice; she knew the shape of those shoulders. It was Brody. Brody was sitting beside Nan’s bed comforting her and talking to her when it should be her job.

  She backed up in anger and waved the image away, surprised when it actually disappeared on command, but, then again, she wasn’t. She paced the small rooftop, clenching her fists and trying not to cry. She had to distance herself from the situation; she couldn’t worry about Nan right now. She knew she was safe, at least for now. Confirming the mirror theory and proving the quest she was in gave Mina the answer of how to save Nan. But it didn’t help her with the task of finding the Grimoire or contacting Jared.

  “Okay, think, Mina. Think!” she commanded herself, while trying to calm her nerves and emotions. Quickly, she wiped the tears away and went to stand before the mirror again.

  “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, show me the one I hate most of all.”

  The mirror swirled again, and Mina gagged and jumped back in disgust as an overly large mouth appeared in front of the mirror. The mouth smiled, puckered, and a giant tube of lipstick appeared and gave another coating of frost pink to the lips.

  “Gah!” Mina cried out when the view finally pulled back and she could see that those lips belonged to none other than Savannah White. The image was coming from her makeup compact. “Okay, let’s try that again.” She waved the image away.

  “How do I rhyme it to get Jared to appear?” It wasn’t until she sat in the chair and stared at her Sir Nomer statue that she got the final idea. “Thanks to you, Sir Nomer, I think I have it.” She stood up and walked before the mirror, her shoulders straight, and her chin up in forced confidence.

  In a loud and commanding voice she spoke once again to the mirror. “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, show me the one who thinks Sir Nomer is a dumb name for a doll.”

  She held her breath and waited. The mirror swirled again, and this time another face came into focus, one that was definitely not happy.

  “It is about time you figured it out, Mina!” Jared grumbled through the mirror.

  Chapter 21

  His arms were crossed in annoyance, and his dark grey eyes were stormy. “I can’t believe it took you so long to figure it out. The audio doesn’t exactly work if I try to summon you from my end, if you may recall. But what can you expect when I try and mimic a Disney movie?”

  Mina didn’t realize how much she had missed Jared until she saw him before her in the mirror. Despite the annoyed look on his face and his clenched jaw, she was genuinely happy to see him. “Jared, it worked!”

  “Of course, it worked. I had been trying to give you hints long enough. I can’t believe it took you this long to speak to a mirror. I thought all girls talked to a mirror. Sheesh!” Even though he played at being angry, she could see the slight twitch in his mouth as he tried to hold back his happiness at seeing her.

  “Jared, where are you? Is the Grimoire with you? Are you safe? Are there others with you?” She spoke quickly, nervously, and felt as if she rambled at a mile a minute.

  He held up his hands and looked around his surroundings carefully. He looked tired and worn out, but physically unharmed. “I’m all right. Yes, the Grimoire is with me, and no there are no others with me. They are all imprisoned within the book, but I think we can free them.”

  “Where are you, Jared? Who’s got you?” Mina whispered in kind, feeling his urgency and the need for quiet.

  “Mina, I’m at the hospital. We are leaving, but he’s coming back tomorrow night.”

  “Who’s coming back? Who’s got you, Jared? What do you mean you are leaving?”

  He sighed and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I can’t explain everything right now, Mina. It would take too long. You have to trust me on this.”

  “Ha, like I’m ever going to trust you again?” She pointed her finger and jabbed it at the mirror as if trying to poke him.

  “Mina, I never left you,” he spoke softly. “I’ve never once left your side, unless you left me.”

  “But why aren’t you imprisoned within the book as well? Oh, wait. You, you said the book doesn’t work on you. Why doesn’t the book work on you, Jared?”

  Jared ignored her. “Mina, it’s going to kill Nan.”

  “What? Who would do something that awful? Jared, you should call the police.” Mina began to panic and felt her voice rise in nervousness.

  Jared raised his eyebrows to remind her of the obvious reason. “I can’t call the police, Mina.

  “Well, then tell me. Who’s going to kill Nan. I’ll call the police.”

  “And tell them what exactly? It’s a Reaper, Mina,” he spoke sadly.

  “Reaper? Jared, I don’t know what that is,” she spat out in frustration.

  Jared leaned close to the mirror, his eyes filled with sadness. “Yes, you do. You have heard of the Grimm Reaper before, but you never made the connection to your family. The Grimms don’t usually die from failing the quests, Mina. They die from meeting a Grimm Reaper. They are hunters who track and hunt the Grimms for sport. This one, in particular-- I recognized its scent. It was the one who killed your father.”

  Mina felt like screaming in anger. Her blood boiled, and she clenched her jaw.

  “When, Jared? When is it planning on killing her?” she spoke without emotion.

  She saw Jared swallow in nervousness. “Mina, don’t come. It’s a trap. Don’t do it.”

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