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       Fairest, p.6

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  She found her destiny or better yet her destiny found her. How bad would it be really if she didn’t complete any of the quests? Why couldn’t the Fae run rampant through their world? No one’s noticed it before, it couldn’t be that detrimental if she didn’t complete any quests right? She could just ignore the Story.

  Mina’s spirits brightened as she sat down at her desk. Until, she remembered the three bears and the missing homeless. She felt nauseous and felt even worse when she remembered who would be forced to complete the tasks if she didn’t. Her younger, mute brother.

  “Aaargh” Mina groaned and smacked her forehead into the desk and decided to stare at the clock above Mrs. Colbert’s head the whole period, counting the seconds until she could leave. All of her best laid plans failed. She thought and plotted and devised but nothing fruitful came of it.

  The morning passed without a single hint of magic, power, or segues of fairy tale specials. Nada. When lunch came, Nan still wasn’t speaking to her, which was fine because it left it open for Mina to sit closer to Savannah’s table and spy on her. It didn’t exactly help when Nan sat right next to Savannah.

  Mina watched Pricilla plait Savannah’s hair to make a very intricate braid that included a blue ribbon down it. Mina gnawed on a carrot stick and her eyes narrowed in hate. She couldn’t believe it; she was sitting in the lunch room watching Brody’s ex-girlfriend get her hair dolled up with ribbons. The carrot snapped off loudly in Mina’s mouth and she crunched it angrily. And not only that, but if the Story decided to use Savannah in a tale, Mina would have to rescue her butt.

  “Ah, come on.” Mina rolled her eyes as another cheerleader came over with her lunch tray and sat next to Nan, Savannah and Pri. Everything seemed boring as usual until Savannah asked for Pri’s uneaten apple. Mina jumped up in eagerness. It was happening right now! Savannah thanked the Pri, gently wiped the apple clean with her napkin and slowly brought it to her pink rouged lips.

  Mina launched herself from the table next to Savannah’s and quickly slapped the apple out of Savannah’s hand. The apple flew across the floor and rolled into the black sneaker of a lone boy.

  “OW! What did you do that for, Grimy!” Savannah screeched loudly calling her that ugly nickname she hated. Savannah rubbed her hand where Mina had slapped it. A faint red mark was already appearing.

  Mina hadn’t prepared what she was going to say after she’d saved Savannah from being poisoned by the apple. Thinking fast wasn’t her strong suit, nor was acting. Luckily, there was someone sitting close by that happened to be great at both.

  “Oh Savannah! Didn’t you hear?” Nan answered nonchalantly. “There has been some sort of pesticide that has infected the out-of-state apple farms. Supposedly it hasn’t reached the news yet, because only a few cases have been reported to the area hospitals. But if you eat any apples from those farms you could get really sick.

  “I should know my moms’ boyfriend is a doctor and since we don’t know what farm that apple came from it would be better if you just stayed away from all apples.” Nan leaned forward and placed her head on the back of her hands, her eyes portraying all honesty.

  Mina couldn’t believe her good luck, she quickly moved away from Savannah’s table but not before she caught the smallest wink from Nan. She didn’t understand the sudden change of heart from her friend or the reason behind her willingness to lie for her, but she was very glad.

  She looked up at caught Jared’s eye. He had watched the whole exchange and he looked amused by Mina’s actions. He pointed down at the apple that had come to rest against his shoe, the apple that she had smacked out of Savannah’s hand. He laughed as he reached down and picked up the apple. Mina frowned.

  Dusting it off against his shirt, Jared took a bite out of it and chewed slowly, taunting her. Mina’s mouth opened and closed in shock and her level of frustration rose at his constant teasing. Jared laughed at her embarrassment. Mina retreated out of the lunchroom, his laughter followed her out.

  ***

  Once school was over, Mina rushed toward her bike, only half eager to follow Savannah home. She knew that she would have to ride fast to catch up with a car. She couldn’t wait until this quest was over and she could be done with her babysitting duties. She had just pulled the lock off of her red Schwinn bike when a sleek black Mustang sped down the road toward the school. The driver was a show off, driving fast, turning easily. Mina was slightly surprised when the car hit the brakes and stopped on a dime right in front of her. She could see her own reflection in the tinted windows of the high end car and knew right then, she was in trouble.

  If she knew what was good for her she would’ve walked away, but curiosity got the best of her. She waited as the power windows lowered with only a small hum. Mina leaned down expecting some sort of sport executive or celebrity VIP. She stepped back in disdain when it was Jared.

  He leaned across the passenger seat and whispered to Mina. “We need to talk.”

  Mina glanced warily over her shoulder and watched Savannah get into her blue convertible, any minute now she would be gone. “No, I don’t think we do,” she answered out of the side of her mouth.

  “YES, we do, and if you don’t stop avoiding me you are quickly going to be in over your head again.”

  “What do you mean again?” Mina argued.

  “Can’t you feel it? The storm brewing, the accumulation of power, the Story is building up toward another quest for you.” At the word quest a small gust of wind blew against Mina, making her shiver.

  “Yeah I know. It’s not my first rodeo. I’m way ahead of you and I’ve already got it covered,” she said, impatiently patting her jacket where she had tucked the Grimoire.

  “Oh you mean taking care of it like you did in the today in the lunchroom? You are way off track and you obviously don’t understand how these things work.”

  Mina gave Jared a disgusted look.

  “Get in the car, I’ll drive you home and we can talk.”

  “How do you know there’s another quest coming?” She pointed her finger accusingly at him. “You haven’t been very friendly or forthcoming with information yet.”

  “I’ll explain later, just get in.” Jared reached forward and opened the door for her. Mina debated with herself. Jared may be the one person who could help her and if he knew what was going on, then she needed his help. But, she told herself, if he lied to her, or if she thought she was in danger, she would run from him and run fast. Somewhat happy with her plan, Mina nodded to Jared.

  “What about my bike?” Mina pointed lamely toward her red bike, sitting crookedly in the bike rack.

  “It will be back on your apartment landing before morning, but we need to talk and we NEED to talk soon.” Jared was quickly becoming impatient.

  “Just give me a minute.” Mina turned and went to put the lock back by the bike, when Savannah rode by in her car, the top down, her blonde hair blowing in the wind. Mina felt her stomach sour at the prospect of spending more hours watching her, and was somewhat grateful for Jared’s distraction.

  Mina slid into the front seat, clicked her seat belt and looked toward the school Aquatic Building. Coach Potts must have ended practice early because Brody was walking toward his car, his blonde hair still wet from the water. He was going to walk right in front of them. Mina’s heart thudded in anticipation at seeing him. The car roared to life, Jared hit the gas and raced toward Brody angrily. Brody jumped back on the sidewalk, out of the way of the speeding car. He shot Jared a puzzled look.

  Chapter 6

  He was taking the long way home, or maybe just a different route. Either way Mina was almost positive this was nowhere near where her family lived. She wasn’t even sure if Jared knew where he was driving to. It was another ten minutes before she asked him the question that had been plaguing her.

  “Where did you get the car?”

  “Huh?”

  “Don’t play dumb. I know you have a black motorcycle. I even saw you crash it, and yet some
how you’ve been riding the same bike the last few weeks. I have never seen you drive a car before today, so where did you get this car?” Silence filled the air. When he wasn’t forthcoming with an answer, she asked, “Did you steal it?”

  “No!” he barked out angrily. “I did not steal it.”

  “Then where did you get it?” She crossed her arms indignantly and glared at him.

  “It is none of your concern.”

  “Of course it is my concern. I need to know if I’m consorting with a criminal!”

  “Mina, you know I’m not a criminal!”

  “No, I don’t. You have made certain that I know very little about you. For instance, who’s the girl?” she asked.

  Jared smirked. “What girl?” He answered innocently.

  “The one you were practically making out with in the hallway at school,” Mina exaggerated.

  Jared snorted, “Jealous much?”

  “No! I just wish you would tell me things,” she answered pathetically.

  “It’s none of your business, who I hang out with. It’s safer that way.”

  Jared gripped the steering wheel and took the last turn a little too fast. She wasn’t prepared and slammed her shoulder into the door painfully.

  “No, what would be safer, is if you would slow down,” she argued rubbing her shoulder.

  Jared winced and decelerated the car. “Her name is Ever.”

  “Who is she?” Mina asked.

  “Nobody you should worry about,” he snapped.

  It was the last straw. Mina was fed up with Jared.

  “I’ve heard your pathetic excuses before, you sound like a broken record. You can’t tell me, or you won’t tell me!” She waved her fingers in the air at Jared. “Ooh, it’s not safe if you tell me, it’s taboo. Plus, you had no right to treat me like you did the last few weeks. You pretend that you don’t even know me at school and you won’t tell me how you are alive and what happened after you crashed your bike. All of these things are important and only when it is convenient for you do you want to talk to me. Well I’ve had it. I want answers and I want answers now.”

  “You won’t like any of them,” he stated simply.

  “Then why ask me to get in the car?”

  “Because I needed to speak with you privately.”

  “This is private. We are in a car alone.”

  “No, this isn’t private enough. There are too many people. We need to be where no one can see us.”

  “Jared, you are really starting to scare me.” Mina stated truthfully. Feelings of unease started to build.

  He hit the steering wheel hard with the palm of his hand in frustration. Mina jumped. “That is exactly what I’m not trying to do. He looked at her with a worried expression etched across his face. “I’m trying to give you answers, and I don’t want to scare you, but you are just so darn impatient.”

  Mina’s body tensed up from the sudden mood change in the car. Everything had become extremely serious. “I don’t care if I like the answers; I just want answers. I don’t even know if I can trust you, if you are on my side.” She stated softly.

  Jared’s jaw twitched and she knew by his body language that she hit a nerve.

  “Well are you?”

  “Am I what?” he answered a little too quickly.

  “On my side?”

  “Who says there has to be sides?”

  “Of course there are sides. You are either with me or with the evil Fae, who are always trying to kill me.”

  “Not all of us are always trying to kill you. It’s just… complicated. Hey, there is an ice cream place up here do you want ice cream?”

  Mina caught Jared’s slip of the tongue and how he immediately tried to cover it. That misdirection might have fooled Nan, but it wasn’t going to fool her. However, she did see something interesting next to the ice cream store.

  “Yes, actually I do want ice cream,” Mina lied.

  Jared looked relieved and pulled into the vintage ice cream shop.

  “Great what do you want, double mint chip, vanilla, rocky road?” He pulled out his wallet and turned to her.

  “Hmm, how about black raspberry chip?” She glanced out the window impatiently.

  “Great, I’ll be right back.” He slipped out of the car and took the keys with him. Mina sat in the car and waited until Jared had entered the store and stood in front of the menu board.

  Quickly and quietly, she slipped open the door of the car, grabbed her backpack, and ducked around the building toward the bus stop. She had seen the transit bus a block away and ran toward the bus pulling out her wallet. The bus had just pulled up and Mina had her bus pass ready.

  The driver was a burly elderly man with a name tag stating his name as Will, and the words, “Happy to Drive You” underneath it. Mina scanned her bus card and made her way to the back of the nearly empty bus. She stopped in the second to last row, tossed her backpack to the floor and slouched down.

  Two passengers got off the bus, and Mina didn’t breathe until the bus closed its doors and started to pull way. She took a quick peek out the window toward Jared’s car and the ice cream shop. There was no sign of Jared, he was probably still in the store.

  Mina smirked, and a surge of adrenaline pumped through her when she realized she’d outwitted him. It had really freaked her out to be in the car with Jared and realize that he may not really be there to help her. His vagueness and stubbornness to answer questions proved it; along with the slip of the tongue. It may not have been obvious but she had caught the slight change in his voice and his nervousness when he realized his mistake.

  She couldn’t believe how stupid she was. She knew Jared was Fae because he knew so much about her family and the Grimm curse. He had even used magic, when he tried to train her and teach her. But his elusiveness and his refusal to tell her what she needed to know put him in the dangerous category. He wouldn’t tell her who he was working for, who he was helping and even if he was one of the good guys.

  She knew that she probably shouldn’t be angry at him, but he had ignored her. He also knew more about the Story than anyone she knew, and still refused to tell her about it. That made him a traitor in her book. As long as she had the Grimoire, she didn’t need Jared. It was the Grimoire, not Jared that helped her battle Claire and LoneTree. She was the one who’d found the magical book that was supposed to help in time of great need. It was the one artifact that could help her complete the quests and banish the Fae back to their own plane. It’s what had started it all.

  Maybe, that’s what he was secretly after all along? Maybe, he was trying to build her trust so that he could steal the Grimoire for the Fae?

  Mina leaned forward and hit her head against the bus seat. It was too much to ponder, she was going to need years to gain ground and finish the quests if she wasn’t going to let her ancestors down.

  The Brothers Grimm were the first to discover the existence of the Fae in the human world. Through research they discovered a way to cross to the Fae plane, and they confronted the ruling Fae, known as the Fates. They demanded that all Fae return to their own plane. The Fates agreed, if Jacob and Wilhelm could complete a list of quests. The Brothers agreed and traveled the world completing the innumerable quests. For every one they completed, it was logged into a magical book on the Fae plane.

  When the Brothers began to struggle with their tasks, a kindhearted Fae, split the magical book into two and gave one of the copies to the Brothers Grimm, to help them. This book was the Grimoire. It became the one thing that evened the playing field on the quests. And soon, everyone wanted the Grimoire; Fae on both sides wanted the book.

  To make matters worse, the book on the Fae plane, became self-aware and meddled with the Grimm’s quests, forcing them to become part of the tales, over and over again. For the more tales the Story collects, the more powerful it became and the more deadly. For the book, known as the Story wants the Grimms to continue to live them out forever. For there was one loop hole, the Broth
ers didn’t cover. If they didn’t complete the stories then the next living Grimm would have the chance to complete them….all over, from the beginning.

  It was a never ending cycle of quests, stories and tales to overcome. It became known as the Grimm curse; one in which Mina’s own father and uncle failed to complete and sacrificed their lives for. Now it was Mina’s turn.

  ***

  The bus let out a loud bang, and exhaust blew into the air as it pulled away from another stop. Mina woke up. She looked up from her seat and was taken aback by how much time must have passed. She must have fallen asleep. It was starting to get dark, and the bus was now completely empty. She didn’t recognize any of the stops as being close to home and realized that she had rode the bus line too far. They weren’t even in the city but along back roads. She would have to get off and catch a different one home. Mina pulled the cord to ring for the next stop.

 
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