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       Fairest, p.7

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Excuse me! I’d like to get off!” Mina yelled from the back of the bus. The bus driver ignored her. His large form, which took up the whole driver’s seat, looked larger than she remembered. She hesitantly stood up and made her way to the front of the bus.

  “Sir, if you could pull over at the next stop, I would like to get off now.” She gripped the pole by the seat.

  The driver’s body began to shake and shift as if he was trying to control his own form. There were loud slurping sounds and guttural growls coming from the driver. Scared the driver was having a seizure Mina reached for him and touched the back of his quivering uniform.

  The driver reared up unexpectedly and turned toward her revealing his true form. What she saw underneath the black bus cap was a large green head with grey eyes, large protruding teeth, and bulbous nose. He was still wearing the striped driver’s uniform and the same name tag. He opened his mouth and roared at Mina exposing large bottom incisors.

  “Behind the yellow line,” he commanded in slow forceful words, barely recognizable by the lisp he had from his protruding teeth.

  Startled, she fell onto the floor of the moving bus as the Ogre turned his head toward the road and continued driving.

  Chapter 7

  Holy buckets, she was on a bus being driven by an Ogre! When the Ogre made no more movement toward her, threatening or otherwise, she turned and hurried toward the rear exit door. There should be a safety feature where she could pull open the door, and if needed to- jump. Mina gripped the rubber lined door and pulled, it slowly slid opened exposing the rushing pavement beneath her. She looked toward the Ogre bus driver. He still hadn’t moved.

  Could she do it? Could she really jump from a moving bus into the street? Would she die? Did it matter, if she might die anyway by being lunch for an Ogre? No she was going to have to jump for it. Sliding her backpack on, she closed her eyes and counted to three. One-two-three! She leapt into the air and felt a jolt on her back as something grabbed her from behind forcefully mid jump.

  Opening her eyes, Mina looked down and saw her feet dangling mere inches from the rushing pavement. She screamed in fright as she dropped farther, and her shoes dragged on the asphalt. Turning, she met the eyes of the angry Ogre. He hauled her back onto the bus and forcefully pushed her into a bench seat, grunting at her to stay. He ambled back to the front of the bus and slid into the driver’s seat again, just as the bus began to veer into a ditch. He gripped the wheel, grunted, and maneuvered it back onto the road.

  The bus pulled off the main road and headed into the Mt. Adams National forest. He took the bus down back roads and unmarked dirt paths. It was unbelievable that the bus even made it down the path. Moments later the bus rolled to a stop. The Ogre stood up and ambled toward her again, his large forearms bulging with muscles, which were overly long compared to his shorter legs.

  Mina was prepared this time; she pulled out the Grimoire and held it up at the Ogre, waiting for it to be sucked into the book. Nothing happened. The book was still a book. Mina screamed in fright as the Ogre reached for her jacket and lifted her up into the air. Suspending her in the air, the Ogre growled and shook her as if trying to get her attention. Instead, she began to fight back by clawing and kicking, and the Ogre just looked at her. In a moment of desperation, she hit the beast between the eyes with the corner of the notebook, and it flinched. He started to lower her to the ground, and she placed a well-aimed kick right between the Ogre’s legs. He grunted and dropped her to the ground, leaning over in pain.

  Mina scrambled frantically away, crawling on her knees toward the front of the bus. She was halfway to freedom when she realized she had dropped the Grimoire. Turning, she reached back to grab the notebook and then ran out the door into the night.

  Breathing hard, she raced blindly through the dark woods, branches snapping loudly under her feet, she didn’t waste precious time in trying to mask the noise she made. She heard a deafening roar split the forest from somewhere behind her. It was the Ogre, and he was on the move after her. Her hands began to shake, and her chest burned from the exertion of running.

  She tripped and fell forward into a ditch; the ground seemed to disappear from under her. Desperately, she grabbed at branches, rocks, anything to slow her descent as the incline became steeper. She thought it would taper out and her descent would slow, but instead, she picked up speed. There was another sound of roaring, only this time softer, more constant, like water. Water!

  She knew what it was and accidentally let out a scream of fear. She flailed out, and her fingers found purchase on a large tree root. Her body left the embankment to hang in the air, and she began to tumble over a cliff. The roaring river passed some forty feet below her. Loud crashing and snarls came from above her, and Mina knew the Ogre was closing in on her. She closed her eyes in fear.

  Something brushed against her, and she looked up to see the Ogre reaching down to seize her. Mina screamed again and scrambled out of the reach of the large hands. The Ogre roared angrily and tried to swipe at her back this time. She purposefully slid down the branch farther, closer to the water and away from the Ogre. At least she knew she would rather die from falling into the river and possibly the rocks along it, instead of being eaten by an Ogre. Isn’t that what Ogres in fairy tales did --eat people?

  The Ogre let out a quieter roar and became very still as if trying to remain calm. Over the rushing water, she almost missed the sound of the Ogre saying her name.

  “Mina!”

  She paused and looked at the Ogre as he leaned down on his stomach reaching for her. When he wasn’t roaring at her, he didn’t look as intimidating. Something magical began to happen as the Ogre started to shrink. His features grew smaller, thinner, and became more human. The Ogre, however, didn’t take the form of the bus driver, but of a handsome dark haired boy with grey eyes.

  It was Jared. He reached for her arm, looking sick with worry. “I can’t get to you in this form, you’re too far away! Can you climb up farther?”

  She should have felt relief, at seeing her attacker take the form of Jared; instead she was furious at being duped.

  “You jerk! How dare you!” Mina argued while refusing to climb closer to him. “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be in this predicament.”

  “Stop arguing and get up here!” Jared was irritated at her again. “Now is not the time to berate me, there’s plenty of time to do that later. Give me your hand.”

  Mina bit her lip, and tried to pull her weight up the tree root so she could get closer to him, but her muscles had reached their limit. She tried to reach for Jared’s hand, but she felt the root slip through her fingers and then, nothing but air. It was like being in a dream and falling in slow motion, except she didn’t wake up when she hit the cold water.

  Chapter 8

  Coldness ripped through her, and the shock of water made her lose the breath she was holding. It was dark, and she couldn’t figure out which way was up. She tried to kick in the direction of the surface but couldn’t find it. The current started to drag her away. She fought against it and when she didn’t think she could hold her breath any longer, she broke through the surface of the water. She gasped for breath. Her limbs felt heavy and she couldn’t get them to work. Slowly, and with great effort, she paddled for the riverbank. Finally, she dragged her body to the edge and pulled herself up the embankment.

  She looked up river and saw something large, frantically diving down and up again. It was Jared, in Ogre form. He must have jumped in after her and was looking for her in the river. It was a comical sight, the giant Ogre scrambling around in the water in an attempt at swimming. The awkwardness at which he fumbled in the water revealed to her, that in either form, Jared didn’t know how to swim. The Ogre had the better chance of surviving the fast moving river than Jared. On any other night, it might be touching to see him trying to rescue her, if she wasn’t so annoyed with him.

  As much as Mina wanted to laugh at the display of a frightened Ogre, she c
ouldn’t forget his game and how he had tried to scare her on the bus. She decided that he could worry a little more. She moved down the river away from him and began to peel off her outer jacket, as it was making her cold.

  Nevertheless, her movement caught the Ogre’s eye. He growled angrily, and started stomping through the water toward the embankment. He was easily over nine feet tall and looked strong enough to bench press a truck. But something about his current demeanor made him seem more childlike, instead of deadly.

  He was pouting. By the time he was within a few paces of her, the giant Ogre had disappeared to be replaced by a wet and tired Jared. He flung himself next to her on the ground.

  “You could have shouted to me that you were okay, instead of sitting here all safe and sound, making me look like a fool.”

  “You are a fool,” Mina replied as she tried to untie the wet shoelaces so she could get out of the wet socks.

  “Point taken, but I thought you were dead.”

  “And I thought you were dead, so I think we’re even.” Mina’s fingers were numb and like ice, she started to shake from the cold. She got one shoe off but was struggling with the second.

  “Here, let me.” Jared reached for her shoes to help her.

  “Don’t touch me!” she screeched, and hit him with her destroyed sneaker. Her teeth were chattering now, and Jared moved closer to her.

  “I won’t.” He froze inches from her, his hands up in the air, as if he was waiting to be arrested.

  “What happened to the bus driver?” Mina sniffed, using her sleeve to wipe pathetically at her nose.

  “Uh, I tricked him into getting off, a few stops ago, and I took his place.” Jared slowly sat down on the ground across from her and folded his hands in his lap.

  “And you can just do that? Change into his form and take his place?”

  Jared looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I can, it’s that easy.”

  “How did you find me? I mean, how did you know I was on the bus to begin with, and how did you…?” she trailed off, losing the ability to form coherent thoughts.

  “You really think it was that hard to figure out you would ditch me as soon as we stopped? I saw it in your face. You’re like an open book, and terrible at lying. As soon as I heard the car door close, I went out the back door of the shop and watched you get on the bus. It wasn’t difficult to follow and take the place of the driver, with a little bit of Fae magic.”

  “Then why the show? Why the whole over-aggressive Ogre thing?” Mina argued.

  “I didn’t think you would believe me if I told you that I’m not a bad guy. I mean look at me. I wanted to prove to you that I was the good guy. At first, I was going to scare you as the Ogre, and then run in to rescue you at the last minute as me. I was trying to prove a point that not all Fae are bad.

  He shoved his hands in his pockets and didn’t make eye contact. “I wasn’t planning on letting you see me change, but things got out of hand pretty fast, and I had no choice if I was going to try and save you.”

  “So you were going to try and scare me off as an Ogre and then rescue me… from yourself?”

  Jared looked down at his feet; he was still dripping wet and hadn’t even attempted to try to dry himself off.

  “Pretty much. I wanted you to trust me.”

  “By lying to me and deceiving me further?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

  “Yeah, that was stupid. What can I say, I’m a guy and we don’t always think things through.”

  Mina rolled her eyes. “You can say that again, but this doesn’t let you off the hook. All you’ve proved to me is that you’re a prankster and a liar, and I still can’t trust you.”

  “So I will have to prove it in a different way.” Jared smiled crookedly.

  “No more half brain plans.”

  “Hey, my plans aren’t always half brain!”

  Mina just looked at him squarely, and he chuckled. He picked up something off of the embankment and handed it to her. It was the Grimoire.

  “Oh, no! Now what do I do?” She immediately started to swing the notebook around to flick the water from it.

  “It’s fine; it can protect itself. Just ask it to reform into another shape, it will dry.”

  Mina raised an eyebrow at Jared before envisioning the Grimoire into a much smaller, sturdier leather bound book. A quick glow surrounded the book, and it shrank to fit her thought. “Wow, I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.” She tucked it securely into her pocket.

  “You’ll have to get used to it. It’s Fae magic,” Jared said in a sour voice. He didn’t seem too thrilled about it, when he said it.

  Sighing, she stood up and looked around trying to find a way to get out. The river was on her left, and the cliff that she fell from didn’t have an easy path up, it was pure shale. She looked across the river to the other side and that cliff was even higher. They were going to have to walk along the river bed until they could find a smaller slope.

  But then what? She had no clue where she was. She knew the national forest covered almost a 1,000 square miles and they couldn’t have possibly gone that far into the reserve, but what if they started walking the wrong way and ended up deeper into the woods? Granted, it was dark when Jared had pulled the bus over and she’d taken off running. She couldn’t have run that far right? Their best bet was to follow the river bed and hope it led them out.

  Mina wrung out her socks and tucked them into her jacket. She put on her freezing cold shoes and started to walk along the bank.

  “Where are you going?” he asked.

  “Home, I have to get out of here, my mom is going to be worried sick.”

  Jared jumped up quickly to follow along behind her as they walked. It was slow going with only the rising moon to guide their steps, and Mina frequently slipped and scraped her hands and knees. It probably would have been easier in the daylight, but the forest made her jump at every little sound. After a while, Jared took the lead and they stopped often to listen for cars, or sounds of civilization, but all they could hear was the river.

  “I think we’re lost,” Jared finally spoke up.

  Mina didn’t answer and Jared turned to look at her. She was so tired and she could barely stand. “You are done in.” He turned to her and grabbed her shoulder, forcing her to turn to him.

  She pulled away. “N,n,no. I have to get home.” She was shivering uncontrollably.

  “Mina! Your lips are blue! I’m so dense. I forgot how frail you humans are.” Jared swatted away Mina’s hands and pulled her over to an outcropping that jutted out from the cliff. It was a natural made cave that didn’t look big enough for one person let alone two teenagers.

  He pushed her inside and pressed his hands to the back of the cave wall. His hands began to glow, and she watched as the rock changed beneath his hands and moved back making the cave bigger. When it was big enough for them to fit in it comfortably, but small enough to keep them warm, he switched to making a fire. He quickly dug a hole with a large rock, lined the hole with small kindling and a few sticks, and pulled out a zippo lighter.

  “What, you can’t make fire?” Mina tried to joke, but she could barely get her mouth to form the words and she was sure it came out in an unintelligible mumble. Mina didn’t believe it would light, but was surprised when the spark produced a yellow blue flame. Minutes later, Jared had a small fire going right outside the cave. Mina drew as close to it as she could, but her fingers were still frozen. She was so cold she actually considered putting her hands into the flames.

  Jared crouched near her and began to rub her hands between his, trying to bring warmth back to them. His clothes were completely dry, and his body temperature was warmer than normal.

  “Are you sick?” Mina asked. “You are so hot.”

  “No, I can make my body temperature rise to warm me.” Jared unbuttoned his outer flannel and handed it to her. “Put this on.”

  Mina shook her head. “N,n,no.”


  “That wasn’t a request! Here, I’ll walk over there.” Jared immediately walked a few paces toward the river, keeping his back to her.

  Mina quickly took her shirt off and pulled on Jared’s. It was completely dry already, unlike her shirt. It even smelled like him and was still warm with his body heat. When she was done, she laid out her shirt to dry on a bush. A few minutes later he walked back over to her.

  “I think we should stay here until morning. We aren’t making good time, and you need to get dry.”

  “But what about my mom?” she whined.

 
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