The ward of castoria, p.39
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.39
 

           Robin Silverglate

  *****

  Bryn awoke from her terrifying dream in a complete state of clarity. “That’s it!”

  She finally realized that what had been scaring her in her dreams was an animal about the size of a large dog and it had two sharp horns coming out of its head. Unfortunately, this mysterious creature was bent on attacking her. She even knew the name of it. It was called a xenther, and, in her dream, she watched Dane fight it off with his sword. She saw him jump over the animal and kill it.

  Most importantly, Bryn knew this was not a dream at all. This was a memory.

  She got out of bed and paced her room. Bryn could not explain how this was a memory. She just knew it was. The creature was unlike anything she had ever seen before. She was pretty sure it did not even exist. But apparently, it did, and it had tried to kill her.

  She went over to her desk and turned on her computer. As she waited for the computer to warm up, she put on the necklace Dane had given her. He had said it would protect her and it made her feel safer to wear it even if it was a little preposterous. She knew Dane had saved her life and she trusted him now. If he said the necklace would protect her, then she could not question it.

  The computer took an agonizingly long time to warm up, but as soon as the little hourglass disappeared from the screen, she logged on to the internet. First thing she did was type in the name of the animal. She had no idea how to spell it, so she tried several variations: Zenther, Zenthar, Xenther. But each time she typed it in, she could never find anything that remotely sounded like the animal she was looking for. Then, she tried typing in the characteristics of the animal. She remembered it had pointed horns and it ran really fast. A rhinoceros often came up in the search, but even though it was similar, she remembered it being smaller than that.

  Bryn finally gave up the search on the internet. She really wanted to talk to Dane, but she had no idea where to find him. He would have the answers to what she was looking for. Bryn wished she knew what school he was going to in New York or even if she could remember his last name. She went downstairs to see if her father could remember.

  He was eating a bowl of oatmeal at the kitchen table and looked up at her when she entered. “I thought for sure you would sleep in today. There’s no need for high school graduates to get up early on a weekday.”

  “Bad dreams,” she said as she served herself a bowl of cereal.

  “Sorry to hear that,” he said as he turned the page of his newspaper. “Hopefully, our trip will chase away the cobwebs. Are you packed yet?”

  “Not yet. I was going to finish the last of the laundry this morning and pack before work.”

  “I’ll be home early today to pack, too.” He had one last teacher workday and then he was officially on summer vacation, as well. Their plan was to get in the car early tomorrow morning and start driving north.

  Bryn tried to sound casual as she asked, “Dad, are we driving through New York City by any chance?”

  “Not through it, my dear, but nearby. Why? Do you want to take in a Broadway show?”

  “No,” she said, although the idea did sound appealing to her. “I thought it might be nice of us to stop by and visit Beck and Dane. See how they are doing.”

  “I got the impression you didn’t even like Dane. Why would you want to see him?”

  She could not explain to her father about the real reason why she wanted to see him, so she said, “I just thought you might want to see Beck. You seemed to have become friends while he was here.”

  Her father peered over his newspaper and said, “Yes, it was nice having him around. But I don’t even know where to reach him. He never left any contact information.”

  “Do you remember Beck’s last name?”

  He thought for a moment and said, “That’s odd. I can’t remember.” He put down his paper and got up from the table. “I’m sure it will come to me later, but I need to get to school and finish up the grades.”

  Bryn tried not to show her disappointment. “I’ll be at work by the time you get home. I get off at seven-thirty.”

  “Do you want me to pick you up?”

  “It should still be light then. You just worry about packing and getting things ready for the trip.”

  “All right. I’ll see you tonight.” He gave her a kiss on the head and left for work.

  Bryn stood up from the table and began to pace back and forth. She had no idea how to get in touch with Dane and right now, he was the only one who could explain her strange memory. Parts of it made sense to her and portions of it made no sense at all. She had never been able to recall what had happened right after she had the heated conversation with Dane that night. The memory had always abruptly stopped. Now, she remembered what came after. She wondered how it was possible that she had forgotten such an important memory. Had she repressed it and buried it deep into her unconscious mind? That seemed unlikely.

  Bryn realized she could not spend any more time thinking about this strange memory. She needed to pack for the trip, so she spent the rest of the morning getting everything together. When she was done, she left her suitcase next to the back door. She knew her father planned on packing up the car tonight so they could leave as early as possible in the morning.

  She left for work in plenty of time to get there. Bryn did not want to be late on her last day. With the trip taking up much of the summer and her going off to college in August, she had decided to give her notice. She would miss working with Nicole, though. Nicole was going to continue working throughout the summer in order to raise money for college. She had made plans to attend a community college that was not too far away from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. While Bryn was excited they were going to be roommates in the fall, she was sad because this would be their last normal day together for a while.

  Nicole was already behind the counter when Bryn arrived. She said in a dramatic voice, “I can’t believe this is your last day. It’s going to be so boring here without you.”

  “You’ll survive. I’m sure you’ll be able to convince the new girl to play all of your quirky games,” Bryn bantered back.

  Nicole pouted her lips and said, “It won’t be the same. I’m going to miss you.”

  “I’m going to miss you, too,” she said as she started to set up behind the counter.

  Nicole moved to the cash register in order to help a customer. Bryn looked over her shoulder and was surprised to see that the customer was Kayla. She turned around and watched Nicole take her order. The past few weeks had been highly unusual for Bryn in regards to Kayla. The girl, who usually never missed an opportunity to criticize her, had apparently decided never to talk to her again. Bryn assumed Kayla must be ignoring her on purpose and that was fine with her. Bryn, thankfully, had been able to graduate high school in peace.

  Since this may be the last time Bryn ever saw Kayla, she decided to be a little bolder and let the chips fall where they may. When Nicole moved over to the coffee machine, Bryn walked to the register and stood right in front of Kayla. Her face showed no sign of recognition. She appeared to be calmly waiting for her drink. Bryn spied at the amount on the register and said, “That will be $2.64.”

  Kayla did not move. She just stood there and watched Nicole make her drink.

  Nicole shrugged at Bryn. She put the lid on the drink and said to Kayla, “That will be $2.64.”

  Kayla reached into her wallet and gave her the money. She thanked Nicole for the drink and turned to leave.

  Bryn smirked as she said loudly, “Have a nice day.” Kayla’s step did not even falter. She just continued walking toward the door. Bryn nudged Nicole and whispered, “Say something.”

  Nicole looked confused, but eventually said, “Have a nice day.”

  Kayla turned her head a little as she said, “You too.” Then she left the store.

  Bryn stared out the window for a moment and said quietly, “Unbelievable.”

  “What
was that all about?” asked Nicole.

  “I’m not sure. But you just met Kayla.”

  “That was Kayla? Evil Stepsister Kayla?” asked Nicole in disbelief.

  “The very one.”

  “I assumed she would be horrible to you. She just flat out ignored you. That’s so rude.”

  “Kayla has never been nice to me so I’m not surprised,” confessed Bryn. “She’s been ignoring me for the past few weeks. I actually prefer aloof Kayla to verbally abusive Kayla.”

  “Well I’m glad I finally got a chance to see her,” said Nicole. “But I wish you had told me it was her before she left. I’d have given her a Loogie Latte.”

  Bryn hugged Nicole and said, “You’re a good friend. Don’t worry about me though. I probably won’t have to see her again until the ten year reunion.”

  Nicole smiled as she said, “And by then, you’re going to be an incredibly successful doctor who is married to some mesmerizing and sexy guy while she will be a boring old nobody.”

  For some strange reason, an image of Dane flashed in her mind. She did not know why. Bryn assumed it was because she really needed to talk to him about the xenther. She wished she knew how to get in touch with him because she had absolutely no idea what happened to her on that night.

 
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