By Chris Bedell
I woke up the next morning. Horatio stood in front of my bed with his hands behind his back.
I made a fist. I was pretty sure my heart almost shattered from yet another unfortunate Horatio encounter.
It took all the energy I had to raise my arms. I gave Horatio a good shove. I used the opportunity to dart out of bed, and went towards the window. I glanced out the window. It wasn’t much of a drop to the ground, which was part of the beauty of being at a log cabin as opposed to a suburban house. So, maybe, just maybe, I would survive. I just knew it. The grass under the window would also cushion the fall.
My body made a loud thumping sound when I fell even though I didn’t waste time crying over my accident. I got up without bothering to brush the dust off me because I never shied away from the outdoors before.
I screamed when Horatio darted out of the front door.
The woods almost weren’t visible through the ground-drenched fog, and I sprinted towards them without bothering to take a breath. I then scurried faster, trying to be careful not to run into any trees, or trip on rocks and sticks.
Someone whisked me behind a tree a moment later.
I pulled away from the person, grinning at Chace’s presence. Steven was here too.
“How did you guys get here?” I asked.
Chace’s cheeks turned bright red. “I triangulated your location based on your iPhone and then I stole my mom’s credit card to pay for our bus tickets. Luckily for you, the bus station is only a mile down the road.”
I nodded. “Yeah. I suppose that is lucky.”
Steven picked at one of his nails. “It’s good to see you.”
I crossed my arms. “You could at least look me in the eye when you say that.”
Yeah. My anger was justified regardless of how wasn’t the right time to bring it up. My feelings mattered, and Steven needed to know that. Being my on-again/off-again boyfriend also meant he should have cared more. Forget that point, though. Because it didn’t matter if we had a “past.” Steven was one of my best friends, and needed to be more genuine.
“Come out, come out, come out wherever you are, Esme. I promise I won’t hurt you,” called out a voice.
A crackling sound rustled through the air. “Did I miss the party?”
I smacked my head. “And where have you been? Horatio kidnapped me. and you just let that happen.”
Wow. Couldn’t say I was surprised. Julian always appeared at the most bizarre times.
The muscles around Julian’s lips tightened. “I don’t know what to say. I got busy. The conference was just so invigorating…”
Footsteps crunched against the ground, inching closer and closer. “Please, Esme! For the last time, I beg you to come out, come out, come out wherever you are. This is your final warning.”
I hurried off, heading into the open since the faint outline of his body was still visible in the fog. “You want me, well here I am.”
Caring about seeming stupid or reckless was pointless. This was something I had to do. And it had nothing to with surrendering. I couldn’t let Horatio hurt Steven and Chace since the two of them already risked enough by helping me, which meant asking them to do more would be unreasonable.
The figure shuffled closer and closer.
Birds chirped even if they didn’t matter. They couldn’t save me from him. The sound of rushing water echoed in the background, causing me to scratch my head. I hadn’t realized we were near a river. I darted towards the rushing water, knowing what I had to do. Horatio whipped out a knife from his pocket before chasing after me. It wasn’t long before he lunged at me.
Pushing him into the river like he was some used doll I needed to discard was necessary. He would have killed me if I didn’t defend myself. And my gesture caused him to bang up against what I assumed to be a rock.
I only hoped it was his head that hit the rock. He did enough evil to last several lifetimes, and I needed him out of my life for good.
Kneeling on the ground in front of the river made me discover there was no sign of him.
Steven shot me a dirty look. Wow. It was nice to know he still cared about me a little. “What were you thinking, Esme? What you did was incredibly stupid. He could have killed you.”
Okay. Good to know Steven cared even if he wasn’t the most articulate person in the world.
Chace rolled his eyes. “Steven’s right.”
Something crackled across the sky, causing us to lose focus.
Julian had been dragged up in the air against his will while he continued hovering for a few more seconds. A prism soon engulfed his body.
“What’s going on?” Steven asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said, trying to talk over the humming sound from the prism.
The prism vanished after another beat, and a boy tumbled from the sky.
I stared him down, refusing to break eye contact. “Is that you, Julian?”
I walked over to the kid, and offered my hand.
He took it, and got off the ground in no time. The guy then squealed at me. “I can’t believe it. I’m really human. I thought it would never happen.”
Julian collapsed into my body, causing me to embrace him for a quick hug. I couldn’t blame him because even I would’ve been overjoyed if I were in his position. It wasn’t everyday something good happened. The idea of being granted freedom just seemed daunting.
We pulled back from each other after a beat.
“Can you still practice magic?” I plucked a loose eyelash from my eye.
“I don’t know.” Julian shrugged his shoulders. He snapped his fingers, making a carrot spring out of his hand. He then clicked his finger together a second time. The carrot was gone.
I tugged at the sides of my jacket. “That answers your question.”
Steven and Chace walked over to the two of us.
“Steven and Chace, this is Julian,” I said. “Julian, this is Chace and Steven.”
They shook Julian’s hand.
A gust of cold air brushed up against my face. Wow winter wasn’t 100 percent gone. But I would pray that Horatio would never return.
Only time would tell if it was true or not, though. Although for my sake, it would have been nice if time was on my side. I deserved a happy ending. Caring about the idea being unrealistic was foolish. I paid enough by losing Mom, and it would have been great for the universe to be on my side for one fleeting moment.
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