Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 17

Ka-BOOM! I flew out of my bed in a panic at the sound of heavy cannon fire! My heart raced as I landed in a ninja-like position, my eyes darting around the room, searching for attackers. Then it came to me…the 1812 Overture was playing in the background. It was just my alarm clock.


Holy cow! The 1812 Overture was track 3 on the CD-player alarm clock. I had already slept through the first two, again. As I hurriedly threw on my clothes, I mentally kicked myself. This wasn’t the first time I hadn’t gotten up on time. Those cannons had knocked me out of bed more than once. Those after-hours training sessions are going to get me in big trouble. I hadn’t gotten to sleep more than 5 hours for months. If I was late to class one more time…

While bustling around my enormous bedroom, I paused to look at my reflection. A feeling of inadequacy froze me in place for just a moment. I hadn’t changed much over the years. My hair was shoulder length, and not fashionable at all: still the same intense orangey color. Even though I pushed my body to exhaustion, my muscles were hardly visible at all. I was severely lacking in the…ahem…female secondary characteristics department. I wasn’t strong, wasn’t beautiful, and wasn’t powerful at all. All of my training hadn’t increased my elemental abilities at all. I was still only capable of producing a tiny, harmless flame, not much bigger than a match. Was this who I was? This pathetic, insufficient girl was the one everyone depended on?

Before despair could set in, I pulled myself away from the mirror. If I lamented about my faults, I’d only create more, like: “class skipper”, or “mirror-addicted narcissist”. With that, I dashed out the door. I almost crashed into a well-dressed butler named Freddie Mac. I avoided him with a spin move.

“Sorry!” I yelled over my shoulder, immediately before colliding with Fannie Mae, the maid.

We both tumbled to the floor, and the stack of towels she had been carrying was scattered around the large hallway like a flock of seagulls descending upon a bag of opened Cheetos.

“I’m so sorry, ma’am!” I quickly apologized, rubbing my bruised forehead. “Here, let me help you!”

As I started helping her pick up the towels, she forbade me.

“No! That’s OK miss! Don’t worry about me! Just go!”

I was slightly irritated at that.

“You can just call me Sera.”

I helped her pick up her towels just out of spite. Even though the other students and some of the teachers treated me like I was a disappointment, the servants in this manor continued to revere me like the prophesied one.

“Alright. All picked up. See you later!” I said, taking off again.

When I approached the dining room, I skidded to a stop on a plush rug in the middle of the varnished hardwood floor. Around the corner in the room before me was the butler, who’s name I had learned to be François, and the giant spread of food the chefs always prepared for me. I was still not used to the whole being-waited-on-like-some-kind-of-royalty thing; I always felt awkward when any of the servants treated me like more than I was.

Peeking around the corner, I spotted François pacing around, and looking at his watch. He must have been waiting for me. I felt sorry for the poor guy, but I honestly didn’t know how to behave like a proper, pampered princess or whatever. I still felt like a normal girl.

Like a hawk, my eyes observed the manservant’s every move. Eventually, he strode into the kitchen, possibly to check with the chef. That was my chance. My legs launched me forward through the dining room. I sprinted like a Jamaican toward the other door, as though my life depended on it. Right then, François burst out of the kitchen, and called after me.

“Mademoiselle! You need your breakfast! Get back here!” Then, he began the chase.

My hand reached out, and I snatched some food item off of the table. I kept running through the dining room, across the foyer, and out the door. While still sprinting toward the school, I cautiously took a bite of…. whatever I had. It was pleasantly flaky, and virtually melted in my mouth. It must have been some sort of pastry. A salty bite, mixed with a mellowing sweetness, and a creamy texture all mixed together in a symphony of delectable flavors. I think there was some kind of pork meat, with some kind of subtly and expertly portioned jam, or honey, and either a béchamel creamy sauce, or extremely soft cooked eggs. I was absolutely no culinary expert, but I could tell this was the work of a master chef. I would have to swing by and compliment him sometime when I wasn’t bolting through the eating areas trying to avoid capture.

In the years that I had been performing this on-the-go routine, I had grabbed some good food, and some that was considerably questionable. I had eaten Confit de canard (Not bad), tarte tatin (darn good), Ratatouille (not my favorite), Salade nicoise (really not my favorite), and once I had grabbed a handful of some nasty gloppy slimy-ugh (what I had later learned to be halibut caviar tartare. That was a pukefest).

I had finished scarfing the pastry before reaching the school. I had no idea what time it was, having forgotten to even check the display on my clock in the chaos. The artificial sunlight was burning brightly, so it was probably quite late. Oh boy. When I made it into the building, all of the hallways were deserted and quiet. I’m dead. Oh, I’m dead. I stealthily walked through the school, heading for my first class of the day; mathematics.

Upon reaching the door into the room, I peered through the glass window. The teacher, Mr. Sun, was facing the chalkboard, writing the solution to a complicated problem. I took a deep breath, and counted silently.



Come on! Get moving! What’s the worst that could happen? All I really needed to do was slip in, and claim that I hadn’t gotten the attendance sheet, so I could sign in and avoid the horrific penalty given to those who play hooky. Just as I was about to crack open the door, the bell rang, terminating the class, and possibly my life.

“Oh, no, no, NO!” I cried.

Maybe the CD on my alarm clock had played all the way through, and started over! It was a lot later than I thought!

I slumped my back against the wall near the door, as my fellow students all walked past me, heading out into the hallway. Some ignored me, while others gave pitying looks. I didn’t know what fate awaited those who had missed an entire class, but it wouldn’t be good. I had been late before, but never so late as to arrive after class was over!

The last student out of the room was Kyle. He stood in front of me, and looked at the ground.

“Hey, Sera.”

“Hey.” I said, looking up at the ceiling.

“Are you OK?”

I let out a deep breath, and gave a nonchalant laugh.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I just overslept, is all. I don’t know what my punishment will be for missing class though. Oh, well.”

“You won’t get punished.” Kyle muttered, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “I signed you in.”

“Wow, really?!” I exclaimed. “That’s great! But uh…”

I was dubious for a moment.

“Doesn’t it require a signature?”

“Yeah, but I can write your signature really well. I’ve had a lot of practice.”

“Oh, that’s…great. Um…thanks.”

Well, that was a little weird, but hey. At least I wouldn’t get in trouble for missing class!

We both stood there for a second, thinking about what had just happened. Then, I remembered that the day wasn’t over yet.

“Come on, Kyle! We’ve got to make it to the next class before we’re late for that one, and nobody’s there to sign us in!”

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