The trek back to the castle wasn’t as bad as I’d thought that it would be. At least, it wasn’t once Marlee stopped grumbling about being tired and sore.
That one changed about as soon as I said that I could leave her behind.
As we reached the castle, however, I realized that I had no idea how all three of us were going to get in. It certainly wasn’t as easy as it was to get in by myself, which wasn’t exactly easy; it just wasn’t hard.
There’s a big difference.
“So,” Amaya was the first one to speak, “how are we going to get in?”
“Good question,” I muttered, glancing back at her. “I don’t suppose you have any ideas?” I raised an eyebrow.
Marlee looked the castle over. “I don’t suppose you tried anything other than the front door when you came here previously?”
I shot her a look. “Of course not.”
Marlee sighed. “And last time you were here…?”
“Mitch chased me out the front doors like a maniac, so they’re probably looking for me or at least know not to let me in,” I supplied.
“Well, that’s great,” Amaya piped in, rolling her eyes. “Have either of you actually looked for other entrances?”
I turned to stare at Amaya, realizing that I hadn’t. A quick glance at Marlee showed that neither of us wanted to say the word ‘no,’ but we were both thinking it.
Amaya shook her head, sighing in annoyance. “Well, nice to know that I’m travelling with a pair of girls who like to do things the hard way.”
She began to walk perpendicular to the entrance of the castle and Marlee and I kept standing there like idiots. I half wondered if that was the point.
“Well?” she prompted, turning back, “are you coming?”
I glanced at Marlee, then shrugged. “Sure,” I replied. I wasn’t upset with having to
Marlee narrowed her eyes at me. “Once we get inside, you’re still leading,” she said, seeming to sense that I was trying to avoid it.
I totally was.
“Fine,” I sighed, “but if I regret this, I’m taking it out on you.”
Marlee shook her head, a slight smile crossing her face. “Of course you are,” she said, “why did I expect anything else?”
I shrugged. “Don’t ask me why you’re insane. I could never be the reason for it.”
With that last word, I walked quickly up to Amaya.
“Let’s go,” I said, slightly faster than I’d meant to.
Amaya narrowed her eyes at me suspiciously. “Did you say something that you shouldn’t have?”
Seriously, everyone was just so suspicious of me.
“Right and wrong is relative,” I replied, “I think that what I said was very necessary.”
Amaya kept studying me, but she couldn’t find any fault with my words.
“Let’s go then,” she said in one long exhale.
Marlee was catching up to us, a mischievous look on her face. I didn’t like the look of it.
For some reason, it made me remember my brothers and the mischievous looks on their faces when they were thinking about doing something that they probably shouldn’t. Normally, it was to me.
In my mind’s eye, I saw all my brothers, lined up in a row and grinning at me.
“Come on, Callie,” Kialos called, his inherent sneaky grin still etched on his face.
I stared at him, a small piece of my heart chipping away in sadness. I missed him; I missed being a partner in mischief.
“Do us proud,” I could imagine Eliaz telling me, a proud smile already curving his lips up.
Two words formed on my lip, a promise that I wanted to say; a promise that he would’ve wanted to hear and that probably would never be said now that he was gone. It was too hard to tell anyone else: ‘I will.’
I felt myself turning and I managed to see Dionte with his hair still flopped over his forehead because he still didn’t like people to see the scar that he’d been left with when his parents tried to get rid of him. I saw Cyneley with his arm around Joran’s shoulders, keeping him upright so he didn’t have to stand on his weak leg for too long.
Tears sprang to my eyes as each name came to the tip of my tongue, each itching to be said with three others words following right after them.
‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’
The memories I could’ve handled had the feelings that came with them not been so new and raw. I forgot what I was doing and everything became my past. My father’s proud smile as Alanis proclaimed me worthy to be given my own weapons. Ethel picking me up and lifting me above his head just because he could and carrying me around like it was something grander than just passing another one of my father’s tests.
Rexton was behind them all, looking as big and as imposing as ever with his eternal grump still not washed off of his face; despite how he looked, he was the most softhearted of them all. He was the one who would listen to me when I cried.
…back when I cried.
And yet, I felt stickiness on my cheeks. Right before my eyes, I could see them fading away into ripples of greenery and sunrise.
“No,” I managed, the word rasping out of my throat.
Through what was almost water, I could hear people calling my name.
“Calypso!” the first said loudly as though talking to someone who couldn’t hear too well.
“Calypso?” a second voice prompted.
I felt something touch my arm.
“She’s leaning,” one of the girls began in alarm.
“Got her,” the other said. That was followed by everything tilting and me feeling hands suddenly supporting me under the arms. The person grunted. “She’s heavy though.”
“Well, she pulled herself up a wall half a million times, I’m sure,” the other voice had an edge buried in it, but it was dull with worry. “What do you think happened?”
“She started talking about people. Names. She said…” the voice paused. “Well, there was a Rexton, I think, and an Ethel. Oh, and there was someone named Alanis, I think. She seemed particularly distressed over Kialos, though. Or Kia? She said both.”
“She said Alanis, though?” the other voice asked, sounding like they were just realizing something.
My eyes were sticky again. Had I cried? I had thought I was. What had happened?
“She said Alanis,” the person holding me confirmed.
“I think they might’ve been her brothers,” the other voice managed, sounding sad. “We’ll have to ask her, but it could’ve been another flashback. She’s been muttering things in her sleep, but she doesn’t seem to be bothered by them in the morning. This is the first time I think it’s happened during the day, but I don’t know.”
“I have to wake her,” the voice nearest me said, giving me a shove.
I grumbled something, my eyes still not opening. Why was I suddenly dysfunctional?
“She seems at least partially awake,” the other voice commented.
“I’m going to poke her anyway.”
Something about the word ‘poke’ put me on edge and I flinched away, my mouth popping over and emitting a croaking noise.
The voice nearest me chuckled a bit. “Well, that worked well.”
My eyes opened slowly like they were unsticking all the way across and I noticed how blindingly bright it was.
“Why is it so bright?” I asked first, because I couldn’t see anything other than bright, bright light.
“Oh,” the girl who had threatened to poke me used her hands to try to turn me around, “you’re just facing the sun.”
I turned and blinked, noting that it wasn’t nearly as bright in this position.
“That’s better,” I said.
“Calypso?” another voice said as a face came into view. It took me a moment to realize that the face was speaking. “Are you okay?”
I squinted at the person, noting that their face seemed familiar, but it wasn’t from home. None of my brothers had girlfriends.
Then, it all rushed over me in a wave.
The warehouse gang.
Ellia and Emma.
“Marlee?” I managed, more tears springing to my eyes. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I felt broken. I hadn’t felt like this since when my father had first brought me into his house and I was watching the brothers bicker and joke around and realized that I didn’t fit. I couldn’t keep trying to be who I wasn’t.
Only this time, I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t who I was supposed to be. Now, it was a matter of figuring out why I felt so broken.
“Yeah,” Marlee smiled in relief. “And you remember Amaya, right?”
Amaya poked into view.
I felt my eyes narrow slightly as my two realities try to smash together in my mind. “You threatened to poke me again,” I accused.
Amaya looked amused. “I wasn’t going to do it, I just needed you to wake up. Next time, I probably will, though.”
I growled. “Don’t you dare.”
“I dare to do many things that I shouldn’t do,” she said in a slightly higher pitched voice.
It took me a moment to realize that she had just imitated me.
“Seriously?” I asked in irritation.
Marlee laughed. “Yep, she’s back.”
I rolled my eyes and pushed myself up. “Let’s just pretend that never happened and move on, shall we?”
The girls didn’t move.
I sighed, “Fine, I’ll explain what just happened, and then we’ll go. Deal?”
Marlee smiled slightly. “You’re getting the hang of it,” she said happily.
“Not willingly,” I grumbled.
Definitely not willingly.