5: Nap of a Star
“I can see even if you’re not by my side”
Wednesday morning at 5 o’clock as the day begins, they silently enter Johnny’s house as he lets them in. The sun was barely rising, and the temperature of the morning left the Witches shivering as they rode their bikes here. Well, all except for Anthony, for he lived next door. As they entered the house, the warmth of it made them relax.
Like Anthony’s mom, Johnny’s mom worked in the medical field. Johnny’s mom was a neurosurgeon, having to leave at early hours to come back during evening hours to spend time with her kids. Johnny’s dad was a firefighter that had to work overnight. He would work all night and sleep all day, so it was a bit rare for Johnny and his sister to spend time with him in person.
At this time, darkness was still present outside, Johnny’s mom had gone to work, his sister was still asleep, and his dad had not come home yet. Silently trying not to wake Johnny’s sister up or cause a commotion this early, they enter the kitchen and stood around the oval-shaped table. They didn’t pull out chairs because there were only four, not enough for the eight members.
“We have two hours.”, Riley whispered loudly once everyone was settled.
Johnny had already prepared the table. There were sheets of paper, a bowl, and some pens and pencils. Riley gives them a simple invitation using her hand. Everyone got a piece of paper and wrote something down with a pen or pencil they chose. Once they finished writing, they crumpled the paper into a ball and tossed it into the bowl.
When Riley could see that they have all put their papers inside, she grabbed the bowl and shuffled the paper balls. She grabs one of the balls randomly, sets the bowl down, and opens the paper.
“Mike, your father left last night?”, she asked as soon as she read it.
Mike didn’t look at her, nor anyone but he merely nods. He didn’t show it, but he was astonished that his paper was the first one chosen. As always, if you had something to share, it was instructed for that person to sit down. So, he did. He sat down on the nearest seat before pouring out his feelings.
“While my mom always stayed home as a stay-at-home parent, my dad made the money to support us. For the past year or so, my parents haven’t been able to talk to each other. I think they must have fallen out of love or something.”, Mike slowly explained. The Witches carefully listen to him. Not just with their ears but with their eyes too.
“Either way, I didn’t want him to leave. But I knew my parents weren’t in a good place.” Everyone nodded, understanding what he was trying to say about his parents’ relationship.
“When my dad was leaving, it was then I realized how unhappy he was. So... I let him go.”, he explained.
“You let him go?”, Pepper asked. Mike looked up at her. She saw that his eyes were watery, a tear could slip out at any moment, yet Mike was trying hard to keep them from spilling.
“Yes. Of course, I did. He wasn’t satisfied living with us.”
“So what? Are you happy now?”, Pepper instantly spoke once Mike finished his sentence. “Are you happy letting your dad go?”
When it came to the people Mike cared about the most, he would become sensitive and enraged trying to defend them. Mike stood up from the chair at the speed of light, making it fall backward and hitting the wooden floor with a loud thud. Everyone but Mike flinched.
“It’s called sacrifice, Pepper. I’m a human, aren’t I? Am I supposed to be happy now? Just because my dad isn’t miserable anymore? Someone’s happiness that you gave them won’t always leave you with a sense of satisfaction.”, Mike firmly states.
A tear dropped out of his eye. He didn’t bother to whisper anymore, nor wipe the tear. He didn’t care if he woke up Johnny’s sister upstairs. Lincoln, who is next to Mike, started to rub Mike’s arm as a way of easing his emotions. And it worked to calm him, slowly sitting back down on the chair Chris had picked up for him.
Once he sat down, everyone turned to look at Pepper, as if they were waiting for her to say something. She looks at their gazes, but her mouth never opened to speak. Instead, Nathan walked over to Mike. He hesitantly placed a hand on Mike’s back as he hid his face in his arms, crying.
“To this day... I still remember when my dad left. I know I was little, but I still remember. I thought he was the best dad and that he loved my mom and me. But one day... I woke up... and he was gone. Seven years and he still hasn’t come back.”, Nathan explained. It made Mike look up at Nathan with his red puffy eyes.
“You lived without a dad for seven years?”, Mike asked.
Nathan gave Mike a small grin. “I had no other choice.” Mike nodded. “But while I had my mom, you have your brother. And I know you’re not fond of your mom, but you have her too.”, Nathan removed his hand from Mike’s back and walked to his original location.
“Nathan, do you miss your dad?”, Mike questioned.
Nathan saw that there was some sort of hope in Mike’s eyes. As though if the answer to his question would be no, he would find peace of mind. Still, Nathan could never lie to his best friend. “Of course, I do. Every day I think about him.”
“Do you ever think it was your fault he left?” The truth was this conversation had never been talked about since the day it happened, and Nathan told them years ago. It took guts for Nathan to mention this delicate story, yet he knew Mike needed to hear it. So, without trying to let his sorrow out, he answers truthfully.
“Yes. I did in the beginning. After some time, I stopped pitying myself and I looked at it as a choice my father made. The choice to leave the best thing that ever happened to him: his family. I started to think it was his loss. Not my mom’s or mine. I don’t hate him, and I don’t wish he’s miserable right now. I only wish he doesn’t forget us. Sometimes, I think he might even return. Until that day, if it ever comes, I won’t forget him. I don’t want to forget him. Plus, I don’t want to hold a grudge against him. What good does that do? Instead, I forgave him because my mom and I.... we’re fine. We’re doing good, you know. There’s no reason to be mad at him. He still is and will always be my dad.”
During his monologue, Mike listened to every word he said. Everyone else did too, leaving them speechless. When Nathan saw there was no one saying anything, it made him self-conscious and he retreated to his shell. “You only ever told us about your dad. Why didn’t you say anything about your feelings?”, Chris asked, distressed.
“To be honest, Chris, there’s no point to bring them up anymore.”, Nathan commented. Mike’s tears had dried out, but his eyes were still pink from them. He wasn’t crying anymore. He turned to look at Riley.
“Riley can we move on, please?”, he calmly asked. Riley shook her head.
“Not yet. Not from you, at least. You also said Daemon of shadow visited you last night. What did they say or do?” Everyone looks at Riley at the mention of Daemon, instantly turning their heads to look at Mike. Everybody was listening closely. Minutes of silence passed before Mike said anything. The Witches were patient to let him speak. Once Mike gathered his thoughts, he modestly let them out.
“I was in a room. It wasn’t mine. I can’t describe it. I’ve never seen it before.” Mike’s breath starts to get shaky.
“It was a stranger’s bedroom. When I tried to move around, I realized I wasn’t standing. I was floating and struggling to breathe.”, he paused. The Witches still waiting for him, not pushing him to tell them about his dream.
“I was dying.”, he mumbled.
“There were bedsheets around my neck.”, Mike started to fidget with his fingers.
“The last thing I remember seeing was THEM. And THEY were laughing at me.”, Mike took in a deep breath and slowly let it out.
“That was it.”
“That was the whole dream? There wasn’t anything else?”, Johnny questioned. Mike shook his head as a response.
“Did you try to stop yourself from dying?”, Chris asked.
Mike nodded. “THEY wouldn’t let me.”
“How did you feel when you woke up?”, Pepper asked.
“Dead. I felt dead. I thought I was until I opened my eyes and found myself still breathing.“, Mike explained.
Again, Lincoln was there to comfort Mike. “Chris, what are we going to do now?“, Pepper asked.
“There’s only one thing to do. Be prepared and wait.”, Chris said.
“We should cast a protection spell to keep us safe.”, Riley suggested. Chris suddenly looked over to Riley. His expression was a mix of despair and hatred.
“A spell? Remember what happened the last time you cast a spell?” Those words hurt Riley a lot.
“Stop blaming me for that.”, she mumbled, not making eye contact with him, on the verge of crying.
Mike stood up from his chair. “Chris, come on. You know it wasn’t her fault.”
“Magic is the only force powerful enough to work on Daemon. We can’t give it all up when it failed us one time. How will we fight then?”, Nathan pointed out.
Since the night of September 11, Chris started to develop a phobia of using magic. It could fail them again, but it was the only way they knew how to defeat their enemy. It never occurred to them the power of the spells. Some were more powerful than others. Unfortunately, years ago, they read from their book of enchantments, the most powerful spells were the ones that included human sacrifice.
They didn’t know where the book had come from, but they swore to never perform the sacrificial spells. When Chris saw how Riley looked so guilty and sorry, he walked over to her and hugged her. He apologized repeatedly until Riley pushed him away. She didn’t forgive him, but she knew she could never stay mad at him. He was her leader.
So she dealt with her despondency, pushing it back to the dark corner in her brain. “Alright, we can do a protection spell.”
After Riley got Chris’s approval, she grabbed one of the remaining pages on the table to write something down. To Riley, protection spells were the most important, hence she had memorized a few. A while later, Riley finishes writing and glances at everyone in the room. She places a finger to her mouth, making them all quiet as she examined the room.
“Repeat after me.“, she says.
“Elements of the sun.”, everyone repeats coordinated.
“Elements of the day.”
“Elements of the day.”
“Come this way.”
“Come this way.”
“Powers of the night and day.”
“Powers of the night and day.”
“I summon thee.”
“I summon thee.”
“I call upon thee.”
“I call upon thee.”
“To protect me.”
“To protect me.”
“So, it shall be.”
“SO, IT SHALL BE!”, everyone shouts the last phrase, some even slamming their fists onto the table, making the others flinch. Even though Chris still had his doubts, he trusted his best friend. He only hoped he wouldn’t be let down again.
“Alright. Let’s move on.”, Riley announces. She picks up another paper from the bowl. It was 5:45 in the morning now. When she opens it and reads only one word on it, she gazes over to Chris.
“Chris, you want to talk about Kevin?”, she asked, still looking at him. Johnny and Anthony look at Riley at the mention of Kevin’s name.
“Riley, I think we all want to talk about him.”, Anthony remarked. Riley nodded, agreeing with him. However, Lincoln, Pepper, Nathan, and Mike were left confused.
“Wait, who’s Kevin?”, Nathan asked.
“Yeah, Riley. Who’s Kevin?”, Chris looked at her with a look she wasn’t able to describe. He seemed irritated but he was confused as well. Whatever his expression was, it made Riley tense.
“Remember the kid we found on the street and took him to Anthony’s house? Well, I sort of found him again.”, she explained. The four who didn’t know anything suddenly widened their eyes when she said that.
“Did you threaten him to not say anything about us?”, Lincoln asked.
Riley was about to reply but Chris cut on her words. “She befriended him.”, he said. The four looked at her, agitated.
“That’s not what I did.”, she tries to defend herself.
“It appeared as you did. Why else would you introduce him to me?”, Chris asked.
“I told you why.”, Riley returned, emotionlessly.
“Wait, wait. What’s going on? I’m so confused. What happened?”, Pepper stopped the arguing by stating what was rapidly going through her mind.
“Last night,” Johnny started. “Chris called all of us for an emergency that Riley had. Anthony and I were the only ones who showed up.” The four hung their head down as the feeling of creating a mistake took over them for not showing up last night. They continued to listen to the story.
“Anyways, Riley showed up to Chris’s house with the kid after hours. The kid wants to pay us back for saving his life.”, Johnny explained the whole story, or at least everything he knew.
“Is this a trick?”, Lincoln asked. Johnny, Anthony, Chris, and Riley shook their head.
“Well, now that you have met him, what was his persona like?”, Nathan questioned.
“He seemed... nice.”, Johnny was inaudible. “To be honest, when I first encountered him again, he seemed desperate and lonely.”, Riley admitted. “But he was nice.”
“Will we have to befriend him now?” Mike sounded more considerate when he asked that. Riley shrugged. So, Mike turned to Chris. He also shrugged.
“We’ll just go with the flow, alright?”, Chris suggested.
Everyone agreed with him. To be honest, none of them knew what he meant. They would befriend him. They would push him away until he got the hint. None of them knew how it would even end.
All they knew for sure was that everything would be okay in the end. If it wasn’t okay, then it wasn’t the end. Suddenly, Johnny’s sister walked into the kitchen. Her eyes were still a bit sleepy, but she was dressed. Everyone froze when she entered like if they didn’t move, she wouldn’t see them.
It was a stupid thought concerning all eight of them took up half the kitchen. Johnny glanced at the clock on his wall. It read 6:00. Johnny walked over to his older sister while she was grabbing something from the fridge. “Kimberly, what are you doing up so early? You usually wake up 30 minutes later.”
Kimberly took a large gulp of orange juice right from the container. The action made Johnny scrunched his nose in disgust. “That’s what I planned to do until I heard noises coming from done here.”, she was annoyed. “I told you last night to keep it down if your friends were coming over early.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Johnny’s cheeks turn into a light pink color out of embarrassment.
Kimberly gave him a small smile and briefly hugged him. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to go finish getting ready, okay?”, she informed him, to which Johnny nodded. She left the kitchen, even waving at the Witches Club before exiting completely. Of course, some of the members who didn’t see her quick goodbye didn’t return it. After she was gone, Johnny turned his head to the clock.
“Guys, I’m going to begin preparing breakfast. Is that okay?”, he was mostly looking at Chris, who nodded at him in approval. Johnny smiled. He went to the fridge to take the ingredients he would need. While Johnny was cooking breakfast for the nine people in the house and his dad once he arrived, the Witches at the table sparked up their conversation.
“Riley, did you get any knowledge about him? What his life is like, who his friends are, who raised him, what school he goes to, how old he is. You know, things like that. Did you learn anything about him?”, Mike listed and questioned.
“No. Other than the fact that he could be a stalker.”, Riley remembered when she got off the bus and he wouldn’t leave her alone.
“He tracked you?”, Pepper was slightly confused but the confusion soon turned to fear. “If he’s a stalker, what is he going to do to us? What if it’s a trap?”, Pepper rapidly talked, panicking.
“Calm down, Pepper. He won’t do anything to us because Chris will be there to protect us.”, Lincoln turned to look at the named person. “Right?”
Everyone’s eyes gazed at Chris. His eyes directed to each of the members’ eyes. “Lincoln, you know I can’t protect you from every little thing. I trust that all of you know how to take care of yourselves.”, he sighed.
“I know but it’s good to know you have our backs. It’s comforting.”, Lincoln admitted.
“I’ll always be behind each of you, supporting.”
Johnny came back with two plates of food in each hand, left them on the table, then went to get more plates. Once all the members had their food, Johnny went upstairs with two plates. After he came back, he noticed that most of his friends were halfway done with the chocolate chip pancakes he made. Everyone thanked him for the delicious breakfast with their mouths full.
He chuckled at them before he ate his food standing up. Before they all knew it, Johnny’s dad arrived home, greeted his son and his friends before leaving for his bedroom. Later, it was 7 in the morning. Each Witch grabbed their plain backpacks and headed outside to their bicycles.
Pepper, Riley, Lincoln, and Nathan headed the same direction, Chris and Mike headed a different direction from the foursome, and Anthony and Johnny headed in another direction from the others.
She threw a pebble on the window she guessed would lead to Kevin’s room. It was seven, fourteen hours from when the Witches met. Two hours from when Anthony informed her where he lived. For Anthony, spotting Kevin at school was the easy part. Discovering where he lived without the said boy knowing or noticing was the challenge.
But he managed to do it successfully with all his skills of hiding and observing he developed over the years. Riley keeps throwing pebble after pebble impatiently. Thankfully, her prediction was right. Kevin opened his drapes to look out the window. When he looked down, right beside the trunk of the large tree in front of his window, he saw Riley.
Instinctively, his eyes widened. He abandoned the window to close his door, locking it in the process. He signals her to climb the tree. There was one slight problem though. Riley was afraid of heights.
She shakes her head, even gesturing ‘no’ with her arms so he could get the message. And he did. He ended up climbing out of his window, carefully and slowly climbing down to Riley. Once he reached the ground, she opened her mouth to speak but he stopped her. “You can tell me whatever you want once we’re in my room.”
“Why not here?”, she tried not to show him her weak side.
“My parents.”, Kevin explained. It was true that his parents would get scared if he were not in his room, or he might get grounded and under house arrest, assuming he would always sneak out. Riley understood. So today, she would face her fear that would only come to her head when she was thinking about it, as she was doing now. Thinking about it.
“Don’t think”, she advises herself. Letting Kevin climb first, she carefully watches him, copying the movements and steps he would make until they were on the first branch. Riley tried not to look down or to think about the possibility of falling. Kevin glanced back at her every time he moved, checking on her. In her mind, she set a goal to follow Kevin.
That’s a trick she learned while climbing, Set a goal and chase after it. It’s like running. Don’t focus on the finish line. Chase after the one ahead and try not to lose them.
If you passed them, move onto the next person. Riley’s goal was like that, only, she had one person and she didn’t want to pass him. Once they reached the branch that was closest to Kevin’s window, he stepped on it. His weight made the branch shake a little, but it was still strong enough to hold him. When she saw the branch shake, she snapped out of her daze and realized what she was doing.
A small whimper left her mouth. She clutched on the tree trunk tightly. When Kevin heard the small noise, he looked at her. He saw the state she was in, so he climbed down from that branch to go to her. As the sun set beneath the earth, he was able to see Riley was weeping out of fear.
“Hey, don’t be afraid, okay?”, he told her in a hushed tone. “You can do this, alright? I believe in you.” Riley looked up to meet his eyes of security and sincerity. It stirred up something warm in the pit of Riley’s stomach.
It was the last four words that gave her the spirit to continue climbing. They were words she had never heard before, not even from the Witches. They were words she didn’t know she needed to hear. With Kevin’s guidance, she slowly climbed until they reached the branch closest to the open window leading to his room. The branch shook when she stepped on it, but Riley tried not to let it affect her again.
As he said, he believed in her, and now, she believed in herself. Kevin stepped inside to his room. He turned back to Riley, extending a hand so she could reach it. Taking his hand and only focusing on Kevin’s eyes, she stepped over the branch and into his room. Once she stepped on the rough carpet that covered his floor, a big smile crept on her face.
Before Kevin knew it, she had wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in for a hug. “Thank you.”, she whispers. A smile crept onto Kevin’s face. He slowly wrapped his arms around her waist, returning the hug.
“You’re welcome.” They stayed like that for a while before Riley pulled away. Thank goodness Kevin’s family was downstairs watching a movie. He had told them he had to do his homework, which wasn’t a lie, so they let him go. Now that Riley was here though, his homework would have to wait.
“Riley, why are you here? And how did you know where I lived?”, he asked as Riley looked around the room with her hands behind her back. Kevin’s room was plain. Only his bed, the light coming from the standard ceiling fan, a nightstand with an alarm clock on it, his full closet, and a desk made it up. The desk in his room was messy. Class notes, sticky notes, hung on the wall where his desk was facing.
“Wang family.”, Riley read one of the notes. “What is this for?”
“School. We have to do a research paper.” Riley nods. “How did you know where I lived?” Kevin questioned again.
“Easy. Following you.”, she replied, not looking at Kevin, but at his notes on the wall. They were all about the Wang family. Riley wondered what about them was so special to Kevin that he had his whole wall decorated with information about them.
“Following me? You followed me home? Who’s the stalker now?”, he sounded offended. His tone made her look his way; like when a child says something wrong and they were about to get scolded. That’s how Kevin felt now.
“To find you again would be impossible without following you. I apologize if it sounds wrong.” Maybe now, Riley understood how Kevin felt the first day they met, and Kevin might have understood how Riley felt.
“All my friends would like to meet you. Is that okay with you?”, Kevin’s eyes light up and he nods.
“Alright, are you available tomorrow night?”, his eyes’ emotions changed to disappointment when Riley asked the question.
“No. My school’s Fall festival is tomorrow and all clubs must volunteer to help.”, he explained. “You understand, right?”, he squeaked.
A smile appeared on Riley’s face. It was the smile of forgiveness and that everything would be okay. “Of course, I do. Then, I’ll let you know again, alright?” Kevin nods, smiling back.
The air around them turns awkward. Riley breaks eye contact with Kevin to look at his wall again. She reads his notes on the wall. “Went missing” “The house might still stand” “1985” Riley smiled at the work. Mostly because she knew most of it was wrong, but it was cute how much he tried to learn about them.
Of course, she wouldn’t let him know. The ordinary citizens like Kevin, which the Witches called “the Normals”, were given their own story to believe while other beings like the Witches, which they called their “species”, “Dreamcatchers”, knew another story. To the Normals, Dreamcatchers were scapegoats. They had to live like that for years. They might still be living like that to this day but they’re in hiding.
Riley knew the real story of the Wangs, but she would not speak a word of it as she promised. After 5 years of the Witches meeting and forming their club, they have not found any other Dreamcatchers in the town. “You can come if you want.”, cut Riley from her thoughts.
She turned around to look at Kevin. “What?”
“You and your friends can come to my school tomorrow for the fair.”, Kevin clarified.
“Ah, no thank you.”, she politely declined. “Like you, I’m also busy tomorrow night.”
Riley again started to look around. Kevin didn’t fail to notice how much she would look at his notes. He didn’t call her out before. To be honest, it made him feel intelligent and pleased. But he was also curious.
“Why do you keep looking at my notes?”, Riley blushed a bit out of embarrassment. Kevin also blushed out of embarrassment but because of his schoolwork. Kevin was shy when he got closer to see what she was looking at. He wished he could read was she was thinking so he wouldn’t be feeling like a fool. Yes, his confidence was gone.
“What did you say this was for?”
“A school history project. We had to choose some piece of our history in Lylac so I chose the Wang family.”, he responded shyly, looking down at the ground. Riley didn’t notice his actions and she muttered a small ‘okay’.
A second of silence passed. “Then, good luck with your research. I wish I could help but sadly, I don’t know anything about this town. Even though I’ve lived here all my life.”, she chuckled.
Kevin did too but then, an earlier memory crossed his mind and his smile faded away. “How are you doing anyway? With your dad, I mean.”
Riley’s grin disappears. Kevin went to sit on his bed while Riley stared back at Kevin’s notes. But this time, she wasn’t looking at his notes. She was looking down at his desk where the mess of papers was piled on. As she was scanning, her eyes stopped on a newspaper article.
“Satan in Our Town?”, read the title. The page seemed to have been folded before. She started to fold it again slowly, making sure the page wouldn’t make a sound. Kevin must have thought she was fidgeting with her fingers or something since her back was faced to him. He thought she was thinking of her answer, so he didn’t force her to talk.
While folding, she responded, “I’ve been doing fine. I wake up early before he does, and I come home late. I want to make it seem like I’m not there.” Though she spoke slowly, the last sentence managed to slip out of her mouth before she knew it. By the time she finished speaking, she had already folded the paper and stuffed it into her long sleeve.
“Why do you try to make it seem like you’re not there?”, she froze on his question. She turned around to see him looking at her. He was waiting for her answer. But Riley would not give it to him.
“Kevin, I should get going now.”
The sky outside was not black but navy blue. Faintly, the stars could be seen. Kevin was surprised at her response. With the paper in her sleeve, she climbed out the window without Kevin stopping her. Sure, once she stepped on the branch and it moved, she froze but she continued to climb down mindlessly.
Once she reached the ground, she shouted a ‘see you later’ and walked away from his house. He watched her walk away for a while, sighing and closing his window before finally starting on his homework. Meanwhile, Riley looked back to make sure Kevin’s house was now far from distance. Once she could no longer see it, she took out the paper and read it. She chuckled at how ignorant people were back then. Hopefully, people aren’t like they used to be.
The minute he got home, he went straight to his kitchen. Johnny set his backpack on the empty table. As usual, the house was quiet, it seemed empty. But it wasn’t. No one liked to disturb his father’s sleep so he could feel refreshed when he would have to work.
Since he woke up early this morning and had no plans for later other than to do his homework, he decided to take a small nap. He knew he would be busy tomorrow night anyway. The full moon was next week on Saturday. It meant each Witch could perform a spell to help them. Spells during a full moon tend to be more powerful than daily spells.
Not to mention, next week would be the last week of September. Starting tomorrow, spells were selected from the Enchantment book at the clubhouse. Once selected, they could start earning money by doing chores or anything for their obligatory supplies. The Witches did this every month. In all sincerity, it brought them closer together when they saw the full moon.
Johnny was excited to see this year’s harvest moon. Knowing he shouldn’t give up this opportunity, he went upstairs and laid down on his bed. He took off the camera that was wrapped around his neck and placed it on the ground. By the time he woke up, it was six in the evening. He knew his father would be up soon and his mother would return in an hour or so.
He awoke with ease, for he had a normal, peaceful dream during his nap. Johnny felt good, lucky, and thankful. He sleepily walked downstairs to the kitchen. The first thing Johnny spotted was his bag still on the chair, untouched from how he left it. He walked over to the bag, opened it, and took out his Math, Science, and Reading homework.
Once he placed his papers on the table, along with the only pencil he had beside them, he headed to his pantry. Johnny scanned through it, looking for something to eat. He found a packet of macaroni. He decided to have macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight since there wasn’t anything else he could find. He went to his fridge to grab the butter, sour cream, and cheese, went to the lower cupboards to grab a large pot and a saucepan.
Johnny’s cooking skills must have come naturally from his mom. She used to cook for him back then when he was little. Sometimes, he would help her, and most times, he would watch her. He would lie down on her lap and watch cooking shows with her. It changed when his family moved to Lylac because of his mom’s new job.
That was when his dad found his job as a night duty firefighter. Since then, his sister had technically raised her little brother. She let him watch the shows and she learned to cook herself for both of them. It’s been eight years since he moved to Lylac. Every day, he learned something new about cooking since then.
Finally, his mac and cheese was complete. Johnny was overly impressed with himself by how good it looked and smelled. He served himself some of the pasta in a small bowl, along with a glass of water and a metal spoon. He made his way to the dining table where his homework waited for him. He placed the food on the table next to his homework.
As a right-handed, he moved everything to his right side. He grabbed his pencil, did one or two problems, put it down, scooped some macaroni and cheese into his spoon, and stuffed it into his mouth. The mac and cheese was warm, soft, and delicious on his tongue. He truly deserved a pat on his back. As he ate, he did more problems and the cycle repeated.
With the bowl halfway eaten, Johnny had finished his Math homework. He put it away in his backpack, took a drink of water before continuing to eat, and start on his Science homework. He finished his Science homework and meal a few minutes later. To save his mom time, he decided to wash his plate, along with the plates the Witches used this morning.
While rinsing the soapy water from the plates and putting them on the counter, his head started to spin. However, it didn’t feel like a headache one gets when one’s sick or when a person can’t handle loud noises. His head hurt, yes, but the rest of his body didn’t seem to feel it. Usually, when one had a headache, a person has a reaction to it like rubbing their head with her hands. When he tried to move his hands or arms, he couldn’t.
It felt like he didn’t have them. Johnny also couldn’t panic. His vision became blurry and fading to black. He felt like he was going to pass out and would hurt once he hit the ground. But he never did. In the blink of an eye, he felt fine.
He could move his body and could see well now. It could have been his mind playing tricks on him, but Johnny knew it wasn’t just him. It felt too real to be a mind trick. He didn’t want to think too much of it, so shrugged it off and went back to the dishes. Once he was done, he put the plates into the cupboards they belonged to.
Johnny thought it was a good idea to prepare three meals for his family since Kimberly and his dad were the only other people home. Johnny decided to make Kimberly a meal first since his dad was asleep. He served some of the pasta into a bowl and warmed it in the microwave for a few seconds. With the steaming pasta in his hands, he walked up the stairs just in case she was busy or asleep. On top of that, he didn’t want to disturb his father by calling her down.
“Now that we’re done with our History homework, Science is the only thing left so let’s do that.”, Mike informed. Chris nodded along. He took out his notebook and opened it to the page where his homework was written. Mike took out his homework too.
“Chris, what did we learn today?”, Mike closed Chris’s book when he was about to open it. He looked at Chris, waiting for his answer. Mike wanted to see what Chris learned today or if he was paying attention at all.
“Newton’s laws of motion.”, Chris answered.
“Yes. What are the Laws of Motion?” Chris started naming them, counting them with his fingers.
“The first one is ‘an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an unbalanced force’ and ‘an object in motion will stay in constant motion unless acted upon an unbalanced force’. T-”
“Give an example.”, Chris was about to name the second law when Mike interrupted him. Chris looked at his notebook, a thought developing into his mind.
“Look. This book is staying at rest because there’s no unbalanced force to act upon it. But, if I push it...”, Chris demonstrated. “the unbalanced force would be me, right? The object moved. Or if we rolled a ball, it wouldn’t stop moving at the same speed unless an unbalanced force acted upon it.” Chris explained using his hands and arms to get his point across. Mike followed him with every word he said, nodding every time Chris said something correct. It made Chris’s confidence increase more.
“Yeah. You understand it. What’s Newton’s sec-”
Riley walked into the clubhouse through the blanket being used as the door. With only lit candles being their only light source, Mike could only see Riley’s figure but not see her face. He knew who it was but he wouldn’t stop watching her. Likewise with Chris. When Chris saw that Mike had stopped talking, he turned his attention to the direction he was staring at, seeing Riley enter the house.
Chris also instantly recognized Riley’s silhouette. Riley, on the other hand, was shaken up seeing the two in the house, causing her to slightly jump with their unexpected appearance. “W-What are you two doing here?”, she questioned, walking up to them. She could somewhat see their faces since the candles were lighting up space around them. The whole kitchen could be seen. Of course, the kitchen wasn’t excessively big. The dining table that could fit 4 people, the unworking sink, the empty unworking refrigerator, and the cabinets made up the entire kitchen. Three candles were on the table where Mike and Chris had their notebooks out.
“Our homework. What are you doing here?”, Mike responded as soon as she got close enough that they could see her face. Not clearly but her features were made out. To be honest, Riley didn’t think anyone would be here so she was never going to tell anyone about the paper. Yet Mike and Chris were here. And the most important thing in their club, their most important rule, was to never lie.
She was taught never to lie to her friends. So she went with the truth. Riley pulled out the paper from her sleeve, placing it in front of Chris. She stood next to him with her lips in a thin line while Chris unfolded the piece of paper. Mike glanced over to see what Chris was reading.
Once Chris unfolds the paper, the two had a similar reaction to the one Riley held inside her when she first saw the paper. The boys’ eyes’ went wide upon seeing the title. “Riley, where did you get this?”, disquieted, Chris asked. Riley could see that his hands were shaking as he clutched the paper. She didn’t know if it was for the anxiety forming inside of the three of them, or the anger forming inside Chris for the sake of keeping his group safe.
“I found it in Kevin’s room when I went to ask when he would be available to meet us.” Riley couldn’t look at her leader at this point.
“Is this kid a threat?”, Mike questioned, most likely to himself but everyone heard it. Chris went into deep thinking for a moment, like he always did when the Witches were faced with conflict, and as the leader, he would mostly have to be the one to solve it. No one interrupted him and just stayed quiet, each gathering their own opinions. Riley wished she could read Chris’s mind and know what he was thinking. Sadly, she was no superhero and superpowers didn’t exist. Suddenly, Chris swiftly crumbled the paper in his hands into a ball.
He handed it to Riley. She took it without saying anything. “Burn it.”, he commanded, sternly. Riley nodded, again, not talking back to her leader. She took one of the lit candles on the table and headed to the exit.
“Riley.”, she heard behind her, making her stop before she reached the exit. She turned around to face Chris. “That Kevin guy, I don’t trust him. I never did. Hence, quit communicating with him. The deal is off, alright?” Riley nodded once again, turning around to exit the house.
The tone he gave her was the tone where her conscience told her to obey, or she would face the consequences. Not that Chris or the rest of the club have ever done anything to her. Still, it was that tone that made her feel small. So small, she felt weak.
The night with chilly. Small breezes were present here and there. The sky was clear and the few stars she could see shined above her. She covered the fire with her hand to prevent it from going out. The crumbled paper was in the hand she was holding the candle with.
She waited until she didn’t feel a breeze to take out the paper. As she was told, Riley brought the paper to the open flame. The paper caught fire when it touched it. She held the burning paper with her fingers, looked at it for a while but then dropped it when the fire was getting too close to her hand. The fireball fell on the dry, dirt ground.
Riley just simply stared at it with a blank mind until the flame disappeared once the whole paper was burnt down. Only the ashes left by the paper remained floating into the night sky. She left after a minute, not bothering to notify the two boys inside the house. Leaving, her mind started to wonder about what Chris had said. She knew she saw Kevin differently than how Chris saw him.
The kid seemed too innocent to be a traitor. But how could she or anyone blame him for having that paper in his room? He didn’t even know Riley is part of the Witches. Or who the real identities of the Witches are. She felt it in her gut.
He was different. That was the kind of vibe he gave her. An innocent, oblivious, lost, little puppy who just needed a home. Did she trust him? No, but she knew he was different somehow. And she wanted to see how.
Meanwhile, in the clubhouse, Mike and Chris talk to each other about the incident that lately occurred. “The poor excuse he gave us is stupid.”, Chris stated.
“Still, we’re doing this for our own good, right? Let’s just give him what he wants and he’ll leave us alone like we want him to.”
“We never should have saved him.”, Chris quietly responded.
“See, now you’re being selfish-”
“Excuse me for caring about you and the rest of the group.”, Chris argued, clearly growing annoyed. He took in a deep breath, letting it out in a deep sigh. “I don’t want another traitor near us again.”
“Chris, that was 2 years ago.”, Mike’s eyes’ softened. Now, all he wants to do is console his leader.
“And we lost Penny because of him, remember?” They both go quiet by the sudden remembrance of their former friend. Chris tried not to remember the event but the memories returned. He tried not to let his emotions out. “C-Can we... can we finish our homework?”
Mike nodded right away, grabbing his notebook, and opening it to a recent page. “Okay, we’re going to mix it up. What is Newton’s THIRD Law of Motion?” Chris was suddenly confused.
“Third?”, he held up three fingers to make sure he heard correctly. Mike nodded.
“For every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction.”, Chris explained.
“Yes. So, what does that mean? Give me an example.” Chris nods.
“Okay. Picture a rocket. The roc-”
“Chris. Chris, come in.”, the voice from the walkie-talkie interrupted Chris. He leaned over, moving the lit candle out of the way to grab the walkie-talkie. “Chris, this is Anthony. This is an emergency. Do you copy? Over.” The voice continued. Chris pulled on the antenna.
“Anthony, I’m here. What’s going on? Over.” Chris could sense the fear and panic in Anthony’s voice.
“Chris, THEY got her. THEY got Johnny’s sister. Over.” With those words, the duo listening knew exactly who Anthony was talking about.
“How’s Johnny? Over.” It took a few seconds for Anthony to respond.
“He’s asleep. He wouldn’t tell me anything. He just came over screaming and crying that THEY got Kimberly. He passed out from exhaustion. I’m letting him sleep the night at my house. I don’t know what condition he’ll be in tomorrow morning. Over.”
“Good. Thank you, Anthony. Over.” Chris approved. Again, some silence circled around them before Anthony broke it.
“The funeral for her is on Saturday, I believe. Are you planning to attend? For Johnny? Over.”
Chris nods. He looked over to Mike, who has been listening since the beginning. He nodded as well. “Yeah, we’ll go for him. Over and out.”