Chapter 80: Hello Old Friend
Erela looked at herself in the mirror, her short hair not cooperating with her at all that morning. The side of her head had curled upward when she tried to flatten it down, no matter what she did. It just didn't want to do what she wanted. She pulled at an end of a strand, then pursed her lips. Maybe it was time to change her hair too. Besides cutting her hair pixie short so she didn't have to worry about it being in the way during her mission. It was also a sign of wanting to change herself.
She had always had long hair, and having short hair felt perfect then.
With her hair shorter than usual, it felt right to change it again. It had been years since her hair went past her shoulders anyway . . .
She pulled her wand out of her bag and pointed the end toward her head. She mumbled inaudibly as she barely twirled her wand, her hair slowly growing longer and longer. Erela felt as if she was witnessing herself age backwards as her hair grew longer. Her mother wasn't lying when she said that short hair aged people, and seeing her hair growing past her shoulders made her believe that. Erela looked her age again.
She stopped mumbling and dropped her arm to her side as she looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair ended halfway to the middle of her back, as well as her bangs. Erela huffed her hair away then raised the tip of wand to her too-long-bangs and slid it diagonally, hair being cut the more she moved her wand across. She could see herself more clearly on one side. Once she cut the one side to her ear, she did the same with her other and began to recognize the woman standing before her in the mirror.
She saw that same girl: doe brown eyes, long hair that curled at the ends, tall and skinny (yet, not lanky like before), someone that held secrets that had yet to be told by the look she had in her eyes. The little Hogwarts student she hadn't seen in five years stood in front of her. And she grew up . . .
Erela looked down at the end of her hair and twirled it in between her fingers. It felt nostalgic to have it at that length again. It felt heavy. She pursed her lips as she collected her hair and brushed it over on one side of her shoulder. Erela brushed her bangs to the side, the longer ends tucked behind her ears, as she walked out of the bathroom with her bag slung over her shoulder and her wand peeking out of her bag. She and Laila felt they should visit Stacee's grave, Erela couldn't remember the last time she went to the graveyard.
And it was about time she went to see him too . . .
She heard tiny feet come downstairs and walk into the living room, Stephanie stopped as she stared wide-eyed at Erela. "Your hair!" the little girl squealed.
Erela lightly chuckled. "Yep, decided to make it long again."
"It's so pretty!" Stephanie continued and came closer to the tall woman. Erela sat down on the couch, the metamorphmagus climbing up beside her and studied the woman's hair. "It's so long. You're not going to do anything with it?"
"Well, I was thinking about it. It's been a long time since I've braided it and I don't think I'll be able to make a nice one before we leave," Erela answered as she watched Stephanie.
"I can do it," she volunteered, crossed her legs, and collected Erela's hair into her small hands. Erela chuckled under her breath and turned away from the five-year-old to get a better grasp of her work. Her tugging was gentle, her hair feeling soft and weak as it twisted one bundle after another. The metamorphmagus would probably do a better job making a braid than Erela would, her lack of practice being her sworn enemy. "How come it's long now?" the little girl asked.
Erela shrugged. "I got bored of having short hair. Kind of missed playing with it," she smiled.
"Can I put clips in it?"
"If you don't mind me borrowing them for a little while."
"I'll go find them after I finish this," Stephanie answered in an excited tone and pulled at Erela's hair a little more tightly. Laila eventually came into the room and found her friend and her daughter on the couch. She didn't say anything, but Erela knew she was there. Stephanie hummed a little tune, slowly finishing up the messy braid. "Do you have a rubber band?" the five-year-old asked.
"Yes, I do," Erela answered and pulled at a rubberband around her wrist before handing it to the little girl. Stephanie took the band from her and twisted it around the end of the braid. "We're just about done. Stephanie is going to add some clips," she informed Laila.
"Alright," she answered as Stephanie hopped off the couch and scurried up the stairs to her room.
Erela turned around to face Laila, her face looking solemn. She pursed her lips at the sight of her friend, knowing very little of what it was like to lose a loved one and knowing they would never come back. Breaking up with someone had nothing on death. Erela had no words to comfort her, probably didn't have to. Or maybe because she didn't know how to. Erela brushed her hair behind her ear and rest her chin onto her knee, "Stacee has to be proud of you for raising Stephanie the way you are."
The sandy blonde woman dropped her head, her eyes shadowed behind her eyelashes. Stephanie turned out beautifully and Laila hadn't thrown herself into something reckless or stupid. Laila didn't say anything, didn't agree or disagree on what Erela said. Stephanie came back downstairs with a small handful of plastic flower and bow clips and started to snap them into Erela's braid. That was when she spot a smile from Laila. Erela smiled as well at the little girl having some difficulty keeping the clips in certain places. Then the metamorphmagus girl added the fifth clip, and she was done.
"How does it look?" Erela asked.
"Your hair is all colorful now," she smiled.
"I bet. I bet it's as pretty as your hair," Erela complimented. Stephanie giggled as the woman stood up and took a jacket from the armchair. She looked over at Laila, receiving a nod from the other woman. "You're all ready too?" she asked.
"Yep," Laila nodded and put a thin jacket on Stephanie.
Erela took in a deep breath as she took a few steps toward the other woman. She placed her hand onto her shoulder, Laila's hand over her daughter's, and they were gone. With a loud snap, everything went dark and the wind whipped around all of them. The scenery changed around her, tombstones laid around them. The sun was out and flowers bloomed in the trees, Erela didn't even realize that it was spring already. It was nearly the anniversary of the tragedy . . .
Laila began to move, knowing exactly where to go and Stephanie followed. Erela hadn't been to the cemetery since the funeral; she just couldn't go before with the werewolf's last words from five years ago etched in her. With the blame being lifted after all those years, she was finally able to go back. Even with another heavy guilt on her shoulders. Erela's eyes fell on the grass, noticing tiny daisies sprouting in the grass. How did winter come and go so fast? How long had it been spring?
They stopped a few feet away from a stone slab, Erela looked past them and read Stacee's name. She pursed her lips and looked away to study the trees a few feet from them. "Hey, Stacee." Oh, crap. She was actually talking to it too. Erela pursed her lips and took in a quiet deep breath, feeling greatly uncomfortable with the situation and shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket. She turned onto the balls of her feet and pivoted away from them. Erela gave Laila and Stephanie some privacy to talk to the slab of stone with a carving of Stacee's name. He was their family after all and she was just a friend she was barely close to. She walked away from them and around other tombstones of the graveyard, Laila's voice grew quieter but never disappeared.
She wasn't over it yet. Not even close. The words of his death being her fault reappeared in her head and opened up old wounds. It wasn't her fault . . . it wasn't her fault . . . he was already the target before any of it happened. She did what she could to help stop losing their friend. Erela did what she could.
The tall woman turned back to face Laila and Stephanie's back, took in deep breaths as she watched them talk to name. She pursed her lips when she heard another pair of feet walk over the grass behind them. Erela didn't think too much of it and watched her friend and her child. "What are you doing all the way over here?"
She took in a deep breath to calm her rapidly beating heart and looked over her shoulder at the freckled man. She exhaled a breath and looked back toward their direction again. "Giving them privacy to talk to Stacee," she answered.
He nodded and stayed quiet. What was he doing there? Did he always go to visit? He mustn't have known they would be there too since neither Laila or Landon knew what was going on with each other. Erela peeked up at him again, purple bags ran deep under his eyes. It had been days since the full moon, he still looked like he hadn't slept since before the week of the transformation. Erela looked away from him to stare at the tombstones ahead of them. "You grew your hair back," Landon commented.
She nodded. "Yeah."
"It looks good."
Erela pursed her lips and dropped her eyes for a moment, then went back up to Stacee's tombstone. "Thanks."
"The bow and flower clips are a bit much though."
She lightly smiled and pulled her hands out of her pockets. "It was Stephanie's idea."
"And you let her . . ." Landon answered. "Didn't take you for a kid person."
Erela dropped her small smile. "Well . . ." Erela began with a shrug, "I grew into the 'aunt' role. Took me a while, but I got the hang of it the same time Laila got used to the mom role." It was awkward holding Stephanie when she was just born and Erela had to learn not to be completely stone-faced around the little one so she didn't think she was disliked. Erela looked back up at the man again, then looked away as casually as she could. "You look like crap."
Landon scoffed. "Least you're being honest."
Laila turned around with Stephanie holding her hand. Her puffy red eyes fell on Erela and an additional figure standing beside her. When she grew closer and recognized the scruff man, Laila didn't know what to say. Scold Erela? Say 'hi' to Landon again. Erela couldn't read her. Stephanie looked at Landon curiously, long enough for Laila to notice and snap out of her awestruck stare. "Stephanie, this is Landon. He was . . . Your daddy's best friend when we were all in school together."
Just hearing her call Landon the best friend made all the memories flood back into Erela's mind. The days that Landon wrestled Stacee, the study groups, small double dates at Hogsmeade, the metamorphmagus catching Landon (and occasionally Erela) from a midnight snack raid in the castle kitchen, going into the Forbidden Forest to ready themselves for the full moon night, even Stacee's announcement that he proposed to Laila. It all came back, feeling like they all happened yesterday. Erela had to look at Stephanie to remind her how long it had been since any of them had last seen the missing piece of the gang.
Landon's lips curled into a short smile, a nod, and walked away from the two. Just from the look in his eyes, Erela saw him holding in pain. His best friend's child and he didn't know how to react. Her eyes followed the man as he grew closer to the tombstone when she dropped them to Stephanie and knelt down. "I'll see you later, Steph. I have to go right after this," she shared.
"What? Why? Where are you going?" the little girl asked.
Laila jumped in after wiping away her tears, "Erela is looking for a place to stay."
"But she can live with us."
Erela shook her head. "I can't, sweetheart. I don't want to invade your space or your mother's. I'll come visit from time to time. I promise."
Stephanie stared at her with sad eyes, she looked hurt knowing Erela was going somewhere else. The tiny metamorphmagus took a step closer to the woman and hugged her tight. Stephanie nuzzled her head into Erela's neck. "Come back soon."
"I will, dear," Erela agreed and pat the girl's gold hair. "Be good to your mom," she added.
Stephanie nodded and let go. Erela took the clips out of her braid, putting each clip in Stephanie's hand one by one before Erela stood up and Laila embraced her just as strongly as her daughter. "Take care," she sighed.
The woman silently nodded and they released one another the same time. Laila and Stephanie were the first to go, and then they were gone within a loud snap. Erela let out a sigh and looked up at Landon before Stacee's name. She pursed her lips as she came toward the stone slab and the werewolf, stopping just beside Landon.
The three of them again. And it didn't felt right; not one bit.
Landon stayed quiet for a while, Erela knew that he was talking to Stacee too without saying them out loud. It made her more comfortable and gave her the chance to 'speak' to Stacee as well without the stupid phobia of anyone judging her for talking to a piece of stone. Erela brushed the bangs from her face when Landon asked, "Any reason why your shit is in my place?"
Erela let out a sigh. "I'm thinking of getting out of here. I'll pick up my stuff right after this," she informed him. Just keep it short and simple. She took in a deep breath, let out one short huff and turned away from Stacee's tombstone. Just a few more seconds of the werewolf's unhealthy negative energy would send her into an annoyed spiral that she knew would end in them arguing if they poked and prodded at each other.
"See you later, buddy," she heard him mutter to the piece of stone before he went after her. Why did he keep so close to her? He made it clear he didn't care for her since running into each other the first time in five years. The unwelcomed energy he always had hovering over his head made that perfectly clear. Landon didn't want her around, yet there he was by her side. Like a literal dog.
"Why are you following me?" Erela asked.
"I'm not," he responded in an annoyed tone. "You're going to my flat anyway. Can't really avoid me as much as you want right now."
"I—" but Erela stopped herself. What could she even say? That she wanted to in order to avoid them fighting. It was unavoidable, of course. There was always something to say to each other. "Never mind."
"Wow, loss for words. That's surprising."
"If you're mad at me, I already get enough of that with Laila. I get it."
"Do you now?" he questioned. God, he was always mad at her. Like, her sole purpose was for him to be mad at someone. "Because-"
"Would you PLEASE—" Erela began and spun to face him, her feet planted firmly into the ground and her eyes hard in a glare, "SHUT it!" she hissed. "I'm tired. You're tired. For ONCE, can we not talk to each other without being on each others' case or putting words in each others' mouths?" Was it so much to ask?
Landon stared back at her, his eyes as hard as hers. He let out an exasperated sigh and looked away from her. FINALLY. Erela let out a breath as well before she turned away from him, took a few steps forward, and disappeared. The werewolf's flat took shape around her and she immediately went to her stuff to shove in her bag. Boxes easily getting into her small bag like she kept a black hole in her purse. The werewolf reappeared behind her. She swallowed back her bitter words that wanted to bubble out of her throat and kept on packing her things while her cat meowed at her feet.
"You're . . . Really thinking of moving somewhere," he commented quietly.
"Yeah . . ." Erela responded.
The werewolf didn't say anything for a while, only the sound of the boxes falling into her black hole purse and the cat meowing could be heard. "You think you can hold up on that for a bit?" Landon asked. She turned toward him, curious but cautious on what he wanted. "I have a favor to ask of you."