Kallima drummed her fingers on her boxes as Sable swung her feet. The gargoyle sat on her trunk, watching as Jasmine’s things vanished from the room on the backs of imps and scratching thoughtlessly at one of the pink pocks on her arm. Kallima sighed.
“The irony here is suffocating.”
“What do you mean?” the itching teen asked.
“I mean,” Kallima said, “that in August, I was terrified of coming here and couldn’t wait to go home. Now, I... I am home here.”
“Well, you’re a fae. You, like, belong here,” Sable pointed out.
A knock at the door drew the two girls’ attention to the door, where Ignatius, Shay, and Acacia stood. Shay shook out his brown hair and waved at the girls. Sable clawed at the back of her neck, skin and clay flaking off under her nails.
“I heard you wanted to see us?” Shay asked.
Kallima jumped out of her seat and towards the closet.
“I almost forgot!” she said. “I got you presents!”
“Presents?” Acacia questioned.
The gargoyle nodded and said, “She got everyone Chrissy Miss presents. She already, like, gave me mine.”
“Christmas,” Kallima corrected, reappearing with three trinkets wrapped in red paper. “This one is for Case.”
Acacia ripped open her present and tore the lid off the hat box. She cooed over the beach hat inside, running her fingers along the fake yellow carnation attached.
“It’s beautiful. Thank you,” she said and put the hat on.
To Shay, Kallima passed a small jewelry box that she had decorated in the same red paper. Curious, the boy flicked it open.
“Oh, no no no no,” he laughed nervously. “I am not t-taking this.”
“Come on, Shay,” Kallima said. “I can’t take it to the Mortal Realm with me, and you’re the only one I know who can take care of it.”
“What about Ig? He’s a fire fae,” Shay groaned.
“I’m going to Orphanage. They won’t let me keep it,” said Ignatius.
Kallima said, “It’s safest with you. Sable doesn’t have time or energy, and Case isn’t safe with it around.”
“So I’m stuck with the phoenix egg?” Shay whined, picking the tiny stone from the box. “Not really a present, is it? More of a burden.”
“A little birdie told me,” Kallima said, “that your dad is a lord. I think this little one might teach you some humility and how to take care of people.”
“So... It’s not a gift?” he asked.
Kallima said, “It’s a pet and a friend. It won’t be any more burden than Sable.”
“Sable’s not a burden,” the spirit fae snapped.
“Neither is this,” Kallima assured him.
“What the fuck are you all talking about?”
Sable leapt at the voice and scrambled to pick up her things. The other four teens turned to stare up at an olive-skinned man with electric blue eyes. Kallima shivered at the murderous glare directed towards her roommate.
“Damn it, Sable, I told you to have this shit ready!” he snarled.
The crackle of stone covered most of the hurried mutters the girl gushed. The man huffed and pushed his black hair out of his eyes. Then he snatched one of the boxes away from the quivering gargoyle.
“I don’t know how you have so much shit,” he rumbled. “It’s not like you need any of it. Useless junk like you.”
Kallima blurted, “She got an A in gymnasium, y- sir.”
Sable whimpered and stepped closer to the dark man snarling at her.
“It’s nothing, Gavin,” the stone girl said. “Just, like, a fluke in the grading. I- I didn’t really earn it.”
“‘Didn’t really earn it?’” he snarled. Then he said, “Oh, you fucking whore...”
“No, sir. I didn’t-!”
“Bullshit. And you,” he growled, pointing at Kallima, “keep out of it. She’s not your problem. She’s mine. Move it, you little slut.”
Gavin pushed his charge out the door, kicking her trunk into her heels with each step. Kallima growled, and Ignatius and Shay each grabbed one of her arms.
“Don’t, Kali,” the tutor said. “You’ll only make things worse for her.”
Kallima grumbled, dropping her fists, and said, “No wonder she’s so messed up.”
“Can you imagine?” Acacia asked, sitting down on Jasmine’s bed. “If someone you should be able to trust belittled you like that every day?”
“Forced you to lie to your friends,” Ignatius added.
“Kept you from doing the things you wanted to,” Shay said.
“Made you believe you were something you weren’t,” Kallima whispered.
The four children shivered, knowing well that they were not talking only about Sable yet silently agreeing that she had the worst of it. Kallima cleared her throat.
“This- this is for Iggy,” she said as she passed him the last wrapped gift.
The golden-haired tutor thanked her and began pulling the paper off. Inside, the gold bud of a lotus waited, a key on a tiny golden chain wrapped around it. The boy laughed softly and took the key, inserting it into a thin slot and winding it. When the key refused to turn anymore, he released it.
The flower’s petals opened, revealing a small recorder inside that began to play. Shay and Acacia pressed against the senior for a better look at the images.
A bright orange koi fish jumped cheerfully then began swimming against a long current. When it reached a waterfall, the waters pushed it back, but it fought its way up the raging waters. It finally arrived at the top, where it leapt from the waters in triumph. A bright glow enveloped the little fish, growing stronger and stronger until the fish vanished. In its place, a dragon very similar to Blaze appeared in the recorder, flying over the waters and into the heavens. As the teens watched, the image faded, and the lotus closed up again. Ignatius wiped his damp, green eyes with a smile.
“I got an A in Alchemy,” Kallima said. “Maimu thought it was brilliant.”
“I-it is. I love it,” Ignatius said, throwing his arms around the dream fae. “I- I don’t-”
“It’s okay. I know you guys don’t have Christmas.”
The small senior backed away, shaking his head, and said, “Sable told me you were doing this, so I did some research on it. We, ah, we actually all pitched in and got a little something for you, too.”
Shay removed his backpack and pulled a paper sack from it. Kallima opened it quickly. Inside, a jar held a tiny blue-green flame, which bobbed around, unaffected by the lack of air.
“Wow, it’s beautiful! What is it?” the fiery-haired girl asked.
“It’s a fetch light,” Shay said.
“A will o’ wisp. You said you had a rough Hallowtide break, and a lot of people say that they help,” Ignatius said. “Just keep it in the jar, okay?
Acacia snickered, “Preferably away from your ‘family.’”
“You guys... oh!” Kallima said.
She grabbed Acacia and Shay and pulled them to her, pressing their cheeks against hers and smiling widely.
“You’re amazing,” she said. “Thank you so, so much.”
Then she turned her attention to Ignatius and hugged him tightly to her chest. His ever-warm body relaxed her until she leaned into him, ducking her mouth to his ear.
“You guys are the best,” she hummed.
“You going to be alright until break’s over?” Ignatius asked, breathing heat on her neck.
Kallima pulled back, her grey eyes brighter than they had been all year.
“I’ll be fine,” she said.
Ignatius held up the lotus to her and said, “Could- could you keep this safe for me? I don’t want anyone at Orphanage to take it away.”
Shay and Acacia chuckled and slipped out of the room. The dryad waved back at Kallima and winked suggestively. With a sigh, Kallima took the artificial bud away and set it on her desk. Then she plucked the key from what she affectionately termed a ‘light box’ and hooked it around the short senior’s neck with a smile. The boy thanked her, blushing furiously, and wrung his hands. Just to torment him further, Kallima planted a soft kiss on Ignatius’ forehead. The golden-haired boy gasped and drew quickly back, rubbing his head and tugging an ear.
“W-why did you do that?′ he stammered.
Kallima ruffled his hair and said, “For good luck over break. You could use it.”
“For heaven’s sake. I’m not a child. I’m tw- uh...”
“You’re twah?” Kallima asked.
“Two, not twah. Two years older than you,” Ignatius back-peddled, pulling both of his ears harshly. “Two and a half, actually. I’m a senior, okay? Don’t treat me like a baby.”
“When you stop acting like a baby, Iggy,” Kallima grinned, “I’ll stop treating you like one. Be strong this winter, all right?”
“Alright,” Ignatius said, still flushed and fearful.
“I wasn’t flirting,” she clarified.
Ignatius blubbered, “N-no, no. Of course not! We’re from two different worlds. It’s-”
“Desperate. And juvenile.”
“Yeah. You should be more careful, though. About the men you place your lips on.”
Kallima’s face scrunched up in thought, trying to remember who had said that to her, because she was certain Ignatius was not the first. The golden boy, though, cleared his throat.
“But, um… have a good break, Kali.”
Ignatius extended one hand to the dream fae, who laughed and embraced him once more. The stiff and awkward boy’s hair rubbed her cheek with a texture a bit like grass.
“Have a good break, Iggy.”
The senior smiled, returned the hug briefly, and backed out of the room with one last wave. Kallima breathed a sigh of relief. As she sat down on Sable’s bed and waited for nightfall, the faint, delicious scent of terror floated up from the mattress.
And something made her certain that the smell would follow her for the rest of her life.