In the morning, Kallima pulled a sixth chair to her group’s table, but it remained empty. When asked about it, she shrugged.
“I did what you said,” she told Shay. “‘If you get Iggy, ask if he’ll help you with your other courses.’”
“You invited him to our table?” Gabriel shrieked.
Kallima huffed, saying, “He seems fine to me.”
“He’s a freak,” the older boy said, his translucent wings fluttering angrily behind him. “He’s crazy. He’s so quiet, then out of nowhere, he’ll rip your face off!”
“What!” Kallima squealed.
Between the thought of a murderous teacher and Kallima’s high pitch, Sable whimpered and hardened with a series of pops. Kallima sighed and pat the stony girl’s hand in an attempt to calm her down. Then the redhead glared at Gabriel.
“Okay, that only happened once,” the sylph admitted, “and the kid kind of had it coming to him. But still! He’s scary, Kali. I don’t like the idea of him sitting with us. He might scare you away from Evendial.”
“I don’t know,” Shay said. “Kali needs the help, and I heard that Ig’s a genius…”
“He is, but he’s insane, too. I don’t know why, but he’s always got this weird grin going on…,” Gabriel said.
“He seems all right to me,” Kallima repeated. “And I already invited him. It would be rude to take that back.”
Also, she had no plans to find out if the withdrawal of the offer would anger the tutor.
Gymnasium was easy for Kallima, as long as she avoided the Nobles. She and Shay helped Sable with her flexibility, which they quickly found to be nearly impossible. Sable, though, shook it off, asking what they expected from a brick. Kallima growled at the comment, but managed to subdue the urge to walk straight up to Reginald and pummel him. Marcus was nowhere to be seen the entire class, and Acacia busied herself trying out different staffs before settling on one two-and-a-half meters long.
In alchemy, Kallima kept her head down and tried to avoid the teacher’s notice. Miss Maimu, a raven-haired woman with the bottom half of a large, red and black snake that Sable called a naga, hissed slowly through her lecture, stopping often to allow student questions. Kallima shook her head every time the woman’s eyes rested on her, which they did during every pause. Everyone else knew about the basics, and Kallima refused to slow the entire class down because of her ignorance. Still, she wished she knew what was going on.
The red-haired teen became another person in math, like it was a foreign language in which she was already fluent. When Mr. Clay called on her, twice, she knew the answers, giving her a confidence that she lacked in her other courses.
“Do you really think Ig’s as bad as Gabe says?” Shay asked as they headed to lunch.
“No idea,” Kallima told him. “He seems nice enough to me. And Miss Flores likes him.”
“Miss Flores is nice to everyone, Kali.”
“He probably won’t even come to lunch, Shay,” Kallima said. “He wasn’t at breakfast, and I’d never seen him before yesterday.”
“He ripped a kid’s face off...”
“I’m pretty sure Gabriel was just exaggerating.”
“Uh-uh! I remember Andrew came home for break a couple years back and told Dad that one of the new kids had put another student in a coma! He didn’t say it was the genius who was testing out of most of his classes, though.”
“It probably wasn’t, then. People get caught up, Shay, and they make things up. I’d bet the other guy is just fine now. And like I said, I think he’ll stay up in his room.”
When the pair entered the dining hall, though, they discovered that Kallima was absolutely, dead wrong. In the corner table, where their group always sat, a golden-haired boy sat as far as he could from any of the other students. He curled over his food with the same calm smile he wore the prior night and ate, peeling strings of meat apart with sharp nails. As though sensing her arrival, the tutor glanced up at Kallima. His smile widened, and Kallima shivered but smiled kindly in return before filling her tray.
“You were saying?” Shay sneered.
Then he left to sit across from the strange senior. Almost instantly, Sable appeared at Kallima’s elbow and stared up at the redhead fearfully.
“I heard that guy is, like, bad news,” Sable said. “Are you sure-?”
“It’s going to be fine, Say.”
“If you say so...”
Kallima rolled her eyes and added a biscotti to her plate. Then the two girls joined Shay and Ignatius.
“Fire fae?” Shay asked
“Your aura’s off. It’s not quite like a fire fae’s...”
“Well,” Ignatius said, pulling on his left ear, “I’ve got a lot of history. I have dabbled in wizardry, but I’m not as good as Merlin.”
“You’re related to Merlin?”
“He’s my dad’s great-grandfather.”
Acacia slipped next to Shay, set a plate before him, and waited. Shay thanked her, and she left to get her own food. Ignatius’ eyes narrowed at Shay as he thought.
Shay hummed and nodded, saying, “That could be it. What about your mom?”
“Mother passed,” Ignatius said sadly, tugging harder on his ear again, “when I was born. I never knew her.”
“So even as a baby, you were killing people?” Gabriel said as he sat next to Kallima, who smacked his arm.
“Why would you say that?” Kallima hissed viciously. “It’s not his fault!”
Gabriel stared at the fiery girl and rubbed his arm.
“I just meant-”
“He was a baby! If that other boy said something like that, I would pummeled him, too!”
A sharp squeak emanated from the corner. Kallima half expected to see Sable crackling in terror, but the sound cam from Ignatius. The golden boy looked white as marble except for his ears, which turned red under his tugging fingers. His green eyes clenched shut tightly.
“Please,” he whispered, “I don’t... I don’t know how else to say ‘I’m sorry.’”
Silently, Sable reach over and pat his arm gently. Acacia finally joined her friends then.
“So you’ll be tutoring our girl, Kali here, Ig?” she asked cheerfully, oblivious to the dense, melancholy air hanging over the table.
“Oh. Yeah,” Ignatius said, his grin returning. “She’s pretty clever. She’ll be a proper Evendalan in no time.”
“I dunno,” Gabriel said, rubbing his arm again with a smirk. “I think she’ll be spitting on princes and slugging lords for the rest of her life.”
“I hope you’re wrong. For Satudotter’s sake.”
Kallima nodded and said, “I don’t want to get in any more trouble.”
“Yeah, I don’t believe that for a second,” Gabriel whispered, sliding a hand onto Kallima’s knee and making her blush an intense red. “Are you still planning to leave us?”
“I don’t know yet,” Kallima whispered, pulling her leg away from the sylph’s grip. “I don’t think so, though.”
“Alright, fine! You don’t believe me,” Ignatius laughed. “I’m a gambler. I’ll make a wager with you.”
Shay raised a brow in interest.
“A wager?” he asked.
“If you win, I’ll tell you what happened to my mother.”
Shay said, “And if I lose?”
“If you lose,” Ignatius said, smiling evilly, “I get your lucky copper.”
Shay paled and covered his jacket pocket with one hand, eyes wide.
“Ha- how did you-?”
“Ah ah ah,” Ignatius said. “I’ll only answer yes or no. You have until the end of lunch.”
“But what’s the wager?”
“That is the wager,” the gold boy said. “How did I know you keep a lucky copper piece in your pocket?”
Shay stared at the boy and began to think. Kallima nudged Sable with her elbow.
“Well, there went my homework,” she joked.
Sable chuckled softly. Gabriel frowned.
“Here, get out your alchemy,” he said. “I’ll help.”
Kallima finished most of her food and got her alchemy notebook out. Gabriel tried to explain how the runes for power, soul, and energy were all different, but Kallima shook her head in defeat with every new attempt. Finally, the sylph took her pencil away and began drawing on her paper.
“Look, it’s really simple,” Gabriel sighed, sketching out a sun and a tree. “Imagine that you’re the sun. Soul is the fire in the core, driving the sun to burn. Energy is let out in the form of light, but it still has traces of fire in it. That’s how you get sunburn.”
“Alright, but what about power?”
“Power is the amount of light. How strong the energy is. If the sun overpowers the tree, it dries up. If it’s too weak, the tree starves.”
Kallima sighed, “That’s stupid. If all you need is energy at a certain power level, why bother with soul at all?”
“Remember what I said about traces of fire? When you impart energy, you risk it taking bits of your soul, too.”
“That sounds bad.”
“Very bad. You’d lose your sense of self, morals, memory, personality, maybe even your voice if you do it too much. And the power source,” Gabriel said, “could take on those traits. That’s how items become cursed. They have these messed-up souls that don’t function right.”
“Bloody hell. I don’t want to mess with that!”
“So you use the soul rune to keep your energy pure. It weeds out the soul and pushes it back into your body while letting your energy pass through,” Gabriel told her.
Kallima picked up her cookie, and said, “That’s what she meant by keeping yourself together? Not to lose part of your soul?”
“Yeah, now you’ve got it.”
“So you use the runes that draw out power,” she repeated, “and push away spirit.”
Kallima grinned, finally understanding how power, energy, and spirit were all different marks. Triumphant, she thanked Gabriel and took a bite of her tough biscuit.
The hard dough scratched her throat as she swallowed. All the moisture in her mouth vanished as she gasped for air and coughed. Ignatius jumped onto the table and grabbed the remainder of the biscuit from her.
“Lemon. Go! Get her to Anna!” he said.
“Kali, you idiot!” Shay screamed, jumping up from his own chair.
Gabriel ripped Kallima from her seat and carried her out of the room, running as the girl choked and wheezed and clawed at her neck. Her throat felt like something was caught in her throat, but she could neither swallow it nor cough it up. Gabriel slammed through a door and into a white room.
“Nurse Anna! Help!” he called.
Kallima’s eyes rolled up as lack of oxygen made it hard for her to stay awake. She felt something soft under her head, heard frenzied, garbled muttering, saw a pale blue figure. A sudden pinch on her thigh made her flinch, but her senses began to shut down afterwards. Then her whole body went limp, and the world blackened.
“-she eat again?”
“Lemon almond biscotti. We didn’t know she was allergic.”
“And she’s the one who put it on her plate?”
Kallima grunted agreement from her bed. Her chest still felt tight, but breathing came easy again. Her neck itched, and her eyelids felt heavy as bricks. She reached up to rub the weight from her eyes and stretch as her friends’ voices came closer to her.
“You’ll be okay, Kali,” Gabe said smoothly as he pet her hair. “Nurse Anna’s the best. You’re gonna be fine now.”
“You’re lucky she keeps anti-allergen on hand,” Shay’s voice added.
“Bunidon ’ave an allergy,” Kallima grumbled.
“Sometimes they develop over time. You had a purty extreme reaction. That almond lemon biscotti near kilt you,” a dark-skinned woman in simple, pale blue garb said. “Back away, now. Giver some air.”
Kallima blinked confusion from her eyes as the nurse squeezed past Gabriel, Sable, Shay, and Acacia to get to the redhead. She helped Kallima sit up and made her lift her chin. The medical ward was a bit small, and Kallima in one of a dozen hospital beds crammed into the room. The nurse herself was pudgy, but Kallima would not quite call her fat.
“Hm. That’s a slow fade, but they goin’ down,” she said. “You gonna be fine, darling. But you need a be mo’ careful, Miss Kali. At least try ‘n’ avoid yo allergies.”
“Sorry,” Kallima whispered.
“I’ll git you some anti-allergen, jus’ in case. But try a be more careful, a’right?”
“Can we, like, take her back?” Sable asked. “Like, to her room?”
The nurse nodded, filling a syringe with a thick, yellow-green liquid and putting a stopper on it. Sable and Gabriel helped Kallima stand up, and Anna gave her the needle.
“Just in case,” she whispered, giving Kallima’s shoulder a soft pat.
Kallima thanked her and, holding tightly to Gabriel’ shoulder, wobbled out of the medical ward. The group crossed the courtyard in silence. Once they were inside again, Kallima decided that she had to ask.
“I’m allergic to nuts?”
Gabriel shook his head, and Shay said, “No, that’s just what we’re telling people.”
“Lemon, Kali,” Acacia said. “You’re allergic to lemon.”
“And other citrus,” Gabriel added.
“Cit-? Why are we saying ‘nuts’ if I’m allergic to citrus?”
“Know what fae are allergic to lemon?” Gabriel asked softly. When Kallima shook her head, he answered, “Only two. Changelings and dream fae.”
Kallima bit her lip, then said, “But some humans are, too. And I’m half human, so-”
A laugh sent a shiver up Kallima’s spine, and her companions shuddered at the noise as well. Ignatius, who had been sitting near the door to the freshman girls’ lobby, rose, his mouth twisted into a condescending smirk.
“Half human? No,” he said, still chuckling. “You’re no more human than I am pixie, Satudotter, and you know it.”
Kallima’s knees buckled. Ever since she learned that dream fae rarely followed hereditary lines, she had clung to the thought that her power was a fluke, that Havard was her father, as though a life preserver. Ignatius kept talking, oblivious to her internal struggle.
“Satu was no idiot, after all. She obviously knew you were a dream fae. I mean, you’re clearly not a changeling. But I don’t feel like you have a dream fae’s energy. So you must have an amulet of binding. And if you have an amulet of binding, it’s because she got it for you. And if she got it for you, she knew. No one saw her after you were born, so she knew before you were born. Before she left the Faerie Realm. Your father is a fae, Satudotter, and a powerful one, if you’re still putting out energy even with the amulet. You’re no half-blood,” the golden boy said, his eyes glittering in sadistic delight.
Kallima, who hit her knees when the boy insisted that her father was a fae, screamed at the senior, “No! No, you’re wrong! Havard is my dad!”
“No, he’s not,” Ignatius said calmly, though his smile vanished. “You know he’s not.”
“Shut up!” Kallima sobbed. “He is! He is…”
A gentle heat warmed Kallima’s cheeks and lifted her chin. Ignatius held her face in his hot hands and locked her eyes in his.
“It’s okay,” the senior said. “I’m not taking away what he’s done for you. You can still call him ‘Dad.’ But I’ll need to meet with you more often. I want you to get your homework done by Friday, okay? Do you under- oof!”
Ignatius coughed and clutched his stomach as Kallima withdrew her fist from his gut. Before she could do anything else, Gabriel grabbed the fire fae’s shoulders and slammed him into a wall. The door to the girl’s lobby flew open as a good dozen or so freshmen poured into the hall to see what was causing such a ruckus.
“You don’t touch her,” Gabriel snarled. “You don’t ever insult her like that again, or I will kill you! Got it?”
“She hit me!”
“I don’t care. If she hits you, you shake it off. If I so much as think you upset her, I will pummel you. Am I clear?”
“Get outta here,” Gabriel hissed, dropping the golden boy.
Ignatius obeyed, scurrying away with no more than an apologetic glance towards Kallima, who sighed.
“Wait,” she said.
Ignatius froze in his tracks. Kallima rose shakily and whispered to Shay.
“Go make sure he- he doesn’t tell anyone,” she said. “I don’t want- want people knowing yet. What I am.”
Shay turned to Ignatius, took his arm, and walked away with him, speaking lowly to the fire fae. Kallima turned at a tug on her arm. Sable meekly pulled Kallima back to their room. Acacia, Gabriel, and Jasmine followed her. Kallima sat, exhausted, at one of the desks and let the syringe fall to the surface where she started rolling it between her hands. Sable snuggled into her bed, wrapping herself around her beacon. Jasmine leaned against her own bunk with a huff as Gabriel took a seat on top of the desk and laid a hand on Kallima’s, holding it still gently.
“I am so sorry, Kali. We should have warned you,” he whispered.
“What happened?” Jasmine asked. “The whole school is worried. We thought you just choked, but then you never showed up to class, so-.”
“I missed class?”
“Yeah, it’s almost dinner time, Kali,” the werewolf chuckled. “What did you do?”
“I- I have a… a nut allergy,” Kallima said, clearly uncomfortable with the lie.
Jasmine seemed to sense the unease and, with a raised brow, asked, “And you just forgot that? That you have an allergy?”
“I wasn’t before. Anna says some allergies can surface as you age, so-.”
“So you just had a serious allergic reaction to something I’ve seen you eat all the time?”
The werewolf rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in defeat, saying, “Fine. Allergic to nuts, then. I’ll let everyone know you’re okay.”
Kallima sighed in relief when Jasmine left the room. Gabriel, though, drew Kallima’s attention back to him.
“You’ve never had lemon before, have you?” he asked.
“No, Mum never used it when she cooked,” Kallima said. “She said it was bad for me.”
“No, she,” Kallima furrowed her brow as she spoke, “she knew. Iggy’s right. She knew what I was, didn’t she?”
Kallima pulled away from Gabriel and dug for the letter she had hidden in her dresser.
“‘You need to be safe. You need to be careful,’” she read to her company. “‘Don’t draw the Nobles’ eyes.′ That’s what she wrote. That’s… Damn it, Mum!”
The fiery girl ripped the paper in half and balled the pieces up, spiking the wad on the floor before grabbing her own hair with a growl.
“Hey hey hey,” her elder said, pushing her hands down. “It’s not that bad. Give it time. Things will turn up.”
“I don’t like this! Why do I have to hide? I hid in the Mortal Realm; now I have to hide in this world,” she said. “I’m a freak among freaks!”
Sable breathed, “Jerk.”
Kallima muttered apologies as Gabriel pulled her to her feet and into a tight embrace. The girl’s face turned red enough to match her vivid hair. She glanced back at Sable, who smirked painfully at her roommate.
“You’ll be alright,” the sylph whispered to her. “I’ll keep you safe.”
Kallima breathed out and allowed her arms to wrap around Gabriel, returning his hug.
“Thank you, Gabriel.”
“Sable, could you-?”
The gargoyle was out the door before he could finish the question. Gabriel sat down on Sable’s bed and pulled Kallima onto his lap.
“Sh… I’m gonna take care of you.”
The sylph kissed Kallima’s cheek then her lips. As her lips brushed Gabriel’s, Kallima sighed, melting into the kiss. Her arms snaked their way up around his neck and pulled him closer. Then he pressed his forehead to hers, and Kallima bit her lip nervously.
“Would you like to- to maybe go on a date with me on Saturday?” Gabriel asked.
Kallima rubbed the back of her neck, her face turning the same color as her hair.
“I… I’d like that.”
Gabriel’s smile widened. Then he closed his eyes and pulled Kallima’s face to his again for more sweet, soft kisses.