Royal Arcanum (Book 1 of Royal Arcanum Series)

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Chapter 5. Inexplicable Mystery

Friday was the exuberant day for her to go to school, where Art class was the first thing in the morning.

Cathy smudged her sketch once again, but the scratch looked disturbing. She drew the wrong line that it turned grotesque.

“Miss Charlotte?”

She stared up to meet Mrs. Garcia’s blue eyes. “Pardon?”

“You haven’t answered my question. What’s wrong, my dear?”

Mrs. Garcia was an old woman with a short gray hair. She wore a pearl necklace and vintage suit. As a matter of fact, Cathy was her favorite student.

Cathy didn’t pay attention when the teacher had been standing for a minute in front of her table.

Mrs. Garcia kept smiling, and at the time, she gazed at her sketch paper. “What have come into your mind to draw such beautiful angel wings?”

“I don’t know,” Cathy murmured and shrugged. “The idea just came from nowhere. I think—angel is a beautiful creature.”

“Oh, child,” she caressed her back and sat down beside her. “Have you heard the story about angel and demon?”

“Their legend?” Cathy was instantly perplexed at the sudden question. “It’s written in any holy books, angel guides us to heaven, demon to hell.”

“Demon was fallen angel—part of it,” Mrs. Garcia chuckled for herself. “Well, I read books these days.”

But suddenly, a skinny boy came abruptly to the teacher, astonishing everyone in the class.

“Teacher, do you think a fellow student from another class is allowed to pick a fight?” And then he whispered to her ear, “In front of our class.”

Her eyes bulged out as she walked hurriedly to see the view in the corridor. The teacher found Scott as the real troublemaker in this peaceful school. It turned out that he was fighting with Jordan Wagner this time. However, Cathy remembered his father was a police that she met yesterday at the party.

Josh patted her shoulder from behind. “Seriously?”

“What?” She blinked out, bewildered.

“Your sketch is amazing, I should hang this on my bedroom wall,” he said and giggled.

As he sat beside her, she responded concurrently, “Oh, shut up.”

“There was nothing wrong at the party, right?” He squinted at her.

“Yeah, that new detective—her eyes,” Cathy wasn’t sure about it, “there’s something not right.”

“What do you mean?”

“My mom seems to know something about Detective Chantel Herron. She was being defensive against her yesterday.”

“Does your mom know her?”

She shook her head. “My mom never does the social thing with anyone, except with your grandmother. She’s introvert like me, but her manner was unusual yesterday,” she paused for a moment before telling him something. “Anyway, I’ve given a thought about the detective’s last name.”

“Herron?” He rubbed his chin, thinking. “Don’t you think her surname sounds familiar with Scott the badass, you know, the one who’s causing a big uproar in the corridor?”

Cathy nodded agreed. “That’s what I thought. I want to ask him about it.”

“I don’t get it, maybe this time a thunder hit your head, huh?” He looked at her in annoyance.

She got annoyed too. “What’s your problem?”

“I saw you talked to him in Biology class like the air was a dangerous possession between you two. Now, you want to directly ask over his personal thing?” He rubbed his dark hair roughly. “Perfect.”

Cathy ignored him. They were silent for a moment.

“Fine, let’s check it out if the detective is really his mom,” he finally surrendered, although he still felt unwilling to help. “If it makes you feel better.”

While the students were still chattering noisily, they sneaked out from the classroom.

There was no one seen in the corridor when the two of them stopped in front of the principal’s office. He peeped at the gap in the window, where he saw the teacher was admonishing Scott and Jordan because of their disturbance act.

“Can we ask him later?” She changed her mind suddenly.

“Are you afraid if he’d punch me because of your question?”

“No,” she quibbled. “It seems not a good moment now.”

Mrs. Garcia walked out from the door, followed by the two boys. She bewildered to see Cathy and Josh stood still in there. “What are you two doing in here?”

“We have something to talk with Scott, Ma’am” Josh talked in a flatter voice. “We’ll be back to class as soon as we finish.”

“Better hurry,” Mrs. Garcia gave them a chance.

Afterward, Scott gazed at both of them sarcastically. “What do you want?”

“We’re just wondering if your mom’s name is Chantel Herron?” The atmosphere was changeable as soon as Cathy was the one talking.

He stared softly at her and took a deep breath. “Yes, you’ve met her at the party?”

“Yeah, she had a good speech. Is she living with you now?” She knew it was a bit too soon to ask him that way. “Sorry to bother.”

“She lives in my house, are we done?” Scott wanted to return to the class hurriedly. He looked annoyed to talk about his mom.

“Thank you for your confirmation, Mr. Herron,” Josh said as he dragged her shoulders like a kindergarten kid.

Soon, they went to the crowded canteen after Art class finished.

“Oh God,” she sighed to see the food queue was so full with a bunch of starving students.

“I know,” Josh said, gazing at her dizzy expression. “You’re not going to fit in, especially wearing that retro dress.”

Nonetheless, she wore a floral brown dress, covered with a long black cardigan. “It’s actually vintage.”

“What’s with your taste, lately? So old,” he snorted. “Where’s your leather jacket?”

“And what’s with your navy blazer?” She annoyed as looking back at his appearance. “No one asks for your comment.”

During their exasperation moment in the air, a girl with sunbathed tan skin named Sophie was approaching Josh. She never smiled, her mind only seemed to concern for the volleyball games. She talked in a heavy voice that somehow sounded like a guy, “Mr. Clark is calling you to talk about baseball game, now in his office.”

Josh bewildered at her spooky ambience. “Thanks.”

He looked at Cathy, smiling sadly. “Sorry, there’s some business of man to man.”

He would want to beg for her forgiveness in this situation, because he had forced to leave her behind in the middle of this crowded room. However, she nodded, understood.

After he was gone, her stomach started to feel crunchy. She felt lazy to wait for a very long food queue for a tray of bacon and soda. She would rather go into another part of this school to sit alone.

And so, she decided to reunite with the school’s little park. It had been two years she wasn’t there. She missed hearing the sound of water drop that came from that mid-sized stone fountain. This was a very solitude place. A few students were only passing by through the corridor that connected to the canteen.

While waiting for Josh, she sat alone on the wooden bench that placed in front of the fountain. She breathed deeply before taking out her notebook and pencil from her brown satchel bag. She started drawing a line, picturing the fountain in her sketch.

It took her a few minutes to realize that someone was watching behind her shoulder. She hated the idea of anyone who stole a glance at her work-in-progress. It was a great distraction to stop her from drawing.

But then, the figure came to sit along, and greeted her, “Hi.”

She surprised to see Scott in here. It seemed that they encountered each other more often during this senior year.

“Don’t you have any class to attend after this break time?”

“No—here,” he said while giving her a piece of bread bacon, he had one for him too. “You haven’t eaten anything in canteen.”

The hungry feeling had aggravated her stomach that she didn’t have a second thought to grab it from his hand. “Thanks.”

Before she ate the bread, something crossed on her mind. “Your mom seems different.”

“Yeah, I guess her disease has relapsed again,” he muttered.

“Why do you call it a disease?”

“What do you call someone with a split personality?” He snapped so bluntly that made Cathy astounded.

“Well, your mom had a great speech. She’s polite and friendly, but—”

“Did she give you a look of bipolar?”

“I’m sorry, Scott,” she shook her head hesitantly. “I just feel something not in its right place about your mom, and—” she stared bafflingly when she realized that Scott had brown eyes, “you don’t have blue eyes like her.”

“I look more like my dad, nothing like my mom. You don’t find me alike with Romanian faces either, huh?” He chuckled.

“What’s with the bipolar?”

“She screamed out in her bedroom, every night and then. My dad gave up, and divorced her, but my mom took me over to Portland and left him in California. We had a bad relationship. When she started abandoning me, I left her by moving out to Bisbee, although she insists to pay my school fee.”

“You’re from California?” Her eyes beamed wonderingly as she interested to listen more to his story. “I heard they have a beautiful beach.”

“Yes, around Santa Monica, but I was born in Los Angeles, California,” he informed and giggled at her naïve look.

“Are you living with someone in here?” She wondered.

“I live alone, and I have part time job in town sometimes.”

“Do you keep a contact with your dad?”

“I don’t know where he is now. It seems he moved somewhere as soon as we stayed in Portland,” he looked sad.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you so much—”

“No, I’ve never told anybody but you now, and I feel relieve.”

“Must have been hard to live like you,” she didn’t even remember there was a warm bread bacon in her hand, and she kept talking. “I feel sick sometimes too, when my mom told me to get a hospitality treatment whenever I mentioned anything about superstition. She kept on cursing crazy word, if I wouldn’t stop talking about it. Isn’t it a horror when the parents don’t understand about fairy tale?”

“You’re not crazy, I know,” he smiled. “Why she hates fairy tale?”

“Back when I was in elementary school, I told her I saw a ghost, and then she deliberately took away my fairy tale books and threw everything in the storage room. When everyone unfriended me in school, Josh stayed by my side, and that’s why we become a good friend until now—”

Scott moved his body a little bit closer to her. He observed her face, understanding her depression. “Is that why you’re not close with any friend here, like starting all over again?”

She kept her eyes staring at the fountain. “I couldn’t adjust with anyone. I’m the category who fit in as a bookworm, well, I supposed.”

They giggled along.

This time, Scott wanted to know one thing that he had been wondering since a long time. “So, he’s not your boyfriend?”

Cathy laughed at his idea. “Josh keeps me company like a brother. I’m grateful.”

“And you see ghosts?” He wondered with that one too.

She pursed her lips, “Just that one time, and I didn’t remember the rest.”

They continued eating their bread bacon while listening to the sound of water drop from the fountain.

She contemplated the time she had as a child, but she just realized that something was lost in her childhood memories, it was before she met Josh, there was something related with the essence of fairy tale, as if she had déjà vu.

Scott stared at her for a moment before he giggled alone.

“As I’m listening to you, I think my mom is the real horror story. You wouldn’t want to live under the same rooftop with her. She’s holding up some witch tools in our old house in Portland; the paganism books, candles, reversed-stars, and whatever.”

“Why would she have reversed-stars?” Cathy wondered, since it was odd for a detective to keep something dark like that.

“Perhaps, her ancestor was a witch,” Scott said, he sounded like a stranger to her own family. “I don’t understand her for that. Well, she’s the best when it comes to occultism things. I don’t believe if I have inherited any of her witch blood.”

“I guess my mom is the opposite, then,” she murmured. “It seems that you’re not like her.”

“I heard sometimes ago, she mentioned the name of her ancestor named Kyra, described as the woman who had curly red hair and wearing a robe,” he sighed for a moment. “Yeah, I just remember, she does have the witchy blood in her veins.”

“Kyra?” When he mentioned her name, a strange sensation had hit her body. “You don’t know anything else about her?”

He seemed to think harder. “It’s none about Kyra, but I had witnessed my mom’s evilness when we travelled to Brazil. She suddenly became a gemstone collector.”

“What’s so evil for being a gemstone collector?”

He giggled sarcastically as if her question was a joke. “I was ten-year-old when we visited a gypsy in winter. I remembered my mom was scarier than that dreadful woman. She forced the old woman to give her a gemstone necklace. They had been cursing at each other, and in the end, the gypsy was frightened against my mom. Funny, isn’t it?”

“Poor old woman,” she murmured. “But still, it’s your mom after all, she gave birth to you.”

“Yeah, whatever, she’s a strange woman,” Scott said, and then he drank his soda. “She doesn’t look like what she seems. My dad never knows about the witch part.”

“Does Herron is your dad’s surname?”

“No, it’s my mom’s maiden name. She determined me to use her surname after they got divorced,” his eyes stared sadly across the fountain. “I wouldn’t stand to use my dad’s name in my life. He’s a good man. This way I can hide, just in case if I come across to him.”

“Scott, why would you hide from your dad?”

“It’s been ten years we haven’t met,” he clenched his fist tightly, enduring his pain longing. “I don’t want him to concern about my mom and me. I want him to be happy with his new life.”

Cathy stared at him, pitiful.

She had no idea what to say since it wasn’t appropriate to give a comment at his poor circumstance, but at least, her wondering questions about that woman’s oddity had been answered.

Soon, Josh shouted from behind, and bulging out at their togetherness.

“I’ve got to go then,” Scott murmured.

She noticed that the atmosphere between these boys wouldn’t be any good if they were about to stand in the same space.

Josh approached her after Scott had walked away to the canteen.

“Have you done?” She smiled, relieved. “It was fast.”

He looked peeved. “I’m just going to ask this; did your head just get hit by a truck?”

“Excuse me?” She shook her head correspondingly. “Is this about Scott?”

“I think you’re too stupid to see it.”

She rose from the bench to confront him. “Everyone has a good side.”

“Yeah, except that he almost killed every student last sophomore, with a firecracker addition.”

“Don’t worry, he’s not as bad as you think.”

“You’re too naïve and stupid,” he was being harsh now. “I’m worried every time he saw you like a wild animal. Maybe he’ll hunt you later.”

“He isn’t that dangerous, and he’s having life just like we are as human beings,” Cathy sighed, walking away to the corridor, and he followed to grab her shoulder quickly.

“Are you defending him?” He bewildered. “Oh, does he tell you that he hunts an innocent girl under eighteen?”

“Oh, shut up, give it a rest,” she didn’t want to hear his further opinion to frustrate her peaceful mind, but then she stopped for a second, observing his gloomy expression. “By the way, my mom will make a lemonade salad this afternoon. I told you, just in case if you’d want to stop by at my house.”

Nevertheless, after the hold and cold situation, they returned home separately with each other’s vehicle.

At twelve o’clock, Cathy opened the entrance door for Josh. She noticed that he didn’t feel peeved anymore.

They went to the kitchen to see Haile making a salad and pudding. Soon, Haile encouraged them to play somewhere else rather than sitting frozenly at the dining table.

As Cathy asked him to wait in the family room, he wondered, “Where’s your relative?”

“I supposed she’s in the room upstairs. Do you want me to call her?”

“Yeah, getting to know each other,” he sounded excited. “How long she’ll be staying here?”

Cathy shook her head. “I’m not sure—”

Before she was about to walk upstairs, Elle appeared in the staircase, looking beautiful in her turquoise lace cardigan.

“Hello there,” he waved at her.

“What’s the sudden business?” Her voice sounded delicate, but somehow distinct.

Cathy was just about to greet that white hair girl too, but her mom suddenly called her for help.

Once they were alone, he stared carefully at Elle. She was skimming her fingers through the wooden bookshelf, and she took a leather-bounded book, flipping the pages randomly.

Josh pretended to cough before he started the conversation, “So, you’re Cathy’s distant relative who likes reading old fiction?”

She chuckled without taking away her eyes from that shabby book. “Unlike someone, he stays up late in the field of game every day.”

“Hey, how do you know that?!” He astounded, although his mind unconsciously felt proud, and now he guffawed. “Am I that popular?”

“I thought the girls adore you, including that French girl,” she closed the book and stared directly at him. “Am I right?”

“Stella the red hair?” He baffled, wondering of how she knew it. “Did Cathy tell you that?”

“Did she need to tell me?” She reversed his question lightly.

He flickered. “Let me guess, you’re clairvoyant.”

She ignored him for a moment while she returned the book to its previous position in the bookshelf.

Once they sat face to face on the Native American red rug, he started asking her for confirmation again, “So, is it right?”

Elle stared expressionlessly at his bright face.

“Since you’re having a talent in psychic world, have you ever seen a ghost?” He asked, quoting the word.

“In infinite time, they’re everywhere,” she giggled. “If you called them a ghost.”

“Then, can you see future?” He asked beyond his own curiosity.

“Future is the life concept that already written before you even born. Some visions can always change, depends on someone’s choices. For example, you plant sunflowers, there are two choices left for you, either to watering or abandoning it. You know the result of either choice,” she explained clearly and formidably through the gardening analogy.

“That’s mean there are only two choices for one result?”

“Like there are yes and no, good and bad, happy and sad, heaven and hell,” she smiled. “You couldn’t really become in between, everything in its proportion.”

At the time Haile called them for having lunch, as usual, Elle avoided eating food together. She needed to go somewhere, and acted mysteriously.

Whenever Cathy asked for the reason, her mom ignored her deliberately. It was just a matter of time to understand about Elle’s inscrutable existence.

After the lunch time had finished, Josh still stayed until at four in the afternoon. They sat on the stone bench in the front yard, as they started discussing about that mysterious white hair girl.

In this placid place, Cathy still hesitated to tell him that someone looked like Elle appeared in her recurring dreams, although she always thought hardly about it.

“She’s really a nice person, and kind of psychic,” he revealed.

“What do you mean—psychic?” She didn’t understand.

He chuckled. “You’re so naïve. She didn’t tell you?”

“She behaves weirdly, rarely talk, and she has spent a lot of time with my mom’s bookshelf,” Cathy tried to swallow her own saliva after she said it all. “She could be innocent, and the next second, she turned like a fierce eagle. There’s just something not human about her.”

“So, we already know two odd people in town—your relative and the Portland detective.”

The winds kept swirling in the sky that just turned cloudy. The time felt stagnant, as they were silent. And yet, Cathy couldn’t fathom the mystery or even to decode it, since it was a hard thing to do.

“We need to wait at the right time for the mystery,” he shouted.

Cathy smiled. “Perhaps, the things might turn in trice.”

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