Defying Gravity (and Curfew)
November 19, 2005
To everyone living in New York City, it felt as if winter had arrived early, but had forgotten the snow. The trees were almost completely bare, just a few orange stragglers left to cling to the branches. The wind was cold and bitter and pieced straight through to the bone. Luckily for Reyna, she was safe and warm inside Dunstan’s brownstone, watching nature wreck its havoc on earth’s inhabitants from a safe distance. Sitting on her bed, she was able to peer over out of her window down to the streets and laugh whenever the wind got the best of a pedestrian.
Turning her attention back to the notebooks on her bed, Reyna looked over her net day’s itinerary for the fifth time. She’d be turning fourteen tomorrow, meaning she’d get to see all her friends, eat lots of cake, and get away with anything she’d like. Marcus was set to come over around noon with plans to spend the night. Reyna had already prepared their sleeping bags down in the living room, had bought all the necessary snacking items, and had rented their favorite movies from Family Video.
Will and Jared would also be coming over for dinner and cake, and maybe they could all sneak away to watch a fight or two. Sybil would be coming in the morning and would be in charge of all things food, which Reyna was eternally thankful for since if it was up to Dunstan, he’d just order them pizzas or something generic. Sophie and Lilith were also scheduled in for a visit, though Reyna didn’t really understand why, she didn’t question it, knowing that they gave the best gifts. Of course, they wouldn’t arrive until after Jared and Will left to save everyone a headache.
The present that had Reyna practically jumping up and down on her bed with excitement, though, was that tonight Dunstan had promised her that he’d take her to see the Broadway production of Wicked. Reyna had seen the advertising poster for it one day while they had been out and had begged Dunstan to take her ever since. He’d surprised her earlier in the day by coming home with two tickets in hand. Reyna had squealed and jumped on him, unable to contain her excitement. The performance was supposed to start at 7:00 tonight, just an hour and a half away. Reyna had been ready to go since Dunstan walked in with the tickets, dressed in one of her nicest dresses—courtesy of Lilith—and matching earrings—courtesy of Sophie.
“Reyna dear, are you ready?” Dunstan called up the stairs.
Running down the hallway, and barely managing to catch herself from tripping down the stairs, the Reyna beamed up at him and replied excitedly, “Yup!”
Dunstan shook his head and sighed at her antics. They slipped their feet into their shoes, grabbed their coats, and headed out of the house to the awaiting cab. They arrived at the theater forty five minutes later, giving them plenty of time to check their tickets and coats, find their seats, and a run to the restroom for one final pit stop to hold them over for the performance. Making sure her phone was turned off, Reyna could barely sit still in her seat, especially once the lights went dark and the curtain raised up high.
The first half of the show was amazing. Reyna was completely enamored with the first song, ‘No One Mourns the Wicked’, laughed during ‘What Is This Feeling?’ and ‘Popular’, and had to hide her sniffling during ‘I’m Not That Girl’. Elphaba had just finished her brilliant solo in ‘Defying Gravity’ when the sound of buzzing reached her ears. Looking for the source of the incessant noise, Reyna discovered that it was Dunstan’s phone buzzing away in his pocket. He winced and pulled it out of his pocket, saw who was calling him, and shuffled awkwardly down the aisle so he could answer it. Huffing, Reyna returned her attention to the magnificent play in front of her.
Before she knew it, Reyna was laughing over the fact that Elphaba survived and would go on to live happily ever after with her scarecrow. It was only when the lights turned back up that she realized Dunstan hadn’t returned. Frowning, she turned her phone on with the intent to call him. A text came through before she could dial his entire number, and Reyna noticed that it was from Dunstan. Biting her lip, she opened the text.
Called away by client. Left cab fare with box office. Text me when you’re home.
Barely holding back a shriek, she stomped over to the coat check, grabbed her coat, and then skulked over to the box office for the cab fare. “Hi,” she said to the woman behind the glass, “My, uh, guardian,” she paused with a questioning tone, then continued more surely, “Yeah, he left something here for me.”
“What’s the name, sweetie?” The woman asked.
“Reyna,” she responded.
The woman looked at her for a few seconds longer, then asked, “And the last name?”
“Oh, uh, huh,” Reyna sighed. What was her last name? She hadn’t heard it use since she was a little girl. It started with an ‘S’, she thought vaguely, or was it an ‘H’? Shaking her head, she decided to go with Dunstan’s last name instead, “Bates.” As the woman went through a drawer of envelopes, Reyna wondered if her last name was Bates now too. Reyna Bates. Scrunching her nose, she decided she did not like the sound of that.
The woman behind the glass made a noise of approval and slid an envelope under the slot below the glass towards Reyna, “Here you are! If you need help getting a cab, just let one of us here know!” Nodding her head in thanks to the woman, Reyna made her way out into the frigid night. She couldn’t believe Dunstan had left her there. It was basically her birthday, for Pete’s sake! Growling under her breath, she walked over to the curb and looked over the oncoming cars with a dull stare. Successfully calling over a cab, Reyna entered and told him the address. After ensuring she had money to actually pay him, the cab driver sped off towards the direction of Dunstan’s brownstone.
Slouching down in the seat, Reyna pushed out her bottom lip in a pout and looked out the window, silently fuming over the night’s events. The cab was just two blocks away from the house when a flash of silver caught her attention. Whipping her neck to look out the rear-view window for a second glance, Reyna shouted, “Stop! Stop! Stop the car!” Slamming on the breaks, the cab driver glared at Reyna through the Plexiglas. Pulling out the correct number of bills Dustan had left her, she all but threw them at the man. “I’ll get out here. Keep the change!” She yelled, already half way out the car.
Pulling her coat tightly around her body, Reyna ran down the side walk, her eyes honed in on a head of white hair. “Melchiorn!” She yelled out, catching multiple people’s attention. However, none of them were who she wanted. “Melchiorn!” She yelled again as she got closer, and louder this time. She knew it was him! She just knew it. Her belly even knew it. Sucking in another lung full of air with the intent to call him for the third time, her voice quickly died off when the dark skinned Elf turned and made eye contact with her. “Melchiorn,” she breathed out.
The Elf raised a delicate silver eyebrow at her and for a brief moment, panic wrapped around her heart. What if he didn’t remember her? Before more insecure thoughts could flood her mind, Melchiorn’s lips curved into a tender smile.
“Reyna? Little Reyna, is that you?” His eyes flashed yellow in the light as he asked, reminding Reyna of the first time she met him.
Smiling back widely, Reyna nodded and jabbed, “Now say it with conviction.” Letting a breathy laugh out, Reyna launched herself at the Elf, wrapping her arms around his middle. Chuckling himself, Melchiorn squeezed her closer to him. Pulling away slightly so she could look up at him, she marveled at how he looked the exact same to her, like he hadn’t aged a day. “I never thought I’d see you again,” she told him.
Patting her lightly on the head, he responded with a wry smile, “Never is an awfully long time, child. Fate was bound to bring us together again eventually.”
“Yeah, but it’s been basically forever since I last saw you!” Reyna whined, hugging him again. “You know I ran away from that police station, hoping I’d find you again,” she mumbled into his jacket.
“Did you now?” He marveled, “What happened after?”
Reyna let out a laugh, “A lot,” she answered.
Humming, Melchiorn pulled away a bit so he could have a better look at her. “Why don’t you tell me about it over some hot chocolate?”
Nodding excitedly, they clasped hands and made their way down the street. After stopping in a corner Starbucks, Reyna and Melchiorn sat outside on a bench. Reyna figured she would have been shivering if it weren’t for the hot chocolate warming up her insides and hands, not to mention the fact that her body was bursting with energy and excitement from being reunited with her childhood savior. Reyna told him all about her time living in Central Park after she ran away from the police station, how Dunstan had taken her in and taught her magic, about the friendships she’s made. She even regaled him about her experience with other creatures like the Fairies, Goblins, and Dwarves—though she left out the part where Magnus assaulted Marcus.
Once she caught him up to date with her life’s events, especially the part about Dunstan leaving her at the theater, she turned her focus onto his life and what he’d been doing the past seven years. Like the other creatures she’d met, she wanted to know everything. Where did Elves live? Did Melchiorn come into the city often? Could Elves really live forever? Throughout the whole ordeal Melchiorn smiled patiently at the young girl, answered the questions as best he could, and even offered up information that Reyna never would have thought of asking, like how the Elves lived in factions similar to Fairies, though not as cut and dry.
Reyna was ecstatic to be spending time with Melchiorn and wished the night would never end. However, around eleven Reyna’s line of questioning was disrupted by the shrill ring of her phone. Putting down her now empty Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate, she flipped open her phone and grimaced when she saw that Dunstan was calling. “Oops,” she mumbled to herself before answering the call. “Hello?” she asked tentatively.
“Where are you?” Dunstan asked curtly. Reyna could almost feel the waves of anger radiating off him through the phone.
“Uh, not far. I went to get hot chocolate with a friend.” She grimaced, looking up at Melchiorn who’s faced was etched with concern.
“Melchiorn,” She answered, wondering if she’d ever told Dunstan about him, and if she had, if he’d remember the name.
“Melchiorn?” Dunstan repeated. “Did you just meet him on the street Reyna? I swear, if this is a repeat of the Dwarf incident I swear to God—”
“It’s not like the Dwarf incident!” Reyna cut him off with a huff, though she knew she completely deserved his skepticism. “Look, it’s really not. He’s, like, my oldest friend, okay?” She said with some sass. Just because she understood why Dunstan was acting the way he was didn’t mean she had to like it. Before either of them could saying anything else though, Melchiorn held his hand out and motioned to the phone. “Hold on,” Reyna said, “He wants to talk to you.”
“Hello, Sorcerer Dunstan?” Melchiorn greeted. “My name is Melchiorn and am a Child of the Blackfrost Woods. Yes, from Canada. Yes,” he said, and Reyna wondered what he kept saying yes to, “Actually it seems I met young Reyna here just before you did, in Central Park. Funny isn’t it?” He laughed politely. “Yes, yes,” he said slowly with a nod of his head. “Of course, I understand. I was unaware she had a curfew.” Reyna gave the phone a strange look. She didn’t have a curfew! “She’ll be home soon, rest assured.” There was a pause. “Good night, then.” Melchiorn ended and snapped the phone shut.
Taking back her phone, Reyna mumbled, “I don’t have a curfew.”
“I know,” He said simply before grabbing their cups and standing.
“What?” The sorceress asked, standing too. “How?”
“Can you keep a secret?” He asked with a small smile. Reyna nodded sincerely. “Elves can hear lies, Reyna,” he informed her while throwing away their trash. Taking her hand in his, they began to stroll down the street towards the brown stone. “And your father told quite a few in the past few minutes.” He clucked his tongue.
“Dunstan’s not my father,” Reyna said with a firm shake of her head. “Not even close,” she added.
“Oh? I assumed he adopted you and that’s why you lived with him.”
“Nah,” She grunted, looking up to see his eyes flash yellow again. “I’m just his ward or whatever,” she shrugged. Melchiorn hummed, but said nothing.
They were just a block down from the brownstone, Reyna could see the front light from where they stood, when a strange chirping sound coming from the bushes caught their attention. “What’s that?” she asked.
Melchiorn hummed again and moved to look between the bush’s branches. “It sounds like a bird,” he told her. “Ah,” he said after just a few seconds of searching. Reaching in with gentle hands, he picked up a small fledgling. “It’s a baby crow,” he said.
“Where’s its nest?” Reyna asked, curiously looking at the bird. It was kind of ugly, if Reyna was being honest. Its head was too big for its body. The bird kept trying to stand up, but kept falling over in the Melchiorn’s hands, and its feathers had barely come in, making it look sickly.
Looking intently at the bird, Melchiorn whispered, “Indica mihi,” under his breath. His eyes flashed yellow once more, but this time stayed that unusual color for much longer than Reyna had ever seen. Sighing sadly, his eyes returned to their normal, silvery color, “Poor thing,” he said. “He was blown out of his nest by the wind. You see this mark right here?” he asked, showing a decent sized gouge on its side. “A cat found him and picked him up for some fun, but then left him in this bush. He’s been taken far from his home and doesn’t know how to get back.”
Reyna’s brows furrowed, “Can’t we try to find his nest?” Placing one of her hands near the trembling bird, she pushed in a light layer of magic and could feel his heart beating erratically. Swallowing, she focused some more of her magic into his wound and applied some healing magic to it. The gouge glowed softly as it healed and Reyna smiled when she removed her hand and saw the wound was gone. Looking up at Melchiorn, she saw he was staring at her with a gentle smile on his lips.
Melchiorn looked back down to the bird and said, “I’m afraid not. He doesn’t know where it is anymore, and he can’t tell me what he doesn’t know.”
“What’ll happen to him?” Reyna asked worriedly. The more she looked at the fledgling, the more her heart reached out towards him. What she had called ugly not two minutes before, she now considered cute and in need of help.
“If we leave him here, he’ll die.” Melchiorn said. “Fledglings need a lot of attention, Reyna. They need a warm home, food almost every two hours, and lots of affection. Especially crows.”
“I could take care of him!” She offered. “I swear I’ll make sure he’s always warm, and fed, and, and I’ll love him, like, a ton!”
“Are you sure?” He tested, “It’ll be a lot of work. If you miss one feeding, Reyna, he’ll die.”
“I won’t, I swear! I’ll set my phone alarm for every two hours and everything. I can do this. I can!” She told him.
Melchiorn smiled again and gave her a long look in the eye. “I know,” he eventually said. “Here,” he said softly, handing the fledgling to her. “He’s in your care now.” Standing back up to his full height, Melchiorn tilted his head and observed the brightly smiling girl. “Any name in mind for him?”
“What about, um, Poe?” She said with a small smile.
“Poe?” He repeated.
“Yeah, you know, like the writer?”
“Edgar Allen Poe?”
“Yeah!” Reyna said with a small smile, “Didn’t he, like write about crows?”
Melchiorn shook his head, “That was a raven,” he told her.
“Oh,” the young girl mumbled, looking down at her feet. An embarrassed blush stained her cheeks.
“It’s still a good name, though.” Melchiorn told her. “Poe the crow.”
Laughing at the rhyme, Reyna looked up at her friend with a smile, “Poe the crow,” she repeated. Nodding, she looked down at the fledgling, “What do you think, little man? Like the name Poe?”
“He does, actually.” Melchiorn assured after the bird let out a small chirp.
Reyna was going to ask how he knew, but stopped when she saw the flash of yellow again in his eyes and figured it was an Elf thing. Bringing Poe closer to her chest, they of them finished the walk towards the brownstone in companionable silence. Stopping at the base of the steps, Reyna asked, “Do you have a cell phone, Melchiorn?”
Titling his head down at his human friend, he replied, “No, child, I do not.” Seeing her pout, the Elf laughed and asked, “Why?”
“Well I thought we could exchange numbers so I wouldn’t have to go seven more years before seeing you again,” she said with a shrug, trying not to show how disheartened she was by that prospect.
“Why don’t you give me your number, then, and next time I’m in town I’ll call? Though, it may not be as frequent as you like.”Perking up at the idea, Reyna quickly rattled off her number, and then repeated herself so Melchiorn would remember it. He smiled and said it back to her, ensuring that he’d remember it. Bending down to kiss Reyna’s forehead, Melchiorn mumbled, “Terra tueris,” into her skin before pulling away. Reyna looked up at him, saw his eyes flash once more, and was ready to ask him what he’d said, but he spoke first, “Until next time, Reyna.” With one last kiss of her head, Melchiorn walked away down the city streets. Watching him until he was out of sight, Reyna felt the curl of a smile on her lips. Looking down at a chirping Poe, she hummed and quickly climbed the steps up to her home.