The Gang's All Here
February 21, 2006
Reyna giggled when she felt Poe rustle around inside of the pouch of her hoodie. She’d placed the baby crow there to keep him warm from the winter chills as Dustan and she walked from the subway to Lokesh’s house. Hands in her coat pockets, she felt through the several layers of fabrics to adjust the crow’s position. Dunstan sighed, causing Reyna to look up at him. “What?” She asked, still holding a grudge against him for bailing at the theater.
“Did you have to bring that mangy thing? You could’ve just left him at home.” He told her, looking down at the bulge by her stomach.
“What? No I couldn’t have!” She refuted. “Poe’s just a baby, he needs constant attention. All the web articles I’ve read told me so.” Reyna smiled proudly at herself and titled her nose up in a matter-of-fact motion.
With another sigh and gently guiding his ward towards the right, Dunstan said, “He’s hardly a baby, dear. He can fly and everything all grown crows can do. I think it’s time to release him back into the wild.”
“Pishah,” Reyna scoffed, “shows what you know. Crows are completely dependent on their parents for food for weeks after leaving the nest, and it can take up to four months for them to, like, be able to fend for themselves all alone and stuff,” she said, her eyes scrunching and glancing to the side as she quoted a paragraph from a website. “And did you know,” she started as they walked up to Lokesh’s house, “crows keep tight bonds with their parents even after they grow up. Like, they visit them and everything. Just like human families.”
“Not every human family, dear. Don’t forget that.” Dunstan said cruelly, his patience running out.
Glaring, Reyna knocked on the door with three hard pounds, “Whatever,” she grumbled. Her heart stung at his jab and she tried to ignore it.
Soon enough, the door opened and Lokesh’s friendly face appeared. Dunstan and Reyna were immediately enveloped in the warmth of the house and Reyna quickly scooted inside so she could get even warmer. “Hi Lokesh!” She greeted as she passed him.
“Is Marcus here?” She asked while taking off her shoes, backpack, and coat. Poe rustled again and cawed from inside her pouch. Reyna prompted the bird out from the fabric and he soon climbed up her sleeve to stand on her shoulder.
“Ah, yes,” Lokesh responded, giving the bird an amused look. “He’s in the Family Room, but who’s this fine looking creature?”
“Oh, this is Poe.” Reyna said with a nod towards the crow. “I rescued him back in November. Didn’t Marcus tell you?”
“Must’ve slipped his mind,” He shrugged while reaching his hand out to pet Poe’s head. “Why Poe, though? Surely that’s a better name for a raven?”
Poe cawed again and poked at Lokesh’s hand, seemingly offended. Reyna huffed, “If he’d been a raven then I would’ve named him Edgar!” She said as if this made perfect sense. Poe cawed once more, puffing his little chest out this time. Grabbing her back pack, she began to make her way towards the Family Room.
“Well all right then,” Lokesh let out a strange laugh, confused by the Reyna’s animosity. “You’ll finally get a chance to meet Jorge.”
Turning back around with her brows knitted together, Reyna asked, “Who?”
“Jorge. Donny’s apprentice.” Dunstan supplied.
Still confused, Reyna turned heel to see this new apprentice. She had been confused as to why Dunstan and she were making the long trip out to Lokesh’s just for dinner. Now she knew it was to meet the newbie. Humming with excitement, and a few nerves, Reyna rounded the corner by the stairs and headed down the short hallway that led to the Family Room. The T.V. was on. She could hear the Danny Phantom theme song playing, and wondered what episode was playing. Peeking her head in, she saw Marcus, looking as serious as ever, on one end of the couch, and what must have been Jorge on the opposite end.
Quickly taking him in, Reyna decided he looked nice enough. His skin was a lovely shade of brown that reminded her of real, straight from the hive honey. That, and it reminded her of the color everyone seemed to want to have when they came out of those tanning salons. His shaggy hair was a golden blonde that reached down to his shoulders and made him look terribly feline. Stepping into the room, the she caught their attention with a half wave and a coughed out, “Hi. Uh, I’m Reyna.” Poe cawed after her, “And, uh, this is Poe.”
Bouncing up onto his feet, Jorge gave her a smile vaguely reminiscent of a golden retriever. “I’m Jorge, the greenhorn.” Reyna cracked a grin and shook his hand. “This is cool, huh?” Jorge asked. “All us apprentices and Masters in one house for the first time. Wicked cool! So, Reyna, where are you from? I’m actually from southern California, so I’m just visiting for the week. New York seems pretty cool though. I’m thinking I might move out here when I’m older. It is the magic capital of the world, after all. Not to mention it’d probably be best if we all lived close together for Council of Three stuff. Such an unoriginal name, though, isn’t it? Council of Three? It’s so,” Jorge motioned vaguely with his hands, “I don’t know, blah sounding!”
He took a deep breath in and smiled down at Reyna who waited a few seconds to make sure he was finished. Eyebrows high on her forehead, she let out a breathy laugh before answering his questions, “Ah, yeah, I’m New York City born and raised. And California sounds so nice! I hear the weather is, like, the best there. Oh! And it has Disneyland. I mean, come on!”
If possible, the Jorge’s smile widened at her response. Jorge seemed like he loved to talk and Reyna wondered if it was torture for him to sit silently in a room with Marcus, since he was known to be shy around newcomers, especially ever since the Dwarf incident. Jorge would’ve been lucky if he’d gotten more than two verbal answers out of him. Plopping themselves onto the couch, Reyna in between the two, they carried on with their game of questions tag.
“Where’d Donny find you?” Reyna asked, wondering if his discovery had been as random as her own or if he’d attended some academy like Marcus.
“In my parents flower shop, actually. He was buying a bouquet—for who, I’m still not sure—and I was working the counter. He didn’t know what he wanted exactly, so I offered to help and uh, kinda talked his ear off—not intentionally, of course!—I just always end up talking and talking, sometimes about nothing in particular . . . anyway,” he said, rolling his eyes at himself, “I’d messed around with magic since I was little, and so sometimes I forget the effect I have on plants when I’m near them—especially when I talk near them, Gosh, you should see them bloom!—but Donny noticed right away. Then, it was weird, but cool, too, ‘cause, like, he kinda tested me without realizing it and by the time he paid for his flowers he offered me the position! My parents were thrilled! Well,” he paused, sticking his tongue out to think, “They were a little confused at first, but thrilled all the same.”
Marcus, who’d peered out from around Reyna’s shoulder, gave out a long whistle. Reyna grinned in response, knowing he was referring to how long Jorge had spoken. It seemed like Jorge, if left unchecked, could go on talking forever. Poe, who had been standing on her lap, seemed fond of him, and slowly crept closer and closer to him until he was reaching his body across the gap in the couch from Reyna’s knee.
“Ah, hello there, Poe! Aren’t you a handsome bird?” Jorge cooed, stroking the crow’s head and feathers. Poe cawed loudly and hopped onto the outstretched hand the first chance he got.
“Well he obviously likes you,” Reyna said with a bright smile. “Want to feed him?” She asked, opening her backpack and pulling out a Ziploc bag full of nuts and cut up fruit. Jorge nodded enthusiastically and reached into the bag for a nut. Poe greedily took it out of Reyna’s fingers, hopping back into her so he could eat more comfortably.
“He still knows who his mama is, though.” Jorge said with a laugh. Reaching out to stroke the black bird’s glossy feathers, he asked, “How long have you guys been practicing magic, anyway? I’ve only been an apprentice for six months, so I’m still hella new at the whole thing. Donny says I’m doing well though. Like a fish taking to water, he says.”
“Uh, It’s been almost seven years for me,” Reyna responded and twisted her torso to look over at Marcus without disrupting Poe, whose head was in the plastic goodie bag. “And, what,” she asked, “like, five or so for you?”
“Just about, yeah,” Marcus said, resting his chin on Reyna’s shoulder.
“So he does speak!” Jorge stage whispered. Reyna giggled and patted Marcus on the head when she felt him try to hide in her hair.
Deftly, Reyna changed topics away from Marcus and back towards Jorge and his life in California. The two were able to pass the time very quickly this way, and Reyna felt a strong sense of pride for Marcus who, just after a half hour of watching on the sidelines, was able to find his voice and even held a five minute conversation with Jorge all on his own.
It was just a quarter past six when Lokesh’s voice echoed through the house. “Kids! Dinner is ready!” After helping Poe back up to her shoulder and grabbing his bag of food, they made their way into the dining room where Dunstan, Lokesh, and Donny sat around a circular dining table. Lokesh had prepared them a lovely Indian meal: chicken tikka masala.
Once everyone was seated, food was passed around. Looking over at Jorge, Reyna suppressed her smile by biting down on her lip. He looked completely lost among the ethnic food, not sure how much of anything he should take. “The naan is always a safe bet if you’re not feeling very adventurous,” she whispered to him. At his confused look, she pointed to the bread-like food on her plate. Nodding his head in thanks, he loaded up on the naan and placed a few samples of the other choices on his plate.
Dunstan cleared his throat—causing Poe to caw at him—and asked, “Jorge, te gusta el pollo?” Reyna gave her Master a strange look for two reasons. One, she didn’t know he could speak Spanish. Two, because why should he be speaking to Jorge in Spanish? He hadn’t even spoken to Jorge yet, so he didn’t know if Jorge’s family was like Marcus’. He didn’t know whether he spoke Spanish at home, or if he could even speak it at all. In Reyna’s opinion he was being terribly presumptuous.
Jorge looked very uncomfortable, and even a little frustrated. “Uh, actually I’m Brazilian,” he said slowly, “so I don’t know any Spanish.”
Reyna swore she could hear a pin drop. Marcus and she made eye contact, causing the both of them to bite the insides of their cheeks to keep from laughing. Shifting to look at Jorge, Reyna asked, “Can you speak Portuguese then?”
“A little, yeah.” He said with a blush. “My grandparents were the ones who moved here from Brazil, so I really only speak it when I visit them. Or sometimes I do it with my parents, too, but not regularly. I could probably find my way around a Portuguese speaking country well enough, but it’d be obvious to anyone that really knew the language that it wasn’t my first language.”
“After dinner, can you teach me a few words?” Reyna asked. Jorge’s bright smile returned and he nodded his head. Looking over at her Dunstan, Reyna felt pride swell into her belly. Crisis averted. Or, at least, awkward scenario averted. The dinner conversations took off after that with Jorge taking lead. He even helped himself to seconds of everything on the table, which Reyna knew made Lokesh very happy considering how much pride and effort he put into his dishes.
With plates scrapped clean and about to be collected for the dish washer, Dunstan once again cleared his throat. Poe, who had moved into Reyna’s lap earlier on in the meal, cawed out again, causing him to glare daggers at the unseen bird. Reyna, however, eyed Dunstan suspiciously, hoping he wasn’t about to put his foot in his mouth again.
“Now that all the Sorcerers on the Council of Three have an apprentice, it’s customary for those apprentices to prove their worth to all the Council members. Do you all know what this means?” After a quick glance around to one another, they shook their heads no. Sighing, Dunstan continued, “It means, that six months from now—so that Jorge here isn’t so shiny and new—you will all be undergoing a challenge.”
“A challenge?” Marcus asked, looking skeptical.
“Yes,” Lokesh added, “It’ll be simple, like a miniature Olympics, but for magic. It’ll be fun! We’ll give out fun medals and everything.”
“The point is for you all to prove your worth. To prove that you’ll be capable of taking on our positions one day on the Council.” Dunstan added with an edge to his voice.
“How’s that fair though?” Reyna asked, stroking Poe’s wings nervously, “I mean, Jorge just started, like, really learning magic and spells this year. Marcus and I have years more experience than him.”
“I wouldn’t count my boy out just yet,” Donny said on Jorge’s behalf, though he had a slight slur to his speech. Reyna looked at his empty glass of wine and wondered how many times he’d refilled it during the meal. “He’s a dark horse, that one. Believe you me.”
“Still . . .,”
“Enough, Reyna, he’ll be fine.” Dunstan chastised. Pursing her lips, she looked down at Poe so she wouldn’t have to look at anyone else. “Now that that’s all settled,” he said amicably, “I do believe Lokesh has made a dessert.” Dunstan nodded his head, clearly finished with the conversation.
The sounds of plates being taken away and chairs being pushed out didn’t make Reyna look away from her lap. Her hand stroked Poe’s back slowly and carefully. Reyna was using every ounce of concentration to not twist her fists into the fabric of her hoodie, to not show that her Master’s verbal lashing had affected her in anyway. Reyna was tired of it, though. She was tired of Dunstan’s sighs, tired of his short temper, and tired of feeling like a verbal punching bag for the person that called himself her guardian.