Brave New World

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Dinner at the Brownstone

August 23, 2003

Reyna laid on top of her bed, starring up at her ceiling. She had a nightmare the night before about being back in Central Park, alone, scared and cold. It had been horrible, but what had the almost eleven year old in such a contemplative state was that when she tried to remember the people who’d abandoned her in that park her mind became muddled. Without Reyna noticing, her memories of her parents had begun to fade, and sure they left her to fend for herself, but that didn’t mean she didn’t miss them, or want to remember what they looked like. Reyna couldn’t remember the sound of her mother’s laugh anymore, or what football team her father liked to watch play.

Suddenly sliding off her bed, Reyna walked over to her white dresser. She opened the first drawer that held her underwear and socks and dug down to the bottom until she found a worn and busted up locket. The locket itself was ovular and at one point must have been very pretty with a shiny brass coloring and floral engravings covering it. Now though, the brass was tarnished and worn and some parts were covered with rust. Reyna had discovered it in the junk bin at a Salvation Army while shopping for new clothes with Dunstan. The small piece of jewelry resonated within the young girl and after finding out it was only ten cents, Dunstan bought it for her.

Reyna walked back over to her bed with the locket in one hand and grabbed for Thumper with her other one. Pursing her lips, Reyna wondered if she’d be able to pull off what is was she wanted to do. Summoning an exacto-knife from Dunstan’s office downstairs, the sorceress carved an intricate circle into the back of the locket. Crossing her legs and letting out a calming breath, Reyna opened the locket and brought to mind every happy memory she had of her parents. If it was one thing Reyna learned about magic, it was that if you wanted something hard enough you could make it happen. Memories of birthdays, days spent together at parks, family dinners and the like flooded her mind. Inhaling deeply, Reyna closed her eyes and brought the locket up to her forehead. The sorceress held her breath and with all her might pushed her memories out of her mind and into the locket. Eyes snapping open, Reyna quickly sealed the locket shut.

Nervously licking her lips, Reyna opened the locket to see if her magic had worked. The brass inside the locket shined when it was opened and Reyna’s memories flooded back into her mind, filling her with a deep happiness. Smiling softly, she shut the locket again and looked at it proudly. This was the first bit of real magic she’d done all on her own accord, and all because she wanted to. Not because she was told to by Dunstan, or because she was hungry, but simply because she wanted to store the memories of her family away for a rainy day. This way she’d never have to worry about forgetting more details about them, because they were safely tucked away in a locket.

“Reyna!” She heard Dunstan yell for her down the stars. “They’re coming!” Stuffing the locket into the back pocket of her jeans, Reyna hurried down the hall and stairs until she reached the front door where Dunstan stood. Dunstan gave her a once over, nodded, waited for the doorbell to ring and then opened the door for their guests. A man and a boy stood on the other side of it. The man was shorter than Dunstan, but not by much. He had beautiful light brown skin, a large nose, and wore glasses with huge frames. His hair was black and cut short, neatly styles with a part on the right side. His default resting face seemed to include a kind smile. Reyna immediately thought he was the kind of person she’d like.

“Lokesh!” Dunstan greeted loudly, raising an arm to give the man a brotherly hug.

Reyna caught the eye of the boy at Lokesh’s side while the two men hugged. He looked older than her, but was just a hair shorter. His skin was also a light brown color, but was just a few shades darker than Lokesh’s. His hair was just as dark and as styled as the man’s who stood next to him, but was made of curls that tried to escape outwards. His facial expression reminded Reyna of a giant slab of stone. His brows were furrowed, a small crease between them, and his mouth was set in an almost frown. Reyna didn’t get the feeling that he was frowning at her though, or at anything really, so she smiled brightly at him to break the ice. The boy’s face lit up like a red Christmas light and his eyes darted to the floor, making Reyna’s smile widen.

Dunstan and Lokesh patted each other on the back a few times before separating. “So this must be the little queen I’ve heard so much about,” Lokesh said as he smiled down at her. His voice had an Indian accent that made Reyna smile back at him, even though she didn’t understand the part about the little queen. They shook hands and Lokesh motioned towards the boy, “This is my apprentice, Marcus. He’s been making me proud all this year with how much he’s grown.”

Dunstan laughed at the statement and shook Marcus’ hand, “Nice to meet you, young man. I’m Dunstan, and this is Reyna.” Reyna shook his hand. Marcus could barely look Reyna in the eye, but her smile towards him never faltered. “Reyna, dear, why don’t you take Marcus to the living room so you two can play before dinner? Lokesh and I will be in the kitchen if you need us.” The look Dunstan gave her though told Reyna that she shouldn’t need him, even if she did.

“Okay,” She responded, moving to grab Marcus by the hand, “Just call us when dinner’s ready!” She pulled Marcus behind her until they reached the living room. Reyna released him to sit on the sofa and turned on the T.V. After a few seconds Marcus continued to just stand to the side of the couch and she looked over at him. “You gonna sit? It’s a really comfy couch, you know.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Marcus slowly moved to sit next to Reyna. “Is there anything you want to watch? We probably have time for a movie, too, if we want. Dunstan likes to eat around six and it’s only 4:30 now. Oh! We could watch the Lion King. Do you like that one? I have all the Disney films up in my room. Or we could just watch T.V. Do you like Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel better?”

Marcus’ eyes flicked to Reyna’s and then away again. Slowly they drifted back and he answered quietly, “Nickelodeon, please.” Feeling victorious that she’d finally heard Marcus’ voice, Reyna smiled wide and turned the channel and the two ended up watching and episode of Hey, Arnold! The children’s episode helped break the ice. Marcus was completely lounging on the sofa by the end of it and had laughed loudly three times during the thirty minutes. Reyna thought the boy’s smile was beautiful and promised herself to make him smiled as often as she could.

“How old are you? I’ll be eleven in less than three months.” Reyna asked during one of the commercial breaks.

Marcus looked at her for a long moment before responding, “Thirteen.”

“Oh wow!” she exclaimed, “You’re a teenager, that’s so cool! How long have you been Lokesh’s apprentice?”

“He found me last year. Just at the beginning of school,” he added after a moment’s thought.

Reyna tilted her head in confusion, “Why was Lokesh at your school?”

“He was visiting some colleagues.”

After taking a second to repeat the word colleague, Reyna’s curiosity got the better of her and she asked, “But how’d he know you could do magic?”

Marcus gave her a strange look before answering, “It was a magic school. We could all do magic. Well, kind of.”

“There are magic schools?”

“Yeah, didn’t Dunstan ever tell you? There are a bunch.”

Reyna pursed her lips at this new information and turned her head back to watch the episode of CatDog that had started. By the end of the episode Reyna’s mood had improved and a smile returned to her face when her new friend looked over and asked, “So where’d Dunstan find you? I’m guessing it wasn’t at a school.”

Recognizing the joke, she gave him a small laugh and shook her head, “No, he found me in Central Park, actually.”

Now it was Marcus’s turn to look confused. His scowl returned and he stared at her for a few seconds before opening his mouth to ask his follow up question, “How?”

“He caught me stealing a pretzel with magic,” Reyna shrugged. “It’s cool, though, that you got to go to a school to learn magic. Do you still go?”

“Nah, now I just study with Lokesh for part of the day and spend the time I would have been in school helping my parents at home.”

“What, like cleaning up the place and stuff?”

“Yeah, kinda, but I also help out with my siblings a lot. I help them get ready for school in the morning and pick them up after. Two of my siblings are still pretty young and aren’t in school yet, so I take care of them.”

“Oh, wow,” Reyna sighed, thinking of what it’d be like to have siblings to take care of. “How many?”

“How many what?”

“How many siblings do you have?”

“Oh, ugh, five. Three younger sisters and two younger brothers. Do you have any?”

“Oh, no. Or maybe, I guess,” Reyna said, her brows shooting up to hair line. Maybe she did have siblings by now. Her heart gave a small, sad flutter as she thought that’d she’d never find out. Marcus looked at her confused again, but the next episode of CatDog began, grabbing their attention for the next half hour.

When the episode ended, Lokesh’s voice rang out, “Kids, dinner is ready!” Turning off the T.V. they made their way into the kitchen. “Reyna!” Lokesh started, “Dunstan here tells me that you can conjure all the table settings in one go. Is this true?” Staring warily at him, Reyna nodded her head. Lokesh smiled at her, which helped calm her mind some, and asked, “Can you show me?” Nodding again, Reyna pictured the plates and silverware and where she wanted them to appear in her mind’s eye, then with a wave of her wrist the items appeared, just as she envisioned it. “Impressive!” Lokesh commended. Reyna smiled wide and looked to Dunstan for his response. Dunstan simply nodded and smile smugly at his colleague.

After grabbing and filling their plates of Indian food courtesy of Lokesh, they sat at the kitchen table and began to dig in. After a few minutes of eating in silence, Dunstan cleared his throat, “So Marcus, Lokesh tells me that he discovered you in a magic school?”

“Yes, sir,” Marcus responded, his eyes shifting between his plate and Dunstan’s face.

“He told me how impressed he was by your skill level. You were performing a spell that was beyond your grade level, isn’t that right?”

“Yes, sir. I was, uh, I was experimenting with some alchemy.” He explained while shifting uncomfortably in his seat.

“It was amazing, really. He was able to successfully transmutate several pieces of paper into quarters. Completely minted and everything. The spell lasted for a full half hour, too! I’ve met alchemists who’ve practiced for decades and still can’t get that spell to stick for more than twenty. I knew I had to take him in as my apprentice, and he hasn’t let me down yet.” Lokesh told everyone with a proud smile on his face.

Marcus blushed and immediately shoved a forkful of food into his mouth. They began to eat again in mostly silence, with some idle chit chat from Dunstan and Lokesh. At one point, Lokesh asked, “So Reyna, how do you like living with this fuddy-duddy? Is he spoiling you rotten?”

Reyna looked over at Dunstan with a wry smile on her face. He noticed her look and a grimace twisted his mouth. “Yeah, it’s been fine. I wish he’d buy me better clothes though.”

Dunstan sighed, mentally exhausted by this topic, “I’ve told you, girl. I’m not going to spend a fortune on your clothes when you’ll just grow out of them within the year. When you’re older and earning your own money, then you can buy whatever you want.”

Reyna was close to sticking her tongue out at him, but was able to hold herself back. Lokesh gave an incredulous laugh, “Now you’re just being cheap.” Dunstan seemed to have no problem with this accusation and simply hummed before returning to his food.

Not much else was said as the group finished their dinner. Once everyone was finished, Marcus was quick to gather the plates and place them in the dish washer. Lokesh didn’t bat an eye at the behavior, but Dunstan seemed stunned by the boy, looking at Reyna and saying “Why don’t you ever clean up like that?”

Reyna shrugged, “Because you’ve never asked?” It didn’t matter though, Reyna thought. Dunstan always magically cleared away their dishes anyway.

Being shooed away Dunstan and Lokesh once again, Reyna and Marcus made their way out of the brownstone to try and catch some fireflies. “There are never too many fireflies by here,” Reyna explained, “but we can always try!”

Markus simply nodded and followed after her. “How come you live with Dunstan?” he asked. He’d been wondering why ever since Lokesh brought it up at dinner. “Where are your parents?”

Reyna unconsciously patted her back pocket where her locket was and bit down on her lower lip. “I don’t know where they are,” she answered. It had never bothered her before, answering this question, because deep inside herself Reyna always thought one day her parents would come back for her. Now though, with her memories starting to fade, her beliefs began to waver and insecurity set in. “They just left one day. That’s why I live with Dunstan.”

“Oh,” Marcus said quietly, looking down at his shoes.

Reyna could tell he regretted asking, and he probably felt bad for her. “It’s okay,” she assured him, even though it really wasn’t. “I’m better off here.”

“Are you?” Marcus asked, looking her straight in the eyes. Reyna was overcome with feeling that Marcus was suddenly much wiser than a thirteen year old boy had any right to be.

Breaking the gaze, Reyna refocused on finding fireflies. “Ah!” she exclaimed after a few minutes searching. She turned towards her new friend with her hands stretched out and clasped together. “Look!” she gasped as the cracks between her hands glowed red.

Marcus stepped closer and when he was finally beside her, Reyna un-cupped her hands so he could see the bug. His gaze was completely focused on the small critter, but Reyna was looking at him. His mouth was stretched into a wide, wondrous smile that made Reyna’s belly feel warm. Looking up at her, Marcus’ grin widened and he laughed in delight. The young girl laughed with him and squealed when the firefly flew out of her hand.

The two of them giggled their little heads off until the door to the brownstone opened and Dunstan and Lokesh began to walk out towards them, deep in conversation. “Lokesh, relax,” Dunstan was saying, “So what if Donny decides to go to Las Vegas? He’s a grown man and can make his own choices.”

“I’m just worried. You know how he is when it comes to gambling. He’s been drinking more lately, too. It’s going to start effecting his health.”

Dunstan let out a long sigh, one Reyna recognized with great disdain. “He’s a big boy, okay? Besides, what would you have us do? Stage an intervention?”

“No,” Lokesh relented, “I don’t think it’s that serious.”

“Adonis will go to Las Vegas, gamble away a fortune, drink the bars dry, and probably smoke an iron lung’s worth, but when he’s physically and financially exhausted he’ll make his way home. Just like he always does. All right?”

Lokesh didn’t look too sure, but didn’t argue it further. Instead he turned towards his apprentice and said, “Come on, Marcus. I believe it’s time to get you home. It was nice to finally meet you, Reyna. I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.”

“Bye, Lokesh. Bye Marcus!” Reyna said before surprising him with a hug. Marcus stiffened for a second before relaxing and wrapping his own arms around the girl and gave out an amazed laugh.

“See you later, Reyna.” He said after pulling away. Dunstan and Reyna stayed outside and watched them until they turned the corner and walked out of view. Reyna looked up at Dunstan with a pleased smile on her face and waited for him to look down at her.

“I like him!”

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