Oh, What's In A Name?
Almost immediately, the class changed from being quiet and engaged to loud and rowdy. The students started talking with each other and one by one, stepped through the wall. Ashley watched in horror as the passed through, effortlessly, as if walking through walls was normal. She turned to Connor.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this place. I mean, portation spells, vanishing teachers,” she shook her head, “it’s all very overwhelming.” Connor laughed and stood up.
“Well, you’re fitting in just fine. It’s almost like you’ve been here your whole life,” he told her, motioning for her to stand up. Ashley nodded.
“Almost,” she said sadly, “I am still homesick, though.” Connor looked at her with a sad smile.
“We all are, Ashley.” They stared at each other for a few moments before Ashley walked in front of him in the now empty classroom. She stood in front of the wall and waited for Connor to walk next to her. “Now, doesn’t this look familiar?” Connor asked with a grin. Ashley smiled.
“Why is it that I always find myself standing next to you debating whether or not to enter a wall that I have no idea what’s behind?” she asked, giggling to herself. Connor turned towards her and grabbed her wrist.
“I guess I’m just that persuasive.” And with that, he pulled them both through the wall.
Suddenly, the ground beneath her feet disappeared and Ashley was sent free falling-for the second time that day- into an endless abyss. She forcefully kept her mouth shut, not at all daring to scream when she realized that Connor was nowhere near her. She frantically looked around her, which did not help considering that she was falling in a bottomless pit and gaining speed each second.
“Connor?!” she called out, but there was no response. Then she closed her eyes, squeezing them shut and allowing herself to fall. When she closed her eyes, she saw her father and his blue eyes and dark hair. He was in a place she had never seen before, someplace that had brick walls and pipes. His hair was longer than usual and was falling into his eyes and there was about two days worth of scruff on his cheeks and chin. “Dad?” she asked. He smiled at her and reached out his hand to her.
“Ashley, do not be afraid of who you are. You are powerful. You are my daughter, and when the time comes, you will find me, as family always does.” Ashley stared at him for a moment more.
“Dad, what are you talking about? I thought you were dead,” Ashley said cautiously. Her father smiled and shook his head.
“Do not be afraid, Ashley. When the time comes, you’ll know what I mean.”
“When the…” she stopped herself as anger and irritation entered her body. “Mom thinks you’re dead and you’re giving me riddles? I thought you were dead and you’re giving me riddles?!” The picture of her father started to shake and grow hazy. “This is just a dream,” she said to herself. Her father laughed.
“A dream? Why would you think this is a dream. Ashley, this is real. All of it- has been real,” he told her. Ashley shook her head and the image faded more.
“No,” she said, “my father would never do this. He would never lie. He would never-” her voice broke and she opened her eyes.
She wasn’t falling anymore, but was lying on the ground right on the edge of the pit. Connor, Taylor and Jerry were kneeling around her and shaking her.
“Hey! Whoa, what’s going on?” she asked, trying to get their hands off of her. Taylor immediately wrapped her arms around her and let out a sigh of relief.
“We thought-” she stopped talking and released her embrace in order to look Ashley in the face. “Don’t ever do that again!” she said to her. Ashley looked at her confused.
“What are you talking about?” Ashley asked. Taylor looked up at Connor. Ashley shifted his gaze towards him as well.
“You fainted. You were barely breathing and you were fading,” Connor said. Ashley looked at Jerry.
“Yeah, Alien. It was weird. Amelia over here almost lost her sh-”
“I thought she was dying!” Taylor said angrily. Ashley grabbed Taylor’s shoulder.
“Taylor, I am very much alive,” Ashley told her. She smiled. “I am not going anywhere, alright? I just fainted.”
“You don’t understand,” Taylor said. “You were literally fading. Like I could run my hands through you, Ashley.” Ashley stared at her in shock.
“What..?” she looked at Connor and Jerry.
“You almost disappeared completely when we were falling back through. I think you were using a portation spell,” Connor said. All eyes fell on Ashley.
“Portation? I don’t even know a portation spell. Besides, I thought that the portal was charmed.”
“Yes, but,” Jerry started, “we’ve always been able to go other places.” Ashley’s eyes widened.
“Wait, you’ve all used the portal to go to other places?”
“That’s what I just said, Alien,” Jerry said rolling his eyes.
“But...it’s charmed,” Ashley said looking around them. “You’re the ones who told me that!” Jerry shrugged.
“We lied.” Taylor rolled her eyes.
“We did not lie. At least, not completely.”
‘We just,” Connor broke in, “withheld the truth. At least, some parts of it.” Ashley felt her ears turn hot and she stood up.
“Same thing!” she told them. Connor put up his hands.
“Alright, you’re right. We are sorry.”
“Yeah, I mean we couldn’t just tell you. We had to make sure you were one of us,” Jerry said. Ashley’s eyes widened.
“One of whom?” she asked. The three exchanged glances. Ashley closed her eyes and counted to five. “Tell me!" Connor have a sympathetic look.
"I think you already know, Ashley Fitzgerald."
Ashley's eyes widened and then she was out the door, running and bumping into many students. She could faintly hear the calls from Jerry, Connor and Taylor but she kept weaving in and out of the students. She made a few sharp turns and heard the bell ring and by then, she'd gotten herself lost.
She found herself in a hall she didn't recall ever being on. She then sunk to the ground and put her head in between her knees. Flashes of her father’s smile filled her head and she squeezed her eyes shut.
“You’re dead,” she kept muttering to herself. She shook her head and pulled herself off of the ground, blinking away the threatening tears. In front of her stood Mrs. Shire and Ashley nearly jumped out of her skin. The woman smiled and helped Ashley up to her feet.
“You seem to be having a bad day,”she said coolly. Ashley swallowed and nodded, fighting off the nasty visions she had seen Mrs. Shire in.
“It’s just...a lot to take in,” she said quietly. Mrs. Shire nodded and placed her palm on Ashley’s back. Almost immediately, a shiver ran down her spine as she fought the urge to flinch.
“Yes,” the woman started, “students always seem to have problems adapting from the human world to ours. But, in time, things will become clear.” Ashley nodded and looked at the woman.
“If you don’t mind me asking Mrs. Shire, how old are you?” Ashley asked. The woman stared at her for a few moments, her eyes turning almost black and then back to their lively color.
“Old enough,” she said quietly. She motioned for Ashley to follow her down the hall. Ashley warily did so. Mrs. Caris swallowed and glanced at Ashley. “I have been alive for many, many years, Ashley and I have done many things. I’ve done bad things I do not regret and good things I do. I have loved many and hated more and I know that even though I have cheated death more times to count, I cannot cheat it forever. And even though I have seen many suns I know I will not see them all, for every beginning has an end.” Ashley slowly nodded, processing the old woman’s words.
“I have seen many worlds collide, many norms be broken, many lives be taken. I know the feeling of heartbreak all too well and at times, it is the only feeling I seem know. But despite all of that, I have learned from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. I have become wiser and stronger in all that I have endured.” She turned to look at Ashley and stopped walking, right outside of Room 203.
“I know you may not understand everything right now and I also know you may not accept all of this sorcery and magic at once. But you have to remember that you are powerful, that you are destined to be great and although that can be a curse, you have to remember that within every curse is a gift; you just have to know where to look.” Mrs. Caris winked at her and Ashley nodded as Mrs. Caris started to evaporate into silver smoke. Ashley’s eyes widened.
“Wait! You never told me how old you are,” she said. Mrs. Caris smiled.
“Shouldn’t you know not to ask an old woman that?” And then she was gone.
Ashley turned around to look at the door to her room and sighed.
“Aperi,” she whispered, and the door flew open. Ashley walked in and waved her hand. “Illuminet,” she said, and the lights came on. In front of her, sitting on the couch was Taylor.
Ashley immediately turned around, reaching for the door handle when Taylor called out, “Prohibere,” and immediately, Ashley felt her arms and legs slowly come to a stop. Ashley’s eyes widened.
“What are you doing to me?” she asked, angrily, trying to force her body out of the spell.
“Please, just listen to me. I can explain everything,” Taylor pleaded. Ashley took a deep breath and nodded. Taylor sighed and waved her hands. “Ire,” she muttered and Ashley felt her limbs loosen up. She slowly turned around and looked at Taylor. She was staring at her in her brown eyes with her hair in a curly mess around her head. Her shirt was untucked and her combat boots were unlaced. “Please,” she started, motioning towards the couch, “sit.”
Ashley nodded and sat down across from Taylor.
“Look, we never wanted to make you angry. We never wanted to lie. We just needed to make sure that you were from one of the families.” Ashley looked away.
“What makes you so sure I’m a Fitzgerald?” Taylor swallowed.
“Your father.” Ashley looked at Taylor.
“My father is dead.” Taylor shook her head lightly.
“He is not. He’s in hiding. The Consul, they’re hunting him down. Along with the rest of our parents.”
“But,” Ashley swallowed, “my mother isn’t a sorcerer. Are they hunting her down, too?” Taylor shrugged.
“Possibly. But she knew she couldn’t protect you, not without your father so…”
“So she sent me here,” Ashley finished. Taylor nodded. “And how do you know all this? How did you know about me?”
“Jerry, Connor and I knew we were sorcerers way before coming here. We just acted like we were new at it.”
“Because, most sorcerers from the human world don’t know of their powers. It’s dangerous and the risks are deadly.” Ashley looked at Taylor through slanted eyes.
“How come you knew about your powers, how come all of you knew about your powers, except me?” Taylor sighed and looked away.
“Your father. He wanted you to be normal. He was afraid. That is why he married a non-sorcerer. That is why he created you.”
“And your parents…?”
“Our parents were foolish,” Taylor snapped. Ashley swallowed hard and looked away. Taylor took a deep breath and shook her head. “We never got a chance at being normal, of being human. We were always on the run. And I was always afraid of-” Taylor’s voice broke and she stood up. “Come on,” Taylor said motioning to Ashley. Ashley stood up and followed her into their bedroom. Taylor went to her side and slowly started taking the pictures down off of her wall.
“These pictures are the only things I have that are even close to home,” she said quietly.
“You moved around a lot because you were sorcerers. That’s why you have so many pictures,” Ashley said slowly, the realization hitting her in a wave. Taylor nodded and turned towards her, the pictures in her hands.
“And the sad thing is that in each place, I never felt like I belonged. I was always the outsider. I was always the weirdo. The quiet girl who never made friends.” Taylor laughed at that and instantly, her hand engulfed in flames, turning the pictures into gray smoldering ash. Ashley stared at her for a moment and then took a wary step forward. It took her a moment to realize that Taylor was crying.
“Taylor,” Ashley started, “I am so sorry. So...sorry.” Taylor shrugged and sniffed, dropping the remnants of the pictures on the ground.
“It doesn’t matter,” she told her. “It never did.”
“What do you mean?” Ashley asked.
“No matter where we go, no matter what we do, we will always be in danger. It’s just who we are.” Ashley shook her head.
“No. That’s not who I am. I am not a hazard. I am not dangerous. I am not like the families before us. I am not a monster.” Taylor smiled sadly.
“Ashley,” she said sadly, staring at the pile of ashes at her feet and then raising her eyes to Ashley’s, “to them, it’s all you’ll ever be.” Ashley swallowed the bile that was rising in her throat and backed away from her, shaking her head and blinking rapidly.
“Why would you say that?” Ashley whispered. Taylor closed her eyes.
“Because it’s true. Why do you think no one knows who we really are? Why do you think your father disappeared? Why do you think those families are unmentionable?” Ashley stared at her through her eyelashes.
“I don’t understand. What did they ever do?..why are they feared?” Taylor’s eyes brightened and she stepped towards Ashley.
“That’s what we’re here for. We need to know what made them-makes us so powerful...And we need your help to do it.” Ashley squinted at Taylor.
“You guys had this plan from the start?” she said, the hurt seeping into her voice. Taylor’s eyes widened and she shook her head.
“No, no, no, no. That’s not what happened...We saw you.”
“You saw me?” Taylor rolled her eyes.
“In a dream. We saw you come to us when…”
“When our parents disappeared.” Ashley clenched her jaw and inhaled through her nose.
“Your parents disappeared, too?” Taylor shrugged.
“Just the sorcerer one. The human one dropped us off here almost immediately after.”
Ashley shook her head at Taylor.
“Look, I don’t know you or anything about your sorcerer lives, okay. I am sorry your parents left you here but I need to see my mother. She needs to know he’s alive,” Ashley started. Taylor sighed and shook her head.
“That would not be wise.”
“I just want to go home, okay. Back to my old life where I was normal.”
“Normal? You never were normal.” Ashley felt irritation surge through her body in one pump and her ears grew red.
“You don’t know me. I don’t even know your last name.”
“Johnson,” she said immediately, “or Qualls. Whichever you prefer,” she said, shrugging. Ashley nodded and crossed her arms.
“Well, Taylor Johnson, I wasn’t raised like you. I was a human way longer than I was a sorcerer. And even if I was a sorcerer, I wouldn’t be the great grandchild of sorcerer murderers and fugitives that are presumed dead,” Ashley spat. Taylor pursed her lips and blinked glass into her eyes.
“Fine,” she said and turned on her heel and walked out of their room. Ashley slowly blinked at the empty space Taylor had stood in just seconds before. Ashley sighed and sat on her bunk bed, running her hands through her hair. This couldn’t be happening, she thought. She felt a strong headache coming on as she heard the bell ring. She didn’t even know what class she was supposed to be in and honestly, she was beginning to not care. All she wanted was to go home and forget any of it had ever happened.
She refused to believe Taylor’s lies. This was just a dream-a stupid messed up dream- but a dream nonetheless. Admitting that the visions were real would be admitting to the life Ashley never wanted. Ever since she was younger, all she wanted was to fit in and disappear into the crowd. But that was not what happened at all. She constantly found herself in trouble and crazy things always happened around her. By her 9th grade year of school, she had been kicked out of just as many.
And her father. He was always a happy man; the more understanding between the two of her parents. He was sweet and nice and never got angry at her for getting herself into another heap of trouble. Her mother, on the other hand, was extremely anxious about Ashley. She never gave her a chance to prove her maturity or responsibility, always waving her off and locking her in the house. Maybe that’s why she always snuck out and got herself into trouble she had no business being in.
But maybe, Ashley realized, that wasn’t it at all. If what Taylor and Jerry and Connor were saying was true, her mother may not have been extremely crazed to be protective of Ashley. Maybe she was scared of what was out in the real world. Her mother must’ve known that her father was a sorcerer and that Ashley was one, too. She was afraid for her.
A horrible feeling fell over Ashley and wrapped around her like a suffocating noose. Her mother was afraid. For her. She wasn’t horrible. She wasn’t mean or ununderstanding. The realization sent Ashley’s mind racing as she realized that the last time she was with her mother, she had been completely rude and non listening. She hadn’t even tried to understand her mother’s requests or even think about how it must’ve felt for her mother to be dropping off her only child at a school only days after she had lost the love of her life.
But then again, her father was still alive. And if her father really was alive, then the things she had learned in the past couple of days were true. It was all true. After all, her last name was Fitzgerald, and it started to make sense why her mother asked to her to go by her maiden name. She was protecting her.
Ashley groaned. It was all too much. Mere hours before, she was just a heartbroken girl and a few weeks before that, she was a normal freshman with a rapsheet. She sighed into her hands and stood up. She needed to find Taylor and the others. She wanted answers.
Finding them was a lot harder than she thought it would be. She walked past many classrooms, occasionally peeking into them, looking for their familiar faces. After about ten minutes of wandering, Ashley found them. They were in a classroom of about ten people and a man with light brown skin and locks down to his back was standing in the middle of the room. The students were crowded around him, looking at something that he was doing.
Ashley opened the door and stepped in, blending into the crowd around the teacher. The man was speaking.
“Now, students,” his voice light and young, “when you receive your sources, the symbol of the source will be engraved into the palms of your hand.” He opened his palm and green lines glowed throughout it, forming the shape of a tree. “As you can probably tell, my source is earth. The symbol is often a tree or sometimes, a rock. For those with air sources, their engravement looks different and glows silver. It is usually many winding lines into one. The water engravement is a wave, or, if the source is storm, a thunderstorm or rain. The fire symbol is a flame, or, if the source is lightning, zigzags going down.” A boy Ashley couldn’t see spoke up.
“Are those the only sources?” The teacher closed his palm and smiled at the boy.
“They are the most common. Only certain people from a certain bloodline can acquire sources that aren’t the ones I mentioned. But, those sources have been extinct for over half a century. I doubt that anyone would end up with a source that isn’t fire, earth, water, air, or a variation of those.”
“Mr. Pawsley,” a girl started, “what if you end up with a source you don’t want?” The man laughed.
“Caroline, once your source is received, you can’t change it, no matter how much you may want to. Besides, no one source is better than any other source. They are all powerful in their own way.” The girl seemed content with the answer. The man looked around the room and his eyes landed on Ashley.
“Nice of you to join us, Ashley,” the man said. All eyes turned to her and Ashley swallowed roughly. Connor, Jerry and Taylor definitely knew she was in the class now.
“Yes, sir,” she muttered. Mr. Pawsley smiled warmly.
“No need for the pleasantries although I do appreciate it. I know it’s your first day, so I won’t send you to Mr. Gardswell for ogre duty. But do trust that the next time you come to my class nearly thirty minutes late, that is exactly where you’ll be.”
“My apologies. I’ve had a,” she trailed off as her eyes landed on Taylor, “a surprising day, to say the least.” The man’s lips tilted into a grin.
“I understand.” He turned to the rest of the class. “Don’t tell Mrs. Shire, but because it’s the end of the day and it’s Friday, I’m going to let you guys out early.” The students simultaneously let a whoop.
“We won’t tell!” a couple of kids giggled, as everyone rushed to grab their things. The blue room was sent into a blurry frenzy of talking and excitement as everyone readied themselves for the weekend. Within three minutes, the classroom was thoroughly cleared out. Even Mr. Pawsley had disappeared. It was just the four of them. Ashley on one side and the other three facing her.
Taylor’s face was stony but her eyes gave her away. She wasn’t angry. Connor was blushing profusely and wouldn’t make eye contact with her. Jerry was just grinning but the smile wasn’t real. He was nervous. Ashley’s hands were sweating and her heart was hammering out of her chest.
“Look,” Connor breathed, finally staring Ashley in her eyes, “we’re sorry. We didn’t mean to make you upset or angry or to sever your trust with us. We just...we had to be safe.” Jerry’s grin fell from his face.
“It’s true. The last thing we needed was to mistake you for something else. This thing, who we are, it’s serious, and we’re just like you. We’re frightened and confused. We’re just used to the constant feeling of dread and nervousness.” He tried to make the last part funny but the joke fell flat. Ashley took in a shaky breath.
“I want answers,” she said seriously, looking each one in the eyes. “No more lies, no more secrets. I understand that you all knew about...this...before I did and that is not your fault. Just…” she faded away. “Don’t lie anymore. This mess, what I’ve learned in the past day and a half, scares the living shit out of me, okay? I can’t ignore it now that I know and I want to know the truth just as bad as you guys do.” Taylor nodded and stepped forward.
“That stuff we learned about yesterday was the first time any of us heard about it. We didn’t know who the families were. We only knew that we had powers and that all of our fates were somehow intertwined.” Ashley’s eyes widened.
“Really?” Connor nodded.
“Yes. We’re just as scared as you are. Even though we knew we were sorcerers, our parents didn’t tell us much else. We know our names but we don’t know our history. And I believe Taylor’s right. Our fates are intertwined somehow.” Ashley nodded.
“I’m sorry that I freaked out earlier, okay? I shouldn’t have-”
“You were right to freak,” Jerry said. “I know I would’ve. We just threw a lot on you at once, after you had just ported, nonetheless.” Ashley sighed as they all stood in silence.
“This is all just so crazy,” Ashley said shaking her head, stepping closer to them. Taylor brought her into a hug.
“I know,” she whispered quietly. Jerry put his arm around Ashley and Taylor’s shoulder.
“We’re going to figure this out, alright?” Connor put his hands on Taylor and Ashley’s shoulder.
“Together,” Connor added. Ashley nodded into Taylor.
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