Chapter 1 - Welcome Back
It’s now Tuesday morning, the day I return to school. I’m up and dressed, had breakfast and I’m getting ready to go as it’s nearing eight AM.
There’s a knock on my parent’s front door.
When my Dad answers it, I hear a man say, ‘Anne Hunter?’
Dad turns and calls out, ‘Anne, your cabs here!’
I say goodbye to everyone, including Tawzer, Ellie, and Charlie, before Sunny and I walk to the cab which is parked directly outside.
When we get in the back, I notice it’s the same driver who had dropped us off before the holidays. ‘Hi again.’
‘Allo, there. How was your Christmas?’
‘It was good thank you, nice seeing the family. How was yours?’
‘Not bad, not bad, thank you. Looking forward to going back to the Academy?’
‘Yes, but I’m going to miss my family a lot.’
We set off. He drives until we’re in a quiet place with no one around. He turns on the invisible blanket thing again, and as before, we are off flying back to the Academy.
It’s just as impressive flying back to Anuanna, seeing the city thousands of feet from ground level. As we begin to descend, I can see more black cabs flying around us and more landing, dropping off students. Our driver parks down the road from the other cars and asks for my card again. I give it to him to see ‘-46.57’ appear on the small strip screen above the card slot. I thank him before taking my belongings and leave.
Walking towards the path that leads to the castle, I hear a meowing sound. I follow it to see the same tabby cat from a couple of weeks ago walking towards us.
‘Hey boy! How’ve you been?’
‘That cat’s different.’
I look at Sunny wondering what he means. ‘Different? How?’
‘It smells different. And have you noticed it’s a little bigger than the average cat?’
‘Yeah, but I didn’t really pay attention.’
I walk over and stroke the cat, he’s as friendly and loving now as he was when I first met him.
‘You’re such a handsome little guy. Do you live around here?’
Not a peep but he’s purring and rubbing his head up against me.
‘I’m sorry darling, but I have to leave now. You take care of yourself.’
I stroke him one last time before heading off back to my flat. I find it funny that the cat is following us nearly all the way back home.
It feels nice to be back at our flat. I didn’t realise before but it actually feels like home now.
The first thing I do is unpack. I take Victor’s, Charlotte’s and Liam’s presents and put them under my tree in the living room. I would like to give it to them today, but I don’t know where Victor is and I don’t want to go to the castle when it’s closed. Also, I’m sure he’d be at his home, if only I knew where that is. I’ll take it in tomorrow and give it to him then.
I don’t know if Charlotte or Liam are back yet. I tried ringing on our way here, but there’s no signal, that might mean they haven’t arrived in Anuanna yet.
I knock on Charlotte’s door but get nothing, that must be my confirmation that they haven’t arrived yet. Not knowing what to do with myself and guessing the centre and most likely everything else is shut, I try to keep myself entertained around the flat. I put on programs, music, and films, but I’m not interested in any of them. I try sparking up conversations with Sunny, but they all dry up quickly.
I start to consider just walking around, maybe getting to know this part of the city better, but looking out at the horrible weather, I think staying in would probably be the best idea.
Again, I’m flicking through TV channels bored out of my mind until I hear a knock on my door. I shoot up to answer it.
I’m so pleased to see both Charlotte and Liam standing there, both with big grins.
‘Merry Christmas!’ Charlotte throws her arms around me.
‘Thanks, Charlotte, Merry Christmas to you too!’
Liam gives me a short hug. ‘And a happy new year!’
‘Thanks, and you!’
Both of them hands me a gift and give Sunny a bone and a ball. I open mine; Charlotte gave me some lovely gold, short, sweet leafed designed earrings with three tiny silver diamonds placed on each one.
‘Oh wow, these are beautiful! Thank you, Charlotte.’ I give her a tight hug.
‘You’re very welcome. I know you don’t really wear jewellery but I thought they’d suit you.’
‘No, this is great. My family gave me clothes, make-up, perfume, the lot, but I didn’t get any jewellery, this completes the set.’
I then open Liam’s present; it’s a box of goodies. It looks like a personalised gift box. There is a pair of white sock slippers; the left one has a white and brown rabbit with long floppy ears and the right one has a grey rabbit with short ears standing up straight. They look like they’re looking at each other from their separate socks. There’s also a hot water bottle with an owl cover and a teacup in the shape of a tiger’s head.
‘Aww, these are so cute! Thank you so much, Liam!’
‘I hoped you’d like them.’
‘I really do, thank you!’
I also give Liam a big hug. ‘I suddenly don’t want to give you guys your presents.’
‘Don’t be silly Anne, we’re not comparing.’ I know Charlotte’s right but my presents are rubbish compared to theirs.
I hesitantly give them their presents. Uneasily, I watch them tear the wrapping paper off.
Charlotte’s the first to comment, she squeals when she sees it. ’Aahh! Susan! You remembered? I haven’t seen this doll since I was what? About five or six years old. I loved her so much when I was a girl. Oh, thank you, Anne.’
‘I’m relieved you like it.’
‘Of course, I do!’ Charlotte practically launches herself at me. I chuckle as we hug.
Liam opens his one.
‘No way! Captain Planet, that’s wicked. Thanks, Anne!’
After unwrapping our gifts, we have our own little version of a Christmas dinner. We also play games, music and cast a spell or two making things levitate. Charlotte and Liam make their figures dance together. We spend the rest of the evening laughing, telling jokes, relaxing, and enjoying ourselves.
The next morning is back to normal and we’re back at school. I bring Victor’s present hoping to give it to him. It’s quite big so I have to put it in a separate bag. We do have a double lesson of Magic Defence today, but of course, I can’t give it to him then. I’ll have to wait until the end of school.
At the end of the day, I tell Charlotte and Liam I’m going to see Victor and I make my way there.
When I arrive at his room, I knock on the door and wait for Victor to call, ‘come in.’ I go in while Sunny stays outside again.
I’m so relieved that Victor’s on his own with no teacher or student to interrupt us this time. He’s working at his desk until he sees me.
He stands up with his big smile that I love so much. ‘Anne.’
‘How are you? How was your Christmas?’
‘It was really nice, thank you. I very much enjoyed being with my family again. I really miss them.’
‘Good, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.’
‘Yeah. So how was your Christmas?’
‘It went well, thank you. I spent most of my time with my mum, which was nice. I don’t see her much anymore with being here.’
‘That’s a shame, but at least you got to spend some time with her recently.’
‘Yeah, that’s true.’
I suddenly don’t know what else to say, so I lose my confidence even to give him the gift. I feel like a little school girl around him as usual.
I’m trying to think of something to say to get the conversation going. ‘So, is the cab queue to go home usually that busy around Christmas?’
Seriously? I’m trying to spark up a conversation to get to know and hopefully get closer to him, and I choose to talk about traffic! Really?! What was I thinking?
I’m glad to see that he chuckles none-the-less. ‘Yes, it usually is that bad in the holiday seasons. You have to get there first or you could be stuck waiting around for a while. It’s lucky you had a little helper to help you out.’
‘Yeah, it was… Wait a minute, how do you know about that?’
Victor gives a grin and it suddenly makes sense. ‘You’re the tabby cat?’
His grin widens which answers my question.
‘Did you turn into a mouse during the game with Luke as well?’
Victor nods with a smile. ‘Mmhm.’
‘I’ve been seeing a mouse running around in the castle lately. I take it that’s you?’
‘You have a sharp eye; I didn’t think you spotted me so often. I thought I was being more careful, especially being disguised as a mouse.’
‘My gift is starting to grow more I think; I don’t just hear animals better; I’m starting to sense them around now as well.’
‘Really? That’s interesting.’
‘Not as interesting as you spying on me.’ I say playfully.
‘Not spying, just keeping an eye on you, making sure everything is okay.’
‘You’re worried about me?’
‘Do you have to ask?’
Victor walks over, holds me by my arms and brings me in closer to him. Again, I freeze. I can’t help it and I can’t help losing my breath every time he touches me. This time without hesitation, he moves in slowly and kisses me. Unlike last time, we are bolder as we kiss. I slide my hands up to his face. He places his hands on my hips and pulls me so close to him, there’s no space between us. I don’t want to break away; I would be happy to stay like this.
When we eventually break apart, we’re both panting.
Victor caresses my face as he speaks. ‘I missed you.’
We begin a conversation but kiss in-between each sentence.
When we next break apart, I try and get my sentence out through heavy panting and breathless effort. ‘I missed you so much, it was hard being away from you.’
Victor wraps his arms around me and I put mine around his shoulders.
He makes me speechless once again when he says, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to come back so I could hold you.’
I wrap my arms around his waist and hold him tighter.
We stand here just holding each other. I rest my head on his chest, taking in every second with him. This for me is bliss until Victor pulls away. ‘Here, I got you something.’
Victor goes to his desk drawer and pulls out a small box before handing it to me. I take it feeling grateful and very flattered that he thought of me. ‘You didn’t have to get me anything.’
‘I know but I saw it and thought of you.’
I open the box and gasp. It’s a large, thick, oval gold locket with a glass front. Inside the glass are two beautiful, greenish-blue butterflies flying around some red, pink, yellow and white flowers in lovely green grass, slightly blowing in the breeze. A beautiful sparkling blue pond is underneath them. A sunny bright blue sky with a couple of white, fluffy clouds are gently floating in the background. It’s made even more amazing by the details as they all look so real, even the way everything is moving is realistic. It’s as if I could pluck them out and I would be holding miniature versions of a real butterfly or flower in my hand.
I open the locket, it’s empty inside with two oval spaces waiting to have pictures placed in them.
‘This is beautiful, Victor!’
‘You like it?’
‘I love it! Thank you.’
Victor takes it out of my hand to put it on me. I lift my hair so he can clip the clasp. It hangs perfectly around my neck. I’m in love with it, it’s the most beautiful piece of jewellery I’ve seen. But now I’m not feeling very confident about my gift for him. ‘My gift pales in comparison to this.’
‘You got me something?’
‘Of course, I did, but it’s not as beautiful as this.’
I pick up the bag and hand him his gift. He takes it and opens it at his desk. When he unboxes it, I hear him say, ‘oh, Anne,’ as he uncovers it.
‘You like it?’
‘Anne, I adore it. This is wonderful, thank you.’
‘You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it. When I saw it, it reminded me of you, maybe of us.’
‘Definitely of us.’
He hugs me tight and kisses me on my head. As I hold him tightly once more, I feel the happiest I’ve been in a while. I don’t want to let go.
‘Come on, let’s go for a walk.’
I look up at him. ‘A walk? Where?’
‘Somewhere where we can be alone.’
I follow Victor out through and past the Crelball pitch – Sunny follows from far behind to give us space. I can see the edge of the forest but we don’t go near them. When we know we’re alone, I feel Victor’s hand take mine as he slows to a stroll. I hold his hand firmly in return. I look up at him, and he down at me, both happily smiling.
It’s taking him a few moments to say anything. I’m hoping he’s enjoying our time together as I am, then he tells me why he brought me out here. ‘Anne, we need to be careful.’
‘Rumours about us have started to travel around the Academy.’
‘Remember in the Hall after the situation with Alex? We were together when that girl walked in on us. She’s been spreading that we’re together.’
‘So, what now?’
‘I don’t know to be honest. I’ve never been in this situation before.’
‘Will anything happen?’
‘It depends on Gilwich, if he learns of the rumours and if he does, will he believe them? He can dismiss me, send me to another school or demand that we end our relationship.’
I feel heartbroken, I don’t know what I’d do if any of that ever happened. We have just gotten together and now we’re already being threatened at being split apart. I shake my head. ‘If he asks, I’ll deny it. I’ll say it’s typical, silly teenage rumours and nothing to take seriously.’
‘And what if he finds out you lied to him?’
’I’ll deal with that when or if that happens.’
Victor goes silent, it looks like he’s considering something. ‘You have a choice and I’ll completely understand whatever you choose.’
‘What do you mean “a choice?”’
‘From what I can see, we can either continue hiding our relationship, but we’ll have to be much more careful from now on, or…’ Victor looks away from me and stares at the floor.
‘Or we end it?’ I finish his sentence.
Victor looks back up and we lock eyes. He sounds almost heartbroken. ‘Yes. I don’t want to but I don’t want to see something happen to you because of me.’
‘Nothing might happen, as long as we’re careful and we hide it. I’d rather face what they throw at me than leave you. Besides, teenagers are always making up rumours and they’re always being spread around schools. Apart from other teenagers, who would actually believe her?’
Victor stops and stands still. With my hand in his, he pulls me close to him and kisses me.
This time, we kiss for much longer. When we break apart, I see Victor’s eyes slowly open before he looks down at me lovingly. ‘You know, Anne, before you, I’ve never felt this way about anyone.’
‘Neither have I.’ I say almost breathlessly as I feel my heart swell.
I kiss him before resting my head on his chest and stand here, just holding him.
‘How are we going to avoid being seen together?’
‘We can come here. After school, it’s empty unless the pitch is being used for practice. If not, I know other places. We’d have to be very discrete of course. If another member of staff or a pupil is around, obviously, we can’t be seen going off together.’
I hug him tightly. With a smile, I become relieved and so happy that Victor still wants to be together.
I pull away slightly when I thought I saw a white figure standing amongst the forest trees, but within seconds it’s gone.
Victor notices me staring at the forest. ‘What is it?’
‘Nothing. I thought I saw something.’
Victor and I don’t stay much longer; we both agree that it’s a good idea to part for today.
As I walk back home, I decide to visit Charlotte. I think she might like to be filled in. I knock on her door for a smiling Charlotte to greet me a few moments later. ‘Anne!’
‘Did you just get back from visiting-’ Charlotte’s eyes move down to my chest. ‘Oh my God, that necklace, it’s so beautiful!’
‘Thanks, it’s a gift from Victor.’
‘Oh, that’s so adorable! Come in, you’ve got to tell me all about it!’
Charlotte takes my hand and pulls me inside her flat.
It’s exactly the same as mine and Liam’s but just decorated differently. It still looks the same, nothing’s changed since I last saw it. It hasn’t been that long since I was last here but Charlotte does like to change things here and there regularly. Usually, there’s something different or new in her flat when I come by. Either there’s a new decorative piece or she has moved some furniture around.
Her kitchen has dark purple walls with black swirly patterns. The units are dark purple and the surfaces are black to match whilst the handles are all a dim silver grey to match the fridge, washing machine, and floor.
Her living room has white walls, carpets, and settees, but she has a couple of modern malty coloured rugs. One has different coloured circles overlapping each other and the other has diamonds. She also has three malty coloured settee cushions on her settees; one has many different coloured circles, another has different shades of blues and greens, and the last has browns, reds, and yellows which looks fantastic together. She has white curtains with beige vines and flowers on them.
Perched next to the window on a stand is Comet. I haven’t seen her in the living room before. Usually, she’s in the bedroom or spare room when guests are around.
Charlotte has a television set similar to mine hanging on the wall. In front of her settee is an artistic glass table which instead of having the common four legs, it has a long, thick, wavy white pattern in the shape close to the letter S on its side acting as the table’s legs.
Charlotte’s hallway is a beige colour with a few fake but attractive potted plants which are also placed in different parts of the living room.
One can tell that a designer lives here.
‘Take a seat. Would you like a drink?’
‘No thanks, I’m good.’
‘So, how did it go with you and Victor?’
I go over what happened and unsurprisingly, Charlotte’s enthusiastic about it. She seems to like hearing the gossip between us. ‘I had no idea Victor is a romantic.’
‘Yeah, but I’m scared, Charlotte.’
‘I’m scared something’s going to go wrong. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. I know it hasn’t been long and we have only just started going out, but I think I’m falling - have fallen for him. If we split, I’ll be devastated.’
Charlotte gives me one of her loving tight hugs. ‘Oh, honey. No one ever fell in love without taking risks. Clearly, he feels the same way, so don’t waste your time on worrying about what could happen, because that might not ever happen.’
Charlotte can see that I’m still anxious.
Charlotte sits close to me, wraps her arm around my side and rests her head on my shoulder. As we sit together, she rubs her hand up and down my side.
I rest my head on hers, appreciating her being here for me.
This is another reason why I love Charlotte so much. She’s not just very caring towards her friends but she’s always there.
We talk for a bit when Charlotte tells me about how her new job and studies are going. Gilwich managed to find another Resurrector to train her, and he happens to be a distant biological uncle of hers. Apparently, they met when she was very young but she doesn’t remember him. She said he’s rather strict, moody, and acts like he doesn’t want to be teaching her, so she doesn’t know why he agreed to teach if he hates it so much. She mentioned he’s the only biological family she has met since she was young and when she asked him about her biological parents or any family members, he got annoyed and refused to tell her anything.
She’s been practising trying to make corpses move. So far, she’s managed to get them to twitch and one moaned, but no real breakthroughs yet. She says that she’s loving her Interior Designing Course, however, and because she was already studying it, she’s finding this one easy at the moment since she’s had a head start.
We finish off the night having one of our “girly chat evenings” as Liam and Sunny call them before I return to my flat.
A little over a week has gone by, things continue as normal. Victor and I keep things under the radar making sure no one gets suspicious. We’ve had our secret meetings nearly every day so far. It’s been hard concentrating in class with him, it’s harder when we have our private lessons together, but we do work through it, most of the time we are working. Our little sneaky breaks and getaways together are the highlights of my days.