What the fuck, Kel?! Prof. Brown just emailed and asked me if I could take over your load next semester. Saying you had ‘a family thing’ and you were finishing up???? CALL ME.
I read the text from Bec from my bed, still groggy and waking up. Sleep had not been my friend of late. My brain had no trouble reminding me that I had an active libido and it wanted another piece of the Were across the river. I had never really suffered from erotic dreams before, and they weren't half bad by themselves, but when you couldn’t fulfill them, they fucking sucked. I pushed the image of naked Will out of my head and focused on the text message.
Dammit, they found out. In the ten days or so since Franny’s ceremony, I still hadn’t figured out what to tell my friends, knowing they would be hurt by my sudden departure. I sat up, used the bathroom, and decided I was up for the day. When I came back out, I stared at my room. There were pieces of readings from Gran’s binder, along with additional readings from the University library, scattered along my floor. On my desk was my laptop that was my current ball and chain to finish my dissertation. I eyed it warily, knowing that I could spend another twelve hours sitting in front of it and never feeling any closer to finishing. God, I was tired.
After speaking with Dr. Brown, who was shockingly sympathetic about finishing by February, it was clear that I needed to get my ass into gear. And since then, my ass was worn out. This was my rock and I was poor Sisyphus. I shook my head and decided I needed a change of pace and slipped on my running gear.
Outside was still dark with a few stars, though the sun was threatening to extinguish them in maybe another twenty minutes, as I took off down to the river running track. The smell of the damp woods and the wet fields pre-dawn brought back my memories and love for the commune land. Could I find that again? Knowing that most of my family had been burned here? I tried to push the deep thoughts out and focused on my feet, hoping they knew what I needed.
In the winter, the track had been taken back by nature due to neglect. There were fallen branches over the trail down to the river and I held my phone light in front of me as I ran through the little patch of forest. Once I broke through the bush the little floating dock that the commune had built came into sight.
I sprinted the remaining distance to it and ran its length, stopping for breath at the end. Looking down into the Columbia River, the current seemed in full force and looked damn cold. Kneeling, I tested it with my fingers. Nope, beyond damned, frigging cold. But no one could deny the view was stunning.
The river curved around the flat, almost prairie like lands across the water, the Wenatchi Reservation. It was the most southern part of the Res that stretched all the way up to the Canadian border. As far as I was aware, the southern part was the least inhabited, being most used by the Pack. Here, they had more space to roam and not worry about hurting their human tribe members.
I stood back up, shivered in the breeze that swept my hair around my face, and began to run down the man made trail along the river’s edge. After a few minutes the sun eventually peeked up and hit me square in the eyes, making me turn my head to the river. Something caught my eye across the water, on the grass lands beyond the shore. It was in the brush, running in the same direction. I stopped and it followed suit. It walked towards the shore and a large black mass appeared from the tall grass.
Holy shit. That was a wolf.
In my mind, when I imagined a wolf, I thought of something that came to my thigh, had a thin nose, was sleek, maybe? But this was nothing like that. It. Was. Big. Broad and black and probably waist high. It was the most intimidating wild thing I had ever seen, and it seemed like it wanted to stare me down. Although we had the river between us, it had definitely been stalking me. It paced to and fro on the riverfront, occasionally glancing up at me, occasionally baring its teeth.
Wait. I was so stupid, this was one of the Blue Moon pack. I had never seen them in their phased form, but surely this was what they morphed to? I never thought that they would be shifted in the broad daylight though, but we were on private lands, and no one would even think twice about fucking around with that beast. I raised my hand above my head and called out above the rushing water. “Hello to the north shore!”
The wolf continued its pacing and I felt unsure about what it really was, a Were or just a usual run of the mill vicious predator looking for breakfast. But what did I expect, that he just change back to a human and say, “Hi neighbor! Cold out, huh?” I shook my head in foolishness and began the run back, not daring to set off my imagination again and looking to see if it was following.
When I walked back in the front door of the house, the sun was well and truly up, and a very angry Margaret Wardwell was waiting on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand. Her face had its typical stone demeanor, but her lips were pursed tight.
Walking to the couch opposite I sat and started to take off my shoes.
“Up early, Gran?”
She raised one eyebrow.
“Kelly Devon Jones. If you ever do that again, I will magically and physically bind you to this house.”
“Do, what? I went down to the river run...”
“...without leaving a note, letting me wake up to find you missing and... and the front door wide open,” her voice cracked. “It’s just us now, Kel. You will not worry me again like that,” she scolded, and for the first time she sounded like a vulnerable, frail, old woman. It was easy for me to forget that my Gran also lost another daughter with Franny, though she often had her stone wall up so high it seemed she wanted everyone to forget.
“Gran...I’m sorry. I didn’t think, but we have all the wards up, right? And I always keep on the talisman bracelet you gave me.” Shaking my bracelet on my wrist at her.
She cleared her throat and took a sip of coffee, the cloak of stern grandmother back up.
“Well, this might be the best time to start our practical lessons. Have you finished the book?”
I shucked off my other shoe and crossed legs up on the couch and slowly replied, choosing my words carefully.
“More or less.”
“Mmm, and did you more or less read the part about categories of magic and Witches?”
“And what are you, where do you think you fall into?”
I pursed my lips in thought, having already considered the question as I was reading it earlier in the week. The descriptions of each were broad, but none of them mentioned electricity or emotions. The closest I could position myself to was an elemental witch, since lightning was a weather phenomenon.
“Elemental???” I said with skepticism.
She shook her head.
“Close, but the answer is all, but none.”
I pursed my lips at her.
“That makes no sense, how can I be all types, but none of them?”
She leaned back.
“Because what Wardwell Witches can do, not all Wardwell’s mind, affects many types of magic, but doesn’t have the same abilities as them. Do you remember when I used to flick Emily from across the house when she would ransack the pantry?”
“And you remember me dropping the Goode boy?”
Again, I nodded.
“How do you think I did that?”
I scrambled for an answer. Scientifically, I was stumped. But I knew Witches bent the rules of science with their inherited abilities. I shrugged my shoulders.
“What about the flowers? You felt the pulse, and the tingle in your fingers, right? What did it feel like?”
“It felt like I had my hand up against a speaker at a concert”
“Like sound was moving through you?” I nodded once more.
“What is sound, Doctor Jones?”
“Air particles clashing against one another until it reaches someone’s ear.”
“Good, now what makes plants grow?”
“Exactly!” She exclaimed with enthusiasm.
My face scrunched in thought.
“Energy? You can... push energy?” She continued to smile. It took me a minute to understand the implications.
“You can move energy?! That doesn’t make sense.”
“If the atom has a negative or positively charged proton in it, the Wardwell Witches can manipulate it. It sometimes skips some of us, like Francis and Vonda, but your mother had it, and it seems you do now, too.”
“I..I... that’s big.” Holy shit, that was big. Moving energy?
Gran nodded.“I’m glad you understand the implications. And yes, it is big, as you with the lightning proved.”
“But, we can’t make it, energy that is?”
“No, we can only transfer it, tell it to do what we want. Your fingers tingled in the flower patch because I redirected a little bit of energy from everyone and pushed it into the seeds, gently. That part is actually the skill. If you do it too fast, too much, or without any semblance of what would happen normally, you would fry the seeds. It would be the same with anything. A man in an electric chair doesn’t burn because electricity courses through his body, its because he can’t handle that much electricity at once.”
“Gran... this is... overwhelming...”
“And dangerous Kelly.” Gran paused and looked down at her hands, curled up in her lap. “I have no idea how you survived, I was so...scared when Will walked in with you. I have only dealt with lightning once, when I was young, a teen. My mother had to take me to the hospital for second-degree burns and I was in there for a week.” She now looked up at me with sincerity in her eyes. “To be honest, I don’t know what is happening with you or why this part of you didn’t come out with puberty. But we will go through it together.”
I listened to Gran with a new understanding, was this why she was so stern and reserved with feelings? And if what she was saying was true, whatever was happening to me was out of the realm of her experience and therefore uncharted. But at least she was offering herself.
I gave a big exhale.
“So, what’s first?”
“Well, you have four more days here before you go back, so let’s start with anger management, shall we?”
My phone chimed with a text as I sat on the living room floor. I was so ohm’ed out, I would kill the next person who suggested yoga was exercise and would chill me out. Gran’s idea of anger management, so I wouldn’t have another potentially fatal episode, was basic mindful meditation for two days.
I. Was. Done.
Reaching for my phone on the couch, it chimed again.
Hi Kelly, this is Smith, your grandmother gave me your number after the meeting to arrange our trip. Still good to leave on Friday morning? I am off the Res right now, but should be back soon. I would be meeting you at the bus stop.
Oh boy, I had temporarily forgotten about the giant, all American werewolf that would be my shadow for the month in Seattle. He was definitely handsome, but he was no Will Achran who had occupied more than a few of my thoughts in the last few days. As I thought, I had reached the pinnacle of men, and everyone looked less in comparison. It would be strange to have him sleep on my couch, but I would probably feel better for the security the gargantuan would provide.
Hi Smith, all good to go! I’ll see you at the stop at 8:30.
My Gran walked in with a cup of tea.
“You could have told me you gave my number to the Were.”
She looked up from sipping on the cup.
“The big one? I liked him for the job, nice and forbearing, intimidating, looks like he doesn’t like to go to bars too much. Should be a quiet month there if you just stick to your apartment and school.”
I shook my head, Gran was going to turn me into a nun. She sat down on the couch next to me and I relaxed my legs from the meditation pose. How people were supposed to be calm when shaped like a pretzel was beyond me.
“Gran, I am meditated out. I’ve got all your techniques down, I had them down, let's not forget I was the picture of calm and gentle for the first twenty-six years life. Can we learn something I don’t know...fun?” Her lips puckered in thought,
“I did say fun, didn’t I?”
“I believe you said so much fun.”
She went to the kitchen and returned a moment later hiding something in her hand. Sitting, she scooted between me and the couch.
“Okay, we’ll start small. Fingers and the air in front of them. Obviously much easier as there is nothing between you and it. The more physical material between you, the denser or lighter you will have to mentally push through, therefore, harder, got it?” I nodded.
“Good, now different elements will be easier or harder because they have more or less protons, which means more or less energy to push around, right?”
I looked at my grandmother skeptically, “Are you sure you didn’t go to university?”
“Oh please, you don’t have to go to university to read a book. Now hold your finger up and pretend that the space right in front of it is glue and you want to gently push into that glue, but without moving your finger.” Furrowing my brow, I thought about what she said. Didn’t sound too hard.
I held my finger up, closed my eyes, and visualized the glue. After a minute of feeling nothing I sighed and opened my eyes.
“Instead of glue, maybe dough, more force.”
I tried the motion again and after a few moments Gran told me to open my eyes. She had brought a light bulb from the kitchen and was holding it an inch from my finger. It was softly glowing. I grinned like an idiot and as soon as my concentration broke, the bulb dimmed out.
Gran softly smiled and handed me the bulb.
“Right. Make the bulb go brighter, then push it another inch away, we will see what you can do in a month’s time.” She smiled again and left me sitting on the floor still with my own foolish grin.
We parked in the Denny’s lot while waiting for the bus. I felt like a kid about to go off to summer camp, beyond the reach of my helicopter parents. Gran switched off the car and stared down at her hands on the wheel. She murmured to herself,
“I wonder if your mother would just let you go off like this?” I blinked in surprise, Gran never talked about my mother, Jolene. I had a thought and confessed,
“You know, with all that has happened, I didn’t even get a chance to go out to the house.” She nodded solemnly, thinking about the burned ruins on the far edge of our land.
“Can you tell me a happy memory, one for the road? You never talk about them, and now with Francis gone, they are slowly fading all over again.” She turned her head to me and studied my face, hers finally looking its 70 years. Surprisingly, a tear welled in her eye, thinking about something from my parents’ past. She blinked it away and cleared her throat.
“I remember when Ed Bishop brought your father onto the commune and into the healing house, all banged up and broken from his motorcycle accident. I’ll never forget seeing your mother, nearly nineteen years old locking her eyes on him and rushing to his side. Like she was an old friend coming to his aid. I remember thinking ‘Oh no, here we go’. When he woke up a few hours later, she was by his bedside, and apparently he said something about angels. And then after that he never left the commune. That was it for both of them, married a month later.”
I smiled and closed my eyes up to the car’s ceiling.
“That’s a nice story, I knew they met in the healing house, but I didn’t know... the rest.” It was a nice story, it would be even nicer if it was true and not a lie of my parents' whole hoax of a marriage.
A car beeped and my Gran looked up.
“They’re here. Now, remember to wear that talisman, even when in the shower. No bars, do what you need to do at school then back to the apartment. And, you know, just be cautious in general. I have talked to Smith a few times when he was at the commune and he seems to know about that sort of stuff, so just follow his lead.”
I grabbed her shoulder.
“Gran, I’m going to be fine. I’ll call you every night and tell you if something odd happens, which it won’t, I’m sure.” She smiled briefly before her eyes narrowed on Will’s blue truck coming to a halt across the lot.
We climbed out with my small suitcase and watched Will climb out followed by his brother, Jess. Confused, I walked over, giving the man a once over. God damn, it had been two weeks since I had seen him, but my memories when I was alone at night had it completely wrong. He wasn’t just sexy. He was sex walking. I slyly looked him over again to store in my memory when he beat me to my first question.
“Change of plans, Jess is your roomie for the month.” Gran came up behind me, her face holding a frown.
“I liked the big one more,” she stated.
“I have to agree. No offense, Jess, but I kind of feel better with the idea of a big guy to step in and you know..,” I made a punching motion to my own face.
Jess imitated a hurt look.
“You wound me, Jones. Besides being, you know, a werewolf, I’ve been doing Krav Maga for about three years now. Much better than just brute force, no one will touch you. I promise.” I frowned and looked at Gran for her thoughts. Will cut me off with an irritated tone.
“Look, you don’t get to pick and choose who is your personal serf for the month. Smith had better things to attend, and Jess here is more than able to protect a grad student who is going to sit and go to classes for a month. Just keep a low profile.”
Gran and I looked at each other again, and I shrugged my shoulders with resignation. There would be no trouble, so this would be fine. I looked back to Jess with a smirk.
“I hope you don’t snore.”
“Jess, will take the couch of course,” Will piped up. Jess looked over to his brother with an amused look.
“Though if you offer the bed, I won’t refuse,” Will smacked his brother in the back of the head. Behind us, the sound of the bus pulling up stirred us into our goodbyes. I grabbed Gran by the shoulders and pulled her in, saying that I would call her when I got to the apartment. I saw Will doing the same and whispering something into Jess’ ear. Letting go, Jess and I walked to the bus together with our small luggage. Following, I stepped onto the bus, when someone grabbed by hand from behind. Looking back, Will was holding onto it. He looked stern.
“No more morning runs by yourself, okay? You go anywhere, you tell Jess and he comes.”
I frowned and nodded my head, grasping his hand and subtly savoring the connection. He let go, and I followed Jess to a seat. We watched the two outside as the bus pulled away. We were on our own now, away from the security of our coven and pack. It felt thrilling, and slightly reckless.
Jess turned to me with a devilish grin as the bus started to pick up speed.
“So Jonesy, you ready to get wild?”