The black car came to a stop in front of the massive iron gates, and my heart almost stopped with it. I leaned forward and looked out of the window to observe the students as they dragged their luggage in, chatting, hugging and smiling at each other. All of the confidence and determination I demonstrated back in the house vanished as the fact that I didn’t know anyone here dawned on me. I fidgeted in my seat and took several deep breaths, trying my best not to panic.
“Miss Ignis, are you alright?” The driver looked at me through his front mirror.
“Yes, Robert, I’m fine. Just give me a minute please.”
Robert, my driver, took it upon himself to distract me with small talk and dad jokes. I appreciated his effort and did my best to engage in the conversation, but I couldn’t shake my apprehension completely.
When the private jet had landed on the outskirts of the island, my parents had sent me off alone after -yet another- pep talk. I had put on a brave face then and had assured them that I would be fine, but I was definitely regretting that decision now.
“I’m ready,” I said after another deep breath.
Robert smiled at me and hurried out of the car, circling it to open my door. I stepped out after I straightened my smooth velvet skirt and looked around. Nobody seemed to pay special attention to me, which was a relief. I grabbed my purse and suitcase and headed to the gates.
“Good luck Miss Ignis,” Robert exclaimed, waving goodbye with his warm smile.
“Thank you Robert,” I waved back. “Goodbye.”
A warm breeze carried the smell of the ocean with it and I started to feel relaxed, my platinum blond hair brushing against my face. I walked straight ahead, remembering the layout of the school from the maps I had studied on the jet. The dorms and houses were to the left, behind a magnificent looking fountain. On the other side of the academy sat the entertainment facilities. From football and basketball fields, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, clubs for elemental magic, training grounds and indoor gyms, to tennis and golf courts, Lixierra had it all.
Right ahead were the main buildings of the academy, where the main office was located. That was my first destination, I needed to sign in and get my house keys, but I couldn’t help admiring the beauty that surrounded me. The maps and pictures didn’t even come close to doing the academy justice. Everywhere I looked, lush green trees greeted me, their branches swaying with the breeze. The smell of freshly cut grass blended in with the different fragrances of the flowers that were scattered around the gardens, and the whole landscape was bathed in the warm glow of the golden sun. I only took a few steps into the entrance and I was already blown away by the exquisiteness of every single detail.
My sense of wonder was soon interrupted however, when I began to notice some students staring at me. I could hear them whispering to each other, I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but that did not stop me from creating all different kinds of scenarios in my mind. They didn’t make an effort to hide their nudging and gasping when I looked at them, a reaction that left me baffled.
Did I forget to put my skirt on?
I grabbed the fabric and crumpled it between my fingers.
Nope, perfectly clothed. So what are they gasping about?
I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a voice behind me said, “You must be Lilith.” I turned around, grateful for the distraction.
“Oh my God… Aline?” Though I had never seen this woman before, a strange feeling immediately accompanied my first look at her. Tears were sparkling in her hazel eyes, but otherwise she was marvelous. She looked to be in her mid to late twenties, her lean figure towered over me thanks to the five inch black heels she was wearing and her skin was smooth and tan. Blond curls bounced off her shoulders as she shifted her weight.
Why do I feel like I know her?
What was it that she called me? Aline?
“I’m sorry; you must have me confused with someone else,” I said. “My name is Lilith.”
She stared at me for a while longer, the shock on her face replaced with confusion. Her hazel eyes appraised me once again, taking in all of my features, and I smiled awkwardly. What else was I supposed to do?
“I apologize.” She broke the tense silence after a moment, her face relaxing into a beautiful smile. “My name is Jessica, I’m one of the council members here at the academy, and I am your official welcoming committee.” She extended her hand for me to shake and I took it.
“Nice to meet you, Jessica. I was just on my way to the main office.”
“Allow me to show you around then.” She offered.
I smiled and nodded, unwilling to decline her offer. The maps I had were very detailed, but this place was huge and I would rather not get lost on my first day.
“Your parents have told me so much about you.” She said as she led the way to the office. “I just want you to know that you have nothing to worry about. Your condition is rare, but it is not unheard of. The council has assigned you a mentor that will be working with you before and after classes so you will be able to catch up to your classmates’ levels very soon. You will meet him tomorrow morning at 10 in his office.”
“Thank you.” Great. My ‘condition’ was something I wanted to keep a secret, but deep down I knew that it was going to be impossible to hide the fact that I couldn’t practice magic at a school for mystics.
Soon everyone would know and I would be the laughingstock of the entire school.
I shook my head, trying to dispel these morbid thoughts.
“Don’t worry,” Jessica said. “I know kids can be tough, but I promise you will have a great time here. Your housemates are two great girls and I’m sure you three will be friends in no time.”
We arrived at the main office and Jessica took it upon herself to get me all the papers I needed. She handed me my keys and walked me to the living area, acting as my guide and pointing at all the buildings she thought I needed to know. The walk was longer than I expected, but then again the school was huge. We walked on a cobblestone path, surrounded by sparkling green grass from each side. As we got closer, I spotted the fountain my mother told me about. It was truly a work of art. Made of smooth marble stones the color of the moonlight, it rose as high as the houses behind it, adding a majestic feel to the scenery around it. At its center stood a statue of Amphitrite, the Greek goddess of the oceans, water pouring smoothly out of its mouth, shining under the sunlight.
Right when we passed the dorms, the path started to get narrow, cobblestones giving way to grass and thick trees replaced the buildings. The secluded area had several houses scattered around, few and far in between. A path of stones illuminated by tiny lamps led to every house, and the space between was nothing but trees.
“Here we are.” Jessica’s voice snapped me back to reality and I looked over to see her standing in front of the farthest house on the path. I wasn’t sure a ‘house’ was an appropriate description for what I was looking at. Like everything else in this school, my new, two stories, home was extravagant. It was one of the biggest accommodations around and I silently wondered if my parents had anything to do with that.
Long glass windows and doors took out most of the space, casting a halo over the house as the sunlight bounced off of them, and whatever space that wasn’t covered in glass was made out of oak, painted to perfection to blend into the forest surrounding it. Through the tall floor to ceiling windows, I could spot a state of the art living room with a plasma TV, a home movie theatre and a sophisticated fire place.
“Your roommates are inside, they will be happy to help you settle in,” Jessica said as she started to walk away. “I’ll be at the main office if you need anything.”
Awkward first meeting aside, Jessica was really nice and I secretly hoped that my new roommates would show me the same courtesy. I grabbed my suitcase and headed for the main door and knocked. A few seconds later I heard someone come down the stairs, “I got it!” a girl yelled before she opened the door.
“Hello, you must be Lilith.” The girl greeted me with a bright smile and I almost sighed in relief. But much like my first encounter at this school, her smile was soon replaced with a puzzled look, and then came the shock. “Oh my God!” she gasped, staring at me like she just saw a ghost. I was tempted to ask what was going on but I bit my tongue the second she threw her arms around me, pulling me into a tight hug.
“Rose, would you let go of her for heaven’s sake? You’re crushing her.” A second girl came down the stairs, her blue hair sparkling when the sun hit it.
“But Kira look”, the first girl said as she pulled me inside the house, “it’s Aline!”
Kira hesitated for a split second.
“No she’s not, that’s Lilith, our new roommate. Lilith Ignis, right?” She asked as she extended her arm for me to shake, simultaneously pulling me away from the grasp of the other girl, Rose.
“Yes that’s right, I’m Lilith.” I gave them a tight smile, unsure of what to say.
“I’m Kira Skythorn.” The blue haired girl started. “And my friend over here is Rose Prithvi. You’ll have to forgive her lack of social etiquette, she’s adorable but crazy.
“Hey, I’m not crazy. Could you honestly look at her and tell me she doesn’t look like the spitting image of Aline?” Rose insisted. Her expression was a mix of excitement and despair.
“Drop it Rose,” Kira said firmly.
“Fine.” Rose sighed. “It’s very nice to meet you Lilith.”
“let me show you around the house.” She offered. “On this floor, you will find the living room, the kitchen and dining area, and the library. Upstairs are our bedrooms, you’ll have your own bedroom and bathroom, and oh my God you have to see the view. It’s breathtaking.” She continued to ramble as she grabbed my hand and dragged me up the stairs, giving me the full tour of the house, which , was every bit as sophisticated from the inside as it was from the outside. My room had the basics, a king size bed, a desk and a closet area bigger than my bathroom back home. Rose said that I could decorate it however I wanted and that they would take me shopping as soon as I settled down.
“Come on, put your luggage down and join us in the living room. Let’s get to know each other!” Rose exclaimed with a clap, and headed down the stairs, calling for Kira to make some coffee. I put my suitcase and my purse on the bed and looked around, taking in my new surroundings.
I walked to a tall glass window and looked out, taking aback by the beauty of the view. Behind the trees and the grass, shimmering under the bright sunlight was a vast lake, so still and so peaceful one would think it was a mesmerizing painting. The place was quiet aside from the chirping of the birds and the humming of the bees, and an overwhelming sensation of peace and contentment crept up on me.
I might like it here after all.
A few minutes later I managed to pull myself away from the window and went downstairs to join my new roommates for coffee.
“You weren’t lying about that view, Rose. It’s gorgeous.”
“I know right?” She giggled as she handed me a mug of hot coffee.
“Did you like your room?”Kira joined us in the living room, a mug in hand.
“I loved it, it’s very bright and spacious.” I smiled at the both of them, taking them in for the first time. Our first meeting had been so hectic I barely had time to register their faces, but now that I took a better look at them I realized they were as beautiful as everything seemed to be on this island. Rose had silky black hair that went all the way down her back, complementing her brown skin. Her frame was petite, giving her an innocent doll-like vibe. Her black eyes shone with wonder as she looked at me and her lips were stretched in an adorable smile the whole time.
The first thing I noticed about Kira was her bright blue hair. It was pulled up in a messy bun with random strands framing her pale freckled face. She was tall, as tall as I was, with a lean figure accentuated by ripped black jeans and a black crop top.
“I see you packed light; I hope you brought your dress in that tiny suitcase!” Rose said with her usual smile.
“My parents will be sending the rest of my stuff, but why would I need a dress?” I asked.
“For the masquerade, silly!” Rose chuckled.
“You have no idea what she’s talking about, do you?” Kira asked after a moment of awkward silent.
“I’m sure they sent her an invitation just like the rest of us,” Rose interrupted.
“So can someone enlighten me about this masquerade thing?”
“Oh yeah!” Rose exclaimed. “It’s one of the academy traditions, each year Lixierra holds a ball before classes’ initiation, so students from different grades can get to know each other, make new friends and all-”
“More like to show off their ranks and powers.” Kira cut her off as she poured herself another cup of coffee. I paled at the mention of ranks and powers, my mother’s warnings ringing in my ears: ‘Mystics take their title and positions in the kingdoms very seriously’
“Anyway,” Rose continued as if her friend had never spoken, “each year there’s a different theme for this ball and this time it happens to be a black and white masquerade.”
I nodded. “Sounds fancy. Do you have your dresses ready?”
“Yep.” Kira smirked.
“Mine will be sent later this evening because I had to alter something in it.” Rose beamed. “Now, what about you?”
“I’m not going.”
“WHAT?!” both of them screamed, nearly making me go deaf.
“I have nothing to wear so I’m skipping it.”
“No freaking way, girl you are coming with us even if we have to drag you.” Rose flipped her hair back.
“I already attracted enough attention walking through the academy to last me a lifetime, I don’t think showing up to a fancy ball with no dress and no mask is going to help me stay under anyone’s radar.”
“You’re acting like we live in the middle of nowhere! You’re missing out on a lot.” Kira grinned.
“Get up.” Rose ordered. “We’re going to get you a dress.”
As we exited the academy grounds, I began to understand what Kira meant earlier.
Coleste was nothing less of a paradise. Palm trees shielded us from the hot rays of the sun as we strolled through the streets, the fresh scents of food mixing with the ocean breeze. We walked across busy sidewalks, cars zooming by us. Once we made it to the Oceanside, my jaw nearly dropped. The water was clear and shimmering, waves caressing the soft, white sand that sparkled in the sunlight.
“We’re here!” Kira’s voice pulled me out of my reverie and I looked up to find myself standing in front of an immense shop. Its high glass windows displayed an array of beautiful dresses of different colors and fabrics and the huge black sign above it informed me that it was ’Leah’s designs.
“In here you will find everything you need for the masquerade, designer dresses, masks, shoes, clutches… anything you can dream of.” Kira linked her arm in mine and led me into the shop.
The automatic doors opened in front of us and I felt like I had just entered the gates of fashion heaven. The brightly lit store buzzed with the sounds of customers as they scattered all over, hangers in hands, trying on every dress they fancied. Dazzling sparkles of different items of clothing caught my eyes as we wandered around the store, looking for a dress that wouldn’t put a huge dent in my finances.
Luckily, I didn’t have to look for long before something caught my eye.
It was a long black dress. The top was form fitting, made out of black lace of intricate designs, with long lacey sleeves and an exposed back. The bottom ran out in an endless swirl of black silk, covering the mannequin’s feet and spreading all around her on the floor. It was everything I wanted in a dress for my first event at a mystic school; classy and sophisticated yet sexy all at once. Kira must have noticed me staring, because next thing I knew she was talking to a staff member and pulling me towards the changing rooms. “You would look amazing in that dress,” She said as she shoved me into one of the empty dressing areas. The lady she was talking to appeared seconds later holding the dress in her hands. She handed it to me with a smile and pulled the curtains, concealing me of the eager eyes of Rose and Kira.
As soon as I had it on, I was in awe all over again. The contrast of the black fabric against my pale skin and platinum hair made me look like a mythical creature, a fairy of sort, and I smiled as I started to realize that I felt really beautiful for the first time in a long time.
“Ready or not here we come!” Rose yelled before she yanked the curtain open and glanced inside the changing rooms. A little gasp escaped her mouth and she nudged Kira, bringing her attention back to me.
“Oh my God, Lilith you look wonderful!” Rose squealed, clapping her hands like a happy child.
“It’s like this dress was designed specifically for you.” Kira added, stepping closer to better examine the scene. “Now, if you put your hair up like this”, she mused as she twisted my hair into a chignon, “and with the right mask, you’ll take everyone’s breath away.”
“Thank you!” I giggled as I smoothed the silky dress with my palms. Suddenly, the price of this dress no longer mattered, because the feeling I got while wearing it was priceless.
I changed again and joined the girls back in the store where they tried to convince me that they found the perfect shoes for me, but I had to decline seeing how half my luggage was nothing but shoes. I made my way to the counter to pay for the dress, ignoring Rose’s pleas for an evening clutch as well, and when I was about to get my credit card out, I saw the perfect mask to go with the dress. It was a laser-cut rose gold mask embellished with Swarovski diamonds.
If I was going to a masquerade then I’d better commit, right?
“Excuse me; can I see that mask please?” I asked the cashier while pointing at the masterpiece.
“Of course”, she said as she reached for it from under the glass and handed it to me. “That’s a great choice; this mask is one of a kind. You see on the side there? That’s the symbol of the phoenix.”
“Well, I am a fire mystic -or so I have been told- so this is perfect.” I stopped to think about what she said. “Is it as special order for someone?”
“Not particularly,” She started. “It does however come in a set of two. Couples’ masks you see.” She pointed at a male mask next to it.
“I’m sure we can work something out.” Kira intervened. “I mean the masquerade is tonight and no one bought them. It would be a shame if they didn’t get a chance to be displayed. My friend here really wants this one.” She gave her a charming smile, and I secretly wondered if my new friend was the kind of girl who would never take no for an answer.
The cashier pondered for a moment, glancing between me and the mask and the dress I was still holding.
“It would look great with that dress.” She finally admitted with a bright smile. “Here you go Miss; there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy your evening.”
“Thank you so much!” I beamed as I handed her my credit card.
“Now that we have everything”, Kira said as we made our way out of the store, “how about some lunch?”
“Lilith you will love this place!” Rose said with her usual enthusiasm. “It has the best food on the island and a great view too.”
“Sure, why not.”
I was feeling calmer by the second, but as my stress and anxiety disappeared, something else took over. Ever since I set foot on the Island of Coleste, I couldn’t stop feeling like I knew this place, like I’d somehow been here before. But I was almost certain that I have never seen this place. Sure, I could only remember the last two years of my life, but there was no way I would have forgotten about a place like this. I wouldn’t have forgotten how this place made me feel: relaxed, content and at peace.
“So, you’re a fire mystic?”
Back at the house, Kira laid back on the love seat and rubbed her belly.
“Um, yeah…” My stomach clenched at the mention of my ‘powers’ and I could feel lunch fighting its way back up.I remembered the story my parents told me to repeat if anyone asked, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to start my friendship with Kira and Rose on lies. Nevertheless, I trusted my parents immensely, so I decided to play it safe.
“That’s so cool,” Rose “I am an earth mystic, and Kira is a water user.”
“Earth and water, got it.”
“And what’s your second element?” She asked. “Mine is air and Kira’s is fire.”
“Oh, uh, I don’t know what my second element is yet. I’ve only found out about my main one two days ago.” I laughed nonchalantly, like my whole world turning upside down in a matter of days was no big deal.
“Oh right, Jessica explained your situation to us yesterday,” Rose continued, “What was it like to grow up with no powers with two of the most powerful mystics in our world?”
“Rose!” Kira chastised. “Don’t be rude.”
“I wasn’t trying to be rude, I was just curious.” Rose mumbled, her bright smile replaced by a concerned frown.
“That’s okay.” I could tell that Rose wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings, I guessed that was just how she was.
“I grew up with two loving parents who gave me everything I have ever wanted. That’s all a child can ask for, right?”
“Of course.” Kira placed her elbows on her knees. “Don’t worry about it, you’ll figure out your second element in no time. And for now, you have Rose and I to help you with anything you need.”
“You’re welcome.” They both chuckled.
The ringing of the doorbell echoed through the house and Rose jumped up from her seat.
“My dress must be here!” She skipped to the door. “Perfect timing!”
“Careful!” Kira chided. “You don’t want to fall right before the big event.”
Rose stuck her tongue out and Kira rolled her eyes.
“We can finally start getting ready!” Rose held her dress in one hand and grabbed Kira’s arm with the other. “Come on you Grinch, I won’t let you ruin Christmas.”
Kira groaned. “It’s September you weirdo.”
“Not even close!”
I followed them up the stairs, laughing silently at their odd dynamic.