Lunch dragged on for what seemed like forever, for me at least. After that big revelation, everything went back to normal. Kira and Gabriella never came back to the table and Rose and the boys were having a great time talking about their summer adventures and how great it was to finally be seniors.
I on the other hand lost my appetite as well as my willingness to participate in the conversation. My mind was enveloped in chaos, a whirlwind of anxious thoughts and unanswered questions storming in my head. I spent what felt like eternity at that table staring absentmindedly at the ocean, trying to grasp the information that had been dumped on me. For as long as I have been in Lixierra all I wanted to do was find out the truth and now that I have known everything I didn’t know what to do with this knowledge. It was one thing to look like someone else, it wasn’t uncommon or unheard of for people to have doppelgangers, but it was another thing to look exactly like the dead teenage queen of the mystics. I glanced at my wrist watch and sighed as I realized I had to go. I cleared my throat, speaking for the first time in a while.
“I have to go. I am going to be late for my lesson.”
“Good luck. I’ll see you at home later.” Rose gave me a warm smile.
“Yeah.” I smiled back.
“It was very nice to meet you Lilith.” Brad stood up.
“We should hang out more often.” Skyler finished.
“We will.” I extended my smile to them, grateful for their honesty and their genuine desire to include me in their group.
I made my way out of the restaurant and headed back to school. It was time to meet Mr. Blackthorn again and to say I was dreading this lesson would be an understatement. It was hard enough to be a powerless mystic struggling to control my magic, but now I had something else to worry about. According to Skyler, Brad and Rose, Aline was a force to be reckoned with. She was fierce, brave and determined, which would make sense as she was the queen and the battle for the throne wasn’t an easy quest. So not only did I have to agonize about harnessing my powers in time to graduate, I now had to endure the endless comparisons that would no doubt be drawn between me and the late queen. We might look alike, but I was in no way as powerful or as respected as she was, and I was going to have to live with her shadow looming over me for the rest of the year.
I pushed the classroom door open, not bothering to knock, and made my way in. I glanced around, raising a quizzical eyebrow as I noticed Mr. Blackthorn wasn’t on top of his desk meditating as he usually was every time I came to see him. In fact, he was nowhere to be seen, and I started to wonder if he cancelled the lesson and forgot to tell me. It wasn’t an unbelievable option; Mr. Blackthorn was the forgetful and slightly eccentric type, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he got caught up watering his garden or reading his endless collection of mystery novels. I took a deep breath, unsure what to do now that my mentor was a no show, and doubled back to the door. Maybe I’ll head back home and get a head start on my lessons for tomorrow.
“There you are. I was looking for you everywhere.” Mr. Blackthorn’s voice rang through the empty classroom as he peaked his head through the open door, startling me in the process.
“Mr. Blackthorn!” I gasped, putting my hand on my heart. “Where else would I be? We have our lessons here every day.”
“Not today, we’re having today’s lesson in the garden. I thought I told you about this yesterday.” Mr. Blackthorn gave me a confused look as he smoothed his black coat.
“No sir, you didn’t.” I rolled my eyes ever so slightly; my mentor’s shaky memory wasn’t exactly a novelty anymore.
“Well I’m telling you now. Let’s go, we’re wasting daylight.” He grabbed my wrist and rushed my through the hall and into the garden, smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Why are we here?” I asked, nervous to display my powers - or lack thereof- in public.
“To practice, of course.” He twirled his hands around and small pebbles from where we were standing rose from the ground and hovered next to his face. “Your powers are blocked, and we weren’t making much progress inside in that classroom, so I thought I’d let you out. Maybe if you were to practice out here, where you can be in tune with the natural elements, your magic would find its way through.”
His theory made sense, or at least I thought it did. To be honest I wasn’t completely focused on the lesson. With everything that happened today, I felt drained and I wanted nothing more than to just get this over with and go home to wallow in shame and self pity. I was both physically and emotionally tired, and it wasn’t just because of Aline. Classes start tomorrow and I knew that I was in no way ready to face the mystics. I was mad at myself for agreeing to come here, mad at my parents for keeping this a secret for as long as they did, mad at Kira for leaving me earlier and mad at Mr. Blackthorn for insisting I was some sort of powerful magical being when I knew in my heart that I was nothing of the sort. But most of all, beyond all the anger and confusion and anxiety, there was something else at the back of my mind.
A thought that wouldn’t disappear no matter how much I tried not to think about it.
Ever since this morning, I found it harder and harder to get him out of my mind. Scratch that, ever since we talked at the ball, even before I knew what he looked like or who he was, I wasn’t able to stop thinking about him. And now that I knew that I looked like a ghost from his past, my hopes shattered around me like a broken mirror.
“Alright.” I snapped out of my miserable mind and focused on Mr. Blackthorn who was staring at me with a quizzical look. “Let’s set something on fire.” I smiled briefly.
“Actually”, he started, “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but today I want you to focus on summoning your secondary element.”
“And how do I do that?” I sighed.
“The same way you summon your fire. Or try to, at least.” He smirked. “You concentrate, feel the magic in your core, but instead of visualizing fire, try another element.”
“Sure thing.” I nodded. If it were any other day, I would tell him that I don’t think there is any magic in my core, that I can barely summon the tiniest of flames, that this whole visualizing elements thing was total crap. But today was nothing like any other day, I had no energy to argue or worry or object, and in the hopes of speeding up this process I decided to smile, nod, and just do whatever he asks.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. In my head, my memories flashed back to my birthday, the day I set my bed on fire and I tried to remember how I felt that day. I was irritated, anxious and in a hurry to find my phone. So maybe if I tried to recreate those emotions I could have better luck with my magic. It wasn’t hard to do, especially since my anxiety rarely went away, and I was mad at everyone and everything today so this should be easy. I scoffed internally at myself. Easy was never a fit description for my life. I opened my eyes and looked around; we were standing under some palm trees, the grass swaying with the wind beneath our feet. Earth. Maybe that could be my second element. I raised my hands, palms up, and focused on my surroundings. I tried to envision the roses blooming on a beautiful spring day, their scent carried by the wind. I tried to picture the trees losing their leaves in the fall, a pool of yellow and orange remains on the dirt. I stood there for half an hour staring at my palm, hoping, praying that I could lift a pebble or make a tiny flower grow. But nothing was happening.
“This is pointless.” I snapped, voice louder than I intended. “I can’t do this.” I kicked a rock next to me and it went flying across the garden.
“Which element were you focusing on?” Mr. Blackthorn asked, ever so patiently.
“Earth.” I responded, dejection clear in my voice.
“Don’t lose hope, we still have two more elements to go through.”
Hours went by with me standing there, palms towards the sun. Every now and then Mr. Blackthorn would give me some advice, but mostly he kept quiet, watching me intently. After the earth element I focused my attention on air, visualizing wind and tornados and the fresh summer breeze but nothing seemed to do the trick. So I moved on to water, picturing the crystal blue ocean, the Poseidon fountain near the dorms, the drops of dew by the lake in the early mornings. I wanted so bad for my magic to work, to declare a second element before I had to start classes tomorrow, to not be the freak of the school, but all my efforts were in vain. My powers seemed determined to stay away and I was devastated. Anger took over me and I closed my eyes, feeling the hot stream of tears down my cheek. I wanted to leave, to get out of Coleste and never come back, but my feet were frozen in place. Chase’s face flashed before my eyes and I felt my heart clench in pain once again. His features were miserable, like they were when he first saw me this morning, and I opened my eyes, unable to look at him any longer. Anger, sadness, helplessness, I was stuck in a hurricane of devastating emotions of my own making and I saw no way out.
“Lilith.” Mr. Blackthorn called out my name and I looked at him from behind my tears. “You did it.” He looked proud, but I had no idea what he meant.
“Did what?” I asked, confused. If by did it he meant wallow in pain then yeah, I did it alright.
“Look at your hand.” He smiled, pointing at my palm.
My hand was still open, pointed upwards and inside my palm danced a tiny whirlwind of water.
“Congratulations, looks like water is your second element.”
As I made my way back home, I felt too happy to even care about the usual stares I was getting from the students, which got multiplied by my sudden joyful mood that lightened my once gloomy face. I still couldn’t believe that I’ve somehow managed to summon my second element. I stared at my hand that conjured water earlier, an event that washed away the anger and sadness of my day and left me refreshed inside. I finally had a reason to stay in Lixerra. I was no longer different from the other mystics, I had two elements like they all did, and all I needed was to learn how to control them. I got home to find Kira and Rose in the living room chatting. The atmosphere seemed normal, none of the tension that loomed over us the entire morning was present here, and I sighed in relief.
“Girls, you won’t believe what happened.” I said, settling myself on the sofa next to Rose and interrupting their conversation.
“What?” they asked in unison, their tones filled with curiosity.
“I’ve summoned my second element.” I excitedly replied. “I was practicing with Mr. Blackthorn for hours and I got so tired and pissed off I almost quit, but it finally happened. I declared a second element. I don’t know how it happened but it did.” I squealed and clapped my hands in excitement, a sentiment that was lost on me for weeks.
“That’s wonderful Lil, I’m so happy for you.” Rose squealed back and, being her usual cheerful self, crushed me into a tight hug. “I told you will do it” she added.
“Thank you” I smiled, patting her back before she released me.
“Perfect timing.” Kira chimed in, a bright smile on her face. “Which element did you declare?”
“Water.” I let out with a content sigh.
“That’s my main element!” Kira exclaimed, raising her hands in the air. “Welcome to the family!” She got up from her seat and rushed over to me, hugging me tightly.
“Thank you!” I hugged her back, relieved to have things back to normal.
“Show me.” Rose said.
“Show you what?” I asked, confused.
“Your element, silly.” She answered. “I don’t have control over water so I always like to see Kira play with it. It’s your turn to impress me now.”
“Oh, I don’t even know how I summoned it the first time. I don’t know if I can do it again.” I scratched the back of my neck; the realization that I might not be able to control water again hit me hard.
“It becomes easier each time, natural even.” Kira squeezed my hand. “I can help you with it. You just have to try.”
“Alright.” I cleared my mind and stretched out my hand. And just like magic, water formed in my palm out of thin air. It was a lot easier to conjure than it was earlier in the garden and I was baffled at how fast I was able to control my second element. You’d think fire would be easier to manipulate since I am a fire mystic, but my main element had been a pain to manifest, so to have water appear on command left me in shock.
“See, you’re a natural.” Kira smiled warmly.
“Are you sure you’re not a water mystic? That was so impressive.” Rose looked at me like I was a superhero.
“I don’t know.” I chuckled, relieved that my powers didn’t vanish.
“We should celebrate.” Rose announced, standing from her seat. “Let’s go out!” She squealed.
“I don’t think I should.” I gave her an apologetic look. “I’m pretty tired from today.”
“Not to mention that we have classes in the morning Rose.” Kira added.
“Fine, you buzz kills. Let’s at least have a nice dinner together. I can cook.” She made her way to the kitchen. “No protests. We’re doing this; it’s not every day Lilith declares a second element.” She said as she disappeared into the kitchen, humming a tune to herself.
I laid back on the sofa and breathed out, feeling genuinely relaxed for the first time in a very long time. Declaring a second element meant that I no longer had to hide in the shadows, hoping no one would notice me. It meant that I can attend my classes like any other mystic without having to worry about magic classes. I finally felt like I belonged here, and although there is a lot to be figured out, I was happy to take the night off from worrying and hyperventilating. I was finally content.
Or was I?
As I looked to my side, Kira’s face brought back memories of the events of this morning. She looked sad, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to be truly happy here unless I clear the air with my roommate.
“Can we talk?” I asked, hoping she won’t shut me down or leave like she did at Joe’s.
“Sure.” She whispered.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I couldn’t.” She looked at me, tears filling up her eyes. “I’m sorry Lilith, but I couldn’t tell you about her. She was my best friend and I couldn’t wrap my head around it. When she… when we lost her, it felt like I lost a part of myself. I thought maybe if I don’t talk about it then it would be like it never happened. It’s stupid, I know…” She trailed off, wiping the tears off her face.
“It’s not stupid.”
“Then there you were, the splitting image of her, and I wasn’t even done mourning. I didn’t know how to handle it so I did nothing at all. I knew you would find out eventually, but I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about her.”
“It’s alright, I understand.”
“I’m so sorry Lilith.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.” I hugged her, feeling terrible for making her cry.
“No I do”, she sniffled, “if I’d told you earlier you wouldn’t have found out this way. If I had told Chase - I’m sorry.”
“Chase was bound to know. We’re both seniors and both fire mystics so we will have a lot of classes together. You couldn’t have protected him forever.”
“This is not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just a sick cosmic joke.” I laughed bitterly.
“What a twisted fate.” She laughed with me, wiping the remaining of her tears away.
“Dinner is ready!” Rose yelled from the kitchen and Kira and I chuckled.
“That was fast!” I said, impressed.
“Don’t get your hopes up; Rose isn’t exactly the best cook around here.” Kira scoffed and stood up.
“Wonderful.” I rolled my eyes in response and joined my roommates in the kitchen.