“Wake up!” I heard a chorus of men’s laughter.
The sunlight blinded me as soon as I opened my eyes, but a blanket was pulled up shielding me. Blyth’s voice yelled at whoever it was as he wrapped his arm tighter around me. “Damn you. It’s Sunday. Go to church or something.”
There were quiet whispers at the bottom of the bed, and I tried to roll over to ask Blyth what was going on. My attempt was blocked by Blyth continuing to hold me firm. Finally the whispers became clear words, “One, two, and three!”
Blyth cursed at them and rolled over top of me keeping me tight within his grasp once they started counting. I fought to get out from under him, but it was no use when I realized that he was rolling us completely off the bed. I braced myself, but he had planned it, or so I thought that I landed on top of him to break my fall.
I looked up just in time to see the bed get soaked by bucketfuls of water. The water poured over the side of the bed still getting both Blyth and I wet, but it was better than the full amount being doused on top of us. Blyth started laughing hysterically finally releasing his grip on me. He let me fall onto the soaked floor as he sat himself up, “Alright, I’m up.”
I sat up myself trying to find the culprits who rudely woke me up. I would have laughed if it were anyone else, but once my eyes fell on them laughing together I was struck speechless. I backed away as Marcus dropped the bucket that he held and came towards us, “Let me help you up, Sir.”
Blyth reached out and took Marcus’ hand, “There are easier ways to wake me up.”
“What like last year?” Michael started laughing at the thought that he shared, “She wasn’t too pleased with the blankets getting ripped off the bed.”
“Well, if she was dressed I don’t think she would have cared too much.” Marcus started laughing with him. His eyes fell on me and the smile slowly faded, “What was she doing in your bed?”
Michael slapped Marcus’ shoulder, “What, walking through the door didn’t give you any clue that she was in here?”
“I just want to know what she was doing in his bed.” I pulled myself back to the wall away from the glare of his brownish red eyes. Even when I turned my eyes from his, I could feel his stare digging into my skin.
“At least we were both dressed.” Blyth started laughing with Michael, “Don’t worry Marc. We didn’t do anything last night. We didn’t, did we Ash?”
I shook my head refusing to look at any of them. I was lost. I thought they all despised each other, yet they were all here together laughing. Nothing was making sense any more. Between this happening and Blyth’s conversation last night I had no idea what was going on. Perhaps I was finally going crazy. At least that made the most sense out of everything around me.
“See, everything’s cool.” Michael’s voice came closer to me giving me enough courage to look up again to find his hand outstretched to help me off the floor, “Ash, come on. You can join us for the day.”
“No.” Both Blyth and Marcus objected Michael’s invitation.
“It will just ensure that you two don’t cheat.” Michael started laughing by himself as he took my hand in his. I wanted to keep my skin against his, but I pulled my hand out of his causing his laughter to abruptly stop, “What?”
“Please don’t touch me.” I pulled myself closer into a ball away from them.
“She said please.” Blyth pushed Michael out of the way and grabbed my hand lifting me off the floor whether I wanted him to or not. “I’m glad to see that you are nicer about it with him than me.”
Once I was up I found myself staring into Blyth’s eyes which were full of absolute contentment, “What is going on?”
“You don’t know?” My confusion was reflected in his eyes and then he turned to Michael, “I swear if I find out that you missed this I will kill you even if it never did happen.”
“November, the first snow in November, where was he?” Blyth leaned over me waiting impatiently while I thought.
“I don’t know about this year. Next year I was a way helping my friend for half of it, and the second half I was dying so I honestly don’t know what you are talking about.” I answered the best I could. It seemed to have helped the situation with Michael. Blyth let the contentment fall back into him. “What is going on?”
“Marc,” Blyth ignored my question, “Go to Kasey’s room and get Ash’s suitcase. Mike, go get us some food from the kitchen.”
“Yes, Sir.” In unison both of them quickly answered, and left the room through the door.
“They really know how to make a mess.” Blyth began taking off his shirt, and I tried to turn my head fast enough to give him privacy. It didn’t work as I found myself peering from the corner of my eye at his perfection. His skin was tan unlike Michael’s pale white, but his muscles were just as prominent. Slowly my eyes fell down his chest to the hair surrounding his belly button and continuing further down. “Do you like what you see?”
Heat rushed to my cheeks, but I didn’t know if it was because I was looking or if he caught me looking. My eyes fell to the floor as I finished turning around. “I’m sorry.”
I heard the wet shirt hit the floor and his footsteps coming closer. He stopped right behind me, but thankfully he didn’t touch me, “Ash, look at me.”
I closed my eyes and turned to him. I brought up my head so that when I opened them again they would only be on his face. I was greeted by a simple smile. I couldn’t believe that I had actually missed seeing his smile. It has been days since I had seen it. And at one time I wondered if he ever stopped smiling.
“Now,” Blyth stretched out his arms and backed away making me look again at him shirtless. His soaked pants fell down just enough to let me see the top of his boxers, “Do you like what you see?”
I looked him over completely, “You are good looking. What point are you trying to make?”
“That you are allowed to look.” Blyth started laughing as he started undoing his pants.
I turned and looked out the window at the flurries being blown around in the sunlight, “That is a bit much.”
“Well, it is only fair since I got to enjoy yours last week.” Blyth paused and I hated to think about what he was thinking about, “That skirt and those boots, mmm.”
“You’ve been too stressed lately. I think it is time you start having some fun.” I rolled my eyes as he kicked his pants over next to me. The music that he turned on last night changed into the cover song that he started to play at the bar. “Come on. Dance with me Ash.”
“Blyth,” I turned around to find him reaching for me. I pushed him away, “Get dressed. They will be back.”
“Still you shut me down.” The grin still did not fade, “I could lock the door.”
“Are you still drunk?” I accused him hoping that he was.
“No. I’m just enjoying life.” Blyth grabbed my hips as I placed my hands against his chest pushing him away. “Come on Ash.”
“Get dressed. I am not dancing with you in your underwear.” This time when I pushed him I walked away, “I don’t understand this. Just yesterday you were threatening to kill both of them, and today you joke around as if nothing matters.”
“Even the most dysfunctional families put their differences aside for one day a year. For ours, one week each year we live like there is no tomorrow.” Blyth reached and grabbed me quicker than my legs could carry me away from him, “Please, celebrate his birthday with us.”
“Matthew’s,” Blyth pulled me closer to him as Marcus answered coming back through the door. “I’m glad to see that he hasn’t charmed you out of your clothes yet.”
Both of our eyes met in a glare. The tension in the room was cut down thanks to Blyth’s voice, but I’m sure it just made things worse for Marcus, “Well, I was working on it until you came back. Kids will be kids though no matter how old they are.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at Blyth’s comment about Marcus being a kid. If anything I was the kid in the room compared to all of them. I was after all the youngest by a few hundred years.
Blyth must have heard me and pointed, “See she thought it was funny.”
“What’s so funny?” Michael came in holding four plates, “What did I miss?”
Blyth continued to keep his arm wrapped around my waist, “When you are so close, and the kids come in.”
“Wouldn’t know anything about that,” Michael handed a plate to Marcus who rudely tossed my suitcase across the floor into the puddle of water.
Marcus’ eyes glared at Blyth’s arm around me, “Better before or after than in the middle.”
Michael sat down the rest of the plates at the desk. Carefully he pushed the book that he stole yesterday to the corner without giving it a second glance, “Ash, you should get some food and take your meds.”
“Medication?” Marcus questioned as he leaned up against the wall. I tried to force the thought from my mind, but he looked the same as when I first saw him. The only thing he was missing was the tux.
“Let her get changed first.” Blyth kept me close to him as he pulled me towards the bathroom. He smiled down on me as he finally let go at the doorway. “Stay right there and I’ll get your suitcase. I’m just going to shut the door to create a seal so that I can use my magic.”
“So all of your clothes are dry since he is being a prick,” Blyth didn’t let his smile fade as he narrowed his eyes at Marcus. “Just one second.”
As Blyth shut the door on me I could hear his voice lowly growling it seemed. I didn’t understand what he was saying, but it didn’t seem nice at all. He only said a few words then the room outside of the door became silent, and then he tapped lightly on the door. “Ash?”
I opened the door again taking my suitcase from him. This time as I looked on him he was completely dressed. “Thank you for this and being dressed.”
A smile stretched across his face, “Anything for you.”
I shut the door and began searching through everything in my suitcase. Suddenly everything began falling into place. They were all each other had through the years that passed. Blyth had no doubt been a friend of the family if he defended their mother, and celebrated Matthew’s birthday with them. I knew deep down that Michael did love his brother through everything with the dedication that he had digging his grave.
After I finished getting ready I put the towel back over the mirror. I looked at it momentarily wondering why he had smashed it in the first place or had it covered since the kitten had appeared in the room. Shaking my head I turned and walked out finding all three of them finishing their food.
“I think I’m going to accept your invitation and join you three to celebrate Matthew’s birthday.” They all looked up at me from around the room, “After all, he is the reason why I am here.”
I found myself staring into several eyes of confusion. Blyth was the only one to question me, “I thought it was Marc and his manipulative ways that brought you here?”
“Yes and no.” My eyes found Marcus in the same spot leaning against the wall, and I glared at him, “If you really think about it Matthew and your mother are the reason why I am here.”
“See I told you,” Michael picked up my plate off of the desk and began walking towards me, “She wouldn’t blame me.”
“Well, I guess she is looking at the source not the initial reason.” Blyth started laughing. “If she is looking for the real reason then I would have to be the blame of all of this.”
After Michael handed me the plate he directed me towards the pills sitting on the nightstand. He turned to go back to his spot against the opposite wall from Marcus and I saw that he shot daggers through his eyes at Blyth, but didn’t say anything. I cautiously looked at Blyth to see his reaction as he leaned back in the desk chair placing his hands behind his head, “Hey, I’m just being honest. After all if I were more careful I should have known that there were prying eyes, especially of one who refused to leave his mother’s side even if you all were sent to the beach.”
I sat down on the side of the bed and took the pill as Michael watched intently. “Did you make this?”
Marcus started laughing finally, “Mamma’s boy. Of course he did.”
“Mamma’s boy?” I chuckled at the thought myself. I had never pictured him as such, but I did remember how good of a cook he was.
“Come on guys, stop.” Michael protested as I watched him beginning to blush it seemed.
Blyth tried not to laugh. “He never told you? Then again it isn’t something every guy tells his woman.”
“Wait a minute!” Michael stood up looking at Blyth, “What are you talking about?”
“Oh!” Blyth sat up quickly glancing between Marcus and me, “Your brother had plans for you two to become a thing at one point. I think though, Ash spoiled his plans slightly, or he knew who she was, knowing that she would see her fate. Either way Marcus you screwed up.”
“So that’s why…” Michael spoke too loud if he was trying to talk to himself.
“That’s why what?” Blyth never let the smile fade on his face as he looked at Michael.
“That’s why I wouldn’t go with you.” I finally spoke up in the conversation. “I won’t go through it again.”
“Was I that bad?” Michael let his smile fall on me.
I shook my head and continued eating while Blyth answered for me, “What woman could resist a mamma’s boy?”
There was a chorus of laughter from both Blyth and Marcus as Michael shrank back against the wall. I tried not to laugh, but the thought of Michael being such a thing was honestly funny. He was the big tough killer in my eyes. Being with them all I saw him shrink down to a little boy again.
Blyth apologized, “I’m sorry man. You know you will always hear it from us.”
Michael sneered and looked out the window, “Why did I have to be the youngest?”
Blyth got up and walked over throwing his arm around Michael’s shoulders, “If you weren’t the youngest, you wouldn’t be the most powerful warlock. Think about it that way.”
So he was telling me the truth about Michael showing him respect because it was deserved, not because he was the most powerful. Watching Michael like this was giving me a different view of him. Marcus, however, didn’t seem to change at all. Well, maybe more sour now than I remembered.
“If she is coming, how do you suppose we get her there?” Marcus finally broke the silence. “None of us can take her.”
“I’m actually working on that at the moment.” Blyth lifted his hand as if he were a student instead of a teacher. “Give me about twenty minutes.”
“How are you working on something? You can’t do anything in this state.” Michael stepped away from Blyth questioning him.
“While she was in the bathroom I started some brownies. Gran is bringing them up when they are done.” Blyth walked away from the window and sat down next to me. “Brownies work, smoke doesn’t. Do you understand it?”
“Look, if we have to wait twenty minutes, I’m leaving.” Marcus stood up from leaning, “I hate this feeling of having no power. I have to get out of here before I go insane.”
“I think you already have.” I cruelly said under my breath.
Blyth had apparently caught what I had said, “Well, she is right, and we can’t have you getting worse. Meet us there then?”
“Perhaps Mike should leave as well, and let you two finish your little dance that I walked in on.” Marcus glared at me. Me, not Blyth, just me.
Even though I hadn’t finished everything on my plate I glared right back at him and whipped it like a Frisbee at him. I knew what he was thinking about. He was angry because I was here with Blyth. I’m sure he wasn’t happy about the fact that Blyth had me by the throat just yesterday, and then he watched us roll out of bed together. In no world that existed would he ever get me like he wants.
I watched as he quickly moved out of the way letting the plate smash against the wall. Blyth looked at me quite shocked, “And I was starting to think that I was the only one you threw stuff at.”
“I’d like to do more than just throw something at him.” All the rage and anger flew through me just as it did when he called me Michael’s whore. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself down only because I didn’t want to use my power against him.
“Michael, take your brother someplace other than here before my school gets destroyed.” Blyth took the authority in his voice now. “Meet us there in half an hour, and kindly remind him of what I said earlier.”
“Like you admitted earlier Blyth, you are the true reason for all of this. It wasn’t Matthew or our mother. It was all you, but it all started because you couldn’t accept being rejected.” Marcus’ voice cut through the air, and before I knew it I saw Blyth walking quickly towards Marcus. I cringed as I watched Blyth’s fist connect with Marcus’ face. I was horrified when I heard the vile laugh coming from Marcus again, “Tell me, does Ashley hold just the same amount of gumption that our mother had?”
“Come on Marc.” Michael grabbed Marcus by the shoulder and started pulling him towards the door. “He will kill you before the day is out if you keep it up.”
“I’d like to see him try.” Marcus glared at Blyth as he was yanked out of the room.
Blyth walked over and closed the door behind them. He sighed heavily as he walked over and opened the window. I shook my head knowing what he was about to do. Before I fell back on the bed I made sure that the smoke was going outside of the window and not coming back into the room. I stared at the ceiling for a moment or two when I realized that everything was ruined by me. “Blyth, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have thrown it at him.”
“Damn it.” The sound of what I assumed was Blyth’s fist hitting something startled me more than his words. “It is his birthday and still Marcus continues.”
I sat up and looked at Blyth who was starring aimlessly out the window. “I’m not going with you guys. You do this every year, and so far I have just ruined it. Please just go.”
“Tell me Ashley, if you had only,” Blyth counted silently on his fingers, refusing to look at me, “Three days to live, how would you spend them?”
I was suddenly reminded of our short conversation about him being suicidal yesterday, but once we had gotten off the subject I didn’t think anything else about it. I thought about the antibiotics. Those were the days that Blyth had left. It seemed that I would be the cause of his death and that he had no longer than I had left in this state. As soon as the infection was out of my system he wouldn’t be in danger, but so did everyone else. A sadness that I hadn’t expected loomed in my heart for him. “Blyth, send me back. Throw me from the cliff, just don’t give in. I won’t have you die because of me.”
“I’m spent.” Blyth’s dark brown eyes found me, and I couldn’t believe that he had actually given up. “I never planned on living this long anyway. I’ve been eighteen for over seven hundred years now, and all I wanted to do was live to see home one last time. Home doesn’t seem so important now.”
I got up off the bed and followed my heart that was sorry for him. I walked over and placed my arms around Blyth’s waist hoping to comfort him in someway. He pushed me away from him, “I just…”
“I know, Ash.” He smiled lightly down on me, “But you should know everything. I am the reason why you are here. I am the reason why Marcus tortured you. I have no doubt that Marcus still wants you, but he is using you instead. Pushing you to the very edge once more. Pushing you right into me.”
“I don’t understand.” I backed away from him as he pushed passed me. “What is going on?”
Blyth ran his fingers over the book just like he had last night. Now he picked it up and handed it to me. “I’m going to spend what time I can with my boys. My return will be late I’m sure, but if I could ask one thing of you.”
I took the book carefully, and tried to return his smile, “Anything.”
Blyth ran his fingers down over my cheek and kissed me softly on the forehead. “After you read her story, please don’t leave. Wait for me to come back.”
I nodded. How could I deny a dying man anything? Without another word Blyth turned quickly and walked to the door. He let one more smile find its way to me before he shut the door. I tried to smile back but the confusion started setting in again.
All the answers seemed to rest inside this book. Quickly I sat down on the bed and opened it to the first page. I stared at the date again. January 1720. This time I continued further without being interrupted.