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15.) Of Two Minds

I tried to breathe calmly while I waited for enough time to pass, feeling kind of stupid as I laid in my bed and stared at the dark ceiling. In the silence of my racing mind, I could reflect on everything, whereas most of the time life is coming at me too fast to even comprehend how it’s making me feel.

How strange, a life-altering experience such as the death of an aunt, and discovering you’re a superweapon, can lead to a first-time friendship. Before all this, I’d never had a friend. How wild and life altering the last eight, I checked the time on the clock, nine days had been. Really, only nine days? The amount of emotional rollercoasters I had gone through were enough for a lifetime.

The connection I feel with Ember is one I’d never thought I’d be lucky enough to experience, and her compassion towards me is astounding, to say the least. I needed her love and compassion at this time. Was that love she showed towards me? Ember was kind, patient, like my aunt. Is that love?

Her brother, his cool eyes that made me afraid when I first saw them, now almost feel like a comfort. I’ve come to need his level-headedness when I feel impulsive. His behavior, which at first irked me and sent me into my first fit of anger, I understand now. The strange nagging feeling when he’s near me, like something just makes sense all of the sudden.

Nova, the young woman named after a dying star, who’s oddly cryptic and somehow always there. How sad her life must be, trying her hardest just to feel useful? I feel a pang of self hatred, for being jealous of her love for Beckett. For being jealous that she gets to choose, cat or human.

Alatar, a warlock, who graciously took us in as I train for a war I must win. His healing nature and collected thought process are necessary. I need them. All of them.

It’s strange to care so deeply for strangers, I guess they aren’t strangers anymore. I think of Beckett teaching me to throw knives, his warm hands guiding my arm. His eyes looking at me tauntingly over a titanium shield, his mischievous grin when he pushes my buttons like no other.

My cheeks grew hot, and my palms started to sweat. Is this what I heard the other girls at school whispering about? A crush? Do the others feel the electricity that I feel when he’s near?

He made me think irrationally, made me tongue-tied, and made me feel warm. I don’t know how to yet distinguish the difference between finding him good-looking and having feelings for him. Not that now is the time to ponder such ideas, when there is quite literally a war at our door.

But still, laying here, I can’t help but picture how it would feel to have him here; the electricity shocking me to my core. I decided enough time had passed, to make it seem like I hadn’t run to him urgently. Quickly I changed into a form fitting black t shirt and black jeans, as well as my converse, before slipping out my door quietly.

On my tip toes I crept by Embers door, then Novas, holding my breath the whole time. Until finally I reached his door, where I lightly knocked, and tried to rushing the beat of my heart.

“Astra?” At a whisper his voice was husky, it made my tongue feel heavy.

“Who else?” I whispered back, wondering for a moment if Nova had been to his room, before he opened the door and pulled my arm inside.

In the low light of his bedroom, his hair casts a dark shadow on his face, but his eyes as always pierce through everything and hold me attentive. His room is dark, like him. Where my rooms are a warm gold, his are a dark dull gray that let in little light. As if they absorbed any brightness.

“So you can listen to direction,” his sarcastic tone reminds me of what kept me from realizing his looks prior; he’s kind of an ass.

“So what’s the plan?” I questioned, ignoring the sting I felt from the comment. He’s hot and cold. When he’s hot he’s, well, hot. And when he’s cold, he just seems like the most self-entitled person around. You never know which version of Beckett you will get.

“We’re gonna find the hallway in your dreams.” Oh yes, obviously. He knelt on his bedroom floor and started making a circle of salt, pouring oils and herbs into the parchment that he rolled out in the center of the circle.

“And how do we plan on doing that?” I asked, risking sounding stupid in front of him.

Beckett looked up at me, lighting the candlestick and holding it out to me, his eyes are soft and my breath hitches.

“Easy, with magick.” I kneel before him, taking the candle and holding it tightly, trying to not drop it as the electricity makes my nerves shake.

“So what do I do?” He answered by taking my hand in his and using his forefingers to lightly close my eyes with the other hand.

“Just breathe, Astra. And don’t let go, I’ve got you.” I ignored how his promise makes my heart palpitate, and focused on slowly breathing.

“Before you is a map of all three Realms. I’m going to use a spell to locate the hallway you’ve been seeing, using your DreamWalking skills. When you feel ready, you’ll know when, drop the candle and let it catch the parchment on fire.” I didn’t have time to react, or even worry about how dropping fire is dangerous, because he anointed my forehead with a liquid and my body felt a rush as though I was falling.

I fall and fall until I hit the ground hard. Slowly I opened my eyes, I was there. The hallway.

“Beckett?” I called out, no answer. The whispers started but I ignored them adamantly, and held my hand to let go. ‘Let go’, I tell myself. I’m there, but not there. I can feel Beckett’s hand holding mine, but I can also feel the water on my feet.

“Let go,” I hear Beckett whisper in my ear, and I feel the candle leave my hand. The moment I feel it leave I can feel my body being pulled back, and I open my eyes to Beckett’s smiling face.

“Good job,” he tells me. I must look shocked because he laughed, another shocking thing. “I know, I know. A compliment from me? Mark it on the calendar guys, Beck said something nice.” I laughed with him, enjoying the way it feels.

“Oh, the parchment!” I exclaimed, finally noticing that it was burnt up, except for a small fragment.

“Yup, it all burnt except for this small section, the place where the hallway is located. We’re gonna go there and free those souls.” It’s in the Shadow Realm, I noticed and my blood ran cold. I’m still not sure how ready I want to be there.

“But…Alatar said it could be a trap?” I cursed how my voice trembled, showing my fear. He shrugged nonchalantly.

“And if it is? We will kill Parallax and move on with our lives.” Oh yeah, just like that?

“I don’t know, maybe we should get someone to come with us...or wait until morning-”. His eyes were sad as he grabbed my shoulders and stared at me intently.

“If this isn’t a trap, Astra, your aunt is suffering. And there’s a chance that maybe, just maybe, my mom is trapped too. I can’t live another moment knowing this, we need to go now.” His tone reads like something I have yet to hear from him, desperation. It made my chest hurt, the sadness in his tone. If his mom is truly trapped, like my aunt and uncle, we needed to save them.

I nodded, and he helped me to my feet. “Did you bring some weapons?” If we are blindly going into a trap, I’d prefer some form of defense.

He cocked an eyebrow at me strangely, “um, you’re a superweapon?” I blushed, right. It’s still taking some getting used to I guess.

“But, I still don’t know how to use them all that well-”, my palms started to sweat as I remember knocking him unconscious.

“Yes, you do. Be confident. You’re capable, Astra.” He doesn’t say my name much, I like the way it sounds coming from him. “Plus, if things get dodgy, I won’t let anything happen to you. Promise.” I try not to look too deeply into his words, he’s just saying that because I have to save mankind and all that. Right? My brain wanders.

“Because of your assignment, right? Protect the weapon?” I couldn’t help but sound sad, as the realization that he will protect me only because he has to, dawns on me. He steps close to me, looking down at me with his face beautifully confused. This close I found it hard to breathe, our chests almost touching.

Beckett smelled like incense and clean laundry, my cheeks burning as the shocks coursed through my nerves.

“Is it so hard to believe,” he whispers to me, looking down at me with a gaze I don’t quite understand, “that maybe I’ve just grown fond of you?” My heart jumps to my throat, pounding there, making me unable to speak. So I said nothing, as he lightly reached up and tucked some hair gently behind my ear.

“Suppose so,” I finally whispered back; my throat feeling tight. Okay, this version of Beckett I like.

“Let’s get heading.” He breaks apart, the electricity subsides if only slightly, and he starts making a portal from the parchment. My heart still flutters, I have to wonder how red my cheeks are. Hopefully not an embarrassing amount.

The silvery mist formed at our feet and he looked back. I try to muster up the courage to feel confident in what we will be doing.

I try to tell myself, I survived my first encounter there, I know how to use my powers now, and I know Beckett will not let me be harmed.

“Are you ready to save all those people?” He asked, extending a hand. I take it, he interlocks his fingers with mine in a way that feels almost casual. As if we’ve done this before, as if we aren’t about to possibly walk into a trap as if we aren’t at the brink of war.

I looked at him and for a moment all I can see is him, not what lays ahead of us. So strange, to find comfort in someone who makes you feel so many emotions at once.

“Or we could be walking into a trap,” I reminded him, smiling nervously. He squeezed my fingers, as though to comfort me. Beckett, comforting me...the thought feels foreign. I don’t hate it.

“Either way,” he whispers, before pulling us both into the portal.

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