“Why don’t you just teleport us there? It would be a lot faster,” Jesse said as he fastened his seatbelt in the passenger seat.
Wynona inserted a key and started the engine. She slid her hands over the wheel. “Because…I forgot the way there from here.”
I stared at her violet hair from the backseat. “You forgot your way home from this…parking lot?”
Jesse let out a laugh while Wynona turned to me, eyes sharp and slightly annoyed. “I just forgot, okay? I had just moved in two days ago and my husband decided it would be wise to move to the countryside, far from the town centre. This isn’t a route I’m used to.”
“Fine,” Jesse said, adjusting his seat for his legs. “How long until we arrive?”
I leaned back. “I never expected having to travel anymore ever since I learned the teleportation spell.”
“Oh lighten up, Embers,” Wynona chirped, “We’ll make this a fun journey!”
* * *
The road stretched on for miles before us; no sign of other humans in sight. We were leaving Orchidville to reach its periphery where Wynona’s new mansion stood. We were forty-five minutes into the journey when Jesse asked.
“Tristan, do you mind if I ask you this question?”
“Not at all,” I answered inattentively, typing out a text message to Heidi asking if everything was all right at my parents’.
Jesse hesitated at first. His blue eyes darted from the road to me, and then back on the road. “Are you and Heidi…you know?”
I almost dropped my cell phone. “Pardon?”
Wynona turned to Jesse instantly, violet eyes wide. “Yeah, Jesse, are they what?”
Jesse’s face reddened a little but continued anyway, “Are you two…involved?”
His emphasis on the last word made me uncomfortable. The question got me speechless for a moment, a question that was blunt and honest which I was not ready for. Wynona turned back to the road, both hands on the wheel as she leaned forward. She did not say a word but listened intently. I did not see why I should hide anymore.
The two of them glanced at each other like some sort of surprise yet silent agreement. Then Jesse proceeded to say quietly, “We’ve had our suspicions.”
“I know it’s frowned upon, but I assure you that Heidi and I are aware of our professional relationship.” I threaded carefully.
“You’re her teacher, Sir Embers,” Jesse’s eyes fell on me sternly through the rearview mirror. “It’s inappropriate.”
“They say that because Sages are usually our age,” Wynona chimed in lightheartedly. “But our dear Tristan’s a young man. I think it’s just fine.”
“A teacher should not be involved with his student, is what I mean,” Jesse reminded again. Then he sighed, “But perhaps I’d be lying if I said I’m not happy for the two of you.”
“Thank you, Jesse.”
A short silence before Wynona asked. “Do your parents know?”
“Oh heavens, no,” I replied quickly. “Heidi is the last person they’d expect me to bring home.”
Jesse turned his entire torso towards me, “For the love of all that is magic, you are thirty-two, Sir Embers. Why would it bother you that your parents disapprove of your partner?”
“Do you not know Nora Embers?” Wynona interjected. “No offence, Tristan, your mother has been a good friend of mine for many years and has a good heart too, but she’s very protective of you. She has a particular type when introducing these young women to her son.”
“She must come from a wealthy and reputable family,” I elaborated to Jesse with a slight grin.
Jesse turned to the front and slumped in his seat a little. “Well, that’s preposterous. I never knew Nora that way.”
“My mother is a sweet soul but she expects an unreasonably high standard.”
“A little discriminatory, if you ask me,” Jesse uttered, eyes on the road.
* * *
Wynona and Dr. Pierce’s mansion stood three-storeys-tall and their land spread at least thirty-two acres wide. They had combined their wealth to purchase a property outside of the town of Orchidville for their privacy. Dr. Pierce, Wynona insisted, needed to be safe from any potential harm.
As we got out of Wynona’s expensive car, we headed straight into the mansion. There, we were greeted by Wynona’s butler.
“May I have your coats, sirs?” An elderly man asked with a straight posture and ironed uniform. He held out a gloved hand as he waited.
“The coats stay with us, thank you,” Jesse said with a smile.
The butler bowed and led us to a large drawing room where the guests were. All except Lady Bernadette.
“Oh, there they are,” my mother said as we entered the room. Dr. Pierce was sitting with my parents who were awaiting our arrival.
“Wynona insisted on driving,” Jesse said with a slight jest. “We’ll teleport next time.”
The group laughed and exchanged handshakes. Wynona excused herself as she needed to help prepare the lunch—one of her helpers was unwell. Dr. Pierce, on the other hand, offered to bring us on a tour of the mansion.
“We have twelve rooms,” he said, standing up from his armchair, “All of you will be able to stay the night if your schedules permit.”
“Sounds wonderful,” my father amicably agreed.
Soon, the doorbell rang and Wynona popped her head out of the kitchen doorway, “That must be Lady Bernadette and her daughter!”
The butler opened the door and welcomed them in, receiving their hats as they entered. We stood from our chairs and waited to greet the baroness and her daughter. As they walked into the drawing room, Jesse, my father and I bowed while my mother fleeted to Lady Bernadette and they embraced.
“Six years is a long time, my friend,” the baroness said to my mother.
Lady Bernadette Willows was a lady of high status among the leaders of Orchidville. Dr. Pierce knew her late husband as a colleague before he got into politics himself. Dr. Willows held a reputation as being Orchidville’s leading scientist. Lady Bernadette was a baroness who inherited a large sum of wealth from her late husband as well as her parents. Her long peach-coloured dress hugged her tall figure, her powdered shoulders bare. She walked like she glided; her feet hidden inside the length of her silk dress. A strong woman she was, as they said, for she upheld her husband’s notable reputation as Orchidville’s most brilliant man who led the future of the town even after his passing.
My mother nudged me. “She has quite a lovely complexion. Beautiful, isn’t she? I am hoping that you’ll get to know her.”
I stared at my mother. “Are you setting me up with the baroness, mama? She’s at least ten years my senior!”
My mother rolled her green eyes, “No, not her. I was talking about her daughter.”
As she said it, I noticed Lady Bernadette’s daughter, standing as tall as her mother in a rose-coloured sequin dress. Her hair was tied in a neat up-do, white gold earrings dangling dazzlingly from her earlobes. She adorned a diamond necklace that draped across her collarbone, her skin cream-coloured and eyes olive-green. Her smile was as pleasant as her mother’s. They both had sand-coloured hair that never seemed to move when they spoke or walked.
“Oh,” I uttered. Then it hit me. “Wait, you didn’t warn me about this.”
“Why should I? You’re thirty-two and very much ready to have a wife. Besides, I believe that Nicole would make a good partner for my son.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Mother, you must speak with me on this. How are you so sure that she is for me?”
“Not only does Nicole inherit her mother’s elegance and beauty, she also possesses her father’s intelligence. She is a surgeon at Orchidville Hospital. I thought you like strong, brilliant women?”
That last part left me briefly speechless. I shook it off and said anyway, “Mother, I am not interested in Nicole.”
“You seem cross,” she said, eyeing me.
We stood shoulder to shoulder, watching as the baroness and her daughter chatted lively with the other men in the room. Eventually, they approached us and I bowed again.
“Sir Embers,” Lady Bernadette greeted, “it’s my honour to meet you after all these years. Last time we met, you were only a toddler!”
I nodded and smiled. “The honour is all mine. I find myself lucky to be in your grace and presence, my lady.”
“Such a charming young man,” she said to my mother. Then she eyed me from head to toe, “Handsome too.”
My mother responded a little too eagerly, “Isn’t he?”
I glared at my mother for a second. She ignored me.
“Tristan, this is Dr. Nicole.”
Dr. Nicole curtsied and smiled as I bowed. I did not offer any words.
Jesse placed a palm on my shoulder. “Sorry to interject but may I borrow him for a short moment? Wynona needs us in the kitchen.”
My body moved before I could think. “Let’s see what help we can offer her, then.”
I excused myself and headed off into the kitchen with Jesse behind me. Wynona was bustling about with her chef and helper. She stopped and turned to us questioningly.
“Are you guys here to help?” She asked, chuckling.
“Jesse told me—“
“Jesse saved you,” he whispered. “You’re welcome.”
Wynona raised an eyebrow. “From what?”
Jesse nodded his head towards the drawing room. Wynona’s expression turned to surprise. “Oh.”
“Well, we can talk to Heidi for you,” she quipped.
I stared at her. “No need for that because I am going to speak to my mother about this. I will tell her about Heidi.”
The two of them grinned at each other and then at me. Jesse nodded. “Well, good luck, my fellow Sage.”