Ashes Magic

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Kate woke up feeling wonderful on Saturday morning. There had been no nightmares the night before so she slept like an angel. Furthermore, it had been more than a week since she saw creatures. However, she was anxious and a little apprehensive about her meeting with Jake tonight. She had never been on a date before.

“Oops! It’s not a date!” she remembered as she cleaned her room. She had made that clear to the boy during the last class. He would only keep her company as a friend, nothing more. If he dared to pull a trick on her, the boy would return home a eunuch. Maybe she was going a little overboard. Jake was breathtaking!

The afternoon passed in a blink of an eye. By mentioning this to her mother, the only thing the woman lacked to do was set fire to the house. “My goodness, Joseph! You will not believe it, Kate has a date tonight!” she shouted to her husband who was watching a football game on TV. Rosalia was so electric that Kate thought she was having a seizure in the middle of preparing dinner.

“Do not exaggerate Rosalia, it is just a date,” Joseph said, without taking his eyes off the TV.

“Look, Mom! You’re going to burn down the house!” she said as she ran to take out a dishcloth that was beginning to scorch on the stove where her mother had just dropped it. “Easy, Mom! Why are you so excited? It’s no big ... Wow! It seems like you are the one going to the meeting!” Kate put her hands on her hips and looked at her skeptically.

“Stop being cynical, Kate. Is there any attraction? You need not pretend to me!” Rosalia said. She was very amused with her daughter. She loved the shy way Kate showed against some guy. She knew that the girl had never been linked to anyone before. It was likely that she had already been interested with someone but never had the courage to go forward. Kate was ashamed of herself for being complex. That day would be memorable. “My daughter, tell me ... Does he attend the same university?” She arched an eyebrow. “Is he cute? How old is he?”

“Mother, leave me alone!” she pleaded. “I need to get ready.”

“You did not answer my question, girl! Come on, darling. Do not be peevish with your mother!” Rosalia said.

“If I speak, will you stop teasing me?” Kate asked.

“Yes. Just do not hide anything from me,” her mother said.

“Okay. He studies with me. We have classes together.” She looked down, fiddling with the hem of her blouse and said, “He is really hot!”

The mother let out a muffled yelp. She said excitedly, “Listen, my dear. We have to get really beautiful clothes for you to wear. These are clothes which will enhance your physical attributes and won’t make you look ordinary. We cannot make things easy for men, my love! After all, today you will win your first kiss!”

Kate could not believe that her mother had given her a sentence containing the words physical attributes, enhance, and kiss all gathered in the same sentence. She prayed that her father had not heard her motherly advice. She was relieved as he was entertained by watching the game. At worst, he pretended to not have heard. “Mother! For that last part, I’ll pretend I did not hear anything!”

Snorting, she disappeared from the kitchen and went straight to her room. Now, what should she wear? Worst of all, the advice of her mother made sense. After eternity, she finally decided what she was going to wear. She put on a black dress which by luck or chance of fate she had found at the back of the closet. Her mother bought it for her, hoping that Kate would wear it at a birthday party of a co- worker that had been promoted. His youngest son was present that night. Rosalia mused that Kate was in love with the boy. Certainly, Rosalia was a woman with a huge imagination. Kate had seen the boy only once in her life and exchanged half a dozen words with him. Obviously, she did not wear the dress.

“Kate, open the door! Let me see what you have decided to wear, quick! I’m curious!” Rosalia screamed. By God! The woman was relentless! Doesn’t she ever give up? If Kate let her see that she had chosen to wear the black dress, her mother would triumph. She would have to endure it for weeks. Did she have another option? “Honey, come on! Do not be shy. If you need any more advice, you can ask me. Soon, we will have much to discuss. We need to clarify some doubts about boys,” she rattled on.

Kate hated the way her mother treated her like a child. Damn! She was nineteen now! She had never dated before. It seemed that was the end of the world. On the contrary, on the first alleged night she slept with a guy, the poor boy came out probably running naked at dawn after witnessing the terrible nightmare she possibly had. So, those were the rules: No libraries, no boyfriends!

Before her mother could utter any more embarrassing words, Kate muttered, “Mom, don’t you have to finish dinner?”

Rosalia replied, “Nice try, girl!”

Wanting no more arguments, Kate opened the door. Rosalia was flabbergasted.

“You’ve grown up so fast! You seem like an adult in that dress!” Rosalia cried happy tears. “Wait ... This dress is the one! You’re in love!”

“Don’t get so excited. He’s just a friend.” Kate rolled her eyes. “To tell you the truth, it is not technically a date.”

“Hmm ... With this dress, you will make that impression on him,” Rosalia looked suspiciously at her daughter. “You never mentioned that he was a friend.”

“Friend? I said that?” She pushed her mother out of the room and continued to get ready.

She was almost ready. She chose to wear sandals. To complete the look, she wore discreet makeup and decided to wear a pair of earrings. She left her hair the way it was. It was already so smooth and long. When she checked her watch, it was nearly eight o’clock. As expected, Kate had an outbreak. “Damn! I’m not ready!” She looked thoughtfully at her reflection in the mirror. “Did I exaggerate? What will he think?”

When she realized this, the bell had rung. It was too late, he had arrived. Without thinking twice, she ran into the room and tried to get there before her mother, hoping to intercept the boy on the way. However, as expected, Rosalia was already in the middle of an interrogation and offered him something to drink. How had she managed to be so fast? Kate ran to rescue him.

“Hi, Jake! I’m almost ready. I just need to dry my hair. Why don’t you come with me?” She asked, motioning with her hands in supplication.

“But honey, let me talk to him so I can get to know him a little more. I need to know if my sweetie will be in good hands.” She launched a complicit wink to her daughter as she got a good impression on the boy. “You’re right, he is cute!

Kate looked stunned at Jake. Her mother was impossible! She spoke as if it were the most natural thing in the world! She will never get over this shameful episode. She knew that her mother was allegedly playing on her team and didn’t want to further complicate her life.

Rosalia asked Jake to sit on the couch. She accompanied him and sat facing him. “Jake my dear, what is your age?”

“Hmm .. Twenty-one.”

“Where do you live?”

“In the center, near the University.”

“Do you live with your parents?”

“No.”

“What career do you want to have?”

“It’s ... Well ... I ”

“Do you work?”

“Yes ”

“Where?” Rosalia bombarded the boy with questions like he was in a job interview.

“Mother! For the love of our Lord!” Kate said with a desperate expression. Throwing her hands in the air, she said, “We haven’t even gone out and you’re already freaking out?” She looked serious and said to Jake, “ I’ll take care of this part!” She took his hand and led him into the bedroom.

Jake said, “Your mother is very extroverted, unlike you. For a brief moment, I had the impression that you would go to the kitchen, grab a knife, and cut her throat.” He stopped halfway and looked suspicious. “That bid that you said before, did you want to scare me? Am I to fear you? Confess ... Should I have been armed? Should I be using some bulletproof vest?”

“Maybe ...” she pushed his arm.

Upon entering the room, he asked with a beaming smile on his face, “What about that conversation? Do you think I’m cute? Is it true? Just so you know, my feeling for you is mutual.”

He liked what Kate was wearing and lingered a little longer at the neckline of her dress. He came closer to her ear and said hoarsely, “You are stunning. I have no other appropriate praise for that dress. I get the impression that you would be embarrassed, so I’ll just keep it to myself.”

Right now, Kate thanked herself for not having told her mother about her encounters with Jake. Absolutely, her mother would bug the house.

“Do not exaggerate! It seems that you have never seen a girl dressed this way before. I believe you may have also seen a lot of girls without clothes,” she said, full of audacity. Kate’s legs were wobbling and her heart was racing. Jake’s smell was too good. She took the hairdryer in the drawer and dried her hair. While Kate was finishing up, he made a brief survey of her room. He was trying to find something that revealed a little more about the girl. He looked at the bookcase.

“I see that you love reading,” he said in admiration. “Novels and more novels. You really enjoy that genre. To me, that’s all misleading nonsense.”

“How?” she asked indignantly.

“Relax, no need to be nervous! I did not express myself right. What I meant was that you women believe that very syrupy story that one day, you will find the enchanted prince and blah blahblah ...” He put the book back on the shelf.

Kate threw her hairbrush at him.

“What? There is nothing more pathetic and corny than a man reciting poetry to a woman.”

Kate heard some giggles from him and laughed, too. Soon after, he went back to sweeping the room with his eyes. He saw an old teddy bear on the bed. It seemed to be the only article that he found what was left of her childhood.

“This teddy here? What an awful and terrifying thing! Do you use it to scare the guys who ask you out?” Jake teasingly asked.

“Yes, he is self-destructing. You’d better drop it for your own safety,” Kate looked at Jake and was fascinated by him. He was laughing with her teddy bear in his hand. Jake was a beautiful and engaging young man; his smile was a killer. She stood and admired his beauty. He was wearing a light blue shirt and jeans. The shirt clung to his arms, revealing the firm and delineated muscles. Kate had also noticed that he carried a tired expression and had strong, dark circles under the eyes as if he had spent a sleepless night, but that didn’t make him less attractive. She confiscated the bear from his hand. “Stop being nosy! Are you always like this when you’re in a girl’s room?” she said.

“I’m not in the habit of entering the room of other girls. I just want to come in on my own.” the Guardian said hoarsely. Without another word, he tucked a strand of hair that was loose behind her ear and whispered, “That is if you want me to.”

Kate was totally lost, forgetting even what planet she lived on. Her heart jumped like crazy in her chest, her throat threatening to quit. “How about if we left now?” she said, disguising and changing the subject.

“All right. I guess it’s time,” he agreed, somewhat disappointed. Before leaving the room, a mural with pictures of various places caught his attention. All photos were tagged with a huge X. He asked Kate, “What is this? Are you some kind of terrorist?” Staring at the girl seriously, he added, “Is it now, that moment you mentioned before? Should I feel afraid?”

Kate looked where he was pointing and smiled. “Jake ...” she started.

“Confess ... Are the places marked with an X part of a sinister plan?” His face was worried. “Do you want to, or have you already destroyed all these places?”

“Would you stop with these unfunny jokes?” She slapped his arm and explained, “This is just my little trip around the world. You must have noticed that my family and I do not grow roots. We like touring. All photos marked with an X are the places I’ve lived in.” She smiled, but her face showed sadness. Kate had been a little upset with the talk about change.

He took her hand and said, “Do you want to know what I think? Your family must love you a lot. Your mother is very concerned about you. In less than five minutes in her company, I’ve realized how much she loves you.” In response to Rosalia’s questioning, his hands had bathed in sweat. Rosalia was determined. He imagined that Kate hadn’t had many encounters.

“She is my foster mother. My parents adopted me when I was eight.” Kate confessed, biting her lip. “To me, it makes no difference. I love them like my real parents, no matter what.”

“You don’t like talking about it?” He patted Kate’s arm. She did not answer his query. In fact, he had already imagined that she was adopted. The auras of the girl’s parents were human. “Okay ... If you do not feel comfortable talking about this issue, we don’t need to.”

“Thank you.” She was grateful that Jake did not ask more questions. For any other girl, the fact that this would be her third foster family was no big deal. Her situation was different. Her previous foster families had been brutally murdered and the authorities never found out who were the killers were and the motive of the crime. She had survived despite being present in the midst of the attacks. However, she could not remember anything. Kate was just a child but she knew who the real killers were. She never met her legitimate family as she had been abandoned on the doorstep of an orphanage. She was wrapped in a blanket inside a small basket which contained only an old teddy bear that accompanied her. The nuns believed that she would never survive. Kate was a premature little baby. They had to keep her for long periods in an incubator. Interrupting her thoughts, his voice low, Jake said, “Let’s go, beautiful?”

She remembered that her nosy mother could have been listening behind the door. With crossed fingers, she hoped she had not heard the part where Jake made that proposal. Her mother would beat her up if she did not accept it. In an attempt to avoid an embarrassing situation, in which the mother fell into the room as she opened the door because the woman was listening, Kate thought it was best to send a signal to send her mother away. She looked at Jake and shouted loud and clear, “Shall we? Let’s go!”

Finally, they left her house with a sigh of relief. Fortunately, she found her mother after she opened the door. In a quick and clever way, she managed to escape. Kate knew that when she came home, surely someone was waiting for her. On the way to the party, Jake remained silent all the time. Was he suspicious of something?

She asked, “Is there a problem? You look tired. Didn’t you sleep well because you were anxious about the meeting?” She added, “Just don’t tell me that my mother left you traumatized. Or else, you will have to get psychological treatment. I think the bill will be more expensive than anticipated. Possibly, I will not have to pay so much money!”

Jake moaned softly, feeling a shiver go through his whole body to hear those words, “psychological treatment.” Inevitably, he ended up remembering the night he had spent in that abandoned asylum. “With me, everything is fine! However, if your mother has a problem, it may be hereditary!” He smiled happily but inwardly, he really wanted to sit on a curb and cry like a little boy.

Kate asked, “Are you sure? You do not look so good ...”

“I’ve never been great!” Jake lied shamelessly. He was crushed, totally in shambles, and did he have another option? What would he say to Kate? In addition to not having slept a wink all night, he came home with the sun dawning because he spent the whole morning hunting tormented spirits and dragging huge coffins inside an abandoned asylum. Then, he went for a walk through the cemetery of the city, making a sweep of the tombs. Of course he could not mention that, besides all the misfortune he suffered. He had to play the digger, burying and digging up coffins. Nothing much. The things college kids do.

What made him more stressed was he realized his dark circles and fatigue were evidenced throughout the disorder he suffered. On top of that, he had to put up with the complaints of his little friend Lana. After the fiasco of his trap, it took almost an hour to convince her that they had to go back to the cemetery to get a new coffin. Besides that, they had to bury the soul trapped inside.

FLASHBACK

“No way! I will not enter the cemetery in the dead of night and steal a coffin. This is a crime!” Lana glared at Jake. “I’ll even make that dream you had before become a reality, and how? I’ll call the police and make an anonymous tip!”

“Ha! Speaking thus, it seems as if you’re a saint. Do you want to stop playing the immaculate and help me get on with this drama?” he said impatiently. “This is not theft, it’s just borrowing!”

“Borrowing? So why not return this one?” She pointed to the coffin.

“You even saw how easy it was, and practical!” Jake said.

“Convenient and easy? Dragging a huge crate up five floors? How dare you be so cynical?” She crossed her arms and said, looking towards the stretcher, “If you had listened to me from the beginning and made a ritual expulsion, this would not be happening. Do me a favor. Never offer me help when I ask for it!”

“As to that, I have no doubts, my dear! If by any chance I do not resist your charms, do not act like a fool again! We could be burying this one right now!” he said, pointing to the coffin.

“Enough, Constantine! I got the message.” Her eyes widened.

“I just had an idea! Let’s take it along to the cemetery and end the service there. That way, we don’t need to make another trip up here!” she suggested, while pointing to the spirit that lay motionless beneath the litter.

“How do you suggest I do this? Tie it on a leash like a dog? Lana, stop being stupid”.

“All right, I will. For the record, I am acting under duress!” she replied.

The Guardian kept the hallway of the building sealed with his power so that the spirit could not escape. The two took the sealed coffin and brought it to the nearest graveyard. Jake suffered an outbreak of psychotic rage and shouted nonconformist with a shovel in his hand because he had forgotten his pair of leather gloves in the hospice. Lana did a scan of the gravestones with the intention of finding the perfect coffin and grave that would accommodate a small, skinny body.

“Lana! It’s not how it works! You cannot stare at all the descriptions of these gravestones as if analyzing curricula or to recruit a candidate for a job opening!” he said as he dug a pit in a more private cemetery. “You need to make sure that the deceased will be buried for at least fifty years!” He paused to wipe the sweat from his brow. Jake removed his shirt and jacket. “When we find one that fits these terms, we will dig up the coffin and put the bones of the unhappy spirit inside our bag and leave him in the grave.” He looked with regret at his hands that were starting to get calloused and concluded, “Finally, when the spirit remains inside the coffin, we will bury it again in the same tomb.”

“Soon, we’ll find the den and exhume the corpse because frankly,

I’m exhausted!” Decided, she spoke while the two worked together to complete their heroic mission in time.

END OF FLASHBACK

When they arrived at the party at the house of a friend of Jake’s, many young people were already drinking and having fun. Kate looked at the entire place and saw a room where there were several people dancing. Sweaty girls waved their skeletal bodies amid a curtain of smoke that stank of cigarettes. In every corner, she spotted snogging couples while other boys were disputing about who would be the champion to turn the shot glass first.

“Do you want something to drink?” Jake asked.

“Yes, of course,” Kate answered.

“What would you like?” he inquired.

“I’ll have what you’re having”.

He looked suspiciously at the girl. “Do you never drink anything with alcohol?” She shook her head. “Okay ... Wait here. I’ll be right back,” he said smiling, and left soon after.

Young people walked everywhere. Kate stepped out of the traffic looking for a less hectic place and leaned against a wall.

“Hi, babe! I’ve never seen you around here. What’s your name?” asked a tall, brown-haired guy with gray eyes.

“You’ve never seen me because I’ve never been here before.” She stared at him with a suspicious look. The boy had a weird way and looked strangely at her as if she was from another planet.

“You’re right. An attractive and different girl like you, I would never forget.” He examined her from top to bottom.

She felt an arm around her waist. She didn’t need to see who it was. Jake’s wonderful smell was unmistakable.

“Looking for something, Tiago?” Jake growled with a repulsive look. He hated Tiago. The boy was also a Guardian and belonged to the neighboring congregation. Despite being allies, they lived as enemies.

“To be honest, what I was looking for, you have just found,” he said as he cast a glance full of lust for Kate. “Where did you get that girl? She is very sexy!”

Before Kate even realized it, Jake had punched the face of the boy. The punch was so hard and fast that the girl was completely amazed. Jake took her hand and led her away, forgetting that he had absurdly calloused hands. At that moment, the Guardian wished that he should have taken that punch in the middle of the face. How could he be so careless? Looking back, Tiago was still dizzy. He tried to get up, surrounded by a curious crowd.

“Are you okay, Kate?” Jake asked, all affectionate.

“Well, it was not you who took a thwack. Yes, I’m fine,” Kate replied. She looked at his empty hands and complained, “Where’s my booze?”

“When I saw that disgusting guy approaching you, I had to drop the drinks and come running,” he said.

“Like a Prince Charming saving the damsel in distress?” She blinked at him. “Just like in the books? This attitude contradicts your speech earlier today.” Kate could not help but smile as he had been embarrassed.

“Do you want to dance?” he asked, changing the subject.

“I don’t dance,” she confessed, a little embarrassed.

“I know ... Let me guess ... You’ve never been to a party like this?” Before she confirmed it, Jake took her fingertips and took her to a makeshift room. The furniture had been dragged into a corner and young people danced and circled from one side to the other. On a table against the wall, there were several empty bottles of drinks, cups, and a plethora of cigarettes. A small dish served as an ashtray. A globe which reflected a multitude of colored lights hung from the ceiling. With a quizzical look, Jake asked the DJ to swap the music. He played a slower, less hectic tune. Pulling her close to him, Jake wrapped his arms around her waist. At first, she hesitated but soon surrendered to the closeness that decreased between the two. After putting her arms around his neck, Kate seemed more relaxed. He took the opportunity to embrace her, lowering his head and putting his nose into her neck. She did not protest as he drove the lane down her back. The Guardian was completely mesmerized by her scent. He did not feel this way with Barbara.

As they danced and were wrapped in a super romantic mood, Jake considered it appropriate to kiss her. He felt a hot sensation through his body and imagined kissing her mouth. Kate would not refuse as the Guardian was sure she also wanted it. Putting all professionalism aside, he turned to face her. He looked into her eyes and moved his thumb over her bottom lip as she stood motionless, enchanted under his gaze. He approached her mouth and when both lips were almost touching, someone interrupted.

Just like in the books, something unexpected always spoils the moment. Observing her reaction, he noted that she was also disappointed in by not having their “almost” kiss. He turned to identify who the perpetrator was because he had no other adjective more appropriate to classify such a person for ruining that moment. Jake was not the least bit surprised when faced head on with Olivia.

That girl managed to stop the kiss he so desired. The Guardian stared at her and asked through gritted teeth, “What do you think you’re doing? You shouldn’t be here!” Yet, he added softly, “Do you want to end my research?”

Olivia narrowed her eyes at the boy, not believing in his cynicism.

“Research my ass!” she thought. Jake was an inch away from kissing the girl and had the audacity to pretend he was working!

“Pay attention. The reason I came here is serious,” she said.

“So, speak shortly!” he muttered impatiently.

“Not here, and not in her presence.” Despite witnessing this act of insolence, Olivia was really worried and signaled toward the girl.

With his arm around Kate’s waist, he thought of a logical excuse to just go out with a redhead in tow. After giving a signal for Olivia to wait, he took Kate to a more private place and said, “I need to take a little jump outside. I have an issue to resolve with that girl. Please do not think bullshit, she’s just a friend.” He ran his hand across her face and continued, “When I get back, we’ll talk.” He was worried about her reaction. After all, girls were jealous and possessive. To his surprise, she just nodded.

“Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.” She noticed how apprehensive he was. Jake was not feeling well that night. In addition to demonstrating great fatigue, he seemed a little upset. “You sure you’re okay?” she asked him.

“I’m okay, beautiful. I’ll be right back,” he said. Perfect, he thought. Kate was not impulsive. She was more for quality. After planting a kiss on her forehead, he went outside with Olivia.

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