I am surprised when I get off the train in Drogheda that afternoon to see Kieran waiting for me outside the ticket office.
He stands up from the low wall he had been sitting on and he walks toward me nervously.
I smile down at him as I walk down the steps. “Hi. Where are you going?”
“Waiting for you.” He turns as I reach him and casually, naturally, he takes my hand into his.
I smile pleased. “Why?”
He looks distraught. “Jayden was with you on the train this morning.”
I frown. “Do you tell each other everything?”
He looks confused. “No, but it is difficult to explain.”
I raise my eyebrows. “Are you just trying to be mysterious, or what? Now two things you have that are difficult to explain. This reminds me.” I look at him expectantly.
He smiles. “It really is complicated, though.” He pulls on my hand. “Come, I’ll walk you home.”
We walk down the stone steps to the main road and then turn toward the road I usually walk home. As we walk past a quaint, pretty garden, beautifully looked after by the elderly couple I sometimes see pottering around in the soil, he plucks a white rose from a rose bush overhanging the boundary wall.
As we continue walking, he holds the rose to his nose and breathes in deeply, closing his eyes for a moment. He smiles when he pulls the rose away from his nose and he holds it out toward me.
I lean in to smell it. The rich, sweet fragrance prickles up my nose. “It smells heavenly.”
He smells it again. “It does.” He exhales loudly, and then he asks, “I am going to answer one of your questions today, if that’s okay?”
“Only one?” I laugh cheerfully.
His smile widens. “I wouldn’t want you to think I am not mysterious anymore.”
I nudge him with my shoulder, as if to tell him not to worry, he will always intrigue me. I feel as if there is a great shroud of mystery surrounding him and as soon as he tells me one thing, there are about five other things he leaves hanging in mid-air, unanswered.
“Okay, let’s do this then. So, I am sure you have heard of magic?”
“Obviously. Who hasn’t? Magic is the attempt to control the natural world by controlling supernatural powers which are believed to direct events in the natural world.”
He laughs. “You are a walking encyclopaedia. Did you know though?” He looks at me inquisitively. “The practice of magic is based on magical or superstitious beliefs, which are not supported by logic, science or religion. To practice magic involves words, actions, and objects. In recent times, magicians who use magic for entertainment have sullied this practice.”
“Like sleight of hand tricks?”
He nods affirmatively. “Yes, the public influence of magicians has resulted in a spectacle and fakery of magic which is actually very amusing, but very different from the serious side of real magic. Serious magic is generally restricted to strongly traditional societies and to groups who have relatively little contact with major world developments.” He smiles sadly. “Once people are surrounded by the everyday world, they forget magic even exists.
I interrupt him, “Yeah, but real magic can be used for good or evil purposes, like white or black magic.”
He smiles pleased. “Yes. Some people might even use the words witchcraft or sorcery, and some believe it is used to control witches or disembodied souls.”
I ask jokingly, “Witches again?”
He grins while he twirls the stem of the rose between his fingers. “What colour rose is your favourite?”
I think for a moment. “I’ll have to say that near black red roses are my absolute favourites.”
He holds the rose up in front of him. I hear him murmur something and then he sweeps his hand, palm down over the rose. I gasp loudly when he hands me the near black-red rose. The tips of the petals are bright red and then it darkens as it goes closer to the stem. It is the most beautiful rose I have ever seen.
I look at him in disbelief as I reach for the rose and my fingers brush against his as I take it from him.
He announces, looking embarrassed, “Magic.”
I look behind me and try to see in the distance if there is a rose bush with red roses growing next to the one where he picked the white one. Although, I know I have never seen a red rose along this road I walk every day, he must have tricked me. There is no way he could have changed the colour of the rose.
I laugh cheerily. “I know. You bought this one earlier, before waiting for me at the station. What did you do with the white one?” I look back to see if it is lying on the pathway behind us. As I turn back to him, I say excitedly, “You must teach me how you did it.”
We turn into my estate as he says, “It’s not that simple.”
I laugh. “Jeez, with you nothing is ever simple or easy, is it?”
“I am trying to explain what happened the other day when you almost.” He does not say died, he changes his words. “Got knocked over.”
I look at him confused. “What does it have to do with magic?”
“It is all about magic.”
We reach my house and I invite him in. He follows me down the hall to the kitchen. I put the rose in a tiny vase filled with water while he leans against the cupboard.
As I make the tea, I feel him watching my every move, so at last, I stir the sugar into the tea one final time, and then I turn around to face him. I hold his mug out to him and he reaches for it.
When he takes it from me, I ask seriously, “So what does magic have to do with witchcraft? Are you a witch?”