The young woman ran down the stairs, blind in the darkness. Her breaths came in frantic huffs. She stumbled and tripped over the familiar steps. Someone was in the house.
Her long, stringy brown hair was wet with tears and sweat. They killed him! She thought once again, Oh, why? Forgetting that the stairway curved sharply to the right, she fell, tumbling loudly to the bottom. In the basement at last, she searched wildly for a place to hide, to escape.
She heard the dull thud of the intruder's frosted, muddy boots. They were steady and in control while descending slowly down the stairs. The young woman backed into a corner, both outstretched hands touching the damp cement behind her.
The invader appeared on the last step, grunted, and after stepping onto the rug-covered floor, he stopped. His sandy-blonde hair was in disarray. The lower half of his face appeared a shade darker than the upper half, even in the shadows of the basement, because it had been unshaven for a week or so. He unblemished teeth, blindingly white, were hidden partially behind his perfect lips. He was about twenty-seven and he was very handsome.
His golden eyes pierced through the frightened young woman's. He just stared at her and smiled. She was cornered now; nowhere to go.
The young encroacher wore a red plaid long-sleeve, button-up shirt with a white muscle shirt underneath. He wore blue jeans and those awful, haunting, brown boots.
The woman closed her blue eyes in a flinch. If she could just get away from his eyes, his piercing eyes! Quickly, she thought of a certain sequence of little-known words. Now, her eyes were shut tight, and her hands were pressed firmly against the cement behind her. Her breaths now came in short, heavy bursts. She mumbled something inaudible and vanished before the young man.
The trespasser's eyes widened in astonishment, but only for a moment. When realization hit him, he became even angrier than he had been. Of course! he thought in frustration.
The girl reappeared outside in the snow-covered grass, tears rolling once more down her cheeks. They were hot like fire, and they stung like an open wound. Her left arm felt numb, and she looked down only to discover that it was broken. Run, Loretta! Get to Charlie! she thought to herself.
Her legs moved on their own accord, with no need of command. Her long-sleeved, striped shirt clung to the sweat on her skin, but her pajama pants swayed freely with the chilled wind. Loretta was headed for her father's home.
"I knew he would come after you! He threatened as much," Loretta's father almost yelled.
"Father, I have yet to tell you how I escaped," Loretta looked down. Her father's eyes softened when he gazed upon his lovely daughter. The spittin' image of her deceased mother, he thought. Holding her chin in his large hand, he kissed the top of her head. He sighed and asked her to tell him how she escaped, even though he was sure that he already knew.
"Father, I'm not quite sure what actually happened, to tell you the truth. I merely—Oww!" she flinched as her father, a doctor, continued setting her arm, "I merely chanted one of Mum's old sayings—one that I didn't even know that I remembered. One moment I was in my basement staring at Daniel, my life flashing before my eyes, and the next, I was in my backyard, snowflakes landing in my eyelashes. I don't understand what happened."
"Don't move," her father said as he finished setting her arm. Then he walked upstairs to his wife's old room. Loretta followed. Her father began to explain, "Your mother came from a family of so-called 'Wizards'. They were not quite Wizards and not quite humans either. We call them Vinaxorons. The odd thing is that only the female side of the family can inherit the powers," he paused to affectionately stroke a picture of Loretta's mother, "and even then, only under certain circumstances." He smiled warily at his daughter. She gawked with unbelieving amazement in return.
Loretta scrunched her nose and twisted her mouth. Her eyes became small slits as she said, "Daddy what are you trying to tell me? My lunatic ex-boyfriend breaks into my house, kills my husband," her voice cracked and her gaze was faraway, "and corners me in my basement while his two friends rob my house, and then suddenly I have magical powers or something?"
"Well, no…" he said, "You've had them for…a while now. Actually, you've had them ever since your mother died. You just…discovered them by instinct, and quite strongly I might add."
Loretta looked at him in astonishment. She said, "I'm twenty-four years old and you're telling me that I've been a magical creature with magical powers since I was seven!"
"Yes," her father said simply.
"Do you know how far-fetched that sounds? There is no such thing as magic, Dad! Come on, I can't lose you too, not now…" she whimpered.
"Here's how it works," her father said, choosing to ignore her, "the Vinaxoron has a baby. If it's a girl, she can inherit the powers, but only after the mother dies. And even then, only one girl will inherit them in that family and generation. If there is more than one female child, the powers could be inherited by any of them—but only one, mind you. There is no pattern to which we can look to see which girl will inherit the magic; it's completely random. If the baby's a boy, he can't inherit the powers— from a Vinaxoron anyway. There are wizards, though. Wizard, both male and female, are tricky in that they are not permitted to tell or show anyone that they are a wizard. They are only allowed to discuss this aspect of their lives with 'non-wizards' if, and only if, the 'non-wizard' discovers it on his or her own. Oh, and that reminds me, your husband, Drew, was a wizard," he finished.
"What?" Loretta exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me if you'd figured it out?" she asked, still unable to take in so much at once.
Her father sighed, "I couldn't have told you until he died. You had to find out on your own. Charlie— "
Loretta interrupted him, "What about Charlie? Is she mixed up in all of this magical mess as well? …I suppose I picked a good night to send her to Grandpa's." She looked down. Her daughter, Charlie, was only four. The child had wanted to stay at Grandpa's—Loretta's father—house on Friday, the night before. Loretta had decided to allow her to stay two nights.
"Well," Loretta's father interrupted her thoughts, "she is a Vinaxoron now because Drew was a wizard and he was murdered. However, she would have become one when you died anyway. It's a very rare and mostly unheard of way to inherit the powers, but it is possible. Actually, she's half Wizard." He added, "I can tell you that because one: she's a child and doesn't even know it herself yet—which, by the way, is very hard to get away with—and two: because she's only half Wizard." Loretta wasn't exactly sure what to make of that news. As of now she was only concerned with Charlie's safety and her own. She could figure all the magic stuff out later.
She dared ask the unspoken question that lingered, deadly, in the air, "What about Daniel?"
Her father sighed helplessly and shrugged his shoulders. "Do you think we could phone the police on him?" he queried.
"Well, certainly we should!" Loretta exclaimed protectively. "There's no way I'm allowing him to freely roam around with the possibility of his harming Charlie. He went ballistic after I broke up with him, and it's been seven years since then; I was seventeen, Daddy!" she glowered at the thought.
"Charlie is sleeping soundly in her bed. She's safe, but are you?" her father inquired. There was a tense silence between them for several minutes. Loretta shed a single, hot tear. How would she explain to her daughter that her father, Drew, had died that night?
The silence became eerie. It was three in the morning and Drew's dead body was only two streets away. When Loretta had run, the only thing on her mind had been Charlie. Then she had thought more about her current position; it was close, too close. However, Loretta than that. had hoped that because it was too close Daniel might not come. He would, hopefully, think that she would be smarter
Once Loretta had finally reached her father's, she had scrambled for the one hidden key and raced in the front door. She'd taken the key with her. She would take no chances. She had shaken her father awake, after checking on Charlie. Both of them had then gone through the entire house and securely locked every door and window. Loretta had locked Charlie's window herself and left the bedroom door open. Presently, Loretta was just down the hallway.
Suddenly, a loud ring from the phone in the hall broke the uncomfortable silence. Loretta jumped, being startled by the unusually loud noise. At first, she had wished to ignore it; however, she turned to take the call because a motherly instinct had told her to.
A sluggish thought in the very back of her mind rolled around, hardly noticed: Perhaps Daddy should pick it up; that would be safer. "Hello," she answered despite the hesitation. She glanced at her daughter's door, hoping that the ring of the phone had not awakened her. Something about the angle of the door's opening bothered her.
"Hello. How are you, Sweetheart?" an unwelcome voice responded sarcastically. "Only you," the voice hissed, "would think to answer the phone this early in the morning." Loretta's body tensed and became alert. Her eyes were wide with worry.
"What do you want, Daniel?" she hissed in return.
"Oh, don't be so mean, Dear," Daniel had easily detected the hatred in her low whisper. He chuckled lightly and spoke again, "You wouldn't want to anger me; I might do something rash." He chuckled again at his little secret, "I have Charlie."
Loretta dropped the phone and ran down the hall to Charlie's room. The bed was empty, and the blankets were thrown about as if there had been a struggle. She wasn't under the bed, behind the door, or in the closet. Loretta frantically searched every square inch of the room. Charlie wasn't there.
With a new thought, Loretta ran to the opposite end of the hall. She burst into the bathroom and stared motionless in the doorway clutching her stomach. Slowly, she turned around and walked back to the phone.
As she bent down in a daze to pick the phone up, her father came into the hallway. "Is everything alright? What's going on, Loretta?" he ignorantly questioned. With a shaky hand, Loretta put the phone to her ear; it was cold against her already numb face.
"Where are you?" Loretta asked dryly, knowing that Daniel would still be on the line. He had wanted something and he was going to get it.
"Ah, there you are; right on time. Come outside to the front yard…and you might want to bring Charlie's coat, she's cold…" He laughed cruelly and the line went silent.
Loretta instantly ran outside. She was still barefoot, and the cold, winter snow burned against her feet once again. Her nose turned red, and her body heat was dropping quickly. Her panting breaths were a glistening fog in the light from the porch.
"Where are you?" she shouted while tears stung her cheeks like pinpricks. Daniel stepped out from behind a tree holding Charlie in his arms. Just below her scared blue eyes, identical to her mother's, he held her mouth shut. In his left hand, he had a tuff of her long, tangled blonde hair twisted and pulled painfully.
"Calm down, Mommy," he spat out the word 'mommy' like a piece of gum that had been chewed too long.
"Let her go. She has nothing to do with this," Loretta said in a strangely calm voice. When Daniel let go of the child's mouth, there were white marks on her smooth skin from the pressure he had put on her mouth. Loretta could have killed him with the anger that swelled up inside of her. With his newly freed hand, he pulled out a knife and waved it through the air.
"No!" Loretta screamed. Her hands flew up in the air, gesturing for him to stop.
"Mommy!" Charlie wailed.
Loretta tried to soothe her child, "Charlie, everything will be alright. Honey, just stay calm okay?" She paused out of breath, choking through her tears.
"Okay, Mommy," the small voice replied with the tender trust that can only come from a child.
Loretta's gaze rested on Daniel. With nothing but contempt for him, she glared. "How did you get in? I locked all the doors and windows!" she rasped dryly.
"Aww, don't tell me you've forgotten our place? Has it been that long ago?" he smiled gleefully. He truly has gone mad, Loretta thought. Seeing her look of confusion, Daniel graciously decided to explain, "The trapdoor in the garden…Don't you remember? Surely you remember the tunnel that leads to the cellar. You showed it to me, my love."
Loretta scowled at him. Daniel raised the knife to Charlie's throat and stepped back several paces. There was a madness in his eyes like the foam at the mouth of a rabid dog.
"No! Daniel, STOP!" As Loretta's voice reverberated unusually through the yard, some invisible force separated him from Charlie. No harm was done to the child. Daniel, however, was thrown against the very tree that he had been hiding behind earlier. Hitting his head against a tree limb, he fell to the snowy floor, unconscious.
The next morning Charlie stayed close to her mother. She fell asleep in Loretta's lap for lack of sleep the night before. Once the child was asleep, Loretta and her father discussed what they were to do with Daniel. He was bound and gagged in the attic, still unconscious. Loretta's father explained a little more about her magic and how she had used it instinctively.
After considering their options, they decided to send Daniel to another realm where he could do no harm. It would be a difficult task, but a possible one nonetheless. Daniel had figured out about Loretta's powers easily enough. He could not stay.
Later that day, the police completed their search for Daniel's two friends. They were arrested for trespassing, burglary, and the murder of Loretta's husband, Drew. It puzzled the police that they could not find any trace of Daniel himself. He seemed to disappear into thin air…they never did find him. It remains, to this day, a quizzically unsolved case. All the evidence was there, but the tracks just…ended.
One policeman commented, "We shall never know a love as deep as his, for it drove him to his destruction. A man truly in love, head over heels, was he…" That was the end of Daniel's revenge.
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