Gates to Asphodel, Chapter 18

Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end. School is back in session after winter break and the class gains two new students, twins Aiden and Cate. During recess, Corey is drawn to the twins and starts to get to know them. Then one snowy evening, Corey’s family has the Asphodels over for dinner. Corey has a chance to chat with the twins and learns magic is real, but it’s a secret.

 

Corey quickly tossed her backpack into her room and hurried over to her dresser. Her reflection mirrored her smile back to her, but she wasn’t paying attention to the glass. An aquamarine vase sat in the middle of the white dresser, brimming full of the red and violet blossoms, just as Aiden said she would find them. She reached out and gently touched a red flower, feeling it’s silky texture.

“Corey, your hot chocolate is getting cold,” Dimitra called from the kitchen.

“I’ll be right there,” Corey called back.

Quickly, she leaned down and inhaled the light, sweet scent. Then, smiling to herself, she skipped from her room, leaving the shimmering flowers behind, but knowing they would always be there, because she didn’t want them to ever go away.

“Thanks, Mom,” Corey said, hopping up onto a stool. “Can I have some cookies, too?”

Dimitra smiled and dried her hands on a towel. “Chocolate chip or sugar?”

“Chocolate chip, please!” Corey said as she took a sip and felt it warming her stomach.

Dimitra turned to the cookie jar and placed three cookies on a little plate before setting it beside Corey’s mug. Then she went back to finishing the dishes and stirring the spaghetti sauce.

“Can I ask you something, Mom?” Corey asked, slowly, not looking up from her snack.

“Sure, sweetie. What’s on your mind? Cookie dough?”

“Well, now that you mentioned it, we are running a little low,” Corey said.

Dimitra laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll talk to your father about ordering some, okay?”

Corey nodded. “Okay.” She paused. “But that wasn’t really my question.”

“Then what is your question?” Dimitra asked patiently. “And you’d better hurry up. Homework time starts soon.”

“Does magic exist?” Corey asked slowly.

Dimitra abruptly stopped what she was doing and slowly turned to face her daughter. Her face was unreadable. “Why do you ask?”

Corey shrugged. “Just curious, I guess.”

Dimitra nodded and seemed to relax a little, but she still looked tense. “Of course it doesn’t exist, Corey. There’s no such thing as magic.”

Corey cocked her head to one side, thinking of the bouquet of flowers sitting on her dresser. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure, Corey. Magic doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as magic. Just put it out of your mind.” Dimitra turned back to the stove and muttered, “I’ll have a talk with that teacher of yours.”

“Mrs. James didn’t tell us about it,” Corey quickly said.

Dimitra turned back around, a wooden spoon clenched in one hand. “Then where did you hear it from?”

Her daughter shrugged and looked down at her hot chocolate. “Just some kids at school. They were talking about it.”

Dimitra looked a little shaken, but Corey couldn’t figure out why. Then her mother turned back around.

“Just put it out of your head, Corey. There is no such thing as magic. It does not exist. And don’t ever mention it again, you hear?”

“Yes, Mom,” Corey said. She picked up a cookie and began to nibble on it.

Dimitra sounded a little scared, but Corey couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was just because she was an adult and didn’t understand it. Maybe she was too old for magic. Maybe it was a child’s thing. And that child had to be just old enough to understand it, but not too old. Cate and Aiden’s words would make more sense then. Yes, that must be it.

Corey finished her snack and then wandered back into her room for her school books. Instead of going for her backpack, though, she went over to her dresser and touched the delicate blossoms again. They were real, and so was magic even if her mother denied it. Magic was real.

 

“Corey was talking about magic today,” Dimitra said quietly to Skyler as they were lying in bed that night.

He turned his head to her. “Magic? What about it?”

Dimitra hesitated before answering. “She was asking if magic exists.”

“And what did you say?” Skyler asked slowly.

“That it doesn’t exist, of course. And I told her to never mention it again.”

Skyler was so quiet that Dimitra pushed herself up and look over at his pensive face. “What are you thinking, Sky?”

He moved his hands to pillow his head on them and made a shrugging motion. “I don’t know. Maybe it makes sense. I mean, someone is killing the people around Corey. Maybe they’re magically connected to her or something.”

He turned his head and met her terrified look.

“You can’t mean that, Sky. There’s no such thing as magic.”

Gently, Skyler reached out and guided her back to a lying down position. She only turned her head to gaze at him with wide, scared eyes.

“Well, we can’t know that for sure, Dimitra. I’ve seen some pretty weird things. We do have a lot of cold cases.”

“Skyler, no. Magic doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing. And don’t you go talking about it to Corey.”

He rolled over and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Dimitra. I won’t say a word to her. But it does give me food for thought. Where did she hear about it, anyways?”

“At school. She said she heard some students talking about it. Older students, I think they were. Maybe they saw it on TV or something. You know, kids talk about TV shows.”

Skyler nodded. “That’s true. Maybe she was just intrigued.”

“Yes, maybe.”

“Go to sleep, honey. You have a long day in court tomorrow.”

 

“You okay, Corey?” Terese asked the following day. She had turned in her seat to look at her friend, a worried frown on her face. “You don’t look that great.”

Corey blinked and snapped her eyes over to her friend. At Terese’s worried look, Corey smiled and released the tension in her body. Aiden and Cate were apparently out for the day, a day when she wanted more than anything to talk to them.

“I’m fine, Terese,” Corey replied. “Just couldn’t sleep last night.”

The blond girl tilted her head to the side. “Really? That’s strange.”

Corey’s ears perked up. “Why is it strange?”

Terese shrugged. “My mom’s a nurse in the ER. She said Aiden and Cate were there last night. Apparently, they couldn’t sleep. They were very hyper last night and ended up falling off their beds. Aiden sprained his wrist and Cate bruised her shoulder. She also hit her head and blacked out. They’re keeping her at the hospital to make sure she’s okay. That’s why the twins aren’t here today.”

Corey frowned. “Are they okay?”

“I guess so. My mom said they were.” Terese laughed. “She said Cate was demanding to be let go, but the doctor didn’t want to take any risks. They think she might have a concussion.”

“What’s a concussion?” Stacy asked, leaning forward as she put her backpack down and sat behind Corey.

Terese shrugged. “I’m not really sure. I think it has to do with the head, but my mom was kind of confusing.”

“Maybe Mrs. James will know,” Stacy said.

Corey nodded and was about to rise from her desk, but the school bell rang just then and their teacher called the class to order.

“Good morning, class. I just have a little announcement before we get started. Unfortunately, Aiden and Cate will be out for today and possibly tomorrow. Cate fell off her bed last night and the doctor thinks she might have a head injury, so she’s being kept at the hospital for a little bit. She’ll be fine, but I thought we could all sign a card for her.”

Mrs. James held up a cheerful card of birds and butterflies and started passing it around. “Make sure everyone signs it. I’ll be taking it over after school.”

Corey’s hand shot up. “Can students go with you?”

“I’m sorry, Corey, but that’s something you would have to ask your parents. Okay? Any other questions? Good. Let’s all get out our spelling books. We have a big test in two days!”

The morning went by quickly and, before they knew it, they were running out the door for recess. Corey trailed behind her friends as she carefully bundled up in her thick jacket, scarves, mittens, and ear muffs. It seemed that the colder it got, the more bundled she became to the point where she wasn’t quite sure why she bothered going outside for recess.

“Are you coming?” Stacy asked as she and Terese walked ahead of Corey.

“I’m coming,” Corey muttered as she tried to catch up to them. “It’s just that it’s hard to move in all these layers. Hold up a bit!”

Terese and Stacy stopped long enough for Corey to catch up. Both girls grabbed one of Corey’s hands and walked along with her, slowing their steps and quickening Corey’s. Corey muttered to herself the whole way to the swings about how cold it was. Her cheeks were rosy and chilled by the time she took her usual swing.

“Are your teeth chattering?” Terese asked as she stood by her friend.

“It’s really cold,” Corey said, rubbing her hands together.

Terese turned to where Stacy was already swinging. “Maybe we should go back to the classroom. Corey’s looking like she’s going to freeze over any minute.”

“You guys stay,” Corey insisted. “I think I will go back inside. I’m freezing!”

“I’ll go with you,” Terese quickly said. “Stacy?”

Stacy pumped her legs a few more times. “Okay.”

“No, stay,” Corey pleaded. “I know how much you like the swings. We can play together next recess.”

Stacy nodded. “Sounds good. See you later.”

Corey hopped down from her swing and took Terese’s outstretched hand. Both girls trudged back to their classroom, Corey trying desperately to scratch at an itch on her very well covered arm. Back in the classroom, they joined a handful of other students playing board games and reading books.

Terese quickly took off her coat, scarf, and gloves and then helped Corey take everything off. Corey smiled in relief as she was finally able to scratch her arm.

“What do you want to do?” Terese said.

“Let’s read stories about magic,” Corey said, her eyes shimmering.

Terese gave her a funny look. “Magic? I don’t even know if we have magic books.”

“We can ask Mrs. James.” Without waiting for a reply, Corey dashed off for Mrs. James’ desk, leaving Terese to follow behind. “Mrs. James, are there any books about magic?”

Her teacher looked up at Corey and Terese. “Magic? Hmm. I’m not too sure. Why?”

Corey shrugged. “I heard about it on TV and was really interested in it. Do you know about it?”

“Do you mean magic tricks, like card tricks and making rabbits and birds come out of tall hats?”

Corey shook her head. “No. Not like that. I mean about making fire appear out of nowhere. Or making flowers never die. Or making weird things pop up from the ground.”

“Oh,” Mrs. James said quietly. “That kind of magic. The kind of magic witches have.” She shook her head. “That’s bad magic, Corey.”

Corey blinked and leaned back slightly. How could something as marvelous as what Aiden and Cate showed her be bad? “Bad? What do you mean?”

“Corey, have you ever heard of the Salem witch trials? About witches and ghosts and evil spirits?”

“I’ve heard of ghosts,” Corey said in a small voice.

“Salem is a place in Massachusetts. A long time ago, they hung people because they though they were devil worshippers. They thought these people, who they called witches, were doing bad things to people, like making them sick. Of course, magic doesn’t really exist, but it scared a lot of people way back then.”

“Is it bad?”

“It’s not something people believe in, Corey. It doesn’t really exist. It’s a nice fantasy, but it isn’t real. I don’t encourage the belief in magic. Parents don’t like it when they kids come home talking about it. So, I don’t teach it and I don’t have any books about it.”

Corey drew back. “Oh. Okay. Then we can go read about horses.”

Mrs. James smiled at Corey and Terese. “That’s a very nice subject to read about. There are plenty of horse books.”

Terese grabbed hold of Corey’s hand. “That sounds like a lot of fun. Let’s go, Corey.”

Corey let Terese lead her off, though her mind was still reeling about what Mrs. James had said.n

 

“Do you want to go visit Cate in the hospital?” Dimitra asked as Corey climbed into the car after school.

Corey settled herself in her seat and strapped in. She shook her head. “No. That’s okay. I have a lot of math homework today. Maybe I can go visit her tomorrow.”

“Are you okay?” Dimitra asked, looking at her daughter in the rearview mirror.

Corey nodded and just turned to look out the window. Dimitra shrugged and pulled the car from the curb.

They were almost home when Corey finally spoke up. “Do you really think Cate has a concussion?”

“I don’t know, sweetie. Maybe. It depends on how hard she hit her head. It’s possible she does since she did black out.”

“Will she be okay?”

“I think so. Maybe her parents will keep her out of school for a few days just to make sure she’s okay. But I think she’ll be just fine. Are you sure you don’t want to go see her today?”

“I’m sure.”

“Okay. Let me know if you change your mind.”

“I won’t. I have a lot of math homework.”

Dimitra glanced back at her in the rearview mirror once again. Corey was staring out the window, sadness and confusion warring on her face.

  1. jennifermzeiger

    Makes me wonder if magic’s good or bad in this story. Hmmm. It doesn’t feel like Cate and Aiden are bad but then again, if magic’s what’s been killing people, maybe it has a dark side to it.

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