Gates to Asphodel, Chapter 20

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. Turns out Corey isn’t a great secret keeper and grows suspicious of the twins. Aiden and Cate explain magic isn’t bad and induct Corey into magic.

 

“Shh!” Cate hissed, though her eyes danced playfully as they glimmered in the soft fire blooming between her, Aiden, and Corey.

Two nights had passed since Corey’s induction and now the three of them were gathered in the gazebo. All the decorations from the induction were gone, but a sweet, fruity smell still lingered.

Cate waved her hand as Aiden and Corey giggled. She glanced back at the house to make sure the windows were still dark. “Come on, you two,” she whispered. “We have to keep it down.”

“Do your parents know you use magic?” Corey asked curiously.

“Oh, of course,” Cate replied. “They inducted us. Magic tends to run in families, but not everyone can use it. They were thrilled when they realized both of us could use it. We were inducted almost a year ago and gained full use of our powers about three months ago.”

Corey gave her a dubious look. “And you’re going to teach me now?”

Aiden shrugged. “Our parents thought it best if you learned it from us.” He traded a glance with his sister. “They teach us and we teach you.”

“As long as we remain quiet,” Cate added. “They don’t like to be awakened in the middle of the night. If we’re too loud, then our own lessons will be suspended for a week.”

“Oh,” Corey said with a stricken look. “I wouldn’t want that to happen. So, what do we do first?”

Aiden shrugged. “You pick an element to learn first.”

“What?”

“We always start with the elements. You know, earth, air, fire, and water. Once competency is gained with those four, you can combine them and do other things. Those four always form the basis of magic. They’re also the most difficult to handle. If you can handle all four, then you’re good to go.”

“What he means,” Cate broke in, leaning forward over the flame, “is that magic isn’t restricted to the elements, but they are the hardest to use. If you can use them, you can handle any kind of magic and do just about anything.”

“I just said that!”

“Shh!” Cate hissed again, waving a hand at her brother and glancing back at the house again. “You know our parents are light sleepers. Now, keep it down, Aiden.”

Aiden only gave her an impish grin. Cate scowled at him and then turned to Corey, her frown melting into a smile.

“So, which will it be?” Cate asked.

“I can pick any of them?”

“Yes, any,” Cate said with a nod.

“I want to try fire first.” She smiled shyly. “I figure I can use it to keep warm in the winters. I turn ten in March, when it’ll be getting a little warmer, but I still get cold until April or May.”

Cate nodded. “That’s a good choice. Okay. We’ll start with fire.”

“How does this work?” Corey asked. “I can’t actually use any, so what do I do?”

Cate nodded to Aiden and he moved to sit cross legged behind his friend. Cate repositioned herself so she sat directly across from Corey. She fanned her hands, keeping the warmth in the gazebo, but making the flames a little lower. Then she passed her hands over them and reached for Corey’s hands. Aiden placed his hands on the backs of Corey’s and, together, they raised their hands to meet Cate’s.

“We’ll guide you,” Cate said. “Our magic will course through you so you can get a feel of it. When you do magic right, it feels a certain way. When you do it wrong, it feels differently.”

“So you always know when you’re doing it right or not.”

“Exactly. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it. It feels different for everyone, so you’ll get to know what it’s supposed to feel like for you. What we’ll do tonight is let you know how it feels, for you, when magic is done right. Then we’ll let it get a little out of hand so you can feel that, too. Okay?”

Corey nodded. “I’m ready.”

Cate nodded to her brother and, together, they took a deep breath.

“We breathe to synchronize ourselves,” Aiden said as he breathed. “Since we’re twins, we can work in tandem, but only if we breath together.”

“Don’t worry,” Cate said through her own breathing. “You don’t have to do this, but it can be helpful to align yourself with your teachers.”

Corey nodded and began to breathe along with them.

“Okay,” Cate said slowly. “Here’s magic done right. Pay attention to how it feels. We’re going to make the flames rise over our hands, but it won’t hurt us. Ready?”

“Yes,” Corey whispered.

She felt something warm tingling down her arms and up her spine. It feel extremely soothing and made her body feel overly limber, like she could fold herself into pleats and knots and still feel good. Warmth blossomed throughout her body and she exhaled on a sigh. The flames before her rose and engulfed their hands. The flames made her skin tingle with warmth, but she didn’t feel or see anything else.

Cate smiled at Corey from across the flames. The three of them continued to breathe together, each exhalation making the flames grow bigger and bigger until they were engulfed as well. Corey squealed as the flames licked her cheeks, but all she really felt was a warm tingling. Then, with every inhalation, the flames began to die down and continued to do so until the flame returned to its original size.

“How did that feel?”Aiden asked softly from behind Corey.

“Tingly,” Corey whispered. “It felt like I was twisting myself in knots, but it felt so good. I felt so flexible and it felt so warm.”

“Are you ready for what it feels like when magic gets out of hand?” Cate asked.

Corey swallowed and nodded. “I’m ready.”

The twins settled back into the breathing pattern. Hesitantly, Corey joined in. After a few minutes, the flames began to twist. Corey whimpered and had the sensation that her spine was twisting itself into pretzels. Unlike the first limber sensation, this one was almost painful. She felt certain that, after this, she was going to try to never let magic get out of hand.

The flame scorched the stone floor and Corey cried out as the pain increased. Abruptly, Cate took her hands from Corey’s and Aiden slowly lowered Corey’s hands to her lap. He held her and gently rocked her as tears ran down her cheeks. She lowered her head to her chest and they let her cry for a couple of minutes, Aiden holding her and Cate watching with sympathetic eyes.

“Are you okay?” Cate finally asked.

Corey nodded and raised her head. “It hurt. It felt like my spine was turning into pretzels. It really hurt.”

Cate nodded sympathetically and reached out to gently pat Corey’s knee. “It usually does. That’s how we know we’ve done something wrong or let something get out of hand. It usually prevents us from doing something bad.”

“I think that’s all we should do tonight,” Aiden said softly. “We should probably let Corey rest for a few days.”

Cate nodded. “Of course. The first time is always the hardest. Don’t worry, Corey. It’ll get better with time. You’ll learn to control the pain and let it be a warning sign that something’s gone wrong.”

Silently, Corey nodded.

“Come on,” Aiden said. “Let’s get you home.”

He helped Corey stand and he and Cate bundled her up. Then Aiden, using magic, easily lifted Corey into his arms and cradled her against his chest.

“I’ll take her home,” he said to his sister. “Cover our tracks?”

Cate nodded and walked with them to the door. She unlatched it and flung it open, shivering as the cold swept in. She nodded to her brother and he stepped out, leaving the door to swing shut and keep his sister warm. Aiden quickly carried Corey back to her home and helped her back into her bedroom. By then, the girl had recovered enough to settle herself back in for the night. Aiden smiled and spelled her into a deep, restful sleep to last until the morning.

 

The following morning, Cate cornered Corey as Corey was settling herself into her desk. Corey looked up into the intense eyes of the other girl.

“Are you okay?” Cate asked.

Corey gave her a smile. “I’m okay. The sleep Aiden put me into was really helpful.”

Cate nodded. “I’m glad. But that spell can’t be used too often. It’ll get you into bad sleeping habits that will eventually hurt you.”

Corey nodded. “I understand.” She looked around. “Where’s Aiden?”

“He’s out sick today.” Cate looked around and then lowered herself and her voice. “That’s another side effect of the spell. It wears out the caster. Our parents weren’t too pleased, but, after we explained our midnight magic-making, they understood. Aiden should be back tomorrow.”

Corey nodded as Terese skipped up to them.

“Good morning!” the blond girl said brightly. “Looks like it’s an all girls day for us. Not that I don’t like Aiden, but it’s nice when it’s just us girls. By the way, my birthday is this Saturday. I’m having a sleep over party. It’s going to be us and Stacy. Sorry, Cate. Aiden can’t come.”

Cate giggled. “That’s okay. I don’t think he’s into girl stuff anyways.”

“You’ll be there, then?”

Cate nodded. “Probably. I just have to ask my parents.”

“Me, too,” Corey chimed in.

“Great! I can’t wait. Hey, Corey, your birthday’s in about a month. Are you planning anything yet?”

Corey cocked her head to the side. “No. It’s still a month away.” She shrugged. “I’ll figure something out with my parents later.”

“Okay, class,” Mrs. James said brightly. “Have a seat, everyone. Good morning!”

Quickly, everyone scrambled for their seats as their teacher began the day. The morning passed quickly, with Corey keeping quieter than usual. Her mind was still reeling from the magic she had experienced the night before. She knew she would have to wait a couple of days before she could experience that again, but she was hoping it would come sooner than that. Magic was exciting to her and she was realizing it really wasn’t bad in the way Mrs. James had talked about it. Magic hadn’t hurt her and she wasn’t going to hurt anyone with it. It didn’t matter that people used to die because of it, because she wasn’t going to get caught.

It was a surprisingly warm day, so Corey went out with her friends to the swings. She was bundled to the point where she felt like she was drowning in material, but it was better than freezing into an ice cube. Corey took her usual swing on the end while the other three girls filled in three of the four remaining swings.

“I bet I can get higher first,” Stacy said, daring the other girls to swing higher than her.

“You’re on!” Terese said. “Corey?”

“Sure,” Corey said with a shrug. “Cate, will you be our referee?”

Cate nodded and counted down for them. As soon as she yelled for them to start, the other three girls began to furiously pump their legs.

“I can’t go any higher!” Stacy announced a minute later. “Do I win, Cate?”

Cate was standing before them, hands on her hips. She looked up and shaded her eyes from the bright winter sun. She made a thumbs up sign, but it was difficult to tell from her gloved hand. “I think so. You’re really high, Stacy.”

As the girls began to slow down and drift lower to the ground, Terese turned to Stacy and shook her head.

“How on earth do you always manage to beat us?” Terese asked. “It’s so weird.”

Stacy grinned. “I guess I have stronger legs.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I also have a swing set at home.”

Terese groaned while Corey laughed. Cate resumed her seat on her swing and began to lazily pump her legs.

“Okay, that’s enough racing for me,” Terese announced. “I think I’m going to have to practice more if I’m ever going to beat you.”

The other girls laughed.

 

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