Gates to Asphodel, Chapter 21

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. Corey’s magic lessons begin.

 

It was a week before Corey was able to experience magic again. The twins’ parents hadn’t been happy that it had taken Aiden three days to recover instead of the one full day. They had taken it as a sign that their magic was still immature and they needed more practice with their parents. Thus, they had spent the entire week working with their parents and Corey had been forced to wait a week.

But now that week had passed and Corey was getting impatient. She all but rushed them as soon as they walked into the classroom. Terese and Stacy hadn’t arrived yet, so Corey had been sitting alone, swinging her legs at her desk.

“Today?” Corey asked in an excited whisper. “Can we try again today? Are you feeling better?”

Cate just blinked at Corey, still trying to figure out what Corey had said. Aiden just laughed softly and set his backpack down by his desk.

“Sure. We can try again tonight.”

Cate glanced at her brother with a worried frown. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“If not, my parents are dropping me off early tomorrow. My mom has to be in the office really early.”

Aiden nudged his sister. “So does our mother. Since they work in the same office, I guess they’re working on the same thing. Sure, we can do some more stuff tomorrow morning.”

“At school?” Cate hissed. “Are you sure about that? What if we get caught?”

Aiden waved a hand. “We can take care of that. It’s no big deal. Besides, we’ll be here early enough that not that many people will be here yet. We can meet under the trees. Well, we can hide behind the trees. How does that sound?”

Eagerly, Corey nodded and clapped her hands together. Cate’s frown just deepened. It was clear she didn’t like the idea, but she wasn’t willing to spoil Corey’s joy.

“Okay,” the other girl finally said. “We’ll meet under the trees tomorrow.”

Corey found the twins huddled under the trees the following morning. All three of them were bundled up, scarves wrapped around their heads and covering half their faces. The twins were hunched over something growing as Corey approached and glanced up quickly as she approached. Tensions left their eyes as they saw it was Corey. Cate motioned for her to crouch down and join them.

Corey kneeled down in the snow and sighed as the soft glow revealed itself as a floating flame so that it wouldn’t melt the snow, but keep them warm. Corey outstretched her hands to warm them.

“That feels much better,” Corey sighed. “I wish there was somewhere indoors we could use. It’s too bad your parents weren’t willing to let you try anything last night.”

Aiden shrugged. “They just wanted to make sure everything would be okay.”

“So, what are we doing this time around?” Corey asked.

“Do you want to keep working with fire?” Cate asked.

Corey quirked an eyebrow. “There’s more about fire?”

Cate nodded enthusiastically. “Of course. There’s plenty about the elements. Why don’t we work on conjuring today? That’s always fun. At least, Aiden and I really enjoyed it. It can also be a little dangerous if you conjure it the wrong way because you could end up with just about anything.”

“Are you going to make it go wrong on purpose, then?” Corey asked. “How would you do that?”

“Well,” Aiden said, glancing at his sister. “I guess we could mean to conjure up fire, but have it turn into a flower halfway through.”

Cate nodded. “That sounds good to me. It’s what our parents did. I think I can remember when they did.”

Aiden nodded. “Works for me. Corey, sit in front of me. We’ll position ourselves the same way as before.”

Corey nodded and scooted herself over to sit in front of him. Cate moved herself so she was sitting directly in front of Corey. She let the floating flame dissipate, but made sure the heat remained. She started taking off her gloves and Aiden followed suit. Corey gave Cate a dubious look, but at her encouraging smile, Corey drew off her mittens. She flexed her bare fingers and was surprised that they remained warm.

“It’s magic,” Aiden whispered in her ear.

Corey giggled, covering her mouth with one warm hand.

“Okay, you two,” Cate said. “Let’s get into position.”

Aiden moved his hands to cover Corey’s and lifted up her hands with his. He turned their hands over so their palms faced upwards. Cate flexed her fingers and then placed her hands on top of Corey’s, her palms also facing up. Cate and Aiden quickly fell into a easy breathing pattern and Corey fell in with them after a moment.

“Concentrate on a flame,” Cate said softly. “See it in your mind, Corey. We’re going to tap into the image and make it form, okay?”

Corey nodded, her eyes focused on their hands. She forced her mind to think of nothing but a perfect glowing flame. She felt something brush against her mind, like something was trying to intrude in on her. She frowned and blinked a few times.

“It’s okay,” Aiden said softly in her ear. “It’s just me. I’m getting an image of your flame so I can pass it to my sister. Just relax and hold onto the image of the flame. I’ll be gone from your mind in just a second.”

Corey gave a jerky nod and reinstated the flame image in her mind. Her jaw tightened slightly as she felt an intrusion in her mind. It swept through her for a second, and then it was gone. Cate took a deep breath, urging her brother and Corey to do the same.

A tiny flame began to grow in Cate’s palms. Corey bit back a gasp and forced herself to continue to breathe with them. The flame grew a little bigger and a warm tingling sensation flooded Corey’s body. She sighed softly as the recognized the limber feeling. It felt good and she hoped it would stay a little longer as the flame grew just a little bigger.

“How does that feel?” Cate asked.

“It feels good,” Corey said with a sigh. “I like it when magic goes right.”

Cate smiled. “We all do. Having it go wrong doesn’t feel good at all. We don’t like the feelings we get when it goes wrong, either, but we’ve learned to suppress the pain and use it as a learning tool. Don’t worry, Corey, you’ll get there soon enough. It only took us about a month.”

Corey nodded, her eyes never leaving the warm flames.

“What’s going on here?” a deep, male voice asked. “Are you playing with matches?”

Corey gasped and the flame vanished. Cate jerked her hands back and shoved them into her jacket pockets. Aiden wrapped his hands around Corey and pulled their hands back to their bodies. Corey stuffed her hands into her own pockets as Aiden scrambled sideways. All three of them gazed up at the principal with wide, frightened eyes.

Mr. Connors was staring down at them from his impressive six foot something height. He was a thin man with graying dark hair and hard black eyes framed by glasses. He was dressed in a navy blue suit and matching tie with a gray overcoat over his clothes. A black scarf was tied around his neck and he had a hat perched on top of his head. His arms were crossed and his eyes were boring down into them.

“Give them up,” he said. “You know you’re not supposed to play with matches. I’m going to have to tell your parents. And I think a month’s worth of detention is called for. I’ll have to inform your teacher of your misbehavior. Now, hand it over.”

He outstretched a thin hand enclosed in a black leather glove. He wriggled his fingers to try to get them to hand over the matches.

Corey glanced over at Cate with a frightened, helpless look. Cate didn’t look at her; she just stared up at their principal, her face impassive.

“I don’t know what you mean,” Cate said sweetly. “We were just playing in the snow. We don’t have any matches. Maybe the light caught the snow in a certain way and it looked like fire to you.”

The principal folded his arms. “I don’t think so, little missy. I know fire when I see it and you were playing with fire. I can’t let that pass. You will have to be punished.”

“Please, Mr. Connors,” Corey said in a trembling voice. “We weren’t doing anything wrong.”

Mr. Connors turned his eyes on her and he knelt down to be on eye level with her. His eyes bore into hers and she swallowed and withdrew slightly.

“Ah, yes, you’re Cora Adams, aren’t you,” he said in a soft, slightly menacing voice. “The last principal, Mrs. Valence, told me about you. Your parents died the same way two of your classmates and one of your teachers died. Yes, we all know about you. Mrs. Valence filled me in very well. She was concerned about you. I’m suspicious of you. Now, Miss Adams, the matches.”

Mr. Connors held out his hand to Corey. She just stared at him with scared eyes. After a few seconds, she couldn’t take it any longer and her eyes shifted over to Cate. Cate, with a flash of her eyes, told her everything would be okay.

Cate gave an exaggerated sigh, drawing Mr. Connors eyes to her.

“Ah. One of the twins. Cate Asphodel, isn’t it? You and your twin were homeschooled for most of your lives. Yes, I wouldn’t expect you to know the rules, but fire and matches are strictly prohibited on school ground. Now. Who has the matches?”

Cate sighed again and withdrew a hand. Corey stared with disbelief as Cate pulled out a packet of matches, but she quickly blinked it away and dropped her eyes as Cate dropped the package in Mr. Connors’ hand. His hand closed around it and he pocketed it.

“Good girl. Detention for a month. All three of you.” His eyes turned to Corey. “And you, girl. You should have known better. I’m keeping a close eye on you, Cora. Don’t you forget that. Now. Off to the building with you three.”

The three of them scrambled to their feet, grabbed their respective backpack, and ran off back to the school building. None of them dared to turn back; they just ran until they dashed through the doors. Once they knew they were out of Mr. Connors’ line of sight, they slowed and caught their breaths. Corey was trembling badly, so Cate wrapped an arm around her shoulders and they rounded a corner. There, they paused and leaned against the bare wall and looked from one to the other.

“That was close,” Aiden said quietly. “Let’s not do this ever again.”

“I told you,” Cate said. “I told you it was a bad idea. Now what are we going to do? Mrs. James is going to know. Our parents are going to know. And Corey will be in worse trouble of the three of us. Her parents don’t know about magic. They’ll think she was breaking the rules and she’ll be punished twice.”

Corey turned away from them and looked off towards the direction of the trees. A faraway look came into her eyes. Aiden caught the look first and waved to his sister as Cate was opening her mouth to speak once more.

“Corey?” Aiden asked.

“It’s been taken care of,” Corey said softly. “I think we’ll be okay.”

With that said, Corey pushed herself away from the wall and headed over to their classroom. Aiden and Cate traded glances and hurried after Corey. Now was the time to tell Corey something very important about herself. The girl had to learn about it now. They were certain it would explain a lot about herself to her and they knew she needed that.

But they didn’t get the chance. Corey ran into Terese as they rounded a corner and the blond girl squealed as she embraced her friend.

“Hi, Corey! Hi, Aiden, Cate. Wow. You guys are here early.”

Corey smiled, back to her old self. “You’re here early, too.”

Terese shrugged. “Yeah. My mom has to go take care of her sister’s kids. My aunt has the flu or something and she needed my mom to take them to school. So, I got dropped off early. What about you?”

“Our moms had to go to work early,” Corey said as they walked into their classroom.

Behind the two girls, Cate and Aiden traded frustrated glances. Now would be a good time to tell Corey, but it didn’t look like they would have a chance. They would have to try again at some other point, preferably a time that was relevant to what they had to say.

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