Gates to Asphodel, Chapter 22

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. Corey, Aiden, and Cate are caught doing magic by the principal and something bad happens to him.

 

Mrs. James’ class had just started the morning’s math lesson and the students were scrambling for their math books when the classroom door flew open. A frazzled vice principal stood in the doorway. She quickly scanned the room and then strode up to the front of the classroom. Slowly, Mrs. James put her dry erase board marker down, careful to cap it, and took a step towards Ms. Grace.

The vice principal lowered her head and spoke softly to Mrs. James. The teacher’s face paled and her hands became visibly shaky. She nodded and murmured something to Ms. Grace. The vice principal gently squeezed Mrs. James’ upper arm and then hurried from the room.

“What’s wrong, Mrs. James?” a red haired girl at the front of the room asked, raising her hand. “Are you okay?”

Mrs. James took a deep breath and folded her hands. She looked out at her students, at each curious face, wondering how they were going to take the news. Most of them had already lost two classmates two years before and their teacher the previous year. What was this news going to do to them? And why was it happening to this cohort?

The red haired girl still had her hand waving in the air. “Mrs. James?”

Mrs. James blinked and gave the girl a small smile. She waved a hand to get the girl to lower her arm and then linked her fingers together.

“I’m afraid I have bad news. Something terrible has happened at this school and the rest of the school day has been cancelled. You’re parents have been notified and are on their way.” As excited murmurs swept through the class, Mrs. James waved her hands to get them to lower their voices. “I’m not finished, class. I’m afraid that our principal, Mr. Connors, has been found on the premises under the trees on your playground. He was found dead in a most horrific way. I regret that I have had to tell you what has happened, but the vice principal believes it necessary that all students should understand and be careful. Please, wait here until your parents arrive and make sure you stick with them. Whoever committed this terrible crime could still be around here.”

With that said, Mrs. James walked to the back of the room to settled herself at her desk. A few nervous students surrounded her desk and she did her best to soothe them. Others gathered in groups to whisper among themselves.

Corey sat at her desk, swinging her legs, with her hands folded on top of her desk. She didn’t seem in the least bit fazed. As a matter of fact, she looked like she already knew what had happened. The news hadn’t come as a surprise to her. Aiden had looked back at Corey as Mrs. James was telling them the news. Now, he grabbed his sister’s hand and they worked their way to Corey’s desk.

Dimitra burst into the room just then. After waving to Mrs. James, the woman marched over to Corey. The girl had already slipped from her chair and had flung her backpack over her shoulders. Aiden and Cate had almost reached her, but Terese and Stacy were still between them.

Dimitra swept down and tightly hugged her daughter. “Your father was called to the school for another mysterious death,” she explained, brushing back some of Corey’s hair. “He called me right away and told me to come get you. Are you okay?”

Corey nodded. “I’m okay.”

“Corey?” Cate asked from just beyond Terese.

Corey looked up and waved to her friend. “My mom is already here. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Wait,” Aiden said. “We need to talk to you.”

Dimitra gave them a tight smile. “I’m afraid I do need to take Corey home. She’s been through enough. I don’t want her to linger at school longer than she needs to. Your mother should be here soon, anyways, so you should get ready to go. Terese, your mother asked me to pick you up and take you home with us. Get your backpack, sweetie.”

The blond girl nodded and slid from her chair. She quickly packed up her backpack and slung it over one shoulder before joining Dimitra and Corey as they were heading for the door. Corey glanced back as she and her mother approached the door and saw the twins looking helpless alongside Stacy.

“Come on, girls,” Dimitra said gently. “Let’s get you out of here as soon as possible.”

“I like that idea,” Terese seconded. She shuddered. “I can’t believe someone else from this school died. It’s like everyone here is cursed or something. I don’t like it here.” She lowered her voice so only Corey could hear. “It’s like the bad magic Mrs. James was talking about.”

Corey cast her friend a blithe look before quickly turning away. She gave a sharp nod. “I suppose so.”

“Now, girls,” Dimitra said, “there’s no such thing as magic. There must just be someone around here targeting people from this school.”

“Is that what Dad thinks?” Corey asked.

“It’s one of his theories.”

“Then how does he explain my biological parents and Andy?”

Dimitra hesitated as she ushered the girls to her car. She climbed in and glanced back at her daughter. “He hasn’t quite figured that part out yet.”

The drive back to the Adams’ house was quiet with both girls lost in their own thoughts. Dimitra pulled into the driveway and then helped the girls out of the car. Inside, she settled both of them on the stools and made some hot chocolate.

“Are you okay?” Terese asked quietly.

Corey turned her head slightly. “I suppose. Why?”

Terese shrugged. “I don’t know. You don’t seem that scared or nervous or anything. Like everyone else at school. You don’t even seem surprised.”

Corey shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I’m used to people dying.”

Terese shuddered. “That’s kind of creepy. I think I would be freaking out.”

“Then be glad it hasn’t happened to you,” Corey said quietly. “I don’t like it anymore than anyone else does, but it’s happened and I can’t do anything about it.”

Terese gave her friend a wide eyed look, almost in awe. “You’re so mature about it, Corey. I wish I could be more like you.”

“I don’t,” Dimitra said, setting a steaming mug before both of them. “Corey’s been through a lot in almost ten years. It’s made her wise beyond her years and I wish more than anything that I could take those years and make them happy instead.”

Terese turned dancing, brilliant eyes on her friend. “That’s right. Your birthday is coming up.”

Corey nodded. “In a few weeks.”

“Are you excited?”

Corey hesitated. She wanted to be honest and say she was more than excited. She was excited to get to use her own magic when she turned ten. But her mother wouldn’t like that and she was certain it would just scare Terese. Instead, she nodded and said, “I suppose.” She grinned abruptly. “Who isn’t excited to celebrate a birthday?”

“Well, then,” Dimitra said, pulling out a pad of paper from a drawer, “maybe we should get down some ideas for your birthday, then. How does that sound?”

Corey smiled. “It sounds like fun. Terese, do you want to help?”

“Of course, I do!” Terese said happily. “You should have an all-girl party. You know, invite all the girls in our class.”

Corey gave her friend a horrified look. “That’s too many girls. I don’t want that many people. Just you, Stacy, Aiden, and Cate.”

Terese giggled behind her hand. “Won’t Aiden be kind of funny being the only boy?”

“He’s my friend,” Corey pointed out. “I don’t want to leave him out.”

“Well,” Dimitra said, “would you like a sleepover like Terese’s was?”

Corey shook her head. “Not this year. Maybe just a nice dinner and some cake. Chocolate cake with sprinkle frosting. That sounds good to my tummy.”

Dimitra laughed. “I think you’re more excited about the cake than you are about a party.”

Corey gave her mother a shy look. “I don’t really like parties. Can it just be something small?”

“Whatever you want, pumpkin. We can talk about it more when you father gets home.”

“Is he coming home any time soon?” Corey asked.

Dimitra shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on at the school or how long he’ll have to work this.”

“Was it just like all the others?” Corey whispered.

Dimitra pursed her lips. Then she gave a small nod. Corey looked down at her hands, which were wrapped around the warm mug. She took a long sip before meeting her mother’s eyes again.

“I hope this stops soon,” Corey said softly.

“You and me both, honey,” her mother replied.

 

 

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