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Silver and The Secret of Troika
Type: Fantasy , Contemporary
Author: Blake Collins
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Times are bleak for the race of wizards. Evil seems to prevail with the warlocks holding the reins and the mages spurning their aid to anyone. Yet, good magic still exists within the world and its seeming epicenter of Cadence, NY. And at the heart of this positive force, is Wyatt Silver, a twenty-two year old wizard who knows that he is a wizard—just not how to be one. Heeding his mother’s parting words, the inexperienced wizard Wyatt Silver pursues a life away from magic and anything remotely connected to his past. In time, Wyatt settles into this newly humbled life while also becoming smitten with a female companion. Ever cautious and still continuously haunted by the memories of the day that altered his life, in the end Wyatt feels that his decision was all for the best. Times are bleak for the race of wizards. Evil seems to prevail with the warlocks holding the reins and the mages spurning their aid to anyone. Yet, good magic still exists within the world and its seeming epicenter of Cadence, NY. And at the heart of this positive force, is Wyatt Silver, a twenty-two year old wizard who knows that he is a wizard—just not how to be one. Little does Wyatt know that the world in which he was hiding from is actively pursuing him, the last member of the Silver line. Completely unaware of his family’s importance and their connection to an ancient power, Wyatt eventually finds himself thrust back in to the supernatural world consisting of mages, warlocks, and those wizards who survived the purge. With the aid of unlikely allies, Wyatt may yet be able to protect the mysterious Troika and those close to him, but at what cost. Watch as Wyatt sorts out friend from foe while traveling between the real world and the magical yet mysterious realms of Valitroa and Arlutoo. Only time will tell whether Wyatt can learn the well hidden secrets of his race in time and ultimately become a true wizard of the Silver line.

Rating: Unrated

Sample Chapter

Chapter 3: Normalcy

Present Day


“Sir . . . Wyatt . . . Mr. Smith,” the woman asked a little worried. She stared at my name tag as if to make sure she had gotten it correct.

She looked just like my mother. I hadn’t thought about mom in some time. She had the same brown wavy hair that dropped just below the jawline curling in toward her neck. The same blue eyes, which were enhanced by the light-blue shawl casually wrapped around her cream-colored knit sweater. The similarities were unbelievable. I continued to stare, unable to speak, as I was so taken aback by her familiar features.

Looking down at the cash register, I tried to mouth a reply. She glanced at the overhead menu once more as if to make sure that we did indeed carry her drink that all cafés shouldn’t be without. Still hesitating to speak, I wondered if the lady was going to suddenly announce that she was my mother and had just been away for the past couple of years. I knew the possibility was nonexistent, but I was still unable to form a syllable. She looked at me inquisitively, as if wondering whether she was just to go ahead and order again or if I needed to give her some sort of permission. Finally, I managed to stammer out a “Hello, miss.”

Good, at least my vocal chords were working again.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that please? I didn’t quite catch it the first time.”

Relieved that I had finally spoken, she smiled and reordered her double espresso latte, no fat, no sugar, and no froth. Smiling back, I took the cash from her. She looked so similar, but this lady’s voice had a Chicago ring to it—definitely not my mother’s.

“You okay? You look a little frazzled,” Jess asked in a whisper from over my shoulder. She was picking up a couple of coffees for delivery.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just lost myself for a minute there.”

Putting a sympathetic hand on my back, she nodded and left to deliver the orders.

Mr. Smith—it had been five years, and I still wasn’t used to the name. Wyatt Smith was not the most creative name, but I wanted something generic and, well, I think aside from Jones, Smith was the most common name in the telephone book. Just one of the many things I had had to get used to over the past years.

After the day I escaped the wizards’ world, I had frequented the soup kitchen and church until I was able to scrape up enough money. Even then it was on to a couple of dive hotels in surrounding cities and then my present apartment back in Cadence. At first, I made sure to never stay at the same job for more than a couple of months while traveling from town to town. I thought it wouldn’t be safe, but as time went on I realized that no one was after me. They probably never would be. After all, I wasn’t going to go looking for any of them and I couldn’t imagine that I had anything they wanted. So I moved back to Cadence, to home.

For a while reentering the wizards’ world had been my obsession. The tormenting fact that I had left Troika and its unknown power inside the chamber fueled my desire. I visited all the old shops we had entered on our various trips through the illuminary, hoping that the portals we had once used could somehow be reopened. Nothing ever came of them though. Eventually I had just come to accept my failure. Mom had told me not to take anything with me from Arlutoo, so in that regard I was glad Troika was still there. Maybe my mother had been right. Maybe there was nothing left to do but leave it all behind and live as normal a life as I could. I had now worked at Oblique for a little over two years now. The little coffee shop was about as normal as it got. Actually, I thought it nice.

Glancing down at my watch, I noticed that a new day had just begun. It was Thanksgiving, though it didn’t feel like it. Actually, no holiday felt the same anymore. All were just another day to me. Starting my cleanup duties, I had a feeling we’d be leaving work a little later than usual tonight—this morning. One couple seemed to be having a pretty intense conversation in the corner of the shop. The two were half arguing–half crying over some crisis in their relationship. I could hear something about distance and jobs, but Jess soon interrupted my eavesdropping.

“What if that was you?” she questioned placing a hand on her hip and raising one eyebrow as if to scold.

“Just looking for an opportunity to tell them we’re closing up.”

“Sure you were,” she said. Smiling back, she nudged my arm with hers. “Just let them talk it out. That is, unless you’re in a hurry to get away from me.”

I nudged her back playfully as I returned to my cleanup duties. Hurrying away from Jess was something I’d never do. Besides, I was actually thankful for the extra work these days. Money was tight. I was already working close to sixty hours a week, and it still didn’t seem to be enough.

            Stepping out into the misty rain an hour later, we closed up the shop and set off toward her place. There wouldn’t be too many people on the street along the way. Though, at one-thirty in the morning I wouldn’t expect there to be. Nonetheless, I would never let her walk home alone. The city felt more dangerous these days, especially since that one day. Then again, maybe I was just paranoid. My mind began to wander back to it, but I pulled myself from the memory.

Jess was talking in her usual overly jubilant way, telling me about some customer she had encountered earlier in the cafe. She always seemed to have one of those stories to share when I walked her home from work. Whether she spoke about the man yesterday who drank half his coffee before complaining about its temperature, or the woman from a week ago who spilled her drink on the floor due to Jess’s supposed lack of warning that the coffee cup was indeed hot. Today, another lady had spilled a drink—this time on Jess because the lid was supposedly not on properly. Luckily it landed on her required work apron, otherwise Jess might have been in a different mood.

“Never mind that the lady walked into me,” Jess was enthusiastically complaining as she stepped in another puddle with her bright-red snow boots.

I nodded in agreement, though I had been paying little attention to her story tonight. I enjoyed our walks home; Jess always had a way of making me feel better, a little less burdened by memories and the rest of my problems. Today was an especially rough day for the memories. My mind shifted to the woman in the shop again. Though, I snapped out of my trance as Jess’s voice rose in excitement.

“Can you believe that?” Jess exclaimed.

“Believe what?”

She looked at me in disbelief as if there was no reason not to agree with her. She held her mouth half open and slowed down her steps to make sure she got a good look at me.

“Believe that I had to get her another coffee anyway—without even a sorry or thank you.”

“Well, I don’t know,” I joked. “You did get in her way, after all.”

As I finished my sentence, a little stab of pain rang forth from my right shoulder. The pain lasted only for a second, but was refreshing in the cold air to realize that my limbs still had feeling.

“Just kidding, Jess,” I said as I watched her begin to relax her fist and move her arm back down to her side.

She always hit me there when I joked with her, always in the same exact spot. It seemed as if the pain increased ever so slightly each time. But I would never say anything. I didn’t want to let her know her slugs were actually beginning to register quite well these days. She was laughing now and grabbing my arm as if I were her escort. She put her head on my shoulder, nestling her nose into the wool on the outside of my coat.

She turned her head into my arm until the whole side of her face was pressed against me in order to block out the cold wind that was now beginning to blow toward us. The mist was cold, not quite raining, but a cross between ice and snow. She raised her head slightly, just enough to let her eyes peer at me over the fold of wool that had been created at the top of my jacket by her upward movement. Her nose still firmly pressed against my coat as if exposing it would allow the wind to run off with it.

“I know you weren’t listening the whole time,” she stated matter-of-factly.

I just stared back at her. My lips tried to form an explanation and half smile at the same time.

“I was listening.” I wanted to insist. Just . . . .not the whole time.

Anticipating my words, she interjected, “It has been one of those days, hasn’t it?”

I just closed my mouth without even trying to defend myself and sighed. She knew me so well, better than anyone I had ever been close to. Even more so than my parents had.

Nodding, I looked forward again, breaking eye contact with her. Her eyes were hazel tonight. They usually appeared green in the coffee shop with the light bouncing off them, but at night they took on their true color.

We had reached her townhouse and proceeded down the little sidewalk leading up to her door. Her townhouse was much nicer than my place, although that wasn’t saying much. Her firehouse-red brick building stood out among the other drab brown-and-cream-colored townhouses in the area. It had a hunter-green trim around the windows and a matching green door on which a gold door knocker was hanging. The inscription on it read “Keep on knocking.

Jess came from some money, but you would never know. She’d let her parents pay for a nicer place but cut them off after that. She said she wanted to work; it provided her a sense of purpose, fun, and an opportunity to meet others outside of school. I don’t know what I would have done had she not started working at Oblique shortly after I did. She brought a sense of familiarity into my life, a sense of home. We were two opposite people, but that’s probably what made us get along so well. Some years ago I might have been more outgoing, but now I was always quiet and solemn, and lately I couldn’t seem to keep myself out of the flashbacks. I would joke with Jess that she had taken me up as her cause. She always laughed saying, “Well, someone had to.”

We had known each other from grade school, though I had missed my senior year due to the event. I wouldn’t say we were best friends before, but we had hung out on occasion. Actually, I had meant to ask her out a time or two but could never quite muster up the courage to do so. To cover up for my absence the past couple of years, I had to do a fair bit of lying, but it seemed to work. How we both ended up at Oblique was another story. On my first day of work, she came into the shop. She said she had actually set out to apply at another coffee cove but had somehow found herself in front of Oblique when a gust of wind literally swept her into the shop. She swore that her story was true, but I knew she had to be exaggerating. I still laughed every time she told it though, always reminding her that it had just been the world’s way of guiding her to me.

While I had been excited to see a familiar face, I had a hard time at first trying to cover up the five years that followed the incident. She had so many questions. Why did me and my family disappear? Why hadn’t there been a funeral for my family? Why did I not return sooner?

The questions had come so quick that forming a lie was troublesome. So I just told her that they had moved overseas, but I had chosen to remain. And that tragically, they had all died in a car wreck there. I went on to say that I hadn’t been able to deal with it at the time—the funeral, the city, friends, and even my name. It all had been too painful, so I just left them all behind and started fresh.

To her credit, she sensed my uneasiness with the subject. From then on she never pursued anything more about those five years unless I offered to talk about it. I never did.

We stopped in front of the steps leading to her door. Jess let go of my arm, putting her hand instead on the top of my left shoulder in order to balance herself. She kissed my cheek while she stood on her tiptoes.

“Well, thank you, kind sir, for the escort.”

“Just glad I could block some of that wind for you.”

She smiled and nudged my arm a little bit with hers.

“So you headed to bed?” I knew the answer that was coming but half wished by some miracle it had changed.

She started up the three steps, fumbling through her purse for her keys. It appeared she was half concentrating on my question and half in wonderment that she had not found them yet.

“Found ’em,” she exclaimed as a key ring holding two keys and a “WWJD” cross-shaped pendent was produced from her purse. Turning her attention back to me, she lazily replied, “Oh, soon. I bet Brit is still up, so I’ll give him a buzz. Then I will, I guess.”

Just as anticipated. What kind of name was Brit anyway? He was probably an overly muscular football jock. One who spent all his years working out rather than gaining any useful knowledge. I bet if I asked him to quote from his latest read, he would give me stats from Isn’t Brit also short for Brittany, or Britain? Seriously, who names their kid after something that can be used to describe a country? I could go on for days . . .

“So when are you going to leave Brit and marry me?”

She rolled her eyes and gave a quick laugh. She turned her head to show me this as she put her key in the door and turned the knob. “Whenever you get down and ask me.”

My heart felt elated a little at the idea. Although I didn’t think I could ever muster up the courage to ever do such a thing. I could never risk our friendship—she was all I had. At times I thought she felt the same way I did– that maybe she was just waiting on me to make a move. But I could never tell for sure and the last thing I wanted to do was make things uncomfortable. Still, I didn’t like her having a boyfriend. It’s not like I could say that this guy was bad for her, or even that he treated her wrong; in fact, I’d never even met the guy. This wasn’t for lack of trying on her part though. Luckily, I always managed to find ways out of those encounters. I would tell her I wasn’t feeling well or that another one of my mysterious friends just happened to drop by. It’s just I didn’t want to see this guy who was stealing her time away from me. I would probably have to meet the guy soon though. They had been dating for close to a month now, and she was growing more and more skeptical about my excuses.

She walked through her doorway, stepping in while also pulling her bag off her shoulder. The satchel was olive green with orange and blue flowers knitted all along the flap that lay across the whole side of the bag. The plastic buckles for securing the flap dangled loosely as usual. She would always joke that the flowers on her bag were the only ones she couldn’t kill. I was looking at the pavement, laughing a little to myself as I thought of this.

Now inside, she had already taken off her coat and was standing in the doorway. She waited for me to look at her while also using a piece of the door to block the wind. I looked up, knowing I needed to leave and let the inevitable phone call take place. I didn’t want to quit talking tonight. I kept thinking about my family and what had happened. I couldn’t seem to shake the thoughts today.

She must have seen my angst. After gazing at me for a minute more, she smiled warmly, and then her expression shifted to a look of concern.

“I wish you would just tell me one of these days.” Her face showed a bit of hurt that I would dare keep a secret from her.

“What do you mean?” I replied, trying to produce a smile, yet knowing exactly what she meant.

I had thought many times about telling her the truth, but I couldn’t. It was too dangerous—for her, for me. I don’t even know how she would react. I know if someone told me they were a wizard I would either think the person either joking or from the loony bin. What’s more, I couldn’t prove it. My only proof was a wand that could easily be discarded as a piece of wood and story about wizards’ gatherings that could have easily been labeled a tall tale. On second thought I did know how she’d react, she’d think I was nuts.

She smiled again and shook her head as she pulled her stocking cap off. The hat was the same shade of red as her snow boots. Her brown hair fell messily onto her shoulders as she let it loose from her hand. The brown locks were curly – perfect. She looked beautiful tonight; she always did. She was just one of those girls that didn’t even have to try.

“Same ol’ Wyatt. Always so mysterious—I guess that is just one of those things that I love about you.”

If only she knew. I wonder if she would still say that.

“I’m going to find out one of these days, though; just wait, you’ll see.”

“If you say so. Good night, Jess.”

“Love ya, Wyatt. Call me in the morning.”

Smiling once more, she gave me a wink then closed the door.

“Love you too,” I whispered to myself.

Staring at the green wooden door, I waited for a few more minutes before turning around to start home. I was running the usual questions again through my head.

Should I have told her? How would she react? Would it change anything?

I would love to have someone to share my secret with. However, I knew no matter what I thought, I could never risk it. Still, I wondered what would happen to these walks and our lives when she graduated in two years. She hadn’t picked a major yet, but I was sure “professional waitress at Oblique” was not on her list. Oh well, that was a problem for another day. Hopefully I didn’t have to worry about this for some time yet, I convinced myself.

I turned from her door and started walking down the sidewalk. The twenty-minute trip that lay in front of me would feel longer tonight. The ice mixture that was falling before had now turned to snow, and the wind had picked up a bit. I had lost my only stocking cap the other night and was really beginning to miss it now. Pulling the collar up on my peacoat a little higher, I lowered my head a little as if this would keep my head from freezing. The coat was warm; I was lucky to have found one in such good condition last year when rummaging through the Goodwill store. I always felt guilty as if stealing from the poor when I shopped there, but then again I was not exactly living the good life. The only problem was that it stopped midthigh, allowing the wind to blow across the bulk of my legs. As I thought over this I couldn’t help but think that the old cliché was running true tonight: “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

The street was completely silent apart from the sound of the wind circling between the buildings and an occasional paper rustling across the street. This really was a nice area, one of the more unique parts of the city. The subdivision was older but full of character, unlike a lot of the buildings and apartment complexes that had been built recently. The ones that all looked like oversized boxes—each with the same concrete exterior and modern architecture designed with the sole intent of providing more rooms. More rooms equaled more tenants equaled more money. It was some evil equation created by some money-hungry landlord. The walls in those places were paper thin, as if more than an inch thick of sheetrock would bankrupt the investor. Those places were cramped, loud, and miserable, but the only ones I could afford . . . and exactly where I was headed.

I paused for a moment in front of a great blue Victorian that lay alongside my route home. Occasionally I stopped here to gaze at it. The house was similar to one I used to live in. It looked like a castle made of siding. It was a massive two-story dwelling that had a porch extending from the front along the whole right side. Above the right side of the house was a set of windows. Inside the white wood-framed windows I occasionally could see a young girl sitting in the window sill looking out onto the street. Sometimes she stood outside on the balcony. She was probably about ten and always appeared bored. Nevertheless, from time to time she still came out and seemed to be waiting for something to come along and catch her attention. Of course there was no one sitting there tonight. Giving the house a quick scan again, I then turned back in the direction I needed to go just as another wind gust came along.

I paused for a second to endure the ice-cold blast, wincing as if knives were slicing into my legs and taking little bits of skin with them. Continuing my walk, I shoved my hands further down into my jacket pockets hoping some hidden source of warmth could be found. I trudged on for a few more minutes, refusing to move my gaze from the now-snow-covered path that spread out in front of me as if my feet might stop if I didn’t keep watching them. It felt much later in the winter season than November.

Amid the whirling of the wind, another sound began to form in the distance—fairly faint at first, but slowly becoming more audible through the wind that was mounting another attack. I reluctantly moved my chin off my chest and out of my imagined cocoon of warmth. Looking forward, I tried to get a glimpse of the source of the noise. Footsteps? Across the street, someone was walking in the opposite direction, but all I could see at this point was a black figure, probably some college partier heading home from a night of inebriation.

I had never really been able to attend parties like that. Before that fateful night five years ago, my friends and I had all been too young. Now, I was either working or with Jess. Just as well. I was completely satisfied with the calm glow of a coffee shop, a place where I could read a book in my off hours—or at least pretend to. The noise at the apartment was too much to deal with. I guess that was why I started working at Oblique. The shop was cozy, quiet, and on the corner of a boring street that didn’t have too many things to attract much foot traffic. The barber next door had steady business, but that was about it.

Usually Oblique was full of book writers, loners, or the artistic college outcasts who proudly complained that their generation was too involved with the fads of today. This crowd was the type that would rather discuss a way to solve world poverty than join in adolescent ideals. I actually felt more at home there than at my own place. I’d tried looking for another apartment, but they all seemed to be twice what I was paying now. I guess I would just have to bear my concrete dungeon for a while longer, a long while . . .

I brought my attention back to the black figure who was now coming more into focus. My initial thoughts proved wrong; the man was not a college student but rather an older gentleman. I could now see the gray hair with streaks of black hanging below his boiler hat. His hair was wavy, and extended down behind his shoulders. The street between us was narrow, just barely wide enough to fit two cars side by side, so I was able to get a good look. The stranger had on gray pinstriped trousers and a black trench coat that fell to his knees. He also had on black dress shoes, which, although too small for me to see details, were no doubt very expensive, if anything like the quality of the rest of his clothes. The silver tint from the metal on his belt buckle was gleaming due to the light shining on it from the streetlights overhead. He carried a black cane that had what appeared to be a crystal sphere for a handle and a very thin silver point at its other end.

I wondered how well the point would work to give him balance on the sidewalk being that ice covered it. Yet he looked more like he was just going through the motions of using the cane rather than actually depending on it to walk. I suppose he could use it as a self defense mechanism if needed, kind of like a police baton. Though, he didn’t look like that kind of guy. He swung it forward and barely dug the silver pointed edge into the snow-covered pavement before lifting it up and issuing it forward again. I could make out a thin gray mustache that curved perfectly around his very thin lips. He must have felt my stare, as he now stared at me as well.

Was he lost? I had walked this way many times before at this time of night and never seen him before. Also this neighborhood was indeed nice, but the way he was dressed . . . He just didn’t fit the area . . . He didn’t look lost though. He was walking at a leisurely pace. Judging only from his hair and mustache—as well as his eyes that were now fixated on me—I would guess he was in his fifties or early sixties. However, the rest of his face showed no sign of age, and he walked as if not burdened by the years. In fact his six-foot-tall slender frame looked every bit as healthy as mine. He almost seemed as if not from our time—medieval-like, like someone you would run into at a renaissance fair but obviously dressed a little different.

I turned my head figuring I had already stared longer than was appropriate. I could feel his gaze shift back to its previous direction as well. I glanced back once more to see if he was entering one of the nearby houses, but he turned the corner from where I’d just come and disappeared. I wondered where a man like that was going this time of night—or morning, rather. I tucked my chin back down into my chest and thought about the look of his face for a second more. Maybe he was a . . . no, not possible. The last one had looked different, more sinister, more frightening. Though . . . he had been the only one I had ever seen for sure before. And that was five years ago. But why would he be strolling in this area? Regardless, even if he was one, what could I possibly do? I shook off the thought, insisting to myself that the hour was late and I was just tired. There was no way that man could have been a warlock.

            The apartment lobby was empty—that was a good sign, thinking I might actually get some sleep tonight. I headed over to the two elevators on the other side of the hall, shaking the snow off my jacket. I proceeded across the beige tile that still had occasional spots of its original white color. I knew the janitor service usually came and mopped every morning at six, so they would mop up the puddles that I was creating before anybody slipped on them. Both elevators were waiting on the fifteenth floor, so I pushed the Up button and scanned the lobby again in case I missed someone standing there.

I rubbed my hands together, looking across the lobby and hoping to gain some feeling back in my fingertips. I blew on them occasionally with whatever hot air I could muster from my mouth thinking it may speed up the process.

I had lost the feeling in my legs some time ago, and they now started to burn with the blood beginning to flow through my veins at its normal rate again. Finally the elevator arrived.

My thoughts shifted back to the stranger I had passed on the street and the peculiar nature of it all. Not only had he seemed out of place in that neighborhood, but he looked like he should be getting chauffeured in a limousine. Why was he walking around in the cold at the dead of night? His coat did look a lot warmer than mine, though. It actually covered most of his legs, but that still didn’t explain where he was going. The route he was taking was no shortcut. Weird. Why did this bother me so much?

The clear “21” tile above the elevator door blinked on and the doors opened immediately after. I headed down the cream-colored carpet surely bought from a clearance warehouse to my unit: #21-7. I put my hand in my left jeans pocket searching for the key I thought I had stowed there and found nothing.

I felt along the outside of the pocket, trying to find an outline of it, wondering if it was indeed there and I had just missed it. Again, I found nothing. Putting both my hands back in my coat pockets, I looked to the left and paused, making sure that no one was in the hall and hearing nothing to indicate that anyone was coming.

            I pulled my right hand from the coat pocket holding my mother’s dark-mahogany wand. The simple piece of wood was smooth and still cold from having been outside. Assured that no one was coming from the left (I didn’t bother to check to the right, as #8 was empty and #9 was never home), I then made a small circle with the wand once around the knob muttering the words “Pronto Ringent.”

Nothing happened.

            “Oh come on,” I whispered angrily to myself.

I repeated the process five more times with the same result. Becoming frustrated, I could feel my body tensing up.

“Pronto Ringent.”

This time I almost yelled the words in my mind. Yet they still came out of my mouth at the same whispered noise level as the other six. Suddenly a tingle passed through my arm—almost like a quick shot of adrenaline making its way from my shoulder down to my fingertips that were clenching the wand. I heard the latch on the other side of the door turn.

“Finally,” I muttered to myself.

Extracting my left hand from the coat in order to turn the knob, I put the wand back in my coat with the other and proceeded into my apartment.

            I wondered why it had taken me seven attempts that time. I was usually able to get it by the third try. Thank goodness for Uncle Silus teaching me that trick when I was an underage wizard, otherwise I’d still be standing in the hall. Just one of the few secrets he and I shared. He probably wasn’t the best wizarding role model for a teenager, although he’d always appeared to be so in the eyes of my parents.

Teaching those under the magical age anything . . . well, magical, beyond what was necessary forbidden in all wizarding households. My uncle didn’t have any kids. So I just imagined he wanted to share something with me before it became time when my dad would teach me everything.

Dang it! I had left the heater on again. This was the third time this month; my bill was going to be abnormally high. I took off my scarf, which was now turning damp from the snow melting on it, and then threw it on the floor. I glanced at the shower, thinking about hopping in to get the chill out of my bones, but plopped fully clothed on the couch instead.

The heat had already worked on my legs and was now moving down to my feet. I kept my shoes on so that the heat trapped in them wouldn’t escape, allowing my feet to avoid any more pain for the moment. My sight wavered as if I’d just run ten miles. The heat was coaxing my eyelids to drop further down.

I wondered what Jess would be doing after I got off work tomorrow. I bet she already had plans with Brit. What would I say this time if she asked me to go with them? I still had no desire to meet this guy or see them acting all couple-ish. Still, maybe I should just go and get it over with. They had already lasted a couple of weeks longer than most of her other relationships, so my hopes of her losing interest were fading.

She wouldn’t be at work tomorrow either. She normally spent Thanksgiving at her folks, although she usually popped in afterward to say hello and grab a free coffee. My thoughts moved from Jess back to the woman with the cream-colored sweater and blue shawl. Her resemblance to my mother was uncanny. The lady had taken off her gloves and held them in her mouth while rummaging through her purse for a couple of loose bills. She had a wallet to store them in – tucked under her arm, but apparently she found it easier to throw money in her bag as she received it rather than stashing it in the wallet. My mom used to do that too.

Closing my eyes, I began to frown as I thought about the last time I saw her—my real mother. I had tried for years to purge this specific memory though it entered my mind with lightning speed—and unfortunately all too often. What was more was the warlock Tredor was always there—standing behind her. I tried again to forget the memory, instead focusing again on the woman in the shop. She wasn’t my real mom, but at least the memory wasn’t unpleasant. It would do for tonight . . . or at least until I fell asleep.

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