Back to Square One
The girl rubbed her raw and blistered hands as the pail filled with cool water. Peering down into the dark circular well, she felt the coolness on her face. She was glad that she had finished washing the master’s clothing quickly. The thought of seeing her own reflection in the wash water for too long made her ill.
As she turned the wheel slowly, bringing up the heavy bucket, the girl wondered what it was like in the darkness of the well, alone in the cold inky cavern. Never having to worry about seeing her image. Never having to listen to others as they called out in horror. Never having to hide as people screamed for her death.
"Witch! Demon! Spawn of Satan!" She had heard it all.
The master had saved her. He stopped the townsfolk from stoning her. He stopped that vicar from burning her.
The master never spoke of her disfigurement unless it was in reference to civilization. He laughed at the simple townsfolk and their civilized and so-called ‘Christian’ minds. While they shouted ‘Witch’ at a child with a hole in her face and humps on her back, they obeyed a man who appeared refined, pleasing to the eye, and above all: rich.
He laughed at their stupidity. After all, it was he that was the real Witch. A Warlock. He proudly, yet secretly, declared himself an Immoral Manipulative Peonage Sorcerer.
And he had power.
Power to control. Power over minds. Power over elements.
Even though she owed her life to the master, she hated him. He had the power to make her beautiful, but he refused to grant her wish, keeping her as his slave.
She determined to learn his source of power. She would make it her own…even if she had to sell her soul to do so.
Mellie bolted up in her bed, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. Another vision. She almost saw the girl’s face this time. The dreams were so real. It was hard not to feel that she was that girl, afraid to look at her own reflection, and wanting desperately to be accepted. To feel power. Realizing the lure of the dream Mellie took a deep breath and called upon the One.
"Oh Light! Why do I keep having this same dream? Take this awful feeling away from me. Keep this darkness out of my mind. Please?"
She drifted off to sleep again, this time, she did not dream.
Keeping secrets. Even though this was not one of Mellie’s talents, especially from her family, she had to do it. And, modestly speaking, the secret she dare not share was probably the most incredible, and definitely the most unbelievable, secret in the world: fairies are real. As a newly graduated Basic Trainee of the Fantastical, Aerial, International, Reasonably Inconspicuous, Emancipation Squads (F.A.I.R.I.E.S.), Mellie knew this fact to be true. She also knew another fact. There are Immoral Manipulative Peonage Sorcerers (I.M.P.S.), fantastical beings gone bad.
The problem was that her family had no knowledge of her new life and would never believe her if she told them what she had been doing for the last four months since running away down a beach in Santa Cruz, California.
She had earned some leave time after Basic. The Dryad, Regnans, Master of Arms for the West Coast Sect Academy, along with the Gnome, Swim Through Earth, one of Mellie’s Didaskos (teachers), came up with a plan to send Mellie back in time for a visit. None of her family knew she had run away or that Mellie had become a warrior with special gifts from the One.
During Mellie’s last week with the F.A.I.R.I.E.S., she helped reunite the Red Dragons with the F.A.I.R.I.E.S., led the West Coast and the Far East F.A.I.R.I.E.S. into battle against an I.M.P.S. stronghold, and was dubbed a ‘Defender of the Realm’ by Strateuma Fero Superbum. Mellie felt honored by the title but really had no idea what it entailed, if anything. For all she knew, it could just be a title for somebeing who helped out the F.A.I.R.I.E.S. realm.
It all seemed like a dream as she strolled through the Almaden Valley Mall, smiling at her sisters as they chose their new school outfits. Mellie wondered if she, too, should be shopping. She hadn’t heard from Regnans since he left her on the beach about a week ago. Will I be forgotten in time, left four months in the past? Middle school begins in two days! Summer is almost over, again…do I have to start school, then leave?
It was all so confusing, being a F.A.I.R.I.E. Squadmember in a world where no other of her race seemed to see what was really going on about him or her. After being Chosen by the One to be trained as a soldier of the Light, Mellie possessed the sight as well as knowledge of the forces of Light and Dark. For the last five days she had been pushing away I.M.P.S. that were attacking Humans all around her— while her family went on with their lives as they pleased. The Shadow had quite a strategy of attack set up for Humans. Every once in awhile Mellie would notice little rainbows attacking the Dark ones, too. Yet the elusive Rainbow Nymphs were so good at being inconspicuous that even though Mellie knew they were there, she could not see them. I must remember to inform Swim about it when I return. That is, if I return.
Mellie’s sister, Chelsea, interrupted her thoughts. She walked up to Mellie with a pink angora sweater and faded blue jeans adorned with aqua sequins along the pocket lines. "Here, sis, this would look so cute on you. Ya know, you seem to be looking more like a teenager every time I turn around. What size are you now?"
"Um…I’m not sure. Why don’t I take a few different sizes and see?" Mellie grinned. This would be an easy way to drop my projection. I could say I had a sudden growth spurt—which is completely true, if you can call four months sudden. We are out shopping for new wardrobes anyway. It might not be too strange a thing to grow two sizes all of a sudden.
Just when she had decided that she could drop her projection, a familiar voice connected to an unfamiliar face called her by name.
"Maryellen Good Wind? Mellie? I have been searching everywhere for you!"
Chelsea’s eyebrow lifted and she whispered out of the corner of her mouth, "Mellie, do you know this weirdo? Get a load of his pants!"
Stifling a snicker, Mellie shook her head as she looked at Regnans. The unfortunately clothed Dryad, hard pressed to look the part of a Human, did not know that knickers were out of style in America. His hair looked the same. It still had rolls along the sides with a funny little swooping forelock, except now it was colored white, like George Washington’s.
"Ah, hello, ah…sir?" Mellie knew Regnans couldn’t stand being called ‘sir’. It had something to do with his rank. But she had no idea what she should call him here, in the Human realm.
Regnans tapped a foot. "The name is Master Regnans, do you not remember? I am from the placement committee for exchange students. I need to speak with your family regarding your acceptance."
"Mellie, what’s this all about? You aren’t going to a foreign country, are you?" Chelsea looked confused and a little angry.
Think fast Mellie. "Well, ah…I signed up hoping that I might be accepted?" Mellie said questioningly as she looked from her sister to the Dryad. Regnans nodded agreement.
"Did you ask Mom and Dad?"
Mellie twittered nervously. "Not exactly. I-it was a long shot—I didn’t think I would be able to get in."
Chelsea stared open mouthed at her baby sister, then turned and shouted, "Mom! Could you come here for a sec?"
Their mother, a full figured woman sporting a short, bleach-blond bob, looked up from a sale rack and walked over. "Yes?" She glanced at Regnans in surprise and burst out with a snort. His outfit looked strange enough that even Mellie’s mom, who was not the foremost expert of fashion and style, laughed at the spectacle. "May I help you, sir?"
Chelsea interrupted as she put an arm around Mellie and exclaimed, "Mellie wants to introduce you to her friend!"
The mother looked from one daughter to the other and lifted an eyebrow.
Mellie took courage. "Mom, this is Master Regnans. He is from the exchange student program."
"Oh!" Mrs. Goodwin smiled. "I am a teacher at the local elementary school. How do you know Mellie?"
"I am honored to make your acquaintance, Madam." Regnans bowed. "Your daughter has applied for the exchange student program in London, England. I am the Headmaster of the school she will be attending, with your permission, of course." He bowed again.
"What?" Mrs. Goodwin looked rather shocked and was actually speechless for ten whole seconds, a record in Mellie’s estimation. "Mellie? Do you really want to go to a foreign school?"
Not quite sure whether her mom was happy, sad, excited, mad, or a little of all, Mellie quietly said, "I think it would be good for me, Mom."
Frowning slightly, Mrs. Goodwin asked the Dryad, "When would she start?"
"Oh, in two turns—er—days we will pick her up for her overseas flight."
Mellie winced at the non-chalant way Regnans dropped the bomb.
"TWO DAYS? She doesn’t even have luggage let alone a passport! She is about to start her school here! This is crazy. Impossible!"
"My word, nothing is impossible, Madam!"
Mellie held her breath, knowing that Regnans had said the wrong thing.
"I need to see some credentials, you pompous twit!"
Obviously ready for this set back, Regnans pulled out an oh-so-official looking document that was stamped with the seal of England, no less.
"Well!" Mrs. Goodwin’s nose flared slightly. "I will have to speak with my husband about this."
"Understood. I shall come to your house at eveningtide—er—time then." Regnans bowed, performed an about-face, and left the store.
Both Chelsea and Mrs. Goodwin looked at Mellie with raised eyebrows and stares of disbelief.
Regardless of where Mellie would attend school, Mrs. Goodwin wanted to finish clothing shopping for all the girls. Mellie could tell that her mother kept the thought of overseas fresh in her mind as she purchased smart looking outfits for her youngest daughter. It would seem that there was no question in Mrs. Goodwin’s mind whether or not Mellie would be going to London, and that she wanted her daughter to represent America well. Whatever the reason, Mellie happily let her mother choose the wardrobe. It was difficult, but Mellie was able to keep projecting herself as smaller while getting the correct sizes that she so desperately needed.
Upon returning home, Mellie’s parents held a long discussion in Mr. Goodwin’s den. Her sisters watched Mellie curiously as they waited in the living room.
Jes, Mellie’s second oldest sister, stood by the door, glaring at Mellie. "Why on Earth didn’t you at least tell us about this? It, like, came out of nowhere!"
Her eldest sister, Angie, placed a hand on Mellie’s shoulder. "Sorta like your personality change. Not that I’m complaining."
Hating to lie about the whole thing, Mellie tried to say as much of the truth as she could. "I didn’t really plan all this. It kinda just happened."
"No. Signing up to be an exchange student doesn’t just happen." Chelsea tilted her head.
"I always wanted to see the world…check out different cultures and art. What’s so wrong with it?"
Her sisters looked at each other and shrugged.
Jes plopped on the couch next to Mellie. "Nothing really. It’s just…well...you’re only twelve years old! You’re a little young to go alone…and you didn’t even ask permission!"
Mellie thought, Actually, I’m thirteen now and you have no idea how much I am capable of. Aloud she admitted, "Yeah, it does seem odd."
"And what is with you lately? You sound so, so wise or something. It’s creepy if you ask me," Chelsea said and her sisters nodded their agreement.
"Exactly. It’s like someone else, a clone, or an older you is here. What gives?" Jes squinted at Mellie. It was almost as if she could see through the projection.
Mellie stood up and started to pace the room. "Just because I want to grow up, doesn’t mean you guys won’t still be my older sisters. I’ll write to you. Can’t you just be happy for me?" Tears began to form in her eyes; she stubbornly ignored them.
Chelsea got up and hugged her. "Okay, okay. We will miss you. You’ve become so nice since that day on the beach. I guess we are all a bit jealous. At least, I am."
The other two stood and embraced Mellie in a group-hug as Angie said, "Yes, we will all miss you."
Mr. Goodwin’s voice startled them and they jumped as one. "Well, I’m glad you all have come to accept that Mellie will be leaving. Because we have also." Their parents walked with arms outstretched to their daughters who giggled as the entire family hugged.
Ding-dong! The doorbell chimed and they all yelled, "Come in!"
The door opened and Regnans stood on the porch, looking confused. "Oh! I say! Am I interrupting some sort of Hu—uh—American ritual?"
Laughing, the family untangled themselves and Mr. Goodwin stepped forward, hand extended. "Hello, you must be the pompous Englishman who has come to steal my daughter."
The Dryad looked at Mellie’s father with a less than tolerant sneer. "And you must be the uncouth American father?" He glanced at the proffered hand in wonderment.
Mellie signed behind her family at Regnans that he should take her dad’s hand and shake. Unfortunately, she neglected to tell him with which hand and the Dryad put forth his left hand. Mr. Goodwin raised an eyebrow, changed his own hand and quickly shook the strange man’s stiff hand before dropping it uneasily.
"You need some lotion? Your hand is as dry as wood, buddy."
"BUDDY?" Regnans’ eyes darted toward Mellie who began frantically motioning for him to stop by moving her finger across her neck in a kill gesture. The Nymph took a calming breath. "Yes, one does lose moisture when traveling. Well then, have you come to a decision regarding Maryellen’s future schooling?"
"Comes right to the point, doesn’t he?" Mellie’s dad murmured to his wife, then added, "Why don’t you come in and have a seat? We have some questions about the process."
About an hour later, Mellie’s parents shook Regnans’ dry hand again as they saw him to the door. "Tuesday morning it is then. Thank you, Master Regnans." They shut the door behind him and laughed heartily.
"That is one strange duck you will be going to live with, Mellie!" Mr. Goodwin chuckled.
"Oh, I say! Is this an American ritual? Oh, dear me!" Chelsea quipped in a British tone as she walked stiffly around.
Mellie could only laugh along with them. She was going to miss her family very much indeed.
Two days later Regnans picked Mellie up. With a year’s supply of clothes and shoes and other tid-bits to remind her of home, Mellie waved goodbye to her family from a strange looking vehicle that could only be of Gremlin design.
After going around the bend, Mellie asked, "Master Regnans, why did I only get to visit for one week?"
The Dryad lifted a leafy eyebrow. "You still have the Celebration of the One to observe with your Human family, do you not?"
Mellie tilted her head, not understanding.
"We will go forward to the present, where you will quickly write four months worth of correspondence, then I will return you to your family so you may go on holiday in real time."
Mellie made an "O" face then smiled. "Nice plan."
"You may drop your projection, for you will not need to hide your changes from your family when you return."
"Ah! Thanks!" Mellie happily relaxed and her maturity appeared. "It is exhausting projecting for so long, I think my sisters were starting to suspect."
"Yes, ‘tis not easy. Yet, ‘twas very good practice for you. Excellent projection skills are required for liaisons. You are going that way in your studies?" Regnans hopefully asked.
"I think so. Speaking of which, what is next in my training? Will I get wings, like Lizzy?"
"Hmmm. That is entirely up to you. You must earn them. Also, wings are required before a liaison apprenticeship. If you choose to try, you will be enrolled in Cadet training. Is that your desire?"
"Yes, sir! I-I mean yes, Master Regnans!" Mellie winced.
"Ahem. All right, I will start the paperwork while you begin your letters. Close your eyes, we are about to enter a time gateway."
Mellie obeyed and felt herself lost in a dizzying swirl of Light. She awoke to Lizzy’s smiling face.