Diana couldn't sleep. She tossed and turned, then woke and spent a few hours on her laptop surfing the 'net from a pile of pillows. She got up and paced her room before nearly collapsing from exhaustion. She sat back on the bed. The clock on the nightstand said it was after three in the morning.
Her sleep-deprived brain was trying to make sense of it all. What can I do? What should I do? There was nobody to guide her. Nothing but her sense of right and wrong. She snorted and shook her head, smiling as though this was some wicked joke. Right and wrong?
The TV offered up a hundred channels of mind-numbing distraction at the touch of a button. Skimming channels, she came across a travel show about Ireland. The imagery reminded her about her birthplace in Scotland, not too far from the places they were showing on TV. Traveling to Scotland would be fun... but more than that, somewhere in Scotland a human girl might be a slave to the Fae.
I need to rescue the real Diana! She smiled at how brilliant it sounded in her mind. Yes, that would give her a noble purpose. She felt a deep calm sweep over her, and drifted off to sleep with the TV still on.
Knocking. More knocking.
Diana threw the covers aside and sat on the edge of the bed. She shuffled to the door, slouching as she pulled it open. She rested her head against the door and peeked through squinted eyes at her tormenter. Dad. She meant to say something about crazy people waking up too early, but it came out as an incoherent mumble.
“Come on kiddo, we need to eat breakfast and head back. It's seven already.”
Diana struggled to do the math of how many hours of sleep she'd gotten and gave up. “I couldn't sleep last night.”
“You can sleep in the car. Come on, Princess. Let's make sure you get a good breakfast before we leave. You like their breakfasts, don't ya?”
She nodded against the door.
“Okay. See you in a few.” He kissed her forehead and walked around the corner.
She listened to his energetic steps retreat down the stairs and rolled her eyes. She muddled through getting dressed and packing, then ate breakfast with the family in a daze. Her head felt numb, and she was happy when Bobby gave her the seat behind their mother on the ride back. The extra legroom made it easy to doze off.
Diana woke to the rhythmic whine of the tires as they passed over the Golden Gate Bridge, and an ache in her back. Panicking, she reached over her shoulders. No wings. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Bobby was dozing beside her, and the parents were chatting about some work issue. Coming through the city must mean they wanted to drop her off at the school on their way home. She fought the feeling of loss as she looked over the side of the bridge and remembered how Erin's mother had jumped.
How can I compare what I'm feeling to what Erin's feeling? Diana turned away from window as the rest of her body started to ache. And tingle.
Her mother turned to say something and did a double-take. “Diana, are you alright? You look a little pale.”
Diana stared back at the woman who had been her mother, and focused on the second giant support pillar of the Golden Gate Bridge as they drove under it. A massive pillar of steel. Iron! Every hair on her skin stood on end, and that familiar tingle swept over her.
No! Not now! Diana closed her eyes and fought the sensation. I need to be human! I need to look human! Pain wracked her body as she fought the feeling. Why was this happening now? Why hadn't crossing the bridge been a problem before? She gritted her teeth.
“Okay, fine. Don't answer me.”
Diana swallowed and tried to hold herself together. Literally. “Sorry, Mom... I... don't feel... so good.”
“You need us to pull over sweetie?” Her Dad pulled to the right as they came off the bridge into the toll booth lanes.
The second they were off the bridge, Diana felt like a weight had lifted from her. She opened her window and took a few breaths of the salty air and fell back into her seat. “I think I'm okay now.”
They pulled into the circular drive at Lanebrook Preparatory Academy, and Diana's dad gave her a warm hug goodbye after unloading her suitcase. She almost didn't wave goodbye s the car drove off, but Bobby's cheery smile and wave broke through her melancholy. She gave him a princess wave until the car disappeared through the gate.
Her family was not truly hers. Somewhere there might be a girl who was meant to be with those people. Diana wheeled her small suitcase and trudged to her dorm, deep in thought about what she'd need for a trip to Scotland.
The next day, Diana's usual friend group sought her out and wanted to talk her ear off. Brit of the Unruly Red Hair, Carmen the Sultry Spanish Seductress, and Tanya the Token Blond loved nicknames and gossip almost as much as chocolate. Together, they made fun of the world and helped cheer each other on.
Diana knew that the other three parts of The Fierce Four wouldn't understand what she was going through, and she knew she couldn't tell them. She could tell they were miffed when she excused herself to walk off to classes with Heather, but Diana needed answers. As soon as they were alone, Diana told the young witch about her bridge crossing.
“You're probably more attuned to iron now that you've discovered your Fae self.” Heather said after glancing around to make sure nobody would overhear.
Diana sighed. “It was weird. I wish I could talk to you more about it, but it seems like everyone's watching me today.”
“I have some good news, and some bad news about that.”
Diana rolled her eyes. “So start with the good news.”
“My grandmother wants to meet you. She thinks she can help find your real parents.”
“Really?” Diana felt like the sun had just come out after a week of rain. “How can she help?”
“A little spell here, a little psychic thing there... the usual.”
“So will she make them come here?”
Heather laughed. “Not likely.”
“Could I just believe and make them appear?”
Heather grabbed Diana by the shoulders. “Don't even think about it! Seriously!”
Heather narrowed her eyes. “Have you ever thought about what happened to the frog you made in the locker room?”
Diana shook her head, wondering now.
“When you stopped thinking about it, the frog ceased to exist. It was a literal figment of your imagination. The same goes for anything you make. They're temporary. If you bring someone to you using Fae magic, they could become temporary.”
“Could. Like if I stop concentrating on them, they die?”
“We don't know. Maybe they go to another plane of existence, or back where they came from.” Heather turned and started walking again.
Diana followed, falling in step alongside. She thought about how this seemed too good to be true, and wondered why the witches wanted to help.
“This Thursday night. The stars will be aligned perfectly for the spell she has planned. Bring something personal of theirs, if you can.”
Diana nodded. “Okay, so the bad news?”
“Someone at school is spreading a rumor that you and that new girl Erin are lesbians.”
Diana stared for a second before laughing. “I'm surprised the rest of the Fierce Four didn't mention it. They must not have heard yet.”
“So I guess it's not true?”
“Oh please,” Diana said, shaking her head. “If that's the best Chelsea's got, she's seriously underestimated me.”
Heather laughed. “I'd help you plot revenge, but it's kind of against our teachings.”
“You think Erin is okay?”
“Everyone knows she's kind of on edge, with her mother... you know.” Heather shrugged. “Hard to say. She's in my third period class. I can ask.”
They said their goodbyes, and Diana pondered whether she should check on Erin. She checked the clock in the hall, and saw that she only had a few minutes before the bell. A bad feeling curdled her stomach. Making up her mind, she ran back to the dorm building.
Diana dodged a couple of hall monitors who were sending kids to class, and found the door marked with Erin's name. She knocked, but there was no response. She jiggled the knob, and found it locked.
“Go away,” came a weak response from inside.
“Erin? It's me. Diana. Are you okay?”
Some incoherent mumbling was the only response.
Diana grabbed the doorknob and closed her eyes, imagining it unlocked. She felt the tingle in her hands and heard a click. She turned the knob and smiled to herself. That trick could definitely come in handy later. She stepped into the small dorm room and took in the tidy appearance.
Books stacked neatly filled the shelves above a desk, where a laptop computer sat closed. The white walls had posters of boy bands neatly spaced, and gold satin curtains covered the window along the back wall. The nightstand under the window had a perfectly arrayed set of makeup and grooming essentials. The only things out of place were a neatly hand-written note and a spilled half-empty bottle of pills.
Diana rushed to Erin's side and pulled the covers off her. “Erin! Wake up! What did you take?” She tried lifting Erin.
Erin's head flopped back, her straight brown hair falling back in a curtain.
“Shit!” Diana reached over and grabbed the pill bottle. Sleeping pills. “No!” She couldn't let Erin commit suicide over a stupid rumor. Fire burned in Diana's veins as she put her hands on the girl's stomach where her T-shirt had ridden up. What to do? Determination filled her mind. Make them Tums.
Diana closed her eyes and focused. The tingle poured through her and into the girl. It's nothing but antacid. Erin will live.
Erin opened her eyes. She stared at Diana's hands on her stomach for a second before her mind cleared. “What did you do?”
Diana let go and grabbed the note off the desk and skimmed it before holding it up to Erin. She was shocked to see that it had nothing to do with the rumor. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“The note says it all.”
“You're trying to kill yourself because your dad's leaving the country?”
“It's not that simple!” Erin let her tears stream down her face. “You don't understand. Nobody does!”
“You're feeling like your foundation is slipping out from under you, and your life is completely out of control.”
Erin stared at Diana before nodding. “I want the pain to stop.”
Diana rubbed her hands together and smiled. “You got it. One painkiller, coming right up.”
(continue to Chapter 8)
(continue to Chapter 8)