“God, if this is heaven –
keep me from hell.”
It’s been a month since granny passed away. We hardly ever saw her and thus felt little sorrow over her departure, but we did see mom’s loss and it hurt never the less. It’s strange to know someone has passed to the other side, made me wonder more of how to spend my tiny time on this rock so I would be joined with her again some day. That would be the case if I’d believe there is something to come after we go.
Still, granny was gone and all we were left were twelve boxes jammed in together in our garage every one of them bearing one of our names. There were Lizzy, Susan, Catalina (me, Kathy for short as no body beside me seemed interested in remembering the name), mom’s, dad’s, uncles Mathias and Thomas and someone called Scarab. She had packed them personally in advance as mom said – they had found them in her living room. I considered it odd at first, mom said she was strange, but to do this she had to like know she was going. After that notion reached my heart, I was taken enough to take her much more serious.
The rest was her old clothes and things from her massive apartment downtown. She had six hundred books in that apartment, but in her will she said no one was to touch them, that they were to stay there for the new owner, who would take good care of them and appreciate the collection. I would have appreciated it too, but the last will was the law. Strange was the new owner did appreciate it, so much even he called it the discovery of the year.
Lizzy, age 9, and Susan, 14, are my two nice little sisters, who rock in hundreds as long as they stay away from my door when I’m trying to have a decent conversation with my boyfriend. It’s their delicate age, I tell myself often, when the shock of finding one of them lurking around on the wrong moment starts to pass again. That IF it starts to pass or when I’m in rage and pressing them out from my old maid’s apartment under the thin roof. Mom ought to let me put lock on the door so they wouldn’t get here all the time, but who am I to keep them away? Alright, I agree, they are sweets.
The boyfriend, on the other hand, is more like a show off thing as he seems to search me out only when it suits him and his plans. I try to be nice to him and all, but I don’t think we’re gonna work out, I rather eat meals with crocodiles. After six times we’ve been out, my strings are on their limits and my brain is plotting five times a minute how to send him off for good and still keep my reputation in the class. It sucks going out with your classmate. His parents are moving though, his father being promoted to Tokyo, which makes it a lot easier. This is much better excuse to dump his ass than exploring what he lacks of with girlfriends. To start with – dignity, to end with – balance. Very immature fellow.
But coming back to granny’s passing. So, she left every one of us something she referred to as the helpful baskets. Lizzy and Susan had opened theirs long ago with absolutely no understanding of what they found there. I was sure they’ll find the explanations soon enough if they have the heart to keep the things attached till they grow up. One thing was common in the boxes – granny’s picture with five words: I love you, my doves. That was comforting to read.
Lizzy’s box also included two golden candle holders, a Holy Book, silver plate and in same style old goblet, little silver cross, purple bag to keep the bible in, some jewelry to mach her eyes and a box to keep them in. Knowing how much Lizzy liked spending time in churches I knew instantly what she was to become. I just hope she realized it too.
Susan’s box had two maps in it with some African masks and Indian staff. She too had jewelry matching her eyes and some golden items, including a ring with huge ruby on it. Mom immediately confiscated the jewelry from their piggy hands and decided to add them in their saving boxes in the bank which they would get at the age of 18. At my age.
I hadn’t opened mine yet. I didn’t know what I’d find in there, but I knew whatever it was, it had something to do with my future. For now, I had no wish to know the inevitable. So I left it be, knowing sooner or later Susan or Lizzy would find their way in there no matter how harshly I forbid them and they’ll be my little fortune tellers. Until then…
The until then arrived much sooner than I expected. Little thieves came to me with my fortune basket about a week before the due I had determined in my head. I was just reading a chapter in my history book, when they shyly knocked on my door. They never knock, which made me very anxious of what was going on, but I relaxed the moment I sat my eyes on the cardboard box between them – they just couldn’t wait any longer.
Neither could I, I had to admit after viewing the box for several minutes in silence. It was pretty interesting. The way my name was scratched on it didn’t indicate it, but it was still mentally intriguing to find out, what plans granny sought for me.
“Open it.” Susan grew impatient.
“I’m not sure I want to.” I admitted, brushing the dust to my yellow rug carpet.
Yellow was my thing. I liked yellow equally with grass green and you could see the results everywhere in my room – yellow curtains, rugged red pillows, green-yellow bedcover, yellow bear, yellow-green superstar poster, bookshelf… My room having windows both to east and west I was blessed with more natural yellow than anyone in the house, too.
“Of chores you do! We did it and we’re much younger than you are!” Lizzy burst out.
“Yes, and much bolder too – you grow cautious when getting older.” I introduced her to her future and as to show what I meant I threw myself back against my safe flowered bed.
Like that would keep their hands away and before I could protest, the tape was ripped from the box and the cover flew open. A silence followed. I observed their stooped heads for a while, before I lost my nerve. I think it was the way their eyes grew bigger.
“Well?” I demanded.
“There’s nothing in here…” Susan was first to open her mouth, astonished.
“What?” I leaped over to them and grabbed the box from them. It was loaded with semiprecious stones in various sizes.
“Got ya!” They burst in laughter. I had to admit, they were good in this. I eyed them with the angriest look I could manage, before turning my attention back to the contents.
As I had said earlier, the box was filled with stones, nice ones, yes, but still – stones. I took them out, one at a time and observed them closer against the light. I could recognize amethyst, malachite, some quarts, few carnelians and amber. The rest were a mystery to me, as was the purpose of having so many different gems.
She had to be darn rich to purcase them all, I told myself in whisper, amazed how many there were – there had to be at least a hundred different stones. Susan and Lizzy were back being serious now and I trusted them to touch the stones, yet not letting them out of my site not once.
Under the stones was a brown envelope I discarded at first to reach more inside. It was closed tight and that probably meant this was to my eyes and my eyes only. Later digging in it I found four things in it – a small metal clasp, a pendant with rather robust drop-shaped bottle consisting of some crystal clear liquid, a closed tiny tube with an unreadable seal and a flower of hope, a dried out Iris that had fallen into petals.
Beneath the envelope and gems was but a different story – there was a book wrapped in a cloth of purple surrounded by yet again crystals.
“Now that’s a mystery,” I sighed carefully removing the cloth. The book looked old, the cover looked creasy and the corners were torn. The back wasn’t spared either – several burning marks banished the last of its good looks it must have bared when brand new. The moment I took it up, it was definitely old.
“Another bible?” Lizzy was disappointed. She had little interest in religious things and never showed an inch of interest in going near anything church-like. I often thought she might have taken it after me as I wasn’t really enthusiastic about going there either and not very eager to hide it. Therefore it seemed odd she would give me a bible too.
“I don’t think it’s a bible.” I objected the notion, yet I didn’t jump in proving it by opening the book either. Susan’s interest immediately rose and she gave me those meager looks that demanded me to read it.
“My throat is sour.” Susan sounded sandpapery. “Lizzy, could you fetch us some lemonade?” Her wish was too transparent to bring straight forward actions from her sister. She wanted her out of the room when I opened it, still sure it was another Holy Book I was holding. I wasn’t sure about it anymore; my thoughts had started wondering way on a different roots. I didn’t want either of them near me when I would lastly open it. Granny had a reason she kept it from us and it being a secret for so long I dared not to defy her by opening it to the whole world. Susan and Lizzy were hardly the whole world, but their ability to keep a secret was yet to develop and I couldn’t risk that.
“No, I want to see what else is in the box!” Lizzy started her tantrum and to keep it silent enough to keep parents away I grabbed from the idea and set the book aside, digging in the next level of stones, handing her another set of moonstones.
Susan wasn’t that timid and grabbed the book into her little hands. Her grey eyes sparkled deviously. I couldn’t let it without notice and I took it from her once again, this time putting it far away from her itching fingers.
She immediately took a fence of that and stormed out of the room closing the door behind her so strong it made the walls shiver.
Nice. But I wasn’t to give in to her just yet – she had to understand the boundaries with everyone’s gifts and I knew there were things only the receivers were able to understand. My understanding at this point was that this book was only for my eyes now and for theirs if they grew old enough.
Lizzy grew smaller in a second, making her as sweet as she could be in order to earn my pity and let her stay and see what else the mystery box concealed. Later she even managed to hide her frustration over the fact that this was all the box had in it. Except granny’s smiling black and white photo with I love you, my dove.
I packed all the gems back in the box and clime up to my bed signaling Lizzy to follow. For her obedience and meekness I decided to reward her by showing her what the book was about. She kept herself reserved, bottling up the urge to reach out and touch it, which I found a little funny, but I knew she was only trying to please me.
Finally, after fearing my heartbeat couldn’t get any worse, I made myself bold and opened the cover – only to find an empty sheet on the other side. Alright, I decided, and opened the next tea brown sheet. On that we found a family tree filled with our family’s tree.
We gasped almost at the same moment – there were hundreds of names, all written in different times. The tree was so big it continued thick even on the upper side of the page . The names were so small they were hard to read, surrounded with golden leafs.
I could hear granny’s saying “…In old days, in our family, women were the barer of the family name… “. Her voice rang so clear in my ears it startled me. I looked at the names closer – the most female names indeed carried the same name.
“Susan has the same thing in her bible!” Lizzy studied the page thoroughly. “Only hers is much smaller.”
I raise my eyes surprised by her notion. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, she was very proud of it. She said it proves her that our family was once very religious.”
I grinned at that openly, thinking suddenly that what she might have in her bible is only one part of the family, while I seemed to have here the routs of that tree, which would mean our family had been religious, if she wished to call it so, only mere fracture of our past. Why, this made her quite gullible.
The idea seemed outrageous and I cast it aside. It was also hard to prove as there was no way she would show me the Holy Book now, when I had so gallantly prohibited her to see mine. I thought of convincing Lizzy to go and fetch it for me, knowing she would be in no harm if she played out her victim roll so well (Lizzy could speak black into white, Susan couldn’t) but she disappeared before I could ask, eyes misty with her secrets.
I stared at the door behind which she had disappeared only to see her enter again, the bible on her hands. She opened it proudly and placed it so the tree continued.
“How did you get her to give it to you?” I felt obliged to ask still listening if Susan was after her, screaming names, but she didn’t come.
“Easy.” She murmured like a little cat and patted the bedcover to her liking, before giving the full answer. “Mom had called her downstairs to wash the dishes.”
“We better return it to her room fast then.” I gave in to the crime and we stooped our heads low over the two pictures.
“Look!” Lizzy’s eyes stretched wider. “These two match!”
Indeed the boles matched. But in her book, only half of the page was filled.
That was only the first page, what followed was more than enough to scary us for quite some time. The book was old, from times when nothing passed through beautifications and therefore stood as it was – ugly and tormented and darn exciting. Not that it made much sense as most of it was written in language long forsaken by the modern world and therefore staid much lost to us from that point on too till it DID reach to 1800s and from there to our time. By the night fall we had decided this had to be our family chronicles – tons of small text inscribed with small poems and ugly pictures showing organs and signs of different kind.
We returned the bible back at its place on Susan’s table and hoped dearly she hadn’t noticed it missing. There is nothing compared to a teenager in raw rage when she discovered somebody has touched her stuff. I set the book back in the middle of the gems and hasted Lizzy to go to bed too. I was definitely tired and in no mood to continue exploring the book be it then what it was, she must have felt the impact it had on us too.
In the morning I grew cautious watching the box in the open on my bedroom floor and thought it would deserve some kind of hiding place so my mom or any other, who didn’t need to know about this big discovery yet, couldn’t find it. The only place I could think of was on the top of the ceiling panel, but that meant ripping the book from its gems and they seemed to go together one-on-one. I ignored that feeling that morning and results weren’t far to catch up.
The school day was dreadful. Only one good thing happened and I flew through that as if it was mere sinking ship on the ocean. Which it literally was – I dumped my darling boyfriend and he managed to get under a strike of six graders, who found him to be the perfect target for their water bomb practice. The worst day in his life I recalled quickly and left before he realized I had put them up to this. Five bucks each should keep their crooked mouths shut.
When I reached to my home door, the backfire had already reached it and I got house arrest for the next two weeks. Plus suggestions to read Susan’s Holy Book and recall the meaning of humble woman. This was way too easy for seeing the wet cat thing that called self a man.
Lizzy came to me almost instantly after I got back in my room and had dugged the book out. She had waited patiently till parents were finished and sat on the chair in front of my bed.
“Are you very sad?” she asked quickly.
“That you have to be in your room the next two weeks?”
I smiled her secretively. Hell no! I didn’t have TV here and the music system might have been removed, but I had way more interesting thing to linger than that.
“If you keep me company, I won’t be sad.” I answered quickly and she nodded.
Yup, if she stayed much longer in my company, she’d catch my every flaw, including my taste in men, which I hoped she wouldn’t because then she wouldn’t have to deceive our parents and me as much as I did now. But it was just as sweet to keep her around knowing she’ll be just as hell breaker as I was in my best hours.
I opened the book in no place particularly and looked at the picture of knights. “They sure had it easy…” I sighed and heard Lizzy opening the door.
“Are you going in the garden?” I asked out loud. She nodded. “I found an interesting old tradition here,” I continued fast, thinking back on what I read yesterday, “I think it’s a blessing the house thing or something. Would you like to try it? It’s pretty simple.”
She nodded eagerly. If I was gonna be stuck here, I might as well please my mind with something different, I decided. I explained what it was about and asked if she could fetch some flowers for me – nothing particularly special, just some clovers and five violets. She returned in haste, but I pulled down her fast-forward button saying the ceremony had to be performed just before the sunset.
To keep her busy, I let her read the book, though that resulted more in watching the pictures than in actual reading. I braided the flowers into a circle at the same time. It came huge – almost seven feet in diameter. It got finished just before the sunset and I put it on the floor, packing myself next to Lizzy on the bed.
“I can’t find it.” She said sadly. “Didn’t they know page numbers or something?”
“I doubt it.” I took the book from her hands. “Let me search it. Meanwhile, how about you get us something to drink?” I suggested.
“Dreams that come, dreams that go,
show me who’s the one?
Who can weaken my feet
and bring out the heat
And make my heartbeat grow.
Let ya come and state in words
What nature bids ya hide…”
I read the first part of one of the poems I opened from the back of the book. “And make my heartbeat grow… Hah! Now that’s poetic!” I was moved how nicely they could put this love thing. No, this was not the one I was looking for. Perhaps I’ll introduce it to Lizzy later.
I ruffled through half of the book before eyeing one that had some mystery appeal and involved no word of love or heart or anything of that matter.
“As Earth is my witness,
So shall I say
Twice will you take it.
If you appear before me
Once will I give it.
If you stand beside me.
Mine is the will to call you
Yours is the will to answer.
As Earth is my witness,
So shall I say.”
“Hmm,” I mumbled, thinking on Ouija boards sold in the shops “pretty straightforward.” I remembered the petals I had found from the envelope and thought they would look nice between these pages and off to find them I went.
It wasn’t enough time to find the flower where I had put it the night earlier, but it was enough ten seconds to realize there was something wrong with the air behind me. Perhaps it was the rough noise of someone’s growing anger or a long bow stretching string, I don’t know, but my back was covered with cold sweat in a moment the knowledge reached my mind.
I turned very slowly to observe whatever had just materialized in the circle behind me. It was a he. An elf no less – long ears reaching high above his dark rain drained hair gathered in loosely so they wouldn’t interfere his view from two very peering brown eyes. He was wearing an armor one would find from movie theaters on screen, not dripping rainwater on my floor now. He was tall too, his height was nicely presented through two massive hands that hold the long bow in fullest curve possible. With two very ugly pointed arrows turned to my both eyes.
“I suggest myself to have a darn good explanation to this,” I shuddered and moved my ass those two more inches back I could steal from the chair. His eyes flickered, mouth still clenched together. My eyes fell on his nostrils moving in the beat of his breathing. “I say, you keep breathing like that and you’ll soon have a heart attack!” I continued and wanted to chuckle over my own cleverness, but his determined attitude to finish me off for ruining his evening made me stay serious.
Something in his face told me this wasn’t the first time for him. But it was to me and so I had no idea, what I should do next. Bow to him? Make him bow to me? Ask questions no man knows the answer to?
“Why does it always have to be ME you call out? Why can’t you stick with your damned ghosts?! Twice this decade – first the old witch and now you!” his voice boomed over my tiny room. “Who are you!?”
Breath! I demanded from myself, there is no help of you if you starve yourself from oxygen now. He’ll get you first if you try, I decided a second later and forced myself to smile. It was quite week performance, but it was a smile never the less and I could feel proud for that little nanosecond it lasted.
“Kathy.” I said firmly.
“Kathy who!?” His power of firmness outraged my own and I was quick to answer.
“Why have you summand me? To gain a personal laugh? If so I swear I kill you right here and now!” His bow rose slightly to quicken my answer and show he meant his every word.
“Do I look like laughing?!” What a monstrous idea! “Look!” His longbow rose half an inch more, which made me cast out my hands in hope for protection. “I did not mean to call you out! I swear it on my grandmother’s grave! I only read a book, nothing more!”
“Then why am I standing in the middle of the flower circle?” he demanded, still not lowering the weapon.
Why the hell should I know? “Step out of it if you don’t like it!” I boomed, slightly irritated by his manners now and earned two sharp arrows buried half in my wooden table. I quite preferred him just where he stood, though it held little security in my mind now.
“I can not step out of this spell ring you created and you know it! But my arrows can!” he cocked two new arrows on his bow and for some reason I knew these two weren’t gonna miss. “Now, why have you summand me?!”
“Stop yelling and listen for one minute!” My beating heart was starting to affect my ability to speak. “I have not summand you personally – who the hell are you anyway? – I just read our family’s chronicles and there were some poems and I read one out loud!”
His eyes grew wider in disbelief. “You are mocking me!” he lowered the bow and loosened the hold, but not fully freeing it from his grip. “Are you telling me, you read the darn spell and did not even know it was a spell?”
“Well, I suspected as much, but…” I lost my line before his voice shook the table against what I had reinforced myself.
“I just got the book yesterday! What do you expect? I swear I thought nothing more of it than some sport when reading about the Flower Circle – I thought it was something to celebrate the spring!”
“Send me back, NOW!”
I got fed up, he either didn’t comprehend the awful situation he was in or I was literally talking to some unwilling ghost, whose brain refused to take the information given to him. I jumped up and faced him – he proved to be much taller than I expected. “Half of it is unreadable and the other half filled with crow steps – I haven’t had time to know more that it belongs to my family before you turned up!”
“I don’t care!” the longbow rose again. “Send me back! NOW!”
“To where?” Fair question as I knew nothing of where to send such long eared men back to.
“You ignorant fool! You have already cost me my Ursah – it would have been one splendid gift to my father for my return! Do not play with me now! Reverse the spell and send me back before the sun is set and the gate closed!”
“How do I do that?”
“How hard is it to you to understand? Say you are free to leave!”
Free to go? That’s it? This was way too easy, not even in the movies you could get rid of illusions that way.
“Come again?” hi growled.
“I won’t let you leave unless you tell me your name!”
“You are in no position to ask my name!” he bolted from his stand and hadn’t the flowery line stood between them them, it would’ve meant one very sad faithful move to me.
“And you are enough of a position to point that thing at me?”
His eye muscle twitched. I sighed fast suddenly realizing his game – he had hoped I’d give in before realizing he had nothing to gain from killing me therefore making it pointless. That did not keep him from trying though. But he lowered his bow.
His voice was now only a low static, before he said: “Finn Scarab Bhain.” He waited a second for my reaction, before continuing in much restraint sound: “If you really haven’t captured me with a purpose, let me go back to my duties.”
“Of chores – you are free to leave.” I said appalled how polite he suddenly turned. The next moment he disappeared, still scowling at me.
“I got our lemonades!” Lizzy stormed in. She stopped in the middle of the room, looking around. “What happened?”