I had one foot in my pajamas when my phone started to ring. I tried to hop over to my dresser to get it but my glasses started to droop so I had to tilt my head up and look down through the lenses.
Long story short I’m on the ground, my glasses have fallen into the foggy abyss known as “the world when I don’t have my glasses,” and someone whom I’m pretty sure is Triss was standing over me in her underwear holding what looked like my phone out to me.
“Thanks,” I said with a defeated sigh.
“Hello?” I answered my phone.
“Kris? Hi, this is your best friend in the whole world wondering why you haven’t called me recently!”
“Ahh.. Heh… Heh… Sorry Ren,” I said.
“You better have a good excuse… Like… you were on a date or something,”
“You were on a date!? Yes girl tell me about it! Are you getting married??”
“So you are getting married after all then!” Ren said as she pondered what I had told her.
“What part of that story made you think he would want to marry me?”
“Some guy shows up to the park with snacks, picks you a flower, and helps you cast your first spell. He-LLOOO Krism! You better put the moves on him quick, he’s perfect.”
“He doesn’t even like me…” I said.
“So! Remember Foralt? The boy who hated me in middle school? Well, now he’s in love with me. You can make him like you, Krism. Geez.”
“How did you change his mind?” I asked.
“Heh. I sent him a picture of me topless,” she said proudly.
“Ren! That is not something to brag about!” I exclaimed.
“Ok so maybe I’m not a shining example for young women but my point still stands. He just doesn’t like you yet,” she said.
“I might not even want him to like me,” I mumbled.
“Mhm. Krism when was the last time you had a boyfriend?”
“I just want someone to love me,” I wailed.
“Hey, I love you!” She exclaimed.
“N’yea, but you can’t buy me food and kiss my face,”
“I mean… I can.”
“I’m hanging up on you,” I said.
“No please! I take it back! I can’t even afford food anyway.” She said.
We both laughed. Man, I miss her so much.
“So hey, I’ve been looking into the town you live in-”
“-Stalker,” I said.
“Ahem! As I was saying… I‘ve been looking into that place. Ever heard of the Wicked Woods?” She asked.
“Sounds spooky,” I said.
“Mhm. Sure is. Says here some guy named Darius and his pals cut through it while escorting one of the old empire kings to safety a long time ago. Their priest died and a witch of the woods wore his face and pretended to be him for the rest of their journey,” she said.
“Witches have strange hobbies… Why are we talking about this?” I asked.
“Because it’s not far from where you go to school. You should go check it out.”
“Sorry, can’t. I still need my face.”
“Let me sleep,” I begged.
“Ugh… fine. You may sleep. Good night I love you!”
“Good night, I love you.”
*Knock Knock Knock*
It’s saturday morning at… I glimpsed at my phone… at 7:00am! Why is someone knocking on my door?!
Maybe if I pretend I’m not here they’ll go away.
*Knock Knock Knock*
Any second now…
“-Ok ok I’m coming!” I whined as I made my way to the door.
I flung it open to find Alec standing in the hallway looking irritated.
“Youuu…” I growled through gritted teeth and narrowed eyes.
“Meeeee…” He responded in kind.
“...What do you want?” I asked.
“I helped you cast your very first spell. Why are you being so hostile?” He asked.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. Need something, Alec?” I asked sweetly.
“First off, call me Professor Caden, pupil, and also… I never pictured you as a onesie type.” He said as he gave me a look over. I had forgotten I was wearing my penguin pajamas...
I slammed the door in his face.
His muffled voice could be heard from the other side.
“Evesvyll wants us to meet him for… Actually I really don’t know what for.”
“Tell him you never saw me.” I said.
“Can’t do that. Lying is against my moral code… And whatever he has planned for you will probably be funny.”
I looked to Triss who was slowly crawling out of bed.
I mouthed the word to her. She tiptoed to the door and whispered into my ear.
“What are you doing!”
“What do you mean??” I whispered back in confusion.,
“Alec Caden shows up to walk you to a private lesson and you’re brushing him off?!”
“I’m sorry, would YOU like to go with him??”
“No. I just. Jeez ok let me try something-”
Triss threw herself against the wall and began to call out.
“No, Krism! Don’t leave me. I’m sho shick. Blehhhhh.”
“Oh nooo… Triss, of course I’ll stay with you.” I called back.
“Triss? You’re in there? Interesting…” Alec said softly.
Triss’s face suddenly went pale.
“Triss,” he said eerily. “If you don’t send Krism out here I’ll tell everyone about that time you-”
“Get out.” Triss Demanded.
Utterly betrayed, I got dressed and left with Alec.
“You really don’t know what this is about?” I asked Alec.
“Nope, but I wouldn’t tell you if I did,” he said.
“So, about the other day....” I said.
“The other day?” He asked.
“... By the lake,” I continued nervously.
“What about it?”
“Nevermind,” I said. I was embarrassed to even bring it up.
As we walked into the academy I felt the door close behind me, and a tick in my brain go off.
I turned around, and began opening and closing the door.
I heard Alec’s steps pause, and turn to face me.
“Don’t look at me,” I said.
“Interesting hobby…” he said.
“It’s not a hobby. It doesn’t feel right. I have to shut it until it feels right,” I said. My face was getting red. The door won’t shut right. It’s one of the ones that click when they shut and I hate that because it never shuts right!
My breathing was becoming heavy. I was getting angry and scared and I know we’re probably running late now and I’m about to cry. I’m about to have an anxie-
“Excuse me,” Alec said, gently pushing me aside by my shoulder.
He propped the door open with a rock at a perfect forty-five degree angle before walking to a drink machine.
He bought two tea’s and headed back my way.
As he came in the door, I turned away as he closed it.
I heard it click into place perfectly.
“Why did you do that?” I asked.
“I’m thirsty,” he said, handing me one.
I thought about that all the way to Professor Evesvyll’s classroom. I thought about what he said, and about how he never opened his tea. We took seats. We waited for thirty minutes on the professor and still he didn’t open it. I thought about the other doors he could have went through instead of mine.
I thought about that, and I wondered if he did it for me.
My thoughts were interrupted as the professor burst into the classroom. He looked a bit winded.
“You’re late,” Alec said.
“Shut up Alec. I’m here. Honestly I was hoping you two would stand me up,” he said.
“There’s still time. I’ll leave right now,” Alec was as uninterested as ever.
“No!” He barked. “Ahem. I mean, no. I need an excuse to put off Ms. Trimney.”
“She’s after you again?” Alec asked.
“Hey wait, she’s adorable!” I chirped. Suddenly I was the center of attention.
“I mean…” Think, Krism. Think! “What’s so bad about being chased by her?” I asked.
“That’s a story for another day, just not this one. Or any foreseeable one any day from now.” He said.
“I still don’t care,” Alec said.
“Again, shut up, Alec.” Their back and forth banter was sounding less like student and teacher and more like family.
“Now, as for why I brought you here,” he said. He eyed us both curiously.
His gaze fell exclusively on me after a dramatic pause.
“Krism,” he began.
“Hm? Yes?” I chirped.
“I know it’s only been a few days, but has Alec helped you with anything?”
“-Professor Caden,” Alec Interjected.
Evesvyll grinned. I tried to cut both of them a dirty look but it ended up just being a sort of crosseyed mess.
“Ahem… as I was saying… Alec… kind of… sorta… helped me cast my first spell,” I quickly mumbled.
That seemed to come as quite the surprise to the professor. Professor Evesvyll that is, not Alec. I’ll never refer to him as Professor.
“Wow, consider me impressed. What did you heal? Let me guess… Dead squirrel?” He spoke in a way that made me think Professor Trimney’s stunt was a regular thing.
“Actually… I summoned a… thing…” I said.
“You summoned something? Krism that’s-... ahem… Well done Mrs. Lavante,” he seemed as if he had more to say, but refrained.
I felt my face getting red. I’ve never been complimented regarding magic before. I know it was just an accident and I probably couldn’t do it again, but still… it felt good.
“Alright, Alec. Your turn,” the Professor said.
“Zero friends,” Alec said with a shrug.
“Not surprised,” he said as he began writing on the chalkboard.
Alec - 1 | Krism - 0
“We’re keeping score?!” I gasped.
“Of course we’re keeping score,” he said.
“What kind of school is this?” I whined.
“So far it’s the one where you’ve cast your first and only spell. Technically we’re failing Alec, not you,” he said matter of factly.
What a backwards way of teaching. I wonder if other classes are like this?
“Alright, now for class time, consider this a sort of pop-assignment,” Professor Evesvyll said.
“Do you just make this up as you go?” Alec asked.
“As a matter of fact yes, and today so will you,” he said.
“I don’t like the way you’re smiling.” Alec was eyeing him suspiciously.
Professor Evesvyll paced as he spoke.
“Your assignment today is a scavenger hunt-”
“-Lame,” Alec said.
“Shut up. The hunt itself is irrelevant. In fact, if you fail to find all of the items I’ll deem you both idiots and request your expulsion,” he said.
I audibly gulped. If I get kicked out of this school, too… Oh geez.
“He’s bluffing… or he’s not and the items are just obvious.” Alec seemed very sure of himself.
“Stop focusing on the items. What’s important is this: during your da-... during your search, Alec must get Krism to learn as much about general magic as possible, and Krism must socially adapt Alec. When you get back here, I will have a series of tests to see your progress. Krism, the more you’ve learned, the higher Alec’s score will be, and likewise for Alec. However, if the other learns nothing, then you fail, too. So you can’t just bull sh-... Try to lie to me.” Professor Evesvyll was looking extremely smug with himself.
“This is how you’re making us spend our saturday?” Alec asked.
“How else would you spend it?” He asked.
“Sleeping,” we both replied in unison.
Alec and I looked to one another briefly.
Professor Evesvyll just pinched his brow and held out a sheet of paper to us.
“Take this and get out of my classroom.”
As the door slammed behind us, Alec and I found ourselves alone in the hallway.
“So…” He said.
“So….” I said.
The faint sound of classical music could be heard coming from the classroom.
“Let’s just get this over with…” Alec said with a defeated sigh.
He unfolded the paper and began to read it.
He read silently for a few moments.
I cleared my throat.
He looked up at me, annoyed.
“What?” He asked.
“I would… like to also read it.” I said.
“Are you… excited about this?” he asked me in faint disbelief.
“I just like riddles and scavenger hunts and crossword puzzles and stuff.” I blurted out.
Without hesitation he gave me the paper and leaned against the door, humming along with the music.
I tried to contain my eagerness as I began to read.
A pair of students found themselves desperately searching for tokens hidden throughout town by the one and only, handsome, intelligent Professor Evesvyll.
...He’s full of himself.
I continued to read.
They would find the first token in the iron grip of Nebesky’s last great hero.
“I see. Very interesting.” I said.
“You have no idea what it’s talking about,” Alec said.
“No clue,” I replied.
He just let out another of his token sighs.
“Follow me,” he mumbled.
We walked for about twenty minutes, not saying a word to one another as we did. Finally we came to a place near where I had cast my first spell. I could see the lake from where we stood, and opposite of us was the bench we had been sitting on.
Alec shrugged in the direction of a statue. It was in the form of some kind of warrior. It looked like something from centuries ago, garbed in medieval armor and triumphantly raising a sword high into the air.
“I take it this is Nebesky’s last great hero?” I asked.
“More or less. This doesn’t represent any one hero… rather it’s every hero. Past, present, and future,” Alec explained.
“Sounds dumb,” I said.
“I think so, too. But apparently it was a gift from the Goddess, Vira. Evidence of her love for those who would die so that others may live.” Alec’s words didn’t seem like his own. They sounded more like a bedtime story he remembered fondly.
“So… the token is supposed to be in his hand?” I asked.
Alec nodded as he reached into the empty hand. It was slightly cupped and alec had to squeeze his fingers into the opening before finally retrieving something.
In his hand was a pack of staples.
“He’s hidden office supplies around town for us to find…” Alec said in disappointment.
The people of Nebesky’s tax money go to this man…
“And now?” Alec asked me.
“Uh…” I said as I dug through my purse.
“Don’t tell me you lost it…” He said.
“I didn’t lose it… Just gotta remember where I put it,” I said.
The hair on my neck flew up as a hand lightly pressed against my butt. I spun around. Alec had the paper in his hand and was reading it. He glanced up at me and said,
“It was in your pocket.”
“You touched my butt!” I chattered.
“I… No,” the paper faltered in his hands as he realized what he had done.
“You did! You touched my butt!”
“I was just trying to pull the paper out of your pocket! I wasn’t trying to… level with me here, Krism.”
My breath caught in my chest when he said my name.
“Krism?” He said my name again.
“One more time?” I asked.
“You want me to touch your butt again?” He said with his head tilted.
“No no no… I meant… could you… could you just give me the frikin paper?” What is wrong with me? Am I sick?
“Alright, here…” He said as he quickly passed it off to me.
Is he… No way. Is he embarrassed? Oh this is great.
I’m sure I was visibly smug as I read the next part of the instructions.
Having found the parcel of steel bindings, they found their own bond too, had been strengthened.
“This is really-” I began.
“-Lame,” Alec cut me off.
“...Super lame,” I finished.
Token in hand, they made their way to the Dawn to Dusk Diner. Once they had eaten, the next token would reveal itself.
“We have to… go eat lunch,” I said.
“We can just cut our losses and go home now,” Alec suggested hopefully.
My stomach audibly growled.
“Or… I guess we could go eat,” he relented.
Dawn to Dusk
A cute little sign hanging outside of a cute little hole in the wall diner on the edge of town.
“I love stuff like this,” I said.
“I wouldn’t say I love them, but I can at least agree with the idea that buildings should have entrances,” Alec said.
“You’re trying really hard to drag me down,” I said.
“Dragging implies I’m beneath you… Pushing would be a more accurate term,” Alec reached out and held open the door.
He was looking away. Not at anything in particular. He was purposefully avoiding looking at me while he stood there, being a gentleman.
“Alec, are you just pretending to be rude all the time?” I asked.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he grunted as he went inside and slammed the door behind him.
He’s really committed to the bit.
I gingerly opened the door only to be bombarded by about half a dozen stares, brought on by the commotion Alec caused.
I felt my back begin to sweat.
“Table for two,” Alec said to the hostess.
He glanced over his shoulder at me. I tried to act like I wasn’t freaking out.
I hate being the center of attention. It gets me so wound up.
Am I standing weird? What’s my hair look like? Why are they still looking at me?
“Maybe a booth in the back, or something?” I heard Alec mumble to her.
“Sure,” she said with a smile. “Follow me.”
We were seated in a booth out of eyesight of most people. What a relief.
Once again, I questioned whether Alec had done it intentionally for me, or if it was coincidental.
Sure seemed like it was on purpose.
“Good afternoon, I’m your waitress, my name is-”
“-Hey Eva,” Alec cut her off.
“Alec, it’s my first day. Let me do my job,” she hissed under her breath.
“All I did was say hello,” he said, arms crossed.
“You interrupted my greeting. I have to say it. It’s part of my job. I was saying it loudly so that the manager could hear me,” she was clearly annoyed.
“Just use your magic and make him think you’re a good worker,” Alec suggested as though it were an obvious option.
“Professor Idaroy has this whole town under a net, he would know the moment I tried,” she said.
“So you’ve considered it,” Alec said with a grin.
“Of course I considered it.”
“I thought Alec didn’t have any friends?” I heard myself blurt out.
I quickly threw my hands up to my mouth, trying to pull the words back in.
Eva raised an eyebrow to me and smiled.
“So you’re the girl?” She asked.
“The girl?” I asked.
“The one Alec-”
“-Has been unfortunately tasked with tutoring, yes. This is her,” he cut her off with a severely annoyed tone.
“Righhhttt,” Eva said. “And to answer your question, no Alec doesn’t have any real friends. We’re in club together, but he never hangs out with us… This is the first time I’ve seen him go on a date.”
“This is not a date,” he said.
“Looks like a date,” she smirked.
“I would like to speak to a manager,” Alec leered at her.
“Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Tell me what you want to eat,” she demanded.
“Cheeseburger, ketchup and mustard only,” Alec said.
“And the two sides?” She asked.
“Fries,” he mumbled.
“We have a baked potato-”
“-just fries,” he said.
“...Picky as ever… Alright, and you, Krism?” She turned to me.
“Ah!... Uh. Ok… What do I want?” I asked no one in particular.
“Are you picky, too?” She asked.
“I’ll eat anything,” I said.
“The Chicken Bacon Ranch is good,” she suggested.
“Comes with sides?” I asked.
“Salad and soup?” I asked.
“Got it. Give us a bit and it will be right out,” she said as she sauntered away.
“She is super pretty,” I whispered to Alec.
“She’s actually horribly disfigured, but uses Illusion magic to hide it,” he said as he scrolled through something on his phone.
“...really?” I felt my eyes widen.
“...Maybe… Maybe not… you should ask her,” he said.
I cut my eyes at him.
He’s got to be messing with me.
Or maybe that’s what he wants me to think.
My phone vibrated. I took it out to find I had a text from Ren.
[What are you wearing?]
I’m not sure what she’s trying to get at, so I think I’ll just make it weird.
[Fishnets… lacey black underwear, and a red clown nose.]
“Heh heh heh….” I laughed aloud.
Alec looked up and raised a brow.
“I don't want to know?” He asked.
“You don’t want to know,” I answered.
My phone buzzed again.
[Same… What are you doing?] It read.
[On a scavenger hunt with Alec.] I replied.
[Why can’t you two just be normal and make out at a movie theatre?] She asked.
I felt my face redden.
As I was typing my reply, I noticed Alec had pulled some sort of pebble out of his jacket. It was glowing with a dull green light.
With an irritated look in his eyes he took out another pebble.
“Give me your hand,” he looked at me expectantly.
“Uh…” I said hesitantly, though my hand moved towards his eagerly.
He took my hand and placed the two stones in it. They felt warm to the touch.
“And this is?” I asked.
“They’re runeites. Don’t worry about the specifics, just hold onto them. Eva is trying to read your mind. Those will block most of it,” he explained.
“Most?” I asked.
“Try not to think of anything you wouldn’t want her to know about,” he said before returning to his phone.
Try not to think of anything you wouldn’t want her to know about…?
I looked down at my phone, and with shaky fingers I typed:
[Let me get back to you… Alec gave me some rocks… It’s a long story.]
It felt like hours as I sat perfectly still, desperately trying not to think of anything. Which only reminded me of all the things I wouldn’t want her to know about.
“You alright?” Alec asked without looking up.
“I think I’m going to faint,” I mumbled.
“Try to fall to your right if you do. I don’t want to have to pick you up out of the hallway,” he said.
“I’ll do my best…” I began to say. Much to my surprise I’m pretty sure I actually did faint. The last thing I saw was the hazy image of Isaac’s face looking up over his phone as I slid down the side of the booth.
I might be crazy, but I’m pretty sure his eyes became quite uncharacteristically full of concern as he leapt up from where he was seated…
...I’m sure I was just imagining that, though…
When I opened my eyes, I found myself lying on my back in what looked like a break room.
My head was resting on a pillow, and someone’s hand was caressing my forehead, and gingerly playing with my hair. I glanced up to see Alec reading something on his phone.
My head is resting on Alec Caden’s lap, and he is caressing my head.
He looked down, and saw me seeing him.
Immediately he moved his hand away.
“Ahem… I... uh…” He began.
“Uh…” I felt myself say.
“I guess you’re probably wondering what’s going on?” He asked.
“I had a panic attack and passed out and you brought me here until I came to?” I asked.
“...More or less,” he said. He was looking anywhere but at me.
“I’ve noticed you have more than a few anxiety problems,” he continued.
“Yea… I tend to overthink things… and I’m really obsessive about little things… so it sort of fuels the anxiety,” I said.
“Have you seen a doctor about it?” He asked.
“Yea… I have pills and stuff… But it just takes the edge off… I don’t really think it’s something that will ever go away,” I said sadly.
I don’t think he knew what to say. He just stared at the ground for a few minutes. Finally he asked,
“I’m going to get something to drink. Do you want something?”
“Water would be nice,” I said.
He took hold of the pillow I was laying my head on and gently lowered it and my head back down onto the chair before leaving the room.
I have never seen this side of Alec before…
...Or maybe I have.
The afternoon by the lake suddenly flooded my mind as the memory of Alec taking my hands in his became all I could think of.
I quickly sat up and tried to shake the thoughts out of my mind, just in case Eva really was trying to read them.
I glanced over to see Alec had left his phone behind.
I felt my heart drop. My vision blurred with uncontrollable tears as they streamed down my face.
Alec’s phone slowly dimmed, but as it did, I clearly saw a page he had been reading:
How to help someone struggling with anxiety
The door opened, and there stood Alec. In his hand was a bottle of water, and nothing else. He probably wasn’t even thirsty. The thought of him doing that only made me cry more.
He knelt down in front of me.
“Krism?” He asked, his eyes once again awash with concern.
I don’t want to be a bother to anyone.
It’s not something he should have to deal with. Everything was probably fine before I showed up.
It would probably be better if I just-
I felt arms wrap around me, and suddenly I was pulled into an embrace.
Alec had one arm around my back, and another firmly pulling my head into his chest.
And I cried.
And I just kept crying.
He didn’t make me stop.
He didn’t get mad that his jacket was soaked with tears.
He didn’t move.
He held me, and I cried.
Oh my god it feels so good to just let go.
Would it be selfish of me to just-
-Before I could finish the thought, my arms wrapped around him.
The weight of the world my own mind had trapped me in suddenly fell away from me. Even if it was only for the moment, it was unreal to feel like gravity had been undone…
I don’t think he’ll ever understand how grateful I am...
...Eventually, the tears wouldn’t come.
My heart settled down, and my mind was at ease.
“Thank you,” I whispered into his chest.
“...You’re welcome,” he whispered back.
His breath on my head sent a tingle down my spine.
My fingers tightened their hold on his jacket…
I like this feeling.
If you liked it, leave a comment at the bottom, please. I have no way of knowing if people are reading and enjoying any of this otherwise!
Krism, a quirky young Elf, finds herself sent to another country to study magic. Her family name rests on her success there.
But don't hold your breath, because unlike the long line of Life Artemis that came before her, Krism is terribly inept. To this day she has never cast even a single spell.
She quickly finds herself locked in a heated battle of raw stubbornness with the school's prodigy.
He may have intellect, but she has... something! Probably.
It's a long story.