The Sorcery Society: Part Five
"Would you like some hot Borovan?" Mira asked me kindly.
"No thank you."
The Ralander house was the same on the inside as it was on the outside; not ugly or beautiful, but ordinary and plain. Citrus had gone off to play with Mira's two pets, Murky the baby Ogrin and Tate the baby Cybunny, in the living room, leaving me and Mira to chat in the kitchen. The Ralanders didn't have a dining room; rather, they ate in the kitchen, in which everything was painted either a warm, sunshine yellow or a dark, almost-but-not-quite-navy blue. Mira poured herself some Borovan before coming over to the kitchen table. She picked the seat across from me, the steaming mug clutched in her hands.
"So, why in the world does a shadow Wocky such as yourself have my son's journal?"
That's all it took for me to totally break down. The professional, yet soft and sympathetic, front that I had tried to put up for my visit to the Ralander house was gone. I found myself telling my story rapidly, in the sort of way someone would rant about always missing the restocks at the Almost Abandoned Attic. I was barely breathing - I must've told her everything in only a few short breaths. I really did tell her everything. I told her about how we had moved into the house in Happy Meadows; how Citrus had discovered the swing and the journal; how I had pored over it until I reached the very last entry; how I had gone to the library and recruited Athy to help me find records on Ru and his friends; how I wasn't quite sure what I was doing or why; how I felt like they were real - all five of them, Ru, his sister, his best friend, his best friend's cousin, and the evil faerie Jhidaya - how I felt like I was close to them.
The only thing that I left out was the Sorcery Society. Ru had said that it was a secret, and I felt compelled to keep it.
When I was done, I was gasping for breath. The look Mira gave me one of surprise, but also sympathy. Without saying a word, she fetched me a glass of water, which I drank gratefully once I'd stopped gasping desperately for air and making "I'm going to die!" gestures with my arms. Once I'd calmed down, I looked up to see that Mira was smiling at me. I found that strange. What did she have to smile about? And did she believe me? I hadn't even brought Ru's journal for proof. She could've believed that was insane, that I was a liar, that I was an insane liar! Maybe even an incredibly insane liar!
"You must think I am an incredibly insane liar," I said, quietly.
Mira laughed. She had a pretty, twinkly laugh, one that made me think about bells that ring when you walk through shop doors. "I do not think you are an incredibly insane liar," she told me, smiling. "I think you are an incredibly curious and pleasant young Wocky, and I'd be happy to answer any questions that you have about - about Ru and Merah." I saw her smile falter as she said their names, and a little bit of shine left her blue eyes. It looked as if a cloud were passing over them - like she was seeing a world of memories that she'd seen many times before, like she was visiting a place I could never visit.
Eventually, the cloud passed. "Well?" she prompted me.
I looked down at my lap, unable to meet her eyes. "They never came home, did they?"
I allowed my eyes to roll up without moving my head, just to see her expression. I could tell by her sad smile and the look in her clear eyes that I was right.
"Nope." She sighed. "Never did. I, my friends, their friends, the DoN... we looked everywhere. For an entire year. DoN bases everywhere were searching for all four them, but they never found even a clue as to where they were - or are. Long after everybody gave up, I was still looking, looking... but it was hopeless." She shrugged. "They had Jhidaya locked up at a DoN prison base in Maraqua, so she couldn't have cut down the tree. That drove me crazy, though. When I couldn't find any of the kids, I went crazy looking for the person who'd caused everything. But eventually, it became obvious that I was just wasting my time. So I created Murky and Tate, and here we are, ten years later."
"Don't you wonder, sometimes?" I asked, softly.
Mira looked away from me, at the ceiling. "Of course I do. I wonder where they are, if they're alive. I wonder if they're doing the same things I'm doing - cooking, eating, cleaning, working. But not much. I spent years thinking, and I'm tired of it." Her eyes softened, then clouded over again. "I still love them, though. That never stopped, and it never will. It's just that now I love Murky and Tate, and I think about them, and there isn't much time to think about people I love who aren't even here."
There was silence. I felt like I didn't belong there. I sympathized with Mira, but I couldn't have any empathy for her, because I had no idea how it felt to lose people you care about, to not even have the peace of knowing what happened to them or where they are. Mira hadn't done anything wrong, and yet she was being cruelly punished. It took all of the willpower in my body not to burst into tears. Mira must've seen the tears in my eyes, though, because she reached across the table and lightly took my paw.
"Don't you have somewhere to be now, dear?" she asked, gently.
I nodded, although it wasn't true. Mira led me to the living room.
"Citrus," I said, my voice weak, "we're leaving."
Citrus was watching Neovision with Murky and Tate. "Awwwww," she whined. "Can't we stay just a little longer? Murk and Tay are my new bestest friends!"
I smiled a little. "We'll come back soon," I told her.
Citrus pouted before turning to Murky and Tate. "I gotta go," she told them.
After the three babies shared a heartfelt goodbye, I bid a farewell to Mira and left.
"Where are we going now?" Citrus asked.
We were halfway there when Citrus looked at me and asked, "Why are you crying, Emmie?"
I smiled and wiped away my tears. When I didn't answer, Citrus took my paw in her hoof. Closing my eyes, I squeezed it tight, wondering where we were going to go from here.
The next day, I was back at the Ralander house. I still have no idea how Citrus talked me into going there again. At that moment, I never wanted to go back there - I was sure that, if I ever saw Mira smile sadly at me again, I'd start crying and would never be able to stop. And yet, there I was, sitting on the couch in the living room, watching my little sister and her new little friends watch some awful kids' show on Neovision. Mira had entrusted me to watch the three of them while she went out to do errands, so, suddenly, I was thrust into the role of babysitter.
I'm not quite sure what compelled me to get up that day. It was sort of like I just couldn't sit down anymore - like I had to get up and move around. So I did. Citrus, Murky, and Tate were too mesmerized by Usuki TV to even notice. So, after making sure that the font door was locked and deadbolted, I began to explore the house.
Now, I wouldn't exactly say that I was being nosy - I was just - I was just restless, and I really couldn't stand another moment of sitting on that couch. So I found myself wandering the small first floor, which consisted of the living room, the kitchen, a bathroom, and Mira's room, which I briefly poked my head inside of. The walls were orange, the floor was white, and the room was cozy, but sparsely furnished. There were paintings and sketches everywhere, mostly of landscapes, or Murky and Tate.
I found myself wandering upstairs aimlessly, as if under a trance; I guess I just really wanted to explore the house, but didn't want to feel guilty about it, so I sort of spaced myself out. Well, no matter how or why I was there, I was there - in the second floor hallway, looking blankly at four identical doors.
I'm not quite sure how much time I spent there, just standing there, but at one point a small voice behind me said, "Do you need to use the bathroom?"
I turned around to see Murky looking up at me.
"'Cuz there's a bathroom downstairs, but that's a bathroom, too." He pointed to a door directly to my right. When I said nothing else, he continued, "That's my and Tay's room, that's the guest room, and that's..." He trailed off. The little Ogrin was pointing to the last door on the right.
"That's what?" I pried, gently.
"That's Roo-oo and Mira's room," he said. Then, looking away from the door and at me, he added, "They used to live here. I think they were a Lupe and a Usul, 'cuz Mommy has lots of sketches of them stuffed under a box under her bed." He blushed. "Don't tell her I told you that. I'm not supposed to look at Mommy's art that she doesn't show us." The Ogrin looked down at the ground. "But Mommy's really good at art. I like to look at all her art when she's not 'round."
I smiled. "It's okay, Murk," I told him soothingly, "I promise I won't tell."
He looked at me and smiled. "Thanks, Emmie!" he cried, before running off to the bathroom. It seemed that he picked up my nickname from Citrus.
I watched him go inside before letting out a huge, long-contained sigh.
Then it struck me. The room that Ru and Merah shared - it was right there, the last door on the right. I really tried to keep myself from going inside - I really, really tried - but I couldn't help myself. At first, I decided to just turn the knob, because, I kept reassuring myself, it must've been locked. But when I lightly tried the door, it opened with ease, and when I slowly pushed it open, it didn't creak, not even once. It was obvious that someone went in there a lot, and even bothered to oil the hinges so they wouldn't creak and rust.
I flicked the switch, and the room was filled with light.
The room was black and white. Well, I say that metaphorically. Literally, it was like looking at two opposites rudely stuffed together in one room.
A long length of black duct tape ran right through the middle of the room, along the floor, up the walls and along the ceiling. On one half of the room - that half that must've been Merah's - there was a hot pink canopy bed with red pillows and light pink sheets; a white dresser covered in pastel doilies; a furry purple rug; a wall covered in posters depicting bands like Twisted Roses and Yes Boy Ice-Cream, as well as neat sketches and framed watercolor paintings of exotic places; a light green desk; and a beige shelf nailed to the wall, on which sat a gilded jewelry box and a neat row of vibrantly colored dictionaries.
The other side of the room was a different story. There was a blue futon; a black shag carpet; a locked treasure chest; a red armoire with the letters "R.R." painted on it in ebony letters; a wall half covered by a huge bookshelf, which was stuffed to the brim with books and trinkets; the other half of the wall, covered in framed, black-and-white photographs; and a larger, metal desk. On this side of the room - obviously Ru's - there was also a small, circular window, which had signatures scrawled all around it in various colors. I spotted the initials R.R. in black and red letters, as well as Merah's pink, curly-cue cursive.
I walked slowly through the room. Ten years ago, Merah and Ru were in this room, maybe talking to each other, maybe arguing. It felt strange - like I was in another world, a ghost realm.
I went over to Merah's side of the room and opened the gilded jewelry box. I'd never been very fond of jewelry, yet the contents of the box still astounded me. Everything was beautiful, from the golden chandelier earrings to the elegant, ruby-studded rings. However, my favorite was a plain gold ring hanging on a soft, silver chain; the ring spun and twinkled in the light, and it wasn't long before I'd latched it around my neck, with the ring hidden underneath my sea green sweater.
Then I went over to Ru's side of the room and scanned his trinket shelves. A leather watch caught my eye. Simple yet elegant, the leather was dark purple, and the watch itself, although cracked, just a little, was the prettiest shade of azure I'd ever seen in my entire life.
I strapped the watch onto my left wrist, then made sure it was concealed by my sweater sleeve. After that, making sure that I'd closed the door behind me, I went downstairs, wondering if that episode of Usuki TV was over.
To be continued...