The morning was yet early when I was called downstairs. I apparently had visitors and found myself at the top of the steps, looking down at Mark and…an older man with him. Could that be his father?
Better question was, what were they doing here?
I hurried down the steps where Mark hugged me and spun me in a circle. We had become good friends over the last two weeks. I showed him around the town when I wasn’t with Robert. I knew Robert would be sour if he knew that I was running around with another man.
“Hey Mark, how are you? What are you doing here?”
“I came to pick you up. Don’t worry, your mom showed us in. She met my dad.” He motioned at the other man. “She said its okay, as long as dad is there” I found that strange that my mother would allow this but…Perhaps she thought it’d be good for me or something.
I got a good look at his father watching us. He looked very much like his dad. His dad had blue eyes though. I wondered what happened to his mother but I didn’t want to ask. Instead I held out my hand to his father and he shook it.
“It’s good to meet you finally Cecilia” He smiled and he smiled so much like Mark.
“Thank you Mister Young, its good to meet you too” Then the three of us walked outside and to Mark’s car. Apparently, it had been a gift when he turned into a teen. His father valued freedom for him. I wish my mother was the same way. My father wouldn’t mind but he was always overridden by my mother.
We drove for a long while, talking all the while. Mark would not tell me where we were going though. He just grinned and said it was a surprise. We drove until the road became grass. I could feel the bumps in my seat and almost wished to be upon the back of a horse instead. Of course, that was uncomfortable the whole ride. At least the car could be cool or hot and it was so fast. I wish I knew how to drive one.
Soon enough we found ourselves at a little beach and I looked around at the lovely area. I had never been here before. I had never been permitted to go far from home though. This was a nice treat.
“Be good, Mark” His father came up and hugged him. “I have my phone if you need anything. Don’t forget to pick me up on your way back.”
“Thanks dad. I won’t” And then I watched his dad turn and begin walking down the road. I knew there was a tavern about a mile up the road, but I expected his dad to stay with us.
“Where is he going?” I asked Mark.
“Oh to the Dragon’s Tavern. He’ll wait for me there.” He smiled and shrugged. “He doesn’t want to hang around us all day. Anyway, are you hungry?”
He trotted out to his car and came back with a packet of…well he called them hot dogs. He put them on the grill. I watched him as he prepared them, asking him about life in the Other Worlds. He told me about the technology, the jobs, everything and I wanted it so bad that it made my stomach hurt.
Finally though, the food was done and we began eating. It smelt good and I couldn’t wait to take my first bite.
“Oh wow these are good!” I said after taking my first bite. As soon as I was done talking I went in for a second. Wow, I had never tasted anything like this before.
“We have contests back home to see who could eat the most of these.” Mark laughed when he said that. I tried to imagine the world he came from, filled with wondrous things and hot dog eating contents. I couldn’t.
“Anyway, I’m just glad you agreed to come on a date with me” He said, a smile playing on his face, his green eyes content.
I began to choke on my hot dog and had to hit hit my chest a few times to dislodge it. I cleared my throat and I put the hot dog down.
“D-date?” I squeaked out. I hadn’t realized he thought of…I had to stand up, I couldn’t look at him for a moment. I had to think.
I heard him stand behind me and I half-turned to glance at him. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what to say. Finally he said;
“We don’t have to call it a date if you don’t want to. I was mostly kidding” I noted how he said ‘mostly’ and I felt bad. I hadn’t told him about Robert. I couldn’t bring myself to.
Well, he changed his clothes in the bathroom and decided to sun himself on the beach. I began to play with my magic, just waving my wand, practicing my spells. Mark knew I was a witch but I had never used my magic in front of him before.
He rolled onto his side to look at me as I raised my wand once more. He watched me for a long moment and I glanced over at him.
“Do you like being a witch?” He asked me suddenly and I lowered my wand.
“I do.” I smiled. “I couldn’t imagine living without magic.”
“Hey” He said jumping up. “I got an idea. Let me go get changed” And then he ran towards the bathroom. I waited in the sand and he came back all changed. We got in his car and he drove off, even further into the countryside.
Further and further we went, into the woods. The road became cobbled and I wasn’t sure what that meant. I saw us pass two houses exactly. They were small, with farms next to them. I had never been out this far and whenever I questioned Mark on where we were going all he would say is “You’ll see”
We ran along the lake, heading quickly down the path. Mark said he wanted to be there before dark. So we hurried along the length of the lake.
Finally he stopped, pointing out the ruins of a water tower and a mine. He told me how he had explored around this area and found it. Apparently there were some ruins of some houses that he enjoyed poking around in. He apparently loved exploring outdoors and there was nothing wrong with that. He began to walk around, just talking.
He told me more about his friends back home. I told him about the few I had, back when I was a child. I had not seen them since I became a teen though and sadly they had probably forgotten about me by now.
Finally as night fell, we decided to spend a little while longer together, and we sat beneath the stars. I looked up at them with a smile on my face, feeling content. I felt like I was free. I had found my freedom.
Something warm covered my hand. I saw it was Mark’s hand.
Our eyes met.
I could no longer deny it. I had fallen in love with him.
A part of me regretted this. A part of me overflowed with happiness. Our eyes stayed locked for a long moment and I hope this moment would not end. But it did and we gazed into the sky.
We gazed and spoke softly, whispering sweet nothings. It was wrong, I know. I was betrothed. I shouldn’t have been spending time with another man at all. I couldn’t deny the instant attraction to Mark though. I was in love.
When we stood, he turned to wrap his arms around me, to bring me in for a kiss. I backed away, feeling tears in my eyes. I couldn’t. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was going to be married at summer’s end.
“But…Cecilia…” He whispered. “I…I love you”
“I’m sorry Mark. I’m sorry. I…I’m engaged…I’m…I’m to be married at the end of the summer” And just like always, I was a coward and ran away. I always ran away, tears streaming down my face.
I didn’t see the heartbroken look on his face as I left…
When I got home, I burst into the secret room below my house. My aunt was playing a sweet melody on her piano but she stopped with a jerk when she heard the door slam open. She turned and saw me, tears running down my face.
“Dearheart, what happened?” She asked standing.
A sob broke from my lips and I couldn’t say a word.
I just ran forward, burying my face in her shoulder, sobs shaking my shoulders now. She just wrapped her arms around me and held me close, whispering calming words in my ear. I had a feeling she knew what was wrong. She never asked again, she just comforted me.
That was all I needed at the moment.
Two weeks later and me and Mark were talking again. Sort of. He came by and apologized and we had gone to the park once but it was a pretty vain effort. It was clear we had affection for each other. I often sat around the house and thought about it. I sent Robert away most times he came to the house anymore. He was getting angry, I knew but I didn’t care.
As I sat around my house, trying to think about what to do about Mark and Robert, my mother sat on the couch beside me. She was silent at first but then finally she spoke;
“We need to buy your wedding dress soon.”
I felt my temper stir. The last thing I wanted to think about was the stupid wedding. It just reminded me about how I couldn’t have what I wanted. I was denied the right to be happy. I had to live the way others wanted to me. I was tired of it.
My face wrinkled with disgust and good thing my mother was looking away else she probably would have sent a minor freezing spell my way or something.
“I don’t want to get married mother” I said bitterly. Her face snapped to mine and she saw the look on my face. She jumped up and I followed her, not wanting t be bullied again. I was tired of being bullied.
“You will get married!” She yelled, pointing a finger at me. “You will not embarrass this family and you will marry Robert on the first day of fall. If you do not, you will have no home to come back to!”
“I already barely have a home to come back to! Everyone wants to rule my life! Everyone wants me to do what they want but I found someone who actually cares for me! And I love him!”
“You what?!” She snarled at me.
“I couldn’t help it!” I was suddenly defending myself against my mother’s rage. I had never seen her so angry.
“You will not see this boy again! You will not leave this house again!”
“You are the biggest disappointment” And that hurt when she said that. I felt tears behind my lids once more. She stormed off, angry beyond words. I stood there for a moment, trying to hold back my sobs while she could still hear me.
I sat on the couch once more, thinking about what had been said. I was thinking of Mark. I knew I had to talk to him again, if he’d forgive me. I needed to think though so I stood, walking towards the next room. There was a lovely view of the backyard and garden from there so I knew it would help me think.
I stood there for a long time and I heard footsteps from behind. I knew who it was just from the sound of their feet on the floor. Thy walked slowly towards me and they stopped a few feet away.
“I heard you’ve been hanging around another guy.” I didn’t answer him.
He grabbed my shoulder and spun me around saying, “I’m talking to you, wretch!”
“What would you like me to say Robert?” I asked him, feeling like I was at the end of my rope. “Anything I say, you’ll twist it. Yes, I’ve been hanging out with another man and you want to know the kicker? I’m in love with him”
“You are lucky I don’t throw you out the window!” He roared at me. I backed away, fearful that he might.
“You wouldn’t” I hissed, hopeful that it was true.
“You’re right. You’re worth too much to do that but I will warn you of this, do not see that man again. If you do, I’ll make sure he suffers” His threat made my blood run cold.
He turned and walked out of the room then, leaving me alone. It was what I needed though, I had finally made my decision.
“What are we here for?” Mark asked me, his voice wary. He didn’t trust me. I told him that this was super important and that’s the only reason he had agreed to come here with me.
“Just follow me” I headed into the room and down the stairs, he followed after me.
I stopped, watching him walk ahead of me, looking at the strange stone hallway. He didn’t ask where we were going again. He was probably confused but I could see he was also curious. He was brave, Mark was.
When we arrived my aunt was playing with her magic as usual. I didn’t know what she was making but I was sure it was something magical and beautiful. I wished I was as powerful as her. Then again, who knew how long she had been practicing her magic.
His reaction to my aunt was kind of funny. He backed away, raising his hands as Aunt Arya drifted towards him. She smiled at this, unbothered by his reaction. He had probably never seen a ghost before.
“Hello, child” She greeted him.
“Who…Cecilia, who is this?” He asked.
“I’m Cecilia’s Aunt. I died some time ago but, I’m still around as you can see” She paused, examining Mark for the longest time. “Would you like your fortune told?”
He tried to say no but soon found himself sitting while my aunt gazed into his future. He looked shocked. It was almost comical. My aunt chanted and cooed to the ball and it seemed to answer her, showing her pictures of Mark’s future. Perhaps our future?
I think Mark must have heard something himself for his face suddenly lit up and he smiled so brightly it was nearly blinding. I looked towards my aunt but she said not a world, she only smiled as well. Whatever he had seen, whatever he had heard, it clearly made him happy.
When it was over, all my aunt said was “Remember what you learned, Mark” and then she stood, walking away, back towards her piano. Mark looked at me and slipped around the table, a smile on his face.
“You know, I realized something after you brought me here” He told me, smiling brightly yet. Whatever he had learned from his fortune, it had made him cheerful.
“What?” I asked.
“That I love you and you love me too”
And then he kissed me and it was the sweetest thing ever. My heart melted and I knew my feelings were true. This was my first kiss ever and I was happy it was him kissing me.
When he pulled away, we were both grinning like fools. “And just so you know, I have a plan to get you out of here and away from Robert.”
And he told me and soon I felt true hope for the first time.
Night was falling on our Birthday. Summer was ending and it was time for us both to age up. Mark, myself, my aunt and his father all gathered in a secret place. I had snuck out of the house with the help of my aunt. Now, we were here to age up and then I would flee this place, never to return.
Mark held me for the last time as a teenager and I smiled, feel calm. I wasn’t scared, not anymore. I knew this would work. My aunt’s reading came back to my mind. She said I would leave this place and never return. Oddly I was okay with that. I had no desire to return to this place.
Mark went first and he turned out perfect of course.
And then it was my turn to find myself. I felt like I made it through okay. I stood proudly, my hands on my hips. This was the last time I would look upon the realm of Dragon Valley.
Mark came and embraced me. “You’re beautiful” He told me.
“You’re so handsome” I told him back and then he stepped back, smiling at me.
“Are you ready to leave this place behind?”
I raised my eyebrow at him, a smart smile touching my lips. “Do you think I’d back down now? Let’s get out of here, my love. We have our whole lives in front of us”
“That we do” He agreed. Then the four of us got into his car and disappeared into the night.