Once you found your gift of light, cherish it and never lose sight, for He will come to claim as his own, and only you can turn him to bone.
Ah, that little poem again. The one which had haunted her since she was 9. Yet she knew that voice. She recognized the soft, wispy tone which had rocked her to sleep every night when she was little. She opened her eyes and glanced at her bedside table clock. 3 am. She got out of her bed slowly and dragged her feet towards the bathroom across the room. She stopped midway and looked briefly around her. The air was still, and a soft breeze came in from the window, which she had slightly opened last night. Her studio apartment was untidy, as usual.
Clothes were thrown, sprawled everywhere on the floor, and books piled on top of each other on her desk. Matrilineal and Patrilineal Cultures, read one, visible from the streak of light shining in through the window. Pictures of Hannah and Matthew framed beautifully on the desk shelf. A little star with a circle encircling it was pinned on her bulletin board. Her eyes moved swiftly to it and lingered there for awhile. Her mind was blank, yet her chest felt heavy. The image of the star had come to her one night in a dream and she had drawn it out, yet to find out what it means. She took a deep breath and looked away. The apartment is spacious and comfortable, with more than enough room for her queen size bed, her walk-in closet, a study table and a dressing table. She even has her own mini kitchen, which she seldom use of course.
Ever since she moved into her own place she never really cooked. It’s either takeouts or dinner with the Randalls. The walls of her room were painted in mauve, and the soft silk curtains billowing in the breeze were lilac. She never really wanted her room to be in that colour, she wanted it painted black, her favourite colour. But Hannah wouldn’t see to it. She was adamant that Raine had her room in light colours. “It’ll bring good karma,” she had said. “Plus, black makes it look smaller and well, gloomier,” Raine just shrugged and went along with it. Hannah had always been into karma, Feng shui and other spiritual philosophies. She has a deep belief that our actions, speech and how we treat each other affect the world order in a spiritual way. Very Buddhist, but not quite.
At 19, she decided to move out of the home she came to know, although The Randalls weren’t very happy with her decision, so by allowing Hannah to decorate her apartment however she liked was a way to make up to them. It’s the least she could do after all the things they had done for her.
The cold water that splashed on her face was soothing. She looked into the mirror in front of her and suddenly tears started to form. It has become a little tradition actually. Everytime she wakes up from a dream, she would cry over it. Her eyes start to swell and tears would form. Then when her pretty eyes couldn’t take it anymore, they flow down her face in beautiful crystal drops. Breaking down in little sobs, she shrinks down on her bathroom floor.
Why did you leave me? Why am I in this alone? No one would understand. No one would even believe. It’s our world. Not theirs. She went through the little riddle in her mind. She had understood some parts of the riddle, but not the rest. And it bothered her so much when she couldn’t pin down the answers. Gift of light. She scoffed. “More like gift of freakiness to me,” she said as she looked down on her palms. Pink blotches started to form on her fingertips. Then she could feel the warmth. “Give me light,” she whispered. Then suddenly a little spark shot out from her index finger, and a red flame danced on her fingertip.
Her eyes were fixed on the little flame. Is this a curse? The light from the flame burned her grey blue eyes. Yet she remained fixated. Her eyes glimmered over the small ruby stone perched from her right ring finger. The words, “Ardeo, Ardetis, Ardemus” were engraved along the silver rim. She had the ring in her possession for as long as she could remember. She was clutching it in her palms the night the Randalls found her on the steps of Whitaker Museum. It was the only thing that kept her warm throughout the cold winter’s night, alone and scared.
“What do you mean He? Who is He?” she asked loudly and looked up at the ceiling as if someone from the Heavens would answer her. She waited. Nothing. The air was still as before. In her mind she imagined the little flame to die out. She looked down at her index finger, and the flame was no longer there. She gave herself a faint smile, got out of the bathroom and went back to bed.
“Well, what do we have here? If it isn’t the one and only Raine Raidan, back from the dead,” he said ending with a little chuckle. “I guess you were MIA for a whole week you didn’t just fly off to Milan or wherever choking out on new clothes,” he scanned her from head to foot. She was wearing a black sweater over a black dress. Nothing unusual. She had her hair held up in a ponytail, yet it was still messy, strands falling down on her face as she was looking down, and her black sweater had a little embroidery of a rose, her dress folded right up to her thigh as she sat cross –legged. “Go away, Kaelan,” she said briefly without looking up. “You say that every time I come near you, and guess what, I never do,” Raine looked up from her book that she was reading. She blew out a puff of smoke and stubbed out the cigarette. Kaelan gave her a smile, flashing two rows of wonderful, white teeth. God, you really are good looking if you weren’t such a jerk, she thought. He propped down next to her without her permission. “So really, where were you this whole week? I didn’t see you in class, you didn’t return my calls. What’s up Raine?” “Nothing. I…I was just busy, you know. I just needed some time alone,”
Kaelan studied her. He was her best friend, and most probably, her only friend. He knew things about Raine most people didn’t know, and albeit they have been friends for nearly 10 years she couldn’t bring herself to tell him about her ability. He’s so normal, and she’s so different. There’s no way he could ever understand. And he being her only friend, the last thing she would want is to scare him away. “Does this has something to do with your dream?” he asked in a hushed voice. The dream. “Don’t let it get to you, Raine. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, maybe it’s just your mind playing tricks on you. But it’s certainly not worth to miss classes for,”
Raine shot an angry look at him. She may have been missing a lot of classes, but she is still one of the top students in her class. His statement was a little bit insulting to her ego. Her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed. “How can it not mean anything if I’ve been dreaming about the same thing for almost 13 years! The same dream, over and over again,” she hesitated, “Fine Kaelan, let’s just drop this ok? I’m too drained to even think about it,” She looked away from him, took out another cigarette, and set it alight.
“Ok, I’m sorry if I went out of line. Hey, let’s grab something to eat, why don’t we? I’m starved,” Someone called out his name. He turned around and waved towards a bunch of guys walking past. Kaelan’s football teammates. Raine just stared at them. They are the type of guys Raine consciously try to avoid, except for Kaelan. He’s just a bug. “Hi Raine,” a pleasant voice greeted her. She nodded and gave a weak smile so just to acknowledge it, without knowing who actually said it.
The Shabby Shack was crowded with Whitaker University students and a few groups of wannabe high school kids. There was never a time when the shack was empty. From outside, it looked, well, shabby, thus the name. It was a small wooden house, very old from the looks of it, and it has a nice wooden porch overlooking a small garden. There were seats arranged along the porch for smokers, or for those who would like to enjoy the summer sun with their meals. Raine glanced at the far left side of the porch. Empty. Good, she thought. It was her special spot. Whenever the place was occupied, she would tug at Kaelan’s sleeve and he knew that she’d rather go somewhere else. She’d rather have her chicken fajitas to go and sit on the rocks off the river bank behind The Shabby Shack, away from the deafening crowd.
Kaelan went inside to order their food while she sat at the table. Absently she took out her cigarette and lighted it. The amber on her cigarette grew brighter and danced for awhile on the tip as she gazed at it. Then it slowly burned softly. The couple at the table in front of her was busy making out, oblivious to their surroundings. So deep in their little heated passion. A few sorority girls were standing against the Shack’s wooden wall, gossiping away. A shrill laugh came from them and made Raine jumped. From the other end, Raine noticed someone was staring at her. He looked familiar. When he noticed that Raine was looking at him, he smiled and gave a little wave. Must’ve been one of Kaelan’s friends.
“Here’re your fajitas. I asked them to add more Tabasco in it since I know you love it,” Kaelan’s voice intruded her thoughts. “How thoughtful,” she said sarcastically. She adored Kaelan. More than he ever realized, but she was afraid to allow things to go beyond ‘just friends.’ She couldn’t risk that. “Hey, there’s Ryan,” he said and waved to the guy that had smiled to her earlier, sitting at the far end of the other side. Ryan nodded. “What’s up Kae?” his voice boomed across the porch. The gossiping girls stopped and glanced over at Kaelan. One of them gave him a little wink. The others giggled. How typical, Raine thought.
“Do you want to come over my place later at 7? Hannah and Matt are coming over for dinner. They’re bringing Chinese,” Raine asked casually. “Unless if you choose to ditch me and go flirt with the sorority lot,” she sneered and gave a mocking smile. “Choose you over them? Obviously them!” he laughed. “You know I never miss dinner with the Randalls. They are like my parents too. Hey, you remember when I fell off the bike in front of their house and you got so worried you actually cried? And Hannah came running out of the house with bandages and antiseptics and going all fussy over my little scratch? That was hilarious!” They both laughed at the mere thought of it.
They shared their joy and pain together, growing up side by side. Yes, the Terrible Two, as Matthew had called them when they were children. Raine was there for him when his parents got divorced. They were only 13. It was a painful experience for him, and she never left his side. She was there when he made it into the football team, and then when he was nominated as captain.
Kaelan was very supportive when she decided to move out of the Randalls’s house and into her own studio apartment, and helped her with the moving. He spoke to Hannah and Matthew on her behalf, comforting them that he’ll always keep an eye on her, and made sure she stays out of trouble. Raine was never good at those things. She was never good at showing her feelings to people, scared that people might think she’s vulnerable. Indeed, she has been portraying this strong, independent sense of self ever since she was a little girl that it just comes naturally. Only to Kaelan she trusted to show, even a bit, of vulnerability. Only to Kaelan she confided in. And only to Kaelan did she ever spoke of her dreams. And she made him promise to keep the secret until the day he dies.