Atticus of the Braithwolds
Raddix engaged the cabin’s old locking mechanism. The curtains were drawn. Daylight continued to seep in, but no eyeballs peered inside. He observed Indira take to one of the outer paths, and Angelica lead Sebastian to the House of the Moon.
“Atticus,” he started, drawing around Sebastian’s chair, sitting in it the proper way. He mused on the docile face. “That is your real name, isn’t it? I think that’s what it said on your papers.”
“Atticus Klein,” came the subdued response. “Why? What’s Sebastian’s real name?”
The smile came and went again. “Sebastian.” A shake of the head acknowledged the hollow portion behind the name. “I don’t know the rest of it. He comes from money. Shipping. I don’t mean—not distribution. But shipping. Ships. In Dartmouth, I think. He’s been in and out of my circle of friends for ten years. He put up a lot of money to help me start this place. This land is his.”
Atticus’s head perked. “That explains why he knows it so well. But why are you telling me this?”
“Because you don’t know anything about him. He’s one of the strongest spellcasters I’ve ever met. Planets, moon, sun, candles, crystals—give him a few tools and he can do anything. Sometimes the tools are superfluous.”
A burn ignited in the fringes of Atticus’s abdomen. The kiss he’d had an hour ago turned stale. “You think he did this to me.”
“You’ve never talked to the dead before. Have you?”
“Not that I remember. Maybe it was something latent in me.”
“But you haven’t had any recent traumas? Bumps to the head?”
Atticus was unamused. “No.”
“No deaths in the family?”
“No,” with greater force than before.
“Have you broken up with anyone? Or fallen in love? Sometimes the act of falling in love can be as much a catalyst as the broken heart you get from it.”
He thought it wise not to mention the kiss in the cottonwood grove. Sebastian hadn’t done that just to ground him. Atticus let his cheeks heat at the memory of eucalyptus, the split of his soul and the coming together of it again. “Go back to the part about this being Sebastian’s fault.”
Raddix refrained from intervening. “You’ll have to ask him that yourself. I saw him and Angelica go into the House of the Moon.”
Atticus switched his position, gaining comfort pacing the kitchenette. “I’m not confronting him there. I’ll talk to him when he comes back. He will.”
“I am sorry about this, Atticus.” Raddix meant it, his sympathy oozing from him as he patted the slim shoulder of his new friend. “Your first year with us, and this happens. I wouldn’t blame you if you never came back again.”
It was too premature to decide anything. “If it is a spell, Sebastian can fix it, and there’s always the possibility that it’ll wear off.”
“That’s true,” and Raddix nodded sagely. A strange remorse possessed him as he left the bothered young man.
Indira lighted candles and made him wear a pouch of herbs she called a gris-gris. Given its aromatic odor, not the repugnance of the revitalizing herbs she’s carried earlier, Atticus let the gris-gris hang around his neck, between his t-shirt and hoodie. She provided him with means of protecting himself, teaching him a dozen things he never wanted to know and never thought he’d taken for granted, like the earth beneath his feet and the white light that encapsulated him. What he understood when Indira left was far more than he’d understood five hours before.
He couldn’t believe this was happening to him.
Now he sat at the table, waiting for Sebastian.
Daylight had transformed to lavender and footsteps stopped outside the door. Atticus tugged the door in, and there stood Sebastian, wearing the black garments he was so fond of, his hair its constant mess, the headstock of the guitar visible behind his thin pale neck.
“I don’t want a song,” Atticus said, eager to quibble. Strong fingertips snapped the door to a close and ruffled Sebastian’s hair and clothes. “I want an explanation. Why did you do this to me?”
“Wow, leap right to it, don’t you? You didn’t even offer me a seat, a cup of tea, or, more sadly, a kiss.”
Whether Atticus had or hadn’t, Sebastian settled the guitar at the foot of the bed, and roamed into the kitchenette to check the tepidity of the teapot on the two-hob stove. Tea wouldn’t save him. Already, his hands shook and internal fears tangled him.
“What did Raddix tell you?”
“That you’re very powerful. More than you let on.”
“Did he say that, really? Nice of him.”
Atticus had no idea what to do. Again, he felt that pressure in his stomach, winding through his intestines. “And stop being nervous. I’m not going to hurt you. You’re making me nervous.”
“Ah, the great empath at work.” He stirred a quarter teaspoon of sugar into his tea, spun around to take the first seat at the tiny scarred table. Rather than let Atticus sit on his own, Sebastian guided him to the only seat he wanted him in: his lap.
Atticus had his hand grabbed, palm flattened against Sebastian’s abdomen. It felt hard, full of intense heat—but there was something inhuman and unnatural about it. He drew his hand back, anger extinguished in a second of recognition. “That’s what it was. All these months, I wondered. I thought you were nervous. Afraid.”
“I’m terrified,” Sebastian said, giving an insecure laugh. He rubbed his forehead against Atticus. “I am powerful. Since I was a little kid. My great uncle, the one you talked to, he remembered the folklore magic of our family, had the book of candle spells and remedies that our ancestors have kept for over a hundred and fifty years. He’s the one that taught me most of it.”
“But he died,” Atticus said, plucking information from the air, “when you were fifteen. And left you to pick up where he left off. You trained yourself.”
“Mostly. I had some help. But not for this spell. I did it on my own. Don’t worry, though: It only comes around at Samhain. Or it should, anyway. If it doesn’t,” he grinned lopsidedly, shrugged, “oops.”
Atticus tightened his eyes, the glow around Sebastian a distracting shade of white and pale blue. “But why me?”
“Well, chiefly it’s because I’m sorry to be so in love with you—madly, on par with a lunatic. And because you know what’s wrong with me. You probably know that if I proposed that we spend the rest of our lives together starting right now, that’d be about six to eight months, if you believe the more optimistic prognoses of my doctor.”
In his five years of knowing for sure that he was an empath, Atticus had never felt the weight of someone else’s cancer, had never even tried to. He flattened his hand again on Sebastian’s abdomen. “I believe in more optimism than what they’ve given you. I just met you. I don’t think we’re supposed to part that soon. Doctors don’t know everything.”
“But that’s why I cast the spell on you. I couldn’t stand the idea of dying and not having anyone who cared, no one to talk to from the other side. At least once a year you’ll be powerful enough to hear me, maybe even see me.”
Atticus seized a handful of Sebastian’s shirt, jostled it. “If you die. And if you’re as powerful as you say you are, you should be able to do what you can to fight.” The hand at his back pressed, deepening their closeness.
“It might be easier to want to fight it, now that I have a reason to stay, some love to put into the crusade. That’s what’s been lacking. Meanwhile, your Samhain is going to be very interesting, Atticus.”
“And very tiring. What’s that you said? Nothing grounds me better than sex. You’ve set yourself into a trap, Sebastian.” He blew out the nearest candle, then thumbed open the collar of Sebastian’s shirt. “You’re not leaving this cabin until Samhain is through.”
Sebastian’s exhilaration showed in a soft laugh. “Well, happy Samhain to us.”
studies, works and writes in her native Ohio. Check www.breezydaystories.com for any upcoming scribbles and releases.