“Athena,” the witch moaned, eyes opening. “Where are you, my granddaughter?”
I whispered, quickly, “I have an idea, but you need to hide. I’ll convince her we’re alone and somehow get rid of her so we can escape. I know this neighborhood. We can go to Mr. Payne’s place. He’s nice.”
Brenden’s jaw set, and he whispered harshly, “You’re wrong, Athena! I’m in shadow. If we were in the Over Realm, I’d be golden. We’re in the Under Realm.”
“We don’t have time to argue, Brenden!” I cried. “Just do as I say, and I’ll figure this out. Hide!”
Brenden changed back into a book only the cover was a strange ebony color and his rays weren’t sparkly anymore.
Holly snatched him up and cried, “Where should we hide?”
“That closet by the stairs. But leave Brenden out. I may need him.”
Holly nodded and placed him on the coffee table as she pulled Francisco into the closet with her. Before he disappeared into it, Francisco whispered, “If you need anything, I’m just a whistle away. Got it?”
I nodded shooing him on before the witch fully awoke.
I couldn’t believe that witch was actually my grandmother. It was like a horrible dream I needed to escape. If she was truly Gran then I knew she loved me. Deep down. Maybe she would listen about allowing me to become the next Wishcaster or maybe I could convince her to tell that horrible Queen Casteen to call off the war. Anything! But then I remembered how she used magic to choke me. It seemed as if she’d wanted to hurt me in my backyard. How could she be my sweet Gran?
“Gran!” I called as she woodenly pulled herself to her knees.
She opened her eyes and stared at me for a moment, wiping her face then jumped to her feet. Flinging her arms out, she whipped around like she was about to cast a spell. “Where are the little brats? I’ll catch ‘em and roast ‘em, I will.”
Then her eyes caught mine like a mouse in a trap. “Ah…there you are, Athena.”
My heart leaped. Trying to hide any fear in my voice, I swallowed and said, “Hi, Gran. What’s up?”
“Where’s your grizzly little friends? One of them almost throttled me with their grimy fingers.”
She jerked her head toward the closet so I blurted, “Um…Gran! I’m the only one here, but I’m so confused! What’s going on? How did I get to Scotland so fast?”
The witch scratched her chin and shuffled over to me. “Why are you here in the dark, sweetheart. Turn on the lights at least.” Waving her hand, the lights flashed on.
“So, you’ve accepted the truth that I’m your Gran, eh? I’ve always known you were a smart child.” She batted her eyelashes at me. “Athena, I’ve dreamt of the day when I could take you to Queen Casteen and show her what you truly are.”
I squinted. Shivers rolled down my back. “What am I, Gran?”
My grandmother walked to her gargoyle chair and plopped into it. “That’s a wee bit of a long tale which I don’t have time to tell. Suffice it to say, you’re a bit of a…um…how do I put this delicately?” She lifted her eyes in thought then stared straight at me. “A mutt.” It came out as “moot” in her Scottish accent.
“Mutt?” I’d used that term for my dad because of his mixed ancestry, but talking to a known witch who was probably my grandmother, I decided I didn’t want to learn anything more.
I widened my eyes, trying to distract her. She loved to cook and I knew if she was busy in the kitchen, my friends and I could escape. “So, Gran, I’m hungry. Do you have anything around? Toad in the Hole? Turtle Stew? Eye of Newt?” I tossed that last one in for kicks.
She sighed looking at me like a prized stallion, ignoring my questions about food. “Oh, I can’t wait until Casteen releases you from your shroud and then, me sweet, she’ll see what an exciting eerily ethereal creature you really are.”
I didn’t like her choice of alliterative adjectives. Especially when referring to me. “Before I meet this queen, I have another question.” I stared straight at her. “If you are my Gran, why did you want to kill me at my house?”
The witch cackled which sounded strangely like my Gran’s laugh. “I would never hurt you, me lovely. I did what was necessary to bring you here. Times are dangerous now. You cannot fall into the wrong hands. Once your teacher, Ms. Claxton, told us that a Wish Book had found you, I knew the time of your revealing had come. You’ll understand all soon enough once we visit the queen.”
Ms. Claxton? Huh. I’d called her a witch all year. Too bad I was right.
“But what about my parents? Are they okay with this?” I asked.
She dusted her arms as if wiping off cobwebs. “I don’t know what that globstroppet of a father you’ve got thinks. Your mother and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. She was raised by her father who was an elf.”
My stomach dropped. “My mother…is an ELF?”
“Half elf. Half witch.” She smiled indicating herself. “Oh, your grandfather was a wonderful man, Great Guardian rest his poor soul. Handsome, too. He swept me off me feet when I was just a wee witchling. Now, it’s quite uncommon that a Middle-realmer and an Under-realmer would ever…um…how should I put it…”
“Hook up?” I curled my upper lip just thinking about my grandparents. Gag. I remembered my grandfather. He didn’t have any elfish ears. He was unusually tall and thin, but hey, lots of kids’ grandfathers were tall. And yeah, I knew my Gran and Gramps had split when my mom was young, but still…my whole ancestry had been a lie. “What’s my father then? A troll?” I almost laughed. This sounded so ridiculous.
My grandmother shook her head. “If only that be true, lass, I’d be the happiest mother in the Under-realm. Trolls are Under-realmers, you know.” She wiped her lips in disgust. “No, your father, from what I can gather, is a rather dull, stupid, and disgusting creature of the Over-realm. Against me wishes, Serena met him while doing engineering work in the Over-realm. She’s a tinker by nature and fell in love with Over-realmer things.”
This was getting wilder by the second. My parents lied to me. To Zelda. About everything! “I thought they met at a park in San Myshuno?”
Gran glanced at a clock. “Oh dear, look at the time! You need to get ready. I’ve almost completed your outfit. You’ll be a sight to see for the queen, me darling dee.” Granny hopped out of the chair, skipping around, she was so excited. I could almost see my true, sweet Gran that I’d always known inside of her. “Let me be off for a moment, lass. I shant be long. Okay?” She blew me a kiss.
I caught it like I always had and plastered on a fake smile. “Okay, Gran.”
She winked then turned and sauntered toward her bedroom.
A cloud of blue radiance shimmered, revealing Brenden once she had gone.
“So! You are a witch! And an…an…elf! And who knows what else?” Brenden glared at me in disgust.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” His words hurt. I couldn’t help what I was. Whatever horrifying darkness was inside me, I was still me. I didn’t feel any different from a normal human girl. And I was good. I didn’t care who had birthed me. Or what.
Holly and Francisco burst out of the closet. “Good grief, San Fran. Use a little deodorant, will ya?” Holly said wrinkling her nose.
Francisco smirked. “Hey, don’t think you smell like a pile of roses. Mints help halitosis, you know.”
“Guys!” I whispered. “We don’t have time! Gran is about to come back. We’ve gotta go. Now!”
Brenden glared, his dark eyes punching me in the stomach. “I’m not going anywhere with an evil Under-realmer.”
I couldn’t believe it. The one person I really looked up to now hated me. And why? Because of something I couldn’t help. “Fine!” I cried, holding back tears. “Stay here. See if I care!”
Francisco thrust a finger in Brenden’s face. “Say another mean thing to her again, wimp, and I’ll turn your face into a permanent doily.” He flipped Brenden’s flouncy collar.
Holly glowered at Brenden, pushing past him. I saw Brenden tilt his chin down and frown. Maybe he felt bad? I didn’t care. I was so mad.
Creaking open the kitchen door, Holly peered around the corner. “All clear,” she whispered.
We slipped through the kitchen and out the backdoor into the misty night.
Next update Monday, December 12th.