I thought getting rid of the grandfather clock would help. I didn’t notice its sound from the start; at first, I had my head filled with all kinds of petty hopes and dreams to pay attention, and then later on, the house was never quiet enough to hear it.
It was only once Morgyn started taking Hawthorne over to the magic realm that her toddler babbling, her laugh and the sound of her little feet was replaced by the clock ticking. Mocking me, as if Morgyn placed it there all those years ago for the sole purpose of reminding me they stole my daughter for the day, the time that passed by in her absence. Tick tock.
So I smashed the bloody thing. Probably the last time I used any of my woodworking tools. It never occurred to me the silence would be even worse. Or that Hawthorne would start spending time away from me even without Morgyn, beyond the obvious of her going to school.
We were worried when she started school, but everyone loved her. At first, I took her to all the playdates.
But as she got older, your mum tagging along when you were spending time with your friends was far too uncool. That’s when the silence started creeping in.
At least it meant I didn’t have to go to spellcaster houses anymore. And for the most part, I had my job to keep me busy. It’s ironic, a mere human in charge of all the potion brewing at the Hex Shop. But it’s ideal. I don’t have to talk to any of the customers, and it gives me something to distract me, something to concentrate on – a single stir in the wrong direction or a poorly timed ingredient could derail a potion completely.
Turns out I’m quite good at it, too. The only part I can’t do is adding the actual magic, obviously.
But Emilia found a way to get around that too. She got Ollie to deliver a bag of motes to the shop twice a week. She said having a part time job is good for him.
Works for me. No way in hell would I go to the magic realm to collect them myself. I hate the place almost as much as I hate them.
I don’t know when the love turned to hate. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment. Maybe when Hawthorne was born. All I know is that even thought of Morgyn makes my blood boil.
Sometimes I even catch myself hating Micah. By association, I suppose. I want him to hate Morgyn the way I do, but he doesn’t. Still indulges them, at least from time to time, for some reason. I guess it’s none of my business. Strange. There was a time when I loved them both.
Sometimes I feel like I hate the whole world, apart from Hawthorne. But she’s leaving. Going to the one place I tried to escape from.
Micah is up. Means they will be going soon.
“You can finally leave now.” I tell him once he’s down the stairs.
He stops in his tracks. “What?”
I’m not sure if he’s actually confused or if he’s just being polite. But if he wants me to say it out loud…
“You have no reason to live here once she’s gone.”
Takes him a moment to respond. “Do you want me to leave?”
Do I? I don’t know. I’m used to him here. The house will already feel empty without Hawthorne. Can I really go from her loud presence to being completely alone?
“No.” I tell him.
“Then I’m not going anywhere. This is my home too, you know.”
I guess he doesn’t know what to do with himself either.
“You should probably set off soon.” I change the subject. Best rip the bandaid off quickly.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with?” He asks, his tone soft and mellow.
There it is again, that concerned look of his. Can barely stand it.
“I am not going near that village ever again.” I reiterate. Did he not hear me the first time I told him? Is this his newest display of high ground? If he tries to say it would do me good again, I’m going to scream.
“Right.” He sighs. “Where is Hawthorne?”
“Dandelion’s, I think.” I say quietly. That’s where she told me she’d be going anyway, before she locked herself in her room for hours.
“Have you said goodbye to her yet?”
I shake my head. I’m not ready for this.
He lets out another sigh. “I’ll go fetch her.”
Hawthorne comes in soon after. Tries to avoid looking at me. She seems emotional.
For all the tough talk leading up to today, maybe she is sad to be fleeing the nest after all. Makes me feel a little better.
“Are you all packed, sweetie?” I start, trying to keep a brave face.
“Yeah. Besides, whatever I forget, I can just get in Britechester.” She shrugs.
I don’t know what to say. “Don’t forget the plasma fruit juice. There’s a fresh batch in the shed, should last a good while if you keep it in the fridge. And-“
“Mum.” Hawthorne interrupts me. “I’ll be fine. Honest. Don’t worry.”
I nod. I find it so hard to put myself in her shoes, to guess what she might be thinking. When I was her age, I fled the exact place she’s going to. I never even wanted to hear of Gibbs Hill again.
Is she feeling the way I did when I left here? No, she can’t be. God knows Micah and I haven’t been the perfect parents, but she can’t hate it here the same way I hated it there… can she?
She fidgets uncomfortably. “Well, I guess I’ll go.”
I watch her stand up, as if in a dream.
“Wait!” I call after her. I rush to the door. “I want you to have something.”
My hand is trembling as I take my necklace off, placing it in the palm of her hand. Her finger slides over the key.
She looks puzzled. “You never take this thing off.”
“It used to belong to your grandmother.” I explain. “It’s all I really have left to remember her by. But I think it’s time you should have it.”
“It makes sense for you to take it. After all, you’re moving to your grandmother’s hometown. In a way, you returning with the necklace will be as if a small part of her came home. A full circle.”
“Thanks, mum.” She hesitates, but she finally puts the necklace around her neck. It suits her. “What was she like? Grandma?”
What was she like? I can barely remember. But I have to say something.
“She was strong. Did everything on her own. There was nothing she couldn’t do.” At least that’s what I thought, when I was little. “She was beautiful too. Had bright purple eyes.”
That seems to catch her interest. “Like Dandelion?”
“Very much like that, actually. Maybe that’s the reason why I liked Dandy as soon as I met him.” I smile.
“I think Dandy was the reason you liked Dandy as soon as you met him.” Hawthorne lets out a chuckle, but her laughter dies as quickly as it started.
There it is again, that look she had when she came in. “Anyway, I shouldn’t keep dad waiting.” She tells me.
I hug her tightly closing my eyes.
“I love you.” I tell her.
“You too.” She frees herself from my embrace far too quickly.
“Don’t forget the plasma fruit juice!” I call after her. But she’s already through the door.
“Daaad?” She calls out. “Can you come help me with the big suitcase?”
There’s commotion round the house as they lug all of her luggage down the stairs.
And then they’re gone.
Silence. What do I do now?
I decide to go over to Dandelion’s. Seeing as Hawthorne brought him up. I don’t see him as much as I should these days. That time I first met him seems like a lifetime ago.
He seems to be in a strange mood. I guess I can relate.
“Has Hawthorne gone?” He asks.
I nod mechanically. “Her and Micah are on their way to Britechester now.”
He looks at me funny when I sit down on the ground next to him, as if he’s debating what to say. “I saw her earlier.” He tells me. “Something she said… it made me think of Gemma.”
“Why?” I blurt out.
Hawthorne seeing Dandelion before setting off is not surprising. But there’s nothing about her that resembles that awful woman. I never could stand her, and that was before what she did to him…
I could have stopped it. I should have stopped it.
It was one of those summer festivals. Ollie invited Hawthorne to come, those two were inseparable back then. Oh how the times change.
I took Dandelion with me. He wanted to spend time with Hawthorne, but Micah and I were still wary after what happened the summer before. We’d usually only let Hawthorne to see him when we were both there. But she’d been good all year, and this was a public place… besides, I could use the moral support.
Dandy seemed to enjoy himself.
Me… not so much.
Because of course Morgyn just had to be there. And as per usual, Hawthorne was all over them.
Turned out I wasn’t the only one bemused by that.
“I see Morgyn is still playing house with your little make-belief family. How adorable.” Gemma appeared next to me.
It wasn’t like her to speak to me, much less seek me out.
“What do you want, Gemma?”
“Same thing I’ve always wanted.” She said simply, looking towards Hawthorne. Of course, it wasn’t Hawthorne she was looking at.
“Please, be my guest. Morgyn’s all yours.” I told her.
“Was not the case the first time around when you said that, and you know just as well as I do that that’s not the case now.”
What on earth was she talking about? First time around?
“Maybe your little vampire family caught Morgyn’s attention for longer than usual, but they will get bored. They always get bored.” Gemma continued. “And I can patient. I just need to kill time. If I manage to learn the rejuvenate spell, I might even have unlimited time…”
“Good for you.”
What else was I to say? I went to look for Emilia to shake the damn woman. It was too late when I realised how exactly Gemma intended to kill time.
Her voice was sugar-laced poison. “How has no one ever noticed a cute elf like you?”
He was completely taken off guard. “Me?”
“Who else, silly?” I can still hear her fake giggle now.
I tried to warn him. But he didn’t listen.
“Cordie, not everybody’s obsessed with Morgyn, you know.” He told me. “Gemma likes me. She actually likes me!”
But it was me who had to pick up the pieces.
“She… she said she doesn’t have the time to wait for an elf to grow up.”
Of course she even made sure to tell me she was working towards having an indefinite amount of time. But apparently that time was for Morgyn alone. She wrapped Dandelion around her little finger, only to discard him.
I knew she only did it to spite me. And still, I was powerless.
I still feel so angry about it. Maybe anger is the only real emotion I can feel nowadays.
I force my mind back to the present. “I assure you there’s not a single thread of Hawthorne that’s like Gemma Charm in any way.”
“I know that.” He agrees. “But am I? Gemma called me a child, when I didn’t really feel like one anymore. And I said something to Hawthorne… that maybe hurt the same way.”
What in the world is he talking about?
“You called Hawthorne a child? That’s hardly the same. She is one! I’m sure she was a little pouty like she always gets when she thinks we don’t take her seriously, but she’ll forget all about it before tomorrow.”
“Yeah… you’re probably right.” He trails off.
Reminiscing on Gemma Charm was not the kind of distraction I had in mind. But I suppose it is a distraction nonetheless.
Can’t feel like I’m falling to pieces when I fill myself with rage.
“Cordie, I don’t understand… this whole love thing, the pain it comes with… is it really worth it?”
“No. No, it’s not.”