Disclaimer: Hawthorne’s in this one, so language, again. Maybe I should just say ‘Hawthorne’ in the disclaimers…
Dandelion looked around the pink-tinted room. It had been a long time since he last visited Magic HQ, this part especially. But Hawthorne was right. He deserved answers.
Not that he was sure he was going to get any of those. He had no plan. It was not his way to strategise. Times like this made him feel like that was a mistake, but what would be the point of anything if he had to sacrifice who he was?
He sighed and knocked on the door to Lulu’s bedroom. The room didn’t look particularly familiar, but he wasn’t sure if that was because he’d forgotten what it looked like, or if changed so much since his last visit. Perhaps the same could be said of the mischief sage herself.
“Hi, Lulu.” He said awkwardly, not knowing what to do with himself. He wasn’t used to this. Seeing people he didn’t really want to see. One of the perks of living in Sylvan Glade.
Her eyes widened. “Dandy! Goodness me…” She paused for a moment. Seemed she too didn’t know what to say. Not like her. “I missed you.”
Did he feel the same way? Her words caught him off guard. He had missed her once. When he was much younger, and she’d seemingly forgotten all about him. Things were different now. It was his decision to distance himself from her after how she’d treated Cordelia. But why did he feel conflicted?
“I…” He got stuck right off the bat. He didn’t want to lie to her, claim to reciprocate the sentiment if it wasn’t true… But wasn’t it? Was it possible to miss someone he’d chosen to avoid on his own volition?
Thankfully, Lulu put an end to his struggle. “Why don’t you sit down while I get ready?” She gestured towards the bed.
“What are you getting ready for?” He asked, partly out of curiosity, partly because he had no idea how to bring up the actual reason he came over.
“I take it you’re not here for the pity party Morgyn’s throwing themself, then?” The sage smirked as she started to apply her makeup.
“The what party?” He raised an eyebrow, sitting down on the bed behind her.
What was it about Morgyn that made people this way, Dandelion wondered? He still didn’t get it. He’d never been a fan of Morgyn’s, and over the years, plenty of reasons piled up to keep it that way. As far as he was concerned, Morgyn could go flush themself down a toilet for all he cared. But that was precisely it. Dandelion couldn’t care less what Morgyn was up to. Why did Cordie and Lulu not feel the same way?
“Apparently, things didn’t go their way during the Winterfest dinner with their little play-pretend family.” The mischief sage gloated. “I suppose you were there, so you probably know more than I do…”
“Nope.” Dandelion interrupted her. “Nothing weird. Well, it was weird, but those dinners are always awful.”
“So why do you go?” Lulu asked him. “Every year I invite you to the magic realm for Winterfest, and every year you turn me down. If those dinners are so awful, then why do you insist on taking part?”
Because someone had to make them more bearable, Dandelion thought, but he saw no point in trying to explain that to Lulu.
“What do the dinners have to do with anything anyway?” He tried to change the subject.
“Well, Morgyn’s been in their diva mood ever since, like they always get when they don’t get what they want, so they decided we’d have a New Year’s Eve ball. Can you believe it? I can barely remember the last time we had a formal dance in the realm…”
Dandelion looked at her reflection, her face as she blabbed away. This made no sense.
“I can remember. And I bet you do too.” He called her out. Sure, he was a child at the time, but was she really expecting him to not remember the night of her ascension ceremony, and what was more, expecting him to believe she did not recall that herself?
Lulu frowned. “Why are you here, Dandy?”
There was no way around it. Might as well cut to the chase. “Can I borrow the key on your necklace?”
Her body tensed up, her expression frozen. She stared at him through the mirror for the longest time.
Eventually, she put her makeup brush down and walked over to him, eyeing him up and down as if he was some kind of stranger.
“And why would that be?” Her voice was cold.
The look on her face scared him. He’d known her his whole life, or as long as he could remember, at least. But it certainly didn’t feel that way right now.
“Is there something wrong with the key, Lulu?” He asked her.
“There’s nothing wrong with they key.” She sat down beside him, her movements stiff and alien. “But everything’s wrong with why you want it.”
This was ridiculous. “Then why don’t you tell me why I want it? You seem to know better than I do, anyway!” He snapped at her.
“Isn’t it obvious? You want it because she asked you to get it!” The sage’s voice errupted. “For twenty years she acted like she didn’t have the slightest clue, almost had me fooled, but turns out I was right all along, wasn’t I?”
“Cordie didn’t ask for the key. She doesn’t even know I’m here!” Dandelion could feel his ager rising.
“Don’t you dare lie to me!” Lulu screamed.
That was the final straw. Dandelion couldn’t take it anymore.
“Lie to you? I’m lying to you?” He yelled at her. “All my life you’ve kept the truth from me, whatever secrets you’re keeping about Cordie, about the key, about where we came from! And now you’re accusing me of lying?”
“I did that for you, damn it! You get to be sweet, trusting, look for the best in people, even when they don’t deserve it. There’s nothing but pain in the past. You will not be better off for knowing it. And now you paint me as the bad guy for protecting you from it?”
Dandelion didn’t reply straight away. “I didn’t ask for you to protect me.” He said slowly. The need to yell was gone. All he was left with was hurt. “I didn’t ask to be sweet and trusting. All I asked for was the truth, and you’re still not telling me, even now. What gives you the right to make my decisions for me?”
“The fact that I know better.” She stood up, bringing the conversation to a close.
Was that all she was willing to say on the subject? Dandelion couldn’t believe it. But it appeared to be the case.
She walked over to the other side of the room, took off her necklace, and placed it in a metal box before uttering some kind of charm. No doubt to keep it sealed.
“You best leave.” She said, avoiding his gaze, her tone flat. “I need to take a shower before the ball.”
“You’ve already done your hair and makeup.” He stated the obvious.
“I clearly can’t go to the ball like this…” She replied, shaking. “But you’re right, I needn’t have bothered. Should have known you’d come over and make such a state of me. Should have known from the day she showed up in Glimmerbrook.”
She finally looked at him. I almost looked as if she was about to cry, but her stance was defensive, arms folded.
“We both know you don’t want to be here. And we both know I’m not giving you the key. So what’s left to say?”
Dandelion stood up, as if in a dream. He could hear her turn the shower on in the adjoined bathroom as he left the room.
He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this.
The sprites greeted him on the other side of the door. They were bright purple. Dandelion had never seen them purple before. What did that mean, he wondered?
They had a way of making it through walls and doors, appearing in the least likely of places, he thought.
Which gave him an idea. If the sprites could do that, wouldn’t they be able to get the key out of the box somehow? It was worth a try…
Before he knew it, the key was in the palm of his hand. He wasn’t even sure how, exactly. Did the sprites do what he hoped, or did they open the box for him? Was it even the sprites that did that?
He closed his fist, wrapping his fingers around the cold metal.
Was he really about to steal the key from Lulu, against her wishes? Hawthorne would be proud, he thought to himself. Not giving up, looking for unconventional solutions and loopholes… maybe she’d officially corrupted him.
Hawthorne congratulated herself on the decision to come back to Britechester for New Year’s Eve. Felt good to be back in Britechester.
In a way, it felt as if she never left, the short week back in Glimmerbrook a distant memory now. Her roommate was definitely back in top form.
“That dude has not stopped staring at you all night!” Chloe’s words were slurred. She wrapped her arms around Hawthorne, clinging on to her for balance.
“Show me your secrets.” Chloe whispered, drawing closer.
Hawthorne wasn’t all too sober herself, but she still smelled the alcohol on her roommate’s warm breath as she leaned in towards her. And then…
She wasn’t sure who kissed who. To Hawthorne’s surprise, Chloe was actually a pretty good kisser. Her lips were soft. The pulse surging through her neck… A sensation Hawthorne hadn’t quite experienced in years came over her. That calling…
She thought she knew the craving for blood. But this was different. For all the random guys whose blood Hawthorne tasted during her first semester, this was the first time she wasn’t all that confident she’d be able to stop if she followed through with this.
As if on cue, her father’s face appeared in front of her. His sorrowful expression when he was trying to explain to her why she couldn’t drink from Dandelion back when she was a little girl. In a sense, she felt just like that little girl now.
If you hurt him too much, he’ll be gone forever. No more memories. Not the ones you saw, and not the new ones, the ones he’ll make with you. Do you understand?
Maybe she really only understood now. She pushed Chloe away.
“A little forceful, if you ask me.” Chloe shrugged. “Though I can see how the guys would be – into it. Damn it. Hiccups. I’m gonna go – find a drink. You want anything?”
“I’m good.” Hawthorne said sharply. That was too close. She hadn’t felt that kind of draw since she buried her teeth into Dandelion’s throat twelve years ago. She had to feed, stat.
Hawthorne considered her options. She could run back to Drake Hall quickly and grab one of her fizzed juice bottles from her room. Her hall wasn’t far from Wyvern… but would she make it back for midnight?
Luckily, she had alternatives…
Dandelion looked around the room uncertainly. The Britechester campus was completely out of his comfort zone. He already got lost twice, and when he finally found Drake Hall, the place was deserted.
Everyone’s at the party in Wyvern Hall, well, everyone who doesn’t take exams seriously, which is almost everyone, some grumpy student informed him.
He didn’t have much time to look for Hawthorne when he got to the party, a blonde girl approached him almost right away.
“Hey there, cutie!” She squealed, stumbling over to him.
“You must be new, I know, like, everybody.” She continued. “Your eyes are so cool! You wearing contacts? And what’s with the hood? I can’t handle this much mystery…”
“I’m looking for Hawthorne.” He ignored her questions. Time to find out if she really did know everyone.
“Of course you are,” she giggled for some reason. “Hawthorne and her boys… But she’s, uh, busy, if you know what I mean.”
Dandelion suddenly felt silly. He got on the train to Britechester as soon as he got the key… Was it all a mistake? He wasn’t used to being around this many humans.
“Do you know where she is? I’m her friend from home.” He explained. “There won’t be any more trains back tonight, and I’ll need somewhere to stay… won’t keep her long if she’s doing something important.”
His words made the girl laugh. “I’m sure she’s not doing anything – or anyone – that important. Let’s go find her.”
The girl kept talking as they made their way through the room, asking how long he’d known Hawthorne and such.
But when they did find Hawthorne, Dandelion forgot all about the blonde.
“Whoa, that was… I’m a bit lightheaded.” The boy Hawthorne was with exhaled, leaning onto the wall. “Imma go chill for a bit, but find me later, yeah? We need to finish…”
Hawthorne seemed to be paying no attention to him. “Shit! Dandy!”
Dandelion watched the guy stumble away. “Who was that?” He asked.
“No one!” Hawthorne’s voice rose up a few octaves. “I don’t know. No one that matters. Dandy, it’s not what it looks like. I didn’t actually sleep with him…”
“I think it’s exactly what it looks like. You have blood on your lips.” Dandelion pointed out.
“Listen, can we talk?” Hawthorne pleaded with him. “Outside… how come you’re even here?”
“I’ve got the key.” He told her, feeling worse and worse about his decisions from earlier that evening by the minute.
Her eyes widened. “No way! Holy fuck… ok, you’ve gotta come with me now… please?”
Dandelion sighed. He couldn’t have come all the way from Glimmerbrook for nothing. “Ok.”
“Look, a sprite!” Hawthorne whispered as they headed out.
Sure enough, he saw the fae fluttering before them. Bright purple once again.
“That’s gotta be a good sign, right?” Hawthorne grinned in the sprite’s direction.