I couldn’t sleep that night. I remember feeling like I’d never be able to sleep again. Every time I shut my eyes, I saw his face. He was smiling, laughing…sometimes even yelling at me for saying the wrong thing. What I would give to have him yell at me like he used to, just one more time. I pulled myself up off of the bed and wiped the tears that I hadn’t even realized were streaming down my face. “Why did you have to leave me,” I mumbled to myself, as if Ethan could hear me. “Why did they shoot you? What did you ever do?”
A sporadic series of knocks on my window caused me to jump and launch from my spot. I instinctively grabbed the wand from the top of my dresser and held it behind my back. “Who the heck is knocking on my window?”
“Alistair, it’s me!” Madelyn called. “Open up.”
“What the hell are you doing here so late?” I asked, but leaned over and hoisted her into my room anyway.
“I thought you’d still be upset tonight, so I decided I’d stop by and spend the night,” She said innocently. “In case you wanted to hold someone.”
I couldn’t stop the wide smile from forming on my face, but I had to ask. “How do your parents feel about this?”
“They hate your guts, and they’d be even more angry knowing that I’ve slipped out of my house to come here,” Madelyn answered. “But, my boyfriend needs me. I don’t care what they say, and no matter how many times you tell me to go home, I won’t. It’s really late anyway, and I rather not have to make the long way home.”
“Are you trying to guilt me?” I asked. She ignored me and laid across my bed. “Maddie.”
“Just come here, I know you’re tired.” She reached out her arm to grab me, but dropped it, too lazy to get up.
“You’re the tired one,” I said, climbing into the bed next to her. “Why would you come all the way over here so late?”
“Because I love you, and love makes you do stupid things,” Madelyn answered. “I love you, Alistair. I don’t want you to have to deal with this alone.”
“You won’t ever let me deal with anything on my own, will you?” I asked, snuggling close to her. She was so amazing, coming all the way here, for me..
“Nope,” She murmured. She was on the verge of sleep. “You–”
“Shh….” I whispered, stroking her soft hair. “We’ll talk in the morning. Just get some sleep, okay? I love you too.”
She didn’t answer, but I could see her smile. I was so happy to not have to stay alone tonight. I was afraid of waking my father up…he would have been even more upset than me and we’d spend the night crying ourselves to sleep. Neither of us needed that. We had expended all of our tears already, or so we thought. Kissing her forehead, I mumbled, “I love you so much,” before I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
“Wakey wakey Mr. Gray,” A familiar voice rang out.
“What the hell?” I shielded my eyes from the incoming light. It was morning already?
“Do you know what today is?” The voice asked.
I rubbed my eyes. “Xerxes…right?” I mumbled.
“Yes, Alistair. We already went over this before, how many times do I have to come back and tell you that you need to come with me?” Xerxes asked impatiently.
“First of all.” I looked up at him. “Not here, my girlfriend is sleeping. She doesn’t know about my…powers.”
“You should really tell her, but no worries, she won’t be in the way.” The genie snapped his fingers and Madelyn disappeared.
“What the fuck?” I nearly shouted. “What did you do to her!?”
“Relax, she’s asleep in her own bed now. I can explain everything, but we don’t really have any time,” Xerexes began. “You need to come with me right away.”
“No,” I said angrily. “My dad just died a few days ago. There is no way in hell that I’m leaving my father all alone here.”
“If you don’t do it, who will find your brother and sisters?” Xerxes asked.
“This isn’t about them at all,” I said. “It’s about your stupid future plan. I get it, my dad made a deal with you. Fine, but there has to be another way for me to help you out without leaving my dad alone here.”
“Unfortunately.” Xerxes looked away. “It’s really not that simple. You’re a wizard, plain and simple. There’s only one person on the planet right now that can teach you everything you need to know about your powers, and then from there you can find your siblings, and figure out who killed your father.”
I grinded my teeth. “What the hell do you know about who killed my father?”
“I don’t know much, except for the fact that he doesn’t have any enemies here. He flew under the radar in Sunlit Tides, but back in Moonlight Falls, I can think of one person at least who’d want him dead. I have no doubt in my mind that that’s where he was when he was shot. He knew the dangers, yet, he returned. I wonder why…”
“To find my siblings!” I nearly shouted. “Why else would he go somewhere where he knew he could get hurt!” I was livid. Not because of what was being said about my father, but because my dad knew. Ethan knew all along that he’d died if he went there. Xerxes just confirmed that. Why would my dad risk all of that for kids that he didn’t really even raise from birth? Was I not important? Did he think of what I would feel when he didn’t return? Did he think how I would feel utterly alone despite the family surrounding me? Did he realize that he was the single most important person in my life?
“Alistair, enough,” Apollo said sternly.
“Dad?” I whipped around to face him. “Look what you did, you woke up my father….”
“I apologize,” Xerxes said sincerely. “But, this isn’t an issue we should be debating right now. We all know that Ethan is dead. Apollo.” Xerxes turned to face him as well. “I wouldn’t doubt it if Damian had anything to do with it.”
My dad shut his eyes. “That’s what I was afraid of. Damian is powerless here, but in Moonlight Falls, he can do anything.”
“Listen to me, I know that you guys are grieving, but….” Xerxes paused for a moment. “I don’t like this anymore than you do, but Damian has to be stopped and I think Alistair can do it. He knows all of the spells that Ethan knows. If he trains under Lucas, he can become a real force to reckon with.”
“Why now?” My father asked softly. “Can’t this wait?”
“It cannot,” Xerxes said definitively. “We’ve tracked down Pandora. Just as I’ve feared, she’s working with Mason. We’re keeping a close eye on them, but we’re afraid that he’ll make an alliance with Damian. Pandora has the family ties that will no doubt distract Alistair, Mason has the power of time travel, and Damian has the influence. Together, not even the guardians can take them down.”
“I don’t believe that,” I said harshly. “Stop lying. Pandora wouldn’t be working with that man, why would she!?”
My dad looked at me sadly. “I’m not really shocked. She was raised by him, so I don’t doubt that she’d be working for him. But, she’s lived with us for such a long time, I can’t let her go that easily. You can’t let her go. You can do something. I think you should go with him.”
“You read that book that Xerxes gave you awhile back, right? The one about our family history?” I nodded. “That’s all fact. Your great grandmother put a lot of effort into creating this legacy. If it isn’t to help the guardians, I think that you should go and meet your grandfather and talk to him. You can really learn a lot about your magic, and I think he could use the closure as well.”
“Grandfather?” I asked, puzzled.
“Lucas is the most powerful wizard in all of Moonlight Falls, if not the world. He keeps watch over the wizards, and they trust him. He had a falling out with his son…Ethan. I…maybe you should hear it from him. If you go and talk to him, you can both give each other some closure.”
“What about you?” I asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I want you to go out and live your life. Magic is a part of your life, and I think that you should explore it fully. Of course I’m terrified. Damian is a terrible person. He almost killed me, and the only reason that I’m alive is because of Ethan. But, you’re not a regular human. If you can save those people from his rule, it’d be an incredible thing. And who knows, you might find your siblings on the way.” He patted my back. “I’ll survive by myself.”
“No you won’t,” I murmured. “You told me not to do anything stupid.”
“Xerxes will protect you, like Frost Bite did for me. There is no way that he’ll let you did, isn’t that right?” My dad looked over my shoulder.
“Mhmm, I will be there every step of the way. I’ve already prepared a place for you to stay, with other wizards. Everything is already covered. Alistair…I want you to find your siblings just as much as you do. I want you to live your life, but I know that you can’t limit yourself. You’re destined for great things. Embrace it,” Xerxes said.
“He’s right, Alistair. Just go with him. I’ll hold fort.” My father placed his hands on my shoulder. “I need you to go and find yourself. You’ll destroy all of your potential if you stay. You deserve more than this miserable life. If you stay here, what are you going to be living for? Just me? What kind of a father would sit back and let their child stay trapped? I know what I said before, about wanting you to never leave, but that was just me being selfish. If you love something, you need to set them free. I love you more than anything, and I want you to escape this place. Meet your grandfather, find someone that you can spend your life with. Come back when your life starts to fall in place. I know better than anyone that sometimes, you need that escape.”
“I have someone,” I said breathlessly. “Madelyn is here. I love her. And Emil, what about Emil? He needs me here, people talk about him when they pass him by. They call him insane. He’s different, and I need to protect him. And you-”
“No.” My dad cut me off. “Don’t talk about me. I already told you that I’ll be fine. As for Emil, Madelyn is strong. She can watch out for him. Don’t underestimate him. He may not be as different as you think.”
“You don’t think….” A smile suddenly spread across Xerxes face. “Ahh, I get it. Apollo, you may be right about him after all!”
“What the hell does that mean?” I asked, sitting down on my bed.
“It just means that you don’t need to worry about your friends. They’re fine. I just don’t think that you should go without saying goodbye. Don’t tell them where you’ll be going. That’s where things get a bit complicated, but do tell them that you’re leaving,” My dad said.
“Fine,” I mumbled, standing up.
“What’s so important that you had to call us over?” Madelyn asked. “Are you going to explain how I ended up in my own bed this morning?”
“And you call me insane?” Emil rolled his eyes.
“I swear, I was sleeping with Alistair last night!” She covered her mouth. “I didn’t mean like that, I just meant sleeping!”
“Right, goody two-shoes wouldn’t do anything more than sleep in a bed,” Emil smirked.
“Oh shut up!” She said angrily. “I snuck out of my house last night to see Alistair-”
“She did,” I confirmed, tired of hearing the two bicker. “But, we drove you home because you said you weren’t feeling well. You don’t remember?” What else could I have said to her? That some genie poofed her home? Totally believable.
“No, I don’t, are you sure?” Madelyn asked.
I nodded. “I’m positive. I’m sorry for inviting you out when you’re still not feeling well.”
“Nonsense.” She shook her head. “I’m fine now, and you said this was important. What’s up?”
“I’m not going to Sims University,” I said cautiously.
“Is it because of your dad?” Madelyn asked. “I understand, he needs you here. But, if you’re staying, I want to stay too.”
“No, it’s not like that,” I said. “You need to go to Sims University, it’s your dream school. I’m not going to college at all. I’m leaving town.”
“Leaving town? What do you mean?” Madelyn asked. I could hear the confusion in her voice. I was feeling the exact same way.
“You’re moving?” Emil frowned. “But, we need you here.”
“No you don’t,” I mumbled, looking away from their heartbroken faces. “You guys have each other. You’ll be fine.”
“No we don’t,” Emil said. “I’m not going to Sims University either. In fact, I’m not going to uni at all. I’m just going to get a job and start working. I’m not cut out for four more years of school.”
“Emil!” Madelyn whined. “Not you too! I’m definitely staying here. I can’t leave you guys.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” I turned to Emil who nodded. I reached out and pulled him into a tight hug. “Good luck man. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but, you better be here when I do.”
Emil nodded. “You too man, do what you need to do. I’ll be here when you get back.”
“Alistair,” Madelyn pleaded. “Tell us why you’re leaving.”
“This town…it brings up too many memories of my father,” I murmured, only half lying. “I can’t stay here and watch my my dad suffer like this. He needs some space, and he told me that I need to go and find myself. So that’s what I’m doing. I know I can’t find myself at Sims University…”
She grabbed my hands. “Don’t leave me!”
“Stop,” I mumbled, looking away. I couldn’t stand the heartbreak written across her face. “I have to go and do this. For me. Please don’t try to stop me.”
“I love you,” She murmured.
“If you love me, set me free,” I repeated my dad’s wise words.
“Where will you go?”
“I don’t know, wherever it takes, but I promise that I will be back. Don’t wait for me…move on.” I whispered the last part. I couldn’t let her waste her life waiting for me, when I didn’t even know what life had in store for me.
“I can’t just do that Alistair…” She began but I held my hand up.
“If you love me, set me free.” I hugged her tightly, fighting back the tears. “Please don’t cry. I…I love you but I can’t have yu waiting for me when I don’t even know when I’ll be back. You can’t wait for me.”
“I need to go!” She wiped her tears on the back of her sleeve and rushed out of my backyard.
“Alistair,” My dad said softly.
“Hmm?” I looked up, trying to hide the tears that were dried up on my face.
“I know that it’s hard, but I think this is what’s best for you,” He said.
“What’s best for me?” I looked up at him. “What’s best for me is to leave you here by yourself and break my girlfriend’s heart?” I rolled my eyes at his befuddled look. “I broke up with her dad. I didn’t have the heart to string her along…I love her so much, but I’m so scared.”
He sat down on the floor beside me and began to stroke my hair. “You think that she’ll find someone else?”
“Yes. I told her to, but I don’t want that. I don’t want her to find another guy, but it isn’t fair for me to let her think that I’m coming back. I mean, am I coming back? What’s going to happen in Moonlight Falls? I just don’t know.”
“I don’t know either, son. When I went, I was looking for my friend, and I ended up coming back with a lover. When you go, you won’t be looking for a friend, but your grandfather, and you’ll be strengthening your magic skills. What you choose to do there is up to you. And, one more thing. Do not ever feel like you have to do something because Xerxes says to. We agreed to help the guardians, but we will never compromise who we are for them. Understood?”
I leaned over and hugged him. “You really think this is the right thing for me to do? Just pack up and leave?”
“I’m not shipping you out,” He said. “If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to. If staying here is what you really want, then by all means, stay here. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for you. All I’m saying is to not let me, Xerxes or Madelyn make up your mind for you. Do what you have to do.”
“I need to think about a few things,” I mumbled, rolling over on the couch.
He stood up. “I’ll be here no matter what choice you make. If you go to Moonlight Falls, I will still have your back. If you stay here, well, I’ll be here too.”
I nodded. “Yeah, don’t think you’re off the hook if I’m gone. You’ll always have me.”