A knock on the door startled Astra. It was around 10 am. Alistair was getting ready to leave for work, and Cadence was doing something. Astra didn’t know. She hated answering the door because of the anxiety that it caused, but today she had no choice. She slowly opened the door to reveal a brunette. “Hi there! My name is Autumn, is your last name Gray?” Astra nodded meekly. “Oh, good. That means I’m in the right place. I’m your cousin.”
“My cousin?” Astra asked. She thought back. Her father had four siblings. Ken, Bailey, Pandora and Scarlett. Astra lived with Scarlett’s children, but as for the rest of her family she felt secluded. She never visited her aunts or uncle. She was a witch, and this world was taboo, for whatever reason.
“Brody Gray is my dad,” Autumn said. “Brown hair, kinda bluish skin?”
Astra shook her head. “I’m sorr-y I have no idea who th-at is.”
Autumn looked pensive for a moment. “Lets see how far back I can take this. My grandfather is Ambrose Gray. Do you know him?”
“Oh, yes! Grandpa’s brother!” Astra cried excitedly. “I never met him, but I know about him.”
“He had four children. There was Mila, Harley, Skye and then Brody, my dad,” Autumn said. “I was visiting grandpa, uh, Ambrose, a few months ago and he told me that his brother had several kids, with kids of their own now. I found out you lived here and I wanted to meet you,” Autumn admitted.
“How did you find that out?” Astra asked. “People know where I live?”
“I think he asked Scarlett. She’s your aunt right? Wait, I don’t even know your name! Who’s your parent from our side of the family?”
“Oh.” Astra nodded. She forgot to introduce herself. “My name is Astra. My dad is Alistair Gray, the youngest of grandpa Apollo’s kids. I live with Cadence andAListair. They’re aunt Scarlett’s kids.”
“That’s really amazing, I’m looking forward to meeting you all,” Autumn said. “But…”
“This trip was kind of spontaneous, so I don’t have a place to stay…” Autumn bit her lip, nervously. “You don’t think you could open your door to family, do you?”
“Let me get this straight, my mom told you where to find us, but didn’t give me a heads up?” Alistair asked.
“I didn’t say when I was leaving, and she didn’t give grandpa your address. She just said you were here, and I did some more digging on my own.” Autumn shrugged.
“Why is it so important to come meet us now?” Alistair asked. “I’m just trying to understand your motivation. You need a place to stay while you go and do something here?”
“Not really…” She bit her lip and looked down. “I came here because grandpa had a bad feeling about his brother. He thinks that his brother is sick. There’s no way for him to contact Apollo other than through his kids. Aunt Scarlett told us that his grandkids were in the area and you’d be the best way to contact him.”
“Grandpa is sick?” Astra’s eyes widened. “That can’t be true, Ambrose wouldn’t just know off of a feeling.” Ambrose was human after all.
“When my elderly grandfather tells me that he’s worried about his brother, what am I supposed to do? Just sit back and say, well guess you’ll never know? I’m trying ot find out if Apollo Gray is healthy and happy.”
“Alistair, you have to check on him,” Astra pleaded. She couldn’t, she was bound by her promise to Zodiac. She wasn’t sure what he’d do to her family if she disobeyed and returned to Moonlight Falls.
“I know, Astra, please. If this is real…” He scratched his head. “How do I know this is real?”
“Whats the big deal? Where is this guy that you can’t just call him on the phone?” Autumn asked. “Everyone keeps sending me on this wild goose chase!”
“It’s not that simple,” Alistair said. “He’s somewhere that can’t be visited so easily. I can go and check on him, but I need to know this isn’t some trick to lure me away.”
“Why would it…how the heck am I suppsoed to know?” Autumn asked. “He doesn’t have a phone?”
Alistair rubbed his temple. “Astra, I’ve got to talk to your dad. See why they haven’t come down to visit like they promised.”
“They’re probably busy…” Astra tried to rationalize. “They’re fine…”
“It’s probably nothing,” Cadence tried to reassure the girl.
Alistair stepped away from the table. His mind kept racing back to that book he had found as a child. Alistair and the two bad vampires. They never did find out how it ended. “Mom?”
“Hi Sweetheart, what’s going on?” She could tell from the tone in his voice that he was on edge.
“This girl named Autumn is here. She says grandpa’s brother sent her to check up on him. She can’t get in touch with him and-”
“Honey, relax.” Scarlett’s voice was soothing. “She told me the story. I know that the only person who can find out for sure is you. The others can’t exactly go to Moonlight Falls, and it would be good to check upon everyone. I want to make sure my brother and fathers are alright. You can check on Astra’s sisters as well, I’m sure she’d appreciate it.”
Alistair looked over his shoulder at the black haired girl. She was hugging her chest tightly. She looked like she was going to vomit. “I’ll leaveassoonas I can. I have to take offa few days from work and tell Lucie-” He stopped himself. Hismother didn’t know about Lucie.
“Lucie?” She asked. “Who’s Lucie?”
“We cantalk about it when I call to give you my status report. Cadence is great, and I love you mom!” He hung up quickly. He didn’t need a lecture.
After confirming her story, Alistair agreed to let Autumn stay with them for a few days. “This is our room,” Cadence said. “I put out a sleeping bag, I know it’s not ideal, but just for now.”
Autumn nodded. “Thanks, I really appreciate the hospitality. Is Alistair always like that?” She asked.
“Yup, ask Astra what happened with the 28 year old guy she brought home,” Cadence replied.
“I didn’t bring him home, he found me on his own!” Astra protested.
“Doesn’t make it sound any better,” Autumn said.
“It’s not like that, he’s just a friend helping me. These past few weeks he’s helped me set up a cooking blog, and he’s gotten people to read it,” Astra said. “It’s really cool.”
“I actually like Thad,just be careful,” Cadence said.
“Is he cute?” Autumn asked.
“I don’t know,” Astra blushed.
“Wow, good going Astra!” Autumn cheered.
“He’s a male model,” Cadence said. “Kind of awkward though.”
“No need to talk about this anymore,” Astra said. “Didn’t you plan on doing the laundry today?”
“Oh yeah, ew. I’m meeting Ada there. You two should come. It’ll be a real party,” Cadence said.
“I have nothing better to do and its the least I can do for allowing me into your home,” Autumn said.
“Yeah, I’ll help you. It’s my clothes too,” Astra said.
“Somehow I thought this would be more exciting,” Autumn said.
“We’re watching clothes tumble around in a machine, I don’t know why you would think this would be fun.” Astra was opening up more because of Thad. She still got nervous around strangers, but Autumn was different. She reminded her of Millie, and Astra was able to talk to her as if they knew each other for their whole lives.
“Yeah, you’re right, but check out that eye candy. Nine o’clock.” Autumn pointed her gaze to the left.
Astra looked over. “That’s Thad…”
“That guy?” Autumn looked delighted. “He is gorgeous. You should go and say hi!”
“I don’t really want to,” Astra mumbled. She had to prep herself to talk to Thad. She didn’t want to make a mistake near him.
“So you’re just going to ignore that?” Autumn pointed to the male who was waving his hands in the air.
“Hey Astra!” He called out.
“Oh my gosh. What do I do?” She wanted to slump down in her seat and pretend she didn’t see him, but Autumn pushed her forward.
“He helped get you some exposure for your blog, don’t ignore him,” She said.
“You’ve been here for four hours and you’re already causing trouble,” Astra mumbled. “Just like Millie.”
“Who?” She asked.
“My twin sister,” Astra replied.
“Twin!? Oh, do tell after you go and talk to model boy over there.”
“Hi,” Astra said nervously as she approached him. “I’m sur-prised to see yo-u here.”
“Even a handsome model like myself has to do some laundry every once and a while. The washing machine in my building broke, so I come here every week,” Thad answered.
“You hav-e tha-t many clothes?” Then she face plamed. Of course he did. He was a model.
“I get to keep the clothes I wear from the shoot, crazy right? I don’t ever have to buy clothes again. When you’re a famous cook, you’ll get to eat all the food you make. You’ll never go hungry again. Then, when it’s too much for you, you send it over to your good buddy, Thad who will appreciate the kindness.”
Astra let out a small, quiet laugh. “I’ll probably eat it all.”
“What? None for me?” He teased.
“You need to stay in shape,” She replied.
“Thanks for looking out for me. You’re a good friend.” He patted her head affectionately. “What would I do without you?”
She stiffened at his gesture. He dropped his hand instantly and smiled. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s o-k-k…” She stuttered. His touch made her even more nervous than she thought it would. She kept hearing that annoying little voice in the back of her head telling her that he was ten years older than her and the only thing he would want from her was sex. She stepped back to distance herself. She hated that she thought that way. Thad helped her with her dreams immensely. He was the one she had been sending late night texts to. They talked everyday through IMs or texts. Yet, being next to him in person brought up all the fears she had. He was real and in arms reach of her. He could touch her. She didn’t want to think badly of him, really, she didn’t but the voices…
“Uhm, listen…” Thad tried to find some words to comfort Astra. But she looked like a deer in headlights. Thad thought back to the time he had first met her and he held her in his arms to comfort her. Now, she knew who he was and that thought repulsed her. He understtod, she was still a child in his eyes. He disn’t mean anything by it. He was only trying to comfort her. “I’m not trying to hit on you or anything. You don’t think that, do you?”
She shook her head, quickly. “No-oo!”
He doubted her answer. He ran his fingers through his dark hair. “I…you’re too young for me. You know that right?” Was she nervous then, because she had a crush on him?
She couldn’t believe he had just said that. She quickly walked away from him. “My clothes,” She mumbled. She busied herself with her clothes, grabbing the wet stuff, moving it to the side to place in the dryer and grabbing another load. Everyone, even Thad, thought she had some interest in the guy. She didn’t! The thought embarassed her to the core. She wasn’t cut out for the love business.
“Astra,” Thad said. “Talk to me.”
“No,” She said simply, eyes trained on the dial of the washing machine. She was too embarassed to speak, she wanted to run and hide.
“It’s okay if you have feelings for me, it’s natural-”
“I don’t!” She snapped. She looked down. “I don’t,” She mumbled. “Stop saying that.”
He held his hands up in front of him. “I didn’t mean anything by it, I’m just trying to figure out why you’re upset.”
“I’m sorry,” She muttered. Things were coming at her in all different directions. She wanted one moment to herself without someone saying something to her that she didn’t want to hear.
“It’s alright, just be honest with me. Okay? What’s bothering you?” His voice was gentle, and it made Astra feel 10x worse for yelling at him to begin with.
“My grandpa might be sick, or hurt,” She whispered. Thats what was really bothering her. Being here and unable to see her family. How were they doing? How were her parents? Grandparents? Sisters? It hurt so much being in the dark. She was able to use her blog as a distraction but when Autumn said those things about her grandfather…she felt so helpless. She was here with this guy, and he was hurt back home!
“I’m sorry,” Thad murmured. “You don’t know for sure?”
“No.” She shook her head. “Not yet.”
“I’m sorry,” He repeated. “I’m here for you, alright? If you need me that is.”
“Thank you, Thad.” She said. “I’m going to go sit with my cousi-n now.”
He nodded. “Can I text you later?”
She nodded and waved slightly.