Leon looked around the training field with amusement dancing in his eyes. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “That was so easy.”
“Of course it was!” Angelica exclaimed, clapping her hands together. “You’re head of the class. Star student, Leon Sikes.”
“Ehehe…” Leon rubbed his neck sheepishly. “You know back at home I wasn’t ever a good student. Just, average. I kind of slacked off.”
“You?” Angelica asked in disbelief. “No way. I find that hard to believe. You study so hard.”
“For that girl,” Frankie said with a glimmer in his eyes. “Graciela, right? You went to school with her, so you were probably dozing off and daydreaming about her…”
Leon smiled. “Yeah, I was always watching her. But, because of the darkness. It always pestered her and I wanted to make sure that she was okay. I didn’t mind getting C’s if it meant that Gracie could get her B’s.”
“Romantic!” Angelica cried. “Are you excited to finally be going back to see her? Our break is going to be so fun! It’s the first time we get to visit our family for more than a weekend.”
“Some break that will be,” Frankie whined. “I’m going to be studying all day everyday while my brothers get to go to the beach and get all the babes.”
“You need to rest. All work and no play will burn you out,” Angelica pointed out. “Maybe your mom will let you out every once and awhile.”
“No chance.” Frankie shook his head. “What about you, Leon? What are your plans for break? Finally going to ask Gracie to be your girlfriend?”
“Nah,” Leon replied with a shrug. “Gracie isn’t in Fortitude anymore. So, she won’t be there when I get back. And, I’m not so sure if she still has feelings for that Maric guy. I don’t know.”
“So, just go to her then,” Angelica replied. “For just like a week or something. Can’t you do that? As long as you study?”
“You know we can’t do that,” Leon mumbled. “The world could be in danger if we’re not prepared.”
“Listen, we’re not all as important as you are. We don’t have to put the darkness to sleep.” Angelica twirled her skirt to empathize her nonchalance. “Frankie and I just have to decode things.”
“It’s still important,” Leon insisted. “Come on, we need to get to class. You know how the headmaster gets when we’re late.”
Angelica looked down at the thick textbook, transcribed at least two centuries ago. Today’s lesson was mundane, as it would be right before a large break. She and Leon were allowed to work together, as long as they copied the books’ contents exactly. “Page 54 says that-” Leon began but was promptly cut off by Angelica.
“Oh, come on. Professor isn’t around, so we can take a break for a bit.”
“The faster we work, the more time we have free,” Leon replied. “I’m anxious to pack.”
“I’m the fastest transcriber there is,” Angel said. “Don’t worry about it. So, why do you look so down? Is it that your friends left Fortitude?”
“It’s not only that,” Leon said. “What happens when we graduate scares me. I have to fulfill the right, and then tell Graciela everything. About her and the darkness and…” His voice trailed off. “I don’t want to be the reason her heart breaks.”
Angelica placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault.”
“It’s not hers either,” Leon mumbled, placing his head in his hands. “She didn’t ask for any of this.”
“No, of course not.” Angelica shook her head. “But you can’t let what’s going to happen be on your conscience. It’s the way things are supposed to be. Don’t forget that the two of you were brought together for a reason. The bond.”
“I don’t like it when you say it like that,” Leon pointed out. “Why do you make it seem like the bond is of necessity and that I don’t really care about Graciela?”
“Well, think about it. If not for your ability- would you two have found each other? Why did you two connect, when that girl wasn’t able to connect with anyone else? Why you, Leon? It’s destiny in motion.”
“I love Graciela,” Leon said, putting his hand up to stop the girl.
“But why?” Angelica asked. “You’ve made it seem like you knew from the moment you saw her that you loved her. You’ve been confident about it, like there’s not even a doubt in your mind. What if you’re just programmed to protect her?”
“No,” Leon replied, anger rising within him. “Nothing about my feelings for her is superficial or predetermined. I…I just know it. I grew up with her, she knows everything about me. She…”
“Does she?” Angel asked, turning the page of the book. “Leon, she doesn’t know who you really are. Face it. You two are meant to meet for one purpose only and it isn’t to fall in love and start a family.”
“Let’s just get back to work. This isn’t any of your damn business anyway.” Leon looked away from the girl, and resumed his work.
“Leon, come on.” Frankie sat by Leon’s side, urging him to get up. “You can’t avoid Angelica forever. You know how she is.”
“She said that I don’t love Gracie,” Leon muttered. “I do.”
“Actually, I think it’s the opposite,” Frankie replied. “Do you ever think that maybe Graciela doesn’t love you? Perhaps, she clings to you because you’re the light.”
“I…no. That’s impossible.” Leon’s eyes were closed as he leaned back onto the bottom bunk in the tiny dormitory room. “We’ve been together forever.”
“But she’s dated another guy, right? You said that yourself. She might be waiting for him. So, how could it be so impossible?” Frankie asked. “You just don’t want to believe it. You know how this all ends, Leon. Is it with her in your arms?”
“I have to see her,” Leon replied without missing a beat. “I have to know if she loves me or if she loves Maric.” Ever since his talk with Callen, his outlook on life was different. Why try to push Graciela away to protect her? She was a big girl who could make her own decisions.
“She wants to see you?” Frankie asked.
“I don’t know,” Leon said, motioning to the top draw of his dresser that Frankie was sitting in front of. “She wrote me a letter.”
Frankie pulled open the dresser, found the letter and unfolded it. “Do you want me to read it?” Leon nodded. “Okay, let’s see.”
I hope all is well. I’m sure you’re having a great time, and studying hard. You’re probably wondering why I’m writing to you all of a sudden, right? Well, I have something to tell you. When you return to Fortitude, I probably won’t be there. My family and I are going to Moonlight Falls with Callen and Braylen. I need to go there to train but it’s dangerous so I can’t contact you anymore. Not until I’m back in Fortitude at least.
I broke up with Maric. I don’t know if that means anything to you, but I didn’t want to leave someone waiting for me. The same goes for you, Leon. Please, don’t wait for me. Live your life. I’ll miss you so much more than you could ever imagine, but you have to focus on studying and stop worrying about me. Okay? Mom and Dad says we’ll be back soon. So, I hope to hear some good news when we meet again. Stay safe ❤
“She’s letting you down easy,” Frankie said, folding up the letter again. “She’s telling you to move on.”
“What?” Leon asked, sitting up. “I didn’t get that vibe from the letter. She broke up with Maric.”
“Did you not read that last part about you moving on too? That’s a shut down, Leon. But in a nice way, man. She wants to focus on her training. Maybe seeing her right now is not what she needs.”
“It’s summer break. I had so many plans for us. I was going to take her to the amusement park, the beach, all of these places away from Fortitude. We were going to have so much fun, just like old times,” Leon said.
“We’re not meant to have fun.” Frankie stood up and dusted off his pants. “Angelica and I want what’s best for you.” Frankie patted Leon’s leg. “We’ll be in the study hall if you want to join us. At least say goodbye to us before you leave, alright?”
Leon got up and lazily dragged his feet to the door after his friend. Was Graciela really just telling him to leave her alone? Was she just drawn to him because his light drove the darkness away? “Leon, listen I’m sorry about what I said,” Angelica cried as soon as Leon entered the room. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“I know,” Leon mumbled. “Frankie explained. I’m a little grumpy. My two best friends won’t be there when I go back home. We’re really close to graduating and we all know what’s ahead of us.”
“You can’t sweat that stuff man,” Frankie said, getting comfortable on the chair. “What’s going to happen is going to happen.”
“See, that’s the thing. Is there any way for it to…not happen?” Leon asked. “Can’t we defy the fates?”
“You can’t defy a god,” Angelica said, shaking her head. “All the tales say so.”
“Tales are stories. I haven’t seen any proof of gods or goddesses. So, until then I’m not going to just accept that my life was written out for me already.” He tugged at the hem of his jacket. “I think I need to talk to my mom and dad about these tales when I get back.”
“You can do that,” Angelica replied. “But it won’t change anything. This is it, for the rest of our lives.”
“So, you have no plans for when this is all over?” Leon asked. “Maybe my path is set well into the future. But, after the ritual where will you two find yourselves? You can transcribe anywhere.”
“I’m going to go to school some more,” Frankie replied. “I know there’s much more for me to learn and I’m most comfortable in a setting where I get to think things through. I don’t know if living a normal life is really an option anymore.”
Angelica looked at Leon and smiled. She leaned in towards him. “I’d like to find a nice boy who gets to find out about the real me. Someone who will accept me, and understand what my life is about. Then, I want to marry him and have a child.”
“Are you hinting at Leon?” Frankie asked, raising a brow.
“Stop teasing,” Leon replied, shaking his head.
“Well what if I am?” Angelica challenged. “He’s sweet, and likes me for me. He understands this life.” She looked at Leon. “I know you’d make the perfect boyfriend.”
“Angelica, I really do like you,” Leon began, but frowned. “You know how I feel about Gracie.”
“And I know how it ends, Leon. I just…I want to dream sometimes, okay? I want to pretend that I can be a normal teen girl with a crush on her best friend!” She stood up, trying to hide the tears in her eyes. “I…I need to go pack! I’ll see you guys later.”
Leon was all packed and ready to go home to Fortitude for the next few months. They wouldn’t be lonely ones. He’d get to spend time with his new baby brother, which would be nice. He’d get to catch up with his mother and father. But, what else had he left there? Every time he returned, he noticed that everything was different. Gone were the days when he was an excitable child trying to get Graciela to notice him. “Did she really reject me?” Leon mumbled to himself.
“Leon, what are you doing here still? I thought you’d be the first one excited to go home.” Leon looked up to see his professor, also packed and ready to return home for the break.
“Oh, I’m just waiting for Frankie. He’s catching the bus with me,” Leon murmured.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, tilting his head. “You need to stop worrying about Graciela Gray.” Leon’s eyes grew wide for a moment and his professor laughed. “We’re seers, remember? I know who occupies your mind when I’m lecturing in class. I have one piece of advice if you’re willing to hear me out.”
“What is it?” Leon asked, welcoming the insight from his mentor. “Do not get attached to the one who you’re connected with. That bond will be severed in due time and what you thought was once there will no longer remain.”
“Everyone keeps telling me that, but I don’t believe it,” Leon said. “I just can’t.”
“When you’re older, you’ll tell yourself the same thing that I told you. Getting attached is a mistake. Well, anyway. I must be on your way. I expect to see you on time first thing after break.”
Leon waved the older man off, feeling a pit grow in his stomach. Were they right? Was falling for Graciela Gray a mistake? Had she thought about him the same way he thought about her? His heart hurt just thinking about it. He shut his eyes and tried to block out the negative thoughts until Frankie came and the two headed towards the bus.