Graciela let the cool night air caress her skin. It was getting dark far too early in the day. Being out at night was already pretty scary, but this was just too much. Within an hour, the streets would barely have any light at all. What then? She had hoped the darkness was all in her head, but as the days had gone by Graciela started to believe the mysterious voice. Perhaps the darkness really was coming to reclaim the world. But even so… she was not ready for that to become her problem. Graciela turned to walk back inside before she bumped into a smiling beauty she had never seen before. “You must be Graciela Gray, the girl I’m hearing so much about.” The teal haired woman extended her hand which Graciela cautiously took. “My name is Sophina Aguirre, I’m Leon’s teacher at the boarding school.”
Graciela immediately released the woman’s hand and crossed her arms over her chest. “Oh? Well, was Leon allowed to use his phone to call us? Or did he really not have a phone?” Though probably not the first thing she should have asked, Graciela was determined to catch the boy in a lie.
“He most certainly had a phone. I urged him not to be distracted by it, but I never confiscated it from him. Leon was free to call you whenever he wanted.” Sophina frowned. “Did he not keep in touch? Not even a little?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Graciela spat. “It’s clear that your school changed him. The Leon I knew would have tried harder to reach out to me. We would have still been friends.”
“You very well could be friends still,” Sophina replied. “My program is very heavily focused on helping each individual student hone their abilities. Leon spent a lot of time studying, perhaps there was another reason he acted the way he did. But I actually wanted to talk about you and the power you possess. I’m under the impression that you have a malicious voice inside of your head?”
“He told you?” Graciela asked. “The voice is not…malicious. Not anymore at least. It’s not hurting me but, I don’t want it there.”
“What kinds of things does it tell you?” Sophina urged. “Does it tell you what will happen in the future? Does it show you visions?”
“No?” Graciela shook her head. “I don’t see visions, it just talks to me. That’s it.”
“Hahahaha! How delightful. This woman thinks she can defy fate. Humor her, let us see what she has to say.”
“I want to help you,” Sophina said after a moment of silence. “I know a bit about arcane history and about every instance where a voice similar to the one you hear is present. We can decipher the meaning and try to harness the power.”
“She can’t harness my power, but it would be fun to learn what she thinks she knows. I say we go to her academy. Your mother wanted that anyway, yes? And your little boyfriend is there…”
“No!” Graciela snapped. Regaining her composure, she glared at Sophina. “You’re trying to recruit me to your school, right? I want no part of it! I’m staying here.”
“You are special, Graciela,” Sophina began. “You aren’t like your peers and you know that. All I want is to help you feel at peace with what you’re struggling with. You need to be able to take control of your body and your life. If not for your sake, for the sake of the world. The students I’m teaching are trying to save it from being plunged into darkness. If you want this never-ending night to be permanent, then so be it.”
“How do you know so much?” Graciela asked.
“I lived it the first time it happened. I saw this place suffer months of pure blackness before the darkness tried to take over. I saw your ancestor, a very good friend of mine, offer himself up as a vessel to the darkness so that it would not gain too much power.” Sophina shut her eyes and placed her hand on her heart. “His job was to take the darkness back to the underworld where it belongs. I have reason to believe the cycle is continuing and you’re the one who has to do the same thing.”
“Timothy Gray,” Graciela said, eyes widening. “You’re not that old. You wouldn’t have known him.”
“It’s what happens when you’re cursed by a goddess,” Sophina replied with a simple shrug. “I’ve been alive for centuries, preparing for this very moment. I can tell you my plan if that will convince you, but not here. Not where that voice can hear us.”
“There’s no way to silence it,” Graciela said, shaking her head. “I’ve tried everything.”
“When it shows up and you don’t want to hear what it has to say, all you need to do is say a simple enchantment which acts to banish the darkness for a brief time. Of course there’s a cool down, but its a temporary fix.” Sophina lifted her index finger in the air. “Omittamus. You’re essentially instructing the voice to let go. The only catch is that you need to imbue your words with some magical energy which a vampire shouldn’t normally have access to. But, I can help.”
Graciela watched the girl as the night sky around them got darker and darker. “This is where your academy comes in, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I can teach you how to hone your magical abilities to silence the darkness while I fill you in on what needs to be done. I understand you have no reason to trust that anything I’m saying is real but I don’t want the world to burn out either.” Graciela nodded her head slightly. She would ask Dionysus if this Sophina girl could be trusted. If anyone knew something about her, it would probably be him.
Poking his head out from the doorway, a voice called out to the pair. “Ms.Aguirre I’m sorry to bother you but can I steal Graciela for a moment?”
“We were just heading inside,” Sophina replied. “It’s getting too dark out here.” Sophina led the way inside with Graciela right behind her. Graciela followed Leon to a secluded area while Sophina went to talk to Charlotte and Myra.
“What were you guys talking about?” Leon asked sheepishly.
“Me absorbing the darkness and taking it to the underworld or something,” Graciela said. “It sounds ridiculous. This isn’t some fairytale.”
“If you believe her or not, Sophina is the best magic teacher out there. She’s taught me how to control my visions so that they don’t interfere with my life.” He frowned at Graciela’s raised brow. “Oh, my family used to have a bunch of seers in it. We can see brief glimpses of the future.”
“Like Lapis Sikes,” Graciela muttered. “But how do I know you can really see the future?”
“The plastic ring I gave you as a child is going to be behind your dresser.” Leon crossed his arms over his chest. “You know, when you get around to looking for it.”
“I don’t care about that stupid ring!” Graciela cried. “You really think that proves anything to me? You can’t see the future because if you could, you’d know how mad at you I was this entire time! You’d have come prepared with some nice words, not some stupid lie about how you don’t have a phone!” Graciela could feel the tears biting at her eyes. She had admitted to herself that when she was younger she had a crush on Leon. Things were different as they grew up. She wasn’t eleven years old anymore. She learned to not need his calming words and his smile. She was able to live five years without it. “Why would you lie to me?”
“I…” Leon audibly gulped. He reached out to grab Graciela’s hand but she yanked it away from him. “I couldn’t call you because I did know I was letting you down. How can I help you when I’m so far away? This whole time I’ve been studying hard so that I can help you get rid of that voice that’s tormenting you.”
“Noble,” Graciela replied through gritted teeth. “I don’t need your help. I wanted a friend. No, I NEEDED a friend. But I learned how to manage on my own. So, thanks for coming back and saying hi or whatever but I just need to read Lapis Sikes’ journal.”
“My mother would have that,” Leon muttered. He couldn’t look up at Graciela. “For what it’s worth, I’m really sorry for not keeping in touch. But things are really not what you think anymore. The world is a scary place.”
“It would have been a little less scary with you,” Graciela said quietly. “But it’s okay. Your professor asked me to go to your academy but tell her I’m going to pass up on that offer. I’ll save myself.” Graciela didn’t wait for Leon’s response. Her emotions were raw. She should have been happy to see him again, but she couldn’t get over the fact that it would have been so easy to call her. They could have solved this together like they always had. Graciela didn’t stop as she headed towards Callen who sat talking jovially to Alistair by the bar. “I need a ride home. I can’t stay here.”
Seeing the girl upset, Alistair jumped to his feet. “Graciela, what happened?”
“Leon is a liar,” She replied, reaching up to wipe the tears that were drying up on her cheeks. “I don’t want to be here for his welcome home party. He’s just going to leave again anyway. Grandpa, take me home please.”
“I’ll tell Charlotte and Jeff,” Callen assured his boyfriend. “I think going home would be good for Graciela so she can clear her head a bit. I’m sorry, honey.”
“You’re not the jerk,” She mumbled. “Don’t worry about it, Callen. I know you wouldn’t lie about not having a phone and not bother trying to contact me. Did he call Braylen and Braylen just didn’t tell me?” Callen frowned and Graciela knew the answer. “Great, I’m just the one with idiot written on her forehead.”
“I’m sure there was a good reason for it,” Callen offered quietly. “Leon really cares about you.”
“Good for him.” She shut her eyes and turned her back on the older men. “Grandpa, take me home please. I rather spend my evening with Dionysus and the boys anyway.”
“Right. Let’s go.” Alistair looked at Callen apologetically. Graciela was angry and rightfully so. Talking to Braylen behind Graciela’s back? Even Alistair didn’t know that and Braylen was staying in his home. Alistair rubbed Graciela’s back soothing. “You deserve the world and I’m proud of you for fighting for yourself.”
When the two reached the car, Graciela let all of her tears out. She let out strangled sobs that broke Alistair’s heart. “I was always against seeing Leon again but deep down I really wanted him to prove me wrong, grandpa. I missed him, a lot.”
Alistair remembered his relationship with Madelyn, the person he had thought he’d be with for the rest of his life. Circumstances changed and so did people. He had new friends in Moonlight Falls, and now in Fortitude as well. If Leon wasn’t meant to be in Graciela’s life, she’d find someone else who would care for her.”Sometimes people don’t realize what’s important. I’m old and I’m still learning that. I say talk to Leon when you’re both calmed down and listen to what he has to say. If you’re not happy with it, I urge you to remember that some people aren’t meant to be in our lives for a long time. You and Leon were best friends when you were eleven, but you’re not eleven anymore. You’re a teenager who has different hardships than he does. It’s okay to admit the paths you guys are on is different.”
Graciela shut her eyes and leaned her forehead against the cold glass window of her grandfather’s car. She knew he was right. That’s what she had been telling herself to do the entire time, but seeing Leon again brought up a lot of pent up emotions. She needed to talk to him one last time and get the closure she needed to move on and live her life as her own person.