Dionysus watched Sophina with a bit of curiosity as she maneuvered around the small apartment that she had offered up to him and Graciela. It was right above the academy and across from Sophina’s own dorm so, it seemed like the most convenient area for the two to stay for the time being. “Graciela, the students share a dorm. You’re more than welcome to bunk with one of the girls if you’re more comfortable with that.”
“She has her own room here,” Dionysus said, stretching his arms over his head with a loud yawn. “Don’t exactly think she wants to stay where she can’t leave the light on all night.”
“That doesn’t bother you, does it?” Graciela asked quietly, poking her head out from behind the male who had been acting as a shield between her and Sophina.
“I can sleep through anything,” Dionysus replied with a simple shrug. “I want you to be comfortable.”
“Well, if that’s settled…” Sophina stopped fussing, arms crossed over her chest as she stared at Dionysus. He had been trying his hardest not to make a big deal out of it…but this was Sophina, the love he thought he had all but lost years ago. The love he had tried to replicate in many others, including Astra Gray, and couldn’t succeed. “I expect you to earn your keep here, Dionysus. I want you to teach the kids a class of some kind.”
“Hmm…really? Like what?” Dionysus genuinely pondered that for a moment, drawing a blank.
“I don’t know yet,” Sophina said, letting her eyes flutter closed. “But something useful. Something that can bring an end to all the pain and suffering.”
“I can try my best,” Dionysus said calmly. “That’s all I can promise you. Nothing more or nothing less.”
“Right well…that’s all I can ask for after all these years, I suppose,” Sophina mumbled, drawing her hand towards her chest. She turned her attention towards Graciela with a forced smile. Graciela could sense the tension and shrunk away from the woman’s gaze. “Lavina would be rolling in her grave seeing you. A vampire.”
“I already heard this speech,” Graciela replied with a shrug. “The Grays were vampire hunters. That got mucked up along the way.”
“Well I suppose we can’t choose who we fall in love with,” Sophina replied, looking over at Dionysus now who had refused to react to her words.
“That isn’t what happened,” Graciela said. “My grandpa Alistair was manipulated through time to have children with an evil vampire’s daughter. But I guess he wasn’t human either. He was a mage and I guess my great grandads were actually in love.”
“The Grays are no stranger to evil forces trying to take them down,” Dionysus responded to Sophina’s surprised face. “I can catch you up, but the family you once knew has changed and evolved over time, mostly for the better. There are a few bad apples but I suppose that can’t be helped.”
“Right, well. I’ll let you guys get settled in. Then, we’ll have your evaluation Gracie,” Sophina said. “Don’t worry too much about it. We just want to see where your abilities lie and how that will settle into our group of heroes. You’re all here for a reason.”
Graciela wasn’t too thrilled about that prospect but she’d do what she had to do until she had found an opening to do what she thought needed to be done.
Braylen placed his bags onto the floor of the shared dorm room with a thud. Leon couldn’t help but chuckle as he approached his friend. “You brought your whole house, huh?”
Braylen pointed to one bag, a large green suitcase, with a grin. “My dad made me pack all that. Clothes and various other things he’d think would be useful.” Then, his gaze lingered to a much smaller blue carry on. “Alistair made me bring those. Potions and stuff for all different occasions. Just in case.”
“You guys are like a little family,” Leon said, propping himself up onto the bottom bunk of one of the beds. “That’s what you always wanted, right?”
“Yeah,” Braylen said with a nod. “It’s happy for now, but I heard my dad and Alistair talking about going to Moonlight Falls to help take down their leader. It sounds dangerous, doesn’t it? Something that could tear our family apart.”
“I don’t think so,” Leon said. “Callen has always been the toughest dude I’ve ever known and Alistair only makes him stronger. When you love someone, it helps you push further than you ever thought possible.” Leon placed a hand on his heart. “Even if she doesn’t feel the same way.”
“She does feel the same way dummy,” Braylen replied, leaning over to smack his friend upside the head. “That’s why she’s so angry. You didn’t talk to her for so long. How do you think she’s going to react after you were her security blanket for so long?”
“I…” Leon shut his eyes tightly and leaned back against the wall. “I didn’t want her to get her hopes up. I didn’t know if I’d ever be back and in one piece. The future for this academy is bleak. I thought it’d be better if Graciela didn’t have to worry about someone like me. She could move on and be happy with someone else, and live a normal life.”
“But that’s not your decision to make,” Braylen said. “Graciela always knew deep down that something was going to happen regarding her and that voice. She always fights it but I know that she was prepared for something like this happening. You can’t protect her. She doesn’t want a hero.”
“She wants a friend,” Leon said, with a nod. “I went and messed that up. But at least you’ll be there for her, right? You’ll make sure she’s okay even if she won’t talk to me?”
“I always have,” Braylen said. “She’s family now. But you have to step your game up because honestly, she’s not going to forgive you so easily. Gracie is mad.” Braylen’s voice trailed off as two more males entered the room. One, blue hair and the other a vampire with dark black hair.
“Newbies!” The blue haired male cried. “Yessssssss! Finally!” He jumped onto the black haired male who grunted in annoyance. “God it was getting so lonely here just the three of us and those annoying girls.”
“Great, more noise,” The vampire muttered. “Just don’t hang on me like this nerd and we’ll be fine. My name is Maric, by the way.” Maric shoved the blue haired male off of him much to Leon’s delight. “Braylen, the fairy Leon never ceases to talk about.”
“My name is Ryland!” The blue haired boy exclaimed happily. “Sorry, I’m not normally this excited but only seeing the same people for years gets kinda repetitive. Not that Maric and Leon aren’t great but….yay! New people! There’s a girl too, right? Where is she?”
“Graciela,” Leon said. “She’s probably not staying in the student dormitory. Her uh…dad, is staying her now too. He’s this like really crazy talented guy. Maybe Sophina will get him to teach us or something!” He looked at Braylen roll his eyes. Yes, more lying but this time it was to make it easier on Graciela so the other kids didn’t make fun of her for acting like a child. They didn’t understand.
Graciela sat against the wall of her new home. It felt lonely and cold, despite how well decorated the place was. While Dionysus was a family friend, he hadn’t spent much time with Graciela once her family had left Moonlight Falls. She realized she hadn’t known much about the elf. That didn’t scare her, because her mother had trusted Dionysus with her life and that was enough for Gracie. What worried her was having to adjust to a new life, having only Dionysus and Braylen to lean on.
Graciela lifted her phone to her ear with trembling hands. It would have been so simple for Leon to do just this, and phone home. But alas, being an important seer or whatever Sophina had said- changed him. The phone rang a few times before someone finally answered. “Hello my love,” Charlotte’s voice rang on the other side of the phone. “How are you doing? Adjusting well?”
“I just got here,” Graciela said. “The place looks really nice. Dionysus is taking good care of me but I haven’t gone down to meet the other students yet. I think I’ll wait until class starts.”
“Try to keep an open mind, honey,” Charlotte’s soothing voice said on the other line. “I trust your decision to study here with Braylen and Leon, but I also know you’re going to fight it every single step of the way. What nobody seems to understand, not Leon, not your father, not even your siblings is what it means to be the one to be the leader of the Gray family.”
“What do you mean?” Graciela asked.
“Do you remember Dionysus’ story about our family? Someone was always elected as leader to make decisions that would affect the whole clan. It’s different now, times have changed, but there still seems to be eyes that fall onto the strongest of our family to take charge. In our family it’s me and it’s your grandfather, but we need to make room for you. You’re a special girl, Graciela. You are going to be the one to lead our family into the future generations however you see fit.”
“Mom, that’s not necessary is it?” Graciela asked. “You’re the strong matriarch. No one is looking to me for help on anything.”
“Not yet,” Charlotte replied. “But one day you’re going to have to make a decision that cements the family’s position in the world. For me, that was marrying your father and moving to Fortitude. For you? It could be anything. I want you to do what you feel is right, no matter what.”
“Honey listen,” Charlotte replied. “I know it sounds like I’m spewing nonsense but I want you to know that I love you and I believe in you. No matter what you choose to do in life, I trust in your judgement and I love you.”
Graciela could feel the tears building in her eyes. Life was going to be hard without her mother’s strong presence by her side, supporting her and encouraging her. Graciela was the one on the life changing journey, so she understood what her mother meant. This was not something Pax or Waverly could do. She had to make decisions based on what she thought was right and hearing that her mother believed in her was enough to give her the strength to push forward.
“Graciela, I love you. Please, try to make friends with your classmates and trust in Dionysus if you can’t reach out to me and your father,” Charlotte replied.
“I’ll…try my best,” Graciela muttered, reaching up to wipe her tears. It was time for her to take charge and be the strong woman her family and friends believed her to be.