2004: The Boy with the Magic

2004: The Boy with the Magic

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Read after Black Sun 025.

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Point of View: Julian
Featured Characters: Julian Hollinger, David Hightower
Word Count: 1529

The full story of the wedding where Julian and David met, previously seen in part during Black Sun 025.

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The boy sat at the back of the church the whole time.

She might have thought he wasn’t supposed to be there, if he hadn’t been wearing a suit. He was tall, with brown hair and eyes like hers. He was too old to be a kid but too young to be an adult, and he didn’t seem to be with any of the other families because he didn’t talk to anyone, not even after the bride and groom kissed and everyone was allowed to leave. But she saw him again when they got back to the big house, slipping out of sight through a door that she was pretty sure guests weren’t supposed to go into, because it was closed.

“Is he alright?” asked a voice. Mum’s voice.

“That’s Suzie’s boy,” explained a lady with blond hair and a pink dress. She didn’t know who Suzie was, but she was pretty sure this was the groom’s mom. “Cut him a little slack, won’t you? He’s been having a rough year.”

“Hmm, I suppose you’re right. I can’t imagine what that poor boy is going through.” her Mum responded.

Julian shifted on her feet, unnoticed by the pair as their conversation drifted away from the boy and on to the flower arrangements of the wedding. Her eyes would drift from watching them talk towards the door where he disappeared and then back again. With a thoughtful frown, she chewed in to the side of her cheek until finally she gave in.

Sometimes things pulled and she just couldn’t help but follow.

Knocking would have been the polite thing to do, but instead she grasped the door handle and ever so softly pushed the door open. She poked her head inside curiously.

“Who’s there?” There was a frantic scuffling sound. As she peered around the door frame, she saw him shove something underneath a floral-print couch. He looked up with startled eyes; when they fell on her, though, his shoulders sagged.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” he told her. “Go away.”

He didn’t really look mad, though. His eyes were wide and dark, his face pale.

The room was full of books piled two-deep on shelves that reached all the way up to the ceiling. So high that there was a ladder next to the shelves. There was an oaken desk in the corner, with a matching pair of armchairs- one in front and one behind.

“Hallo.” she said carefully, as if she were approaching a very skittish dog. He seemed skittish. She really shouldn’t have followed him, but he had been alone all day. Lonely? No. Lost. He was lost. Julian was always finding lost things.

Thus, even when he said she shouldn’t be there, and even though he told her to go away, Julian stepped inside. Her hands smoothed over the soft satin of the dress her Mom picked out for her. She didn’t particularly like the lace, the ruffles or the color, but it had hidden pockets that her Daddy so generously stashed several pieces of candy in to.

One of the piece of caramel she pulled out right then, offering it to the boy.

“This is for you! Do you need help? I’m good at helping.”

“Not from you,” he said. He didn’t move to take the candy, but he also didn’t shout or tell her to leave anymore. He looked at her from his cross-legged position on the old carpet, his hands patting down the creases in his black slacks.

But he did need help, she could tell, because he was trying to find something. Someone?

“You’re a Hollinger,” he said slowly. “Aren’t you. Juliet?”

Julian wrinkled up her nose.

“My name is Joo-lee-EN,” she responded with a huff, stressing each syllable carefully. People were always getting her name wrong or saying it was a boy’s name.

Still with candy in hand and holding it out, she inched closer. Candy always helped make things better. She didn’t stop until she was close enough that he could take it without having to get up off the floor. She wouldn’t force him to take it, but she would definitely pout.

Julian cast a look around the room curiously. “I like books. My friend likes them more though. Are you looking for a book to read?”

“…I already have one,” he answered, finally reaching up to take the caramel. He twirled it between his fingers by either end of the wrapper, making soft crinkling sounds. “Can you keep a secret?”

Scooting ever so slightly forward, he slipped one hand under the couch to retrieve a leather-bound volume. Unlike most of the books on the shelves, this one didn’t have a title on the spine. It also had a latch holding it shut. Like a diary, only it didn’t lock.

Gently, he placed it on the floor between them.

“This was my father’s,” he said. “It was written by someone in our family a long time ago. And it’s about our family, and about magic.”

Her mouth went in to a little ‘O’ shape and her eyes blinked wide. Instantly she plopped down on the floor, sitting mostly on her knees with her feet wiggling behind her.

“I know about Magic. My daddy says magic is all over the place, but I haven’t seen any yet.” Julian reached out to poke at the book with a finger, but something told her not to. Her mouth twisted to the side in a thoughtful way, and then she retracted her hand to fold it neatly in her lap with the other.

“You can see magic, though. I can tell. Is it pretty?”

For the first time since she’d spotted him, he made something sort of like a smile, his eyes lightening up.

“I could show you,” he said. Lifting his hand with the caramel flat in the center of his open palm, he stared down at the candy. At first, nothing happened. But after a few silent seconds, the wrapper rustled and peeled away from the caramel chew like shed snakeskin. The candy itself melted into goo and then reformed, petal by petal, into a caramel-colored rose.

He handed the candy back to her.

“My family’s always been magic,” he said, lowering his hand to rest on the book’s hard cover. “Most people can’t even do magic without saying a spell, but I can do it in my head.”

It took all the willpower in the entire world for Julian not to squeal. This was a secret! If she squealed people would come. She kept her hands over her mouth so it stayed contained. Up until he offered her the tiny little caramel rose.

This was the neatest thing she had ever seen. And she had seen a LOT of neat things.

The candy rose got popped in to her mouth, and she tilted her head with a strangely thoughtful amount of chewing for someone so young.

“It tastes like magic even!” That was a fun realization. But Julian decided she wasn’t going to go licking things to see what else tasted magical. That was just silliness.

“You must be really really good. My daddy says people who do special things can help lots of people but they get lonely ’cause it’s hard. Is that why you’re all by yourself?”

The light went out of his eyes as if she’d flipped a switch.

“No,” he said. He pursed his lips. “I’m alone because the people I love were taken from me.”

He sat back, pulling the book into his lap, and drummed his fingers on its surface. It looked like he was thinking very hard. Eventually, he must have made a decision about it, because his hand stilled and he looked at Julian with an intensity that was almost frightening.

“You probably like stories,” he began, quietly. “I did when I was your age. This is a story my father told me, that he got from this book.

“Once upon a time, there was a spoiled prince.” He rubbed his thumb along the book’s spine. “The prince had all the riches and books and candy he could ever want, everything in the world but for one thing: power. And he so desperately wanted power, was so jealous of those who had it, that he set out to steal it for himself. But what the prince didn’t realize or didn’t care was that his scheme would ruin everything. For you see, the power that he stole came from a special ceremony. And that special ceremony was something that everyone needed to keep the land protected from evil. So when he stole it, no one could finish the ceremony… and so everyone was punished for the prince’s wrongdoing.”

By the end of his story, the boy’s voice had gone flatter, sharper. Now he was angry.

“That,” he finished, “is why I’m alone. Like so many others are, or will be. Maybe even you.”


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