Ch. 1: Forgotten
Don't get into cars with strangers. Surely that was the warning kids most heard from their parents and teachers. But Olivia was eleven, wasn't that old enough to decide who was dangerous and who wasn't?
"Your mom probably just got held up at the hospital. She wouldn't want you to wait out here all afternoon or walk all the way home."
That was true enough, though she usually called Sam or Barb when she couldn't come herself. Maybe it was a big emergency and she didn't have the chance to go to the phone.
"You're a good kid. How about I call your mom and ask her if it's okay to give you a ride home? Do you have the number for the hospital?"
Olivia could imagine that; her mother in the middle of a surgery having to answer a phone call for something as silly as a ride home for her daughter. This woman wasn't even a real stranger, exactly. She had been at the open house last week and had even talked to Olivia. Her mother would probably think it was ridiculous that she even had to ask.
"That's a pretty flower." The woman had said while looking at the flower that Olivia had picked for her mother.
"It's a daffodil from our garden."
"You did this?"
"Yeah, I picked it." She hadn't added that she had picked the flower over a year ago. Olivia had enough experience to know that flowers in vases weren't supposed to last that long.
"No, it's okay. I don't have the number anyways. I live on Baker Street." She swung her backpack onto her shoulder while the woman leaned over to open the passenger-side door. The woman smiled broadly with perfectly white teeth.
Olivia paused just before getting into the car. Eleven years of teachers' warnings and an overprotective mother made her paranoid. She caught a glimpse of a dark look on the woman's face. It was only for a second, but it was enough to make Olivia think that her instincts might have been right.
"I forgot my notebook in the yard." She lied. "I'll be right back." She turned around and darted in the opposite direction. Grass was safety. Some part of her knew that, although it wasn't a conscious thought; it never was. It was like the time she had been lost in the woods and she had made an onion plant point the way back to the trail. She had felt like the woods had been speaking to her, then, but the grass wasn't speaking now—it was yelling.
Something knocked her over and sent her sprawling onto the concrete. She reached an arm out for a weed that was growing up from a crack but an arm grabbed her around the middle from behind and lifted her up. She screamed and kicked out at the woman, but her shoes only met air. How had she gotten out of the car that quickly? She had been sitting on the far side. Olivia continued to scream until it hurt.
"No more noise." The woman's voice was different, harsher. Olivia kept screaming, but nothing was coming out.
She continued to put up a fight as the woman shoved her into the seat of the car. One arm held her down while the other reached for the seat belt. That one she bit. The woman didn't cry out. She simply pulled her arm away and smacked Olivia across the face; hard enough to stun her.
An adult had hit her! They weren't supposed to do that. Only really bad people did that. She was so surprised by this that she didn't notice that the woman now had a hand on her hair and was muttering something.
Olivia slumped back into the seat. Moving suddenly seemed like an impossibly exhausting task. The woman closed the door and made her way to the driver's side. She didn't even have the energy required to open the door back up and slide out. It was the most helpless she had ever felt in her life. Her face hurt from the slap and her arms were scraped from falling on the concrete. Tears started to flow, but her crying was utterly silent. Her voice still hadn't returned to her.
"I'm Mrs. Cadby. You're going to be coming home with me." She made it sound like such a mundane thing, like a new teacher introducing herself and saying that they would be studying math.
Olivia stared at her, wide-eyed. Her face was tear-stained and one side still burned from the slap.
Mrs. Cadby started the car. She didn't seem at all worried that someone might have seen her grab a kid from right in front of a school. Olivia wasn't too hopeful that someone had either. A person who could steal someone's voice with three words could probably do lots more to protect herself.
"You're a very special child, more than you know. I know what you can do. I knew it when I saw that flower you were keeping alive." She paused, as if waiting for some sort of response.
Olivia wasn't sure what to think of this. No one had ever actually said anything about her abilities out loud before, although she was pretty sure that at least her mother and Sam suspected that she had them.
"I'm going to teach you to use what you have. In exchange, you're going to help me."
Olivia didn't like the way she smirked when she said 'help me'. Although she had no idea what kind of help Mrs. Cadby wanted, she was fairly certain it wasn't good. Good things didn't involve kidnapping.
The car was turning onto the ramp for the highway. "You probably don't like me very much right now. That's fine. I don't like you much either. I think you're a snotty, pampered kid with no manners."
Olivia wrinkled her nose. She may have been a little pampered, but nobody had ever accused her of not having manners. Everyone always told her mother how well-behaved she was.
"Now, I'll let you talk again, but only if you promise not to yell again. I won't stand any yelling from you."
Olivia sniffed and nodded. She didn't have the strength to yell anyways.
Olivia tried to say something but it came out as a squeak first. She tried again. "I want my mom." She didn't care how pitiful and childlike she sounded. It was true.
"Good for you."
"She's probably already looking for me. The cops'll find me and you'll go to jail." Just saying it made Olivia feel better. Of course they would. This crazy woman would probably go to jail for the rest of her life.
"Nobody's going to come looking for you."
"They'll send the magicians too. Probably the council. They'll be able to stop you."
"Nobody's going to look for you because they won't know you're missing."
Olivia frowned. "What'd you do? Make a fake me? It won't work. My mom's friends with the town magician. He'll know."
"Kid, you may think I'm just some self-taught magician with a few parlor tricks. I'm not. There won't be anyone looking for you because you don't exist to them anymore."
Olivia stared at her blankly.
"At all. Nobody knows you anymore. Your mother is a single woman who never had any kids."
"You're lying. You can't just make everyone ... forget me. It just wouldn't work! It's too many people."
Mrs. Cadby silently reached over to the car phone. Olivia watched as she dialed a number; her number. Her heart jumped as her mother's voice came over the speakerphone.
"Go ahead." Mrs. Cadby said with a wave of her hand. All of the sudden she didn't want to talk to her mother. What if it was true? What if everyone really had forgotten her, just like that?
"Mom? It's Olivia!" She blurted out.
There was a pause over the line. Maybe she dropped the receiver. Mrs. Cadby watched the road, appearing disinterested in the conversation.
"Hey, I think you hit the wrong numbers kiddo." It really was her mother's voice. She sounded just like Olivia would expect her mother to sound ... if she was talking to some poor kid who couldn't even get her own phone number right.
Olivia's heart started to pound. "C'mon ... it's me, mom! It's Olivia!"
"I'm sorry, I don't have any children. If this is a prank, I really don't find it funny." It was her disapproving tone, more dreaded than her angry voice.
Olivia looked at Mrs. Cadby, her face pale. "Stop it."
Mrs. Cadby disconnected the line and went back to watching the road. It was getting dark outside. How long had she been in the car? Olivia found that she had neither tears nor the energy to cry anymore. She leaned her head against the window. The coolness felt good on her hurt cheek. As much as she had wanted her voice back, the last thing she wanted was to continue talking to this woman who had done such a horrible thing to her.