It seemed like my second semester at the university was longer than the first even though I knew that couldn't have been possible. In February, I watched Julia meet the man she was going to marry (so she said) and secretly hated that she had someone to take her out on Valentines Day. My classes became boring, and my life became routine. I would wake up, shower, and then, go to work or go to school. But something strange happened through these months of agony. On my way to get my morning coffee or my way to class, I noticed that strangers smiled at me more, and some would say hello. I would occasionally bump into one of the many friends I had made over the last six months, and it was all thanks to Michael. I had reinvented myself from a nobody to a somebody. He helped me break my mold so I could be free to be myself.
This new social arrangement even had Julia and me wanting to join a sorority, and in that summer, we were invited to the first formal of the year for Greek Week to recruit new members. I wore my own clothes this time, staying away from Julia's closet of hell. Life was so much easier when I was being myself.
In my pink sundress and flats, I walked arm in arm with Julia towards the festival. Each sorority had their own reasons for wanting us, but we knew which sorority we wanted to belong in already. New friends had insisted that we join them at their house, but it was still fun to look.
At the last house that we toured, Julia and I were exhausted and wanted nothing more than to grab a bite to eat and rest. It was then, while Julia was trying to keep up with my fast pace in her high heels, that I saw Michael across the street. He was reading the newspaper on the stoop outside his fraternity house, enjoying the warm August day. Feeling someone watching him, he glanced up and saw me gawking with Julia tugging my arm to go. He instantly stood up and walked back into the house.
"Come on, Rachel. Let's just go." Julia looked at the house with me and tugged my arm once more. "I'm thirsty."
"Go on without me," I whispered. "I need to talk to him."
"But you guys had an agreement. He was going to stay out of your life."
"I don't want that." I left Julia standing on the sidewalk when I crossed the street and knocked on the door. Brian was the one who answered the door, and I was glad to see that there wasn't an alcohol bottle in his hands. He must have been sobering up well. "Can I talk to Michael?"
"He isn't here."
I placed my hand on my hip. "Brian, I just saw him. Where is he?"
Brian gave an exaggerated shrug, but his eyes glanced to his side. When I didn't understand his form of code, he tilted his head to the left to hint that Michael was just around the corner. He let me inside, and I whispered a thanks. When I walked around the corner, Michael was up against the wall as if he were a secret agent. My eyebrows raised with confusion, and he relaxed. He sighed, "What are you doing here?"
"It's Greek Week."
"You're going to be in a sorority?"
"What? Am I not cool enough to be in one?" I smiled slightly and crossed my arms with embarrassment. "What have you been up to?"
"Well," I swallowed and looked everywhere but his gaze, "I was just seeing how you were. I guess I'll go now."
When I was halfway down the hallway, I heard him say, "You didn't come all this way to just see how I was doing, did you?"
"No, I came for Greek Week. If I wanted to see how you were doing, I would have went to your apartment."
"Well, I'm good."
"Are you good?"
"Oh," Michael replied with what seemed like disappointement.
"Well, almost great." I sighed and walked back towards Michael to where we were facing each other once again. His blonde hair had became shaggier since the last time I saw him, but his gentle green eyes would never change. He stared into my eyes with so much intensity that it was impossible for me not to look away. "You don't have to hide when you see me, you know?"
"I'm just staying out of your life like you wanted."
"I never said I wanted that."
"That's funny because I distinctly remember you saying -"
"No," I interrupted him, "that was before I got to know you. We can be friends, can't we?"
"You want to be friends?"
"I miss you."
His confident smirk suddenly appeared, and he reminded me of the same Michael that I once knew. He reminded me of the Michael at the seventies party, who talked to me when no one else would. And even though the old me might have hated that arrogant smile, I had reinvented myself, and his smile was the highlight of my day.
He rubbed one side of his face, trying to process our relationship. "Are you telling me that you like me? You signed the divorce papers."
"Only because you did."
"Yes, because I saw Justin and you together. I know how you feel about him, and when I heard him tell you how amazing you were, something in my head just went off. I knew then that I couldn't keep you away from someone that you may truly love."
"So, you never stopped liking me?"
"The day I realized I liked you was the day after our wedding when you woke up frantic. Yes, it was a big deal, but I couldn't help but to think how cute you were. The day I realized I loved you was when we were outside your parents house at six in the morning. Do you remember? I was telling you about my father. I never told anyone that before, and you were there for me. After that, my love for you has just grown. I think because I loved you so much, I knew I couldn't not sign the papers when you didn't feel the same way about me." We were silent for the longest time, which would have bothered me with anyone else. I hated awkward silences, but with Michael, there was nothing wrong with serene silence. He gently grabbed my hand and knelt down on one knee. "Rachel, will you go out with me this Saturday night?"
Unable to form words, I nodded with a wide smile on my face, and then, we shared the first of our many kisses to come.
The Following is a Preview of Spellbound
"Why is it as if Alec and I never existed?" Cassie asked, staring intently into Alana's forest-green eyes.
Alana frowned; she knew it wouldn't have been that easy, but at least the adoptive mother was gone. Alana had never felt small in her life, excluding the day she found out her family was killed, but Alana had never had somebody make her feel small by simply glaring at her. She was sure there were a few people who had never liked her because it's impossible to be liked by everyone, but she had never faced that much animosity before in her life from one single woman.
Cassie waited, tapping her foot to signal that she was ready to hear the answer. "Natalie probably won't be gone very long, and she said herself that she doesn't want you here when she returns. So, you better tell now or else I'm going to New York whether you like it or not."
"Cassie, please." Alana grimaced. "If you do that, Natalie will only blame me. It will give her just another reason to hate me."
"Is that the kind of grandmother I have? One who goes back on her promises?"
"Like I said before, it's hard to explain. I would feel better if there was a way I could show you." As the idea came to her, Alana's sad eyes looked up at her granddaughter. There was a hope that Alana wouldn't have to speak the words that she had tried so hard to forget, but it meant that Cassie would have to expand her visions. When Cassie was a little girl, Alana had tried several times to help the girl control the dreamlike visions she called, 'dreamies.' However, the girl would never concentrate, and Alana feared that Cassie had lost most of her premonition gift from not using it. "You told me about a vision you had once - about a boy named Eric. Tell me about it."
Cassie told her grandmother everything. She told her how she saw in a dream that a boy with beige colored hair and blue eyes was lost. She told Alana how she saw his parents' boating accident and that the boy was scared. Then, the most amazing part of the story, Cassie told her grandmother when Eric arrived at Sunnyside. He looked exactly the same, except the boy had received a haircut before coming to the orphanage. No one would tell Cassie what had happened to the boy's parents because of the imaginative story she had told the employees about a lost little boy, but Eric quickly befriended Cassie and told her his story just as she told him hers.
"That truly is remarkable," Alana replied. "How long ago was this?"
"I was probably nine. It wasn't too long after I moved into Sunnyside. Eric was two years older than me." Cassie smiled slightly as she thought of the little boy she once knew. "I hope he's happy."
Alana swallowed the lump in her throat as she reached for her purse. There was only one way to see if Cassie could recall her past, and it was to bring her past to her. Alana always carried around small keepsakes that she had salvaged from her family's home on Terras Island. The first object she took out of her large, leather bag was a locket that held two photographs. The first picture was of Alec when he was a baby. His mouth was open and eyes were crossed. The second picture was when Cassie was a toddler. Her dark brown hair looked lighter in the sunlight as she picked a sunflower. When Cassie saw the picture, she didn't remember anything.
"The pictures were taken when the two of you were so young," Alana explained. "That could be why you don't remember it. Let me see what else I have."
There was an old-fashioned styled comb that belonged to Cassie's father, a bracelet that had been Cassie's mother's, and a hair clasp. None of the objects meant anything to Cassie, although she was captivated by the personal belongings of her parents'. Alana reached in her bag once more, finding there was one object still left. She almost didn't show Cassie the small music box. There would be no way to explain how it was possible for something so small to play music and how it was possible a holographic ballerina danced on the base, reflecting different colors of light during the song. However, Alana would have to explain this somehow and what better way than to show her. Alana sighed and grabbed the magical musical box that looked as if it were a compact mirror instead. Carefully, Alana held the invaluable item in her hand, showing it to Cassie. "I will need your necklace to open it."
Cassie fondled the blue gem in her hand, almost afraid to take it off her neck; but even though Alana was caught lying from the very beginning, Cassie trusted this woman. She placed the necklace in the woman's aged, soft hands and watched her as Alana inserted the blue gem into the lock. It was a perfect fit, and the top of the music box opened slowly. Everything about it seemed familiar, but she couldn't quite remember. It was as if the memory was out of reach or a wall was blocking her from obtaining it. Cassie shut her eyes as tight as she could and listened to the music play a lyrical song performed on the higher keys of a piano. Alana placed the music box in Cassie's hands, but Cassie's eyes remained shut.
This was when Cassie had her first vision outside of a dream. By the touch of her music box, Cassie's world had changed into a world that Cassie had once forgotten. She was a little girl again in a large palace that she now recognized as her home. She was happy to see the profiles of her parents; she remembered them now. The tall man with dark hair and a mustache was Mortimer Harrison, and the beautiful brunette wearing the tiara had been Tracy Harrison. Cassie felt so overjoyed that she almost lost the realistic vision she was having, but she concentrated harder, not letting her emotions vanish the loving moment she was having with her family.
"Cassidy Belle Harrison, where are you?" Tracy called in the hallway. From the sound of her voice, she was tired. Her hands were on her hips as Cassie was hiding behind a door, giggling. "Is that my giggling girl I hear? Come here, sweetheart. Mommy has a present for you."
Cassie was quick to run to her mother, and Tracy only laughed when Cassie was jumping up and down for her gift. "What is it, Mommy? What is it?"
"Close your eyes." When she did so, Tracy placed a circular, flat object in her hands. "Alright, now you can open them."
It was the silver music box, and embedded on the cover was Cassie's initials: CBH. "It's pretty, Mommy!"
"There's more." Tracy smiled when she saw the girl's green eyes bulge with excitement. "Do you remember the necklace I gave you for your birthday? It will open it, and music will surround you wherever you go. When you hear it, you will always think of the people who love you most."
Cassie hummed along with the lyrical song, knowing the exact length of each note. Every night after receiving the present, her mother had played the music box to sing her to sleep. Cassie would watch the magical ballerina dance on the pedestal until her tired eyes closed for the night. It was all clear now.
But, her vision changed to something more horrifying than she could have ever imagine. There was a reason why her dreams never showed her the screaming woman, and that was because the scream of terror belonged to her mother. Her father's lifeless body had been drained of blood, and now, all that was left was a pale, ghostly body. It didn't even look like him anymore. He had always been so full of life, always smiling, but this man before her expressed pain. His eyes were still open from when he had been attacked, and pairs of open holes were in his neck, wrists, and abdomen.
A shadow above Cassie swiftly moved, making her frightened eyes glance up. Her grip around her younger brother tightened. Everything was happening so fast. Their father was dead, and there was no sign of their mother. She called out her mother's name, hoping that it was all a joke. Her father would wake up and smile. The two of them would tell their children it had all been in good fun, just like the Halloween party at the castle last year when they hosted a haunted house. But Mortimer's body remained lifeless, and the eerie night continued.