Return to Matari
I opened my eyes from the long blink to a far too familiar sight. My room. I sprung up, literally, leaping right off the side of the bed. "I'm… home?" I gasped.
"Jamie? That you?"
She came in through the bathroom door, rubbing her eyes. "Well, you picked a fine time to wake up. 2AM, of all the nerve. Couldn't you let us relax at least a little?"
She giggled and ran over to me, her arms already wrapping around my waist. "I was worried about you, you know. Literally had to beat those boys out of your room so you could sleep."
"Oh, you know. Mikey and all of your lovers. You have a fan club, you know. They were watching you like a hawk. I was just waiting for you to wake up so Miquel and Alejandro would stop bickering — they don't like each other very much. At each others' throats the whole time."
I felt my hand up to my neck. "What… was that?"
"I think the others want to talk to you first. Kirkland, Gilton, Domaint, and Lakesview, of course. C'mon, I'll take you myself. Might wanna get dressed first, though," she snickered, pulling at my PJ shirt.
I had clean blue bandages all over my shoulder and neck. Carmelo… He did something to me. I can't remember what, but he did something to me. Everyone was worried. It hurt, and I got sleepy… but what else?
"What about Carmelo?"
"Y-You know! The bad guy!"
"Oh, him? Phf — who has time for things like that?"
I dressed and was (almost) out the door in less than ten minutes. Jane, on the other hand, took another fifteen to get herself ready, complaining that I was hogging the bathroom sink to brush my teeth.
We made it up to the dean's office and I didn't even wait for the secretary to let us in before I barged through the doors. "Lakesview! I need to— why's everyone here?"
Gilton, Domaint, Kirkland, Lakesview, Ms. Kitty, Lesion, and many others as well, just standing around like they were waiting for something. Me, perhaps?
"Jamie. You're awake."
"How do you feel?" Troy asked skeptically.
"F-Fine, I guess. What're all of you guys—"
"Sorry we took so long, Dean," Jane yawned. "She woke up in the middle of the night. Brought her right over."
"Good. Go inform Kiki, would you?"
"Kiki? Why Kiki?"
"Don't worry about it, Jamie. You just sit down. We need to speak. Privately."
The others acknowledged his command and left silently, Ms. Kitty squeezing my good shoulder gently as she passed. "Try not to take too long, old man."
"We'll certainly try."
As soon as the door closed, he sighed gently, a smile on his face as he looked over me.
"What's up?" I asked nervously. "Something wrong?"
"Quite the opposite, Ms. Gale."
He looked to the side, toward the window. "Did you notice that we're back home now?"
"Y-Yes, I did notice that. Jane said Alejandro was here — is he staying here?"
"For a time, at least." He smiled at the window sadly, his face slowly dropping. "…I'm very sorry."
"It was because of me that all this happened. Maybe it was for better, maybe for worse."
"I told you to tell me everything."
"I wasn't directly referring to that case alone."
"I was the one who stole the bud from Carmelo, and now you're the one to suffer for it."
"Have you removed your bandages?"
I shook my head. "Jane rushed me out before I could do anything."
"I'm sure you'll realize what I mean by that later. I just wanted to apologize."
I took a deep breath, studying his expression. "How did we get home?"
"Shortly after you fell asleep in Carmelo's castle, we were merely transported back to the school, already here on this side."
"So it just ended? Just like that?" I sighed. He nodded. "Thank goodness… W-Were there any casualties?"
"Except for you, all of our wounds were healed instantly."
I sighed. "That's good." I looked up and admired the beautiful office. It was Matari. My home.
"Yes. Matari is ours again and Carmelo has no more claim to it. Alejandro convinced him never to try again. I do believe we're safe now."
"How long have I been out?"
"A few days. Three or four. Nothing serious. Classes have resumed… and I assume you wish to continue your education here, is that correct?"
His tone almost scared me. Why would I not want to? Hadn't I just risked my life to secure this school? Hadn't I just faced uncertain danger over lands that only he had ever passed through before for the sake of this campus?
"Of course I do!" I yelped.
"Great. Mrs. Domaint," he called, pressing the intercom button. "She's ready."
" 'Ready'? For what?"
Mrs. Domaint came in, Alejandro close behind her. He was wearing Matari's school uniform. He smiled and crossed the floor quickly, taking my hand and hugging me tightly. "I was worried about you."
"Y-Yeah," I murmured. "What's going on?"
Mrs. Domaint tugged on my hand and pulled me abruptly out the door. "We really shouldn't make everyone wait any longer than we have to. They'll be waking up for classes soon, and you must be ready!"
"Ready for what?"
"Your acceptance speech."
"Was I elected president while I was unconscious?"
"Not quite," he smirked. He picked me up in his arms and carried me after Domaint.
We stopped at a building I'd never been in before. "This is the cosmetics building. Clothes, sewing, cosmetology, hair styling, and everything else beauty-related happens here," she reported. "Trixie! She's here!"
Trixie and Clarissa stepped out from behind a curtain surround a room with mirrors on all sides, a measuring tape around Trixie's neck and a large duffel under Clarissa's arm.
"Well, it's about time."
"We've been waiting for a while now — very indecisive."
"Have you finished yet, girls?"
"Not only have we finished," Trixie flaunted proudly, "we have about 12 designs for her to choose from. C'mon, Jamie, you're in our hands now."
"Should I be scared?" I cringed.
They both smirked at each other and pulled me behind the curtain. "You," Trixie ordered at Alejandro, "make yourself useful outside."
He recoiled nervously, nodded, and left before he was booted.
"What're you gonna do to me?" I cringed again.
"At least we're not planning on it being painful."
"I guess it could be, to someone like you."
The curtain was dropped. In front of me stood 12 dresses, a prom queen's greatest desire.
"What…?" I gasped nervously.
Trixie wrapped the tape measure around my waist and said some sizes, Clarissa taking them down on a clipboard.
"15 inches, 18 inches, 24 inches," she continued, Clarissa's hand scribbling furiously. "Alright. Done."
She snapped her fingers and another girl — Mandy, I think her name was — came out from the curtain with a dress, holding it up to me to size and compare. It was a dark purple with a soft yellow sash.
Trixie and Clarissa glanced over it and shrugged it off. "Next."
She stepped back behind the curtain and another girl — Kailin — came out with a second dress. White with a pink sash.
Mandy reappeared with a tighter white dress, shorter and definitely spunkier. Trixie whispered something to Clarissa, who wrote it down furiously on the clipboard. I caught a couple of numbers and a few small words like 'that'll' and 'yeah'.
Kailin again with a black set. Black vest-like thing, and a black miniskirt. Trixie's eyes lit up and whispered something to Clarissa.
Over and over again dresses were pulled out from the curtain and held up to me. Just what were they dressing me for? What speech was I about to give? What the heck was going on?
"Alright," she said at last. "You just sit here for a few moments. We'll be back in about 10 minutes." They both left through the curtain. They were followed by scrambling and dress bags being moved around, then scissors and sewing machines. Nine minutes later, they returned.
"You ready?" Trixie giggled. I nodded nervously, not having moved from my spot. "Great. Clarissa! Bring it out!"
She entered with their 'masterpiece'. A mini dress, a bit of a compilation of all of the dresses already seen. I was impressed. It was gold and black and red — the school colors. The bottom was like the school uniform shirt, lacey.
"Alright, let's get this on, okay?"
They left the room for me to change. For something that looked so awkward, it sure felt comfortable. They had snuck in to give me black tights since they went with the miniskirt, and I left the room nearly two inches taller from the heels.
Trixie nodded approvingly. "Very nice," she smirked. "Alright, Clarissa. Your turn."
"What?" I yelped. "What turn?"
Clarissa smirked and Trixie pulled me out to a counter in front of the mirror wall. The duffel bag was opened, revealing straighteners, curling irons, hair clips, scrunchies, and a large bag of makeup.
"Ready?" she asked giddily.
"Do I have a choice?"
"No. I just wanted to make you feel better about it."
I closed my eyes and waited for her torture to be over.
By 3:45, I had a new outfit, perfectly amazing makeup, and hair that put supermodels to shame. I gawked at myself in the mirror for another fifteen minutes before Mrs. Domaint and Alejandro came back in.
Alejandro literally stopped in his tracks when he saw me, his jaw dropping. "Whoa."
Trixie and Clarissa slapped hands and walked back into the back. "We know — we're amazing."
"I must say, girls," Mrs. Domaint cooed, "you've certainly outdone yourselves this time."
They both smirked and were gone behind the curtain.
"Jamie, it's time to go now."
"Now where are we going? What's going on — what's this speech I've got to give?"
"You saved the school," Alejandro explained. "They deserve to recognize you."
"But it was my fault in the first place—"
"—and it's because of you that they're still here now, in the school that they call home," Alejandro said, bowing his head to me.
I took his arm and followed Mrs. Domaint out of the room and into the main building, still inactive from the early morning hours. We were met in the auditorium, still empty. Gilton and Kirkland were standing around laughing about something. Bingo stood at Gilton's heels until he saw me. I was greeted with a thick layer of pooch saliva on the cheek. Somehow or another, Clarissa's makeup had withstood the test. Sure hope it wasn't permanent… Well, maybe not. It was perfect enough.
"Bingo!" I sputtered. "What are you— ack! Ew, puppy tongue, in my mouth," I gagged. He sat down and looked up at me calmly, almost seeming to be hurt. "Blek," I repeated into his face. Then I scratched his head. "Stupid chocolate milk puppy…" He bayed and ran back to Gilton's side, sounding the alarm that I was here.
"Jamie, so good to see you're feeling better."
"Yeah, sure — what's this speech I hear I'm giving? Is it interesting?"
"It's a simple one," Kirkland promised, winking at me and holding up a small stack of index cards. "I hear you're a great speaker — why don't we wait for the time to come for you to read them, eh?" and he slipped them back into his pocket.
"Why didn't anyone warn me that I would have to give a speech?"
"Because we knew you'd say 'no'," Gilton mused. Then he slipped his headpiece over my ear.
"—HURRY UP AND TELL ME! Does she look alright? Is she bleeding? Faint? When I can see her again?! WHY AREN'T YOU ANSWERING ME?!" Mikey cried frantically.
"He's been doing that ever since he found out you woke up."
"'Sup, Mikey?" I snickered.
"JAMIE! YOU'RE ALIVE!"
"Yeah. I guess so."
"WHERE ARE YOU?!"
"In the auditorium. Could you please stop screaming? You're hurting my ears."
"They let you in? Aren't the decorations awesome?"
I looked around. Matari's colors were lining every inch of the place. The chairs were color-coordinated, balloons on the walls, even the giant mascot picture on the tapestry behind the podium in the middle of the stage.
"Yeah. They really do."
"Would you please tell me what all this fuss is about?! Why can't I eat in the cafeteria? I'm starving!"
"I'm sure you are," Gilton snickered, "but I've got my orders to keep you away from everyone for at least a little while.
Gilton currently had me locked back in my dungeon of the bottom floor of the security building.
"I'll bust my way back out of here if you don't let me go."
"You can try," he mused, turning his nose up. "I already had Altou put up a magic shield around this place — your magic won't do you any good around here."
"Why are you holding me captive after dressing me up all nice?!"
He smirked in my general direction. "Dr. Troy will be over in a few minutes to change your bandages. We don't want to send you up there with that thing catching everyone's attention."
I growled and turned back to my food that had been placed in front of me. "Do you really think that a cheeseburger is going to make me forgive you?" I pouted.
"Not likely, but not my choice. Blame Miquel. He's the one who brought it for you."
I growled again and began eating it slowly. I noticed a pretzel beside it. Delicious, but not the same as mine. Just what was so important that I couldn't eat in the cafeteria? Did the school catch some kind of plague on the other side?! JEEZ! I would be just as exposed to it as anyone else!
"This can technically be considered kidnapping," I hissed quietly.
"Down, kitty," he laughed. "Blame Lakesview for that."
"Why'd he let you kidnap me?!"
"Because we find it necessary to keep you a surprise."
He only snickered and shook his head, smiling brightly. "You'll see," he sighed. "You'll see…"
I'm not sure how much time passed, but after Troy released me for the public once more, the sun was already going down.
I was brought 'secretly' to the auditorium once again, taken in the back ways by Mikey and Gilton, and Bingo occasionally, when he wasn't chasing off the strange outbreak of squirrels we'd had since we returned from the other side.
"Alright, now take a deep breath," Mikey ordered.
"I don't even know what I'm supposed to be nervous about. Relax. I got this. …Whatever 'this' is."
He smiled and opened the door. "Alright. Go and meet your peers once more."
"Couldn't you at least give me a heads up on this?"
"Nope. Just get up there and give your speech. Remember, relax."
I rolled my eyes and walked out in my spiffy new outfit. Trixie had found it necessary to track me down and give me a white cloak for some reason. "Just felt necessary,"she said.
I thought it'd be far too warm with it on under the lights, but I felt very cold getting up in front of everyone. Dean Lakesview stood at the middle podium, just waiting for me with the speech on index cards.
"And now," he said into the microphone, "I present to you all your student class valedictorian — Jamie Gale."
Wow, that's sad.
I smiled nervously, slinking up to the podium. "Really wish you'd given me some warning," I growled through a smile.
"Knew you'd do fine anyway."He left my notecards on the podium.
I stepped up, looking out into the blinding lights that hid everyone's faces from me. "Hello… everyone," I gulped.
I looked down at the cards, reading them carefully. " 'This year has conflicted most of what we've known our entire lives, but we've all worked hard to accomplish everything set before us. We've banded together in ways that none of us had ever believed we would need to, accomplished things we didn't even know were possible for anyone, let alone ourselves, and finally, we did the greatest thing imaginable. We finished the year with our heads held high.
" 'It's been a long road since we first began at the beginning of the year. We were all lost, staggering children, looking for a way out of where we came from, looking for something more than what we had before… and we bonded together to create eternal bonds that will never be broken, no matter how sharp the sword or spear pointed at us. We created an eternal family that will never die as long as we still believe. Anything is possible, because we now know we can achieve it.
" 'As we continue on in our lives, we know that things will only become harder until the day we die, but we'll never stop trying. Never stop trying to make the world better, the way we want it to be. We wanted a release, and we were given an opportunity. Outside of these barrier walls is a world that doesn't strive to meet our wants or our needs. We can't be sure what tomorrow has in store, but it's there all the same, waiting for us with open arms and smiling embraces that only we as individuals can choose to accept. Without a choice of our own, we have nothing.
" 'Continue with me as we conclude this maiden year of Matari's long future. Please, turn your tassels across your caps and place the rings on your fingers,' " I read curiously.
Down on the podium beside me sat a ring. A simple silver band with a clear white square diamond in the middle. I looked up at Gilton, smiling and nodded me on. I picked it up and placed it on my finger, the diamond sparkling brightly.
" 'With these rings, we can see our futures awaiting, shining brightly with every new light cast upon us. They sparkle like our futures, and they shine with our hopes and dreams. Nothing can cloud them. Over time, if they become dulled, find what you look forward to and the shine will return with your hopes and desires, lighting the path ahead of you with full force and a light heart. Never let it stop shining, and never let your future fail for you.
" 'Maiden class of Matari Academy… I name you all advanced. Your futures lay before you, and though not a single one of us is fully prepared to leave our homes and become what the world sees as 'adults', we still have two years to practice in our home, here at Matari.' "
After the end of the speech, we held our commencement celebration. AKA, Gilton's idea of combining graduation night, prom, and any other party that he'd have to clean up together.
The moment I was released from the spotlight, I ran to find Jane and Mikey, waiting with open arms. I noticed that all of the other girls in the class were also wearing white capes, and all of the boys wearing black. "I guess this was the school's idea of graduation gowns."
"Much better," I agreed.
"We're officially juniors," Jane smiled. "I can't believe it! And to think, Matari is going to bring us all back next year — it's so exciting!"
Mikey turned around to the table and brought up two glasses of red punch. "To us, right, Leader?"
I took mine with a smile. "To all of us. We passed!"
"And to think that you were named valedictorian!"
"How do you think I felt? Stupid everyone — no one even told me what I was going up to read! If I'd known I was about to give the graduation speech, I would've—"
"—been scared out of your mind!" Mikey laughed. "It was my idea to keep you in the dark. Admit it, it helped."
"True," I laughed, "but it still would've been nice to know."
"After what happened, I would've thought that you wouldn't want to know anything for a while."
I sneered a laugh at him and then returned to the main part of the dance floor, looking for people to say hello to. Trixie and Clarissa came over to tell me my clothes looked awesome, Miquel was barking people around until they got the food out on the tables, and others were just standing around dancing with each other, their funny little capes billowing around them.
On the far side of the room, directly beside Professor Kirkland, stood a very out of place boy. Harper. "What's wrong with you?" I grumbled. "I just said you graduated — no matter how much trouble you caused."
"I'm sorry," he said quietly.
I punched his shoulder gently. "Don't get all full of yourself, punk. Enjoy it."
I handed him my glass of punch and went back into the crowd. An encouraged smile crossed his face, and he looked away, blushing. I might have just added another boy to the competition… Oops.
"How are you, my dear?" Mrs. Domaint greeted, hugging me tightly. "That speech was wonderful. Very well prepared," she winked.
"Is it all true? Will we be coming back next year, then?"
"We've won against Carmelo. I see no reason why not. Oh, but don't be so eager to throw away your childhood with school. You're only young once! School can wait. Enjoy your summer, alright, my dear?"
"I think I'd enjoy it more if I woke up at 5AM to bake pretzels," I laughed.
"Maybe go and say hello to that mother of yours. I'm sure she misses you. Sometimes a life-threatening situation can bring you to better terms with people that have wronged you."
I nodded, continuing around. It didn't take long for my poor feet to ache in the heels. I sat down on a chair and leaned back, sighing and resting my eyes.
"Jamie? You okay?" I heard Jane ask.
"Yeah," I moaned.
"You look exhausted."
"I haven't exactly been sleeping like a baby these past few days, if you know what I mean."
"Heck yes you have! You've been sleeping better than a dead dog. I've seen you."
"Well, I feel tired."
"C'mon. Let's slip away, then. Back to our room — you can rest it off."
"Y-Yeah. I think that'd be nice."
I stood up, and my legs collapsed below me. Jane caught me, spilling her punch to the floor. "Jamie?! Are you okay?"
"Find Kirkland," I whispered. "I don't feel good."
"At least she managed to calm everyone down before she collapsed," I heard Gilton sigh. "She can be sick all she wants now."
"Hardly appropriate, Gilton!" Kirkland snapped. "Look, she's waking."
"Don't tell me… I passed out again," I growled.
"Don't move," he urged, before I even tried. "It's Carmelo's poison. We've tried to extract it, but we think it's gotten too integrated with your blood. The only way to make it disappear entirely would be to take out all of your blood."
"Thanks," I mumbled, "but I feel better now. I can sit."
"Stay down," Troy ordered.
Mrs. Domaint pulled out a mirror, holding it up for me to see. A large black patterned reached out all the way from the spot on my neck over my cheek, as well as down to my shoulder.
"What… is that?" I gasped. I couldn't feel it, but it sure made a funny mark.
"It'll go away in a few hours. In the meantime, don't move as much as you can."
"You've got the wrong girl to tell that to. I hate sitting still." Chaton and Bingo arrived suddenly, Bingo's paws coming up from the side of the bed to rest beside me, and Chaton snuggling up on my chest. "Only a few hours, right?" I mumbled.
"Yes. Not long. Until then… Oh, here. Take this." Kirkland handed me my ring and cape, rolled up with a black ribbon. "Figure you'd want this."
"Thanks," I sighed. "Is it summer yet?"
They laughed. "School let out two days ago officially. Not many students have left, of course, but we're still trying to force you all into summer."
"It's a conspiracy," Gilton snickered. "My idea, of course."
"Of course," I laughed back. "Do my parents know what's happened?"
"Your father is back overseas and your mother is on her way to pick you up."
"No, I mean, about the other side?"
"No one knows about Matari vanishing, except for all of us, of course. To the rest of the world, no one's gone anywhere. We returned mere seconds after we disappeared."
"If you're tired, then rest. Matari will be waiting when you wake up again."
"You've fought for it with all your might. It's yours now. You've more claim to it than anyone else. Rest now… and sweet dreams."
"Yes, Jamie," a voice said again. "Sleep." It was the voice from Carmelo's tower. I didn't know who she was, but she was comforting. I slowly closed my eyes and let myself fall asleep.
The Final Ending
I opened my eyes once more to a sight that I thought I would never have to see again. My room. At my mother's house. I was back in the rickety, uncomfortable old bed in the uncomfortable old attic, staring at the tall ceiling.
I sat up quickly, leaping to my mirror to check my neck. Only two small puncture scars remained, a small black circle around it. I sighed.
My first tattoo.
"Jamie? Is that you?"
"Dad?" I asked, opening the door for him.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," he smiled.
"Yeah, thanks. What's going on? Why am I here?"
"It's summer, of course."
"But why… am I here?"
"I came to get you. Jamie, there's something you need to know."
I felt my heart stop, and then beat more rapidly than ever. "What? What's wrong?"
"I think you should see for yourself."
I hopped into Dad's car, riding out to the beautiful campus of Matari. It was a wasteland. What had once been the tall, elegant buildings were now nothing more than bare earth and rubble, like they had never existed in the first place. I felt the sadness rising up in my throat, like the feeling of losing a loved one.
"It was just a few days ago," he said sadly. "I'm sorry, honey. There was a bomb, it completely destroyed everything. I came to get you when the base heard about it." He put his hand on my shoulder. I barely felt it. My body was numb.
I leapt out of the car and ran inside the gate — the only thing left standing — and stopped just inside. This was where the masked men took my invitation for the last entrance exam. They almost didn't let me, I remembered. I choked it all down and ran further inside before Dad could come stop me.
The fish ponds were still there, but they were nothing but mud. You couldn't even see a foot down into them without seeing the settled dirt. No more fish. I looked where the dorms had once been, but found only a rocky mountain of scorched stones, burnt ivory.
Dad came in after me and put his hands on my shoulders. "I know how much you liked it here, Jamie."
I bit my lip to keep from crying, but I knew that it wouldn't help. This was just too much. My whole body shook. I looked down at the ring on my right finger and touched it with my other hand. The beautiful diamond was a dull color, gray as a boulder. It barely gave off even a shine. The silver was already tarnished like it was a hundred years old.
I pushed Dad away and ran to where the cafeteria once was. Nothing. Bricks, broken glass, but no cafeteria. The stool that I always sat on to roll out my pretzels was still there, scorched. It looked so out of place, standing there as the only thing that had not moved. I sat on it. Still sturdy.
Dad was a few hundred feet away from me, standing there staring at his watch. I looked away. I would not be rushed. I got up again and ran to the track fields. The ground was all level and smooth, but covered in tall, green, wavy grass. In the background, on the edge of the Matari landmark where the AG shop had once been, was a small brown mountain. The buildings in the background were taller than it.
I saw a figure standing on its front-most ledge. A heavy-set man in a white lab coat. I ran as fast as I could to the spot, finding the path up the mountainside cliff from the base until I reached the spot where Professor Kirkland sat timidly, gazing out at the abyss that we had called home. He didn't acknowledge my presence any more than making room for me on the boulder he sat on.
"What happened here?" I demanded, panting from the exertion.
"It returned to the other side," he said calmly.
"Why?! You said — you all said — that Matari was mine! Why is it gone?"
"Who knows? We just woke up and it was gone. We're not sure how, we're not sure why, but all we know was that it was the magic."
"No. Not his dark magic. That would have put everyone under the rubble instead of back in their homes when they awoke. This was the good magic. The same magic that lives inside your heart, the kind that created Matari in the first place."
I sat down beside him, trying to see how he was so calm. "What does this mean?"
"It means that Matari is gone."
"Do you think we'll ever see it again?" I almost sobbed, gulping it down.
"Oh, I'm sure we will. Matari is not just a building or a campus — it's a spirit. You should know. It fills us all up, gives us a reason to enjoy life, but it wants to enjoy itself, too, you know. How would it feel for someone who loves school to be separated from its students for an entire summer?"
"Why did it have to leave? When will it be back?"
"I'm sure it'll be back someday, but in the meantime, enjoy your life. You only live once — take advantage of your youthful childhood while you can."
I guess he could tell that I was not convinced. I grabbed my arms and squeezed myself. How could I stand an entire summer without Matari? I was addicted to it the first time I came. They couldn't separate me now. Not like this.
"Jamie, you have been graced with a bountiful spirit. Matari was so glad to have you as its leader — it's queen. It told me so. But it also wants you to know that sometimes two good things don't always make a best."
"I counteract Matari? So it left?"
"It loves you dearly. It wants to return to you, but because of Carmelo's poison, the thing it loved most was suddenly tainted by the thing it hated most. Imagine you had a twin. How would you feel if she became an alcoholic? Would you love her any less?"
"But I'm not dying," I cringed. "Maybe I was poisoned, that doesn't make me any different!"
"Listen to yourself," he snapped. "You're so depressed! Enjoy yourself. Matari will return, of that you can be sure. Matari's spirit has embedded itself inside of you. The magic is still there — why would normal schooling be any different for you now that you have that magic inside of you?"
"The classes are stupid and pointless — the people are stupid and pointless… It won't be the same. Nothing will."
"Cheer up. When Matari knows you least expect it to appear, it'll come back. It'll settle back down once it's toured the world a little. Just give it time."
My cell phone rang. I answered it quietly. "Jamie, we need to go. I have other things to do. C'mon, I'll take you to lunch, okay?"
My hand shook. I wanted to say no, to stay here forever, to just downright die right here, but I looked at Kirkland's encouraging face and nodded. "Y-Yeah, okay, Dad."
Kirkland took my hand and squeezed it. "Jamie Gale, you have a gift. Don't forget that. And, uh, just for your sake…"
He pulled out a vial of pink liquid neon and slapped it into my hand. "Go easy on it. Matari left it just for you. Only thing left standing in the entire science building."
It seemed so sudden, yet in slow motion. His hand began to glow with little blue specks. Then his body began to disappear. "I promise we'll see each other again. For now, cheer up? Don't let 'em see you cry."
And then he was gone.
I paused once more, with Dad's hand on my shoulder, at the gate of Matari to over look the beautiful campus. Even as a wasteland, it was captivating.
Then I felt the tug at my heart. The tug of magic. It told me to get into the car. "We'll see each other again, Jamie. You can trust me."
I finally recognized the woman's voice. Not as a person I'd met before, but I did know it. It was Matari's voice.
I nodded once and said my silent and final goodbyes to it as I got into the car.
This is Krissye-chan, the author! Phew, long story, huh? I've actually been working on it for three years now. I'd *really, really* love to hear what you guys think about it -- it's great, it sucks, whatever -- just leave some comments, okay? I'm looking forward to it!