Well, days passed, then weeks, then months and before they knew it, the new semester and half of June had came and went before their very eyes. Next thing they knew, they were all gathering out at Alex, Lucas, and Hailey's house to celebrate Hailey's eighteenth birthday. And after nearly an hour of begging, and the completely unnecessary promise to call every twenty minutes, the parents finally agreed. Though, they all knew that they would be watching out the windows at all times.
The plan was simple, hike down to the water, sit to let the little ones catch their breath, and make their way through the woods the long way, and come out on the other side of the house, before hiking across the bridge that went over the wider section of the creak and climbing back up the hill to the house. A mini adventure that should've taken at most a half hour-assuming they didn't stop to skip rocks or anything.
"Did you call?" Alex asked, as Lucas nodded, snapping his phone shut.
"We should be safe for another ten minutes." he answered, grabbing a hold of Drew and Jefferson's hands and leading them towards the drain sewage.
"Ow!" Brittany cried, as she snagged her hand on a tree branch. She glanced at her palm where she could faintly see a scratch, but it hadn't broken the skin. Good. She didn't want to have to go back up to get a band-aid so that it wouldn't get infected.
"You okay?" her older Lucas called from the sewer drainage where he was helping Drew and Jefferson down. The five of them had decided to take the easy way-the way the path lead-where as Brittany and her younger brother, Stan wanted to try going down the hard way. The way with the steep hill, sharp rocks, and pointy twigs which caused them to have a ton of scratches from head to toe.
"Yeah!" she cried back, "It's just a scratch! Didn't even break the skin!"
He appeared at the bottom of the hill, as Stan finished sliding the rest of the way down. Brittany winced as she followed right after, groaning slightly when she hit her elbow against a rock hidden somewhere in the soil.
"Don't say we didn't warn you not to take that path." the older boy smirked as he helped her up.
Brittany grumbled as she dusted off her bare legs.
"I'm just out of practice, that's all." she smiled up at him.
Lucas shook his head, "I doubt that's the problem."
"C'mon, guys." Alex held out her hand, "Let's get going. I wanna dunk my feet in the water before I die of heat stroke."
Everyone nodded, before setting out to hike towards the water. Neither one of them speaking, for they were all trying to just keep the memories away. They'd told their parents they wanted to hike down there for fun, but the truth was was that they needed to face the demons that still plagued their memories. They needed to prove to themselves that the nightmare of the wizard world was over, and there was no way they were going to have to relive it again. At least, not in this lifetime. And they couldn't do that if they didn't go down there by themselves.
Still, they all knew that the scars wouldn't go away, no matter how much time passed. Hailey had taken all the black die out of her hair, so that it was her natural dark brown, and cut it so that it just barely passed her chest. Alex refused to ever cut her hair, so that it was as long as Brittany's was before the incident. Lucas gave himself a buzz cut, and Brittany kept trimming her hair so that it would stay the same length it was when they got back. Actually, the only ones who didn't seem to drastically change were the little ones.
They stopped a few minutes later when the finally reached the creak which was about a foot deeper, which it tended to do in the summer.
"Mmm… it's so peaceful, here." Alex smiled as she pulled off her black flip flops and dipped her feet in the water.
Hailey didn't even bother to yell at her, like she normally would've. She was obviously zoning out, probably just as scared as the rest of them that they would be forcefully transported, again.
Brittany sighed, before laying down on the grass and closing her eyes. It was so quiet down there-so easy to lose yourself in your own thoughts.
"You know," she murmured just loud enough for everyone to hear, her eyes still closed, "I think I'm going to write a book about our story."
"Really?" Hailey raised an eyebrow at her, "Why?"
Brittany shrugged, "It's a unique story." she smiled over at her, "Either you or Alex could design the cover."
"Sounds like fun." Hailey giggled, but it sounded forced. Everyone was on edge.
Brittany fiddled nervously with the hem of her sparkly green spaghetti strap, as Hailey tugged on the sleeves of her blue over coat and glanced around nervously as if she were expecting the boogie man to suddenly appear.
"Why don't we get going?" Lucas asked, snapping his phone shut. He must've just called the parents, and Brittany had been to preoccupied, trying to keep the fear away to notice. She had to keep checking her own cell phone, herself, to make sure that it was still working.
Alex nodded, grabbing a hold of Drew's hand. Her and Jefferson seemed to be on edge, only because everyone else was. Not that Brittany was surprised-they were only kids. They probably didn't relate the woods to the magic world like everyone else did. Lucas reached down to pick up Jefferson and put him on his shoulders, then stopped half way, before straightening up and letting Hailey grab a hold of the little boy's hand. He must've remembered that he'd done that on Thanksgiving.
"Hey, Britt?" Stan asked, as they hiked up to the path in the wheat field, "Do you really think that we'll be brought back there, again?"
Brittany shook her head, reaching out to grab her brother's hand. Something they didn't often do, seeing as they mostly showed their love by throwing stuffed animals at each other-hey! They were violent people by nature!
"No." she whispered, "But it's hard to shake the feeling that it will."
Stan nodded, before wrapping his free arm around his torso and shivering, even though it had to be almost eighty-five degrees out, "I know what you mean." he bit his lip slightly, "Do you think things will ever go back to the way they used to be?"
Brittany shook her head again, "Doubt it. I mean, you have to remember, Stan, this is a major thing we have to get over. Seven months isn't enough." she chuckled harshly, "Hell, I don't even think seven years is going to be enough."
"Hey!" Alex called from up front, "Hurry up! I want to get a photo of us on that railing by the bridge before this awesome lighting goes away!"
Brittany smiled slightly to herself, as they all began to run towards the railing so as not to anger the brown haired girl. At least there were some things that would never change. And maybe, that was what they needed most. Something stable. Something that they could wake up every morning and know that it was still there. Hailey's love of art, Alex's love to take pictures, Lucas's love of sports, Stan's love of directing, and her love of writing. Things like that.
That still didn't help with the feeling she would constantly get as if there was something missing in her life. As if she were back in 1st grade and was playing that game where one kid went out into the hall, and the others would rearrange something and when the kid came back in, he or she had to figure out what was different. You always knew something was off, but you could never quite place your finger on what it was.
"Okay, I want Hailey and Brittany to stand on the railing on this side," Alex was pointing out where they should go, "And then I want Drew sitting on the edge by them, Lucas sits in the middle, and I hold Jefferson on the other side with Stan sitting right in front of me." she paused for a second, still setting up the camera, before shrugging, "And, aw, what the hell. Let's make this one a funny picture!"
Everyone got up where they were supposed to, and assembled their poses. Hailey decided she wanted to make it look like she was pushing Brittany off the railing which really freaked the blonde out, so a lot of the fear in her eyes that showed up in the picture was real.
"Here, take Jeff." Alex bent down to hand the little boy to Lucas as Brittany and Hailey turned to jump off the railing and onto the rocks that were on the other side, "I have to make sure the picture turned out okay." Brittany was sure that when she said "okay" she really meant, "That the background was as it's supposed to be."
"Hmm… seems okay. You got everyone in it." a familiar voice said from where the camera was seated.
Everybody seemed to freeze. Brittany, Hailey and Alex ere facing away from the camera, having to get down opposite it, so they couldn't see the speaker, but they knew the voice all too well. Still, something inside of Brittany refused to even let the tiniest bit of hope in.
There was a squeal from Drew, a yelp from Stan, and a gasp from Lucas. Alex and Hailey turned around at the same time, and gasped as well. Still, Brittany refused to believe. Refused to turn around.
Refused to hope….
But she couldn't stand there forever. Her fifteen-year-old brain was quickly growing bored with the rushing water that lay beneath the rocks she was currently standing on. So slowly, ever so slowly she backed her way up to the railing, still refusing to turn around, and felt her way back to the grass.
After a second, she clenched her hands into fists, turned around and…
…there he was.
She was just as she last remembered him. Same shaggy blue-black hair, same glimmering blue eyes, same dazzling, earth shattering, heart breaking smile plastered onto his face.
"Vincent…." she breathed, taking a step towards him, "Wha-… how… why…" she couldn't seem to get a single sentence out.
"I think what she means is," Hailey was interpreting as her and Alex stepped off of the rocks and onto the grass, as well. They both had the same shocked look on their faces as everyone else probably had, "What are you doing here?"
Vincent smirked, "Well, shouldn't it be obvious. I mean, you guys know that I couldn't stay up there after the surgery. That I had to come and live down here."
Oh, right. Now Brittany remembered something about that. And the looks on everyone else's faces said that they seemed to, as well.
"Besides," Vincent turned his smile over to her, and then sauntered up until they were face to face, "You didn't actually think I would let you get away with such a sloppy confession as that, would you?"
Brittany blinked up at him, barely registering any words he was saying. He was here, right in front of her. She could reach out and touch him, run her fingers through his hair. Actually hear his voice, not just what she remembered of it.
And then the anger came.
"Where the hell have you been?" she screamed at him, bawling her hands into her fists as she felt her face turn red with rage, "You disappear for seven months, and then all of a sudden appear out of the blue and act as if we just saw each other yesterday?"
The smile didn't leave Vincent's face, "Actually, if I remember, correctly weren't you the one who disappeared?"
Brittany had to admit, that was good logic, but she'd be damned if she let him know that, "That doesn't matter! The point is is that you've been off doing who knows what for the past seven months! If you were here, why didn't you contact us! Do you know what kind of hell we've been through?"
It was then that that stupid smile finally melted away, "You think I've just been gallivanting about?" Vincent shouted back at her, "No! I came straight here to find you guys the second I entered this world!"
"Nuh-uh!" Brittany shook her head, "We haven't seen you in over half a year!"
"To you, yeah! To me, it's only been a week! I just got here a little over an hour ago!"
Once again, Brittany was caught off guard, but-once again-she wasn't going to give him the privilege of knowing that, "Well, why did you make us wait that long? Do you have any clue how hard this has been for us?"
"Of course I do!" Vincent growled, "I know exactly how hard it's been for you!"
"Then why did you make us wait?" Brittany repeated.
"So that we would be closer in age!"
Brittany rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms, "Oh, please, we can't be that far apart!"
"You're fifteen, right? Almost sixteen?" Brittany nodded, "Well, I turned eighteen almost three months ago!"
That caught Brittany off guard. For a second she just stared at him, eyes wide-he was almost here years older than her? Even older had he arrived at the time she thought he did-he would've been almost four!
"You're what?" she shrieked at the same time Stan and Lucas did.
Vincent smirked, "So I guess I'm not in as much trouble for waiting seven months as I was, huh?"
"No, you're in trouble for being a cradle robbing perv!" Brittany screamed, only to be cut off by the sound of a camera flashing.
Her and Vincent both turned to see Hailey and Alex both smiling at the screen of Alex's camera.
"Perfect." Hailey giggled.
"Totally." Alex agreed, "This may actually be my debut. I'm going to call it… Idiots in love." she turned to smirk evilly at Brittany, "You can use it as the cover page for your book."
Brittany thought about yelling again, but decided against it as something dawned on her. Ever since Vincent appeared, all the tension just suddenly disappeared from everyone. Even her. She probably just yelled at him because she needed to take her frustration out on something. Now, everyone was laughing and smiling, and it didn't seem forced in the least.
It was as if they knew that now that he was here, it was all going to be okay….
(22 years later)
Brittany and Vincent Karino leaned against the railing that bordered their porch, waiting for their daughter to return. It had been almost a week since she disappeared, but they weren't worried. In fact, they were almost certain that she was fine. She was their daughter after all-how could she not be?
Suddenly, a flashing light appeared, and a girl with midback length blonde hair and dark blue eyes stepped out of it. Her hair was much longer than it had been when they last saw her, but once again, neither one of them were surprised.
The girl glanced up at them then waved and laughed whole heartedly. "Hi mom! Hi dad! I'm back!"
Brittany tilted her head to the side, smiling lovingly at her daughter, "How did it go?"
"Splendid." their daughter laughed, "You two were so cute when you were my age! And I finally got to see grandma and grandpa-though they didn't get to see me." she pouted slightly, then blanched, "And you dressed awfully. Mom, spaghetti straps are so twenty years ago!"
Vincent shook her head, "You know, Jen, we used to say the same thing to our parents. And your kids will say the same thing to you."
Their daughter shook her head, "Nuh-uh! Clashing colors will always be in!"
Brittany rolled her eyes, "Whatever you say, hon."
"But there is one thing, though," their daughter pouted, "You guys had such a romantic story. It makes me feel inferior to know that I'll probably just have some boring love-no forbidden romance or anything!"
Brittany chuckled, "I thought the exact same thing when I was your age." then she shrugged, "Besides, you never know. You might meet your Romeo before you know it."
Their daughter blanched-she had a Romeo in her class, who annoyed the hell out of her. Which was why Brittany brought it up. But in the next second she was smiling victoriously and spinning around in a circle.
"You're right!" she laughed, triumphantly, putting her hands on her hips, "For I am the great and mighty Genevieve Karino and I always get what I want!"
Gabrielle: Aw, it's over already… sad. Now I wanna cry. But before I do, let me just thank everyone who read this far, and mention that for those of you who are wondering, an explanation of how I came up with all of my stories are at the top along with when I plan on updating it, next-so long as nothing goes wrong. Oh, there's also a semi-sneak peek of my newest story which I will post tomorrow. Oh, and the cover for this story, is the picture Alex took right before Vincent reappeared. Now, goodbye everyone! I'm going to go cry into my pillow!