As I grew older, my parents grew more suspicious. My mother constantly fussed over how I spent my time, convinced that I needed to make more friends and spend less time in my room, reading. I assured her that I had plenty of friends at school, but it was a lie. I got along with most of the kids just fine, but we simply didn't share the same interests. Most of the boys had the same mindset as my father: hard labor got things done, magic was for cheating scum. They all wanted to be miners or carpenters or seek other such laborious careers. As for the girls, it was simple. The only girl I could think about was Nika.
That's why I shut myself up in my room, reading through my growing library of magic texts to find something worthy of summoning her once more. On my last trip to the dusty bookstore on the far end of town, I had nearly selected A History of Demons, but had chosen a new spell book instead. At fifteen, I wasn't ready to admit to myself that Nika was a demon. I convinced myself that my choice was a good one when I found I had enough change leftover to purchase a small pronunciation guide as well.
So, at fifteen, I found myself ready to summon her again. Rather than pilfering one of the pathetic roses from my mother's still-unkempt garden, I took a trip to the florists and bought a half dozen roses. I found myself in an awkward situation when my mother caught me sneaking in the house with the roses clutched behind my back. She demanded an explanation and I confessed, not completely untruthfully, that I had a date that night. She seemed overjoyed and spent almost two hours flitting around the house and mumbling about how her little boy was growing up. Finally, she and my dad left as they had warned me they would. My mother had demanded she dress me for my date first, and I found myself waving goodbye to them in a white, button up shirt and black dress pants. I started to change, not wanting Nika to tease me, but then settled for just un-tucking my shirt.
Much practice had gone into my summoning circle since my last attempt, and I found myself pleased at the finished product when I stood to admire it. I set one rose in the center, and then sat on my bed to pick the petals off the remaining five. Tossing the stems in my trash can, I piled the petals in a heap and turned to the circle. With one last glance in the mirror to make sure I looked okay, I spoke the name that would bring the red eyed girl to me.
"Stellamonika, I summon thee." The gust of wind that followed was softer than the first, bringing with it the scent of roses and, I finally recognized, honey. Nika managed to make her entrance in the time it took me to blink, again, and I wondered if I would ever have my eyes open to see her pop in or out.
"Hello, Clover, you look rather handsome tonight." I might have looked handsome, but Nika was stunning. I almost choked when I tried to greet her back, turning red as my eyes ran over her now shapelier body. Her silky silver hair now hung to her waist, floating lightly in the breeze that seemed to accompany her at all times. I was almost sad to see that she had abandoned the white dress I was used to, but I couldn't complain. Her new dress was as red as her eyes, lined with black lace. It fit her tightly down to her hips, flaring out at the skirt. She had on black stockings and her boots, and I was pleased to see she hadn't abandoned her red leg-warmers. She wore bells on her upper arms, tied on with black bows, to replace the one that had been on her previous dress. She still wore her simple red-jeweled necklace as well. "Should I change into something less flattering so you may find your concentration?" Nika mocked, shifting her weight to her left foot habitually. I shook my head, wrenching my eyes from her body to her face. She certainly looked older; her cheeks had lost the last bit of chubbiness and her eyes seemed more knowing. The devious look remained, though, intriguing and annoying as ever. I was determined to impress her.
"I've something to show you." I smiled back at her, confident in my much-practiced trick.
"I am eager to see."
I wasted no time, wanting to get it over with before her presence made me forget my spell. I turned my back to her, looking down at the pile of rose petals on my bed. "Levix," I spoke in a gentle tone, pleased when the petals slowly lifted. I willed them to dance around Nika. Turning, I watched intently as the petals fluttered around, dancing and swirling, capturing the girl's attention. I noticed, however, that the petals never got closer than the edges of the circle. I willed them to pass the barrier, but they refused, dancing innocently around it instead. Frustrated but focused, I spoke again. "Piiro Invism"
The petals burst into flame, lighting up the room like a hundred tiny lanterns. Each went out as the petal was consumed, until the room was back to normal and the petals were gone.
I found Nika's eyes quickly, hoping to see acceptance in them. Instead, I found sadness. It was sadness so intense that I thought my heart might break from the weight of it. "Nika…" I said softly, stepping forward. She raised her hand quickly, silently telling me to stop.
"I am fine, I apologize for worrying you. Nobody has ever done anything quite so beautiful for me. Yet I am afraid it is not what I am looking for in you. Look deeper into your texts, Clover. Perhaps read something about me rather than about magic itself. I have given you plenty of clues. Impress me. Show me that you can control incredible magic. I know you can."
I was a mess of emotions; I was filled with pride at her compliment, but sadness that I had failed again. I was incredibly curious as to what it would take to please her, and I was sad, again, that she was leaving.
"I have a question," I said quickly, hoping she would answer one.
"I expected as much."
"Where do you go when you're not here? Where are you from?"
"Those are two separate questions, Clover. Which one?"
I thought for a moment. "Where are you from, then?"
"I am from a realm long forgotten by common folk. Only my kind knows of its name, or how to get there."
"What are you?" I knew the answer, but I wanted her to say it. I wanted to be sure. I sucked in a deep breath when she stepped over the edge of my circle and walked right up to me. Her red eyes peered into mine, just inches away. Then, she lifted her hand and covered my eyes. As she leaned forward to whisper in my ear, I was filled with a new feeling of excitement.
"Maybe you should buy that other book next time. The one about demons, Clover."