The Jubilee Code
"Jubilee, what're you doing here?" Mom asked when I showed up on her doorstep the next morning. It was only eight, but Mom was an early riser, though she was dressed only in a tank top and sweats.
"Can I come in?" I asked, purposefully avoiding her question.
She stepped aside and I took that as an affirmative. I headed into the kitchen, sitting down at the table. Mom took the seat across from me, a cup of coffee in her hands and confusion etched on her face.
Screw it. I didn't have time to beat around the bush. "I need to know everything that happened while you were pregnant with me."
She paused in sipping her coffee. "Why?"
"Just tell me, Mom. You've always held back something important about me, and I have to know what that is." I'd always sensed it in the back of my head, with the way she handled me after an incident, the guilt she seemed to feel.
Her mug hit the table. "I don't know what-"
I slammed my palm down, cutting off her lie. "Now is not the time to lie to me. You wanna know why? Someone's trying to acquire me like a fucking skirt at a TJ Maxx sale, and whoever she is, she isn't above using my family to get to me. So unless you want to bury someone you love — or maybe yourself — you will tell me everything I want to know. Now, Mom, tell me what you've been keeping from me."
I'd never spoken to my mother that way in my life, but oddly, it felt good. I was tired of her denials, her bullshit. I needed answers, preferably before I became some necromancer's property or someone died. This confrontation should've happened years ago, but I was afraid and she was in denial.
Mom's lips thinned, hands clenching on her mug. "Nothing happened while I was pregnant with you."
"But something happened before I was pregnant with you. At least, before I knew."
I waited, fighting against the urge to shake her. This wasn't the time for hesitancy or dramatics.
"You see, it-it has to do with Sadie." The name left her lips with distaste, and I knew Mom wasn't her biggest fan, though no one in the family knew why.
"What about Aunt Sadie?"
Mom sighed. "She was ... different. Not like you. She had dreams."
"What kind of dreams?" This was like pulling teeth from a recalcitrant child.
"It's hard to explain. She'd have a dream, and she'd know things. Like if it was going to rain on Sunday or if the Sox would win the World Series. Harmless things we put down to luck or intuition. Until twenty years ago. She had a different dream then."
I swallowed, my gut clenching. "About what?"
She met my gaze then, guilt and sorrow swimming in hers. "You. She dreamed that you would be special — a chameleon, she called you. She ranted about it, told me all about you. She described how you'd look, and the exact date you were born — the first of February. I told her I wasn't pregnant, and she said that I was.
"At the time, I thought she was crazy. Dementia runs in my side of the family. But I went to my doctor to be sure, and she confirmed it. And when you were born, you looked exactly like Sadie predicted. Then, when you had your first incident ... I knew that everything she said was true. Except for one part."
My body vibrated with restrained emotion, my heart pounding wildly in my chest to the beat of a fast drum. "Which part?"
"She muttered something at the end of her rant ... 'Find the book. Find Veritas.' I have no idea what that means, though."
Veritas. Latin for truth. What did it mean? And what book?
"Anything else?" Like, oh, say, that I was actually an alien and she didn't tell me that, either?
Mom grimaced. "Yes. The day before she died, she called me. She said, 'Don't trust the wolf that disguises himself as one of the herd. He is the enemy, and he is death.' We never spoke again after that, because the next morning, she was found dead. I ... I was so afraid after her predictions kept coming true, that I hadn't spoken to her since your birth until that phone call."
"So you cut her out." Typical Mom response — something doesn't fit into her world, ignore it, deny it. But why hadn't Aunt Sadie told me? Or Alain? Why rely on my mother? True, Sadie had gotten diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the last year of her life, but why not tell me earlier? Our correspondence started when I was a junior in high school and she reached out to me in an email, seeming to understand everything. Why hadn't I asked her for more? Why had I let her distract me from what I wanted to know?
I couldn't take it anymore. "I have to go." And I ran out of that house like my ass was on fire, ignoring her cries for me to come back. I couldn't look at her another second. I couldn't face the betrayal.
Bannock waited for me outside, leaning against his car. "How'd it go?"
"If I go back in there, I'm gonna strangle her." I flung myself into the passenger seat, buckling myself in as I spoke.
He followed suit, though slower than I would've liked. Why wouldn't he start the car?
"What happened in there?" he asked quietly, still not gunning the engine.
"Twenty years. Twenty fucking years, she knew, and she said nothing! She let me think I was a freak, a monster, when all along, my fucking aunt knew the truth! And because of her damn denial and discomfort, she wouldn't let Sadie near me to motherfucking tell me! By the time I did get in touch with Aunt Sadie, her mind was going and a heart attack killed her a couple years later!" I hit my hand on the dashboard, the sting a welcome distraction from my emotional turmoil.
He grabbed my wrist, covered by my shirt and jacket. "Okay, calm down. Deep breaths. What matters is that she told you, and now you can move on."
I turned to look at him, and found that his form was blurry. "She left me in pain and fear because she didn't want to deal with the truth. How do I fucking move on from that?"
He shook his head. "I don't know."
I looked away. "Neither do I."
"Hey, how was ... Jubilee?"
I ignored Elisa and stomped to the couch, throwing myself face-first onto the pillow. And I screamed. I screamed for the lost, scared little girl I'd been. I screamed for the angry, hurt adult I was now. Most of all, I screamed for what could've been. For who I could've been.
"What happened?" Elisa whispered, as if afraid that if she raised her voice I might break.
"Your mom's a selfish bitch," Bannock explained quietly, a vein of unrestrained anger pulsing beneath his words. "She had answers that she didn't give Jubilee because she was in denial and didn't want to deal with the truth."
"Oh my God." A hand touched my back. "Juju? You okay?"
No, I wasn't. How different would my life have been if Mom had just told me the truth? If she'd worked with Aunt Sadie to figure it all out? If she hadn't chosen to live in her normal, safe world and leave me in my world of pain and fear and isolation?
"What is amiss?" Alain demanded.
"My mother is a bitch," Elisa growled, stroking my hair in an attempt at comfort. "A selfish, cruel bitch." Her very voice vibrated with fury.
"What?" He sounded closer now. "Why is she breathing with such intensity?"
"She's trying not to cry," Bannock replied. "She was doing the same on the ride back here."
The door to the apartment creaked open, and I heard footsteps entering, coming closer toward me. My throat burned with unshed tears and humiliation. I didn't want any of them to see me like this. Why couldn't they just leave?
"Hey, guys," Grace said cheerfully. "I brought lasagna — oh my God. What's wrong?"
Great. More people to witness my break down. The tears escaped then, wetting the pillow and my face. A harsh noise ripped through the apartment, like a saw on bone. Wait, was that me? Was that sound coming from me? I'd never made that sound in my life, but I could feel it rushing out of my chest, grooving my insides in agony.
"Jubilee, honey?" Now Grace was closer, too.
"She went to talk to our mother," Elisa said. "It didn't go well."
Yeah, that was a fucking understatement.
"Oh." Hands grabbed my shoulders, and somehow I was maneuvered into a sitting position with my face in Grace's shoulder. I clung to her tightly, breathing in the scent of whiteboard markers and baked goods.
"What happened, honey?" she asked, using the voice a mother uses when wanting to know what's wrong with her kid.
And the damn broke. It all poured out in between sobs. Everything my mother had kept from me, everything she'd known, Aunt Sadie's role, my emotions. Nothing was held back. At the end, everyone was quiet, but it was tense, as if a volcano was about to erupt and we were preparing for the apocalypse.
"That ... fucking ... coward," Grace snarled.
I lifted away from Grace then, my tears stopped by the sheer shock of Grace Lattimer swearing, which she'd only done once in my presence. Her face had contorted in rage, an emotion echoed by Elisa, Bannock, Alain, Lyell, and the rest of the Lattimer family — including Sean, who hung back behind the couch.
"How dare she?" Grace leapt to her feet, hands clenched in fists. "How fucking dare she put herself above her child?"
"Well, she's always been in denial about me," I explained. Wait, was I actually defending my mother, the woman who possibly contributed to my horrible childhood? Yes, yes I was. Because I was used to doing it. Every time I explained to someone about myself and my parents' reactions, I never blamed them for living in denial. I should've. I didn't deserve that shit.
Grace agreed with my inner thoughts. "Who the hell cares? It doesn't matter if you're human and you're faced with the terrifying supernatural world and the fact that your children — your family — are different. How do you think I felt when Finn told me what he was and that our unborn son would be the same? I was terrified, pissed-off. I didn't want to deal with it. But I did. I fucking stepped up for my kids, for my family, and I made sure they never felt different or less for who they were. Your piece of shit mother made you feel like crap every day for almost twenty goddamn years! I have half a mind to go slap her right now."
"I'll go with you," Elisa muttered, glowering at the floor. "And I thought she was bad to me."
The door to the guestroom — also known as Elisa's room — opened, and Christi stepped out with the twins in their stroller. She frowned at our little cluster of rage. "What's going on?"
Elisa quickly informed Christi, and a dark shadow passed over her face. She stomped to her cell phone and started scrolling through the contacts. Apparently finding the one she was looking for, she held the phone up to her ear and waited for an answer.
"What're you doing?" I asked her.
She held up her index finger. "Yes, Patricia Blake? This is your daughter, Christi. I'm just calling to tell you that you're a heinous bitch for the hell you've put Jubilee through for the past two decades. I'm glad I can't remember you. I don't think I want to. Hell, I don't want to know you and be speaking to you now, but I can't let your neglect and abuse stand. Over the past week, I've come to know Jubilee and she is a very sweet, funny girl. I like her. I'm glad we're sisters, and I wish I could remember her. She didn't deserve to live in fear and isolation because you didn't have the balls to deal with the situation. To put it simply, you're a coward, a selfish one at that, and I hope someday you realize exactly what your selfishness put your own daughter through. I want you to feel the pain Jubilee felt and is feeling now. I also called to inform you that you are not going to be allowed around my children, at least not for a while and not without supervision. You are also very unwelcome at Jubilee's home — we have werewolves, and they will bite you in a way you will not like. Ever seen a bear mauling? Think that times three. Oh, and if your husband wants to see any of us, he has to go through Bannock and me first. Have a shittastic day and rot in Hell." She ended the call and put her cell phone back on the counter, turning to see everyone gawking at her in awe. "What?"
"That was awesome," Elisa whispered, and I nodded my agreement.
"Very well said," Grace agreed with a smile. "I especially liked the part about werewolves and being glad you couldn't remember her."
Alain grinned at Christi. "Yes, 'twas very dramatic. Methinks you have made you point."
"Good." She looked at me. "I'm hungry. What's for dinner? And has someone found my cowardly husband? I mean, he's been hiding from me for a week now. Enough is enough."
"Sorry, no sign of him yet," Grace told her.
My cell vibrated at that point, and a glance showed that it was my mother. I dismissed the call. No way was I going to deal with her response right now, or her questions about why Christi didn't remember her, because I hadn't told her about the amnesia thing. Seemed fair. She hadn't told me about Sadie. Revenge is a bitch, and right then, I was her best friend.
"I'll order some pizza," Fergus said, pulling out his cell phone. "What does everyone want?"
Orders were shouted around the room, and eventually it was agreed that we'd have one large cheese pizza, one large meat lover's, and one large vegetarian for Elisa and anyone else who wanted it. Soon, Fergus and Rory took off to retrieve the order, as that was faster than delivery, and I was left with Grace, Finnegan, Sean, Bannock, my two sisters, my niece and nephew, Lyell, and Alain.
Elisa stood up, pulling a twenty out of her wallet. "I'm gonna run to the convenience store down the street and get some ice cream. Jubilee, you want the usual?"
"Yeah," I croaked, my voice dry from all the crying I'd done. "Cookies and cream and moosetracks."
She forced a fake smile to her face. "Good. We'll pig out and watch sitcoms."
"I'm going with you," Lyell stated, sounding a lot like Bannock did when he gave an order.
Elisa frowned at him. "It's literally right down the street. I don't need a bodyguard for an ice cream run."
Lyell crossed his arms over his chest, which was broad for a kid his age. "I'm going. There are ghouls out there, and since I'm their natural predator and you have Jubilee's scent plastered all over you, I need to go."
Elisa's cheeks reddened and she opened her mouth to argue back.
"It'd make me feel better if you went with Lyell," I interjected. Sure, I was using emotional manipulation, but Lyell was right. The ghouls were out there, and Elisa had been staying with me for a while now.
She rolled her eyes. "Fine. Let's go. I want ice cream." She strode out the door with Lyell hurrying after her.
Wow. My sister had her own Alpha to deal with, only Lyell was part vampire. He was acting more like Bannock — was it because he was naturally an Alpha or because he was around Bannock so much? Whatever. We could totally trade tips on how to deal with them. Once I figured out how to handle Bannock, that was. Maybe Elisa would have more luck with Lyell.
Grace turned on the TV and flipped to Seinfeld, and I settled into the crook of the couch, a blanket draped over my legs. Bannock crowded in next to me, making room for Alain, Sean, Christi, and Grace. The twins' stroller was placed next to Christi at the opposite end of the couch — they were taking an afternoon nap. Finnegan took the ugly armchair with Fang perched on the armrest. It was odd, watching a sitcom with werewolves, three humans, two ghosts, and a witch's familiar. But it was nice, too, because these people were my friends. I liked them. I was comfortable around them. And that, in itself, was just bizarre.
What was even more bizarre was when Bannock draped his arm around my shoulders, cuddling into me and moving me in a way that gravity forced me to rest my head on his chest. I didn't move because it was so comfortable — he was actually pretty warm — but I didn't know what it meant. Was this a friend comforting a friend? Or was it something more?
"Alain?" I asked, keeping my voice low so as not to drown out the TV.
"What did Aunt Sadie mean when she said 'find the book' and 'veritas'?"
"I do not know, but I shall find out," he promised.
"We'll find out together," I told him. "I'm done sitting on the sidelines. I need to find out who I am, not let others do it for me."
"Well said, beautiful," Bannock murmured into my hair, kissing me there.
And my response to all of this was simple: What. The. Fuck.
I didn't understand werewolves, especially Alpha werewolves, specifically Bannock. Was he messing with me or did he legitimately have feelings for me? He had kissed me in the car when I tried to confront him about it and wanted to talk about it "later" — whenever the hell that was. His actions were akin to something a boyfriend would do for a girlfriend, at least from what TV had taught me. But was it real?
Thankfully, I didn't have too long to focus on that, as Elisa and Lyell returned with the ice cream at that moment. Elisa stomped into the apartment, her cheeks flushed and her hair a little mussed — probably from the wind. Lyell strolled after her, wearing a very satisfied smirk on his face. A smirk that was like Bannock's.
Oh. My. God. Had Elisa made-out with Lyell? From his expression, yes they had. From Elisa's expression, it was probably a sneak attack.
I leaned forward and exchanged oh-my-god looks with Grace and Christi, who had picked up on it, too. The male population of the couch looked confused as to what our looks meant.
"How was the store?" I asked as Elisa plopped down at my feet, leaning against the couch.
"Fine. I put the ice cream in the fridge," she added rather curtly.
I raised my brows at Grace and Christi. Grace bit her lips to keep from smiling. Christi giggled, safe in the fact that she was too far for Elisa to get to her. The guys just kept looking confused.
Lyell sat in the space between the ugly armchair and the couch so that he was close to Elisa but not close enough for her to get in a good punch. Smart boy.
The door opened for the thousandth time today and Fergus and Rory stepped inside, the scent of delicious pizza rolling in with them. I leapt up, neatly extricating myself from the minefield to rush for the pizza. Elisa and Christi were right behind me, grabbing paper plates from my stash and snatching slices before anyone else could. We were fighting for food against werewolves — we couldn't be sluggish.
I took a slice of cheese and vegetarian, returning to my spot on the couch with a bottle of iced tea I'd taken from the fridge. Everyone else returned, and I was once again snuggled up against Bannock with Elisa at the base of the couch and Lyell next to her.
"Let's put on a movie," I suggested. There was only so much sitcom I could take and, for moments like this, they weren't appropriate.
Elisa got up, rifled through my DVD stash beside the TV and picked on. Soon, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure started playing. It was one of my favorite movies — and I loved Keanu Reeves.
For now, there'd be no talk of the necromancer, Aaron, my mom, Aunt Sadie, or any of our problems.
The interlude lasted an hour and a half. After the movie, people stayed late for the ice cream Elisa had retrieved. We chatted about nothing at all over bowls of whipped cream-drenched dessert and, soon, they started leaving. Grace and Finn went first, with their sons following not soon after. Bannock took Lyell home after kissing the top of my head affectionately, and Christi went into the guest room to put the twins to bed. That left me, Elisa, Sean, Alain, and Fang in the kitchen, cleaning up after the guests.
"Jubilee, I have thought upon what your mother told you Sadie spoke of," Alain began.
I looked up from where I'd been attempting to shove pizza boxes into the trash and frowned. "And? Do you have any ideas?"
"I have heard of a book by the name of Veritas," he said slowly, as if gauging my reaction. "It is known as the Book of Truth. Put simply, it holds all the knowledge — true knowledge — of the universe in its pages. I believe it may hold the secret of your existence."
"Great!" Elisa exclaimed while I tried to find my tongue. "Where is it?"
Alain grimaced. "The last I saw of it, it was in Merlin's library."
"In Camelot?" I squeaked.
"Well then, I guess we're going to Camelot," Christi announced, stepping into the room. "Where is that?"
"The United Kingdom," Sean explained to her, "but it doesn't really exist anymore."
"No, but Merlin's library is protected by the strongest wards and enchantments," Alain added. "Time could not destroy it. In fact, I know of its location. 'Tis on an isle off the coast of Wales, one long hidden from the human eye. I can navigate through the mists and other obstacles to reach its shores safely."
"What's the isle?" I asked quietly, somehow already knowing the answer.
He met my gaze. "Avalon."
Just when I thought nothing more could surprise me.
Sorry for the late update, I've been super busy lately. I'll try to keep to a one chapter per month schedule. Please let me know what you think of the chapter ~MD