Garett’s mouth works like a fish gasping for air. His eyes are wide and his cheeks pale as he lifts a finger to point at me. “Everard?” He asks in a voice much softer than I’ve ever heard him wield. “You’re a girl?”
I had suspected Everard was hiding something from the day I met him. Her. But I had never suspected this.
Everard shake her head, no, likes she’s hoping that maybe, just maybe I will believe what I saw was my imagination, but it’s no use. “Yes you are!” I say, though there is no certainty in my voice. “I—I saw you.” The image of her skin, so milky white and soft with pink spots dappled over her chest and collar from the hot water of the bath.
She sprints past me and closes the door with a soft click, sliding a chair in front of it. “So help me Garett Ledwich, if you tell anyone, anyone, you will regret it.”
Myriad emotions roil around inside of me. The most prominent of all is anger. “You lied.”
Her face looks torn. She pulls the robe tightly around herself. “I had to.”
“You had to because you know girls are forbidden! You are not allowed to practice—”
Everard presses her warm lips to mine, her mouth coated with droplets of condensation from the heavy steam that fills the room. She pulls away quickly and I’m left gasping for air like she’s sucked my breath away. “If you tell,” she whispers in my ear, “I’ll tell the Master that you kissed me and you know he’ll be able to see that it’s true.”
My lips tingle, the taste of hibiscus lingering on my tongue. I’m too shocked to say anything to her, but thoughts race in my mind, jumping and tumbling over one another. “I wasn’t going to tell.”
“You—You weren’t?” Everard looks small beneath the descrying robe. When I thought she was a boy her frailty made me want to hurt her, but now it makes me feel strange. Like I need to protect her.
I shake my head. “No. But, Everard, you can not go into the chamber.”
“I’ve done everything correctly.”
“You can fool me and the others in this house, even my father, but you can not fool the spirits.”
“I have to.” Her decision has already been made and it is of no use to attempt to change her mind. She has risked far too much to turn back now. Whatever she wishes to see, it’s of grave importance to her.
“Then I will go with you.”
“You can’t. Only one person is allowed. If she—if they know you’re there, they won’t talk to me. I won’t see. It won't work. You’ve ruined everything!” She pushes the heels of her hands into her eyes. When she pulls them away her eyes are rimmed with red. I’ve never seen Everard cry, and I’ve given her plenty of reasons. I’d always tried to break her, when I thought that she was a boy.
“It also won’t work for a girl. Not in this house.”
She sighs and her vulnerable face is replaced with the determined one she’s always worn. “Why do you want to help me?”
“Because you’re a—because I’m…sorry.”
Everard doesn’t have time to find fault in what I’ve said. A knock at the door makes us both go rigid. “Everard? Have you finished cleansing? The chamber awaits.” My father’s voice comes through the door soft and certain, something I can never be.
Everard straightens her back, thrusting her chin out and her shoulders back. She gives me a firm nod. “Yes, Master. I’m ready.”
Thankfully the path to the chamber is empty. The mind must be clear when the scryer leaves the cleansing bath, and no other persons are to be there to distract. But I’m there and Everard, a girl, is very distracting. She stops at the entrance to the chamber and dips her finger tips into a bowl of red dye. She whispers the grounding chant, the sacred words that will keep her grounded in this reality whilst she visits a realm that is not our own.
For me this does not feel like the reality.
Inside the chamber moonlight bounces off of the black mirrors that line the walls. In the center of the room, one large oval shaped obsidian mirror stands alone, framed in silver that is older than anyone alive can remember.
Everard places one slender finger in the center of the mirror. She leans in close to it so that her lips just brush the surface as she whispers a word that I can’t hear, a word that only she can know. One that binds the mirror to her, insuring that what she sees will be hers alone. I turn my head to the side, feeling like I am invading this private moment.
When she steps away I say, “It won’t work the way you want it to.”
“I know. You’re going to call her for me.” She sits down, gazing into the mirror from an angle so that she can’t see herself. She gestures for me to sit in front of her.
Everard rests her hands, small and cold and delicate, on my shoulders. I tense beneath her touch, fighting with my emotions. She whispers in my ear, her breath smelling of hibiscus brushes my cheek. The fennel and orange in her hair seems oddly out of place there, it sparks some distant flame in my mind. Something I’ve forgotten.
My mouth repeats her words, speaking of secret glances and sacred sights. Images flash across the mirror, swirling clouds of gray and black and dirty white. Everard keeps whispering the chant and I keep repeating.
I’ve never been inside the chamber, not without my father and never during the ritual, but I’ve rehearsed it so many times. The process has been drilled into me by my father since I was old enough to comprehend our legacy. I should feel as though I have done this countless times, but something feels off. Something is not right. I shake the nagging thoughts away, reminding myself that my head needs to be cleared. Forget that Everard is not who’d I’d suspected. Forget that two in the chamber is unorthodox. There will be time to sort it out after this is over. After I help her to find what she’s fought so hard to see.
She stops speaking and after I breathe the last word of the chant I fall silent with her. Images swirl in the black mirror--some hazy, some clear, some simple, and some absolutely terrifying. Everard needs my words and my presence to see. She doesn’t need my eyes. My gaze drops from the images to my hands lying limp in my lap. My finger tips look almost blue beneath the moonlight that paints the chamber walls.
The flickering thought in my mind flares. “Everard,” I whisper so afraid to speak, so afraid to break the spell, but needing to before something terrible happens.
She doesn’t answer me but her fingers dig into my shirt, leaving red fingerprints to crown my shoulder like droplets of blood. But it’s not blood. It is the dye that grounds the scryer to this realm.
Welcome to Tangled Fiction, where three YA writers collaborate to complete one story!
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday one TF writer will post a piece of the same story. Each of us will be responsible for one beginning, middle, and end in a single month. The fourth week will be full of surprises, we're sure, and we'll share them with you when we know what they are.